Time for cooperation

Published 7:39 pm Saturday, August 14, 2010

Just when you think that the Suffolk School Board and City Council have kissed and made up, there’s evidence that the relationship remains just as dysfunctional as ever.

It had appeared at one point last month that the two bodies would cooperate on finding a site for a new school to replace the aging and weathered elementary schools serving the Whaleyville and Holland areas — Robertson and Southwestern elementary schools, respectively.

In the end, despite concerns about the City Council usurping authority vested in the School Board under Virginia law, it seemed eminently sensible that there should be cooperation between the two on the issue. The School Board, after all, is charged with administering educational matters in Suffolk (including construction of new schools), and the City Council has the final say on any property that must be rezoned for a school, not to mention control of the school system’s purse strings.

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The arranged marriage that City Council had sought for the purposes of choosing a site for the new school could have sped the process along, helping the School Board avoid the embarrassment and delay of having yet another proposed school site ultimately turned down by the City Council. And it would have given council members a connection to the process that will be politically important when it comes to explaining to voters in the two affected communities why their children’s new school is located so far away from home.

For some reason, though, the school system’s administration has been unwilling to meet with the city’s leadership to consummate the deal. And a recent communication from Interim Superintendent Deran Whitney to City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn may have been the “Dear John” letter that permanently breaks the engagement. After learning of Whitney’s intent to move on without the City Council and its representatives, Suffolk’s city administration decided to continue with its own, separate search for a site.

Apparently, everyone involved believes there are other fish in the sea. What they seem to have forgotten, though, is that eventually they all have to get back into the same small boat and head for home with their catch. And this is one instance in which everyone involved would be better off if the two parties came back to that boat with the same fish.