Archived Story

Public to schools: Next superintendent should be active in community

Published 10:57am Saturday, March 1, 2014

FRANKLIN—Invested. Supportive. Visible. Articulate. Passionate.

These are characteristics that many people said they want to see in the next superintendent of Franklin public schools. Eleven people from an audience of about 50 spoke at a public hearing Thursday night before the city school board.

With this event and a survey, the membership has begun its search for a new superintendent. Dr. Michelle Belle was informed in January that her contract would not be renewed.

“I want to see someone and hear they’re out and about at football games, cutting grass and just being a presence. That’s a starting point,” said Chris Novakoski of Franklin, who teaches at Lakeland High School.

Josette Sthole-Hayes, president of the PTA at S.P. Morton Elementary, also wants a person involved in the three schools.

“Our next superintendent should be active and who does come out to events,” she said. “I have never once seen our superintendent at our events. Very saddening.

“How hard is it to come out and support our events? Come out and support our children.”

Jim Rainey started to suggest the board hire an interim superintendent to help with the turnaround, but Edna King, chairwoman, stopped him and explained that wasn’t the purpose of the hearing.

Will Councill of Ward 1 said he’s heard from other people asking the board to take its time, but also noted the membership has 180 days starting from the time of Belle’s vacancy to hire another school leader.

Bob Traynor asked the board members what they wanted to see in a new school leader. but King said this was a time for the public’s input.

Frank Rabil recommended finding a superintendent who’s been experienced in a turnaround situation and has “a proven track record.”

Clyde Johnson said he thought the survey was inclusive while filling it out Wednesday night.

“I cannot agree more with the other speakers,” said Johnson. “The superintendent will have to be out more and visible in the community.”

Another important feature is they be able to teach.

“We would like to see the next superintendent embrace the idea of parents as first teachers,” said Andrea Hall Leonard. She and her husband are the parents of six children in the city school system.

Leonard would like for parents to be welcome to participate in school advisory boards and committees. She added that the future leader also be involved in the community, such as through civic groups. Further, Leonard wants to the next superintendent to be involved with “not just at-risk students, but also special needs and gifted students.

In addition to holding staff accountable, Leonard wants the person hired to be “passionate about education.”

The Rev. Ed Pickup said he wants to emphasize that the superintendent “needs to be remarkably articulate and amazingly well organized.”

Further, the new leader will have to serve as a public relations representative for the city schools, and let the Hampton Roads area – and beyond – know of the progress that Franklin is making in education.

Brent Kimlick said the superintendent should be a city resident, although “it’s not necessary they attend every event.”

The board also needs to make sure that person’s in place before contracts are signed.

“Your superintendent needs to know how to be an educator,” he said. “They need to be a consensus-builder, and to strengthen and enhance the volunteer base, which we under-utilize.”

David Benton wants the superintendent “to be a critical thinker. They should have a heavy background in curriculum and instruction. Not all administrators have this. They should dress professionally and come to work daily.

“They should lead by example, and live in the city of Franklin. They should go to church, the grocery store…and immerse themselves in the community. Be in our school buildings, not just at the central office.”

King thanked everyone who attended and spoke.

“We appreciate you…and we assure you we’ll give the matter diligent attention,” she said.

The next step for the school board is to have a meeting and review the survey results, and look again at what the speakers want for qualifications, as well as discuss its own, and “wait for applications to come in.”

  • Andrijana

    I really liked what Mr.Benton and Mrs.Leonard pointed out, everything they said was in place.

    J. Mitrovic

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  • Andrijana

    Being active in community shouldn’t be connected to football games and screaming our team’s name on the field. There are more important issues than being supportive at sports events. Beside, it is valuable time that can be spent in more important and productive ways and question is – was it? By ranking of our school system it seems – not much was done but, we shouldn’t be two-faced. She, as just one person, can’t do much if there is no support from below to do something more and, better. I am one mother that had time and will to fight for my kid’s right to do some more work than required by average school curriculum. To fight it. How sad is that? How many mothers can afford it? How many even know what their kids can or can’t do? How many is involved in kids school work? It is amazing that wish, to accomplish more requires confrontation with educators and Advisory Committee Members – to get what normally should be offered to kids and it feels like pushing just one kid ahead of others, as special mercy. Could Mrs.Belle do any better in that climate? I just hope next one in line will be more supported in what is right.
    No need to hide behind screen name,
    Jackie Mitrovic

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  • jaymarshall

    Why was the current superintendent exempt from being a permanent resident of the city? I am puzzled why the school board permitted her to stay on when she failed to perform. Ou system is in such a shambles thanks to Belle and her ineptitude, we should explore consolidating into Southampton County’s school system. Let’s face it, the infrastructure and expense to support eleven hundred students is way out if line. Remember, we have a $90, 000 a year cafeteria supervisor thanks to Belle.

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  • Councilman

    I think Dr. Michelle Blunt should be highly considered for the position, she has proven intellect and loyalty to the Franklin Community and would be a loss if she were to take her talent elsewhere.

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    • jaymarshall

      You should consider a career as a comedy writer…..

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    • jaymarshall

      And have more of the same that Belle led us to? If we are to survive and fix things, there should be a clean sweep in the Central Office. If one were to review Blunt’s performance as an assistant principal, you will concur.

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  • Typhoon

    Lets stop making excuses for this person she was a mistake the school system has gone to Hell since she has been in charge,lets hope that that council makes the right decision in selecting a replacement.

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    • JustWondering

      No excuses. Agreed the Division has poor leadership and should have made a change a long time ago, BUT still no point in telling lies about anyone. There is enough that is true that can be told, but at this point why can’t everybody shift to a positive focus on trying to get it right? Stop expending energy to even talk about the past and the soon to be the past except to draw lessons for what to do in the future. So, like I said, just say you want a highly visible superintendent then share a couple of examples perhaps about what visible means, like attending sports events, school events during the day and evening, participating in community events…

      So no excuses but also no lies. Let’s just try to clean this mess up.

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    • DBenton

      The School Board will be hiring the Superintendent of Schools. City Council doesn’t make this hire.

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  • justbecause

    I have seen FPS’s superintendent at many community events that I hardly see board members, or any other city officials attend. Hey, “What’s good for the goose should be just as good for the gander!”

    Find better excuses, many of the problems existed before she came aboard.

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  • SandMan

    “at footbal games, cutting grass”? Ahh…the value of the comma!

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  • shocked

    I agree Just Wondering! I have seen her at events there.

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  • JustWondering

    Stole-Hayes is off base. Belle has attended events at Morton days and evenings. Let’s be fair and honest. If you want a more visible superintendent just say that. How hard is it to come out she asks. How hard is it to tell the truth?

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  • Really

    Must have experience with urban, inner-city school systems / issues.

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