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BOE terminates relationship with law firm

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Even as members of the Clayton County Board of Education accused one another of lying and other improprieties in a recent public meeting, the school system's policy-making board also got around to handling its monthly business and addressing several needs of the district.

The board approved contract proposals presented by the transportation, finance and construction departments. It approved the hiring of assistant principals at Forest Park Middle School, and Smith and Suder elementary schools, a principal for Roberts Middle School, elementary school coordinators for language arts and special projects, and a director of human resources for elementary schools.

It also terminated the school system's relationship with Greenberg Traurig, LLC, the law firm which investigated a controversial land purchase made by the district in 2006. The law firm had also been reviewing whether the Fair Labor Standards Act was violated when temporary appointments were made for positions in the school system's central office, Forest Park Middle School, and Jonesboro High School.

Since the board unanimously approved a resolution on Monday ending Greenberg Traurig's services to the system, all work the law firm was doing regarding possible violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act has, apparently, also ended.

Dorsey Hopson, the board's in-house legal counsel, could not be reached for comment when a member of the media repeatedly attempted to contact him to find out if he, or any other attorney, would be picking up the investigation in the absence of Greenberg Traurig.

Greenberg Traurig's service to the school system was extended after representatives of the law firm gave its report on the land-purchase investigation to the board on July 10. The firm was asked by the board to act as interim legal counsel for the system until a new lawyer or firm could be found.

Hopson, who was a member of Greenberg Traurig at the time, was assigned to work with the school system. He left the law firm to become the board's full-time, in-house legal counsel at the beginning of September.

After a board work session on Oct. 29, Charles White, a spokesman for the school system, said it was his understanding that terminating Greenberg Traurig's association with the school system was a matter of "house keeping," which the board realized it had not yet done.

"The goal is to keep a lot of the legal work in-house, and not send a lot of work to outside firms," White said when he was contacted on Thursday for further comment.

In addition to terminating its association with Greenberg Traurig, the board unanimously approved the purchase of 24, air-conditioned school busses, which will each have seating for 72 passengers. The cost to buy the busses will be $1.95 million. John Lyles, the system's director of transportation, said future plans include retro-fitting the busses now used for students with disabilities to also include air conditioning.

Mooney Construction, Inc., of Woodstock, was unanimously approved to build a 12-classroom addition at Roberta T. Smith Elementary School. Mooney Construction's bid of $1.89 million was the lowest of eight bids submitted for the project.

The board unanimously approved letting the accounting firm of Cherry, Bekaert and Holland perform the annual Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) Compliance Audit this year. The firm has performed the audit every year since 2005. It will cost the system $32,000 to let them do it again this year.

The board also approved the following personnel recommendations:

· Hiring Adamson Middle School Principal Doug Hendrix as the director of human resources for elementary schools.

· Making River's Edge Elementary School Principal Cassandra Hopkins the coordinator for special projects for elementary schools.

· Lisa Orr became the coordinator of language arts for elementary schools.

· Zsa Zsa Blue is the new assistant principal at Forest Park Middle School.

· Rasheen Booker is the new assistant principal at Smith Elementary School.

· Linda E. Smith went from being the interim assistant principal at Suder Elementary School to being the full-time assistant principal at the school.

· Charmine Johnson, the interim principal at M.D. Roberts Middle School, is now officially the school's principal.