By Trina Trice
Allen Johnson was the only candidate who showed up to a forum Thursday night, while his opponent Natisha Lee was a no-show.
Johnson and Lee are running for the Clayton County Board of Education District 8 seat in a special election Sept. 16. Barbara Halstead, who recently pulled out of the District 8 race, also attended and gave her full support for Johnson.
"Natisha Lee didn't show up, but we made every effort to get in touch with her," said Connie Yancey, vice president of the Clayton County Coalition for Quality Education, the group that sponsored the forum. "Her phone has been cut off. We tried calling her at work, but she wasn't there. It's not that we ignored her."
Lee's phone was still temporarily disconnected Thursday evening and efforts by the News Daily to reach her at Wal-Mart, where she's a cashier, were unsuccessful.
The forum went on, however, with Johnson addressing topics such as getting the school system off of probation, diversity, discipline, and finding a school superintendent.
About the search Johnson said, "It's definitely got to be on the national level ?cause we need the most qualified person."
When asked how he is likely to vote on issues as the crucial fifth vote on the board, Johnson said, "I have a mind of my own. I'm going to vote in the best interest of the community and the school system. That's what we're in business for n the children."
Halstead, mother of a Morrow High School student, decided to pull out of the District 8 race because she thinks Johnson is more qualified.
"I'm very concerned about the children's future and the economy in Clayton County," she said. "But I had heard many good things about Johnson. I feel he can be the vote and the voice for the children in Clayton County. I also feel there should be another man (on the board). Call me sexist, but that's how I feel. I do feel he's the best man for the job."
Halstead could consider running for the school board, again, in the future, she said.
Lee's absence was a disappointment to many, especially
Jim Corbin, Lake City business owner.
"(The forum) was great," he said. "Unfortunately only one candidate showed up, but it's probably the one that deserves to be in the position."
Johnson and Lee have lived in Morrow for several years.
Johnson, 73, is a retired Clayton County educator, having served as principal of Lake City Elementary School for 29 years. He has a wife of 22 years and two adult children from a previous marriage who are graduates of Morrow High School.
Natisha Lee, 27, is a single mother with three children. Her oldest daughter is the only one that currently attends school. The other two are too young.
The District 8 seat was left vacant by former Board member Sue Ryan who resigned from the board after serving only three months of her four-year term. She cited concern for her family as a reason for leaving the position.
District 8 is in northeastern Clayton County, and includes parts of Morrow, Forest Park, Lake City, Conley, and Ellenwood. It is bordered on the west by Ga. Highway 54 and partially bordered on the east by Ga. Highway 42, and extends from the DeKalb County line in the north to the intersection of Rock Creek Drive and Fielder Road in the south.
About 48 percent of the district is black and about 10 percent is Hispanic, according to data from the state Reapportionment Office.