Johnson makes plans for office

By Trina Trice

Allen Johnson, Clayton County Board of Education's newest member, said he wants to focus on getting the school system off probation and said that is the board's top priority.

"We've got to show good faith by working together and establishing the things that went wrong," said Johnson, who was overwhelmingly elected to the District 8 seat in a special election this week.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools "used the term micromanagement. That was done by a few board members. We have to show them that this will stop and not happen again," Johnson said in his first local interview since Tuesday's victory.

"The school board is there to set policy and plan the budget. We have to let the superintendent run the daily business. We have to prove and show that those things have and will be done."

SACS placed the school district on probation because of the school board leadership meddling in the day-to-day operations of the district.

The district has one year to make changes to get off probation. SACS is sending a review team for a follow-up visit in October.

About board leadership, Johnson would like to see Board Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens ousted in her current leadership position when it comes up to for vote in January.

As stated by board policy, school board members vote in the chairperson, who serves two years, and vice chairperson, who serves only one year.

"As I understand, the chair is set by legislature for two years," Johnson said. "That's set in stone. The vice chair is up for reappointment every year. I see no reason why we should keep Connie Kitchens with the way she's behaved. Let somebody else have a crack at it. I think if that situation is worked out, it'll be better. It's not bad to make a change. There are other people that could fill that chair and do a great job. I think that's something that needs to be addressed."

Getting on with the national superintendent search and making sure the board works together are other priorities he'll see to in his first year, he said.

A superintendent who can manage a culturally diverse and large school system is essential for the school system, Johnson has said.

When asked what he thinks should be done about the rapidly growing Hispanic population in the county, Johnson said, "We've got to get people trained in the school system and able to speak a little Spanish. But (Hispanics) need to be able to speak English, too, if they're going to live in America. I feel strongly about that. But it's something that you can't do overnight."

Johnson believes he was elected by a diverse body of people who recognize that he is active in the community since retiring from the Clayton County school system in 1986.

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, who are graduates of Morrow High School, from a previous marriage that ended when his wife died.

"People know me," he said. "My name recognition is pretty darn good all over the county. They know my character. They know the integrity I have as an individual. They know how much I loved and took care of the kids.

"The people that came out to vote, that's quality votes. They believed I could get on board and make a difference. These are blacks and whites. This is not a black-white issue. Education is for everyone, so (board members) can not use (race) anymore. They can't beat that dead horse."

Johnson will be sworn in officially as a school board member as soon as the county Elections office receives documents certifying the election results which could be as soon as Monday.

Johnson will have to attend New Board Member Orientation facilitated by either the National School Boards Association or the Georgia School Boards Association within six months of being sworn into office.

"I'm thankful to the people of District 8," he said. "The eighth district, we've been without a representative on that board for (several) months. It's going to be interesting. I'm looking forward to it."