By Curt Yeomans
The Clayton County Board of Education will open the new year on Monday by deciding who will be its second-in-command for the coming year.
In a key vote, members will decide who will work with School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson in setting the pace in a year when board members will continue to work on getting the school district past its recent accreditation problems. In keeping with board policy, the vice chairperson must be elected each January.
The January business meeting is scheduled to begin Monday, at 5:30 p.m., at the Clayton County Public Schools Central Administration Complex, which is located at 1058 Fifth Ave., in Jonesboro.
"The vice chairman assists the chairman in attending meetings in the community, helps the chairperson and superintendent put together the board's meeting agenda, reads the announcements at the meetings, and fills in for the chairperson, if necessary," said Anderson.
Anderson also said that since an entirely new board was put into place in 2008, the vice chairperson has been groomed to become the chairperson, if necessary. "She is trained to do the chairman's job," Anderson said.
The school board's leader said she believed the best thing for stability on the board would be to have someone serving in the vice chairperson's role for more than one year. She said a policy change to have the vice chairperson election every two years, like that of the board's chairperson, could be discussed at the board's next work session.
"It takes more than a year to learn that position," Anderson said. "We need some stability in that position."
Board member Pamela Adamson said she, too, would like to see the leadership remain in tact for the foreseeable future. "They have brought the decorum we have on the board right now," she said.
Neither Anderson, nor Adamson would not say, however, whether either of them would nominate current School Board Vice Chairperson Ophelia Burroughs to serve another year in the position. In fact, no board member reached for comment on Wednesday would say if they were going to nominate anyone for the position.
Members Mary Baker and Charlton Bivins said they had not given the matter any thought in recent weeks. Another member, Michael King, said on Wednesday that he did not even know the board would be electing a vice chairperson next week.
Member Jessie Goree, who briefly served as vice chairperson in the latter months of 2008, as well as board members, Trinia Garrett and Wanda Smith, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Burroughs, who said she would not turn down the position -- if nominated, and elected to it again -- said she will not lobby her fellow board members to keep her in the position. "I don't appreciate people calling me and asking me to vote for them, so I won't do it, either," she said.
But, while Burroughs has not campaigned to remain the school board's vice chairperson, no one else has openly pursued the position, either, according to Bivins.
At its meeting Monday, the board will also hear an update from Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley and Director of Budgets and Grants Ramona Thurman on preparation of the fiscal year 2011 budget. On Wednesday, Thurman said the district is still in the early stages of putting together a proposed budget.
She said she and her staff are still working on the presentation, but it will include projections made to the board last September that included possible future budget deficits.
Those projections include a prediction that the school district will end fiscal year 2010 in June with a general fund balance of $12.9 million, and the school system will end fiscal year 2011 with a deficit of $8 million.
On Wednesday morning, Heatley asked members of the Clayton County Legislative Delegation to restore an estimated $82.5 million in money the school system lost through a series of austerity reductions included in state budgets approved by the Georgia General Assembly between 2003 and 2009.
"Continuing to suffer through these reductions will continue to negatively impact our ability to meet student needs and enhance classroom learning," Heatley wrote in a list of school system legislative priorities that was given to delegation members.