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BOE District 1 runoff
candidates tout experience

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The former Clayton County assistant superintendent and the Fulton County teacher who are seeking the vacant Clayton Board of Education District 1 seat have a total of more than 50 years of experience in the education field.

As a result, Pamela Adamson and Cleopatra Ballantyne are touting their credentials in the campaign to win the Dec. 2 runoff election.

"You should have experience in public schools,so you know what it's like," said Ballantyne, a teacher for 22 years, who is currently an English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher at Conley Hills Elementary School, in East Point. "[Recent] experience in the public schools is something I don't believe my opponent has."

However, Adamson, a retired educator with more 30 years of teaching and administrative experience at the local and state level, said administrative experience is more valuable, because it gives a board member knowledge of the issues he or she will deal with.

"I understand education from the administrative perspective, which is quite different from the classroom perspective," said Adamson. "I understand board policy, which is not something every board member understands when they are first elected."

The candidates share the opinion that Clayton County once had one of the best school systems in the state, which is a level to which they want to see the district restored. Adamson said she decided to run because it "broke my heart" to see the district used as a poster child for broken education because of a dysfunctional school board.

"I couldn't bear what was happening to our county," Adamson said. "Every news article and TV story that dealt with Clayton County seemed to have something negative to say about the school system."

Ballantyne added: "Our children have a right to receive the same quality of education that children in surrounding school systems receive."

The candidates take differing views on which issues -- beyond regaining the district's accreditation -- the board and the school system need to work hardest to address.

Ballantyne said the most important issue is improving communication between the school system/board and the community. She suggested robocalls to let parents know when each school board and Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting will be held.

"Parents should not feel like they are shut out, and have to jump through hoops to get into the schools," said Ballantyne.

Meanwhile, Adamson said there is a long list of issues which must be dealt with, including school safety and discipline, but she pointed to Superintendent John Thompson as the most pressing issue for the board and the school system.

Thompson's contract is set to expire in June 2009, and the school board has to decide whether he should be retained, or if a new superintendent should be hired. "I know the community was not happy about the way he was hired," said Adamson. "I'm not saying he should be fired or retained, but we've got to work on bringing down his salary and benefits package."

Here is a look at the candidates and their backgrounds:

Pamela Adamson is a native of Winchester, Tenn., who worked for Clayton County schools for more than 30 years until she retired in 2000.

She spent the first 18 years as a mathematics teacher at the junior and senior high school levels. She also served in the district's administration as a mathematics program specialist, and assistant superintendent for instruction.

After retiring from the school system, she worked for the Georgia Department of Education on curriculum and instruction. While there, she helped write state board of education policies, and traveled around the state to teach local school boards how to properly write policies.

She also spent four years as the headmaster of Mount Zion Christian Academy in Jonesboro. For the last eight years, she has served on Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation review teams. She is a member of Georgia Council of Teachers in Mathematics and the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Adamson has a bachelor's degree from Middle Tennessee State University; master and specialist degrees and administrative certification from Georgia State University, and a doctoral degree from the University of Georgia.

She and her husband raised three sons, all of whom are graduates of Clayton County schools.

Cleopatra Ballantyne is a native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. She moved to the United States in 1968 to learn what the American education system was like.

She taught for a year in Clayton County Public Schools before moving to Mount Zion Christian Academy, where she taught for four more years. She has worked for Fulton County schools since then. She also took the assistant principal screening test for Clayton County, but decided to put that pursuit on hold while she runs for the board.

At Conley Hills, she is a member of several school committees, including the textbook and Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) committees. She is a member of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE).

Ballantyne has an associate's degree from Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn; a bachelor's degree from the State University of New York's campus in New York City, and a master's degree and advanced certification in school administration and supervision from Brooklyn College, and a doctoral degree from Argosy University in Atlanta.

Upon her arrival in this country, she settled down in Brooklyn, N.Y. She and her husband, Tony, have five children. Ballantyne said she and her husband moved the family to Jonesboro in 1997 because they felt it was a better environment in which they could raise their children.

Their three youngest children have attended Clayton schools for most of their lives. However, Ballantyne moved them to the Fulton County school system at the beginning of the current school year, so they could be closer to her while her husband works as a contractor on a military base in Afghanistan.

The children will return to Clayton County schools once her husband returns to the U.S., which will likely be in August 2009, she said.