Joint meeting opens doors for better communication

Published 2:34 pm Friday, January 15, 2016

Many would say the joint meeting between Franklin City Council and the Franklin City School Board was a success for all. Both groups left the meeting feeling like they were on the road to better communication.

“I thought the meeting was productive and advanced the dialogue between the two boards overall,” Franklin City Manager Randy Martin said. “I was particularly encouraged that by the end of the meeting, all members had participated in the discussion and offered comments on the various topics discussed.”

The meeting, which was facilitated by Martin and Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Willie Bell, touched on various topics, one which included working on the communication between the two groups.

“The superintendent and I tried to develop presentations that kept the group focused on the big picture, with updates on key topics of interest, with less focus on the budget details per se, as that process will follow soon,” Martin said. “Our presentations were purposefully kept brief in the hopes it would encourage dialogue between the members and I believe that strategy was effective.”

Martin and Bell felt that a way to better the communication between the two bodies was to suggest that they meet more often. They came up with a quarterly meeting called “Chat and Chew,” where the mayor, the vice mayor, chairperson, vice chairperson, city manager and superintendent would come together to update one another on what’s been going on. Both the city council and the school board agreed that they would want to participate in this type of meeting.

Other than communication, during the meeting both bodies shared with each other the good things that they have accomplished over the past year and are working towards over the next year.

“I thought it was particularly good that the tenor and exchange remained positive throughout. I attribute this at least in part to this meeting being a discussion on various items of interest to both parties without the usual added pressure of the necessity for a decision on a specific topic which is typically the case throughout the year when issues like funding and unexpected items arise,” Martin continued. “Of course, it is noteworthy that reporting positive news and discussing progress is always more pleasant than negatives and shortcomings. The optimism from school officials about achieving accreditation at all schools by June for example set a very optimistic tone for the meeting.”

Both the board and the council agreed that in order for their visions and missions to come true for the City of Franklin and Franklin City Public Schools, they would have to work together and understand that all departments of the city affects the school system in one way or another.

“I also think it was extremely helpful that both boards had gone through a recent process of developing an updated vision or mission statement and priorities for education prior to this meeting,” Martin continued. “It was encouraging to see that the language in both cases had many parallels and were not in conflict, and I thought it very revealing that the two boards independently drafted and agreed upon language to that effect. In the last 4 years at least, no formal exchange on the shared “vision” for education has occurred to this degree.”

Perhaps the city council’s vision statement sum’s up the hope that both bodies have for education and the city as a whole, “By the year 2030, the City of Franklin, Virginia will maintain our small city identity, heritage and beauty while being a regional hub for economic opportunities, top-class education, a job-ready workforce and balanced housing options.”

In the future, the city council and school board would like to have a joint retreat to discuss shared topics more thoroughly, as well as inviting other department heads to help start making this vision come true.

“I’m very pleased with the meeting,” Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn said. “I think this is the first step in progress to a retreat.”

Martin added, “I really appreciate the superintendent’s cooperation in preparing for the meeting and all the members willingness to participate as attested by the great attendance.”