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Salaries, facilities daunting problems for Halifax County schools / January 29, 2018
With more needs than money to pay for them, the Halifax Count School Board and Board of Supervisors sat down Thursday to discuss the future of the local school division — touching on everything from new facilities to ways to bring teacher salaries up to par with neighboring localities.

Although the two boards took no action, members hashed out options that, if realized, could remake major aspects of K-12 education in Halifax County.

Among the needs that dominated the morning’s discussion, held at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center:

» Teacher pay. Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg presented an analysis of employee compensation that shows the teacher pay salary scale has 47 steps, far more than in neighboring Campbell, Charlotte, Mecklenburg and Pittsylvania counties. Halifax County teachers do not receive any pay increase until their 10th year on the job, and then they get only about a $225 increase — compared to teachers in Pittsylvania, whose year-10 pay rises by about $5,800.

Other neighboring counties raise salaries by more than $2,000 by a teacher’s 10th year of service.

“A 10-year teacher cannot afford to stay here,” said school board chairman Joe Gasperini.

Halifax County, however, does pay slightly more towards employee health insurance premiums, compensating somewhat for salary levels that lag behind nearby localities.

Lineburg told supervisors that in order to recruit and retain local teachers, he would like to see a three percent pay raise for teachers and a two percent salary increase for administrators and other non-teaching personnel. The cost of providing the raises this year would be $1,048,030.

A two percent raise for all employees would cost $800,032, Lineburg said. He also asked supervisors to consider additional funding of $286,275 to reduce the 47 steps on the teacher pay scale to 30.

All in all, Lineburg said, teacher pay in Halifax County becomes progressively less competitive as employees accumulate years in the system. Teachers who start out at just under $39,000 a year and put in 10 years in the local system continue to make less than first-year teachers in Pittsylvania County schools.

» Outdated facilities. Turning to facilities needs, Lineburg laid out for supervisors the two basic options for upgrading Halifax County High School: renovation, which is estimated to cost $40 million; or construction of a new building, estimated to cost $85 million.

Refurbishing Tuck Dillard Stadium would cost another $5.2 million, he said, describing the project as high need. The expenditure would pay for new bleachers, press box, ticket booths and a field house for middle school and high school football teams that use the stadium.

Lineburg also offered new information on the facility needs of the county’s elementary schools, with considerable discussion of Sinai and Meadville, neither of which has been upgraded since their original construction in the 1960s.

To build gymnasiums at Sinai and Meadville — the only county schools without such an amenity — would take about $11 million, and it would cost millions more to modernize both buildings and cut down on the number of mobile unit classrooms still in use at both locations.

Lineburg also floated the option of consolidating Meadville and Sinai. Closing one of the schools and building a large addition onto the other would cost an estimated $10 million. Or, the county could close both schools and build a new central school to accommodate Sinai and Meadville students at an cost of around $18 million.

The list of needed upgrades at all 11 county school buildings is long: roof repairs, interior and exterior painting, paving of park lots, maintenance or replacement of HVAC systems, replacement of stage curtains and general upkeep.

Among the most pressing needs: $720,000 to replace school roofs at Clays Mill, Sydnor Jennings and Scottsburg, and $950,000 to install new windows at Clays Mill, Scottsburg, Sydnor Jennings, Meadville and Sinai.

» Population declines. Hovering over the discussion was a shared sense among members of both boards that funding to fix the situation will be hard to come by.

“It’s all about money,” said J.T. Davis, chair of the supervisors’ budget committee.

Halifax County has been hurt by a loss of state K-12 funding as student enrollment has declined, a reflection of population losses generally. Davis noted that the county has lost about 1,000 residents over the past 10 years. The school division has seen enrollment decline by some 500 students in five years, with the student population now standing at 5,029 in the current school year.

In tandem with a shrinking manufacturing base, the effect has been to starve the county of much-needed revenue for local education.

To counter these effects, Davis said he would like to see the General Assembly give localities the authority to tack on an extra cent on local sales taxes as one way to generate money for K-12 education.

School Board vice chairman Sandra Garner-Coleman suggested that the Industrial Development Authority should be brought into the discussion, both to advise both boards of the possibility of new industries coming into Halifax and helping to pay for the schools, and to impress the point that quality schools is a key selling point for attracting new businesses and residents to begin with.

Garner-Coleman said she believes that more people will want to live in the county or return here if the school division is improved.

She and supervisor William Bryant Claiborne also argued for fixing the longstanding inequities at Sinai and Meadville, the only two schools that were left out of the last major school facilities plan under Superintendent Paul Stapleton.

“We have to face the consequences and the kids must not see the difference in schools at Sinai and Cluster Springs,” said Claiborne. Whereas students at Sinai see broken windows and antiquated facilities every day, students at Cluster Springs enjoy the benefits of a beautiful, colorful building, he said.

“We need for [students] to be part of the same environment,” and not see the disparities in school buildings, Claiborne said.

ED-6 supervisor Stanley Brandon said, however, that “a school is not just a building.” As a model, Brandon held up Galileo Magnet School in Danville, which he described as one of the top schools in the state. “It’s held in the old Sears building. Our students” — not buildings — “are our schools,” said Brandon.

Lineburg told Supervisors that the School Board has hired Moseley Architects to conduct a full study of school facilities, a review that is expected to touch on the educational and budget tradeoffs of constructing a new high school facility as compared to renovating the existing HCHS building.

As part of the study, Lineburg said a series of community meetings would be held in May and June, during which citizens can offer their input on various options for the future.

While acknowledging the need for more funding, supervisors defended their record of supporting the annual school budget: local funding is 18.65 percent higher than the state-mandated local contribution towards education — in real terms, $2,666,624 more than what the state requires, members noted.

On a related matter, Gasperini said he expects the School Board to pass a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between supervisors and school trustees that allows for funds from the county’s capital improvement program (CIP) to be used to pay for school capital projects of $50,000 or more.

The MOU was not enacted earlier by school trustees, with outgoing members of the School Board saying they expected the new board to approve the measure at their upcoming February meeting.

At the conclusion of their meeting, Davis stressed that he wants to see a school budget that is more “than a single sheet of paper” — instead calling complete transparency and accountability in budgetary and financial practices.

Supervisors chairman Dennis Witt asked that school trustees prioritize their needs for the coming year in order for supervisors to decide how to best fund their needs.

“We’re here to provide you with the resources you need to operate the schools,” said Witt.

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This talk makes me sick. There is much waste in the school divisions state wide! How much money is spent on testing. You want to bring money back to the county. Press the GA to do away with testing.


So Supervisor Davis would like to see the General Assembly give localities the authority to tack on an extra cent on local sales taxes as one way to generate money for K-12 education?! Why not approve any and all solar sites and use that taxable revenue as a source of funding for the schools and do away with the Agricultural and Forestal Districts and let all landowners pay their full rate/share of taxes. He should lead by example in complete transparency and accountability in budgetary and financial practices. There have been ENOUGH backroom dealing at the County as far as the Courthouse project is concerned.


Halifax needs to do something about the school facilities and pay. Surrounding areas have higher pay scales, so they will draw the better applicants. Additionally Mecklenburg is getting ready to build a $100 million dollar complex, Pittsylvania County renovated all 4 of their high schools within the last 8-10 years AND built 4 new middle schools, Danville created Galileo, Lynchburg City revamped Heritage High School, Bedford County is building new schools and renovating existing high schools, Campbell County puts money into their buildings. Halifax better wake up soon, we already spent enough years letting it get to this point, or else we will be one of the bottom counties in the state.


First this is a local problem pushed forward the endless stupidty of only electing people born and raised here. You get what you got. Now with that said... the biggst impediment to improvements is that this county maintains NOTHING! Each year the scholols must have a maintenance budget to fix items with wear and tear and items that have a imited lifespan- heating- electrical. Somehow investing in cime is more important than educaton

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