Education is the key

Published 9:58 am Wednesday, April 8, 2015

by Robert Holt

I doubt there is anyone in our local area who appreciates and values education more than this writer. Education is the key to elevating a person from a life of poverty, government assistance and/or crime.

These pages have chronicled the rapid and disastrous fall of our Franklin public school rankings from excellent in the 1990s to one of the lowest in Virginia. The last five years have been especially challenging.

There is, however, reason to be optimistic. Dr. Willie Bell, appointed last July, came in with a great deal of energy, enthusiasm and a can-do attitude. In his nine months on the job, he has established a plan for success, rallied the troops behind it and provided much more community involvement than previous administrations. I have had several conversations with Dr. Bell, and firmly believe he is the right person to lead our schools out of the dire situation he found when he arrived. He needs our support. His door is always open.

Franklin schools have terrific principals as well. Most of the teacher corps is superb. One of the most critical problems facing Franklin schools are the apathetic parents who do not support their children’s education, do not attend school functions and do not respect the opinions of teachers, who offer professional advice and counsel.

Many see public schools as a free childcare service. Another major problem is apathetic students at higher grade levels who do not see the value of education, and who could not care less about learning and test scores. This has to change.

Now to Paul D. Camp Community College. Unlike public schools, the Virginia Community College System does not publish rankings of member colleges in a definitive way. The news release by Virginia Community College System Chancellor Dr. Glenn DuBois last week stated, “Were this college a private enterprise, its financial sustainability would be questionable. Our mission, however, compels us to serve these communities, helping people there find opportunity, and we intend to return the college to a standing where it can do that. ”

In the same release the incoming interim president, Dr. William Aiken, stated, “I’m excited to bring people together in this effort to help the college find its footing.”

It appears that PDCCC has a lot of work to do as well. I do not know Dr. Aiken personally but know of his reputation; he will right the ship.

I had the good fortune to teach and serve as faculty president at Southwestern Community College. It was ranked No. 1 of the 58 community colleges in North Carolina and ranked No. 9 of 1,200 in the United States.

I have seen excellence on a daily basis and know we can do that here if we all value and support that goal.

ROBERT N. “BOB” HOLT a Franklin native, is a retired professor of business management and real estate at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, N.C. He holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies degrees from Virginia Tech, and was a member of the university’s Corps of Cadets. His e-mail address is