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Upset retirees to share frustrations with board

More than a dozen former Halifax County Public School employees are prepared to address school board members to express their concerns about their decision to terminate the Local Option Retirement Plan.

Those frustrations are expected to be expressed at the regular scheduled Halifax County School board meeting at 7 p.m. today at the Mary Bethune office complex in the public meeting room.

According to Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon the program would have cost the school system $1.85 million for the 2012-13 school year.

For weeks retirees have been meeting to discuss the action taken by the school board that left those participating in the program shocked, stunned and upset.

 The school board voted 7-0 to terminate the program at a special called meeting July 24 after nearly two hours behind closed doors. ED-8 trustee Walter Potts was not in attendance of the meeting. 

More than 75 retirees and spouses will be present at tonight’s meeting in support of those speaking.

“We’ll be there, we’re ready,” said former Sinai Elementary Principal Michael Wilborne who retired effective June 30.

Wilborne said many of the recent retirees would not have retired if they had been informed prior to June 30 that the LORP would be terminated.

“Some of the current and previous retirees who are affected by this decision plan to speak at the school board meeting to express their concerns over the board’s decision to not honor the retirement benefit agreement signed by the employee and the executive director for administration,” said Wilborne.

According to Wilborne, the first-time employees were contacted by school officials about the termination of the program was July 31 in a letter by the Executive Director of Administration Valdivia Marshall. 

“The letter read that retirees could substitute with substitute pay which is $65 a day,” he added.

Phyllis Jackson, a former secretary at central office said more than anything she feels betrayed.

“I feel really betrayed because I was told personally by school board members that the rug wouldn’t be pulled out from under me. I have always bragged about Halifax County Public Schools and how they treat the employees fairly, unfortunately I can’t do that anymore,” said Jackson.

Jackson spent 33 years with the school system. She recalls them being the best years of her life, despite feeling betrayed and hurt by the school system.

“I went over and beyond for Halifax County Public Schools and what do I get…a slap in the face, a slap in the heart,” she added.

According to the frustrated retirees, along with local media, local television and radio stations have been contacted to attend the meeting.

In other business tonight ED-5 trustee Dr. Roger Long is expected to give a report on the governor’s conference on education. Director of Secondary Education Frosty Owens is expected to seek approval of educational field trips for Special Olympics. 

Under new business Marshall is expected to seek approval of the 2012-2013 school fees.

Director of Finance Jay Camp is expected to give the financial report and seek payment of the bills.