COVINGTON - Retired Newton County resident Eddie Johnson is looking for a change in the Newton County Board of Education.
"I see that the Newton County School System is broken," he said. "I honestly do know that we need new leadership and initiatives to provide students with fundamentally sound education so they can be productive citizens."
Johnson, who also drives a school bus for NCSS, said he decided to run for the District 2 seat to help "restore" the public's confidence in the board and help to improve student test scores.
What are your top priorities?
Johnson said he wants to focus on making students more "globally competitive" in the labor market. He hopes to increase the graduation rate by encouraging a focus on student test scores and making them realize their dreams can come true if they stay in school.
He also wants to make the public more confident in the Board of Education and the Newton County School System and make sure the system retains and recruits the best teachers.
What are your plans to deal with the state budget cuts?
Johnson said if elected, he would like to review the school system budget to make sure it is not wasteful.
"I'd make sure programs are not being funded just because they were funded last year or before that," he said. "We must review programs for their productivity, and if it's not productive, it shouldn't be there."
He also wants to look into ways to reduce the number of students attending Sharp Alternative School and get them back into their primary schools.
What could be done to save fuel or deal with the high gas prices on a school system level?
Johnson suggests that parents of students who attend Sharp Alternative School, as well as other intervention programs, should help pay for transportation of students from their primary schools to the alternative school since it is an "additional education resource."
"It needs to be cost-sharing," he said.
He also would look at other transportation routes or trips that are unnecessary during a gas crisis.
How do you feel about the federal No Child Left Behind Act?
"It starts with our leadership," Johnson said.
After seeing test results, such as the college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT, that fall below the national and state levels, Johnson felt "disturbed."
"We can't afford those kind of results," he said, adding that many grade-level Criterion-Referenced Competency Test scores, too, were "frightening."
He said he wants teachers in the classroom more, rather than having to deal with bus and cafeteria duties, which he feels are more for clerical and administrative staff.
"They know how to educate our kids, and we've got to let them," he said.
Johnson also feels that incorporating a new virtual classroom for at-risk students could help them.
Do you think nutrition and physical activity are the responsibility of the school system?
In addition to parents being involved with their students' educational habits, Johnson feels parents and the schools acting in partnership in regard to nutrition and physical activity, too, is important.
"If the student isn't getting the proper diet at home, then it's not effective," he said, adding that for those students who might not get a healthy meal - or any meal - at home, the school system's responsibility is to provide it for them. "If we can do that, we should."
What is your take on community participation at school board meetings?
Johnson said he feels that if school board members would have more "open and honest" dialogue with the public at meetings, then more individuals might get involved and attend school board meetings.
If elected, Johnson said he would like to attend school PTO meetings and hold informal meetings to inform the public about what the school board is doing for the school system.
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: The Johnson File
Occupation: Retired AT&T project manager; Newton County School System bus driver
Education: Bachelor's in business administration from Albany State University
Political Experience: None
Personal: A native of the south Georgia town of Leesburg and a resident of Newton County since 1991, Johnson enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, who are both educators. He also raises cattle and chickens.