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Energy worries aired to school board — again

Halifax County schools may be “regressing” in energy savings, and part of the reason may be because the maintenance department has lost five positions over the last few years, according to Larry Roller, the school system’s director of operations and maintenance.

For the second time in as many months, Roller told Halifax County School Board members Thursday night during their regular monthly meeting they could save money on energy consumption by hiring an energy manager at a base salary of around $40,000 plus benefits.

School board members listened to the maintenance director but took no action regarding the school’s energy consumption and ways to further reduce energy costs.

Roller made a return appearance Thursday following a July 8 work session when he first addressed the issue of the school system’s energy consumption and cost reduction. 

He sang the same tune Thursday night pleading his case for school board members to hire additional manpower.

Since local media’s coverage of the July work session when school board members discussed an energy reduction program, Roller said he has had “quite a few contacts.”

And once again he urged board members to act in the schools’ best interest by exploring all programs available.

At the July meeting, Roller presented Cenergistic, an energy savings program established in 1986.

“They’re all about people, not equipment,” said Roller.

The program would provide a staff to come in and perform and achieve goals of energy conservation providing a savings to the school system.

However, Roller suggested the school system save money by hiring its own energy manager at a base salary of around $40,000 plus benefits.

According to Roller, his maintenance staff is always looking for ways to conserve energy within county schools.

 “If we use someone in-house, I think we can move to a higher plateau,” he added.

ED-4 trustee Cheryl Terry suggested the entire school system could make some “cultural changes” instead of investing in a company or hiring a new energy manager.

“We can change the culture of the way we do things,” said Terry.

ED-8 trustee Walter Potts said he’d be in favor of hiring a part-time employee to investigate the system’s energy use especially in unoccupied buildings.

“We need to look at what’s available and come up with a plan. We need to look at this very closely so that when we move, we go in the right direction,” said Roller.

And for the second month in a row, school board members declined to take action on the energy issue deciding instead to ask staff and administrators for input on how to conserve energy within the schools.

They plan to bring back more information to be discussed at the September meeting.

In other business Thursday, Chairman Kimberly Farson recognized and expressed appreciation to a variety of organizations and churches that gave services and supplies to help get students back to school. 

Farson and the school board also extended a “thank you” to Justin Pennick, Jacob Talley and Warren Pennick for their “hands on” building of the new board table in the Mary Bethune second floor conference room and to the Halifax County Board of Supervisors for funding and providing supplies to complete the project.

ED-6 trustee Fay Satterfield gave a summary of the Virginia School Board Association conference on education and five workshops she recently attended.

Coordinator of Division Testing Nancy Zirkle informed board members Halifax County Public Schools has been approved once again by the United States Department of Education to expend $25,000 to support a pilot implementation and study of a Tier 3 (individual tutoring) intervention connected to the Power Teaching Math i3 grant pilot project at the Halifax County Middle School that began last spring.

According to Zirkle, last spring 66 students at the middle school participated in 439 hours of one-on-one online tutoring. 

Each grade level worked on SOLs as given by their teachers, and their overall in-session proficiency was 73.7 percent.

Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon updated board members on the possibility of an employee pay plan.

During a June special called meeting board members decided to open up discussion of possibly completing such a study.

Questions arose in December when Prismatic representative Tatia Prieto met with school board members to review the efficiency study and its 122 recommendations.

Included among the recommendations was the suggestion for board members to establish and publish a new compensation and pay plan.

Board members said at a March meeting several comments and concerns were made following the efficiency study about implementing a compensation and pay plan, and Prieto suggested the board complete a compensation study.

ED-1 trustee Phyllis Smith and ED-5 trustee Roger Long agreed to assist central office administrators and serve on a committee to research information from other school districts concerning compensation and pay plans.

Smith, Long and other staff members including Assistant Superintendent Valdivia Marshall, Director of Secondary/Student Services/Accountability Frosty Owens and Director of Finance Jay Camp have spoken with a representative of Virginia Association of School Superintendents, and Herndon said Thursday they hope to have a sit down meeting soon to decide where the board would like to go next concerning the pay plan.

Currently the school system does not have any compensation or pay plan.

In other action Thursday evening, school board members agreed to pay $8,000 for the Town of Halifax’s four used police cars and a radar gun.

The purchase included the following:

a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria with 116,000 miles at a cost of $2,500; 

 a 2005 Ford Crown Victoria with 128,000 miles at a cost of $2,500;

 a 2004 Ford Crown Victoria with 151,000 miles at a cost of $1,000; and

 a 2003 Chevy Impala with 151,000 miles at a cost of $1,000.

The purchase price included $7,000 for the four vehicles with $300 extra to remove police graphics, and they paid an additional $1,000 for a Kustom Signal Raptor Radar gun.

ED-7 trustee R. K. “Dick” Stoneman voiced concern about the school system buying a radar gun.

“The only problem I have is with the radar. What purpose is the radar?” questioned Stoneman.

Transportation Coordinator Earl Womack said frequently his office gets reports of county vehicles, including buses, speeding.

“For our county vehicles, we get calls all the time that a bus may be speeding,” said Womack who added the purchase was for the safety of the children.

Womack also pointed out he had undergone proper training to use the radar gun and plans to continue to monitor the speed of school vehicles on county roads.

School board members also authorized payment of textbook bills and other monthly bills as well as approving minutes from the June 24, July 8 work session and July 8 meeting.

At the conclusion of Thursday night’s meeting, school board members went into closed session, and when they emerged they took the following actions:

 Voted unanimously not to accept the recommendation of the grievance panel for Employee 1;

 Unanimously accepted a salary recommendation for the speech therapist;

 Agreed 7-0 with ED-2 trustee Kim Hopkins abstaining to suspend a student long-term for first semester and allow alternative education services and if student remains on good behavior, his record will be expunged of the incident.  

 Voted 8-0 to give the high school principal permission to sign an affidavit allowing the transfer of a student’s two K-12 courses back to the high school; and 

 Unanimously granted a student permission to arrive at school for fourth block class at STEM Center only.