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Halifax County reaps refinancing windfall for STEM Center

SoVaNow.com / March 31, 2014
Halifax County has received an unexpected windfall of $832,000 to spend on renovations to the Halifax STEM Center, slated to serve as home to the Alternative Education Program.

The bonus was announced at Thursday night’s School Board meeting by County Administrator Jim Halasz, who informed school trustees of the receipt of the money.

Halsz said the $832,000 was received on Dec. 27, and grew out of the refinancing of the county’s debt for school capital improvements. He said county supervisors quickly decided that the money, which was not anticipated, should be used for STEM Center renovations at the old Craddock Terry Shoe building in Halifax.

“It was a great, but unexpected late Christmas gift,” Halasz said.

The newly renovated space in the STEM Center will house the Alternative Education Program, which currently is housed in the Industrial Arts building at the Mary Bethune Complex. That space will be converted into temporary courtrooms while the Courthouse Project is underway.

Once the courthouse renovations are completed, the Industrial Arts building will become the permanent location for the County Administration staff.

The $832, 0000 matches closely the estimated cost of renovations to the STEM Center.

Bids are currently being sought for the work, said Halasz, and if bids come in below expected levels, leftover funds will be turned over to the school system to be used for other capital improvements.

Halasz was questioned by ED-8 trustee Walter Potts about the possibility of using the money for operational needs rather than for capital improvements. Halasz responded that the Board of Supervisors has earmarked the money for capital improvements only.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Merle Herndon thanked Halasz and the supervisors for the money for the STEM Center renovation funds, adding that the School Board “had no money” to carry out the necessary work there.

In other business on Thursday, school trustees received an employment compensation study by ED-1 trustee Phyllis Smith and ED-5 trustee Roger Long concerning the teacher pay scale. Their report showed that $834,541 is needed to raise local teacher pay to close the disparity between what Halifax County teachers make and their counterparts, on average, around the state make. The $834,541 infusion for higher salaries would cut the salary disparity in half.

To accomplish this goal, the report calls for a small pay increase for each year of teaching. (Currently teachers who have taught for six years make the same salary — $36,976— as a beginning teacher). The report suggests increases each year through the 38th year of teaching.

Several trustees were quick to say they could not support any consideration of pay increases when they already are facing a deficit in the current budget.

Smith responded that neither she nor Long were recommending the changes in the pay scale, but were simply carrying out the assignment given to them by the board to come up with a future pay scale.

In other action, School Board chairman Kim Farson reported that no make-up days need to be considered at this time since Halifax still has one make-up day banked on the school calendar.

Also, she and vice chairman Dick Stoneman volunteered to serve on the five year 2014-20 Comprehensive Plan committee.

The board also agreed to meet this afternoon at 6 p.m. in closed session to consider student discipline cases and personnel matters.

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Comments

Has the county ever heard of using extra money to cut taxes?

Comments

Why are they going to use well over $800,000 to renovate a space for (yes, I'll say it) a bunch of trouble makers and thugs? There's already a place for them -- it's called "home" and it's where they belong if they have shown that they can't cooperate with the rest of the student body.

Comments

I don't know where you get your information but the stem center is used for that. Check your facts, and if you stopped calling those students "thugs and trouble makers" and showed some compassion and/or guidance to a few we wouldn't have troubled teens. The stem center is used for academic excellence classes for higher achieving students Again I say check your facts. The money should be used to give teachers a raise, books, insurance and other much needed areas.

Comments

Dear "concerned,"

Not only did I use facts in my comment, I speak from personal experiences. Unbeknownst to you, I am a student at the Stem Center. 3 of my 4 hour and a half long classes are there. 75% of my day is spent in that building. As you said, the Stem Center is used for higher achieving students in Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment classes. That being said, these (and I'll say it again) thugs and trouble makers belong at HOME. I have not and will never have an ounce of compassion for anyone who can't obey simple school rules. I also don't believe that these people are troubled because of a lack of compassion, but rather the opposite. Consequences for their actions are too lenient as they are which is why they just get shoved in a different building rather than being sent home where they belong. So, next time before you tell me to "know my facts," make sure you know the whole story first.


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