Editorial based on ‘disingenuous reporting’

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, November 5, 2015

By Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck

In a September editorial titled “An impediment to progress,” disingenuous reporting was used in an attempt to shape public opinion and perpetuate the hoax that the Suffolk School Board was fiscally irresponsible in delaying a proposed joint project.

That type of backdoor bullying may have been acceptable in times past; however, commonsense readers rely on the newspaper for opinions that are grounded in facts. Unfortunately, the article failed the fact check.

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The City School Advisory Committee on Collaborative Fiscal Concerns was not an original idea, nor did it have its beginnings in November 2014. Representatives for the city school “taskforce” were identified in June 2014.

Two original council representatives lost bids for re-election. Five months would pass while city and school attorneys attempted to clarify the ways the committee could exist without violating Virginia laws. Since the Council cannot dictate the way that the school budget is spent, the “taskforce,” even with two School Board members, could only recommend cost saving ideas.

At the first meeting, in November 2014, the committee established rules by which to operate and affirmed the idea that the public would prefer that politicians accomplish tasks in a manner that involved mutual respect.

The four members that would ultimately become the committee agreed and established two objectives. The first involved recommending ideas to council and the School Board, and the other was to provide information to both bodies that might help when budget decisions needed to be made.

Energy Performance Contracting, recommended by Councilman Mike Duman, was one of three major initiatives considered by the committee. All committee actions taken regarding Energy Performance Contracting were unanimous.

Committee members understood that the project was not free; would involve work completed (at least in part) in empty school and city buildings; and should have savings reflected by better energy use that would not be evident for years to come. All committee members understood that a majority of the council and the board would have to agree to begin the work.

If by some miracle, all things had been completed in the past 12 months, the impact on needed funds for School Year 2016-2017 would have amounted to less than one half of 1 percent of the total school district budget.

Disagreement among committee members was related to changing insurance contributions for city and school employees, and requiring staff members to attend committee meetings. The committee agreed to table discussions about insurance, and voted 3 to 1 to invite school system staff to meetings.

The editorial indicated that the committee, chaired by myself and co-chaired by Councilman Mike Duman, had done no work and that one member had impeded its progress. In fact, the committee did exactly what it was organized to do.

The reason for the editorial may never be known, and editors have a right to their own opinions. Fortunately for the reading public, even editors are not allowed to create their own facts.

Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck represents the Nansemond Borough on the Suffolk School Board. She co-chairs the City School Advisory Committee on Collaborative Fiscal Concerns. Email her at jbec2000@msn.com.