Race on to fill vacancy

By Trina Trice

A state legislator and several members of the Clayton County Board of Education are in a race to the finish. They are competing to decide who'll get to choose the new District 8 board member nregistered Clayton County voters or the school board.

The school board have scheduled a 6 p.m. meeting today. Item two on the agenda states there will be a "discussion and possible vote on filling the vacancy for school board District 8."

Board member Barbara Wells about some of her fellow members said, "They think they're going to try to fill the seat before the governor signs" the bill.

The bill Wells refers to is Senate Bill 374 introduced by State Sen. Valencia Seay, D-College Park several weeks ago. By the end of the legislature session Friday night, the bill passed the House; it had already passed the Senate.

The bill would require any vacancies on the school board with more than 180 days left in the term be filled by a special election. The District 8 seat was left vacant by Dr. Sue Ryan who resigned after only serving a few months of her four-year term.

The bill is now awaiting the signature of Governor Sonny Perdue before it can become a law.

Seay had her staff hand deliver a letter to the governor's office on Tuesday requesting that he sign the bill expeditiously. She was then tipped off by a board member that the school board could be holding a called meeting today to appoint a board member for District 8, so she planned to go to the governor's office personally this morning to ask him to sign the bill.

Seay said, "Having been tipped off, I do plan on seeing him personally and asking him to sign off on this legislation. It's very important for the voters of the 8th District to be able to vote on who will fill a position on the school board that will be open for such a long time."

Four board members showed their support for Oscar Blalock, a former president of the Clayton County chapter of the NAACP, by voting for him to fill Ryan's seat at a called meeting in April. The vote came after some board members ignored Board member Ericka Davis' initial plea to postpone the vote until the state legislature session ended.

Board Chair woman Nedra Ware and Board Vice Chairwoman could not be reached for comment.

In addition to being worried about some board members trying to fill the District 8 seat, Wells was concerned that a request she made to discuss reinstating the filming of board meetings on the May 5 agenda had been ignored.

In a letter to Ware and interim Superintendent Dr. William Chavis who are responsible for preparing the agenda, Wells wrote:

"I requested that an item be added to the May 5, 2003 school board meeting agenda. The item I requested to be added is the discussion of resuming filming our meetings and replaying them later on Channel 24. I received my agenda today and my request has not been granted. The citizens of this county have requested this and it is also a recommendation of the grand jury. I feel that this is an important item and would like it on the agenda."

In a report to be officially presented in court today, the grand jury recommended that board be "simulcast or videotaped for play on the local public access television channel."

By 4 p.m. Tuesday, a revised agenda was sent to Wells with her request placed on the agenda.

On today's called meeting agenda, the board also plans to discuss and possibly vote on the superintendent search process.

Justin Reedy contributed to this article.