2014 in review

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, December 31, 2014

By Andrew Lind/Staff Writer

By Stephen H. Cowles/Staff Writer

Several readers took our poll to determine what they thought were the top stories of 2014.

1. Franklin City Public Schools and the Virginia Board of Education: The VBOE, which already put city schools under a division-level public review last year, adopted a memorandum of understanding. An academic officer was assigned to monitor instructional staff and school turnaround partners. All three city schools were rated as accredited with warning for the second consecutive year.

A Corrective Action Plan was submitted to the VBOE in early November, but not approved. Another reading will be in January.

The newspaper reported that a Suffolk woman who was teaching first grade at S.P. Morton Elementary School was fired on Dec. 5 after the school system learned from a background check that she had been arrested in late September on two alleged felony charges of distribution of heroin.

Choose up to three stories you think were the biggest this year.

  • Franklin City Public Schools and the Virginia Board of Education (18%, 24 Votes)
  • Crime in Franklin (18%, 23 Votes)
  • Continuing success of Franklin robotics (12%, 15 Votes)
  • Officers Livingston and Lyons save a life (12%, 15 Votes)
  • County's first Gay Marriage (10%, 13 Votes)
  • Franklin Christmas Parade shenanigans (9%, 12 Votes)
  • Superintendents in Franklin (8%, 10 Votes)
  • Dominion installing Atlantic Coast Pipeline (6%, 8 Votes)
  • Sunday Hunting Bill passed (4%, 5 Votes)
  • The saga of Route 460 (4%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 51

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2. Crime in Franklin: Two men held up the SunTrust Bank in Franklin at gunpoint on Jan. 3. They escaped with $8,000 in cash, but were soon caught. One of the robbers, Shane Bradshaw, was sentenced to 120 months in prison and has to pay $7,781.50 in restitution. Louis Doughtie, the co-defendant, got 50 months in prison, and also has to pay restitution.

Shameyer Ronnice Ashburn of Franklin was arrested in early February for the alleged murder of a 6-year-old in a local motel.

James William Thomas III of Little Texas, was arrested this past April for allegedly breaking into Liberty Coins in downtown Franklin. Multiple other charges were filed based on the discovery at his residence of property that matches descriptions of stolen items.

Joseph McDonald “Chunk” Lynch Jr. is in custody on a charge of killing a 22-year-old Franklin man, Martinez D. Hill. The incident reportedly took place on Dec. 12.

3. Continuing success of Franklin robotics: Comprised of both high school and middle school students, the Franklin High School robotics team won the 2014 Virginia Regional Robotics Championships and qualified for the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) World Championships in St. Louis, Missouri. There, the team placed 22nd out of 100 entrants in the Galileo Division.

4. Officers Livingston and Lyons save a life: While out on a routine call to Bracey Street in Franklin, Sgt. Todd Lyons and Officer Quentin Livingston noticed smoke billowing from another home. Upon learning that someone was still inside, the two rushed into the burning building in order to save the person. Neither are trained firefighters, but crawled and felt their way around in an effort to locate the resident, Magdeline Jenkins, and has since full recovered.

5. County’s first same-sex marriage: Two Capron men, Mayor William “Nick” Kitchen IV and his partner, David Heath, became the first in Southampton County to obtain a license to marry. This followed the Supreme Court’s announcement that same day that, Oct. 6, that it would not hear arguments to uphold bans against same-sex marriage in Virginia, Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin. Southampton County Clerk of Circuit Court Rick Francis said that he has issued only two same-sex marriage licenses to date, one to each gender.

6. Franklin Christmas Parade shenanigans: Several spectators of this year’s Christmas parade walked away unhappy, claiming that it was not Rated PG due to what some considered inappropriate dancing from the Sussex Marching Tigers and Dancing Divas, as well as songs that were not Christmas-themed.

After the parade, a group of at least 50 teenagers and young adults broke out into a fight in the area of South Main Street.

7. Superintendents in Franklin: In January, the Franklin City Public School Board voted 3-2 to not renew then-Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle after June 30. Per her contract, Belle had to be informed six months prior to the date of the board’s intended removal. This came on the heels of the board telling Belle in December that they would renew her contract, provided that she met three stipulations: a satisfactory division level review; a satisfactory academic review; and a pass rate average of 70 percent of preliminary Stands of Learning Achievement results across the division. Enter her replacement, Willie J. Bell, who was tasked with turning around Franklin’s failing system. The school board believed he was the right man for the job, and the state superintendent and board of education found him to be a worthy candidate.

8. Dominion installing Atlantic Coast Pipeline: In early September, Dominion and a number of other companies announced their proposal to build a 550-mile natural gas pipeline from West Virginia down to North Carolina, and going through the southern part of Southampton County.

9. Sunday Hunting Bill passed: House Bill 1237 passed and signed into law, allowing Virginians the right to hunt on Sundays. Specifically, it allows private landowners and their family members to hunt, provided the land’s not within 200 yards of a place of worship.

10. The saga of Route 460: The Virginia Department of Transportation’s work on building a new Route 460 from Suffolk to Petersburg was halted by the State Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane in mid-march. At issue is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers withholding permits because the project reportedly threatens hundreds of acres of wetlands.