School board criticized for self-reporting SOQ compliance

Published 10:31 am Friday, October 4, 2013

RICHMOND—School divisions self-report to the Virginia Board of Education in regard to compliance with standards of quality.

The most recent report is for the 2011-2012 school year. When the Franklin City Public School leaders were at the board meeting on Sept. 26, member Winsome E. Sears brought this up.

“That was self-reported, that you were in full compliance, but according to what we have discovered, you are not only not in full compliance, you are a great deal of a way off of full compliance,” she said.

One of the citations Sears had was made during the committee on school and division accountability meeting on Sept. 25.

At that Wednesday meeting, school board chairperson Edna King talked about how the school division had been in non-compliance for many reasons, but the only one that came up was evaluating superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle. The evaluation of a superintendent is supposed to take place every year, but at the meeting, King admitted that before November 2012, you’d have to go back to 2009 for Belle’s last evaluation.

When King became the chairperson of the board over the summer of 2012, she said ordering that evaluation was a priority. They went through the process that year and gave her goals for areas of improvement. At the accountability meeting, King said another evaluation took place in 2013.

“We set in place a direction for the superintendent to move forward to where we wish to go,” she said.

On the document, dated Aug. 1, 2012, the signature of Edna R. King is there, verifying the report that the school is in compliance with the standards of quality.

“We signed off thinking that the things we had put into place would have met the condition for compliance,” said King in a phone interview later. “I had several years ago suspected that we were not in compliance. I cited the concern several times. Having put some things in play, we felt like that would have addressed the situation.”

King said she suspected that the school board was out of compliance before she joined, but that she didn’t know that much about the standards of quality at the time.

“I used to love attending school board meetings, and I knew that education was not where it should have been,” she said at the accountability meeting. “I would sit there and cringe.”

Thinking she could help, King went to see if she could get appointed, which she did.

One of her attempts to get in line with the standards of quality was in ordering a desk book for all board members on the subject, so that school board members would have access to and use it. King said she ordered the book this past year.

She said things are changing.

“We have accepted full responsibility for moving the school division forward,” King said. “Our theme for Franklin schools this year, designed by staff, is ‘Striving for excellence.’”