Bouchard: Suspensions and communication

Published 9:46 pm Thursday, October 23, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Suffolk News-Herald has invited candidates for all of the city’s contested offices to submit 400-word columns soliciting the votes of Suffolk citizens on Election Day. A different race will be highlighted on this page each day through Thursday, Oct. 30. All of the candidates were notified of the opportunity at the same time via email, and follow-up telephone calls were made to verify receipt of the emails. Today features the School Board race in the Chuckatuck Borough, which pits incumbent Linda Bouchard against challenger Dorothy Bland Gamble. Bouchard’s column appears below. Gamble did not respond to repeated emails or telephone calls to home or mobile numbers. Tomorrow’s installment will include columns from each of the candidates for the City Council seat from the Cypress Borough.

By Linda Bouchard

The School Board hires the superintendent, determines the policy of the school system, and sets the school budget. Before I was elected to the school board, I was a teacher for Suffolk Public Schools, not an accountant, not a businesswoman.

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Needless to say, these last four years have represented a steep learning curve for me. But I have come to terms with what is important to know for this job. As long as I can be assured that each decision I make advances the educational opportunities for our children, I will feel a sense of accomplishment.

The two greatest challenges I have faced these past years have involved helping the children who are losing pace because of suspensions, and developing a workable relationship with the City Council.

As a member of the pupil personnel committee, I witnessed the disheartening path of disruptive students who were facing repeated suspensions. First, they were at home for 10 days awaiting a discipline hearing, then they were most likely assigned to an alternative school for a period of time, then they returned to their home school, now a stranger, far behind in their classes, and ready to disrupt again.

If I am re-elected, I will continue to lobby for this system of suspensions to end. I do not advocate returning disruptive students to the same classroom where they were creating problems. Instead, I believe that we can improve our in-school suspension program to ensure that our children are continuing to be educated while their punishment is administered. With the advance of technology, there are plenty of options available to us for helping these kids.

I hope to convince City Council that its singular dedication to building a AAA credit rating has compromised its obligation to invest in the essential future of Suffolk’s children.

Our school system has the responsibility to operate efficiently, but no matter how deeply we cut, we cannot find sufficient funds to fully support our teachers and our bus drivers. As a consequence, we have lost too many teachers and bus drivers to better-paying jobs. Even worse, this situation has created enormous problems in transporting the kids to school, and has resulted in a loss of valuable teaching time.

The council needs to realize that an investment in our children, our teachers, and our schools will mean a better city for all of us.