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Recount likely in BOE District 3 race

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Voters must wait a little longer to determine whether retired Clayton County Public Schools employee Jessie Goree, or retired Atlanta Public Schools employee Charles Davis, will be declared the winner in the District 3 Clayton County Board of Education race.

Goree had a 12-vote lead with an unknown number of provisional ballots uncounted as of late Tuesday night. The result is a less-than-one-percentage-point lead.

Davis had held a lead of 76 votes with advance balloting and absentee votes pending.

The winner faces no opposition in the Nov. 4 general election, and will replace board member Yolanda Everett on Jan. 1, 2009.

"I don't know if I'm going to ask for a recount, I haven't made that decision yet," Davis said.

The results of the District 3 runoff mirrors the finish the two candidates had in the July 15 primary, where Goree held a lead of 18 votes. She said the race was close this time, too, because "District 3 had two good candidates to choose from." Goree also said both "campaigned very hard" by knocking on doors. She said she would welcome a recount if one is held.

"If he wants to ask for a recount, it's certainly within his rights to do so," she said. "I know if the shoe was on the other foot, I'd probably ask for a recount."

While District 3 remains uncertain, voters on Tuesday decided to send Jonesboro attorney Michael King to the board. He won the special election runoff with a 58 percent lead over educator Milton Mack.

King, who said he knocked on the doors of 2,000 homes, replaces former board chairperson Ericka Davis. He said the school district's accreditation crisis spurred his candidacy.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) will revoke the district's accreditation on Sept. 1, if school officials do not show compliance with nine mandates for improvement. The accrediting agency will send a review team to the district on Aug. 14 and 15 to evaluate the system's progress.

Pending certification of the election results, King will take office at the next board meeting scheduled for Aug. 28. He said his top priority is to get to know the other board members, review the district's 2,300-page response to SACS, and work with district officials to save the school system's accreditation. "I think SACS will probably put us on probation once they see who has been elected to the school board," King said.

In another school board contest, Mary Baker defeated John Askew in the District 6 runoff, but could face Marcela Bodkin, who is seeking court intervention to get on the ballot as an independent candidate.

"I'm hoping my years of being in the audience, and knowing which questions run through my head, will help me decide what I need to be asking as a school board member," said Baker, who has attended board meetings for nine years.

While the runoff helped determine who will sit in the District 6 seat for the next four years, Baker must face Bodkin in a Sept. 16 District 6 special election to determine who will serve the remaining three and a half months of former board chairperson Eddie White's unexpired term.

In the remaining school board contests, Ophelia Burroughs defeated Jennifer Talley with 55 percent of the vote in the District 5 runoff. Wanda Smith held off Lindsey McDaniel, III, with 54 percent in the District 2. Burroughs will face Republican challenger Diana Nicholson, and Smith will face Republican Della Ashley in November.

Burroughs called Talley a strong and determined candidate.

"I want to get in there and learn as much as I can from the [school board candidate training] so I can be a good school board member," Burroughs said.

Smith could not be reached for comment.