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DeKalb official considered

By Trina Trice

DeKalb assistant superintendent Dr. Lonnie Edwards has emerged as a top contender for Clayton County superintendent, the Daily News has learned.

He would be the district's second black superintendent.

Talks have been ongoing between the ruling faction on the board, and Edwards' selection could come as early as April 21.

Some board members expressed outrage Wednesday that the behind-the-scenes process has cut them out of the decision-making.

The school board recently abruptly reversed course and decided not to conduct a national search, leading to speculation that a candidate had already been informally selected.

Those close to the situation cautioned that the votes may not be solidified for Edward yet.

Earlier this year, Edwards attended a banquet in Decatur where Clayton County Board of Education Chairwoman Nedra Ware was guest speaker.

At that banquet Ware defended her decision to remove former Superintendent Dan Colwell from office.

Edwards did not return calls on Wednesday and neither did School Board member Linda Crummy, who has been appointed a spokesperson for the board.

A native of Mississippi, Edwards is probably best known for writing the book "A Teacher's Touch: Reaching Beyond Boundaries," an account of his work with disabled former student Nancy Miller.

He appeared on an episode of the Sally Jesse Raphael program with Miller.

Board members Ericka Davis and Dr. Bob Livingston said Wednesday they are not aware of Edwards being considered for superintendent.

But that's nothing new, according to Livingston who said, "I'm left out of everything."

Davis said, "The acting Superintendent and Chairwoman are providing information on a need-to-know basis. We promised the citizens of this county we were going to do a national search and we've reneged on that promise. I will not continue to hide under the hospice of a collective that does not keep its promises."

Davis believes the Superintendent Search Committee should include someone from every school district, such as one local business leader, one representative from the faith community, and one PTA president or representative of that district's choosing. A committee of those community leaders could, then, interview candidates and narrow it down to three. The board could interview and vote on the final three, under Davis' proposed plan.

Davis said she suggested such a plan to Ware, but didn't receive a response in return.

The current Superintendent Search process, Davis said, "was not my decision. We were given by e-mail or fax a process last Wednesday. We were given 24 hours to respond by noon the following day if we agreed with the process. I stated I did not.

Compared to other positions" in the school system, more time has been taken to fill them. The current process "requires less time and less thought than it does to hire a bus driver. That's not the message I want to send to my constituents.

"My input was not considered at all nor was I provided feedback of the response of every other board member. I'm angry, ?cause I represent District 4 ? when you choose to bypass my input, then you cancel out the voices I represent. You're saying the people of District 4 do not matter. I didn't get into this because I wanted my five minutes of fame. I got into it to be a public servant. I want to start doing that."

Davis went on to say "I'd be sorry for anyone who's appointed superintendent under these circumstances. There's going to be an aura of suspicion surrounding the new superintendent" because the board didn't use more time for the search process.

The school board is accepting applications until midnight Friday.

Selections and interviews of top candidates will be conducted from Monday through April 21 by the official Search Committee, comprised of board members. A new superintendent will be selected on the final day of interviews.

Controversy is nothing new to the selection of a superintendent for the 50,000-student school system.

The first appointed superintendent, Joe Hairston, was ousted in a buy-out and was replaced by Colwell.

The school board fired Colwell at a Jan. 13 meeting. After Colwell accused the board of acting illegally, the board rescinded its decision, choosing to suspend Colwell with pay pending a hearing that never happened.

In a February called meeting, the board and Colwell reached an agreement that included his immediate resignation and a $232,000 buyout for Colwell.