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Thompson's contract set for discussion

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Education will discuss Corrective Superintendent John Thompson's contract tonight, but the conversation will take place in executive session -- away from the public's ears.

The board will gather this evening for a work session at 6:30 p.m., at the school system's Central Administration Complex in Jonesboro. Although not listed on the agenda, board Chairperson Alieka Anderson said board members would review Thompson's contract in executive session. "We're going to be dealing with the contract in executive session, since it's a confidential, personnel matter," said Anderson.

Thompson's contract is a hurdle which the school system must overcome to regain its accreditation. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) revoked the accreditation at the beginning of the month, after the school system met only one of nine mandates for improvement. Thompson's contract presented problems with meeting two mandates. The SACS review team said the "unusual powers" granted to Thompson, including bypassing the school board on certain issues, was a sign that a fully functioning governing board did not exist in Clayton County.

Another mandate was the hiring of a permanent superintendent. Thompson's contract refers to him as a "corrective action superintendent."

On Sept. 22, Thompson told the board he will give up all of his "unusual powers" in a new version of the contract, which was to be presented to the board tonight. He also said he enjoyed being Clayton County's superintendent, and wanted to remain the school system's leader for the foreseeable future.

"I want to stay here as long as the community [and the school board] will have me, and as long as I am still doing a good job," Thompson said afterward.

On Friday, Thompson could not be reached for comment. He may have to fight for his position, however. Board member Michael King has said he will introduce a resolution asking the board to remove Thompson from office, and make Gloria Duncan the interim superintendent again, while board members do a national search for a permanent superintendent. Duncan was interim superintendent from July 2007 to April 2008.

King said the board's top priority should be conducting "a professional search for a permanent superintendent." The board will not vote on the resolution until October. He was also against discussing Thompson's contract behind closed doors, because "it's something that has been out there for public consideration."

The school board also will be asked to punish one of its own tonight for misconduct, but school system officials will not identify which board member. During the meeting, Julie Lewis, the school system's legal counsel will propose a resolution of censure for a board member.

Earlier this month, the school system accused King of violating six board policies when he ran an advertisement for a called board meeting in the Clayton News Daily without going through the board's required processes. King said on Friday he was not familiar with the censure resolution.

Anderson could not say whether King was the board member to be censured, because Lewis instructed board members not to discuss the issue.

Lewis did not respond to three calls to her cell phone, or an e-mail on Friday.

The proposed censure resolution stands out because the board failed to act on requests to punish two board members earlier this year. In May, former board member David Ashe asked the board to issue sanctions against him for berating a journalist before a board meeting.

Meanwhile, former board Chairman Eddie White asked the board to issue sanctions against former board member Sandra Scott for distributing allegedly inappropriate information to other board members during an executive session. The board did not sanction Ashe or Scott.

Other items on the agenda include an update on the Geographic Information Systems, which are being used to track school attendance; a request for a digital billboard to promote positive school system news; an update on graduation plans for the Class of 2009; an item dealing with band uniforms, and a tax anticipation note.

Deputy Superintendent Judith Simmons will give an update on the forensic audit, which was done earlier this year to help fulfill one of the nine mandates for improvement from SACS.