Click this photo to launch the video player. The School Board's discussion on FCPSS begins around the 01:03:00 mark of the video.
Click this photo to launch the video player. The School Board's discussion on FCPSS begins around the 01:03:00 mark of the video.

Archived Story

State Board rips Franklin schools’ leadership

Published 10:24am Friday, September 27, 2013

RICHMOND—The Virginia Board of Education expressed serious concerns about the failure of division-level leadership in the Franklin City Public Schools System, which has resulted in poor student performance. This took place during the state school board meeting on Thursday in Richmond.

Franklin School Board Chair Edna King and Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle were in attendance for a hearing to determine if the state school board would require FCPSS to undergo a division-level academic review. Unlike the school-level reviews the state conducted this past spring, which analyzed school-specific policies and procedures, a division-level assessment focuses on the division leadership, including the school board, superintendent and key central office administrators.

Dr. Kathleen M. Smith, director of the Office of School Improvement, began by stating that FCPSS has not met most of the federal benchmarks for Standards of Quality. Further, she noted five code citations, which are:

• At S.P. Morton, no remediation or intervention programs in place for fifth-grade students during initial visit; after-school tutoring subsequently offered

• At Franklin High School, there’s no evidence of supplemental assistance during the school day during initial visit; supplemental assistance for mathematics subsequently offered.

• Concerns listed in a personnel audit are applicable to all schools. For example, greater care should be used when hiring administrative and supervisory staff to be sure individuals either hold or qualify for the appropriate license and endorsement before an offer of employment is made.

• All schools rated accredited with warning

• Lack of targeted and job-embedded professional development noted in all schools, lack of monitoring and follow-up noted in all schools. Lesson plans didn’t reflect use of student performance data in instructional planning.

“At one time, the schools were not in this situation,” Smith said. “Scores haven’t always been a problem…it started in 2009-2010 and has deteriorated.

“We want to see action plans implemented and monitored,” she continued.

Diane Atkinson, committee chairwoman, said three things stood out of her that really highlights a division-level issue. One, the professional development that’s necessary on the new standards; two, the lack of intervention for the students; and three, there’s also a disconnect between interventions and what’s happening in the classrooms.

“It’s essential for our children to progress… It is a serious concern,” Atkinson said.

Adding to that were comments from board member Winsome Sears.

“This does appear this is a division-level problem. It all starts at the top, and a majority of the current board was there when the problems were identified,” she said referencing King’s appointment to the seven-member Franklin school board in 2009.

“There were problems beforehand, and they became apparent from 2009 onward. There is absolutely a lack of accountability,” continued Sears, speaking then directly to King, “You yourself said it’s been there all this time…The students aren’t getting what they need.”

Further, Sears noted that King had “touted the hiring of all the people to make things better,” and asked her about the board and their expertise.

In response, King said she became chairwoman in 2011-2012, and that the board is “a corporate power. So one member of a school board cannot make a difference. You can present ideas and concepts, but it does not mean it’s going to happen.”

She said she came on board in 2009 and could speak to things that have happened since.

“We made some major shifts in leadership in our central office in order that we would understand the delineated authority of those persons who work at the central office. As a result, we then decided as a board to delegate leadership authority to our building principals for instruction. That’s a major change. Research shows that when building principals are the leaders of instruction in their schools, then the type of instructional needs of students right there in that building for immediate needed corrections or whatever.”

“The leadership of the principals concerns me,” said Atkinson.

Sears asked again about the makeup of the Franklin school board, and wondered, “if the past was prologue… The problems are extremely egregious. There’s no remediation. No evidence of supplemental assistance.”

“What I would like to see from you, Dr. Belle, is that you have a team in place for what can be fixed,” said Betsy D. Beamer, school board vice president.

“This is a public confidence issue,” said board member Dr. Billy K. Cannaday Jr. “You have a chance to correct the matter. You have to regain the public’s trust. Listen to the academic review team. I don’t want to hear what you’ll do. I want to see. Don’t challenge them, ask for clarifications. The plan in place now isn’t working.”

Christian N. Braunlich, another board member, noted the turnover of principals at the three schools, four at the high school, five at the middle school and two at the elementary school.

“I care about the impact on kids,” Braunlich said. “Right now you’re failing these kids. Frankly, that happened on your watch. You’ve had your chance to fix this. You’ve got to fix this.”

Julie Grimes, communications manager for the Virginia Department of Education,

later confirmed the state board will make its decision on whether or not to place Franklin under division-level academic review at the next meeting on Thursday, Oct. 24.

“Should the board members have further questions, hopefully, they’ll have the answers this time,” she said. “Based on what was outlined today, the division clearly meets the criteria for division-level review.”

That afternoon, Belle spoke to The Tidewater News.

“Very honestly, I appreciate the things that were said. The bottom line is there are some things that need to be corrected,” she said. “Any assistance they’re going to render to us is appreciated and will be followed.

“I think we got a lot of great feedback,” Belle continued. “It was a very serious tone, and I truly appreciate that. Those that spoke were trying to establish that we’ve got to make this work.”

She said the school system has been this doing all along, but also recognized that “a different set of eyes” will help FCPSS see whatever needs to be fixed.

“I respect that and will follow through whatever they require and ask us to do,” Belle said.

She agreed with a remark by Cannady that no superintendent or teacher sets out to fail.

“I will fight that fight until it’s time to throw in the towel,” Belle said. “Now is not the time to throw in the towel.”

  • JustWondering

    School Board meets tonight…

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  • jigganva

    I happen to be an educator, parent, and an African American. I understand that as a parent, I am my child’s first and possibly most important teacher. I am fully vested in my child’s education both, physically and academically. I have witnessed many parents from all backgrounds who are not involved in their child’s development. Some simply don’t have the tools or education to help their Children succeed. Everyone knows of that kid that came from an affluent family and ran into trouble or did not rePresent his family well. Is the parent solely to blame or the ills of society. Drop the hatred and racial overtones. In my observations students who come from Dircester Square, Berkley, Suburban Gardens have made tremendous cOntributions to society They were the Ones who realized their key to success is tied to education. Each one teach one. Start in your own house!

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    • TaxMax

      Do you copy and paste the same statement in all of your comments.

      You state, “Some simply don’t have the tools or education to help their Children succeed.” Why do you think that is the case? Is it just happening in this generation or is it cyclical?

      How many years have you been an educator? Have you seen this each year as a teacher? What have you done as an educator to give these “tools” to the parent who don’t have them?

      Well, where are these “Ones” from Dorchester, etc. to come back and help the kids now?

      And again, you bring of racial overtones with your statement of being African-American. Why does that matter? You don’t have to be any different color to be on welfare or affluent as you imply. If you are born in the United States of American, you are an AMERICAN!

      And lastly, THANK YOU for having a vested interest in your child’s education. If more parents cared we wouldn’t be having these discussions!

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      • jigganva

        As a teacher at a public school, I don’t get to pick and choose the students in my class. Whether they come to school ready to learn and come from loving supporting homes, I have a job to do. I try to help them attain a level of success or improve on their education from years prior. In over words put them in a better place than they were before they got me! It’s so obvious that yes students that come from supportive households theoretically should perform better than neglected or ones from uninvolved parents. The reality is instead of pointing fingers at the parents, we need to look at our superintendent (who may not be up to the job), principals, teachers and do our job of educating all children. There are examples of success with the Harlem Children’s Zone with Jeffrey Canaday, Chicago All-Boys School and a program in Connecticut. It may take a politically incorrect approach but not bashing “welfare recipients” as the only problem is all I’m saying. I have parents both black and white who can buy their child $250 yes $250 sneakers but will not buy a $1 notebook. So I make sure I buy extra school supplies and at the beginning of the school year I’m handing out book bags, pencils, notebooks etc. to some kids whose parents drive a better car and live in a bigger house than myself.

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      • jigganva

        I host a family literacy night where parents can come out and read with their children, hear stories and eat pizza. You’ll be surprised what free food can do! I send home weekly newsletters so the parents can stay abreast as to what is going on in my class and I communicate when I notice changes in the child’s behavior and grades whether good or bad. I felt I needed to directly inject race in this discussion because of my knowledge and experience with the issue in Franklin. I hundreds of successful people who came out of Franklin. Some are doctors, lawyers, principals and business people and guess what, they Are black. Reading comments up here all I hear about is the EBT users at Walmart with the scarf on her head.

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  • thomasmore

    After watching this video, I am truly embarassed. I actually want to show this video to my 9 year old daughter as a cautionary tale: “How to NOT look like an idiot in public”.

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  • movingrightalong

    After watching this video I now understand why the Franklin schools are in the situation they are in. Belle and King need to leave immediately, and whoever enabled those 2 to be in the positions they are in need to be right behind them on the way out.
    I could walk through Wal Mart at 3:00am with my eyes closed and find someone more competent.

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  • pmich23

    For starters, Dr. Belle, Mrs. King, and Ms. Wade need to go and go now. When Dr. Belle arrived late for a morning meeting at the School Board office in what appeared to be her bedroom slippers, that told me all I needed to know about her lack of seriousness in helping our kids get their best possible education.

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  • mason

    jeremyck1, you have it so right! It’s one thing for us to blurt out emotionally appealing thoughts in these electronic comments, but what we really need is for someone with authority in our community, after conferring with state authorities to lay our a plan, to take decisive, public ACTION–and promptly, even if the action can be nothing more than for City Council to draft a resolution calling for the resignation of certain school board members… right after firing the superintendent. To even begin to fix things, it will take those with power in town to ACT, because all the great stuff we’re saying in these comments is doing squat.

    For starters, let’s all write a real letter to–or at least call–our Council member about it. THAT’S something we could ALL do that could make a real difference!

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  • usetobehome

    Couple of observations from the outside looking in at this point:

    1. The fact that this is in the headlines, and out for everyone to see- would lead to automatic voluntary resignations in the business world, and most politically held elected positions, when this level of failure is reached, and now made public for everyone to understand.

    2. Again, just an observation here from 230 miles away – Regardless of what initials are in front of the leaders names, and, or behind them. You seem to have the uneducated trying to educate children in the school system, and trying to convince everyone else in the public that they are capable of doing so. – Obviously not the case here, based on the results.

    3. As some have referenced, times have changed. There are many great current, and past residents who have strong favorable memories of what FCPS once were. And many are correct, when saying the city’s current state of economics is the driving force for the quality of the school system, or at the very minimum closely connected. When Union Camp was “Union Camp” Franklin was thriving in most areas. Even families who did not have relatives working there, benefited from the fact that Franklin was a town where other businesses were successful in a feeder and support system anchored by Union Camp. The school system was not any different. Now with out a mega employer, providing an opportunity for those with formal education and those without to earn an above average income, the area has recessed economically in whole.

    4. Someone mentioned earlier because you are not there, doesn’t mean you would not want the schools to be first class, and the area to be doing well. – That is definitely true. There is always a tie back to the area, whether your family is still there, your friends are still there, where you went to church, got married, played sports, and did so many things that will forever be your favorite memories of growing up in a small town, it is a sense of pride that you want to have when you tell people where your from. You want something that is a positive, that stands out, where people not from the area would know where your talking about. It forever use to be UC or IP, but now? Just Hw58, to 95, from Va Beach to Emporia, a small stop on the way. Use to be don’t stop on the South street exit to get gas, now keep on moving to Courtland to stop for gas.

    5. I hope the city unifies and cleans house here in this situation. I also hope that the county, and city come together to promote itself as an available, and marketable area to attract big business and development. I know many, including my own family would shrug off that idea, but I can tell you- that is what would be needed most to make not only a clean sweep, but also infuse a new culture of excellence as the standard, and not accept this failure taking place. And this is not a jab at the other area schools, but take a look at their ratings compared to other schools in the state. Southampton isn’t knocking the ball out of the park, but compared to Franklin they look like the best option. The Academy is good for academics, but the social skills are lost along the way by not being exposed to the good type of diversity- not necessarily black, white, or brown, but all type of diversity in personality, backgrounds, etc. that is truly a learning opportunity for young people. So there is a trade off that takes place there. College preparatory is a stretch, as described in is mission statement-I went there, and my college experience was nothing similar. Excelled in college academically, and socially, but was not necessarily prepared by SA. 90% of all who would become my best friends attended Franklin Schools were much more prepared for college, during the late 80′s-2000 era, raved about their school experience, and had so many stories to share that helped them prepare for the world as it is today. Living right on the cut off, knowing what I know now I would have definitely gone to Franklin schools all the way through. I hope FCPS can get back to those days, and SCPS can continue to perform well. When this happens the whole area is a much more attractive place to be for everyone, past and present.

    Good Luck!

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    • broman

      Thanks usedtobehome, now I don’t have to type all that. Like mom22 I graduated in ’79 and while I don’t live in Franklin any more my extended family does. Your first point was the first in my mind also after watching the video. Both resignations should have been tendered that very day. Those ‘educators’ are taking Franklin’s money and providing nothing but doublespeak in return. The first step is to ask for their resignations since they are not going to volunteer them.

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  • jeremyck1

    Franklin why are so many of you complaining on a TN board instead of gathering and demanding Dr. Belle’s resignation? What I learned in my time in Franklin is that a lot of the people in Franklin are great at posting on the TN comment board but that is where their action stops. You are afraid to gather as a group and demand something new be done. You are afraid to stand united and demand change. You watch day after day as your schools fail and yet a majority of you do nothing! This is your child’s education and the city’s future you are talking about and yet 99% of you just sit around and complain on a TN board instead of taking action. Your city and schools will continue to be failures unless you decide it is worth fighting for and, from what I have witnessed first hand, this is not the case. You have great leadership at both the middle and high school. Lisa, Ricky, and Travis know and understand the issues, educationally and demographically, and if they are allowed to do their job you will begin seeing success. (Dr. Rollins, we have never met so I can not state whether you are a beneficial addition to FCPS or not.) Where has Dr. Belle been this whole time? It is time for you to ask Dr. Belle and the board to prove what they have accomplished during her tenure. She has helped FCPS fall into further into disrepair. She has run off some amazing administrators, teachers, and support staff. She has, somehow, convinced the board she is doing her job. It is time Franklin to stand up and fight for the good of your city. If you don’t take a stand now, you only have yourselves to blame. Be brave, stand together, and show your children that their education is important. If you don’t fight for them no one else will! How do I know all of this? I am a former principal at JPK. I left and took the many lessons I learned about top level leadership and how easily it can fail a system and I ran. I am now a principal at one of the top high schools in Florida thanks to what I learned. I have fond memories of working in Franklin City, but not FCPS, and the many friends I left behind. Good luck to each of you. Keep fighting the good fight and please go out and help your city change for the better. Your children deserve it! If not, call me, I am always looking for a few good teachers and administrators.

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    • gunner58

      Please share your experiences and why you chose to resign. It could be enlightening to all of us locals.

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  • midwest2va

    Thank you to TN for posting this very important and detailed video. I was interested in the questions that were asked by the state board regarding how the FCPS School Board Members acquire their seat. I have said for years, and have made this comment to the City of Franklin City Council, that FCPS School Board Members should be ELECTED Positions. I was actually told by a City Council member one time that “it would never happen in the City of Franklin. I have not let that stop me from continuing to make that suggestion.

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  • mom22

    I graduated from FHS in 1979 and feel that I got a first-class education. It saddens me to see what has become of it now.

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  • bobs94

    The situation that the schools have found themselves in is a direct reflection of the city itself. The remainder of what I am going to say is likely going to offend some, if not all of you. It will all be based on facts so if you are offended by what I say then you need to toughen up some.

    Franklin is a horrible city. There is nothing to really to do there apparently but to sell drugs, get drunk, and have kids to repeat the cycle. I remember an editorial in the TN from around 1995 from a FHS student that said the only thing to do in Franklin was “watching the corn grow”. I believe that to be much more the case today than it was 18 years ago. Without enrichment activities for people to take part in, people tend to do one of two things, leave the area or stay. I think you will find that the more intelligent people leave and the less capable stay. This is the first major problem with the schools today. The parents of the children are less capable of helping their kids than in years passed. Some of the parents simply do not care at all. These are problems that are not quickly or easily corrected. There has got to be accountability in the homes. If the schools are not getting the job done, then the parents must step in to fill the void.

    Franklin has a large population of black residents (56.9%). Study after study has shown that blacks generally perform poorer in academics, particularly in Math and English than whites. There are many theories as to why this happens, with the most prevailing being that blacks tend to put less emphasis on marriage than whites. Studies have shown that children have a greater chance of thriving in two parent homes than in a single parent setting.

    Franklin also has an alarmingly high rate (34.9%) of children under 18 living in a household that is below the poverty line. Studies have shown that children in these settings also perform poorer than those with greater incomes.

    Being a former resident of Franklin I can also speak to another significant issue that plagues the city. Franklin’s residents are almost obsessed with race. There is far less emphasis placed on electing, hiring, and promoting a qualified person than there is on placing a minority into a leadership position. Now there are certainly plenty of qualified black men and women out there. I’m not suggesting otherwise. But I do remember a black council member wanting to hire more black police officers instead of more qualified police officers.

    How do you fix your problems? I would first start with birth control. Women need to stop reproducing before they have had a chance to educate and establish themselves. This will ease the strain on the resources the city has. Students do better in two parent homes. Second, I would aggressively court businesses to the area, even if it were at a revenue neutral cost. People need meaningful employment and students do better when they are not living in poverty. Leadership needs to change in the schools. Hire the most qualified leaders with no consideration given to race. Open another alternative school for those that are having a difficult time learning the material being taught. There should be separation between those that are achieving and those that are not. With a school system as small as Franklin this could be achieved with modular units. Offer increased pay and performance based rewards for those teaching those students.

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    • goodgirl

      bobs 94: Totally agree with you. The sad part is the cycle will continue – teenagers having babies living in poverty. Franklin has always had its share of lower-income families, but with the amount of births by teen moms escalating out of control of those areas, there are bound to be problems like these. Some of these kids could care less about learning in school and tend to cause a lot of disruptions. I am also a graduate of Franklin High School (early 1990s) and things have definitely changed since then. The dynamics were very different back then has well. I agree that the administration needs to be changed, but a lot of the problems come from the home. It is sad that so many parents do not want their kids to attend Franklin. They have lost a lot of good teachers as well.

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    • JustWondering

      You might want to read the 18+ years of research on 90/90/90 schools. Many people wrongly assume there is an inextricable relationship between poverty, race, and academic achievement. The research 90/90/90 and other make it clear that the issues are not poverty and race. So remove those “issues” and see which are left, and THOSE are what need to be addressed. You might want to read the research about socioeconomic status and academics. Seems the “dividing line” is $$$ not race. So Franklin being a poor community… You draw the conclusion. Bottom line again is that student race is not the issue.

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      • bobs94

        Provide a link and I will take a look.

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      • TaxMax

        Uh, what side of the bed did you get up on if you don’t think this is the problem in Franklin??? Statistics can prove what you want them to prove. And no, not every minority child in the FCPS falls into this category but, if you polled the teachers who work with these kids on a daily basis I bet their statistics would beat your 90/90/90 hands down!

        That is the problem in this town. We see the kid with the cookie crumbs on his face and in his lap and ask him if he ate the cookies. He says no. Then we call his mom, show her the evidence and she denies he ate the cookies and that he would never eat a cookie if he wasn’t supposed to. Then on the way home she stops to buy him more cookies and the cycle continues!

        Wake up and look at the facts in Franklin!

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      • TaxMax
  • kschwolow

    Thank you TN for reporting this, and posting this entire video. The lack of accountability and competence was stunning with the answers provided to even the simplest questions.

    Mrs King was asked to explain who had been hired by the board and what their qualifications were. Here is her answer.

    “We made some major shifts in leadership in our central office in order that we would understand the delineated authority of those persons who work at the central office. As a result, we then decided as a board to delegate leadership authority to our building principals for instruction. That’s a major change. Research shows that when building principals are the leaders of instruction in their schools, then the type of instructional needs of students right there in that building for immediate needed corrections or whatever.”

    A run on, talk in circle sentence finished off with “…or whatever”. How can a board chairperson not know the staff in the central office and what their qualifications are?

    I know the answer, its a chairperson that continues with a statement like this.

    “…the board is “a corporate power. So one member of a school board cannot make a difference. You can present ideas and concepts, but it does not mean it’s going to happen.””

    In the businesses that I lead, my position is similar to a chairman. With that being said, I tell my subordinate managers what the goals of the organization are, where they need to be so we can achieve the goals, and the time frame that they have. They are told that they will be held accountable for their performance, and I hold them accountable. If I do not hold them accountable, then someone holds me accountable.

    Unfortunately, accountability seems to be lost on Dr. Belle. Who said in response to the meeting:

    “Those that spoke were trying to establish that we’ve got to make this work.”

    She said the school system has been this doing all along, but also recognized that “a different set of eyes” will help FCPSS see whatever needs to be fixed.

    “I respect that and will follow through whatever they require and ask us to do,” Belle said.”

    The State Board was not TRYING to establish anything, they HAVE established that it is not working, and that the school system HAS NOT been doing this all along. There has been another set of eyes on this issue since at least 2009. What Dr. Belle also did not seem to understand is that the State Board has already required and has asked since 2009 for the FCPSS to get this fixed.

    I found it interesting that Mrs. King attempted to defer the blame to the School principals, and then tried smoke and mirrors when she was presented with a falsified self-reported compliance review. The only thing that saved her there was that the State chairman wanted to give someone else a chance to ask questions.

    What needs to happen now is that the State either needs to remove the both of them. Or needs to hold Mrs King accountable, then make sure that Mrs. King holds Dr. Belle accountable, and so on and so forth. The kids in Franklin have earned and deserve better.

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  • chilimac72

    Not sure one is directly related to the other (this thread, different topic), but I believe some actions are being taken against them. This is all speculation right now though and I am not sure you should have fed that rumor mill.

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  • Really

    Why is nothing being done about the sexual assault of high school girls by other girls on a school bus coming back from a sport event while 2 teachers were on board. Get rid of the thugs in the schools and the decent students might stand a chance.

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    • wahoohick

      Oh my, you let the cat out of the bag now! Dirt is starting to be dug up!

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  • chilimac72

    You are right. They have banked on the “we are working on it” timeline and now it has gotten to the point that an outside entity is forced to step in or nothing will happen.

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  • fnk@memberelist.com

    It’s not a matter of what needs to be done, that is obvious. Start over with new people as soon as possible. What is of concern is when. How long will it take to make the change. If the change takes too long, then those making the change also become responsible. I love this city. But it will never prosper economically if the school system does not dramatically improve.

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  • mason

    dbinetsky, you have raised an important question. The answer is available at the official Virginia Department of Education website: https://p1pe.doe.virginia.gov/reportcard. Under “School Division Report Cards Selection,” select Franklin City and view as a PDF or a spreadsheet.

    The data allows you to see how FCPS addressed the needs of the various subgroups compared with the averages across the state in the same subgroups. Looks to me that it is our students with special needs who have been most victimized by the current administration. If I were a parent of such a youngster, I would find out if I could bring a lawsuit against the school board and superintendent for such a travesty. At the least, this is a serious breach of a public trust.

    If there is no one with authority in Franklin who will take immediate, decisive action to begin to fix this problem, the State surely will. I am beginning to think that it will come to that.

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  • chilimac72

    Just think if we could get the parents to care about their children’s education as much as they do about their performance in athletics.

    It is difficult to find a good, inspiring leader. I believe we see now why you have to pay good ones, good money. On the other hand, like many issues around here, we need to be ready to cut the strings and move on. We constantly fight change to the point that we allow complacency. Ignorance is bliss, and obviously our leaders are ignorant to the reality that things are not going to magically change, it takes effort. The leadership is willing to make these teachers work more, and put more on them, while not doing anything more themselves. Take ownership, teach our children accountability by being accountable yourselves. Just think, if Franklin had a good school the Academy would go out of business. They bank on the failures.

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    • kschwolow

      If I remember correctly, the Academy started because the Southampton County School System was pretty poor in the late 60′s and early 70′s. They are now seem to be in very good shape, where as FCPSS has gone on a dismal run. My hope is that they can get it corrected directly and the students can get an education similar in quality to the one I got in Franklin 20 years ago

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      • gunner58

        The Academy, like many others in the area, was a product of white flight from public schools during the onset of integration in Virginia. You can look at the founding dates and figure that out rather quickly. People will deny it to conceal their racism.

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      • formerresident

        Yes the local private schools were founded due to public school integration. All of them were founded in or around ’69 the year before most schools would be integrated. I don’t think anyone is hiding concealed racism now, but I’m pretty sure it was definately racism involved when the “academies” where started.

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  • dbinetsky

    If this is happening to the regular students what is happening to the ones with special needs. How are they being treated? Is the school system doing what is best for the students or what is best for them to keep getting that free money.

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  • DryRain

    Belle spoke to The Tidewater News. – “She said the school system has been this doing all along” – Belle is STILL in denial and this concerns me.

    It appears it is just the “good ole boy system” at work and this also concerns me. It is time to hire a competent, well qualified, well educated an experienced educator to take over as Superintendent, someone with a proven track record.

    What College would want any graduate that is coming out of the Franklin City School System for the next few years? When will someone with authority step up and fire the Superintendent? Maybe since the head of the School Board won’t recommend firing her friend Mrs. Belle, maybe she should resign and let someone else take her position. How much longer is this going to keep going around in circles?

    Then Franklin City Council needs to set STRICT qualifications for appointments on school boards, not just have people nominate someone because they have known the person for years and they are a good person, that just doesn’t cut it anymore. I have seen members on City Council favoring certain nominees over others and that is part of the problem also. If they don’t measure up to the qualifications they shouldn’t be considered.

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    • dbinetsky

      Another thing that I forgot to add are the reports that they are referring to open to the public to be viewed. I believe the parents of children in the Franklin School system should be able to receive and view a copy of these reports including all of the attachments. If I saw from the video correctly that would be a binder full.

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  • mason

    Gosh, JustWondering, it looks like no one should be held accountable! After reading your first few lines, let’s just go back to good ole blame-the-parents! Ensuring the proper credentials of applicants and employees is Ms. Wade’s JOB… and you don’t think she should be held responsible? You’re joking, right? And “Where was the state durung the pzst 5 years?” — Guess you didn’t watch the video very carefully, did you? Hmmm. just wondering.

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    • JustWondering

      No Mason you misunderstand my comments. Whike thdre may needto be some action for Wade, I ccannot say, my point is that she is low hanging fruit. The first checkpoint is the superintendent, the next the board. Are they questioning the recommendations, reviewing credentisls BEFORE stamping approval? Might Wade even be told who to recommend? There are just too many possibilities BUT ultimately the responsibility rests with superintendent and board. And yes I did watch the video. My question about where wasthe state goes back to the comment made by the presenter in the video. She said Franklin has been going downhill for years. I want to know SPECIFIC interventions from the state experts. No blame meant but a simple question of what did they do scream the house is on fire, dial 911, or watch it burn? And since I’m on this point, did they hire one of the arsonist to help fight the fire?

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      • formerresident

        what you’ve just said… is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul…

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  • JustWondering

    Hmm. First, Gail Wade does not hire. She makes recommendations to the superintendent who makes recommendations to the FULL board – the board that was appointed by the City Council. Where you going to point fingers? Second, there was a time when Franklin people were running things as one person wrote, but that person failed to mention the long time curriculum director who was also reigning during the past five yesrs while the schools were bottoming out. Third, VDOE hired thst very curriculum director to fix priority schools across the state. ROTFL. Franklin in the meantime hired a curriculum director from the only division doibg worse than Franklin – Petersburg. ROTFL Fourth, the state cited Franklin for principal turnover but Morton had the same principal during five of the past six declining years. Oh and wasn’t he another “Franklin” person? ROTFL Fifth, the state needs to take a long long look at itself. Where was the state durung the pzst 5 years? Did anybody ask about those reviews? I heard the state showed up around Christmas to audut but when did the repirt come back? Months later! I could go on but instead of ROTFL I feel like ROTFCrying! This is a sad sad situation any way you slice it. There is a lot of blaming and pointing fingers and talking loud while saying absolutely NOTHING. Who’s offering solutions and suggestions? Meanwhile there are some good (yes also some not so good) teachers and administrators working their behinds off, hoop jumping, moving forward in the midst of this hot mess, but how long can they stay focused and stay pisitive abd TEACH the children? Who wants to move to Franklin? What industry wants to establish here? What teacher wants to teach here? Think people how all hkur mess, gossip and slander are impacting childre and the educators who care. Step up, clean it up and get it right – now.

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    • independent

      Just wondering, from what I can tell, the state conducted the audit in January and filed it’s report immediately with Dr Belle and Mrs King who apparently chose not to share those results with anyone…..including the board. The March report was a followup to what had not been done to address the issues. When would the public find out? The school board is accountable to us taxpayers. Also, is it not possible that the director of instruction left after all these years out of frustration? Remember, who is boss….. and also remember that those SOL scores climbed when the director of instruction was in the interim superintendent position after Pruitt and before Belle? Don’t you now see why the state is upset with our two at the top?

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      • wahoohick

        You are right, independent. I call it, “dirt swept under the rug and it was discovered”. Well, they can’t sweep it under no more.
        Another thing you stated and I’m glad you did, I have always felt that the director of instruction left in frustration. When this director was interim superintendent, the SOL scores WERE climbing but there were people that wanted her to leave then. Well, she left and everything really hit rock bottom.

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  • bookworm

    I also wish to thank The Tidewater News for posting the video. As a longtime resident of Franklin and one who graduated from FHS in the 1970′s, I am deeply saddened by the state of our school system. Tough decisions must be made quickly for the sake of the children.

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  • got3ofum

    …and until the teachers are allowed to take back their classrooms, none of this will work. the students who prevent their peers from learning should be shown the door, and their parents as well. the inmates have been running the asylum too long.

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    • formerresident

      Are you inferring that the wonderful students are not paying attention in class? Oh god forbid not our precious darlings!

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  • chilimac72

    Good people can become invested in a program. The key is just learning when to move on from our perspective. Another words, sure, we will let you in the door… on a short leash. I do not think local ties should be a requirement, but as we have seen, the commitment will show. Another common complaint I hear about local politics (which our education system is effected by) is the good-ole boy network. Can not get around it if you stay local.

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  • wahoohick

    chilimac72, I would think if their children have graduated and moved on, that they would still want the school system to succeed? It’s still their “hometown”. It’s the personel that are from other places that don’t have a vested interest in Franklin only to just pull a paycheck. Things don’t work out for them and they move on.

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  • got3ofum

    the citizens of Franklin should applaud the TN for making this video available. these people have been allowed to operate in the shadows and run their own agenda for far too long, at the expense of our children. nothing changes until something changes, and the first change should be to vacate the school board and start over at the direction of the Dept of Education. Kudos to the TN.

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  • franklinsince50

    My children and grandchildren have all graduated but I am, as a taxpayer and member of this community, appalled at the incompetence of King and Belle and indeed of the entire school board. Where have y’all been? This problem is long standing and should be immediately addressed by letting Belle and King go. Maybe the best thing for our school system is for the State to take it over and clean house. Also, City Council needs to put on their big boy pants and do what they can to help get our schools back on track.

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  • gunner58

    I watched the video this a.m. and was struck by how of touch Mrs. King seemed. When asked a direct question, she gave a rambling and unrelated response. She had to be redirected. Mrs. King has been on the School Board the entire period that the State Board is concerned about and has been chair since 2011. Furthermore, the State Board scolded her and the rest of the FCPS School Board for being too activist in attempting to run the schools directly. Therefore, Mrs. King should be removed by the City Council immediately.

    Also, I happened to listen the first part of the next segment of the State Board’s meeting which concerned a school in Norfolk that had been denied accreditation. It was noted that Edison Learning has been working with that school for several years. My question then is why did the FCPS board contract with this private company that is not demonstrating success locally? The State Board shared that over $2 million federal dollars had been invested in turning around the Norfolk school, and I am sure that Edison’s take was considerable. Where’s the bang for the buck?

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  • rdarden

    As a graduate of Franklin High School in 1991, I was very fortunate to be able to be a student in the Franklin Public Schools when it was in the “heyday” of success and achievement. After reading for months of the downward trend of the Franklin City Public Schools, it is evident to me that the Superintendent must be fired. Accountability must start at the top, and Ms. Belle should be held accountable. If she was a CEO of a corporation with results such as these, she would have been long gone. If the FCPS School Board doesnt begin to show some leadership, they should be changed as well. This problem has only gotten worse and it is a prominent black eye on the city. I understand that education begins at home. It is time for the parents of students to step up and turn off the TV and get involved in helping their child.

    Today, there are so many children whose parents are too lazy and irresponsible to get involved and engaged. These parents can tell you all about what happened on “American Idol” and “MTV”, all while their child struggles in reading and mathematics. This is not just a Franklin issue but a nationwide issue as well.

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  • wahoohick

    Something has to be done and NOW! The children are the ones that are suffering in all of this. They are our future and it don’t look good at all. When Franklin was tops, academically, Butler was Superintendent, from the Carrsville area, Strickler was Asst. Superintendent from Franklin, Holland was H.R. from Franklin and Ricks was Transportation Supervisor from Courtland. Local people with vested interest in the community. A great team! Everyone wanted to send their children to Franklin Schools back then because they knew that Franklin could give them a good quality education just because of the strong leadership the whole system had. From top to bottom. We need to try and get that back.

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    • canadaeh

      It should be a prerequisite that ALL School Board Members have children in the system. As it stands right now, only one member does, then maybe, MAYBE they would make the decisions/changes needed to put Franklin Schools back on the right path.

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      • chilimac72

        I get your goal with this, but that would rule a lot of good people out. What if their children graduated and moved on, would that mean they were no longer qualified? Good intention but it is too limiting.

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      • wahoohick

        And to add to that, there is a School Board member who had their child in the Franklin School System but pulled the child out of the school system and is now sending the child to Southampton Schools. That School Board member knew that Franklin was on the decline. Where is the vested interest there? Change has to come. Straighten up, do your job! Top priority is, the children, the children!

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      • JustWondering

        Wahoohick may be on to something though.. I don’t think a board member should have to have children in the system – there are a lot of good foljs who have childen and grandchildren who are now grown or who moved away BUT if you do have children qualified to go to FCPS and you choose to send them elsewhere then you don’t need to try to lead Franklin.

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      • independent

        People choose to send their children elsewhere for a wide variety of reasons. If someone is interested enough to put in the hard work and take valuable time on the school board it may be that they care about children or the city and want to bring a perspective that is beyond a parochial view.

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      • Observer26

        Maybe the superintendent should too

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    • independent

      There are many things to consider regarding what led to the decline from the heyday of Dr Butler and company. Don’t forget that he began the practice of recruiting SoCo’s best and brightest students and teachers that brought the Justice Department to our door. Suddenly, many things changed and he left. The practice of ability grouping using a variety of methods also ended. After Dr Butler left, race based hiring took precedence in an effort to become more diverse. While we have had outstanding leadership from both blacks and whites, like it or not and let’s face it, there are some on past boards as well as the current one, who were more concerned with color than competence. Why else would a school board choose an unproven assistant superintendent and then make excuses for her every step of the way? Why else would the school board choose a principal who was unqualified in VA and had ditched out on a contract in NC and then move that school’s assistant principal? Why else would the school board not hold Belle accountable for hiring a principle who drove 11/2 hours to and from Richmond everyday and then move him to a part time cafeteria/bus job at the same pay? Why else would the board not conduct a performance review for the superintendent when they apparently believed it was the only thing they were truly responsible for? By the way, each new board member goes through a VDOE orientation so why did they not understand their role and responsibility? As Ms King stated, one person is not in control, but a majority is. It is past time for all people in Franklin to stop making decisions based on anything other than what is in the best interest of all people. And again, by the way…..one member of city council was on the board during this very tumultuous time. We can only hope that she can lead the way on Council for the kind of change that needs to happen in Franklin.

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      • wahoohick

        Independent, Butler did not “recruit” students from the county. Franklin was tops academically back then and there were people sending their children to Franklin because Southampton and Ise of Wight Schools were performing badly and they wanted their children to get a good quality education. Now the roles have reversed, there are people from Franklin sending their children to Southampton and Isle of Wight Schools. Southampton brought in the Justice Department because Franklin had so many of their resident’s children going to Franklin. County resident’s children have been going to Franklin since the 60′s and might have been even longer for all I know. When the Justice System ruled on that, Franklin no longer could run buses into the two counties to pick up students. But notice there are Southampton County buses now picking up Franklin’s students at the YMCA, a local church and the Gingerbread House.
        And who was this assitant superintendent that was uproven, that was approved by the board? I don’t know of any female that has held that position. It must have been brief. All the assistant superintentdents I remember Franklin having were Strickler and Clemmons. They hired Clemmons as asstisted superintendent when he was once Franklin High School’s principal. He has since moved on to Northampton Schools on the Eastern Shore.
        You are spot on about HR moving a Franklin High School’s principal to manage the caferterias and when Ricky Blunt left Transportation they added that to his job too, without any consideration that this principal had no prior experience in managing caferterias and buses. And to hear his workers talk, he has messed up that area as well. Another person in a position that is not qualified to lead. I could go on and on.

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  • Rudy

    Welcome to Washington D.C. public schools ran by Detroit, Michigan politicians in Franklin, Va. Nothing will change unless the Franklin City Council, the entire Franklin School Board and Dr. Belle is completely removed and replaced with real people that put Franklin ahead of ideology and politics. Nothing will change unless this happens. Otherwise Franklin deserves what it gets. Pathetic!

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  • mason

    Anyone with a serious interest in understanding the position of the State Board regarding the failure of our school system leadership over the recent several years should view the entire, applicable portion of the video available above. I guarantee the terms “outrageous incompetence” will come to mind.

    Having seen it myself, it is hard to conclude anything other than the rightness of an immediate termination of the superintendent and HR/personnel director. If your first thought is “but what would they do without them?” then think about the destruction that will continue as long as they remain in place; it will be far better to not have anyone in those positions until appropriate replacements are found– Yes, that is how incompetent they are. In any well-run business, they would have been fired years ago; but think how much more important the education of our children is than the bottom line of some business! Shame on the school board for permitting this to go on for so long.

    City Council should find out what it can and cannot do legally to ensure the school board does what it needs to do. Unless the school board makes an immediate change to function in the interests of our students and their teachers (for a change), they must be replaced ASAP. In any event, we need to hear from our City Council members, and from our Mayor. Have they seen the video?

    Thank you, TN, for making the video available.

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    • mileomore

      I watched the video and it was easy to see why Dr. Belle would not look up… she was too ashamed to do so, as well she should be. She let Mrs. King take all of the flack when much of the blame lies squarely on her big shoulders! But, what could she possibly say, really? She knows it is all true… and, her days should be as numbered as her citations are! I will be truly disappointed if our elected officials choose to do NOTHING about this travesty. How in the world have FCPS plummeted so far so quickly. Oh – that’s right – Michelle Belle is at the helm. She’s as bad now as she was when she came to us, if not worse. Her gig should be up EVERYWHERE FOREVER! I surely hope she can afford to retire. I’m not sure she’s even qualified to be a greeter at WalMart. At least those folks have some personality and will smile!

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  • Karen

    Not to nitpick but I think the author of the article could use a grammar class or two as well. Spell check only catches misspelled words. To the Article. Shame on Franklin for letting this travesty in education to continue. It is embarrassing to have our schools so poor given their past reputation.

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  • mileomore

    This is so sad on so many levels – for the students and the parents who really care about an education for their children because they plan for them to become productive, meaningful citizens as adults; for the teachers who have been giving all they have – and more – for so long; for the tax-paying citizens who are helping to fund public education; and, for the City itself that has invested so much in the school system for a long time. The handwriting has been on the wall for several years; but, now it is flashing: THE LEADERS OF THE FRANKLIN CITY PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM NEED TO GO… AND, THE SOONER, THE BETTER!! What is it going to take to make this happen? We have tiptoed around too much for too long! Don’t play the “race” card either. For over 60 years now, folks have been given ample opportunities to make something of themselves despite where they came from and who they are. I am proud of the folks who have risen to the challenge… and, tired of supporting those who are full of nothing but excuses. Our city – and our country – had better have a “wake up” call soon… before it is too late. Our time is running out, and it’s running out quickly. Folks need to be held accountable for their jobs, regardless of their color, just as the best person should be hired for a job, regardless of their color. Clean house in the leadership of the city’s schools all the way down to the near folks on the school board. Give them a chance to make a difference… the others have had long enough to prove that either they can’t do it… or, they don’t care to do it. Enough is enough… and, I – for one – have had ENOUGH! This is just about as embarrassing as it gets… and, it’s doing nothing to help real estate values and economic development in our city. Send Belle back home to her husband and family… NOW!

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  • TaxMax

    Why didn’t Belle use her quote of “the problem was here before I got here?” Because she new she would be ripped to shreds by this board!

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  • bhmtn

    This a truly sad situation. It is especially so because not enough citizens of Franklin seem to care enough to remedy the situation. We have to rely on state-level officials to get corrective action moving. City council appoints school board members, yet they do not appear to take any ownership of the problem. Unbelievable!

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  • employee2

    Maybe this is why Belle did not move here…she knew her time was short before her lack of leadership would be discovered.

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  • zuni1

    It is time for Belle and King to go. This is clearly a case of failed leadership. Plenty of excuses and platitiudes, but no plans and no forward progress. Time to clean house. The children deserve better.

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  • smoke14

    Yes, by all means clean house. You have great leaders in the schools and great teachers too, but those in the central office including the Super need to go. NOW Like yesterday. City officials need to stand up and take a stand.

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  • brucem1941

    This is amazing. It is difficult to believe that the local school system which was top notch through the time I was there has descended into this abyss. I would suggest that the “fish starts smelling at the head”. Hence the Supe and all the central office staff needs to be dismissed for a systemic failure of leadership. They have had enough time to remedy the situation, and they have failed the students. It’s time for them to hit the street.

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