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RCPS to hold ribbon cutting for new Central Office
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CONYERS — Rockdale County Public Schools will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the system’s new Central Office, which has been under construction since September 2019, on July 20.

The new facility, constructed on the former site of Pine Street Elementary School, will consolidate most of the Central Office staff, functions and operations in one location.

The $15.4 million project was funded through an E-SPLOST approved by voters in 2018.

The ribbon cutting will take place at 4 p.m. at 960 Pine St., Conyers. Attendees are asked to wear a mask.

Newton Development Authority announces new leadership team of Serra Hall, Asher Dozier
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Asher Dozier

COVINGTON — Serra P. Hall, formerly vice president of Project Development for the Newton County Industrial Development Authority, has been promoted to executive director, and Asher Dozier has been hired as vice president of economic development. The Authority announced the leadership changes Friday.

Hall succeeds Dave Bernd, who retired at the end of June after seven years with the organization. As VP of Project Development, Hall recruited multiple multi-billion-dollar investments and supported the creation of thousands of jobs such as Facebook’s Newton Data Center, Lidl Inc., McKinley Paper (formerly US Corrugated), and Cinelease Studios, as well as numerous legacy expansions by General Mills, FiberVisions and Nisshinbo Automotive through partnerships and collaboration with local, regional and state partners.

As executive director, Hall will continue the commitment of collaborative and smart growth for Newton County through strong relationships with industry and resource partners. Hall is a current member of the Georgia Economic Developers Association and serves as Existing Industry and Workforce Development chair. She is also a member of the Southern Economic Development Council, International Economic Development Council and International Council of Shopping Centers.

Hall serves on the board of directors of Piedmont Newton Hospital. A Newton County native, Hall studied at the University of Georgia and is an avid Georgia Bulldogs fan. She and her husband Stephen Hall are the parents of one son, Samuel.

As vice president of economic development, Dozier will serve as the liaison for workforce development strategies and programs for Newton County. Dozier will continue leading efforts on behalf of the Newton County IDA to be the conduit for public and private partners to join forces for the betterment of Newton County’s growth.

Dozier has previously worked in various public sector roles, with a background in local government and human resource management.

Dozier is also a member of the Georgia Economic Developers Association, the Southern Economic Development Council, and the International Economic Development Council.

Dozier has a B.S. in criminal justice and a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Troy University and is currently pursuing his Ed.D in P-20 and community development through Murray State University. Dozier is also certified as a Human Resources Certified Professional through the Society of Human Resources Management credentialing program.

Locally, Dozier is an alumnus and past committee member of Leadership Newton County, is a board member of the Newton Education Foundation and Newton County Young Farmer program, and is active in the Covington Rotary Club.

Dozier is a Newton County native. He and his wife, Karen, have two children, Will and Caroline.

Rockdale teachers, employees to see pay increases
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CONYERS — Rockdale County Public Schools teachers and employees who are paid on the teacher certification salary scale will see pay increases in fiscal year 2022 as part of the school system’s focus on recruiting and retaining educators.

According to the school system, employees will see an average 4% to 10.9% pay increase. The budget, approved June 24, totals, $171.4 million, a 3.6% increase over fiscal year 2021. Of the total budget, 40.4% is from local funds, or $69 million; 59.5% comes from state funding, or $102 million, an increase of $3.39 million over last year. The largest share of the budget — $112.9 million goes to instruction, followed by school administration, at $13 million.

The Board of Education is expected to reduce the millage rate for fiscal year 2022. The board will set the millage at its July 15 meeting.

Employee pay increases were approved as a result of a comprehensive salary student conducted by the school system shortly after Dr. Terry Oatts took office as superintendent in 2018.

“The purpose of the salary study was to determine RCPS’ comparative salary competitiveness regionally and to offer recommended options for increasing salary competitiveness,” said Oatts in a released statement.

Dr. Kim McDermon, RCPS chief of Human Resources, said the new pay scale provides a more competitive entry level rate and uniform longevity increases.

“This balanced system addresses the value RCPS places on teachers, from the first-year teacher to the 30-year veteran,” said McDermon.

The increase to the annual entry-level pay is $1,000 for teachers with a bachelor’s degree. Teachers with a doctoral degree would experience a $1,300 increase each year they stay with RCPS.

Not only will the new budget increase the salaries of teachers and those paid on the teacher salary schedule, but other certified and classified personnel will also see a bump in their salary due to budget features such as step increases and the adoption of other recommendations from the salary study.

“Under Dr. Oatts’ focused fiscal leadership and the board’s responsible oversight, we have seen our fund balance grow significantly by approximately $20 million,” said Keith Hull, chief financial officer. “The dedication and hard work from our departments, schools, and budget committees over the last three years implementing a fiscally responsible budget puts RCPS in a strong financial position to support a $1,000 increase in starting pay to our certified teachers’ salary scale as well as a step increase for all employees. The average employee will see an approximate increase between 4 and 10.9 percent.”

Racist graffiti spray-painted on Latino family's home in Conyers
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CONYERS — A Latino family that has lived in Conyers for years awoke Sunday morning to find that someone spray-painted racist graffiti on a home they are renovating on Twin Oaks Drive in northeast Rockdale County.

Obscene and hateful graffiti, including “Die Mexicans,” was spray-painted in big red letters on the house and several vehicles, according to a news report from Fox 5 Atlanta.

Rogello Alvarado said they hope to transform the house into their dream home, but now they are on edge, nervous for their safety, and wanting to know who did it.

“I really feel harassed and scared by this,” Alvarado said. “Scared and hurt.”

The Alvarados are from Mexico and El Salvador, but they have lived in the Conyers area for years, he said.

“The family’s life savings went into this house,” he said. “To see the vandalism, to feel all this, it’s saddening.”

The Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene and is now investigating.

“We at the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office do take these matters very seriously,” said Corp. Christopher Lickliter. “Our [criminal investigation] division will be following up with a thorough investigation.”

Alvarado said he has a 6-year-old little sister and a newborn baby girl. He is worried that whoever did this seems to want them dead.

“My family doesn’t feel safe,” he said. “My daughter, my little sister running around, I don’t feel safe.”

On top of some finishing touches, the house will now need a new paint job. A window that was smashed also needs to be replaced.

In spite of the threatening messages, he said they are going to finish up the renovations and make the house a home.

“I want to see this house finished up, that’s our dream goal. This is really our dream house,” Alvarado said. “It just makes me want to work harder.”