Location of BOE meeting changed

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Board of Education won't meet in its normal location tonight.

On Monday morning, NCSS announced that tonight's monthly meeting will be held in the Alcovy High School auditorium, rather than its regular location in the board room at the Newton County Board of Education building on Newton Drive.

On Saturday afternoon, the Newton County School System announced that the location of the meeting would be held in the auditorium at Eastside High School, but officials later realized that conflicted with a band concert already scheduled at the same time.

The meeting will begin at its normal time of 7 p.m. at Alcovy High, located at 14567 Ga. Highway 36 in Covington.

"The board members wanted to give as many residents as possible the opportunity to attend the board meeting and seating in our board room is limited, so we looked for an alternative site," said Sherri Viniard, director of Public Relations for the Newton County School System. "Both Newton and Eastside had events already scheduled for their auditorium so we chose Alcovy."

Joy Cason and others had planned for a peaceful assembly and march near the BOE building around the time of tonight's meeting to protest the proposed cuts to teachers, benefits and middle school sports. But now she said that won't be possible.

Cason, who created the Facebook group "Save Newton County Teachers & Middle School Sports" earlier this month that has so far attracted about 3,500 members, said her assembly group had received a permit Friday from the city of Covington Police Department to hold the protest. But now, since the meeting will be held in the county, she doesn't believe she will have time to get another permit, which takes several days to acquire.

Some other individuals and groups have said they will protest wherever the meeting is held without acquiring a permit, but Cason said she will not organize an assembly.

"I wanted to do it the right way (by getting a permit)," she said Monday afternoon. "I don't want to be responsible for anybody getting in trouble."

She said she still plans to attend tonight's meeting with possibly hundreds of other parents, school staff and community members protesting the proposed cuts, which include the elimination of 61.5 elementary teaching positions, 16 special education teaching positions, 80 instructional paraprofessionals and 14 part-time paraprofessionals at the elementary level, the graduation coach program at the high school level, three high school guidance counselor positions, three high school clerical positions, a reorganization of administrative and clerical staff in the curriculum and operations departments and several cuts to benefits.

The cuts are said to compensate for an anticipated $9.7 million deficit, and more are likely to come, NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley has said.

Also Monday morning, NCSS sent out a revised agenda for tonight's meeting. In addition to business items that were discussed during the board's work session earlier this month -- surplus items, a contract for ice cream for the school nutrition program, a bid for elementary school No. 15, approval of elementary and secondary handbooks, a contract for desktop computers and the 2010-11 school calendar -- added to the agenda is middle school rezoning, which was not discussed during the work session.

The board also allows for public participation at the beginning of its meeting, which is guided through a board policy:

"Public participation is the time that the board has set aside to encourage you as members of our community to voice your opinion on any matter, either included on or excluded from, the printed agenda. A maximum time of five minutes will be allotted to a single individual or a single topic based on the number of requests. Complaints against any employee of the school system will not be heard unless the complaint has been submitted, in writing, to the superintendent at least seven days prior to the board meeting. If unresolved, any personal complaints about school personnel must be put in writing for the board to review in Executive Session. Personal attacks against any member of the Board will not be tolerated. Once the time for public participation has passed, discussion of topics will be restricted to Board members only."

NCSS also is seeking electronic public input on its budget.

Late Monday morning, Viniard sent out an e-mail to employees and posted on its Web site, www.newtoncountyschools.org, that NCSS is opening up a Web survey for public input. Teachers could click the link in their e-mail and others can visit the Web site to submit ideas.

"We encourage community input, and we appreciate you taking the time to provide your feedback and suggestions, as we work to finalize our (fiscal year) 2011 budget. We want to hear your ideas on how we can best save and/or best utilize our financial resources during this very difficult economy."

The survey will close May 11 according to the NCSS Web site.

The school board is expected to approve a final budget for the 2010-11 school year on June 15, according to its budget calendar.