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Speakers call for stronger ties to SVHEC ties

SoVaNow.com / March 13, 2017
The speakers at a Thursday night public hearing on the selection of a new Halifax County school superintendent called for a leader who can work with various constituencies outside of the system.

Three of the five speakers emphasized the need for Halifax County Public Schools to work more closely with the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, especially on career and technical education.

Betty Adams, executive director of the SVHEC, was the first person to address the question of what Halifax County should want with the successor to outgoing superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon, who is retiring in June.

“We hope the new superintendent will have a sense of urgency for building educational pipelines,” Adams told trustees.

As part of that “pipeline building,” Adams said she would like the new superintendent to view the SVHEC and its community colleges as assets for building career skills among students. “The community’s success depends upon it,” said Adams.

The new superintendent should have “a proven record developing and managing multi-partner relationships and collaborations and a keen understanding of Career and Technical Education and a willingness to do things differently,” she said.

The next two speakers Tom Raab, chairman of the Higher Education Center Foundation board, and fellow board member John Cannon both pointed out that the SVHEC is not receiving many students from the high school to take career and technical classes there.

Adams stressed that business prospects that are considering Halifax don’t want to know how many people can begin their training today. Rather, they want to see evidence of a continuous pipeline of STEM workers.

“These educational pipelines begin in the public schools,” she said.

Another speaker Detra Carr, said he was representing the local NAACP. Carr called for the new superintendent to look at the hiring practices in the local division.

He said only 10 percent of HCPS teachers and administrators are African American, yet they are dealing with a student population that is 50 percent minority.

“We want someone who is a part of this community and who lives here — someone you know who cares,” said Carr. He called for greater diversity training for teachers and administrators, which he argued is sorely lacking in Halifax County.

Carr also said he wanted the next superintendent to work actively with school teachers to maintain classroom discipline.

“We want to have someone who knows how to control the classroom so that teachers can spend their time teaching rather than in dealing with disruptive students,” he said.

The final speaker, Cheryl Watts, said she was not concerned about where the superintendent lives, but rather that the newcomer be involved with school events, softball and baseball games and outside activities.

“I want to see them taking part in what’s going on in this community,” said Watts.

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