By Greg Gelpi
The Clayton County Board of Education amended its travel policy, but only after ardent opposition.
In a 5-3-1 vote, the board approved an amendment that would require board members to repay the school system for expenses beyond the existing $2,500 spending cap.
The policy was one in a bundle of policies reviewed by the board's policy committee and originally brought to the board last month and voted on Monday.
Board member Connie Kitchens tried to pull the travel policy and a policy regarding board development from the package of policies, but failed in a 4-4-1 vote to do so.
She argued that the policy is too "vague" and not carried out consistently.
"They don't need any clarification," Riverdale resident and Clayton County school parent Linda Granger said. "They know what they were doing. Why do you ask for clarification after you spend taxpayer dollars?"
Kitchens said that expenses weren't placed on some board members' accounts, while placed on others, and that the policy should specify what it covers and doesn't cover.
"When there are certain board members they don't like, they throw everything and the kitchen sink under that board member's account," Kitchens said.
She disputed records released by the school system previously, which indicated she and board member Carol Kellam had spent more than their $2,500 travel allowance.
"There was misinformation that was given to the public that was falsified," Kitchens said.
Kitchens and other board members argued about how travel expenses were reported to the public, but board member Linda Crummy said that had nothing to do with the policy, but with the way it is carried out.
"It seems to be that we have a problem with the implementation of the policy and not with the policy itself," Crummy said.
No comments were made regarding any of the policies at the April board meeting, when they were introduced to the board by the policy committee.
"These policies have been on the table for one month," said Barbara Wells, a member of the policy committee. "I have not received one call. I think the board members do know what is spelled out."
Board members Allen T. Johnson, Crummy, Bob Livingston, Ericka Davis and Wells voted for the amended policy, while Nedra Ware, Kitchens and Kellam voted against it. LaToya Walker abstained from the vote.
Walker, a member of the board's finance committee, tried to pull the policy matter into her committee so that the policy could be discussed further.
In other business, Superintendent Barbara Pulliam announced the retirement of two more assistant superintendents. Assistant Superintendent of Auxiliary Services Ronnie Blake and Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Ed Scott are among staff members who will be recognized at tonight's system-wide retirement banquet.
Assistant Superintendent of Facilities, Construction and Purchasing John Ramage retired last month.
The school board approved new school boundaries for the two new elementary schools and the new Jonesboro Middle School for the next school year.