Johnson, Lee battle for board position

By Trina Trice

Registered Clayton County voters residing in school District 8 will be able to decide Tuesday on who will take the vacant seat on the Clayton County Board of Education.

Allen T. Johnson and Natisha Lee are running for the post, vacated by Sue Ryan who resigned from the school board in March after serving only three months of her four-year term. She cited concern for her family as a reason for leaving the position.

With the school board divided 4-4 and with eight months of controversy the election of the ninth board member is seen by many as critical for the future of the district by.

Since the beginning of their campaigns earlier this summer, Johnson has emerged with support from the Clayton County Educators Association and local residents such as Jim Corbin, owner of Corbin Comfort Systems in Lake City who has placed a campaign sign outside his business.

Barbara Halstead, who was originally a contender for the school board seat but dropped out, endorsed Johnson at a forum hosted by the Clayton County Coalition for Quality Education.

The News Daily gave each candidate an opportunity to address issues concerning the school system by answering a questionnaire. Only Johnson replied, despite Lee being asked repeatedly last week to complete the questionnaire.

At a forum sponsored by the Clayton County branch of the NAACP Lee explained why she is running for the school board:

"I have a daughter in school," she said at the forum. "To hear about accreditation and what's going on in the school, it's really bad. It hurts me to my heart ? if we don't have accreditation.

"A lot of people are saying I'm not qualified, but it's not about being qualified. It's about getting the job done. I'm not saying that I'd be the best person on the board, but I'd be there to help."

In an interview with the News Daily in July, Lee said the following:

"I heard a lot about the school being on probation. I just want to work as a team on the school board. I'm looking to make Clayton County Schools better for the children."

District 8 is in northeastern Clayton County, and includes parts of Morrow, Forest Park, Lake City, Conley, and Ellenwood. It is bordered on the west by Ga. Highway 54 and partially bordered on the east by Ga. Highway 42, and extends from the DeKalb County line in the north to the intersection of Rock Creek Drive and Fielder Road in the south.

Allen T. Johnson

Age: 73

Maritul Status: Married to retired Clayton County school teacher, Pat Johnson

Children (Names and ages): Terry Johnson, 40, and Stephanie Maurer, 35.

Occupation: Retired Clayton County school system educator

Natisha Lee

Age: 27

Maritul Status: single

Children (Names and ages): three children

Occupation: cashier at Wal-Mart

ND: What are your qualifications to be a member of the Clayton County School Board?

Johnson: High school teacher, coach, and high school assistant principal and principal of Lake City Elementary School. Have two degrees in school administration with leadership skills.

ND: Why are you seeking the position of Clayton County of Education?

Johnson: To help reinstall the integrity of the CCBOE and the Clayton County school system. To provide leadership which is so profoundly lacking.

ND: What are the major problems that exist within the school system?

Johnson: The possibility of losing accreditation and the lack of leadership without a system superintendent, the unwillingness of the board members to work together, low teacher morale, and addressing the needs of a culturally, diverse student population.

ND: What will you specifically do to help the school system get off probation?

Johnson: Get the board members working on the same page, get them to understand how serious losing the system's accreditation will be. It will be catastrophic for the students, the school system and the county.

ND: How do you assess the current controversy?

Johnson: Power ego of the individual board members has created the controversy. It must stop.

ND: Do you have any specific recommendations to help bring up the test scores?

Johnson: We need to get a strong superintendent with leadership skills who all of the school administrators and teachers will trust and respect. This will improve the teacher morale which is what the system needs very badly.

ND: Are you satisfied with the current structure of the administrative office of the school system? What changes would you make?

Johnson: No. Get a new superintendent in place, and let him do his job. The board needs to stop micromanaging.

ND: What qualifications are you looking for in a new school superintendent?

Johnson: A superintendent with a good track record, that has leadership skills working in a large school system and working with a system that had a culturally diverse student population.

ND: How do you think the selection process should be conducted?

All of the board members will have to work together as a unit, not as individuals. They must seek the help of GSBA (Georgia School Boards Association) to find good qualified candidates to be interviewed.

ND: What is your view of whether the schools are being properly funded.

Johnson: The schools have been properly funded and from the standpoint of local funded monies, they are being properly funded now. But if the board cannot have an attitude change, the trust of taxpayers of the county will stop supporting funds to properly support the needs of the school system.

ND: Do you favor additional taxes if they are needed to properly fund the schools?

Johnson: Only if the school board and the school system regain the solid support of taxpayers, the parents, school administrators, and classroom teachers. We will need to get the school system back to the first-class operation that students, teachers and taxpayers deserve.

ND: What do you think of the racial climate in the schools?

Johnson: The racial climate of the school system needs to addressed because of the different needs of the very culturally diverse student population.

ND: Do you think any changes need to be made?

Johnson: It would take time for me to evaluate as to what changes might need to be made.