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Voters to fill vacancy

By Trina Trice

It was Gov. Sonny Perdue's signature on a piece of paper that will allow some Clayton County residents to choose who will represent them on the Clayton County Board of Education.

Perdue signed Senate Bill 374 into law Wednesday afternoon.

The new law requires any vacancies on the school board with more than 180 days left in the term be filled through a special election.

The District 8 seat was left vacant after Dr. Sue Ryan resigned after only serving a few months of her four-year term.

State Sen. Valencia Seay, D-College Park, and state Rep. Gail Buckner, D-Jonesboro, lobbied Perdue to ensure the bill became law in time to prevent the school board from appointing a new member as it had intended to do at its Wednesday called meeting.

Just as many residents had hoped, the board removed the possible board member appointment from its agenda, not without some concern, however.

Board Chairwoman Nedra Ware said she is getting a legal team to examine the validity of a board vote taken at a previous called meeting. Ware wants to make sure that the board had not already legally voted in a school board member.

Applicant Oscar Blalock received four votes from Ware, Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens and board members Carol Kellam and LaToya Walker.

Two other applicants either received no votes or only one from board members.

In business concerning the superintendent search, Kitchens told board members results from the background checks on the superintendent applicants should be complete today.

"What I want to do is bring a resolution to push this forward," Kitchens said about the superintendent search.

The board voted 6-2 on a resolution that will include the board creating a mission statement for the superintendent candidates, board members Ericka Davis and Linda Crummy meeting this weekend to search for a strategic planning consultant, the board meeting to conduct interviews of candidates, and the choosing of one candidate.

The board was advised by attorney Stanley Hawkins, who was filling in for board Attorney Gary Sams, that if it chose at least four candidates the board would not have to inform the public or the media as state law dictates.

"Is that honesty?" asked concerned parent Bob Boyer. "That's nonsense. That's circumventing the law, I don't care what you call it."

The final candidate will be invited by the board to participate in a public forum, an idea pushed by Davis and later supported by Walker. However, the board is not making the public forum mandatory, giving the final candidate the final say.

"If they don't want to come to a town hall meeting, he should not be superintendent," said Lois Baines-Hunter.

Walt Pierce, formerly an assistant superintendent of Area II schools, withdrew his application for the superintendent job. Pierce said he is accepting a job as superintendent of Seminole County Schools in South Georgia.

The next scheduled meeting is Monday at 7 p.m.