By Brandon Martin
Thomas Auker, of the Blackberry District, was elected to take the helm and serve as chairman of the Henry County School Board during an organizational meeting held on Jan. 2.
Auker was nominated by former chairman Francis Zehr, of the Ridgeway District. The nomination was seconded by Terri Flanagan, of the Horsepasture District, and passed unanimously, with the exception of Auker, who abstained.
Zehr also nominated Dr. Merris Stambaugh, of the Collinsville District, to the position of vice-chairman. The motion was seconded by Teddy Martin II, of Reed Creek District. It also was approved unanimously.
In other matters:
- Revisions to school board policies were approved based on a motion from Flanagan.
- Benjamin Gravely, from the Iriswood District, made a motion to re-appropriate $939,997 of unexpended school funds from the fiscal year 2019 budget to pay for the Bassett High School Roof Project and various items on the Capital Improvement Plan.
- The board also awarded a $26,202 contract to Douglas Equipment Company of Bluefield, W. Va., for kitchen repairs.
- Superintendent Sandy Strayer also nominated Leslie Riddle as clerk and Monica Hatchett as deputy clerk. The nominations both received unanimous support from the school board.
- The board unanimously approved the dates and times of school board meetings in 2020.
- Strayer also selected David Scott, assistant superintendent of Operations and Administrative Services, to “attend school board meetings” in her absence.
- Adopted the 2020 Virginia School Boards Association Code of Conduct.
- Approved a revised budget calendar.
- Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Lisa Millner presented updates regarding the school board’s strategic plan Inspire 2025. The plan was divided into four goals: high quality instruction, high quality professionals, a safe and innovative learning environment, and family and community engagement.
Millner discussed past successes and highlighted future goals like adopting ” a new science textbook as a resource for teachers” in grades kindergarten through 12th grade.
She said that “implementing new electronic orientation videos and programs for substitutes and new teachers” and “upgrading to handheld radios for mass notification at both high schools” are two other steps the school system is looking to implement in the future.
- During the public comment portion of the meeting, the board heard from Dorothy Carter, president of the Henry County Education Association, who implored the school board to fix salary issues for school employees.
“January is a time where we make resolutions. Our members have resolved to do the best we can for the children, whether that is driving the school bus, preparing a meal, cleaning the building. We would ask our school board tonight to resolve to do the best you can for us,” Carter said. “I’m asking this school board to correct our salary scale. It’s not correct,” referring to the step process that the school uses.
- Curtis Millner, former school board member, lobbied the school board to address issues with the cafeteria at G.W. Carver Elementary School.
“The school has been remodeled a couple of times. The cafeteria has not changed,” Millner stated. “The kitchen area is the smallest kitchen area in all of the schools in the district. It’s been that way for over 70 years. This is bad.”
He said he fears that Carver students don’t have “equal access to a cafeteria,” drawing on the times of “separate but equal schools” to elaborate his point.