Originally created 01/07/97

Jefferson's folly



The Saturday spectacle of five Richmond County School Board members illegally meeting to anoint a rump "president" to replace Ken Echols reminds us of some tragi-comic farce written by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Echols and four other moderate-to-conservative trustees wish to maintain stability by keeping the status quo. They knew they'd be walking into a trap by agreeing to convene without ailing conservative trustee Cherie Foster.

So they stayed away - knowing no legally-binding action could be taken without the presence of a majority of the 10-member Board.

The five liberal trustees who embarrassed themselves by illegally "electing" Andrew Jefferson practice "rule or ruin" politics. Board attorney Pete Fletcher repeatedly warned Jefferson not to proceed since there was no legal quorum. Yet he and his allies couldn't have cared less about the signal their action sends to the rest of Georgia.

It's also no surprise that Jefferson and his allies are trying to make this a racial issue. Their tiresome mantra is that, because Jefferson is black, he's being "discriminated against."

Don't be fooled.

The Board presidency has been occupied by fine African-American trustees. In fact, Echols' predecessor is the respected Dr. Justine Washington (who, incidentally, Jefferson & Co. worked to defeat).

The bottom line is simple: Andrew Jefferson is one of this area's worst public officials. He's fiscally irresponsible and sees the school system as a jobs agency for allies rather than for educating children.

Echols says "there have been at least three times" when Jefferson or Y.N. Myers weren't in attendance. Yet Echols and other trustees delayed or, in one case, canceled a meeting so all 10 trustees could be in attendance.

Jefferson and his cohorts don't display such courtesy.

Their Saturday farce can only undermine public credibility in the Board. And among the many people hurt, besides taxpayers and students, is a progressive school superintendent who has been trying to get the Board to work together on common goals.

The good news is that determined Superintendent Dr. Charles Larke shows no indication of giving up.