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Trustees Pay Tribute To Students, Amend Early Retirement Incentive

On a night of recognition of student achievements Monday night at the Cluster Springs Early Learning Center, the Halifax County School Board amended the early retirement insurance incentive it had previously approved during its February meeting.

On a motion by Joe Gasperini, the board unanimously approved an amendment to lower the required age to 55 in order to take advantage of the incentive program.

The early retirement insurance incentive program approved in February had an age requirement of 58 by Oct. 1 to be able to participate in the early retirement insurance program. The new requirements for the early retirement insurance incentive are the employee must reach age 55 by Oct. 1 of this year, be currently participating in the school system’s health insurance program and agree to participate in the Local Option Retirement Program (LORP) in 2010 and 2011. The employee also must meet all other requirements for retirement through the Virginia Retirement System.

The board recognized Deshon Dabbs, a senior on the Blue Comets basketball team, who was nominated for the McDonald’s All-American High School Basketball Team. Dabbs was named to the first team All-Western Valley District and second team All-Northwest Region Team.

Board member Devin Snead and Robert Michaels of McDonalds presented Dabbs with a plaque in recognition of his nomination to the McDonalds All-American team. The senior accepted the award surrounded by his coaches and family members.

The board also recognized members of the high school’s VEX Robotics competition teams who won the Southern Virginia VEX Robotics Championship last month.

Robotics instructor Ricky Gordon presented each member of Team 29-B and Team 29-C with winner’s trophies. Gordon also presented a special “Volunteer of the Year” award to Ashley Sweeney. The two robotics teams also have been invited to participate in the world championship in Dallas April 22-24, Gordon said. 

Also Monday night, the board recognized bricklaying student Wendell Adams for his third place finish in the District 3 Skills Bricklaying Contest. Bricklaying instructor Frederick Eily said Adams had the highest score of all HCHS students in the District 3 contest, and Adams always exhibits a “can-do” spirit.

The school board also recognized Brittany Barksdale, Kara Gavitt, Alexandra O’Neil and Brianna Venable for winning the bronze medal in the state culinary arts competition in Richmond last week. Donna Adams, culinary arts instructor, explained what the team faced in state competition and presented the four girls to the board to be recognized.

Under the reports portion of Monday’s agenda, Deputy Superintendent Larry Clark and Dr. Charles Devine of the Virginia Health Department reported on the final totals of the H1N1 influenza vaccination project in the county’s schools.

The number of vaccinations given to students, first and second doses, totaled 2,993 over the period of Oct. 28 through Dec. 17. A total of 273 faculty members also received vaccinations. The percent of students who received at least one dose was 34.69 percent, 43.66 percent of elementary students were vaccinated, 29.78 percent of middle school students were vaccinated, and 24.29 percent of high school students were vaccinated.

The board unanimously approved for school officials to apply to the Virginia Department of Education for a waiver to open schools prior to Labor Day. Clark said the school division was closed an average of nine school days due to inclement weather, energy shortages, power failures or other emergency situations in five of the past 10 years.

The state requirement for school divisions to request a waiver is eight days. The first day for students is Aug. 16 next school year, according to the school calendar approved last year by the school board.

Clark said there is a bill before the General Assembly to allow school divisions to open school when they choose, but that has not made it through to the governor’s desk for his approval.

Bill Covington, chief financial officer, offered the financial report to the board. He said the General Assembly could make adjustments to funding for the current year, which could remove textbook money. Covington said he felt the school system should be able to finish this school year without any trouble.

The school board will meet again Wednesday, March 17, at 7 p.m. in the public meeting room of the Mary Bethune Complex to get public input on the school budget for 2010-2011.