By Trina Trice
The Clayton County Board of Education is not yet committing itself to a new national search for a superintendent, although some board members think it is eminent.
During the first day of a two-day retreat in Lawrenceville, board members were still divided on whether a new search should be done, but all expressed their need for guidance from the Georgia School Boards Association.
Attending the session were all eight board members-Chairwoman Nedra Ware, Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens, Barbara Wells, Carol Kellam, Dr. Bob Livingston, Ericka Davis and LaToya Walker.
At Monday night's meeting Wells, Davis, Livingston and Crummy walked out after their request to add an item on the agenda that would publicly and officially commit the board to conducting a new national superintendent search.
"I was very surprised," Ware said. "At the beginning we agreed to work together, then I was a little disturbed (they walked out). They were (not pleased that they weren't) getting their way on something that was previously discussed. There was other business that needed to be tended to."
On the flip side, though, Wednesday's touchy-feely atmosphere encouraged board members to work for more than six hours on team-building skills facilitated by representatives from the GSBA, including Siss Henry, the organization's executive director.
The GSBA is a non-profit organization that offers a variety of services to school boards, such as seminars on policy, conflict resolution, and it assists in superintendent searches.
No discussion of a superintendent search took place at the Wednesday meeting. Instead the board focused on getting to know each other.
The team and character exercises, as well as the candor demonstrated by the GSBA, will help the school board, said Jo Barnes, a Clayton County parent.
Also among the small group of attendees was Artansa Snell, chairwoman of the education committee for the Clayton County chapter of the NAACP.
When asked whether or not she supported a new national superintendent search, LaToya Walker told the News Daily, "I'm going to wait until (today) to see what the decision will be."
A discussion on the superintendent search and other issues related to implementing recommendations made by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, is scheduled on today's agenda.
Other board members, however, had more definitive opinions about the search.
"From a personal stance, I do know we did have a national search," Ware said. "Other than that, we don't know collectively what's going to happen or what's going to be said (at today's meeting). I don't know what's going to come out of (today)."
Four members of the board, serving as the interview committee, attempted to end the controversial school chief search that began in May and yielded a little more than 10 applicants by choosing as a final candidate Dr. Lonnie Edwards, assistant superintendent of DeKalb County Schools.
Wells and Crummy, two members of the new search faction on the board, both would like to see a GSBA-facilitated superintendent search.
As for starting from scratch no board member, except for Livingston, seemed to like the terminology.
"What's important to us, I think now, is creating a win-win situation that nobody loses," Davis said. "Even if that means candidates that are currently in the (applicant) pool stay in the pool and we extend (the search for longer period of time), then the public will trust the process and the final decision."
When asked if she would support Edwards as the final candidate, Davis said, "I'm supportive of the best candidate. If that happens to be Lonnie Edwards, then so be it."
Whatever the board decides to do later today, Kitchens hopes it will end the 4-4 division on the board.
"I want to do what is right," she said. "(Tuesday night) you have one side who says they want one thing and another side saying they want another. We're not ignoring what has been said."
Kellam echoed Kitchens' sentiments: "I'm open to whatever will help us move forward."
The retreat comes after six months of dissention that began with the ouster of Superintendent Dan Colwell in January. Along the way, some board members were accused of micromanaging the school system and not conducting meetings properly. This led to the district being placed on a one-year probation by SACS. If changes aren't made, the probation will turn into the accreditation of the district being lifted, SACS said. This would jeopardize HOPE scholarships for students and have other negative effects for teachers and students.