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Pay plan one step closer for teachers

Teachers in Halifax County schools got one step closer to having a pay plan after Halifax County School Board members agreed to allow the Virginia Association of School Superintendents to begin a compensation study on public school teachers here.

The action came during Thursday evening’s school board meeting in Halifax. 

After attending an Oct. 3 exploratory meeting concerning the possibility of conducting a compensation study, ED-1 Trustee Phyllis Smith brought the findings to the full board Thursday.

 “The proposal has been brought down to two different studies which are professional and classified employees. Due to time restraints, they suggest that we do the teacher salary study first and then the other,” Smith said.

Herndon said she feels the teacher study would be “a good focal point” to begin. 

The study will cost $5,500 plus travel expenses. Herndon pointed out travel expenses will be low “because we will be collecting the data and shipping it to them.” 

According to Smith, the committee proposed having the study completed by March with a written report ready by March 31. 

ED-8 Trustee Walter Potts Jr., ED-7 Trustee R. K. “Dick” Stoneman and ED-4 Trustee Cheryl Terry voiced concerns over the possibility of not having funds to pay for the study. 

 “Whether they plan to give us a pie in the sky amount or not, are we sure we aren’t going to be throwing our money away trying to get something that we aren’t going to be able to fund?” Potts asked.

Terry added, “Even if they come back with a reasonable scale, what do we do? Do we give everyone a raise, or do we dare reduce anyone? What if they give us a reasonable scale, and then we don’t have the money to put them where they need to be?” 

Potts suggested for those involved in the study to not only know what money the school board has on hand but also what the board of supervisors has been giving.

“If they were to look at what the board of supervisors has been giving us the past five years and the increases, they can then anticipate what we will get or not get,” said Potts. 

Smith assured the board the study will be based on the funds that are available. 

 “The team said they would work with the division to design a teacher scale that can be implemented with funds available for FY year 2015 in such a way as to not finalize until the division knows how much money will be available for salary increases, and they would also help us on how to implement this,” said Smith. 

Halifax County Public Schools, before the 2013-2014 school year, had not provided salary increases since the 2008-2009 school year. 

Herndon said, “We are already at year seven where it’s the same amount of money year after year. We need to be looking at this because we haven’t had the money in the past. I certainly would wonder if we could put in some steps and think about a percentage of a salary increase. To me it’s worth the money to put the study together and move from there.” 

Terry said she also felt it would be a good idea to share the compensation plan with the board of supervisors. 

According to Dr. Herndon, County Administrator Jim Halaz would like to set up a meeting in the early part of December to discuss the compensation plan. 

ED-3 trustee and Chairman Kim Farson made a motion to accept the proposal; Smith seconded the motion. All board members voted yes; however, Potts noted his yes vote was cast with reservations.

The research will begin in December.  

In other reports, Division Test Coordinator Nancy Zirkle reviewed state accreditation for Halifax County Public Schools for the 2013-2014 school year noting three schools — Halifax County Middle School, Sinai, and Sydnor Jennings — did not meet state accreditation standards. 

The middle school failed to meet the requirements in the English and math benchmarks. Students earned 73 percent in English, which requires a 75 percent, and they got 62 percent in math, which requires 70 percent. 

Sinai did not meet the math benchmark earning a 67 percent, just shy of a requirement of 70. 

Sydnor Jennings did not meet the math or English benchmarks. Students earned 73 percent in English, which requires 75 percent and a 67 percent in math, which requires 70 percent. 

Zirkle said, “We are working closely with these three schools. We are doing a lot of training. Thursday, our schools did a webinar with the DEO on school improvement plans. We are working on scheduling, remediation, and the state department is working hand in hand with us.” 

Farson questioned whether budget cuts played a part in restricting giving information to children for them to study for SOLs. Farson feared not being able to make copies of material or not being able to take textbooks home affected the scores. 

 “No, not really,” Zirkle replied. “I have not heard where that has been a problem. The textbook is a wonderful resource; however, we use the DEO curriculum. If it’s not in the textbook, we are not off the hook.” 

Zirkle also recognized each school with plaques for meeting either state accreditation or state accreditation along with federal annual measurable objectives. 

The superintendent also recognized several board members for the Virginia School Board Association Academy Awards that are given in five different levels including recognition, achievement, excellence, honor and distinction. 

Terry and ED-2 trustee Karen Hopkins received a bronze award. Smith and Farson received a silver award. Stoneman received a gold award. ED-6 school board member Faye Satterfield and ED-5 trustee Roger Long received distinction awards.

Halifax County Public Schools Education Foundation Executive Director Audrey Davidson also gave a report on the foundation “just to give the board an update.” 

 “The foundation began in 2005, and our purpose is to enhance what you all are trying to do,” Davidson said.

She highlighted some of the foundation’s accomplishments including contributing over a million dollars to the school system and awarding 137 scholarships. 

Recently the foundation was given a $5,500 donation to support the middle school robotics Lego program. On Thursday, the foundation presented 79 mini-grants to 139 teachers in support of classroom projects. (See related story on page A6)

Smith said, “Thank you for all that the foundation does. It makes quite a difference.” 

Under new business, after hearing from Dr. Julie Brown, project director of the Danville River Region Collaborative, the board agreed to offer ACT National Career Readiness Certificates (NCRC). 

Brown said, “How wonderful would it be for students to gradate with this certificate as well. Businesses will be looking to see if applicants have these. They value this certification. Also, the certifications will be online, and national businesses can look online to see where they should go.” 

 “It would not cost us anything,” Herndon said, adding she feels “it’s a win-win situation. It will show initiative.”  

According to Brown, the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center can administer the tests, or proctors can be trained within the school system. 

Terry made a motion for the school system to enter into an understanding with Danville River Region Collaborative to begin offering the certifications to students. Board members unanimously approved it. 

Assistant Superintendent Valdivia Marshall offered a Virginia School Board Association policy update to the board “not to vote on but to simply review changes and to make a vote in November.” 

The school board voted to approve a recommendation by Director of Transportation David Guill to declare 18 buses “surplus.” Long made the motion; Smith seconded, and the board unanimously approved it. 

The school board also voted to approve the 2014-2015 budget timeline presented by Herndon.

Farson offered a motion to appoint trustees Long and Stoneman to represent the board on the finance committee. Satterfield seconded it, and the board unanimously approved the motion. 

Finance Director Jay Camp presented the financial report and asked for the payment of bills which the board approved.

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

After coming out of closed session, school board members took the following actions: 

Approved a four-day suspension without pay for employee 1;

 Unanimously approved former Halifax County School Superintendent Dennis Witt as the hearing officer for the employee grievance procedures; and

 Voted 7 to 0 with one abstention to employ Jadalyn Smith as the textbook clerk/GED examiner.  Smith abstained.