Bailey for Board of Education

Putting the LOCAL Back in Local Education

It is more noble to strike out swinging than to get caught looking.

Growing up in Newton County, my dad coached me a few years in Dixie Boys baseball. I wasn’t the most aggressive boy. As a matter of fact, I still have a hard time understanding the energy and rambunctiousness of little boys. Being a somewhat uncharacteristically cautious boy, if I was uncertain whether or not the ball was absolutely in the strike zone, I would default to watching strike three cross the plate…without ever swinging the bat. In baseball nomenclature it’s called, “getting caught looking.” The dreaded backward K in the scorebook. And it would anger my dad to no end. He would say, “don’t ever get caught looking! If it’s close, SWING THE BAT!” He was right, you must at least give yourself a chance of getting a hit. For my dad, it was more noble to strike out swinging than to get caught looking.

For my dad, it was more noble to strike out swinging than to get caught looking.

I’ve tried to take that Little League lesson into my life. When faced with situations where I’m not certain, my tendency is to be calculated, go slow, and make sure of something before acting. This can pay dividends, but it can also cost you to strike out with the bat on your shoulder. And I still get caught looking at times. But now it makes me even more aware of my opportunities to swing the bat.

I had a chance to swing the bat this week.

Today, a letter will go home with Newton County middle and high school students. The purpose of this letter from our Superintendent is to:

  • explain our knowledge of the national school walkout being organized for Wednesday March 14, 2018,
  • remind parents and students that we DO NOT condone such activities on campus during the school day,
  • reassure parents that we will take extra safety precautions,
  • and to explain the discipline that each student will face if they walk out of class.

The author of this letter and our Superintendent, Ms. Samantha Fuhrey, has done extensive research, talked with several state agencies including legal representatives, met with other regional superintendents, and procured the collective wisdom of her executive leadership team. She is confident that we are doing the right thing and she wanted to communicate that to parents and students prior to tomorrow’s events. That is commendable.

Ms. Fuhrey was recently a finalist for State Superintendent of the Year. Out of over 200 school systems, the state recognized the fantastic work she has done in putting Newton County Schools on a path to progress. With the many challenges that we face in Newton County and in public schools in general, you can’t deny the results. Over 70% of our students receive free or reduced lunch (indicating a growing poverty issue) yet our graduation rate has jumped SIX points in the last three years and now exceeds the state average. I respect her greatly. And I do not want another superintendent in Newton County for years to come.

But we don’t always agree. I believe that tension is often the grain of sand in the oyster shell that irritates just enough to create a pearl. The ability to have difficult conversations, with mutual respect, often creates a more valuable outcome than if we drew lines in the sand and refused to have productive dialogue. Our team, the Superintendent and the elected Board of Education representatives, are better together than we are apart.

The ability to have difficult conversations, with mutual respect, often creates a more valuable outcome than if we drew lines in the sand and refused to have productive dialogue.

Last week as Superintendent Fuhrey was composing the aforementioned letter to parents, she was kind and humble enough to send me a copy. She did not have to do that. There was nothing in her job description that stated she needed our approval for an administrative matter. Yet she sent me a copy to read. I shared some concerns. She listened. She made some adjustments.

Still, I did not agree in totality with our stance on this potentially volatile matter. I will not comment on my views of the students and their message, but I will instead direct my comments to their behavior.

I believe in free speech, but I do not believe students should disregard school rules.
Plan a parade or a rally. Host events to bring awareness.
But DO NOT disrupt an environment designed to HELP you learn.

I believe in peaceful protests, but I believe students should be prepared to face the consequences for their actions.
Much good has come from peaceful protests in the past. However, most protest organizers knew the potential consequences for their actions. The apostles Peter and John knew that if they continued preaching the Gospel they would be imprisoned. They did it anyway.
Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that if he organized a sit-in that he might be incarcerated. He did it anyway.

These heroes knew what the consequences would be for their actions and determined that their cause was worth it.

I believe in free speech, but I do not believe students should disregard school rules.

I believe in peaceful protests, but I believe students should be prepared to face the consequences for their actions.

Therefore, I believe the school system should not lessen the discipline for any student choosing to peacefully protest during the school day. If the handbook says, “minimum three days ISS (In-School Suspension),” then so be it. Don’t change policy. Let the students decide if their cause is truly worth the consequences.

I have a few more items of concern in regards to safety, and the potential Pandora’s Box of protests we could be opening by lessening the resulting discipline for this walkout. I can only hope and pray that tomorrow’s events are safe and the last of their kind. Time will tell.

Back to baseball and my uncertainty of the strike zone. I contemplated whether or not to even voice my opinions to Ms. Fuhrey.  It really isn’t my decision anyway. And I trust our superintendent. Yet, I still felt a nagging conviction.

So, we met. She listened. We had robust dialogue. And nothing really changed on paper.

So, we met. She listened. We had robust dialogue. And nothing really changed on paper.

Has my trust in the Superintendent waned? No.
Has my influence come to naught? No.
Did I waste my time? No.
Did I strike out? It kinda feels that way…but…
Did I get caught looking? NO!

Do not strike out with the bat on your shoulder.

Surround yourself with people who aren’t just like you.
Listen to them.
Disagree with them.
Respect one another.
Hold to your convictions.
And share yourself with others.

You WILL open yourself up to the risk of striking out.
And every swing will NOT lead to a home run.
But if you take the risk and swing the bat…you won’t ever get caught looking.

For it is more noble to strike out swinging than to get caught looking.

Trey Bailey to run for Re-Election of District 1 BOE

After much prayer and consideration, my friends and family agree that I should seek re-election in November 2018 to serve District 1 on the Board of Education.

It has been an honor to serve the past two years as we have seen a marked improvement in overall educational achievement. Our graduation rates continue to top the state rate and our three high schools collectively have increased the graduation rate by 6 percentage points in the last 4 years!!!
We are headed in the right direction.

As a school system we aren’t where we want to be yet, but we are pointed in the right direction. I feel like there is much work to be done, and I would appreciate another term to work toward achieving some of the goals I see as important.

I believe strongly that public education works best when led at a LOCAL level (not by State mandates and Federal bureacracy). The citizens of the county should choose their leaders and hold them accountable to see that the next generation is educated appropriately and that their local tax dollars are put to good use. I do NOT want a lawmaker from another part of the state making decisions about my child’s education or where my money should go. I will help put the “Local” back in local public education.

I believe in FOCUSED LEADERSHIP where Board members TRUST the Superintendent to lead the central office staff and school administrators. Then the school administrators trust the teachers, the “boots on the ground”, to make great decisions and discern best practices for the students in their classrooms. “Let the teachers teach” is a banner I will continue to wave. This approach takes FOCUSED LEADERSHIP.

I will fight for LESS standardized TESTING. Let’s face it, testing has been a joke the past few years. There have been too many tests. Inaccurate tests. And a complete failure in the Georgia Department of Education’s administration, grading, and reporting of the Georgia Milestones. I will be a voice for LESS TESTING. With Governor Deal signing Senate Bill 364 into law in May 2016, the number of tests required of Georgia students has lessened. But we have more work to be done. I will fight to continue to lower the number of tests our students are subjected to.

I will champion the cause of STUDENT SAFETY. There have been too many school shootings and overall violence in our nation’s schools. Something must be done. We will continue to look for solutions to these issues and ask for the appropriate funding to make our schools SAFER.

And with over 70% of our student population participating in the Free or Reduced Lunch program, we realize that POVERTY is taking its toll on our community. The effects of generational and situational poverty are felt throughout our schools. While the solution to this problem is not for the school system to answer alone, we have committed to leading a community effort to ERADICATE POVERTY in Newton County.

As a lifelong resident of Newton County, child of a retired teacher, husband to a successful educator for 22 years, and father to three kids in public school…I believe that I can serve this community to the fullest, with heart and soul.
I am not seeking to be a politician; I am seeking to make a difference for our kids.
Cut me and I bleed Newton County.

District 1, I would appreciate your consideration, your support, your prayers, and your vote in November.

Holiday Cards, Equity vs. Inclusivity, and Freedom of Religion

Last week, the Superintendent of the Newton County School System, announced her 4th annual holiday card art contest. The language and intent of this press release has been misunderstood by some folks and it has been offensive to others. I am one of those who were offended (we will get to that at the end).

I would like to apologize to anyone offended by the language of the press release. **

This is the fourth year in which this announcement has been made using this exact same language:

“Students are asked to design a theme that reflects winter in the school district; Covington, Georgia; the holiday; etc. All ideas are welcome; however, in an effort to be inclusive of the entire NCSS student body, only nonreligious themes and language will be considered.” (source: NewtonCountySchools.org)

The intent of this contest is to showcase the artistic talents of willing students. The contest is not designed to infringe on anyone’s rights or to offend anyone. This contest is optional. Because the Superintendent uses general funds to print and mail these winter holiday cards, these cards shouldn’t contain religious icons, symbols or phrases.

Now some of the confusion surrounds a Facebook post by the Newton Citizen that reads:

“Newton Schools is asking students to design the holiday cards they will be sending this year. No religious themes will be accepted.” (source: Newton Citizen Facebook Page)

The press release clearly states that “ALL ideas are welcome…” The Newton Citizen misquoted the press release. The Citizen is a fine newspaper and I don’t believe there was any malicious intent on their part. However, like many Facebook posts, we simply read the headline and never read the entire article.

To clarify: Religious themes WILL be accepted.

Now you might ask, “Why would I submit a card with a Nativity Scene or a Menorah candle if I know it won’t be selected as the contest winner?” The simple answer, because you have that right. The Superintendent will see your artwork and admire it for what it is, but she won’t be able to use it for the holiday card that will be mailed out using taxpayer funds. We could argue whether or not the Superintendent should mail out holiday cards, but the cost is miniscule for the return of showcasing our students’ talents while wishing friends and vendors a “Happy Holiday.”

The question that I had centered around the apparent contradiction of “holiday” card and “nonreligious themes”. The origin of the word “holiday” is from Old English where they combined Holy Days into one word to describe a day(s) set aside for a religious celebration. You can see the confusion when asking for artwork that is nonreligious for a holiday card. However, Westerners have adapted the word “holiday” to include religious AND non-religious special days. The Federal Government and the US Post Office call the days they are closed “holidays,” which include New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, etc. So, for NCSS to use the language “Winter Holiday” falls in line with other government entities.

So, the Superintendent has announced an art contest.
It is optional to the students.
The purpose is to highlight NCSS students’ artistic talents.
The card is produced and mailed with general funds. And for that reason, it should not contain religious icons, symbols or language.
This is in an effort to be inclusive of all students.

And therein lies where I get offended. Our efforts to be “inclusive.”

No one wants a public school system that is exclusive. Or do we?
Are we possibly using the wrong word to describe what it is that we desire?
Don’t we desire equity over inclusivity?

I believe that in our efforts to be inclusive we try so hard not to offend someone that we offend everyone. While inclusiveness is a noble goal in education, it simply is not the way the world works. The highest GPAs get accepted to prestigious universities. The best athletes make our varsity teams and have potential for college scholarships. And the students with great leadership skills lead our student government organizations. Isn’t this the way it should be?

We are equitable in opportunity but exclusive in selection. The opportunity is open to everyone. The selection is up to someone. And someone chooses based on a criterion of excellence. Those that exceed the criteria are chosen based on their merit. That is an exclusive club.

I believe this contest is “by the books.” I believe it is legitimate. But I also believe it is exclusive. I understand this contest MUST be exclusive because taxpayer funds can’t promote any specific religion. And I agree with that. But to use the reasoning that, “in effort to be inclusive…only nonreligious themes…will be considered…” is by definition, EXCLUSIVE. So, I think we used the wrong language to explain an art contest. I don’t think there was malicious intent…just a poor choice of words.

Maybe a more transparent wording could have been, “Students [who are interested in participating] are asked to design a theme that reflects winter in the school district. [While we respect all religions and their individual winter holidays, this card will be mailed using general funds, therefore] only nonreligious themes and language will be considered.”

The contest is not the problem.

What exactly IS the problem, then?

I believe those who lead public education in the State of Georgia (and potentially the United States) are too quick to err on the side of caution when it involves religion. Personally, I believe this often favors non-religion over religion. In my understanding of the US Constitution, for an education system to favor non-religion over religion is illegal.

The Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Thus, I believe we should stop prohibiting the free exercise of our students’ religious beliefs and studies.

I am a Christian and a pastor…and I am not in favor of the Superintendent asking students to produce Christian artwork for Christmas cards that will be mailed using county funds.

BUT…

  • I am in favor of students praying together before school, before meals or sporting events.
  • I am for student-led religious groups meeting on campus before, during and after school like any other club.
  • I am in favor of renting public school facilities to religious groups for worship services on weekends (not interfering with normal school functions.)
  • I am in favor offering state-approved religious classes for credit during the school day.
  • I am in favor of a Release Time Policy which allows students to go off-campus to study religion at their house of worship for elective credits.

These are ALL currently allowed under state and federal law (Release Time Policy would have to be enacted by the local board). And religious groups should be taking advantage of these opportunities.
Let us NOT favor non-religion over religion.
Let us all hold to the tenets of the faith that we have.
Let us live in unity with one another in an effort to understand each other better.

We have a great and improving school system. We aren’t perfect. But we are getting better every day. We have a great elected Board who deeply care about your students. And we have one of the best Superintendents in the state of Georgia and the Southeast.
Samantha Fuhrey is a finalist for 2018 Superintendent of the Year.
I don’t know if everyone understands the magnitude of that recognition. She is a bona fide rock star in the education world and we are fortunate to have her at the helm of the Newton County School System.

For the sake of our kids, the future leaders of this great county…let us:
come together…
work together…
challenge each other by engaging in constructive conversations…
offer equitable opportunities to all…
and allow each other to grow spiritually while not forcing religion or political preference on anyone…
in order to form a more perfect union!

 

** This post does not necessarily represent the entire elected School Board. I am writing as an individual. I do not even know if my colleagues agree or disagree with me.

Trey Bailey Announces His Candidacy For District 1 BOE

BOE with Samantha2On Tuesday June 14, 2016, Trey Bailey submitted his Declaration of Intent to run for the District 1 Board of Education seat that he currently holds. After his appointment in March, Trey has been to multiple board member training events including the recent Georgia State Boards Association in Savannah, Georgia. Already during this appointed time he has been an active board member approving the FY 2016-2017 Newton County School System budget.

Trey is committed to making decisions with the best interest of the children of Newton County in mind.

TREY BAILEY was appointed by the Newton County Board of Education on March 15, 2016 to serve the remainder of Mr. Stan Edwards term after he resigned to run for Board of Commission District 1.

Trey is a native of Newton County and has lived in District 1 for the last 20 years. He is married to his wife of 20 years, Alonda Hodges Bailey—a teacher at Mansfield Elementary School. Trey and Alonda Bailey have three daughters (Anna Beth, 11; Kaitlyn, 8; Kristen, 8) who all currently attend Mansfield Elementary School.

Trey Bailey is the Executive Pastor at Eastridge Community Church, where he has been on staff for 12 years. After graduating from Newton County High School in 1992, he attended the University of Georgia before graduating from Mercer with a Bachelor in Business Information Systems.

Trey has served the Covington Newton County Chamber of Commerce as chairman of Leadership Newton County with five years service and three years on the Special Events Committee. He and his family have a great appreciation for the arts and he volunteers with both the Covington Regional Ballet and the Arts Association of Newton County.

He has a passion for learning and leading. Trey Bailey’s life mission statement is to be a catalyst for change in whatever opportunity is presented.

WHY VOTE FOR TREY?

  • Proven executive LEADERSHIP in both for-profit and non-profit sectors in Newton County
  • DEDICATED to the improvement of local public education
  • INTEGRITY in decision making and not afraid to stand up for his BELIEFS
  • Years of COMMUNITY service through Chamber of Commerce, The Arts Association, and the Board of Education
  • Life-long RESIDENT of Newton County and graduate of Newton County High School 1992
  • Wife is a TEACHER in Newton County 20+ years
  • Father of THREE Newton County STUDENTS

Trey believes in “LOCAL” EDUCATION, ONE NEWTON, FOCUSED LEADERSHIP, and LESS TESTING.

To read more about these issues facing the Newton County School System click here THE ISSUES.

To contact Trey with questions or concerns click here CONTACT TREY.

 

Trey Bailey Appointed District 1 Representative on Newton County BOE

Trey-Bailey appointed BOEBy a 4-0 vote at their March 15, 2016 monthly meeting, the Newton County Board of Education approved the appointment of Mr. Trey Bailey as the new District 1 representative on the school board. He will replace Mr. Stan Edwards, who resigned on March 8, 2016 to run for the District 1 seat on the Newton County Board of Commission.

See the related article originally posted on the Newton County School System website here.

Mr. Bailey said, “I am humbled at this opportunity to serve my community in this capacity. This is an honor to be able to serve the youth of Newton County and help make decisions that impact their future.”