The challenges facing the state in raising student performance in Halifax County schools are not just in the classroom. The State Board of Education has run into roadblocks also from the adults on the Halifax County school board.
In October, State Board of Education Chairman William W. Cobey Jr. wrote to the county board complaining that members “have been disruptive, uncooperative and obstructionist in their interactions with SBE designees and certain (Halifax County school) staff.”
Cobey said in an interview that certain local board members have repeatedly interfered with personnel and budget actions of the local superintendent working with the state turnaround team. He said the state board would take legal action, if necessary, “to keep the progress going forward, not sliding back.”
The letter wasn’t specific about which members of the Halifax board were causing problems. But board member Charles Hedgepeth said he took the accusations personally and challenged their accuracy. He acknowledged that he has called for the resignation of Halifax Superintendent Elease Frederick, as Cobey’s letter said, but said he had not interfered inappropriately.
Hedgepeth also questioned the effectiveness of the state’s effort, saying recent test score gains were not significant. “We’re really no better off than we were,” he said. “They need to pull out and give us five years to turn around our own school system.”
Cobey said the turnaround effort has been successful.
“I think it would be a good model for progress in low-performing schools wherever they are,” he said. “Rather than spreading resources all over the place, take what’s available and concentrate it in the most difficult situations.”
In response to Cobey’s letter, the Halifax school board on Oct. 28 sent a letter reaffirming its commitment to the turnaround effort and pledging to cooperate with the state board. Two members of the seven-member Halifax board did not sign the letter: Hedgepeth and Carolyn Hawkins.