School superintendent releases letter to parents

Published 1:56 pm Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 17, Franklin City Public School Division Superintendent Willie Bell sent a letter to parents addressing the situation with the first grade teacher who had been hired after being arrested in Suffolk for two counts of distribution of heroin.

The teacher, Elizabeth Ferguson, was reportedly hired on Sept. 29, and was placed on leave on Dec. 5 after the schools received the results of her criminal background check. On Monday, Dec. 15, the Suffolk woman resigned from her position, and it was accepted, effective immediately.

According to the Virginia Court system, her charges date back to December 2013, and she was arrested on Sept. 26. Ferguson’s arraignment date is scheduled for Jan. 7, in the Suffolk Circuit Court.

In the letter, Bell wrote:

Dear Parents: 


I am writing to address a personnel situation that has received media coverage this week. As you may be aware, it was recently discovered that a newly hired teacher at S.P. Morton Elementary School had pending felony charges. This teacher applied for the position before the chargers were made. After submitting her application but before starting work, the teacher was charged with the commission of a felony. The teacher did not notify the school division administration of the pending chargers.

The school division ran a criminal background check on this applicant consistent with our practice and as provided for in the Code of Virginia. Unfortunately, the school division did not receive the results of the criminal background check for approximately six weeks. As soon as we received the results of the criminal background check, this teacher was placed on administrative leave and she ultimately chose to resign from her position, effective immediately. She has not been in the classroom with students since we received the results of the criminal background check.

Please be assured that this is an isolated incident. All new hires are subject to criminal background checks. We attempt to obtain the results of the criminal background check prior to placing an employee in the school but that is not always possible due to the demands placed on the local, state, and national criminal justice agencies.




Willie J. Bell, Jr., Ed.S.

Division Superintendent