Outlook for winter sports dims for SPS

Published 4:29 pm Tuesday, January 12, 2021

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With the seven-day moving average percent positivity for COVID-19 at 24.5% for Suffolk and with 54.2 cases per 100,000 people, Suffolk Public Schools will continue to suspend winter sports and activities.

In the Eastern Region, the seven-day moving average percent positivity is 21% and there are 64 cases per 100,000 people.

The division uses both the region and local data in helping make determinations about activities and whether to have in-person or virtual learning. For all but students in specialized programs, the division has been in virtual learning since the start of the school year.

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“Due to increasing COVID-19 rates, VHSL winter activities will continue to be suspended,” a statement read on the division’s website. “The possibility of sports returning will be discussed at the School Board meeting to be held on Thursday, Jan. 14. The school board will determine the return of students to face-to-face instruction at a future date.”

Specialized program students will continue to attend school in a face-to-face setting once per week. The board has a health dashboard update and a review of Virginia High School Athletics on its agenda for Thursday’s virtual meeting.

Winter activities have been suspended since last month, and with the VHSL’s winter activity schedule at its midpoint, it is unclear when or whether those activities could resume. The VHSL has set up regional postseason dates for winter sports beginning Feb. 1, with state semifinal and finals contests between Feb. 13 and Feb. 20.

Neighboring Chesapeake announced this week that it would not be participating in winter sports.

The VHSL has set the second season — for fall sports — to start Feb. 4 with first practices for competition cheer and football, and Feb. 15 for cross country, field hockey, golf and volleyball practices. The first games for football can begin Feb. 22, and March 1 for the other fall sports, with the seasons concluding by mid-April to May 1.

Board to take up hostile work complaint sanctions

The board is also set to vote on whether to have board member Sherri Story go through management or leadership training, along with racial sensitivity training in response to the findings of an investigative report into a hostile work environment complaint by Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III.

The board released the report last month following a special meeting. The McGuireWoods law firm of Norfolk, which the board had retained to do an independent investigation, found that while it found Gordon’s allegations credible, there was not enough evidence to support a “legally actionable” case based on race. The investigation did determine, however, that because Story disclosed publicly that Gordon was the person who filed the complaint, that it “creates at least some risk of an actionable retaliation claim.”

The investigation “confirmed the substance of Gordon’s allegations” and a “highly contentious” relationship between the two of them, but it could not prove that any of her actions toward him were based on race.

As of midday Jan. 12, three people had signed up to speak about the hostile work environment complaint.

The management or leadership training, according to a proposed resolution, would include “training relative to maintenance of confidentiality of certain school board matters and racial sensitivity training as recommended in the investigative report.”

That report noted that while the board is limited in what remedial action it could require of Story to a public censure, “given the overwhelming perception that Representative Story’s treatment of Dr. Gordon and other administrators is overly aggressive and inappropriate (even if not based on race), we recommend that the School Board refer Representative Story for management or leadership training — to include training relative to the maintenance of confidentiality of certain School Board matters.”

Other items on agenda

Gordon in December was named by Gov. Ralph Northam to the Education Commission of the States, one of about 17 superintendents across the United States named. It serves as a partner to state policymakers, and they collaborate on education policy.

To see the board’s complete agenda for the Jan. 14, go to http://bit.ly/boardmtg11421. To watch the meeting online, go to the SPS YouTube page at http://bit.ly/SPSYouTube1.