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Arts programmer seeks BOE seat

COVINGTON -- A parent and employee of the Newton County Arts Association wants to make decisions for the better of Newton County students and employees by serving on the Newton County Board of Education.

During qualifying week last month, Abigail Morgan Coggin qualified on the Republican ticket for the District 5 seat on the school board. It is currently held by C.C. Bates, who is vacating her seat later this month. The post is up for re-election this year.

"My family has been in politics, and I worked in politics," said Coggin, 36, daughter of Newton County Commission Chair Kathy Morgan and who worked in legislative affairs in the state for about eight years. "When C.C. resigned, it made me more aware of a need for someone to fill the position. ... Those are big shoes to fill."

Coggin, who has worked as program director at the Newton County Arts Association for the past eight years, said she feels she could be fair and look at situations through the perspective of a parent, student, teacher and taxpayer.

"I can step back and take emotions out of the situation," said Coggin, a parent of rising second-grader Shaw at East Newton Elementary School, as well as rising prekindergarten student Kathleen at the First United Methodist Church of Covington. "I'm not going to be a saving grace, and I'm not going to have all of the answers, but I can offer a unique perspective and ... I will sit back and listen to all sides of an argument and make the best decision for children, teachers and support employees."

Coggin said she is qualified as a parent with a child in the school system, as someone who serves on the school PTO, and as an employee who works with the Arts Association with and in the schools on a daily basis, as well as having experience working at the state level.

"I can see it from many perspectives," she said, adding that her husband Derek is a teacher and coach in Gwinnett County and that her sister is an art teacher at Palmer Stone Elementary School. "I have relationships and can offer a better perspective than the average person."

Coggin said she plans to focus on children's success and especially is concerned about the budget, which she knows isn't as cut and dried as many people think as it deals with both local and state monies.

"First and foremost, we've got to look at the amount of money coming in," she said. "It's great to have extra programs, but you've got to look at the amount of money coming in and what that will let us provide. ... You have to look at what you've got and start from there."

She hopes to look at current programs and employees to determine the effectiveness of them.

Coggin also wants to focus on better communication between school administration, parents and teachers and provide a firm foundation for students at an early age.

A lifetime Newton County resident, she graduated from Newton High School in 1992 and attended Oxford College of Emory University; she later obtained a bachelor's degree in political science from Emory in Atlanta.

This would be her first elected seat. She also is a cultural arts representative on the PTO board at East Newton Elementary and chair of the prekindergarten program and a children's council member at First United Methodist Church of Covington.

In addition to the District 5 seat, Johnny Smith's District 1 and Cathy Dobbs' District 3 seats are up for re-election this year on the Newton County Board of Education. Neither plan to seek re-election.