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The next step: Three BOE members ending their terms

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

COVINGTON -- This month two long-standing school board members will say goodbye to leadership positions in a school system where they have helped make decisions for nearly a decade.

Newton County Board of Education members Cathy Dobbs and Johnny Smith attended their last school board meeting Tuesday, when the board met for its monthly meeting. The two decided earlier this year that they would not seek re-election.

Both said Tuesday that they did not regret their decision.

"It was definitely the right call for me," said Smith, who began serving in November 2004 to fill the remaining two years of the term of the late Richard Tiede. Smith was re-elected in November 2006 for a four-year term. "Now is the right time. ... The most difficult part is leaving in uncertain times," he said.

But both Smith and Dobbs have faith that Superintendent Gary Mathews and the remaining and incoming school board members will handle the situation to the best of their abilities.

"Dr. Mathews is going to be a great superintendent," Smith said.

Dobbs, who began her service on the board in January 2003, said she has told incoming board members to stay focused on what their boundaries are, to move on from issues after their votes are cast, and to not be a one-issue person.

"Let the people we hire run the school system -- you just need to watch what they're doing," she said. "And try to keep your personal feelings out of it ... and keep every child in mind. ... There's going to be less coming in and less programs."

Dobbs said she will miss being able to help shape the future and make decisions for the Newton County School System.

"It's been a lot of fun and pretty fulfilling," she said. "But it's time for somebody else to come on."

Some of her most memorable moments on the school board were the building of Alcovy High School, the repairing of Sharp Stadium and its field and, most recently, the hiring of Mathews.

"That was something the whole board was excited about because he brings a lot of vision to the board to what needs to be done," she said.

She also is excited about a new Newton High School and the plan to eliminate the need for portable classrooms in the many of the schools.

"I came in during a time where we were having explosive growth, and we had so many children in portable classrooms," she said. "It was a painful growth."

Smith, whose wife is a teacher in the school system, is glad the board got to help push forward the Newton College & Career Academy.

"That's something we've wanted since I've been on the board," he said. "It's important for our system."

Both said the new board will have to make some tough decisions because more budget cuts are sure to come.

"It's very unfortunate that the economy is the way it is," Smith said. "The blunt of the issues affect teachers, and it's so unfair. There's nothing we can do about it, but it's still frustrating for us."

School board member Greg Proffitt, who began serving on the school board in June to fill the unexpired term of Dr. C.C. Bates, also will end his term this month.

"It has been a pleasure to serve and help out," he said. "I think the system is in good hands and headed in the right direction."

Incoming elected school board members Shakila Henderson-Baker, Abigail Morgan Coggin and Jeff Meadors will begin their four-year terms in January. Board members Almond Turner and Eddie Johnson will remain on the board after the new year.

"We have some tough decisions to make," Turner said. "All of us come from different backgrounds ... and the decisions we make have always been about what is in the best interest of the school system."