NC Board of Ed: Halifax schools obstructing student achievement

Posted October 7, 2013

— North Carolina’s State Board of Education is putting Halifax County’s struggling school system on notice: Comply with a 2009 court order addressing poor academic performance or face more state control.

State board Chairman William Cobey said in a letter Monday that he has "grave concerns" about how the Halifax County school board has handled Superior Court Judge Howard Manning's order, and accused some members of being "disruptive, uncooperative and obstructionist" in their interactions with the SBE.

He said his staff will begin compiling evidence of the school board’s lack of cooperation in case it is needed in court. That includes recording both open- and closed-session school board meetings, starting Monday night.

"If necessary, the SBE intends to direct its legal counsel to move the Court to broaden the authority of the SBE under the Court Order to ensure the desired educational outcomes for your students despite actions to the contrary," the letter states.

Halifax County school board Chairwoman Donna Hunter said she appreciated Cobey's letter.

"If your focus is on the kids, then you would appreciate the letter because the letter is going to allow us to drive in our lane," Hunter said.

Board member Charles Hedgepeth, however, said he felt like Cobey overstepped his authority.

State Board of Ed slams Halifax school board State Board of Ed slams Halifax school board

"When I ran for the Halifax County school board, I was supposed to exercise my constitutional right by voting and speaking as I choose," he said. "It's seems like that's getting taken away from me. Every time we have a situation, they send me a threatening letter."

After Manning's ruling in April 2009, in which he pointed to poor end-of-grade reading test scores among Halifax County students and called the situation "academic genocide," the SBE dispatched staff members to the school system to help them implement a comprehensive plan to boost academic achievement.

That plan included financial assistance, professional development opportunities, instructional coaching for teachers and administrators, remediation for students and other efforts to improve student performance.

But, despite that help, Cobey said, the school board has driven good administrators and teachers away, repeatedly asked the board chair and superintendent to resign, threatened and bullied administrators over personnel decisions and proposed illegal and discriminatory personnel actions.

In particular, the board voted to rehire a low-performing principal in a central office role against the wishes of the SBE and school system superintendent.

In addition, Cobey alleges, the school board is considering extending fulltime employment to teacher’s assistant, rejecting specific directives from the SBE and State Superintendent June Atkinson not to do so.

That move would "clearly jeopardize (Halifax County Schools’) financial status after only recently recovering from its indebtedness," the letter states.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • piercej05 Oct 9, 2013

    The State Board needs to place blame on whom blame is due: themselves. I was a teacher in Halifax County for two years around the time of the court order. From first hand experience I can say that many of the accusations against the local board were actually actions committed by the state board. The SBE staff in Halifax County are behind many of the immoral practices going on in Halifax County regarding personnel decisions. I witnessed firsthand the SBE staff in Halifax County committing these immoral acts which include bullying and threatening teachers and administrators. This letter from Cobey seems to be saying that the SBE is trying to cover for its inability to enact real change in Halifax County during its presence in the county by placing all of the blame on the local board, an easy scapegoat in this situation.

  • moniquebeatty Oct 9, 2013

    The State BOE is shifting blame from themselves. The state has been in the school system because they were underperforming. Now they have a reason to say why the system is not underperforming. This story is just smoke...

  • moniquebeatty Oct 9, 2013

    This is terrible

  • censorbait Oct 9, 2013

    glarg....Detroit, for example, is deficient in all ways but the voters there are too ill informed and irresponsible to make needed changes. They keep electing the same type folks and expect the results to be different. There is no substitute for competence. When over half of the electorate in a democracy is irresponsible and uneducated, the ballot box cannot cure the problems and the democracy fails.

  • glarg Oct 9, 2013

    This story isnt clear at all. The Halifax School Board is elected by the local citizens. If there is something deficient about its operations it is properly addressed via the ballot box, not some State organization swooping in without legal authority and a lot of threatening 'letters'.

    " the school board has driven good administrators and teachers away, repeatedly asked the board chair and superintendent to resign, threatened and bullied administrators over personnel decisions"

    Ok that sounds like a board which is doing something, not just standing by. The rest is just opinion and rhetoric. Perhaps if the 'personnel decisions' are to leave terrible teachers in the classroom then the admins should be 'threatened and bullied'. And if things are so terrible in the district he runs, why shouldnt the superintendent resign?

    As far as I can see the Board of Ed 'threatened and bullied' the Halifax board. Maybe they all should resign.

  • fuzzmom Oct 9, 2013

    ims1324, what you have describede is a systemic problem throughout the state, not just Durham and Halifax. I'm not sure how you "fix" people voting for their "friends" and families.

  • fuzzmom Oct 9, 2013

    sweetsea2, you may have a point, "If your focus are on the kids." Really? Sad.

  • censorbait Oct 9, 2013

    More money will not help that Halifax county crowd. When someone with the title Dr. in front of their name doesn't use proper English then how do they expect better from the students.

  • green thumbs Oct 8, 2013

    So this is the BOE that SOME "leaders" in Halifax County want to run all the schools i.e. take over Roanoke Rapids and Weldon! Are you kidding me? I do agree with earlier posters that the major problem in the county is the lack of good parenting. I lived and taught there for 33 years in RR. The state BOE needs to find a way to make parents accountable for supporting positive changes in the schools. Not even the best teachers can teach children who do not want to learn anything. How do you overcome a cultural system that has been in place for generations? I have a suggestion on a way to start. Maybe someone from WRAL or the state board should ask me.

  • Rebelyell55 Oct 8, 2013

    I guess that is what happens when ya teach by example huh?