Whitney delivers first State of the Schools address

Published 11:39 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The State of the Schools event Wednesday night focused on the school system’s new programs, accomplishments and challenges as the system heads into a new leadership phase and more budget challenges.

The Suffolk Education Foundation hosted the event, which featured an introduction of the new superintendent, his address on the state of the schools and a video report that highlighted the system’s past, present and future.

“Suffolk Public Schools is on the move,” said Deran Whitney, superintendent of Suffolk Public Schools. “I am excited to stand here today.”

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During Whitney’s address, he recognized parents, teachers, staff and volunteers, described strengths and weaknesses of the system and explained some of his plans for improving the school system.

Whitney read the school system’s mission statement and said, “More important than citing or memorizing it is that we live it.” He added that although the schools have made much progress, there still are weaknesses that need to be worked on.

School system staff and the community need to be willing to have difficult conversations about what needs to be done to improve the schools, Whitney said.

He described a plan to evaluate the performance of the schools by collecting data and assessing strengths and weaknesses.

“We are collecting data already,” he said.

Whitney listed some weaknesses he already knows — old practices that are not working for the current generation of children and an environment that tends to be resistant to change.

Positive notes from Whitney’s presentation included the fact that the school system is fully accredited by state standards. The system is also highly rated by the standards of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Recent surveys from parents also showed improvement in areas they have rated poorly in the past — such as diversity of academic offerings, quality of education and communication with parents.

Whitney is concerned with improving learning for students, improving the health of students and closing the achievement gap. He applauded an increase in the on-time graduation rate, a decrease in the dropout rate and several measures being taken to diversify education programs and improve student wellness.