By: Scott B. Riddle, Esq.

Updated 4/25/08 (scroll to bottom)

The disaster that is the Clayton County School Board has struck again.  On the verge of being the third school district in the United States to lose accreditation in the last 20 years (see the report here), they struck again last night.  In a non-public session, and in apparent violation of the open meetings law, they hired a "corrective superintendent."  It just happens that this candidate had previously withdrawn his name from consideration, and has been  deemed unqualified by state and accreditation officials (yes, that would be the officials who determine whether the schools are accredited).

The board voted 5-1 to hire John W. Thompson, who state and accreditation officials said is not qualified. ….  Thompson’s $285,000 contract runs until to June 30, 2009, and has an option to be extended, Schwartz said. It also includes a car and security, if needed. Thompson initially requested a $275,000 salary, 24-hour access to a car and driver, 24-hour security and $2 million for consultants. It’s unclear if he will have a consultant budget.

"His demands are appalling," said Winnie Thomas, whose daughter is a junior at Lovejoy High School. "The fact that Mr. Elgart from SACS and the governor’s liaisons disapproved is alarming. For a board to pass an offer to this man is ridiculous. In what world do they live?"

Excellent question, Winnie!  They live in a world where they, the School Board, value their own positions and power more than the condition of the schools or welfare of their neighbors.  They apparently did not even follow the law when making this hire behind closed doors.

"Unfortunately, this is part of a continuing pattern where the board takes actions without even attempting to follow the law," said Thomas Clyde, an attorney for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Even better, the attorney they hired to represent the Board during the troubling times, Glenn Brock, resigned, stating –

"I fired the school board because of deceptive and unethical behavior," said board attorney Glenn Brock. "Their behavior demonstrated last night is what SACS has been criticizing all along."

What does this have to do with a Bankruptcy Blog? The end result of losing accreditation is that students are ineligible for the Hope Scholarship, and will have a difficult time getting into a decent college.

Clayton County residents can expect plummeting home values as parents (or anyone who might be  a parent in the next few years) move out of the county so their kids get in college and they are eligible for the Hope Scholarship.   Home buyers with school-age kids, or who may have school age kids in the future (i.e, most younger couples) will avoid the county like the plague.  The housing market in Clayton County will be a disaster, and the tax base will decrease dramatically.  Refinancing will not be possible because the equity in homes will simply disappear.  Companies and industries considering Clayton County will immediately strike them off of their list because employees will not want to move there.  Some businesses will move, or perhaps even close, because of a decrease in business and an inability to keep qualified employees. 

According to a realtor association official …

"All the board members need to resign. We need to have a special election and start over with qualified candidates," said David Barton, Vice President of the Metro South Association of Realtors. He said that during the last four years of turmoil in the Clayton County schools, property owners in the county have lost a half billion dollars in value.

This quote was in February, when there still might have been a chance for remedies.  That chance seems to be over, so expect much higher losses in value for Clayton homeowners.  If you have school-age kids, or think you might have them in the next few years, stay way from Clayton County.

If you are a homeowner in Clayton County and you find yourself in Bankruptcy, think twice before reaffirming your mortgage debt.  Even if you qualify for a reaffirmation and your home is worth the amount of debt, it might not be the case for long.  You might be signing up for post-petition personal liability for the mortgage on a home that decreases significantly in value in the coming months and years.  You could be locked into staying in Clayton because you cannot sell, selling your home at  discount and paying the difference, or a foreclosure. You will owe the full amount of your mortgage (including interest and fees) after your discharge.  Again, think twice.

Update – The latest news from the evening of April 24.  The Chairman of the board has resigned.

School board Chairman Eddie White said he decided to step down this week after finding a defamatory letter on his desk at the board meeting Wednesday. The unsigned letter, drafted by a board member, accused White of engaging in sexual conduct with a member of the school administration, he said Thursday.

"I do not approve of such conduct. It was very, very inappropriate for that to occur," White said. "It is untrue and negatively impacting my family. I was of the opinion we could meet the nine recommendations, but behavior like that from last night will not help us."