GOP in­cum­bent faces bus driver in Dist. 2 BOE race

Both candidates say NCSS need im­prov­ing

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Am­ber Pittman

The seat for District 2 mem­ber of the New­ton County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion is up for grabs and in­cum­bent Rickie Cor­ley (R) is de­fend­ing his seat of nearly 12 years against new­comer Ed­die John­son (D).

Cor­ley has served on the board for 11 years and 10 months and prior to be­ing elected at­tended school sys­tem meet­ings and served on var­i­ous com­mit­tees. John­son, though, has no pre­vi­ous in­volve­ment with the school board and is cur­rently a New­ton County bus driver.

When asked what sets him apart from Cor­ley, John­son said that he would bring new life to the board. “I will bring new vigor, in­no­va­tions and so­lu­tions to many of the prob­lems that have plagued the lead­er­ship team,” he said. “ My com­peti­tor has ex­hausted his means to im­prove key com­po­nents of the sys­tem that are used to mea­sure re­sults and the grow­ing con­cerns of the pub­lic. We can­not af­ford four more years of failed lead­er­ship and a con­tin­u­ing ero­sion of pub­lic trust at the ex­pense of our chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to Cor­ley, how­ever, his 25 years of in­volve­ment in the school sys­tem is what sets him apart from John­son, along with train­ing by the Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion to serve as a board mem­ber. He also owns a busi­ness in the com­mu­nity and has worked with var­i­ous mem­bers of the pub­lic for many years.

“I get in­volved,” Cor­ley said, “and I work with oth­ers, not just blame and point fin­gers.”

When asked about top con­cerns theBOEis fac­ing and will con­tinue to face in the fu­ture, Cor­ley cited fund­ing short­falls, growth in the com­mu­nity, im­prov­ing test scores and stu­dent achieve­ment and grad­u­a­tion rates. He said changes need to be made to the high school grad­u­a­tion test and that there needs to be more school in­volve­ment from par­ents as well as school of­fi­cials with a fo­cus on in­creased com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the two groups.

“With the econ­omy as it is we, like other school sys­tems across Ge­or­gia, are looking for ways to bal­ance fu­ture bud­gets,” said Cor­ley. “All schools and depart­ment heads have been no­ti­fied of pos­si­ble fund­ing short­falls. They were asked to look for ways to trim their bud­gets, and we are also looking at other op­tions like a four-day school week. We do not want to do any­thing that would jeop­ar­dize ed­u­ca­tion.”

John­son also has con­cerns about the grad­u­a­tion rate, in­clud­ing the num­ber of stu­dents fail­ing to meet SAT and ACT re­sults, the lack of a plan for vo­ca­tional train­ing, an ab­sence of af­ter-school pro­grams and ef­forts to re­cruit and ob­tain the best teach­ers.

“We can deal with th­ese im­por­tant con­cerns ef­fec­tively­by­elect­ing newlead­er­ship that un­der­stands the is­sues, let­ting new ideas and ini­tia- tives flour­ish from the ranks of our em­ployee base to the top and em­brace them by show­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion.”

The candidates were asked where they saw the school sys­tem in the next five years. John­son an­swered there will be “se­ri­ous con­se­quences and un­told cost to our youth, to the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem in New­ton County and so­ci­ety as a whole if there is not a change in di­rec­tion the sys­tem is pre­ced­ing.”

He also said the county could be headed in the same di­rec­tion as Clay­ton County [which re­cently lost its school ac­cred­i­ta­tion] be­cause of failed poli­cies and lead­er­ship. John­son said he be­lieves New­ton County needs more pub­lic di­a­logue and pub­lic trust to turn things around.

Cor­ley be­lieves that the sys­tem will be big­ger but also a bet­ter per­form­ing school sys­tem.

“Most likely we will have three more ele­men­tary schools, an­other mid­dle school and high school and an­other sta­dium,” said Cor­ley, “as well as school choice and theme schools.”

John­son be­lieves there are sev­eral is­sues that must be ad­dressed if he is elected to the board, “I am con­vinced,” he said, “that new lead­er­ship is key, along with pub­lic trust. Trust is earned and not given to you on a sil­ver plat­ter. I in­tend to earn pub­lic trust by con­nect­ing the com­mu­ni­ties to the school sys­tem through com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions, open di­a­logue and pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion in de­ci­sion mak­ing.”

Ac­cord­ing to Cor­ley, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, parental in­volve­ment and re­spon­si­bil­ity and re­duc­ing the drop-out rate are top on his list of is­sues that he will ad­dress if re­elected. He also cites stu­dent achieve­ment, more sup­port for teach­ers and more con­trol in the class­room, safety, ac­count­abil­ity and dis­ci­pline.

"Ed­u­ca­tion is a work in progress. It is a jour­ney, not a des­ti­na­tion," Cor­ley said at the Can­di­date’s Fo­rum on Oct. 23. "My goal is to pro­vide the best ed­u­ca­tion pos­si­ble for the young peo­ple of this county, one that will al­low each of them to reach their full po­ten­tial."

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