By Bob Paslay
Three members of the ruling faction of the Clayton County Board of Education on Friday publicly split with John Trotter, the behind-the-scenes teachers' union activist some have accused of running the board.
Board Chairwoman Nedra Ware and Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens, both school employees in Fulton County, quit Trotter's union, MACE, and said they are no longer friends with him. Newly appointed member Carol Kellam, a substitute teacher in Fulton County, said she also is disassociating herself from Trotter.
The three said they "wish to state publicly that there is NOT an existing friendship or business relationship with Mr. John Trotter of Metro Association For Classroom Educators (MACE) in Clayton County, Georgia."
Ware, Kitchens and Kellam recently held a press conference to blast the media for coverage of the school board controversy started with the ouster of Superintendent Dan Colwell and fueled by outraged residents who packed board meetings.
The split with Trotter began with that conference, he said, because he telephoned Ware and told her what a stupid thing it was and how hardheaded she was.
"I called Nedra and said that was horrible. I said you looked terrible on television. The press conference was outstandingly horrible."
Trotter, in a wide-ranging interview with the News Daily, said he is glad for the split and accused the board members of being "hardheaded," "micro-managing" and of running the day-to-day operations of the school system. He said their dropping out of his union is a "mutually agreeable divorce" and won't hurt the union.
"I had all I could take of them," he said.
He said he told Ware that she was acting like a dictator and that she was stubborn.
"When you tell Nedra off, she gets mad. She holds a grudge forever," he said.
The three accused Trotter of making untrue statements to the press, of falsely leading the public to believe he is the "driving force" behind the six African-American members of the board.
They also said "Mr. Trotter has become too controversial in the Clayton County community" and has taken credit for their being elected to the board. But they said they won their seats on their own.
Trotter said Harry Ross, who recently sponsored a $60 per-ticket banquet in Ware's honor in DeKalb County, is now helping call the shots in the school system, including lobbying for a friend to be Colwell's replacement. Ross was at the contentious press conference in which the three blasted the press and refused to answer questions before storming out.
Ross, who holds banquets, supplies gospel singers and has a newsletter Web site, is trying to "worm his way into Clayton County and the churches," Trotter said, "after he flew in on a broomstick from DeKalb County."
"I'm saddened Mr. Trotter has decided to bring me into Clayton County," Ross said. "I was in Clayton County many years ago, this is not the first time I have been involved. I don't know Mr. Trotter, Mr. Trotter does not know me. But I do not run away from anything."
"I did not have to come into Clayton County on a broomstick," Ross added. "I will not resist being involved if asked to."
And Ross added that he has been asked to become involved.
"Again I am not coming in on a broomstick, I am marching in with pride," Ross added. "And if Mr. Trotter is concerned, tell him I'm coming and I'm already there."
Trotter, who said he worked to recruit and get the three members on the board, will be working against them next election "if they are in then" and not knocked out by the current grand jury probe.
Trotter said he has not been called before the grand jury, but said if he is called, he would tell all he knows.
"Before, I might not have volunteered anything, but now I might be singing in there," he said.
Trotter also made these accusations:
Ware and Kitchens have said the ouster of black Superintendent Joe Hairston was racially motivated and was over their objections and that Colwell was named over their objections. But Trotter contended the two women wanted Hairston out because "he disrespected them" after they were elected. He said while he was opposed to the ouster "I did orchestrate the plan and it was flawless." Hairston's contract was bought out and he is now a school official in Maryland.
Trotter said Ware supported Colwell as the replacement but she told him "I'm going to boot you in there but when you lie to me I'm going to get rid of you." He said Colwell disrespected them also.
Trotter said he made two phones calls to two men he refused to name and pulled together $1,600 to pay the rent and deposit for an apartment for Kellam so she would meet the residency requirement to fill a vacancy on the board and that he helped her move in.
He said Kellam is Kitchen's daughter's godmother.
He also noted that board members are running the day-to-day operation of the school system when they should be making policy.
"All these foolish things they have been doing, I have been blamed for it. I'm glad now the public knows I'm not responsible for these actions," he said.
For the full text of the board members' statement see Page 3.