With Cobb Board of Education members standing firm on their votes, it’s unlikely the vote against purchasing math textbooks affiliated with Common Core State Standards will change.
That doesn’t prohibit the board from discussing other options for this coming school year during its Wednesday morning work session, along with concerns about emails from district staff that Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn said contain “misinformation” about the recent decision to nix the purchase of $7.5 million in math textbooks.
Scamihorn said he was open to reconsidering the textbook issue if any board members had notified him that they had changed their minds — but that hasn’t been the case.
“Nobody to my knowledge has changed their position, so I don’t want to have that debate again,” Scamihorn said. “Why waste the time? We had a spirited discussion on this but once a decision is made, I expect the staff to carry out the board’s decision.”
However, recent emails written by Cobb School District staff have surfaced that Scamihorn says undermine the board’s 4-3 vote in April to reject the textbook purchase. He said a couple of board members have expressed concerns to him that certain staff members have been “subverting the decision of the board” not to purchase the books.
The emails, obtained by MDJ, appeared to be sent to parents and teachers in an effort to pressure the School Board into holding another vote on the purchase of the controversial Common Core textbooks.
“If the intention of the emails is to subvert the board’s decision, then I’m disappointed,” Scamihorn said. “And from the emails I’ve seen, they contain misinformation.”
Superintendent says he didn’t authorize emails
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said neither he nor his staff encouraged nor authorized the emails to be sent out although he was in favor of the textbook purchase.
“This is not a political issue, but people need to use better judgment about those kinds of things,” Hinojosa said.
Specifically, one email seemed to set forth an erroneous timeframe that if the books weren’t purchased now, the school district would be forced to go without them for another six years.
“If we can’t get to the bottom of it, at the very least it’s going to stop,” Scamihorn said of the email campaign. “Six years? My question back to them is, where’s the law saying we can’t buy textbooks in December? You can’t teach without textbooks? Oh really? What did we do last year? We taught without them.”
Hinojosa said he will have discussions with staff members to separate truth from fiction.
“The board could reconsider this (textbook purchase) at any time over the next six years should board opinion change or should the board change,” he said. “It’s not accurate that nothing could ever happen. I will try to help communicate that with staff.”
Alternative math resources for teachers
Scamihorn said the school district made do without textbooks last year and he has placed an item on Wednesday’s agenda that will address the need for alternative math resources for teachers.
“We are going to talk about math resources, not textbooks,” Scamihorn said. “We’ll explore alternatives to support our math teachers, such as online resources, or other resources that might be available.”
Amy Krause, chief academic officer, said she has a strong belief teachers will do “whatever it takes” to manage without the new textbooks.
“They have been managing, even though it’s difficult, to pull together resources to teach,” Krause said.
Krause said her department is in the process of assessing other options that could be presented to the board, including possibly reducing the scope of the original recommendation.
Scamihorn said he has asked staff to look into what other school districts are doing, including considering the possibility of using state resources as suggested by State Superintendent John Barge.
“(Barge) says there’s plenty of material on state websites,” he said. “A few — not a lot — of teachers, have said that it’s not well organized. I’d like to get a little more of a definitive answer to that.”
Class sizes could increase
In other business, the board will also consider approving a resolution to waive state class size allotment ratios for 2013-14 school year to meet financial and staff constraints. For all student groups and grade levels, the waiver could allow for a minimum of one and a maximum of eight additional students per classroom.
Other agenda items
- A $590,303 contract with Hamby & Aloisio Inc. of Atlanta for property and casualty insurance and crime/electronic data insurance from July 1 through June 30, 2014.
- A right-of-way change and $10,738 contract to be reimbursed by Cobb DOT for fencing in front of Mt. Bethel Elementary School. Cobb DOT is requesting to create an access route to access its equipment as well as improve the traffic signal and school flashing equipment on Johnson Ferry Road.
- The closeout of capital outlay projects at Walton and Pebblebrook high schools and Mableton Elementary School, which district officials say will garner an anticipated reimbursement of $807,292.80 from the Georgia Department of Education.
- The appointment of a new principal for Murdock Elementary School and resignations of Robert Shaw, principal of Hillgrove High School, who moved to Riverwood High School in Fulton County, and Wanda Shue, Nicholson Elementary School’s principal.
- Authorize the temporary use of the Fitzhugh Lee facility, which was scheduled to close in December. In 2012, the board approved moving Fitzhugh Lee students to Brown Elementary. That will be delayed by two years because the SPLOST 4 Teasley Elementary School construction initiative requires housing Teasley kindergarten and first-grade students at Brown.