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New look for Decatur school board?

By Bayne Hughes · 340-2432

After two terms of no change, the Decatur City Board of Education could have a new look following the election that’s 10 months away.

As many as three, or as few as one, could choose not to seek another term. City elections are Aug. 26, with the runoff, if necessary, Oct. 7.

The threesome of Dr. Charles Elliott, Karen Duke and Carol Sandlin has dominated the board during the past two terms, but this group will definitely break up.

Sandlin said she will not seek another term as the District 2 representative. She considered not seeking re-election in 2004, but decided to run again because the court had just approved a new desegregation plan.

She wanted to get the plan implemented and see the Banks-Caddell Elementary School in her district to completion. The plan and Banks-Caddell are now two years old.

Elliott, the board president for the past five years, said he would like to run for a third term as District 5 board member, representing the area west of Beltline Road in Southwest Decatur. However, his wife, Sherry, has leukemia and he isn’t sure how her status would affect those plans.

“It’s a little too early to say, but I enjoy being on the board,” Elliott said. “We’ll know something more in four or five months when we have more clarity.”

District 4 representative Dwight Jett Jr. spent the last year in Iraq. He returned in September and retakes his position on the board in November. His wife, Karen, filled the District 4 position during his absence. District 4 covers most of Southwest Decatur inside the Beltline.

Despite this absence, Jett said he is ready to return to the board and plans to run for a third term.

Duke, the only board member with opposition in the 2004 election, said she plans to seek a third term as the District 3 representative. District 3 is the largest district geographically in the city. Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge splits the district between Walter Jackson Elementary School and Point Mallard and the Burningtree areas in Southeast Decatur.

Edward Ellison, active in the Burningtree Homeowners’ Association and a school board critic, said he would only be a District 3 candidate of “last resort.” He said he would run only if no one opposes Duke.

“I’ll work hard to find a qualified candidate who is willing to vigorously campaign against Mrs. Duke,” Ellison said.

Tommy Sykes, recently retired from Delphi Steering Systems, is the longest-serving member on the board, representing Northwest Decatur’s District 1 for the last 41/2 terms. He said he is undecided, but is considering not seeking re-election because of family issues.

Two people in District 1, community activist Doris Baker and Lena Warrior, said they are running. Baker lost to incumbent Billy Jackson in the 2004 race for the City Council’s District 1 seat. Warrior is executive administrator of Progressive Outreach Ministry, where her husband, Arthur, is pastor.

Annie Ruth Harris, a former schoolteacher who works at Decatur Youth Services, lost her bid to unseat Sykes in 2000. She said she has been approached about running in District 1, but is undecided.

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