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BOE to swear in returning members Monday

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Education is set to break with traditions it set in 2008 and 2009, by taking a page from the playbooks of previous versions of the school board. It will swear in recently re-elected members before their new terms actually begin.

Clayton County Probate Judge Pam Ferguson is scheduled to swear in board chairperson, Alieka Anderson, and board members, Pamela Adamson, Charlton Bivins and Michael B. King, in the middle of the school board's business meeting on Monday. All four were re-elected this year, and their new terms are scheduled to begin on Jan. 1.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m., and take place at the Clayton County Public Schools Central Administration complex, which is located at 1058 Fifth Ave., in Jonesboro.

Since the board was completely reformed in 2008, members have either gone to Ferguson on their own to be sworn in, or they were sworn in right before their first meeting as a board member, after their terms had officially begun.

"We just wanted to go ahead and get sworn in [now], so in January, we can get right to work on addressing the issues facing the school system," Anderson said.

Early swearing-in ceremonies had not been done in four years, since 2006, prior to the crisis that included the school system losing its accreditation. That crisis, from which the school district is still recovering, led to a revolving door of board members in 2008. As old board member resigned, or were forcibly removed from office, new members had to come on, in a piecemeal fashion, often one, or two new members at a time, until the board's current make-up was fully seated in January 2009.

The accreditation crisis saw the district lose its accreditation in August 2008, and regain it -- on a two-year probationary basis -- in May 2009. The school system is still on probation.

As the school board works to earn its way back to full accreditation, it is now beginning to take on some of the traditions of former Clayton County school boards, that didn't always set sterling examples of governance.

"We were told by the [school system's] administration that this used to be the way board members were sworn in," Anderson said.

Board member Pamela Adamson said there was no point in waiting until January, since, aside from a last minute write-in candidacy against Anderson in the Nov. 2 general election, the school board elections were decided in the July primary.

The swearing-in ceremony is not the only thing on the board's plate for Monday's school board meeting, however. Before the meeting begins, members will present food collected during its recent food drive to Sonia Davis, the district's homeless education program coordinator. The food will be distributed to homeless families in the school system's coverage area.

Anderson said the district moved up the date for distributing the food, because of a conflict with using the school system's central office. District officials had originally planned to divide the donated food up on Saturday.

Anderson and Adamson said the board ended up with twice as much food as it had expected, and has enough to make large donations to four families. "We collected enough food to feed an army," Adamson said. "We got hundreds of cans of food. I'll bet we had 75-80 cans of green beans a lone."

The school board is also scheduled to vote on how the district will spend $9.3 million it got from the federal government's $26 billion education jobs bill that was signed into law by President Barack Obama in August. School Superintendent Edmond Heatley is proposing that the money be used to extend educators' work year by five days, while also requiring mandatory professional development.

The board's other options are to use the money to save 175 jobs in the school system, in the fiscal year 2012 budget, or to give teachers back three days that they lost in budget cuts, and use the rest of the money to save an unspecified number of jobs.