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Four new School Board members take oath

A new look for the Suffolk School Board started Thursday evening with the swearing-in of four new members and continued with some tense moments surrounding the election of chair and vice chair and committee appointments.

The four new members elected in November took the oath of office from Circuit Court Clerk Randy Carter before speaking for a few seconds at the podium. Each of the new members won election for a seat being vacated by a retiring former member, some of whom had served for decades.

“It’s about the kids,” said Karen Jenkins, who represents the Cypress Borough. “I’m here to serve, and I’m going to do that to the best of my ability.”

Lorita Mayo, who represents the Holy Neck Borough, thanked those who had supported her campaign.

“I am grateful for your confidence and the trust you have placed in me,” she said. “I believe that we have an obligation to our children to provide the best educational opportunities and prepare them for lifelong learning.”

Suffolk Borough representative Tyron Riddick said he had learned a lot during his run for School Board.

“There’s so much at stake here,” he said. “I am thrilled and excited to work with the School Board and (Superintendent) Dr. (Deran) Whitney and staff.”

Sherri Story, who represents the Chuckatuck Borough, said she hopes to move Suffolk Public Schools “from good to great.”

“I look forward to working with all the persons who are invested and interested in Suffolk Public Schools and our kids,” she said.

During the board’s reorganizational meeting, Phyllis Byrum was elected the chair as the only nomination.

During nominations for vice chair, Mayo nominated Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck, and Story nominated David Mitnick. The vote for Brooks-Buck went 5-2 to approve her nomination, with Story and Mitnick voting in opposition.

The board members voted unanimously to set their own salaries at $10,000 each, with an additional $1,400 for the chair. Both were the same level as last year.

When it came time for committee nominations, Story said that there are some boards listed in the policy handbook that were not on the list. Whitney said he would look into the list, and the matter would be re-addressed at the Jan. 10 meeting.

While nominations were open for the committees on the list, there was some confusion over whether some committees required the chair and vice chair or simply two members, and how the members could volunteer to serve on the committees.

Story protested the de facto nomination of the chair and vice chair for the finance committee, saying she wanted to serve on that committee. Mitnick made a motion to clarify that any two members could serve on the finance committee, but the motion failed.

Story also volunteered for other committees after two other members had spoken for the two seats. Most committees can have just two School Board members on them due to state open-meeting laws.

School Board Attorney Wendell Waller said it would make the most sense to allow the two members who volunteered first to serve, and the board stumbled through the rest of the nominations.

At the end, Riddick proposed coming up with a better way to handle the nominations.

“I would like us to establish a protocol for selecting committee members,” he said. “It would be in the best interest of our taxpayers if we have a more structured approach.”