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Candidates address school chief process

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY, Ga. -- Two candidates who want to join the Dougherty School Board said Tuesday that the selection process for the next superintendent was flawed while an incumbent being challenged this summer defended the board's actions.

Their opinions were expressed Tuesday night at a candidates forum at Darton College that also attracted a number of candidates for state offices.

Three Dougherty Cchool Board seats will be decided by voters this year, positions currently held by Michael Windom, Emily Jean McAfee and Milton "Junebug" Griffin. Windom, who has been on the board since 1995, recently announced that he will not run for another term. Griffin is seeking re-election.

Lynda Weaver -- who is challenging Griffin for his post -- and Dean Phinazee, who wants Windom's place at the table, each voiced opposition to the manner in which the School Board has chosen a replacement for retiring Superintendent Sally Whatley.

Phinazee said board members should have adhered to the steps they agreed to at the beginning of the superintendent selection process.

Weaver agreed with Phinazee, but added that the board also should have been more transparent and honest in its decision to name Joshua Murfree as the system's next school chief.

At the forum, Griffin maintained that Murfree, who ranked No. 34 among the applicants according to criteria established by Griffin and the rest of the board and who has close connections with board members, was the best qualified applicant available.

"I think we made the right decision and I think that Dr. Murfree will make an excellent superintendent," he said.

Weaver said, if elected, she would work to bring the focus of the School Board back to where it belongs -- the children.

Phinazee said he cares about the education of Dougherty County students and noted that if elected he would work to bring graduation rates up.

In addition to the School Board races, four Dougherty County Commission seats are up for election.

Chairman Jeff "Bodine" Sinyard and commissioners John Hayes, Chuck Lingle and Jack Stone now occupy seats that will be decided this year. Sinyard and Stone have said they will run for new terms. Lingle has announced he won't seek re-election, prompting long-time state official Ewell Lyle to announce his candidacy. He is the only announced candidate.

Lyle said at the candidate's forum Tuesday night that the county needs proven leadership and that he hopes that his conservative views will help move the county forward.

Among the 2010 gubernatorial election primary candidates that attended the forum were Democratic candidate David Poythress, Democratic candidate Carl Camon and Libertarian candidate John Monds. Candidates for secretary of state and other state offices also appeared.