Newton local to run for school board

COVINGTON - Longtime Covington resident Don Gresham has decided that he wants more of a voice with the Newton County School System.

He qualified Tuesday for the District 2 Board of Education seat. Gresham is running on the Republican ticket and will face incumbent Rickie Corley in the July 15 general primary.

"There are things happening in the county that I don't like," Gresham, 71, said Wednesday.

If elected, the 20-year Covington resident would like to come up with better ways to get students to school, especially considering recent rising gas prices, he said.

He said neighborhood schools - like Covington's Montessori School and some in DeKalb County, where he raised his children - could be a solution.

"Kids should be able to walk to school," he said. "But we've got to be realistic."

Gresham is especially concerned with students attending schools on Brown Bridge Road near his home.

"It tears me up with the kids darting across the street," said Gresham, who is retired from the U.S. Postal Service.

He also wants to try to get more citizens to attend board meetings.

"I want to pull the PTAs, parents and everybody together to give citizens a chance to voice their opinion," he said. "In DeKalb County, when school was in session, the board would have the work sessions at a school house at night" rotating from school to school each month. In the summer, they held them at the central office, he said.

He also feels the school system isn't getting a good deal on land purchases and would like to help negotiate better prices. He also believes it would be a good idea to have a school board member act as a liaison with the county.

"I want to deal more with administration," he said. "(Superintendent Steven Whatley) is doing a great job with the schools ... I don't know how to educate the kids."

Gresham has never held a public office, but he once considered running for the Board of Commissioners, and he also headed up a letter writing campaign to the Board of Education regarding Newton County seniors in favor of tax exemption, which recently passed.

In DeKalb County, more than 21 years ago, he and other parents petitioned the school board to allow kids off school on Good Friday.

"Good Friday is more important than Easter; they couldn't have Easter without it," he said, adding that he wouldn't mind Newton County students also getting the day off. "We strive and believe America is built under God - it's on our money - so children should have the option to attend religious services if they want to."

Even though he doesn't have any public experience, he feels he does have the qualifications needed to be a good school board member.

"Sending kids through school and participating in their activities is experience," he said.

District 2 incumbent Rickie Corley also qualified Tuesday for the Republican ticket, and District 4 incumbent Almond Turner qualified for the Democrat ticket.

The qualifying fee for the BOE district seats is $216, which is 3 percent of the elected official's annual salary.

Staff Reporter Crystal Tatum contributed to this article.

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