Topping today’s agenda is what to do about the bombshell announcement at Tuesday’s board meeting by incumbent Super Dr. Michael Hinojosa that he was resigning as of May 31 and heading back to Dallas, Texas. He plans to work as senior VP of a national educational consulting firm, will be reunited with his wife (who never moved to Cobb) and will be able to see more of his 91-year-old mother, he said, adding that she would be “waiting for me with some tamales. I will be very excited to have some good Mexican food for the rest of my life.”
We’re not sure whether that was a commentary on the quality of Cobb’s Mexican restaurants, his mother’s home cooking or both.
Either way — keeping with the culinary theme here — he has dumped a plateful of hot potatoes on the board’s lap.
For starters, should the board retain Hinojosa’s services through May, or pay him off now and send him on his merry way? And there are plenty of other questions, too.
Should the board hire his replacement from within? Or should it go the “national search” route? Should it put pedal to the metal in its search? Or should it appoint an interim superintendent and take a more leisurely approach?
And though not on the announced agenda for the meeting, what should the board’s response be to the incendiary allegations by the system’s former criminal investigator that were reported on Wednesday’s MDJ front page — to wit, that Hinojosa’s current chief of staff Angela Huff and then-principal Sandra Ervin pulled a teacher out her classroom to help prepare their doctoral dissertations; and that another top aide followed “illegal, discriminatory and unethical practices” in one of his hiring decisions.
The MDJ has learned since then that four well-known educators named in the investigator’s letter to Hinojosa are under investigation by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. It also reported Friday that the system did not file a complaint with the PSC against Huff, even though she was accused by the investigator of doing the same thing as Ervin, against whom the system did file a complaint.
IF THE BOARD chooses to hire an interim superintendent, don’t be surprised if it’s James Wilson.
Wilson is no stranger to the school Central Office on Glover Street. After starting his educational career here as a teacher in 1975, he rose through the ranks to deputy superintendent before winding things up as interim superintendent in 2000 between Superintendents Dr. Richard Benjamin and Gen. Joe Redden. He then went to work for The Facility Group before being hired as Fulton County superintendent from 2004-08. After retiring again he founded Marietta-based Education Planners LLC in 2009, which specializes in bond and SPLOST referendum preparation, financial management and school-construction oversight. In that capacity he developed the project list for Cobb’s most recent SPLOST.
WILSON is not the only name being floated. Another is state Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-north Cobb). Tippins spent 12 years on the Cobb school board including three as chair, and was a rallying point for those who eventually defeated Redden’s proposal to spend $100.8 million in SPLOST revenues to buy take-home laptop computers for every middle and high-school student.
Tippins owns a pipe-contracting company and is an attorney and banker as well, and when it comes to education (and other) matters, as the old commercial used to say, “When he talks, people listen.”
Conversely, that’s also the biggest drawback to hiring him as chair — he’s too valuable in the Legislature, where his influence far outstrips his lack of status as a second-term senator. The Cobb schools, and education in general, could not possibly have a more effective advocate under the Gold Dome.
THERE’S ALSO BEEN much talk this week that the board should hire Marietta Superintendent Dr. Emily Lembeck, who won rave reviews for her guidance of the system during the recent Snow Jam — in contrast to Hinojosa’s decision to head home early that day. But Lembeck says talk of her becoming Cobb super is just that — talk.
“I’m committed to Marietta,” she told Around Town. “No one has approached me about that job, and being superintendent of Marietta is what I want to be doing.”
THREE OF THE SEVEN seats on the board are up for election this year, those of incumbent chair Kathy Angelucci, Scott Sweeney and Tim Stultz. Angelucci has already announced she will not be running again. So the board’s decisions on the next super will play out against a backdrop of election-year politics, with the possibility of three new members on board by January.
Some board-watchers say that scenario lends itself to the appointment of interim chair like Wilson or Tippins, who would step into the job with the institutional knowledge to help steer the system through the budget crises. Then the new board would focus on selecting a permanent chair next spring.
AROUND TOWN has heard numerous comments in the days since Hinojosa’s resignation that reinforced the impression that he never tried to put down any roots in Cobb.
As a senior administrator at KSU who sometimes interacted with the superintendent put it, “He was here, but he never really seemed to be ‘here.’”
THERE’S ANOTHER candidate in the growing field of hopefuls running to succeed District 1 Northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham, who will step down at year end. Businessman Glenn Melson, a 19-year resident of the district, is partner in the personal and business insurance firm Corporate Risk Advisors Inc., and owner of Glenn Melson Insurance Agency. He and his wife, Rene, are active members of Burnt Hickory Baptist Church, where he has led a number of mission trips overseas and directs pre-school worship services.
Already-announced candidates in the May 20 GOP Primary for the seat are Realtor Angela Barner, former Commission Chairman Bill Byrne, and retired Marietta assistant Fire Chief Scott Turner.
Politicos say with four candidates now in the race it’s more likely than ever that there will be a runoff and that Byrne will be one of the final two.
11TH District Congressional hopeful Ed Lindsey will have the opening for his Cobb campaign headquarters from 2-4 p.m. Sunday at 2800 Spring Road Suite D in Smyrna.
SPORTING A GLOCK tie tack nearly the size of a real pistol — although he says he does not carry a gun — the man billed as “America’s toughest sheriff” was guest speaker at Thursday’s Marietta Kiwanis Club meeting and left with a standing ovation. Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., made clear he’s not one to worry about political correctness.
“As an elected sheriff I’m saying whatever I want,” he said.
Arpaio’s positions on immigration and other issues have made him a polarizing figure — an anathema to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, but a hero to many conservatives.
As former Congressman Bob Barr put it when introducing Arpaio, “Someone told me this morning that the only reason I brought Joe Arpaio here is that he’s the only person in the country that can make me look warm and fuzzy. Which is not true. Even Joe couldn’t do that.”
Arpaio, 81, was in town for a fundraiser Thursday evening for Barr, who’s running for the 11th District Congressional seat that includes much of Cobb.
“Bob has the guts to make a decision,” Arpaio said beforehand. “He’ll rock the boat.”
The Barr/Arpaio event that evening attracted a dozen or so protestors carrying signs reading “Not One More Deportation!”
Meanwhile, those in the crowd of 125 at the Kiwanis meeting included Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren and Chief Deputy Col. Milton Beck and Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn.