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Election heats up in school races

By Greg Gelpi

Clayton County school board elections are getting heated as runoffs are nearing.

Democratic nominations for three Clayton County Board of Education seats will be decided in Tuesday's runoff election.

Campaigns appear to be splitting along racial lines for the school board, which has endured a year of controversy.

Incumbents Nedra Ware and Carol Kellam issued a joint flier, touting their record in standing up for the county's black residents against the white power structure.

The Clayton County Chamber of Commerce called for the resignations of Ware and Kellam, along with two other board members, after the controversial firing of Superintendent Dan Colwell, which led to a yearlong system-wide probation.

Ware is in a runoff with Lois Baines Hunter for the District 2 seat. In the initial election, Hunter pulled in 1,651 votes, while Ware had 1,290. Roosevelt Bailey had 781 votes.

"Carol Kellam and Nedra Ware are two of the board members who stood-up to the POWER TO BE and have worked hard to bring about changes in order to move this system in a positive direction," Kellam and Ware stated in the campaign literature. "By standing up for what they believe in and not giving in to the POWER TO BE, they have paid the ultimate price to bring about changes and open doors for other Government Agencies."

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed the school system on probation for a year when the board failed to follow its own policy and meddled in the day-to-day operations of the system.

"SACS clearly over-stepped their boundaries by placing this system on PROBATION," the campaign literature states. "This was done to control board decision making power, keep them from restructuring the system and to embarrass the first majority black controlled government agency."

Hunter said it's "not very hard" to keep her supporters interested in her campaign, working with neighborhood children to get her supporters back to the polls Tuesday.

"They get to see from me a level of community," she said of her young volunteers. "At the same time, I'm correcting, I'm disciplining, I'm teaching and they are understanding."

The community must work together in solving the problems of the school system, Hunter said. Her campaign demonstrates her ability to unite her community.

"If you let (the children) work on the campaign, they get a better understanding of why they're in school," she said.

Hunter, a community activist, has supported getting down in the trenches of education, touting her connections to the people in the community and ability to sit down with leaders of local gangs.

Ware, a Fulton County public school teacher, has served on the board for eight years.

The precincts voting for District 2 are Jonesboro 1, Jonesboro 2, Jonesboro 12 and Riverdale 2.

Kellam, who was appointed to the board minutes before the firing of Colwell, is in a runoff with David Ashe, who retired from the Department of Human Resources.

Ashe edged Kellam by five votes in the primary election. Ashe had 654 votes to Kellam's 649 votes. Devadas Lynton had 432 votes.

Ashe said many of the people involved in the campaigns have agendas, some good and some bad.

"In the school board race, it's about the children," he said. "Race shouldn't matter."

He said that he picked up a list of registered voters and has been making calls and hitting the streets to rally support for the runoff.

"I feel like I'm going to win," Ashe said. "I should have a big advantage because Dave Lynton's people are helping me. I feel like all of his votes were anti-Kellam."

After the initial election, Lynton endorsed Ashe for the school board seat and promised his support.

The precincts voting for District 7 are Forest Park 3, Forest Park 4, Forest Park 5, Forest Park 6, Riverdale 6 and part of Riverdale 7.

Ware and Kellam couldn't be reached.

District 5 incumbent Barbara Wells was named in Ware and Kellam's campaign literature, although she isn't running against them.

Wells distinguished herself from Ware and Kellam, saying she supported the national search for a superintendent, followed board policy and communicated with the public.

"If this is wrong, then I don't mind being separated," she said. "The fate of Clayton County schools is in the hands of voters.

Wells received 849 votes in the primary election to advance to a runoff with Wendell Rod Johnson, who had 491 votes. Norreese Haynes had 490 votes, and Jermaine Dawson had 408 votes.

"I'm confident that I will do well," Wells said, explaining that she has stuck to her strategy of getting out to shopping centers and grocery stores. "I feel that my campaign is going good."

Johnson couldn't be reached, but his campaign brochure says he is the pastor of New Ambassadors Church in Fayetteville and an educator in the Atlanta public school system. He is a former congressional aide to U.S. Congressman David Scott, D-Atlanta; military officer for the U.S. Army and member of the Clayton County Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax Committee.

The following precincts vote for District 5: Jonesboro 4, Jonesboro 9, Jonesboro 15, Jonesboro 16, Riverdale 4, Riverdale 5 and part of Riverdale 7.