Board to work with GSBA

By Trina Trice

Many residents doubt the Clayton County Board of Education will resolve any of its problems at a retreat planned in July.

The board voted unanimously to work with representatives from the Georgia School Boards Association at a retreat July 9 and July 10. All eight members said they hoped the GSBA will help them implement recommendations made by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

SACS, a non-profit organization that accredits more than 13,000 schools in the Southeast, recently put the system on a one-year probation for a variety of reasons.

Despite the board's move in what could be considered a positive direction, the Clayton County Education Association has joined with other local groups in asking for the resignations of four members of the Clayton County Board of Education.

The CCEA is comprised of educators and is affiliated with the Georgia Association of Educators and National Education Association.

Following an executive board meeting Tuesday, the CCEA, which has a membership of 1,800 educators, voted "No Confidence" in the leadership of the Clayton County Board of Education.

The Clayton County school system employees more than 3,800 certified employees, which consists mostly of teachers, and approximately 3,400 classified employees, which include paraprofessionals.

In a written statement Sid Chapman, president of the CCEA, said, "The Chair (Nedra Ware) and Vice Chair (Connie Kitchens) of the Clayton County Board of Education appear to be running a private agenda at the exclusion of the rest of the Board and at the peril of the students."

The CCEA accuses Ware, Kitchens, and members LaToya Walker and Carol Kellam of jeopardizing the school system's accreditation.

The members are also blamed for having "excluded the community, and other school board members, from the selection process for a new superintendent."

"The Executive Board of CCEA does hereby call for the resignation of (Ware, Kitchens, Kellam, and Walker)?Should the individuals fail to resign, CCEA will support and assist in a recall of said elected officials," the press release states.

The Clayton County Chamber of Commerce and an alliance of several Clayton County mayors have called for the same four board members' resignations.

Board member Linda Crummy said at a called meeting Monday night that she hopes the board will be able to work together at the retreat.

However, Chapman isn't sure the board's retreat will be productive.

"It's a catch-22," Chapman said. "You're hopeful. But when Ware, Kitchens, and Kellam have their own press conference that they want to hire someone from DeKalb County (for superintendent), it seems that they've already made up their mind.

(The retreat) would be a positive move, but it seems like they don't take the SACS report seriously."

Since the school system has been placed on probation the CCEA has been inundated with calls from teachers concerned about their jobs.

"Teachers are very concerned, we had to make a stand," Chapman said. "We had so many teachers wanted to get out of their contracts, even for the coming year."

Martha Hinson, special education paraprofessional for more than 14 years at Forest Park Middle School, says her morale has been affected even more since the SACS probation.

"It's really caused me some problems," Hinson said. "I'd always been proud to be an employee of the Clayton County school system, but not so much anymore. Nothing seems to be getting straightened out. I wonder what's going to happen to our students."

About the planned retreat, Hinson said, "I'm hoping it works. I'd love to see them come back with enough information to turn this system around. But they have to work together, the whole board. I don't foresee a lot being accomplished. But I'm hoping them working with the GSBA will bring some improvement."

Exactly what the GSBA will bring to the table is still vague. GSBA Executive Director Siss Henry is out of town and unavailable for comment.

County resident Frank T. Ayres, father of two children who were educated in the Clayton County school system, is sure of one thing, though.

"I think they all need to be replaced," he said. "They all need to be out of office. They've already wasted too much money. We need a clean slate."