Originally created 07/01/00

School board races feature new faces



At least four newcomers will join the Richmond County school board next year.

And if incumbent Andrew Jefferson loses a bid for re-election, five new board members will help make decisions that affect the county's 58 schools.

Six of the 10 school board seats are vacant. Incumbent Y.N. Myers, in District 5, is the only school board member who will not be challenged during the Nov. 7 general election.

Friday was the deadline to qualify for the four-year school board terms in districts 1, 4, 5, 8 and 10. July 7 is the deadline for District 9.

In districts 8 and 9, run-offs are likely as nine people - some retired educators, others who nearly won in previous elections - are vying for the two seats.

Five people are after the seat that will be vacated by Board President Mary Oglesby, who is not seeking re-election.

Four people are trying for the two-year term left vacant last month when board veteran Kingsley Riley, 73, resigned.

In addition to newcomers in the seats of Mrs. Oglesby and Mrs. Riley, District 1 and District 10 also will have new representation. Board members Adna Stein and Cherie Foster are not seeking re-election.

Mrs. Foster is running for a seat on the General Assembly.

One of the most controversial races will be in District 4 between board Vice President Andrew Jefferson, a 40-year-old instructor at Augusta Technical College, and challengers Bernard Harper, 48, director of environmental services at Holiday Inn, and Alphonza Griffin, 35, a former Hephzibah High School teacher who was fired June 15 regarding allegations of sexual misconduct against a female student.

Mr. Griffin said the inattentiveness of school board members during his two-day hearing June 14 and 15 prompted him to run. He said Mr. Jefferson was sleeping during part of the hearing. Mr. Jefferson said he was attentive and was one of three board members who offered Mr. Griffin a severance package. The severance package, which included a letter of recommendation, failed 4-3.

Mr. Griffin's living status also was questioned by school officials. He said he lives in District 6 with his mother-in-law and is renting his home in District 4.

Officials from the Richmond County Board of Elections said a person can be temporarily relocated and still run in the district of their permanent residence.

The residential requirement is that candidates live in the county for two years and within the district where they are running for one year immediately preceding the Nov. 7 election.

The following people also have qualified:

In District 1: Marion E. Barnes, 67, retired teacher and coach; Chris Lowe Sr., 53, minister.

In District 8: William D. Cruise, 46, owner of Cruise Security Systems; Burles Johnson II, 44, contractor; Bradley Owens, 28, customer service agent for USAIR; Jeff Padgett, 50, client advocate at Gracewood State School and Hospital; Fredrick L. Smith Jr., 49, electrical engineer.

District 9: Venus Cain, 43, supply chief at Fort Gordon; Johnny R. Hatney, 61, minister; Willie W. Law IV, 32, accountant; Mildred McDaniel, 60, retired educator in Richmond County.

District 10: Robert Gardner, 66, retired from the Army; Helen Minchew, 52, homemaker and Wilson L. Rice, 61, retired assistant principal of Glenn Hills High School.

Reach Faith Johnson at (706) 823-3765.