Copeland: Don’t get complacent

Published 9:32 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2014

For Enoch Copeland, running unopposed in the Holy Neck borough and approaching 12 years on the School Board, complacency is a threat to public education.

As an educator, the 78-year-old taught Virginia history for six or seven years before serving as principal at Oakland Elementary School for 17 years.

“Our test scores were very, very high,” Copeland said of Oakland under his leadership.

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Next, he was a guidance counselor for two or three years. Before retiring from Suffolk Public Schools, Copeland was coordinator for at-risk students.

Besides his School Board service, Copeland served on City Council for eight years. He has been vice chairman of both entities.

“I feel very humbled that the people of Holy Neck have entrusted me with the opportunity to serve, and I think that — basically — they feel that I’m a trustworthy person, and I’m a fair person, and I try to represent the people, the children, to the best of my abilities,” Copeland said.

Copeland says City Council and School Board can work together to solve the district’s funding issue.

“Communication is a problem,” he said. “I think that we can correct that. I really feel that we can work with City Council.”

He said he can communicate effectively with everyone on City Council, adding, “I think, at the moment, we have to inform the council of our needs.”

Council members perhaps aren’t aware of the extent of the state’s mandates for school divisions, which are always changing, according to Copeland.

But the district’s values have not changed, he said, nor has the need to engage with parents. “They have a major role with the educational system,” he said.

On test scores, Copeland says improvements are being made. He pointed to increased expectations by the state, though he added that’s a good thing.

“I think that we are continuing to improve, to correct the situations that need correcting,” he said. “We are not perfect until we are 100 percent, and then we still need to work toward a higher level.”

“I’m very comfortable with the position that we are now taking in education. I’m very supportive of our superintendent. I think he and his staff are doing an excellent job and consistently making improvements.”

The district can “do a better job” with teacher salaries, Copeland thinks. “I’m a strong supporter of giving the teachers a higher salary, because I think they deserve it.”

Copeland said the state cut funding to the district, because it felt the city could afford to pay more.

“We find ourselves in limbo,” Copeland said, adding that he hopes Gov. Terry McAuliffe will boost school funding.

Copeland says he’s happy with how the district is being run. It’s the board’s responsibility, he said, “to come together with the superintendent and say, ‘This needs to be corrected.’”

“At the same time, we need to understand that the superintendent is the administrative head of the school system, and we are the policy head,” he added.