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STEM institute planned for part of old Newton High; School board to decide on fate of remainder of building

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Board of Education is planning to discuss the future of the former Newton High School building on Ram Drive.

During a discussion of technology needed for a new program that is planned to be located in the ninth-grade wing of the old Newton High School on Ram Drive, some school board members expressed concerns about the future of the building.

"No decision to my knowledge has been made as to what to do with the old Newton County high school," said school board member Eddie Johnson. "Now we are putting a program in it and superseding a decision that has not been made."

The ninth-grade wing is connected to Porter Memorial Auditorium and is newer than the rest of the school building; it is connected to the rest of the building by an open breezeway and attached at the front, according to Gary Shattuck, director of Technology for the Newton County School System.

"It would be easy to tear down the rest of the building and leave that part intact," Shattuck said.

Then-Superintendent Gary Mathews said the system has funding in its budget to raze the entire school building, if the board so wishes. He added that the curriculum and instruction department wishes to provide a STEM program to students, and the most natural and logical place to put it is adjacent to the Newton College and Career Academy in the wing.

"This is part of a bigger picture," Mathews said. "In the state of Georgia ... this is one of the major initiatives of the governor and the Georgia Department of Education, so we're ahead of the game in that we want to be one of the first to provide a STEM program."

Mathews, who retired at the end of June, said he recommends that the board leave the ninth-grade corridor for the STEM program, thus leaving the auditorium for the Newton County Arts Association to continue to use, and make a decision on whether to keep the gym and the rest of the building.

"We believe that though it is old, our community needs this performance space that was built for use by the Arts Association ... as well as the school system," said Buncie Lanners, the Arts Association's executive director. "This partnership goes back to the actual building of the facility and the evolution of our organization, which began as the Fine Arts Advisory Committee of the Newton County School System. Just like we have shared the facility with Newton High all of these years and hosted our large performances there -- most of which benefit the school system by providing in-school residency performances for an entire grade or educational genre as well as augmenting the arts education of the students who participate in our Young Artists programs -- so too, in the future, do we see this partnership with the Newton County Schools and the Newton County College and Career Academy to benefit our community, its schools and its students."

She added that the auditorium allows Newton County students to experience the arts, since students are no longer bused to arts venues in Atlanta for field trips. This past school year, students watched performances of "The Nutcracker" and "Snow White" ballets by the Covington Regional Ballet, "Les Miserables" by the Oxford Youth Singers and "School House Rock Live, Jr." by the Oxford Singing Children at the auditorium.

"We need some fundamental planning as to what the total structure will look like," Johnson said Tuesday during the meeting. "I'm for the STEM program ... but we have not done the proper planning."

School board Chair Abigail Coggin suggested that the item be placed on the July agenda, since it was not on the board's agenda for June.

"Sharp (Middle School) has been sitting empty for several years and there's not been a decision there," she added. "If we're going to start razing buildings and schools, we need to do it with all the schools that are sitting empty too. We can't just pick on Newton High, so to speak."

According to documents provided by Lanners, in February 1989, the Newton County Board of Education approved a proposal by the then-Community Concert Association that continued an agreement signed in November 1983 between the city of Covington and the school board with the Porter Concert Series.

The auditorium was built with funds from the Porter Foundation. The Porter Fund also paid for the concert grand piano used by the Arts Association, and the Arnold Fund paid for the building of the green room for artists and current seating in the auditorium, all considered gifts negotiated by the Arts Association for the school and the organization, Lanners said.

Shattuck added that the new deputy superintendent, Craig Lockhart, who was approved at the school board's June meeting, will be able to be part of the decision-making in July.

"There's been a lot of planning that has gone into the STEM initiative," Mathews added.

The STEM institute will focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It will be academically connected to the Newton College and Career Academy, according to a presentation made by school officials in January.

It will be open to a group of ninth-grade students who applied to the program earlier this year based on math and science scores in middle school. Afterward, they can attend classes at NCCA.

During the program, students will take rigorous math and science courses complemented by other courses. In the future, the program may partner with post-secondary schools like the Georgia Institute of Technology and Abraham Baldwin Agriculture College, among others.

The board is next scheduled to meet for a combined monthly work session and meeting at 7 p.m. July 16 in the board room at the Newton BOE building, which is located at 2109 Newton Drive N.E. in Covington.

Comments

TruthDetector 9 months, 2 weeks ago

This board sounds like a train wreck talking over each other getting emotional acting the fool it's a wonder the county is looked at so bad in terms of the schools. Bicker and yell if we are paying a lot for some arts assn then I say let them become for profit and pay their own way we taxpayers can't afford your wanting to hire more SROS for bad bus behavior and nurses to wipe noses. What about putting money into classrooms isn't that what you are supposed to be about? Never seen a bunch of board members who shout at each other like this are we the new Clayton?

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Lucy30016 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Someone should investigate if tax money in a phased out bldg can fund an arts association sounds fishy to me and I dont want to pay for this. Cant our infamous school board use their precious SPLOST cash?

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Shart15 9 months, 2 weeks ago

What does this Buncie chick have to do with this? Why even quote her?

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SaveEastsideHigh 9 months, 2 weeks ago

My kid is at Eastside High far away from all of this stupidity detailed in this article I don't want mine leaving Eastside for any of this bunk. If it's not Eastside then they will go to Peachtree Christian not anywhere near this career academy garbage. The demographics on the career academy enrollment shared with me make it just another Newton High spending gobs of taxpayer money on hair weaving and cosmetology. That is not what schools need to be doing what are the math and science scores of the NCCA kids like? Tell me that data.

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Holymoly 9 months, 1 week ago

Just so you know...this article is in regards to the STEM. These are kids from ALL over the county (only 55), including Eastside. The cream of the crop with the highest tests scores were invited. They will not be IN (per say) the NCCA. This "academic segregation" is why they have their own wing in the old NHS.

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dennistay53 9 months, 1 week ago

The old NCHS was REPLACED with the new one. Everything should be moved to the new one and the old one torn down so taxpayers don't have to pay for maintenance and operation of 2 NCHS's. Or were we lied to again with ESPLOST?

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Holymoly 9 months, 1 week ago

It's a SINGLE hall. It is actually newer than the rest of the school. It was an addition to the "old" school. So you think the Porter Auditorium should be torn down too?

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dennistay53 9 months, 1 week ago

Everything should be moved to the new school. No upkeep for the old school. It was replaced with millions of dollars of ESPLOST.

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eyewitness 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't get any of this especially the career academy the leadership needs to get a grip on that place based on the last public reporting it is 77% non white are white kids even interested in this place or is it just a glorified vocational school where they do hair and cook? Not sure how this helps the county or system if they are not finding ways to recruit ALL kids these schools systems put ALL in all CAPS so I am they say we are educating for success of ALL kids but you only have 599 kids there and 461 of them are non white by your own reports so you are telling me that out of 4,763 NCSS students in grades 9 - 12 you can only find 138 white kids interested in this junk? Sounds like reverse discrimination to me NCCA! If you have only 599 kids at NCCA and I guess that may include the little preK children numbers not so sure then why do you need to be approving two fulltime counselors and two fulltime assistant principals and all these crazy jobs funded by taxpayers who is writing grants to make this work and when is the renewal petition coming up I'd like to see numbers on what this school is doing to actively draw in non-minority kids?

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RV30015 9 months, 2 weeks ago

These programs get grant money to start off like seed money but it is up to them meeting the goals listed in their charter when they are up for renewal to see if they can keep operating but taxpayers carry the weight of operating the grants don't pay that and if this one turns into the vocational school of the 1970's then we basically have Newton Shop Academy. More accountability needed on this one.

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John 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Sounds to me like there are two candiates for an "expanded" theme school to me - NHS & Sharp vs the "spending on steriods idea" of building a new repalcement for EHS. No need to spend big bucks (or any $$) on the theme schools if we haven't seen a report card on the current one.

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ThePublicGood 9 months, 2 weeks ago

John even though most board members don't have spines Douglas (BOC) and Meadors (BOE) had it right on the EHS replacement. The language in the SPLOST lies. It says a thorough canvas was conducted and an urgent necessity existed for a replacement high school. What a bunch of doo doo when enrollment hovers at and below 19000 and they said this was written for 24 to 25000 students. They pulled the wool over the voters eyes and did not listen to the people telling the truth on this. The next SPLOST won't pass I hope because they lied on this one only two people tried to be honest here and some columnist across town even was not honest about them. Politics in Newton County is corrupt. Baxter knows it.

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Thishonky 9 months, 2 weeks ago

@John all of the board members who have elementary age kids they all go to the theme school so that tells you all you need to know.

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brown259 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I've said it before and I will say it again... If the students that are attending the NCSS Parent Involvement Theme School were attending their "home" school AND their parents were involved we would have quality elementary schools throughout this county. It doesn't make sense to take the only parents that have the time and are willing to volunteer and put them all at one school. Why not keep this volunteerism spirit availble to more students. I can only imagine the wonderful impact that could be had if voluntering parents were available where it really needed. And I agree with the above comment, there is no need in building a new Eastside, we have two buildings that could be used for the NCSS if it continues to exist. FYI- does everyone realize that the NCSS Theme School does not accept special education regardless of the amount of time that the parent is available to volunteer. Regardless of the fact that these students exceed on the CRCT and in their classes, since they have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), they are not able to attend because support services are not available (ex. Para-support, Co-teaching) So the NCSS is saying It's OK to discriminate against these students, we just don't have the staff. We only want the cream of the crop at the NCSS theme school, so we can show that this is working. Sounds like a lawsuit just waiting to happen. The NCSS is trying to do the same thing with the STEM school, the Career Acadmy IS just a glorified technical school! Just take a quick look on You Tube under "Harlem Shake NCCA" this was something that was "approved by the administration". I am thrilled to say my son will graduate from Eastside this year and my other children will be graduating from another school district because of the crap that is being allowed to happen in Newton County. Can the school board try this.... Try to provide qualiity education services to ALL students, don't the children of Newton County all deserve the right to the best education available?

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NoSPLOST 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Thank you @brown for sharing this. Along with the crazy hiring going on at NCCA this is the best argument all year for why we do not need these career academies I am sending this You Tube video link to Casey Cagle and John Barge and Nathan Deal so they can see what their 3 million dollar grant money plus additional dollars got for us taxpayers keep sharing please.

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Tatersalad 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Look at the video here and you will see what your tax dollars have gotten you at the Newton College & Career Academy. Absolutely appalling - see this link or Google NCCA Harlem Shake these students are destroying cafeteria tables we pay for. This school should be shut down.

Link just shared with me you will be mad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0hhTX...

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TeacherMan 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Whoaaaa! I just watched the NCCA HARLEM SHAKE on You Tube and these children are not leading a quiet life nor are they minding their own busyness. Sounds to me like this may be why the math scores arent good round town EVERYBODY DANCE NOW on the taxpayer's tables.

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Meep 9 months, 2 weeks ago

This NCCA Harlem Shake video is disturbing for many reasons, safety, damage to taxpayer property, no teaching going on and it signals bad leadership at NCCA. Sad to see this video on the world wide web and apparently endorsed by administrators. Who is running the BOE?

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brown259 9 months, 2 weeks ago

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TheUpside 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Disgusted by this school system why is this allowed and they beg for money and whine about working 180 days a year?

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dennistay53 9 months, 1 week ago

They keep finding money in the budget to do things (Tear down buildings here) yet they keep hollering about being broke and crying for more. This school system has no chance at improvement with the leaders they have.

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John 9 months, 1 week ago

"Someday" those in the NCSS, BOE, County Commisioner Office, C of C, etc. need to be held directly accountable when they continue to spend money somebody else money like sailor that have been out to sea for 6 months. When things get "messed up" there is nothing but a bunch of "finger" pointing and no one "mans up" or "womens up".

I know that in Cinderalla there was a song titled "Someday My Princess Will Come" and he did but that was in a fairytale. The taxpayer's money is real & they deserve a rprogress report & final report card on all these "great idea (aka pet projects)" or poorly planned projects. If they fail to perform as promise someone get's the hook. For example, a mere (I say with tongue in check) $500K oversight(mistake) in planning the new NHS was sugar coated with popcorn responses and not even a slap on the wrist. "Thank God & Greyhound" that person is gone but not before getting a $70K check to share.

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dennistay53 9 months, 1 week ago

People just don't get it. The 2007 ESPLOST was to build a replacement school to replace Newton County High. It wasn't to build an ADDITIONAL school wheras the property owners would have to support the maintenance of TWO Newton County high schools, a new one and a old one. When you build a replacement school EVERYTHING and EVERYONE is to be moved to the new school and the old one be torn down ( or sold privately) along with the property. This avoids property owners from having to keep up both properties. SPLOST is supposed to be used to LESSEN the burden on property owners and not to ADD ON to the burden of property owners.

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Meep 9 months, 1 week ago

VERY DISAPPOINTED IN WHAT HAS BEEN ALLOWED TO HAPPEN TO NCCA.

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Crazyhooker99 8 months, 3 weeks ago

@ truth detector the NCSS is notorious for bickering and shouting at one another so you want to know why? Because A chosen few on the board think they are superior then others. Also they couldn't agree to save their lives. The only one that is decent is Jeff Meadors but we all know that. I find it sad that these individuals don't care enough to see that the money needs to be put in the classrooms where it belongs.

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