Originally created 05/08/99

Barnes selects new education board



ATLANTA -- Gov. Roy Barnes announced Friday that the board setting education policy for Georgia's 1.3 million schoolchildren will include two adversaries of state School Superintendent Linda Schrenko, an Augusta private college administrator, four holdovers and the publisher of his home-county newspaper.

Mr. Barnes recommended Marietta Daily Journal Publisher Otis A. Brumby Jr., serve as chairman of his new Board of Education.

Mr. Brumby, a longtime Barnes friend and business associate, had been rumored for weeks to be the governor's choice for the top job.

"I have known Otis Brumby for many years as a friend, a fellow businessman and a member of my church," Mr. Barnes said. "He is the type of strong, common sense leader that we need to face the challenges of Georgia's educational system today."

Other Barnes picks, such as Georgia PTA President Catherine Henson and current board member J.T. Williams of McDonough -- supporters of Mrs. Schrenko's 1998 general election opponent -- were more surprising.

Mr. Barnes also appointed Albany business consultant Peggy Nielson, attorneys Harry Bruce Jackson of Atlanta and David Smith of Calhoun, former Atlanta City Councilwoman Gloria Bromell-Tinubu, and Paine College administrator Roscoe Williams of Augusta to the Board of Education.

Holdovers whose terms had not expired include Willou Smith of Brunswick, Palmira Braswell of Macon and Barbara Archibald of Athens.

The new members will be sworn in later this month, and will hold their first board meeting in early June.

Mrs. Schrenko, a Republican, won her first term in 1994. For her first two years, the board battled Mrs. Schrenko over control of the Department of Education and policy.

Then-Gov. Zell Miller essentially fired the board in 1996, and replaced it with a more Republican-leaning group, led by former House Minority Leader Johnny Isakson of Marietta. The fights between the elected Mrs. Schrenko and the appointed board disappeared overnight.

Mr. Isakson resigned earlier this year after winning the right to replace former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Congress. A majority of the board's seats were up or had earlier been vacated.

However, the appointment of Ms. Henson and reappointment of Mr. Williams raises the possibility of conflict.

Mr. Williams was one of the members of the board who refused to resign when Mr. Miller cleaned house in 1996, and he contributed to the campaign of Mrs. Schrenko's Democratic opponent last fall, Joe Martin.

He also contributed to the campaign of Lewis Massey, Mr. Barnes' chief Democratic rival in last year's race for governor.

Ms. Henson likewise supported Mr. Martin, and was publicly critical of the superintendent in 1997 when she made disparaging remarks about the PTA.

James Salzer is based in Atlanta and can be reached at (404) 589-8424 or mnews@mindspring.com.