Councill, Powell named to Franklin City School Board

Published 4:33 pm Wednesday, July 6, 2022

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The Franklin City Council appointed two new members of the Franklin City School Board during the June 27 council meeting, with Arwen Councill being named to the Ward 2 seat by a 6-0 vote and Brittany Powell being named to the Ward 5 seat by a 5-1 vote.

Arwen Councill

Ward 1 Councilman Mark R. Kitchen cast the lone dissenting vote, and he declined to comment on it. Ward 3 Councilman Gregory McLemore was not present for the votes.

Councill and Powell began their three-year terms on July 1.

They replace outgoing Ward 2 Board Member and Board Chair Amy L. Phillips and Ward 5 Board Member Dr. Andrea Shelton, respectively. Phillips had served on the board for five-and-a-half years and had been chair since 2020. Shelton served one three-year term. Neither of them pursued a nomination for reappointment, and their terms expired June 30.

Individuals that were nominated, in addition to Councill and Powell, included Dr. William A. Scott, for the Ward 2 seat, and Lokette Wiggins Myrick, for the Ward 5 seat.

The City Council conducted interviews with all of the nominated candidates.

Councill grew up in Utah, moved to the area in 2003 and has two children in the school system. She noted that serving on the school board is something she has been interested in doing for a long time, but she just needed the timing to be right.

“I’m delighted by the appointment and excited to serve my community in this capacity,” she said in a June 28 interview. “I’m really looking forward to learning all I can about the way our school system works, how we cooperate with the state and federal ways that we can work to improve legislation to benefit our local students.”

Brittany Powell

Powell, who has had a lot of family members come up through the Franklin school system, was present at the City Council meeting June 27 and shared her reaction to her appointment after the meeting.

“I’m very pleased and honored to be able to serve and represent the city of Franklin,” she said. “Living here and being able to give back is very important, so I’m very thankful for the opportunity.”

Nominations for the Ward 2 and Ward 5 school board seats were made during the May 23 City Council meeting.

Nominating Councill for the Ward 2 seat were Ward 1 Board Member and Board Vice Chair Robert Holt and Phillips.

As he made the initial nomination, Holt noted that Councill has two sons currently enrolled at Franklin High School. Councill indicated one is a rising junior and the other a rising senior.

“She has taught at Franklin High School in the past,” Holt said. “She volunteers on numerous projects. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree, she has a law degree, she has 12 years experience as a teacher. She has served on the board of the Franklin City Parks and Recreation Department for three years.

“She speaks five languages,” Holt continued. “She has experience with international students. She has taught English as a second language. We strongly recommend and support the appointment of Ms. Arwen Councill for the Ward 2 seat effective July 1.”

Councill noted in the June 28 interview that she has served as the director of the International Student Program at Southampton Academy.

Phillips later came up to nominate Councill at the May 23 meeting, giving a recommendation informed by her own experience on the board.

“One of the things during my tenure on the school board that I have come to know is that a good mix of individuals on the board with various backgrounds is very essential to us being able to function,” Phillips said. “It helps us see things from different perspectives. It gives things different light. I believe Arwen Councill would bring that to the school board.

“It also helps when you have parents on the school board, because those that are actively engaged within the division and have children don’t just look at it from the perspective of the community, they look at it from the perspective of the kids, and that’s what we’re all there for on the school board anyways is to serve the children of the community,” she continued. “Arwen has two children in the school division, and I think that will be an asset as well. With my leaving the board, that only leaves us with one person on the board that has children in the division currently, and I think you need a few more voices with children in the division that are there not just to represent the community but especially the children of the community.”

Phillips also pointed to Councill’s education, her background in education and her law experience.

“She has worked in education before, which is also an asset,” Phillips said. “She is a degreed attorney, which brings another level to that board unit, so I just encourage you to please consider Ms. Arwen Councill for the Ward 2 seat on the Franklin City School Board.”

Nominating Powell at the May 23 meeting was Dr. Alvin Harris.

“It is very interesting when you see an individual with rare traits that are fueled by hard work and effort,” he said to council members. “We have a young lady who works in our midst. She lives in Franklin. Her grandparents lived here, worked much of their lives and died here. Her mother grew up here with the Franklin public schools, joined the military, and I met her mother a second time — because I knew her when she was in Franklin — in the workplace.”

Harris recalled how she would always tell him about her daughter, Brittany, and her many achievements, including outstanding grades in school.

“And it was that way from the time (Brittany) was knee-high to adult, growing up — hard work in the classroom, hard work outside of the classroom,” Harris said. “She was down in Emporia, graduated first from her high school, went to Old Dominion (University) and was interested in public health.”

Harris noted that Powell worked in dental offices, cleaning equipment while she continued to work hard to get her degree in public health at ODU.

After she graduated from Old Dominion, she stayed there to do post-graduate academic work, he said.

“(She) got an additional degree from Old Dominion and was the ‘dorm mother,’ so to speak, dealing with college freshmen, sophomores, juniors at Old Dominion University, and so she got firsthand experience from her presence from high school to college,” Harris said.

He noted that after she finished at ODU, she went to Eastern Virginia Medical School and earned a master’s degree there in public health.

“(She) left there, went to Lynchburg and dealt with the entire community with regard to public health, which means people who are struggling to make ends meet every day and people who are fortunate enough to have, but come under the jurisdiction of public health, especially with the COVID situation,” Harris said. “She has broad experiences, and just by chance, a position opened up in this health care district, so she moved back to Franklin and her grandmother’s house.”

Powell works with the Franklin City Health Department and the Suffolk City Health Department, he said.

“She deals with the full gamut of issues in people, that is people who are on the successful track that are headed to a good education, much like the way our Franklin city schools used to be in days of old, and those who are not quite turned on by the true meaning of education and what it can mean if you follow the yellow brick road,” Harris said.

In conclusion, Harris told council members, “I’m just hoping and praying that you’ll get to meet her and interview her, and fortunately, she may have something to offer our schools. But even if she doesn’t, her presence in this community will serve as a role model for many of the young people who are on their way up.”