Nine-member school board meets tonight

By Greg Gelpi

Toppling the balance of power, newly elected Clayton County School Board member Allen T. Johnson of District 8 will break the streak of 4-4 votes by joining the board for his first meeting Monday.

The nine-person board will hold a regular meeting Monday at 7 p.m. in the Administrative Complex at 1058 Fifth Ave., the first meeting since Johnson's election.

When Susan Ryan resigned from the board and another member abandoned the Nedra Ware faction, many of the votes were split 4-4.

"They have always referred to it as a board that has four votes on one side and four on the other," said Johnson, who will be the swing vote. "I'm not looking at it as (a swing vote). If it happens that way, so be it."

"It all depends on the issue at hand, and what we're voting on," he said to explain which group of four votes he will side with.

Topping his agenda on the board will be getting the school system off probation, he said.

"It won't only be me," Johnson said. "It will be all of the board members working together to solve this problem."

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools will return to evaluate the progress of the school system Oct. 8.

"I think I'm pretty much prepared with my background and all," Johnson, a 30-year veteran of the Clayton County school system, said.

Among the items on the agenda for Monday's meeting, the board will consider a proposal to waive the cost of lunch for students who pay a reduced price.

The National Lunch Act, a federal program that helps low income families, is up for renewal. Currently, students pay full price, reduced price or nothing for school lunches, Jane Lofton, the director of the Clayton County School Nutrition Program, said.

The proposal would eliminate the category of reduced prices, allowing 8,644 students to receive free lunch.

At 30 cents a meal, the proposal would save the affected county parents $2,593.20 each day.

The board will also consider the hiring of assistant principals at Babb Middle School and Kendrick Middle School and a coordinator of recruiting.