No-shows cancel meeting

By Trina Trice

Four Clayton County School Board members boycotted Wednesday's called meeting to discuss the superintendent search in what is developing into a no-show pattern to show their protest over the leadership.

Without five members present there is no quorum and no business can be conducted.

Only members Chairwoman Nedra Ware, who called the meeting, Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens, Carol Kellam and LaToya Walker were present.

When asked if she had any comment about the failed meeting, Ware said she had "no statements, none whatsoever."

The four board members squirreled away in a back conference room and didn't come out to the meeting room. Only a handful of citizens were present and they left when it was apparent no meeting would be held.

The no-shows were board members Bob Livingston, Barbara Wells, Ericka Davis and Linda Crummy.

Those board members boycotted a secret meeting at a local hotel Saturday set up by Ware to interview superintendent candidates.

Wednesday's attempted meeting comes one day after Kitchens blasted Crummy, who has started voting independent of the Ware faction.

As the Clayton County Board of Education's attempt to find a school chief stalls, other school systems are having more success with help from outside sources.

At a February retreat, the board ignored Wells' suggestion that they use the Georgia School Board Association to assist with the search.

The north Georgia school systems of Banks and Whitfield counties, as well as that of Bulloch County, in eastern Georgia, are using GSBA.

The GSBA assists local boards in seeking community input, establishing selection criteria, advertising a school district's vacancy, checking references, interviewing candidates and finalizing the selection process n all for a nominal fee.

The Bullock County Board of Education, which is in the process of interviewing its 19 superintendent candidates, paid a $6,500 flat fee for the GSBA service, said Al Burke, chairman of the school board.

Burke calls the GSBA "a professional group," saying, "They have knowledge and access to these persons and have experience doing the search.

"We thought we'd get a larger number of applicants," he said. "It has proven to be a very valuable way to get to the various applicants, maintaining their privacy, so that they would feel protected and have a little more assurance of security."

Clayton County board members have expressed concern about protecting the confidentiality of its 10 plus applicants, shrouding a recent Saturday meeting in secrecy on the advice of legal counsel.

The meeting was used to interview superintendent candidates.

Despite the board's unified effort to protect the identities of its applicants, some board members did not participate in Saturday's meeting, fearing that the meeting was illegal.

Before attempting to interview its candidates, however, the Bulloch County school board went through a "mini-training" session facilitated by GSBA, Burke said.

"It was to teach members the best way to ask questions," he said.

Once members were ready, they interviewed several candidates during the executive session of a public meeting. All members were present, giving its applicants two and a half hours each.

"Our attorney took care of it to make sure it was done properly," Burke said.

The Fulton County Board of Education employed the services of the law firm Brock, Clay, Wilson, Calhoun, and Rogers, based in Marietta, to help with the superintendent search it began in September 2002.

During the search, the Fulton County board considered 70 candidates, consisting of professional educators, business leaders, and career military personnel, from 30 states.

"We did a lot of recruiting and advertising in various areas," said Glenn Brock, attorney at the law firm. "We helped the board prepare a profile, we helped with minor background checks, helped with initial discussion" with the applicants, "presenting those to the board."

The Clayton County board hired Paramount Security to conduct background checks, cost $150 per applicant, totaling a possible bill of $1,500 for at least 10 applicants.

The search firm used by the Fulton County board helped it set up four town meetings that allowed the public to express what they'd like to see in the next school chief.

When the board was ready to interview its candidates, they alerted the public of the meeting, although the interviews were done in private, Brock said.

"The interviews with the complete board were three to four hours each," he said. "They were all present, that is very important."

The Fulton County board appointed its new superintendent Dr. John Haro of Minnesota at a Feb. 20 meeting, concluding a five month search.