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School board tweaks grading policy

Halifax County School Board members voted to change the county school system’s grading scale Friday afternoon during a retreat held at Riverstone Technology Park.

Teachers no longer will be encouraged to give 60 as the lowest grade after school board members voted 8-0 to allow students to receive the actual grade they earn.

ED-7 school board representative Stewart Comer offered the motion seconded by ED-4 representative Joe Gasperini that requires students “to get what they get.”

Members discussed in detail the issue of promoting students for the sake of promotion.

Comer asked, “Are we in the business of educating kids, or are we in the business of not wanting to have 16 year olds at the junior high (middle school)?”

ED-3 representative Kim Farson said some schools encourage instructors not to give students any grade lower than a 60, while others do not.

“We need to make sure that all children are measured the same,” Farson said.

Gasperini added, “You can ask a lot of middle school teachers when they see the students of sixth grade come in, they (the teachers) can tell you whether they (the student) came from a ‘community school’ or a big school… The ones from the smaller schools are better prepared.”

Superintendent Paul Stapleton told school board members he was responsible for suggesting instructors not give a grade lower than 60 to a failing student.

An amendment was offered to change the policy to include grades 2-12 and allow first grade to go back to an earlier system of using letters E, S, I and U instead of the numerical standard.

However, the amendment failed to pass on a 2-6 vote.

Other business
School board members were presented with a 2010-2015 strategic plan draft, as well as a draft of goals and objectives.

The strategic plan draft included five goals:

• Increase academic achievement for all students;

• Provide students and staff with a safe and caring environment;

• Recruit, retain and support effective administrators, teachers, and staff;

• Provide equitable facilities and develop a financial plan that accurately reflects system-wide needs; and

• Create an environment of mutual respect, cooperation and open communication through partnerships with parents, businesses and the community at large.

Each goal also included various objectives with each objective including several strategies.

Gasperini said he had not had enough time to study the goals, objectives and strategies in order to make an informed decision on their implementation and suggested a committee be created to carefully consider the strategic plan draft.

Farson, Karen Glass, Gasperini and Dr. Roger Long were selected to serve on that committee.

Any board member with concerns, objectives or changes to the draft was encouraged to present concerns to the committee in writing.

The drafts will be addressed again on Aug. 27 after the board’s meeting with the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS).