Joint meetings should have some meat to them

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 21, 2002

This past week the Suffolk School Board and Suffolk City Council held a joint meeting for board members to update council on the status of the schools.

Such meetings can be productive and need to be done more than once or twice a year.

Far and away, the public schools consume more of the city budget than any other service. As such, school officials need to be held accountable to the folks who pay the salaries of administrators and teachers and pick up the tab for $42 million schools.

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At Wednesday’s meeting, school officials touted the successes they’ve enjoyed in improving student performance on SOLS, expanding programs and plans for new facilities. That’s all well and good and certainly worthy of congratulations, but school officials also have a responsibility to report on problems and obstacles they encounter, and city council members, the elected representatives of the people of Suffolk, have a responsibility to ask the tough questions and demand honest, straight-forward answers.

School Board Chairwoman Lorraine Skeeter said that one of the goals for 2002-03 is ensuring a school environment that facilitates successful and pleasant school experiences for students, parents, teachers and staff. If that’s a &uot;goal,&uot; then it’s something that’s obviously not being achieved now. Why? How do they plan to improve the environment?

What about funding? How do the schools plan on gaining efficiencies to cope with decreasing state funding?

This is not meant to imply that school officials are trying to hide anything. Suffolk’s schools are improving every year and those responsible for it are deserving of praise. Nonetheless, if officials insist on holding such meetings, they should be more than simply PR lovefests. If we’re not going to talk about meaty issues, why have them at all.