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Halifax County Trustees assailed for personnel cuts

SoVaNow.com / May 16, 2013
Hundreds of people jammed the meeting of the Halifax County School Board on Monday night to protest recent moves by the school administration and trustees to reduce employee compensation and reassign or release personnel.

The crowd at the two-and-a-half hour meeting spilled down the hallway from the second floor meeting room at the Bethune complex in Halifax as inside, speakers led by Halifax County NAACP President Frank Coleman lambasted school trustees.

“In less than a year, all you have done is destroy and dismantle these people’s lives,” said Coleman, pastor at First Baptist Church of Ferry Street, in a reference to the retired school employees who lost their early retirement benefits with the cancelled Local Option Retirement Plan, as well as current workers who have seen their salaries reduced. “It is time for you to stop it.”

Coleman added, “You don’t go back and renege on contracts already agreed upon for years in good faith with your present employees. That is totally unethical/dishonest and immoral.

“And how evil it is to demote persons who absolutely did nothing to deserve demotion. And dismiss others, who have served this district for years and tell them you don’t have to give them a reason to not renew their contract. In my direct opinion this is a classic case of a plantation mentality in the context of classism.”

Coleman accused trustees of justifying their actions with the recommendations of the Prismatic Efficiency Study that was completed last year. “What you’re deceitfully using as (coming) from Prismatic is merely (coming) from other workers’ opinions of inequity on salaries.”

Coleman was followed by two other speakers, the first his wife, Margaret, who said, “The journey began in March with the idea of salary reductions. We have set ourselves up for failure.”

People are feeling intimidated and are afraid to speak up, she added.

William Carr, pastor of Banister Hill Baptist Church, said he was concerned about some of the actions of the board. “Our school system needs the best and the brightest. It is fair to cut salaries?” he asked.

Carr said he was also concerned about the potential for unequal disciplinary measures and wants to be sure that discipline is administered in a fair and equitable manner.

In an unusual move, School Board Chairman Kim Farson asked fellow trustees if they cared to respond to the comments. ED#4 trustee Cheryl Terry responded quickly by saying, “It has always bothered me that we cannot respond to the public’s concerns. It troubles me that people are afraid to speak up. I know we have disparity in pay, but we’re at the mercy of federal, state and local government funding. If you think I’m doing wrong, let me know. Don’t be afraid to call any of us.”

ED-7 trustee Dick Stoneman offered a similar response: “Call me anytime. We do all make mistakes, but call me. I will listen to your problems without any intimidation.”

ED-5 trustee Roger Long added the board’s problems are funding related: “We lost $2.75 million in state funds this year. We’ve had to cut 120 jobs and we have cut $400,000 in expenses in Central Office. I’m glad to talk with anyone, but Halifax County has one of the lowest tax rates in the State of Virginia and we’re not getting the funds we need to operate the schools.”

ED-1 trustee Phyllis Smith said she was offended by Coleman’s reference to the board having a “plantation mentality.”

“This board and (school superintendent) Dr. Herndon work very hard for the children of Halifax County, doing the best they can with very tight funds,” Smith said.

Farson thanked the crowd for coming to the meeting, but asked that the public not be so quick to jump on the negative, since there is so much positive action taking place in the schools. “Our teachers are doing more than ever before and the community needs to come together to support them. Come to us, work with us, open up and let’s work together,” she urged.

ED-8 trustee Walter Potts had a different response. “It saddens me that you have to come here tonight, but some things that are going on here are just not right.”

Potts drew a round of applause from the audience when he said, “Morale in this school system is shot.”

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Comments

I don't often agree with Potts on anything, but he is right here. Why doesn't the super, offer a pay cut? WHat makes her worth, all that money, I would do the job for $80,000. But wait the state government says that I have to have a certain degree, etc to do that. She slapped the CTE teachers in the face with the pay cut. To bad teachers can't strike in VA, this would be the perfect time.

Comments

I've always heard that the hit dog hollers, and sounds like that's what happened with Ms Smith. Yes, they're strapped for funds; yes, the BoS does not adequately fund the schools (though they can blow a wad of money on consultants at the drop of a hat). I still say when Herndon et al take a 10% pay cut, I'll give their bleating more credence. Surrounding counties get the same bang for buck from their superintendents for $20-30k/yr less.

Guess no one considered public image when they were chopping lower-level heads and at the same time granting high-level pay raises. Perception carries weight.

HCPS historically has not cared about vocational and craft-technical education, never mind that's where the good-paying jobs are. Seems they think it's beneath them to turn out people who can work with their hands.

Comments

Mr. Potts has become the voice of reason in the school board. He tries to think through and make better sound decisions. Halifax County is a little county with big city ideas. They always spend like New York but collect businesses just like Charlotte County. They hire high dollar bureaucrats.

Comments

ED-5 trustee Roger Long added the board’s problems are funding related: “We lost $2.75 million in state funds this year. We’ve had to cut 120 jobs and we have cut $400,000 in expenses in Central Office. I’m glad to talk with anyone, but Halifax County has one of the lowest tax rates in the State of Virginia and we’re not getting the funds we need to operate the schools.”

Halifax County can't afford more money collected from taxes because no new businesses are allowed to come here!!!!! DUHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!


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