Looking back: Consolidated schools?

Published 11:31 am Friday, September 20, 2013

SEPTEMBER 20, 1963

Less than six months after settlement of the County-City schools issue, officials on both sides are having thoughts and conversations about shared services between the two jurisdictions. After all the talk and decision making in regard to separation of the Southampton County School System into two separate and distinct school divisions, now, unbelievably, some officials and citizens are having second thoughts. Some are thinking that maybe we should go the other way and return to a consolidated system. Others are thinking in terms of just sharing some of the costs. Still others believe there shouldn’t be any relationship.

Retiring Southampton County School Superintendent B. T. Watkins recently said “there should be an area of cooperation between the two school systems.” He did not elaborate on what he meant. Some people are presuming and believing that he was talking about either shared services or possible consolidation.

Watkins, now free of constraints, has touched on what could become a very controversial subject.

The State Board of Education approved Franklin’s separation from the Southampton County School System several months prior to their independent city status, but wondered why Franklin wanted to do this. The trend is to consolidate school divisions.

Prior to the division of the Southampton County School System, a determined effort was made by some county people and city people to bring about a joint school board under one superintendent. The idea was pursued quietly and without fanfare. It sparked interest from many but failed to get the necessary support and traction to go further. As Watkins said, “feelers were put out but not followed up.”

Educators have stated that neither Southampton High School nor Franklin High School has the numbers necessary to provide economy of operation and offer maximum curriculums. A high school of upward of 1,000 students would be able to offer far more courses and operate much more efficiently than either school can do independently.

One of the suggestions that is being tossed about from time to time is to have one brand-spanking-new high school half way between Courtland and Franklin to serve both county and city students. Educators recognize the advantages such a school could offer. It takes daring foresight and firm conviction to publicly suggest such an undertaking. As yet, no one has done it. Where is the leadership? Where is the vision?

Some community people envision a school system that would not only provide academic curriculum but also provide job specific technical training for those students, not bound for college, that want to prepare themselves for employment in the work place following high school graduation.

City of Franklin Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Brickell has thoughts in regard to a regional vocational-technical high school that would be developed and funded by various school divisions in our area. “Competition for jobs is getting tougher and tougher,” he said. “And at the same time the need for skilled workers is getting more demanding.”


City Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Brickell has proposed a meeting of area school superintendents.

In letters to other superintendents in the immediate area, Brickell said, in part “… a few informal meetings might go a long way towards working on certain matters that concern all of us.”

The letters were addressed to Southampton County Superintendent Stafford Haga, Isle of Wight County Superintendent Paul Collins, Nansemond County Superintendent H. S. Abernathy, and City of Suffolk Superintendent William Savage.

In the letters, Brickell pointed out that random and informal conversations have taken place in regard to having an area-wide school for vocational and technical training. He suggested that this group of superintendents could possibly work toward converting our needs into more than just casual observations.

He also said the group might act as a clearing house for ideas on educational television, programming instructions, new math, improved reading techniques, and other modern educational concepts. The group could also discuss an area school calendar, teachers’ starting salaries, and administrative procedures, he suggested. “I feel there can be no better time to sit down and reason together on many common interests our people share,” he concluded.


P. D. Vann, agriculture teacher at Riverview High School in Courtland, has received the “Distinguished Service Award” of the Old Dominion Agricultural Teachers Association. The award was presented by Dr. J. L. Lockett, Director of the School of Agriculture at Virginia State College. Vann, immediate past president of the Old Dominion Agricultural Teachers Association, was awarded the plaque during the recent annual meeting of the association.