Newton head sets sights on Rockdale BOE

CONYERS -- A Newton County administrator is running for a seat on the Board of Education in a neighboring county.

Darrell L. Stephens, 43, an assistant principal at Indian Creek Middle School, qualified last week for an open seat on the Rockdale County Board of Education.

"The current (Rockdale County) board and superintendent have done an excellent job in making sure our school system is great," Stephens said. "If it wasn't for (current board member Jeff) Dugan retiring, I wouldn't be running for the seat."

Stephens has been working in Newton County for the past six years -- five years as an assistant principal at Clements and ICMS. Stephens also has worked as a middle and high school math teacher in Charlotte, N.C. He has been in education for the past 15 years.

Stephens and his family have lived in Georgia, his wife's home state, for 13 years. They lived for nine years in DeKalb County and have been in Rockdale for the past four years. He and his wife have three boys at Flat Shoals Elementary School in Conyers -- two rising third-graders and one rising fourth-grader.

In 1986, he joined the Marine Corps, where he served for the next 13 years, including a stint in Operation Desert Storm.

Afterward, he completed a bachelor's degree in math from Clemson University, a master's degree in educational policy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a specialist degree in educational leadership from Georgia College & State University. In one month, he will complete his doctorate degree in education from Georgia Southern University.

If elected, he hopes to keep Rockdale County Public Schools a successful public education system, but also sees room for improvement.

"I want to get more parent involvement in children's educations," he said. "I was a member of the (RCPS) parent advisory council last year ... and I want to ensure the system continues on its path of success."

He said he would like to continue seeing Rockdale's schools place on national lists and have students continue to score above state averages.

"We're really ahead of the curve," he said. "We don't settle for good; the focus is more on being great."

Being an educator for most of his life, he said he is dedicated to children and helping them achieve their best.

"As a board member, you want to ensure nothing gets in the way of their education," he said. "I am an educator ... and that makes me clear in state policy and how that impacts what (the board) is doing."

Stephens is a member of educational organizations including the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the National Council of Teachers of Math. He has never held an elected office.

He faces four other candidates for the Post 1 At Large seat.