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McDonnell announces new ‘Teacher Cabinet’ to advise Va. public schools

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) announced Wednesday that he will create a “Teacher Cabinet” of advisers to influence high-level decisions that affect public schools.

The teachers who will comprise most of the cabinet will be charged with developing recommendations for new ways to engage parents and close achievement gaps, and they will work on methods for improving the collaboration between public schools, colleges and workplaces.

“Teachers are valuable resources to ensure a prosperous future in the Commonwealth,” the governor said in an executive order. “While the Commonwealth is fortunate to benefit from a top-ranked K-12 education system and world class teachers, we must continue to look for ways to elevate our educator workforce.”

The cabinet will include up to 20 teachers, as many as two legislators with teaching backgrounds, the secretary of education and the state’s Teacher of the Year. The governor will appoint a chair and vice chair.

Applications are due May 15, with selections soon to follow. McDonnell is expecting his first report of recommendations and action items no later than July 1, according to the executive order.

Meg Gruber, president of the Virginia Education Association, said she welcomed the opportunity for teacher input.

“It’s a good idea to have classroom teachers involved in discussing policy and what really works in the classroom,” she said.

But Gruber wondered about the lasting impact of such a group, considering the governor is in the last year of his term.

McDonnell declared 2013 the “Year of the Teacher” when he unveiled his legislative agenda in December. He included in his budget, for the first time, a 2 percent increase in the state share of teacher compensation.

He also worked with the teachers union to pass a controversial law that extends the probationary period for teachers and clarifies the process for terminating under-performers. Another new law that has been unpopular with many educators sets up a statewide school district to take over chronically failing schools.

Paul Logan, a spokesman for the governor, said he thinks the Teacher Cabinet will be particularly helpful as these and other education changes go into effect in July.

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.

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