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Clayton BOE will vote on Thompson's contract today

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Education will vote on a 14-month, $285,000 contract, and a car, for corrective superintendent candidate, John Thompson, today at 8 a.m., during a special meeting at the school system's Central Administration Complex, 1058 Fifth Ave., Jonesboro.

Thompson will receive $110,000 more than his predecessor, Interim Superintendent Gloria Duncan. Former Superintendent Barbara Pulliam, who resigned in July 2007, received roughly $190,000 per year.

If the board approves the contract, Thompson will officially begin leading the district on Monday, his North Carolina-based attorney said. He has already accepted the position, and the approval of his contract is merely a formality.

"We're pleased with the contract that has been negotiated," said Richard Schwartz, Thompson's legal representative. "Mr. Thompson is itching to get going, and he is looking forward to making things better for the children of Clayton County."

Thompson will attend neither the called meeting, nor a scheduled school board training session, because of a death in his family, Schwartz said. The candidate was in Jonesboro on Thursday night to address the public and the media, but left town on Friday to attend a funeral in New Jersey, his attorney added.

Thompson could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Sid Chapman, president of the Clayton County Education Association, said several of his organization's 2,800 members called the CCEA offices on Friday to express concerns about Thompson's hiring. The organization's members were worried about the high salary Thompson will receive.

While Thompson's contract will represent a significant pay increase for the superintendent position, Chapman said his organization is concerned about unfilled promises to paraprofessionals. "The contracts which were promised to the paraprofessionals months ago, and voted on by the board, have still not been delivered," Chapman said. "The bus driver paraprofessionals were told there was no money left in the budget to give them pay increases."

Chapman said he and other CCEA officials want to meet with Thompson to find out what his philosophy is, and how he plans to deal with the accreditation crisis.

On Thursday, Thompson said he will work to keep the district's accreditation, but offered few details about how he plans to obtain that goal. He also said he didn't know if a loss of accreditation could be prevented, but added the school system has a year to get the accreditation back if it is lost.

"If I am not meant to do this [save the accreditation], God will make sure it does not happen," Thompson told reporters during his brief trip to Jonesboro.

Teachers are also concerned that Thompson's name was seemingly taken out of contention for the position last month, and board members suddenly, and unexpectedly, offered him a contract on Wednesday, Chapman said.

On Thursday, both Thompson and school system legal counsel, Dorsey Hopson, denied the candidate ever withdrew his name from consideration for the position.

After the board votes on Thompson's contract, it will adjourn the special meeting and reconvene at 9 a.m., at the Professional Learning Center, 1087 Battlecreek Road, Jonesboro, for a seven-hour training session, which will be led by a representative from the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

The board's chairman will not attend the special meeting or the training session, however.

Chairman Eddie White has no plans to attend either the called board meeting, or the training session. White will resign from the board by Monday night because of events which have transpired since Wednesday.

The board voted narrowly to keep special attorney Glenn Brock to deal with a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) probe of the district during a called meeting on Wednesday. Later that night, it voted to hire Thompson. Less than 24 hours later, Brock severed his ties with the board, in protest.

Brock called the board "unethical" for putting Thompson on the agenda without discussing it with White, Vice chairman Michelle Strong and board member, Rod Johnson beforehand. Brock said he could not continue to work with the school board while maintaining his lawfirm's "high level of professional standards."

"We needed Mr. Brock to help us keep our accreditation," White said, saying the development with Brock is part of his reason for leaving the board.

He said his decision is also fueled by a correspondence, which surfaced on Wednesday night, alleging that he had an improper relationship with a school system employee.

White said he did not want to talk at length about the correspondence, which was unsigned, because it makes him "angry" to think about it. But he described it as "filth" and he was disappointed someone wrote it.

"It's an assassination on my character, which is completely untrue, and it has caused a great deal of duress for my family," White said. "When people stoop that low, the situation is pretty bad ... It's time that I go. It is my hope, however, that anyone who reads that filth will realize this is not Eddie White."

White ran for the board's District 6 seat in 2004, when the school system was on a SACS-issued probation for alleged micromanagement by board of education members. He said he is "saddened" to see the board in trouble with SACS again.

He said part of the current accreditation problem is a repeated pattern of board members "pointing fingers at each other."

"I thought I could be of service to the board [in 2004]," White said. "What is going on now is more severe than it was back then, however. For that reason, I feel my tenure on the board needs to come to a conclusion."