Saturday, February 15, 2014

Newton County Schools Makeup Days

My little boy is currently enrolled in pre-k in a Newton County School. In the 6 short months he has been attending, I am discovering that the school board/system primarily makes decisions based on what is most convenient for them with no regard for and very little input from parents. Here is a prime example:

Most of the article focuses on Rockdale County's quick decision making regarding makeup days for the days students missed during the most recent winter storm. On the other hand, The Newton County superintendent/administration has unilaterally come up with a plan that the school board will no doubt accept on Tuesday, February 18. Would it kill them to email parents the proposed schedule and give us a chance to respond before the decision on Tuesday?

Quote from the article:

"The Newton County School System plans to make up for the lost time as well, but will still have a winter break from Feb. 19 to 21. According to information on its Facebook page, NCSS administrators are finalizing a make-up schedule and will present it at the Newton BOE combined meeting on Feb. 18.

Newton students have missed a total of seven days this school year. Four of those days were in January, while Pax caused them to miss three more days from Feb. 12 to 14."
I won't even comment on the idiocy of moving forward with the scheduled winter break when we just had one!

The agenda is posted for the February 18th meeting but no details about what the recommendations will be. Heaven forbid that parents are given an opportunity to show up to meetings prepared to speak on the agenda items.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hot Deal on Leapfrog LeapPad Ultra at Kmart

Leapfrog’s LeapPad Ultra is one of 2013‘s hottest holiday toys. If you’re a bargain hunter like me, the price tag is not so hot. But Kmart has an awesome deal running on it right now. Kmart is offering the LeapPad Ultra for $149 with $20 back in Shop Your Way Rewards points through 11/23. Based on the 2013 Black Friday ads that have been leaked so far, the LeapPad Ultra will not be offered at any significant discount. So, this is probably the best deal this holiday season. I currently have $13 in Shop Your Way rewards points. So here is what my transaction looks like before taxes.

$149 (current price)

- $13 (my current SWY Rewards points balance)
= $136 (my out of pocket price)
- $8.16 (Upromise 6% cash back – applied on net purchase price)
-$20 (bonus SYW Rewards points for buying the LeapPad Ultra)
-$10 (bonus SYW Rewards points for spending $50 or more on toys – must apply SYW rewards coupon to order to receive this)

My Final Price = $97.84!

Even if you don’t have any SYW points in your account, the final price would still make this a deal at $111! I doubt you will find a better deal on Black Friday or after.

Also, If you start a new layaway in a Kmart store before 11/23, you will also get back $6 in points. The Covington, GA Kmart Layaway department is horribly slow and inefficient. If you live in Covington, save yourself the 2 hours I wasted starting a layaway in the store yesterday and do this deal online. If you decide to go into the Kmart store, you need to be vigilant about making sure your discounts are applied. It’s not easy for the cashiers to tell if the discount was applied and most of them are not very concerned about making sure you get your discounts and promotions.

 If Kmart is not an option for you, here’s a breakdown of some of the current deals  on the LeapPad Ultra available at larger retailers. You may have to do an in-store purchase to qualify for some of the extras that help sweeten the deals. Don’t forget to go through or for up to 5% additional cash back on online purchases. - The LeapPad Ultra is currently being offered for $149 and the gel skin case and headphones will be thrown in for free. Just add all three to your cart and checkout to get the savings.

Toys r Us –  Toys R Us has the LeapPad Ultra priced at $149 for the LeapPad Ultra Super Pack which comes with the gel skin case and a $10 app card. Everything is packaged together so it makes a nice presentation for gift giving. If you got the Toys R Us toy book from the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper a few weeks ago, there was a coupon on the front cover for a $10 Toys R Us gift card with a purchase of $100 or more.  After the $10 gift card and $10 App card, your final cost is $129.

Wal-Mart – The Wal-Mart flyer in the 11/10 AJC advertised the LeapPad Ultra for $149 with a $30 Wal-Mart gift card back. This makes the final cost $119!

Target – Target also has the LeapPad Ultra priced at $149. There is a $5 Leapfrog coupon in Target’s toy book that brings the total to $145.

Kohl’s –The LeapPad Ultra at Kohl’s seems to only be available as a gift set with headphones and a Hello Kitty® or Monsters University® game for $242.24. If you have a Kohl’s card, you can get 20% off when you pay with your Kohl’s card. And if  your out of pocket amount is over $200, you get back $40 in Kohl’s cash. For those without a Kohl’s card, they are offering 15% off on each purchase. Assuming 5% cash back, that would bring your final price to $156 or less before taxes.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

2013 Covington Conyers Halloween Events

I am filing this post under better late than never. Figuring out where to take your children for Halloween trick-or-treating can be a challenge in Covington/Newton County. A lot of the churches in the area sponsor trunk-or-treat events and there is usually something going on at the Covington Square. Here is a roundup of the most promising Halloween events I found around the net.

October 30

Rockdale 4-H Spooky House
1400 Parker Road, Lobby A, Conyers
5 pm to 8 pm October 30th and 31st
Costumes are encouraged. A $3 donation is requested.

Crosspoint Christian Church
4550 Ga. Highway 20 S.E Conyers
6 pm to 8 pm
Trunk or treat and bring non-perishable food item to support food drive to benefit the  Rockdale Emergency Relief Food Bank. Call 770-483-1887 for more information.

Oct. 31

Scare on the Square - annual event co-hosted by the Covington Police Department. Check them out on Facebook for the latest updates and to watch their Halloween safety video.
Dowtown Covington on the Square
5:30 pm to 7:30 pm

Trunk or Treats

 Red Oak United Methodist Church
15105 Ga. Highway 36, Covington
 5 pm to 7 pm
Call 770-787-0404 for more information.
Heritage Hills Baptist Church
2987 Ga. Highway 212, Conyers
6 pm to 8 pm
Call 770-922-2027 for more information.
Mansfield Baptist Church
101 Woodlawn Road, Mansfield
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Visit for more information.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Finally...Covington, GA highway exits to be beautified

This has been a pet peeve of mine for about as long as I have lived in Newton County. The Public Works department does a very uneven job of keeping the county's right of ways and public areas maintained. The Newton Citizen reports that the mayor has contracted with a landscape company to beautify the county's exits off I-20. I am pleased to see that at least one of those contracts went to a local company.

This is a good start but there are so many areas within the county that are in dire need of mowing and landscaping. What is the timeline for that to occur Mr. Mayor? What is the point of having manicured highway exits if when people get off they drive by unmanicured and trash-filled areas? As an analyst, I also wonder about the due diligence that was done before the decision was made to contract this work and how the contractors were selected. Was it cheaper to get contractors versus just beefing up the Public Works department with part-time mowers?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Setting Realistic Goals for your Newton County Jobs Search

I hesitate to give anyone advice about finding a good job in Newton County, GA. I am one month into my search and I am not any closer to finding a decent paying job in my areas of expertise that is actually in Newton County. The problem for me is that most large companies in Newton County want applicants to have healthcare or manufacturing industry experience. Most small companies stick a sign on the door to let people know they are hiring. Driving around looking for places with available Newton County jobs is not a smart way to conduct a job search, especially with the price of gas these days.

I absolutely get that I cannot apply at Newton Medical Center expecting to get a job as a nurse without the proper training, experience, and credentials. In fact, I do not apply for any jobs at Newton Medical Center because the medical profession is a very specialized skillset that takes years to build. However, I do not have the same reservations about companies that provide products and services to the medical industry. Even some of the other large employers in Newton County have no good reason to require applicants to have umpteenth years of experience in a manufacturing environment. I guarantee you, they are not doing anything there that the average person cannot learn in a few weeks or months.

Many people have skills that are transferable to any industry, so I see those requirements as just another hurdle to jump through in this incredibly competitive job market. I say all this to make the point that when looking for a job in Newton County, it is important to keep your goals realistic and accept that commuting is a very real possibility. Here are some tips to help you manage your job search so that you can get a job sooner while still maintaining your quality of life.

  1. Be clear about the job you want (job title or function), where you want it to be (city or county), and who you want to work for (industry). If you are like me and have experience in several different industries performing essentially the same job, decide which industries you enjoyed working in the most. For me, real estate and insurance are in my top five. If your skills are transferrable, don't be afraid to add industries that interest you. I added nonprofit organizations to my top 5 list after developing my career vision statement with help from Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand. I have also found Marcus Buckingham to be a great resource for getting clear about your career direction.
  2. Always remember that quality of life is important. Sure, you can get from Covington to Alpharetta in time for an 8 to 5 job, but do you really want to? To avoid major traffic, you would need to be on the road by 6 am. Do not get me started on the nightmare that will be your afternoon commute home. It is important to prioritize your quality of life and set a reasonable commuting distance during your job search. I have set my acceptable commuting distance to 35 miles in any direction from my house. From Covington, GA, a 35 mile commute can be done in about an hour barring major traffic delays like an overturned tractor trailer.
  3. If you have a family, target employers that offer flexible work arrangements (compressed work week, flexible hours, telecommuting). Running a household and getting kids to and from school and other activities can be a full-time job. Employers that offer flexible work arrangements understand this and working for someone that allows parents to have that work/life balance will remove a lot of the stress we feel trying to keep all the balls we juggle in the air.
  4. Consider part-time work and temporary assignments. If you really have your heart set on working in Newton County, then looking into temporary and part-time opportunities may be the way to accomplish that. If nothing else, it will prevent large gaps in your employment history and will also help you build up your experience and local network which could lead to viable referrals for full-time, local employment.
  5. Always remember that it is, most likely, not you or your resume. If you have taken the time to target your resume to specific jobs and employers, it is not you. It is the lousy job market. The most recent (July 2013) unemployment figures show that Newton County's unemployment rate is 10.3%. The statewide unemployment average is 8.8%. Meanwhile, Newton County continues to hang its economic future on the film industry.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Surviving Without Cable When Charter Communications is Your Only Option


I hate Charter Communications and a quick internet search tells me I am not alone. They are overpriced (as is the rest of the cable/internet industry) and their service is horrible. I was dismayed when the City of Covington sold their cable system to Charter because that meant that they became the only cable provider for residents of certain parts of Newton County. After cancelling Directv (which I love, it just got too expensive) I reluctantly signed up for Charter internet only service.

Two years later, my monthly rate has doubled for service that remains unchanged. Their sales people call me almost daily trying to get me to sign up for cable and phone too. If I am not happy with their internet, why would I sign up for more services? There is always AT&T but I no longer give any of my business to AT&T. That leaves Charter as my only viable option in this area. Here is how I have been surviving without cable because I refuse to give Charter Communications any more of my money.

HD Digital Antenna - If your TV has a built in tuner (most modern TVs do), all you need to get the local channels is a good HD Digital Antenna. We use the RCA ANT1400 model and have had no issues with it. There are some channels that we can never seem to get but that is because we are a good distance away from Atlanta. The closer you are to Atlanta, the more channels you can pick up. If you are the handy type, my husband also made this homemade antenna in a few hours.

Smart Blu-Ray Player - Blu-Ray players are fairly inexpensive and are a great way to stream TV shows and movies directly onto your television. I do not like to watch videos on my computer so this is a must have for me. Pair this with a Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video, or similar subscription-type streaming service and you can watch many of your favorite shows right on your TV. Some TV channels are moving away from streaming their shows for free on their web sites and have started charging for the content through subscription-type sites. More frustratingly, some, like the A&E channel, require you to log in through your cable provider to view their shows. Subscriptions are currently around $8 a month which is a lot cheaper than cable.

Gaming Systems - You can stream subscription-based movies and TV shows through most gaming systems. We use our Nintendo Wii to stream Amazon Instant Video, many of which we get free with our Amazon Prime membership.

Streaming Devices - Devices like the Roku, NeoTv, and AppleTV rival the cost of a Blu-ray player with streaming capabilities. They can stream many of the same subscription services but don't have the added capabilities of playing Blu-ray discs. Hence, the reason I just decided to get a smart Blu-ray player.

Redbox - Redbox is a great place to get the latest movies when they are released on DVD. I get many of my movies free because there are usually free rental codes floating around on the internet. I also get promotional offers directly from them through their email list. Redbox has also introduced a streaming service for $8 a month that includes 4 free DVD rentals per month.

Except for the digital antenna and traditional Redbox, the other options require existing internet service and a wireless internet setup to work properly. We are seriously considering cutting the cord completely and going to a wireless internet provider but we have not found one with service that can support streaming without constant buffering interruptions. Until then, we survive without cable by using our digital antenna for local channels, renting Redbox movies, and streaming Amazon Video through our Wii and Blu-ray player.