Democrat seeking BOE spot

COVINGTON -- A Covington resident thinks she can help out the Newton County Board of Education during the current economic downturn.

During qualifying week last month, Sharon Sawyer qualified as the sole democrat 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 and is up for reelection this year.

"I think they need a fresh set of eyes to look at the numbers," said Sawyer, who is originally from Atlanta and has lived in Covington for the past 23 years with her husband Forrest.

Sawyer said the main challenge for the school board is finances and its effects.

"We need to find some ways to maintain jobs for teachers and also establish excellent education for our kids," she said, adding that they need the support of residents and parents. "I will be able to take the blows and make hard decisions. We have to think about the impact it will have on Newton County since (the school system) is the largest employer."

She said to maintain the level of education that the Newton County School System is at now, the school board will have to tighten its budget and retain the best of the best educators. She also feels maintaining sports and other activities help students keep up their grades and keep them focused on school.

Sawyer, who has had a son and goddaughter graduate from NCSS schools and has three grandchildren in schools, attends Early Hope Baptist Church, volunteers with Main Street Covington on the gospel committee to orchestrate concerts and is a board member for the African American Historic Association in Newton County.

She has been a senior claims specialist for 13 years at Acuity Brands Lighting, formerly Lithonia Lighting, in Conyers. She previously worked in accounting and collections at companies in Covington and Atlanta, while taking business courses through her employers.

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.

Qualifying for the Newton County Board of Education already has ended.