By Curt Yeomans
Days after the Clayton County Board of Education announced it would not meet again until Sept. 22, a district spokesman said board members could change their minds and meet on Saturday to appoint a new member.
Corrective Superintendent John Thompson informed district spokesman Charles White late Tuesday afternoon that the board wants to meet on Saturday to swear in Jessie Goree to represent District 3 on the school board. The superintendent said the district's governing body could also appoint another member who would give the board a quorum to conduct business.
Tuesday night, Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon announced the possible meeting of the board during the Lovejoy of Clayton for Accreditation meeting in Lovejoy, but White said it is still not set in stone.
"The superintendent and the board are discussing the possibility of holding a meeting for the purpose of appointing another board member," said White, who explained it was the only comment he could offer on the matter.
The board has been reduced to three members since Gov. Sonny Perdue removed four members from office for misconduct and violations of the state's Open Meetings Act. The ouster of those members came hours after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) announced it was revoking the school system's accreditation.
The board needs five members to conduct business, but state law also allows the board to meet solely to appoint members to the board. Goree was appointed on Sept. 3, giving the board a fourth member, and the previously announced plan was to wait until a Sept. 16 special election in District 6 produced a fifth member.
While the school system tries to decide whether the board will meet on Saturday, the community remains unsure about what comes next.
The meeting in Lovejoy attracted more than 150 parents, who were eager for information about the next steps for the school system. Speakers included Dixon; Lovejoy Mayor Joe Murphy; Solicitor General-elect Tasha Mosley; State Senator-elect Gail Buckner; Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield, and Lovejoy City Council Members Marci Fluellyn and Rebekah Holland.
Although Thompson and other school system officials were originally scheduled to participate in the meeting, White sent out a statement on Tuesday afternoon which said district officials would not attend the meeting after all.
"The decision not to attend was based on information gained from media and other sources, which indicated that the group may discuss a possible state takeover of the school district, thereby usurping the power of a duly elected and/or appointed Board," according to the statement from the school system.
A state takeover was barely mentioned by the speakers. Dixon said such a call would make the county look bad. "It would look like we don't want to deal with this, when we can fix this," said the Riverdale mayor.
Earlier in the day, Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue, said the governor's staff has been looking at ways the state can assist the school system since February. Perdue assigned two state Board of Education members to work with the district, and he also directed state agencies to assist with audits and investigations, but there is little else the governor can do, according to his spokesman.
"We've gotten involved to the amount legally allowed by state law," said Brantley. "Nothing else can happen until the General Assembly comes back into session in January."
An accreditation rally, which will be hosted by the mayors of Clayton County's six cities, was also announced at the meeting in Lovejoy. The rally will take place on Sunday, at 3 p.m., at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, 9151 Tara Boulevard, in Jonesboro.