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Share your opinions, read the latest news, debate the issues facing Cobb County School District, with special focus on public schools located in East Cobb.

Chair: Sweeney and Promethean link is ‘conflict of interest’ with BoE

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Cobb County School Board member Scott Sweeney, center, directs questions to Chief Financial Officer Brad Johnson during a special called meeting Monday morning to present the proposed 2015 fiscal year budget. Cobb Board of Education members Kathleen Angelucci and Randy Scamihorn said Tuesday they want more information about fellow board member Sweeney’s involvement with Promethean Ltd. and the company’s links to the school system’s foundation.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff

Cobb Board of Education members Kathleen Angelucci and Randy Scamihorn said Tuesday they want more information about fellow board member Scott Sweeney’s involvement with Promethean Ltd. and the company’s links to the school system’s foundation.

Sweeney, in the middle of a tough re-election bid against fellow Republican Kevin Nicholas, informed the school board late last year he had been hired by the digital whiteboard manufacturer as a consultant. Though Promethean markets its products directly to school systems, Sweeney said nothing about it, given two previous chances to disclose his interests.

Angelucci, the school board chair, said she would have acted differently.

“It’s concerning to me,” she said. “Mr. Sweeney has to make his own decisions. If he decided to do this and said, ‘I’m going to abstain or recuse myself if a vote comes up,’ for him that’s the ethical choice. For me, it’s a conflict of interest.”

Angelucci said it would be different if the district had nothing to do with the company.

“But we do, and I don’t know to what extent. I’d like to ask more questions to find out,” she said.

The two also took issue with Sweeney’s insistence that he will abstain from any votes pertaining to Promethean.

Angelucci said the role of a school board member is to vote.

“Our job is to vote,” she said. “When you start recusing yourself from votes, you know, we’re supposed to represent not just our post but the district as a whole and it affects the district.”

,b>Other Promethean links to CCSD

Promethean’s ties the Cobb County School District go deeper than Sweeney. The Cobb Schools Foundation, a fundraising group with an employee — its executive director — on the district’s payroll, has multiple ties to the company.

Jim Marshall, CEO of Promethean, is a member of the Cobb Schools Foundation board. Morten Brante, Promethean’s senior vice president of services for Promethean, is married to Sheri Brante, executive director of the foundation.

Sweeney said his first contact with the company was through Marshall.

Both Angelucci and Scamihorn said they had a lot of questions about the Cobb Schools Foundation after reading the MDJ’s initial story Sunday.

“We should know a lot more than we do,” Angelucci said.

Sheri Brante is paid $43,000 per year by the Cobb school district as a part-time employee. Overall, the district pays the Cobb Schools Foundation $136,000, according to Scamihorn, but the foundation only raises $150,000 to $175,000 for the district.

“It makes me uncomfortable,” Angelucci said. “Perception sometimes becomes reality.”

What’s more, Angelucci said she is a member of the Cobb Schools Foundation board, but had no idea until recently. She has never been invited to a meeting of the foundation’s board and never received copies of meeting minutes.

The group is chaired by John Crooks, a former Cobb school board member.

Scamihorn, last year’s school board chairman, said he doesn’t recall ever being invited to the foundation’s board meetings either, despite also sitting on the group’s board at the time.

Both said that in a month or two they will know a lot more about what’s going on.

“Our job is to find out what’s going on and ask the questions that need to be asked,” Angelucci said. “And we will.”

Asked directly if she would work for any vendor marketing a product to school systems while serving on the school board, Angelucci said, “No.”

Scamihorn was equally resolute.

“You have to be far enough ahead of that curve that you are above reproach,” he said.

Sweeney says contract is confidential

On Tuesday, the MDJ asked Sweeney if he would be willing to disclose his contract with Promethean in the interest of transparency.

“The contractor contract between Promethean and me is confidential and is stipulated as such within the contract,” he said in an emailed response. “The contract does not include any incentive and/or commission element.”

Sweeney attended the National School Boards Association Conference April 5 to 7 in New Orleans. But he said he went on behalf of Promethean, not the Cobb school board.

Sweeney said he was clear about his affiliations while visiting the crescent city.

“I did not register for the conference and I represented myself as working with Promethean during my meetings in New Orleans,” he said.

Sweeney is finishing up his first term representing Post 6, an east Cobb district including Walton and Wheeler high schools. His re-election bid will be decided May 20 during the Republican primary. The winner between Sweeney and Nicholas will represent the district from 2015 to 2018.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Haisten Willis, April 16, 2014. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Chair Sweeney and Promethean link is conflict of interest with BoE)

Political forum panel discussion on education financing this Thursday

There will be a political forum panel discussion on education financing on Thursday April 17, 2014, in the Hightower Trail Middle School auditorium, 3905 Post Oak Tritt Road. State and local political leaders will be in attendance and speaking at the forum.

The focus of the discussion will be the practical realities of the budget shortfall for students, teachers, parents and schools, as well as potential short-term and long-term solutions for education funding and ensuring the high quality of education for students now and in the future. In addition, organizers will focus on the voting process and the upcoming May 20th primary.

For more information, contact Amy Surasky president@trittpta.org or (770) 642-5630 or Jennifer Limeri president@huskyptsa.info or (770) 578-7225. The PTA follows 501(c) 3 practices and invites all candidates from the state representative race for districts; 44, 45 and 46, and the state senate race for district 32, as well as the Gubernatorial race for the State of Georgia. Hosting of this candidate forum should not and cannot imply endorsement of any candidate.

 

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Post 6 BOE forum to feature Nicholas, Sweeney

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A Post 6 Forum for the race for the Cobb County Board of Education will be held on Monday, April 21, from 6-7:30pm at Sope Creek Elementary. The Forum will host candidates Kevin Nicholas and Scott Sweeney. Moderator will be Cynthia Rozzo, founder and publisher of EAST COBBER magazine.

Sope Creek Elementary School is located at 3320 Paper Mill Road, 30067. The event is collaboratively hosted by the Sope Creek Elementary School Council, PTA, and Foundation. Complimentary on-site childcare provided by Sensible Sitters, sensiblesitters.com/. Childcare reservations are recommended, though not required. To reserve a childcare spot, visit forum.childcare.RSVP@gmail.com.

A maximum of 60 childcare spots have been generously donated by the SCES PTA & Foundation.

 

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BoE candidates questioned on Race to the Top, superintendent nod

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Candidates discuss the issues during a Board of Education forum sponsored by the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club. Candidates are, from left, Kevin Nicholas, Scott Sweeney, David Chastain and Bill Scott. Susan Thayer, not pictured, was seated to the right.
MDJ Staff/Jeff Stanton

Cobb Board of Education candidates touched on Race to the Top and proposed Interim Superintendent Chris Ragsdale during a Thursday night forum.

Sponsored by the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club, the forum was in the Cobb County commission chambers.

Three of the seven school board members are up for re-election this year.

In Post 2, Tim Stultz is challenged by retired Cobb educator Susan Thayer and Wells Fargo lending officer Jeff Abel for the Smyrna-area seat. Whoever wins the May 20 Republican primary faces Democrat Kenya Pierre of Smyrna, an attorney, in November.

Post 6, representing the east Cobb area, pits incumbent Scott Sweeney against Kevin Nicholas, director with PGi, a global video and audio technology company, who has three children in the school district.

Board Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci is not seeking re-election in the Post 4 seat, leaving Lockheed Martin logistics analyst and grandfather of two David Chastain and retired Marietta Sixth Grade Academy Principal Bill Scott to compete for the north-central Cobb seat.

Candidates were given one to two minutes to answer each question.

Scott calls Race to Top ‘innovative,’ Chastain says no

Candidates were asked about President Barack Obama’s signature education initiative, Race to the Top, and its pay-for-performance component.

Scott said he doesn’t

believe pay for performance works.

“One of the things with that is that teachers become competitive with each other rather than sharing with each other and to have a good school where people collaborate, they need to share ideas,” Scott said.

At the same time, Scott had some good things to say about Race to the Top, which he called innovative.

“Race to the Top is a guideline that I think that we can work through, but it’s something that is able to help us create an innovative way of looking at the best way to help children learn, so it does need some work. We want to make sure that it doesn’t become a mandate, but so far about 44 states have adopted this philosophy of Race to the Top, and I think that we can possibly make it work,” Scott said.

Chastain, of Acworth, had nothing good to say about Race to the Top.

“When you have Race to the Top, who wins? I mean, what was the race all about?” Chastain asked.

Chastain recalled attending Wheeler High School in the 1970s, when the fashionable education concept was “open-space” teaching.

“Let’s take 90 kids, throw them in one big room and have three classes going at once, and I’m sure a lot of educators and people that benefited from that financially embraced it. It was a total failure,” Chastain said.

Another education fad Chastain said didn’t work was Georgia’s “Math 1, 2 and 3,” which he said his daughter suffered through.

“Race to the Top, all these other things, I think we’re helping make corporations richer, and we’re helping lobbyists fund politicians with Race to the Top and that sort of thing. It ain’t happening with my kid,” he said.

Ragsdale praised and poked?

Stultz and Abel did not show up for the event, leaving the floor to Thayer. Some believe Thayer took a swipe at Ragsdale, Cobb’s deputy superintendent of operational support, who the Cobb school board named as its finalist for interim superintendent, in her brief remarks. Thayer was permitted an opening statement, but did not participate in answering questions.

“A big thing that’s facing our system right now is selecting a superintendent,” Thayer said. “I know how to pick educational leaders. I know what to look for. I hope we find someone who does not function always on operational issues, but looks at learning.”

By contrast, Nicholas, who is challenging Sweeney, praised the selection of Ragsdale while referencing Sweeney’s support for Superintendent Michael Hinojosa.

“I applaud the appointment today … of Chris Ragsdale as interim superintendent instead of the outgoing superintendent that my opponent supports,” Nicholas said. “With Chris and myself, I think we can start the business of real transparency. There has been some issues as far as transparency with land purchase on Terrell Mill Road, I believe, and also with East Cobb Middle School. We need to enable our students for success. We need to manage the taxpayer money efficiently and earn their trust.”

Sweeney reportedly fought the board’s decision to select Ragsdale as interim superintendent from the beginning, according to sources inside the school system who asked not to be identified.

Funding issues

Sweeney spoke of using special purpose local option sales tax dollars to help reduce classroom sizes.

“I’ve actually worked tirelessly to reduce classroom sizes, and I’ve done so by supporting the usage of excess SPLOST funds, which is legally permitted to do so, which resulted in the preservation of hundreds of teaching positions,” he said.

Sweeney also took credit for “educating” the community about school finances. During a town hall meeting in December, he called on parents to deprive Gov. Nathan Deal of another term in office if he didn’t give the school system more money. Sweeney referenced that action Thursday.

“With this community’s support, which I was largely responsible for getting out in front of the community and educating, I held more than 15 education forums, talking about finance and what it means to fully fund. And the good people of this county made their voices known, made it known to the governor, made it known to the state representatives and senators, that we need to improve the funding mechanism, which will help us reduce classroom sizes,” Sweeney said.

Nicolas said managing existing revenues should also be a priority.

“One thing we do differ on between my opponent and myself is I think you have to manage the money you have without trying to find where the available money is,” he said. “And you have to allocate that as a priority to reducing classroom sizes. I do agree with all of my colleagues up here that classroom sizes directly impact performance. That needs to be a priority in the budget and also needs to be a priority toward students.”

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Haisten Willis, April 11, 2014. Jon Gillooly contributed to this report. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – BoE candidates questioned on Race to the Top superintendent nod)

Chris Ragsdale Named Finalist For Interim Superintendent

The Cobb County Board of Education Thursday named Chris Ragsdale as finalist for interim Superintendent of the Cobb County School District, effective June 1, 2014. Ragsdale was appointed to his current role of Deputy Superintendent for Operations in 2011, having served as the District’s Chief Technology Officer since September 2006. During his tenure with CCSD, Ragsdale has managed the District’s plant operations, provided oversight for the District’s technology integration, and been responsible for planning and execution of capital projects approved by Cobb voters and funded by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

Prior to joining Cobb, Ragsdale served as Chief Information Officer for neighboring Paulding County Schools, worked in database and network support for BellSouth Telecommunications, and as network manager for IBM. He is 45 years old, holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems from Kennesaw State University and is currently enrolled in the executive MBA program at Shorter University in Rome, GA.

Chris Ragsdale will provide familiar, proven, and stable leadership as the Board explores a permanent appointment for Superintendent of Schools. The Board of Education is expected to vote on the appointment during its April 24, 2014 evening meeting.

 

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Cobb Board of Education to Announce Interim Superintendent

The Cobb County Board of Education will announce an interim superintendent for the Cobb County School District during a press conference Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. in the Board meeting room at 514 Glover St, Marietta, GA 30068.

 

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Cobb Named Among 2014 Best Communities for Music Education

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The Cobb County School District is among the Best Communities for Music Education in the United States for 2014, according to a national survey by the NAMM Foundation.

Teachers and district administrators from more than 2,000 schools and systems across the United States participated in a comprehensive survey developed and conducted by The Institute for Educational Research and Public Service, an affiliate of the University of Kansas. They answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, and community support for music programs. CCSD is among just 376 school systems nationwide that met the criteria for the prestigious designation for 2014.

The Cobb County School District remains firmly committed to music education, having earned a spot among the Best Communities for Music Education 12 times in the program’s 15-year history. More than 40,000 Cobb County students are currently enrolled in music elective programs and more than 49,000 elementary students are immersed in music instruction. At the high school level, students can pursue stage and screen dreams through specialized instruction in voice, drama, and dance at The Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School. Our marching and symphonic bands, orchestras and choral groups have performed in numerous state and national invitationals and at national events including the Tournament of Roses Parade in California and the Macy’s Thankgiving Day Parade in New York.

Click here to learn more about the music programs offered in Cobb County Schools. A complete list of the 376 Best Communities in Music Education are available on the NAMM Foundation website.

(Source: Cobbk12.org)

 

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Newsletter to keep people informed on KSU/SPSU consolidation

Kennesaw State University staff has developed an electronic newsletter to keep people informed on the latest details of the consolidation process. The KSU/SPSU Consolidation Update is designed especially for friends and key stakeholders of Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University to share progress as two of Georgia’s premiere institutions are consolidated. To view the latest issue of the newsletter, click here.

 

 

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Dodgen Robotics seeks new members

An informational meetings for rising 6th,7th and 8th graders interested in the Dodgen Robotics Team will be held April 14 and April 15 from 6:30-7:00 in Room 739 at Dodgen Middle School.  Prospective members and a parent are required to attend one of the informational meetings.

The Dodgen Robotics Team is searching for a few dedicated new team members for the upcoming 2014-2015 season.  They need students interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) as well as marketing, organization, media, public speaking and art.  The team competes in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and was the Winning Alliance for the State of Georgia this past season.  This is a year round activity that requires a strong level of commitment from both students and parents.  The team meets after school one day a week and typically two weekends a month.

To learn more about the First Tech Challenge (FTC) visit http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/ftc. To learn more about Dodgen’s Robotics Team visit www.dodgenrobotics.org. If you have additional questions, contact dodgenrobotics@gmail.com.

 

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Legislation addresses nutrition in schools

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Below is an important link regarding food and nutrition in local schools.  Currently, Cobb has made changes to the School Wellness Policy based on federal mandates.  These federal policies mandate the nutrition standards for foods being served or sold in schools.  The federal government is now considering further legislation that would mandate any food brought into schools for any reason (ie: school celebrations, teacher or volunteer luncheons, etc.).  Parents may want to become familiar with the new restrictions outlined in The Healthy, Hunger- Free Kids Act of 2010.   The complete proposed rule pertaining to the Local School Wellness Policy is available at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FNS-2014-0010-0001

Visit this website by April 28, 2014 to provide public comments to your state and federal law makers.