Help students shine in Suffolk

Published 10:54 pm Friday, August 28, 2015

By Dr. Deran R. Whitney

Happy new school year to Suffolk.

This truly is the most wonderful time of the year — a time when teachers, school staff and the community welcome our 14,000-plus students to a new beginning.

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As your superintendent, I am pleased with our progress but I do recognize we have a ways to go. While I do not believe standardized test scores define a school division, I understand we are judged based on them. When we consider the progress each of our schools is making based on improved pass rates, we all — as a community — have much about which we should be proud.

As many have heard me say throughout my five years as superintendent and perhaps my entire 26 years in the field of education, it takes the entire community to meet our primary goals: improving student achievement and closing academic achievement gaps.

I am convinced we all “get this,” as evidenced by the recent renewed and improved relationship between our School Board and City Council, as well as the community stakeholders’ and local businesses’ assistance and support as we implemented our LEAP summer school program.

It is also evidenced by our students’ and their parents’ willingness to fulfill school expectations and requirements, and, of course, it is evidenced by the many hours our teachers give to ensure our students are receiving quality educational experiences.

I thank the many local businesses and community members in Suffolk who supported our Learning and Enrichment for Academic Progress summer program. Many volunteered to assist teachers and our students; some even taught enrichment classes. The financial support by our community stakeholders is also very much appreciated and certainly added to the success of this program.

Perhaps the most rewarding observation with this program was seeing our high school students volunteering to earn their required community service hours and beyond. This program has made and will continue to make a difference.

As we move into the 2015-2016 school year, we celebrate our progress, but more important we must reflect on how we can continue to improve and ensure our students will become lifelong learners equipped with the skills, knowledge and attitudes to succeed as productive citizens.

We continue to call for your assistance. Whether you are a parent, business owner, community member, Suffolk Public Schools employee, or student, you have a role in this charge.

As a parent, attend school events, check to ensure homework is completed, meet with your child’s teacher and school staff and encourage your child to arrive at school with a good attitude and ready to learn.

As a business owner or community member, continue to volunteer in our schools, mentor a student, visit our schools and see what and how our students are learning.

I charge all teachers and Suffolk Public Schools employees to put children first when making decisions and help each student reach his or her full potential.

To our 14,000-plus students, take advantage of this free quality education by putting forth your best effort, asking questions, and thinking critically and deeply.

We are on the move in Suffolk Public Schools. While many know our motto “Every Child a Star,” I submit to you, we all become bright stars when we work collaboratively, helping all students shine.

Dr. Deran R. Whitney is the superintendent of Suffolk Public Schools. Email him at