Parents ask superintendent Belle to step down

Published 10:12 am Friday, October 12, 2012


FRANKLIN—Two parents during a Tuesday Franklin School Board meeting asked for Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle’s resignation.

The school board did not respond, and Belle could not be reached for comment.

“Anything that happens with personnel would have to take place in closed session,” Franklin School Board chairman Edna King said. “We did not have a closed session following the meeting, and that is one question I did raise — if we needed a closed session — and the board said ‘no.’”

King sensed the parents are concerned about low standardized test scores.

The three Franklin schools were among 100, or five percent, out of Virginia’s 1,836 schools to be accredited with warning. On Wednesday, the Virginia Department of Education reported that Franklin’s J.P. King Middle School is among the lowest-performing five percent of schools for reading and math and S.P. Morton Elementary School is among the lowest 10 percent.

During the meeting, Dawna Walton told the school board she pulled her child from Franklin schools.

“I have high hopes of bringing her back, but after reading the paper, I have had real concern when I read that our leader, (Superintendent) Dr. (Michelle) Belle, is waiting to hear back from the state in which direction we should move,” Walton said. “It leaves me in awe. It makes me so very sad that our system is steadily declining in our schools and I just feel at this time, we need to ask Dr. Belle to resign.”

Belle was hired in March 2009 and had her contract renewed in January 2011 for three more years.

Kim Kreider, who has three children in the school system, called for a “new captain of the ship.”

“Franklin City Public Schools are not just in trouble, they are in serious crisis,” said Kreider. “I’m sorry to admit, but I would be happy if Franklin City Schools would reach academic mediocrity. I would be happy if we could strive to reach the middle because compared to where we are the middle is a big step forward.”

Christopher Sauntleroy told the school board he plans to pull his daughter from the Franklin Public Schools.

“At this point I have no confidence in our school system as it stands,” Sauntleroy told the School Board during a Tuesday meeting. “I am currently in the process of removing my child from Franklin like so many others in our community have already done.”

He moved to Franklin from New York for what he felt was a safe and prosperous community. Sauntleroy feels otherwise with the change in accreditation for the three schools and administration changes every year.

“If I wanted my daughter exposed to this, I could have picked any school in New York to move to,” Sauntleroy said.

“I hope for the safety and future of the children here in Franklin,” he said. “I hope the school board will look seriously into these matters and consider the leadership that has idly stood by and done absolutely nothing.”

School board member Cindy Fillhart understands the parents’ frustrations and concerns.

“I am hoping we can get our school system up to par and I am hoping we can bring some of our students back and our parents,” Fillhart said Wednesday.

Franklin’s enrollment in September was 1,260 compared to 1,263 one year earlier. Franklin High School had 270 students, down 30 students; J.P. King Middle School had 244, an increase of 15; and S.P. Morton Elementary School had 623 students, an increase of 8 from 2011.

Southampton County Public Schools has seen an increase of out-of-district students from 125 to 144, or 15.2 percent increase; 39 of its students come from Franklin.

“We have had no more of an increase than other years,” said Southampton Academy Director of Admissions Anne Pittman.