East Cobb man creates online petition to get school board to decrease class sizes
by Lindsay Field
lfield@mdjonline.com
September 07, 2012 01:08 AM | 8472 views | 50 50 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bill Hable — here with fifth-grade daughter Maryanne and first-grade daughter Christian —says the Cobb School Board won’t ‘lift a finger’ on decreasing class sizes. Christian, he says, is in a class with 31 other students. <br> Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
Bill Hable — here with fifth-grade daughter Maryanne and first-grade daughter Christian —says the Cobb School Board won’t ‘lift a finger’ on decreasing class sizes. Christian, he says, is in a class with 31 other students.
Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
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MARIETTA — Frustrated that his daughter shares a fifth-grade class with 31 other students, an Eastside Elementary School parent has created an online petition to get the attention of Cobb County school board members.

“The board isn’t lifting a finger or conducting much effort to figure out solutions,” said Bill Hable of east Cobb. “It’s just frustrating the more I talk about it. I would like to bring it to someone who has authority, bring it to the board’s attention and find out what they will do to ease up on class sizes.”

Hable has a daughter in fifth grade, Maryann, and a daughter in first grade, Christian, who both attend Eastside Elementary. He and his wife, Jue Li, moved to Marietta from Memphis, Tenn., three years ago.

“We just love this area, and I think this is the first negative thing that we’ve experienced,” he said.

Hable said he was shocked to learn that the teacher in his daughter’s 32-student class didn’t have a parapro.

“How can a teacher possibly ensure that these students are getting the attention they deserve?” he said. “There’s no way in any practical sense that my daughter is going to get the attention that my daughter needs, and what’s worse, I feel that this is the way it’s going to be going forward.”

He said he wouldn’t vote for a potential SPLOST IV if it didn’t have funds earmarked for smaller classes.

“I’d usually be for that, but why should I go and vote for a SPLOST if no money in that fund is going to be used to reduce class sizes?” he said.

Hable said he was willing to pay higher taxes to guarantee that his daughters will have a lower class size but said most people would probably not agree with him.

Hable said he’s also reached out to school board chair Scott Sweeney, who represents his area.

“I’m sure he’s angry too, but I don’t see any public statements or influence from him,” he said. “What are my leaders planning on doing? What are they doing to fix the problem?”

Sweeney said he had talked to Hable but that he didn’t know about the petition.

While most of the board members have heard complaints about class sizes, the district has exhausted its teacher allotments, Sweeney said.

“I learned (Wednesday) that there are approximately 1,000 more students enrolled this year than last,” Sweeney said.

David Banks, who represents northeast Cobb and raised the issue of class sizes during budget discussions last spring, said that while he hasn’t received any inquiries about class sizes, he believes they need to find a way to make them smaller.

“The more you have in the class, the less minutes you have per student to answer their questions or address whatever issues they might have,” he said.

Board member Lynnda Eagle said she learned about this year’s larger class sizes by visiting schools in her northwest Cobb post.

“I always go in at the beginning of the year and ask principals to go down and see the largest classrooms,” she said. “It appears we are really seeing some larger class sizes in our middle schools.”

Eagle said the only thing that could ease overcrowding is money.

West-central Cobb’s representative, Alison Bartlett, agreed with Eagle.

“It comes down to money and the state not funding public education,” she said.

Jay Dillon, a spokesman with the district, said that Cobb Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa and many of his senior staff members were out of the office for training Thursday, but said they are aware of classes throughout the district being larger than they would like.

Echoing Bartlett’s statements, Dillon said state funding forced the district to cut nearly 1,400 teachers in the past four years. The district went from 8,477 teachers in 2008 to 7,039 in 2012, a drop of 17 percent. At the same time, enrollment dropped slightly, from 106,747 in 2008 to 105,154 in 2012, a change of just over 1 percent.

“Reducing teaching positions has saved the district tens of millions of dollars, but it has also resulted in larger class sizes,” he said.

Student-to-teacher ratios were established in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, but Dillon reiterated that these are only averages and that classes could still have more or less than the number allotted.

“We are aware of some classes that are unacceptably high, especially in middle schools,” he said. “Several middle schools currently have 38 to 45 students, which is too many.”

Of Cobb’s 25 middle schools, 13 reported having the highest number of students in a classroom. Elementary and high schools are not facing overcrowding problems to the same degree.

“Classes that size are difficult for teachers to manage, present a less-than-ideal learning environment for students and do not meet the expectations of our parents,” Dillon said.

As a way to somewhat resolve this, Hinojosa will be recommending a proposal to the board to hire approximately 30 more teachers at the Sept. 12 work session.

“This proposal is not a cure-all that will return all classrooms to the levels we enjoyed several years ago, but it will fix the worst examples of overcrowded classrooms.”

The board will discuss overcrowding at this month’s work session, which begins at 8:30 a.m. and will be held in the boardroom at 540 Glover St.
Comments
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to recall Banks
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September 14, 2012
A recall requires 100 signatures of registered voters. Then petitioners would have to obtain 30% of active voters within 90 days of submitting the recall petition. Per Ga. law grounds stipulate that an elected official must have "committed an act or acts of "malfeasance while in office" (no problem with that one) violated oath of office (again no problem there) misused public funds or other major issues.

C'mon POST 5 Let's right a wrong here!!!!
cobb staff
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September 09, 2012
The county has laid off many teachers, but there are still 3 to 4 academic coaches at my school. Move these coaches into teaching positions and it will help reduce class sizes. Most of these coaches are stuck doing paperwork and data collection and not given the opportunity to "coach" anyway.
LSretired
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September 09, 2012
1. The petition site isn't listed and I can't find it on Google.

2. I'm a retired Cobb Middle School teacher. It took 10 years to reduce our class sizes from 33 to 26 or 28 students (I forget which it was.) Overnight the State Board of Ed removed the cap on class size. "In kindergarten classes across Georgia, there are usually no more than 20 students. First, second and third grade classes were capped at 21 students, fourth and fifth at 28, while grades six through 12 could have no more than 30 students." --Augusta, News 12 First at Five -- May 25, 2010

And yes, please read @Hable's comment - especially the section on QBE. With school systems in disarray, how is the state going to attract new businesses? It all begins with education. If we want to attract the best, we need to provide the best education.
Alternative sources
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September 08, 2012
First, raise the Cobb senior exemption from age 62 to 65 to match the State's exemption. Second, require a minimum 50% ownership interest in a property.
Pay Up Seniors
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September 10, 2012
Get rid of the Senior Exemption all together. It is a special interest exemption and should be done away with.
Vote Bartlett
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September 08, 2012
Alyson Bartlett is one of the better board members. She is not afraid to ask questions and vote for what is best for our school system, teachers and students.

For those of you in her district, please vote Alyson Barlett back on the board.
necobbmom
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September 08, 2012
Amen... she is very informed, has integrity and knows the issues...she is so much better informed and equipped to deal with school board issues than Brad Wheeler is. I watched his forum with the Cobb Co. Republican Womens forum back in June and was not impressed. Allison is far more knowledgeable than he is, and isn't afraid to call out board members for their lack of ethics.
Cobb Taxpayer
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September 08, 2012
I am glad to see parents/taxpayers attempting to take control of our school system.

How do we start a petition to recall David Banks?

RECALL DAVID BANKS...........
yeswecanpost5
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September 08, 2012
Let's do it.. I was sickened by the recent outcome... People who had no idea just checked the Incumbent ballot... and now we are stuck with this man who is not fit to sit on the board.
necobbmom
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September 14, 2012
I am on board with that!!!
Ben Watching Awhile
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September 08, 2012
It will only get worse. Just watch the CCSD tie this and every other future problem to the passage of the next SPLOST proposal.

SPLOST programs have become supplemental budgets that have allowed us to build more than we can afford to maintain and purchase more of some things than what we need. Now they want a SPLOST to pay for the things that they have neglected to take care of.

As for class sizes. Let's start by demanding that every teacher included in the student teacher ratio actually be in a typical classroom and not working as an administrative assistant, a graduation coach, an in school suspension teacher, or an office worker.
Governor to blame
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September 08, 2012
The bulk of the blame is on the Governor's shoulders. Sonny Purdue spent 60 million right before he checked out and the legislature approved his spending spree. Purdue also spent countless dollars on the Go Fishing program that was a waste of money. Governor Deal and your legislature need to be flooded with phone calls from parents on a daily bases to get results. They continue to state they have no money but the pork spending is ridiculous. I am a teacher and we have thirty 4th and 5th graders per class. We can barely move in the classroom. Tim Stulz wants to cut teaching positions next year. That will simply raise class sizes again. The public can not complain if they are not ALL willing to pay more in taxes and revoke the senior exemption. I am tired of seniors complaining because no other county has this exemption. It costs us 64 million a year and they don't seem to care. At least raise the exemption to age 65. CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS AND GOVERNOR!
Pay Up Seniors
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September 10, 2012
I am glad to see that there is a constituency out there who realizes the harm that the senior exemption is doing to our children. Yes, state legislators - let's get rid of it!
East Cobb Mom
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September 08, 2012
Perhaps Cobb County could cut central office positions like Area Superintendants and use their salaries to hire more teachers.
Ludicrous!
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September 08, 2012
My child is sitting in academic classes in a West Cobb Middle school with classes of 42, 45 and 48. In the class with 48, he sits on the floor and has been sitting on the floor for 4 weeks now. I have been waiting patiently for this to be resolved but nothing has changed. This class also has a special ed. co-teacher in the room and my child says she can't move up and down the aisles to assist kids because that is where other children are sitting. This is a horrible learning environment and a fire hazard. This is not an East Cobb vs. West Cobb situation-it is a CCSD problem period!
remmmy
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September 07, 2012
Great idea bringing to light an issue that needs attention and support from the community to encourage positive changes.
Just one man's idea
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September 07, 2012
Here's an idea that will help raise money and keep class sizes at some schools smaller: if a student fails a class, he or she doesn't get to retake it free of charge. You either have to pay for it in summer school, or you have to pay the same amount during the school year. Kids are given 3, 4, or 5 chances to pass something, and those students make the class of 28 go to 32-35. You want parent engagement in schools? Ask them to pay when Junior doesn't do his work to pass the class. More kids will focus on their work, more parents will pay attention to their kids' performance, more money will trickle in to cover the cost of taking courses more than once. I think it's a win for everyone. But it's just one man's opinion.
Touche...
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September 11, 2012
Amen! A student shouldn't get to waste tax payer money like that. As a teacher I see so many kids in the school that don't care because we are on a block schedule and they can easily take a class several times without it impacting their graduation. Remeber back when there was something mandatory for failed kids called summer school? God forbid we make people pay when they don't keep up with their child's schooling...but I'm sure someone will cry out that it is all the teacher's fault esp since we can't make them read at home or god forbid study....

Also, why should the focus be on middle schools and elementary schools? What about the High Schools? I mean I teach AP and have 32 kids in my classes...they do not get as much attention as they did when I had smaller classes because now I have to focus more on "crowd control". Plus when you have that many kids in a classroom without enough desks it can be chaotic, even for the most veteran teachers.

I wonder how much money we spend on serivices for the ESOL kids....when I lived in another country, my parents had to pay for me to go to a school for English speakers. Maybe the illegals and immigrants who come legally should have to pay for special schooling until their kids learn English well enough to function in our schools.
DaYuc
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September 07, 2012
Congrats on the petition- LETS ALL MAKE SURE WE SIGN IT !!

Thanks to the teachers that are doing their best to deal with this horrible situation.

And rasberries for the "government" and school board people who are "shocked" and "surprised" about this. THEY did this and THEY knew it was coming to this in May.

It needs to stop- and giving seniors tax money they didn't ask for or need is NOT the answer!!!

Vote out the legislators who don't underestand the value of education to our taxpayers!!!
hayda jacks
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September 08, 2012
I don't think a petition will do much. The board is already aware of the problem, and until the QBE formula is looked at, and our board works with legislators to address the cuts and export of funds to other counties, nothing will be different. The economy is compounding the problem, so for all you who have kids in Cobb County schools, and voted for Obama, I would re-think your decision to re-elect him.
What?!?!
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September 11, 2012
@hayda jacksc - How is this an Obama problem? His program sent federal money to the schools and SAVED teacher jobs, thus keeping class sizes down two years ago. But the REPUBLICAN governors keep cutting spending which means cutting teachers which means huge classes. Give me a break and stop blaming Obama for everything and get your facts straight.
Kat Wilson
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September 07, 2012
Raising taxes and doing away with the senior exemption is what needs to be done. It is simple arithmetic. If you are managing your household budget and more money is going out than coming in, it is a problem.
anonymous
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September 07, 2012
Try selling your idea to seniors who will have to vote on this. Thankfully, seniors vote consistently and in larger numbers than any other group.

One would guess you're okay with placing a significant tax burden on many fixed income seniors that struggle to make financial ends meet. Remove the senior exemption and watch senior citizens get pushed out of their homes. Kat, that is a scenario all politicians will enthusiastically get behind. WRONG!

Here's the real solution. Grow the economy and revenue for schools becomes a non-problem. Figure out who you need to support to help grow the economy locally. Raising taxes isn't the issue. The economy is the issue.

If people on the fence choose to re-elect Obama-Biden, you'll continue to see pitiful jobs report data similar to today where fewer than 100,000 jobs were created nationally during August. That number will likely be revised downward in a few weeks as has happened with most,if not all of the the jobs reports during Obama's presidency. Labor participation among men is the lowest it has been in this country since 1948.
anonymous
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September 07, 2012
Why not cross-reference the addresses of the students with those of tax records to "catch" all of those living with a senior citizen (that pays no school taxes.)
Pay Up Seniors
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September 07, 2012
It is time to get rid of the senior exemption in Cobb County.

Not only will these students be on the hook to pay for current Medicare expenses, we are not even providing them a quality education in order to pay these borrowed funds back to China and other nations.

It is time for the CCSB to show some leadership on this matter and make a tough decisions to ask state legislations to allow seniors to pay their fair share.
anonymous
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September 07, 2012
That requires a constitutional amendment... Do you really think that any of the local delegation (Reps and Senators) will suggest a senior tax increase?

Swamp land for sale!

The school board has no control over the senior exemption.
@ Mr. Hable
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September 07, 2012
Glad you brought this topic up...

* It's time that state legislators re-do the QBE formula and that they address equalization.

* The state needs to restore the austerity cuts. It's going to be a while before property values rebound which has the greatest impact on local tax digests.

* 5 mills of local school property tax goes to the state for re-distribution to other school districts. Cobb County is a donor county. Gwinnett County, having the largest school system in GA, actually receives funds via Cobb County.

* Being relatively new to the area, you may not be familiar with SPLOST. SPLOST funds cannot be earmarked for smaller classes, conceivably meaning more teachers. The new Eastside ES was built with SPLOST funds. You seem supportive of the area and a fair guess may be that you would rather have the new, rather than the old school. Suggest that you support SPLOST if you want to see these types of improvements.

* Here's an interesting anecdote... Had the district not used excess SPLOST III this year, classroom sizes would be significantly larger. Excess funds must legally be returned to taxpayers through a reduction in millage.

The classroom size issue is a statewide, heck nationwide problem. It's surprising that there is not more activity at the state capitol from GA teachers. Governor Deal will arrive with "too little too late" action on this issue as he is buried in getting the charter school amendment passed which will reduce funds for local schools.
Wake UP People!
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September 07, 2012
The State Education Finance Commission’s recommendations would not alter teacher pay or class size--- but over the course of 3 years, more money would go toward classroom computers, teacher training, buses, school counselors and nurses.
another SPLOST?
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September 07, 2012
There is a new ESPLOST proposal in the works. Does an ESPLOST HAVE to focus on capital improvements only? Can one be written to pay for salaries? It scares me to go down that path because politicians become so dependent and used to these special purpose taxes on top of our regular tax bills but I would consider voting yes to one in order to hire more teachers.
no Splost
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September 07, 2012
no, it cannot go to salaries...capital budget items only, that's the state law.
Hahahah
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September 07, 2012
You folks scream lower my taxes all the time and expect more. Geez who likes entitlements now. You guys feel your entitled to smaller class size but do not want to pay for it. You guys whine like nobody's buisness when your property tax goes up a mil. I find this a hilarious paradox. Basically you want government workers to work for free. I see now.
Bill a Question
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September 07, 2012
So Bill, what's your answer? You're good at finding a problem that we all know of, so how about finding an answer for the state budget cuts and teacher costs? Why isn't your "online" poll seeking answers instead of merely problem storming? This is classic, hear ye' hear ye' hear ye' there's a problem! someone needs to fix it. Nice town crier stuff Bill.
One answer
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September 10, 2012
Seems money can be found to give bonuses and raises to some at the county office. Yet it' s okay to furlough teachers while demanding more and more. Sanderson got a $75,000 bonus one year wohen severe cuts were made. Recently a county employee was quoted in the paper saying teachers don't mind furlough days. This employee received an $18,000 raise.

Teachers are asked to do more for less. Chicago teachers can strike. In the south, we are expected to simply be glad to have a job. Visit your chids class. See how crowded rooms are w 40 students in class. One teacher has 8 students required to have preferential seating. There is no space. Getting out of the room for class changes or a fire drill is a challenge? Money was found for Teach Georga candidates, find it for the things research says makes the biggest difference- lower class sizes?

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