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On firings, Halifax County School Board stands firm

Halifax County School board members had a long night Monday that included more than three hours behind closed doors.

By the wee morning hours Tuesday, trustees had unanimously affirmed their decision to terminate two paraprofessional employees involved in a fight that took place at Halifax County High School on April 4.

Joanna Barksdale, 39, of Halifax and 40-year-old Yakima Claughton of South Boston were charged with disorderly conduct following a fight that took place on the third floor of the school.

South Boston Police Capt. B. K. Lovelace said the fight stemmed from a verbal disagreement that escalated into blows between the two paraprofessionals.

Following the fight, South Boston Police escorted both employees from the school premises, and no students were involved or injured during the altercation.

At last month’s school board meeting, trustees made the decision to terminate the pair.

Monday night after hearing from several witnesses for both sides, the school’s lawyer and one paraprofessional’s lawyer, School Superintendent Paul Stapleton said school board members held their position refusing to reinstate either of the paraprofessionals.

 “The school board listened to the several witnesses, and each side had its story, and the hearing itself was over two and half hours long, but in the end the school board reaffirmed its decision to terminate those employees,” said Stapleton.

In other business during the lengthy closed session Monday evening, board members discussed hiring current high school vocational instructor Jimmy Popek to replace outgoing Chief Financial Officer Bill Covington but voted 6-2 against the four-member committee’s recommendation.

All members opposed except ED-2 trustee Karen Hopkins and ED-8 trustee Walter Potts.

On Tuesday, Potts maintained the board should have followed the committee’s recommendation.

Board members decided to keep the process open to accept further applications.

“We wanted to reopen for more applications and find someone with more experience, someone with more school finance experience,” said ED-6 trustee Fay Satterfield.

“I felt that the new superintendent should have some input,” said ED-7 trustee R.K. “Dick” Stoneman.

Also Monday, Executive Director for Administration Valdivia Marshall announced her retirement effective at the end of this school year.

Trustees unanimously approved her request to work part-time as the director of federal programs.

Board members also unanimously approved the personnel report.