SUFFOLK, VA. - Teachers in Suffolk say the fight is just beginning.
After the Suffolk School Board voted 6 to 1 in favor of the 2017-2018 budget, teachers are taking action. A Suffolk citizen started a petition on change.org shortly after the meeting and it has been gaining momentum ever since. Those signing want to see new leadership on the school board.
Their hope is to get members on the board that look out for teachers and fight for raises from the bottom, up.
The original goal was 200 signatures before presenting the petition to City Council, but signatures have well surpassed that number making the new goal 500 signatures.
After the meeting on Tuesday night teachers told News 3 they feel unappreciated. They were infuriated to hear of the 13% raise that Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney got before the end of the 2016-2017 fiscal year, and as the 2017-2018 decision was on the table the school board voted for a 1% raise across the board. On average teachers will receive a 2.4% raise but many say that is not enough to make them stay.
With rising costs in health care some teachers told News 3 they will take home less this year than they did last year.
After Tuesday's meeting we tried to speak to Whitney who left before we could get a comment from him. We have reached out to his office but he has yet to respond to our interview requests.
As for the school board, the Chairman Dr. Michael Debranski, said he understands teacher's concerns but the budget will pass 'as-is,' and there is little that can be done in regards to getting more money for teachers.
City Council member Timothy Johnson told News 3 that the School Board is filled with elected positions, just as City Council is. To recall the members is almost impossible.
A change to the school budget has to come from that board. The approves or denies the amount the school board asks for, but they have no say on how the funds are divided up and distributed.
The City of Suffolk issued us this statement on Friday afternoon: "City Council will have an opportunity in May to adopt the City’s Operating and Capital Budget for 2017-2018. Funds for education will be included in that budget. Determining how those funds are utilized is the responsibility of the Suffolk School Board."
The City Council meets again on April 5th, which is when this petition will be presented.