- Vanessa McCray The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
An Atlanta school board candidate sued Atlanta Public Schools and the board members she hopes to join over a rule that bars employees of other local school districts from serving on the board.
Patreece Hutcherson is running in the November election for the Atlanta Board of Education District 6 seat, which represents south Atlanta.
The ninth-grade school counselor, who is employed by the Douglas County Board of Education, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against APS, superintendent Meria Carstarphen, all nine current school board members, and Rhonda Dauphin Johnson, Atlanta’s election superintendent and municipal clerk.
The suit takes issue with the school district’s charter which states that a person cannot be an employee of APS or “any other local board of education” to qualify for election to the Atlanta school board.
The municipal clerk’s office informed Hutcherson that if she won the election she would be required to resign her Douglas County position, according to the suit.
Carstarphen confirmed to Hutcherson that the requirement cannot be waived because it is a part of the state legislature-approved charter.
Hutcherson cannot afford to quit her job should she win. The suit notes that she doesn’t supervise any other employees in her job and maintains “there is little potential” for a conflict of interest.
Atlanta school board members make $15,170 a year.
“The policy requirements impose an unjustified and unconstitutional procedural barrier to citizens holding office on the Atlanta Board of Education,” the suit states.
Hutcherson has support from the Georgia Association of Educators, which is providing her legal counsel.
“Georgia’s teachers are always, and must continue to be, engaged in the political process. And like Ms. Hutcherson, they are uniquely situated to provide informed and effective leadership for, in this case, Atlanta’s Board of Education. This restriction just makes no sense and illegally restricts local educators’ ability to become part of the solution,” said Mike McGonigle, the association’s legal services director, in a written statement.
APS spokeswoman Pat St. Claire declined to comment on pending litigation.
Hutcherson wants the court to declare the requirement unconstitutional and to prohibit the district from enforcing the requirement. She also seeks damages and attorney fees.