Halstead, Johnson qualify for school board seat

By Justin Reedy

With one day left to register, two have filed as candidates in the Sept. 16 special election to fill a vacancy on the Clayton County Board of Education.

Conley resident Barbara Halstead and Morrow resident Allen Johnson have both registered with the county Elections Division during candidate qualifying for the school board special election. Qualifying for the contest began Wednesday morning and lasts until noon today.

Halstead, who works in customer service, and Johnson, who is retired, were both unavailable for comment.

The two candidates n as well as any others who file by noon today n will vie for the District 8 seat on the school board, which was left vacant when board member Susan Ryan resigned her post earlier this year. A nonpartisan special election will be held Sept. 16 to fill that position.

The seat is pivotal in the controversy surrounding the school board, which has the body split evenly between the eight sitting board members on many issues.

The board has been embroiled in controversy since the ouster of Superintendent Dan Colwell early this year; board members are now struggling with the school system being on probation from its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Candidates for the school board seat have to pay a filing fee of $216 and register at the Clayton County Probate Court on the first floor of Courthouse Annex 3, 121 South McDonough St., Jonesboro. For the qualifications of school board member or for more information about the special election, contact the probate court at (770) 477-3299.

The school board vacancy was going to be filled by an appointee before the state legislature passed Senate Bill 374, which requires a special election to fill any vacancies on the county school board when more than 180 days remains on the term of office. The idea for that law, which was co-sponsored by state Sen. Valencia Seay, D-College Park, came about when Ryan resigned from the school board only months into her term, leaving most of the four-year term left for that seat. Since no local legislation had been drafted regarding such a vacancy, the generic state law would have applied.

State law calls for a special election if more than two years and three months are left in the term, but that election is held at the same time as the next general election. That means in the November 2004 election, a person would have been elected to fill the two years left on the District 8 post, replacing the person appointed by the board to serve in the interim.

Residents and local legislators were disappointed to hear that the state law called for an appointee n as opposed to a duly-elected board member n to serve for nearly two years on the board before being replaced. But none of the three potential appointees for the post were approved by a majority of the board.