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2006-08-02 / Family

CEA president speaks out for educators

By Donna C. Gregory

Stanton Stanton As president of the Chesterfield Education Association (CEA), Lois Harvey Stanton is the leading voice behind more than 2,500 county teachers and support staff, representing over one-third of those employed by Chesterfield County Public Schools.

Now midway through a two-year term, Stanton uses her position to speak out on behalf of her fellow educators, pushing for higher wages, better benefits and improvements in the classroom.

" C o n s i s t e n t l y representing educators in a way that provides real support for what teachers and support staff do in the classroom is a really important aspect of my job," explains Stanton.

Stanton joined the CEA in 1983 when she accepted a position as an English teacher at Thomas Dale High School. She served as the organization's vice president from 2000-05.

Last July, she took a two-year leave of absence from her job as a library media specialist at Manchester High School to serve full-time as CEA president.

It can be a contentious role, pitting teachers against their bosses, but it's one that Stanton has handled with professionalism, says Marshall Trammell, school board chairman.

"Lois is a very professional individual," says Trammell. "I have never felt that there was a hidden agenda. She's always made it very clear what she thought was in the best interests of the teachers. What impresses us as a board is that while she's extremely persistent, she does it in a way that does not alienate the members of the board. She can disagree without being disagreeable."

That was the case earlier this year when Stanton was lobbying for a change in teacher pay scales.

"Salaries are always an issue. We had asked for a shorter scale, so teachers would achieve their top pay before they retire. For several years, the association has been saying this scale doesn't do the job," adds Stanton.

Instead, the school board adopted a threeyear plan that partially addressed some of the CEA's salary concerns.

"Over three years, they have the stated goal that they will lead the market [in salaries compared to school systems in Henrico and Hanover counties and Richmond City]," explains Stanton. "We still think a shorter scale is to a teacher's advantage, but what they have proposed is significantly better after three years than what we've had in the past."

The salary increases take effect for the 2006-07 school year. One of Stanton's focuses during the remaining year of her term will be "making sure that three-year commitment remains in place."

Another goal is to give teachers a louder voice when it comes to changes in classroom instruction.

"As an association, I'm interested in taking more of an instructional role in the classroom. We often respond to changes that are proposed at the state and county level, and I would like to be engaged in that process, so we can help determine what goes on in the classroom," says Stanton.

"Teachers are underrepresented in the decision-making process," she continues. "We need to have more of an instructional presence, because I think teachers are going to feel better about what they do if they have a chance to control some of the expectations that are being placed upon them."

Last year for the first time, the CEA partnered with the school system's staff development team to offer classroom management training for new teachers. Stanton is hopeful the CEA will continue to work with the school system to offer better staff development opportunities.

Stanton also plans to engage the school board as it searches for a new superintendent. Former Superintendent Dr. Billy K. Cannaday left Chesterfield on July 1 to become state superintendent.

"We've been a part of the process of exploring what Chesterfield County needs [in a new superintendent]," says Stanton. "Dr. Cannaday has obviously been a strong superintendent, and that's why they want him at the state level. Many of the qualities he has are those that we will continue to need. We communicate frequently with the school board members. We're always available to them to provide our perspective on it."

"Establishing a relationship with the new superintendent is very important," continues Stanton.

In general, Stanton will spend the next year "representing the needs of teachers and support personnel," she says. "I think we need to work on finding ways to make sure our classrooms are good places for students to learn and good places for teachers to work, and to improve on those in any way that we can."

Stanton can serve two terms as CEA president. At the end of her tenure, she is guaranteed a job with the school system that's comparable to the one she left at Manchester.

While serving as president, Stanton continues to receive a paycheck from the school system, but the CEA reimburses the county for her salary.

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