Finalists meet public

By Greg Gelpi

Questions were asked, but not the right questions, some said.

The Clayton County Board of Education held a public forum Wednesday night to introduce the three finalists for superintendent.

Many who have followed the superintendent search, though, expressed more interest in the questions not asked than the questions that were asked.

Although the Clayton County school system was placed on probation by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the finalists were not asked questions directly related to the probation.

Some of the 175 people who attended the forum grumbled that the forum was a mere show and that a superintendent had already been picked. Others found the forum useful for understanding the personalities and beliefs of the three.

The board chose Barbara Pulliam, the superintendent of the St. Louis Park, Minn., school system; Stanley Pritchett, an associate superintendent of DeKalb County schools; and Roy Brooks, an area superintendent of Orange County schools in Orlando, Fla., from a list of the 41 who applied for the job.

"I have not heard a question that a parent would ask," parent Michelle Jackson said. "I heard that the superintendent was already picked.

The board solicited questions from the public prior to the forum. The board then selected the questions to be asked at the forum in a closed session immediately before the forum.

Of the 169 questions submitted to the board, 12 questions were asked.

"I'm just disappointed that the community didn't have the opportunity to specifically ask questions," said Bob Boyer of the Georgia Parent Teacher Association. "I think the questions were too soft for the quality of the candidates."

Although no SACS questions were posed, all three agreed

that getting off probation is a top priority.

Brooks passed out a 60-day plan, along with his plan for the next 60 days beyond that, saying that SACS is his top concern.

"SACS is the single most important issue facing this community and this board," he said. "Once a school or district loses accreditation, the student loses."

Pritchett echoed his sentiments.

"SACS is for real," he said. "This accreditation is for real."

Pritchett has worked as a consultant for SACS and made several presentations to the accrediting agency, he said.

Pulliam said she researched the issue, calling SACS and the state Department of Education to learn about the history of the school system and its probation.

The board also asked what the roles and responsibilities of the board and superintendent are, as well as how the board and superintendent should relate to each other.

SACS listed this as a concern in its report, which put the school system on probation. SACS directed the board to answer this question and to stop meddling in the day-to-day operations of the school system.

All three agreed that the superintendent and board have distinct roles, but that they must work together for common goals.

The board is tentatively scheduled to meet again at 6:30 p.m. Friday to discuss the superintendent search.