Councilman questions official’s absence

Published 9:41 am Friday, August 24, 2012

FRANKLIN—This summer’s absence of Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle is one of the things Councilman Don Blythe hopes to discuss during a joint meeting of the Franklin City Council and School Board at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28.

Belle was out due to doctor’s orders beginning in early June. The schools’ Associate Director of Instruction Beverly Rabil was designated to act on Belle’s behalf during her absence. Belle has since returned.

Blythe also believes the meeting scheduled for City Hall should touch on a need for greater communication among the school’s central office staff and teachers, especially about the teachers workloads.

“A lot of questions need to be answered,” he said. “If they can come up with a mutual agreement, I think it will be better for the school system.”

Councilman Benny Burgess hopes the meeting will open up greater lines of communication between the boards.

“I think it’s a necessity,” Burgess said. “I think a lot of miscommunication occurs.”

He sees the meeting as a way for the council to better understand the school’s needs, including funding, and where they are on issues like accreditation and testing.

“To me it’s a fact-finding on where the system is and what is our status,” he said. “It’s not a gotcha meeting, I’m just trying to understand.”

Burgess added that he would like to know more about how the system handles accountability at each level, from teachers up to the administration at each school.

School Board Chairwoman Edna King expects the boards to work on issues and build a relationship through the first of three joint meetings.

“They are our appropriating board,” she said. “We need to have a good relationship with them.”

Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn believes the joint meetings will help with communication.

“I want to be accustomed to communicating with each other,” she said.

Vice Mayor Barry Cheatham agreed.

“I feel it’s important for both boards to have a regular and open dialog with each other to keep the city moving forward and upward,” he said. “The biggest problem is for the lack of communication to be the reason a true need is not met for the school system.”

Johnson-Ashburn is eager to learn more about the graduation and dropout rates as well as state and federal testing standards and capital expenses.

School Board Member Cindy Fillhart said as a new board member she’d like to find out what the council expects from the school board and what can be done to work better together.

“For me it’s more of a learning experience,” she said. “I want to find out my role and what is expected.”