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Food service, funding, personnel get trustees ‘ attention / November 16, 2017
A faulty elevator at the Bethune Complex Monday night forced the Halifax County School Board to move its monthly meeting to the Halifax County Middle School cafeteria.

It was not just a change in location that caused problems for the trustees, but two tie votes also left them with disagreements over the personnel report and a request from superintendent Mark Lineburg to approve a memorandum of understanding with Halifax County supervisors about their request for special funding from the County’s Capital Improvement Projects monies.

But even more troublesome were the reports that trustees heard from ED-3 trustee Kim Farson and ED-8 trustee Walter Potts concerning the food service provided by SoDexo to students at Meadville Elementary School. Farson said she had received 16 calls after parents and grandparents had been invited to the Grandparents Day breakfast held at Meadville, complaining about the quality of the food offered there with students also being told to use chocolate milk with their cereal rather than regular milk.

“I was embarrassed and apologized profusely to the parents and grandparents for the quality of the food served to students and their guests that day,” Farson said, noting that she had called Lineburg immediately to report about what she had been told.

Lineburg said he quickly called SoDexo officials to report the complaints Farson had told him about. Currently SoDexo has the contract with the school system for the food service, but bids will go out in the next year and trustees said they will be strongly looking at seeking competitive bids.

ED-5 trustee Freddie Edmunds said SoDexo should be warned that the school system is looking for competitive bids for the service.

Farson said she had earlier been told that students, particularly those at the high school, had been very excited about the switch from the schools’ earlier food service to the private vendor. But, she noted, that she felt that quality of food now provided by SoDexo has been significantly lowered.

In seeking approval of the memorandum of understanding with supervisors Lineburg pointed out he feels both the trustees and supervisors recognize the fact that the schools need more funds for capital improvements than is currently provided in the operating budget provided by the county.

He said he felt it important to have a collaborative and productive partnership between the two groups with the school providing a priority listing of their needs while the supervisors would provide any funding that they may be able to give the schools during each budget year.

“Last year they gave us $600,000 of which $400,000 was used for the purchase of new buses,” said Lineburg, along with other improvements, such as the front doors at the high school.

But Potts was adamant that he was not willing to give up of his authority for funding the schools needs. “We haven’t gotten the money we need to operate, and I’m not giving my authority away to the supervisors. This has come up before and I will vote ‘no,’” Potts said.

ED-4 trustee Joe Gasperini explained that he feels that the MOU is only a good faith effort” that allows school trustees and supervisors to work together. Supervisors cannot guarantee that extra money will be awarded to the schools from the CIP, but trustees are being asked to submit their prioritized requests for the extra money for capital projects.

Potts responded “Why should we show good faith. I’m supposed to show good faith to my constituents. They (supervisors) are not looking out for the schools.”

Farson said she, too, could not support the MOU, but for a very different reason. Noting that she did not seek re-election to the board and consequently will not be a board member at the end of December, said she felt the three new members of the board who will take their seats in January should make the decision.

“I don’t want the new members to be stuck with decisions that we are making.” ED-5 trustee Freddie Edmunds agreed that some very important decisions needed to be attended to as he said he also would oppose the MOU. Also opposing was ED-6 trustee Fay Satterfield.

Trustees had to enter into a second closed session following the public segment of the meeting after the tie vote on the personnel report.

The personnel report showed that Robert D. Owens, director of student services/accountability, is retiring Jan. 1. Jeff Davis, who is currently director of special education, will be moved in a lateral change to fill that position and Catherine Glass, who is currently principal at Cluster Springs Elementary School will move to director of special education Jan. 1.

Lineburg said the position of principal at Cluster Springs Elementary is being advertised and he expects to have a person hired for that job by Jan. 1.

In other announcements from the personnel report, finance director Jay Camp announced his resignation effective Nov. 6, and Adam Bauguess, a social studies teacher at the middle school resigned as of Oct. 22.

Also resigning was Rebecca Saunders, an assistant indoor track coach. Joyce Hill, a switchboard operator at the central office will retire Dec. 1, and Enoch I. Womack, a maintenance employee will retire Jan. 1. Also two tutors at Sydnor Jennings Elementary, Phyllis Smith and Lisa Hitchens were appointed to work at $20 per hour for not more than 84 hours.

Two other tutors were appointed at Sinai Elementary, Brenda Conner and Vanessa Powell.

Also on Monday night trustees approved the submission of a grant requests for four Thomas Built Buses which. if granted, will be used to purchase four new diesel buses to be used for special ed students. The new buses will replace four buses, one of which is a 1995 model with the others being 1997 models. The grant funds would decrease the cost to the schools by a total of $134,040.

Lineburg also asked that Beth Layne, a teacher at the high school, be named to serve on the school facilities committee along with himself, Jay Jennings, Michael Lewis, Karla Gravitt, David Duffer, Joe Gasperini, Jason Ferrell, Mark Gosney, David Graham and Leon Johnston.

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