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Vacation cap, out of zone students tabled

At what limit to cap vacation time for full-time Halifax County Public School employees remains up in the air following a lengthy discussion during the Monday night meeting of the Halifax County School Board.

School board members approved a 60-day cap on vacation leave at a special called meeting July 24; however, several employees currently have more than 60 days and would be affected by the change.

During a work session last month, Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon presented the possibility of reducing that cap to 30 days. 

According to Herndon, 30 days was the original cap for the school system, and several other school divisions she had contacted had much lower caps than 60 days.

Herndon presented the possible policy change to Halifax County School Board members Monday night, and they unanimously tabled discussion until the December meeting.

Herndon said as of July 24 158 people were in full-time vacation earning positions. The policy change presented Monday would have employees capped at the number of vacation days they had on July 24 and would not cause them to lose any days.

“We capped the number of days where they were as of July 24,” said Herndon.

If an employee has 50 days of vacation, the employee wouldn’t lose any days but couldn’t go over 50 days, she explained.

“It’s a win-win for each individual,” added Herndon.

ED-7 trustee R. K. “Dick” Stoneman expressed his concern about lowering the cap saying he wanted to speak with other school divisions about their caps on vacation time.

“I don’t feel comfortable. I’d just like to talk to others,” said Stoneman.

ED-3 trustee Kimberly Farson agreed saying she is concerned for those who would be retiring soon who had more than 60 days.

According to Herndon, employees with 60 days or more accumulated as of July 24 would be paid at a per diem rate for a maximum of 60 days, but could take off the remaining days of vacation. 

“I think it’s great that they are not forced to take the time. It’s great to allow them to use the days until they retire,” said ED-4 trustee Cheryl Terry.

With a motion by Stoneman and a second by ED-8 trustee Walter Potts, board members tabled discussion until the December meeting, and no further action was taken.

Following other discussion, board members approved the purchase of 40 iPads using a Region 8 technology grant. 

According to Herndon, nine iPads would be purchased for school board members, 12 for central office staff and 19 for school principals and assistant principals.

“We’re at a point with Verizon where we can upgrade…. luckily Verizon is interested in purchasing our used Galaxy tablets,” said Herndon.

Supervisor of Instructional Technology Dr. Jeanie Hawks said no additional costs would be charged for cellular service, as the iPads will replace the current tablets.

“We only pay 11 percent of $40 for cell service,” said Hawks.

The total cost for the iPads is $27,960 to be paid using grant funds.

“It’s an important step for us to take. I use the iPad all day long…it’s a tool we need,” said Herndon.

According to the superintendent, the iPads purchase would be a savings compared to the unlimited amount of paper used for board meetings, adding items to be used can be purchased through free apps.

“We’ll have professional development. I’d love to have professional development,” said Herndon to hesitant board members.

Also tabled was action on out-of-zone student information Herndon provided.

As of Oct. 24 Clays Mill and Meadville Elementary schools have the lowest attendance with 30 transferring out of Clays Mill and 18 transferring out of Meadville.

Stoneman once again pointed out if attendance at those two schools doesn’t increase, they may be faced with the possibility of closing two schools as suggested in the efficiency study.

Board members agreed it is a “very complicated” situation, and even though guidelines for out-of-zone attendance are in place, they are not being enforced.

School board members agreed to table the matter for further discussion at a later date.