Corley's focus on budgets, parent involvement

COVINGTON - Newton County Board of Education Vice Chairman Rickie Corley is seeking his fourth term for the District 2 seat.

A lifelong resident of Newton County and product of the local school system, Corley seeks to keep school system standards high and schools safe.

"I feel like all of the citizens in the community benefit from a well-educated school system," he said.

Corley has seen a lot of changes and growth over the last 11 years - in addition to the time he spent as a PTO president and on a school advisory committee before he joined the board - and looks forward to being involved in the future.

"As the school system continues to grow and change, I'd like to see some new ways of doing things and improving upon things," he said.

What are your top priorities?

Corley said his main focus at the moment needs to be on the school system budget and parent involvement.

He said he will continue to focus on communication and community involvement as he has in the past. He said the school board can reach out to the community and parents through technology and through public participation at school board meetings.

Corley also hopes to improve student test scores and attract and retain more qualified teachers.

What are your plans to deal with the state budget cuts?

"I hope we can look through the budget and in all departments to see places to make cuts and not adversely affect the educational process," he said.

Before he would even consider raising the millage rate, and therefore taxes, he said he would consider using some of the ending fund balance - he said what the board does will depend on how deep the state budget cuts are in the future.

What could be done to save fuel or deal with the high gas prices on a school system level?

Corley said keeping buses running at top performance levels, as he feels the school system's transportation department already does, will help the most.

He also said the school system can look at rerouting and moving routes closer to bus drivers' homes so they don't have to drive as far to their buses; the school system also might have to look at trimming back the number of bus stops, he said.

"We do have to provide transportation for students," he said. "We need to talk to the drivers - they are the ones on the front lines ... (and) who know what's doing on. I suggest we use them (to make more decisions)."

How do you feel about the federal No Child Left Behind Act?

Corley said he has "restraints" about NCLB, such as aligning the tests more with the curriculum and reworking some subgroups, but he agrees with the message that it tries to send.

"I certainly don't want to leave any child behind," he said. "But all students aren't going to perform on the same level."

Corley said "of course" test scores need to improve and feels that the school system has added some good, new programs to help with that such as a goal-based administration development program in which officials meet with all school principals to develop improvement plans.

He suggests the school system look at similar school systems that are meeting Adequate Yearly Progress to see what programs are working for them, and he also supports a career academy and improving vocational studies.

"All students are not going to go to college; it's a reality," he said. "That doesn't mean they can't be successful."

Disruptive students also could hurt all students in the classrooms, he said, so making sure teachers "keep control" of their classroom is also a concern.

Do you think nutrition and physical activity are the responsibility of the school system?

Corley said the school system does play a part in providing nutritional meals and providing daily activities for students.

He said the schools can provide healthy nutrition at the schools, but parents also need to support such practices at home.

What is your take on community participation at school board meetings?

Corley said the public doesn't participate enough in school board meetings, especially considering the size of the county.

Before he was elected to the board more than 11 years ago, Corley supported having a public participation time set aside for visitors to comment.

"I've always encouraged participation - it's their meeting," he said. "It's a limited time, but there is time set aside for it."

He encourages those he sees at church and at sporting events to come to meetings, but he also said it's important to talk to the community outside of the meetings, if they would like to do so.

"A lot of people think those types of things are boring, and I know a lot of people have other things to do ... but I hold town hall meetings everywhere I go. ... I'll stand around and talk with them as long as they want to talk," he said. "I've always been accessible. I'm (at my office) every day, and my door is always open."

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

SideBar: The Corley File

Rickie Corley

Age: 54

Party: Republican

ccupation: Owner of Corley's Auto Service for 34 years

Education: Associate degree in business from Ashford University, seeking bachelor's degree in business management; completed training required by the Georgia Department of Education to be on the school board, as well as attained six certificates of completion in board training and leadership training from the Georgia School Boards Association.

Political Experience: Serving his third term on the Newton County Board of Education District 2; served two years as chairman and currently serving as vice chairman.

Personal: A lifelong resident of Newton County, Corley is a product of the Newton County School System. He and his wife, Robbie, have four children and six grandchildren, three of whom attend Newton County schools. They are members at Eastridge Community Church in Covington.