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Debranski, Copeland going to school board

Ashley McKnight-Taylor and Andrew Giermak

In a campaign between two former Suffolk Public School educators, Michael Debranski came out a comfortable victor over Mary Wilson Copeland Tuesday, filling the Suffolk Borough School Board seat vacated by the retirement of Board member Frances Alwood.

Debranski, a former principal at Southwestern Middle, Suffolk High and Virginia Beach’s Bayside High schools, received 1,081 votes, 72.0 percent of the ballots cast; versus 420 votes for Copeland.

“Exhilarating.

You can’t explain something like that,” said Debranski Tuesday night after the returns were published.

He and his wife, Marty, thought it would be a close race, he said, but the people of Suffolk have decided what they wanted and he hopes to live up to their expectations.

“I certainly want to represent all the citizens in the borough of Suffolk,” he said.

Debranski said that means getting out into the community to meet the people in his borough, as well as to collaborate with various community groups. He said his primary goal now is to find out what they think needs to be done in the borough.

While he doesn’t want to be overly aggressive, Debranski said he has ideas he would like to see come to fruition. The suggestions he touted during his campaign, “those were not just words coming out of my mouth. I feel very strongly about it.”

During the campaign, Debranski said the biggest challenge facing Suffolk’s schools is the city’s growth.

He said his experience in Virginia Beach prepared him for dealing with the obstacles such growth presents.

About the campaign, Copeland, who has 24 years of experience teaching in Suffolk schools, said, “I feel terrific.

I ran a good campaign and it was a great experience.

I was able to connect with so many people.”

“I had the best supporters.

They gave all they had and I did the best I could and gave all I had,” said Copeland.

Copeland said she still wants the Board to listen to new ideas concerning disciplinary actions, especially the use of out-of-school suspension.

“We have a responsibility for our children whether they are in school or out of school.”

“I wish the best for the School Board,” said Copeland, “and I think they will continue to do the great job they have been doing.”

Holly Neck Borough

Incumbent William “Billy” Hill was upset by 83 votes in his bid for re-election as representative of the Holy Neck Borough on Suffolk Public Schools School Board.

In yesterday’s election, challenger Enoch Copeland won in a 980-897 vote.

“I’m just very happy I can represent Holy Neck Borough on School Board,” he said.

Though he felt that he would be strong in Holland and Holy Neck precincts, Copeland said he thought Kilby’s Mill would be his weak point. And by comparison, it was, with Copeland getting 206 votes there and Hill receiving 507.

But Copeland said he knew he would have to be strong in all the precincts to beat Hill, because “my incumbent was very strong,” and overall, his numbers held steady at all poll locations while Hill’s dropped to just 61 votes at Holy Neck.

During campaigning, Copeland was frank about his platform: that the Holland and Whaleyville communities each need an individual school.

He also planned to promote more athletic programs at the middle-school level, which could act as feeders to strengthen the high school teams.

But last night he said his No. 1 priority once he gets started would discipline in the schools.

Either way, he said he looks forward to working with Superintendent Milton Liverman and the School Board to make Suffolk Public Schools second to none, he said.

“I’m very humbled and I’m very thankful,” Copeland said, particularly to those who supported him.

For Hill, the defeat was not unexpected.

“It didn’t surprise me,” Hill said. “I felt like I’ve done the best I can.”

He added that he ran his campaign the way he wanted n more of a non-campaign with basically no advertising, which he admits might have hurt him in the long run.

Still, Hill said he enjoyed his time on the School Board and hopes the Board will continue to be strong.

“I think things hopefully will go well with the board.”

He appreciates all those who have helped him along the way: “I thank them for their support.”