Franklin schools under division level review

Published 10:18 am Thursday, October 24, 2013

Click this photo to view the video.

Click this photo to view the video.

Updated Oct. 24, 2013 at 4:53 p.m.

RICHMOND—The Virginia Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday morning to place Franklin City Public Schools under division-level public review, after a short question-and-answer session with Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle and board chairperson Edna King.

The evaluation will examine the practices of the school board and leaders at the central office. This is coming off of a school-level academic review and follow-up review, which examined the three Franklin schools this past year.

According to Office of School Improvement Director Dr. Kathleen Smith, the Virginia Department of Education will work with Advanced Ed to help bring the Franklin City Public Schools back to accreditation, as well as assist the division-level review of stakeholder engagement, and board and governance.

Superintendents from other districts in Virginia and other states will also be looking at processes including curriculum, personnel and finances, Smith said.

Before the vote, several state school board members questioned Belle and King. Betsy D. Beamer, vice president, asked about personnel and if Belle believed that she had the right staff in place.

“I do, as I told you last time that we were here,” Belle said. “Not only did we make changes at the central office level, but we made them in the buildings, and I believe that will also make a major difference as we lead to turning things around and moving to full accreditation.”

VBOE member Christian N. Braunlich mentioned that using Teach for America might be a good idea considering that many teachers and administrators were not accredited when the state did its school-level review.

“They come with resources, and frankly, where there have been measures, they have performed better on math and at least as good on reading issues,” Braunlich said.

Belle said they have not considered using Teach for America, but she agreed that it was a good idea.

The division has a strategic leadership team that is going into the schools every 4 and half weeks. During those meetings, principals will report to the division leaders such issues as student and teacher attendance and academic achievements. After that review, they observe classrooms and meet with the principals again.

Ultimately, Belle said, she was responsible for evaluating principals and that she was willing to make the tough decisions if it came down to it.

“I’ve been in this business a long time, and I know it is not easy,” she said.

Belle also asked the board about clarification from a Virginia Office of School Improvement Newsletter from two years ago that highlighted the wonderful things going on in Franklin schools.

“I hope you see that and understand why we have this fuzziness, and we are like, ‘Wow, why all of a sudden is everything in Franklin city going so bad?’” Belle asked.

Board President David M. Foster said the reason Franklin is being put under division-level review is because the schools have not met any of the federal benchmarks for proficiency gap groups, the percent of students attending warned schools is higher than the state average and the multiple standard of quality violations learned through the school-level review.

“This is two years old,” Foster said. “I understand why you would want us to see this, but it is not relevant to the task ahead of us. I look forward to working with you during this turn around.”

King thanked the board for their help.

“We are delighted that you are investing some effort to help us to turn things around in the Franklin City School Division,” King said. “We intend to be most supportive of those persons who come in to conduct the reviews.”

A timetable was not set for when the division-level review would take place.

The video of the state school board meeting can be found here. Discussion on Franklin City Public Schools begins around the 36-minute mark.

A PDF of the newsletter is available here.