Looking Back: City, county school negotiations continue

Published 9:43 am Friday, June 29, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: Looking Back features past articles from The Tidewater News with commentary by local historian Clyde Parker.

by Clyde Parker

The Tidewater News
June 29, 1962

Issues unresolved

Negotiations between the City of Franklin and Southampton County in regard to ownership and operation of schools in Franklin are ongoing. This is still an unresolved issue.

In May, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors and the County School Board made what they considered a reasonable proposal whereby Franklin schools would continue to be operated by the County School Board on a permanent basis and Franklin would have a representative on that board.

The proposal calls for Franklin to go through with its previously stated plans to build a new white high school and a new Negro elementary school. Franklin would pay for the schools, but would be operated by the county.

This most recent county proposal was made in response to Franklin’s refusal to compensate the county for school property in Franklin and Franklin’s reluctance to assume a major share of the Southampton school debt if and when Franklin forms its own school system.

The county has not yet specified any particular compensation amount. School property in Franklin is estimated to be $1 million, and the county school debt is more than $500,000.

Franklin officials offered to pay $170,000 of the school debt. They refused to pay for school property based on the fact that prior to 1948, when Franklin schools were built, Franklin was a separate school district, and its citizens, through their taxes, built and paid for their own school buildings.

Franklin citizens through county taxes paid for school construction that occurred after 1948.

The proposal supposes because of Southampton’s demands for school property and debt compensation that Franklin can be persuaded to stay in the county school system.

Not finding the county proposal to their liking, the Franklin City Council and School Board issued a statement on May 28 in which they re-emphasized the fact that the controlling reason for Franklin to have city status is that they want to operate their own school system. The statement was highly critical of the county boards and their counterproposal. The statement also attacks Southampton officials’ lack of good faith in dealing with Franklin officials.

In response to Franklin’s most recent statement, the county issued the following statement:

“Our good faith is questioned as we are supposed to have known that Franklin became a city because it wanted to operate its own schools. At no time have we been so advised. We understand that neither the Board of Supervisors nor the county’s counsel were advised that this was the controlling reason why Franklin became a city.”

On Monday, the county issued this statement:

“In case Franklin actually establishes its own school system, the county will build a new white elementary school in Hunterdale to accommodate county pupils now attending school in Franklin. They also propose to enlarge Southampton High School and Southampton Training School and to build a new Negro elementary school in the Franklin District, but outside the city limits. Southampton Training School is the county’s Negro high school.

Approximately 1,000 Southampton County children residing in the areas surrounding Franklin attend Franklin schools. Those areas include Hunterdale, Black Creek-Burdette and Forks of the River.

Southampton County wants to educate those children and believes it has a responsibility to do so. It should not be delegated to another school district.

But, Franklin has agreed to continue with their education. And, many county parents want their children to continue attending Franklin schools.

It is up to the County School Board, solely, to decide whether a student will be permitted to attend school outside the county. If Franklin does organize its own school system, the county has stated it will permit Southampton County High School students, who attend school in Franklin, to finish there; however, any other blanket authorization for Southampton County students to attend Franklin schools is unlikely.

Any agreement reached by the county and city is subject to the approval of the Commonwealth of Virginia Board of Education. Up until now, this fact has not been publicly revealed.

In case there is no agreement, the State Board and the courts will handle the matter.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is ParkerC@seva-redcross.org.