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Hearing set on school board candidates eligibility
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A hearing Friday will determine whether longtime Gainesville school board member Kelvin Simmons can remain a candidate in this fall’s school board election.

Simmons, who has served on the board since 1991 and represents Ward 4, may not be eligible to appear on the ballot because of a new state anti-nepotism law.

Gainesville Superintendent of Elections Denise Jordan is challenging Simmons’ candidacy because his wife, longtime educator Audrey Simmons, is an assistant principal at Gainesville Middle School.

The public hearing will take place at 2 p.m. Friday in meeting room A at the Georgia Mountains Center.

Delores Diaz and Richard Lacey also seek the Ward 4 seat.

Jordan is challenging Simmons’ qualification based on House Bill 251, which became state law July 1.

The bill, which also contains changes in school choice laws, declares that no one with an immediate family member sitting on a local board of education or serving as the local school superintendent or as a principal, assistant principal, or system administrative staff in the local school system can serve as a member of the same board of education.

The bill defines an immediate family member as “a spouse, child, sibling, or parent or the spouse of a child, sibling or parent.”

The law change applies only to local board of education members seeking election or appointment on or after July 1. Simmons is seeking election on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Jordan will preside over the hearing and will hear evidence from the city and from Simmons. She said city officials are determining who will present on the city’s behalf.

“This is new for us in regards to dealing with this issue and we’re building on it from the ground up,” she said.

Jordan said only two outcomes can result from the hearing Friday: Simmons is qualified to proceed as a school board candidate or he is not.

She said Simmons may appeal the result of the hearing in Hall County Superior Court, but the issue must be settled before Election Day.

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