SUFFOLK, Va. – Suffolk Public Schools held their annual State of the Schools Breakfast and Learning Fair Tuesday.
Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney discussed the challenges and success of the school district.
The 2016-2017 school year had a number of highs for including decreasing the number of suspensions as well as referrals, thanks to a new student behavioral program.
“One of the major things that we have experienced, we’ve improved our student’s academic performance," Superintendent Whitney said. "We see ourselves growing children emotionally, socially, and supporting them as well.”
One of the highs included the approved $160-million budget that passed a few months back.
The budget included a raise for all teachers, support staff and bus drivers.
This came after many teachers threatened to quit their jobs, and several bus drivers planned a 'sick out' -- calling for better pay.
However, this is one of the issues the district admits is still a concern for parents.
Awareness of school improvement initiatives and desegregation are also areas some parents would like to see change.
Though there’s excitement around the construction of two new schools, parents are once again bringing up the segregation debate.
Since 1970, the Department of Justice has been ruling that schools in Suffolk are not meeting federal standards of desegregation.
One mom is worried that her kid's schools will never reflect the community they live in, which is 60 percent black and 40 percent white.
“As a private citizen I have the responsibility to be sure that the people who are paid to fix this problem actually do it,” Amy Ford told News 3.
“Ideally, it would be nice to have all of our schools 60 to 40 as far as racial demographics are concerned. Some of the challenges are the neighborhoods - the demographics of what those neighborhoods are," Whitney said in response.
Though there have been many highs, the district is working to address the rising number of school dropouts.
“We need to address students early when they begin to struggle. The student that drops out in high is that same student that may be over-aged in elementary school and middle school," Dr. Whitney said.
As they work to make necessary changes, the school district isn't forgetting the big picture.
It's to continue pushing students through hands on project to make them tech savvy, career ready, and problem solvers.