School board member responds to article

Published 10:13 am Wednesday, May 24, 2017

To the Editor:

After examining the potential damage the story published by The Tidewater News in reference to my credentials may cause to my reputation and credibility, my family and I felt it necessary to combat the negative image the article may have portrayed of my character.

I would like the community to know that first I am a mother who is concerned about her children receiving a quality education, who serves on the school board by choice to implement the mission of the school division not just for my children but all children.

“The mission of Franklin City Public Schools is to work in partnership with students, families, and the community to provide enriching opportunities to empower individual learners to maximize their potential in becoming critical thinkers, productive citizens and life-long learners.”

My biography was submitted to FCPS based on information about me personally to include academia, although, according to § 22.1-29. of the code of Virginia, Qualifications of members, it is not necessary for a person to have a degree and/or advanced degree to serve on the school board.

“Each person appointed or elected to a school board shall, at the time of his appointment or election, be a qualified voter and a bona fide resident of the district from which he is selected if appointment or election is by district or of the school division if appointment or election is at large; and if he shall cease to be a resident of such district or school division, his position on the school board shall be deemed vacant.”

Therefore, since I am a qualified voter and a bona fide resident of the district to which I have been appointed, that happens to also have in addition to a doctorate degree in Christian Education & Pastoral Counseling, a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication and Theatre Arts from Hampton University, a master’s degree in Communicative Sciences & Disorders from Hampton University, and 22 years of teaching and counseling experience, and have volunteered in the FCPS for years as a parent before appointment to the school board in 2014, the point of The Tidewater News article recently published is baffling.

In addition to being a wife, mother, educator and community servant, I am a third-generation preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, an ordained minister, and not the first ordained minister to have served on the Franklin City School Board. The fact that I felt the need to better serve and counsel others in ministry, and chose to devote the necessary time and personal resources to pursue advance academic study in Christian Education and Pastoral Counseling whether accredited or non-accredited (accreditation is voluntary) does not merit an entire article that seems to bring into question my character or qualification as a school board member. How really relevant is my curriculum and course work in Christian education and pastoral counseling to the qualification for service on the Franklin City School Board, or is this really a distraction from the real issue at hand — the full accreditation of Franklin City Schools?

It is my prayer that the article in question is not a distraction from the needed attention for full accreditation of Franklin City Public Schools, and board members who are committed to meeting the needs of our dear school division. As residents/citizens of the City of Franklin, citizens and stakeholders including businesses should be reminded of the press release issued March 2014, by the state board of education:

Board of Education Approves Significant Actions to Address Franklin City Public Schools’ Shortfalls

“The Virginia Board of Education today approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between it and Franklin City Public Schools on actions that must be taken by the southeastern Virginia school division to address systemic deficiencies in student achievement, instruction and governance.

“Under the MOU — following approval by the Franklin School Board — Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright will assign a chief academic officer to monitor and coordinate the actions of division instructional staff and the school turnaround partners assigned to the district. The chief academic officer also will have administrative oversight of federal and state funds that support programs to raise the achievement of the division’s at-risk and low-income students… .”

If confirmed for a second term on the Franklin City School Board, I will continue my commitment to ensure that the school division has and maintains qualified personnel, all three schools are accredited and the division is fiscally sound. It is my desire to see growth and economic stability in the city of Franklin, which is directly linked to successful schools. I believe I have and will continue if appointed to uphold the VSBA Code of Conduct for School Board Members and work collaboratively with Franklin City Council the appropriating body as mandated.

“The School Board derives its power and authority from the Constitution and statutes of the Commonwealth of Virginia, regulations of the State Board of Education, and the Charter of the City of Franklin.” — FCPS Governance Handbook

Lastly, “God is within her, she shall not fall: God will help her at break of day.” – Psalm 46:5 NIV

Dr. Andrea Hall-Leonard