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Secret board meeting held

By Trina Trice and Tamara Boatwright

The Clayton County Board of Education held a meeting Saturday at the Courtyard Marriott in College Park interview candidates for superintendent, but only a few board members showed up.

Several board members, including Chairwoman Nedra Ware and Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens, attended the meeting.

Clayton County resident Lauri McGouirk found the secret meeting "appalling. I think they need to make the list public. We should be able to talk to our representatives about the list to know more about the person."

Board members that could be reached by phone would not comment on whether or not the board had planned to meet.

"I was advised about the meeting Thursday night, but I chose not to attend," said member Barbara Wells.

Members Bob Livingston and Linda Crummy said they had other plans and could not attend the Saturday meeting.

Member Ericka Davis had no comment, while Carol Kellam and LaToya Walker could not be reached for comment.

"They need to be a little bit more open and let people know what's going on," said Dexter Matthews, president of the NAACP. "It seems like they're being fairly secretive. They need to start acting like a board. There are eight of them, they all should make the decisions, not three, not four, not five.

"They should probably get a panel of people from the community to help them" interview candidates. "Until they get the public involved, I don't think they'll get support. I don't think people trust the process. The need to trust the community n it's our children and our money."

Gary Sams, attorney for the school district, said he had no response about board members receiving advice from him to say nothing about the meeting to protect the confidentiality of the candidates.

When asked how board members should conduct superintendent interviews legally and ideally, Sams said the board should interview the candidates one board member at a time.

"The issue is how do you preserve and protect the confidentiality" of the candidates, he said.

David Hudson, attorney for the Georgia Press Association of which the News Daily is a

member, told the News Daily

"if a quorum, that is five or

more, of the board members plan to meet to interview candidates, public notice of the meeting must be given in advance and members of the public must be admitted during the interviews. It would be unlawful for the board to vote or to even go into closed session to meet with candidates."

Georgia law states that a meeting is:

"The gathering of a quorum of the members of the governing body of an agency or of any committee of its members created by such governing body, whether standing or special, pursuant to schedule, call, or notice of or from such governing body or committee or an authorized member, at a designated time and place at which any public matter, official business, or policy of the agency is to be discussed or presented or at which official action is to be taken or, in the case of a committee, recommendations on any public matter, official business, or policy to the governing body are to be formulated, presented, or discussed."

The board's Saturday meeting is excluded from the Open Meetings Act, Sams said. The DeKalb County Board of Education, that Sams also advises, used a called closed meeting to conduct interviews with superintendent candidates.

However, Georgia law requires that notice of any meeting be given to the county legal organ, which is the News Daily, at least 24 hours in advance. The News Daily received no such notice.

If the board wants to have a closed meeting, it can vote to do so, however, that vote must occur publicly.

If the board votes to close a meeting, it is up to Ware, as chairwoman, to submit an affidavit acknowledging the topics that were discussed in the board's minutes.

Clayton County District Attorney Bob Keller said if the meeting took place, "We'll certainly take a look at it. If there is any violation, I will coordinate any inquiry with (Clayton County) Solicitor Keith Martin."