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Breaking News: Trouble in Halifax

Editor’s Note: We will be updating this story today as it unfolds.

Update: 4:14: The Department of Public Instruction put out a press release just now. 

“We are concerned that the Halifax Board is making decisions that are unaffordable and that undermine the many quality teachers and principals who are trying to make a difference for students,” said State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey in the press release. 

The press release goes on to say that since the 2009 Court Order, DPI has put District and School Transformation division employees in the schools and central office of Halifax County.

“This activity has provided hands-on teacher support – with DPI staff often working side-by-side in classrooms – and principal and central office coaches to improve professionalism and decision making.

“Teachers and principals in Halifax have made progress with student achievement with the assistance of District and School Transformation staff. Today’s actions are intended to improve the environment for teaching and learning,” the press release states. 

Update 3:45pm: Halifax County Schools Superintendent Elease Frederick said she had just read the letter from the State Board of Education minutes ago. 

She said that while the letter went out to board members in an e-mail, she wasn’t sure if they had seen it yet. They are having a board retreat tonight at which she will present the letter. 

Frederick said she and her staff have been working with DPI all along on issues such as personnel hiring in an effort to decide on recommendations.

But Frederick is only able to make recommendations to the Halifax Board, which then has the final say. 

Frederick said she and the Board will need time to digest the State Board’s letter. 

“There may be some other key questions that we may have,” she said. 

The State Board of Education sent a letter today to the Halifax Board of Education criticizing the Halifax Board’s financial decision-making and listing directives the Halifax Board must now follow.

“With the start of the 2015-2016 school year a few days away, it is clear that the HCS Board and leadership are unable or unwilling to make sound financial decisions in order to sustain a financially viable school district,” the letter, signed by State Board Chairman Bill Cobey states. “To our dismay, irresponsible decisions by the HCS Board signal a failure to cooperate with the recommendations by the SBE’s designees.”  

The State Board is requiring that the Halifax Board:

  • Submit by August 21st a 2015-16 budget for Halifax County Schools
  • All employment actions by the Halifax Board must receive prior approval by State Board of Education designees
  • Enroll any Halifax County School student in the North Carolina Virtual Public School for any high school course required for graduation for which a licensed teacher hasn’t been hired. Additionally, Halifax must enroll middle school students in the Virtual Public School for any courses in which a licensed teacher hasn’t been hired

The letter states that if the State Board’s designees find that the budget submitted by the Halifax Board does “not reflect an accurate estimation of expected revenue or expenditure needs,” then the Halifax Board will have to adjust it. 

The letter also states: “…the HCS Board has received ample, repeated written notices, warnings and key recommendations that have not been followed — a clear signal that HCS is not cooperating with the SBE. Therefore, if the HCS Board fails to comply with any directive listed in this letter, the SBE will take immediate legal action…”

Halifax was required to cooperate with the State Board of Education to improve education for Halifax students by a 2009 court consent order in the case Hoke County Board of Education et al. v. State of North Carolina and the State Board of Education, otherwise known as Leandro.

Here is the full letter.

Here are the enclosures to the letter.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.