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Bonuses sought for Halifax County school staff / September 13, 2010
Halifax County school employees may be in line for pay bonuses very soon under a recommendation that Superintendent of Schools Paul Stapleton will make to School Board members tonight. The School Board is slated to hold its regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. in the Mary Bethune Complex second floor room.

Stapleton said the bonus money would come out of the latest round of federal funding to cash-strapped states approved by Congress this month. The superintendent said that he only learned of the special funding late Friday afternoon and met with Deputy Superintendent Larry Clark and Finance Director Bill Covington to discuss how the money could be spent.

“As well as we understand it, the money can only be spent in three areas: one, to bring back laid-off employees; two, to hire new positions and three, to give bonuses to our current employees,” Stapleton said. He said the first two options do not apply to Halifax County since no one was laid off last year and secondly, because the system could not afford to hire new personnel since the funding is only guaranteed for one year.

But Stapleton said he was happy about the prospect of being able to offer pay bonuses since employees have not gotten a salary increase over the past four years. “My understanding is that the money will be coming to us very quickly, and we can pass it along to our employees,” said Stapleton. “If the board agrees with my recommendation, then it will help our employees and raise their morale, as well as stimulating the local economy.”

While Stapleton and other officials have had little time to determine exactly how much of a bonus each employee — from teachers, secretaries, food service employees, janitors and bus drivers — might receive, he said he hoped bonuses of $1500 to $1800 might be approved by the school trustees, although the issue was originally not on the agenda for tonight’s meeting.

Announcement of the federal funding was made late Friday by the office of Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello, who noted school systems across Central and Southside Virginia would receive approximately $23.8 million, with Halifax County getting $1,615,903 to support elementary and secondary teachers and other essential school level staff salaries. The funding was paid for, in part, by closing the tax loopholes that reward companies for sending jobs overseas, Perriello said.

“Investments in education are crucial to rebuilding our area’s competitive advantage as we fight for good jobs and economic recovery in Central and Southside Virginia,” said Perriello.

Stapleton said the bill calls for the money to be spent exclusively on jobs and employee compensation. It cannot be used for any operating expense or instructional materials. He added that he would not recommend that top-level central office administrators receive any of the bonus money.

In other business tonight, Clark will report on the opening of schools. Enrollment now has reached 5,684 students, higher than the 5,641 figure which serves as the basis for receipt of state aid.

Also, Board Chairman Walter Potts will recognize the donation of three books for every county elementary school student by the Dollar General Corporation, and Joe Griles, superintendent of instruction, will discuss the recent 21st Century Community Learning Center grants given to Sinai Elementary, Halifax County Middle School and Halifax County High School. Griles will also address state accreditation figures.

Under unfinished business, the board is expected to discuss the recent proposal brought to them by VASS (Virginia Association of School Superintendents) about their work in doing efficiency studies or school reviews.

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