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Posted: July 16, 2010 9:05 p.m.

BOE District 3 - Shakila Henderson-Baker (D)

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Shakila Henderson-Baker

Shakila Henderson-Baker is running for the District 3 seat on the Newton County Board of Education, and she believes she has a leg up on the other candidates for Board of Education — she has school-aged children.

"The final question I posed to myself before I decided to run is ‘What would I do if my child was in the school system?’ I can answer that because it is my child in school. That’s a huge difference," Baker said Tuesday. "There’s so much miscommunication with the school system that sometimes we only hear the bad news. As a parent, I can see what’s going on and be more accessible to fellow parents. I’ll be at the schools."

The life-long Newton County resident said she’s running because she has two girls in school and wants to help the school system for their sake. Star is a kindergartner at Fairview Theme School and Sarai is in pre-kindergarten at Palmer Stone Elementary.

She said while much of the emphasis has been placed on the high school level, with standardized testing, she wants to make sure the educational needs of elementary and middle schools are met.

"Early education and intervention is crucial. There is research that says if a child can’t read by the third grade, they will never be able to read properly," she said. "We have third graders who can’t phonetically sound out words."

She feels she will be the best candidate because she is actively involved at every level of education. She works with high school students and young adults as a case worker through the Youth Workforce Investment Act, which provides academic employability skills to youth for the purpose of ensuring high school graduation and after school employment.

She has worked with elementary and middle school students at Washington Street Community Center for the past four years as a teen coordinator and after school tutor. In addition, she is a representative on the school council at Fairview, the parental involvement theme school.

"You are going to find me at Fairview almost on a daily basis, so much so that some of the parents for a long time thought I was employed there," she said in a press release.

"I’m not going to be one of those board members who just hears what’s going on, you will see my face at the school," she said in a follow-up interview.

Finally, Baker is a certified anger management specialist and is certified to teach parenting and family classes. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Fort Valley State University and with a master’s degree in counseling from Troy University.

As far as the current budget crisis, Baker said she doesn’t want to see special education cut because those are precisely the students who need extra help.

"If we can’t help them, who will?" she asked.

She said she also hopes the board does not cut middle school sports, because her own cheerleading experience at Cousins Middle School was something that stayed with her through college.

Baker is a mental health clinician at the Gwinnett Rockdale Newton Community Service Board and works with people suffering from substance abuse and chronic mental illness. She was formerly an intern at the Henry County Counseling Center. Baker also works with youth at St. Paul AME Church, where she is a member. Baker is the daughter of Donald and Sallie Henderson and the daughter-in-law of Dr. and Mrs. Melvin O. Baker.

For more information visit her website at henderson-baker.com, her blog at hendersonbakerforboe.blogger.com, e-mail her at shakila@henderson-baker.com or call her on her cell at (770) 853-9614.

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