Franklin schools need active support of residents

Published 11:07 am Friday, February 7, 2014

To the Editor:

Over the past year, there has been growing public concern over the rapidly declining performance of Franklin City Public Schools as measured by the Virginia Department of Education. This concern has led to much hand-wringing, many articles being written in the papers, and attendance and speaking at numerous meetings as the city looks for the answer as to what needs to be done to start the schools on the road to recovery. Thursday night the Franklin School Board voted for new leadership. Regardless of who ultimately leads the school system, there is currently and will always be an enormous need for all concerned citizens to step forward and put forth an effort to help those in the system who have the most to gain or lose, the students. In doing so, all who call Franklin home will benefit.

We have a significant number of students, who at no fault of their own, fall into the category of “at risk.” These students can benefit tremendously from the additional help and attention that can be given by volunteers. Having a volunteer in a crowded classroom who can give some extra one on one help is extremely beneficial for a student struggling to grasp a concept.

J.P. King Middle School has in place two programs that are currently staffed by teachers. Their STAR program provides additional instruction to all students in math, reading, science and history. It is structured so that a student gets three hours of instruction a week in one subject then rotates to another subject the next week. Over a 4-week period, a student receives 3 hours instruction in each subject. In addition to this, they have math and reading tutoring for 1 hour after school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. These programs are ideal for volunteers as they have flexible hours that allow a volunteer to pick a suitable time slot. Furthermore, since they are run by the teachers, your absence does not result in a student not receiving help. However, your presence greatly enhances the program. I suspect that similar volunteer opportunities also exist at the elementary and high schools.

I have had the privilege of being able to spend time helping with 6th-grade math at J.P King Middle School through the STAR and tutoring programs. I have been extremely impressed by J.P. King’s administration, by the quality of the teachers (especially the remarkable ability of math teacher Mrs. [Cindy] Fillhart, who has shown me what I need to know to help) and by the response of the students and their desire and ability to learn when given a little extra help.

Franklin is blessed with talented citizens who have repeatedly risen to the occasion to tackle issues facing the City. This is once again a time to rise to the challenge. Now is the time to step forward and lend a hand in the schools where the help is most needed. Now is the time for “boots on the ground.” If we all channel our concern into action, we can make a difference. Citizens, seek out a way to help, ask the school principals what you can do. Businessmen, try to find a way to let concerned employees spend an hour a week helping; better yet encourage them to do so. Overwhelm the schools with sincere offers of help and make a difference in a child’s life. This won’t solve all the problems, but it will help some of the students. It will help improve the quality of our schools and our city.

Tom Jones