School Board candidates running unopposed

Published 10:38 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2016

For the upcoming election in November, three incumbent School Board members will run unopposed for their respective seats. The candidates running this year are Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck, Phyllis Byrum and David Mitnick.



Brooks-Buck has served the Nansemond Borough since January 2013.

She believes “there is a great deal of work that still needs to be done, and that I can contribute in a positive way to the success of students and families in Suffolk.”

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For the upcoming term, she wants to address concerns such as salary compensation, to increase legislator and parent participation and support and to continue highlighting the successes of the city’s public schools.

“My belief is that working collaboratively with all community stakeholders in terms of facts, rather than innuendo, can only result in positive outcomes,” she stated in an email.

Brooks-Buck is optimistic about the future of the city’s schools.

“I believe that we have an outstanding school division in Suffolk and that the story of its success must be told,” she stated.



Brooks-Buck is active in the community, serving as a volunteer in various local classrooms and serving on the Southeastern Cooperative Educational Programs Public School Consortium and the City School Advisory Committee on Collaborative Fiscal Concerns.

On the collegiate level, she is a professor at Virginia State University and has also served as an assistant professor and department chair, among other positions, at Hampton University.

Byrum, a long-time Suffolk Public Schools educator, will run for the Whaleyville Borough seat. She has served on the board since January 2009.

Byrum said it feels odd not having to compete for her seat, as she has in past years. However, she hopes it serves as a testament to her competence as a leader.

“I hope it’s a sign I’m doing a good job,” Byrum said.

In her 60 years as a Suffolk resident, Byrum has been engaged in her community. She has served as past president of the Whaleyville Ruritan Club and of the Suffolk Woman’s Club. She is also a member of the Whaleyville and Nansemond-Suffolk Historical societies.

However, in recent years, she has decided to focus on matters pertaining to her School Board position. “I have to keep my eyes on the prize,” she said.



Byrum currently represents the school board as vice-chair of the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology, where she formerly served as chair.

Byrum recognizes the strengths of the city’s public school system. But, she recognizes there is still room for improvement.

“We’ll see that our system moves in the right direction,” she said.

For her campaign, she hopes to focus on the schools, teacher retention and the Pruden Center.

In the schools, she hopes to continue expanding the International Baccalaureate program and advocating the Early Start program.

“If we lay a good foundation, by the time they are in high school, they are achieving even more,” she said.

She also stressed the importance of “keeping qualified and experienced teachers in our schools.”

Finally, she supports the Pruden Center due to the certifications it provides for students. The center provides career and technical education for high school students. Isle of Wight County Schools recently announced they would no longer participate in the Pruden Center, so that leaves opportunities for restructuring.

Byrum served as a social studies teacher at both John Yeates and Nansemond River high schools for a combined 30 years.

Mitnick is preparing for his sophomore term as the Sleepy Hole Borough representative this fall.

Although relatively new to the School Board, Mitnick served in the city’s public schools for 36 years. During his tenure, he served as an elementary school teacher and counselor, a high school counselor, a middle school assistant principal, magnet school program administrator and an adult education principal.

“I’m very passionate about public education and felt I could contribute something to the School Board,” Mitnick said. “It’s an opportunity to get in schools and see the exciting things that are happening.”

During his time as a School Board member, he has volunteered at several elementary and middle schools for school fairs and other events.

“I enjoy feeling like I’m a part of the family of schools,” he said.

For his upcoming tenure, he would like to focus on four facets of the city’s public schools.

First, Mitnick hopes to increase awareness for the volunteer requirements. Beginning with this year’s graduating class, students must have 50 hours of community service. “Students haven’t been taking it seriously,” he said.

Next on the agenda, he would continue monitoring the progress of the two schools under construction in North Suffolk.

Third, he will advocate for continual school accreditation. For the schools that aren’t fully accredited, Mitnick will help “make sure they work towards that goal.”

Last, Mitnick plans to work with the City Council to help provide compensation for school employees. He wants to make sure teachers in particular receive the same perks as other area school teachers.

In other capacities, Mitnick has served as the director of the Virginia Governor’s School of Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University for several summers. He currently volunteers with the Suffolk Education Foundation, American Cancer Society and the Out of the Darkness Walk. He also served in U.S. Army from 1971 to 1974.

Election Day is Nov. 8.