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The BOE candidates in their own words

District 2

Mark Christmas

Age: No response

Occupation: No response

1. Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

I believe in our county and our students. I believe in our teachers and our administrators, and I believe that we are poised to be one of the best school districts in the country. My experience, as a former district employee and parent of a Clayton County schools graduate, gives me a unique perspective in terms of understanding the needs of our school district. I understand what it means to work on behalf of the school district to positively impact student lives and I understand, as a parent, what it means to have that positive impact touch my own child. School board members are called to serve our children, parents, and administrators. They are called to serve in ways where success permeates every campus within the district. I am willing, able, and ready to serve. I desire to work with all of our stakeholders to help our students, teachers, and administrators achieve the highest levels of excellence that can be reached.

2. In light of SACS expressing concerns about board member conduct for the third time in less than 10 years, what changes do you feel need to be made to permanently correct this recurring issue?

If elected, I would emphasize to my fellow board members that clear communication with all stakeholders, honoring the privilege of serving our students and our community, and ensuring that our teachers and district and school level administrators are fully empowered to lead our children, must be the hallmarks of our tenure. In the final analysis, this is what SACS desires of school districts. If we uphold these ideals, our relationship with SACS will be a source of strength and support. They want to see our students and district succeed. And as our work exhibits that this is our sole focus, SACS will do everything it can to assist us in our mission.

3. What do you feel must be done to boost teacher morale and public faith that has declined in recent years?

An atmosphere of trust, integrity, and a relentless pursuit of excellence has to exude from our school board extend into our classrooms. This will enable us to bring our community, our teachers, and our students together in attaining the goal of raising achievement. Additionally, as a community, we have to help our students understand the power they receive when they respect and embrace the learning process and the teachers who help them learn. And as we achieve this goal, if we simultaneously provide our teachers with the resources, support, training, encouragement, and recognition they need to lead our students to consistently high levels of excellence, raising morale and restoring public faith won’t be an issue. Our achievement and atmosphere of excellence will ensure that teacher morale and public faith reached higher levels at which they will remain.

Jermaine Coleman

Age: No response

Occuation: No response

1. Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

I am running for the 52,000-plus Clayton County Children that deserve an opportunity at a quality, competitive education. I am running for the kid that, like I once did, walks to Pointe South every day, or plays football at Independence Park or basketball at Lee Street, who deserves the chance to live out their potential. I am running to support our classroom teacher, bus drivers, cafeteria personnel, and all education support professionals alike. I am running for school board to lift the morale of a county that has had my best interest at heart all my life. For the communities that have stood by my side in good times and the bad. This race isn’t about me; it is about the pride of my home.

2. In light of SACS expressing concerns about board member conduct for the third time in less than 10 years, what changes do you feel need to be made to permanently correct this recurring issue?

One major challenge is the perception of the public. The people of Clayton County do not trust the school board to do their job. Once elected, I will unify the board and help us work as a cohesive unit. Nothing good can come from the board until the County has restored trust. Another issue would be the actual effectiveness of the board. Where there is no structure, there is no effectiveness. My experiences with the National Education Association, alongside others have made me well versed in parliamentary procedure, which I will use to strengthen the board.

3. What do you feel must be done to boost teacher morale and public faith that has declined in recent years?

The public perception of the school board is a major issue we have to deal with immediately. Once the board can actually show signs of unity, then and only then can we move forward to support the stakeholders who are the back bone of this system. Teachers and education support professionals alike have not had a raise in several years and in many instances are making LESS than just a few years ago. We have to scale the budget to find a way to remedy these issues. For the public, we have to actually do more than say we will improve.  Hiring the next superintendent will be a major step in restoring the public faith. I plan to implement a plan for ALL community stakeholders to be involved, thus effectively involving the public and not just making decisions behind their backs. This is the first of many plans I have for my home school system.

Wanda Smith

Age: No Response

Occupation: School board member

The newspaper did not receive a response from Smith to its candidate’s survey.

Melody Totten

Age: 47

Occupation: Business Manager with the Center for Ethics at Emory University

1. Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

Our education system is in peril and the current Board is failing to keep it on track. I have had a front-row seat in the community as the President of Clayton County Council of PTA’s, member of the PTA Board for Lovejoy High School and Co-chair on the Governance Council at Elite Scholars Academy. In addition, I have attended approximately 90 percent of the Board of Education monthly meetings since 2008. These experiences provide me with up-close insight into the how our system was working and the effectiveness of those making decisions regarding our children’s education. I am a parent of a child currently attending and one who recently graduated from a Clayton County school. My recent graduate attended high school under the last cloud of uncertainty regarding accreditation and I do not want to see our children face that again. Preserving good schools and protecting our children’s future starts with electing the right board members.

2. In light of SACS expressing concerns about board member conduct for the third time in less than 10 years, what changes do you feel need to be made to permanently correct this recurring issue?

During my time attending the Board’s meetings, I have seen firsthand the issues being noted by SACS. To achieve a permanent change that will eliminate this recurring issue, the Board must comply with its own policy’s outline under their Model Code of Ethics. They have a responsibility to operate without deviation from the Board’s Code of Ethics (BH). As a Board, there must be more attention to Domains I, III and the section, Conduct as Board Member that need immediate reinforcement and emphasis. The Code of Ethics is basically a set of standards describing the behavior that is expected by the members of the Board. These standards where adopted in July of 2010 as a response to the last incident surrounding accreditation. I feel that it is important that the board members understand exactly how citizens expect them to conduct themselves at all times. At the start of each operating/fiscal year, I feel that an acknowledgment form be signed by each member and the board chair to remind them of their commitment to operating and behaving in the proper manner. This should be a public acknowledgment so the community knows they are serious about their role and conduct. I would also recommend each member take a class on parliamentary procedures (i.e. Robert Rules of Order) every other year. Parliamentarians are constantly producing and updating resources to help conduct meetings more efficiently therefore I feel that this would be a plus.

3. What do you feel must be done to boost teacher morale and public faith that has declined in recent years?

“It has been my experience that our teachers entered the profession filled with a desire to make a difference and the necessary enthusiasm to do so. Unfortunately, so many of them succumb to the strain of the systems constantly changing demands and emphasis on quantity not quality. Due to reduced enrollments and the declining tax base, the school system must operate with less. Our teachers need more resources and careful planning schedules to help them do what they aspire to do, which is to enrich the lives and minds of our children. Administrators have a role in boosting teacher morale and helping refill teachers’ empty motivation tanks. They should allow teachers to have an active role in the decision-making process. It is proven that many teachers who feel that they are being kept in the dark are often less motivated than teachers who feel that they have a voice. By allowing teachers to provide input on administrative decisions, you can show them that they are important and they matter.

I feel too many of our board members are disengaged. It appears that they don’t know what’s going on in the school system, nor do they demonstrate much desire to find out. A school board member is tasked with facilitating the best outcomes for the students, providing oversight for the County’s Board of Education administrative staff, and approving a fiscally responsible budget. In addition, his or her role should be to ensure the residents of their District are provided with up-to-date information on how the system is performing. My goal will be to hold forums on a quarterly timetable designed specifically to give the community a voice and a chance to share their concerns and issues. In turn, this will be an opportunity for me to bring their concerns to the school board as policy updates and/or change as appropriate. School board members must have central academic components in mind and the innovative policy solutions to accomplish them. In addition, the Board member must have a keen awareness of the social and political factors that both inhibit and foster success in the local community.

District 3

Jessie Goree

Age: No response

Occupation: School board member

1. Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

I decided to run for the school board in 2008, when the school district lost its accreditation. My son had just started his senior year at North Clayton High School and I had to take the responsibility to become a school board member to help regain accreditation for my son, his classmates, and this community. There had also been a decline in student achievement and another goal was to help restore the academic climate by being a part of the team to select new leadership to improve the educational quality of the school district. Also, I was not pleased with the representation or advocacy of the past board member; so I wanted to be a true servant for the stakeholders of this county.

2. In light of SACS expressing concerns about board member conduct for the third time in less than 10 years, what changes do you feel need to be made to permanently correct this recurring issue?

Personally, I don’t feel that the letter from SACS was warranted. This board is the same group that was extensively interviewed for more than two years and was able to regain full accreditation for our school district. We have not changed in those years despite statements that have been made to the press. It is hoped that SACS will fully investigate accusations before issuing any further statements. In the meantime, the Interim Superintendent has drafted a letter seeking information to address their concerns. This board has the capability to govern itself in a professional manner.

3. What do you feel must be done to boost teacher morale and public faith that has declined in recent years?

The Board must provide leadership that will serve the needs of the citizens of Clayton County. By including our stakeholders in major decisions such as a permanent Superintendent, academic decisions, budget concerns, equity in academic programs, implementation of our shared strategic plan, we can improve teacher morale and regain support from the community. We must work collaboratively with our County Commissioners, Mayors and City Councils, State Senators and Representatives and all other elected officials and community officials to have a shared vision for this county to become the great one. We have not been as transparent or as inclusive as we could have been in the past. We also need to have support from the community. I feel that our community is ready to move forward in a more positive manner and the Board is ready, too.

District 5

Ophelia Burroughs

Age: No response

Occupation: School board member

1. Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

As an educator with 35 years of experience, I have dedicated my life to helping students. I spent the last 23 years of my career as a Language Arts teacher at Jonesboro High School, where I retired in 2002. I came out of retirement four years ago to run for school board after the loss of Clayton County’s accreditation. I am proud to be part of the team that put the school system back on track with the full restoration of accreditation. However, with the recent warning letter from SACS regarding board members’ violations of school board policies and procedures, I know that I have more work to do for the students, teachers, parents and community of Clayton County. I serve on the school board with integrity and honor, and if re-elected, I will continue to serve in that regard.

2. In light of SACS expressing concerns about board member conduct for the third time in less than 10 years, what changes do you feel need to be made to permanently correct the reoccurring issue?

The school board is challenged with getting all board members to commit to serving with one board, one voice. Our school system is not a place for adults to get attention unless it is beneficial to our students and community. Personal agendas are toxic for a school board, and I do no not believe personal pronouns like “I” and “me” have any room on the board since our role is to function as a team. Without the team mentality, the school board fails and unfortunately, our children and community will suffer. Board members who violate board policies should be held accountable for their misconduct, and stricter policies and censures should be adopted to deter repeat violations.

3. What do you think should be done to boost teacher morale and public faith that has declined in recent years?

Our highly qualified teachers in Clayton County are the foundation of our educational system. As a retired teacher who worked in this school system for over 23 years, I know that our teachers work very hard to showcase our students in the best lights. They strive to prepare our students to compete both locally and globally. We need to adjust our budget accordingly to find a way to give them deserved raises needed to survive in an ever-changing economy. In addition, scheduling in our schools has become an issue for teachers. Schools all over the country are making the transition from traditional scheduling to alternative scheduling, and board members should educate themselves on how these schedules are executed and how they impact the learning environment and the teacher work day. Including teachers in the decision-making process on issues that affect them is vital.

One of the major challenges faced by the school board is to restore public confidence. Our constituents are in a state of fear and disappointment following the warning letter from SACS. It is our duty to relieve them of this threat. We are accelerating our efforts to remove the cloud as soon as possible.

Xavier O. Ross

Age: No response

Occupation: No response

1. Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

I decided to run for the school board to bring about a positive change in the direction in which our district is going. Our students and community deserve much better. I hope to bring a fresh perspective and different view to the board. Being an individual who is not far removed from the role of a public school student, I hope to bring my experience, current involvement, and innovating ideas to the table with full intentions of propelling our students forward.

2. In light of SACS expressing concerns about board member conduct for the third time in less than 10 years, what changes do you feel need to be made to permanently correct this recurring issue?

The board should engage in recurring and ongoing conflict resolution training and team-building sessions. The board should review the SACS standards and how they apply as a recurring training also. Overall, they should cut all outside influences as that will continue to hurt the district.

3. What do you feel must be done to boost teacher morale and public faith that has declined in recent years?

The board has to give the teachers and community a voice, letting them have the opportunity to express their concerns and then working collaboratively with those same stake holders to remedy those concerns. Then we need to monitor it by annual assessments. It needs to be the continuous cycle of improvement.

District 6

Mary Baker

Age: No response

Occupation: School board member

1. Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

I am running for the board to promote the good things happening in CCPS and conduct business in a positive and professional manner.

2. In light of SACS expressing concerns about board member conduct for the third time in less than 10 years, what changes do you feel need to be made to permanently correct this recurring issue?

I believe we need to build a relationship with SACS. If we had a better line of communication maybe someone from SACS would have asked to speak with members of the board for clarification before sending a letter. The letter stated that they did not like the way we are conducting the Superintendent search. We have not started the search. We have only had discussion about using the same process that we used before. This was a process that SACS seemed to like. A quick conversation with Board would have cleared this up. We have tried to self-govern ourselves and have been advised that we have done everything allowed by law. If there is something else that we could or should do, counsel from SACS would be more productive than a letter that scares the community.

3. What do you feel must be done to boost teacher morale and public faith that has declined in recent years?

I wish we had the finances needed to give the teachers and staff their well-deserved pay increases. CCPS has had $95 million of cuts in state funding over the last three years. One way to improve morale is to promote the great things going on in our schools and the teachers that make them happen. Our teachers need to know that we appreciate them. I believe getting more teacher input would not only help in the decision making process, but let them know that we respect their opinions.

Janice Scott

Age: No response

Occupation: No response

The newspaper did not receive a response from Scott to its candidate’s survey.

District 7

Trinia Garrett

Age: No response

Occupation: No response

The newspaper did not receive a response from Garrett to its candidate’s survey.

Judy Johnson

Age: 67

Occupation: Secretary at Jones Memorial United Methodist Church

1. Why did you decide to run for a school board seat?

My decision to run for School Board is based on several things. It’s imperative to have trust, respect and responsibility shown to the residents of Clayton County. The School Board members need to set forth the example of being good stewards to the students, parents and teachers. Disrespect and bickering among members on the current board has a domino effect, hurting all involved. As a Clayton County resident for 57 years, a graduate of Forest Park High School and a parent of two Forest Park High School graduates, I want to see our School System climb back to the top, as it was for so many years.

2. In light of SACS expressing concerns about board member conduct for the third time in less than 10 years, what changes do you feel need to be made to permanently correct this recurring issue?

The School Board must come together, work together and communicate positively. The School Board members must work as a team. Each School Board member must have the same agenda to better the education of every child in the Clayton County School System. Each Board member must set aside their personal agenda and outside influence to foster good relations within the county. The School Board is an open book and each resident of the county is seeing the negative influence attracting attention to Clayton County. I will work to bring civility to the Board. With a good working School Board we will be able to bring new businesses into the county, give a better revenue base to help with funding for a better education system and therefore graduate students ready to enter college, universities and the workforce. I believe the voters of Clayton County see what needs to be done and when they go to the polls on Nov. 6 will take the action needed to address these issues.

3. What do you feel must be done to boost teacher morale and public faith that has declined in recent years?

Teacher morale is at a very low point. Teachers feel they are being overlooked in the grand scheme. Teachers have not had pay raises in at least five years. Our teachers need encouragement, we need parental involvement in the schools. Children need to know that their parents are interested in what goes on in their day to day life. Our teachers should have more opportunities to voice their concerns to listening ears. Common Core Curriculum, which is not going away, has overwhelmed our teachers, teachers are spending more time getting lesson plans together, with this new initiative more instructional assistance is needed. The student evaluation system is overwhelming for teachers and leaders. Initiating pay audits for seasoned teachers to keep the pay-scale in line would help with teacher moral issues. Teachers need to be reassured that each School Board member is serving for the right reason — a fair representation for teachers, students and parents.

Lois Wright

Age: No response

Occupation: No response

The newspaper did not receive a response from Wright to its candidate’s survey.

Comments

ClaytonTaxpayer 2 years, 1 month ago

Melody Totten, I am so grateful for your candidacy!! We need more like you -- intelligent, focused and committed leadership. Thank you for seeking a seat on the school board. I don't live in your district (unfortunately), but I will encourage all who do to support you. Much luck to you!! Looking forward to you joining Jessie Goree on the school board!!

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MD 2 years, 1 month ago

Friend of Jessie? That's going to loose votes.

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