Excitement reigned at Belvedere Elementary School on Monday as Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe visited the school to announce some new teacher initiatives in his proposed biennial budget, which will be released next Monday. Licensing, recruitment and retention, and tuition expense for obtaining advanced degrees while on the job are barriers to teaching as a career field, the governor said. Teacher shortages continue to increase in Virginia, affecting the Commonwealth’s future economic growth and prosperity. Automating the licensure process will reduce the time to obtain teaching credentials. The current burdensome process, incredibly, is paper-based.
Minority students pursuing teaching careers pass exams at lower rates than their peers, so the governor is recommending new funding to help cover the costs of tests and test-preparation programs for provisionally licensed minority students. The governor’s budget proposal also would increase the Tuition Assistance Grant program to encourage students attending Virginia’s private colleges and universities to enter the teaching profession. Funding also would improve the Teaching Scholarship Loan Program to incentivize teachers to teach for two years in a top five critical shortage area.
While at the lectern in Belvedere’s library, Governor McAuliffe signed an Executive Directive that would institute an undergraduate major in education for the state’s colleges and universities. The current five-year program is too long, the governor said, and too expensive, for students eager to get into the job market. He added that the State Board of Education should promulgate the new emergency regulations by Mar. 1, 2018.
Behind the lectern was a banner that recognized Belvedere as one of the top 100 Title I schools in the nation, a designation that was announced earlier this fall. Under the direction of principal Cecilia Vanderhye, Belvedere’s students have the opportunity to participate in the only elementary school International Baccalaureate World School program in Fairfax County. When I visited last spring’s end of school Primary Years Program, or PYP, small groups of students had spent months preparing their research projects, including an analysis of women in leadership roles, coding as a career, caring for animals, and language learning. Great things are happening in our Fairfax County public schools, and you can help by volunteering as a tutor, a mentor, or with the Grandinvolve program that matches senior citizens with students in the classroom. Learn more about this 50+ Community Action program at www.grandinvolve.org.
Last week’s spike in opioid overdoses, resulting in six deaths, stunned longtime Fairfax County Police investigators. Administering Narcan, a medicine that can reverse an overdose when used quickly and correctly, has saved many overdose victims, but police suspect that the easily available street heroin may be laced with fentanyl and carfentanil. Both are synthetic opioids that can be lethal even in the smallest doses. The recent victims ranged in age from 22 to 34, but opioid addiction can afflict people of varying ages, even into their mid-60s. Help is available 24 hours a day. Call 9-1-1 if you suspect an overdose. Call the Community Services Board at the Merrifield Center at 703-573-5679 to help find appropriate treatment and recovery services. Opioid addiction is a disease, and needs to be treated as such.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]