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Superintendent gives update on action from school study

Halifax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon with school administrators and school board members presented a PowerPoint presentation to county supervisors Friday morning during their annual strategic planning session held at Riverstone.

The presentation focused on the most critical areas in the efficiency study review and the curriculum audit, both completed last year.

Herndon referred to the studies saying, “This is a working document, and a lot of this may never happen.”

Herndon was joined by members of her administration, Executive Director for Administration Valdivia Marshall, Director of Elementary Education/Professional Development Linda Owen and Director of Secondary Education/Accountability Frosty Owens as well as school board members ED-5 trustee Roger Long, ED-6 trustee Fay Satterfield and ED-8 trustee Walter Potts.

The superintendent reviewed the presentation that included 13 critical areas from the efficiency study review and report summary of recommendations from the curriculum audit.

The efficiency review was completed by Prismatic Services in March awarding Halifax County Public Schools 38 commendations and 122 recommendations.

Among Prismatic’s 122 recommendations, the efficiency review suggested closing two schools, eliminating LAN manager positions, establishing and publishing a new compensation and pay plan, as well as adopting a new central office structure.

In discussing closing the two schools, Herndon told supervisors Friday school board members had not spent much time discussing it because “this is a major area that will require time, careful study and community input…you not only close a school, but you close a community.”

Of the recommended items in the study, the school system already has adopted a new central office structure, identified sources of data beyond tests scores and continually uses them to inform decision-making, and re-established technology leadership through both a director of technology and instructional technology position, she said. 

According to Herndon, several items are being reviewed including the comprehensive development plan that addresses student needs, division needs and content area deficiencies, establishing and publishing a new compensation and pay plan, analyzing class size and its impact on staffing needs each year, upgrading CMMS software and developing a comprehensive updated food services procedures manual.

“She’s in the process of developing the manual now,” said Herndon of new Supervisor of School Food Services Lori Hale.

Concerning upcoming changes in certain employees’ salaries, Herndon said letters will be sent out before deadline to let affected employees know some salaries were “skewed.” 

 “People are not going to be pleased, but we’re just taking care of business,” and “we’re going to be fair to each individual.”

Herndon and Marshall informed board members at a December board meeting that several employees were not in the correct pay scale for the number of years they had been employed, with some people making more than they should, while others were making less.

“We have literally been going file by file,” said Herndon.

Of the findings that didn’t have a specific fiscal impact, Herndon referred to developing and implementing a comprehensive plan for special education initiatives that provides the vision, direction and accountability needed to move toward more inclusive approaches to services for students with disabilities.

“We have to work to make sure that we don’t make special education too special,” Herndon cautioned.

ED-4 Supervisor Doug Bowman questioned the special education numbers asking, “Are the numbers stabilizing, heading up or level?” 

Herndon replied explaining the school system is focusing on special education and monitoring the numbers and programs and existing sources, with Owen pointing out the schools use of the Response to Intervention program.

“We’re on the right path. I do applaud you…for moving forward,” said ED-1 Supervisor J.T. Davis.

“There was no communication before. You have worked to save that,” said ED-5 Supervisor Barry Bank.

The superintendent detailed other significant points during the planning session including security upgrades in schools, electronic application process, a need for buses and paperless board meetings.

In closing she thanked the supervisors for their time, adding, “I’m at your disposal.”

Before adjourning Friday, Director of Finance Stephanie Jackson gave an update on the audit and finances to supervisors.

The county has a fund total of $19.3 million with unrestricted fund total of $11.4 million, a decrease of $1.3 million compared to 2011 fiscal year, said Jackson.

“I feel there is going to be a lot of requests unmet I’m afraid,” said Bowman.

Jackson added that although things are tight this year, the county is looking into its options, and there are some needs this year that are becoming “critical.”

Due to the inclement weather, the supervisors adjourned early before discussing their goals and objectives for the 2013/2014 budget.

The priorities listing for the upcoming budget include:

public safety

 financial accountability/general government

 education

 citizen services

 property maintenance

 judicial administration

 health and welfare (DSS & health department)

 industrial development authority (IDA)

 capital improvements