By Curt Yeomans
Fourteen candidates, who want to fill five seats on the Clayton County Board of Education, believe the school system needs work.
The candidates spoke Thursday at a forum hosted by the Clayton County Democratic Party, and the Clayton Students Coalition. The possible candidates ranged from parents, to ministers to retired teachers to community activists.
Many of them chose to run for office because the school system is facing a loss of accreditation, if nine mandates from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) are not met by Sept. 1. SACS' decision is based on an investigation of the 52,805-student district, which uncovered alleged micromanagement, unethical behavior and misuse of district funds by board members.
HOPE scholarships and the possibility of a college education are at risk for students.
"We are part of the problem," Kevin Thomas, chairman of the Clayton County Democratic Party, told members of the audience. "When you are looking at candidates for public office, don't just look at pretty billboards. Take the time to get to know each candidate and what they stand for."
The candidates for the board seats are: (District 2) Beverly Travis, Lindsey McDaniel; (District 3) Jessie Goree, Gloria Frazier; (District 5) Ophelia Burroughs, Phyllis Moore, Kara Shipp; (District 6) Mary Baker, Glenn Dowell, William Hill, Tony Partin, Vernetta Reeves, and (District 7), incumbent David Ashe.
Jason Smith, who recently moved into a new home and has a child at Mundy's Mill High School, also participated in the forum, but he wasn't sure which district he lives in.
"This is about a call to duty. Every representative must be held accountable to the people they represent... Everybody has a stake in this," said potential candidate Tony Partin.
"We cannot afford to have board members doing all of these things they have been accused of doing," said Beverly Travis, a potential candidate.
Ashe was asked why he is considering running for re-election. He said he hasn't made a decision about another run, but he has said he is leaning toward another term. "The school board is in trouble," he said. "I don't want to leave a job undone."
Two other board members, Sandra Scott and Lois Baines-Hunter, sat in the audience during the forum. Baines-Hunter is the current board representative for District 2. When a reporter asked her after the forum if she is running for re-election this year, she replied, "It's none of your business."
Qualifying for elected positions begins on April 28 at 9 a.m., and ends on May 2 at noon. All local, state and federal primaries in Georgia will be held on July 15.