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Board members denounce Banks at CCSB meeting

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Cobb school board members Kathleen Angelucci and Alison Bartlett asked that fellow board member David Banks be censured for allegedly snooping on his reelection opponents and their children.

Banks, a Republican with two GOP challengers — Lisa Hanson and Stephanie Henry — in the July 31 primary for the seat representing northeast Cobb, called the accusations ”garbage.”

The board will take up the censure effort at its Aug. 8 meeting.

On Thursday night, the board also learned more about how Cobb students did on the Criterion-Referenced  Competency Tests; approved Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa’s recommendations to move Sprayberry Principal Ed Wagner to Kell High and promote Vaughan Elementary Principal Barbara Swinney to Area 1 Assistant Superintendent; and named Deborah Randazzo the district’s new director of internal audit services.

The board also approved a portion of the revised Strategic  Plan, which includes the core values, beliefs, vision and mission statements,  and goals.

Thursday night’s meeting began and ended with discussion about  Banks’ July 7 David’s Grapevine newsletter, in which he said he contacted area  principals to ask them if his two opponents in the July 31 Republican Primary  were “active” in her schools, with Angelucci making veiled references to the  issue before leading attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.

During the  public comments portion, Post 5 parent Fara McCrady addressed the board about  the newsletter statement.

“This represents an inappropriate use of power  and a lack of respect for the relationship between principals and the families  that they serve,” she said. “I would like the board to publicly address this  issue and to assure Post 5 constituents that this questionable behavior will  cease immediately.”

Toward the end of the meeting, when board members  were given time to speak, Banks addressed McCrady’s statements.

“There  were some things said tonight that I find disgraceful, outlandish and they were  accusations that had no merit,” Banks said. “I think that this is a blot on the  character and the constituents of Post 5 and I find it very  objectionable.”

The buck didn’t stop there, though. Angelucci read a  nearly six-minute long prepared statement about why she believed Banks violated  board policies.

“I believe that (Banks) willfully and knowingly  compromised the Cobb County School Board and Cobb County School System  administration by violating the rules, policies and protocols that were agreed  upon by the Cobb County Board of Education and submitted to SACS (Southern  Association of Colleges and Schools), of which he is a member,” she  said.

During her speech, Angelucci said she had heard that Banks had  shown up at various schools a number of times without giving them notice of his  coming, sat in on staff meetings and most recently spoke to a principal about a  student and parent.

“The board chair has been made aware of these  breaches, as well as the district’s attorney and the superintendent of the Cobb  County School District. As the Cobb County Board of Education, we are duty bound  to act and protect the safety of all students and uphold board policies,  protocols and the law.

“If we are in fact expecting employees of this  district to do so or be held accountable if they do not, so should this board.  Why did we agree to board protocols and what is the purpose of board protocols  if we do not honor them? (Banks) is an elected official and as such the voters  will decide if he is to represent them again but as an entity the least we owe  this district is to hold accountable and as much as we are able anyone who  violates policy or more importantly the law.

“The board is entitled to a  thorough explanation from the superintendent on how exactly district employees  shared information with (Banks) about his opponents or their children, students  in the district that we are duty bound to protect. I strenuously insist that the  chair act within his capacity and draft a resolution for censure of (Banks) for  the continuous violations of Cobb County Board of Education policies and  protocols, as well as the Code of Ethics and Administrative Rules of the Cobb  County School District.”

Hinojosa told Angelucci that he was assured by Banks that there were no records shared and that he verified that with the school principals.

“I am assured that none of the  staff shared records,” he said.

Also in response to Angelucci, Banks  said, “If I didn’t know better, I think Mrs. Angelucci is campaigning for one of  my opponents, which has fabricated a lot of this stuff that Mrs. Angelucci  alluded to today, which is all totally false and really nothing but a bunch of  garbage. There’s no fact to any of it. If you’re gonna have some facts, get your  facts right and what Mrs. Angelucci alluded to was just totally false and no  merit to it what so ever. If you want to campaign for my opponent, go ahead but  you don’t need to do it here.”

Angelucci did not respond to Banks at that  time and declined to answer any additional questions about her request after the  meeting.

During the meeting, Board Chair Scott Sweeney  reminded the board members that under no circumstance are they allowed to show up to a  school without at least giving 24-hour notice to school administrators, that  staff meetings are not open to board members and that it is inappropriate for  any educator to share information about a student with a board member or any member of the public.

He also asked Board Attorney Clem Doyle what the process for censuring a board member entails, to which he  responded that two-thirds of the board would have to vote to have a hearing  about the specific board member or they could send a letter to the board member  outlining the details, which has been done in the past.

Sweeney attempted  to ask a few more questions of Banks about the Grapevine newsletter, but Doyle  interrupted him and advised that he should have the formal conversation about  the incident and the newsletter at the August work session, when it is a  discussion point on the actual agenda.

After the meeting, Sweeney said  the option to censure Banks would be solely an agenda item during the Board  Business portion of the Aug. 8 work session meeting and not up for a  vote.

In other news, the board also heard from Chief Academic Officer Dr.  Judi Jones about how well Cobb County students fared on the CRCT. The scores for  each school were released July 12.

“There is a lot to celebrate with the  results this year,” she said. “Our students were strong in every content area  and grade level.”

Of the highlights Jones pointed out, she said that  there was an overall increase in every subject in every grade except for  third-grade science, where there was a decline of 1 percent in scores, in eighth  grade, there was a 5.2 percent increase across the board over last year’s scores  and that in science and social studies, all grades increased in the number of  students who exceeded the standards.

“That speaks well to the rigor and  dedication of our teachers,” she said.

Angelucci applauded the teachers,  saying it was “wonderful, wonderful news.”

Banks echoed her comments,  adding that the students needed to be commended for their efforts too, saying “job well done.”

Tim Stultz, who represents southwest Cobb, said that  while he was proud of the scores, he wanted to reiterate the importance of  social studies.

“I’m disappointed how far behind it seems than with  reading and mathematics,” he said. “We cannot let it become a forgotten  study.”

Sweeney also asked Jones about what the high-performing schools  will have to do in the future.

“If you have a school at 99 percent, how  do you improve over that?” he asked.

“They will start to look at the  growth of individual students,” she replied. “It’s a possible moving of the bar … a different type of test.”

He also asked that if the changing of the  curriculums would affect how they compare last school year’s scores to next  school year’s scores. Jones said she didn’t think it would be proper to do that  but she hasn’t received any direction from the state yet.

In items that  the board did take action on, they unanimously approved Hinojosa’s  recommendation to move Wagner from Sprayberry to Kell.

“He’s done a great  job (at Sprayberry),” Hinojosa said during a break at the meeting. “He expressed  some interest in the position.”

Hinojosa also said the decision to move  Wagner from Sprayberry to Kell was an “appointment.”

“This is one of  those times that I had to do that. I reserve the right to do that and I did have  support from the board,” he said.

Banks, who represents Sprayberry, said, “I’ll personally would have liked to see him stay at Sprayberry but I  congratulate him on the choice that he has made … the community of Kell has made  an excellent choice and from the school standpoint and the district’s  standpoint.”

Wagner has been at Sprayberry since 2005, most recently  serving as principal since 2009. Hinojosa said recently retired Hightower Trail  Middle Principal Hilda Wilkins will serve as interim until they hire a  replacement for him.

Kell’s former principal, Trudie Donovan, retired  after 34 years as an educator after she allegedly failed to report child abuse  within 24 hours of learning that a teacher sexually abused a student.

The  board also approved moving Swinney from Vaughan Elementary, where she’s been  since 2006, to Area 1 Assistant Superintendent. She replaced Robert Benson who  moved to Virginia after being named superintendent at a small school district  there.

Swinney has been an educator in Cobb since 1998 and an  administrator since 2001. Hinojosa said he wasn’t sure when her replacement at  Vaughan would be hired but they should be posting the job on the district’s job  website within the next two weeks.

The last personnel appointment was of  Randazzo from the manager of local school accounting and property control to the  director of internal audit. She is replacing Mima Carmichael, who retired after  23 years with the district.

The board also approved a portion of the  revised Strategic Plan, 6-1, with Banks opposing.

They agreed on the five  core values, five beliefs of the district, the vision and mission statements,  and the four goals the district has outlined.

Banks said he opposed the  agenda item because he did not agree with Goal No. 2, which stated “Differentiate resources for areas/schools based on needs.”

“I see that  as us relinquishing the board’s authority and giving it to the superintendent,” he said.

Jones said that is not what is meant by the goal and that it was  one that had been talked about quite a bit and “tweaked” a lot since they began  working on the goals a few months ago.

“We took it as looking at the  schools and recognizing that the needs are different,” she  retorted.

Banks also questioned how they are going to engrain the core  values into the Cobb Schools community. Jones said that is the next step in the  revision process and she will be bringing it back to them at the August board  meetings for approval.

In other business, the board also  approved:

n A property tax rate of 18.9 mills. The Fiscal Year 2013  budget, which was approved by the board on May 21, was created with a tax rate  of 19.9 mills in mind. If approved, the board would use $20.3 million in excess  SPLOST II funds to buy the tax rate down. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of  assessed value.

The vote was 4-3, with Angelucci, Bartlett and Tim Stultz  opposing.

n A $540,000 contract extension with Telematics Solution to  Sprint/Actsoft for the Telematics Information Management System for the Cobb  Schools transportation and maintenance departments. The service helps with the  school bus GPS and two-way radio communication.

n A $386,000 contract  with Beatty Construction Inc. of Austell to convert the new band instrument  storage room at Lost Mountain Middle School into a networked lab, move the  instrument storage cabinets into a band room, and add handicapped restrooms and  modify the classroom for moderately intellectual disabled students.

The  project is $148,437, or 29 percent, under budget and is expected to be completed  by Oct. 19.

n Collecting $110,871 in Capital Outlay Project Closeout  reimbursements from the Georgia Department of Education for construction  projects at Davis, Addison, Belmont Hills and Sedalia Park elementary  schools.

n A $1,600 per month lease to rent space on the third floor of  the old Paulding County Courthouse for the Cobb/Paulding Adult Education Center.  The rent would be paid for by a Technical College System of Georgia grant. The  center provides educational opportunities to students 16 or older in Cobb and  Paulding counties.

n An agreement with American Traffic Solutions of  Scottsdale, Ariz., to begin writing violations for anyone caught on a stop-arm  camera passing a school bus illegally. The Cobb County Commissioners will  consider it during its July 24 meeting.

The company will be take the  video provided by the district, determine if it’s a violation and issue  citations. Deputy Superintendent of Operations Chris Ragsdale said there is no  cost associated with the agreement and was unable to say how much revenue could  be brought in from the citations, but he said any funds collected would be used  to maintain the stop-arm camera use.

n A $425,000 Request for Proposal  with Majestic Contract Service and PCM Electrical Contractors for electrical  expenses; a $425,000 RFP with SouthCore Construction Inc. and Triad Construction  Company Inc. for construction services; and a $350,000 RFP for moving technology  services equipment. These costs are all to help keep SPLOST III additions and  renovations on schedule through the summer, Ragsdale said.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal, July 20, 2012. Written by Lindsay Field.  Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Board members denounce Banks at CCSB meeting.)

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