Looking Back: City, county reach agreement on schools

Published 11:20 am Friday, February 22, 2013

by Clyde Parker

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

FEB. 22, 1963

After well over one year of negotiations, the City of Franklin and Southampton County have reached agreement on future ownership of school buildings in the city that are currently owned by the Southampton County School System.

When Franklin became an independent city, it could not automatically assume ownership of those buildings. Franklin officials felt they have rightful ownership of the properties valued at nearly $1.2 million since they were built and funded through a combination of Franklin taxpayers’ money (when the town, prior to 1948, was a separate school district), and federal “Battle” grants. This became a major “sticking-point” between the two jurisdictions.

The agreement, which will become effective July 1 in time for the 1963-1964 school year, allows the county school system to retain ownership of Hayden High and Hayden Elementary schools. Both are Negro schools.

Ownership of Franklin High and Franklin Elementary schools will be transferred to the city. Both are white schools.

No exchange of money for any of the buildings is involved.

The 900-plus white students who live in Southampton County and attend either Franklin High or Franklin Elementary School will continue to do so; however, starting with the 1963-1964 school year, for those students, the county will pay tuitions to the city.

Negro students who reside in Southampton County and attend either Hayden High School or Hayden Elementary School will continue to do so. Since Southampton owns the Hayden schools, no tuition payments will be made.

Also, starting with the upcoming school year, the city will pay tuition to the county for Negro students who reside in Franklin and attend Hayden schools.

The climax in the negotiations was to come during the Franklin City Council meeting Monday night. An announcement was to be made. It was almost anti-climactic though.

Everyone in the room, except the reporters, thought they knew what was coming. Still, all were absorbed in the riveting and historic proceeding.

City Attorney Edward Moyler Jr. read the contract. One reporter wrote rapidly. Two others just sat and listened. And a fourth took occasional notes. Two of the reporters reached for their cameras and clicked off a few shots as Moyler started to read.

Council members sat and listened intently.

In the second row, Edward Moyler Sr. sat quietly. He spent many months with his son, who is his law partner, working on the negotiations.

Halfway to the back of the room, City School Superintendent Ed Brickell sat and leaned his chin on his hand as he listened. He, too, spent many long days and nights working on the contract, smoothing out the details, giving a little and taking a little to work out an agreement.

Sitting with Brickell was Franklin School Board Chairman Jim Henry, who smiled, knowingly, throughout the proceeding.

After the formal meeting was over, B.T. Watkins, Southampton County School Superintendent, said “I am very happy that the matter has been settled, and I feel that it is as fair a settlement as either party could expect.”

Will Story, vice chairman of the Southampton County Board of Supervisors who signed the contract in the absence of Chairman John Camp, said, “I hope it has been settled to the satisfaction of the people of both the county and the city. “I think it is a fair and good settlement.”

“I am glad it has been settled out of court,” added Franklin City Manager Harold Atkinson. “I feel it is fair to both sides, and I hope we will all pull together for the betterment of the city and the county as a whole.”

Although Franklin became a city effective Dec. 21, 1961, all schools in Southampton County and Franklin have been operated by the Southampton County School Board, pending the establishment of a separate school division for Franklin.

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 cpjeep99@yahoo.com.