We are here today to address the issues surrounding the controversy of the Clayton County School Board since the termination of the former superintendent, Mr. Dan Colwell. The expedient and cooperative resolution to the problems facing our educational community is of utmost importance because the education of our children, the morale of the dedicated and loyal educators and the quality of life of all of our county's residents are at risk of being negatively impacted by the turmoil engulfing the Clayton County School Board.
The outcome of events is also of vital significance to the African-American community because the most recent election and the subsequent appointment of member Carol Kellam gave the Clayton County School Board the distinction of being the first governing board within the county to be comprised of a majority African-Americans. We feel strongly that precedence may be set as the power base is being shifted to more accurately reflect the racial makeup of Clayton County, which is now predominantly African-American. It is not our intent to endorse any candidate or position holder, but we are committed to upholding the integrity of the democratic process by which the members of the School Board were elected.
Heretofore our position has been one of watching and praying as recent events unfolded. We were all surprised when the newly positioned majority of the members of the board chose to terminate the contract of Mr. Colwell and there were many who did not agree with that decision. The turmoil that erupted subsequent to the making of that decision should have been anticipated. Mr. Colwell's service to the Clayton County School System surpassed two decades and he was well liked by many.
However, the continued disharmony of the Board is nothing new. A perusal of the history of the past Clayton County School Boards will find harmony as the exception rather than the norm. T he appointment of the first appointed superintendent, Dr. Joe Hairston, an African-American, was met with much resistance and he was selected by a split board decision (5-3-1). His ouster and the subsequent appointment of Mr. Colwell were also contentious and the decision was split (5-3-1). When Dr. Bob Livingston, a current Board member, held the position of elected superintendent, most of the time he and the Chairman of the Board, Ms. Linda Barrett, were at odds and often refused to speak to each other. Controversy and lack of agreement are not new occupants in the chambers of the Clayton County School Board.
What is new, different and unprecedented is the outcry for the resignation or recall of certain board members. Particularly disturbing are the actions of the president of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce in demanding the resignation of the four board members and his admonishment to the remaining four to refuse to reconcile. These demands, we were informed, were made as a result of a poll in which approximately 625 Chamber members were asked the question, "Are you dissatisfied with the actions of the Clayton County School Board?" Of the 625 who were polled, approximately 123 responded with approximately 120 responding affirmatively to that very general question. The results of this poll should not have been used to demand the resignation of four members who were democratically elected by the constituents in their respective districts.
The Chamber's position in the past has been one of reconciliation and facilitating cooperation among the various entities and its members. No attempt was made by anyone in the Chamber to meet with the four ladies, who are also Chamber members, to initiate dialog or to facilitate cooperative efforts among the members of the School Board. This should have been the course of initial action. The role of the chamber is not to tear up the community but to bring the community together. This was not done.
We watched and prayed as the Grand Jury investigated the Clayton County School Board and all of its members were exonerated of wrongdoing. We watched and prayed as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools conducted their investigation and although we were all saddened by being placed on probation, the truth is that the recommendation made by SACS are reasonable and can be accomplished well within the time allotted by SACS to comply.
We watched and prayed at the Board meetings when members of the audience, many who no longer reside in the county, heckled the Chairman and Vice Chairman. We observed the mounting pressure being exerted on these ladies to abdicate their positions and we continued to pray. We were careful not to react frivolously because too much is at stake.
The unprecedented and unwarranted attack by the Chamber of Commerce demands that along with our watching and praying, we speak and we act. We are requesting a formal apology from the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce to these four ladies, who were legally elected and who are also Chamber members.
We strongly support the decision of Chairman Ware, Vice Chairman Kitchens, members Kellam and Walker to refuse to relinquish their positions.
We are admonishing all eight Board members to work together cooperatively to meet the recommendations made by SACS in order to have the probationary status removed from the school system.
To the hundreds of loyal and dedicated educators and administrators who have given themselves to the task of educating our children, we ask you to remain steadfastly committed to that noble cause in this time of tumult. The children and the community need you.
To the members of our great community, the families, the churches, the businesses, the educators, it is imperative that we unite and put the past behind us and walk into the future on the common ground of doing what is best for the children. But we should not be satisfied with merely getting off probation. Ask any ex-offender, that is just the beginning. We must strive to raise the Clayton County School System to the top so that our children can effectively compete in a society where the standards are being precipitously raised and while our test scores are going down. We must work together to decrease the dropout rates and to increase the number of students properly equipped to graduate from high school. We must find ways to stem the tide of the number of young African-Americans being incarcerated and increase the flow of our graduates into colleges, technical schools and gainful employment. We all must stop watching, continue praying and do our part in making Clayton County an excellent place to live, learn, work and play.
Rev. Wesley E. Greene Sr.
President of the Association
of Black Christian Ministers
of Clayton County
Past Chairman of the Board
of the Clayton County
Chamber of Commerce