A Public Education Forum 

Saturday, September 30

8:50 am - 4:30 pm

Check-in Starts at 8:15 a.m.

Chesterfield Career & Technical Center
13900 Hull Street Road, Midlothian, VA 23112

4Public Education and Virginia Public Education Partners Promote Positive Learning in Our Public Schools.


8:15 AM Registration Begins

8:50 AM ​Attacks on LGBTQ+ Students and DEI Rhetoric, Legislation and Student/Staff Mental Health

10:00 AM School Safety, Gun Violence, and Student/Staff Mental Health

11:00 AM Censorship,  Book Banning, and the Effect on Student Learning

12:00 PM Lunch with Keynote Speaker Alicia Johnson

1:00 PM Corporate Career and Technical Education

2:00 PM Charter Schools, Lab Schools, Educational Vouchers, Tax Credits, and Critical Education Funding

3:00 PM Misinformation, Astroturfing, and Dark Money

4:00 PM Wrap-Up and All Panelists Q&A

The Venue

Chesterfield Career & Technical Center
13900 Hull Street Road, Midlothian, VA 23112

Phone: 804-639-8668

Fax: 804-639-6394

At the Chesterfield Career & Technical Center, Chesterfield students explore their career paths to prepare for higher education or early entry into the workforce. 

The Speakers

Dr. Nancy Bailey 

Nancy was a longtime teacher in several areas of special education, including high school students with reading and writing difficulties. She worked closely with the high school vocational career counselor, and they were the recipients of an Innovation Grant to combine reading and vocational education in the classroom. 

She has authored two books published by Rowman and Littlefield: Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students and Losing America’s Schools: The Fight to Reclaim Public Education. And she co-authored a third book with Diane Ravitch EdSpeak and Doubletalk: A Glossary to Decipher Hypocrisy and Save Public Schooling

Nancy can be found blogging about public schools on her blog nancyebailey.com, 10 years running, where she also maintains a website of information that may be helpful for teaching and parenting.


Rachel (they/she) is a licensed clinical social worker, and founder/owner of The Properties of Light, LLC -  a clinical and consultative practice that centers authenticity, healing & belonging for neurodivergent + queer, trans, & nonbinary people of all ages.

Jeff Bryant 

Jeff Bryant is writing fellow and chief correspondent for Our Schools, a project of the Independent Media Institute, and the lead fellow of The Progressive magazine’s Public Schools Advocate project.

Courtney Champion 

Courtney Champion is a passionate advocate for gun violence prevention through legislative action, community organizing, and public education. She is a mother of two and joined the violence prevention movement after her oldest child experienced traumatic lockdown drills in elementary school.

In her various leadership roles with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Courtney led a team of volunteers in political action, spearheaded public education campaigns, and supported fellow advocates through mentorship and training. Courtney is most committed to addressing the impact of gun violence on youth. Due to her advocacy, Virginia law now requires school systems to inform guardians when drills are scheduled. She is currently focused on lobbying her local school board to support secure firearm storage education and legislation.

Courtney’s relentless advocacy is matched only by her avid baking, and she can often be found in the kitchen making her signature cookies when the news cycle is too much to bear.

Dr. Maurice Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham, Ph.D., J.D., is author of Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization. He retired in 2021 as associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. His work has been distributed through the Independent Media Institute and has appeared in The Bucks County Beacon (PA), Shepherd Express (WI), Alternet, Tampa Bay Times, The Daily Progress (VA), Idaho Education News, New Hampshire Bulletin, The Detroit Free Press, and The Portland Press-Herald (ME), and at Diane Ravitch’s Blog, dianeravitch.net. His Twitter handle is @MassPolProfMo and he blogs at MassPoliticsProfs.org. He can be reached at maurice.cunningham153@gmail.com.

Breanna Diaz 

Breanna Diaz (she/they) is a queer, Latinx person whose lived experience deeply informs their advocacy. She received her law degree from American University, Washington College of Law. Breanna currently serves as Policy & Legislative Counsel for ACLU of Virginia, where they work on LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedom and First Amendment issues. Prior to joining ACLU-VA, Breanna served as Policy Director of Positive Women’s Network-USA advocating for the rights of women and people of transgender experience living with HIV, focusing on the intersection of public health and criminalization. Breanna currently resides in Richmond, Virginia, but will forever be a proud Texan.

Dr. Marlene Gooding

Dr. Marlene Gooding is a native of Henrico County, Virginia, where she attended Hermitage High School.  Upon graduation, she attended James Madison University (JMU) where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She continued her education at JMU and received her masters and educational specialist degrees in school psychology. She began her career at Richmond Public Schools and has been an employee in that district for the past 26 years. Later, Marlene became one of three Lead School Psychologists in the district, while also obtaining her doctoral degree in educational leadership from Liberty University. Dr. Gooding also co-leads the professional development pursuits for her department. Other specific duties she has undertaken have included serving as a Family Assessment and Planning Team (FAPT) member, a school psychology site supervisor for practicum students and interns, as well as serving on the School Health Advisory Board (SHAB) and as a school representative for the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium (MERC) through Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). 

Dr. Gooding’s passion involves promoting the development of young minds. In addition to her providing group and individual counseling, psychological evaluations for special education, and consultation with teachers and parents, Marlene is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. where for over 30 years, she has provided service to her community. Marlene teaches Sunday School, is married to a pastor and teacher, has a daughter in medical school, and a son who is a freshman in college.  Finally, Dr. Gooding believes that every person has the potential to thrive when afforded resources, a pathway, and love to help them on their way. 

Laura Goren 

Laura Goren serves as the Director of Research and Education Policy at The Commonwealth Institute. This includes leading TCI's analysis on education funding, supporting community-based partners in their education advocacy work, and making sure the strongest analysis is being brought to bear on key issues facing communities of color and low-income families. Additionally, Laura's work includes analyzing macroeconomic conditions in Virginia and safety net programs. Outside of paid work, Laura has worked on grassroots social and economic justice campaigns, including successful campus living wage and inclusionary zoning campaigns. Laura previously served as a research assistant at the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, conducting research on housing finance issues.

Sarah Gross

Sarah Gross considers herself a “professional volunteer” currently serving as the board chair for We The People for Education Virginia.  Previously, she was President of the Virginia PTA from 2017-2019 and a member of the National PTA Legislation committee. Sarah has held various local and state PTA positions including four years as the chair of the Advocacy Committee for Virginia PTA. Always a sucker for a committee appointment,  Sarah has served two terms on ABTEL, as a commissioner on the Virginia Complete Count Census Commission as well as several positions in the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation.  Of course, she is most proud of her two almost grown public school-educated children.  She and her husband, Kevin, live in Richmond, Virginia.

Morgan Hamm 

Morgan Hamm (they/them) is a high school student in Chesterfield County

Denise Harrington 

I graduated from Hampton University in 1986 with a BS in Music Education., and began my 16 year teaching career in the York County School division in Virginia.  In 1993, I obtained an endorsement in applied linguistics specifically in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages , and began working with English Learners while continuing to teach Music. After teaching 16 years in YCSD, I taught in a Title One school for 19 years in Henrico County Virginia. While I was there, I conducted Action Research,obtained $21,000 in grants and Chaired the PBIS team. I obtained my MA in Administration and Supervision, and my MS,  in Diagnostic Reading (with an emphasis on Dyslexia and Diverse Learners). I also began my Doctorate specializing in Teacher Leadership at Walden University, (A.B.D.-all but dissertation).  

Throughout my career, I continued to be an Advocate for children and public education and served the Virginia Education Association (VEA) in the following capacities: Vice-President of the York Education Association, Board member for 2 years of the Henrico Education Association,  and the Executive Political Action Committee(15 years). Also served, for 15 years as the State Legislative Liaison for the Virginia Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (VATESOL). Both experiences allowed me to Lobby the Virginia General Assembly and Congress. At present, I am serving as the State Director of Advocacy of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. I am a recent graduate of the Minority Political Institute Leadership Institute (MPLI) from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Doug Wilder School of Government ‘s, Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute (GEHLI), in which we submitted a Team Paper on the Environmental Justice aspect of Flooding in Virginia.

Dr. Ghazala Hashmi 

Dr. Ghazala Hashmi immigrated to the U.S. from India as a young child. Growing up in a small college town in Georgia, she saw firsthand how community-building and  dialogue can bridge cultural, racial, and socioeconomic divisions. As an experienced educator who spent nearly 30 years working within Virginia’s colleges and universities, she has presented numerous papers on literature, the scholarship of teaching and learning, online education, faculty development, and the role of community colleges. She has also published book chapters, articles, and essays on a variety of topics. Dr. Hashmi served as the Founding Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CETL) at Reynolds Community College. She earned her PhD in English from Emory University in Atlanta and her BA in English, with minors in Philosophy and International Studies, from Georgia Southern University.

Pastor Ralph Steven Hodge

Senior Pastor Ralph Steven Hodge was born in Washington D.C.; however, he spent most of his formative years in Fort Washington, Maryland.

He was born-again during the summer of 1979 and accepted his call to the ministry in 1989 while attending Howard University. It was during his time at Howard University that Reverend Hodge really began to live a spirit-filled life. He was active in Campus Crusade for Christ on Howard’s campus and served the Fort Washington Baptist Church as an ordained deacon before becoming an ordained minister.

He graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Applied Science in 1992 and, subsequently, received his Masters in Divinity degree from Virginia Union University in 1995. During the winter of 2002, he answered the call to become the pastor of the Second Baptist Church of South Richmond. His installation celebration was held on April 26, 2003.

Pastor Hodge is the former Co-President of Richmonders Involved to Strengthen Our Communities (RISC)  for many years and worked on healthcare, housing, and gun violence. 

Pastor Hodge is married to the former Kassandra Elder, and together they are raising four sons: Tyrone, Samuel, Isaiah, and Steven.

Becca Jasman

Becca Jasman is originally from Spotsylvania, Virginia.  She started her career as an elementary classroom teacher, mainly Pre-K & K.  From there, Becca purused an MEd in School Librarianship from Longwood.  She was a school library media specialist for 6 years and worked in both elementary and high school libraries.  Becca fell in love with the profession and decided to get her MLIS from Old Dominion University (ODU).  After being in public education for 24 years, Becca works for Chesterfield County Public Libraries where  she is the Assistant Branch Manager for the Midlothian branch.

Alicia Johnson

Alicia Johnson is the National Organizer and Student Network Manager at Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Alicia got her start as a student organizer advocating for sexual health and rights and now has several years’ experience advancing health equity and social justice at organizations including Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts, Common Cause New York and American Heart Association of NYC. She has managed campaigns; trained and built the capacity of youth and adult advocates and leaders; and helped pass city and state policies to help people and communities thrive.

Alicia earned her master’s degree in public administration from Baruch College and a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and women’s and gender studies from Boston College.

Michael Karabinos 

Michael Karabinos is a parent and advocate from Chesterfield County.  Michael introduced the "Watch D.O.G.S." Parent volunteer program to his children's elementary school and ran the program for 7 years.  He has been a Cubmaster, assistant Scout Master, Religious education assistant, and coached multiple youth sports.  

Michael has been motivated into advocacy to protect the education and opportunities within Virginia from deliberate disinformation campaigns designed to dismantle our established institutions. 

Peggy Lavinder

Peggy Lavinder is a parent volunteer and advocate for Hanover County Public Schools serving five years on the Mechnicsville High School PTSO Board. Before disbanding, she served for four years on the Hanover Schools Community Equity Advisory Committee. Peggy is the Secretary for the Hanover County Branch NAACP and has actively supported their program for Education Equity, access and inclusion for minority groups and their history. She joined the Hanover NAACP’s decades-long effort to change the former Lee Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School names. Peggy has served as board member of Mechanicsville Branch Library /Pamunkey Regional Library for seventeen years and is an ardent supporter of libraries. 

Dr. Rachel Levy 

Rachel Levy is a nationally recognized public education advocate, writer, educator, and parent. She has served as a leader of the group Friends of Hanover Schools, as a local PTA unit and booster club leader, on several committees of the local school districts in her area, on then Governor-elect Ralph Northam’s PK-12 policy council, as a local Education Association president, and on the Education Committee at her synagogue. She has a PhD in educational leadership and policy from Virginia Commonwealth University. You can find her on facebook and Instagram at @rachelfordelegate and on twitter at @rachelannelevy.

Deirdra McAfee 

Deirdra McAfee has taught in the US and the Marshall Islands, in public and private schools, and at every level from elementary through college and adult education. In the Richmond area, she taught American literature at the Governor’s School and taught eleventh-grade American literature at Henrico High School, as well as World Literature and Theory of Knowledge in HHS’s International Baccalaureate Programme.


Deirdra’s award-winning short fiction has been widely published and has earned her artist’s residencies at MacDowell and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, among others, as well as in France and Germany.

Deirdra also taught adult creative writers for many years at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond and in private seminars. She and a student, BettyJoyce Nash, edited and contributed to Lock & Load: Armed Fiction (University of New Mexico Press, 2017), a groundbreaking anthology of great American stories with guns in them, designed to spark fruitful conversations about American attitudes toward firearms.

Dr. Shedrick McCall

Dr. Shedrick McCall is an Associate Tenured Professor of Psychology at Virginia State University and CEO/Owner McCall Professional Counseling services. Dr. McCall has a BA in Psychology (Maryville College), MA in Counseling (Liberty University) and Ed.D in Counseling Psychology (Argosy University American School of Professional Psychology).

Dr. McCall has worked as a juvenile Psychologist and Clinician for incarcerated youth and people with mental health illnesses.  Dr. McCall has received many professional, athletic and academic awards. He has over 50 publications and he has co-authored a psychology textbook (Introduction to Psychology: Guiding Young Minds). Dr. McCall has been in the education, corrections, and mental health field over 25 years. His research interests are studying mental illnesses in the African American community and the school to prison pipeline controversy. 

Dr. McCall is married to Dr. Shannon McCall and they have two children Shedrick, III (24) and Madison (7). 

Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander 

Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, is the Endowed  Professor of Virginia Black History and Culture at Norfolk State University. She is the former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and the Emeritus Director and Founder of the Joseph Jenkins Roberts Center for African Diaspora Studies. Newby-Alexander is the author of numerous articles  including Dr. Sarah Garland Jones; Beyond Race and Gender in Late 19th Century Virginia"  that won the William M. E. Rachal Award for Outstanding Article in the Virginia Magainze of History and Biography in 2019.  Newby-Alexander is the author of Virginia Waterways and the Underground Railroad (2019), An African American History of the Civil War in Hampton Roads (2010), co-author of Black America Series: Portsmouth (2003), and Hampton Roads: Remembering Our Schools (2009). Newby-Alexander co-Edited Voices from within The Veil: African Americans and the Experience of Democracy (2008).  Dr. Newby-Alexander has appeared on numerous national programs and documentaries including PBS's Many Rivers to Cross, the History Channel's Race, Slavery, and the Civil War, and C-SPAN's broadcasts on history, including the American History Lecture. 

Newby-Alexander was the Co-Chair of the Virginia Commission on African American History Education in the Commonwealth

Wyatt Rolla 

Wyatt Rolla is the Senior Transgender Rights Attorney for the ACLU of Virginia. They work alongside trans people across the Commonwealth, deploying litigation, policy, and community lawyering tools. Previously, Wyatt worked for nine years with Virginia’s Legal Aid Justice Center, initially focused on housing law, then shifting to combat criminalization of the poor, people of color, and far too many Virginians.   Outside of work, Wyatt is the co-founder of the National Lawyers Guild Central Virginia Chapter and serves on the Advisory Council for the Charlottesville Public Housing Association of Residents and the board of the Virginia Equality Bar Association (VEBA). Wyatt was recognized by Equality Virginia as an “OUTstanding Virginian” (as a VEBA board member) in 2020 and an “Up and Coming Lawyer” by Virginia Lawyers Weekly in 2018. They earned their B.A. from the College of William and Mary and their law degree from the University of Virginia.

Dr. Raynard Sanders

Raynard Sanders has extensive experience in teaching, educational administration, and economic and community development. As a principal of a New Orleans high school, he developed the first high school DNA lab in the state of Louisiana and created the Creole Cottage Project, an innovative workforce development program where his students built houses in the school’s community which were then sold to first time home-buyers . Dr. Sanders also served as the Executive Director of The National Faculty at New Orleans, a professional development agency designed to improve the quality of teaching in poor performing schools throughout the Mississippi Delta, Director of the Urban Education Graduate Program at Southern University at New Orleans. He served as a consultant to several agencies including Mississippi NAACP, Southern Initiative Algebra Project and Total Community Action. Dr. Sanders has conducted numerous seminars and workshops across the country and written numerous articles most recently on the market-based education reforms sweeping the country. For eleven years he hosted a weekly radio show on public education in New Orleans (The New Orleans Imperative). Dr. Sanders has authored two books, Twenty -First Century Jim Crow Schools: the Impact of Charters on Public and Education and The Coup D'état of the New Orleans Public School District: Money Power and the Illegal Takeover of a Public School System. Dr. Sanders received his B.A. from Dillard University in New Orleans, a M. Ed. from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and his Doctorate of Education from Teachers College, Columbia University Teachers in New York City.

Nathan Sekinger 

Nathan Sekinger is a National Board Certified Teacher and middle school Librarian in Virginia. He was the Virginia Association of School Librarians State Librarian of the Year and a district finalist for Teacher of the Year in Stafford County in 2017. He is the current President of the Virginia Association of School Librarians and a recent recipient of AASL’s STEM Special Event Grant to expand 3D printing service projects at his middle school.

Justin Sykes 

Justin Sykes grew up in Chesterfield Virginia. He came out as trans in middle school and with the support of his family was able to socially and medically transition starting in high school. He is passionate about working with youth and being a positive role model for youth that are on their gender Journey. He received his undergraduate in Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University in 2021. He is currently a consultant at Partnership for Southern Equity. And is hoping to pursue a career in youth-centered Advocacy. His passions include Multimedia art, movement, and spending time under the sun.

Bertha Washington

Bertha Washington, retired, received her  M.ED. in Industrial Education (which became vocational technical education) from Virginia State University and her B.S.,Vocational-Industrial Education Course work, Ferrum College. Her career spans 25 years. She was a Math Specialist at Vernon Johns Junior High in Petersburg, a Math Facilitator Elementary Schools, and an Elementary teacher in Petersburg City Public Schools. She was a Specialist for Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) (Currently SkillsUSA) for the Virginia Department of Education, VCU and Richmond City Public Schools. 

Bertha’s Appointments/Elections include: 

Petersburg Commission on Community Relations.

Co-chairperson, Concerned Parents of Petersburg.

VSU Faculty Council.

Vice Chairperson, National VICA Alumni Executive Council.

Chairperson, Virginia Vocational Student Organization Specialist Council.

Regional Vice-President, State VICA Director Committee of the National Association of State

Supervisors of Trade and Industrial Education.

National Secondary Vice-President, Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA).   

Bertha’s Honors include:

Invited to talk with President Gerald Ford on Vocational Education.

Nominated to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.

Chairperson, Organizing Committee of the Collegiate VICA Chapter at Virginia State University.

Charter member of Industrial Education and Technology Alumni Chapter.

Vanessa Hall 

Vanessa Hall is a co-founder of 4publiceducation.org where she blogs to support Title IX, equity, LGBTQIA rights, gun control, truth in history, and school safety. She is known as an expert on dark money and astroturfed forces behind attacks on our public schools. At school board meetings, Vanessa stands as witness to and speaks out against those who descend on Fairfax County to create chaos, silence opposition, and attack families and educators. Before attacks on parents, educators, and community leaders triggered her to monitor and push back against extremism and dark money in Northern Virginia, Vanessa Hall was merely a full-time volunteer and mom. She continues to teach Sunday School, lead a scout troop, and is always ready to volunteer to support her community. 

 Many Thanks to Our Sponsors

The Commonwealth Initiative

The League of Women Voters RVA in partnership with LWV Virginia