Archived Story

School Board to mull budget, pencils at meeting

Published 9:59pm Wednesday, May 8, 2013

At their regular monthly work session Thursday, Suffolk School Board members are set to discuss the way forward after the city passed a budget allocating only a third of the $9 million extra requested for schools.

Council members voted 5-3 last Wednesday against finding more money for education, with Mike Duman, Roger Fawcett and Lue Ward, led by Duman, calling unsuccessfully to find a way to chip in an extra $1.1 million to replace heating, ventilation and cooling infrastructure in school buildings.

During April’s work session, at the suggestion of Lorraine Skeeter, School Board members elected to stick to their funding request, rather than make cuts, despite strong indications city funds would fall well short of their hopes.

According to information at that session from district Finance Director Wendy Forsman, possible ways forward for Suffolk Public Schools include eliminating 20 teaching positions, closing Florence Bowser Elementary School, cutting 20 assistant teacher positions and eliminating middle school athletics.

Another possible savings would involve extending how long workers need to stay with the district to receive post-employment benefits from 10 to 20 years, and another, more likely cut would delay replacing HVAC equipment.

Meanwhile, at the regular meeting following Thursday’s work session, School Board Chairman Michael Debranski has indicated he may raise the issue of two 7-year-old boys suspended from Driver Elementary School for pretending pencils were guns.

The second-graders were suspended for two days, and were due to return to class Wednesday, after the incident occurred last Friday.

Debranski told the Suffolk News-Herald the policy needs to be looked at, and that individual schools should deal with “harmless gestures.”

The work session on the budget will take place at 4:30 p.m., and the regular meeting begins at 7 p.m. The meetings are located in City Council chambers, 441 Market St.

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