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.)