Staff Photo: Michelle Floyd. Newton County's District 1 elected Jeff Meadors to serve as its Board of Education representative beginning in January. There was no Democratic candidate in the primary election.
COVINGTON -- Although Jeff Meadors won't begin serving on the Newton County Board of Education until January, he wants to take advantage of his rare opportunity and get a head start.
After facing a runoff in the primary election, Meadors was elected as the District 1 candidate on the Republican ticket. He faces no Democratic opposition in the November General Election. He said he wants to continuously be involved in the school system and with board items before he officially begins his term on the school board.
"Dr. Mathews already has included me in his communication, keeping me in the loop," Meadors said. "And I've already made steps toward securing spots for my training in December and June."
Meadors said he plans to continue attending board meetings, talking with community members and communicating with other school districts to see what's working for them. He hopes to meet with current District 1 representative Johnny Smith and other board members and school officials -- all before he starts as an official board member in January.
Meadors said he is looking forward to working with NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews, who shares his vision about studying data more closely, supporting teachers and looking towards other successful school systems for ideas.
"(Mathews) clearly is someone who will deliver leadership based on research," Meadors said.
In the future, Meadors hopes the school board looks at a shortened school year calendar to save money, using paraprofessionals on a full-time basis, researching International Baccalaureate programs at all grade levels and opposing the Race to the Top initiative from the federal government.
"We have to be in a position ... to ask questions and listen well and hard," Meadors said.
He hopes the school system will consider using high-achieving school programs like International Baccalaureate, which advances student learning and requires foreign language and community service, and different ideas that will allow students to achieve more than adequate testing results.
"We should be far above Adequate Yearly Progress," Meadors said. "To have eight schools failing AYP makes next year even harder in terms of achievement."
He opposes the federal Race to the Top, in which Georgia is a finalist for funding, mainly because it encourages teacher merit pay, which he says hurts student achievement and schools overall. He also is against school improvement grants from the federal government, as many require the dismantling of most of the school and its leadership even when that might not be the problem.
"Federal intrusion into schools has increased," Meadors said. "We know what isn't working and what is working. We don't need intrusive measures by the federal government."
Still, he understands that schools and school systems have to achieve what they are required by law to achieve.
"AYP is a measure set by the state, and we need to meet it," he said, adding that students are being tested at such a high rate now that many teachers are teaching for the test, which presents gaps when students enter college. "Teachers know content, and if we get out of their way and let them teach, we would see more good things."
Meadors wants to focus on the fundamentals of education like school safety and discipline, as well as forward-thinking ideas like the Newton College & Career Academy and the Fairview parent-involvement theme school.
"When we see a model that is working in terms of instruction and achievement ... we better support it and maintain it and do everything we can to export (their ideas) to other schools in the district," he said. "Every school has unique things going on. We have to export out what is working and what is not working."
He wants to mix common sense with reliable research to see what's best for students and employees.
"With a lot of hard work and data collection ... we stand the chance with the right pieces of the puzzle in place to have a premier district," Meadors said.
In turn, he hopes it would attract more businesses to the area, which is conveniently situated between Atlanta, Athens, Augusta and the lake district.
"Retail and industries look at things like (student) test scores when they are making decisions about coming into the county," he said. "It's a critical time ... because we have businesses not choosing Newton because of our schools' AYP report."
Meadors encourages community members from any district to contact him by e-mailing jeffrey.meadors@gmail.
com, calling 770-891-5906 or finding him on Facebook. He said educators also are welcome to contact him about any concerns, but he will follow the proper chain of command to handle any serious issues.
"While District 1 elected me, and I will proudly serve them, I serve five districts," he said. "I will work very hard to represent all five districts."