Newsletter 2024 Issue 3
Gina G. Patterson
Executive Director
From the Executive Director
During a recent board development session, one of our members wore a shirt bearing the powerful message, "Know Your Why." This simple yet profound statement holds immense significance, especially in the realm of being a school board member. Your collective "Why" is the driving force that propels you forward, particularly when faced with the many challenges that may attempt to divert your attention from your ultimate goal: student achievement.
At the heart of your responsibilities lies a fundamental truth – students should be the primary focus in every decision you make. Whether deliberating policies, resource allocation, or educational strategies, the true test should always be how your actions will impact student achievement. Your commitment to this principle ensures that you remain steadfast in your dedication to the students you serve.
VSBA School Board News Podcast
Episode 60: Lets Talk Curriculum with
Hampton City Schools
Listen to Episode 60 of the Virginia School Board News Podcast. In this episode, VSBA Executive Director Gina Patterson is joined by Hampton City Public Schools Chief of Staff and Deputy Superintendent, Dr. John Caggiano, and their Chief Academic Officer, Dr. James Harris. Gina and guests discuss the rewriting of Hampton City Schools’ curriculum and how their new approach on education has impacted the engagement of their students.

*** Do you have a governance question or situation that you would like to see answered in an upcoming article? Send in your questions to and you may see the topic in a future newsletter article. ***
VSBA Screening of The Right to Read
On March 14, 2024, the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) hosted an exclusive screening of the documentary, The Right to Read. This carefully curated event brought together a diverse audience comprising of school board members, superintendents, legislators, educators, and community leaders, united by a shared commitment to the vital topic of literacy.

The documentary, The Right to Read, weaves together narratives of activism, teaching, and the struggles faced by two American families in their quest to equip the youngest generation with a crucial life skill—the ability to read. Experts featured in the film explore into the current state of literacy in the United States, emphasizing the urgency of incorporating the science of reading into classrooms nationwide.
The evening unfolded into a thought-provoking panel discussion featuring Virginia State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Lisa Coons, alongside VSBA Task Force on Students and Schools in Challenging Environments Co-Chairs, Rodney Jordan, school board member in Norfolk City and Dr. Jason Van Heukelum, superintendent of Winchester City Public Schools. The panel engaged in a dynamic conversation, exploring the profound implications of the documentary, and outlining strategies to advance literacy initiatives in Virginia schools through the Virginia Literacy Act.
Dive into enlightenment and collaboration at the VSBA 2024 School Law Conference!
Join us on Friday, May 31, in Richmond for a day of enriching insights and connections that promise to invigorate your approach to education law, whether you choose to attend virtually or in person.

Our speakers will deliver dynamic discussions on pressing topics in education law, tailored for legal professionals, school board members, and policymakers.

Discover the power of Attorney-Client Privilege and independent investigation reports with John Foster and Ellen Kennedy, legal counsel from Fairfax County Public Schools.

Explore the transformative potential of Generative AI in learning, governance, and practice with Jeremy Hurley of Appalachian School of Law and Nachman Gutowski of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Unlock the essentials of FOIA and COIA training requirements with Lesley Rigney and Elizabeth Ewing, Directors of Policy and Legal Services at VSBA.

Navigate the intricate landscape of social media use in School Board contexts versus personal accounts with attorney Andrew Selman of Sands Anderson.

Stay ahead of the curve with a Legislative Update from J.T. Kessler, VSBA Director of Legislative Services, and Stacy Haney, VSBA Chief Lobbyist, providing invaluable insights into the latest legislative developments.

Cap off the day with networking over lunch, fostering connections and conversations that will extend far beyond the conference room.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to connect, learn, and contribute to the ongoing dialogue shaping education law. 
In an effort to promote the need to identify workforce development opportunities that enable students to be prepared to succeed in the economy, VSBA has designated the month of April as VSBA Workforce Readiness Month with April 16, 2024, designated as Workforce Readiness Day in Virginia.
The VSBA Task Force on Workforce Readiness was established by the Board of Directors in 2015 to study how career and technical education programs are being implemented in Virginia school divisions and how these programs are preparing the state’s future workforce.
The task force has been vital in providing federal, state, and local school boards with best practices for developing and expanding Career & Technical Education (CTE) as well as workforce readiness programs that offer training on skill sets that will allow students to be globally competitive. It is also critical that we collaborate with the business industry and the community college system to ensure that students have early access and opportunity to participate in workforce readiness programs.
VSBA President Cardell Patillo's PSA
Unlocking Educational Excellence:
Joint VSBA - VDOE Webinars with the State Superintendent
Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Lisa Coons, Discusses Workforce Readiness:

In recognition of the month, Dr. Lisa Coons, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction, will discuss workforce readiness and how school divisions can enhance programs that prepare students for careers after high school. This timely discussion will allow school division leaders to learn more about resources available through the Department of Education that support their needs around workforce development.

Cost: Free
Date and Time: April 29, 2024, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Presenter: Dr. Lisa Coons, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction
Join Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Lisa Coons, For a Town Hall Meeting about School Accountability and Accreditation:

The Virginia Board of Education is currently working on the development of a new School Accountability and Accreditation model with a goal for implementation during the 2025-2026 school year. The voice of school board members is crucial in the development of this new model. Join Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Lisa Coons, for a town hall meeting where participants will learn more about the Board’s plan for development and implementation. Participants will also be asked to provide feedback to Dr. Coons and to ask questions on the Board’s proposed models and its potential changes for school divisions upon final approval for implementation.

Cost: Free
Date and Time: May 2, 2024 3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Presenter: Dr. Lisa Coons, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction
VSBA President's Roadshow
VSBA President Dr. Cardell Patillo is hitting the road this year, touring every region of the Commonwealth on the 2024 VSBA President's Roadshow. The VSBA President's Roadshow is designed to extract insights into cutting-edge innovations and best practices in Virginia's public schools while addressing the challenges confronted by Virginia's school boards. The Roadshow provides a unique opportunity for school board members and superintendents to connect directly with VSBA's leadership.

During a Roadshow visit, your division will have the opportunity to meet President Dr. Patillo and share your opinions on education issues, ask questions of VSBA, and much more.

Since his last visit in February, Dr. Patillo has visited Caroline County Public Schools and Fredericksburg City Public Schools. At both stops, Dr. Patillo learned more about their education programs for students as well as comprehensive tours of school facilities. You can read more at the below linked press releases and view photos from the visits.

Below is the President's Roadshow Schedule with additional dates being added as they are confirmed. If your school division would like to be considered for a Roadshow stop, please email Samantha Bosserman, VSBA deputy executive director, at
December 14, 2023 - Staunton City
February 1, 2024 - Charlottesville City
February 8, 2024 - Suffolk City
February 12, 2024 - Spotsylvania County
February 20, 2024 - Mathews County
March 8, 2024 - Caroline County
March 29, 2024 - Fredericksburg City
April 25, 2024 - Isle of Wight County
April 30, 2024 - Wise County
May 9, 2024 - Hopewell City
May 10, 2024 - Petersburg City
May 13, 2024 - Campbell County
May 14, 2024 - Buckingham County
May 15, 2024 - Prince William County
August 13, 2024 - Roanoke City
Click here for Press Release and Photos
Click here for Press Release and Photos
Click here for Press Release and Photos
Click here for Press Release and Photos

Click here for Press Release and Photo
Click here for Press Release and Photos
Welcome Lesley Rigney, the VSBA's newest
Director of Legal and Policy Services
Please welcome Lesley Rigney, the Virginia School Boards Association’s newest Director of Legal and Policy Services. Lesley started with the VSBA in October 2023 and has been practicing law for 11 years.

Most recently, Lesley was practicing Community Association Law, representing volunteer boards of directors of owner associations. She advised and assisted the boards in all legal matters, including governance, policies, compliance, and litigation.

While she has always enjoyed education, wanting to be a teacher from a young age and obtaining her bachelor’s degree in English Education, she fell in love with law during college. Lesley’s transition to the VSBA helps to fulfill her long-time dream to work in education and combines it with her passion and extensive experience in the law. Lesley looks forward to creating a lasting impact on furthering the education of children across the Commonwealth by aiding the work of Virginia school boards.

Lesley has been working closely with Elizabeth Ewing, VSBA’s director of legal and policy services. In April, Lesley will continue full-time in the position as Elizabeth moves to part-time through December 2024, when Elizabeth will be retiring.

For any legal and policy related inquiries, please begin sending them to Lesley Rigney at or call 434-295-8722 ext. 132.
J.T. Kessler
Director of Legislative Services
Lawmakers to Convene Special
Session on 2024-2026 Budget
The Virginia General Assembly held its Reconvene Session on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. The Reconvene Session allows lawmakers to act on vetoes and amendments by the Governor on legislation sent to the executive branch for consideration during the regular session of the General Assembly. This year, several pieces of legislation were either vetoed or amended by the Governor.
Included in the bills amended by the Governor was the 2024-2026 biennial budget bill, House Bill 30 (Torian). After meetings between General Assembly budget writers and the Governor produced no resolution to the differences in how to address spending in the biennium, lawmakers used a procedural maneuver to kill the budget bill adopted by the General Assembly in March. The General Assembly and the Governor agreed to begin the process of negotiating a new 2024-2026 state budget.
March 2024 VSBA Board of Directors Meeting Recap
The VSBA Board of Directors met in Charlottesville on Friday, March 15, 2024, and took the following actions:
  1. Approved the 2027 VSBA Academy Calendar
  2. Approved Dr. Cardell Patillo’s Appointment to the COSSBA Board of Directors
  3. Approved a Proposed Amendment to the VSBA Bylaws
  4. Approved an Updated VSBA Board of Directors Meeting Schedule for 2025 and 2026
  5. Approved a Change Date for the August 2024 Board of Directors Meeting
  6. Approved the Endorsement and Support for the Center for Schools & Campus Safety Event
  7. Approved the 2024 Nominating Committee
The Board also heard the following reports:
  1. Update from Emily Anne Gullickson, Virginia Deputy Secretary of Education
  2. Update from Neil Powers of Vectors Asset Management
Virginia Lottery’s “Thank a Teacher” campaign shines a spotlight on Virginia educators
Virginians can send special thank you notes for Teacher Appreciation Week
Most people remember that special teacher or teachers who helped spark their imagination and learning. That’s the idea behind the Virginia Lottery’s Thank a Teacher campaign.
For the ninth year, the Lottery, in partnership with The Supply Room, IGT, and NeoPollard Interactive, is encouraging Virginians to send special thank-you notes to recognize K-12 public school teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6 – 10, 2024).
The thank you notes feature artwork designed by three Virginia public school students. The designs were submitted in a statewide contest and the winners were selected by a distinguished group of art educators and community members. Those three winners, one each from elementary, middle and high school, are:
  • Sadie Clark, a 5th-grader at Mountain View Elementary School in Roanoke County
  • Maria Rose Sajan, a 7th-grader at Grafton Middle School in York County
  • Helen Hou, a 12th-grader at Albemarle High School in Albemarle County 
Qualifying teachers who receive a thank you note can enter a drawing for a chance to win $2,500 from the Lottery and its partners plus $2,500 in supplies for their school courtesy of The Supply Room.
“The Virginia Lottery is proud to support Virginia's K-12 public schools. The Thank a Teacher campaign allows us to go one step further by asking all Virginian’s to show their appreciation for, and shine their light on, educators across the Commonwealth," said interim director Tony Russell.
To send a digital thank you note, or to request hard copy notes for your school, please visit notes must be sent by May 10, 2024. Teachers have until May 14, 2024, to enter the drawing.
All Virginia Lottery profits, by law, go to K-12 public education in the Commonwealth. In Fiscal Year 2023, the Lottery raised more than $867 million for K-12 education, making up approximately 10 percent of Virginia’s total K-12 school budget. For a complete list of Lottery funds distributed to Virginia school districts, visit the Virginia Lottery’s Giving Back page. Connect with the Lottery on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or YouTube
Profile in Leadership
Joe Kilgore, VSBA Audit/Finance and Committee Chair
How long have you been a school board member?
I am in my 14th year on the Hampton City School Board. I was first elected in May of 2010.

What do you do when you're not working on School Board items?
Spending time with my family has always been a priority. Most of my time continues to be working as a manager in Submarine Engineering at Newport News Shipbuilding where I've worked for 38 years.

Where do you turn for new ideas about serving your community?
Continuing to look, listen and learn has always been my best source of new ideas. VSBA events and national conferences such as COSSBA are always excellent opportunities to get great new ideas that might be different from my own community.
What are one or two education issues/topics/challenges that are especially important to you and why?
Ensuring that we give ALL children the best education and opportunity for academic and life success has always been the most important thing to me. To support this goal, the issues change over time, but the goal stays the same.
The Virginia School Boards Association is holding its 2024 personal student essay/speaking contest where the winners have an opportunity to present before an audience of more than 200 school board members and administrators at the 2024 VSBA Conference on Education being held at the Hilton Richmond Hotel & Spa at Short Pump on July 23, 2024.

This is the fourth year the Virginia School Boards Association will hold this contest. We hope that this contest will bring out the very best in students’ writing and speaking efforts and will allow our attendees to witness examples of bright, thoughtful, and accomplished students around the state. This year’s topic is Kind Hearts, Strong Schools.

The deadline to enter is Monday, May 6, 2024 before 4:00pm.

Thank you to WellNet Healthcare for sponsoring this year’s contest. The first place winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship. Submissions are open to all Virginia public high school students (grades 9-12) as a great opportunity to share their unique voices as well as compete for funds to further their education
Application Process for Nomination and Election of At-Large Officers
According to the VSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 2, “A Nominating Committee of five members will annually nominate no more than two candidates for President-Elect and no more than two candidates for each of the two at-large seats on the Board of Directors whose names will be placed in nomination at the Annual Convention. It shall be the duty of candidates for the at-large position to provide a written nomination, approved by a nominee’s school board, together with pertinent biographical information and a signed letter from each nominee confirming willingness to serve. Members of the Nominating Committee will not be eligible for nomination to any position on the Board. The Immediate Past President will serve as Chair of the Nominating Committee and four other committee members will be elected by the Board of Directors.”

Please note that according to the VSBA Operations Manual, adopted by the VSBA Board of Directors, Section 103.1, no member school board may have more than one person serve on the Board of Directors at the same time and Section 103.2, requires that Candidates for President-Elect must be selected from the current membership of the VSBA Board of Directors. Also, enclosed is Section 102.5, Civility in the VSBA nominating and election process, which was adopted by the VSBA Board of Directors on December 2, 2006.

The application form is required of At-Large candidates to apply for nomination. Those who wish to be considered by the Nominating Committee must submit the completed form, pertinent biographical information, and statement of willingness to serve by July 1. The members of the Nominating Committee appointed at the March 15, 2024, VSBA Board of Directors meeting are:
Joe Kilgore (Hampton City), Amy McClure (Lunenburg County), Kathleen Beane (Richmond County), Marie Imoh (Winchester) and chaired by Past President David Woodard (Tazewell County).

If you are interested in receiving a copy of the application form to fill out or have any questions about the process, please call Gina Patterson, executive director, at 1-800-446-8722.
The VSBA would like to invite you to participate in the 12th annual Food for Thought Competition. The Food for Thought Competition is a friendly competition between Virginia’s school divisions to showcase their programs that combat childhood hunger, provide healthy school meals, and encourage wellness and physical activity. There are three separate competition categories. You may apply to be recognized for the division’s efforts in the following categories:
  • Meal Access to Fight Hunger
  • Healthy School Meals
  • Wellness/Physical Activity

Please complete a separate application for each program. If your school division was recognized as a winner in the previous year, you may not submit an entry for the same program.

Entries will be accepted online: All entries must be submitted by the deadline of May 27, 2024.

Questions? Please contact 434-295-8722 or email

Thank you to this year's sponsor:
Stars Supporting Stars: A No-Cost Elementary School Initiative Builds Positive Attendance Habits for Tomorrow's Success
Written by: Lydia T. Larimore, Elementary School Counselor
At Neabsco Elementary School, the Star mascot represents every student, teacher, staff, and family member. This year, Principal Brooke LeVecchi crafted the new motto, “The Sky is Full of Stars,” to emphasize that ALL belong and matter. Likewise, Superintendent of Prince William County Schools (PWCS), Dr. LaTanya D. McDade, implanted the vision that “every student will graduate on time,” thus believing in every student’s ability to achieve excellence.
While Neabsco exists to inspire and empower all learners, not all students have been available to learn mainly due to low attendance, high chronic absenteeism, dysregulated emotions, and experiencing varying economic disadvantages. Neabsco Elementary enrolls a high transient population with all students receiving free breakfast and lunch. 

Seeing the challenging barriers our students face daily, I was motivated to think outside the box. These challenges fueled the idea to create an initiative that would empower students to want to use education to break and overcome barriers, which in turn would give them a fighting chance at learning to build stamina, graduate high school on time, and reach for the stars.
In September, I created a student-centered initiative called “Stars Supporting Stars,” with the purposeful intent of putting students in the driver’s seat to be the change makers. It is a passion of mine to empower and help students identify their own intrinsic powers. The Stars in “Stars Supporting Stars” (S3) are both the 5th grade mentors, trained to support and check in, with mentees in grades kindergarten to 4th. The role of the mentors is simple: acknowledge their mentees, ask how they are feeling, listen, give positive words of affirmations, offer coping strategies as needed, and track the mentees’ responses, attendance, or absences. The S3 peer mentorship program affords students the opportunity to practice empathy, leadership, social and communication skills, build relationships, and be responsible by committing to short-term, 1-to 2-minute daily check-ins.
Although it was created and implemented within 4 days of its inception, so far, S3 has completed 4 rounds with 64 5th grade mentors, 11 4th grade mentors, and 87 mentees. We hope to complete 6 rounds before the end of the 2023-2024 school year, with every 5th grade student having the opportunity to be a mentor.
What does the data look like? Last year’s Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 chronic absenteeism was between 23% to 24%. This year’s Quarter 1 chronic absenteeism data, with 24 mentors paired with 25 mentees for 24 days, yielded 12.8%. By midyear, after Round 2 and 3 of 36 mentors and 36 mentees in each round, the chronic absenteeism rate dropped to about 11.94%. As we approach the end of Quarter 3, student enrollment is higher than last year, but chronic absenteeism has decreased by 50% from the year before.
How do we know the peer mentorship program is working? We took a 3-week pause after Round 3. We experienced an uptick in absences and an increase in discipline issues. Students reported feeling more anxious, miss having a “friend” visit, and unmotivated due to a lack of connection with a peer. After the 3-week pause, in Round 4, we extended the peer mentors’ role to 11 4th graders and promoted two 5th grade mentors to take on a new initiative, “Mentors Mentoring Mentors” (M3 or ‘super mentors’). 
Aubrey Argueta, a 5th Grade Super Mentor, stated, “Watching you hand out the folders and speaking with each of the mentors when they return from meeting with their mentees showed me that it can be a lot to handle… but also showed me how to be a bit more mature”. The role of the super mentors is to not only carry on the daily tasks of collecting data and feedback from the mentors, but also model and encourage peers to practice integrity and be mentally ready to enter middle school in a few short months.
In conjunction with the S3 program, we implemented schoolwide attendance initiatives, specifically grade-level attendance challenges, trivia games, pop-up attendance awards, quarterly assemblies, and the occasional fun lunchtime games. The ripple effect caused by the peer mentorship program is astoundingly evident. Not every student has a mentor or mentee, but the overall daily attendance since the implementation of S3 has been above 90% schoolwide, which is more than a 15% increase since last year. The increased attendance rates have significantly improved overall student engagement, academic outcomes, mindset and behavior, and the climate and culture of our school. Students are excited to come to school, because “No matter how you look or how you feel, you can achieve anything” (Bryson Dillon, 3rd Grade).
As a school counselor who focuses my teaching on mindset and behavior, I passionately believe that when students feel they can do it, they will do it. They will reach for the Stars!
Click below for additional resources and information on this program
In each newsletter, VSBA will spotlight a recent initiative or best practice taking place in a school division in Virginia. If you have a story you would like to submit for inclusion in the spotlight section of the VSBA newsletter, please email it to with the subject: Division Spotlight and your division's name. Pictures and a link to the story on your division/school's website should also be included with the submission.
Vendor Solicitations
We are aware that some members are receiving email solicitations from vendors. While we are grateful to our corporate sponsors and vendors who generously support many of our events, VSBA does not share the contact information of our members.  
School board member contact information is publicly available on most school boards' websites. If you are receiving unwanted solicitations, please contact the companies directly to opt out.
Thank you to the 2024 VSBA Business Affiliates
In each issue of the VSBA Newsletter, we will feature three VSBA Affiliate Members.
Thank you for your support of the VSBA and Virginia's public education system.
Clark Nexsen
Delivering K-12 design solutions for more than 20 years, our architects and engineers collaborate with our clients to create school environments that foster inquisitive thinking and promote interaction. We recognize the importance of balancing community context with modern instruction to develop customized solutions for our K-12 clients.

Becky Brady | 757-455-5800
Energy Systems Group, LLC (ESG)
For over 25 years, ESG has provided the K-12 community with infrastructure improvements to improve the learning environment and lengthen the life expectancy of your facilities.

Cheryl Midkiff | 434-333-5025
J.A. Street & Associates
Providing Preconstruction, Value Engineering, Construction Management, Design-Build, and PPEA services for new construction and rehabilitation projects since 1985.

Shari Brown | 423-323-8017

Get ready for a comprehensive journey through the complexities of school finance! Join us in this dynamic workshop designed exclusively for board members. You have the option of attending in person or remotely. You will not only discover, but fully immerse yourself in the critical role you play in the budget process, aligning it with the overarching mission and vision of your school system. Be prepared for an action-packed agenda featuring key topics that will inspire your desire for effective financial management.

Location: Hybrid - VSBA Office or Virtual
Cost: $185 per registration. Please reach out to your school division clerk to register for this event. For affiliate members, please reach out to Mikaela Coffey for registration at

Friday, May 31, 2024 - School Law Conference
Join us for a day of enlightenment and collaboration at the Virginia School Boards Association Hybrid School Law Conference. Our lineup of speakers will dive into relevant topics in education law, providing valuable insights for legal professionals, school board members, and policymakers alike.

Location: Hybrid - Richmond Marriott Short Pump or Virtual
Cost: $215 per registration. Please reach out to your school division clerk to register for this event. For affiliate members, please reach out to Mikaela Coffey for registration at
200 Hansen Road, Charlottesville, VA 22911
Tel: 434-295-8722 Fax: 434-295-8785