Taping issue up in air

By Trina Trice

Members of the Clayton County Board of Education couldn't come to an agreement Monday night on whether to resume videotaping of their meetings for public viewing.

Board member Barbara Wells initiated discussion on the issue, first, as a response to public outcry and, second, to honor a recommendation made in the grand jury's report released last week.

Wells said she has been approached on more than one occasion by parents and concerned citizens to address the matter.

"I could take it upon myself to instruct the interim superintendent to resume videotaping, but I'm just one member" of eight, Wells said, hoping that the board could come to an agreement as a whole to resume videotaping of the meetings.

"I don't have a problem with what you're saying," Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens said. "You people have been saying that we" aired the taped meetings on Cable Channel 24. "There's no evidence that those tapes were played on Channel 24."

In the past, Kitchens said taped copies of the meetings "were misused and abused. They were never used for educational purposes. They were used for an ?Ah, I got you.' The tapes are not used for the community. You want to use them like they were on Jan. 13."

Board meetings were usually videotaped by the school system's Television Services department. Videotaping stopped, following the board's Jan. 22 meeting. At that meeting Chairwoman Nedra Ware expressed displeasure at then-Superintendent Dan Colwell for giving copies of taped meetings to the media, perhaps to win over support following the board's initial firing of Colwell at the Jan. 13 meeting.

Many residents, especially those who go to board meetings, blamed the board for halting the tapings to keep the public in the dark.

Kitchens said she had nothing to hide and suggested the board appoint a committee to research the resuming of videotaping the meetings to protect itself and ensure the tapes are used properly.

"If you're doing the right thing Connie, you don't have to care who tapes" the meetings "and who sees it," Wells said.

Board member Dr. Bob Livingston started another heated discussion at Monday night's meeting concerning the use of old stationery and placing board members' names, without their knowledge, on correspondence to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the organization that accredits schools.

Livingston demanded an explanation for why stationery with former Superintendent Joe Hairston's name on it was used for a letter inviting SACS to visit the school system.

Hairston, the school system's first black superintendent, was forced by the board to resign in 2000 and now holds the top administrative position for the Baltimore school system.

Ware told Livingston, "You and I discussed this and you led me to believe that my response was satisfiable to you. ? After tonight, I will not allow this to continue on and on. This board has been sabotaged since January. I'm not going to take up the meeting with this."

Ware said she didn't see anything wrong with being cost-efficient by using old stationery.

Livingston brought up his concern about using the Hairston stationery at previous meetings. He wanted a formal discussion on the subject placed on the agenda, but says his requests to interim Superintendent Dr. William Chavis and Ware were ignored.

Chavis and Ware, as dictated by board policy, decide what items to place on the board's meeting agenda.

In other business, Ed Scott, assistant superintendent of personnel, told the board the school system has 191 vacancies for teachers, counselors and media specialists.

The school board approved the following personnel changes:

Mary Ramsier is coordinator of school nutrition services; April Madden, formerly assistant principal at Mundy's Mill Middle School, is principal of River's Edge Elementary School; Anthony Smith, formerly assistant principal of Pointe South Middle School, is principal of Mundy's Mill High School; Darrell Herring, formerly assistant principal of Roberts Middle School, is principal of Roberts Middle School; Shannon Mayfield, formerly a school administrator in Detroit, is assistant principal at North Clayton Middle School; Jeff Hubbard, formerly a teacher at Kendrick Middle School, is assistant principal at Kemp Elementary School; and Antuanette Williams, formerly assistant principal at Fountain Elementary School, is assistant principal of East Clayton Elementary School.