Board member fears censure

By Greg Gelpi

A school board member concerned about being censured by her fellow board members rushed out of a closed-door meeting Monday night.

Clayton County Board of Education member Lois Baines Hunter adjourned into executive session of a special called meeting with her fellow Clayton County Board of Education members, but not before voicing concern that the session was called in order to censure her.

The board had met in executive session to discuss pressing legal and personnel issues for almost two hours when Hunter emerged from the meeting, hopped into her car and left around the back of the school system's Administrative Complex. The other board members, board attorney Gary Sams and Superintendent Barbara Pulliam exited the building moments later.

Board Chairwoman Ericka Davis said that she couldn't discuss the executive session, but said that the board doesn't have the authority to censure anyone.

"We have not censured anybody," Davis said. "If we had censured anybody, it would be done in public."

Attempts to reach Hunter by phone were unsuccessful, and she could not be reached as of press time.

Hunter has expressed concern about being turned over to the school system's accrediting agency for micromanaging the school system, the same violation that led to the system's yearlong probation.

"I've got 1,000 people ready to go to jail," an emotional Hunter said as she went into the executive session.

She expressed fear that she could be arrested.

Davis said that Hunter may be having trouble making the "transition" from being a community activist to being a board member.

Sams said that the board has "no legal standing" to censure anyone.

The special meeting was called because of the pressing executive session and so that the board could discuss forming a Georgia School Boards Association committee on standards for local school boards.

The committee made up of five community members, two school officials and four board members, including Hunter, will provide continuous accountability for the board and school system, Davis said.

The standards, as set out by the Georgia School Boards Association, cover vision and philosophy, organization, board operations, personnel, board and staff relations and board development.

The board action was a follow-up to a January board meeting in which the members unanimously agreed to adopt the standards.

"This is a system of accountability for the board to make sure we're moving forward in an ethical way," Davis said. "It's a greater form of accountability for the board."

Board member Connie Kitchens admitted being "confused" as to the timing of the meeting, since the board met last week and will be meeting again next week.