Letter – School board silences opinions of two members on evaluation

Published 5:08 pm Friday, July 28, 2023

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Before I get to the meat of this opinion piece, let me shore up one common misconception that your average Joes and Janes may not know. Just as the Suffolk School Board works for the tax paying citizens of this city, the public schools superintendent works for the school board — not the other way around. 

The superintendent is their employee, and as such, John B.Gordon III, Ph.D., is to be evaluated by the school board members. My intention is not to rate the performance of Gordon, but to address the omission of two of those evaluations that were penned in earnest by the duly elected officials whose job is to rate his performance.

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On Thursday, July 13, it would appear that the Suffolk School Board chair actively allowed the total silencing of the two school board representatives for the Chuckatuck and HolyNeck Boroughs by completely tossing their evaluations of the SPS’s superintendent. The hostile and overly biased decision came after what appeared to be a very intense evaluation review stemming from a closed session. 

The question is, can or should the school board chair allow such an action to occur? 

What Virginia code or board policy allows him to either enforce or passively allow the complete and utter discrimination of two entire boroughs from the evaluation of the superintendent? The contentiousness of this action should leave constituents in both of these boroughs reeling because the evaluations of duly elected officials have been discarded, removing the citizens’ voice from the arena in one of the most important duties that school board members have: the superintendent’s evaluation. 

Citizens in these two boroughs should heavily question this very inappropriate and jaded choice in only accepting five of the seven board members’ evaluations. Voters in the Chuckatuck and HolyNeck voted their representatives into the office to be their voice when it comes to all business conducted on school board matters, and in one foul and very partisan move, these citizens’ representation endured being blatantly and subjectively curtailed. Moreover, in discarding or disregarding two board members’ evaluations of the superintendent, the board chair potentially skewed the final scoring results.

Look at our country, state, and local governments. How far down this rabbit hole of subjugation do we have to go before citizens wake up and start holding their elected servants responsible for their actions?

Citizens in both of these boroughs and the citizens of Suffolk as a whole need to know that the actions taken July 13 omitted your voice from the conversation and disallowed your board representative from being able to represent your interests in this matter.

I advise you all to do the following. Call the School Board office and speak directly to the board chair, Tyron Riddick, or email him at tyronriddick@spsk12.net and relay to him your utter disgust and dissatisfaction with these events that lead to and occurred during the July 13 meeting. Demand a new closed meeting on the agenda for Aug. 10 to re-evaluate the superintendent to include all seven board member evaluations.

In closing, let me simply state that from the School Board to the City Council, we, as the citizenry of Suffolk, need to re-engage in our civic duties to hold our public servants accountable. Despite tenure or delusions of grandeur, they all work for us. This country was at its strongest when the citizens were in control and knew their place at the top of the governmental food chain, and the politicians worked to serve. We can no longer allow titles to recklessly disregard our voices. The people of this city need to fill the city chambers with righteous ferocity, apply the unbearable pressure of reasonable expectations, and shift the winds that have forced our city off course.

Rod Thompson