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long way.

Pamela Byrd-Con­sue­gra felt that let­ting teach­ers know the board was there for them would help.

“The teach­ers need to feel that they have board sup­port and com­mu­nity sup­port,” she said, adding that the board could put their money where their mouths are come bud­get time and save teacher jobs as a way to keep them in the county.

Chris­tine YoungBrown stressed fair pay and eval­u­a­tions.

“Teach­ers should be aptly com­pen­sated, fairly eval­u­ated and sup­ported by top-notch pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment,” she said. “ I pro­pose that they are eval­u­ated fairly, not just by how their stu­dents test.”

Shak­ila Hen­der­son­Baker said she would make sure the teach­ers knew they had her sup­port by be­ing vis­i­ble in the schools as well as work­ing to open the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween school board and teach­ers. She also said the board should pro­vide re­sources and paid train­ing for the teach­ers in­stead of re­quir­ing them to pay out of pocket.

When asked how they would han­dle the bud­get Brown-Young sug­gested freez­ing salaries and cut­ting from the top and Byrd-Con­sue­gra said lob­by­ing would be a pri­or­ity for her as well as look­ing at al­ter­na­tive school cal­en­dars which could pos­si­bly help elim­i­nate fur­lough days.

“You have to un­der­stand the bud­get comes from the gover­nor’s of­fice so you have to start there first and hold them ac­count­able,” said Hen­der­son-Baker. “I would not work back­wards,” she con­tin­ued. “What I mean by that is that our past board made de­ci­sions first which caused a cri­sis… We need to get sug­ges­tions first and then make de­ci­sions. You have to get sug­ges­tions from the peo­ple you rep­re­sent.”

Wade added that the bud­get did not have a lot of wig­gle room to make ad­just­ments due to 87 per­cent be­ing made up of salaries, but that he would look at the other 13 per­cent and see where cuts could be made and if out­sourc­ing was avail­able for cer­tain things.

John­son sug­gested bring­ing some­one in who was an ex­pert in the sub­ject mat­ter to look over the bud­get and to also meet with com­mu­nity lead­ers.

“What I would do in the fu­ture is make sure to do a line-by-line, item-by-item and see what needs to be done. Those are some tough de­ci­sions to be made,” he said.

Can­di­dates also an­swered ques­tions about Cle­ments Theme School and how they would go about cre­at­ing stu­dents who could com­pete in a global mar­ket. All stressed the im­por­tance of parental in­volve­ment in all schools, not just theme schools, and Hen­der­son-Baker added that if par­ents did not get in­volved when stu­dents were young, they would not have the op­por­tu­nity to pre­pare them for a global mar­ket.

“ Not all of our stu­dents here in Newton County are col­lege­bound and that’s OK,” said Byrd-Con­sue­gra. “We have to make sure that ev­ery stu­dent who grad­u­ates from our sys­tem is ei­ther col­lege- ready or work-ready… We have to make sure our school sys­tem caters to ev­ery­one on the spec­trum.”

District 1 hope­fuls Dale M. Thomp­son, Jeff Meadors and Ron Hart were joined by District 5 can­di­date Abi­gail Mor­gan-Cog­gin to an­swer ques­tions (Sharon Sawyer was un­able to at­tend due to traf­fic). The first ques­tion posed to them ques­tioned what sort of in­no­va­tive pro­grams they sug­gested to in­crease stu­dent achieve­ment and bet­ter pre­pare stu­dents for the world out­side of high school.

Thomp­son said he would push to bring in busi­ness part­ners, com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions and civic clubs. Mor­gan-Cog­gin said that she didn’t have the an­swer but that she did know the school sys­tem had some “phe­nom­e­nal” teach­ers.

“ I want to look at what we’ve got in­house be­fore we worry about buy­ing more cur­ricu­lums to bring in,” she said.

“ I think one of the best things we can do is what we have be­gun and bro­ken ground on last Tues­day and that is the ca­reer academy off Ram Drive,” said Meadors, re­fer­ring to the Newton Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy sched­uled to open in Jan­uary 2012.

“We have 56.8 per­cent of Newton County School stu­dents in ca­reer, tech­ni­cal and agri­cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion in grades nine through 12. As a col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tor, I would love to see them all in col­lege, but folks, 41.1 per­cent of our grad­u­at­ing classes are not HOPE el­i­gi­ble, so the Newton Col­lege and Ca­reer Academy is go­ing to be a fan­tas­tic way to stream­line qual­ity train­ing for the work­force.”

Hart said he would sug­gest mak­ing sure what they were do­ing worked and that noth­ing worked bet­ter than fun­da­men­tals.

“ No in­no­va­tive pro­gram takes the place of a mo­ti­vated teacher get­ting the at­ten­tion of the kids in the class­room,” he said.

Can­di­dates were also asked their opin­ion on school uni­forms and all agreed that if the ad­min­is­tra­tors at the school, along with par­ents were in fa­vor of uni­forms , they would sup­port that de­ci­sion.

They were also asked about their opin­ions of the safety or lack thereof in the schools.

Hart said that he thought the board should em­power the schools to take care of their prob­lems but that, all in all, he felt the schools were safe, as did all of the other can­di­dates.

Mor­gan-Cog­gin said that she felt like a smaller class size would be the key to keep­ing schools safe, though she felt in her per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence ( at East Newton Ele­men­tary School) the schools were safe. Meadors also cited re­search show­ing that smaller class sizes were the key to safety and suc­cess for stu­dents.

“I know East Newton and I know one class­room at In­dian Creek Mid­dle School and from what I’ve seen they are safe. We can’t po­lice the class­room but what we can do is em­power the ad­min­is­tra­tors.

The pri­mary elec­tion is July 20 and early vot­ing is cur­rently tak­ing place. Along with Board of Ed­u­ca­tion, there are po­si­tions avail­able in the Newton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers, as well as all state and fed­eral seats.

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