The School-University Research Network (SURN), which serves as the link between William & Mary's School of Education and 27 Virginia school divisions, held its biannual board meeting in honor of Dean Virginia McLaughlin's 18 years of service to the School of Education and SURN. Despite the wintery weather which loomed over Virginia – and sadly prevented many guests from making the trip to Williamsburg – the meeting on March 6th was enthusiastic and filled with good wishes.
Dr. Ashby Kilgore, Superintendent of Newport News Public Schools and Chair of the SURN Board, established intimacy from the outset by asking all in attendance – over a dozen current and former Virginia Superintendents, SOE faculty and staff, and Ginnie's husband John – to take turns sharing how Ginnie has made an impact on their professional lives. Many of the superintendents and guests spoke of Ginnie's impact as a professor, a Dean, and as a member of the Virginia Board of Education. Dr. Jennifer Parrish, Superintendent for Poquoson Schools, expressed gratitude to Ginnie for serving as a strong role model for women leaders in Virginia.
W&M President Taylor Reveley delivered a speech of ebullient praise and appreciation.
When it was necessary that the business meeting actually attend to some business, three speakers were given the microphone. First, Principal Michael Nichols of Newport News delivered a stirring report on the way in which SURN's "Power Tools" professional development seminars have helped his teachers and shaped an identifiable culture in his school. Next, Assistant Principal Nathaniel Elliott of Surry County reported on SURN's "Principals' Academy" program and how it has enabled administrators like him to offer guidance to teachers unbound by the pressure of official evaluations. Finally, High School English Teacher Cleveland Winfield of Richmond County informed the group on the impact of SURN's "College and Career Readiness Power Team" program, which he credited with reigniting the spark in his career. All three speakers spun their reports into praise for Dean McLaughlin and her support of SURN and K-12 education in Virginia.
Next, Dr. Roy Geiger, SURN Charter Member and former Superintendent of New Kent County Public Schools, reminisced on the golden year of 1995, during which he was appointed as Superintendent in New Kent and his former W&M classmate was appointed as Dean at the W&M School of Education. Then Dr. Ben Kiser, Superintendent of Gloucester County Schools, brought out the "roast" and the laughs, remembering his first encounter with Ginnie after which he told his wife, "I've met my match – she talks more than I do."
Finally, at long-last Ginnie was given the microphone. Turning to Dr. Kiser she said that for once she may be at a loss for words, but went on to express her pride in SURN, which she helped to create. SURN, she said, is an accomplishment that illustrates her journey from teacher to scholar. Executive Director of SURN, Dr. Jan Rozzelle, then presented Ginnie with a plaque representing the establishment of the "SURN Virginia L. McLaughlin Collaborative Leadership Award," which will be awarded annually to a W&M School of Education graduate student hailing from a SURN member school division.