Norfolk City Council tackles crime and education at annual retreat

Norfolk city leaders brainstorm at the council's annual retreat. WAVY/Stephanie Harris
Norfolk city leaders brainstorm at the council's annual retreat. WAVY/Stephanie Harris

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Being known as a city that’s “tough on crime,” and helping schools become fully accredited were two main topics of conversation at the Norfolk City Council’s annual retreat Monday.

The council discussed a commission on “life long learning.” Councilman Tommy Smiegel said this is something that would look at learning from birth well into adulthood.

They talked about a technical school, and what they called “ready to thrive,” which encompasses ways to support children and families at home so that kids have all they need to be ready to learn when they go to school.

Council brainstormed on ways to fund things schools need, especially as it pertains to facilities and teacher retention and recruitment.

Councilman Smiegel, who is a Norfolk Public Schools principal, said the mermaid city is no longer competitive with surrounding cities on teacher pay.  He said he just lost a teacher to Portsmouth schools, because they offered her a $6,000 raise and since she lives there, she wouldn’t have to pay tolls anymore.

“Norfolk does an outstanding job of training their teachers and then we lose them to other districts because we can’t pay
them what they’re worth, so we need to help and assist the school board with those salary increases,” Smiegel told WAVY.com.

School-aged people were also a hot topic of conversation as the discussion moved toward public safety.

10 On Your side spoke with Mayor Kenny Alexander, who talked about the problem of young people with guns who shouldn’t have them. He said we need to give them career opportunities and get the guns.

“When you have young people, for whatever reasons, they end up with a gun because they stole it or bought it illegally, certainly we need to remove those guns from their hands and provide better opportunities for them through the career technical education, through our vocational and skills center and also workforce development and job training.”

Mayor Alexander said one way to get the guns is a gun buy back program. But the mayor said that would have to be done through a non-profit or community group, because he said when public dollars are spent to buy guns, state law requires that they be resold and he says, “you don’t want that.”

In its session, council also discussed social media and community policing as strategic areas to look at in upcoming sessions.

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