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Wish list too much? School board member pushes issue

One Halifax County School Board member thinks the recent “wish list” of items for consideration may be a bit too much to present to the Halifax County Board of Supervisors during upcoming budget preparations.

School board members first mentioned the items of consideration during their Jan. 7 budget work session, a meeting ED-8 trustee Walter Potts was unable to attend.

During Monday night’s school board meeting, Potts asked for clarification on some of the budget figures Director of Finance Jay Camp presented at the Jan. 7 budget work session.

“I understand the shortfall of $586,855 was from the governor,” said Potts.

However, he asked for clarification on $759,901 in additional funding needed to pay for increases in employees’ insurance benefits.

Potts also voiced his concern and said he was “not in favor of asking the board of supervisors for $1.4 million plus an additional $1.8 million” saying he believed the school system was “prematurely” presenting figures to the board of supervisors. 

ED-5 trustee Roger Long explained Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon was asking the school board to come up with approximate figures for appropriations they will be looking at making in the upcoming budget year since the school board has no funds.

“We have no money at all,” said Long.

“We won’t come up with the final figures until March 30,” Long added.

Potts told the superintendent he doesn’t believe the school board should present any budget figures to the board of supervisors on Jan. 15.

“They want to know what we’re thinking about…I think it’s totally appropriate to do exactly what we’ve done…we’re following timelines,” said Herndon. 

“Seems like to me we rushed to come up with these figures,” replied Potts.

“We are adhering to a request, and I think appropriately so,” the superintendent responded.

Potts said he thinks it is “unrealistic” to request $3.2 million when the supervisors have been unable to fund $1 million in additional county money over the past five years.

In other business Monday, concerned parent Lisa Hatcher of Scottsburg accused cafeteria workers of tossing her daughter’s lunch in the trash and feeding her crackers and water because they said she had a lunch fee debt exceeding $5.

Hatcher told board members the incident occurred Dec. 11 when her daughter went through the lunch line at Halifax County Middle School and was unable to receive a hot lunch.

“When she put in her lunch code, the cafeteria worker proceeded to inform her that she owed $5.25 and could not charge her lunch. She, being the cafeteria person, threw the lunch in the garbage and then offered my child crackers and water,” said Hatcher.

Later that day, Hatcher said she learned her child only owed $3.40 in lunch fees. 

Hatcher requested the school board review the newly placed policy so that future situations like this do not arise for other students.

“It is one thing when this board targets adults and takes away retirement and quite another when they target children and take away lunches. It is incomprehensible when you all would target children to embarrass and humiliate,” added the upset parent.

Hatcher also expressed concern over the school board’s “wish list” of items for budget consideration and the absence of instructional materials on that list.

Holding up her daughter’s dual enrollment pre-calculus book, she told school board members the first 46 pages were missing, and the book has been listed in poor condition since 2008.

“How is everything supposed to be completed with this material missing?” questioned Hatcher.

“In closing, let me leave you this to chew on,” Hatcher said. “I have always been told that you can have book sense and not a lick of common sense.” 

Speaking next was the Rev. Frank Coleman who greeted board members and congratulated the newly elected chairman and vice chairman before informing board members he is the new president of the local NAACP. 

“And on behalf of our local branch, we want to pointedly and publicly extend our hand of active support and partnership to this board and this school district as you lead this community in the academic educating of our children and the civic enhancement of our county,” said Coleman.

South Boston Elementary Principal Sue Bagbey gave a presentation on the school and how the 764 students are a “true mixing bowl.” 

“Life happens, change happens, but the heart of South Boston keeps beating,” said Bagbey.

South Boston Elementary Assistant Principal Chris Lacks, attending his first school board meeting, said South Boston not only has great educators but great caregivers.

Herndon was recognized for being in the “Women Education Leaders in Virginia” newsletter, and ED-6 trustee Fay Satterfield was recognized for always being “up for the challenge” and bringing the “Wall that Heals” to the county on April 10-15.

Under unfinished business, board members once again addressed the reduction in Professional Staff Work Force policy. Following a lengthy discussion unanimously approved the revision that reads “The board recognizes that normal attrition through resignations,  retirements and leaves of absence may lessen the need to reduce staff.”

Division Testing Coordinator Nancy Zirkle presented out-of-zone application guidelines and procedures for the 2013-2014 year, and board members agreed out-of-zone attendance should be monitored more closely.

Long and Stoneman were appointed to serve on a finance committee as “liaisons” between the board and central office staff during the remainder of the budget process.

Director of Operations and Maintenance Larry Roller presented the capital improvement and equipment replacement three-year plan, requested permission from the board to begin work on the roof replacement project at the high school, HVAC at the STEM/Career Center and asbestos abatement at Cluster Springs Early Learning Center.

 According to Roller, the capital improvement plan totals $2,468,500, but the fund currently has $1,491,000.

Board members unanimously approved Roller starting work on capital improvement projects.

After Camp presented the financial report and received permission for payment of the bills, board members reconvened into closed session to discuss student discipline, legal consultations and a personnel appointment.

When board members emerged they unanimously approved placing one student on home bound instruction, one student on long-term expulsion who can finish two classes at alternative education and appointed Janice Hodges to secondary secretarial instruction.