By Greg Gelpi
Incumbent School Board members Barbara Wells, Nedra Ware and Carol Kellam were all forced into a run-off election in the Democratic Primary Tuesday.
But some races were too close to call with absentee and early voting results being counted by hand. It was expected to be early Wednesday morning before these results were tabulated.
In two open seats,
Ahead by less than a hundred votes, Yolanda Everett was leading in the District 3 seat ahead of Michelle L. Jackson.
Everett, a teacher from College Park, had 1,678 votes versus Jackson's 1,582 with early and absentee votes still to be counted.
Ahead of his only opponent by 83 votes with early and absentee votes remaining to be counted, Eddie White was narrowly ahead Janice Scott for the District 6 seat. White had 1,766 votes, and Scott had 1,683.
The voters had their say after a yearlong system-wide school probation, a controversial firing of Superintendent Dan Colwell that cost the system hundreds of thousands of dollars in a settlement and calls for board resignations.
All three incumbents will advance to the Aug. 10 runoff election, according to the results of 50 of 51 precincts.
Embattled Clayton County Board of Education Chairwoman Nedra Ware, who represents District 2, will be going into a runoff with activist Lois Baines Hunter.
The Clayton County Chamber of Commerce called for Ware's resignation in June 2003, but 1,246 voters called for her to remain in office.
Hunter's approach involves getting down into the "trenches" to resolve education problems. She received 1,564 votes.
Recognizing a gang problem in the community, she said she sat down with the leaders of a local gang and asked them directly how the school system can address their needs and keep them in school.
Structure and discipline must be used to keep children out of trouble and on task, Hunter said. The single parent raised two children, and both graduated from college.
Atlanta Police Department Detective Roosevelt Bailey collected 734 votes.
The issues raised by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools probation weren't new issues, District 7 Board Member Carol Kellam said. The problems existed before she was appointed.
Kellam, 49, was appointed in a controversial move that preceded the firing of Colwell and endured her first election, advancing to a runoff with 625 votes. David Ashe had 594 votes with absentee votes still to be counted. Devadas Lynton, who has worked for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice for 13 years, received 411 votes.
"The issues they pointed out were going on for years and years," she had said.
The SACS probation was "unfortunate," but was good for the system, since it brought the community and the school board together to resolve those issues, Kellam said.
"Everything good came out of it," she said. "It made everybody come together."
Ashe had said it's important to hold the school board accountable for its actions.
"The board is going to have to have at least the perception of professionalism," he said.
"My only experience in politics is that I'm a Democratic voter," Ashe said. "The big issue in the election for me is to stop the bleeding. We're losing teachers as we speak."
Students and highly qualified teachers are fleeing the county, he said. One reason is the low standardized test scores.
Ashe is a retired state employee, who worked for the Department of Human Resources for 30 years and oversaw an $18 million budget as the head of the Clayton Community Service Board for 17 years.
Incumbent Barbara Wells led the ticket but was forced into a runoff. She received 791 votes, while Wendell Rod Johnson had 469, Norreese "Coach" Haynes had 465 and Jermaine Dawson had 397.
Wells had previously beat Haynes in the last election after the courts ruled on the outcome. Although he had more votes, the courts disqualified Haynes after questions were raised about where he was registered to vote.
Wells, a retired BellSouth technician, survived a rocky year of controversy on the board and changing demographics in her district that had a large increase in its black population.
She made certain to distinguish herself from other members of the school board. Members of the board meddled in the daily operations of the school system in violation of board policy and fired Colwell bringing about a yearlong probation by the system's accrediting agency.
"I hope that anyone who followed the events of the past year knows how hard I fought to follow policy and conduct a national search (for a superintendent)," Wells had said.
Johnson said that he wants to develop board policies to "promote excellence in Clayton County Public Schools."
Through these policies, teachers can "implement effective teaching and learning practices in our classrooms," he had said.
Haynes works for education advocate John Trotter and his organization, the Metro Association of Classroom Educators. Trotter has been a vocal opponent of Superintendent Barbara Pulliam.
When asked if he would attempt to fire Pulliam, Haynes replied that he would get rid of anyone that failed to put the children first.
Everett had said that her top three concerns are ensuring that the system's accreditation is never in danger again, addressing the growth of the county by getting rid of the trailers used as temporary classrooms and implementing a magnet school program for the school system.
Jackson is an unemployed veteran of the U.S. Army, who is considering entering the education field.
She has studied the issues and had said she wanted to use proven methods to increase test scores and increase student achievement.
"You have to go get the data and come back and educate people," Jackson said.
With 43 years of experience in the Clayton County school system, White has worked in the system as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent for staff development, student services and personnel.
"If elected to Clayton County Board of Education, one of my priorities would be to ensure that the members of the (board) serve the citizens of Clayton County in a professional manner and model the behavior we desire of the boys and girls under our watch," he had said.
White had said that his mediation skills and experience make him a qualified candidate for the board.
"I am one of nine, but I will be one," he had said of the nine-member board that has been deeply divided during the past year.
Scott works in the Atlanta public school system as an eighth grade language arts teacher at Kennedy Middle School and taught a year in the Clayton school system. She is in her 15th year of teaching.
Dixon, 26, was unopposed as the only Republican in the primary race.
Dixon, assistant marketing manager for Dixie Homecrafters/Gutter Guard, Inc., is a graduate of Mt. Zion High School and Stanford University.
Board members Linda Crummy and Bob Livingston decided not to seek re-election for Districts 3 and 6 respectfully.