Youngkin Participates in Southwest Virginia Education Roundtable | Govt. & Policy

Joaquin Mancera Bristol Herald Courier

ABINGDON — Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin attended an education-focused roundtable Monday at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon.

At the start of the roundtable, Youngkin highlighted his administration’s commitment to improving Virginia’s education system and gave a brief update on the education budget that was passed by the Virginia General Assembly, which – once he officially receives, reviews and signs the legislation – will become the largest public education budget in Virginia history.

“You have an administration that is absolutely committed to ensuring that we move forward to give the children of Virginia everything they need to live their dreams here in Virginia,” Youngkin said. “What will be signed will be the largest education budget in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and that is extremely exciting.”

During the roundtable, school administrators, staff, and community leaders introduced the Governor to some of the programs and resources they have created together to meet the needs of students in Southwest Virginia, from programs to learning to teach online during the COVID-19 pandemic. .

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“I think the big picture for all the things we talk about is that we’re collaborating out of necessity, not because it’s something good to do, [or] it looks good on paper. We’re doing it because that’s actually what drives things here,” said Katlin Kazmi, Executive Director of Region VII Virtual Academy.

Connie Ratliff, mother of two students at John Battle High School in Washington County, shared how the COVID-19 pandemic shaped her daughter’s high school experience and how she and her classmates lost touch and continue to struggle with anxiety. Ratliff also pointed to the need for more trained guidance counselors to help students navigate their mental health.

“Stress is a factor, anxiety is always a factor, and I don’t think they’ve really rediscovered the relationships they should have had as high school students,” Ratliff said. “I think there should be more resources available to them.”

Throughout the roundtable conversations, Youngkin emphasized the role that data will play in his administration’s evaluation of education programs.

Keith Perrigan, the superintendent of Bristol Virginia Public Schools, hopes the use of data will become a “flashlight not a hammer”.

“We are doing a lot of great things throughout Southwest Virginia and in public education. We’re not perfect and we want to improve in those areas,” Perrigan said. “Tell us what the bar is, give us the resources to get there, and then let us do our job because we’ve proven over time that we can. We know how to serve our communities.

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