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Bonuses on the way for Halifax County school employees

SoVaNow.com / September 16, 2010
Halifax County school employees will have to wait a little longer for federally-funded bonuses after the School Board on Monday night delayed final action on Superintendent of Schools Paul Stapleton’s recommendation to spend the $1.57 million stimulus money, recently awarded to Halifax County, to boost compensation of school employees.

Following a lengthy discussion in which trustees agreed in principle to the bonuses, board members decided to take a final vote at their regular monthly meeting on Oct. 14. By that time, the School Board will have exact numbers on the check amounts that will be going out.

According to Stapleton, federal funds will not be available until Oct. 1, and the school system will have to advance the money for the bonuses and then be reimbursed for the funds.

“This will give us time to figure out exactly how many employees will receive the bonuses and exactly how much they will be,” now estimated at somewhere between $1,200 to $1,500, Stapleton said.

Stapleton said the bonuses will go to all school employees — bus drivers, janitors, food service workers, secretaries, teachers, aides and principals, with all getting the very same amount. Bill Covington, school finance director, will make a list of all the recipients, Stapleton said, and then divide the total funding of $1,572,136 by the number of employees to come up with the amount of the bonuses.

Not receiving the bonuses will be the top-paid employees of the Central Office, including Stapleton, Deputy School Superintendent Larry Clark, Finance Director Bill Covington and Joe Griles, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction.

Trustees Joe Gasperini and Roger Long asked if the money might be spent to hire new teachers in some of the classes which have high pupil-teacher ratios, but Stapleton pointed out that new hires would be on the payroll in future years and he felt strongly that there would not be money in the coming year’s budget for additional help.

“You know how it is,” Stapleton said, “the last to come would be the first to go, and we would have to let them go since this is a one-time grant that we will not have for next year’s budget.”

Clark responded that aides have already been put in those classrooms where the pupil-teacher ratios have risen and he felt the situation was well under control.

Devin Snead asked if the money could be used to pay substitute teachers or if it could be stashed away for tuition payments for teachers who wished to further their education. Stapleton pointed out that the money has to be spent now since this is a reimbursement method whereby the school system has to show that the money has been spent as the bill requires in order to be reimbursed.

Clark said he had never in his career seen a bill that was crafted with such specific requirements, adding “this is an opportunity for you as a board to show our employees that you do care. You’d be missing a golden opportunity if you don’t approve these bonuses.”

In other business Monday night, trustees were advised that all of the county’s public schools are state accredited.

With the state benchmarks in English, math, history and science being a 70 percent passage rate, students at Halifax County High School averaged 89 percent on English, 90 percent on math, 87 percent on history and 85 percent on science.

At Halifax County Middle School, which also had a 70 percent average passage rate, students scored 89 percent on English, 81 percent on math, 90 percent on history and 89 percent on science.

In other business Monday night trustees heard ED7 trustee Stuart Comer note that he had received several complaints about bus drivers having to drive some 30 miles across the county before they began picking up students. Board chairman Walter Potts asked fellow trustees Gasperini and Fay Satterfield to meet with Comer, Stapleton and Transportation Director Dave Guill to seek information and a resolution to the problems.

Trustees also heard a request from Scott Crowder of the Halifax County Farm Bureau who explained that the Halifax County Fair will host the 2010 Animal Field Day during which time elementary students will be exposed to 4-H work and livestock exhibits. The students from the different elementary schools will arrive on Oct. 5, 6 and 7 and spend the day at the fairgrounds seeing the animals and learning about safety rules and 4-H and FFA projects. The students will be provided with lunch at the event. “We want our youth to understand that we can’t live without agriculture,” Crowder said, “from the clothes we wear to the houses we live in.”

Trustees were also presented with a preview of a local movie being made by two local residents, Roger Thaxton and Ernest Richardson entitled “Life’s Choices,” which shows how the difference in one’s life is affected by the choices made.

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