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STOVALL: Take a well-deserved bow, Newton County high schools
Gabriel Stovall
Gabriel Stovall, Publisher and Editor of The Covington News.

Newton County School System, stop what you’re doing and take a collective bow. 

One of my favorite stories we’ve published this month was one that didn’t make the front page. It wasn’t the longest or most thoroughly written piece. In fact, unless you’re accustomed to reading our print edition from front to back, it could’ve been easy to miss. 

It’s the story that says our school system is a leader in Georgia when it comes to graduation rates. In fact, our school system is outpacing the statewide graduation rate, and that is fantastic news. 

It’s so easy to point out the negatives. No, it doesn’t mean NCSS is perfect. I’m sure 10-year superintendent Samantha Fuhrey will attest to that. And that’s not a dig on the school system, nor the students, faculty and staff who comprise it. It’s just the standard admittance that there’s always room for improvement. 

In fact, the constant desire to push the envelope for growth and betterment is exactly why Newton County Schools are where they are today. 

 And it’s that desire for betterment and improvement that, I believe, will help it become even more cutting edge tomorrow. 

For 2022, Newton High leads the way with a 92% graduation rate which is up a percentage from 2021 and up five percentage points from 2018. Alcovy’s 89% is also up five points from 2018 and an increase of four percentage points from 2021. Meanwhile, Eastside’s seen a 91% graduation rate for three of the last five years, including 2021 and 2022. 

In comparison, Georgia as a state has rested at an 84% rate since 2020. Cumulatively, our three high schools boast a 90% graduation rate for 2022 — that’s six points higher than the state average.

What does it mean? 

It means that when students enter high school in one of our county’s three secondary institutions, they’re almost assured of getting the kind of education that prepares them to tackle the “real world,” whether we’re talking college, trade school, the military or some other path. 

It also means that students, parents and guardians, teachers, principals, administrators, coaches, custodians and everyone else in between deserve some kudos for creating environments conducive to scholastic achievement. 

These students aren’t just sliding by, either. In addition to posting “the highest graduation rate yet” for the system, Fuhrey mentioned that the system’s high school grads “earned more than $75 million in academic, athletic and fine arts scholarships.” That means a huge chunk of our graduates have their eyes set on post-secondary work, and are properly preparing themselves for it. 

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll hopefully be sitting down to talk a bit with Mrs. Fuhrey, not just about current achievements, but also what the next frontier of growth could look like for our school system. 

I have a soft spot in my heart for educators. I always have. I come from a long family line of teachers, educators, professors and school administrators. My wife still sits on the school board in Richmond County. I’ve seen firsthand, in many ways, the rigors, challenges and obstacles that stand in the way of getting the best out of our students and school systems. Being an education professional in this day and age is not for the faint of heart. 

And, as seems to be the case with most things nowadays, we can’t have discussions about progress without those discussions getting mucked up by partisan political fervor — which, in my opinion, should have little if any place in the discourse of bettering our school systems. 

Meanwhile, students, teachers and administrators, for the most part, just keep their heads down and do the best they can with what they have. Educators are among the best in any community at getting the most they can out of the smallest resources. And it’s past time for that to change. 

Until it does, may we continue to look for reasons to celebrate what our schools are accomplishing in the midst of a polarizing national climate, unprecedented household challenges and shrinking resources all while fighting through unprecedented challenges due to a stubborn pandemic. 

 My father used to say, “a little encouragement goes a long way.” And he’s right. While it’s so easy to be negative, the ability to point out, and celebrate our school system’s positives, may be the fuel needed for hardworking teachers, faculty, students and staff to keep going until better days for our educational professionals come. 

NCSS, we thank you for all that you do. 

 Gabriel Stovall is the publisher and editor of The Covington News. He can be reached at and on Twitter and Instagram: @GabrielCStovall.