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Pulliam defends niece's use of vehicle

By Jeffery Whitfield

During Monday night's school board meeting, Dr. Barbara Pulliam, Clayton County school superintendent, defended her choice to let her niece borrow her state-owned vehicle.

She also indicated that board members supported her decision.

“My niece ... often drives for me or accompanies me to theses meetings,” Pulliam said, referring to job-related conferences she frequently attends.

The News Daily reported in October that Pulliam's niece wrecked the Jeep Cherokee after the vehicle had a collision with a curb.

“On Oct. 7 while on vacation, I asked my niece to use my state-owned vehicle,” Pulliam said.

Her niece was returning from a school-related errand when she lost control of the Jeep Cherokee in Jonesboro at Fifth Avenue and Ga. Highway 54. Pulliam told board members that the collision damaged a rotor on the vehicle, causing a need for it to be replaced. The vehicle was only able to drive in reverse and had to be towed to the school system's transportation facilities.

Pulliam subsequently wrote a $3,016 check for damage done to the vehicle the morning after a story on the subject appeared in the News Daily. She presented the check to school system officials on Oct. 20.

“I was neither asked nor ordered to make payment,” she said. “I did so of my own desire.”

A police report of the incident was not filed.

“Our efforts were politely turned away by law enforcement,” she said.

Clayton County Assistant Police Chief Jeff Turner said in October that if a car causes damage to public property, the incident would need to be reported. He was not specifically referring to Pulliam's incident.

School officials maintained they did not have to file a report.

“At no time was board policy ... violated,” Pulliam said, adding that no unethical acts had been performed either.

In other news, the board unanimously voted to approve a petition allowing a dual language charter school to open in the county by the 2006-2007 school year.

“I think all of us were real excited about it,” board member Don Ashe said.

The Unidos Dual Language Charter School is a kindergarten through fifth grade charter school. English-speaking and Spanish-speaking students would be taught together at the school in a “70-30” language model in which students would be instructed in Spanish 70 percent of the time and English 30 percent of the time.

The board's Student Achievement and Support Services Committee voted last week to recommend the full board consider granting the school a charter.

Private groups or residents seeking to open new schools in Georgia are required to gain approval from local board officials, according to state law.

Staff writer Justin Boron contributed to this article.