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Give parents the choice

To the editor:

I currently have three sons in Suffolk Public Schools. I have a sixth-grader attending John F. Kennedy Middle School, and I have two first-graders attending Nansemond Parkway Elementary School.

As a parent, I am frustrated. Parents are supposed to advocate for their children. The actions of our elected board have been disheartening while the plans and clear hard work that have been presented by our administration led by Dr. Gordon have been exemplary. I have listened to all of the board meetings and presentations given by administrators, and I have been left taken aback at the lack of allowed parent and student involvement in the meetings. Limiting our talk time, bickering among yourselves, tabling items and motions to talk about the renaming of a school, and the board not taking into consideration the results of the many surveys parents have been sent. I do not feel that parents have any voice.

I have heard all of you mention at one time or another that you are concerned for the “health and safety” of the students, staff and teachers. I cannot speak for teachers and staff, but I can speak to the health and safety of my own children. Somehow, we have come to a point where health equals COVID risk. Let me make clear that I am in no way discrediting COVID. What about mental health? What about social and emotional health? My sixth-grader is at a vital stage in his mental and social growth, and he has always been a very social child. I see him every day looking to make those connections with his peers. He is currently learning about teenage stress and self-image in health class. He’s busy making Google slideshows and rewriting definitions. When in reality, he should be talking about these very important topics among his peers at school with the support of his teachers. My first-graders are being forced to complete technological tasks that are way over their heads. They both have absolutely wonderful teachers, but as a parent I am the one that sits next to them every day in their frustration to complete their work. I am the one that has to deal with the tears when they don’t want to do school that day. With the utmost respect, until you have sat down in my home on a day-to-day basis I do not believe that you can adequately speak on behalf of my children. In fact, I would happily invite you to come to my house one day and observe.

I am very frustrated and disappointed in our elected School Board. I also know that there is not a solution that will please everyone. All I am asking is for the choice. Choice is what has been presented to you by the administrators, and you are denying students that choice as a governing body.

Courtney Smith

Suffolk