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‘A blow to our schools’:  Trustees offer praise as Lineburg sets exit

SoVaNow.com / November 24, 2021
Halifax County School Board trustees reacted to the news of Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg’s departure with a mix of dismay and resignation, expressing their support for the work he has done since taking over leadership of the school division in 2017.

“I’m disappointed he’s not staying. I understand though, he was in the spotlight for things he shouldn’t be accountable for,” said School Board Chair Kathy Fraley, who was given a heads-up earlier this month that Lineburg was thinking about retiring as Halifax school superintendent.

“I’ve known this for a little while. We talked last Sunday and Monday (Nov. 13-14) about the possibility of him retiring. It was a surprise, I’ll tell you that,” she said.

“My comment in his office on Monday [was] ‘I wish you would stay, the topic of high school is almost where you want it,’” said Fraley.

Although Lineburg said his decision to retire came before Thursday night’s joint meeting of the School Board and Board of Supervisors, and was not influenced by its outcome — one that saw continued inaction on the high school — Fraley said she was sorely disappointed by the way the joint session went.

“The meeting just fell to pieces,” said Fraley.

Fraley noted that Lineburg’s exit comes after the School Board and Central Office administrators have had to make difficult, at times agonizing decisions about how to proceed with school during the pandemic health emergency. Fraley, who supported the months-long closure of school facilities last year, said she appreciated Lineburg’s leadership in crafting School Board policy to keep students at home for remote education.

“He was more concerned about health and well-being of staff, employees and children. I supported and agreed with him. I think he made the right decision at the right time,” said Fraley.

ED-2 trustee Roy Keith Lloyd, who argued for a faster reopening of school facilities last year but who also has taken up Lineburg’s call to build a new high school to replace the current facility, called his decision to leave “a blow to our school system.

“The leadership he provided was exemplary. We were blessed to have him here in Halifax County,” said Lloyd. “It will be a struggle to find his successor. Unfortunately, the value of people, such as Dr. Lineburg, is not fully recognized or appreciated until they are no longer present.”

After notifying Fraley of his decision, Lineburg broke the news to school trustees with one-on-one phone calls. On Monday, he sent a message to principals, administrators and other school leaders to let them know he will be leaving. Lineburg has set a departure date of Feb. 17.

Sandra Garner-Coleman, ED-3 trustee, said Lineburg has done “great work” as division superintendent, pointing to the pre-pandemic full accreditation of all nine schools in the county, his leadership in helping to pass the county’s 1-cent sales tax for school capital needs, and his work on a comprehensive plan to address the tattered high school and Halifax County’s low school employee salaries.

Echoing Fraley, Garner-Coleman said the Thursday meeting with supervisors “was just a disaster, other than salary for teachers.”

Despite not wanting to lose Lineburg, Garner-Coleman said she supported his retirement as HCPS division superintendent, although Lineburg will be picking up where he left off by accepting a position as an assistant superintendent for a much larger, Detroit-area school district.

“He made a decision that was best for him whether we like it or not. I wish him well. We have to embrace it and pick up the pieces and move on,” said Garner-Coleman. “We tried to convince him to stay. He called all of us one on one, it was with regret, but he had to make a decision.”

She added that Lineburg was well-liked by school employees, pointing to the time he filled in for a day for a principal who had to be away, and his co-teaching with an AP English class at the high school with Beth Layne, who has since retired.

Garner-Coleman contrasted him favorably with his predecessors as superintendent — Paul Stapleton, who focused on running HCPS as a business, she said, and Merle Herndon, who kept school staff on pins and needles. Lineburg was policy-driven and personable.

Garner-Coleman, who will step off the School Board at the end of this year, said trustees should move fast to “beat the bushes” and hire an interim superintendent before a permanent hire can be made.

Freddie Edmunds, ED-5 trustee, called Lineburg the best school superintendent that Halifax County has ever had, and he strongly supports his decision to leave for other opportunities elsewhere. Edmunds said he understands the pressure that comes with constantly being in the public eye.

“I wasn’t surprised [by Lineburg’s resignation],” said Edmunds, adding, “I hate to see him go, but I understand once you’ve given so many years. I’m not disappointed and I understand where he’s coming from.”

Edmunds served on the search committee that hired Lineburg. “I’ve had the pleasure of five years working with and getting to know him — I wish him the best of luck,” adding he will be greatly missed.

With Lineburg’s last day set for Feb. 17, Fraley said she has talked with him about the search for a new superintendent. Fraley said the School Board will invite the public to share ideas for what they would like to see in a new school superintendent, a conversation that is likely to commence in December.



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Comments

We have not so smart people on the school board. Larry Clark was passed over for super. As for school opening, Pittsylvania Co has been going full time all last year and this year. Time for the teachers to get back to work. Put in some real working class people to run the school board.

Comments

No smart, young career oriented superintendent would ever come here! It is the end of the road, career-ending stop!! Check the history-not one has left for bigger and better! Check the record!! Superintendent graveyard!!

Comments

Last school year Pittsylvania County operated on an adjusted schedule where all students were off on Wednesdays and 50% attended on Schedule A and the other 50% on schedule B. I do not know one school division where teachers have not been teaching or working 5 days a week last year or this year.


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