COVINGTON -- Most members of the Newton County Board of Education gave statements during their monthly meeting Tuesday regarding negative public comments.
During the Other Matters of Interest portion of Tuesday's meeting, four school board members discussed their disdain for negative comments that have appeared on the Newton Citizen and other websites about the system's schools and staff. Additionally, board members said they would not respond to citizens who did not identify themselves or to anyone asking about the lawsuit filed by Alcovy High School Principal LaQuanda Carpenter against anonymous web commenters and school board Vice Chair Jeff Meadors, since it's not a board issue.
Meadors was not present during Tuesday's meeting because of a family matter; Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews also was not present because of health reasons.
"Hiding behind aliases is not doing any good," said board member Abigail Coggin. "It only hurts the students."
She suggested that anyone with grievances about a school should report them to Mathews or an administrator.
"I want to start the new school year off on a clean slate," she said, adding that the board has had to deal with "negative publicity" over the last several months.
She said if the newspapers allow the comments, then it's their right, but she will not give the comments any merit and has stopped reading them.
Additionally, she added that the lawsuit must play out in court and that the school board nor school system are involved in the suit.
Fellow board member Almond Turner agreed with Coggin and said he was "appalled" at the "negative publicity."
"I don't feel the need to respond to issues that already have been dealt with," he said, adding that allegations have been investigated by NCSS that concluded the accused party was cleared. Turner did not specify what those allegations were.
Board Chair Eddie Johnson added that he also "had an issue" with the negative comments because the work force has enough problems to worry about due to the struggling economy.
"The negative comments generate an excitement of some," he said. "It makes for a toxic environment for the children and the work force. It's neither prudent nor beneficial. We need our community support. We can't do anything other than the best we can do."
Board member Shakila Henderson-Baker said that she has never hidden who she was and she doesn't address people who don't reveal who they are to her.
She said she appreciates the community members who have contacted her and suggested that if anyone has an issue, that they should come forward with a solution as well.
"You're not going to be able to satisfy everybody," she said. "Ultimately, we're here for the children. ... My focus will always be on the children."