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Business owners to question demotion

Area residents and business owners Stanley and Wanda Jeffress of South Boston said Sunday they plan to attend tonight’s meeting of the Halifax County School Board and “reach out” to board members and citizens regarding the recent demotion of Halifax County High School Principal Albert Randolph.

The meeting will get underway at 6 p.m. in the Mary Bethune Office Complex in Halifax when board members go behind closed doors to discuss personnel matters. 

The meeting will resume in open session at 7:30 p.m. 

Randolph, who has served as the high school principal since 2000, was informed Wednesday he had been reassigned to Halifax County Middle School to serve as assistant principal.

Also on Wednesday, Michael Lewis said he was named interim high school principal when he was approached by Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon and her staff. 

In a letter to the editor to appear in Wednesday’s edition of The Gazette-Virginian, the Jeffress couple questions why the move was made.

 “While we are not privileged to all the facts that led to such action, and can only rely on the local newspaper articles, we find the decision contrary to the progress of Halifax County and its citizens,” the letter states.

When the announcement was made last week, one school board member who asked not to be identified offered an explanation for why the decision was made to transfer Randolph to the assistant principal post at the middle school.

The school board member said Superintendent Herndon had previously told the school board Randolph plans to retire after the next school year, and he has accumulated 160 vacation days. 

The school board member said Randolph either wanted to be paid for the 160 vacation days or be able to use those days.

The superintendent sought input from the board on how to handle the situation since neither board members nor the superintendent wanted to be without a principal at the high school for 160 days, the school board member stated when confirming the decision on how to handle the matter was left to the discretion of the superintendent.

“If the reason as stated by the press is accurate, and the matter is truly related to payment or use of vacation time,” the Jeffresses state, “we respectfully ask the board to analyze the decision and request that it be reversed.”

Stanley Jeffress said he has known Randolph most of his life, since they both were reared in neighboring Charlotte County “by families who were hard working, dedicated and principled in terms of education and employment.

“We have always been proud of his career accomplishments and know that he cares for and sets expectations of his students and is a dutiful and loyal servant to our public school system,” the letter continues.

The Jeffresses question what message does this action send to the hundreds of other school system employees and future job applicants as it relates to job security, morale and career advancement?

“Here is a gentleman who has worked hard all of his life, is nearing retirement and is demoted because he has not taken off earned time away from his responsibilities. Is this how we show our appreciation for his service?” the letter states.

Thirdly, the Jeffresses ask what does this decision say to our students who look upon Randolph as a role model?

“Students, you must work hard, make many sacrifices and give your all to excel in life, but in the end, you might not be appreciated.”

According to the Jeffress’ letter, “Many students and adults feel the ‘system’ always works against them, and this to a great degree reinforces those beliefs.”

The letter continues, “Halifax County is better than this. We should be about lifting each other up, rather than pushing one down.”

It concludes with a plea for school board members to “do what is honorable and just. Surely there is an alternative resolution to this issue that will give Mr. Randolph his due respect and allow our school system to maintain its integrity.”

In other school board action tonight, members also are expected to adopt the 2014-15 health insurance rates after discussion with Patsy Akridge of Akridge Insurance.

Last year, the school board adopted Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield’s proposed Key Care 300, KC 30/1000, KC 30/2000 plans at an annual cost of $6,440,870, representing a decrease of 0.8 percent in the premium.

In March the board proposed a budget of $1,342,326 that included a projected increase in health insurance costs of between 11 and 18 percent or $659,376.

In other action at tonight’s meeting, school board members are expected to take the following actions:

Discuss an agreement between the South Boston/Halifax Early Learning Center and the Town of South Boston;

Receive a briefing from Assistant Superintendent Valdivia Marshall concerning a VSBA May 2014 policy update and consider approval; 

Recognize the winners of the Virginia Department of Education Creating Excellence Awards;

Listen to Emma Sims who has signed up to speak at the beginning of the meeting during citizen comments; and 

If needed, the board will return to closed session at the end of the meeting to discuss personnel issues.