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Halifax County trustees expected to select ED-7 representative March 23

SoVaNow.com / March 16, 2017


Five candidates hoping to fill the Halifax County School Board vacancy in ED-7 received their interviews Monday night, but no word of a decision.

Former ED-& trustee, Dick Stoneman, resigned recently.

Five hopefuls — Hugh Gravitt II, Shaye Bailey Hatchett, Roy L. “Nick” Long Jr., Monty Gerald Lowery and Beverly Murray — met in private with trustees to discuss their qualifications for the seat, which opened up last month with Stoneman’s decision to step down due to health reasons.

Rather than announcing a choice at their regular monthly meeting on Monday night, trustees indicated they will select the new board member when they meet again on March 23.

The term of the interim member will run through November, when the seat will be on the general election ballot.

Monday night’s meeting also included an advertised public hearing to seek citizen input on the choice of a successor to Stoneman. No one came forward to speak on the matter.

School Superintendent Merle Herndon reviewed the school division’s accreditation results compared to peer divisions in the region. She noted that six of nine county schools are fully accredited by the state, an outcome that compares favorably with most nearby counties.

Halifax County’s 67 percent accreditation rate puts it tied for third among school divisions in Region 8, which encompasses a wide area of southern and central Virginia. Two-thirds of schools in Halifax and Amelia County met the state standards.

Appomattox County has a 100 percent accreditation rate, with all four of its schools satisfying state standards. Next up in the rankings is Charlotte County, with four of five accredited schools, an 80 percent rate.

Four of Mecklenburg County’s eight schools earned full accreditation, while one-third of schools in Nottoway, Cumberland and Prince Edward counties were accredited this year. One in four schools in Buckingham, Lunenburg and Greensville counties earned accreditation.

Brunswick, with one of five schools earning accreditation, had the lowest rate of 20 percent.

Trustees also heard a report by Director of Student Services Frosty Owens on the number of students in the alternative education program, “New Beginnings.” Owens said the New Beginnings population has been higher than in past years, and while the numbers were down in January and February, enrollment has peaked in March.

Jeff Davis, director of Special Education, in a separate report informed trustees the school division can collect Medicaid reimbursements for students only when they are transported to school in specially designed school buses. Davis had been asked by ED-4 member Joe Gasperini to inquire on obtaining Medicaid reimbursements for riders of regular school buses.

Also, trustees approved the recommendation by their insurance advisor, Patsy Akridge, to provide employee health insurance coverage through Anthem Blue Cross Shield. Trustees accepted Anthem’s 4 percent rate increase and agreed to pick up 100 percent of the extra costs for school employees.

Akridge also recommended acceptance of Delta Dental of Virginia’s premium increase of 6.1 percent over the next two years, and trustees agreed. She also recommended that the board continue the Superior Vision contract which has no rate increase.

The added expense of insurance will raise the upcoming School Board budget by $235,644.

A minor controversy arose over a proposal to purchase a vehicle for use by the incoming school superintendent. ED-8 trustee Walter Potts moved that the board buy a 2016 Chevrolet Cruze which is still under full warranty and has only 540 miles on it.

Potts argued that purchasing the vehicle, at a price of $16,400, would be more economical than giving the new superintendent a mileage allowance.

ED-5 trustee Freddie Edmunds agreed that a new vehicle would save money, since the board currently provides a monthly car allowance of some $800 to the superintendent.

At that rate, Edmunds said, the car would pay for itself in less than two years. Then, echoing similar comments by Potts, “the car would be ours.”

But ED-6 trustee Fay Satterfield says she thought the idea was “terrible. It would just be a headache, having to listen to the public asking what the superintendent might be doing going shopping,” among other possible uses.

Gasperini agreed, saying if a vehicle is needed for other uses than for the superintendent’s, then the board should buy it. On a 5-2 vote, with Potts and Edmunds in the minority, the motion failed.

In other business, Jeanie Hawks and assistant school superintendent Valdivia Hall reviewed their work on a new website content accessibility ordinance which is compliant with federal mandates under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kim Farson and other trustees observed that the Virginia School Board Association should have developed the ordinance rather than having local staffers spend their weekends and after-school hours working on it.

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