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Halifax School Board: Liberate the laptops, take second look at dual enrollment / July 13, 2017

The overarching goal discussed by the School Board at Tuesday’s retreat is to achieve full accreditation for all nine Halifax County schools and improve student learning.

More concretely, trustees expressed their support for allowing students to take Chromebook laptops home with them for classroom assignments — which was the original policy for the machines’ usage until it was decided the Chromebooks should not leave the school building.

While some students may be unable to connect to wi-fi internet when they’re at home, the Chromebooks can load browser information beforehand to allow students to take their homework with them. Assignments can be uploaded when the students return to school in the morning.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Lineburg said the computers “weren’t that different from textbooks,” and that taking them home for learning is “what they’re there for.”

Students at the middle school were initially given Chromebooks they could take home, but the policy allowing the computers to leave the building was later rescinded.

Elementary students at Clays Mill and Sinai also were supplied with Chromebooks, “but because they’re younger they’re not allowed to take them home,” said Joe Gasperini, ED-4 trustee.

Other suggestions for educational improvement included a “flipped classroom” system in which students read and work with learning material at home, then ask clarifying questions of teachers at school.

In discussing the curriculum, Gasperini criticized the emphasis on the college-level dual enrollment program at HCHS, which he suggested has come at the expense of the basics.

“We had kids getting college credit who could barely read,” said Gasperini. “We got away from a lot of basic instruction.

“I’m not saying [college-level dual-enrollment classes] don’t save [students] money, but … they’re getting hammered” in college and in the long run, he said. “Our first-grade students are just as important as our seniors.”

Lineburg said: “I’m an AP [Advanced Placement] guy,” but he indicated he wants to support areas that have neglected in favor of dual-enrollment. He cited both the band class and chorus at the high school being taught by one teacher as something to change.

Fay Satterfield (ED-6) voiced her concerns with the current block schedule, where the half-year scheduling means students start and finish a class in a four-month semester; this can be disruptive for certain subjects need continuity, such as Spanish and band, trustees noted.

As a potential solution, Lineburg suggested the implementation of “skinny” blocks to allow year-round classes in some subjects, while also keeping students taking eight classes a year. One block in a day could be broken into two separate classes in a hybrid model.

However, eliminating a block schedule and resuming a traditional seven-classes-a-day, all-year schedulewould take a planning process of about two to three years, Lineburg noted.

However, Lineburg said he supports a block schedule as it is more in line with state standards.

Regarding further in-depth changes with curriculum and how teaching is done, Lineburg said, “I don’t want to get into crazy structural [changes]; I want it to be sound.”

Turning to the subject of state accreditation standards, test scores monopolized a big part of the retreat discussion. Lineburg reported that the state’s most recent report card contained positive results for the county — “We’re seeing some growth” — but also that Halifax schools “have a ways to go.”

Of particular concern were the achievement drops by African-American and special-needs students.

On the subject of student discipline, the issues that some students face are not being addressed by alternative education, said Gasperini. “The alternative ed program is broken,” he said.

Walter Potts echoed the thought: kids are “coming over there and serving their time, basically.”

Alternative education’s ineffectiveness is affecting other schools, Gasperini said. Gasperini cited different groups concerned with discipline at the high school, including Jennifer Stevens’ anti-bullying effort. He said “there’s rampant smoking in the bathroom … kids are scared to go … discipline is not uniform.”

Potts agreed, addressing Superintendent Lineburg: “I’m telling you, Mark, teachers are sick of sending kids to the office” and nothing happens.

Freddie Edmunds (ED-5) said students are receiving a bad example from teachers who use their phones in class for personal purposes. Potts suggested that a jammer be installed at the high school to shut down cell-phone service.

Lineburg emphasized the need to enact consistent and firm policies for dealing with infractions by both teachers and students.

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Fools. Shrinking population and spending $2 or $3million for maintenance to fix immediate is far better than a new school. This is the problem of those born and raised here. You have to maintain these buildings each and every day or you wind up with what we presently have.


Some things never change!! We went through this same scenario before! Seems Mr. Gasperini and Mr. Potts have all the answers !! They seems to know everything about the high school and discipline! I propose taking them out of the peanut gallery and put them in charge of discipline and then their CHEAP shots will stop!!! Dr. Lineberry-good luck, but you will meet the same end as every other superintendent!!!

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