Elena Barr Baum '84, director of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater's Holocaust Commission, has been appointed to a new committee created by Governor Ralph Northam to provide recommendations on guiding the public education system to be more inclusive and accurate in its approach to history.
The Culturally Relevant and Inclusive Education Practices Advisory Committee was established during the 2020 General Assembly session and held its first meeting on January 6, 2021. The group has a six-month timetable to do its research and make recommendations to Gov. Northam, the Board of Education, and the Chairs of the House Committee on Education and Senate Committee on Education and Health.
In creating the committee, Gov. Northam said, “Inclusive and culturally relevant learning environments are vital to creating equitable pathways to success for all Virginians. 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."
Mrs. Baum has served as director of the UJFT Holocaust Commission since 2010. “There are many talented and dedicated people on the committee," she said. “While the six-month timetable is ambitious, 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."
Mrs. Gail Flax, who taught third grade at Norfolk Academy and is a longtime member of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater's Holocaust Commission, was named to the Governor's Teacher Advisory Work Group, which is associated with the Advisory Committee.
Mrs. Flax is chair of the Be A Reader (BEAR) mentoring program, which serves 100 Title One students each year. She has also taught classroom management and social students methods at the Darden School of Education at Old Dominion University. “My appointment to the Governor’s Teacher Advisory Work Group is an honor," she said. “Civics Education and Equity Education have been the guide for all I have done as an educator. I am humbled that my 22 year involvement in Holocaust Education has given me opportunity to work with the Virginia Department of Education to ensure all students will learn their historical truths and identify with their own culture."