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Concerned citizens seek strategies for school crisis

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Leaders of the Concerned Citizens of Clayton County, also called C4, are trying to get the community to move past the pain created by the school system's accreditation crisis, and they hope to begin the healing process on Saturday with a "Mega Town Hall Meeting."

The meeting is designed to take the community beyond the "venting" stage where parents simply complain about the school system. The meeting's organizers hope the event will dispel rumors about the accreditation issue, and get residents to talk about ways to work with the school system, instead of pointing fingers at it.

"Those types of things are good at first, because you need to get those feelings out of your system," said Charles Bivins, chairman of C4. "Now we need to take a deep breathe. It's time to activate."

The meeting will begin at 4 p.m., in the gymnasium at Mt. Zion High School, 2535 Mt. Zion Pkwy., Jonesboro. The doors will open at 3:30 p.m. Bivins said he expects more than 3,000 people to show up for the meeting.

Organizers will provide attendees with 40-page "fact books," filled with important documents related to the accreditation issue. Some of the documents which will be in the booklets include local and state election laws; recall codes; House Bill 1302, which will establish an ethics commission for the board of education, and information from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Bivins said C4 is holding the meeting because "people want to know what to do."

"The anxiety is growing so large because of the rumors that are out there and we've got to stop it," He said. "People are making decisions about their futures based purely on some of these rumors."

Recent reports about Fayette County residents inundating their state representatives and senators with requests to vote against a bill pertaining to vouchers has created a "charged" situation on Clayton side of the county line, said C4's chairman.

The bill would have provided Clayton County parents with vouchers to send their children to school systems in neighboring school systems, if those school systems had room for the incoming students.

A lack of funding to handle additional students was the most common complaint from Fayette County school leaders, even though the law would mandate that tax dollars would have to follow the Clayton County students to whatever school system they ended up in.

In the eyes of Clayton parents, the reactions of Fayette County parents, and school and political leaders made it appear as if they were saying Clayton County students weren't good enough to be in Fayette County schools, Bivins said.

"Clayton County parents were infuriated when that happened," he added. "You're talking about moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles. They didn't take kindly to what they saw going on in Fayette County."