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Wild kingdom

Seems to me we didn’t have so many wild critters to contend with in Halifax County when I was growing up down U.S. 501.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Wednesday, Nov. 21

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Election afterthoughts

What we’ve heard since last Tuesday’s election has surprised us. No, not about the results, but we’ve found it alarming that a number of people missed out on voting for the president, and these are intelligent voters who simply missed their opportunity.

Individual honor

Some very interesting observations were made this past weekend during the various Veterans Day observances around the area.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Nov. 14

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LORP, budget debate continues

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Dave Strom of South Boston delivered the following remarks during Monday night’s meeting of the Halifax County School Board, and his remarks are reprinted in this Community Voice column in their entirety.)

Salute a veteran

The election is over now, and our thoughts turn to our local veterans, many of whom have paid the supreme sacrifice to preserve our way of life and to keep our nation free.

Perturbed

Quick, raise your hands, have you been as annoyed and agitated as I have been with the slew of automated phone calls and brochures in the mail promoting one presidential candidate or another?

With malice toward none: What happens Nov. 7

As a child, I can recall my recollection of a presidential election year, which was in 1992. In that year, incumbent President George H. W. Bush had been defeated by his challenger, Bill Clinton. 

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Nov. 7

Past furious

To the editor:

I am past furious about the murder of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens on Sept. 11 at the U.S. Consult in Benghazi, Libya.  Multiple requests were made for help throughout the entire period of the attack. It was watched in the situation room at the White House in real time around 3 to 4 p.m. The attack lasted seven hours, and nobody sent any help. I can’t fathom this.                                                                   

The next day the president goes to California to campaign. For two weeks he claimed the attack was due to a YouTube video, not a terrorist attack. Why do you think he tried to blame it on this video or deny that it was a terror attack? What is he hiding?

Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was at the CIA Annex a mile away, when he heard that shots had  been fired at the consulate where Ambassador Stevens was along with his team.

Not once, but twice Woods and others at the annex requested from their higher ups permission to go and help those under attack. They were told both times to quote, “stand down.” Woods and five other American heroes ignored those orders. They went to the consulate anyway. They evacuated those who were still in harm’s way, and they searched for the ambassador but could not find him. 

The group later returned to the CIA Annex and requested for a third time military assistance. And again, they were denied by this administration. They were then attacked at the Annex.  Four separate mortars were fired at the compound. One of those mortars killed Glen Doherty directly.

Another one hit a machine gun position on the roof. Tyrone Woods was hit at that time. They had laser pointers on the mortar fire team, and if special operations Specter gunships had been sent in, and teams were on standby just a few hours flight away, that they could have possibly prevented those mortars that struck the compound. I am furious because these men could possibly have been saved. They died knowing that our country let them down. 

The machine gun Tyrone Woods used was coated in his blood, according to reports. He was indeed an American Hero. 

Joe Biden has no business representing our country in any capacity, much less running it.  During the ceremony honoring the return of Navy SEAL hero Tyrone Woods’ body, VP Joe Biden greeted the family with an atrociously offensive and crass question…

“Did your son always have -alls the size of cue balls?” 

CHARLES WOODS, FATHER OF FALLEN NAVY SEAL TYRONE WOODS:  “When I went back to Washington, D.C., when the bodies were flown in, I knew that something was fishy. It just -- it was just obvious that something was wrong with this picture and in my mind, I questioned, you know, this was obviously a long drawn out battle. Why was there no immediate air support sent in that would have saved the lives of not just the other 30 people but also the life of my son who truly was an American hero?

“Now, it has come out that pleas for help were made not just by the other individuals but also by my son, and these pleas were turned down by the White House. Now, as you know I’m a retired attorney, and I know that these actions legally do not constitute murder, but in my mind the people in the White House, all of them who have authority to send in reinforcements to prevent what they knew was going to be the death of my son, are guilty of murdering my son.

“There is new information that came out this morning that my son on a couple of different occasions requested permission to go to the aide of those 30 people who were being attacked and on at least two of those first occasions, he was told stay where you are at, let them die, don’t go, and it does not surprise me that my son disobeyed orders in order to save American lives. That is the type of American hero he was.

“For seven hours the cowards in the White House were watching something they knew that was going to potentially kill those 30 people and potentially kill my son, and they refused to do anything, even though they had a moral duty to send support they chose not to. This is not the way the SEALs operate. The SEALs are an honorable unit, and Ty was honorable by disobeying the powers in the White House that told him not to rescue those lives.”

I am also furious at the so-called objective liberal media who refuse to cover anything negative about this administration. 

Barbara Laughorn

Vernon Hill

 

Comet 5K a success

To the editor:

Thank you.

The First Annual Comet 5K run/walk and 1 Mile Kids Fun Run was a tremendous success, and it would not have been possible without the help from those of you in our local community here in Halifax County. 

We had 70 runners/walkers participate, and we hope to have more in March - spring for our second run/walk. 

The support you have given us in the community will benefit our student-athletes at Halifax County High School. 

We would like to thank the many businesses and organizations in our community for their support and encouragement for our first Blue Comet 5K run/walk and Kids 1 Mile Fun Run

Thanks again to all of the supporters, participants and volunteers who made the First Annual Comet 5K and 1 Mile Kids Fun Run a success. 

Sincerely,

Melanie Saunders

Halifax County High School

Comet Softball


Remember our veterans

To the editor:

I am the  ladies auxiliary vice president of the local VFW Post 8243 in Halifax.  

We have just finished picking up the Patriot Pen’s and Voice of Democracy essays. 

We had three essays from the middle school and one from the high school submitted.  

Thanks to those students who took the time and effort to participate in this annual event and thank you to the teachers and parents who encouraged the students.  

We will have a winner to announce soon so keep an eye out.  

Also I would encourage everyone to go out and support the local activities for our veterans this week. There are many schools having programs to honor the veterans this week such as the high school and several elementary schools including Cluster Springs Elementary with a program Thursday at 7 p.m.

So if you have a chance, come out and see this wonderful program. 

Also the showcase at the school will be decorated with interesting items to get you thinking about our soldiers. 

Many of our veterans could use a pat on the back and a thank you, so this week take some time to thank a veteran for all they have done to protect and serve their country in these troublesome times. 

And if you see one of our local veteran organizations out with poppies, stop and help if you are able. Donations go to helping the veteran relief funds.  

May God bless and protect our soldiers in harm’s way.

 Thank you

Carolyn C. Lewis 

Cluster Springs 

 

Superintendent addresses LORP and other concerns 

(The following letter was written to Tom Strom by School Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon in response to a letter to the editor submitted by David Strom following a school board meeting Oct. 11.)

To the editor:

The following responses to Mr. Dave Strom’s questions at the October 11, 2012 school board meeting were compiled by the director of finance, executive director for administration and the superintendent. 

Q: With what you know now, did LORP save the Halifax School system money? 

A: No

Number of Essential LORP days saved (2011-12)

• 1,515 teacher substitute days ($65 each) $98,475

• 120 paraprofessional days ($55 each) $6,600

• 118.5 secretary days ($55 each) $6,517.50

• 580 hours cafeteria ($7.25 per hour) $4205

Total savings $115,797.50

Pay out for LORP in 2011-12 $1,851,902.03

(This figure includes FICA and Insurance.)

-$115,797.50

Actual cost of LORP for 2011-12 $1,736,104.53

Please note: Even though the LORP program is terminated, Halifax County Public Schools is still paying an individual health insurance benefit of $6,090 for 68 retirees which totals $414,120 for the 2012-13 school year.

Q: What was the reason(s) LORP was terminated?

As more and more people were added to the program over the years, and more benefits were added (health insurance), LORP collapsed under its own weight. LORP total costs from its beginning in July 2006 to the planned additional seven years (June 2019) would have had a payout of $12,870,723, with the majority of the money ($8,933,226) to be paid out from July 2012-June 2019. The bottom line was that this money was being taken away from the needs of students and teachers/programs.

There was a disproportionate amount of money being provided to “end of career” benefits (LORP) as opposed to “beginning of career” (e.g., lower beginning salaries/no signing bonuses) and all other employee salary benefits (e.g., no raises, lower salaries).

Further study of the actual savings for essential positions (substitutes for teachers, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, secretaries, custodians and food service) showed that many LORP participants were being paid on a per diem basis for non-essential work (e.g., consulting, “projects”).

Fifty-nine cities and counties responded to a survey sent out from VASS (Virginia Association of School Superintendents). Forty-seven had no form of LORP/ERIP. (NOTE: A number of the divisions had ERIP but discontinued the programs.) Twelve had some form of LORP/ERIP. (NOTE: The only county offering a program similar to Halifax is Pittsylvania County which does not provide insurance.)

The retirement data from a sample of school systems similar in size that do not have LORP/ERIP are as follows:

Mecklenburg County had 4,791 students with 26 people retiring with no LORP/ERIP.

Dinwiddie County had 4,453 students with 40 people retiring with no LORP/ERIP.

Henry County had 7,463 students with 30 people retiring with no LORP/ERIP.

(Note: These were divisions noted in Prismatic study who were considered “peer divisions.”)

Halifax County Public Schools had 29 people retire last year. The data above delineates that people will retire without incentives.

Q: Terminating LORP supposedly saved $1.4 million. Where did that money go?

A: Money was needed for essential staff, programs and benefits which included, but is not limited to the following:

The original budget for 2012-13 had a principal paired for Meadville/Sinai and another paired at Clays Mill/Scottsburg. Thus, the budget did not reflect replacing two retiring principals. Additional special education paraprofessionals and teachers needed to be hired. Several teachers needed to be hired due to the K-3 initiative to keep lower pupil/teacher ratios.

Thecoordinator for food services had been cut from the budget and was an essential position. There was no consideration for a person to coordinate instructional technology. The testing coordinator needed to work during the summer months when testing data needed to be compiled. 

LAN managers were needed to continue to work with students. 

Insurance costs needed to be considered, and over $174,000 needed to be paid for retirees who elected to have their vacation/sick days paid out over July and August 2012.

Q: $360,000 was allocated to rehire the school LAN managers that wasn’t included in the budget. Where did that money come from?

A: See response to question 3.

Q: There was a $1.1 million “unanticipated expense” in increased health care insurance costs that was given as part of the rationale for the termination of LORP. Later it was said that the administration “found” $900,000 plus to cover that expense. Where and how was it “found?” Where was that money originally included in the budget? Where did the other $200,000 for the insurance come from?

A: LORP was being discussed at the beginning of the school year, and weeks later health care costs were discussed. The termination of LORP was not discussed as “part of the rationale” for paying increased health care costs. Upon discovering the health insurance cost increase, Mr. Covington assisted in finding excess actual revenues received over budgeted revenues. Also, a supplemental county appropriation of $250,000 will be used to defray a portion of the insurance increase. Mr. Covington further assisted Mr. Camp in showing him some of the more fluid categories such as the Rural Schools Grant and salary savings.

Q: Is there anything being done to determine if there are other unallocated monies in the budget or school system to be “found?”

A: With Mr. Covington’s assistance alluded to in question 5 above, excess revenues from the county board of supervisors are in the process of being reallocated.

Q: It appears that the budget is being largely ignored. Certainly many of the expenditures are not in line with it. What are both the school administration’s and the school board’s responsibilities with regards to operation within the approved budget?

A: The 2012-13 budget is not being ignored ...however, it is flawed. The budget under the supervision of the previous administration did not reflect the increase in insurance, supplied inaccurate information regarding LAN managers and the actual impact of financing LORP. Once these issues were clarified in July, the board made a fiscally responsible decision to terminate LORP.

Monthly financial statements and budget comparisons are currently produced and distributed to board members for their monthly school board meetings. School board members review them and are subsequently approved.

Dr. Merle Herndon

Halifax County School Superintendent

 

Just wondering

To the editor:

I have been wondering and thinking about a lot of things over these past few months. I assume everyone has an opinion about everything.

I wonder if a stock broker has inside information on a deal or a politician has stock in a known company, its called a conflict of interest. How come a person receiving taxpayer assistance and allowed to vote isn’t a conflict of interest?

I was just wondering why every politician, be federal, state and especially local, screams for more money for education; yet every time I read scores in the newspaper, they seem to be getting lower each year.

I wonder why anyone would vote for a third party candidate…It’s only taking away a vote from one of the two main party candidates...wonder which one?

I was wondering why Mitt Romney’s money is always questioned. I never heard anything about John Kennedy or FDR being so rich.

I was wondering what would the military be like if you took a private, put some stars and ribbons on his uniform and called him a general. We did the same thing with a community organizer and called him president.

What does “shared prosperity” actually mean? Is that smoke and vapor for those who work hard and accumulate wealth are supposed to give some to those that don’t try?

I was just wondering why I never hear about a Muslim riot or burnings in Russia or China.

Just what is “Earned Income Credit?” How do you get a refund on zero input?

What’s with all this gun violence? I’ve had a lot of firearms in my possession for years. After reading so much about the guns will kill people, I bought a safe to store them in. I may get killed by the firearm lying in my drawer. I’ve never had a firearm discharge on its own.

I was just wondering how come every vote recount always turns out in favor of the Democratic candidate, even if it has to be counted several times?

 I was just wondering....

 George T. Lacy III

 Halifax