Clayton County: Graveyard for Superintendents!

     No, no one’s happy in Mudville. In the old story "Casey At Bat," all of Mudville was sad when Casey struck out. Well, again, the notorious Clayton County Board of Education (home of Georgia’s sixth largest school system) struck out. In their heralded "national" search for a new superintendent, the majority of Clayton’s school board members apparently let their personal agenda interplay with the selection process. By far, the two most qualified candidates in the process were Dr. Jim Williams and Dr. Stan Pritchett, both Associate Superintendents of DeKalb County. However, certain Clayton County school board members were apparently more interested in selecting someone from afar who had no connections with people in the Atlanta area in general and in Clayton County in particular. The reports about Dr. Williams and Dr. Pritchett were glowing -- people who have worked with them and who have known them for years all spoke of their integrity, loyalty, fairness, and expertise. However, these certain small-minded school board members with undernourished egos just couldn’t bear the thought that Clayton’s new superintendent would have a mind of his own and who would not be totally "cut off from his supplies lines" (so to speak). In other words, if the school board hired a totally "unknown" from "parts unknown," then this person would be easier to control, having cut off himself/herself from any "supply lines." This is the theory behind the reason for the Clayton County Board of Education hiring so obviously a less qualified candidate for superintendent.  

     Ericka Davis engineered the push for Barbara Pulliam to be the new superintendent. Her only experience as superintendent has been in the small Minnesota school system -- about ten times smaller than Clayton County. But Ericka knew that she had one vote in Barbara Wells, her little tag-along side-kick on the school board. Ericka also knew that newly-elected board member Allen Johnson was a true believer. Allen actually thinks that this woman can come into Clayton and implement a new curriculum and turn the school system around. Well, we like Allen -- but, on this point, he is simply naive. LaToya Walker, who normally just tags along with Ware, Kitchens, and Kellum, evidentally decided to play footsie with Ericka on this superintendent re-election. But, was she really just trying to drum up support for Connie Kitchen’s re-election to the Vice Chair position on January 5, 2004? Connie was putting on the face that she was not really wanting to be re-elected. But, lo and behold, she ran again for the Vice Chair position last night. She obviously thought that she could get at least Barbara’s and Ericka’s votes. After all, when the vote was taken last month in executive session for the new superintendent, Pritchett won with a 5-4 vote over Pulliam. However, in her ever manipulative manner, LaToya Walker kept pushing for another vote "since the vote was so close." So, before the next round of voting occurred, in a transparent attempt to curry favor with Ericka Davis, Barbara Wells, and Allen Johnson, then Vice Chair Connie Kitchens announced that she was changing her vote for Pulliam. And, of course, if Kitchens changes her vote, then so does the politically-mindless Carol Kellum (who was appointed to the school board by the Ware-Kitchens clique one day after she moved into school board district 7). But, where was Chairperson Ware? Believe it or not, Ware was pushing hard for Pritchett. So was Dr. Bob Livingston and Linda Crummy.

     Kitchens (who, by the way, stated in executive session that she had better not read about this in "The Teacher’s Advocate" is probably now reading this and fuming) did not even remain loyal to her constant school board companion, Nedra Ware. Kitchens has long sense forgotten (if she ever knew) the cardinal rule of politics:  Loyalty. It’s been often stated that Kitchens would sell her relatives down the river if it would help promote herself. Kitchens is always into promoting Kitchens. Again, it backfired. When her name was placed into nomination for re-election for Vice Chairperson, she must have been shocked to hear Ericka Davis’s name also being placed into nomination. In a 5-4 vote, Kitchens fell on her own sword, losing to Ericka Davis. Kitchens looked very disheartened. What did she expect? Did she really believe that because she had "sold" her vote for the superintendent, then the other side would reward her by voting for her for Vice Chair? How incredulous. Dr. John Trotter and the MACE staffers stirred up the meeting with colorful picket signs ("Save Taxpayers Money: Give Pulliam A One Year Contract"; "Give Teachers A Three Year Contract"; "Whew...Last Day of Connie’s Reign of Ignorance," etc.). Dr. Trotter addressed the board, telling them that no one was excited about Pulliam’s selection. In fact, he reminded the school board members and the audience that Pulliam had been rejected by the school boards of Newark, New Jersey, Christina, Delaware, and Prince George County, Maryland. He also let the "cat out of the bag" (so to speak) when he let the audience know that Pulliam’s selection was not "unanimous" after all. The board was split over her, and the board is still split, evidenced by the just fresh 5-4 vote on the Vice Chair. Dr. Trotter stated: "After all these years, I can’t believe that you still can’t count to five [and Mrs. Kitchens supposedly teaches Math]. I can’t believe that you still come into a board meeting and don’t have five votes lined up." He went on to tell Sid Chapman (the President of GAE’s local chapter) who was sitting in the audience: "Sid, I presume that Nedra and Connie are now members of GAE [Sid had just finished presenting them with framed pictures of them at a recent GAE confab, and Sid did a lot of groveling up to them when he addressed the school board prior to Dr. Trotter speaking]. I’m glad you’re kissing up to them and dealing with them. I’m glad it's you and not me." Dr. Trotter later told someone: "Sid will soon realize how difficult it is to make those two look good. But, he won’t have to deal with it for very long. A new school board will be elected in the next election." MACE’s Norreese Haynes stated to the media: "Pulliam had better live out of a suitcase."

     Now, this benighted school board has to deal with the thorny issue of Pulliam’s contract. We hear that she’s asking for the moon. One board member stated that getting a new superintendent is probably going to cost the taxpayers about $1,000,000.00. We hear that she’s even asking for a driver. This sounds like Beverly Hall in Atlanta. Well, after all, Pulliam’s lawyer is from Atlanta and highly connected to the Atlanta Board of Education. If the Clayton County Board of Eduction pays Pulliam one penny over $150,000.00 (all inclusive), then the voters of Clayton County will be up in arms, fighting mad. After all, the Commission Chairman doesn’t make near that much. Clayton County is not Atlanta. Clayton County is a blue collar county. The average salary is less than $30,000.00. The voters just aren’t interested in the "going rate" for big city superintendents. This alone shows that Pulliam is clueless. Also, we hear that Pulliam, without a contract in hand, already told her employer in Minnesota that she is leaving.  Hmm. Is she a little naive or what? She’d better call Joe Hairston or Dan Colwell and ask them about the politics of the Clayton school board. The last five superintendents in Clayton (including Stroud who refused to run in 1986 because it was obvious that he wouldn’t win) did not leave voluntarily. (Make that number six -- if we include current interim superintendent, William Chavis.)  We don’t think that the pattern will change with Pulliam. The Clayton County School System is a graveyard for superintendents. No, no one in Mudville is happy these days. Casey done struck out -- again!

     Before it’s all over, the Clayton County Board of Eduction might be begging for Dr. Jim Williams or Dr. Stan Pritchett to come on down. But, then again, ole Johnny Brown’s not going to last long in DeKalb County, and by now, the DeKalb’s County Board of Education may have "wised up" and decided that they might want to appoint either one of these gentlemen to take the helm of their drifting ship.

                                                                        January 6, 2004



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