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SoVaNow.com / June 05, 2014Let’s spin the hamster wheel and see where it lands:
Personnel matters being personnel matters — as in, confidential — it’s hard to know what led up to this week’s transfer of Halifax County High School Principal Albert Randolph to Halifax County Middle School, where he’ll drop in rank to assistant principal. After 14 years at Halifax County High School, however, it seems only proper to give Randolph his due as a loyal employee, a dutiful educator, and the minder of one of the biggest operations in Halifax County.
And that’s no doubt part of the problem with being HCHS principal; it’s an incredibly demanding job, as you’d expect with a staff of nearly 200 employees, a student body of around 1,600 students, and a sprawling complex to keep an eye on. Randolph’s successor should stipulate that the job comes with a Segway.
I know it’s probably not the right time to bring this up, but at some point Halifax County needs to come to grip with the fact that its high school should be replaced. HCHS is too big, too unwieldy, and it’s all too easy for kids to get lost in its maw. Former superintendent Paul Stapleton attempted to deal with this fundamental problem by breaking up the high school into small academies of learning, but such an ambitious overhaul was never going to be easy and one always had to wonder with Stapleton’s initiatives whether the reality lived up to the hype. It’s perhaps no coincidence that at the same time Randolph is being transferred to HCMS, the School Board this week let go of Buddy Wilborn, who had a primary role in building up the high school motorsports program. Under Stapleton, motorsports was easily the most high-profile of the small academies. Hmm.
How would Halifax County High School be organized in an ideal world? Like a Google campus, perhaps: with a network of high-tech buildings, lovely grounds, and nerds scurrying to and fro. Here in the real world, Stapleton’s vision of fostering a school-wide culture of hands-on, engaged learning was sound, but to do it right you’d need to pour resources into a wide range of programs and curriculum offerings, from pre-K all the way up through 12th grade, and show some patience. That sort of thing is difficult to pull off in Fairfax County, much less Halifax County. If we ever do get around to building a new high school, one hopes due attention will be paid to designing a facility much more in sync with the small academies concept. Opening the STEM Center and shifting classes to the Higher Ed Center helps, but HCHS remains a monolithic place in a niche-driven world.
As a member of the first class to graduate from then-Halifax County Senior High School, I remember quite well the feeling of community pride that the new building inspired at the time. But that was three and a half decades ago (ouch). Does anyone today also wear bell bottoms? Of course, it’s a lot easier to change a pair of jeans than it is to change school buildings, and any consideration of what to do about HCHS must start with the recognition that, right now, there’s no money to do anything much with HCHS. Let’s hope the available option of a change in leadership will help. One thing we do know: Those big shoes left behind by Albert Randolph will be getting a workout.
It took, oh, I don’t know, five minutes for e-mails decrying “Ivory tower EPA regs” (watchdog.org) and “job killing policies” (Americans For Prosperity) to show up on my computer following this week’s unveiling of new federal environmental air quality rules for coal-fired power plants. The new regulations, drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency, give states a great deal of flexibility in coming up with market-based solutions to curb carbon emissions, the main driver of global warming. Of course, right-wing climate change deniers had a freakout over the whole thing, but as usual they’re on the wrong side of history, science, and soon enough (I expect) the politics of the issue. Climate change is real, and even if it weren’t, enforcing limits on coal pollution would make sense regardless. Southside Virginians ought to know this as well as anyone.
Much is yet to be discovered about the relationship between human health and environmental degradation, but I’ve never thought it was any accident that Southside both is a high-risk cancer zone and lies in close proximity to some pretty awful coal polluters. This was especially true before Progress Energy (now Duke Energy) installed scrubbers at its two big power plants over the state line in Person County, the Mayo Power Station (which is actually the power plant closest to Roxboro) and the Roxboro Power Station (near Semora). The emissions equipment, in operation since the end of the previous decade, has cut down on coal pollution, but hardly eliminated it. Mercury pollution remains a significant local concern. Excessive carbon is a world concern. Either way, it’s time to get to work on a fix.
So good for the Obama Administration, and for the vast array of companies — including some electric utilities — that are poised to create new business models for a cleaner planet. Contrary to the brain-dead protestations of the EPA’s critics, the new carbon regulations reward innovation and minimize the disruptions that inevitably must result from moving away from a ubiquitous, cheap, but very dirty source of energy. The bottom line is that coal kills. So does tobacco. If Southside can wean itself off the latter, it can surely survive — and thrive — at the same time it moves away from the former. And the same goes for the rest of the world, too.
If you missed it, be sure to go back and find Jeff Shapiro’s column in the Wednesday edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch (timesdispatch.com). In the piece, Shapiro reports on a recent prayer offered up by Del. Kathy Byron, the Campbell County Republican, at a party retreat at the Homestead Resort. Did Byron express fervent wishes for world peace? Nope. Hosannas for the blessings of living free in this great land of ours? Nope. Byron was nothing if not topical: Her prayer was for Republicans in the General Assembly to stay firm in denying health care to 400,000 struggling Virginians, which could easily be achieved at virtually no cost to the state if only the GOP-led House of Delegates would authorize expansion of Virginia’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.
In Byron’s mind if no one else’s, this apparently is what God Almighty himself would want.
Lord help these people.