Dorothy Heffron2023-09-15T13:50:48-05:00
Dorothy Heffron

Dorothy L. Heffron

School Board Member & Vice Chair, Chesterfield County School Board, Chesterfield County, VA


Dorothy Heffron serves as Vice Chair of the Chesterfield County School Board. In her role on the Board, Ms. Heffron strives to provide every student in Chesterfield County with the highest-quality resources and access to both critical academic and extracurricular supports, regardless of the school district. Ms. Heffron previously served as chair of the Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee and has worked as an educator and an education advocate for nearly ten years. Ms. Heffron holds an undergraduate degree in History and Political Science from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Preparing Student Leaders in Chesterfield County, Virginia

Dorothy Heffron, vice chair, Chesterfield County school board, empowers students to lead

In 2019, Dorothy Heffron was teaching 7th grade English at a public school in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Her own children attended middle school in a wealthier part of town. These two public schools were just a few miles from each other, but Heffron saw they were a world apart. Her children had far more resources, class offerings, and opportunities than the students she taught. She knew it wasn’t fair, and she wanted to change it. She decided to run for school board, drawing on three aspects of her identity: she was a public school parent, teacher, and graduate of Chesterfield County Public Schools.

“Those three lenses came together to show me a lot of opportunities that we had in our division to do better,” she explains. “But it was the matter of equity that was the main driver.”

She won her seat and became vice chair of the board. However, Heffron now observed another inequity. While the majority of public school students were people of color, all of her colleagues on the board were white, as were most regular meeting attendees. She wanted her former students to be at these meetings and eventually even hold these seats and other elected positions as soon as they were able. She decided that she needed to empower young people, particularly students of color, to be the next generation of local leaders. She became an E Pluribus Unum Fellow in order to make that vision a reality.

As Heffron built her own skills and knowledge through E Pluribus Unum’s racial equity curriculum, she was developing a curriculum of her own for Chesterfield County Schools. For her equity project, Heffron commissioned an expert local educator and organizer to develop a civic leadership and engagement curriculum for Chesterfield County.  

With E Pluribus Unum’s financial support, Heffron engaged three teachers to use the curriculum in after-school sessions for small groups of students. Over the course of a semester, these students, most of whom were people of color, met with local civic leaders, organizers, and activists. They dove into issues of local government, community organizing, racial justice, and public speaking. Then, they came up with their own equity projects and tried to see them through. 

Heffron saw the power of this when she visited one session at the end of the year. She recognized a former student, James. His group hadn’t gotten exactly what they wanted— “Wellness Wednesdays” off from school—but in advocating for it, they’d connected with their classmates and negotiated with their school administration. 

“He said, ‘you know, even though we didn’t get what we were aiming for, through this process, and through this program, I discovered that I can do this. I can make changes.’”

This was what Heffron had been hoping for. “This was 100% my goosebumps moment,” she says. “This empowerment of, ‘Wait a second, I want something different—and I can do that.’”


Virginia Department of Education, Chesterfield County Public Schools Enrollment

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