Longtime Newton County Board of Education member Almond Turner will run for a fourth term this year amid substantial changes to the Newton County school system.
Turner, also the assistant chief of police for the Covington Police Department, said his 15 years of experience on the board is an asset as the district weathers spending cuts and falling revenue, oversees building projects and integrates technology into its curriculum and classroom.
“We’re changing the way we’re teaching our children with new technology, and I want to make sure we continue those efforts and provide the best quality materials and teachers we can,” Almond said. “Our test scores have begun to increase in last couple years and I want to make sure that continues.”
To accommodate rapid growth over the last few years, Newton County had opened several new schools, including Live Oak Elementary School, Alcovy High School, South Salem Elementary, Flint Hill Elementary and Liberty Middle School, and have expanded most of the county’s existing middle schools.
The district is currently breaking ground on a new Newton County High School and building a home for the Newton County Career Academy.
“I think there are a number of things we still need to look at and some building projects going on and programs we’re implementing. I still need to stick around to make sure they go through and are expedited,” Turner said.
Much of those construction costs are paid for with education SPLOST revenue, though the district has had to issue bonds to cover some costs as well.
First elected in 1997, Turner is the longest-serving member currently on the Board of Education. He currently is chairman of the board, though that position rotates every year.
“We have three new board members and I think my experience and expertise is needed, not to say they’re not capable,” Turner said. “Some have expressed they would like for me to run again because they’ve enjoyed our working relationship as well as the knowledge I bring to get them acclimated into their positions.”
While the district has cut millions from its budget over the last several years as tax revenue and funding from the state and federal governments have fallen, Turner said that while reductions were necessary, the district must take care of its employees to be competitive enough to attract and retain good teachers and staff.
“I’m afraid that if we keep taking, we’re going to lose talent,” he said.
Turner, a Newton County native and graduate of R. L. Cousins High School, has served in the Covington Police Department for 39 years, he said, and he sees his experience in law enforcement as an asset in creating and implementing behavior and disciplinary policy.
“It helps me with policies … and to make sure they’re put together property and they’re properly enforced,” he said.
Turner’s District 4 seat and Eddie Johnson’s District 2 seat are up for election this year. District 1 member Jeff Meadors, District 2 member Shakila Henderson-Baker and District 5 member Abigail Coggin were all elected to their first terms in 2010.