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Halifax County Trustees take back pay hikes for pair

SoVaNow.com / June 17, 2013
Four days after raising the pay of two top school administrators as part of a Central Office consolidation, the Halifax County School Board met again Friday and rescinded the salary hikes.

Affected are Valdivia Marshall and Robert “Frosty” Owens, who had received pay boosts of $5,000 and $10,000, respectively, from the School Board on Monday. At Friday’s special meeting — called at the behest of school trustee Cheryl Terry — Marshall and Owens presented letters to school board members saying they couldn’t accept the raises due to ongoing budget challenges.

The School Board initially agreed to raise the administrators’ pay in recognition of the extra work that both would take on with the retirement of Beverly Crowder, director of student services.

Owens, director of secondary education, has taken on the responsibilities of director of student services and director of accountability. Marshall, who previously operated under the title of executive director of administration, is now assistant supervisor, second in command behind Superintendent of Schools Dr. Merle Herndon.

Terry, who sought the Friday meeting to reconsider the pay increases, said she “was no longer supportive” of the decision after learning from Central Office staff members that Beverly Crowder’s responsibilities would be divvyed up among several persons, not just Owens or Marshall.

“When they learned of what happened Monday,” said Terry, referring to staff members who contacted her, “they began to share that ‘Hey, I have one of those things [extra duties assigned], ‘I have two of those things,’ that’s in essence what happened.

“I did not have an understanding of that on Monday night” when the School Board first approved the raises on a 4-3 vote, said Terry. “On Monday I thought all them were going to one person [Owens].”

Terry said she does not believe Herndon — who asked for the higher pay to compensate the two administrators for heavier workloads — misled school trustees or withheld information from them about the nature of the consolidation, even if some information was unclear. She noted that Crowder’s position accounted for roughly $120,000 in the budget, including benefits and other expenses, and by eliminating the position and giving Owens a $10,000 increase, trustees “in essence [thought] we were saving $110,000.”

She also said the vote to rescind the increases should not be interpreted as a mark against either Owens or Marshall. “We fully realize they are all taking on a lot more responsibility, and whenever our budget is better, everyone should be compensated, or so I feel. But right now is not the time.”

School Board chairman Kim Farson, who was not at the June 10 meeting when trustees granted the pay hikes, said yesterday she could not address the suggestion that board members lacked a full understanding of the proposed salary changes. But she said she ordered the special call meeting on Friday after roughly “half the board said they completely understood what was presented to them, and half the board said they were a little unclear and not sure what was presented.

“I don’t think in any way you’d use the word ‘misled’ or ‘misinformed,’” said Farson. “I think you just had some board members who were unclear.”

She added, “I’d rather sit down and talk about it than let it linger and cause more issues.”

She, like Terry, also said the vote did not reflect a lack of appreciation among trustees for either Marshall or Owens. “Frosty and Val both work hard. I don’t expect this will cause them to work any less hard than they do now,” she said.

The vote to rescind the $5,000 pay increase for Marshall was 7-1, with Phyllis Smith casting the lone dissenting vote. The vote to rescind the $10,000 boost for Owens was 6-2, with Smith and Roger Long voting no.

Marshall’s increase would have been paid using federal funds; the raise for Owens would have come out of the general budget.

In a separate motion, trustees voted to accept the letters from Owens and Marshall in which both rejected the pay increases. In addition to Smith, trustees Walter Potts voted no to that motion, saying he didn’t think the administrators should have been put in the position where they thought it necessary to write the letters in the first place.

Trustees Potts, Faye Satterfield and Karen Hopkins voted against awarding the pay increases when the matter first came to a vote June 10.

Herndon, reached for comment over the weekend, declined to express an opinion on the board’s reversal, but she noted the pay increases had been tied to changes in the organizational hierarchy for Marshall and Owens.

Regarding Marshall’s previous title, executive director of administration, “in all my dealings with school systems, I’ve never heard that name being used in a title …. She is second in command, she is my designee, and she is an assistant superintendent.

“I recommended those increases due to the change in their responsibilities, particularly for Mr. Owens. The public record would shown that he has a lower salary [than the norm for his position],” she added. “I think I probably ought to leave it at that.”



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Comments

Just goes to show who in HCPS system has class and who doesn't. Our overpaid superintendent could take a cue from Ms. Marshall and Mr. Owens, who both declined substantial pay raises.

It's called ownership, people- instead of milking the system dry for your personal beneefit.

Comments

"Now is not the time in the budget. Wait till next year! When the budget gets better." The school people have been hearing this since the Udy Wood days. And when it gets a little better, well you folks know what happens. Some things in Halifax will NEVER CHANGE--face it school people!!!!

Comments

I understand that the commitee say they made the suggestion about the pay hikes due to their job roles changing, but what about some of the secretarties at the high school whose roles and responsibilities have also changed and many of them have taken on many more job duties that have been added to their work schedules...or what about other employees as well whom work really hard and are dedicated to their jobs and their responsibilities have also changed??? Sounds like the commitee and Dr. Herndon pick whomever they want to give raises to...I truly feel like the whole system is going down very rapidly...God help them all!! Prayers go out to all the employess that work for Halifax County Public System!!! Keep your heads up!!


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