Perkinson: Passion for education

Published 9:16 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of stories about School Board candidates. Chuckatuck candidates ran on Oct. 1, the Cypress candidate ran on Oct. 8, and the Holy Neck candidate ran on Oct. 15. Look for Suffolk on Oct. 29.

James Perkinson wants voters to return him to the School Board so he can apply his experience as an educator and administrator.

The 69-year-old began his career in education in 1968, as a teacher at Churchland High School.

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In 1978, he went full-time with Tidewater Community College, where he’d previously been employed part-time.

After about a dozen years in the classroom with TCC, Perkinson says, he became the community college’s “administrative presence” at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

He then became the college’s Virginia Beach-based interim dean for engineering and industrial technology, before moving to the Chesapeake campus, where most recently he has been serving as academic dean for business, public services and technology.

Meanwhile, Perkinson previously served on the School Board from 1996 to 2008, when Diane Foster beat him when he was running for re-election. He was appointed back to the Sleepy Hole seat in May, when Foster had to retire from the borough after moving to a different part of Suffolk.

“Education is one of my passions,” Perkinson said. “I feel that I have a lot to give, because I have been working with other school systems and I have seen things that would help Suffolk.”

On the teacher pay issue, which has seen educators increasingly leaving Suffolk Public Schools for other better-paying divisions, Perkinson believes City Council members have begun to recognize the problem.

“I have had a good working relationship with City Council in the past,” Perkinson said, adding some of those councilmen are still serving, while he’s also had positive interaction with newer councilmen.

“I’m certain we can continue to improve cooperation between the two entities. The School Board, in my opinion, needs to work with City Council so that they better understand what problems we both have, what constraints we have, and what latitude we have to work together.”

Perkinson said he supports efforts to boost volunteers in schools to take pressure of teachers.

On concerns over test scores and schools missing full accreditation, Perkinson noted the delivery of state assessments has gone from “pencil and paper to computers.”

“Statewide, 30 percent of schools have fallen into the same situation that some of the schools have in Suffolk,” he said.

“We have asked each of the schools to go through and assess where they fell down … and see what they are going to do to improve.”

Perkinson noted that more than half of the district’s high school graduates are getting advanced diplomas, adding, “That is not the sign of a failing school system.”

Perkinson said Superintendent Deran Whitney is “trying to do what he can do with the limitations that he has.”

“I think he has some good ideas,” Perkinson said.