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Potts named vice-chair; trustees approve drug testing / September 12, 2019
ED-8 trustee Walter Potts, the longest-serving member of the Halifax County School Board, was named vice chairman Monday night on a split vote of trustees at their meeting at Clays Mill Elementary School.

The vote came in the wake of former chairman Joe Gasperini’s resignation from the School Board in August. Gasperini’s departure elevated ED-3 trustee Sandra Garner-Coleman, formerly the vice chair, to the position of board chairman and created a vacancy for vice chair.

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

The choice of vice chairman came without discussion. 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 step away from 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 further.

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

Garner-Coleman and Potts each voted “no” as the board adopted the drug testing policy on a 5-2 vote. Potts said it singled out athletes and Garner-Coleman argued that with tight purse strings, the School Board can’t afford the expense of drug testing, 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 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 year’s budget to pay for the tests, which will be conducted by an outside firm.

Drug testing of athletes and others who take part in VSHL sanctioned events will begin in January, in the midst of the winter sports season. ED-2 trustee Roy Keith Lloyd, who called for a vote to approve the policy, amended his motion to put the program into effect January 2020.

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

Prior to Monday night, Garner-Coleman and Potts had argued that random drug testing would be a poor use of tight educational dollars, and they also suggested that it could have unintended effects. However, after debating the merits of random drug testing for months, the majority of trustees opted to accept an updated version of the policy presented by Director of Student Services Jeff Davis.

The policy does not apply to students who take part in activities that are part of the regular classroom curriculum — such as music and marching band — for which they also receive grades.

In response to claims that the School Board can’t afford drug testing, Lowery pointed out that trustees are often able to find money in the budget for programs that crop up after the budget is set. As an example of how money can become available in the budget, he cited the School Board’s recent cost-saving efforts to move towards a propane-powered school bus 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.

Davis 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, he 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 contains a provision that allows 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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Now we have two tax and spend people in charge of the school board. The voters that elect these people need to start thinking. I wonder how many that vote in these elections actually pay any type of taxes?
Remember this is what lead to the down fall of the Roman Empire, when they learned they could vote money from the public treasury.


So the schools cut positions that they can't find money for, but they can find money for drug testing athletes??? Why only athletes and club members? Won't this drive participation numbers down? A regular student gets busted for drugs and they are gone 365, but an athlete gets 30 days? I could go on and on with questions and concerns regarding this new policy.


Why are athletes being targeted ?Spend the money on fixing the track and other run down equipment .Wonder who had this lightbulb moment of wasting money.I see the ACLU all over this one.This is not a prison or jail nor a job this is a school.This has to be unconstitutional to target only a select group of individuals.


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