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New school superintendent named in Halifax County

Dr. Merle P. Herndon of Brookneal has been named Halifax County’s new school superintendent.

Currently serving as the director of professional development/school business partnerships at Lynchburg City Schools, Herndon’s three-year contract commences with Halifax County Public Schools on July 1.

Herndon’s salary package with the school system that begins July 1, 2012 and continues through June 30, 2015 includes an $140,000 annual salary and a car allowance of $500 a month.

She will receive a total of 21 days annual leave exclusive of legal holidays (not cumulative) and 12 days sick leave each year.

Board members agreed to pay the new superintendent’s individual premium for hospitalization, medical insurance and for the Virginian Retirement System group life insurance; rates not to exceed amounts paid for other school system employees.

After actively searching for a new superintendent since January, Halifax County School board members made the formal announcement in a special called meeting held Friday afternoon at the Mary Bethune office complex in Halifax.

Herndon, with more than 30 years of experience in education, replaces Halifax County Public Schools Superintendent Paul Stapleton who will retire the end of June.

Last June, Stapleton announced his plans to retire effective the end of this school year after serving eight years in the position.

In January, the new school board members met with representatives from the Virginia School Board Association, utilizing them in the search for the next superintendent at a minimum fee of $12,000.

The Virginia School Board Association provided the board with guidelines to be used in developing the profile for the new superintendent.

At a later date in January, a survey was released on the schools website, the local newspapers website and hard copies were available at all schools and public libraries for the public to fill out and return to the central office for input on the new superintendent.

A public hearing on selecting the next school superintendent was held at the February school board meeting. After the data was collected from the surveys, the job was advertised with a deadline for applications set for March 23.

More than 24 applicants applied for the position, less than a dozen were interviewed, and the list was narrowed to two candidates including Herndon.

Herndon brings to the school system a wealth of experience ranging from serving as a reading specialist and elementary principal to her latest endeavor as director of professional development and school business partnerships with Lynchburg City Schools.

She has earned three graduate degrees including a master’s degree in reading, an education specialist degree from Lynchburg College and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Virginia.

She also completed the Virginia Urban Schools Association Fellow program at the College of William and Mary and the Aspiring Superintendents program at Virginia Tech in 2011.

 “I am humbled to be your new superintendent, and I truly look forward to the joys and challenges we will share over the years,” Herndon said following the announcement Friday.

She told the nearly packed public meeting room at the Mary Bethune Complex she has found students are more successful in school when they have caring adults who believe in them.

“I have a mission during my career to help other adults understand the importance of affiliation in the lives of children. Think back to a teacher and the ones who made a biggest difference in your life,” said Herndon.

Herndon introduced her strategic entry plan, which is developed to help accelerate a successful, carefully planned and skillfully executed entry into the position of superintendent, ensuring that the needs of students, teachers and the community are the focus during this transition and in future planning.

The expected outcomes of the entry plan are to ensure a smooth transition of leadership, create a plan for the first 90 days as superintendent to learn more about Halifax County Public Schools, ensure constituents are given the opportunity to be heard, structure the transition to ensure a balance between instructional improvement and support for students and teachers and review efficiency in all areas to ensure the needs of students are being met.

She assured those in attendance Friday multiple opportunities would be available to get to know each other and to communicate.

“When a decision is being made regarding a student, I ask myself, I always have, how would I want my own child treated?...In closing, the best teachers never forget what it’s like to be a student. The best
administrators are the administrators who have never forgotten what it’s like to be a teacher. I have never forgotten what it’s like to be a teacher.

“Albert Einstein is quoted as saying an expert is a person with few new ideas, and a beginner is a person with many.

 “Although I had many opportunities to work in areas as a superintendent, … I consider myself a beginner, a learner and open to ideas, and I look so forward to working with all of you,” Herndon said.

Herndon and her husband, Billy, reside in Brookneal, and she is an active member of Brookneal Methodist Church.

They are the parents of three children and eight grandchildren who all live in the central Virginia area.