Archived Story

A big thank you to the School Board

Published 12:30am Sunday, February 2, 2014

By David Mitnick

The Virginia School Board Association has proclaimed February as “School Board Member Appreciation Month.”

This year’s theme, “Local Schools, Local Decisions,” reflects the importance of ensuring that the future of public education remains in hands of the community it serves.

Here in Suffolk, we are fortunate to have an active School Board that seeks to maintain that premise. And I might add, they do a darned good job of it!

Chairman Michael Debranski, Vice Chairman Enoch Copeland, Linda Bouchard, Judith Brooks-Buck, Phyllis Byrum, Diane Foster and Lorraine Skeeter are dedicated public servants who strive to make Suffolk Public Schools a great place for students to get an education.

We are fortunate in Suffolk to have a strong School Board with diverse experience in education that enables them to make the educated, tough decisions to keep Suffolk Public Schools moving forward in the age of accountability.

Dr. Debranski brings leadership to the board from his background as a public school administrator. Mr. Copeland brings passion to the job as he works to protect the interests of his constituents. Dr. Brooks-Bucks brings a scholarly approach to the job from her experience in academia.

Mrs. Bouchard and Mrs. Byrum bring experience from years as classroom teachers in Suffolk Public Schools. Mrs. Foster brings the perspective of a parent, having three sons who are graduates of Suffolk Public Schools. And Mrs. Skeeter brings a perspective as a matriarch of a family where four generations have attended public schools in Suffolk.


Working with School Superintedent Deran Whitney, the School Board strives to make sure the students in Suffolk are provided a strong education, with programs that are competitive with the larger school systems nearby.

International Baccalaureate, Pathways to Engineering and the Biomedical Sciences program slated to begin in September allow high school students to specialize their studies and graduate with special skill sets that set them apart from most graduates.

Our School Board has made sure the school system offers comparable instructional programs that allow our graduates to compete with students from larger, more financially stable school systems.

The School Board members of Suffolk take their jobs seriously and are not afraid to take on new challenges, whether it is the decision of where to build a new elementary school, where to hold high school graduations or whether to outsource services to provide additional funds for teacher salaries.

I have watched as a concerned citizen as they have asked for the facts and data to assist them in making fully informed decisions. I applaud their efforts and challenge the School Board to keep asking the hard questions and continue to improve the educational experience of the students.

Too often we neglect to recognize the dedication and hard work of these women and men who represent us. I encourage you to recognize and celebrate the work of the Suffolk School Board.

Invite a member out to coffee. Ask how you might help support your local neighborhood schools. Write your School Board member a thank you note. Let them know how much you appreciate what they do for the students of Suffolk Public Schools.


I, along with the members of the Board of Directors of the Suffolk Education Foundation, join the residents of Suffolk in sending a big thank you to the members of the Suffolk School Board, not only during School Board Member Appreciation Month, but throughout the entire year.

David P. Mitnick is the president of the Suffolk Education Foundation. Email him at

  • fingertothenose

    Although this is a nice, thoughtfully written piece, I think you would find that most current teachers beg to differ wholeheartedly. The reality facing the school system is that the School Board is not “running” the schools as they should. They are allowing a dictatorship run them.

    The leadership is out of touch. They do not really know what teachers need, the students need, or what is actually going on. Whitney tells the board what to do, which is painfully obvious. Rather than concentrating on teaching and learning, the data driven customer service model leans more to wholesale grocery stories than education. If you are not all data minded, rather than human minded, you will not progress in the system.

    Brooks Buck treats her position on the board is a matter of position of power for her. She does not care nor does she want to. This looks good on her resume. It’s that simple.

    There’s much change needed for the school board and for administration. The community needs to start asking where things can improve, and look at the true trickle down affect that these people and things have on what goes on day to day in their children’s lives.

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