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Governor’s School nixed from agenda, citing ‘majority board’ needed at meeting

The fate of Governor’s School has been postponed yet again. 

At the beginning of Monday night’s Halifax County School Board meeting held in the Halifax County Middle School cafeteria, Chairman Kim Farson announced changes to the agenda including the removal of the Governor’s School item. 

She explained, “The item was tabled at the last meeting, and for us to bring it back up, we need a majority board to do that.” 

ED-4 Cheryl Terry was the only board member absent from Monday night’s meeting. 

Farson further explained by saying in order for an item to be brought back to discussion, a board member has to request for it to be added to the agenda at the meeting and the majority of the board has to vote in favor of the board member’s motion. 

Even though it was removed from the agenda, the Rev. Frank Coleman offered his thoughts on Governor’s School during the citizen comment period. 

Coleman said he agreed with statements made at last month’s meeting about the board not having the money adding the Halifax County High School has something that’s working, dual enrollment classes. 

“With us being as financially strapped at this economic time, I think it would be wise to continue to work with what’s going on now,” said Coleman. “I personally know dual enrollment is working because my daughter is being very successful at Spellman right now, and during her first semester she went from being a freshman to junior.” 

Coleman said he wanted the board to keep the “great program” of dual enrollment classes in their mind as they make a decision. 

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 cost for the bus and the driver. 

The board will have to make a decision on whether or not to rejoin Governor’s School no later than Feb. 1, according to The Governor’s School of Southside Virginia’s Director Patrizia Humphrey.

In unfinished business Monday evening, Farson distributed to the board an edited version of citizen comment guidelines. 

“These really are to protect personal citizens and children as well as make sure we are speaking on public matters not private,” said Farson. 

ED-5 Roger Long offered a motion to accept the guidelines, which was unanimously approved.

In new business, the board voted to have Assistant Superintendent Valdivia Marshall bring a written policy to the board in regard to a pay scale policy for full-time retired individuals who would be hired to fill critical needs areas. 

Marshall explained that Virginia identifies several critical shortage areas within the school system where positions haven’t been filled in a long span of time or have had long-term substitutes. 

“Because these areas are becoming very critical, the Virginia Retirement System is allowing those with full-time retirement to come back if they qualify,” said Marshall. 

Marshall told the board they need to set a standard for a pay scale for these individuals if hired. These individuals would continue receiving VRS benefits. 

The board also agreed to sign a request for waiver of certain accrediting standards and/or approval of an innovative or experimental program. 

This waiver was brought to the board in order that Halifax County Public Schools can continue opening prior to Labor Day. 

Marshall explained Halifax County Public Schools did not meet the “good cause” requirement to open early, so the administration plans to explain to the state board that the Career and Technical Education Program is reason for opening early because the school system will need to be on the same schedule as area community colleges due to its dual enrollment program. 

Director of Elementary Education and Professional Development Linda Owen explained that within the Career and Technical Education Program each grade level starting with pre-K will have activities to expose all students to various types of higher education and career options.  

Long offered a motion to sign the waiver which was approved unanimously. 

Also adopted by the board was a sick leave policy stating hybrid plan participants would not be able to accumulate sick leave. 

“The sick leave should not be allowed to carry over year to year because they can draw from their disability plan,” said Marshall. 

Potts said he did not like the plan, but said it was better than nothing. 

This policy will only affect new employees as of Jan. 1 on the new hybrid retirement plan. 

ED-1 trustee Phyllis Smith offered a motion to adopt the sick leave policy, which was approved unanimously. 

The board also voted to accept the recommendation to hire RKB Engineering to see what work needs to be done on the over 30-year-old Halifax County High School building.  

Director of Finance Jay Camp said a committee evaluated four engineering firms and suggested the board hire RKB Engineering out of Greensboro, N.C. for $7,000. 

ED-7 trustee Dick Stoneman, who served on the committee, said RKB Engineering assured its evaluation could be done within six days, and the project could be finished by the time school started next year. 

In other action, the board voted to take out insurance with VACORP or Virginia Association of Counties Group Self Insurance Risk Pool as suggested by Camp. 

At last month’s meeting, the board signed a resolution to opt out of the Virginia Local Disability Program because if the board had continued with the program the decision would be irrevocable.

VACORP costs 27 cents per 100 employees, and their rates will be in effect for three years. 

Farson reminded school board members of a joint meeting with the board of supervisors on Thursday beginning at 8:30 a.m. in the school board conference room.  

ED-8 Trustee Walter Potts said he felt it was premature to have a meeting with the board of supervisors since they had not discussed their budget yet. 

Superintendent Herndon said the meeting was to open up conversation with the board. 

Herndon gave a report on division student performance goals.

According to the goals, Halifax County Public Schools will meet full state accreditation as the proficiency standard in Standard of Learning tests for English. Pass rate for the division will increase by 5 percent. 

Halifax County Public Schools will meet full state accreditation as proficiency standard in SOL tests for mathematics. Pass rate for the division will increase by 3 percent. 

Halifax County High School’s senior class graduation rate will increase by 4 percent to meet the Federal Annual Measurable Objective for the all student subgroup. 

Also Monday night, several recognitions were given during the meeting. 

Senior FFA Co-President Tyler Owen said in honor of the holiday the high school horticulture students wished the board a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with a gift of poinsettias. 

Herndon presented the board with a certificate stating Halifax County Public Schools are now a green certified school division with 120 green points. 

“If it weren’t for Larry Roller this wouldn’t have happened, so thank you. Thanks to the principals as well for helping us move forward to having green schools,” said Herndon. 

The superintendent also told the board of new artwork in the school board office at Mary Bethune. 

 “We want to make the office child-friendly, so we asked schools to send us some of the students’ artwork. Thank you to the students for sharing your artwork,” said Herndon. 

So far 11 students have shared their artwork ranging from pre-K students to 12th graders. 

Dr. Virginia Jones and several middle school students presented the board with personal license plates they made in their math class. 

According to Jones, all of the seventh grade students used multiple intelligence, critical thinking and analytical reasoning to develop a personalized license plate. 

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

After emerging from closed session, school board members voted unanimously to take the following actions:

Allow a student to re-enter the school district as a student;

 Long-term suspend a student for the remainder of the school year and allow him to attend alternative education;

 Long-term suspend a student for the remainder of the school year and allow him to attend alternative education;

 Long-term suspend a student for the remainder of the school year and offer him NovaNet; and 

 Expel a student for 365 days with appropriate home-based instruction.