Thomas Whitley, principal at Lakeland High School, has accepted a new position at Western Branch High School in Chesapeake. “There are some times that you have to leave your comfort zone in order to make your dreams become reality,” he said.
Thomas Whitley, principal at Lakeland High School, has accepted a new position at Western Branch High School in Chesapeake. “There are some times that you have to leave your comfort zone in order to make your dreams become reality,” he said.

Archived Story

Lakeland principal leaving

Published 10:00pm Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lakeland High School’s principal of 15 years says he is leaving Suffolk’s school district for a position in Chesapeake to further his career.

Thomas Whitley’s next challenge, principal at Western Branch High School, was announced at a Chesapeake School Board meeting Monday, Chesapeake Public Schools spokesman Tom Cupitt confirmed.

“It’s a difficult decision,” Whitley said. “I have certain aspirations I’d like to accomplish with regards to my career.

“There are some times that you have to leave your comfort zone in order to make your dreams become reality.”

Though not alone in the Suffolk school system, Lakeland, which is accredited with warning, continues to face challenges on the academic front.

However, district superintendent Deran Whitney paid tribute to Whitley’s contributions to the school’s successes.

“Dr. Whitley has served the Lakeland High School family very well and has been a huge part of the school’s success over the years,” Whitney stated.

“His signature Z-block credit recovery program is a fine example of how he is willing to do whatever is necessary to assist students.

“While I know this is an opportunity for him, he will be greatly missed by Suffolk Public Schools.”

Whitley, who was an assistant principal at Nansemond River High School for two years before taking the Lakeland position, said Lakeland has given him “the opportunity to work with outstanding faculty and staff.”

“People I worked with over the years really made a significant contribution to change the lives of students,” he said. “What we have done here goes far beyond assessment scores and test scores. It’s all about preparing students for the future and helping them become productive citizens. That’s what I’m most proud of.”

Replacing Whitley at Lakeland High School “is a task that requires careful attention,” according to Whitney.

“Clearly, we want to recruit, recommend and hire someone who will meet the needs of the entire student population, build on Dr. Whitley’s successes and strive for continuous improvement,” he stated.

That process “will begin immediately,” district spokesman Bethanne Bradshaw stated, adding, “Our typical recruitment and hiring process has begun.”

The district hopes to have a replacement for Whitley by July 1, she added.

Whoever sits at his desk next instructional year needs to “come in with a listening ear,” Whitley said.

He said he remains confident the school is on course to overcome its obstacles.

“The work we have done here this year, with regards to identifying the obstacles that we have and addressing those, have laid the foundation for us to reach outstanding achievement with regards to curriculum instruction,” he said.

“It’s time for me to approach the next chapter in my life and my career.”

  • Sassafras

    It seems that we are losing many good teachers from school systems everywhere for a variety of reasons: from pay and benefits to classroom challenges and unrealistic expectations. Unfortunately there are still good students out there with parents who can’t afford private school (and do care) that are paying the price for the problems. They have become the “children left behind”. I am glad mine are no longer involved with Public Education; I have serious concerns on the direction it is taking.

    Suggest Removal

  • happyGoLucky

    Good Luck WB!!!! You’re going to need it. I give it a year if that.

    Suggest Removal

  • aprint4life

    Hope the WBHS students are prepared for a principal who takes the sides of long-term substitute teachers who were unqualified to teach a particular subject and were in the wrong, ahem Honors Chemistry students of 2000-2001…

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  • 180Grain

    You know, all you people slamming Dr. Whitley who don’t work in the school system don’t what you’re talking about. The city of Suffolk has shown how little they care about the schools. Things are only going to get worse. Those that can are getting out, either retiring or finding other jobs. Dr. Whitley is a fine man with an impossible task at Lakeland. My daughter is graduating this year and can’t wait to leave. I am retiring this year from Suffolk Schools and feel the same way.

    I loved teaching when I started in 1983 and watched my profession transform into the failure it is today. Parents are sending students to school who are not prepared to learn. They are thugs and disruptions in the classroom. An increasing percentage of students don’t care about learning and do nothing but take away from the kids who want to learn. My suggestion for holding parents accountable is to hit them in their wallets. Every discipline action or failing grade your child receives would reduce your deduction on your taxes or decrease any assistance you receive from the government. None of the politicians at the state or local level (the feds shouldn’t be in education at all) have the guts to do what is needed. Hold parents accountable or kick those that don’t want to learn out! The school system is definitely broken, but everyone wants to fix the teachers who are not the problem.

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    • suffolklady

      Hiring a person as a school principal is not taken lightly by any school system and I do not believe that Chesapeake would hire anyone whom they perceive as a “failure.” I do not know Dr. Whitley personally, but I agree with you that he has had a very difficult job at LHS.

      I also agree that more parents would sit up and pay attention if their child’s failures hit them where it hurt – the wallet. Many have no problem with providing iPhones and $100+ sneakers, but take 0% responsibility when their child fails in school or in society. As a teacher, it is exhausting to get blamed for problems that started long before we got the student.

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      • am

        Had a difficult job at LHS….he has played a large part in creating that “difficilt job”

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  • hambone

    Smart move for him. Schools in Suffolk are not going be funded this year and in the coming years. He knows he had to leave Suffolk to make more money before he retires. More teachers and principals will be leaving Suffolk due to city council not funding schools and abandon the kids. So he’s smart to leave a sinking ship in Suffolk . Thank our city council for this and the other employees that are leaving. I don’t blame anyone for jumping off suffolks sinking school ship. Thanks mayor city manager, and council for failing as leaders. Good luck DR. Whitley Suffolk is loosing good man .

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  • Savannah Gal

    Good riddance.

    He was Principal when my daughter attended LHS and I was THRILLED when construction was completed on KFHS. It meant my son wouldn’t be subjected to the crap school LHS was.

    Good luck WBHS parents and students! You’re gonna need it!

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  • Walkingdn2

    As a grad of Western Branch and a parent of Lakeland High grads, I am not one bit happy about this man being in the educational system at all. Let’s hope Western Branch has him on a short contract.

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  • mamabearof3

    Good luck Dr. Whitley! LHS won’t seem the same not seeing your face around school.

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    He left before he got fired! I mean “replaced.”

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  • Browning

    Glad to hear this good news!! See Ya :)

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  • snhrdr

    Good news for Lakeland. Amazing that Chesapeake would hire someone whose school is not accredited to run one of their accredited schools. Guess there is no one in Chesapeake that they could promote that they believe in.

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