One, two, three a week

Published 10:14 am Friday, March 27, 2015

Despite the city label, Franklin is a small town. It’s easy to run into people you know while grocery shopping or going to weekend events.

It’s also a town of frequent meetings. It seems like there’s two or three every week, and that’s probably because there are that many each week.

Not long ago, Monday in fact, I attended a Franklin City Council meeting. A school board member who had been there because of a budget work session approaches me about last Friday’s column, “Another program falls to apathy,” which was about the lack of support in the community killing the Robo Regatta for at least this year.

The board member doesn’t read The Tidewater News, but just happened to read it that day.


The board member claimed to agree with some of it, and disagree with other parts of it. As you can probably guess, the disagreement was the topic that party was actually interested in discussing.

Cited was a throw-away line 18 paragraphs in that mentioned the school board:

Thinking back, the former superintendent wasn’t there and the only school board member present had a kid in one of the boats.

This person wanted me to know that on the morning of the Robo Regatta, the board had interviewed a superintendent candidate. Moreover, they have a lot of meetings and can’t make every event that the schools put on.

First, I’m not going to name the school board member because this person was probably tired after a long day, was frustrated about something else and took it out on me. That’s what I’m going to tell myself, anyway.

Second, school board members are required to have one mandatory meeting a month. It’s the regularly scheduled meeting on the third Thursday. That one meeting a month thing that school board members were duped into believing is a lie, though.

Due to two schools being in Priority status, the second Tuesday of the month is set aside to meet with Catapult Learning, J.P. King’s and S.P. Morton’s turnaround partner.

The status of the schools also causes them to regularly be on the agenda for the Virginia Board of Education. To their credit, Franklin board members often show up to support the superintendent.

Called and work sessions are also scheduled frequently, and a few times a year the board is expected to meet with the Franklin City Council.

Let’s talk numbers. In January, the school board met six times. February was less frequent due to the snow, and that’s only going to mean more meetings in March and April.

I do not attend every meeting, especially recently, but over the past two years I’ve attended enough of them to know that the Franklin School Board meets almost every week, sometimes twice a week.

Not only do they meet often, but the meetings also drag on for way longer than they have to.

These assemblies regularly go past 10 p.m., often more than four hours after getting started at around 6 p.m. with closed session. It’s absolutely uncalled for, but somehow it happens.

All of this is said to say that I know they are tired, and I know all too well how much work it is.

However, I think the comment exemplifies the point I was trying to make in the column.

No, school board members can’t make every event in Franklin or even every event that the schools put on. I don’t expect them to, and I doubt anyone reasonable in the community expects all of them to be at every little thing. Sure, in an ideal world, since there are only three schools and they don’t have that many events, it’d be nice to delegate to make sure at least one member attends every event. It’s not going to be possible every time due to them having real jobs and real lives, but I bet someone could attend most gatherings.

Robo Regatta, on the other hand, is not a casual weekend bash. It is related to the one program the school board has time and time again pointed to when people start talking about how bad the schools are.

And more than that, the Regatta itself was one of the best events that Franklin had going for it. I can’t adequately showcase the excitement that young people had for it, but it was there.

It’s also on a Saturday afternoon, when most people aren’t working. If school board members are going to shine a light on robotics as the good thing about Franklin’s school system, they should support a fundraiser that helps the program be successful.

Trips across the country don’t come cheap, nor do robots. But that’s not telling school board members anything they don’t already know.

Sure, there was a meeting in the morning. And I’m sure it wasn’t the only recent meeting they had.

However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a week’s worth of city council and school board meetings and worse. Yet I make time for weekend events like the Robo Regatta and the Renaissance Faire.

Before you say I’m on the clock, by Saturday 40 hours likely hit early on Thursday and I’m well into my volunteer hours for The Tidewater News.

This isn’t to brag or say I’m better than board members, as I’m absolutely not. My hours are definitely surpassed by nurses and those working at the Franklin Police and Franklin Fire and Rescue departments.

I’d even grudgingly admit that during this time of year, our city’s accountants are blowing my hours out of the water. Yet, I see these guys and gals at community events.

Of course, I do see Franklin School Board members at community events on occasion, and more often at school events. I can’t count how many times I haven’t, though. More than that, a member of city council, the city manager or even the city attorney will likely be there.

They have a lot of meetings, too. The city attorney somehow also manages to attend most of the city and school board meetings, while also serving the Franklin Planning Commission and SPSA. I can’t keep up with him and he has a good 30 years on me.

So buck up, school board, and remember that this is public service. It’s often a thankless job. Deep down, people know you work hard. But it would really show the community — including the children who are supposed to be No. 1 — that you care if you made a little time to be at events like the Robo Regatta.

Besides, I often find that the Saturday functions offer a fulfilling opportunity to clear my mind following a week of board meetings.

Cain Madden is the managing editor of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at 562-3187 or