Johnson wins spot on board

By Trina Trice

Long-time educator Allen T. Johnson is now the ninth member on the Clayton County Board of Education.

Johnson won the school District 8 seat with more than 85 percent of the vote, a total of 930 votes, defeating contender Natisha Lee who received 14 percent or a total of 154 votes.

Johnson, 73, is a retired Clayton County educator, having served as principal of Lake City Elementary School for 29 years. He has a wife of 22 years and two adult children from a previous marriage who are graduates of Morrow High School.

Johnson garnered support from the Clayton County Educators Association and Barbara Halstead, a former contender for the seat.

Lee, 27, cashier at Wal-Mart and a single mother of three children emerged from obscurity to run for the school board. The News Daily reported recently that Lee had a criminal background, having been arrested for shoplifting in 2001, a charge she denies.

When the News Daily contacted Lee Tuesday evening, she gave no comments, and instead, hung up the phone.

About his election win, Johnson said, "It's great."

"I'm a little disgruntled that we didn't have more people coming out to vote," he said. ?But I look at it as quality votes."

School District 8 has 18,005 registered voters.

Many are hoping Johnson's victory will put a nail in the coffin of a contingent led by Board Chairwoman Nedra Ware since January of this year.

The Ware faction, that was believed to originally include Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens and members Linda Crummy, LaToya Walker and Carol Kellam, has gradually broken down, with the first defection coming from Crummy.

Crummy declared her independence shortly after being the subject of a letter written by Kitchens to other board members denouncing Crummy and her continued association with John Trotter, executive director of the Metro Association of Classroom Educators, a teacher's union of which Ware, Kitchens, and Crummy used to be members.

While Crummy broke away, Ware and Kitchens maintained an alliance with Kellam and Walker, until Walker declared her own neutrality and independence this summer.

Johnson has asserted that he is an independent thinker and will not take part in any alliances.

"I look forward to the challenge that lies ahead," he said. "I look forward for working with school board members and working for the best interest of the teachers, students,?and taxpayers."

The special election follows eight months of controversy that started when board members ousted Superintendent Dan Colwell in January at its first meeting held since last November's school elections.

The controversy includes the school district being put on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools that said the leadership was meddling in the day-to-day operations of the district.

The district has one year to make changes to get off probation. An update visit is expected in October. Johnson has pledged to help get the district off probation.

Tuesday's special election was needed after just-elected board member Sue Ryan resigned after three months in office.

The board would have appointed a successor, but special legislation changed the procedure and allowed voters to make the selection.