JONESBORO Clayton County Board of Education member Jessie Goree said Wednesday that she may not hesitate to speak her mind, but it doesn’t make her a villain.
The school system’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and its parent organization, AdvancEd, expressed concerns this week about possible micromanagement by board members in a letter to district officials. The letter also cited “much conflict” between board members.
School Board Chairperson Pamela Adamson indicated Tuesday that outspoken board member Jessie Goree might be at the center of SACS’ new concerns. But, Goree said she has done nothing but look out for the interests of Clayton County residents and students.
“I may be outspoken, but I’m the one always pulling out the SACS mandates and saying we need to follow the mandates during board meetings,” said Goree. “We need to hold the superintendent accountable, and because I wanted to do that for the citizens, that — in essence — is apparently a problem.”
Clayton County Public Schools is finding its accreditation in jeopardy for the third time in less than a decade at perhaps the worst possible time. The school board is preparing to launch a search for a new school superintendent. Controversial outgoing Superintendent Edmond Heatley resigned a month ago to pursue a failed bid to become the superintendent of schools in Berkeley, Calif.
Retired school system administrator Luvenia Jackson will be sworn in Monday morning as the district’s interim superintendent.
The school board is still in the early stages of deciding how it wants to search for a superintendent, and how it will include citizen input. SACS told district officials in its letter that an outside search firm should be used to find a schools chief.
“There is no evidence that the current Board of Education has the skills and experience to conduct such a search without professional assistance and guidance,” Mark Elgart, the president of SACS and AdvancEd, wrote in the letter.
The Sept. 24 warning letter from SACS caught some board members by surprise, but Adamson said it wasn’t a shock to her.
“We have tried to maintain order, but we’ve been having trouble doing that,” said Adamson.
She argued Wednesday that she did not identify Goree in an interview she gave Tuesday to Clayton News Daily, where she pointed the finger of blame at a single board member whom she said was difficult to control.
During the Tuesday interview, though, she all but said Goree’s name when she described the board member in question by talking about all of the sanctions issued against the individual — sanctions which, cumulatively, have only been levied against Goree.
When Adamson was asked during the interview if she was talking about Goree, she did not deny it. Instead, she told a reporter “you know who I mean."