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BOE fails to reach agreement on vice chair

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Education will not have a vice chairman for the foreseeable future, because board members could not decide whether Sandra Scott, or David Ashe would occupy the position.

The two candidates for the position split the votes of the six-member board, 3-3, on Wednesday night. Board members asked legal counsel Dorsey Hopson how the situation should be resolved.

After researching state law, Hopson offered a compromise - nobody becomes vice chairman.

"There is nothing which says what you should do in the event the board cannot reach a decision on the vice chairman," he said. "I have reviewed Georgia law and it only says we need to select a chairman. It's the board's own policy which states you must select a vice chairman.

"If the board is unable to agree on a vice chairman, then a vice chairman will simply not be elected. In that case, the board will have to elect someone to lead a meeting if the chairman is not present."

The board voted, 5-1, to elevate former vice chairperson Michelle Strong to the chairperson position, however, which is why there is a vacancy in the second-in-command post. Ashe was the lone board member who voted against moving Strong into the higher position.

The board had to elect a new chairperson because former Chairman Eddie White resigned on April 28. The board voted to accept his resignation and declare his seat vacant on Wednesday.

The creation of a new deputy superintendent position, and the re-creation of the chief operations officer position were two of the items Corrective Superintendent John Thompson asked the board to consider during its two-hour review of the budget. The school system is projected to spend $418 million during the next fiscal year, while revenues will only total $405 million.

Ramona Thurman, director of budgets and finance, told board members they cannot add anything else to the budget without taking someone out of it. Projections call for the district to end the next fiscal year with $27 million in reserves. Thurman said $33 million would need to be in the reserves to have a one-month surplus of available cash.

The chief operations officer position was previously held by Brian Miller, who was moved to a enrollment projections position in July 2007 by former Interim Superintendent Gloria Duncan. The position was then folded into the responsibilities of Chief Information Officer Steve Holmes.

If approved by the board, a chief operations officer will once again oversee the construction, maintenance, nutrition and transportation departments. The requested salary for the position is $154,371.

"You have over $1 billion in assets, you need someone to make sure everything is on the right track," Thompson told the board.

Earlier this week, Thompson tapped Dr. Judith Simmons, a former assistant superintendent under him in the Pittsburgh, Pa., school system, to serve as the interim deputy superintendent. She was brought in last week to serve as a consultant. If approved by the board, the deputy superintendent position will come with a salary of $167,627.

Simmons will work with Thompson to address the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' nine mandates by a Sept. 1 deadline to save the district's accreditation.

She will also meet with staff members to assess their strengths, ambitions and focus. She will be placed above the school system's chiefs, such as the chief financial officer, chief of student services, chief information officer and the chief academic officers.

Simmons said former Interim Superintendent Gloria Duncan will become the assistant to the superintendent, because of her past experience working on the current accreditation crisis.

"We have continually conferred with her because she started the work on dealing with this issue," Simmons said.