Halifax parents demand answers from school board during tense meeting

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Angry parents and nervous teachers packed Halifax’s school board meeting Thursday. Taxpayers want to know why a superintendent was forced out at their expense.

“You are an elected official to represent all of the public,” parent Aaron Popp said to the board.

Well-liked superintendent Dr. Michele Orner was set to resign at the end of the year. On Thursday, the school community found out that instead of finishing her term, she’d be leaving that day.

“The entire building’s spirit just dropped,” said Kimberly Sheeler, a parent in the district. “It was heavy. There were tears, including my own.”

The board voted in favor of a separation agreement which made the superintendent leave right away and is costing taxpayers about $50,000. Orner seemed surprised too, telling community members in an email that her departure was earlier than she had hoped.

Parents weren’t told why the decision was made, and neither were the school board members who voted against it.

Board member Brad Harker asked, “How is it beneficial to the district to create unneeded upheaval and chaos among the staff and a student body during the school year?”

ABC27 wanted to speak with the school board members who voted for the agreement, but many said only the president can comment. President Dean Hile declined our request for an interview.

The district will now have to pay an interim superintendent, too.

“We have school board members that ran on a platform of lower taxes and being fiscally responsible, and they are the very school board members that have pushed her out of the district,” said Beth Hogan, who lives in Halifax.

The board didn’t budge. We still don’t know why the majority of the members wanted Orner to leave so quickly. 

“It would be my advice to the board that it say nothing that would be deemed a violation of the separation agreement,” said Bruce Warshawsky, the school solicitor. 

Another huge concern is the upcoming budget.

Many parents say the board is trying to cut vital resources, and teachers are worried about their jobs. The current plan puts the district in the black and has to be finalized by June.

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