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School board chair explains SPLOST projects

COVINGTON -- The school board chair hopes to clarify with voters some issues surrounding the upcoming SPLOST election.

"Recent newspaper articles and discussions have taken place about our school system as of late. As a NCSS Board Of Education member, I feel the need to clarify some information that is being presented in our community," said Newton County Board of Education Chair Abigail Coggin.

She said that the current Newton County School System facilities plan does state that the Newton County Theme School will move into the current Eastside High School in 2017 after a replacement high school is built, but she wants to stress that it's just a plan, not set in stone.

"The facility plan was developed at a time where the student population was growing by leaps and bounds," she added. "Before the BOE can decide whether or not a new school should be built, the student population and planned growth must be studied so to determine if a new facility is necessary."

She said the school board must look at the needs at a particular time.

"The plan that was approved in the past calls for a replacement EHS to be built next; however, I can say in my personal opinion, based on the current student population, a new high school may not be the best use of funds," she said. "The BOE is notified monthly of the student population and the facility needs. The BOE can vote to change the facility plan based on the needs of our community, and I feel confident that our BOE will make the best decisions possible for our students."

She also wants voters to know that the proposed $4 million for a Viewpath S.A.F.E. security system at each school that would put cameras in every classroom is not just for security.

"It serves many purposes with security being a main factor. Teachers are able to use the camera to record their classroom instruction. Should a student miss school, then the student can access the teacher's site via the internet and watch what was missed in class during their absence," Coggin said. "Another unique feature will allow teachers to share their instructions with other classes. For instance, a teacher could say to another teacher, 'My students are having a hard time understanding a certain topic.' The other teacher could say, 'I explained it this way.' The teacher having the difficulty could show the other teacher's instruction to the class and maybe the students would benefit from the different teaching styles and explanations. Personally, I feel it is a win-win for meeting both the educational and security needs of our students."

Coggin pointed out that legally, SPLOST funds can only be used for capital expenditures.

"The NCSS cannot use SPLOST funds to pay for teachers' salaries, school resource officers' salaries, textbooks and other operating expenditures," she said. "Should the SPLOST IV be approved on March 19, the majority of the funds will be used for Debt Service Relief ($30 million). As a property owner, I think this is a great because ultimately it could reduce the annual taxes I pay on my personal property."

Other areas where the funds will be spent would be $17 million in school technology, $11 million in school maintenance and nearly $10 million in student transportation.

"If SPLOST IV is not approved then the capital projects will have to be paid out of the General Fund if warranted," Coggin said. "Currently 85 percent of the general fund is spent on personnel, which includes salaries and benefits. That leaves 15 percent to be spent on all other expenses including paying down debt, school maintenance, student transportation, textbooks, etc."

She said that since 2006, NCSS has received $53 million less from the state of Georgia based on the funding formula provided by state law.

"Therefore, having SPLOST funds available to cover capital expenses does provide some relief on the general fund and the programs that it funds," she said. "Whether the SPLOST passes or not, I am confident that the BOE will make the best decisions they possibly can about educating our students based on the funds available."

If the March referendum fails, the school board can call for another election as part of the November 2014 General Election.

The current SPLOST ends in December 2014. If approved, the new SPLOST would go into effect the following January and continue until December 2019. It would be the fourth round of an education SPLOST for the county that started in May 2007.

The special election is Tuesday, March 19, when polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters can visit the Secretary of State's My Voter Page to locate their polling place

Early voting started Feb. 25 and will continue until March 15. Voting hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Newton County Administration Building on the first floor across the hall from the election office.

Comments

dennistay53 1 year, 1 month ago

I still ask the same question they can't answer. How do they pay for 75 million woth of projects with 55 to 57 million that SPLOST will bring in ? Will they guarantee the the entire 30 million in debt relief first? How do you pay off 62.5 million in debt with 30 million, even if you get the 30 million ? How can you say you will take up revenue for a replacement high school that you might not build when Georgia Code on SPLOST clearly state that any money taken up for items on the referendrum HAS to be spent on that item and nothing else. Do the math. The math will not add up.

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eyewitness 1 year, 1 month ago

I hope you will come and use your 5 minutes at tonight's board meeting at 7 and speak out. bring many to speak. both papers will be there.

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Lucy30016 1 year, 1 month ago

the state took ur money then go get it from them. I am tired of paying taxes for the quality of schools we have.

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mrsfingerprints 1 year, 1 month ago

You do not have to take anything out of the general fund stop trying to scare teachers. Stop the outgrageous spending every month and save money like we all do at home. How could I manage a family of 3 if I spent out of control and had to ask taxpayers for a penny every five years this is nutso people. Close some schools if you dont need them Fayette County just shut down four schools. Everyone is having to manage budgets and we don't get to put our hands out and stop trying to use safety of children as a way to influenece people this sounds like the lame stream media of CNN all over the map. Stop spending money now on extras I was at a high school on 36 and saw administrators sitting at a lunch table glued to IPADS we paid for out of federal money that is our tax dollar also people. They totally I mean totally ignored kids in the lunchroom.

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OnToday 1 year, 1 month ago

Once again the BOE is forced to explain the mess they helped create.

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TheUpside 1 year, 1 month ago

@ontoday. I sense desperation to take focus away from truth. There are some wanting to bust up Eastside. It goes way back. Vote NO to stop it dead. The original November docs state there is an urgent necessity to replace it.

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ThePublicGood 1 year, 1 month ago

translation of this article. I don't care how it is written just pass it and give us the money.

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mansfield 1 year, 1 month ago

"She said that the current Newton County School System facilities plan does state that the Newton County Theme School will move into the current Eastside High School in 2017 after a replacement high school is built, but she wants to stress that it's just a plan," Of course its "just a plan." You know, its not "set in stone." Why would they try to change their story now when suddenly the SPLOST approval is in big trouble? The school system and the newspapers are trotting out every shill they can find to try and save this tax. Let me congratulate both Douglas and Meadors, they got the attention of the county quicker than anyone I have seen in some time. The school board especially seems to be in a complete panic over their letter. Could it be the letter hit a big nerve and the school board hates to be challenged? No amount of cartwheels, side steps and dancing now will save this SPLOST. This emperor has no clothes and thankfully we have two public servants who were willing to point that out.

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SaveEastsideHigh 1 year, 1 month ago

I agree. I pray this fails because there is a force to dilute Eastside. They have said for years they want us all to look the same. No support for high achievers at all.

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eyewitness 1 year, 1 month ago

THERE IS ABSOLUTELY A MOVE UNDERFOOT TO DISBAND the high school. I hope EHs people will speak out and vote..

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covington300 1 year, 1 month ago

I know, they are going to close EHS and then Alcovy and only have one high school in the whole county. I think this started when they took the County out of Newton High School.. .I think this is all a grand plan set in motion by Ron Bradley so he can come back and get one more state title for Newton COUNTY High School.... it just makes me glad to know that people in the know like you are getting the real truth out. Thanks a bunch!

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John 1 year, 1 month ago

Another explaination that totally reinforces I made the right decision and voted NO in my early voting. Please tell the people of Newton County a Valid & Logical reason why EHS needs to be replaced by 2017if there are no concrete & definitive plans for use of the existing site. IMHO this explaination sounds like a "shopaholic" justifying another spending bing. A real Win-Win situation is never explainted with "maybe" statements - they are based on facts. Comments that include "Maybe" & "could" & "might" "possible" are what I classify as popcorn talk (full of air with very little substantce). Our Mom used had short little & easy to understand sayings she often repeated as we were growing up like "might (mite) is a very, very tiny bug", "can't never got anything done" and "waste not, want not" and many more.

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RV30015 1 year, 1 month ago

I really appreciate the honesty of the two elected offiicials out of district one telling the truth about the language. Anyone can overlook language but to come out and say hey, we are looking closely and we see this is not an "urgent necessity" so we want to be honest with voters. I will vote for honest leaders who come out with the truth no matter when they do it over this opaque cover up tax and spend on vague items stuff any old day.

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Shart15 1 year, 1 month ago

The longer she talks the more I say vote no on this item. Wow the waste is huge.

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manning 1 year, 1 month ago

It is absolutely amazing how the decision put in motion by Dr. Steve Whatley and Dennis Carpenter is no longer “set in stone”! I believe all the Faculty at Ficquett was informed of all this in 2009 – 2010 school year. All the faculty was told this is a “done deal”. They were told in order to get funding for a new Newton High School and a new Elementary School the old buildings (Newton High, Ficquett, and Palmerstone) had to be phased out. This was reiterated to the Faculty and Staff at Ficquett by Dr. Matthews and Dennis Carpenter in the 2010 – 2011 school year. )Refer to Newton Citizen article 08/01/2011; Palmer-Stone was phased out of state funding along with Newton High School and Ficquett Elementary School).

They were told of the plan to house the Newton County Theme School at the old Ficquett building(during phase-out period) and to expand the Newton County Theme to Eastside High School with grades K-12. They were told Eastside was built as a transition school and Eastside would become the new Newton County Theme School. Faculty and Staff at Ficquett tried to get people in the community to listen and no one heard anything they had to say! No one wanted to hear anything they had to say! The county lost a lot of good Faculty and Staff with this move at the end of the 2010-2011 school year!

Now that time is running out (for phase out period)and there has to be a place for the Newton County Theme School to move to and the people are realizing the plan for Eastside it is like a “wake up call”!

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ThePublicGood 1 year, 1 month ago

CARPENTER RESIGNED JUST IN TIME HUH?

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amp72 1 year, 1 month ago

Resigned...forced out....tomato, tomatuh....And looks like Mathews is "retiring" just in time too! What a mess.

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Lucy30016 1 year, 1 month ago

Interesting that the board chair has her kids at the theme school she says may could might take over the high school.

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John 1 year, 1 month ago

It seems someone is clouding the issue by stating EHS was built as a transistion school. It seems EHS was in deed a school in trasistion when it first opened in 1994 until it held 12 grade classes only then could it be officially recognized as a Georgia High School. See an except of an article that clearly defines what & why it happened. The original intent from day one was to build a high school - nothing more or less.

"Eastside Transitional School was built in 1994 to alleviate school overcrowding at Newton High School due to rapid growth that had cropped up in Newton County during the early 1990s. The school opened that same year to grades 6–9. Each year, the lower grade was dropped and a higher grade was added until 1997 when the school became a 9–12 high school, Eastside High School."

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RetiredGuy 1 year, 1 month ago

No more SPLOST programs.

School taxes should all be Real Estate taxes so that it can be deducted on state and federal tax returns.

And, in Newton county the county should have a provision for a Real Estate tax to completely fund the Library. As it is right now, the Library has had to cut a large number of magazines it used to have. The new books purchased has been noticeably reduced. The staff has been slashed.

The Library is a grand center for learning for all ages. It should be funded just like school taxes are funded by Real Estate taxes so we can deduct them.

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dennistay53 1 year, 1 month ago

Two executives gone. They seem to be ok with this by mananging this and spreading reponsibilities out. Don't replace these positions and you save close to 250 thousand a year plus benefits.

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gsm7476 1 year, 1 month ago

There is a movement in the western part of the County to start a new City to get out from under the County neglect. We are planning Next year to ask the State to let us vote on this and to form our own school system. The BOE and the NCSS need to get out of the way and let those us who care about education Lead.

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Frustrated 1 year, 1 month ago

can you give us more information on this?

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gsm7476 1 year, 1 month ago

The Committee will roll out a web site, twitter and facebook page at the end of the summer.

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gsm7476 1 year, 1 month ago

And we are not including the silos the County did not follow their own rules and they need to clean up their own MESS!!!!

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iwantitnow 1 year, 1 month ago

Why would you want to do away with the best high school. Also, it seems the only people that want this are parents who have students at the Theme School. I find it odd that the Theme School cannot go anywhere unless Eastside moves or is eliminated. So we remove what is good in the county and replace it with something just to make a small group happy. Sounds like what is wrong with our schools, county, state and country. Wake up people and look at what is going on.

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Frustrated 1 year, 1 month ago

All you have to do is look back at the previous year and see how much money was wasted by NCSS. It should be no problem deciding which way to vote on this. $500 K to put lights in the new athletic field that should have been added in at the start, water and sewer fees for the new school that werent negotiated until the end, and do I even have to mention the Carpenter fiasco? My vote will be to put a stop to all this crazy spending the BOE is doing.

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SaveEastsideHigh 1 year, 1 month ago

District One & Five citizens vote NO. Save our school and make them go back to the drawing board and write in clear protecctions for Eastside.

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SadCitizen 1 year, 1 month ago

These comments make me sad as a long time citizen of Newton County. There are more commentors on this page bashing not only the school system but other schools than there are attendees at a Board of Education meeting. The parents at the Theme School are no different than the parents at Eastside or East Newton or Mansfield or Heard Mixon that are proud of their schools and the education their children are getting there. Why are you bashing the Theme School parents for wanting the same thing for their children as Eastside parents? A decent building (not one that is 57 years old and phased out by the state) and a quality education. The comment from iwantitnow about keeping a small group happy. Do you even know how many students attend there? Why is your child's education more important than that of mine at the Theme School or any other school in NCSS. I love my children and pay taxes just like you do. Why can't we work together to make things better for all students at ALL schools. Teachers want to run from this county not just because of the Board of Education but because of people in this community that are willing to tear it ALL apart just because they can. I have supported Jeff Meadors through all the Carpenter/Alcovy mess but I am not sure he has the best interest of NCSS at heart anymore. If he thought there was something wrong with the SPLOST why did he vote to put it on the ballot only to bash it now. John Douglas made that tacky comment in the paper about "We have a great school on this side of the county and we want to keep it that way". John, shouldn't all children and parents have access to a quality education or just the ones on the eastern side of the county. I agree Eastside has it going on...so does Indian Creek, East Newton, Heard Mixon and YES the Theme School. These are schools we should be using as models of doing it right not badgering. We are no longer hurting the Board members, administration or the superintendent. This is hurting OUR children and teachers. When we furlough 20 days, up class sizes to 35 in first grade because no business or families want to be a part of this mess, who do you think is going to get hurt. Dr. Matthews? He will be long gone by then. Almond Turner? He has no children in school. This has to stop. Not for the Baxter's of the world but for the future of the children and life of Newton County. Someone better figure out a way to have a dialogue before we truly are a DeKalb or Cobb and there is nothing left of the county some of us love. It is not just the BOE that is causing this turmoil. I am sad, disappointed and sick of all this. I am not sure this SPLOST is the right thing. If you don't believe in it, vote against it. That is your prerogative but starting a new city is ludacris. Okay I am finished. I am sure some of you have some nasty snarly comments to make. Knock yourself out!

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SaveEastsideHigh 1 year, 1 month ago

why would you slam district one officials - they have said more than one time they are not opposed to the idea just to the wording of it all - they are doing what i elected them to do standing up for our side of the county that is constantly in NCSS asked to be more like all the others - we are not allowed to have our honors praised because of perceptions that we are elitist and that is wrong - your 57 year old bulding can find its own bldg ours is ours how arrogant to act like some new theme concept should over take EHS.

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Shart15 1 year, 1 month ago

He already said he supported moving it out to the public vote. I do not view that as a conflict with later being questioned about he verbage and agreeing it misleads us. There is no urgent necessity here. Grow up.

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John 1 year, 1 month ago

No one is badgering anyone - we are all saying it is time to be fiscally responsible no spend foolishly! New brick & motar will not & never has provided a better education for any one - examples Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Chicago, MIT, Georgia Tech. Personally, I went a school that is now 123 years old & I believe I received a darn good education. and the value of a sound education started at home. President Bill Clinton said every American should have the enjoyment of the Amreican Dream & it happened and so did the collapse in 2008 for a lot of reasons but one big one - the borrowers could not pay their mortgage when the monthly payments increased or even stayed the same and their income went down or was lost. They never read & understood the "fine" print before signing or were taken advantage of by a person with a "big" smile and just looking for a nice commission. Hiring a good lawyer to review documents is always advisable, a few hundred dollars can save a lot of heart ache and is "fiscally" advisable. Taxpayers foot the bill for all these "nicety" projects and are simply asking the Commissioners, Chair, Directors, Mayors, Council Members, etc. to be open, honest, responsible and accountable to the taxpayers.

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dennistay53 1 year, 1 month ago

If there is a need for a new building for the Theme school then that should be the lanaguage of the referendrum. Not a new high school. We need to vote it down and get the language changed. Nothing in any of my comments i consider bad mouthing the Theme school. I want say anything neg about your comments here SadCitizens because you have the right to speakup the same as we do. But when we speak up we get called a few unruly voters by some at the school system and other paper.

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gsm7476 1 year, 1 month ago

Throwing money at problem with no leadership and having the same leadership will not fix one problem. 1 eastside is newer than Heritage in Conyers yet it still is a high School why replaces Eastside there is no urgent need if there is they need to make clear to the public so far the BOE (or the key stone cops) has not been clear on any issue in the past 3 years. (Lack of leadership again) A message needs to be sent. ESPLOST cannot spend the money on salaries.

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eyewitness 1 year, 1 month ago

Meadors is the only one who tried to save superintendent search fees voting no on that. The others spend our money. We need more like him.

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SaveEastsideHigh 1 year, 1 month ago

If you love Eastside get out and vote NO.

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SaveEastsideHigh 1 year, 1 month ago

I do not see anything being presented in the community that needs clarifying. If you look at the November 2012 document that I was given it clearly states that they did a "canvass" and found an "urgent necessity" for a replacement high school. English language pretty clear to me. Problem is I ain't buying it. I wish elected people would be honest. If we passed laws that elected board members could not have any relatives in the system and if they were sort of CEO types then we would not have the subjective stuff going on. It is really bad in Newton County.

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John 1 year, 1 month ago

The only thing that is not clear but is important is who, what, when, where and how many were canvassed and what was the tally for and against or otherwise. If one canvasses only members of your own "inner circle or country club" you are highly likely to get a thumbs up.

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dennistay53 1 year, 1 month ago

The problems in DeKalb County was caused by greedy and unlawful acts by school executives and board members, not by citizens speaking up. If not for citizens speaking up these unlawful and greedy acts against the taxpayers of DeKalb would still be going on.

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Lucy30016 1 year, 1 month ago

The new Newton High has elevators and fru fru bleacher paint jobs. It will be trashed like Alcovy in a year. There is how they spend Splost money vote it down.

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SaveEastsideHigh 1 year, 1 month ago

I get the idea she has no idea what she is talking about.

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ThePublicGood 1 year, 1 month ago

defeat this today stop the waste on useless toys like cameras around our necks say no to this board send a message to live within your means

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mrsfingerprints 1 year ago

What did the school board "chair" forget to tell you? Oh um yes we are two years away from a three million dollar red ink line. YOu voters fall for it every single time. More money to public schools = less money for classrooms and more money for fat cats and oversized buildings. U.N.R.E.A.L.

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