Board’s focus is misdirected

Published 5:26 pm Tuesday, July 20, 2021

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To the editor:

Someone has pushed school board member Tyron Riddick’s buttons. At a recent school board meeting, Mr. Riddick addressed his detractors as a “band of losers” because “all of them ran for election and lost.” I am astounded at his words and actions, and I am speaking out for the first time since the November election.

The only people I know of who “ran for election and lost” recently are myself and Valerie Barnes of the Whaleyville borough. I certainly haven’t gotten up to the podium and addressed the board, and I don’t believe Mrs. Barnes has either. To my knowledge neither of us has addressed anything about the board and their antics in any public forum. It seems that either Mr. Riddick is confused or he’s experiencing paranoia.

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It is clear that Mr. Riddick holds disdain for a broad swath of his constituency. People from all boroughs have spoken up about the board’s dysfunction, over and over again, and yet his expressions of outrage continue. The board as a whole, with Riddick as the most outspoken member, has wasted much time defending criticism of their activities and misdirected focus.

Mr. Riddick, you and your cohorts aren’t doing all you can to improve SPS. Instead, you’re working hard to make yourself look good in spite of the system’s failures. You deserve the criticism you’re receiving and you can’t accept it. Our current school board continually pats themselves on the back while Rome burns. Suffolk Public Schools has a lot of room for improvement. Instead of focusing on needed improvements, board members are distracted by the criticism they receive and they’re distracted by their own efforts to railroad the one school board member who is trying to keep them honest and above board.

Here are some plain facts on the Suffolk Public Schools from the Public Schools Review:

“Public schools in Suffolk City School District have an average math proficiency score of 69% (versus the Virginia public school average of 72%), and reading proficiency score of 77% (versus the 80% statewide average). This district’s average testing ranking is 4/10, which is in the bottom 50% of public schools in Virginia.”

In this case, criticism is delivered where criticism is due. The board seems to be in no hurry to dedicate their full efforts to addressing the system’s shortcomings.

“I’m here for the children. I’m not here for personal gain,” Riddick says vehemently in the video. It appears to me that you’re constantly grandstanding like you’re auditioning for a greater role somewhere. The citizens are asking for honesty, transparency, and a concerted effort to address the issues facing the school system. You shouldn’t have to tell people you’re working for the kids. Your work should speak for itself. A lion doesn’t have to tell you he’s a lion. You’re not leading. Conduct yourself like an adult, tell the truth, and you might convince people you’re representing their best interests. Otherwise, your motives are questionable and your words are clearly undignified.

Andy Hilton