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UPDATE: New principals named, central office staff restructured

New principals were named to fill vacancies at three county schools, and central office staff underwent a restructuring Monday evening when the Halifax County School Board went behind closed doors in Halifax for a five-hour marathon session.

When they emerged, Faye O. Bruce was named new principal of Halifax County Middle School, Kevin Neal was announced the new principal at Sinai Elementary, and Catherine Tuck Glass was tapped principal at Scottsburg Elementary.

Bruce, a resident of Halifax County who has served as principal at Park View Middle School in Mecklenburg County for the past three years, will replace Beverly Crowder who has been named Director of Student Services, a newly created position at Central Office in Halifax.

Bruce has been employed for the past 29 years with the Mecklenburg County School system having taught at Chase City Elementary for 19 years and serving as assistant principal at Bluestone High School for seven years before being named principal at Park View Middle School three years ago.

She is a graduate of Halifax County High School and received her bachelor’s degree in education from St. Paul’s College and a master’s degree from Longwood.

Neal, an assistant principal at Halifax County High School, will be the new principal of Sinai Elementary replacing veteran Principal Mike Wilborne who retired this year after working over 39 years in the school system.

Prior to working at the high school, Neal served as an assistant principal at South Boston Elementary.

Glass, a former South Boston Elementary School teacher and former principal of Halifax Elementary School, replaces retiring Scottsburg Elementary Principal Barbara B. Tune.

Glass was reared in South Boston.

All of the principals, recommended by Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon, received unanimous approval from the eight school board members.

In addition to announcing new principals, school board members voted 7 to 1 to rehire 14 local area network (LAN) managers.

When school board members passed the budget this spring, they eliminated 13 classified positions.

At that time, school board discussions centered on eliminating all of the LAN manager positions as suggested in the school efficiency study, but board members said they were bombarded with phone calls from concerned parents, teachers and others who urged them to retain the needed computer positions. 

Walter Potts cast the lone dissenting vote saying he was not opposed to rehiring the LAN managers, but noted his uncertainty over where the money will come from to pay these employees since it was not included in the budget when it was passed earlier this year.

Also during the marathon closed-door session, school board members acted on the recommendations of Superintendent Herndon when they approved reorganizing Central Office as suggested in the efficiency study.

Jeff Davis was named Supervisor of Special Education Services replacing Nancy H. Leonard who resigned at the end of the school year to accept a position as assistant superintendent of Charlotte County schools.

Davis returns to Halifax County after previously serving as principal of Park View High School in South Hill.

Under the new structure, Davis and Supervisor of Alternative Education Joan Bowers will report to former Halifax County Middle School Principal Crowder, who was named Director of Student Services, a newly created position at Central Office.

Crowder, along with Director of Elementary Education/Professional Development Linda Owen and Director of Secondary Education and Accountability Frosty Owens, will report to Executive Director for Administration Valdivia Marshall.

Owen’s position now includes professional development responsibilities, while accountability duties were added to Owens’ position and title.

Marshall answers directly to the superintendent with the school board at the head overseeing all central office staff, according to the organizational chart approved Monday evening.

Newly hired Director of Finance Jay Camp will oversee Director of Operations and Maintenance Larry Roller and Director of Transportation Dave Guill as well as a yet to be announced Supervisor of School Food Services.

Reporting directly to Superintendent Herndon are principals who will oversee assistant administrators, teachers and other professional personnel.

The new organizational chart will be presented to school personnel during a leadership conference slated for Aug. 1, Herndon said.

In other action Monday evening, school board members voted to pay two bills totaling almost $20,000, one for $4,861.29 to Halifax County attorney Jeremy Carroll for negotiation fees involving the landfill gas contract at South Boston Elementary School that fell through, and another for $14,555 to K12 Virtual Schools for services rendered in the 2010-11 school year.

The K12 Virtual Schools contract has been terminated and is no longer used by the county school system to assist home-schooled students, but an overdue bill from the 2010-11 school year remains unpaid, Herndon explained.

Concerning the legal fees charged by the county attorney, Trustee Roger Long said school board members were under the impression the county attorney was under retainer with the county, when in fact, he was not.

Carroll charged the schools $170 per hour for 38 hours for time spent reviewing the contract between the school system and the Town of South Boston concerning the landfill gas project.

The school decided last month not to partner with the Town of South Boston in its landfill gas self-generation project since South Boston Elementary School will not realize any savings from the project.

The school board had considered partnering with the Town of South Boston in a landfill gas self-generation agreement approved by a 5-3 vote in April.

ED-6 school board trustee Fay Satterfield, ED-1 trustee Phyllis Smith and ED-7 trustee R. K. “Dick” Stoneman opposed the partnership when the April vote was taken. 

Essentially, the agreement between the school and town would have made the gas generated at the former South Boston landfill available to South Boston Elementary School for generation of energy, thermal and/or electricity.

The initial terms of the agreement were for 15 years with the school being granted the option to extend the agreement for an additional period of five years following the expiration of the initial terms, provided that the gas flow from the landfill would be sufficient to permit the buyer to continue generation of energy at the renewable energy facility.

But Roller told school board members earlier this month the 15 to 20 percent energy reduction figures originally presented would not be met, and based on energy consumption data, energy costs would actually increase within the first year with proposed operator fees.

When contacted by the school superintendent, Carroll reduced his original charges of $6,476.29 for reviewing the contract to $4,861.29, a bill school board members approved paying Monday evening.

Also during the lengthy school board meeting Monday, members deleted a portion of the Code of Student Conduct dealing with cell phone regulations that reads, “Cell phones are not to be kept on a student’s person.”

In its place, they added, “Cell phones should not be visible at any time during the school day.”

Also approved was an administrative and supervisory evaluation that Superintendent Herndon plans to use to establish a framework that describes the skills and knowledge needed by administrators and supervisors.

The new document spells out what is expected of principals, associate and assistant principals, central office administrators and supervisors as well as the business and operations administrator/supervisor.

“I believe in no smoke and mirrors. Everything is transparent, and that’s how we’ll have the best principals and administrators,” Herndon said of the working document to be officially introduced in August.

Since evaluations are a key part of her job as superintendent, Herndon said she wants “no secrets,” and the evaluation document adopted Monday evening will ensure all school system employees are fairly evaluated, she said.

The new evaluation instrument will be posted on the county school system’s website and will be presented to all principals Aug. 1.

Accountability and expectations are spelled out in the document, Herndon said, “so there will be no secrets, no surprises.”

She also informed school board members she plans to spend 20 percent of her working week in the individual schools.

“I want to be out in the school buildings on Thursdays,” she said.

Once evaluations are complete, should personnel show a need for improvement in a particular area, it will be noted on the evaluation, Herndon said. The individual will be given a 45- to 90-day time period to make the needed improvements.

Also Monday evening, school board members voted to require anyone who has a Halifax Public Schools email account or who uses school computers to sign a computer acceptable use plan agreeing to abide by guidelines outlined in the agreement.

Herndon wants to require signatures of students, teachers, administrators and all other school personnel who use school computers on an annual basis.

“It’s been a while since the last time signatures were required,” she said, noting the last agreements she could find dated back to 2007.

School board members also approved a Gaggle student email account pilot project for fifth through 12th grade English classes that will give students their own email address policed and fire-wall protected.

With this account, users can create and store files and documents.

To access the Gaggle accounts, all is required will be Internet access.

The free service eliminates the need for jump drives and primarily will be used for English class assignments in preparation for SOL testing, she said explaining the pilot project.

In other action, about a dozen junked vehicles are headed to Cycle Systems for disposal after school board members unanimously agreed to remove the eyesores from school properties.

“We’ve harvested all we can from these vehicles,” Herndon said, adding, “These vehicles give new meaning to ‘used vehicles.’”

Trustees classified the vehicles parked in the bus maintenance lot and at the high school field as junk, and they will be stripped of all usable parts before being sold for salvage.

In a final action, school board members voted to cover any unanticipated VRS costs for the new school superintendent.

School board members also held another closed-door session Tuesday evening beginning at 6:30 when they met with legal counsel to discuss additional personnel issues.