By Trina Trice
What was supposed to be a press conference turned into a shouting match and a public debacle Thursday in the parking lot
of the Clayton County Public Schools Administrative Complex.
Clayton County school administrators thwarted school uniform advocate Dr. Harry Ross' attempt to hold a press conference on school property.
Accused by former friend of some board members and teacher union official John Trotter of riding into the county on a broom-stick to advise the board, Ross brought along a small broom and countered Trotter's accusations, implying Trotter is a racist and should resign from his union.
When Ross arrived in the parking lot, he was met by Public Affairs Communication Assistant Jerry Jackson who told Ross he'd have to move.
School property "is not open to any individual who wants to have a press conference," Jackson said. "We don't have school officials or board members at the press conference."
Dr. Bob Livingston, member of the Clayton County Board of Education, was present Thursday morning for Ross' press conference. In his hand, Livingston held his own statement he wanted to make to which Ross had an adverse reaction. Other curious parents and residents asked Ross to start the press conference or move from the school property.
"Every citizen in America has a right to hold a news conference," Ross said to the handful of attendees. "If you want to hold a press conference, go over there. I'm holding a press conference right here."
Ross said later he'd never had a problem with holding a press conference on school property before, having held several in DeKalb County and Atlanta Public Schools.
He said he plans to hold another press conference at the administration building next week and if stopped or arrested he will file a federal lawsuit.
Due to "interruptions" and "agitators," Ross decided not to follow through with his press conference Thursday morning. Instead, he handed out press statements to the media.
"I'm not going to be a part of this circus," Ross told the small crowd.
Clayton County parent David Barton, who attended the verbal shuffle said, "He wanted a circus."
Ross visited the News Daily office Thursday afternoon to set the record straight on several rumors:
Ross denies being an advisor to the school board, saying, "I am available upon request when asked. I just want the school board members to have access to political expertise." However, Ross said he has had several conversations with some board members, but can not divulge the nature or content of those conversations.
Ross says he has never received payment from any member of the school board. He makes his living by holding multiple jobs, such as political consultant, gospel promoter, conference sponsor, and public speaker.
Ross said he met with Southern Association of Colleges and Schools executive director Mark Elgart at his own request for an Internet newsletter he publishes and not at the request of any board member. He said no board member or school official talked to him about what he found, but they found out by reading his newsletter. The association is conducting a look at the current school situation to determine whether to lift accreditation.
Ross denies that he has been trying to convince board members to hire his friend Dr. Lonnie Edwards, assistant superintendent for DeKalb County Schools. Edwards is said to be a leading contender for Clayton County Schools Superintendent. Ross said he did introduce Board Chairwoman Nedra Ware to Edwards at banquet Ross organized in February: "I didn't see anything wrong with my introducing her to him. I just wanted them to have the opportunity to meet each other."
Ross defended his educational background. According to Ross he received a bachelor's degree from Fort Valley State University and a master's degree from Michigan State University. Addressing the allegation he does not hold a doctorate degree, Ross said he received his doctorate in Alabama. "I have the paper to prove, and will show it at the appropriate time." Ross would not say what school from which he earned the degree, what year he received the degree, nor in what subject the doctorate degree is: "Go dig on me, it doesn't matter," Ross said. "I have nothing to hide."