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Democrats, students host forum for BOE candidates

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Political and student leaders in Clayton County are looking for people to fill as many as six open seats on the embattled board of education later this year.

Three of those seats may not have an incumbent running for re-election in July.

The Clayton County Democratic Party, and the Clayton Students' Coalition, will host a candidates forum today at 7 p.m., at the Carl Rhodenizer Recreation Center, 3499 Rex Road, in Rex.

The forum is as an opportunity for potential candidates to discuss why they are seeking the posts, their experience, and their plans, if elected.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' (SACS) recent recommendation to revoke the school system's accreditation Sept. 1, was the impetus for the forum, according to a flyer for the meeting. The AdvancED Accreditation Commission accepted SACS' recommendation on March 15.

SACS' recommendation came after an investigation of the 52,805-student school system found board members engaged in micromanagement, unethical behavior and misuse of district funds.

Five of the board's nine seats are up for re-election this year. Two board members, Eddie White (District 6) and Yolanda Everett (District 3), have told the media they will not seek re-election. Another board member, Rod Johnson (District 5), said he is going to resign, but has refused to say when.

Board member David Ashe (District 7) said he is "leaning" toward campaigning for re-election, but has not made up his mind. He will be at tonight's forum.

Lois Baines-Hunter, the board member who represents District 2, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Another seat could be up for grabs as well.

The board declared the District 8 seat of Norressee Haynes vacant on March 3, arguing that he did not live in Clayton. However, he has filed an injunction in Clayton County Superior Court, to remain in office. He said his residency is legitimate and his removal is politically motivated.

Those seeking school board seats must meet the following qualifications:

· Must be a citizen of Georgia, and a resident of the county, specifically the district whose seat is being sought, for at least 12 months prior to the election.

· Must be a registered voter.

Also, according to the Clayton County Board of Elections, a candidate can't be under the age of 21; the holder of public funds who has failed to account for those funds; a person whose mind is deemed unsound because of advanced age or bodily infirmity; someone who has been convicted of a felony which involved "moral turpitude," unless 10 years have passed since completion of the sentence; someone employed by, or serving on the governing board of a private educational body or institution; someone employed by the Clayton County Board of Education, the Georgia Department of Education or the State Board of Education.

Qualifying for elected positions begins on April 28 at 9 a.m., and ends on May 2 at noon. The qualifying fee for a school board seat is $360. All local, state and federal primaries in Georgia will be held on July 15.

Kevin Thomas, the chairman of the Clayton County Democratic Party, and Joshua Penny, the president of the Clayton Students' Coalition, could not be reached for comment.