The Cobb County Board of Education had little to say about the search for a new superintendent but plenty to talk about concerning some SPLOST-funded projects during Thursday night’s two-hour meeting.
The lack of an announcement about superintendent finalists means the board will not meet its expressed desire to name finalists to head the Cobb County School District by the end of April.
The board members met in executive session on the matter at 5 p.m. on Thursday and after the regular meeting adjourned. They will meet again Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
The superintendent search is far from finished, board members told Patch.
One of the 10 speakers during the public-comment period did address the search.
Pat Negron urged the board not to accept a superintendent application that missed the deadline, to choose an applicant who has different philosophies on the school calendar and grading, and to pay the new superintendent more than the retiring Fred Sanderson now earns.
Those appeared to be references to Rockdale County Superintendent Samuel King. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution declared him to be the sole finalist, based on anonymous sources, and the Marietta Daily Journal reported that he may have missed the Jan. 31 deadline to apply.
Among other potential issues, Rockdale County not only uses a balanced calendar, which the Cobb school system implemented and dropped this year, but also starts school in July.
If King was Negron's concern, it might be moot. The MDJ, citing two anonymous sources, reported today that the Rockdale schools chief removed his name from consideration after negotiations with the Cobb board broke down.
"That is my understanding," Rockdale schools spokeswoman Cindy Ball told Patch, although she added that King had handled the matter confidentially.
With all of that talking going on behind closed doors Thursday, the board still managed to go through a couple of issues with projects funded under the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax III.
All of the votes wound up being unanimous except for the $15 million Lassiter High School additions and modifications project, which is $2 million over budget, SPLOST Chief Administrative Officer Doug Shepard said.
Shepard said the first $1 million in the price increase resulted when the seating capacity at the school's new theater increased from 750 seats to 960 seats. That size makes it a viable, geographically separate alternative to McEachern High School as a districtwide performance venue for events such as band festivals. Shepard said other high school venues can seat only 400 people.
The rest of the overage reflects increased material costs.
Although Shepard told the board that the larger venue would result in undetermined lower transportation costs, board members Kathleen Angelucci of Post 4 (Kell and North Cobb high schools) and Chairwoman Alison Bartlett (Osborne High) continued to question the need for the additional seats.
The board voted 4-3 to approve the project, which features 18 other aspects, including renovating and expanding the kitchen and cafeteria.
Lynnda Crowder-Eagle of Post 1 (Allatoona, Kennesaw Mountain, Harrison and Hillgrove high schools), David Morgan of Post 3 (South Cobb, Pebblebrook and McEachern), David Banks of Post 5 (Lassiter, Pope and Sprayberry) and Vice Chairman Scott Sweeney of Post 6 (Wheeler and Walton) voted for the project. Bartlett, Angelucci and Tim Stultz of Post 2 (Campbell) voted against it.
“It’s going to be a great asset for the Lassiter community and the district as a whole,” Shepard said after the meeting. He also noted that SPLOST projects saved $9 million in construction costs last month and have saved $11 million for the year.
The other nine school SPLOST projects for either additions, modifications or preliminary work were approved at Tritt, LaBelle, Belmont Hills, King Springs, Big Shanty, and Kincaid elementary schools, Garrett Middle School, and Campbell and Wheeler high schools. The combined cost of the 10 projects is $29.1 million, Shepard said.
For more than $500,000 to do the preliminary work on a $20 million project, the Wheeler contract passed only after Bartlett peppered Shepard with questions about the wisdom of committing $9.5 million of the uncommitted classroom funds in SPLOST III to one project so early in the life of the sales tax program.
Sweeney finally stepped in and clarified that the board long ago approved the budget and project, and Bartlett joined the other six members in voting yes.
During the public comment period, Leslie Rowbottom, Terri Robinson, Valerie Testman, James Young, Andrea Young and Nathaniel Riley Jr. all addressed the board about the achievement gap in South Cobb. Morgan, whose post serves South Cobb, raised the issue at the board's April 13 work session.
“I’d like this board to make a commitment to these schools and students,” Testman said. “Please address our concerns because we want our students to achieve.”
Also during public comments, Mike Sansone told the board that he and other people counted 1,249 emails in Angelucci’s board account and found that 967 of those, or 77.4 percent, favored the balanced calendar. He did the same with Stultz. Of 1,295 calendar emails sent to his board account, 1,045 supported the balanced calendar, or 80.1 percent.
Sansone said he just received Sweeney’s board account emails Thursday and that Bartlett’s would also be arriving soon for him to tally. Angelucci, Stultz, Sweeney and Bartlett cast the votes in February to return the district to a traditional calendar with an Aug. 15 starting date.
Chief Human Resources Officer Donald Dunnigan told the board during the meeting that 10 principals are retiring, and an assistant principal has resigned:
- Acworth Intermediate Principal Kathleen Curran, effective May 31.
- Baker Elementary Principal Phyllis Jones, effective June 30.
- Cooper Middle Principal Peggy Martin, effective May 31.
- Powers Ferry Elementary Principal Joan Mills, effective May 31.
- Lost Mountain Middle Principal Terry Poor, effective May 31.
- Teasley Elementary Principal Joanne Robblee, effective May 31.
- Sedalia Park Elementary Principal Patricia Thomas, effective May 31.
- Smitha Middle Principal Sharon Tucker, effective June 30.
- Performance Learning Center Principal Jacquelyn Whitt, effective May 31.
- Durham Middle Principal Georganne Young, effective May 31.
- Pebblebrook Assistant Principal Nicole Anderson, effective June 30.
The board also recognized the late Campus Police Officer Jerry Miller for more than seven years of service to the school system.
The 32 Cobb Schools Foundation $1,000 scholarship winners, along with other scholarship winners, were honored early in the meeting.