Superintendent reminisces with retirees

Published 11:34 pm Friday, December 14, 2018

Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney celebrated the four School Board members that are retiring with more than five decades of experience collectively.

Whitney has been working alongside the retirees as the superintendent since 2010, and he has wonderful memories of all four members.

“Four board members are leaving based on their own choosing, and as I’ve said before, 57 years are walking out. It’s exciting and bittersweet for us,” Whitney said.

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Whitney spent the last eight years working directly with the board members, but he has memories of the four from before he took the helm.

“I met Mrs. Bouchard years ago, because she was my daughter’s eighth-grade Spanish teacher,” Whitney said.

Almost immediately the pair had a disagreement, but the disagreement didn’t last long.

“I requested a conference with her because I think I was the only parent that wasn’t going to sign a letter committing to certain responsibilities,” Whitney said. “We had a pleasant conference that lasted an hour.”

After that conference, the pair started a great relationship that found its way to the School Board.

“One thing I do remember is how much my daughter enjoyed Spanish because of her,” Whitney said. “I thank her so much for her years of service.”

Part of Whitney’s responsibility as superintendent is to meet with the School Board chair to plan out the agenda for the meetings. This became a running joke between the superintendent and the current chairman, Enoch Copeland.

“Mr. Copeland likes to meet in the mornings, and if he says he wants to meet at 8:30 a.m., he actually means 8 a.m.,” Whitney said. “He would be there in the dark and beat me to a meeting, and he always thought it was funny.”

What Whitney will remember the most about Copeland was his dedication to his city and its public school system.

“As I think of Mr. Copeland, I think of someone totally committed to what he does,” Whitney said. “He truly cares about Suffolk Public Schools.”

Being a determined member of the School Board was the most memorable thing about Dr. Michael Debranski for the superintendent.

“What I saw when I worked with him is he is very pointed and he doesn’t hold back,” Whitney said. “He is going to ask a question, and he expects a follow through.”

Whitney had to try to keep his emotions in check as he spoke about the retirement of Lorraine Skeeter, the retiree with the most years of experience.

“She has served as an unofficial mother,” Whitney said. “She has seen 12 schools renovated or built, from Northern Shores to the new ones that we opened this year.”

“Everyone knows her, and we will miss Mrs. Skeeter. I do appreciate the work she has done over the last 25 years on the board.”

Four new members will join the board after being sworn in on Jan. 3.