Member David Banks, who was the subject of a proposed censure last summer by colleague Kathleen Angelucci, made the motion to dismiss a policy restricting visits to schools altogether during the board’s consideration of governance and operations.
David Morgan seconded Banks amendment to the policy, saying he didn’t think board members should be “held hostage” if they are interested in going into the schools, but it failed 4-3, with Scott Sweeney, Vice Chair Brad Wheeler, Tim Stultz and Angelucci opposing.
The final motion, which included an amendment to remove “at least 24 hours” from the wording on allotted notification time for possible visits, was approved 5-2, with Angelucci and Banks opposing.
Angelucci’s opposition was made after asking the full board multiple times during the 45-minute discussion, “What do we do as a board when board members abuse (school visits)?”
No one responded to her question.
She also asked Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa if, in the last 18 months since the policy was implemented in coordination with a review from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, he received any reports of board members going to schools without notice. He simply replied, “Yes.”
“This was put together and voted on by the entire board for a reason,” Angelucci said. “These have been abused, and we’ve had board members going into classrooms during instructional time with no previous contact, and it is not right that teachers feel like they have to be held hostage, so to speak, by a board member because they decide to just show up.
“We’re supposed to be thinking about the kids in the classroom and instructional time and at the end of the day. That’s what this is about. It’s not about a board member wanting to parade into a school. It’s about the learning that takes place.”
During the discussion, Sweeney also referenced recent recommendations from SACS to the DeKalb County School Board not to enter classrooms or schools without either an invitation or proper notification.
“If we were to show up unannounced, we’re taking people away from their duties, their responsibilities … because they are essentially going to treat us a little bit different maybe because of the position that we hold, and I think it’s wrong for any of us to step into these schools unannounced,” Sweeney said.
In response, Banks said he believes he must have a “different relationship with my principals in Post 5 schools than Mr. Sweeney does. In fact, if I don’t show up on a regular basis, they ask me what’s wrong.”
He went onto say that he will drop in and say “Hi,” but if there is something he needs to discuss with an administrator, he will make an appointment.
“I don’t think this board needs to infringe on anybody’s constitutional right to go to a public school,” Banks continued. “I don’t think anybody has ever abused going to the schools, at least nobody has ever told me that, and I’ve asked.”
In other business at the meeting, the board:
• Approved a $5.49 million contract with Swofford Construction Inc. of Austell to do mechanical and electrical upgrades at Blackwell, Ford and Garrison Mill elementary schools. The Request for Proposals will be funded by SPLOST III and is 28 percent, or $1.2 million, over budget.
• Approved a $3.6 million contract with Amacher Brothers Construction of Atlanta to renovate Tapp Middle School in Powder Springs. The project will be funded by SPLOST III and is 2 percent, or $40,000, over budget.
• Approved a $2.6 million contract with Possibility Construction Inc. of Johns Creek to renovate Birney Elementary School in Marietta. The project will be paid for with SPLOST III funds and is 2 percent, or $82,000, under budget.
• Accepted a little over $1 million in Georgia Department of Education Capital Outlay Project Closeout funding for completed construction projects at Sprayberry, South Cobb, North Cobb and Pope high schools.