Inspiring students and teachers

Published 10:27 am Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Two front-page stories from Sunday’s edition of The Tidewater News support theories we have long held to be true about Franklin’s schools. The first, “Preliminary SOL scores show improvement,” shows that engaged and supportive building-level leadership can inspire students and teachers to reach new heights. Lisa Francis and Travis Felts, the respective principals of J.P. King Middle School and Franklin High School, are proof of that. Both leaders, along with their staffs, have clearly demonstrated a commitment to their schools and are personally invested in seeing them improve. The strong improvement shown in preliminary SOL scores is a testament to the hard work done by many and the leadership both Francis and Felts provide.

The scores at S.P. Morton Elementary, which remain abysmally low, could also be considered a reflection of lackluster building leadership. When Dr. Debbie Harris Rollins resigned last July after only one year as the school’s principal, after allegedly giving it lots of thought and prayer and only weeks after renewing her contract with the school system, it should have been an indication of how committed she was to her new school and her students.

But rather than accept the resignation, as she should have, division superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle welcomed Rollins back with open arms, after what one could only assume was a couple more days of thought and prayer and a change of heart for Rollins. A year later at S.P. Morton, there is hardly any improvement in scores to be found, a precipitous drop in science performance, and Rollins has quit again. Apparently no one is begging her to stay this time.

The second story, “S.P. Morton offer rescinded by board,” reminds us that replacing Dr. Belle at superintendent was only the first of three high-level firings that need to occur. In both the academic-level and division-level reviews conducted by the state department of education this past year, the mistakes and malfeasance uncovered with specific regard to human resource issues was an embarrassment to the division and the city of Franklin.

The fact that significant errors in human resources continue to take place, such as hiring a new principal without going through the processes outlined in our memorandum of understanding with the state, only serves to underscore the ongoing ineptitude and incompetence of those making such decisions. That Jason Chandler, assistant principal at Franklin High School turned principal at S.P. Morton turned assistant principal at Franklin High School, has been put through such an ordeal is unconscionable, though given previous blunders committed by this administration, not at all surprising. Given the high degree of scrutiny that this school system is rightfully under and the fact that the Chandler hiring was handled so ineptly, director of human resources Gail Wade should be, for the third or fourth time, terminated immediately.

But she won’t. Because the school board chairman is Edna King. She can’t be fired because she was appointed, can’t be recalled because city charter won’t permit it and thumbs her nose in the face of a city council who appointed her but won’t uniformly demand accountability. King would never demand that type of accountability when she won’t accept any herself.