By Curt Yeomans
Bob Hartley is not ready to give up on a movement to remove members of the Clayton County Board of Education.
Last month, the Concern Citizens of District 9, of which Hartley was the chairman, was working on an application to begin circulating petitions to get a recall election for board member Sandra Scott. Part of the application process includes collecting 100 signatures from people who live, and are registered to vote, in the area represented by Scott.
The group collected 168 signatures, but only 89 of those "John Hancocks" met the criteria outlined by Georgia election codes. The application was turned down by Clayton County election officials.
"I'm disappointed that so many people who said they were registered to vote - weren't, and so many people who said they lived in the district - didn't," Hartley said.
Hartley resigned as the leader of the district nine group earlier this month, so he could take over a county-wide organization called the Concerned Citizens Coalition. The group is what Hartley calls an "umbrella organization," which will oversee, and provide guidance to, multiple groups from across the county seeking to recall additional board members.
On March 1, the newly formed organization will lead a protest march down Lake Harbin Road to call for the resignation of the entire board of education. The march will begin at Maddox Road, in Morrow, at 8 a.m., and proceed to the Southside Peach Plaza parking lot, at the intersection of Lake Harbin Road, and Hwy. 42 in Rex. Residents from across the county are invited to participate.
There will be nine tables -- one for each board district -- set up at the end of the march's route, so participants can sign recall applications for their respective districts.
Hartley said he left the Concern Citizens of District 9, and joined the Concerned Citizens Coalition because of how he interpreted state codes governing recall elections. He thought the code's phrasing meant his former group had to wait six months before it could reapply for a recall. He wanted to keep the movement going so people would not lose interest.
Matt Carrothers, a spokesman for Secretary of State Karen Handel, who oversees elections in Georgia, said Hartley's interpretation was incorrect, though. "The six-month waiting period pertains to the petition phase, and not the application process," Carrothers said. Hartley, and the Concern Citizens of District 9, did not reach the petition stage of the previous effort.
The recent Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) report on Clayton County schools, which included the recommendation to revoke the district's accreditation, has spurred interest in a broader recall movement, Hartley said. He has been receiving more phone calls from people across the county than before.
He said people are outraged about SACS' recommendation, and the anger is directed at the board of education. "There's just been a lot of folks wanting to know what they can do," Hartley said.
Rev. Roc Frazier, the outreach minister for Second Baptist Church of Forest Park, and a resident of Riverdale, said residents have lost confidence in the board, and its ability to ensure a quality education for the children of Clayton County. Frazier is working, with assistance from the Concerned Citizens Coalition, to recall board members on the western side of the county.
"The primary question is, how do we rectify this?" Frazier said. "They [board members] had their shot at this, and we just think they didn't do a very good job ... It's the responsibility of the school board to make sure this situation did not occur, but it happened anyway. Now, it's fallen back into the hands of the community.
"We're saying, 'No more rhetoric.' It's time for a change."
Annie Bright, Clayton County's director of elections, could not be reached for comment on Monday.