Get our e-newsletter

Funding crisis main focus of school debates

School board candidates squared off at debates Thursday, ahead of a competitive May 20 primary likely to be settled based on controversial issues about funding, construction projects, and who is perceived as best able to solve the challenges facing public education in Cobb County.

Post 6 candidates Scott Sweeney and Kevin Nicholas, along with Post 4’s Bill Scott and David Chastain, spoke at a morning PTSA meeting at Sprayberry High School. At 6 p.m. a second forum was held at Hightower Trail Middle School. All the candidates are Republicans, and their races will be decided during the May 20 Republican primary.

Post 6 is an east Cobb seat with Walton and Wheeler as its high schools. Post 4 represents the northeast Cobb area, including Kell and Sprayberry high schools.

Kathleen Angelucci represents Post 4 now but is not seeking re-election. No Democrats are running, so the winner of the Republican primary will win the seat for the next four years.

Chastain and Scott were asked Thursday what the biggest difference is between them.

Both agreed it’s their history — Scott’s background is in education while Chastain’s is in business — but they differed on what that means for their candidacy and the job awaiting the ultimate winner of the school board seat.

Scott, former principal of Marietta Sixth Grade Academy, said his background is a strength.

“I feel that being an educator at this day and time is probably an advantage,” he said. “While I was never at the executive level of school administration, I was in a school which was a recipient of the decisions made by school boards, both good and bad. I have that experience.”

Not surprisingly, his opponent feels differently.

“I have an understanding of how businesses work,” said Chastain, an analyst for Lockheed-Martin. “Not everybody is going to be a gifted child who goes out and becomes a knowledge worker. School systems need to accommodate all the kids with all of their dreams and their parents’ dreams and have them go out and do whatever that is.”

Chastain talked about the different experiences of his three kids working through their own career paths.

Both also talked about how the Cobb schools budget might look over the next four years. For now, the days of furloughs and shortened school years appear to be over. Higher property values and more money from the state mean the Cobb County School District is looking to hire nearly 200 new teachers for the 2014-15 school year.

But $40 million of the state dollars are likely a one-time, election year gift from Gov. Nathan Deal. Both candidates said they were cautious about the future.

“I’m going to say the glass is half empty,” said Chastain. “I want to believe things will be better, but I want us to figure out where the rest of the water is coming from.”

Scott also said the district needs to be careful.

“School systems need ongoing support, not just during an election year,” he said. “We have to hold our legislators accountable. If we’re not taking care of our students today we’ll pay for it tomorrow. They are the future.”

The two also discussed construction priorities from 2015 to 2018.

“We need to continue to approve (education sales taxes) that allow us to take care of the mortar in our buildings,” Scott said.

Chastain said he’s more concerned with the quality of construction than the quantity.

“We’ve gone from 103,000 students to 109,000 students over the last 10 years,” he said. “Will we pick up another 6,000 or will the growth level off? That I don’t know. I do know I’ve been told we have aging schools that have not been addressed in the previous sales tax referendums. This needs to be addressed. We have some schools that have withstood the test of time, and we have younger structures that need more maintenance. We need to focus on the quality of construction because there’s not much more land out there to grab.”

Post 4 candidates did not participate in the Hightower Trail debate.

Post 6 candidates

Speaking at the Sprayberry event, Sweeney touted his accomplishments during his first term in office.

“In so many instances, I’m trying to find out what we can do to make an impact at the school level by getting to what’s happening across the state and other areas,” said Sweeney, who runs a consulting firm.

Sweeney said he was appointed by the Georgia School Boards Association as the 6th congressional district representative to the Federal Relations Network, among other appointments.

Sweeney also touted his work in persuading voters to pass the most recent 1-percent sales tax measure, which he said could have added $20 million to $50 million to the school system’s deficit this year if it wasn’t passed.

“I found out we had a ‘B’ rating in the Sunshine Awards,” he said of the rating by Sunshine Review, a citizens group that measures government transparency. “I got with the people that drove that group and said ‘There are things you need to know about the Cobb County School District,’ and through that we were able to achieve an A-plus rating.”

Nicholas, senior vice president of a telecommunications company, shared his own ideas about the role of a school board member.

“It comes down to my three kids and if I can make a difference for them and for other kids,” Nicholas said. “It’s about enabling kids.”

For seven years, Nicholas was a single parent before a marriage a few years ago, he said. He cited that experience, working on homework and interacting with teachers as something he can draw on as a school board member.

“I scratched my head a couple of times on how things are being handled,” Nicholas said. “That’s nothing against the teachers. I think we have some of the best teachers in the country. But our test scores have been flat over the years; in fact, they’ve been going down a little bit. Graduation rates have been flat, why is that?”

School systems need to be able to push down the decision making process, Nicholas said, which could include the school system becoming a charter system next year. While not fully endorsing the concept, Nicholas feels there is “a lot of merit to pushing decisions down.”

He also touted his work experience.

“There is about $40 million in one-time revenue in next year’s budget,” he said. “We’re blessed with a balanced budget, but what happens next year? What happens when it’s not an election year? I think I can bring some large company experience to look at that.”

Nicholas also applauded the school board’s decision to hire Chris Ragsdale as interim superintendent. The next school board will decide whether to keep Ragsdale long-term or hire a different superintendent after May 2015.

Nicholas also didn’t participate in the Hightower Trail debate. He pulled out of it after finding Facebook posts by its monitor, JoEllen Smith, saying she supports Sweeney.

Post 2 candidates

Post 2, a district covering the Smyrna/Vinings area, also is open this year. Incumbent Tim Stultz faces fellow Republicans Susan Thayer and Jeff Abel in the May 20 primary. The winner faces Democrat Kenya Pierre in the November general election. Because Thursday’s forums were for the east Cobb area, Post 2 candidates weren’t involved.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Haisten Willis, April 19, 2014. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Funding crisis main focus of school debates)

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.


LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

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.


LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Cobb Named Among 2014 Best Communities for Music Education


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.



LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Cobb County Schools CLOSED for Spring Break!


Photo credit: Elizabeth Wentz

All Cobb County Schools will be closed for Spring Break March 31 – April 4. Classes will resume on Monday, April 7.

LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

March School Budget Update from David Banks

David Banks

The following information was originally published in the Grapevine newsletter by David E. Banks, Cobb County School Board Post 5

In a previous issue of the Grapevine, I was able to provide you with proposed State Budget funding amounts from the Governor. Since that time the House of Representatives has passed the proposed Budget and we are now waiting on the Senate.

At the March 12th Board Work Session, Chief Financial Officer Brad Johnson presented a snapshot of the reasonable expectations the Cobb County School District would receive from the State Budget.

($79,134,824) – the FY2015 Projected General Fund Budget Shortfall as presented in October 2013.
$25,000,000 – General Fund Lapse (Prior Year Actual Expenditures Compared to Budget). Budget money not spent during the current year (2013-2014).
$ 8,028,901 – FY2014 Midterm (QBE) Additional funding as a result of the State Supplemental Budget Adjustments.
$20,132,808 – Governor’s Proposed FY2015 Budget (reduced austerity).
$ 6,929,777 – FY2015 QBE Growth and T&E Factor. Increased funds to reflect an adjustment in the employer share of the Teachers’ Retirement System from 12.28% to 13.15%. Increase in T&E funding for teacher step increases and enrollment growth.
$ 5,000,000 – Classified Employee Health Insurance Premium. $150 per month per employee.
$ 38,305 – Funding for School Nurses.

As you can see, the Cobb County School District is continuing to receive good news concerning its Budget funding.

There are three additional sources of funding that are pending that will help determine additional funding; Tax Assessor Audits, Cobb EMC Settlement, and how much of the Fund Balance will be used to balance the Budget.

The good news is it is looking like the 2014-2015 Budget will be balanced without any Staff reduction and no furlough days. In other words, there will a 180 day school year for students and 190 day school year for teachers. Also included is a full step increase rather than a half-step as in previous years.

In summary, the Budget shortfall is looking much better, but we are not “out of the woods yet”. The continuing concern is determining what is recurring revenue and expenditures and what is one time revenue and expenditures for FY2016 school year, which the CFO is already anticipating in his budget process.

The Board Chair Ms. Angelucci, Vice-Chair Mr. Scamihorn, and I have been working closely with CFO Mr. Johnson to bring our budget into balance in a way that will have a positive impact on the school system and not have a negative impact on the classroom. I want to recognize the many hours of work that the Budget Staff has devoted to this effort and the results look very encouraging. Although there is much more to do, the Budget Staff has been able to provide viable options in the budget balancing process.

As I mention in a previous Grapevine, in order to return to the pre-2009 level, there must be another source of funding. The proposed Local Education Sales Tax Amendment would provide this needed funding and provide property tax reduction each year. There are many who have subscribed to this proposed funding so I will continue to advocate for this funding option so that Cobb County schools can return to the pre-2009 level.

(Source: David Banks) 


LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Kindergarten, First Grade registration this Wednesday for first-timers

Cobb County Schools

The enrollment for all students entering a Cobb County kindergarten or first grade class for the first time will be conducted at each school on March 12, 2014 from 8:30- 11:30am.

Kindergarten students must be five (5) years old and first grade students must be six (6) years old on or before September 1, 2014 in order to enroll.

The following documents and information should be brought to the school in order to complete enrollment:

  1. Certificate of Immunization  (Georgiaform #3231)
  2. Certificate of vision, hearing, dental, and nutritional screening  (Georgia form #3300)

The above forms can be obtained from a licensed physician or the Cobb & Douglas Health Department.

3. Proof of Birth Date including a certified copy of Birth Certificate, Military ID, Passport, Adoption Record, a religious recordauthorized by a religious official, an official school transcript, or an affidavit of age. Please visit the following link for additional details.

4. Proof of Residency  Two (2) documents supporting residency are required. Please visit the following link for additional   details.

5. Social Security Number


Also needed are the names and phone numbers of persons who may pick up your child if you cannot be reached, and the name and phone number of your child’s doctor.

For more detailed enrollment/immunization information, please see the CCSD website at


LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Cobb Schools Will Meet Student Needs, Address Instructional Time Lost To Weather. Plan Will Not Include Make-Up Days or Longer School Days.

Cobb County schools are mobilizing to address lost instructional time due to a recent bout of inclement weather. Due to extreme cold, ice and/or snow, all Cobb County schools were closed a total of six days: January 7, 29, 30 and 31, and February 11 and 12. 
The Georgia Department of Education has announced that schools are not required to make up the missed days in late January and February because these events were declared states of emergency. 
Even though Cobb missed one fewer day than many metro school systems due to previously scheduled furloughs, and even though the time that was missed is not required to be made up, school district leadership nevertheless considered all options available to address the lost instructional time. Those options included adding additional days to the end of the school year, shortening spring break, and/or lengthening the school day by adding minutes to beginning or end of remaining school days. Each of these proposals have inherent challenges in that both staff and student family commitments for the designated times most likely would impact the fidelity and instructional benefit of implementation. Additionally, adding school days would require shifting Cobb’s testing window, scheduled for April 23-May 2, which in turn would reduce test make-up opportunities and place a tremendous scheduling burden on schools. 
Instead, leadership in Cobb schools will address the snow days by utilizing all available resources to maximize remaining instructional time. Each school will present a plan that outlines how it will supplement the instructional deficit caused by the loss of instructional days. 
The following is a preliminary list of possible opportunities and solutions for schools to provide additional instructional support for their students to account for the loss of school days: 
•  Maximize instructional time with a specific emphasis on minimizing any disruption to instruction (assemblies, long recesses, etc.);
•  Restrict scheduling of new field trips;
•  Postpone all non-critical teacher professional learning;
•  Focus instructional planning to address high impact standards;
•  Review pacing guides and adjust accordingly;
•  Offer tutoring opportunities before and after school for students who need assistance;
•  Provide meaningful homework assignments and study guides – incorporate technology enhanced instruction;
•  Maximize use of technology including postings on teacher blogs and flipped classroom instructional recordings;
•  Offer an optional Saturday School where needed or appropriate;
•  Maximize 20-day funds to support students needing additional assistance;
•  Promote grade level teachers to form flexible groups based on specific skill readiness as needed;
•  Reformat specials scheduled in elementary school to allow for more time in core content areas. Utilize specialists to support core content, school student achievement accountability areas; 
•  Provide information for parents to access the Online Assessment System (OAS) to help their student practice for the CRCT;
•  Utilize flexibility of staff not connected to classrooms or core subject areas to assist with small group remediation;
•  Open the computer lab and media centers before and after school so that students access Skills Tutor, Study Island, and other instructional software;
“We have the highest level of confidence in our schools and their exceptional teaching staffs to address our number one priority, which is student achievement,” said Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. “I believe that with careful planning by our school leaders and commitment by our teachers, we can address the time our students were out of the classroom in a way that is more acceptable to parents and staff.” 
The specific plans each school will implement must consider materials and resources needed, transportation issues, the timeline and frequency of interventions, and ensuring that parents and the local school community are informed and involved. 

(Source: Cobb County Schools) 

LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Cobb Students, Families Invited To Meet With College Representatives At College Credit Now Summit March 4

College student

Cobb County students and families can learn how to earn college credit while enrolled in Cobb high schools at the College Credit Now Summit March 4 at Campbell High School. Representatives from Chattahoochee Technical College, Georgia Highlands College, Kennesaw State University, Southern Polytechnic State University and the Georgia Department of Education will be on hand to provide information and answer questions in a small group setting.

Attendees will: 

  • Meet College Representatives
  • Learn about college credit options available while in high school
  • Ask questions in small groups
  • Hear about Move on When Ready, Accel, Joint & Dual Enrollment
  • Learn about 100% Paid Tuition Options
  • Discuss Georgia Student Finance Commission information

The College Credit Now Summit will be held on Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 6:30—8:30 pm at Campbell High School (opening session meets in theater), 5265 Ward Street Smyrna, GA 30080.


LIKE THIS BLOG? Then you’ll love our newsletter! Click HERE to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and be a neighbor in the know!

Board to vote on Hinojosa’s resignation


It is still unclear when Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa will be allowed to return to his home in Texas as the school board has yet to formally accept his resignation, which he presented in a letter earlier this month.

The board was expected to vote Wednesday on whether or not to allow Hinojosa, who came to Cobb in June 2011, to opt out of his contract almost a year early.

Hinojosa announced to the board at a Feb. 3 meeting he intends to accept a job as a senior vice president of a Chicago-based national education consulting firm and work from Dallas, Texas, where his family lives.

The superintendent gave the board a letter of resignation, which said Hinojosa intends to stay on as the head of the state’s second-largest school system until May 31. His contract isn’t up until Dec. 31, 2014.

The board was surprised by Hinojosa’s sudden resignation, and called a special, closed-door Saturday meeting on Feb. 8 to discuss their options for naming a successor.

Board members were tight-lipped as to what direction they planned to take in selecting a superintendent Tuesday. Many said they had not had the chance to discuss what they intended to do since the Saturday meeting.

In a closed-door session at Wednesday’s work session, the board was expected to discuss whether or not they will accept Hinojosa’s resignation.

Discussions as to whether or not the board will name an interim superintendent, or whether or not the search will be from within the school district or nationwide have yet to be held, but were expected to begin Wednesday, said Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci.

“We have to decide how we are going to replace him,” said board member David Banks.

Angelucci said it was important to give each board member time to decide how they wanted to move forward, and she could not predict what her fellow board members were thinking on Tuesday.

“It is up to the board,” Angelucci said.

Banks said the board could accept Hinojosa’s resignation starting May 31, or earlier. That will be the first discussion. Then, the board will discuss where to find a new superintendent, and what to do in between Hinojosa’s departure and the start date for his successor.

“It depends on what transpires. We could do an interim, or do a search,” Banks said.

The board had not chosen which direction they wanted to take, Banks said, although he said if the board were to hire an interim superintendent, he would prefer the interim to serve for one year before a new superintendent was found.

“I am more comfortable with interim superintendent staying for one full school year,” Banks said.

He did not expect the board would name an interim Wednesday.


(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Hannah Morgan, February 19, 2014. Click HERE to read the MDJ article.)