Superintendent survey available

Published 10:30 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2019

In an effort to get community input on the type of superintendent it wants to lead Suffolk Public Schools, the School Board approved Monday a survey to be posted online and at various locations in the city.

The survey link, at, has been posted on the school division’s website, individual school websites and the staff portal.

Paper copies of the survey are also available at the School Administrative Offices at 100 N. Main St. and at each public school.

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“We want to make sure we include and involve as many stakeholders as possible in this process,” School Board Chairwoman Phyllis Byrum said in a statement. “This is the number one priority for the Suffolk School Board and we will work diligently to find the next leader of the school division.”

The public survey will be available through June 24.

The School Board met Monday with representatives from the Virginia School Boards Association, which is conducting the search to replace Dr. Deran Whitney, who is retiring Sept. 1.

Though the School Board has yet to establish the qualifications it is seeking in the next superintendent, VSBA Executive Director Gina Patterson told the board that it has already received calls about the position. Legally, she said, the board has 180 days from Sept. 1 to appoint the school division’s next superintendent.

“This is a big decision you all will be taking,” Patterson said. “This is the most important decision you’re ever going to make as a School Board is the hiring and retaining of a superintendent.”
Patterson told the board not to expect its top tier candidates to apply until near the end of the application window, which runs from July 1 through Aug. 2.

“Your real quality candidates are not going to come ‘til the very end, and that’s by design,” Patterson said. “They just feel like the longer they wait to put their information in, the less likely they have their confidentiality in question.”

She said potential candidates will want to know such things as why the division’s superintendent is leaving, how well the board works together, whether it is strategic in its thinking, what the community is like as well as test scores and trends over the past few years.

“Your actions will have a lot to do with the quality of applicants that apply,” Patterson said. “Strong superintendents just don’t work for dysfunctional boards.”

Timeline for Superintendent Search

Monday, June 24 — Deadline for survey, which is available at

Tuesday, June 25 — Public hearing at 7 p.m. Location to be determined and subject to official approval by the School Board at its regular meeting Thursday.

Wednesday, June 26 — School Board special called meeting to establish qualifications in a superintendent, 7 p.m. at the College and Career Academy at Pruden, subject to official approval by the School Board.

Thursday, June 27 — School Board to provide qualifications to the Virginia School Boards Association.

July 1 to Aug. 2 — Superintendent application process open.

Wednesday, Aug. 7 — School Board to meet with VSBA at meeting, which would go into closed session to discuss specific candidates, 11 a.m. at the College and Career Academy at Pruden.

August/September — Anticipated first interviews with superintendent candidates.