Clayton County Board of Education Chairperson Pamela Adamson discusses with fellow board members a concern letter sent to the school district by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
JONESBORO — Clayton County Board of Education members pledged Monday to work together to address governance concerns from the school system’s accrediting agency.
Some parents, however, would rather hear the words “I resign” rolling off the tongues of some board members.
“Do us a favor and resign,” said retired teacher Mattie Welch, as she addressed board members. “If you don’t make the decision to resign, we’re going to take steps to help you make that decision.”
Monday marked the first time parents and school board members could directly address each other since news broke that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and its parent organization, AdvancEd, had expressed governance concerns to the district’s leadership.
It was important for the board to put on a unified face for parents and community members, as well as SACS. Mark Elgart, the accrediting agency’s president, has confirmed his organization is watching the board’s every move.
As far as parents are concerned, the board needed to put on a show of unity to reassure people that their children are safe in the county’s schools.
SACS’ concerns over the behavior of board members brought out approximately 250 people to the board meeting, which is higher than normal for a board meeting. It is still far less than the estimated 2,800 people who showed up for a March 2008 board meeting that followed SACS’ announcement that it might pull the school system’s accreditation over issues with board members’ behavior.
“We’re going to take care of the children of Clayton County,” said board member Alieka Anderson. “It’s time for all of us to take responsibility for this as a board.”
Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon and Lovejoy Mayor Bobby Cartwright offered their cities’ respective community centers to hold community input sessions on the district’s upcoming superintendent’s search.
Wynn-Dixon offered a stern warning to board members, however, if they couldn’t resolve their issues. She said Riverdale has already lost two prospective businesses because of the new SACS issue.
“We’re trying to help you, but if it doesn’t get cleaned up, then we’ll do what we have to do,” she said. “I don’t want my home to be worth $15.”
The board had a hard time putting its money where it mouth was, however, when it ran over its allotted time for public comment without hearing from every resident on the comments list.
Board Chairperson Pamela Adamson and board member Jessie Goree initially couldn’t bring themselves to agree on whether the 30-minute public comment period should be extended — to let three more people speak.
Goree wanted public comment extended, and argued board policy empowered the board to extend the comment period if it wanted to.
Adamson said the remaining people on the list had been warned there may not be time to speak before they signed up to talk, however.
“Is there any reason the board can’t extend the comment period, considering the constituents seem to be uneasy about this SACS issue?” said Goree.
“It’s a matter of setting aside board policy,” said Adamson.
“The policy clearly states we can extend the amount of time set aside for public comment,” said Goree.
Despite the brief disagreement, the board unanimously decided to extend the comment period when it came up for a vote. It took 10 extra minutes. The significance of board members going back and forth on whether to allow more residents to speak — after pledging to work together as a cohesive unit — was not lost on the remaining parents on the speakers’ list, though.
“My heart is hurting, and it hurts because of what I just saw,” said parent Jasmin Taylor. “You couldn’t even agree on whether to hear from the people who put you in office. Are you serious?”
Taylor later angrily added, “You don’t have three minutes to listen to me? Get it together because my child is important. All of our children are important.”