To date, their major accomplishments have been only two. First, keeping one of their campaign pledges, they moved swiftly to reverse the ill-advised three-year calendar and return to the previous calendar.
Second, they hired, following an interview lasting less time than Kroger spends interviewing sackers, a new superintendent, Dr. Michael Hinojosa. His actions, thus far, can best be described as resembling the workings of a “loose cannon.”
Without securing permission from the school board, he signed a contract, dated August 2011, with Teach for America, to place 20 uncertified teachers in our schools. This came to light as a result of his request to enter a second agreement for an additional 50 uncertified teachers. Thus far, only three teachers have been hired, under the original clandestine agreement.
It was also learned that local business leaders have been solicited to provide funding for the “accelerated” training program of Teach for America, which consists of two five-to-six week “summer camp” training sessions. The school board was led to believe such funding had been secured. In fact, it has not.
Secured emails indicate that Hinojosa is working with board member David Morgan to establish the STEM charter school in an area which is currently being served by a charter school, Imagine International Academy. Manpower from the school district is being used to assist in this effort. Morgan, whose wife, State Rep. Alisha Morgan, (D-Austell) is a big supporter of the STEM charter school, cast the deciding vote to deny renewal of the charter for Imagine Academy. Can you spell “conflict of interest?”
It is reported that an item on the school board agenda was abruptly pulled without notice. The story is that it was pulled when Dr. Hinojosa learned that he did not have the majority vote to get passage of the request for the second agreement with Teach for America. How could he have learned that save through the use of an illegal “straw poll?” How’s that for transparency?
In a most ill-advised move, he made personnel changes and gave pay increases to non-teaching staff members, even as teaching professionals suffered under repeated assaults on their earning power.
The known infractions and seemingly irrational actions of Dr. Hinojosa lead one to wonder if what we know is only a small portion of a much larger and more complex problem within the district, the “tip of the iceberg” so to speak.
At the last board work session, permission was sought to proceed with three SPLOST projects, all of which are substantially over budget. When questioned about amounts over budget, SPLOST Administrator Doug Shepard made the statement that he feels comfortable with the funding. No board member questioned him further about the finances, which seems incredibly short-sighted in light of the fact that SPLOST collections are less than anticipated due to the ongoing economic conditions. Shepard has now resigned from CCSD.
The transportation department spent money to equip a hundred buses with cameras to film drivers breaking the law relating to passing school buses, but nobody checked to see what would happen to the evidence gathered. It is useless, under current law. Without a change in the law, the money was wasted.
Given all the foregoing, it is obvious that the board needs to be discussing these issues and not some verbose, detail-laden Strategic Plan which could be condensed into three words, “Educate our Kids.” Everything else is secondary detail.
Board Chairman Scott Sweeney has yet to put any of the above items on the meeting agenda. One board member, Kathy Angelucci, is insisting that the charter school and the Teach for America issues be discussed, but is getting no support at this time. A recent change in board procedures mandates that, unless two members request it, only the superintendent or chairman can put an item on the agenda.
If Sweeney, and/or others, feel these issues will go away, they are mistaken. We don’t care who gets hurt or embarrassed, we want results. The people of Cobb County deserve better representation than we have previously had. We thought we finally had it.
When do we see some evidence of it? We have waited a year, with little or no improvement in the status quo. When does the promised reform start?
Pete Borden is a retired masonry contractor in east Cobb.