CCSD/School Board by Pete_Borden
Do we finally have a real school board?
April 09, 2013 09:05 AM | 6837 views | 0 0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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Do we finally have a real school board?
by Pete_Borden
April 09, 2013 09:03 AM | 861 views | 4 4 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Is it possible that the good people of Cobb County now have a real school board instead of a collection of people who will rubber stamp anything the Superintendent (no matter who he is) sends to them?

The fact that the current board, led by Chairman Randy Scamihorn, sent the district talking head and the Superintendent back to the square one, with instructions to come up with a realistic and acceptable plan for dealing with the budget shortfall, makes me optimistic.  A realistic and acceptable plan is one that cuts deeply into the top heavy administration at the district level while doing minimal damage to the teachers, the students, the size of classes and the instructional hours.

I am optimistic at this point in time that Scamihorn is the one we have been looking for these past 12 years, as we have suffered through a string of “go along to get along” boards and chairpersons.

Of course I was optimistic when we elected the Rev. Dr. John Crooks, only to see him apparently roll over for the Chamber of Commerce tuxedo businessmen, along with Dr. John Abraham.  I got my hopes up again with the election of Scott Sweeney, but it appears he couldn’t wait to play the rollover game.

I met with Randy for about two hours one Saturday afternoon during the campaign and found that we are like-minded on a great many subjects. Even though he does not represent my post, I felt optimistic when he was elected to the School Board and elated when he was elected Chairman.

Thus far, he has not disappointed me, and I tend to think he will not.  I believe that he will protect our teachers and our students against the onslaught of their interests by those in favor of protecting the top heavy administration on Glover Street.

One would think that the Glover Street gang was protected by some kind of “force field”.  Every time the subject of reducing expenses arises, the first place the board has thought of, in the past, has been the classroom and the teachers.  An example is Board Member Scott Sweeney’s suggestion to have teachers teach in more than one classroom at a time.  Sure, Scott, let’s get rid of all the teachers but one, in each school. That one can surely run from classroom to classroom teaching all the kids.  But, whatever you do, don’t touch the dead weight on Glover Street.

Before the CCSD defenders descend on me quoting statistics about how many people have been cut from Glover Street, please answer two questions. First, how much has the payroll actually been cut? The powers that be are good at shifting people around to make it appear they are cutting expenses.  A good example is the installation of the artificial turf which was supposed to cut down on maintenance. I cannot document that one single person was cut from the payroll as direct result of the much-touted savings. They just got assigned different duties.  Let’s see some dollar figures of savings and expense reduction, not people count.

Second, are you prepared to swear that all the cuts possible have been made?  If not then I am not interested in your protests.

To Chairman Scamihorn and the Board, I say “Good work and keep their feet to the fire until they do the job right, for the teachers and the kids.”
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Nettie Helen Stemm
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April 10, 2013
@ Funny Stuff. what you do not know about the school board and the reserve fund would fill a very large set of books.

SPLOST IV has too many unanswered questions
by Pete_Borden
March 18, 2013 04:16 PM | 690 views | 2 2 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

The column, “Yes vote on SPLOST will assure debt free schools”, written by two men who have an axe to grind, as both their companies, Superior Plumbing and Loud Security Systems, stand to gain business if the SPLOSTIV is approved, is a work of art At once, it works to obscure facts, obfuscate the issues and lay a guilt trip on you if you do not support the SPLOST referendum.

Wow!! Just think of it. We have enrolled 8,500 students since October. According to the CCSD website, as of October 2012, the enrollment was 107,681. The authors of this hogwash article say that we have 116,147.  Either we have had 6 months of unequalled growth, or the writers are resorting to lies and misrepresentations to sell you on this Looney Tunes project list.

The smart money is on the latter.

They list, in the first part, the accomplishments of the last 15 years of SPLOST. Pretty impressive until you remember that it cost the taxpayers over a BILLION AND HALF DOLLARS to do it. Yes, I said a BILLION AND A HALF.  The list doesn’t seem quit as impressive now, does it?

Besides, if they have already accomplished all that, why do they need more money?

They brag about getting rid of trailers.  No brag deserved. The first SPLOST was supposed to get rid of the trailers.  Fifteen years, and a billion and a half dollars later, we still have trailers and they want more money.

Let’s get down to some of the ”nitty gritty”.  First of all, as has been pointed out, the threat of increased millage is a farce.  Our millage is almost as high as it can legally go now. If it were increased to the maximum, it would not amount to very much to the average homeowner. 

Second, and most important, do not let them scare you with the threat of bond issues.  Bond issues must be approved by us, the voters, before they become fact.  More importantly, to even get on the ballot, they must specify exactly where the project will be built, exactly for what purpose, and exactly how much it will cost.  None of this “29 million for a career academy to be built somewhere, sometime” will suffice.  We, the voters, are in charge.

All the scare talk about the school system deteriorating is so much baloney. Their accusation that “you do not care about the kids if you don’t vote for it” is also rubbish.

There are too many unanswered questions.  How will they staff the career academy?  Maybe they will increase all class sizes to 50.  Then they could make each teacher teach two classes at a time.  That was suggested by the previous Chairman. Such a statement removes many questions about what is wrong with your school board.  They are also proposing replacing several “unnamed” schools.  What schools and who says they need replacing?  

They say that they have replaced 46,000 computers. Did you know we even owned that many?  The big question, besides who uses these computers since our staff is around 1,500 people, is why do you need another 125 million for technology, etc, if we have replaced that many computers already?

Why is Allatoona high school slated for twelve projects, when it is a brand new school? It opened in 2008, five years ago.  Now it needs work?  Tennis court resurfacing, carpet being replaced with tile, intercom system, technology replacement, band and choral instrument replacement, is all “needed” in a five year old school? That’s not all.  Besides additional lighting on all the athletic fields, the five year old concession and restroom areas need work on them.  So much for quality control and how they spend our money.

A consumption tax is a great way to pay for things because it allows everyone to share in the expense.

But, NOT TAX IS A GOOD DEAL IF IT IS NOT NEEDED, OR IF IT IS WASTED.

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stop the tax
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March 20, 2013
Well said Pete. What makes these SPLOSTS a waste as well as there are no long term visions. Why did they build a new school with carpet in the first place? Bad decision and not thinking of "down the road costs" obviously. Whey are we paying for a concession stand when schools still have trailers? Walton did their new concession stand based on fundraising. Why can't they do this. It is hard to imagine that our F&T committee would even consider this rubbish. The problem is they put in things that are necessary for some schools so that those areas vote on it. We as tax payers that want the good feel like we have to take all of the bad that is included. Very sad and shame on the F&T committee and board for allowing these items to be included. Look long range and not just 1 or 2 years to make sure the work we do is good for the long hall!

MHS Auditorium – another view.
by Pete_Borden
March 05, 2012 10:26 AM | 1964 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Tuesday, the 6 th of March, voters will either approve or reject a proposal to fund a little over 7 millions dollars of the cost of a proposed 900 seat auditorium atMariettaHigh School, through a bond referendum. The other 2 million is to come from the school board’s building fund. Regardless of what you call it, it is still taxpayer money. The plan is to pay off the fund with monies from SPLOSTIV. The big problem is that, based on current sentiment and public disgust over perceived waste in the handling of SPLOST funds, it is highly likely that there will be no SPLOSTIV.  In such a case, the backup plan is a millage increase. 

Two underlying issues should be kept in mind. Though memories are vague as to why,  most voters know that the “new” Marietta High School”, started with a budget of 35 million, with the final tab being 57 million, due to cost overruns and redesigns to accommodate various “ginger bread” items, including blue brick on the front of the building, at a “robber baron” cost.  Somewhere in all that, it was decided that certain items, primarily those not sports related, would be cut or delayed. Now the whining starts for those “non sports related” items that got cut.

The 9 million dollar total price tag is already being projected to reach 11.2 million and the project has not begun. Does anyone believe it will be contained at 9 million?  Has anyone questioned whether the 9 million is a complete, operational turnkey price, or will there still have to be curtains, seats, lighting, rigging, etc purchased, on top of the 9 million?  Has the project been budget priced by construction companies, or is the 9 million an architect’s guess?

I am not a resident of the city ofMarietta, and cannot vote on this issue, but there are things which some people tend to forget when overcome with a driving compulsion to get what they want. Someone needs to be sure all the questions have been asked and answered.

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Cobb calendar controversy crazy
by Pete_Borden
December 29, 2011 11:25 AM | 1003 views | 3 3 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I just looked at the school calendar, and it sure looks like the kids are out a long time. They don't actually go back to school until the 10 th of January. That is twelve continual days out of class, not counting weekends. Then they go back for four days and are out again for MLK Day.

It does appear it was designed with something in mind other than the kids and their education, considering they had a full week out at Thanksgiving.

Doing some calculation, I find that the school year encompasses a total of 204 weekdays. All those days and the kids only go to classes 178 days, or a little over 87% of those days. They are out of school a whopping 26 of the 204 days. Even if we strip out the regular holidays, which this year are only Labor Day, Thanksgiving and MLK Day,(the others all fall on the weekend)  they are still out 23 days.  That equates to 4 ½ weeks vacation, in addition to the 11 ½ weeks during the summer, for grand total of 16 weeks vacation.

Why do I point out all this?  Simply because this is the calendar that the teachers and many parents are claiming does not give them enough time to ”recharge”, (whatever that means). Come on folks, 16 weeks out of 52, you are off.  Over 30% of the time, you do not work.   That does not even count the 104 weekend days.

Many teachers, administrators and parents are fighting, tooth and nail, to add another two weeks to the “off time”. 

It is time to nip this in the bud. It is no longer about the kids. It is strictly to accommodate the wishes of a particular group, the members of which will not be satisfied until we have year round school inCobbCounty, without regard to its effect on the quality of education our children receive.

As has been pointed out, what we have now is not a traditional calendar, it is a compromise.  Were it a traditional calendar, classes would not start until the Tuesday following Labor Day.

Regardless of what recommendations come from the ill-advised and highly “salted” calendar committee, a majority of voters in 4 of the 7 posts favor the traditional calendar.  If the officials they elected to get that calendar reinstated were to flip-flop, it would not bode well for any of them.

We are sure they know that they are there to represent their constituents, not Dr. Hinojosa, not the teachers, not other parents and certainly not this inane calendar committee.

Hiding behind the calendar committee to justify giving in to the pressure would not get the job done.  We know they will stand tall and be counted.

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Pete Borden
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December 28, 2011
To Cobb Teacher. You are absolutely right, I made a mistake by misreading the calendar. My apologies Tbe last week in October was marked as teacher confertence days, with the kids getting out early. I mistook it for a week out. However,The percentage of time in class, etc, is not based on that week,but on total time in the school year versus time in class (178 days in class out of 204)


Cobb companies completely competent
by Pete_Borden
December 22, 2011 03:13 PM | 1170 views | 3 3 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

County Commissioner JoAnn Birrell and the entire board of commissioners should be applauded for the new policy giving an edge to Cobb County businesses during the process of bidding for work to be paid for by taxpayer funds. After all, part of what these companies will earn for their services comes from tax dollars they paid.

We have long needed such a policy.  Cobb County is home to a host of companies and professionals, who are as competent as any in the state. We expend countless dollars and energy in the drive to attract businesses to Cobb County, but once we get them here, we do little to retain them.

I have numerous friends who operate various types of construction companies as well as architectural and engineering firms and their biggest complaint is that they cannot get contracts fromCobbCounty. It has always galled me a bit to read that a contract has been awarded to company in Douglasville, Atlanta, Decatur or some other place not in Cobb County.

What remains now is for the CCSD and the School Board to adopt the same policy.  More than one professional, when bidding on Cobb County school work, has told me that Doug Shepard, the Chief Administrative Officer of SPLOST, makes no secret of the fact that he prefers working with the “big companies in Atlanta”.  Fine, he is free to do that, when he is spending HIS money, but, when he is spending OUR money, he needs to look first at the people closest to home.

In many cases, the people who work for these companies also call CobbCounty their home, and they pay taxes here.  Awarding work to them is a win-win situation. 

It does not take any more intelligence than that possessed by a Moon Pie to realize we are all better off when we keep our own folks employed and busy. Let’s get with the program here, CCSD.

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eCobb Dad of 3
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December 23, 2011
If there is a subjective point system that is a worthy story and is worth looking into by the MDJ. You never mentioned it in your article. Having the press shine a bright light on the government helps keep them in check. If the system for bidding out contracts is not done on a lowest bid basis I would think if the MDJ investigated that issue it would be a news worthy endeavor. What other criteria would the CCSB have and is it consistent with other divisions with the Cobb goverment? Some points to ponder.

Hinojosa hits homer on hiring
by Pete_Borden
November 23, 2011 05:14 PM | 1229 views | 1 1 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Aside from the announcement of the pending addition of career oriented curricula, the credibility flogging administered to Board Member David Banks, and the introductory soft sell on SPLOST IV, another significant event came from the November 9th School Board Work Session.

Cobb School Superintendent, Dr. Michael Hinojosa, introduced a revolutionary plan for recruiting and hiring principals for our schools. Well, it was revolutionary for CCSD anyway. His plan, basically, calls for, of all things, finding the RIGHT PERSON for the job.

The idea is quite simple, which is probably why the academic elitists at CCSD never stumbled upon it before now. It involves selecting a group of interested parents, teachers, staff members and, in some cases, students and empowering them to seek out and interview appropriate applicants. While the group would only make recommendations, with Dr. Hinojosa making the final decision, he assured us that most of the time he hired the recommended applicant.

Dr. Hinojosa’s approach, when fully implemented, should provide our schools with principals who are acceptable to the parents, the teachers, the staff and the students. Moreover, one of the main aims is to find the principal whose personality fits the school. For example Pebblebrook High School boasts a better-than-average performing arts image. It would be unthinkable to put a principal with a blasé’, or negative, attitude about dramatics and the performing arts into Pebblebrook High School..

Seek out and hire the RIGHT PERSON for the school. What a refreshing change from the Former Superintendent, Fred Sanderson’s plan. “Find an unemployed football crony and give him a job.”

Hats off to Dr. Hinojosa!

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Listening?
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November 23, 2011
If you care to listen Hinojosa--Remove Trudie Donovan from Kell High School...She's terrible to teachers, parents, and to the kids and she's pulling the school down when it could be such a excellent school! She doesn't even have higher degree of education beyond a bachelor degree!! (BTW--Why didn't students at KHS get to take their high school exit exams who qualified?...Did Donovan have the fear of failing AYP and becoming a failing school have anything to do with holding students back from taking GHSGT tests??? Love to see MDJ dig into this one, but not holding my breath!)

They said a naughty word at the school board work session.
by Pete_Borden
November 22, 2011 03:39 PM | 1722 views | 3 3 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

In the work session of the Cobb County School Board, held on Wednesday, one of the staff during a routine report, referenced “SPLOST IV.” It took a few seconds for it to seep into my thick skull that the first shot had just been fired. It was mentioned in a manner so casual as to give the impression that “SPLOST IV” is a “done deal.”

Then in her comments after the report, Chairperson Alison Bartlett again made reference to “SPLOST IV”, as if to verify what it covers. Is this the beginning of the process of desensitizing the public, so as to make it easier to set up another SPLOST vote? If so, I think they should know they are in for a surprise.

After the school board rushed to spend SPLOST money for rubber grass, making it the number one spending priority, without regard to much more vital projects, its image as a good steward of public funds is somewhat tarnished. Since the board pursued that course while looking at a large shortfall in revenue, the taxpayers may have a hard time swallowing the “sudden dire need” which will surely be the centerpiece of any campaign designed to dupe them into creating another slush fund for elected officials.

While the board has, ever so subtly, laid the ground work for another hosing of the Cobb County taxpayers, I think they may find the job a lot more than they bargained for. The people are tired of reaching into their pockets for political entities that can’t live within their means like the rest of have to do.

I predict SPLOST IV will not see life in Cobb County.

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B. Borden
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November 23, 2011
Okay Pete, you choose; how are you going to pay for capital outlay, float a bond and go into debt or SPLOST?

It's easy to lambast without a solution, isn't it? Columnist quarterback is quick to condemn, but has nothing to offer. It certainly makes good copy.

Where are you going to come up with the millions of dollars to replace aging schools?

Since you know it all; what do you propose, Pete?

Banks is shot down in flames---again.
by Pete_Borden
November 14, 2011 02:39 PM | 1402 views | 9 9 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
In spite of having zero support for virtually the same request back in August, Board member David Banks, without consulting any of his fellow board members, during Wednesday’s School Board Work Session, presented a motion to pay all CCSD employees a 1% bonus, by Dec. 15.

In direct contrast to the information furnished by Chief Financial Officer, Mike Addison, and backed up by Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, Banks says he “is sure it (the $7 million to $8 million required to fund this motion), is available”. Obviously, Mr. Banks’ strong suit is not economics. According to Addison’s report in October, the CCSD is looking at a $73 million dollar deficit. Banks wants to increase that deficit by 10% or more.

Not one single member of the board seconded his motion. It is, therefore, dead…..at least until he reintroduces it, which could be as early as the next meeting.

As has been typical of Banks’ tactics, he, once again, in an interview with the MDJ earlier in the week, tried to tie the “calendar issue” into the remuneration issue. Previously he tried to say that we had “given the employees the balanced calendar as compensation for cutting their pay.” That is, of course, hogwash. When the calendar issue was being debated, there was nothing brought up about the pay reductions. Listen up please, David. Pay reductions are about compensation. The calendar is about working conditions. No relationship exists between the two.

Of course, to most people, all this is merely Bank’s way of trying to ingratiate himself to the CCSD employees, in hopes it will help him win re-election in November of next year.

That being the case, were I in his place, the calendar is one issue I would avoid like a plague, since a great deal of the current calendar flap is directly attributable to his “flip flopping” on the issue back in 2009, when he voted for the balanced calendar, though he ran, and was elected, on a promise to support a traditional calendar.

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anonymous
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November 23, 2011
Banks is a prime example of how complacent people in East Cobb had become when making their choice in elected officials. As irritating as Banks is, I am afraid that there are probably somethings going on there that just make it a sad situation.

Pete Borden is a retired masonry consultant in east Cobb, an ex-Marine and an amateur playwright and director.

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