Superintendent follows passion of helping childrenPublished 11:11am Saturday, July 20, 2013
BY MERLE MONAHAN/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
FRANKLIN – Dr. Michelle Belle, superintendent of Franklin Public Schools, said she always wanted to be an undertaker.
“That’s true,” she said. “I don’t know where the idea came from, but I can remember thinking when I was a little girl that this would be something I’d like to do. Maybe it’s because I like helping others, especially people who need help, and this would be a time when families who’d lost a loved one would need consoling.
“Anyway, this was on my mind a lot and I fully expected to become an undertaker when I graduated from high school.”
In 1994, Belle began to think about her other passion, teaching children, and began preparing for a future in this field.
“I was married and had children of my own, but I entered college anyway. Actually, my children and I were all in school at the same time,” she said.
Belle, who accepted the position of division superintendent of Franklin Public Schools in 2009, is, however, where she wants to be now.
“My real passion is helping children,” she said, adding that she has worked in this field for several years and feels that here she has the chance to make a difference.
Born in Montclair, N.J., and raised in Plainfield, N.J., Belle earned her bachelor’s in business administration at Seton Hall University. She received her master’s in education at Virginia State University and an educational leadership degree at Longwood University.
She earned her doctoral degree in administrative supervision at Virginia State.
The dedicated educator started her career in Cumberland County, Va., where she first became a high school teacher. She was later promoted to assistant principal, then principal, and finally assistant supervisor of human resources before coming to Franklin.
Her four years here have been rewarding.
“Not only do we have a good school system, but the entire city is great. The people are friendly and courteous. I really love working here,” said Belle.
She admitted there are challenges in the school system, however.
“We have so many wonderful people in the system working so hard, but we have not yet gotten the results we want,” she said. “We want the Franklin School System to be at the top, as it should be.”
“We want our graduates to be able to say they came from a top-rated school,” Belle went on, “One well known for its high standards and excellence in education.”
“There are some real hurdles out there and our graduates need to be prepared,” she added.
Her duties require her to visit the schools and she does periodically, but Belle said she spends much of her time at meetings, some as far away as Norfolk and Williamsburg.
“Meetings are necessary, of course, but they do take up a lot of time,” she said.
On the other hand, Belle relishes the time she gets to spend at her office, where she gets to work with her staff and meet with visitors.
“I have a wonderful staff,” she said. “They do so much for me.”
In talking about herself, Belle considers herself a fair person, she says, although she does not hesitate to say what she thinks.
“I am always the same. I am consistent and I am frank. I like to discuss issues openly so there will be no miscommunication.
“On the other hand, I am a great listener. There is always another side to an issue.”
NAME: Dr. Michelle R. Belle
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS AREA: A school superintendent vacancy, with the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our children.
HOMETOWN: Cumberland, Va., via Plainfield, N.J.
OCCUPATION: Division superintendent of Franklin Public Schools.
MARITAL STATUS: Married to Alfonso Belle.
CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND AGES: Son, Diamand, 24, University of Richmond; daughter, Ivana, 24, head volleyball coach, Virginia State University; and son Jule, 21, North Carolina State University, graduate student.
FAVORITE NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN: Saturday, watching a sporting event and dinner with my family.
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Legal Seafoods in Washington, D.C.
FAVORITE FOOD AND BEVERAGE: Stuffed flounder with mixed vegetables and lemonade.
WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU: That I am an animal lover.
WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT YOURSELF: I love helping others.
PETS: 3 dogs, 8 cats and a rooster.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST HABIT: Sticking things in my ears.
FAVORITE HOBBIES: Attending sports events, listening to music, walking, and doing things with my family.
PET PEEVE: Delayed flights and trains, or long layovers.
FIRST JOB: Clerk typist for the City of Plainfield, Office of Public Works and Urban Development.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED: As someone who had a passion to help children become successful while reaching their goals. And as someone who was good to others.
IF YOU HAD TEN MINUTES ON NATIONAL TELEVISION, WHAT WOULD YOUR TOPIC BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY: My topic would be education for children. I would urge our children to attend school regularly and to stay in school until they finished their education.