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Martinez moves from advocate,
to BOE candidate

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

With a recall effort against former Clayton County Board of Education Chairperson Michelle Strong no longer necessary, the recall movement's leader has announced her candidacy for the vacant seat.

Maggie Martinez said she will file as a candidate for Strong's old seat, in an e-mail sent to a Clayton News Daily reporter.

Martinez, 51, had led a recall effort against Strong since June, but put things on hold while a state administrative judge pondered whether Strong, and board members, Sandra Scott, Lois Baines-Hunter and Yolanda Everett, should be removed from office by the governor.

On Aug. 28, Gov. Sonny Perdue ousted the four when a state administrative judge recommended the action after finding the quartet violated state ethics laws.

Their dismissal came hours after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) said the school system's accreditation will be revoked because of a non-functioning school board.

Martinez and her husband, Pedro, have three sons -- one is a Lamar County high student (because Pedro is a teacher in that school system); one is a pilot for U.S. Airways, and the third is a soccer coach.

Martinez was briefly a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, from November 2007 to April, when she left the race because of fund-raising issues.

She said if she is elected to the school board, she will ask other board members to establish committees in which board members, and school system staffers can work collaboratively to address issues, particularly the loss of the district's accreditation.

"We have a lot of talent in Clayton County, especially in the area of accreditation, and we should bring these people onto the committee to work with the board of education to fix the problem," Martinez said.

"You don't go there [taking office] thinking you have power," she said. "You go there planning to use that power to help make the community a better place to live."

Martinez also is a member of the governing board for Bright From the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. She is a former member of the legislature for the commonwealth of Puerto Rico from 1997-2000, and is a Spanish teacher in the Cobb County School System.

Martinez has put together a campaign staff, and is awaiting word from the Board of Elections and Registration on the special elections.

Board of Elections Director Annie Bright said dates for special elections for Strong's and Scott's seats have not been set, but she wants them held Nov. 4.

Bright said the vacancies, dates for qualifying, qualifying fees, and the date of the special elections will be published as early as next week in the Clayton News Daily -- the county's legal organ.

Bright said her office sent written notices to Strong and Scott on Aug. 29, notifying them of the special elections. The former board members have 10 days to respond to contest the special election through the Clayton County Superior Court. The terms of office for both women were not set to expire until Dec. 31, 2010.

On Aug. 29, Scott said she will appeal her removal. Strong could not be reached.

In the Georgia code, elected officials, such as school board members, whose offices are vacated more than 180 days before their term expires, must be replaced through a special election. If there is less time remaining, other members of the school board can appoint a successor.

Appointments will be made by the board to replace two other ousted board members, Baines-Hunter and Everett, because their terms end on Dec. 31.