Who will run Franklin’s schools if board resigns?

Published 9:41 am Monday, November 7, 2016

Franklin’s city council demanded the entire school board resign at a special called meeting on Tuesday, passing a resolution that gives the board members a deadline of Monday, Nov. 7, to tender their resignations. Now, the council must deal with the potential issue of who would run the schools in the time it would take them to appoint new people, should all members of the current board comply with council’s resolution.

According to the Code of Virginia, the minimum amount of time city council could legally take to appoint one or more replacement board members is 17 days. City Attorney H. Taylor Williams IV estimates that the additional vetting process council would likely use could take approximately 30 days, which would potentially leave Franklin City Public Schools without a school board for nearly a month, should the current members all comply with the resolution’s deadline.

The Code of Virginia sections § 22.1-29.1 mandate that an announcement of one or more school board vacancies be given in a newspaper having a general circulation within the school division at least 10 days prior to holding a public hearing, at which nominations would be accepted. State law further mandates a minimum of seven days between the conclusion of the hearing and formal appointment of someone to the school board.

According to Williams, the process city council would likely follow would be to post a notice in the newspaper announcing the vacancies and the date for a public hearing for residents to submit nominations. Once the hearing is closed, the council would make a decision as to whether to hold a closed, called meeting to interview one or more nominees. Following the interviews, council would set a date, which would most likely be the next regular council meeting, to entertain motions to appoint one or more new members to fill the vacancies.

Williams said he did not know yet who would run the schools in the interim between resignations and appointments, but did stress that city council was prohibited from managing the school system themselves.

“City council cannot run the schools; the [city’s] charter is very clear on that,” Williams said. “The school board is the governing body of the school system and we can’t do an interim appointment of council members to run the schools.”

Charles Pyle, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Education, said that VDOE would not play a role in new school board member appointments or take over management of the schools during the interim either.

Having each school run its own affairs without a centralized school board doesn’t seem to be an option either, as the Code of Virginia section § 22.1-28 specifies that “the supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board.”

The Code further specifies that the only requirements for someone to serve on the school board are that he or she be a qualified voter and bona fide resident of the ward he or she represents. Franklin’s school board is comprised of one member from each of the city’s six wards and seventh who is “at large,” meaning that person is allowed to reside anywhere in the city.

Williams could not reveal how many members of the current school board, if any, have tendered their resignations because the matter pertains to personnel.