2023 was a busy year for 4 Public Education. In addition to our presence at school board meetings, key education events, and a robust on-line presence, we also elected new officers. We would like to introduce: Cheryl Binkley, our President, and Vanessa Hall, our Vice President.
Cheryl Binkley is a retired high school and community college English and Theatre teacher. Like many public school advocates, she began as a classroom mom, PTA member, and local PTA president. Her two children are graduates of Annandale High School, and her grandson graduated from Centreville.
Cheryl’s academic credentials include an M.Ed. from the University of Virginia and she is a graduate of One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York. Her credentials include licensure in Special Education, Emotional Disturbances, and Advanced Academics. She was an International Baccalaureate and Dual Enrollment teacher and a department chair. In addition, she is a published writer of curriculum and teacher handbooks. She blogs as “3rd Millennium Teacher.”
Like Vanessa Hall, our vice president, Cheryl was a co-founder of 4 Public Education and has been an active voice of support for public education by speaking at school board and Board of Education meetings, rallies, and policy actions, and has provided testimony to state legislature about education components of state budgets.
Her other public school advocacy and support includes being an early member and state coordinator for the VirginiaBATs, Virginia’s wing of the national Badass Teachers Association which has 60,000 members, and as a co-founder of Virginia Educators United that coordinated the 2019 Virginia RedforEd March. She continues to serve on district advisory committees and supports fellow retirees on the boards of FEA-Retired, and FCRE (Fairfax County Retired Educators).
As incoming president, I’d like to thank Holly Hazard for her leadership during our first two years. She will continue as a board member, but we are excited for her as she joins the staff of the Virginia Senate for the 2024 General Assembly session.
4 Public Education began as a firewall to protect our local students, public schools, and school board members from radical, even violent, threats and attacks. We’ve been successful at banding together with other organizations of parents, community members, and students to meet the threat and provide a voice for the importance and successes of our public schools. Our advocacy has centered around four critical ideas that will remain the grounding of our mission:
Public schools build local communities.
They are the foundations of civic life and democracy,
Public money is for public good, and
Universal respect and access to highest quality services and practices for all students is necessary for our society and children to flourish.
During 2024 we will add stronger outreach to like-minded Virginians across the state and expand our connections to individuals and organizations that share our goals. I would like to invite all who share those values and goals to join us in support and advocacy 4 Public Education in the coming year.
Vanessa Hall is 4 Public Education’s parent-in-the-trenches. She has two children in FCPS. In the last three years, she has attended over 75 school board meetings, spoke at more than 25 school board meetings, and become a local expert on dark money and astroturf organizations. She also has a Bachelors from James Madison University, a Masters from Duke, and other certifications.
Vanessa is a 10-year scout leader, long-time Sunday school teacher, trained OWL educator, former Science Olympiad coach, and active PTA member. She has always tried to be an active helpful volunteer in her children’s schools, whether it was serving on the board at Arlington Unitarian Cooperative Preschool, or supporting students and teachers in Fairfax County K-12 schools. She is currently serving as a co-director of FCPS Pride and a parent representative on FLECAC.
Across Virginia, school boards have taken up the mantle for 2024. In Fairfax, there are eight new and four returning school board members who will need public input and support, as they begin their four-year commitment to the families and employees of FCPS. Every school board needs students, parents, educators, and citizens to speak up about what is important to them, so that boards can hear public concerns, especially when their words, actions, or votes may run counter to student, family, and educator needs.
As a parent, I see vulnerable students and equity under attack. Of the myriad of vulnerable students at risk, LGBTQIA students, especially transgender students, have been the focus of Virginia’s Governor and attacks by the far right; however, they are also a proxy for all vulnerable students whose rights and access to public education are at risk if we do not steadfastly reject angry rhetoric and culture war disinformation. We need to continue to defend librarians and inclusive and diverse books in our schools, so that every student can see themselves reflected in the books they choose to read and the classes they attend.
Similarly, equity has been under attack under the pretense that equity and merit are mutually exclusive. Our students can not be defined merely by standardized test scores irrespective of classroom experience, disabilities, or diverse needs and experiences. Equity ensures that students are given the support and tools they need to succeed whether it is a team-taught classroom experience for a child with ADHD or advanced math for an aggressive learner. Ultimately, the attacks on equity are attacks on funding. Equitable funding of all students provides opportunities for each and every student to succeed in and out of school.
Just in case you were wondering, our work is not done. Despite major election blows to anti-public education activists, we need to remain vigilant. Their strategies will change, so our public schools remain vulnerable.
We, at 4 Public Education, will continue to meet the challenge head on by pushing back against disinformation and anti-public education policies and activists. At the same time, 4 Public Education will continue to advocate for improvements to public policy and our public schools so that students, teachers, and families are best served in our communities.