Column incites division on committee

Published 7:08 pm Wednesday, April 22, 2015

By Michael J. Debranski

As a Suffolk City School Board member, I am writing in response to the April 14, 2015, column by Suffolk News-Herald Publisher Steve Stewart. In the column, entitled “School board dickers on a no-brainer,” he denigrated the actions of one of the School Board representatives to the City School Advisory Committee on Collaborative Fiscal Concerns.

The committee is composed of two members each from the City Council and the School Board. The committee was formed and established by the two bodies to create a collaborative, working relationship.

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Its goals were to include information sharing, including but not limited to the following: health insurance, Virginia Retirement System and the administration of a prescription drug plan. Please understand that I, as the Suffolk City School Board chairman, fully support this committee and its goals.

The School Board and the City Council are independently elected by the citizens of Suffolk. The rules established by each body are vastly different.

No one person has the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the School Board. All School Board members have the right to be fully involved and informed, before deciding upon their individual positions on an issue.

The School Board can only make a decision based upon a majority vote of the Board.

As noted in the April 14 column, recent meetings of this committee focused upon partnering between the two bodies. Specifically, the committee was talking with a company that promised to reduce electricity expenses for government buildings.

Following an informal report during the April 2 School Board work session, Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck, one of our School Board representatives on that committee, advised us that a presentation on this energy-efficiency proposal had been scheduled for the May 14 work session meeting to be held at Nansemond River High School. It is open to the public.

A letter to all council members, dated April 14, was sent, inviting all council members to this meeting.

The School Board continues to work diligently, exploring and implementing cost-saving measures, and is excited to receive more information about this energy-efficiency proposal.

The School Board and staff develop the best budget possible, based upon availability of federal, state, and local funding. The 2015-2016 budget has been presented to the City Council for consideration of requested local funding.

The City School Advisory Committee on Collaborative Fiscal Concerns was developed in the spirit of the two bodies working cooperatively; however, Mr. Stewart’s editorial appears to be an attempt to divide that relationship.

Contrary to Mr. Stewart’s article, the School Board does not “whip” employees, parents or the public into a “frenzy,” regarding funding of the School Board’s budget. The School Board does encourage everyone to share their concerns with the School Board and their City Council representatives.

It is the right of everyone to voice their opinions to their elected officials.

Michael J. Debranski is the chairman of the Suffolk City School Board. Email him at