Opposition to Hunterdale school

Published 10:38 am Friday, October 31, 2014

The Southampton County Board of Supervisors late Monday night voted to request the County School Board to reconsider their plans with reference to the building of Hunterdale Elementary School. The motion to reconsider was made by Franklin District Supervisor Paul Councill. There were no dissenting votes. This decision ended a hectic day during which a delegation of about 50 people, residing within the Franklin District of Southampton County, protested the construction of the proposed Hunterdale school.

The delegation believes that if a school is put in Hunterdale by Southampton County Schools, it would mean that Franklin District elementary-aged children would be forced into that school. The delegation believes that Franklin District children should be allowed to continue attending Franklin City schools and that, if necessary in the future, as they have been told, Franklin would build additional school capacity within its City limits.

Franklin City Manager Harold Atkinson said that the City has offered to continue educating all Franklin District children, white and colored, at both elementary and high school levels.

The children of the Franklin District are now attending City schools under special agreement but this agreement expires after this school year.

In simple terms, the issue is that the majority of the people of the Franklin District of Southampton County want their children to continue attending City of Franklin schools. The Franklin District of Southampton County is that area outside the City limits of Franklin that surrounds the City. It includes Hunterdale, Black Creek, Burdette, and the Forks of the River area. Almost 800 children, white and colored, are involved.

An overriding fact, though, as Will Story, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, points out, “The Board of Supervisors does not run the schools. The School Board is the governing body of the County schools and has the final say.” Story stated further, “The Supervisors have already appropriated construction funds for the Hunterdale Elementary School. We can’t stop it.” “The School Board can.”

Knowing this, the Board of Supervisors, as a body, still voiced their feelings on the matter.

Harvey Lankford, Sedley Road, is acting as spokesman for the “group of 50.” He said, “This is the last and final time representatives from the Franklin District will ask the County to solve our problems concerning the schools. We have made our desires known to the School Board on numerous occasions. We still want our children to attend schools in Franklin.” “Our group,” Lankford said, “was not welcomed on some occasions at the School Board meetings. Now, we want final action and we don’t intend to wait six months for it.” “We would like an answer within ten days from today. If we don’t get it, we will proceed with a plan to initiate merger of the Franklin District with the City of Franklin.”

James Campbell, Sedley Road, said, “If the county builds the school, tax rates will have to increase. “Franklin is in a better position to put up the building. It is just a matter of time before Hunterdale will be a part of the City.”

Harvey Darden, Forks of the River, said, “We’re here to ask the supervisors to block the construction of the Hunterdale school. I don’t know if the City would be interested in taking us in but if the County doesn’t do something about the school problem in Franklin District, I would be for it.”

Hunter Darden Sr., Forks of the River, said, “if we don’t have some action on this problem, we will have to take action other than what we are discussing today.”

Russell Cotton, Forks of the River, said, “We want a permanent solution, not something temporary. We’ve been pushed around long enough.”

At the School Board meeting, which was attended by the delegation, Chairman Harold McGrath said, “Nothing has changed my way of thinking about the proposed and approved Hunterdale School. I feel the same way I did two years ago and two weeks ago.”

Several School Board members expressed surprise with the demands of the Franklin District delegation. L. A. Brantley, Ivor District, said, “Why wasn’t something said about not building the school two or three weeks ago? We were led to believe that the people of Franklin District were all for it.”

Paul Camp Marks, Capron, said, “If we don’t build the school, it is no guarantee they won’t be annexed anyway. We had to do a lot of planning to build this school. I can’t understand how so many people can change their minds so fast.”

Stafford Haga, School Superintendent, said that no actual construction has started on the proposed Hunterdale School but all preliminary plans have been completed. “If the school construction project is not satisfactory, a School Board meeting had better be called immediately because money is being spent daily,” he said.

Clyde Parker is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is cpjeep99@yahoo.com