J.P. King principal going to FHS

Published 9:31 am Friday, July 23, 2010

FRANKLIN—J.P. King Middle School Principal Rodney Berry will become the new principal at Franklin High School. The division will move Lawrence Whiting, the current Franklin High principal, to a position in the central office.

The changes will take effect on Aug. 1. Meanwhile, the division is looking to hire a new principal for J.P. King.

Division Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle said the changes are being made to help Franklin High out of state sanctions over its graduation rate. She warned that unless certain benchmarks are made during the upcoming school year, the high school could also face federal sanctions.

“The high school is under state sanctions because we didn’t make the graduation rate the year before last,” Belle said Thursday. “There are certain things that we have to do to get out of these sanctions. We just feel that the way (Berry and his staff) came in and within a year’s time turned the middle school around, we needed that kind of vigor and enthusiasm to turn the high school around.”

Berry previously served as an assistant principal at Deep Run High School in Henrico County, was an assistant principal at Caroline High School and taught biology and chemistry in Richmond. He holds degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and the College of William & Mary and is currently a doctoral candidate at VCU.

“We’re very pleased with Mr. Berry and what he’s done with the middle school,” Johnetta Nichols, who represents Ward 3 on the Franklin School Board, said Thursday. “We’re definitely pleased with the progress. Our test scores seem to be moving up and he’s brought in different programs. We’re looking for the same types of things at the high school from him.”

Both Nichols and Belle said Berry should do well at Franklin High because of his background in secondary education.

“This was the first time he was in a middle school,” Nichols said. “His background is in secondary (education), so we’re looking for great things from him on that level.”

Belle added, “(Berry) has done a tremendous job at the middle school, but high school is really his thing.”

Berry was out of town Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

Whiting said Thursday that he would become the new supervisor for cafeterias and student support services.

Asked if he was excited about his new job, Whiting said, “Oh yes, no question. But I’ve been in schools for a long time, so it’s going to be a different type of a job for me.”

Whiting previously served for three years as the principal of Brunswick County High School. He is also a former U.S. Army officer and restaurateur who holds degrees and certificates from the University of Maryland, Norfolk State and Regent universities.

Both Berry and Whiting were hired by the division one year ago to serve as principals at their respective schools. The division said Berry was paid a salary of $79,061 during the 2009-2010 fiscal year, and Whiting was paid $82,247.

The division is running an advertisement for the principal position at J.P. King in this Sunday’s edition of The Tidewater News. The deadline to apply for the job is Aug. 2.

Belle said she was excited about the upcoming changes, and for Berry and Whiting.

“Nobody has a crystal ball,” Belle said. “My job is to try to make the best decisions for the school division. I just really think that this was the best decision because there are some strides that we’re going to have to make (at Franklin High).”