Superintendent hearing elicits single response

Published 11:40 am Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Southampton County Public School Board held a public hearing on Monday night to solicit comments from the community as part of its search for a new superintendent.

Though the board acknowledged it has received over 150 responses to its online survey — inquiring which qualifications parents and county residents deem most important and what they believe the new superintendent should prioritize — only one person vocalized their opinion at the meeting.

“Without public input, we cannot do a good job,” school board chairman Dr. Deborah Goodwyn said.

John Burchett of Sebrell, a regular during the Southampton County Board of Supervisors’ public comment period, was appreciative of retiring superintendent Dr. Alvera J. Parrish.

“I want to thank her for the job that she did the last four years,” Burchett said. “She was very excited about coming to Southampton.

“But if I had the options that she has of retiring and not facing what she’s going to face in the coming years, I certainly would have taken that option.”

Parrish announced in January that she will retire effective July 1 to travel and spend time with her family.

Burchett added that the board needs to be honest with the applicants about the county’s current financial situation, suggesting that may not have been the case when Parrish was hired in 2012.

“The board needs to be perfectly honest with them on what they’re going to be dealing with,” he said. “The superintendent will be asked to do the job with no money to retain teachers. You all know that, but we need to tell them that so that when they come here, they won’t be blindsided.”

The biggest obstacle that Parrish faced during her tenure at Southampton was in terms of state revenue, which has decreased steadily since 2009. State revenue exceeded $19.35 million in 2009, but last year’s budget allocated only $17.27 — a decline of $2.08 million in funding from seven years ago.

“Southampton has been and is today the best school in Western Tidewater,” Burchett said, “but our priorities are not centered where they should be. Our children have been asked to pay for the mistakes we’ve made in the last few years [with the budget].”