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Board to pay at least $12,000 in search for new superintendent

Halifax County School Board will use the services of the Virginia School Board Association in its search for a new school superintendent.

School board members anticipate paying a minimum fee of $12,000 for the state association to provide its search services.

The decision was made Thursday night during a special called meeting held in the public conference room of the Mary Bethune Complex in Halifax.

Board members unanimously approved proceeding with the Virginia School Board Association superintendent search proposal following a brief discussion.

“I have a problem with the amount of money we’re going to pay them,” said ED-8 representative Walter Potts, who added, “…we have no internal structure in place.”

Board Chairman and ED-2 representative Karen Hopkins responded to Potts’ objections by reading project tasks two through four detailing what the superintendent search services will accomplish.

“The VSBA will provide the board with guidelines to be used in developing a profile of the new superintendent. A criteria survey may be distributed to school staff, community, groups, local newspapers, public libraries and other institutions. They will monitor the search process closely in order to ensure the quality and number of candidates meet board standards and expectations as well as to ensure no violations of state and federal law. On the basis of board-approval criteria, the VSBA will perform an initial screening of an applicant’s file.”

ED-1 representative Phyllis Smith said she favored using the state school board association’s services.

“Everyone I’ve talked with who has used the VSBA has been pleased with the service. They get the community involved, and I’ve heard no negative reports,” she said.

ED-5 trustee Roger Long agreed.

“We are all members of the VSBA. They provide this service to us really at a reduced rate, compared to other contractors,” he said of the $12,000 minimum fee the state school board association charges to provide the school superintendent search services.

“I feel the cost is worth it…it will be a good investment,” added ED-4 representative Cheryl Terry.

Acting on Long’s motion that received a second from Smith, school board members voted unanimously to approve the state school board association superintendent search proposal.

School board members are scheduled to meet with the Virginia School Board Association school superintendent search team Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. in the school board conference room to begin the search process for a new superintendent.

In other action Thursday evening, Chief Financial Officer Bill Covington revisited the retirement incentives program presented at the Jan. 9 meeting.

Following over an hour-long discussion, board members all agreed to give employees an amended sick leave incentive and approved the health insurance for qualifying retirees.

“Halifax County has been in an economic downturn in the school system,” Covington said. “We’ve had tools in the tool box. We’ve however had one tool that was a good tool, a non-destructive tool, and that’s the retirement incentive plan.”

Covington explained the proposed retirement incentive plan is the same one used for the past two years and cautioned them they were working within a short time frame.

The proposed incentives discussed Thursday night include reimbursing sick leave at $100 per day from day one to a maximum of 180 days

“In the next six weeks the budgets are going to get done…We have to present something to the employees so they can digest this as soon as possible…and hopefully get some good results,” he added.

Potts offered a motion to accept the incentive plan and Hopkins seconded it, so the board could further discuss the retirement package that offers to pay $100 per day for acquired sick days.

ED-3 representative Kim Farson said she was concerned the incentive program would reward those who would be leaving, and the school system would not be rewarding the newer teachers, bus drivers, custodians and “worker bees” of the everyday school day.

In his effort to explain employees will lose jobs if the retirement plan is not adopted, the chief financial officer said, “The only thing I say to the board then is don’t use this, but where are you going to cut? The biggest expense is people.”

The original proposal called for paying $100 per day from day one to a maximum of 185 days with the reimbursement not to exceed an employee’s per diem pay rate. The proposal called for paying days in excess of 180 at the rate of $25 per day.

“To give them that 185 days if they acquire it, then if we don’t give them that incentive, that’s like we’re saying that they don’t deserve it. Those are the people who showed up to work when their babies and husbands were sick and when they were sick. When they didn’t feel like coming to work, they still showed up. Sounds like we’re going to punish our people,” said Potts.

Long disagreed, adding, “I don’t want to punish anyone. I want to reward everyone.”

Covington said the incentive package is an effort “to avoid the hard things,” such as cutting positions.

Superintendent Paul Stapleton commented on the retirement package proposal saying, “For three years your budget has been cutting positions. Yes, a common statement would be you’re going to cut positions this year because you don’t have anywhere else to go but personnel…You have to decide as a board are we going to give these incentives?”

“Everyone’s head is on the chopping block,” he added.

Terry said she perceived the discussion as “painting the worst case scenario.”

“Maybe I’m obviously not doing a good job of letting you know we’re in an emergency situation here,” Covington responded.

Following further discussion, Long offered an amendment to the motion changing the sick leave incentive to pay $100 a day for days 1-50 and revert back to the sick leave policy that pays $50 for any days over 50.

Potts offered a second to the motion that passed 8-0.

The board also unanimously approved health insurance for qualifying retirees on an 8-0 vote.

The insurance will allow qualifying retirees to receive the employer’s share of health insurance until they reach age 65.