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Two trustees: No money for Governor’s School

Halifax County School Board simply does not have the money to rejoin the regional Governor’s School in Keysville, according to two members who made their thoughts known Monday during the regular monthly board meeting.

ED-8 Trustee Walter Potts and ED-4 Cheryl Terry spoke against the proposal with the board scheduled to vote on the possibility next month.

For months, school board members have been batting back and forth the idea of rejoining Governor’s School after a previous school board voted to eliminate the program in Halifax County in 2010.

At Monday night’s meeting, Potts said, “I do not even know why we are even entertaining the idea when we are currently having budget issues with our teachers. I’ve had teachers talk to me about the trouble they have with copying papers for their students because paper is being rationed out.” 

Terry agreed, saying, “Being that I will not be able to attend the next meeting, I want to share my opinion as well. I would love to see us participate in Governor’s School. Unfortunately, we do not have the money. When we are facing challenges with our current budget, and we are looking at spending around $1,800 for a handful of students, that concerns me.  

“I don’t want us to start something that we cannot continue,” she added.

 “The money we have is just getting us through now,” Potts said.

If the board were to rejoin Governor’s School, the enrollment fee for each student for the STEM Governor’s School would be $1,839.50, for the Humanities Governor’s School it would cost $4,651.84, and the new respiratory therapy option would cost similar to the STEM strand. 

The board also would face transportation costs of approximately $27,090 including the expense for the bus and the driver. 

Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon reminded the board if the board were to purchase a van instead of using a bus, it would be cheaper. 

Chairman Kim Farson questioned if the board had “any room in their gifted monies or if they had maxed out.”

Herndon explained most of the gifted money goes to the elementary program. 

“In other words, money from the gifted monies or fund could be used for Governor’s School, but it was not planned in that matter for this year. If we continue do what we are doing at this point, it will continue to take that amount of money,” Herndon said.

Supervisor of Federal Programs and Gifted Education Pam Eakes said currently the gifted money amounts to roughly $240,000.  

ED-5 Trustee Dr. Roger Long asked Herndon if the board would be expecting any other money. 

“The only extra money that I could think of us receiving is if students were to return to Halifax County,” Herndon said. “We know we have students who left the county to go to other schools for a governor’s school experience. If they return, we would receive around $5,000 per student.”  

Haws also told the board that no interest in Governor’s School had been expressed to the guidance department yet. 

However, Herndon said, “When I attended the parent community advisory meeting, I simply brought up the topic and asked if they wanted to talk about it. I asked any parent or faculty who wanted to give me a fist of five with five being all for it and showing a fist being completely against it. Out of the 11 parents who voted, there were 10 who voted five, and one who voted four.”  

Since the board does not have to make a decision until February but plans to make one in December, Long made a motion to table the decision until the next meeting when more budget information would be available. 

In new business, Farson brought to the board a copy of “citizen comment guidelines” that would be given to anyone who wanted to come to the meetings and speak. 

Farson said, “The guidelines have the same platform as the board of supervisors. We have just tweaked them to match our guidelines. We would include these on our screen to be displayed for everyone just to have a clear guideline on citizen comment.” 

Potts opposed the guidelines as they were presented saying they did not include any information on citizens not being able to speak about personnel.

Farson then read a statement she had received from a lawyer on why citizens are not able to speak on private matters in public and the difference between public and private matters. 

She also suggested the board attach the statement to the guidelines. 

A motion was made by Potts to include the statement and bring it back to the December meeting for a vote, and the motion passed.

In other business, Assistant Superintendent Val Marshal proposed changes to the sick leave bank. 

A participant becomes eligible to withdraw days from the bank when he has been out of work for 30 workdays where as previously it was 20 days.

In order to participate, a person must agree to donate a sick day to the bank. 

According to Marshall, the bank will be assessed an additional day of sick leave whenever the bank is depleted to 400 days. 

“I was hoping you all would vote on these changes tonight because we are almost at that 400 days mark,” said Marshall. 

“If the minor changes are made, we will immediately send out a memo to those participating for additional days,” added Marshall. 

ED-1 Trustee Phyllis Smith made a motion to accept the changes. The board voted 7 to 1 with Potts opposing because “I do not have any justification from the employees to make these changes.” 

Herndon also reported to the board the December meeting will be held at the Halifax County Middle School at 6 p.m. 

She gave a report on the relocation of selected central offices and instructional programs that will occur during the upcoming courthouse renovations. 

Herndon said, “This is not a formal report. It is evolving as we speak almost, but I think we are all aware of the renovations of the courthouse that will be done in the future. And, it’s very strategic that we have enough buildings for everything.” 

Following a visit to the STEM Center with County Administrator Jim Halasz, Herndon said, “Halasz is in the process of getting the architect who came to the STEM Center before to talk with them about preparing an area toward the back for our alternative education students.” 

Potts voiced concern about moving them saying, “I’m really tired of moving them around. I would like to find a good permanent place where they can grow. Also, I encourage you to ask for the maximum amount of space for us, so that not only we will accommodate what we have now but additional things we may need in the future.” 

The board also signed a resolution to opt out of the Virginia Local Disability Program. 

Director of Finance Jay Camp brought the resolution to the board explaining if the board were to choose to continue with the program that decision would be irrevocable. 

ED-5 Trustee Long offered a motion to adopt the resolution which was approved unanimously.

The board also voted to approve the Virginia School Board Association September 2013 policy update presented by Marshall. 

Camp presented the financial report and payment of bills that were approved unanimously by the board.  

The board also approved the Title III LEP and Immigrant Students 2013-14 Participating Consortium Member Certification presented by Testing Coordinator Nancy Zirkle. 

Maintenance Director Larry Roller’s request for a fence to be installed at the new T-ball field of the Scottsburg Dixie Youth League was approved as well.

Several recognitions were also made during the meeting. 

Warren Penick and Tracy Talley, the parents of students Justin Penick and Jacob Talley, accepted certificates presented by  Herndon on behalf of their children who could not attend the meeting.

Penick and Talley constructed the new arching table located in the second floor conference room now used by school board members and supervisors during their meetings. 

“For those of you who do not know, the board used to sit at a table that was a long rectangle, and it was hard to talk to each other. We couldn’t see each other. So, it makes it advantageous for us to be able to communicate with one another,” the superintendent said.

“Mr. Penick, we really appreciate everything that you do for our students at the high school, and we didn’t make you a certificate, although we should have, rather we made Jacob and Justin a certificate,”  Herndon added.  

Penick thanked the board and Halifax County for allowing the building trades department to do something for the county to show off their skills and what they can do if they pursue a career in construction. 

“As far as the school, we try to represent HCHS in the best ways that we can,”  he said.

Talley added, “I know the kids were really proud of their work.” 

Coordinator of AP/DE and Student Services Haws also shared recent accomplishments of students at Halifax County High School through the career technical programs. 

On Nov. 6, two students, a senior and a junior, represented the high school at the FFA tractor operators’ competition.

The senior competitor placed first, and the junior competitor placed third. 

“Also recently, we had five students to take the maintenance and light repair auto certification. Four out of those five have already passed that certification,” said Haws. 

He also recognized 13 of the JROTC student cadets. 

“When they reach a certain level, they take a test to receive a certificate from the Department of Education in military science. Thirteen students have made this accomplishment already this year,” said Haws. 

According to Haws, HCHS scored first in MOUSE certifications in the entire state of Virginia. 

Haws said, “MOUSE certification is Microsoft Office Certification in which students can take testing in Microsoft Work, Excel, Access and PowerPoint.” 

Farson also recognized all veterans in attendance Monday evening asking them to stand before receiving applause. 

“From the Halifax County School Board, we would like to thank you all for your sacrifices, commitment and dedication for the freedoms we all enjoy everyday. We greatly appreciate all you’ve done and will continue to do for our community,” said Farson. 

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

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

Voted unanimously to long-term suspend a student and allow him to attend alternative education for the remainder of the school year.

 Unanimously approved the following personnel actions:

Sylvester Ewell, a custodian at Scottsburg Elementary will be transferred to the Cluster Springs Early Learning Center. 

Amos Farrar has been promoted to head custodian at Clays Mill Elementary. Beginning Jan. 1, his salary will be $26,614. 

John Ragsdale was appointed the substitute custodian and substitute food service worker.  

Mary Dingle also was appointed as substitute food service worker.