FCPS Board owes public an explanation, Chandler apology

Published 10:11 am Friday, June 27, 2014


I read with amazement the recent article in your newspaper regarding the Franklin City School Board’s vote to rescind its offer to Mr. [Jason] Chandler to be the next principal of S.P. Morton Elementary School. Mr. Chandler has proven himself a hard-working administrator who cares about the students under his tutelage, and I do hope he is ultimately named the next principal of that school.

It appears that the school board must have hired Mr. Chandler very quickly to fill a position that came open before the end of the school year. Apparently the previous principal, Dr. [Debbie] Harris-Rollins, was so emotionally drained after not being selected to be our next Superintendent that she just didn’t have the energy to finish the school year (not to mention her contractual commitment). What a gem of a hire she proved to be as the principal at S.P. Morton!

The FCPS Board recently entered into a well-documented Memorandum of Understanding with the Virginia Department of Education, with the goal of improving educational outcomes for our students. Our local School Board Chairwoman Ms. Edna King signed the MOU in which the FCPS Board agreed to have our FCPS Superintendent forward all suggested hires of instructional personnel to VDOE no less than five days prior to making the recommendation for hire to the FCPS Board in a local FCPS Board meeting.

It sounds as if the offer to Mr. Chandler may not have been cleared through proper channels at VDOE prior to being made. If true, this situation should not be misconstrued to reflect poorly on Mr. Chandler. To the contrary, I believe he is a good and honorable choice to lead that school.

It looks like the FCPS Board rescinded the offer to Mr. Chandler after having its hand slapped because the Board made a lightning-quick offer of employment without first consulting with VDOE. If this is indeed the case, the community deserves an explanation as to how this could happen just weeks after signing the MOU. Did an administrator in our school system advise the board that the hiring of Mr. Chandler had been cleared through VDOE when, in fact, this had not been done? If so, that administrator should be fired immediately. If instead, the FCPS Board acted without a recommendation from our FCPS administration, and without first running the new hire by VDOE, then I believe that the members of the local board should feel compelled to resign. How can the entire school board act outside of the agreement with VDOE, and not have even a single board member pause to consider the requirements of the MOU? If this is how it happened, shame on Ms. King and the FCPS Board. The misstep makes me question whether members of the board have even bothered to read the MOU yet.

One of the points stressed repeatedly by the state board has been the need for improved communication by the FCPS Board with stakeholders. In this instance, I believe the community deserves answers to the questions I’ve raised, and Mr. Chandler likely deserves an apology from the FCPS Board.

David Benton