School Board calls for increased state funding

Published 10:27 pm Thursday, December 11, 2014

Suffolk Public Schools kicked off formulating its 2015-16 budget Thursday with a community input session that didn’t attract a lot of input.

The allotted session during the regular monthly School Board meeting heard from one North Suffolk parent, Kristine DeFreitas, who dwelt on overcrowding in schools.

The School Board and City Council have “shirked” their responsibility to build schools to match population growth, according to DeFreitas, with too many students learning in mobile units and enduring long bus rides.

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“Fully fund the building of the schools that are needed to stop the overcrowding,” DeFreitas said. “Get rid of all the trailers.”

Speakers on the budget at the end of the meeting were Wendell Foster, an alternative education teacher at John Yeates Middle School, and Stefanie Hicks, a Spanish teacher at King’s Fork High School — both members of the Education Association of Suffolk.

Hicks, who mainly outlined her position that Suffolk teachers are expected to deliver too many local assessments, leaving too little time for actual instruction, said three or four teachers have left her school for better opportunities since the start of the instructional year.

One or two more left for other reasons, she said.

“Numerous others are actively looking for better opportunities,” Hicks added.

“I have had people come up to me and say, ‘How have you lasted 10 years? I’ve only been here a couple and I’m having a hard time.’ They have experience elsewhere.”

Hicks said the question is what the district will do to keep its teachers. “When is enough going to be enough?” she asked.

Foster, who regularly addresses the School Board on teacher salaries, asked members to support a raise in 2015 of at least six percent.

He also asked that the district absorb increased insurance costs to employees and boost the amount of unused sick leave retiring workers can cash in.

Foster, too, said local assessments are too frequent. He also said teachers are being required to provide excessive details in writing out their lesson plans.

“Teachers should be able to outline the structure of the lesson without writing out every detail,” he said.

Board members voted to call upon the General Assembly to increase the state’s share of funding for public education to the level outlined in the Standards of Quality.

According to the board’s resolution, localities are currently paying 56 percent of the state versus local share, when standards say they should be paying 45 percent, with the state shouldering more of the burden.