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School board ends discussion of censure for Banks

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Cobb School Board member David Banks
Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan

The Cobb County school board voted 4-3 Wednesday morning not to move forward with Kathleen Angelucci’s request to proceed with censuring colleague David Banks.

In other business, the board unanimously approved hiring 30 teachers to alleviate overcrowding in schools; to allow retired administrators to serve on the three-person panel for tribunals when board members are unable to attend; and to hire Christine M. Dinizio as Dowell Elementary’s new principal.

Angelucci said after the meeting that the “censure could have been an important means of distancing this board from Mr. Banks’ counterproductive and unethical behavior.”

“It was imperative that a very clear message be conveyed to every citizen, staff member and employee that they can and should report to the superintendent and board chair all violations of Board Protocols, Board Policies and Code of Ethics witnessed, without there ever being fear of retribution of any kind,” she said.

Board Chair Scott Sweeney, Vice Chair David Morgan, Lynnda Eagle and Banks opposed her request.

Banks said only that the vote “was an appropriate decision.”

Among the reasons Angelucci cited in requesting the censure were the allegations that Banks used his position on the board for personal gain; criticized colleagues and staff in his constituent newsletter, David’s Grapevine, which he sends out on the district’s network; and refused to abide by board decisions.

Eagle asked how Banks’ actions were any different than board member Alison Bartlett’s, who spoke at a forum over the weekend announcing a school calendar proposal even though the district has formed a committee to tackle that task.

“It’s repetitive behavior,” Bartlett said of Banks’ actions. “We have clear policies that we have repeatedly agreed to.”

Stultz, who voted in favor of the censure, asked if there was any way for the district to move forward with a censure without the hearing, but board attorney Clem Doyle said there wasn’t.

Toward the end of the discussion, Sweeney asked board members if they agreed that none of them should be at a school without an invitation. Only Banks said no.

“Well, you have six members who feel differently,” Sweeney said.

In another vote, the board unanimously agreed to hire 30 teachers to help relieve overcrowded classrooms throughout the district.

“The additional teachers are all due to the unexpected growth in the district,” Hinojosa said. “We had almost 1,300 more students than projected … at almost every campus.”

The district will initially take $3 million from the reserve fund to pay salaries for these additions and will pay the account back after Full-Time Equivalent funds come in from the state in either April or May, Chief Financial Officer Mike Addison said.

Sweeney asked if the district knew what caused the increase in students, but Assistant Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Hungerford could not say. She believed some of them were from Imagine International Academy of Mableton that was closed after last school year but was not sure where the others came from.

Sweeney asked that the district look into the enrollment growth.

“We need something in place to try and address this down the road,” he said.

The board also unanimously agreed to allow non–board members to serve on the three-person panels for tribunals.

The request came from Eagle, who said that the hearings are very timely and that the district is often unable to find three board members who can participate. She wanted the option for the district to contact retired administrators to serve if needed.

These individuals would be paid for their service, but that amount was not disclosed during the meeting. Additionally, board members could not say how much training, if any, those selected would undergo before being selected to serve.

In other business, the board approved hiring 15-year teaching veteran Dinizio to be Dowell Elementary School’s new principal. She has been an assistant principal at Sanders Elementary in Austell since 2007 and will start at Dowell on Monday.

Dinizio started her education career as a teacher at Garrett Middle in 1997. She taught for nine years and served for one year as a math facilitator at the elementary level before being an assistant principal.

Her salary will increase to $89,068 from $72,851, according to the district.

The school’s former principal, Janis Komara, resigned from the position last month for reasons the district will not release to the public. Former Cobb Schools Deputy Superintendent Alice Stouder has been serving as the school’s interim principal.

The board also learned more about the $20 million to $30 million in Race to the Top funds that Hinojosa is interested in the district pursuing.

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Judi Jones gave a brief presentation about the Oct. 30 deadline, the four-year time period in which it would be distributed to the district, what they are required to do with the grant money, the focus and goals of the grant and how to sustain the programs and staff positions after the funds run out.

Angelucci asked what strings were attached to the grant, to which Jones said only that teacher and leader evaluation would need to be implemented one year earlier than required by the state.

Bartlett said she was concerned about funding the new programs after the grant ends.

Hinojosa said he understood the concerns but hopes the grant and required programs change the way the district operates.

“It gives us an opportunity to do something different with somebody else’s money,” he said.

The board also discussed, but took no action on, approving short and long term targets for the newly revised Strategic Plan and the document’s format; a recommendation to extend a $900,000 contract for digital video surveillance cameras at elementary and high schools; the reduction of one furlough day sometime towards the end of the school year; the superintendent’s evaluation form; and a Memorandum of Agreement with the Georgia Department of Education regarding Cobb’s four “Focus Schools.”

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal, September 13, 2012. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – No censure for Banks)

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