Originally created 12/07/06

Larke's removal hurt Hasan



A.K. Hasan, who was instrumental in the removal longtime Superintendent Charles Larke, will not be around to see the effects of his work.

Mr. Hasan led the campaign to remove Dr. Larke within a year of taking office and likely would have continued shaking up the establishment in Richmond County public schools. But his pursuit of aggressive change in the school system was abruptly cut off Tuesday when Venus Cain defeated him handily in a runoff.

Mr. Hasan said the superintendent issue, among other policy shifts he tried to implement, may have been too much for the electorate to handle in his partial term that began November 2005.

School board member Ken Echols, also a proponent of getting rid of the superintendent, said Mr. Hasan may have been a political sacrifice of forcing out Dr. Larke.

"I think A.K. did a good job, but I think he failed to listen to his constituents," he said.

What hurt Mr. Hasan on Tuesday was his poor showing in the majority-black precincts, which comprise the bulk of a district that is 73 percent black. Of the 39 precincts in the super district - which encompasses school districts 1, 2, 4 and 5 - only eight are majority-white.

Mr. Hasan, as he did in the general election, won all of the majority-white precincts, but the eight had only 10,519 white registered voters combined. Mrs. Cain, on the other hand, won 24 of the 30 predominantly black precincts, in which there were 33,614 black registered voters. One precinct, 509, is split evenly between black and white voters.

To some political observers, the results were a strong repudiation by many blacks of Mr. Hasan's role in forcing Dr. Larke to step down as superintendent.

"Even people in the community who said, well, maybe Larke had exceeded the time he should have been in the office, said they didn't like the way it was handled, and they didn't like the fact that A.K. led the charge," said Ben Allen, a local attorney and former state representative. "It's one thing to disagree with a person, but it's another thing to attack that person. And that's what the underlying current was throughout the (black) community."

Mr. Echols, one of the board members who decided not to run for re-election, said Mr. Hasan's defeat presented an opportunity for someone new to become a leader. He doubted if anyone was capable of doing that.

"I don't know of a driving force on that board right now," he said.

Come January, the board will elect a president. At an education conference in Atlanta last week, the jockeying appeared to have begun, but no frontrunner has emerged, Mr. Echols said.

"There's about four or five that want to be president. One of them will evolve as the leader; that's what has got to take place."

Mr. Echols wouldn't say who the candidates were.

Joe Scott, who was in the running for the job in 2005, said he would be comfortable with the next leader coming from someone who had been on the board. He didn't count himself out.

"I certainly wouldn't turn it down," Mr. Scott said.

Meanwhile, Interim Superintendent James Thompson said the school system's pupils would not be forgotten or ignored amid the flux in power in his office and on the board.

"I'm not backing off decisions and saying let's do this and wait for the next superintendent," he said.

"I'm not in a position to wait for another superintendent."

Staff writer Mike Wynn contributed to this article.

Reach Justin Boron at (706) 823-3215 or justin.boron@augustachronicle.com.

RICHMOND COUNTY VOTER TURNOUT

Voter turnout met projections in Richmond County, where voters were determining three runoffs. More than 16 percent of the 45,994 registered in the Super District 9 race came to the polls Tuesday.