NAACP: Schools should engage public

By Michael Davis

The Clayton County School Board should be more responsive to parents' school policy suggestions and be more receptive to communications, several in attendance at a weekend NAACP-hosted school forum said.

Three of the nine school board members sat on a panel at the headquarters of the Clayton County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Saturday, taking questions and comments from residents and parents for more than two hours.

"You have the Web site, you have the television station... you have a four-person communication department, and you're not engaging the public," said Spivey Cove resident Carla Murphy.

Suggestions ranged from being more conscientious about returning phone calls and responding to e-mails, to allowing all residents an opportunity to address the school board at public meetings, regardless of how many wish to be heard.

"Anybody that comes to the board meetings ought to be able to speak," said NAACP's Dexter Matthews. "Even if you have to limit it to one minute," he said.

Several residents complained that few school board members showed up to the forum - only Chairwoman Ericka Davis, District VII member David Ashe and District V member W. Rod Johnson attended - and that parents don't get adequate time to read and review the troubled district's policy changes, 16 of which were recently adopted and not posted on the system's Web site, some said.

"I'm hoping we follow the process of public review before we adopt a policy," said NAACP education committee chairwoman Artansa Snell.

Others complained that records were difficult to obtain and school staff gave conflicting information about scheduled meetings.

If parents have a difficult time reaching the school board member from their district, "go to the people you know will respond and just remember them later," suggested board chairwoman Davis, who represents the fourth district. "I get a lot of e-mails from people who aren't even in my district," she said.

Davis said the system's superintendent, Barbara Pulliam, is due to give the board a system scorecard by July 1 that will measure student achievement against goals set by the system. NAACP's Snell said it should look something like Henry County Schools' balanced scorecard, and available through the system's Web site.

"Whatever Henry County Schools does, I'm happy with," she said.