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Ryan learns after resigning spot would not be filled

By Justin Reedy

For the Ryan letter, look on today's editorial Page 4.

When Susan Ryan resigned her position on the Clayton County Board of Education this month only weeks into her first term in office, she thought a special election would be held immediately to fill her spot on the board.

But after Ryan submitted her resignation, she was dismayed to learn that, under state law, an appointee will take her place on the school board until a special election can be held in coordination with the next general election n in the fall of 2004.

The revelation was one of several points Ryan made in a letter addressed to the county's residents and teachers which she faxed to the News Daily on Friday.

"I was under the false impression that by (resigning) an appointee would serve until a special election could be held," Ryan wrote. "I'm sorry to say to the voters of District 8 that you will not be allowed to vote for a new representative until November of 2004. For that I apologize."

In the letter, Ryan also addressed the fact that she didn't vote in the controversial ouster of former school superintendent Dan Colwell at a school board meeting in January.

"The reason I abstained from voting for or against Mr. Colwell is because as he pointed out himself it was illegal to vote on the matter since it was not on the agenda," she wrote. "A no vote is still considered a vote."

In addition to addressing the Colwell controversy, Ryan also advised the board to put its divisive politics aside for the sake of Clayton County's students, as well as consider using an outside firm to find Colwell's replacement.

"To the remaining board members, put away your personal and political agendas, and hire the best-qualified company to conduct the superintendent search," wrote Ryan. "Then get down to the business of helping our children."

When asked to explain her advice to the board in more detail, Ryan said she felt an independent entity could better handle the search for a new school superintendent in Clayton County. That would free up the board for handling school system business, she said, as well as make the issue less politically charged.

"The only thing we've done is discuss the superintendent, and some other personnel matters and minor issues," Ryan said. "I think we need to start worrying about the kids and how to make the school system better. It would be better for the community and the board."

Ryan also maintains that she was never part of any faction on the school board.

"I tried to be my own person and vote the way I thought was right," Ryan said. "I wasn't choosing sides."

Ryan says she resigned from the school board because of personal reasons, including a negative situation with her children, who are enrolled in public school in Clayton County. However, she declined to elaborate on what was causing the problems with her children.

Ryan ran for the school board seat to make a difference in the county's school system, she said, and address issues which she felt were important to students and teachers in Clayton County. What she didn't realize is how political the board environment would be once she began serving.

"If I could do it all over again, I never would have run," Ryan said.

Local resident Connie Yancey, who is also vice president of the Clayton County Council on Quality Education, said Ryan isn't the only one upset about the political divisions on the school board.

"I can hear her disillusionment," said Yancey, who added that her opinions don't represent the opinion of the CCCQE. "This is the same disillusionment that is being expressed all over Clayton County regarding the actions of this present School Board."