Superintendent could lose job

Despite low scores, state board says it won't fire Halifax's Middleton

Staff writerAugust 7, 2009 

Students in Halifax County did so poorly on annual tests that the state Board of Education has the legal authority to fire the superintendent.

But state board chairman Bill Harrison showed a preference for working with Halifax Superintendent Geraldine Middleton rather than firing her.

Nine of the district's 13 schools are low performing; meaning fewer than half the students passed yearly tests and made less-than-expected progress.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning in April ordered the state to oversee education in Halifax, saying the poor, rural district was committing "academic genocide."

DPI administrators have been working with Halifax since February, but the department intensified its efforts in response to the judge's order. The state organized special training and coaching for teachers, principals and central office staff, and plans to take other steps when school begins.

Harrison said last spring that he expected to see improvements this year.

"We were expecting a little more improvement than we saw," Harrison said Thursday.

Looking long-term

The best way to make long-lasting change in Halifax is to work with local officials, rather than fire people and get only short-term improvement, he added.

"You don't build things up by tearing things down," Harrison said. "We fully anticipate in three to four years we're going to see completely different outcomes in Halifax County."

Middleton could not be reached for comment Thursday.

lynn.bonner@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4821

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