No matter what, things will change at . Virginia State Sen. Linda "Toddy" Puller's (D-36) bill to revamp the mission of the home of George Mason will go to the Subcommittee for Higher Education in Richmond on Thursday.
And in a conciliatory effort, the Gunston Hall Board of Regents, which administers the property, has promised to fill the vacant education coordinator position.
Education Coordinator In, Del. Albo Out
The Board of Regents and Gunston Hall Executive Director David Reese have been harshly criticized for eliminating programs and last year.
In a Jan. 23 letter to State Education Sec. Laura Fornash, Gunston Hall First Regent Wylie Raab made this offering:
"I am pleased to report that as a result of careful fiscal planning we are now able to reinstate a position on our staff specifically dedicated to directing the educational programming at Gunston Hall," wrote Raab."This position will be posted on February 18, 2012. It is our intent to interview capable applicants and fill the position without delay, now that the funding issues will have been resolved by that date. All of us very much look forward to welcoming onto the staff a qualified person to bring fresh perspective and energy to our educational programming. We also trust that these steps, as outlined above, will be satisfactory to Senator Puller, Delegate Albo, and their constituents."
Del. Dave Albo (R-42) recently withdrew House Bill 478, which was similar to Puller's bill. "The Regents agreed to fund and hire an Education Director if I pulled the bill," Albo said in an email to Patch. "That was the main goal of my constituents. They were primarily worried about the elimination of the Education Director and the deterioration of education tours/courses. Since they agreed to do this, I agreed to pull my bill."
Puller's legislation, SB137, says that the Board of Regents (chosen by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America), Board of Visitors and Board of Advisors must work together to help manage Gunston Hall.
Specifically, the bill says:
- Any administrative head of Gunston Hall shall be appointed by the Governor to serve at his pleasure.
The three members of the Board of Visitors shall:
- Be appointed by the Governor
- Examine, and, by Nov. 15 each year, report to the Governor and the General Assembly on the Board of Regents and the manner in which Gunston Hall is managed and supervised.
- Meet at least four times per year at Gunston Hall.
- Appoint a Board of Advisors made of seven members, one of whom shall be the president of George Mason University or his designee and one of whom shall be a resident of Mason Neck.
The Board of Advisors shall report, annually and by July 1, to the Board of Visitors on the following:
- The performance of Gunston Hall in meeting its mission and purpose
- The adequacy of Gunston Hall administration in representing the Commonwealth's interests to educate the general public regarding the significance and influence of George Mason
- The provision of access, activities, and experiences for students in the Commonwealth and the coordination of such access, activities, and experiences with the Standards of Learning
- The availability and range of historically accurate, interactive, high-quality educational tours and experiences, seminars, and outreach initiatives offered to students, educators, researchers and the general public
Former Del. Jim Dillard, a member of the Gunston Hall Board of Advisors, will speak to the Subcommittee in favor of Puller's bill. "We have been concerned that the education program has been diminished by the release of an educator who was working here for 20 years and was doing a fantastic job," he said. "We have been told she was let go because of budgetary reasons, but at the end of the day, only $5,000 was cut from their budget. The state gives Gunston Hall a half million dollars annually, and we have to have some supervision as to the money we're putting into this place."