School board candidates answer questions

By Greg Gelpi

For the second straight night, school board candidates fielded a wide variety of questions from voters and again eight of the 15 candidates showed up.

The Clayton County NAACP and Clayton County Coalition for Quality Education held the forum for Clayton County Board of Education candidates Tuesday at Church Street Elementary School.

"If they won't talk to you before they're elected, what are the chances of them talking to you afterward?" Mary Baker, the president of CCCQE, asked.

Failing to appear were Nedra Ware, Yolanda Everett, Norreese "Coach" Haynes, Wendell "Rod" Johnson, Janice V. Scott, Carol Kellam and Roosevelt Bailey, who was at Monday's forum.

Xavier Ross, who just completed eighth grade at North Clayton Middle School, told the candidates he will walk across the stage and get his diploma in 2008. But for his classmates, Ross asked what is being done to increase SAT scores.

Parents also joined in demanding to know how the candidates would raise student achievement.

Joel Dixon, a member of the Mt. Zion High School Class of 1996, said he remembers when test scores in the county were high and he is confident that they can be again.

Dixon, the only Republican in the school board races, is running against Eddie White and Scott in District 6.

White, who has 43 years of experience in the school system, said the board must work as one and set aside personal agendas.

"One thing the school board need not do is work as micromanagers," White said. "That got us into trouble. We don't want that. We don't need that."

The school board elections for districts 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 come two months after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools lifted the school system's yearlong probation.

The accrediting agency placed the system on probation after members of the school board micromanaged the school system, violating the board's policies.

District 3 candidate Michelle L. Jackson said she has been spending the past year as a parent pressuring the school board to follow its policies.

"It's very important that we hold a board accountable," said David Ashe, District 7 candidate. "We're losing citizens simply because of the actions of the school board."

Part of the answer is increasing communication between the board and the community, District 7 candidate Devadas Lynton said. He pledged to reply to all e-mails and telephone calls if elected.

Other school board candidates at the forum were Lois Baines Hunter, Jermaine Dawson and Barbara Wells.

The primary election will be July 20.