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Bernice Cobbs to become first Black educator to serve as superintendent of Franklin County schools

Bernice Cobbs to become first Black educator to serve as superintendent of Franklin County schools

Bernice Cobbs

Bernice Cobbs addresses the Franklin County School Board on Nov. 9 after being named superintendent of schools.

Bernice Cobbs will be Franklin County Public School’s next superintendent, and the first Black educator ever to hold the job in the majority white county.

Picked from 15 applicants, Cobbs is a familiar face in the county and the school system, where Black students are 8% of an enrollment of approximately 6,900 students.

The assistant principal of Franklin County High School, Cobbs has served past stints as principal of Benjamin Franklin Middle School, Boones Mill Elementary and Snow Creek Elementary, and as director of the K-5 curriculum and instruction.

The Franklin County School Board introduced Cobbs as the new superintendent, effective Dec. 1, at its Nov. 9 meeting.

“I’m looking forward to the work and I thank you, board, for the opportunity,” she said.

The school board unanimously approved Cobbs’ contract Nov. 9, which includes a starting salary of $125,000. The contract lasts through June 30, 2023.

Cobbs holds a doctorate from Virginia Tech, master’s degrees from Radford University and the University of Virginia, a bachelor’s degree from Ferrum College and an associate degree from Virginia Western Community College.

She will succeed Mark Church, who has worked in the school division for 21 years and steps down Nov. 30.

In December 2019, Church announced that he intended to retire in August — but in March, as the COVID-19 crisis set in, he agreed to stay on through the end of December 2020.

His retirement marks a milestone in a 35-year public education career. A 1982 Franklin County High School graduate, Church was hired as superintendent in 2012. Before then he was the division’s director of career and technical education.

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