Standing before a packed room in the Smyrna Community Center, which included 11th Congressional District hopeful Bob Barr, Bacon said the most important vote residents could make July 22 is in the Republican runoff between Cobb school board member Tim Stultz and challenger Susan Thayer.
“All I will say to you is this: If you’re happy with the way things are going — and, by the way, that’s one position I would never run for, school board, because I don’t know how to figure it out, but that is very important to us in south Cobb County because it is my belief that every child in this county, wherever you live, whether it’s in the affluent areas of east Cobb and west Cobb as well as maybe the more deprived areas of south Cobb, they should have the same ability and opportunity to get the same education, and guess what? That ain’t happening in Cobb County and sometimes you have to jump up and down and hold your breath ... in order to get their attention.”
Bacon asked if there were any Cobb school board members present. As the audience remained silent, he let out a sigh.
Smyrna City Councilman Ron Fennel pointed to Thayer, who was seated at a nearby table, saying, “Help’s on the way.”
As the crowd turned to look at Thayer, who had previously introduced herself as the frontrunner in the race, Bacon said, “Let me repeat the question. Is anybody here from the school board?”
No one answered.
The MDJ followed up with Bacon about his comments after his talk.
“All you’ve got to do is just drive around to the different schools and it’s about how they look,” Bacon said. “It’s just a fact. You go from east Cobb to west Cobb, and you can tell once you have crossed the line when you get to south Cobb.”
By “south Cobb,” Bacon said he means such high schools as Osborne, Pebblebrook and Campbell.
“They just don’t have the same facilities, they don’t have the same opportunities, and that’s a shame that (the school board) can get up there and say ‘what a great school system we have,’ and we do have a great school system, I’m not knocking that, but I’m just saying I don’t think there’s the same opportunities for kids to play on the same playing field. There’s no question about it. If you think for a second that the children in south Cobb County get the same opportunities as those in east Cobb and west Cobb then you’re in denial, because it’s just not the same.”
This is why, the mayor said, he made the point that the most important vote anyone in Smyrna can make July 22 is the one for the Post 2 school board seat.
“If you’re happy with the way the schools are in south Cobb, then you should support who the incumbent is,” Bacon said.
Bacon said while Cobb school board members portrayed themselves as capable on camera, they failed to address the equity problem off screen.
“You see them on TV all the time, and they sound good, they sound well educated, but the bottom line is there’s still problems in the south Cobb portion of this county, and until somebody steps up and says ‘here’s what we need to do, then it will just be business as usual,” he said.
Bacon said he was encouraged by the recent actions of interim Superintendent Chris Ragsdale and his hiring of Grant Rivera, a former Campbell High School principal, to his executive cabinet.
Bacon also said school board members were under no obligation to attend his city address, but that wouldn’t keep him quiet about his disappointment.
“If they think that by nobody coming I’m going to keep my mouth shut, that ain’t going to happen because I’ve just about had it with as good a school system as we have and the money we spend going toward education, and we’re getting shortchanged in Smyrna, Georgia,” he said.
Bacon said Campbell High School was in such a state of disrepair he took Stultz and area assistant superintendent Dale Gaddis on a tour to visit it. When that didn’t accomplish anything, Bacon said, “Finally I just sent them a note: ‘I haven’t heard back from anybody. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.’”
A few weeks later the school did receive funding for some paint, Bacon said.
“I think the problem is on the school board you’ve got Tim Stultz, I don’t know who else represents this district, but they’re up there, and it’s all about east Cobb, it’s all about Walton, and I don’t have any problem with that, I’m not knocking any of those communities, I’m just saying give me the same that you have in east Cobb and west Cobb, and give me the same thing in Smyrna,” Bacon said.
He called the baseball field at Campbell High School, named after Coach Joe Lattanzi, an embarrassment.
“There have been times when I was embarrassed to even have his name on that field because he was such a great person and impacted so many kids’ lives and the way that it looks,” Bacon said.
As for Stultz, Bacon said, “I’ve tried to get Tim to help out on some situations and I’m very frustrated. It ought not be this way for us to even get to the minimum standards that the schools ought to have.”
The argument board members tell him, Bacon said, is they don’t have enough money.
“The city gives back so much to the schools because we’re proud of them,” Bacon said. “We’re trying the best we can do to make our schools the best, but it is a struggle. It is a struggle every single day. It’s not fair.”
Bacon said his hopes are on Ragsdale and Rivera making major changes.
“I don’t want anything more than what the Walton schools get, the Lassiters, the Popes, all those east Cobb schools get, I don’t want any more than they get, but we are so far behind,” Bacon said. “Every child should have the same opportunities whether they live off Six Flags or off Johnson Ferry Road, they ought to have the same opportunities to have the same quality education that every child has in this county.”
On Thursday evening, Cobb school board Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci sent Bacon an email, copying Vice Chairman Randy Scamihorn, Ragsdale, Stultz and the MDJ on her message.
In her email, Angelucci told Bacon she “was very disappointed to hear about your negative comments concerning Tim Stultz today, who by the way, is your BOE representative — as an elected official and the Mayor of Smyrna, I would have expected you to be more respectful, at least publicly. Perhaps you will have the good grace to apologize to Mr. Stultz in the same public manner in which you besmirched him ... one can only hope.”