New board members vow unity

By Greg Gelpi

Reflecting briefly on the past, the five newest members of the Clayton County Board of Education mostly directed their attention to the future.

"We must sacrifice our own individuality to bring about the greater good," Wendell "Rod" Johnson said after being sworn in.

Johnson, Yolanda Everett, Eddie White, David Ashe and Lois Baines Hunter were sworn in by Clayton County Probate Judge Pam Ferguson Monday night. The ceremony introduced five new members to the nine-member board, a board which has been sharply divided in the past. That division led to a system-wide probation and jeopardized the system's 51,000 students.

Monday night, though, was about unity and board members coming together as the newly sworn-in members called for "unity" and "healing."

"One board member really can't do anything," Ashe said. "It really takes the whole board."

The board doesn't need 5-4 splits, he said. The board needs to be unified and unanimous.

"I know that I have some very big shoes to fill, knowing that Ms. (Linda) Crummy was a very good influence on the board and a peacemaker," Everett said.

Crummy, though, called out the superintendent and demanded publicly she be given answers to her questions.

White pledged to work with other members of the board and with the superintendent.

"We are going to make a difference on the board, and we are going to work unified," White said. "The board, the superintendent and I will work to remove our school system from warned status and to restore our system to full accreditation."

The system remains on warned status after serving a yearlong probation imposed by the school system's accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The five elected officials "stepped forward to volunteer their time and their talents," Superintendent Barbara Pulliam said. "Tonight they take the first step in their journey."

The "journey" is one "to make quality education and achievements become hallmarks of Clayton County," Pulliam said.

In his benediction, Johnson, a pastor, called for "healing" of the board's previous problems, adding that "new blessings are coming."

The previous board survived calls for resignations, packed board meetings and the yearlong probation.

The Clayton County Chamber of Commerce called for Chairwoman Nedra Ware to step down after Ware and her allies on the board fired then-Superintendent Dan Colwell, which prompted the probation.

One of the first items for the new board to decide will be Ware's replacement as board chairman. The position is responsible for running board meetings and working with the superintendent to establish meeting agendas.

The board's first regular business meeting will be Jan. 10 at the Administrative Complex, 1058 Fifth Ave., Jonesboro.