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Only two county schools meet federal objectives

Only two Halifax County schools — South Boston Elementary and Clays Mill Elementary — met the Federal Annual Measurable Objectives for the 2013-14 school year.

South Boston Elementary did not meet the AMO requirements last year. 

During Monday night’s Halifax County School Board meeting, Division Testing Coordinator Nancy Zirkle pointed to data from 2012-13 saying the division level did not meet the AMO requirements due to low math scores and because Halifax County High School did not meet its graduation rate. The graduation rate is expected to reach a goal of 80 percent. According to the AMO report, the rate currently is at 77 percent. 

The high school did, however, meet all subject requirements. 

Halifax County school students posted gains in 12 Standards of Learning test categories, but showed poorer performance than last year on 22 test assessments, according to 2012-13 SOL scores released last month by the Virginia Department of Education. 

All of the schools that did not meet the requirements failed to do so in math. 

Zirkle said, “We have some ideas on what caused this, and we know where we need to go.” 

ED-5 Trustee Roger Long voiced concern stating the scores received are “not valid.” 

“Before the scores came out, I knew they were going to be bad because students are using computers to take this test for the first time, and some of the information that the students were tested on was information not in our textbooks,” Long said. “Now these scores are going to be a baseline for personal evaluation, evaluation of our school system, superintendent and individual teachers, and I have a problem with this because I feel it’s an incorrect use of testing.” 

The school system plans to develop and implement a volunteer program for what the improving schools will be doing on Indestar, and each of the participating schools will have a mentor from the central office, Zirkle said. 

In other business Monday night, Zirkle also presented an out-of-zone student report concerning students who attend schools out of their residential zone.

Since last year, Cluster Springs has gained 13 out-of-zone students; Meadville has lost 18; Scottsburg has gained 19. There was a gain of 17 out-of-zone students overall since last year bringing the total to 213. 

ED-1 school board representative Phyllis Smith said, “We spent a lot of time on this this year, and it was a real concern. I thought we were going to see numbers that were much better.” 

According to Zirkle, many of the parents had legitimate reasons for their child to attend an out-of-zone school. Few were denied. 

 “I beat the bushes this year and made sure that if you are not from that zone, your mother filled out a paper,” Zirkle said. “I made phone calls, sent letters and applications. If they did not have an application on the first day, we had to find out why.” 

Assistant Superintendent Valdivia Marshall explained no additional teachers were hired.

“We only moved a few teachers within schools to different grade levels,” she added.

Marshall also presented the back-to-school opening report Monday evening.

According to the report, 25 new teachers were employed for the 2013-2014 school year, and the enrollment for K-5 students decreased by 24 students. 

Enrollment of students in grades 6 through 8 has increased by two students. In the total division of kindergarten through grade 12 enrollments has decreased by 67. 

The actual cost per pupil for 2012-2013 in the Halifax County Public School division was $11,065.49. The estimated per pupil cost for 2013-2014 is $10,936.04. All funding sources including local, state and federal monies are considered in these calculations, Marshall told school board members.

School Nutrition Program Contact Lori Hale presented the United States Department of Agriculture Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program grants. 

According to Hale, Meadville Elementary, Sinai Elementary and South Boston/Halifax Early Learning Center will receive funding. Meadville will receive a total of $12,280.07. Sinai will receive $17,017.57, and South Boston/Halifax Early Learning Center will receive $5,921.87. 

Director of Maintenance and Operations Larry Roller outlined actions to be taken concerning using the security equipment grants.

Earlier this month, Governor Bob McDonnell announced $52,080 in grants had been awarded to Clays Mill Elementary, Halifax County High School, Meadville Elementary, Scottsburg Elementary, Sinai Elementary and Sydnor Jennings Elementary. 

According to Roller, the grants will be used for electronic access control, surveillance equipment and cameras, two-way radios and 360-degree cameras. 

When asked about a time frame for security equipment installation, Roller said they hoped to finish the primary schools in four to six weeks and then begin on the high school. 

Two recognitions were given during the meeting. Halifax County High School Principal Albert Randolph and Halifax County Middle School Principal Faye Bruce presented recognitions in regards to the 21st Century 2013 summer STEM academy. 

Students gave a short presentation on one of their STEM projects, and Bruce followed their presentation giving the board STEM t-shirts and key chains.

 Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon presented the Virginia School Board Association 2013 Media Honor Roll awards during the meeting Monday night. Both The Gazette-Virginian and The News and Record were recognized for “fair and balanced reporting.”

Finance Director Jay Camp presented the financial report that received board approval.

Under new business, the superintendent presented the board with the Virginia School Board Association resolution supporting the Opportunity Educational Institution lawsuit. 

 “This resolution is asking the school system to take a look at and make a decision on whether or not we support the lawsuit the Virginia School Boards Association and Norfolk City School Board filed to invalidate the OEI legislation,” Herndon told board members.

During the 2013 General Assembly session, legislators mandated the Opportunity Educational Institution Board to take over the supervision and operation of local schools that have been denied accreditation and to take over any local school that has been accredited with warning for three consecutive years. 

Trustee Long said, “This legislation is very difficult for schools. It would require not only state money to come in but local money as well, and they would be using our facilities with someone else doing the educating. If you look at places where charter schools are prevalent, you will find that they have not been effective.” 

Long made a motion to adopt the resolution, and the board voted 8 to 0 in favor of it. 

Herndon also presented the board with a resolution concerning high stakes, standardized testing of Virginia public school students in Halifax.

 “The Halifax County School Board calls on the Virginia General Assembly to reexamine Virginia public schools assessment and the system of accountability for which they form the basis and to improve the current accountability system so that it encompasses balanced assessments, reflects greater validity, uses more cost efficient sampling techniques and other external evaluation arrangements, allows for expedited test retakes and more accurately reflects what students know, appreciate and can do in terms of the rigorous standards essential to their success, enhances the role of teachers as designers, guides to instruction and leaders and nurtures the sense of inquiry and love of learning in all students,”  Herndon said reading the resolution.

Long made a motion to adopt the resolution that was approved 8 to 0. 

Director of Secondary Education/Student Services/Accountability Frosty Owens presented the board with changes in dual enrollment classes. 

“The parents will be notified that if your son or daughter is placed in an alternative ed setting away from their dual enrollment teacher or placed on homebound over 11 days, then he or she will be asked to drop those classes,” he said.

According to Owens, they have already changed some classes for some students. These changes were made after a meeting with Southside Community College, Danville Community College and the high school’s adjunct professors. 

 “The community colleges expect us to treat our students like they would their students,” he said.

ED-4 school board member Cheryl Terry said, “DCC considers their dual enrollment classes off-site campuses. Dual enrollment teachers have the same credentials as a professor at community college level. If the child is moved away from their teacher, then they are not necessarily getting taught at the same standards.” 

Prior to adjourning, board members went into closed session to discuss personnel and student discipline.

After emerging from closed session, school board members unanimously took the following actions: 

 Suspended a student long-term for the remainder of first semester and allowed alternative education for two classes with the opportunity to return to school second semester and complete the requirements for graduation pending good behavior; and   

Approved a three-day suspension without pay for employee 1.