Elena Baum appointed to Governor’s Advisory Committee on Culturally Relevant and Inclusive Education Practices; Gail Flax joins Teacher Advisory Work Group

February 5, 2021

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RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam announced on Wednesday, January 6, the leadership and members of a new advisory committee charged with making recommendations on culturally relevant and inclusive education practices in Virginia’s public schools.

The Culturally Relevant and Inclusive Education Practices Advisory Committee, which held its first meeting January 6, was established under House Bill 916, sponsored by Delegate Mark D. Sickles, and Senate Bill 853, sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko during the 2020 General Assembly session.

The legislation directed the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to select the committee’s members, and tasked the advisory panel with reporting its recommendations to Governor Northam, the Board of Education, and the Chairs of the House Committee on Education and Senate Committee on Education and Health, by July 1, 2021.

Elena Barr Baum, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s director of the Holocaust Commission was named to the Advisory Committee.

In addition, Gail Flax, a long-time Holocaust Commission member, was named to the Governor’s Teacher Advisory Work Group, which is associated with the Advisory Committee.

“Since Holocaust education was mandated in 2009 (by Governor Kaine), there has been no movement in helping teachers know how to teach the Holocaust. This effort spurred by Governor Northam and run through the Department of Education has more of a chance of success than an unfunded mandate,” says Baum.

“There are many talented and dedicated people on the committee, and while the six-month timetable is ambitious,” says Baum, “I believe with good organization, the committee members can come up with an important and implementable report and recommendations, as the Governor’s Commission on African American History Education did in 2020.”

“Inclusive and culturally relevant learning environments are vital to creating equitable pathways to success for all Virginians,” says Governor Northam. “The work of this committee will advance our ongoing efforts to tell the complete and accurate story of Virginia’s complex past, improve our history standards, and give educators opportunities to engage in important conversations and lessons with their students.”

“When we teach an honest narrative of our past, students better understand their place in history and are equipped to work toward a better society,” says Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “This committee will build on the work of the Commission on African American History Education to ensure the content taught in Virginia classrooms is accurate and inclusive of perspectives which have been historically marginalized.”

The committee is led by three co-chairs: Senator Boysko, Arlington County Superintendent and Board of Education Member Francisco Durán, and Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education Dean Andrew Daire.

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