Clayton BOE to vote on censure of Goree

The Clayton County Board of Education will hold a called meeting on Monday to decide whether to punish one of its own for violating a policy designed to prevent board members from attempting to micromanage the school system.

The meeting will be held at 5 p.m., at the Clayton County Public Schools Central Administration Complex, at 1058 Fifth Ave., in Jonesboro.

School Board Member Jessie Goree said, "It's definitely me," who is the unidentified board member mentioned on the meeting's agenda as being the subject of a censure resolution.

Goree said she believes she will be censured, because she went -- uninvited -- into a principals meeting, on May 12, at North Clayton High School, and addressed the school leaders. The principals attending the meeting were from the district's Area I schools, which are the schools in the northwest part of the county.

Goree said she deserves to be punished for violating board policy. "I broke policy by being in a meeting that I was not invited to attend," Goree said bluntly. "Therefore, I deserve to be punished."

This will be the second test of how well the school board handles policy violations since a new code of ethics was established, through state law, in 2008. In late 2008, a majority of the school board voted in favor of censuring member Michael King, an attorney, for continuing to represent a former Clayton County teacher in a lawsuit against the school system after taking office as a school board member. He also failed to tell other board members, or school system officials, about the situation right away.

Last spring, the school board's ethics commission voted to have King removed from office for the apparent conflict of interest, but he remains on the school board, because is he fighting the removal through court appeals.

In Goree's case, she is admitting to behavior that pushes the boundaries of what a school board member is allowed to do. Just a couple of years ago, similar behavior, and other problems, led to the downfall of the previous Clayton County Board of Education, amid accusations of micromanagement.

Goree said she could not remember the specifics of the particular code or policy she admits to violating. Provisions under what is called "Board-Superintendent Relations," forbid "individual school board members from attending school system cabinet meetings, other administrative staff meetings, or any administrative meetings related to the management of the day-to-day operations of the school district without an invitation from the superintendent."

Goree said her actions were an innocent mistake, though, and not intended to be an act of micromanagement. She said the situation got started all because of "food."

She was at North Clayton High School on the day of the principal's meeting for an unrelated matter, she said, and decided to pop into the principal's meeting only to get something to eat. "I'm not supposed to go into that meeting," she said. "But, they had food in there, and I was just going to fix myself a plate of something to eat, and then leave."

But, the school board member said once she went into the room, she decided to greet the principals. Then, things progressed to the point where she crossed a line the she said she never should have crossed.

"One of the principals asked me a question that I shouldn't have answered," Goree said. She would not specify what the question was, because she did not want to give away the principal's identity. She would only say the question concerned "a school system matter."

"I'm going to accept the censure," she said.

School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson, and board Vice chairperson Ophelia Burroughs said on Friday, that they will not discuss the censure resolution publicly until after the board meeting on Monday. Burroughs said the silence on the matter was to avoid the appearance that they are targeting any board members in particular.