Tax, search on board agenda

By Trina Trice

The Clayton County Board of Education will decide whether or not to enter into a $26,500 contract with the Georgia School Boards Association today at a called meeting.

The contract would put the GSBA in charge of the board's national superintendent search.

Officials from GSBA have required that the entire board, which currently has eight members, be a unified body before it begins the search. In other words, the board can not enter into a contract with GSBA if it does not obtain a unanimous vote in favor of it.

The board was supposed to vote on the contract at its Aug. 4 meeting, but decided to wait.

The excuse for delaying the vote was that some board members hadn't received a copy of the contract.

"If I were a board member and I saw something on the agenda and I didn't have the information, I'd be calling someone to get it," said Jan Brinegar, a Clayton County resident.

The contract states that GSBA would perform several duties, such as establishing a timetable for the search and develop and mail brochure and other materials connected with the search. GSBA would also advertise the position for the board in The New York Times Recruitment Package for Education Clients, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other organizations, including the Georgia Department of Education.

Applicant screening and various background checks, such as criminal and credit history, would be handled by GSBA.

The contract stipulates that the board would have to promise not to contact any applicants, allowing only GSBA to perform such duties.

The board would have to attend a half-day workshop on the interview process and contract negotiations before interviewing the top candidates GSBA presents to the board.

Dr. Charles Gibson, parliamentarian for GSBA, encouraged the board to use GSBA to help with its national superintendent search.

The board met Gibson during a two-day retreat with GSBA in July. Gibson offered his services for free because he felt the board could not move forward until it broke the "gridlock" it faced in the search process.

Gibson told the board it would definitely need to start its search for a superintendent from scratch.

Gibson concluded that the search, which began in April, was flawed.

"It is my opinion that you should reopen your search for a superintendent," Gibson told the board.

The school board has been at odds since a majority voted to oust former Superintendent Dan Colwell in January.

Four board members have expressed support for superintendent candidate n Dr. Lonnie Edwards, deputy superintendent of DeKalb County Schools.

Board Chairwoman Nedra Ware, Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens, and members Carol Kellam and LaToya Walker interviewed several candidates at a hotel in College Park.

They chose Edwards as the finalist, however, the other four members n Ericka Davis, Barbara Wells, Dr. Bob Livingston, and Linda Crummy n have continually insisted on the board conducting a national superintendent search. A ninth board member will be elected next month to fill a vacancy that has existed for months.

Prior to today's called meeting, the public will have its last chance to voice concerns on a tax increase at the millage rate hearing.

The proposed 8.26 percent tax is a result of the 2004 budget the school board adopted earlier this summer.

The $327.3 million budget requires a 1-mill increase, from 17.916 to 18.916.

A tax increase is necessary, primarily because the revenue received from the state has been reduced by over $10 million in the past two years, said Lee Davis, chief financial officer for Clayton County Schools.

Without a tax increase, Davis says the school system will most likely be forced to borrow money next year.