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Potts elected vice-chair of Halifax County School Board

SoVaNow.com / September 10, 2019

ED#8 trustee Walter Potts, the longest-serving member of the Halifax County School Board, was elected as its new vice chairman Monday night at the board’s meeting at Clays Mill Elementary School.

The vote came in the wake of former board chairman Joe Gasperini’s resignation from the School Board in August. Gasperini’s departure elevated ED#3 trustee Sandra Garner-Coleman, the former vice chair, as new board chairman.

Potts was the only candidate to be nominated for vice chair, with the motion coming from Freddie Jeffress, ED#5 representative and seconded by Orey Hill, ED#1. Board members backed his candidacy on a 5-2 roll call vote, with Todd Moser and Monty Lowery, ED#6 and ED#7 trustees respectively, voting no.

The vote for vice chairman came with no discussion by trustees. Potts will serve as vice chairman through the end of the year, with the School Board reorganizing at the start of 2020.

Down by a member after Gasperini’s resignation, the composition of School Board will be changing in 2020 with the selection of a new ED#4 trustee — Jason “Jay” Camp is the only candidate on the ballot with the decision by Gasperini to exit the School Board. Also, Lowery is not seeking another term, and a board incumbent, Hill, faces a competitive race, potentially altering the makeup of the School Board even more.

In other action during a relatively brief School Board meeting, trustees adopted a random drug testing policy for students taking part in extracurricular, VHSL-sanctioned events — primarily sports, but also including VHSL activities such as forensics and quiz bowl competitions.

Garner-Coleman and Potts each voted “no” as the board adopted the new policy, 5-2. Potts said the policy singled out athletes and Garner-Coleman argued that with tight purse strings, the School Board can’t afford the drug testing program, which is expected to cost around $15,000 annually.

“We absolutely do not have money in the budget to cover it,” she said.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Lineburg, asked about the budgetary impact of the program, agreed that going forward, “We would have to build it in next year’s budget.” But he also said there is available funding in the current budget to pay for drug testing by an outside firm.

The policy applies only to students taking part in extracurricular policies that are voluntary and not part of the regular classroom curriculum — a distinction that excludes programs such as music and marching band, which students are graded on.

Roy Keith Lloyd, ED#2 trustee, made the motion of approve the much-debated policy by the School Board, which has taken up the matter at multiple meetings, asking for additional information each time. After Moser offered a second, Lloyd amended his motion to establish random student drug testing at the start of 2020, in the middle of the winter sports season.

“You can come back from the Christmas break and you have a clean start with the new policy,” said Lloyd.

Lowery pointed out that the School Board is often able to find available funds in the budget to pay for desired programs that aren’t included at the start of the fiscal year. As an example of how money is freed up in the budget, he cited the School Board’s recent efforts to save on the cost of new school buses by moving towards a propane-powered fleet.

“I feel certain … we’ll pick the money up,” said Lowery, adding that the bus savings alone would more than cover the cost of drug testing.

Jeff Davis, director of student services, said the new drug testing policy was developed in consultation with the School Board’s attorney and would enhance school safety and student discipline. Drug testing will only apply to high school students, although the program eventually could be expanded to the middle school, Davis said.

The policy covers prohibited substances such as illicit drugs, controlled substances, tobacco, nicotine, alcohol and performance-enhancing drugs. Students will be selected randomly by an outside firm for testing, although the policy does contain a provision for testing based on “reasonable suspicion,” which “shall mean a specific, objective reason to suspect a student participant has used a controlled substance,” the policy reads.

The policy establishes penalties ranging from a first offense, 30-day suspension from the chosen activity to a second offense, 90-day suspension, to a permanent ban on athletic and/or extracurricular activities in the event of a third positive drug test.




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Comments

This feels like an attack on athletes and extra curricular activities. These students already have to have exemplary grades and no discipline issues to participate. If we were really concerned about drugs in the schools shouldn't we do more random drug searches and testing of all students? So winter and spring sports will be tested but fall sports get a free pass? What about students who test false positive. Student walks into a bathroom full of marijuana smoke he or she does their business and leaves. They test positive but never consumed an illegal drug. I see many flaws here and just don't believe that the money being used is appropriate. Did the school board ever think of being proactive instead of reactive? Use the money for programs that teach these athletes and students about the dangers of drugs.

Comments

Totally agree concerned. If they are going to force students, teachers and admin should have to do so as well. But now we got the tax and spend crowd in charge of the school board, it will be down hill from here. I am sure that they support the liberal agendas of the socialist democratic party. It is time for people to put a stop to all of this. I can't believe that we elect people that support Northam, Herring and Pelosi!

Comments

Total waste of $.


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