Board to consider extending SPLOST

By Greg Gelpi

Clayton County schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam said she would hit the ground listening when she took over in February and tonight she and the school board will hear what the county has been saying.

The findings of a series of four public forums held throughout the county will be presented to the Clayton County Board of Education during a regular business meeting at 7 tonight.

"All and all it turned out fairly well," said Allen T. Johnson, the chairman of the school board community relations committee. "(Parents) were able to speak very freely and ask questions. We just needed more people. That was the only problem."

Johnson said communication is "very important," particularly after the school system was placed on a yearlong probation by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

"That was one problem of the school board," he said. "That was one thing that got us into trouble."

It's "vitally important" to get parents involved in their children's education, Johnson said, and the problem isn't new.

"The $64,000 question is how are you going to do it," Johnson said.

At the forums, 466 people raised issues to school officials with school climate, communication and safety concerns raised most frequently.

"Everyone is concerned about safety, whether they've had a problem or not," Johnson said, adding that the forums were held at the same time allegations of bullying in Clayton County schools were coming out.

Specifically, the report cited parental concerns over violence, bullying, additional security and supervision, gangs and discipline on buses.

The top school climate issue was the desire for better discipline programs.

The school board now must take the information from the report and move forward to address the problems identified, Johnson said.

Other issues identified by the report include teachers and staff, academics and student achievement, parental involvement, attendance, accreditation, after school programs, programs for parents and students with limited English proficiency and school nutrition.

The school board will also consider extending the system's 1-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. If approved, a special election would be held Sept. 23 for voters to decide on the extension.

The existing SPLOST expires in December, but an extension must be passed in September to prevent any disruption in tax collections.

According to the proposal being sent to the board, a SPLOST extension would fund the construction of three elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school, as well as system-wide improvements, including the construction of a new technology department building, school renovations and classroom additions.

In other business, the board will consider recommendations for the principal of North Clayton High School and director of student services.

An executive session will precede the regular meeting at 6:30 tonight.