Franklin Grammar School, built in 1907, was the first FSSD school. Located at Five Points, it housed grades 1-9.
BRIEF HISTORY The FSSD has a long history in the city of Franklin. Begun in 1906, it was originally operated jointly by the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the Board of Education. However, in 1949, the school district was changed from city to special by a resolution of the Tennessee Legislature and thus, was empowered to improve the educational opportunities for the children of Franklin. The FSSD Board of Education was granted the authority to levy its own taxes specifically for the purpose of funding education.
Through the years, the FSSD has grown dramatically to meet the changing needs of the community. Pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students are taught in seven schools across the city. Upon graduation from the eighth grade, the students attend a Williamson County high school.
Detailed History of Franklin Special School District
In 1885, the 54th Tennessee General Assembly enacted Chapter 19, authorizing municipal corporations to establish and maintain “common schools of high grade.” With this statute as a legislative foundation, the Town of Franklin first established its own school system.
Up until the early 1900s, most of Franklin’s schools had been private academies. In 1905, the city dismantled the old Franklin Female Institute at Five Points with the hope of building a new grammar school. They hired Craig & Williams for $14,812.50 to build the school as soon as an agreement was made between the city of Franklin and the county school system. An accord was reached which laid out the terms: the city would furnish the grounds, the buildings and the equipment, while the county school system would choose the teachers and pay the salaries and expenses.
On October 27, 1906, the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed Ordinance Number 28, establishing the school system, a local tax rate to fund the school system, a local board of education, and required the board to work in conjunction with the director of the county school district, then called School District Number Nine. Six months after the Franklin City School System was established, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen authorized the district to operate independently of School District Number Nine. This was the real beginning of an autonomous city school system.
In 1907, the state legislature had recognized the new school district and work on Franklin Grammar School at Five Points began. The school housed grades 1-9, with Franklin High School meeting upstairs with two teachers and 40 pupils. In 1908, two public schools served the city of Franklin: Franklin Grammar School, for white children, and Franklin Training School, for African American children. In 1914, Franklin High moved across the street into the former home of James Harrison. In 1916, Franklin Training School for Negro children in grades 1-8 was founded. It was located on Natchez Street, where Claiborne Hughes Nursing Home is now located.
In the Private Acts of 1925, the state legislature officially created the “Franklin Special School District in Williamson County” and set the boundaries to those of the Ninth Civil District, which included parts of Williamson County and all of the city of Franklin. It named a six member board, which included, in part, Newton Cannon Sr., K.S. Howlett, E.M. Perkins, and B.D. Erwin. The School Board worked in conjunction with the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
A special tax of 15 cents per $100 of taxable property was levied and expenditures were controlled by the Board of Education. Franklin Special School District had complete autonomy over hiring and firing of teachers, setting salaries, and appointing superintendents.
A marker commemorating the district’s history was placed at Five Points, the original location of Franklin Grammar School.
In 1949, the Private Acts of 1925 was repealed to amend the language. The new legislation enabled the FSSD boundaries to grow along with the city of Franklin’s boundaries and limited the FSSD’s authority to “manage and control the public schools…below the grade of high school.” It also gave the FSSD School Board control of its own budget and taxing power. In the 1949-1950 school year, the FSSD had two elementary schools serving 908 students – 590 white and 317 African American. (from Public Schools of Williamson County, Tennessee: A Survey Report, copyright 1951).
In 1962, the original Franklin Elementary School, which was located at Five Points, burned down. Three years later, students were integrated in Franklin Special School District schools. The Charles C. Johnson School no longer served only black students and Franklin Elementary School was no longer for white students only. Up until the 1960s Franklin was a very small town. Its population in 1940 was 4,100 and by 1960 had grown to only 7,000. Between 1940 and 1980, Franklin maintained a growth rate of approximately 32 percent per decade until the mid 1980s when the city’s population exploded.
Logistical and political problems were anticipated with the influx of new students as Williamson County was forced to build new schools. In order for both school systems to plan for student growth, the existing FSSD boundaries were frozen as they existed on September 1, 1986 by House Bill 1236 of the Private Acts of 1987, Chapter 53. Property that was once farm land has since been sold and developed into subdivisions, sometimes cutting right down the middle of the FSSD boundary, splitting some subdivisions into two different school systems. However, it would take another act of the legislature to redraw the FSSD boundaries, so they will most likely remain intact for many years to come.
Source: Franklin: Tennessee’s Handsomest Town, A Bicentennial History 1799-1999, by James A. Crutchfield and Robert Holladay Copyright 1999, Hillsboro Press Franklin, Tennessee
Source: A Partial Survey of the Franklin Special School District and its’ Relationship to Williamson County, by Joel L. Shore Copyright 1987