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Meetings set for superintendent search

The Suffolk School Board has approved dates for upcoming meetings on the search for a new superintendent to replace the retiring Dr. Deran Whitney.

A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. June 25 at King’s Fork High School, while a public meeting to establish qualifications for a superintendent will be held at 7 p.m. June 26 at City Hall.

A meeting to discuss specific candidates with the Virginia School Boards Association will be held at 11 a.m. Aug. 7, also at the College and Career Academy at Pruden. That meeting will go into closed session.

The School Board approved the slate of meetings during its regular meeting last Thursday.

Board member David Mitnick noted the VSBA’s recommendation that the Aug. 7 meeting be held at a site that would not have a lot of traffic flowing through and around it and asked whether holding the meeting at CCAP would be suitable.

However, Board Chairwoman Phyllis Byrum said that, with the meeting scheduled for 11 a.m., “that would probably be a good site,” and Whitney said there should not be much traffic at Pruden.

Whitney announced earlier this year that he would retire Sept. 1. The VSBA, at a meeting last week, said the School Board would have 180 days from the time Whitney retired to name a new superintendent.

A public survey to get community input on the new superintendent has been posted on the school division’s website, individual school websites and the staff portal. The link to the survey is https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SuffolkSearch.

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

Board member Tyron Riddick asked for, and received, approval to use two Chromebooks to take out to residents in the Suffolk Borough that he represents who do not have access to technology or without means to pick up a paper copy of the survey. He also asked for, and received approval to get, 500 printed copies of the survey to distribute.

Riddick said some of those copies could be offset by taking copies of the survey that were already printed and sent to the city’s schools. Vice Chairwoman Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck said she did not want the copies moved from the schools.

“I would just be concerned about taking them from other schools because the schools in your district,” Brooks-Buck said, referring to Riddick, “would get the copies too, right?”

Whitney, in response, said that “making the 500 copies, or 1,000 copies, we can do it. Is it going to cost? Yes. Do we incur costs like this for other copier things? Yes. I just want to make sure that I have it right … how many copies we’re requesting. We can make it happen.”

Mitnick expressed concerns with the number of paper copies made due to increased workloads on school division staff and the VSBA, as well as the extra cost to use paper that could be used for other purposes.

“Every paper copy has to be scanned in by (School Board Clerk Cynthia) Chavis … and then when they get to the VSBA, all those have to be hand-tallied,” Mitnick said. “So we’re talking about man-hours on top of paper.”

Riddick said that it’s about what’s in the best interests of Suffolk Public Schools, not the VSBA, but he said he would be willing to help Chavis.

“I believe that … it’s very important that we get this information out so that Suffolkians can weigh in on our search for a superintendent,” Riddick said. “It’s about us coming together, collectively, as a board, so we can aggressively move Suffolk forward, in the right direction.”

The job announcement is to be posted from July 1 through Aug. 2.

In other items, the School Board approved changing the time of its monthly meeting Aug. 8 to 9 a.m., with a vision planning meeting to begin immediately after the monthly meeting, both to be held at King’s Fork High School.

It also approved a joint meeting with City Council for 4 p.m. July 17.