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Finalists to be introduced Dec. 17

By Greg Gelpi

Clayton County residents might be able to question the finalists for school superintendent if their questions receive prior approval.

After what some called a "quick" decision naming three superintendent finalists, the Clayton County Board of Education on Monday approved a public forum to introduce the finalists. The forum will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 in the Performing Arts Center.

Although it is a "public" forum, the public will not be allowed to directly address the three finalists, board attorney Gary Sams said. All questions must be submitted to the school board prior to the forum, so that the board can filter the questions and so that the finalists will have the questions in advance. Questions can be submitted at www.clayton.k12.ga.us.

The format approved at the meeting didn't sit well with some audience members.

"I think they're going to pick and choose questions," Michelle Jackson said. "Given their past history, they'll pick only the safe questions."

Jackson, a mother of two school-aged children, said she already had her list of questions, but without hesitation said she didn't think the board would allow her questions to be asked.

"The first one I would ask is, ?What would you do to regain the trust of the community?'" she said.

Another in attendance expressed concern that the revolving door in the superintendent's position could continue if the board isn't unanimous in its naming of a superintendent.

"We don't need to be going through this again," he said, adding that in a year the board could find itself in the same position.

Sams defended the forum format, explaining that some limits must be put on questions.

"We don't want to give anybody a pop fly," he said about posing questions that the finalists are unfamiliar with.

Questions will also be filtered for legality, taste and specificity. Specific questions may not give all three finalists a fair chance at giving a response about an unfamiliar school system.

The board last week named Barbara Pulliam, Roy Brooks and Stanley Pritchett as the finalists after interviewing only four of the 41 applicants for the job.

Pulliam is the superintendent of the school system in St. Louis Park, Minn. Brooks is an area superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Fla. The only candidate from within the state, Pritchett is an associate superintendent in DeKalb County.

During the public comment session, one vocal parent demanded to know why the complete list of 41 names wasn't released to the public. She said she bought a bullhorn and would do what it takes to get answers.

Another asked how the board could pray to God before the meeting, knowing that they are doing the wrong thing. She pleaded for the board to take input from the public.

In other business, the board approved its schedule of meetings for the coming year, as well as a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 11. The purpose of that meeting will be to discuss the current 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax and the possibility of a new SPLOST. The current SPLOST expires in December 2004.

The board also named Christopher Eugene Johnson assistant principal at Lovejoy High School, approved a resolution to establish the Open Campus/Career Academy, accepted construction at Forest Park Middle School as complete and accepted capital outlay funds.