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Clayton BOE secures quorum with new appointments

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Education turned to two former candidates for board seats on Saturday to help the district move forward with its business.

The board appointed Lindsey McDaniel to represent District 2, and Trena Morris to occupy the District 5 seat. The new appointees will be sworn in on Sept. 22, at 6 p.m., at the district's Central Administration Complex, along with District 3 appointee, Jessie Goree, and the winner of Tuesday's District 6 special election.

Acting chairperson, Alieka Anderson, said the board decided to make the appointments in Districts 2 and 5 to guarantee a quorum of at least five board members.

The school system's governing body was reduced to three members on Aug. 28, when Gov. Sonny Perdue removed four of its members from office for misconduct and violations of the state's Open Meetings Act. Under state law, the board cannot handle school system business without a quorum. It is restricted to meeting to appoint new members to obtain a quorum. By the end of this week, the board should have seven members.

"The purpose of this meeting was to make sure we could move forward with the district's business," said Anderson. "We did that [appoint McDaniel and Morris] today in case anybody is ever sick, or there is a death in the family, which would prevent a board member from attending a meeting, we would , at least, have enough members to go forward with the meeting."

All of the people who sought the vacant seats had to answer questionnaires,

and sit for questions during a meeting about their qualifications. Each of the sitting board members graded the candidates on a scale of zero to 10, and the candidates with the highest scores were nominated.

McDaniel and Morris had been

candidates for four-year terms for those respective seats earlier this year, but came up short. McDaniel, however, made it to an Aug. 5 primary runoff against eventual Democratic nominee Wanda Smith. Morris did not garner enough votes to make it to the runoff.

Both appointees said their goals for the next few months include working to save the district's accreditation, which was revoked on Aug. 28 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The system has one year to retroactively regain accreditation.

Time is of the essence for McDaniel, whose stepdaughter is a senior at Mundy's Mill High School. "Regardless of how long I'm on this board, whether it's a week, a month or several months, I am going to make sure I do all I can to help the school system regain its accreditation," said McDaniel.

"We need to focus on meeting the remaining mandates [from SACS] right now."

Morris has children who attend Jackson Elementary School, and M.D. Roberts Middle School. She said the school system is doing well, and is meeting the mandate of establishing a fully functioning board. "I'm pretty sure they are already working on doing that, so I'm just coming along side to help them have a fully functioning board," she said.

Goree said she was pleased with the appointments of McDaniel and Morris because their campaigns from the primary elections helped prepare them for office. In the weeks leading up to the July 15 primary election, McDaniel and Morris participated in several candidate forums and board member training sessions offered by the school system.

"I think they were well scrutinized through all of those forums," Goree said. "Plus, they attended a few of those training sessions for the candidates ... particularly the one on Roberts Rules of Order."

Board member Michael King tried to nominate Wanda Smith for District 2, and Ophelia Burroughs for District 5, but he never got a second on either of his motions. Like Smith, Burroughs is the Democratic nominee for a race in the Nov. 4 general election, and is facing a Republican challenger.

Even though the voters in those districts have not yet been able to cast votes in those races, King, who represents District 4, said he wanted continuity on the board, and "They [Smith and Burroughs] have tremendous chances of getting elected in November, anyway."

King does not believe a Republican can get elected in Clayton County. King voted with Anderson and board member, Trinia Garrett, to appoint McDaniel, but he broke ranks and cast the lone dissenting vote against Morris.

King walked out of Saturday's meeting as soon as it was over.

However, reached later by phone, he said his vote was not a slight against Morris' qualifications, but "my first choice was Mrs. Burroughs, and that's why I voted the way I did."

Diana Nicholson, Burrough's Republican opponent, was sitting in the audience, and gasped when King made his nominations. She quietly said "You can't do that," but only those sitting around her could hear the comment.

Later, Anderson said the board needs members right now, who can devote their full attention to school system business. "How can they devote all of their time to helping the school system get its accreditation back, if they are also campaigning for office?" asked Anderson.

"Give others a chance to serve for a few months, while those candidates focus on the general election," she added.