COVINGTON -- Democrat candidates for the Newton County Board of Education's District 4 seat recently faced off at a forum, discussing the future of Newton County's children.
Both natives of Newton County, incumbent Almond Turner and his opponent Franklin Perry participated in a forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and The Covington News and held at The Center last week.
The two said their interest in children make them qualified to be on the school board.
"I know my calling is working with children," said Perry, who has been a teacher, school administrator and superintendent in counties around Georgia.
Turner, who has been on the board for 16 years, said he's been actively involved in implementing programs and involving citizens to improve schools.
"We need to have quality education to be successful," said Turner, who also is assistant police chief for the Covington Police Department. "My record speaks for itself."
Turner said he is very supportive of having choices for all children, such as with schools like the Newton College & Career Academy and the Newton County Theme School, which touts parent involvement.
"We need to give students choices so they can be successful," Turner said.
Perry added that a greater focus needs to start at the lower grade levels, so students will be on track from the beginning.
"We need to make sure students are on board and kept up," he said.
Perry said more parents need to get involved and teachers need greater support to help increase test scores and graduation rates.
Turner said teachers need more support through technology and equipment and after school programs, which are already in place.
Both said they have experience with developing budgets and policies.
Turner said he believes that he's been fair to students, teachers and administrators when making budget decisions and also responsive to the needs of the community.
Perry said when he worked as a superintendent, he helped take system out of a deficit within a year.
He said he wouldn't give the current board an 'A' because of "some situations going on that should be addressed," he said, without giving specifics.
"We need to be examples. We have to model what we expect for our children," he said. "As a board, we set the tone for the whole district. ... Perception is everything. We don't have good perception. The board has to take responsibility."
Turner admitted that "some issues" have created a perception problem, which is "very frustrating." He said "four, five or six people" have blogged in local newspapers, which is "creating havoc in the community."
"A lot of it is not true," he said, adding that the board has addressed many issues that people are talking about.
He said the board has a responsibility to make sure every child has quality education.
Perry encouraged citizens to vote for him if they aren't satisfied with the current board, as he is not.
"I refuse to sit back with the skills God gave me and not offer my services," he said.