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BOE to get 'Kumbaya time' at retreat

Members of the Clayton County Board of Education will gather with Clayton County Public Schools officials in Jonesboro this weekend for a working retreat, to discuss ways to improve the school board's performance, according to Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson.

The retreat will begin on Friday, when it will last from 5:30 p.m., to 9 p.m., and continue on Saturday, when it will last from 8:30 a.m., to 2 p.m.

It will take place at the school system's Truett Cathy Professional Learning Center, which is located at 1087 Battle Creek Road, in Jonesboro.

Overall, Anderson said, it will be a training opportunity, allowing school board members to huddle with School Superintendent Edmond Heatley and School Board Attorney Glenn Brock. "We invite the public to come in and watch us go through this, but this is going to be a time for the board to focus on itself," Anderson said. "We're holding this retreat to discuss the issues we need to discuss."

The chairperson said such retreats will become a regular occurrence, with gatherings expected to take place "every two to three months." She added that, while the school board may occasionally invite outside officials, including representatives of the Georgia Department of Education, to speak at these retreats, the focus will often be on local issues facing the Clayton County School System.

During this weekend's gathering, Anderson said, the board will discuss several issues, including instructional-action plans; how many Clayton County schools make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP); how well students are meeting school system-established learning benchmarks, and where the school system is, in its strategic-planning process.

The rest of the retreat will be spent focusing on board members, including professional development and conduct, conflict-resolution training, and proper meeting decorum, she said. The goal, she added, is to become a "Board of Distinction."

A "Board of Distinction" is an honor the Georgia School Boards Association gives out to local school boards who meet its criteria for striving toward "a higher level of excellence," according to the association's web site.

"We just want some Kumbaya time," Anderson said. "We're going to get together and gel, and love, and kiss each other, and do some team-building, so we can become a Board of Distinction."

Anderson was also quick to point out that the retreats will be held in school system-owned facilities, in an effort to cut down on costs at a time when the school system is trying to make budget cuts totaling $85.2 million.

In the past, the school board has traveled to places such as Peachtree City and Callaway Gardens to hold its retreats. "We [the school board members] decided to hold it in the county, because we can use our own facilities and save money," Anderson said. "We're trying to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money."