School board starts transition

By Greg Gelpi

Accreditation, name tags and teacher retention. High school students addressed their concerns for the Clayton County school system to new Clayton County Board of Education member Wendell "Rod" Johnson.

Johnson, along with Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam, toured three county high schools Wednesday to introduce students to one of five new board members and give Johnson an opportunity to hear from students.

"Since we're going to be making decisions for them, we want to get input from them," Johnson said. "We want to become more community oriented."

Students, including Jonesboro High School senior Brett Stuart, asked about the school system's accreditation status.

The system's accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, placed the system on a yearlong probation, and the system remains on a yearlong "warned status" after probation was lifted.

Johnson assured students, however, that SACS is his top priority for his term on the board. Newly sworn in board members met with SACS officials during a Georgia School Boards Association training session, and SACS officials commended the new board members, he said.

"One thing they did say they were excited about is that all of the new board members had training," Johnson said.

Pulliam added that not only did the board members receive training, but they received the training prior to being sworn in as board members.

In its report when the system was placed on probation, SACS officials recommended that school board members receive training.

"We shall be cleared," Johnson said. "I'm confident that we will be cleared."

Johnson and Lois Baines Hunter, Eddie White, Yolanda Everett and David Ashe will join the nine-member board of education for its first meeting at 7 p.m. Monday. The first item of business for the new school board will be to select a chairman of the board, since board Chairwoman Nedra Ware was defeated in her bid for re-election.

Bob Livingston, who chose not to seek re-election, said he was happy to be done with the school board.

"I'm glad to be out of it," Livingston said. "My plans are that I'm retired. I'm out of it all together."

He said that the school system has a "lot of good teachers" and that he hopes the troubles with SACS are behind the school system.

"Hopefully, (the new board) will be leaders, not followers," Livingston said.

The previous board was accused of micromanagement and meddling in the day-to-day operations, and Livingston said the new board needs to re-exert its authority, namely by assuming responsibility of creating the agendas for the meetings.

During their farewell meeting, board members Carol Kellam and Barbara Wells said that the past year has been rough, but that the school system is in a better place.