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Sen. Davenport to host forum on SACS

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

State Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro) wants to give Clayton County residents an opportunity to voice their opinions about the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' (SACS) investigation of the school system, and proposed ethics legislation for the board of education.

Davenport wants to meet with constituents, face-to-face, so she can hear what they have to say about the board being investigated by SACS for the second time in five years. She's been receiving phone calls and e-mails from several constituents concerned about the proposed ethics legislation. Some people want the legislation, others are against it.

SACS officials are looking into allegations -- made by board members against other board members -- of micromanagement, unethical behavior and misuse of district funds.

"I regret that school board members have asked SACS to come in and investigate this situation," Davenport said. "It's very unfortunate. I don't agree with any school board member going to SACS and asking for an investigation."

Davenport will host a public forum to discuss the school system at 1 p.m., on Friday, in Room 310 of the Paul D. Coverdell Legislative Office Building, 18 Capitol Square, Atlanta.

The meeting comes as SACS completes it's investigation of the district, which began after Rod Johnson, a member of the Clayton County Board of Education, began filing complaints against fellow board members last fall. Johnson filed complaints against Norreese Haynes, Sandra Scott and Lois Baines-Hunter. Haynes and Scott replied by filing their own complaints with SACS, alleging Johnson and Ericka Davis, the board's chairperson, engaged in micromanagement and unethical behavior.

The nine-member Clayton County Legislative Delegation in the Georgia General Assembly is working on a bill, currently in its fourth draft, which would create an ethics commission to oversee the board. The proposed legislation is based on a 2003 law, which created a similar commission to oversee the affairs of the board of education for Atlanta Public Schools.

State Rep. Darryl Jordan (D-Riverdale), the delegation's chairman, said the current version of the legislation designates the legislative delegation with the responsibility of selecting the seven-member ethics commission, which will oversee the board of education and handle complaints of unethical behavior.

Jordan is hoping to get the other eight members of the delegation together later this week for a meeting to discuss the proposal. If the meeting takes place, the legislators would also discuss what they have been hearing from their constituents concerning the proposed ethics legislation. Jordan said he will be in attendance at the public forum hosted by Sen. Davenport.

Jordan also wants to proceed carefully with the proposed legislation, and wants to hear what SACS officials have to say in their final report on the school system, so the delegation won't have to "come back in a year to make changes" to the legislation.

"It seems the board of education is not focused on the children anymore," Jordan said. "I think something should be done, though ... We [elected officials] should all have some form of an ethics commission in place."