School board meeting set for tonight

By Trina Trice

The Clayton County Board of Education is scheduled to meet today, two weeks after the board failed to make quorum at its two last called meetings.

Because the board didn't make quorum at a secret Saturday meeting held in a College Park hotel nor at its regular meeting place May 21, some believe half of the eight-member board is boycotting an alliance led by board Chairwoman Nedra Ware and Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens.

"No we are not boycotting called meetings," said member Ericka Davis in an e-mail. "Ironically, because we are not given notice of these meetings in a timely fashion and due to the frequency of which we have been having them of late, we all have busy schedules outside of this board with jobs, children, etc. Proper notice dictates availability. It's always a good idea to poll the board and find out if the date you set is amenable to all and not just a few. You maximize your participation that way n if indeed your goal is inclusion."

Davis will attend today's meeting, she said, as will member Barbara Wells who is furthering her fight to have board meetings videotaped and broadcast to the public.

Wells and Linda Crummy both sit on the policy committee and are requesting board policy be revised to include videotaping meetings.

The amended policy would read:

"In an effort to help create a more informed and supportive citizenry, as well as to provide an additional tool for use in preparing accurate board minutes, board meetings which are open to the public will be videotaped and periodically broadcast via the district's public access cable channel. Videos shall be available for inspection (and purchase) upon written request to the superintendent, and as provided for by the Georgia Open Records Act."

Wells and Crummy assert the revision passes "the legal test," as they consulted board attorney Gary Sams prior to presenting it to other board members.

Although the board could be making some leeway on updating its policies, the superintendent search is at a standstill.

The board has been unable to proceed with the search "because the process was faulty to begin with," Davis said.

"We need to start over," she said. "It must be opened up again and a real national search conducted by a reputable firm. Let them [the firm] narrow down the candidates. Allow the press to have the final three names and the community to interview the final three and the board make the final choice. This board needs to establish credibility and legitimacy to how we manage this system and this is the best way to do it. We can not ask taxpayers to invest in the system with their hard-earned dollars without working to ensure that they and the children of this county reap the benefits of their investment. We've got a lot of work to do and over the next couple of months."

Other business likely to be covered at the meeting include a report on special education.

Although the department won't experience many changes in its federal, state or local funding, it is short on teachers, said Tom Ermandczyk, director of special education.

"Statewide, the need for special education teachers is reaching a critical level," he said. "Georgia does not produce enough teachers. The state turns out less than 50 percent of the teachers we need.

"Our federal funding has continued to increase which we are very grateful for," Ermandczyk said. "But our student population has increased, too. We have not received a federal cut. That is the really good news. I feel like we have a strong program in Clayton County."

The program will get stronger if the state's Professional Standards Commission approves a Teacher Alternative Preparation Program the school system's staff development recently proposed.

The program would allow staff development to offer courses to individuals with bachelor's degrees. While taking the courses, participants would work toward earning certification in teaching.

"We're real excited about it," Ermandczyk said. "We wouldn't just be relying on the state to provide teachers, we'd be preparing our own."