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Gasperini resigns from Halifax school board

SoVaNow.com / August 12, 2019
Taking fellow trustees by surprise, Halifax County School Board Chairman Joe Gasperini tendered his resignation on Monday night, effective at the end of the regular monthly meeting of the School Board in Halifax.

Reading from written remarks, Gasperini offered a brief explanation for his decision: “I had higher hopes for the county than it had for itself. The dream of a new high school could have changed the direction of this county. Instead we have a group of individuals who want to make a vague proclamation as to what the county needs when it has been obvious all along.”

It was a reference to the School Board’s support for building a replacement facility for Halifax County High School — with Gasperini’s resignation, ironically, coming on the same night that school trustees heard about plans to move forward with a public-private partnership to construct a new school, engaging two competing groups of architects and builders to develop a fleshed-out design, construction and financing package.

Gasperini, however, expressed frustration afterwards in a brief interview over what he described as efforts to muzzle his advocacy of a new HCHS facility: “I’ve been told not to talk about a new high school again.” He declined to identify those responsible for the pushback, saying, “I’m not going to sit and name names or organizations or anything like that.”

As he read aloud his resignation letter in open session, Gasperini explained that his tenure on the School Board would come to an end at the conclusion of the meeting, and that he will move to take his name off the November ballot for the school board seat in ED-4. Gasperini, running for re-election, was opposed by Jason “Jay” Camp, the only other candidate to qualify by the June deadline. Gasperini’s exit leaves Camp as the sole choice on the ballot.

“I must be true to my values and sense of what the right thing to do …. I appreciate all those who have been supportive of me in the past and offer sincere good fortune to my fellow school board members in the future,” said Gasperini.

Asked to elaborate on his reasons for resigning, Gasperini acknowledged that he was frustrated in part by the wording of a November referendum to authorize a local sales tax to pay for an upgrade to HCHS. Last week, county supervisors approved language stating that revenues from the sales tax will be earmarked for school capital projects involving either renovation or new construction. The ballot initiative will not specify which of the two options will be used for the high school.

Gasperini said he believes the wording is “wrong, but I don’t have a choice in that.” He added, “We’re not letting the public make the decision” on what the best plan for HCHS is.

“I think the public should know what they’re voting on. And I got tired of too many decisions being made behind closed doors. The School Board has been very transparent in all its actions.

“I hope there’s a new high school. I hope the sales tax passes,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, trustees heard a recommendation by the School Board’s facilities committee to narrow the choice of builders of a new school to two — working through Virginia’s Public Private Infrastructure and Education Act (PPEA) to streamline the process. Two groups have submitted conceptual proposals for a replacement HCHS. One is the alliance of Branch Builds, general contractor, and RRMM Architects, both based in the Roanoke area. The other is Lynchburg-based English Construction and its architectural partner, Grimm and Parker.

The apparent decision to proceed down the PPEA path cuts out a third candidate for the high school project: Moseley Architects, which carried out a study of county school facilities, including HCHS, for the School Board last year. Moseley had submitted a conventional design/build proposal for the high school, which the facilities committee has advised against.

The next steps will be to ask both PPEA groups to submit more detailed plans for a new HCHS which the facilities committee will then review, before the panel makes its final recommendation to the School Board, which is expected to vote in turn on the selection of a builder.

The timetable leaves unanswered the question of whether the School Board will have a tangible proposal for the high school to present to voters leading up to the Nov. 5 referendum.

With no comment, trustees accepted Gasperini’s resignation by a 6-2 vote, with Gasperini voting with the majority. Dissenting were Walter Potts, ED-8, and Freddie Edmunds, ED-5.

Both Potts and Edmunds said they respected Gasperini’s service on the School Board and would agree if he offered personal reasons for not wanting to continue, but they expressed disagreement with the decision to step down in response to those who oppose the board's actions.

“I don’t agree with his evaluation of why he quit,” said Potts, because it was “putting blame on other folks to get out.”

Added Edmunds, “This position is volunteer. This is something I chose to do because I want to serve …. I’m going to do this job until the people of my district tell me they want someone else. If [Gasperini’s resignation] had been for personal reasons, I could have accepted that.

“I respect his decision, everybody has to got to make their own mind up on what is good for them,” Edmunds said, but he added that members should not step down because of opposition to board actions.

Gasperini said that prior to the meeting, he shared his decision with only one other board member and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Lineburg. Potts said he was unaware that the chairman would be resigning until he heard Gasperini’s comments.

This story will be updated.


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Comments

Good riddance. I have talked to many in his district, that don't want a new high school and are not voting for the sales tax. While I can see spending some money on the HS not 73 million in one pop. 5-10 million every couple of years till it is totally remodeled. I see no problems with kids going to mobile units. We used them when I was in school and my generation is the one having to foot the bill for this mess.

Comments

For the above comment, it is simply ridiculous for that proposal. Why would you spend 70 mil for a school that would last 35 years when you can spend 25 more mil where it can last 50-60+Yrs?This is more about the “right now” situation. If we did the Reno for 70 mil, it will simply doom the county as a whole down the road. By that time in 35 years, the middle school will need to be addressed as well as the Cluster Springs and South Boston Elem schools (2006). That isn’t even mentioning the run down Clays Mill, Meadville, Sinai, Sydnor Jennings, and Scottsburg schools. While yes “your generation will be paying for it”, the tax will last for years after for the next generation also. As a HCHS Senior this year, I also admit that I will be leaving after high school. It is not that I want to, but it’s because my job doesn’t exist here, like many jobs. Joe wanted nothing but the best for the County, and you’ve seen how they’ve treated him. Halifax is afraid of the $ sign.

Comments

Sounds like Halifax County HS needs to take an econ class. The elementary schools mentioned are not "run down" And you just admitted that your generation will not be here to pay for it.

Comments

Good he is gone. With a dying county who can pay for a new school that should have been kept up by the maintenance crew. Work with what you have. Who ever did the remodeling of the Junior High did a great job. Mary Bethune Complex is great. We don't need people like him reaching into peoples pockets.

Comments

The elementary schools I have mentioned, while they may not be “run down” currently, they will be run down in say 20-40 years depending on the school. With that being said, we will have this problem again in the future, having multiple multi-million projects that need to be completed at the same time. Yes, I will be leaving Halifax after graduation, but because I have to. I do not wish to drive to work 2-3 hours to and from work at places like Lynchburg, Raleigh, or Richmond every day for a job that requires me to report to work at 4am in any weather. The next gen will not be here to pay for it because there is little if any incentive for coming back. Even some parents are telling their children to move on from Halifax. Many jobs, due to a “lower-skilled” workforce, aren’t available around here. Hopefully the Berry Hill Megasite outside of Danville can combat this issue the region has. Halifax will always have a special place in my heart, but sometimes you have to move on.

Comments

HalifaxcountyHS is more well spoken than most of you who post comments on here. Kudos to you and good luck to you with your future. I wish you were able to stay in the area The county needs more young people like you. Allpolitical, I've asked several times when you were last in the HS and you never answer. When were you last in the elementary schools HCHS mention in their post? Most of those schools are on the verge of being run down and have numerous issues that are not always fixable or maintainable by maintenance crews. HCHS only mentioned that they would not be around to help pay, not their entire generation. It's Halifax County, very few leave. Kinda seems like you just made a point for why people should vote yes on the referendum in order to allow non county residents to help pay.

HCHS-keep speaking your mind and I hope you turn 18 in time to vote in November. I know a lot of your classmates that plan on voting because they know and live life in the HS building.

Comments

Way to go Gasperini! You were the most powerful person on the school board and you decided to take your ball and go home.Great example for the students in the school system that may need to fight for their rights.Examine the disipline and the maintenance. I was having dinner with 4 doctors from Sentara and all 4 are sending their high school kids not to Halifax, but to school outside of Halifax County.


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