The next to go

Published 11:27 am Saturday, February 8, 2014

In December, the Franklin City School Board notified division superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle that her contract would not be extended beyond its current expiration date of June 30, 2014 if three very clear objectives were not met; a satisfactory division-level review, a satisfactory academic review and a system-wide passing rate of 70 percent on the division’s upcoming Standards of Learning tests. School board chairman Edna King voted in favor of the conditions set forth.

Two weeks ago, the results of the Virginia Department of Education’s division-level review were made public and, suffice it to say, they were anything but satisfactory. The licensure and human resources review alone indicated that there were six significant findings still unresolved from the original review despite public assurances from the central office that they had all been handled, plus the fact that there were six new significant findings since the original review. By almost any conceivable definition, this is unsatisfactory and not indicative of a school administration moving in the right direction or taking seriously the grave condition it is in.

Yet despite these well-documented findings and several other infractions cited by the state, King, along with ward 4 school board representative Sherita Ricks-Parker, last week voted to keep the superintendent in place in spite of the fact that the first of three criteria set by the board — and ones that they both agreed to — were not met.

It is completely inconceivable to me how anyone on the school board could vote to keep on a superintendent who has overseen a school system that has been in a downward spiral ever since her arrival in 2009. The fact that one would do so, and then refuse to comment publicly on what led to her decision, is blatant malfeasance and should trigger the actions necessary to have them removed from their position.

The termination of the current superintendent was a right and necessary first step in the rebuilding of Franklin’s schools, but there is much left to be done. Allowing the current school board, specifically Mrs. King, to oversee the process would be much like had Georgians invited General Sherman to stick around and supervise the rebuilding of Atlanta.

At this point, the right thing would be for King to step down, at least from her role as chairman of the board. Assuming she won’t, city leaders and school stakeholders should pressure her to do so.

TONY CLARK is the associate publisher of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at