Members exceed allotted cell minutes

By Greg Gelpi

One of the perks of being a school board member is receiving a cell phone, and one board member used as many as seven times her allotted minutes in one month.

Members of the Clayton County Board of Education are offered cell phones so that they can conduct school business.

Each member is allotted 500 minutes a month, although the allotment is only used as a "bench mark," according to school system documentation.

Chairwoman Nedra Ware exceeded that benchmark every month in the past year, and Carol Kellam and Connie Kitchens exceeded it 10 months each during the same period. In January, February and March, Kellam used 10,622 minutes, according to school records, rather than the 1,500 allotted to her for that period.

Kellam was contacted on her school board cell phone Friday, but declined to speak because she was out of town preparing for her daughter's wedding and said she wouldn't have time to speak before or after the wedding.

The system doesn't monitor individual phone calls on the cell phones and doesn't instruct board members on what they can or cannot use the cell phones for or for how many minutes.

Ericka Davis, Bob Livingston and Allen T. Johnson never went over on their allotments. Johnson was issued a cell phone in October after taking office.

Steve Holmes, the school system's executive director of technology said the school system has a "pool" of cell phone minutes that each school board member or school staff member with a cell phone draws from. As long as the system, as a whole, stays within the pool allotment, there are no extra charges to the school system.

The system pays $69.67 a month for each board member's cell phone regardless of the number of minutes used. The cost includes all taxes and fees associated with the cell phone.

Holmes said the school system used to have individual accounts, but the system incurred overage charges. About two and a half years ago the system consolidated its minutes into a pool.

Since then, the system has upped the pool minutes once or twice to avoid "extremely high surcharges," Holmes said. The pool is about 19,000 minutes, and the system used about 17,500 minutes last month.

Holmes, who is also allotted 500 minutes, said he "seldom" uses more than 200 minutes in a month, which allows others in the pool to use some of his minutes.

He said 244 of the about 5,000 school employees, including board members, are issued cell phones.

Board members Barbara Wells and LaToya Walker chose not to have cell phones furnished by the school system. Crummy did not make any calls during the last three months of bills.