JONESBORO At least three Clayton County Board of Education members can’t explain policies they put into place at the advice of former Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley, leaders of a local education political action committee alleged this week.
The Clayton County Education Association’s PAC announced its endorsements Monday night in the five school board races included in the Nov. 6 general election.
Noticeably absent from the listed of endorsed candidates were incumbent school board Vice-Chairman Mary Baker, and board members Ophelia Burroughs and Wanda Smith. All three regularly voted in favor of policies and initiatives put forward by Heatley, who was unpopular with educators.
Although each candidate who responded to the PAC’s questionnaire got a chance to interview with the group’s leaders, the PAC’s board was less than impressed with some of the answers they got when they asked candidates about some of the district’s policies.
“The challengers could articulate the policies the incumbents passed better than the incumbents could,” said PAC Vice-Chairman Tina Conner.
The PAC is endorsing the following school board candidates: Jermaine Coleman (District 2), Jessie Goree (District 3), Xavier Ross (District 5), Janice Scott (District 6) and Trinia Garrett (District 7). The group has also come out in opposition to the state’s proposed charter school amendment, but their main political interests are in who will occupy five school board seats for the next four years.
Although Heatley left the superintendent’s position nearly a month ago, after a failed bid to get the superintendents job in Berkeley, Calif. Schools, the former schools chief remains the white elephant in the school board races.
In a sign of how much of a factor Heatley is in the school board races, Goree and Garrett — who frequently voted together in opposition of the ex-superintendent’s policies and initiatives — are the only incumbents who were endorsed by the PAC.
“Some of them said they strongly felt like Dr. Heatley’s policies and decisions were having a positive impact on the school system,” said PAC member Matthews Lemons.
“Even though morale is low [in the district],” said PAC member Cynthia Alston.
In addition to queries about district policies, Conner said candidates interviewed by the PAC’s leadership board were asked about the district’s finances, employee morale and student and faculty involvement, as well as background questions about education and community involvement.
PAC members said they also raised questions about the district’s high school “hybrid” schedule, sick leave policy for teachers and staff and the overall treatment of school system employees by high-ranking administrators.
“When we asked about the policies and programs the superintendent put into place, some of the incumbents said they just voted ‘Yes’ to approve them,” said PAC board member Cindy Reese, who is also the vice-president of CCEA. “They didn’t do any research.”