By Curt Yeomans
When Laura Okolie watches the embattled Clayton County school board on television, she feels a little embarrassed and ashamed of how she sees the board members behave.
Okolie, who graduated from Riverdale High School nine days ago and will attend Duke University in the fall, saw board members publicly fighting with each other, calling each other names and accusing their colleagues of corruption.
She did not feel she was watching nine people who cared about students like herself.
The public infighting among board members came to a head in February, when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools called the district's governing board "dysfunctional."
Okolie, and other students from Clayton high schools have had enough. They want their voices heard by the 33 people campaigning for the seven open seats on the school board. Clayton County Public Schools' Student Advisory Committee will host a school board candidates forum on Tuesday, June 10, at 7 p.m., in Tarpley Hall at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center, 2530 Mt. Zion Pkwy., Jonesboro.
The forum will last an hour, and each candidate will only answer three questions, said Rhonda Burnough, the district's advisor for the Student Advisory Council. "They [the students] came up with the idea to do this on their own," she said. "This is going to be a forum run by the students, for other students."
Okolie said the district's accreditation problems were a wake-up call for many students in Clayton County. For the first time, they realized the actions of the school board had a direct effect on their lives, she said.
"We knew the seniors would be fine, but we recognized this will have an effect on the juniors and all the other students," Okolie said. "We decided we want a school board that is truly here for the children they serve, and not for their own interests."
All 33 candidates for school board seats have been invited to attend the forum, but members of the committee are still seeking RSVPs from many candidates. Any candidate who has not signed up to participate in the forum, can contact Burnough at (770) 473-2760.
Voters who cannot make it to the Student Advisory Committee's candidates forum, will have another chance to check out the candidates, however.
The Clayton County Chamber of Commerce will host a board of education candidates forum on Monday, June 16, from 6 p.m., to 9 p.m., also at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center.
Anyone who wants more information about the chamber's forum, can call (678) 610-4021.