Credit where credit is due

Published 11:26 am Saturday, August 15, 2015

In recent years, this newspaper has devoted countless column inches of newsprint to issues regarding our region’s public schools. A significant amount of that space has been used to highlight the fantastic accomplishments of our local students and the schools they attend. Out of necessity, there has also been a fair amount of criticism leveled at school board members and administrators for blatant mismanagement and poor results. The spotlight on Franklin’s public schools has been especially bright. I am proud of the important work our staff has done on both fronts to stimulate discussion and debate on how we can best move forward.

That being said, I am especially pleased with the progress that has been shown in the preliminary results released this past week regarding scores on the Standards of Learning tests. Make no mistake; I am no fan of the current process in place for evaluating student and teacher performance. But, at the very least, S.O.L.s provide a relatively fair measuring stick by which schools and school systems can be compared against their counterparts across the commonwealth. And in recent years, Franklin schools have not measured up to the community’s expectations.

Several key personnel decisions have been made in recent years that have had a significant impact on school performance, namely the hiring of new principals at each of Franklin’s three schools. Travis Felts, Lisa Francis and Jason Chandler each took over situations at the high school, middle school and elementary school, respectively, that were challenging at best. Yet it is hard to imagine that another group of professionals could have displayed the level of passion, focus and energy that these three have put into turning their schools around. Along with their teachers and students, each has approached student achievement with an expectation of success, and that success is being realized today. The improvement in pass rates over the last two years has been nothing short of remarkable.

There is still work to be done. While Franklin High School is once again fully accredited, J.P. King Middle School and S.P. Morton Elementary School are not. However, both schools have significantly narrowed the gap between priority status and full accreditation, and under the continued leadership of Francis and Chandler performance will almost certainly continue to improve.

As has been stated in this column previously, there is no greater issue facing this community than that of public education. We will continue to cheer progress when it is made, but will remain critical when it is warranted. Recent improvement is definitely worth celebrating, and I heartily congratulate those whose hard work and commitment have lead to such positive results.

Tony Clark is publisher of The Tidewater News. His email address is