Franklin schools outline plans

Published 11:16 am Saturday, December 1, 2012


FRANKLIN—City of Franklin School officials during a Wednesday meeting with City Council talked about its plans to restore full accreditation to its three schools.

School officials also shared their wishes to build a $1 million addition to S.P. Morton Elementary School to replace outdated modular units that house 32 classrooms.

Franklin’s J.P. King Middle School has been designated among the lowest-performing five percent of schools in Virginia for reading and math. The school must work with state-approved partners to meet state and federal requirements.

S.P. Morton was among the lowest 10 percent for reading. Franklin High Schools also fell short of federal standards in reading and math.

The school board recently chose Edison Learning of Chicago to help bring J.P. King Middle School up to required standards.

“We are in the process now of finalizing the terms of the contract,” said Franklin School Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle. “We hope to have a contract in the hands of the council for the December meeting.”

The contract with Edison will be paid through with grants. The cost could range between $400,000 and $500,000.

“We don’t know the exact amount as of yet, we are still working on the numbers, and the exact cost will depend on our needs as far as our student body,” Belle said.

It’s hoped that Edison can perform a needs assessment by January.

“We have to raise the level of expectation of our children,” said School Board Chairwoman Edna King said. “We have to believe that our children can learn. And our children can learn.”

The State Department of Education has assigned Milton Liverman, a former superintendent of Suffolk Public Schools, to serve as the school district’s liaison and focus coach to help with improving the reading scores. Federal dollars will pay for Liverman’s contract.

“We have put the instructional focus back to the principal,” Belle said. “They are responsible for monitoring instruction in their buildings. I am very proud of the jobs they have done thus far.”

Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn said she’s hopeful and confident that Franklin is moving in the right direction.

“The school system is such a huge part of Franklin,” she said. “We came here tonight not drill and grill, but to try and develop a partnership. We can not build a partnership without dialogue.”

Officials also discussed replacing the rubber roof at J.P. King, which is near the end of its 25-year life expectancy. Also on the wish list are replacing the roof at the Charles Street Gym, and ovens and serving lines in the kitchens at all schools, enclosing the breezeway at Franklin High and purchasing three buses at a cost of $90,000 apiece.

“The school system needs to prioritize these items for a five-year plan,” said City Manager Randy Martin. “The city will look at how to fund them. We know it is never a good time for debt, but this is the best climate for incurring debt in terms of interest rates.”

Councilman Benny Burgess brought up the possibility of replacing the roof at J.P. King with a metal roof.

“A metal roof would cost more upfront,” said school board member Will Councill. “Over the life of the roof, you would make up that cost in maintenance with so much less needed.”

Another joint meeting will be scheduled during the first quarter of 2013.