Melanie Salins, a Warren County School Board member, has been campaigning to drop the board’s membership with the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) for the past year.
“The VSBA is responsible for many of the policies or lack thereof that are creating the problems that you are seeing in our school system today. Why would we want to continue to pay for those policies?” Salins wondered, according to an article in the Royal Examiner.
This past Wednesday, September 6th, she got her wish as she and 3 out of the 4 other members of the board voted to end the district’s membership with the VSBA. (Watch the full school board meeting recording here.)
Until this week, the VSBA held a monopoly as the training organization for all of Virginia’s school boards. Warren County is the first school board in the state that has chosen to break away.
According to the VSBA’s website, it is “a voluntary, nonpartisan organization of Virginia school boards [that promotes] excellence in public education through leadership, advocacy and services.” Board Chair Kristen Pence and her fellow board members Ralph Rinaldi, Melanie Salins, and Antoinette Funk have observed the VSBA fall short of their lofty goals, at least when it comes to helping Warren County. Salins has many concerns with the organization, such as the favoritism she believes they show wealthier districts. She also takes issue with their lack of support for families, reports The Northern Virginia Daily. “The VSBA is not in favor of notifying parents about just about anything at all. They take common sense and they train it out of us as hard as they possibly can,” she said.
“Looking at the big picture, I do think that the VSBA is more aligned with us than not aligned,” insisted Andrea Lo, the one member who voted against leaving the VSBA.
Her fellow board members, though, are not the only ones questioning the relevancy of the VSBA’s support. Although Warren Country School Board has been the first to officially break away from the VSBA, individual school board members across the Commonwealth have been individually seeking or even creating membership support and training alternatives like the School Board Member Alliance (SBMA).
While the VSBA might not be a household name outside of Virginia education circles, it has influenced nearly 1.3 million students in the state’s 132 school districts. The VSBA is not only a training organization. It also provides policy guidance, legal advice, and many other services to school boards alongside lobbying the state about issues that it deems important.
Many Virginians who have opposed the strong left-leaning slant of the VSBA’s policies are hopeful that Warren County School Board’s actions will open the floodgates to show other school boards a way forward without the VSBA’s monopolization.