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Governor’s School remains in limbo

No decision has been made on whether Halifax County students will be able to participate in the Regional Governor’s School at SVCC in Keysville in the coming school year.

Discussions continued on possibly reinstating the Governor’s School program for county school students Monday night when school board members met for their regular scheduled meeting in Halifax.

School board members are considering two possibilities: sending students to the Regional Governor’s School in Keysville or offering their own version of Governor’s School via satellite at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center.

However at Monday night’s meeting, Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon told school board members that the committee appointed earlier this year, comprised of ED-2 trustee Karen Hopkins and ED-4 trustee Cheryl Terry, has been unable to meet with Southern Virginia Higher Education Center representatives to discuss possible Governor’s School alternatives.

When the idea was first approached in January, Herndon met with Transportation Director Dave Guill to determine the cost of transporting students to the Regional Governor’s School in Keysville.

If the school system provides transportation as it did up until 2010 when the program was eliminated due to budget restraints, the maximum cost for reinstating Governor’s School would amount to $65,000 with $40,000 of the cost funding transportation.

Board members asked Herndon to look into how much it would cost if students were responsible for providing their own transportation.

“Other school divisions don’t necessarily provide transportation. We’ve checked with Craig Wood (schools attorney), and we don’t have an added liability,” said Herndon.

If the students provide their own transportation, Halifax County’s cost for participating in Governor’s School could be “as low as $10,000,” Herndon added.

The STEM strand would cost around $2,000 per student, and the Humanities strand would cost around $5,000 per student, so if five students chose the humanities strand, it would cost $25,000 without transportation, she further explained.

“We’re still in the process of meeting with the higher ed…we’re looking to the future and just fact finding right now,” said Herndon.

Terry said the higher education center could possibly set up a Governor’s School via satellite in the future and broadcast classes from Keysville.

“We’re asking them to investigate,” said Terry.

ED-7 trustee R. K. “Dick” Stoneman said Monday night it is not likely Halifax County students will be offered an opportunity to participate in Governor’s School in the coming year.

 In other business Monday, Doris Faulkner, grandmother of a Halifax County High School sophomore, addressed her concerns about how disciplinary action is handled at the high school.

“There seem to be double standards in place,” said Faulkner.

Speaking of a recent incident when several students were sent home for not going to class, Faulkner said a high percentage of those asked to go home were black students.

“I am not racist, but I am race conscious…in other words character conscious,” she added.

The Rev. Frank Coleman also addressed his concern over the board’s recent decision to move the financial report to the consent agenda.

“Looks like something is being hidden,” said Coleman. “I appreciate you all trying to cut down on the time, and I understand the motive behind it, but perception is everything,” he added.

Cluster Springs Elementary School Principal Lisa Long gave a PowerPoint presentation about the school and all the “fun” things the faculty and students accomplish and participate in throughout the school year.

Herndon presented board members with information about the Virginia State University initiative for which ED-8 trustee Walter Potts had previously requested more information.

According to Herndon, VSU sought schools with gaps in their dual enrollment and advanced placement program, and Halifax County doesn’t have that issue.

“So basically you’re saying they were attempting to offer something we already have,” said Potts.

Herndon said officials with VSU commended Halifax County Public Schools on the large number of students graduating with associate degrees.

In other business Monday, Director of Operations and Maintenance Larry Roller gave the energy consumption report and informed board members the schools’ current rating is at 88, meaning the school system is “better than 88 percent of comparable school systems in the nation.”

Averages are weighed by total floor space of schools.

Coordinator of Emergency Services Kirby Saunders asked for approval to use Halifax County Middle School as the primary shelter in the county in the event of a mass emergency.

In the past the county had designated the old gymnasium in the Mary Bethune office complex, which according to Saunders didn’t have backup power, proper kitchen or bathroom facilities in case of a mass emergency.

“Schools are the most appropriate,” said Saunders.

Board members unanimously approved the use of the middle school as a shelter, approved the 2013-2014 school calendar and approved Roller accepting Comfort Systems USA as the low bidder for STEM Academy HVAC replacement.

Board members also unanimously approved the consent agenda that included the approval of compliance officer Valdivia Marshall and alternate compliance officer Frosty Owens, approved the financial report and payment of the bills.

Board members went into closed session to discuss personnel and property issues.

When board members emerged, they took the following actions:

Unanimously upheld the decision of a three-day suspension without pay for an employee;

 Approved having Davis Reality remove a sign from property across from the STEM Center;

 Unanimously approved the personnel report; 

 Approved giving Executive Director for Administration Valdivia Marshall and Director of Finance Jay Camp the authority to discuss salary adjustments (raises or decreases) with affected employees and bring back to the board for final vote on March 25.  The vote was 4-2-1 with Hopkins and Potts opposing, Terry abstaining; and

 Voted 5-1-1 to give employees a two percent raise in the coming year with Potts opposing and ED-6 trustee Fay Satterfield abstaining.

Chairman Kimberly Farson was absent from Monday night’s meeting.