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Preacher questions integrity of Halifax school board members

Integrity of Halifax County School board members came under close scrutiny when a South Boston pastor spoke during the citizen comment period at the beginning of the regular monthly school board meeting Monday night.

The Rev. Frank Coleman, pastor of First Baptist Church on Ferry Street, expressed concern for the integrity and conduct of school board members saying he wished for it “to remain high.”

Specifically, Coleman informed board members of a Facebook apology he had recently received from Vice-Chairman Kimberly Farson who represents ED-3.

“I received an apology from Mrs. Farson on something she posted on Facebook. I was wondering why because we’re not friends on Facebook, and then I received the specific post, and I was disturbed when I saw it,” Coleman said referring to a Facebook message that contained a single bad word.

“Facebook is a social network, and it’s your own business but once you take public office…you can say what you want, but you have consequences,” said Coleman.

“Make sure you all keep that in mind, you are always going to be dragged in the mud. Don’t respond. Don’t let us bait you. Hold your integrity high. I appreciate the apology,” he added.

When Coleman finished his remarks, Farson asked permission to respond to Coleman’s remarks.

“I appreciate Mr. Coleman coming out tonight and saying what he did. I don’t think anybody who serves on any board anywhere is perfect. I used a bad word on a Facebook post, um I’m human,” said Farson.

“Nowhere did I go out when I was running for office did I tell my constituents I was perfect. I don’t wake up everyday and live a perfect life and those that do better to you. I appreciate this was brought up, but I’m human,” an emotional Farson continued.

The Rev. then replied, “Sweetheart, I never judged you. My concern here tonight is to the board, not only to you, to not let people bait you. I wasn’t judging you. We are all human.”

“You accomplished what you came out to do,” said Farson in tears.

Cheryl Watts of Halifax came to Farson’s defense during the citizen comment period saying, “In defense of Mrs. Farson, she’s a hard worker, she’s a compassionate person and if that compassion gets the best of her so be it,” said Watts to a round of applause.

Watts further questioned board members concerning why the school system is not redirecting retired personnel.

She said she believes in trying to save money and using the school system’s resources wisely.

Later in the evening, school board members recognized DECA quiz bowl winners who were presented by DECA sponsor Jimmy Popek.

Members recognized were Katie Nichols, Dillon Wazeka and Khadijah Brandon. Rokeisha King and Brittney Mulchi were unable to attend because of their after school jobs.

In January Wazeka and Nichols participated in the DECA Leadership Conference in Danville where they advanced to the State Leadership Conference to be held in Norfolk in March.

“Dillon had to place first place in the district in the category of Business Finance Series, and he did this despite the fact that I failed to mention he could use a calculator,” said Popek.

Director of Long-term Care Services of Halifax Regional Health Services Connie Zamora also gave a presentation Monday evening on career technical education month and a video on the nurse aide program.

At the conclusion of the video and presentation, she presented a $1,000 check to Joncie Slate of the Halifax County High School program on behalf of the Halifax Regional Health System.

“Nursing is a wonderful career don’t stop with your education,” said Hopkins to the students present.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t say please thank Chris Lumsden and all our folks at Halifax Regional for the $1,000 check to support our program,” said Superintendent Paul Stapleton.

Halifax County High School Principal Albert Randolph introduced retired teachers Becky Donner and Mary Eanes who volunteered to work with students in the recent Poetry Out Loud contests.

Donner then introduced regional Poetry Out Loud competition second place winner Amber Walton. Mikeala Skelton, the first place regional winner, was unable to attend Monday night’s meeting.

Halifax County won the top two places in regionals and will advance to state competition to be held in Richmond on March 15. The winner from the state competition will move forward to the national competition and could win a $25,000 cash prize.

Local Poetry Out Loud winners John Conner and Walton performed poetry readings for the school board and those in attendance at Monday night’s meeting.

Next, Halifax County Middle School Principal Beverly Crowder introduced the VFW Proud American essay contest state winner, Matthew Jones.

Jones read his winning essay that will be presented when he competes at the national competition.

When he finished, Jones received a standing ovation from board members and the audience.

Executive Director of Instruction Dr. Melanie Stanley presented the Virginia Index of Performance awards to Clays Mill Elementary and Meadville Elementary.

Students at Clays Mill Elementary and Meadville Elementary each earned the Board of Education Competence to Excellence Award by meeting all state and federal benchmarks for at least two consecutive years and making progress toward goals of the governor and of the board.

The Virginia index performance awards are based on student achievement and other performance by students during the 2010-2011 year and recognizes the schools that exceed state and federal standards and achieve goals established by the governor and by the board of education.

Former Deputy Superintendent Larry Clark presented Herman Richardson, a veteran of the Korean War, with an honorary diploma awarded by the Virginia Board of Education to recognize his personal sacrifices and to acknowledge a lifetime of learning and achievement.

Stapleton informed board members that February is Virginia School Board Association School Board Member Appreciation Month. Stapleton and Hopkins presented each board member with a certificate.

“I want to thank you all for all that you do and for all the extra hours you put in,” said Stapleton.

School board members also proclaimed the third week of February as Virginia School Board Association School Board Clerk Appreciation Week.

“I know myself or the board could not function without you,” Stapleton told School Board Clerk Robin Mahan.

Under unfinished business Hopkins recommended and the board unanimously approved Mahan as the resource person for the Virginia School Board Association superintendent search.

The board unanimously approved paying Mahan $1,000 to serve as the resource person during the superintendent search.

ED-6 representative Fay Satterfield nominated R.K. “Dick” Stoneman to serve as the second resource person.

ED-8 representative Walter Potts nominated Hopkins and asked for a vote.

Board members voted 6-2 for Stoneman with Hopkins and Potts opposing. Stoneman will serve as the second resource person during the superintendent search.

Under new business board members unanimously approved the 2012-2013 budget timeline that begins with a joint meeting with the Board of Supervisors on Thursday and is scheduled to wrap up with the final work session and approval of the proposed budget on March 29.

Board members approved Lions’ Club President Winston Harrell’s proposal to use vision screening starting with second graders beginning in March.

The screening will use the $10,000 Pedia vision machine that can instantly screen a child’s eyesight for free and tell whether or not the child should be seen by an eye care physician.

In the fall they will continue with kindergarteners and all students enrolling in the school system for the first time.

Board members also approved the memorandum of agreement with the Town of South Boston concerning the South Boston/Halifax Early Learning Center.

“I was notified by the town manager, Mr. (Ted) Daniel that on Feb. 23 at 11 a.m. they will be holding a ribbon cutting for the new part, and he has invited any board members who wish to attend,” said Stapleton.

Chief Financial Officer Bill Covington gave the financial report reminding board members it is a difficult year and that “we are watching it very closely and looking at every way to minimize costs.”

Board members then convened in closed session.

When board members emerged, they had discussed four expulsions and one student who wished to return to school.

The personnel report was approved 5-3 with Farson, Satterfield and Stoneman opposing.

Board members also approved 5-3 to pay Larry Clark, substitute administrator, one eighth per diem per hour, which equals out to $57.21 per hour with Farson, Stoneman and Satterfield opposing.

Clark’s first assignment in his new position as substitute administrator will be to help Executive Director for Administration Valdivia Marshall with retirement applications.

His new duties will begin Thursday.