Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Students Take Schools Chief to Task on Issues; Kathy Cox Answers Questions on Teacher Pay, HOPE Scholarships and More

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Students Take Schools Chief to Task on Issues; Kathy Cox Answers Questions on Teacher Pay, HOPE Scholarships and More

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski, The Times-Union

BRUNSWICK -- Georgia schools Superintendent Kathy Cox fielded some tough questions Friday from some of her youngest constituents about achievement tests, teacher pay raises and the future of the HOPE scholarship program.

Students at Needwood Middle School gave Cox a warm welcome then interviewed her about those key issues and other topics, including her duties as the state's top education official.

The question-and-answer session hosted by Student Council members was broadcast live over the school's closed-circuit television into each classroom.

Council President Shreya Amin was impressed by Cox's sincerity and candor.

"She said what was true instead of what we just wanted to hear," said Shreya, 13, who is in eighth grade.

A former social studies teacher, Cox also briefly sat in on several classes and gave an impromptu pop quiz to eighth-grade students studying Georgia history during her visit to Needwood, which has 725 students.

"She's a really sweet person and seems like she really cares about our future," said Ryan Yancey, also 13 and in eighth grade.

Principal Ricky Rentz said students from each grade level submitted questions for Cox.

"The students came up with them on their own. They asked about things that they are concerned about," Rentz said.

Cox assured the students that "no one wants to get rid of the HOPE scholarship program." However, it needs some changes to better serve students, she said.

"The future is bright for HOPE," she said. "It's too important to get rid of. It motivates students."

Hannah Minter and Rosamond Reeves, both eighth-grade students, questioned the necessity of the Criterion Referenced Competency Test.

"Grades don't always tell what a person knows," Cox said. "The only way to really know what you know is to do a test."

Cox told students that teacher pay raises are an issue being handled by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

"Gov. Perdue is doing everything he can to try to find money to give teachers a raise," said Cox, who thanked the students for "very thoughtful and insightful questions. …

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