School Board reports to Council

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 17, 2002

Members of Suffolk’s City Council and Suffolk Public Schools Board met Wednesday evening in a joint session in City Council Chambers to advise council that they are meeting goals set for schools through the year 2003. During the meeting, Mayor E. Dana Dickens pointed out that he is thoroughly impressed with the progress public schools have made with the Standards of Learning and Stanford 9 programs. He also said, &uot;We cannot be a first-class city without a good school system.&uot;

Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Milton R. Liverman led a roundtable discussion to inform council about the goals of the next school year and about achievements over the past year.

Liverman noted in the &uot;Good News Report&uot; that SOL scores continue to climb and that pupil population was also climbing, with about 600 new students this year attending Suffolk Public Schools.

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He also told council that growth in the schools continues all year long now and that pupil population is expected to top out at 13,000 by the end of the school year.

Because of increasing growth, area schools have put back into service five new mobile units plus a couple old ones to provide classrooms to students.

&uot;Your motto is ‘It’s a Great Time to be in Suffolk,’ and people are listening and believing it,&uot; Liverman told council. &uot;They’re coming.&uot;

Dr. Lynn E. Cross, assistant superintendent for Secondary Education for Suffolk Public Schools, provided council with specific goals for the 2001-2002 school year, including assuring that 100 percent of schools meet or exceed Virginia Standards of Accreditation by 2004, even though the state requires accreditation by 2006.

Cross said schools are showing annual yearly improvements in all areas measured by the SOL tests. Identifying and implementing programs that encourage higher achievement for all students, with the focus on development of Distance Learning programs, expansion of AP and Dual Credit courses, and evaluation of the gifted programs. Continued efforts to implement a Junior ROTC program and an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program were also listed as goals.

Cross also noted that SOL accredited schools in Suffolk increased last year from one, Northern Shores Elementary, to six schools including Northern Shores, Kilby Shores, Driver, and Florence Bowser elementary Schools, and Forest Glen and John Yeates middle Schools.

Several other schools were within a few points of accreditation, including Nansemond Parkway, Southwestern and Mack Benn Jr. elementary schools, which are about five points away from becoming accredited by State Standards. Booker T. Washington, Elephant’s Fork, Mount Zion, Oakland, and Robertson Elementary Schools’ data suggest they need improvement, or that they are 19 points away from meeting the standards.

John F. Kennedy Middle School is less than five points from being fully accredited, and King’s Fork Middle School will receive the provisionally accredited/needs improvement rating.

At Nansemond River and Lakeland high schools, significant gains have been made in the areas of Algebra I and II, and World History I and II.

The ROTC program at Nansemond River High has 150 students enrolled in it, and as Liverman noted, the school board received a call in August advising that a second program could be put in place by the Air Force this year. That has been done at Lakeland High with 130 students involved in that ROTC group. As Liverman said, many military families have discovered Suffolk and their students are showing great interest in the paramilitary programs.

Assistant School Superintendent, Janice Holland, pointed out that an &uot;alternative education&uot; program is being refined and monitored. It’s meant to serve as an alternative to long-term suspension.

Another program brings truants to school off the street as school authorities work in conjunction with the sheriff’s department to keep students within the learning environment. The school board is establishing a position for a truancy officer who will also work with social services and the office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Liverman said for that program to work, parents must also get involved.

Another goal, that of teacher recognition through the &uot;Star Award,&uot; was established to esteem teachers and other school support staff. It honors outstanding performers during council meetings in January, March and May and at the end of the year, the &uot;teacher of the year&uot; and the &uot;rookie teacher of the year,&uot; are celebrated at a banquet in their honor.

While the 2001-2002 goals and objectives have been successfully achieved, the 2002-2003 goals where also

presented to council. School Board Chairman, Lorraine Skeeter, provided council with additional objectives that included ensuring a school environment that facilitates successful and pleasant school experiences for students, parents, teachers and staff.

Skeeter also pointed out that a six-year strategic plan is being developed for the school division that also includes biennial plans for the individual schools.

A report on the board’s Capital Improvement Plan on projects including moving the school board offices to the Professional Building at an estimated cost of $14.5 million. Mike Brinkley, the board’s financial officer, said an additional $2.2 million is needed for the land purchase and design work for another elementary school. That facility would hold 800 students on 13 acres of land. As Liverman noted, multi-story construction is an option but not a favored one. The board is also requesting $250,000 roof and building repairs to the school system’s maintenance building.

In his Capital Improvements Plan report, Jim Thorson, director for Facilities Management, provided an update on the King’s Fork High School construction. He said 50 percent of the foundation is in place, and the gymnasium walls are almost completed. Work is on schedule, he said, and the school is expected to open in the 2004 school year.

Following the reports to council, Liverman told the mayor and councilmen that the school board appreciates the support received from the city council.