By Curt Yeomans
Listening to Clayton County Board of Education Member Pamela Adamson, and preacher, Richard Jones, of New Macedonia Baptist Church, speak about the needs of Clayton County Public Schools, the pair almost sound as if they are speaking in unison.
Stability, leadership, showing appreciation of teachers, and regaining full accreditation are needed to move the school system forward, according to the two candidates campaigning for the board's District 1 seat.
Incumbent Adamson, 63, was elected a year and a half ago to fill the unexpired term of Michelle Strong. At the time she took office in January 2009, the district was unaccredited, although the school system regained its accreditation -- albeit on a two-year probationary basis -- a few month later.
"While we have accomplished a great deal of work over the last two years, there is still much work to be done," Adamson said. "I want to be elected to a full term, to continue the good work that we have begun."
Jones, 49, the challenger, is Mundy's Mill Middle School's Parent-Teacher Student Association president, and school council chairman. His motto is: "The big man, with a big heart for the children of Clayton County." He is the father of three students in the school system.
"I'm a strong supporter of teachers, and giving them the things it takes to make quality education better in this county," Jones said. "I've always thought we could do better in Clayton County."
One of the top issues Adamson and Jones said need to be addressed is the school system's accreditation status. Nearly two years ago, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) revoked the district's accreditation, largely because of what it deemed a dysfunctional school board. Although SACS reinstated the district's accreditation just over a year ago, the probationary tag still hangs over the heads of district leaders.
That tag has got to go, Adamson, and Jones agreed. "But, now we're on probation," Jones said, "and there should be an emphasis on doing whatever SACS wants us to do regain full accreditation."
Adamson, who served as the school board's SACS liaison from the time she took office in January 2009, until the district regained its accreditation in May 2009, echoed those sentiments. "We need to be working on getting that probation lifted," she said. "The SACS issue needs to be taken care of once, and for all."
To that end, both Adamson and Jones said work needs to be done to improve relationships among school board members. As the incumbent, Adamson admitted there is still some "contentiousness" among some board members, but did not elaborate. She said board members need to work on their interpersonal relationships to become better leaders.
"The more we can lead, instead of reacting to each other, the better this school system can become," she said.
Jones said board members need to put the children ahead of themselves. "Put all of your personal agendas aside, and focus on the children," he said.
Adamson and Jones also had some other issues that each brought up. The budget, said Adamson, is a major issue she wants to work on, if re-elected. School system projections show the district finishing fiscal year 2011 with a deficit of $2.35 million, despite deep cuts that have been approved to avoid such a fate. "We need to deal with this budget problem so we can do all of the things we'd like to do, such as giving raises to our teachers," she said.
Jones said morale in the district among teachers, and students, needs to be improved. "We need to work to offer teachers better training and better tools to do their jobs," he said. He also said communication between the district and the community needs to be addressed. "Everybody in the community feels they can't get information from the school system," he added.
In addition to being the incumbent, Adamson is a retiree of the school system. She spent more than 30 years serving as a math teacher, math coordinator, and assistant superintendent for instruction. She left the school system in 2000, to work for the Georgia Department of Education, as a mathematics program specialist, and later as a curriculum director.
She left the DOE in June 2003, to serve as the headmaster at Mt. Zion Christian Academy, in Jonesboro, until 2007, when she retired. She is married to Hansel Adamson, and they have three adult sons, and eight grandchildren.
Jones said he and his wife, Valerie, moved to the Jonesboro area in 1994, as newlyweds, ready to start a family of their own. Before he became a reverend at New Macedonia Baptist Church, in Riverdale, he said he was an auditor for the Georgia Department of Labor, where he audited businesses to make sure they were complying with state labor laws.
His introduction to educational involvement came when his oldest child, a daughter, Kendra, was a kindergarten student at Brown Elementary School. At that time, he said he was recruited to join the school's PTA, to be involved in the school. Kendra Jones is now a rising ninth-grader at Mundy's Mill High School.
He said he served as a member of the Georgia PTA's Board of Directors from 2004 to 2006. He said he was also the district director for the Georgia PTA's Southern Region (overseeing PTA councils across the Southern Crescent) at that time.