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Top stories of 2008: Schools face budget, personnel challenges

COVINGTON - The Newton County School System has dealt with several major issues this year.

Officials had to destroy possibly tainted beef in February after a nationwide recall. State and local economic issues put a strain on the local system's budget. And rising fuel costs left the school system searching for vehicle fuel funding in May.

And, although fuel prices have now dropped significantly, the school system has asked employees to hold off on optional field trips.

Even with a tight budget this school year, NCSS opened a new elementary school, South Salem Elementary School, and has plans to open Liberty Middle School and another elementary school on Kirkland Road in August.

At least five employees of the Newton County School System were arrested this year following allegations ranging from suspicion of mortgage fraud to child molestation.

In late November, Eastside football head coach Rick Hurst turned himself in to DeKalb County police following a multi-county investigation that listed him and six other individuals with theft by taking in connection with alleged mortgage fraud in 2004 and 2005. Hurst is expected to attend an arraignment Monday morning for the arrest.

Additionally this school year, two NCSS employees were arrested for sexual acts involving minor children.

In early December, the Newton County Sheriff's Office arrested Brandi Bryan McMichael, a 29-year-old Cousins Middle School paraprofessional, for allegedly having an on-campus and off-campus relationship with a 13-year-old student.

Later that month, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested 48-year-old Mansfield Elementary School janitor Brian Evan Morgan, charging him with possession of child pornography at his home.

In March, NCSO officials arrested Alcovy High School teacher Derrick Roberts and paraprofessional Nanette Surber for allegedly abusing a nonverbal special needs child; the two resigned from their positions in May, but a Newton County grand jury refused to indict the two in December.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.