Time to make Franklin schools accountable

Published 11:31 am Saturday, May 19, 2012

by Don Blythe

In the recent election, even though I was not on the ballot, I kept hearing people talking about the poor state of our schools and how the mayor and City Council had let them down.

Well, the City Council just appropriates money for the school board (we cannot tell them how to spend it or run the schools) and appoints school board members. Besides this, our hands are tied.

Well, maybe it is time we untie them since our superintendent and school board are not solving the problem. I just read in The Tidewater News that we are next to last in SOLs (Standard of Learning tests) in the state (“Franklin next-to-last on SOLs,” May 11).

We keep hearing things will improve, but they have not.

In the meantime, parents and potential new businesses are giving up and sending their kids elsewhere or locating their businesses or homes out of the city.

Teachers are frustrated and leaving in mass. In one of the mayoral debates, there was a reference to the elephant holding our schools back, and it is past time we address this issue head on.

First, quit blaming the teachers and demand more accountability from the parents and central office. We have tried to get central office under the leadership of the superintendent to improve the problem. They have not.

Our current superintendent has been here long enough to see a turnaround and it is not happening. Her last big mess was the no-zero policy without informing the school board as a way to help test scores look better than they should, and now again, look at the SOL test scores.

We need an experienced new superintendent who has handled problems like this before. We need parents who take ownership in their children’s education and see our schools as more than a child-sitting service for their kids while they do their thing.

We need parents to volunteer to help in the schools.

Second, it is getting closer every day for the argument for elected school boards.

This will hold the school board members more accountable than they are now.

This especially goes to the three school board members who boycotted the no-zero policy vote and never explained to the citizens why they did this.

One of our newly elected City Council members was part of this group, and I think we are still waiting for an explanation of why.

Also, I think it should be a requirement that every school board member spend a day each quarter in the schools in the classrooms and meeting teachers. How can you decide what is best for our schools if you haven’t been in the schools?

Finally, it is time for Michael Clark representing the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, The Tidewater News and our newly elected mayor, who said our schools were a top priority to her, to take a stand on this. Yes, not just lip service, but a stand.

What we have been doing is not working.

We need a new direction with an emphasis on accountability and a true open dialog to identify and come up with new solutions to our problems. It is way past time saying our schools need to see improvement.

We need new people who can give us different results and it needs to start now.

DON BLYTHE represents Ward 6 on Franklin City Council and can be reached at ward-6@franklinva.com.