Candidates step forward for school board

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, April 30, 2014

FRANKLIN—Two Franklin residents have come forward to serve the city’s school board.

In ward 1, Will Councill was nominated by Anne Williams.

Councill already serves on the school board, and has for the past five years, one full three-year which ends June 30, 2014 and he also had a two-year term due to a charter change in 2012 that improved the system so that wards up for appointments came in a 2-2-3 rotation every three years.

“He has expressed his desire to continue to serve the citizens and children of Franklin,” Williams said.

Councill also served from 2005 to 2006, but resigned when his son applied for a teacher’s position within the system. There is a policy that no family member can be hired if you are on the board. Councill works in Mechanized Maintenance at ST Tissue.

Andrea Hall-Leonard stepped up to the plate to name herself.

“The person who was supposed to nominate me was unable to attend, but I did not want to miss the opportunity,” she said. “I would like to ask permission, if possible, to come forward and say I am interested in representing ward 3.”

Hall-Leonard is an instructor of communications at Chowan University. She received her B.A. and M.A. at Hampton University. She is also a speech specialist at Hugo A. Owens Middle School in Chesapeake.

The nominations were done Monday during the Franklin City Council meeting. Nominations will again be accepted during the Monday, May 12 meeting. This is part of a new program to help improve the appointment process.

“It is important for the community to be interested in our school system,” said Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn. “This is a community issue.”

The council also hosted meetings for each ward. The ward 3 meeting was cancelled because no one showed up other than council representatives.

The ward 1 meeting was not well attended, but there were enough people present to go ahead with the session.

“The school board is probably one of the most important positions in the city,” said Ward 1 councilor Barry Cheatham. “You not only help with the school, but you also play a role in bringing jobs in, as employers look at the state of the schools.”

The school board has one regular meeting each month, but there are separate called meetings, especially around budget time. The way personnel works at the schools, meetings are also regularly called to discuss that topic.

Since the troubles with accreditation started, the school board is meeting additionally every month to discuss improvement at J.P. King Middle School with Catapult Learning, the school’s turnaround partner.

The school board has also been on the agenda for the Virginia Board of Education monthly for the past several months.

School board members are also required to know a lot of information from books of code that deal specifically with the Franklin system, but there is also code that the school board is responsible for from the state, such as the Standards of Learning. The rate of pay for school board members is less than $200 a month.

At the ward 1 meeting, Councill said that you serve for the love of the system.

“My kids went to school here, as did I,” he said. “I’ve been involved with it my whole life.

“I want the system to be where it was when I went to school. I know there are challenges, but I’m not going to walk away from this system.”