Residents not following recall lead

By Trina Trice

Residents' desire to recall Clayton County school board members has cooled, as the special election to fill the District 8 seat in September draws near.

Clayton County residents aren't as interested in recalling members on the Board of Education as they were a month ago.

The formation of the Clayton County Coalition for Quality Education was a result of the controversy surrounding the school board. Many thought the ad hoc group would spearhead a recall effort of Board Chairwoman Nedra Ware, Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens, and members LaToya Walker, and Carol Kellam who have been blamed for the current problems facing the school system.

The assumption, though, is wrong, says CCCQE member Tom McBrayer.

"We are not as a group working in any way for a recall effort," he said. "Originally, it is our goal to seek positive means. We feel that all efforts should be to remove the probation status. There is no effort with CCCQE to seek a recall and there will not be."

The school system is currently on probation, a warning given by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an organization that accredits more than 13,000 elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools in the Southeast.

Artansa Snell, Clayton County parent, believes talk of a recall is still too premature.

"Let's wait and see what the school board does," she said. "One action or inaction should not determine a recall. I think people want to make sure the school board honors the promises it made" after the retreat in July.

Following a two-day retreat with the Georgia School Boards Association, the board made commitments at its July 8 meeting to work together and look after the best interests of the community.

Later at that meeting, four board members left in protest over lack of movement toward a national superintendent search. The board has since then approved the search.

Snell would like to see the board adopt GSBA standards and follow through with a national superintendent search before talking about recalling members, she said.

"If their actions are inconsistent with their commitments, then the community needs to do what is in the best interest of the community."

Another reason for holding off on a recall is realizing the difficulty such an effort will take, McBrayer suggested.

"Even people who looked at (a recall) as an option realized the cost in time, money, and the

impact on the community it would have," he said. "(A recall) would be an extreme measure taken only as a last resort."

The recall process is extensive. First, residents apply with the county elections superintendent to circulate a recall petition. That application must include the signatures of 100 sponsors who live and are registered to vote within the district up for recall.

Within four business days of the application, the official potentially up for recall can request that a superior court judge review the grounds for recall to determine the validity of the charges.

If the signatures are verified by the county Voting Registrar and the court rules the petition may move forward, the sponsors of the petition then have a specific period of time to get the required number of signatures for the recall petition. For officials representing districts, a petition requires a number of signatures equal to or greater than 30 percent of the voters registered in that district in its last election.

For instance, if residents in District 2 wanted to recall Ware, their representative, they'd have to obtain the signatures of 4,129 voters. There were 13,762 registered voters at the time of the 2000 election.

Instead of a recall, some residents are trying to work with what they have.

A handful of individuals formed the District 7 Network and recently met with Kellam.

"We, the citizens, are trying to do positive things in the district," said Janice Jerome, D7N member. "We're coming from the positive area of the district working together. It's about the children," she said.