Southampton native announced as Franklin superintendent

Published 7:17 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2014

FRANKLIN—Southampton County native Willie James Bell Jr. has been named as the new Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent. He will begin work on Tuesday, July 1.

Bell comes most recently from Sussex County Schools, where he served as the director of instruction. He has a master’s degree in administration from East Carolina University and will defend his doctoral dissertation this summer, which he is receiving from Cambridge College.

In the past, he was the director of secondary instruction in Petersburg and also served as a high school principal in the Northampton and Richmond systems.

“I am honored and humbled to be appointed in this position,” Bell said. “First, I would like to provide thanks to the board for extending their confidence in me as we look to collaboratively move the division forward.

“I look forward to working with all of the extended family of the Franklin city school community — the staff, administration, parents, students and all extended links. I am honored and this is a privilege.”

School Board Chairwoman Edna King said that what helped Bell stand out was his meeting the conditions required by the Memorandum of Understanding, and more importantly with how well he fit the qualifications cited in the residents’ survey.

King said that Bell already lives in Franklin, so he won’t be a commuting superintendent.

“That presence was so significant in what people wanted,” she said. “He will have an ongoing interaction with the people throughout the city. Plus, he already knows people in our city, and he knows a great deal about our community and our schools.”

Bell has helped turn other systems into a positive direction, King said.

“He played a great role in supporting the efforts of Sussex in turing the schools around,” she said. “Plus, when he was a principal at George Wythe High School in Richmond City, there is documentation of his having gone to that school with some major challenges, and he turned the culture of that school around.”

Ward 1’s Will Councill said Bell will be good for Franklin.

“I think Mr. Bell will be a very good fit for this school system,” he said. “I think he’ll be an asset.”

The way he handled the interview process gives Councill confidence that Bell can do the job, even though he has never been a superintendent.

“He looked us straight in the eye as he answered questions,” he said. “He even brought us some ideas that he was already thinking about, as far as changes that could be made in our school system.”

Councill said he thought Franklin got lucky.

“He is very knowledgeable on curriculum, and he’s good with financing,” he said. “He’s also very straight-forward. I think he will just be a good fit for this school system, period.”

Bell said he is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

“We will work hard and diligently to ensure every student in this community gets the education needed,” he said. “We are in 21st-century learning environment. I will work collaboratively with the board and everyone in the extended family to make sure students get exactly what they need.”

The Franklin City School Board unanimously voted to offer Bell a contract for the years 2014-15 and 2015-16.

“I’m anxious to began work on July 1,” Bell said.

Bell’s mother is Lottie Bell and his father was the late Willie J. Bell Sr.

He is married to Cassandra, and they have three children, Evan, Gabrielle and Khairi. His brother is Darian Bell, who is the principal at Southampton Middle School. His sister is Prenda Crocker, who teaches at Sussex Central High School.

King said one thing she was impressed with at the meeting was the crowd.

“I was really impressed, favorably impressed, with the audience that was present last evening,” she said. “The enthusiasm that was shown by those persons who were in attendance was excellent, from the people who were there — the parents there — who have known him over the years.”