Far Left Pounces on School Board Alliance for Putting Students & Parents Above Woke Ideology

by | May 28, 2024 | Fixing Education

Image: Far-left activist Kristi Chamberlain prominently displays anti-SBMA signs during the York County public comment session

Teachers union allies are trying to smother a parents-first group in the cradle before it can fix Virginia’s schools

The School Board Member Alliance (SBMA), a nonpartisan organization created as an alternative to the partisan Virginia School Board Association (VSBA), is facing intense criticism from members of far-left education groups including the VSBA and Virginia Education Association.

For the past 116 years, the VSBA has held a monopoly over school board governance training. Frustrated by the VSBA’s focus on what they can’t do, a group of school board members and educators formed the SBMA. SBMA believes that school board responsibilities extend beyond just hiring superintendents and approving policies and budgets. The alliance offers professional development and resources to help individual school board members provide the necessary governance oversight of public schools. 

Since its launch in Jan. 2023, SBMA’s rapid membership growth has woke VSBA activists concerned.

James Richardson, who sits on the VSBA Board of Directors, is launching attacks against the SBMA from his seat on the York County School Board. “SBMA does not present itself as a high quality of professional organization,” he said during a May 6 school board meeting, despite having never attended an SBMA training. Richardson also claimed SBMA was not made up of experts in their field and operated out of a single residence. 

In truth, SBMA’s board of directors, who have decades of public education experience both in the classroom and on local school boards, collaborate remotely across Virginia.

Richardson also accused SBMA of not being transparent. However, he failed to mention that his own association is currently being sued by a Virginia parent for its alleged lack of transparency. VSBA has been operating as a government entity—collecting hundreds of thousands in tax dollars—but will not disclose its financial records to the public.

Richardson further claimed that attending SBMA events violates York County’s school board policy BHB, which he interprets as allowing attendance only at VSBA and National School Boards Association (NSBA) events. However, the policy mentions these organizations merely as examples, not as exclusive options. In addition, VSBA severed ties with NSBA in 2022 following controversial remarks made by NSBA about parents speaking out at school board meetings, so the policy Richardson cited is also outdated.

James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association, is also chiming in on the SBMA. In an interview with far-left news outlet WAVY10, Fedderman criticized the alliance, claiming “its policies could create divisiveness in York County and could lead to discrimination and segregation, deepening divisions within the commonwealth and the nation.” 

However, it was Fedderman’s VEA that provided its members with Black Lives Matter at School Toolkit, a resource that was highly criticized by Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Administration.

“The VEA—the same union that kept schools shuttered and students at home during the pandemic—is now attempting to inject a politically-driven curriculum toolkit in an effort to teach kids to discriminate against one another based off their color, gender, race, or background,” Macaulay Porter, Youngkin spokeswoman, said in an interview with the Daily Signal. “This will not be tolerated.”

Fedderman also accused SBMA of supporting book bans, distorting history, and undermining teacher autonomy without providing evidence to support any of his claims.

Despite these criticisms, SBMA continues to advocate for effective governance and professional development for school board members, striving to enhance academic achievement in a safe, disruption-free environment.

“Statewide, we’re committed to setting high standards,” Sherri Story, SBMA executive director, said. “We aim for educational excellence as the norm, not the exception. By equipping school board members with essential knowledge and skills, we help them become agents of positive change.”

As a young association, SBMA could use the support of Virginians who share SBMA’s mission. Please consider becoming a friend of SBMA or donating to the alliance at mysbma.org.

Shelly Norden is a freelance journalist and founding member of the School Board Member Alliance, which is committed to educating school board members about their authority under the law and ensuring the best interests of students are always taken into account.

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