By Jeffery Whitfield
Ericka Davis names three goals when she thinks of the future of local education. The Clayton County Board of Education Chair's first goal, seeing the board removed from state probation, already has been accomplished. Her remaining aims, having the board attain standards of accountability from the Georgia School Boards Association and creating a model of good governance, are now her focus.
“Our duty as board members is really limited to three areas: choosing and evaluating the superintendent, making sound policies that will facilitate excellence and being good stewards with taxpayer dollars,” said Davis. “If we can continue to do that and make wise decisions as we go along, I believe it will reflect throughout the system.”
Focusing on sound government policy is significant, especially with anticipated growth that Clayton County could face.
As the school system moves forward, enrollment is expected to rise and reach 57,000 students in five years, and approach 63,000 in 10 years if growth continues, she said.
From 2002 to 2005 the system's enrollment increased from 48,016 to 51,397 - an increase of 7 percent in a three-year period, Davis said.
“We are desperately in need of Spanish-speaking paraprofessionals and teachers to accommodate a growing population,” she said.
About 11 percent of students in Clayton County schools are composed of Spanish-speaking students, according to recent statistics from Clayton County Public Schools.
But the most significant need for the system is acquiring land and new schools to accommodate the growth, Davis said.
“Clayton is desperate for land and that may mean building schools vertically rather than horizontally, but it also means that zoning boards must work with us and parents must advocate slowing the growth of new subdivisions and apartments where new schools are already overcrowded,” she said.