Four Newton County Board of Education members addressed the pending lawsuit by Alcovy High School Principal LaQuanda Carpenter against anonymous bloggers on the Newton Citizen website and board member Jeff Meadors at their combined work session/meeting Tuesday.
"I want to personally and publicly say that my commitment and allegiance, if you will, is to the overall education of the students enrolled in our school system," said board member Abigail Morgan Coggin, who spoke first. "I will not comment or be a part of the discussions being blogged about in our papers and other websites. If people want to make derogatory statements about the school system, board of education members, teachers and administrators, then so be it... If individuals have complaints they need to come forward to meeting with Dr. Mathews, appropriate staff or board of education members. By hiding behind aliases while continuing to make negative statements does not do anyone any good. Ultimately it only hurts the education of our students.
"However as a board of education member I do not, and will not, give the blogs and the bloggers any merit. In my opinion it is not fair to the students, staff and schools to have this unfounded negative publicity overshadow their accomplishments. We have so much to be proud of here in Newton County schools, and it is very sad that a shadow has been cast over the positive accomplishments our schools have made over this past year. I refuse to sit here any longer and listen to the same rhetoric being stated over and over again... I want to start the new school year off on a clean slate and move forward."
Almond Turner was the next board member to speak. He concurred with Morgan Coggin, adding that he was "appalled that our school system has been subjected of so much negative publicity by way of bloggers using the newspaper and the media and other Internet as a means of an attempt to tarnish the image of our school system here in Newton County.
"... If these bloggers have that much love for our children and our school system why are you not willing to sit down and talk to the appropriate person or persons and address your concerns? As we start a new school year, I know our school system will continue to make the strides it has made over the past two years to make our school system the best. I want to thank teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and all the school staff for enduring through these stressful times, and your hard work in making our school system the best," Turner said.
Board chairman Eddie Johnson said that the lawsuit must be handled in a court of law and that he believed the bloggers and their comments were creating a "toxic" environment.
"Engaging in such nonproductive and negative activity only hurt our most precious jewels: our students. It is neither prudent or beneficial to attempt to govern this great institution for our students based on bloggers and their comments. We need our community's support. We cannot do anything other then the best we know what to do to promote education and student achievement from this position of board of education. That I pledge."
Lastly, board member Shakila Henderson-Baker said that she has never hid herself in the community and chooses not to address those who do not reveal their identities.
"When you have an issue you do not resolve the issue by simply bringing an issue and leaving it at that. That's what a coward does. When you have an issue you come with a solution, and I appreciate that.
"I am a product of this school system. I am a very proud product of this school system. My two girls will be products of this school system, as they are currently in the school system. I have faith in every school. As a board member I feel like it is my responsibility to be sure that I can place my child in any school within our school system, regardless of what their test scores is, regardless of what is going on, and my children still succeed, Cause I know what type of parent I am... As an adult we have to stop hiding behind certain names - if somebody is hiding - but as a parent of children within this school system, it is a shame that somebody or some people will find this entertaining at the most, because there are precious children involved in those schools."
Meadors was not present at the meeting, and referred any questions about the civil court case to his lawyer.