Franklin school board terminates superintendent, then resigns

Published 3:01 pm Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Following a brief debate in closed session held Friday in the school board chambers of city hall, Franklin’s school board voted unanimously to terminate Supt. Dr. Willie J. Bell’s contract with the school division without cause, effective Monday, Nov. 7.

Bell will receive a severance package of his full salary plus benefits for 120 days.

The board also voted unanimously to name Kelvin Edwards Sr., the division’s current director of teaching, learning and accountability, as interim superintendent.

“We want to thank you for your service to Franklin City schools since 2014; the division has seen tremendous gains,” school board chairwoman Dr. Andrea Hall-Leonard said to Bell. “We do believe this is the best decision for the school division at this time.”

Bell released the following statement on Monday morning to Franklin City Public Schools’ staff:

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce to you today, that this will be my last day with the division. I would like to take this time to thank you for all of your hard work and dedication. In honor of my legacy, I implore you to remain steadfast to the vision and mission of the division by keeping the children first. Remember that they are the reason that we enter the halls of our respective buildings daily. They are our future and need to continuously be poured into and molded to be productive citizens and life-long learners.

“It is with deep appreciation that I express to you my many thanks for your support during my tenure with the division. Best wishes and much success for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year.”

Edwards released an official written statement Monday accepting his appointment as interim superintendent.

“I am honored and would like to thank the Franklin City School Board for the opportunity to serve the division in this capacity,” Edwards wrote. “Our students are the focal point of all of those employed by the division. We continue to work together as a strong network to ensure career ready life-long learners. Under the leadership of Dr. Willie J. Bell Jr., the division has experienced tremendous growth. We will continue to move the division forward towards full accreditation of each of our schools.”

Edwards also denied that the division’s current budget deficit was the result of any wrongdoing.

“We experienced a deficit of our budget that in no way was inflected by wrongful or willful misconduct by any member of this administration,” Edwards wrote. “As always, we are continuously working on our practices and procedures to be fiscally sound. In order for us to achieve our mission, the focus must be solely on the success of Franklin City Public Schools students. Therefore, we are counting on the stakeholders of the city of Franklin for their continued support for this endeavor.”

The school board cancelled its regular scheduled meeting for Thursday, Nov. 10, and by 9:05 p.m. Monday, all members of the board had tendered their resignations to city council, meeting the deadline established by council in a resolution adopted Nov. 1.

However, in addition to her resignation, Hall-Leonard also submitted an official statement on behalf of the board disagreeing with the resolution and asking council to rescind it and meet jointly with the members of the board to discuss budgetary concerns.

City council will hold a special called meeting today, Nov. 9, to discuss council-board relations and updates on current and future capital projects at 7 p.m. in the council chamber of city hall.