Cobb School Board delays vote on updated discipline policy
by Lindsay Field
August 15, 2013 12:24 AM | 3372 views | 2 2 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The Cobb County School Board will delay until October a vote on whether to approve revisions to the district’s teacher and staff discipline policy — a policy critics claim uses intimidation tactics and false accusations to force teachers and principals out of their jobs.

Kathleen Angelucci, who represents north Cobb on the board, introduced in July a five-page draft with numerous changes to the “Discipline, Suspension and Dismissal of Staff” policy. Her recommendations came in light of three specific incidents when district employees were fired, forced into early retirement and/or falsely accused of allegations related to child molestation or failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect within 24 hours of hearing about an incident.

Some of Angelucci’s suggested revisions include: Employees are presumed innocent until they are found guilty; termination of an employee should only be used as a last resort; polygraph tests can only be used in rare circumstances; and employees may not be subject to retaliation for exercising of their due process rights related to any investigations or disciplinary matter.

Cobb is one of only a few school districts in the state that makes its employees submit to polygraph tests.

Board Chair Randy Scamihorn asked Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa on Wednesday to have a status update on the revisions ready by Sept. 11. The projected approval date has been put off until Oct. 24.

“We just got this today and none of us have had a good chance of evaluating it and analyzing what it means,” said David Banks, who represents northeast Cobb. “Would October be OK with you to bring this back with a final version that we discuss … actually take a vote of up or down?

“This is just so serious … not just a one-shot deal,” Banks said.

Scott Sweeney, who represents east Cobb, agreed with Banks and described rewriting the policy as a “delicate” balancing act.

“I just don’t want us to drag our heels on this,” Angelucci responded. “It’s imperative that we get it right but we want to make sure it’s clear that this is the time to get that input in.”

After Angelucci introduced the policy changes in July, Hinojosa and the board members asked the public to submit changes and suggestions.

Among those who forwarded information to the district were retired assistant superintendent Stanley Wrinkle and three teachers associations — Educators First, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Cobb County Association of Educators.

Wrinkle and representatives from Educators First and CCAE were present Wednesday for the board discussion.

“I was certainly pleased that we are this far and I have confidence in the people on the Board of Education to get done what needs to be done and that it be done right,” Wrinkle said after the meeting.

He also agreed with the board’s decision to take its time in approving the revisions.

“I think everything needs to be in line and everybody needs to be given an opportunity to work through it,” he said. “Because once you get it wrong, it’s even harder to change than it was to get it created.”

Wrinkle became involved in the district’s reform of this policy about a year ago when he contacted Green Acres Elementary School teacher Greg Leontovich, who was wrongfully accused of molesting a 6-year-old girl. He was fired in 2005.

Wrinkle has said all along that the district should revisit its policies and consider what such actions can do to someone’s professional reputation.

Comments
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Blacklisted2013
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August 15, 2013
False accusations can really hurt some ones ability to find employment. I know I have been out of work for years because people believe what they want to believe despite the facts.
Once burned
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August 15, 2013
So where do we all go from here? The school year of 2010 - 2011 saw the termination of many a good school employee. They ranged from the classroom teacher to the school counselor to the administrator. The commonalty here is that these solid professionals had put many years into the Cobb County School District. What will happen to those 30 or 40 professionals who were guilty until proven innocence? Will they be allowed to come back to Cobb after suffering all of the humiliation that came with the Finlayson/Stowers/Bristow/Gaddis witch hunts?

I, myself, have witnessed at least 20 dedicated educators being thrown under the bus. And for what reason? Maybe they were getting up in years and were being paid a little too much, when they could be replaced by someone who could be paid a lot less. Maybe because it was a "black" against "white" issue and the principal did not want to be accused of being a racist. Or mayb it was just a simple testing mistake made by a teacher who was not properly trained in testing procedures.

Can any of these teachers, counselors, or administrators get back into the CCSD? Would they want to go back?

Finlayson is now just a very bad memory, but what about the Stowers, Bristows and Gaddis. THey committed, what some people think of as "war crimes" against there own.

No matter. Unless this comment is circulated widely enough, then nothing will be done.

I wonder if any of the top MDJ reporters even read this material. Bad move Lindsay for the board to postpone until October on this more than crucial matter!
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