Archived Story

Southampton native announced as Franklin superintendent

Published 7:17pm Wednesday, June 11, 2014

FRANKLIN—Southampton County native Willie James Bell Jr. has been named as the new Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent. He will begin work on Tuesday, July 1.

Bell comes most recently from Sussex County Schools, where he served as the director of instruction. He has a master’s degree in administration from East Carolina University and will defend his doctoral dissertation this summer, which he is receiving from Cambridge College.

In the past, he was the director of secondary instruction in Petersburg and also served as a high school principal in the Northampton and Richmond systems.

“I am honored and humbled to be appointed in this position,” Bell said. “First, I would like to provide thanks to the board for extending their confidence in me as we look to collaboratively move the division forward.

“I look forward to working with all of the extended family of the Franklin city school community — the staff, administration, parents, students and all extended links. I am honored and this is a privilege.”

School Board Chairwoman Edna King said that what helped Bell stand out was his meeting the conditions required by the Memorandum of Understanding, and more importantly with how well he fit the qualifications cited in the residents’ survey.

King said that Bell already lives in Franklin, so he won’t be a commuting superintendent.

“That presence was so significant in what people wanted,” she said. “He will have an ongoing interaction with the people throughout the city. Plus, he already knows people in our city, and he knows a great deal about our community and our schools.”

Bell has helped turn other systems into a positive direction, King said.

“He played a great role in supporting the efforts of Sussex in turing the schools around,” she said. “Plus, when he was a principal at George Wythe High School in Richmond City, there is documentation of his having gone to that school with some major challenges, and he turned the culture of that school around.”

Ward 1’s Will Councill said Bell will be good for Franklin.

“I think Mr. Bell will be a very good fit for this school system,” he said. “I think he’ll be an asset.”

The way he handled the interview process gives Councill confidence that Bell can do the job, even though he has never been a superintendent.

“He looked us straight in the eye as he answered questions,” he said. “He even brought us some ideas that he was already thinking about, as far as changes that could be made in our school system.”

Councill said he thought Franklin got lucky.

“He is very knowledgeable on curriculum, and he’s good with financing,” he said. “He’s also very straight-forward. I think he will just be a good fit for this school system, period.”

Bell said he is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

“We will work hard and diligently to ensure every student in this community gets the education needed,” he said. “We are in 21st-century learning environment. I will work collaboratively with the board and everyone in the extended family to make sure students get exactly what they need.”

The Franklin City School Board unanimously voted to offer Bell a contract for the years 2014-15 and 2015-16.

“I’m anxious to began work on July 1,” Bell said.

Bell’s mother is Lottie Bell and his father was the late Willie J. Bell Sr.

He is married to Cassandra, and they have three children, Evan, Gabrielle and Khairi. His brother is Darian Bell, who is the principal at Southampton Middle School. His sister is Prenda Crocker, who teaches at Sussex Central High School.

King said one thing she was impressed with at the meeting was the crowd.

“I was really impressed, favorably impressed, with the audience that was present last evening,” she said. “The enthusiasm that was shown by those persons who were in attendance was excellent, from the people who were there — the parents there — who have known him over the years.”

  • freedomis4real

    Mr. Bell seems to have the right orientation for the job. His appears to be passionate which cannot be said about the previous superintendent. As far as credentials, whether one earns a doctorate from Harvard University or Cambridge College may not really matter – what matters is the learning process (input equals output). With that said, informed individuals understand that gaining admission to “elite” universities or Ivy league schools may have more to do with who you know and not what you know. This means that historically marginalized populations may have less of an opportunity to access higher education than those with more resources. This is the America that we live in. This country seems so entrenched in “tradition” which is why other modes of learning are not readily accepted. Technology has brought learning opportunities to the masses which does not set while with those who want to maintain a caste-like system in this country. I congratulate Mr. Bell on setting an good example for young people by not allowing perceived barriers to keep him out of the game. I will be praying that Mr. Bell (soon to be Dr. Bell) with remain steadfast and make needed changes in FCPS.

    Suggest Removal

  • Flowergirl

    Congrats to Mr. Bell! His on the job experiences equates to his doctorate degree that’s how he got the job. Mr. Bell has the heart, guts and PROFESSIONALISM to carry out this job.
    Do your research and you will see where Cambridge exist. As long as he moves around and visit the schools he will be successful and on top of his job!

    Suggest Removal

  • Makalani

    Top-notch school superintendents running school systems that are hitting all of their performance criteria – probably wouldn’t want to quit their jobs and apply to run a school system that is struggling. Unless of course – she/he was offered an obscene amount of money. With financial constraints placed on it to pursue a top-notch super — the school board chose the best candidate from – shall we say – probably a ‘lackluster’ pool of candidates.

    Perhaps Mr. Bell’s enthusiasm – ties to the community – sincere desire to make a difference will compensate for his lack of professional qualifications.

    The decision has been made! Let’s get behind him — give him the support that he needs to get try and get FCPS turned around!

    He can’t do any worse than Dr. Bell!

    Suggest Removal

  • JustWondering

    Just Wondering… Wasn’t VDOE just in town talking about FCPS needing to hire someone with experience turning around low performing schools? Didn’t the VBOE President suggest looking at veteran supts or retired, experienced supts? Was Petersburg turned around? Is that why Franklin just recruited their HR Director, their Elementary Curriculum Director, their Special Education Director and now their Secondary Instruction Director?

    And Cambridge? Really? Just order a degree from the back of a catalogue. But didn’t the job description say you had to have a doctorate? Seems this board is just doing what they’ve always done and we’ll get what we already have – a mess.

    Suggest Removal

    • SandMan

      You can sop “just wondering”. I’ve personally known “Jay” Bell over 20 years. He is just the man to tackle the monumental task of fixing a broken school systyem. Why not get behind him and show him support instead of searching for faults?
      Plus, he plans to reside within the city limits of Franklin. That way, all the Dept. Heads will reside in Franklin, with the exception of the Police Chief, who still lives the other side of Windsor!!??
      Congrats, “Jay”!!

      Suggest Removal

      • JustWondering

        Just Wondering…because YOU have known him and because he plans to live in the city limits it’s all good?

        I will support him because I have no reason not to, and I wish him well. My only previous points – don’t think FCPS engaged in an adequate search (waited too long to let Belle so they didn’t have enough time before end of the year was upon them) and the FCPS board seems to be doing monkey business as usual despite VDOE’s presence and the worthless Corrective Action Plan. The “plan” seems to be to keep playing bad politics on the backs of children and operating without integrity.

        Mr. Bell may prove to be a great choice but that still doesn’t make HOW the FCPS board operated or operates okay.

        Suggest Removal

      • JustWondering

        waited too long to let Dr. Belle go…

        Suggest Removal

  • employee2

    Trading one Bell for another, hope this one has the right ring to it.

    Suggest Removal

  • franklinsince50

    Where is Cambridge College?

    Suggest Removal

  • mule

    Jay is a tireless worker and Franklin City Schools will be better. He coached with me years ago and our teams reflected his effort. I am in his corner! Go Jay Bell!

    Suggest Removal

  • gunner58

    What awesome credentials! The Board must have searched tirelessly to find someone so experienced with Virginia’s worst school systems. My question is why? Why can’t Franklin learn from success?

    And Cambridge College (not its English namesake). That really denotes stellar academic achievement…

    Suggest Removal

    • mr23851

      Hey gunner58, if you don’t like the choice, put your name in for consideration next time or run for local public office so you can make a difference in the school system. Maybe this man can make a differece if given the chance. I don’t know but It can’t get any worse than it is now.

      Suggest Removal

      • simplifyingit

        Almost every time I’ve ever said “it can’t get any worse”………….It did. Let’s hope you’re right here because this city can’t stand “worse” than what is!

        Suggest Removal

      • gunner58

        To be on the school board, I believe, one should have some experience as a parent with a child in the system. Having this investment makes the Board member very conscious of excellence, equity, and fairness. Fortunately, I do not qualify.

        I too wish Mr. Bell well. I simply question why the Board couldn’t select someone who had been mentored by the best in the business. In the workplace, HR strives to attract the brightest and most hard working candidate from the strongest competitor. HR is not looking to pick off someone from another business facing bankruptcy.

        This is not a time to take a chance on the education of the young minds remaining in Franklin.

        Suggest Removal

Editor's Picks