School board standing firm on vote against Common Core
by Megan Thornton
June 10, 2013 11:35 PM | 4555 views | 24 24 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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.

 

Comments
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June 12, 2013
Our people so ignorant that they don't realize that this country needs common standards. So people can move throughout the country. This hurts business, this hurts our military families. This hurts, because Georgia has been ranked 48th in Education. Obviously the Georgia way does not work. The Cobb County way does not work when you have high schools who graduate only 62% of their students.

Students deserve to have a book.

I sent my daughter to dual enrollment her senior year. That way Cobb County only got $250 from the state for her Senior year. She earned 15 college credits. She took college math. Yes, I paid about $100 for a college Math text book. But she had a text book. How else do you learn.
Watcher...
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June 12, 2013
MDJ, please give us highlights from the eMails and identify the authors of the eMails.
Hillgrove supporter
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June 12, 2013
As a parent of Hillgrove H.S., I have great concerns about the replacement of the principal of Hillgrove, mentioned in this article. This school is on a path with a needle pointed towards excellent.

It is my strong hope that the board would approve a new principal who understands the needs of our community; academic, athletic, and fine arts - and not just appoint someone without a depth of understanding or history in the community!
Hawk Parent
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June 13, 2013
Agreed! With two great principals and an amazing staff, Hillgrove has taken off in athletics, academics, and the arts. Don't let us down Cobb County, we need a leader that will keep it going.
Third Grade Teacher
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June 11, 2013
"...staff members have been "subverting the decision of the board", "subverting the decision of the board",!!! I am a Cobb employee, but I am also a tax-paying citizen and voter. I have just as much right to state my opinion to the Board as do those who do not work for Cobb County. If we (teachers) had been given any notice that the Board word reject the Math textbook recommendation, you better believe that we would have flooded your email prior to the vote. But we were given no such notice. You do realize that not only do we teach Math, but as elementary teachers we are also responsible for Reading, Writing, Grammar, Spelling, Handwriting, Science, Health, and Social Studies. Although we have texts for those subjects, most of them do not cover all the standards we are required to teach. Therefore, we are always looking for resources to fill the gaps. With that many subjects to teach, it's not always possible to find resources that will fill the gaps. We do the best we can with what we have. Did I teach Math last year without a textbook? Yes. Do I think my students would have had better CRCT scores better understanding of the standards if we had a textbook - ABSOLUTELY! It is shameful that we will have no Math textbooks for our students.
another cc teacher
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June 23, 2013
amen...I spend way too much time trying to plan meaningful math for my class...yes, I survived without resources/support last year...doesn't mean that I'm thrilled to do the same this next year.
Don't Forget
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June 11, 2013
Don't forget, text books are big business. There is a lot of money at stake and how much behind the scenes arm twisting and palm greasing going on by the book salespeople is anyone's guess.

Taxpayers and employees would hope that the BOE management would have their best interests at heart, but it seldom seems so. The best example of it is choice of investments for employees. Instead of high fee, suspect choices from the likes of Valic, employees should have low to no-fee options for 403b investments like TIAA-CREF. Again, how much behind the scenes deal making is going on to keep bad investment choices?

Unfortunately, you can't trust anyone to take care of you but yourself.
anonymous
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June 12, 2013
There are some lower cost options offered for investments than Valic, but they do not beat the bushes like Valic does. I personally would never do business with them. I would like to see some Roth 401s being offered
Too funny
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June 11, 2013
What's controversial about math text books?
WillowTreeRoots
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June 11, 2013
The math textbooks are not being considered, as I understand it, because they align with the Core Common, and it is difficult to teach in another style with those texts. We must read between the lines as actual facts are scarce, seemingly almost hidden from public view and thus opinion. Yes, the schools did without textbooks for math last year, and it looks like a repeat, and without a change could be another six years - unless they vote to change the course they decided on. Can they get by? Yes, but at what expense - the education of the kids! Larger class sizes and no text books makes sense, right?

The teachers are doing a great job, but I hear on the streets of people looking elsewhere because of this situation alone. Give our highly skilled educators the tools they need to make our kids successful - how hard is that as a mission?

Hello? Is there anyone in there? Is there anyone home?
B. Elzebub
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June 12, 2013
They are the devils tool!
Kunstitchuencee
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June 11, 2013
Scamihorn and this board are quick to forget the employees of the system are also their constituents AND a huge voting bloc in Cobb. They would be wise to respect the people working with students and respond to their needs, rather than the gripes of a handful of misinformed talk radio listeners.
mike mm
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June 11, 2013
people r not telling the

Check the Scores!
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June 11, 2013
Why doesn't the CCSD Board take a look at the End of Course Test Scores county wide for 9th grade Common Core GPS Algebra? They are abyssmal!! How about a 4% passing rate at one high school? How about other passing rates such as 21% or 41% at different high schools in the district? The State Department has already implemented tougher EOCTs to match the rigor of these new standards and at each high school, each math department is trying to figure out the best materials to do this and each one is reinventing the wheel with minimal success based on these test scores that count 20% of a students grade. Come on Board! Give these high school math teachers and math students some help by providing them with the necessary tools to teach these new standards and develop assessments that match the rigor of the state EOCT! You are harming our students and their ability to succeed! Come on MDJ-Get the data on this Math EOCT test score and expose the substandard performance!
@check the scores
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June 12, 2013
Excellent point. The board is much more interested in listening to the few flag wearing senior citizens (who don't pay school taxes) than looking at the data above.

Another embarrassing and ignorant decision made by an uneducated board. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Kudos to the staff member who sent the email. Thank God there is one person in the district who is not afraid to tell the truth and speak out.
Mom of Two
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June 12, 2013
Interesting, when I compare the CC GPS Algebra to what was previously taught it is almost identical. As for the ES grades the concepts are essentially the same. So why can't they use the textbooks they already had? There is no reason why a seasoned ES teacher should be pulling out their hair over math without a textbook. They can review the concepts, write problems on the board, use sheets from previous textbooks etc. Higher grades you may have moved factoring from 8th grade to 9th CC GPS Alg, but not a lot of difference.
rtman
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June 11, 2013
Im going to go out on a limb a little here. I am not a fan of the Common Core, and i believe that it will be a distant memory in years to come as nothing in public education ever stays around very long, therefore Common Core will not be the first. Second, as an educator in Cobb County, i taught the math curriculum with no text to give my students, and i feel that i had plenty of resources to teach what was needed to be taught. Does the quality of education diminish due to the lack of a textbook? I think not. Perhaps teachers need to get a little more creative when there is no text to go from page to page. Just a thought!
To rtman
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June 12, 2013
I could not agree more! I would consider myself LUCKY to be able to NOT have to use a textbook. It's a lot of work and yes, does take creativity. With the internet , there are thousands of resources out there to teach math and every other subject!
Mom of Two
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June 12, 2013
To rtman

Agree, and those that post the dismal EOCT on the lack of textbooks are looking for excuses. The scores were down across all counties and states. Some of those had textbooks.
anonymous
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June 11, 2013
Don't let the words "staff undermining school board" get lost in the larger story details.

This bold attitude by the bureaucrats who think they know best is simply unacceptable. They work for the people and our elected officials are ultimately in charge. I know good teachers who've been brainwashed by Glover Street staff into believing the Common Core is the "only" way to go, and it makes me sick. Hinojosa has perfected his under the radar schtick so much that he shirks responsibility for such tactics. Someone PLEASE hold this highly paid man accountable.
@ anonymous
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June 11, 2013
Does the board chair feel the same way about teachers who tried to subvert the board's calendar votes?

Can't have it both ways Mr. Scamihorn!
anonymous
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June 12, 2013
The comment above: Scanihorn can't have it both ways might be the dumbest thing I have seen. The chair has made it a point to allow all sides to speak to any issue, even when the votes were not there (or ever would be).
liberalism=insanity
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June 12, 2013
Get your kids out of government schools and out of the hands of bureacrats and politicians who think they know best and have forgotten who they work for.
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