Although the Wheeler High School construction project jumped $3.1 million from its base budget, the Cobb County Board of Education voted 6-0 Thursday night to spend $20.1 million for improvements at the 47-year-old East Cobb school.
The audience, which included some wearing black Wheeler T-shirts, greeted the unanimous vote by heartily clapping.
“I’m delighted that we’re able to deliver this long-awaited project to the Wheeler community,” said board Vice Chairman Scott Sweeney of East Cobb’s Post 6, whose area includes the 2,000-student high school.
Board member David Banks of Northeast and East Cobb’s Post 5 was also happy about the vote, which came without Kathleen Angelucci of North Cobb’s Post 4, who missed the meeting.
“It’s a big go,” Banks said with a big smile. “The thing about it is we still have the funds. We’ve got our revenues and our savings on our construction projects, which has given us millions of dollars in savings.”
During the discussion before the vote, board Chairwoman Alison Bartlett of Post 7 in the center of the county questioned the increased budget because she said Shepard told the board in April that the project would come under budget. She also said it was “sad” that the increased price still didn't cover several needed improvements to the school that were part of the project’s original scope.
After board members Lynnda Crowder-Eagle of West Cobb’s Post 1 and Sweeney each voiced support for the project, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa reminded the audience that Wheeler’s unaddressed needs would be met in the future.
“I also want to remind everyone that this is not over at Wheeler,” Hinojosa said. “As Madame Chair pointed out, there’s some things that still won’t get done despite everyone working together on this, and we’ll have to look at this in the future about how we complete the entire scope of the intended work at the campus.
"But I did want to thank everyone because this was very complex, and a lot of people spent a lot of time trying to make this work.”
Board member Tim Stultz of Smyrna’s Post 2 followed Hinojosa’s thoughts by urging the school system and the Wheeler community to “try to find private funds” for the school’s other needed improvements in the near future.
The board also voted unanimously to pass:
- The 12-room addition to Sope Creek Elementary, to be awarded to A.M. Adams Building of Lilburn for $3.3 million. The project is about $455,000 or 12 percent below budget, Shepard said previously.
- Superintendent Michael Hinojosa's goals and related implementation plan, which includes raising student achievement, developing a three-year financial plan and developing plans for optional student career paths.
- The purchase and installation of the Telematic Information Management System for the district’s transportation and maintenance departments from Sprint/Actsoft for $337,718.40 for the wireless communication and $204,792 for software maintenance.
- A resolution to revise the application for State Capital Outlay funding.
- Three consent agenda items.
Stultz supplied the lone dissenting vote in the meeting when he questioned the increased budget for the addition/modification work at the Pitts Transportation Support Facility, which was awarded to Cablik Enterprises of Atlanta for its low bid of $1,264,000. The project is about $120,000, or 10 percent, over budget, Shepard said previously.
Stultz noted that the project was placed on an accelerated plan by the district to capitalize on lower construction costs.
“I’m not against the project; I’m against the timing of it,” Stultz said after the meeting.
Early in the meeting, the board recognized and gave a standing ovation, along with the audience, to its Teachers of the Year winners for each of its academic levels. A video was shown of the winners being surprised by Hinojosa at their respective schools announcing their wins. The winners, who will be whittled down to one for the district honor next month, are:
- Acworth Intermediate music teacher Rick McKee.
- Lovinggood Middle family and consumer science teacher Dawn Castleberry.
- Kennesaw Mountain High theater instructor Coy Dunn.
Seven people spoke during the public comment period, and three of them asked the board to renew Imagine International Academy of Mableton’s charter.
District bus driver Barbara Caldwell alerted the board that it was 113 degrees when she got on her bus at 1:15 p.m. Monday, and she requested that the board buy only air-conditioned buses in the future.
The meeting concluded after 64 minutes.