JONESBORO The Clayton County Board of Education has received a harsh tongue lashing from College Park Mayor Jack Longino over the way board members treated an offer of help from the county’s seven mayors Nov. 5, according to a letter obtained by Clayton News Daily.
“I have never experienced a more rude and disrespectful board of elected officials,” Longino wrote in a letter dated Nov. 6 to the entire school board and Gov. Nathan Deal.
Longino and Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day had gone to speak to the school board about recent Southern Association of Colleges and Schools concerns about the way the board was conducting its business. Longino and Day were there to represent the Clayton County Municipal Association, which is made up of mayors from each of Clayton County’s cities.
The letter outlines how the board reacted to the mayors’ pledge to help the board members get past their conflicts while also pledging to take any steps necessary to prevent a loss of SACS accreditation.
Longino accused the school board of not recognizing the mayors as elected officials, as is custom when visiting elected officials attend the meeting of another government body. Board members were also accused of cutting Longino and Day off before they could finish making their remarks.
“Your Board very simply showed how you address adversity,” Longino wrote. “And frankly, I am appalled that you quickly dismiss views that apparently are opposed to yours. I don’t know what your intent is, however, it is crystal clear to me that your priority is more self-serving than serving the needs of the people you represent.”
The letter is a condemnation of a school board struggling to prove it has not fallen into the habits of a previous incarnation of the Clayton County Board of Education, whose dysfunction led to a temporary loss of accreditation for the school district from September 2008 until May 2009.
In April 2008, that school board — which has since been disbanded — also showed disrespect to an elected official when it got up and walked out of a board meeting when State Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale) tried to address the board about its decision to hire a superintendent SACS had already disapproved of.
SACS President Mark Elgart wrote a letter to school board and school district leaders in September to express his agency’s concern that the old patterns of board members fighting among themselves and showing disrespect toward others was beginning to re-emerge. The district will undergo a regularly scheduled SACS evaluation next year, and the accrediting agency will look to see if the board has addressed the concerns during that visit.
That prompted the mayors to outline a list of their concerns about the school district Nov. 5, including: An inability to attract businesses to the county because of a negative perception of the school district; decreased property values; a loss of highly-qualified teachers and administrators and a decreasing number of students “matriculating” through the school system.
“As mayors of the seven cities of Clayton County, we stand ready to assist you with preparing for the upcoming evaluation in 2013,” the mayors wrote in their Nov. 5 statement to the school board. “It is equally important for you to know that we are also ready to take any steps necessary to ensure that the Clayton County School District never loses accreditation again.”
School board Chairperson Pam Adamson has argued most of the board members behave in a professional manner and have learned from the previous board’s mistakes.
However, Elgart has said SACS has concerns about the conduct of at least half of the board members. Longino offered his own contradictory assessment in his letter to the board.
“We cannot express how disappointed we were in the reception we received as elected officials,” Longino wrote. “We are aware of protocol and followed your procedure.”
Adamson could not be reached for comment Friday.