Dad says lax notification for school choice leads him to pursue legal advice
by Lindsay Field
August 20, 2012 01:12 AM | 8999 views | 50 50 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cary McCallum, right, with his wife, Susan, talk about school choice while holding a copy of HB 251 at their Marietta home on Sunday.  <br> Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
Cary McCallum, right, with his wife, Susan, talk about school choice while holding a copy of HB 251 at their Marietta home on Sunday.
Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
slideshow
McCallum poses with his wife, Susan, left, and daughters, Kelly, 14, standing, and Erin, 16, seated, at their Marietta home. <br> Photo by Jon-Michael
McCallum poses with his wife, Susan, left, and daughters, Kelly, 14, standing, and Erin, 16, seated, at their Marietta home.
Photo by Jon-Michael
slideshow
MARIETTA — One Cobb parent is seeking advice from an attorney because he feels cheated by the school district for not giving him ample notification about the deadline to apply for school choice.

Cary McCallum, who wanted to send his two daughters to Pope High in northeast Cobb rather than Wheeler High in east Cobb where his home is zoned, said he feels like he was left out of the loop.

“I have hired (an attorney) and right now we are deciding what our next move will be, but I will not rest until I solve this issue,” he said.

McCallum, a 1982 Wheeler graduate, said he was trying to place his daughters, freshman Kelly and junior Erin, at Pope because they heard horror stories from neighbors about Wheeler.

He registered Kelly, 14, at Wheeler but Erin, 16, refused to go to school there, so he enrolled her at Mills Springs Academy in Alpharetta.

McCallum said he found a policy on the Cobb Schools’ website earlier in the year that stated the procedures, forms and dates needed for a parent to access school choice.

“It stated that that information would be posted by July 1 of each year, so I took that as a literal interpretation and put that July 1 in my iPhone,” he said.

McCallum checked the district website July 1 and learned that the application deadline had already passed. Applications for the 2012-13 school year were to be submitted to the district between June 7 and June 21.

“I was kind of shocked because I think that if the information is posted by July 1, the act to apply must be after July,” he said.

He still tried to turn an application on July 3 but was turned away. He also tried reaching out to the district’s director of student support, Debby Jones, and Cobb Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa to get answers to his deadline issues.

“If you say you’re going to post something by a date, you have all the way to that date to receive that,” he said. “The district’s interpretation of by July 1 cannot be absolute.”

McCallum also argued that the district’s notification of the application needs to be more defined.

“The district told me that their notification was by Twitter, Facebook and in the parent information guide on the district’s website,” said the 47-year-old father of two. “Twitter is not a form of notification. It’s more for the younger generation. I don’t even have a Twitter account.”

Jones said, “The only thing that the law says is that notification can be sent by letter, electronic means or by any other reasonable means. We put ours in our website and also on Facebook and Twitter.”

Jones said they received 998 applications for the 2012-13 school year and placed 669 students.

The openings are determined by each school based on permanent classroom space and teachers. Parents have been able to take advantage of school choice since 2009. It applies to all grades and is free.

“We have a computer-generated lottery that is absolutely, 100 percent random,” she said.

Parents can mail, email, fax or hand-deliver applications.

If a student is accepted, the district calls the parent, and if they are not accepted, they receive an automated phone call and an email. For this school year, Jones said they started calling families June 22.

The schools participating in this year’s school choice option were posted online at the end of May. All of the high schools, 14 of the 25 middle schools, and 43 of the 67 elementary schools had openings.

The school choice topic came up at the school board’s August work session when Vice Chair David Morgan asked that the group consider implementing a few changes in regards to how Cobb implements House Bill 251.

Morgan asked that they let parents and guardians fill out the student choice applications online, for siblings to attend the same school they do, students be given the opportunity to stay within a feeder pattern once approved for school choice, space be defined by existing trailer space as well, for the central office to conduct a public lottery for students accepted into the program and for the district to post the number of spaces available at each school on their website before and after the selections.

The public lottery provision sparked the most feedback from board members, specifically Kathleen Angelucci and Alison Bartlett, who said they wouldn’t support it.

“The lottery would be very damaging,” Bartlett said. “It’s very hard on people to do that. To have an open lottery with a 1,000 children involved, I can’t support something like that.”

Morgan said he wants to conduct a lottery system because a majority of the calls he receives from constituents about school choice is from parents whose children didn’t get accepted.

“I’m mindful of the stress and disappointment if your number is not chosen, but I think in the spirit of full transparency it shows that there is nothing that we did not do on our end as a district to make sure everybody saw the process,” he said.

Hinojosa agreed with Angelucci and Bartlett, saying that he was concerned with the “logistics” of having a public lottery but that he would consider the other requests by Morgan, specifically defining space by including trailers and posting the number of spaces available at each school online.

He also pointed out that Cobb is waiting too late to accept applications and that they should start the process earlier.

“It might help us expedite things if we do it earlier,” he said.

Board Chair Scott Sweeney asked the district’s policy director Darryl York to come up with a revised policy regarding school choice and possibly bring it back before the board at their Sept. 12 work session.
Comments
(50)
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Shape Cobb County
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January 29, 2013
Twitter and Facebook notifications after you gave our a different date. LAZY. Cobb County Schools are truly run by a group of morons who have some "we are greater than you" group think going on. Unreal. They STILL are not following the law BTW. I hope they do get sued into actually following the guidelines of HB 251.
anonymous
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August 21, 2012
We were lied to as well. We wanted to enroll our so in kindergarten that was closer to my work and where his siblings went to daycare. I work nights so my wife was faced with having to pick up all three by 6p at two different locations. The daycare we go to couldn't pick up our oldest for after school care because it was too far from them.

We called Chalker Elementary and asked what procedure was. They said you have to wait until July 25 enrollment since your son turns 5 in July. All of your shots ect have to be completed first. and you cannot request a transfer until he is actually enrolled in the school system.

I enrolled him and immediately went to Chalker to complete the transfer as we had been instructed to do. It was then then we were told we missed the June deadline. My complaint is that we weren't eligible to do anything in June and the policy excludes kids with later birthdays? They basically lied to us but its the policy that needs to be redone. You can't set one that excludes kids based on their birthday
School Choice
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August 20, 2012
I personally checked the Cobb County website multiple times daily for the list of school choice options. When the list was posted, we were on vacation but we submitted the application the same day the list was posted. I immediately went to the business center and faxed the application. In addition, I contacted student support to confirm receipt of the application. Why is it the district's responsibility to do a parent's job? If it is a critical matter, you should take the necessary steps to ensure the deadline is not missed. It appears that the parent has failed to act in a timely manner and now he is looking for someone else to blame. Face it - you missed the deadline but not using common sense!
anonymous
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August 21, 2012
This post is best example yet why the Cobb County School District needs to notify parents per the law! "I personally checked the cobb County website multiple times daily". Its the law that the Districts notify so a parent would not have to check multiple time each day. That is rediculous that parents of Cobb would have to do this. HB 251 requires action by the district to notify parents. The parents are recipients of the information. The parents are not expected to actively seek out the application process. The Cobb District passed this requirement on to the parents. The "no later than" use in HB 251 is applied to the parents. If you accept the Cobb Districts interpretation of the policy for parents, then they could have posted notification anytime between January and July. This does not comply with the law and why you had to check the website multiple times daily. I know this is the law and it might be difficult for you to understand but thank you so much for posting this as its the best post yet in support of the argument of this father.
Heart of the Matter
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August 21, 2012
This post gets to the heart of the matter! If I were arguing this case in front of a judge I would use testimony like this parents. "personally check the...website daily" Why would a parent have to do this? Because they did not get the proper notification from Cobb Schools. This parent HAD no choice but to act in this manner to get the proper information. Again, this post takes this issue to the heart of the matter. I'm sold. Done.
dose of reality.
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January 29, 2013
No it is not the district's responsibility to do the parents job. It IS the districts job to act like a business and not arbitrarily change dates. There is a HUGE difference. What would happen if the SS office said you needed to have a form in by x date and then moved it up two weeks without informing you? Exactly. Please STFU.
Fairness to all
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August 20, 2012
It is so disheartening to read the landblasting of a school because of hearsay. The Wheeler staff works hard with the students districted to the school. For the record, Wheeler IS NOT A FAILING SCHOOL! The principal, Dr. Chiprany is one of the nicest, most approachable guys you'll ever meet and a mere conversation or visit may've put this father's mind at ease. Is Wheeler the school of the late 70's, early 80's? No, but it has not been invaded by demons or aliens, either. Though he is upset about what he deems the lack of communication, that is no reason to dump on the hard work and accomplishments of the students and staff at Wheeler!
vfp42
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August 20, 2012
The 16 year old was bothered enough to refuse to attend Wheeler, but apparently not bothered enough to keep up with procedures for registering for Pope.

I would say don't waste a seat at Pope on her lazy rear end. Instead, enroll Dad in Pope.
goodbar
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August 20, 2012
Dads an idiot needs to beaware whats going on. another , "ill get my attorney". thats something he should've looked into.and the school will back down and let her go to Pope. set priorities dad stay off the web on stuff that you dont belong on.
confused at Wheelr
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August 20, 2012
There is a simple answer. If you don't like the public schools--send your children to Private School--but be very careful as there may be kids from apartments there as well
leChat
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August 20, 2012
First off, if I still had a child in school, she would not be dictating where she would or would not consent to attend.

Second, if I were that concerned about it, I would make sure I checked back periodically for information (by internet, or phone, if necessary) to allow myself time to accomplish whatever was needed by the deadline (especially if I weren't really sure of when the deadline was).

But hey, that's just for people who don't like trying to scapegoat someone else for their laxness.

Website notices are considered sufficient for a number of types of notifications. Be glad. If it weren't so, large counties like Cobb could be forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars extra each year on mailings for mandated notices on minor issues about which most people care little. Of course, adding expenses like that to the county budget WOULD give Mr. Whiner & his sort something else to complain about.

Notification by mail
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August 20, 2012
I happen to have a friend who works with me and lives in Gwinnett which is the LARGEST school district in the state. The notify EACH PARENT as the law requires by MAIL. If one were using website notification it would make sense that they would post on the main webpage not bury the information labeled as something other than School Choice.I challenge you to go to the CCSD website and find any information about school choice. Why is that? It is amazing to me that people here do not care that the district is INTENTIONALLY circumventing the law. We all know that they fought School Choice becoming law.
leChat
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August 21, 2012
@ "NOTIFICATION..." below. Gwinnett is free to spend their funds as they like. Their overall millage rate is about 3.5 mils higher than Cobb, with 1.65 mils high total school rate. Is that what you want?

If the law doesn't specify the notice must be made by mail, then you can't say that method is "required". Some Georgia laws DO specify mail as a required means of notification on certain issues.

I do agree that it seems resonable that information intended to be a notification should be fairly evident if presented on a website. I don't know whether you could say for sure that that the law requires that duty.

anonymous
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August 21, 2012
Hey leChat, I wanted to comment here. I do not think the argument is the website notification. Its that the parents of each student must be notified. How the school districts do this is up to them but they must meet that requirement per the law. If someone had to check back periodically as you say to get the needed dates, then the required notification to parents failed. See the replies to the poster called School Choice.

Sad in Cobb
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August 20, 2012
Why does my daughter not live in the Community she teaches in? She does live in Cobb County--She was transferred to the school she currently teaches in four years ago as were many teachers
Bob Robinson
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August 20, 2012
I agree with Mr. McCallum. The same thing happened to me and two of our neighbors. Twitter and Facebook are two different ways to communicate, but I do not have an account with either one. How would you like to be selected for jury duty or notified your property taxes had gone up with these two means of communication? Cobb County should have used a more traditional way to communicate and not one that was so obviously miss leading. We also had a very difficult time having any correspondence with the Cobb County District. Good for you Mr. McCallum for standing up for yourself and your child’s education.
Renee in Cobb
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August 20, 2012
This is my favorite part of the article: He registered Kelly, 14, at Wheeler but Erin, 16, refused to go to school there, so he enrolled her at Mills Springs Academy in Alpharetta. As I read this, I wondered...Hmmm, who is the adult in this household. A 16 year old refused to go to school at the school she is districted for and the parent not only accepted that, but enrolled her somewhere else. It's a different world than the one I grew up in where my parents were in charge.
Renee in cobb
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August 20, 2012
im so sorry i forgot to take my meds to day this was so rude.
JasonJonSmith
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August 20, 2012
Mr. McCallum,

the school board does not *owe* you notification. School choice is a voluntary program not a court order. It is incumbent on *you* the parent to take an active role in your child's education.

Sorry, and iPhone reminder is not an "active role". You intend to sue your neighbors because the school board didn't hold your wittle hand?

So, sue. And when you LOOSE, and you will loose, you can enjoy paying for paying for Cobb taxpayers attorney fees, in addition to your own.
Smith the Dropout
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August 20, 2012
He did not say they "owe" me notification? And School Choice in NOT voluntary. School Choice is the law. Do your research and read the entire article before you post because you are makinig a fool of yourself. iphone reminder means this dad does not take an active role in his kids education? How did you get that from this article? Where are you coming up with this stuff? Attack, hate statements towards this dad, assumptions. "not a court order" honestly these statements by Mr. Smith might be the dumbest things on this entire page.
Wittle Loose
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August 20, 2012
You may want to check on the continuing education classes that the school system offers.
Golden Flyer
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August 20, 2012
Is it possible that anyone can be this ignorant? Abiding by the law is not *voluntary* It is not a suggestion. It is a mandate that citizens follow the law. Is your *wittle* bwain* too small to comprehend that laws are not written to be followed if you feel like it.

Why are you so angry?
Tough Question
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August 20, 2012
I think the really tough question that should have been asked of Ms. Jones is if the Cobb County District notified every parent per the law?

Ms. Jones stated, “The only thing that the law says is that notification can be sent by letter, electronic means or by any other reasonable means. We put ours in our website and also on Facebook and Twitter.”

Do you think that only posting on Facebook and Twitter were reasonable means to reach every parent? I don't think so. A lot of parents don't communicate that way. A simple letter or phone call to each parent would have solved this whole problem.

Wildcat Pride!
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August 20, 2012


I sure hope Mr. McCallum at least tried to talk to the principle, Mr Chiprany, before he passed judgement. or...maybe he will have his attorney will contact him. What a waste of resources.

I would be so embarrassed to have an article like this written about me in the newspaper. And his daughter "refused to go to school there"!! Get involved at the school, meet some friends interact and see how you can change this image rather than opting out. I know some really good kids at that school.

Proud Wheeler Parent
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September 03, 2012
I am very offended by Mr. McCallum's comment concerning "horror stories at Wheeler". Wheeler is a wonderful high school with a hard-working, caring staff. You will find "horror stories" at all schools - some just use their connections to keep them out of the news! I could care less about Mr. McCallum's school of choice but he should be embarrassed by his statement. There are lots of terrific things going on at Wheeler!
Bob Bummer
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August 20, 2012
I'd like to hear more about the "horror stories".
Been there -
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August 20, 2012
Mr. McCallam may have missed pertinent information, but he might want to ask the district how many students have received this "transfer" (i.e. special requests from/by board members) since the deadline of July 1. Bet there are several.
Friend of Wheeler
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August 20, 2012
This dad is so far off base--Has he visited Wheeler or is he just taking his daughter's words for truth. We do not have children or grandchildren in Wheeler but can only speak of two of the finest young teachers in Cobb--Coach Jeff Milton and Michelle Weeks--They look beyond economics and race and teach our young people because of love of their profession. Since when did parents allow their children to dictate where they attend school??
Sad in Cobb
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August 20, 2012
To condemn people who live in apartments is totally unwarranted. What does Pro Wheeler suggest --Do we divide students who happen to live in apartments between all the schools in Cobb County? Who then will provide the Transportation? Are those students not as worthy of an education as your children who live in 300000 homes? Our daughter happens to teach in a very diversified school in Cobb (none of the ones mentioned in Comments), drives 45 minutes each way to teach in that school, and would not want to teach any where else. She has a mixture of all incomes and races. She also plans to take her own child there once she reaches Kindergarten. Give me a break--Hopefully with today's economy you won't have to face losing your own home and perhaps having to live in an apartment.
WWANPD
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August 20, 2012
I notice by your post that your daughter does not live in the community in which she teaches. Why?
prowheeler
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August 20, 2012
You missed my point. I strongly believe that Wheeler is a very good school. I'm proud that I live in the Wheeler district & my kids will go to Wheeler. I specifically chose this district because of its diversity. I was just pointing out that the teachers & administration have a more transient student population than does that of Walton or Pope. The fact that a large percentage of the student population will leave the district before graduation makes it very difficult to be effective and despite that, they do a great job and Wheeler is in the top 10% of schools nationwide.
PMom_GA
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August 20, 2012
Funny thing about "by July 1". To me, that means the information would be online BEFORE July 1, meaning dear old dad made a huge mistake in thinking July 1 was an okay date to see what was there.

And yes, the info was online "by July 1" (last I heard, all of June does indeed come before July 1), so there was no lie there. Dear old dad should have been checking online once the prior school year was over, in order to get the info he seems to think is required to be delivered to him personally.

Sorry, dad, you blew it. Next time don't rely on a single date - be pro-active, and get with the program, so to speak, by checking for new info.
Cary McCallum
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August 20, 2012
This sounds like a comment from someone from or posting for someone at the Cobb County School District to me! If it means before than why does it not just say before in the policy! By and before have different meanings! Touche! The real problem here is that the law (HB 251) states that each parent must receive notification and that did NOT happen. Breaking the law is OK with you?
Too bad
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August 20, 2012
998 parents were able to find the information and submit their applications by the deadline. Why does this guy think he's special and deserves an exception be made for him? Please.
It Takes a Village
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August 20, 2012
Did the school district notify every parent? I think that is the question. The fact that this parent was mislead by the "by July 1st" deadline indicates that the answer is NO. What about parents who do not have internet access? Are they not worthy of notification? It is the responsibility of the school district to notify EVERY parent. That is what the law requires. CCSD has failed miserably. Maybe "dear old PMom_GA" should actually read the bill.
proWheeler
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August 20, 2012
Wheeler is a very good school. It's not perfect but very good by virtually every measure. When you consider the challenging student population @ Wheeler you would have to conclude that the administration is doing an outstanding job. Unlike Mr. Sweeney who has done a horrible job as our Rep. He should be embarrassed to have a story like this in the paper - yet we hear nothing (as usual)

No school should have the concentration of apartment dwellers like Wheeler, East Cobb Middle, Brumby, Sedalia & Eastvalley & Powers Ferry does. The teachers and administration do not have the opportunity to teach the students long enough to have an impact before the kids move to another school/district. The entire district needs to shoulder the burden of this transient population & not cast it to one high school.
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