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Letters to the Editor for April 23, 2009 / April 23, 2009
Unanswered questions

Dear Viewpoint:

I read in both papers about the Supervisors giving Wilson Memorial School to the Ruritans. I was surprised to see that neither paper carried the background information I wanted. I have a few questions, perhaps you could find the answers for me.

Does the school belong only to the supervisors alone or does not the county taxpayers have a say in them giving away our property that is worth several hundred thousands dollars? I must have missed the debate on this one. There was a debate, wasn’t there?

Were any other non-profit organizations such as Doves, Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross or Good Samaritan considered?

Could this building be used for senior apartments, a youth home or a nursing home?

Why did this one school not get listed for sale with all the rest? Was this planned at that time, without it being mentioned to the taxpayers? Do we no longer need the money?

I do not know if anyone else cares about the answers, but I would like to know.

Peggy Valentine

Vernon Hill

Save this job

Dear Viewpoint:

As a citizen, a taxpayer and a voting constituent in Halifax County, I am writing this as an open letter to the Halifax County School Board requesting that said board rescind its decision not to continue the contract of high school English teacher and yearbook advisor Willa Smith for the 2009-2010 school year, and instead offer her a continuing contract with the school system.

I have known Ms. Smith for the past six years, both as a friend and as a member of the Halifax County Little Theatre board of directors. I know her to be a hard working, driven, focused and passionate individual who brings those qualities into the classroom. A teacher with a decade of experience under my own belt, I see in Ms. Smith the same dedication and sense of purpose that have driven my own career. This is not a teacher who shows up for work, gets the job done, and goes home at 3:30 p.m. More often than not, during the weekday Ms. Smith can be found at the high school well after hours working in her capacity as yearbook advisor, grading papers, and supervising student activity. I have known her to still be at work at 7:00 p.m., working through budgeting issues and layout for the yearbook, selling ads, and organizing fundraisers. Furthermore, in her off hours Ms. Smith and I have had a number of discussions about her work – discussions filled with her enthusiasm, her excitement, and her concern for her students and the progress they are making in her class.

The Halifax County yearbook program has won awards for each of the three issues she has guided to publication, including a state award for the past year. The yearbook receives little funding from the school system; revenue is generated through ad sales, student-organized fund drives, and yearbook sales – all of which Ms. Smith oversees. The students in her program have had the opportunity to travel to conferences related to their work on the yearbook under her supervision, most notably to New York City. I am sure that county residents with school age children are desirous of such opportunities for our students, opportunities in which they can tangibly see the connection between their hard work and success, and in which they are afforded the chance to see the relationship between what they do in school and the greater world.

Anyone can be taught how to teach, but a true teacher is born, not made. I have long believed this to be a truism, and in Ms. Smith’s case it is clear that she is a born teacher. Her rapport with her students, the amount of trust and respect they demonstrate for her, cannot be manufactured through poor teaching. It is the product of purpose, dedication, discipline, and passion. Adolescents are not stupid; they know when they are being duped, and they know the real thing when they see it. The response of her students to her teaching and her work on the yearbook clearly show that Ms. Smith is the real thing – a true teacher, and one the students admire and respect as a role model. A product of the Halifax County school system herself, Ms. Smith is an exemplary example of the kind of citizen our schools are capable of producing, one involved in community events and service as well as her job, and the students respond to this. Furthermore, as a lifetime resident of the area and product of the school system herself, she has an understanding of the specific characteristics and needs of students in Halifax County – a very great asset in planning lessons and designing curriculum that will reach our students and help them to succeed in the classroom.

I find it baffling, to say the least, in light of the above statements, that the school board would choose not to continue such a teacher’s contract. Who will she be replaced with – someone from outside of the county, who does not intrinsically understand our student population and the specific characteristics thereof? Someone to run the Halifax County yearbook who is not familiar with the traditions and values of the community? The Halifax County yearbook is the only historical document being produced annually in this area. It is a record of the school system and the students within it. Should such a record not be entrusted to a woman who, as a student once herself in Halifax County, understands what the community wants and needs in this record, and has demonstrated that understanding with award-winning results for three years straight? Does the school system instead want someone who is looking for a job as a teacher and has the required credentials, but may or may not be demonstrably effective in the Halifax County classroom?

I believe that if this action is seen through and Ms. Smith is not awarded a continuing contract, it is proof that our school system is deeply flawed and mired in bureaucracy to a point at which it is no longer functioning in its capacity to hire and retain skilled and dedicated teachers. A good system retains good teachers; good teachers should be rewarded for their efforts. In a system in which a teacher who has demonstrably gone the extra mile to help her students achieve success both in and out of the classroom is not retained, I have to question the leadership involved in such a decision. I am sure other citizens concerned with the quality of education and with the availability of educational opportunities for travel and real world experience for their children in this county would agree that a school board that willfully chooses not to continue the contract of a young, dedicated and passionate local teacher, one who wants to be here and loves working with our students, is negligible at best. Any replacement stepping into the position Ms. Smith has so ably and passionately filled would have to be exemplary and beyond reproach of any kind for such a decision not to absolutely affect my vote for school board officials in the next election; I am sure there are many who will agree with me.

In light of Ms. Smith’s clear passion for teaching, concern for her students, dedication and hard work on the job well above and beyond the call of duty; in light of the support the high school English department has shown for her continued employment in her capacity as an English teacher and yearbook advisor, and as the mother of children who will soon enter the Halifax County school system themselves, I believe the choice is clear: Ms. Smith has more than earned the right to a continuing contract with the high school. It is almost criminal that in an era in which school standards are falling and good and dedicated teachers are difficult to come by, we have one in our midst and the school board intends to cast her aside. I strongly urge that this decision be reversed, and that Ms. Smith be reinstated in her position as English teacher and yearbook advisor at the Halifax County high school.


Melissa Ridley-Elmes

A.B., College of William and Mary

M.A., Longwood University ‘09

English & AP Art History Instructor, The Carlbrook School

Be thankful

Dear Viewpoint:

The other day I was talking to a friend who said that there really isn’t very much to be thankful for right now. He said the economy is in such terrible shape we owe money to China and we’re still involved in 2 wars. How depressing.

I said to him when you think about it there really is a lot to be thankful for. Your health, your family, your friends, your church, a roof over your head, armed forces that protect us abroad, and police that protect us locally and also coming to terms that we are probably living in the best country in the world that has ever existed.

Paul DuPont

Joyful noise

Dear Viewpoint:

Joyful Noise Unto the Lord - Oh praise the Lord! I went to a gospel sing Sunday all the way to DC (Down Clover). The Gospel sing was at the Clover United Methodist Church and if you missed it, it’s your own fault, just that plain and simple. The gospel sing was published in your local news paper and broadcast from our local radio station. So if you didn’t read about it or hear it on the radio, you need to subscribe to the News & Record and listen to WHLF 95.3 and I give you my word as a gentleman you won’t miss anything that’s happening far or wide, just me.

Now that I have your undivided attention, there were four groups and one far way as Danville and people as far as Providence, NC. Wow! Wonder how they discovered DC’s gospel sing? Could it be so? Go figure. These groups were Kyle Martin and the Get Together Band that took center stage as the closing group, DC, Virginia Sun Rise Gospel Band, Danville, VA, Fork Blue Grass Brand, Scottburg and the God of Prophecy Group, Scottsburg.

A member of the Virginia Sun Rise Band ask the question, “How long were they to perform and someone stated, “The rest of your life,” well it must be true, to much of a good thing is a good thing.

Please don’t hold me accountable for mistakes of group names and their locations because there was an unexpected surprise for us and I had a sugar rush. There was a fest in the fellowship room after the gospel sing and just as in the Bible, God multiplied the fish and loaf and there was abundance gathered up.

On one more note. I got to meet people from Old Halifax County High School (Middle School), I had not seen in years gone by, well many years and even some co-workers (JPS). So that proves there is but one God that really works in mysterious ways and he created the heaven and the earth, man, woman and everything that’s good and he loves you and me and his son, Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins. That’s a fact!

So when you read or hear about gatherings of this nature please go and support them. Drive a little and like me, my soul was fed on good gospel music and my stomach was fed from the labor and fruit of the harvest.

God Bless,

Jim Glass


Give peace a chance

Dear Viewpoint:

During the week of April 6-10, Peer Mediators at Halifax County High School held Increase the Peace Week. We organized daily activities to encourage students to use peaceful words rather than violent actions to solve their problems. Most of the students signed a pledge for peace, agreeing to treat others with respect.

Some of the activities included a collection of money called Change for Peace, which involved a competition among the classes. Half of the proceeds from this activity will go to Kaila Miller, an HCHS student who suffers from kidney disease. We also had a basketball contest (Make Peace Your Goal), a poster contest, and a Peace Egg hunt. Additionally, daily drawings were held from among the names of students and teachers who signed the Pledge for Peace. Peer Mediators would like to thank the following businesses and individuals who made contributions: the Halifax County South Boston YMCA, Hardees, Matthew McCargo, Linder Martin and the HCHS SCA, Allen Lawter, Bistro 1888, Bridgett Fallen and the HCHS horticulture classes, and the HCHS culinary arts classes of Ms. Donna Adams. Their generous support helped make Increase the Peace Week a success.

Yours truly, Elizabeth G. Layne

HCHS Peer Mediation Sponsor

Signups set

Dear Viewpoint:

The Ms. Halifax County Pageant of Hope registration deadline is quickly approaching. Don’t forget, Friday, May 8 is the deadline to signup for the 1st Annual Pageant to help cancer patients in Halifax County. Practice will be at the high school on Monday, May 11 at 6:00 p.m. The pageant will be held on Saturday, May 23, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. in the high school auditorium. Applications are available at any of the Halifax County schools, Hair Gallery, Pino’s in Halifax, Eclipse, Dairy Express in Centerville, YMCA or the Chamber of Commerce. For more information, call Jackie Meadows, Pageant Director, 572-6723 or Clara Rogers, 579-3379. The pageant is open to any girls ages 2 and over. Age 19 and over can be married with children. The winners of this event will be at the Walk for Hope on September 19, 2009 at Constitution Square and in the South Boston Christmas Parade in December. The money raised from this event will stay right here in Halifax County helping out own cancer patients with cancer related medical bills, gas vouchers, supplies and medications, wigs/turbans, in-home care and much more. If you or someone you know needs our help, please call 572-2714. Leave a message and we will return your call. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation, please send to HCCA, P.O. Box 875, South Boston, VA 24592.

Clara Rogers

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