Archived Story

Schools push back against city

Published 9:11pm Saturday, March 9, 2013

Suffolk Public Schools is pushing back against a recommendation from the city that city staff help manage the school system’s capital improvement projects.

The recommendation, deemed a “service to all city government organizations, authorities, boards and departments,” was included in the city’s approved capital improvements plan.

But Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Deran Whitney believes the School Board may be in violation of the law if it allows such an arrangement to occur, according to a letter he wrote to City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn last week.

“The School Board has not given permission to have its capital improvement projects managed by the City’s Department of Capital Programs and Facilities and, by law, may not be able to do so,” Whitney wrote. “Should the School Board assent to such an arrangement, the School Board may be abrogating its responsibilities with respect to its core responsibilities under Virginia law, which is to supervise schools and to care for, manage and control property of the school division.”

City Council members discussed the issue during their meeting last week and voted to send back a letter of their own. City Attorney Helivi Holland told the City Council the city does not believe the arrangement would be unconstitutional.

“There are other localities that do that all the time,” Councilman Charles Parr said.

Mayor Linda T. Johnson added her input.

“There was no intent to build and hand over,” she said. “The intent was to work together.”

In response to inquiries on the matter, a school division spokeswoman sent a copy of a 2011 official opinion from the Virginia Attorney General’s office that seems to support the School Board.

“The Supreme Court of Virginia and numerous prior opinions of the Attorney General have recognized the statutory authority of local school boards to control the construction of public schools and the expenditure of funds for that purpose,” the opinion reads. “This statutory language and the case law and opinions interpreting the language indicate that, absent clear authority, a governing body may not assume control over the construction of public schools or the expenditure of funds for that purpose.”

The city is relying partially upon State Code 22.1-126.1, which states “Any county, city or town … may acquire for educational purposes by gift, purchase, condemnation or otherwise, real property and any improvements thereon within the county, city or town … and may construct buildings thereon to be used for educational purposes.”

City Chief of Staff Debbie George said Friday the city had no comment on the matter and said a reply to the superintendent’s letter had not yet been sent.

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  • blueberry

    No wonder our kids don’t get the education they need because our elected officials keep fighting with each other instead of look at the important things, THE KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Suggest Removal

  • TravelinJack

    City Council has given the School Board pretty much everything (money) they have asked for. What the Board is doing with it I have no idea. Both groups need to start working together. We are starting to look like Portsmouth. We do not need to be the joke of Hampton Roads.

    Suggest Removal

    • happyGoLucky

      We will never be Portsmouth..Portsmouth provides 200% more funding to the schools as a percentage. Suffolk out of all the Hampton Roads cities provides the lowest percentage of funding.

      Suggest Removal

  • TB_suffolklady

    No – the superintendent is completely out of line doing this. This is what occurs in all the other cities/counties in the Commonwealth. This is to ensure working together and keeping money IN the schools budget.

    Whitney fails to share details of the budget with the city – such as HIS expense account and all the ridiculous spending downtown. So no one working outside of the admin makes any more money. Whitney is sinking Suffolk Public Schools…making the schools system look like idiots.

    Suggest Removal

    • am

      Let us not forget that Whitney was the HAND PICKED successor to Liveman by none other than Liveman. If you’re checking expense acounts, check what Liverman had as well. While you’re at it, someone check to see why Chavis was hired BEFORE the job was posted and at a HIGHER salary than posted for?

      Suggest Removal

      • TB_suffolklady

        TRUE! Chavis was hired for more $$$ AND she has less responsiblity! She doles out all her work to those under her downtown, and they in turn make TEACHERS do their work (for which of course they are NOT paid).

        Whitney/Chavis are just as bad if not worse than the city manager debacle!!!! WHY WON’T THE SUFFOLK NEWS HERALD EXPOSE ALL THIS?????????

        BTW – Whitney has already cut A LOT of positions. WHY IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT THAT???????????

        Suggest Removal

    • happyGoLucky

      Not so fast…as the city has doled out tax dollars so responsibly haven’t they? SUV’s, CM’s outlandish pay, Millions sunk into the cultural arts center, more $$$ on the “Gazebo” that nobody utilizes, 36 or 37 million for a new city hall, I could go on but an astute one should get the point. So we want to trust these people to help? Oy vey…that’s a good one.

      So using your argument all the other cities provide many times the funding to their schools than Suffolk so, the city should fork over another 10 million or so to bring us at least halfway up the list from rock bottom to a few spots below Portsmouth! After all this is what occurs in MOST cities/counties in the commonwealth…

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  • charlesparr@hotmail.com

    16%of population getting 51% of tax revenue.HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

    Suggest Removal

  • TravelinJack

    Heard the other day that city water/sewer is making its way to the new school on Rt 58 pass Holland. Wonder if there has been any land purchases and by whom in the general vicinity? Something to look into I guess. Wouldn’t be a bad investment. May have to check it out for myself. Hummmmmmmmm.

    Suggest Removal

  • Roger Leonard

    This is a power grab by the City Manager and her council. The elected School Board must resist this effort to give the City Manager more power over all in Suffolk and the couruption that flows therefrom.

    Let the School board we elected lead in school matters!

    Suggest Removal

    • TB_suffolklady

      Mr. Leonard, the school board is just as bad as the CM. The super is worse…..

      Suggest Removal

  • am

    Is this yet another possible check on the CM’s list that would get her an additional obscene bonus? Let the ELECTED School Board do the job that they were hired byt he citizens of Suffolk to do.

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  • 4ever cynical

    Ridiculous! The city staff wants to control even more of our lives… Please folks, lets unite and start recall proceedings. These clowns need to be shown the door!

    Suggest Removal

  • Caren O’Connor

    We have a city council and mayor who are all about their interests rather than the interests of those they were elected to represent. Please mayor, take care of your responsibilities. We do not need your hands dirtying up the school system you never support.

    Suggest Removal

  • shappy

    Don’t those bungholes on city council realize the same citizens that elected them also elected the school board ,let them do there elected responsibilites

    Suggest Removal

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