In a shocking turn of events, the Clayton County Board of Education decided to change leaders on Wednesday, and selected someone trained its accrediting agency to be its new chairperson.
In a split, 5-4 vote, the board elected member, Pam Adamson, as its new chairperson, over fellow board member, Mary Baker. Former chairperson, Alieka Anderson had been nominated for the position, but withdrew her name, later saying she was not supposed to be nominated in the first place, because she was supporting Adamson for the position.
The board, in another 5-4 vote, chose member, Charlton Bivins, as its new vice chairperson, over former vice chairperson, Ophelia Burroughs.
"I think it's a huge honor, and I just appreciate the board trusting me with this," Adamson said. "I told Mr. Bivins we have an uncommon opportunity to bring the board together."
The selection of Adamson gives the board a possible inside track when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools comes to the district in April for its final review of the school system during the district's two-year probationary period. Adamson, a retired educator, has been a trained site evaluator for SACS for the last 10 years.
Clayton County Schools lost its SACS accreditation in 2008, but regained it the next year, on a two-year probationary basis that ends in May of this year. Adamson's experience with SACS led to the school board choosing her to be its liaison with the accrediting agency, in 2009.
Adamson's appointment as the Clayton County Board of Education's chairperson came a day after SACS put the neighboring Atlanta Public School System on probation, at least partly because of governance issues.
Bivins called the choice of Adamson a "strategic" move the board as it works to get off probation. "I think her position is strategic, to get over one of our biggest priorities," he said.
Adamson said she did not feel her position as a SACS evaluator played a part in the school board's decision. "I don't think that had a thing to do with it," she said.
Anderson and Burroughs, who nominated Adamson for the chairperson's position, declined to comment on whether Adamson's SACS credentials were a factor in her election. "She's the board chair, and she's going to lead this board. We're going to do what we're supposed to do as board members, to make sure we get this accreditation back," Anderson said.
Clayton County Education Association (CCEA) President Sid Chapman, however, said it "certainly didn't hurt" to have a school board chairperson with SACS credentials, going into what will be a crucial evaluation the accrediting agency.
Chapman said Adamson had other strengths, in addition to her SACS credentials, to stand on as a candidate to lead the school board. "Pam is very thorough, and very analytical about things, and methodical, so I'm sure we'll be fine," he said. "She's a step-by-step kind of person, so that could be a good thing."
The CCEA president added that Adamson and Bivins have proven themselves as being capable of leading the school board since they joined it in 2009. "Dr. Adamson has established herself on the board ... and Charlton Bivins has established himself, so I think they'll all be fine," Chapman said.
School System Attorney Glenn Brock said what will be key in the school board's efforts to get off probation with SACS, however, will be the fact that despite elections being held last year, the board was able to retain the same membership it has had since January 2009. There are no other school board elections scheduled to take place until 2012.
Still, Brock agreed that Adamson's experience, through SACS training, and as the school board's SACS liaison, will be a benefit to the board's efforts to get off probation. "I think it's helpful," he said. "She's familiar with all the effort the district has made."
Bivins said he and Adamson will have an easier time leading the school board, however, because of the work Anderson and Burroughs have already done. Anderson was the board's chairperson for two-and-a-half years, taking over just weeks after the school system lost its accreditation. Burroughs was first selected as vice chairperson in 2009.
"I think it's going to be an easy job, because Alieka, and [former] vice chair, Burroughs, truly weathered the storm," Bivins said. "We might have been going up rocks, and mountains then, but now we're kind of leveling out, so I'm absolutely appreciative of them and the fight they put out. I am honored to bring up the rear, and when I speak of bringing up the rear, I speak of closing out this accreditation issue."
In other action, Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley announced that the district will use one day from its winter break, Feb. 17, and a staff development day, March 14, as its make-up days for last week's winter weather.
School was canceled for five days because of snow and ice. The Georgia Department of Education allows school systems to miss four days of class without having to make them up.