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Posted: January 15, 2009 7:09 p.m.

Veteran, newcomer sworn in as BOE members

Rookie member challenges old guard at his first meeting

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On the board: The Newton County Board of Education now consists of Eddie Johnson, left, Cathy Dobbs, Almond Turner, Superintendent Steven Whatley, seated, C.C. Bates and Johnny Smith.

 Newton County Board of Education Chairman Almond Turner and new council member Eddie Johnson were sworn in at the board’s Jan. 13 meeting.

 Turner, who has been a member of the board since 2000, ran unopposed in last year’s general election for the Dist. 4 seat. Johnson, a NCSS bus driver and former phone company manager, defeated 12-year veteran Rickie Corley for the Dist. 2 seat in the Nov. 4 election.

 "It’s an honor and a real pleasure to be a member of this board and I just hope I can fulfill the investment and thought the public has entrusted in me to do so," Johnson said.

 Johnson’s first meeting as a BOE member was marked with contention as he challenged the veteran members on several issues concerning the theme school and the naming of the new elementary school No. 14 on Kirkland Road.

 Johnson’s concerns with the theme school program centered on the procedures by which students will be selected to attend the schools and transportation.

 "I feel, unless they (selection guidelines) are very definitive, that we could end up with a racial imbalance in this school," said Johnson.

 BOE member Cathy Dobbs, district 3, clarified that the theme school selection is lottery based, with students being randomly drawn from the pool of applicants.

 Johnson’s second point of the contention concerned the board’s transportation plan for students who selected to attend the school. Johnson said the plan, which is posted on the NCSS Web site, could be confusing to parents since it states transportation maybe provided for elementary school students and will only be provided for those students living in the Clements Middle School zone.

 "The burden should be on the board to make a definitive transportation policy. I think it’s creating havoc, and it’s going to turn a lot of parents off because of the inadequacies we have with the transportation issue," Johnson said.

 Johnson said from his perspective transportation is the key to success of the theme school program. He asked for help from his board members to identify specific steps needed to resolve the parent’s transportation concerns.

 "If you don’t clear up an understanding of the contract and a clear transportation policy, you’re going to have ‘those who have’ attend the school, and ‘those who are not have’ won’t attend the school," Johnson said.

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