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Getting off at a different bus stop? Not under changed plan

Bus notes are a thing of the past. Halifax County Public School Board members unanimously approved changes to the Code of Student Conduct and parent notifications Monday night that in essence prevent parents from writing bus notes for their children to get off at a different bus stop.

During the board’s regular scheduled monthly meeting Monday, Director of Secondary Education/Student Services/Accountability Frosty Owens presented the revisions to board members including a new “transportation plan.”

According to Owens, one main transportation plan will be submitted per student to explain morning and afternoon bus routes or car rider drop off and pick up directions.

“The schools are not going to take on the responsibility any longer of taking that child to a non-primary location,” said Owens.

The Code of Student Conduct now reads:

“This transportation plan will be for the entire year. Notes and phone calls will not be accepted for changes to the original plan. Parents must come to the school’s office to amend or update the transportation plan. It is the responsibility of the parent or guardian to meet the bus at the designated pick up or drop off location if the student needs to go to a different address. Emergencies will be handled on an individual basis.”

“Safety, safety, safety,” added Owens who pointed out student safety is the schools’ number one priority at all times.

Owens said Director of Operations and Maintenance Larry Roller is “working very diligently” on trying to update some of the schools where identification cards and video identification may have to be used.

In other approved Code of Student Conduct changes, tardies and early check-outs will result in an accumulation of time missed from instruction. 

According to Owens, each 6.5 hours of instructional time missed will result in an absence, which will be recorded and counted toward overall attendance.

A parent note or phone call verifying the absence will only be accepted for the first five absences per semester. After the fifth absence, only documentation of a doctor’s note, court subpoena, obituary notice of family/close friend or religious holiday will be accepted as excused absences.

“Administration, everyone is on board with the changes,” said Owens.

Another change in the upcoming school year involves no more bags or box lunches being brought into the school from fast food restaurants like Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hardee’s, McDonald’s, Bojangles, etc. 

If a parent or guardian delivers to the school a non-household lunch such as fast food from a restaurant, according to the Virginia Department of School Nutrition Program 2013-2014 agreement, these non-household lunches must be packaged in plain wrapping without any marketing logos.

ED-8 trustee Walter Potts said, “That’s just the bags, not the contents?”

“That’s correct,” said Owens.

ED-1 trustee Phyllis Smith added, “That’s not our call.”

“It’s a state call. It’s required by the state department,” said Owens.

In other business Monday, board members unanimously approved an adjustment to the approved budget making the final budget total $57,075,159 to include the additional $110,000 in county funding.

Board members appointed Chairman Kimberly Farson and Vice Chairman R. K. “Dick” Stoneman as delegate and alternate to attend the Virginia School Board Association annual convention in Williamsburg.

Farson asked board members to approve a resolution adding The Gazette-Virginian and the News & Record to the Virginia School Board Association Media Honor Roll.

“We are fortunate to have two newspapers that we can work with very well in my opinion,” said Farson. Board members unanimously approved the resolution.

Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon recommended that in her absence Valdivia Marshall and Robin Mahan be authorized for signatures with an expiration date of June 30, 2015. Board members unanimously approved that request also.

Director of Finance Jay Camp presented bills for payment and informed board members there was no financial report this month, but they would have two reports at the next school board meeting.

Prior to going into closed session, ED-6 trustee Fay Satterfield said she wanted to point out to the general public that board members had been getting blamed for many changes that had recently taken place within the school system.

She referred to a policy that states, “A principal may submit recommendations to the superintendent for the appointment, assignment, promotion, transfer and dismissal of all personnel assigned to his supervision.”

“I would like the general public to know that comes from recommendations, most of them, but not all of them from the building leader,” said Satterfield.

Board members then reconvened into closed session to discuss personnel and student discipline.

When board members emerged they had unanimously approved the following actions:

Amended Superintendent Herndon’s contract to reflect a 2 percent salary increase for 2013-2014 as was given to all employees;

 Approved the personnel report; and 

 Expelled a student for 365 days and refused to permit any alternative education services for that student.