Cobb math textbook saga far from over
by Megan Thornton
June 13, 2013 12:18 AM | 5408 views | 18 18 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
School Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn, left, and Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa listen to public input during Wednesday’s work session.<br>Staff/Laura Moon
School Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn, left, and Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa listen to public input during Wednesday’s work session.
Staff/Laura Moon

The Cobb School District’s math textbook saga is far from over, as school board members now have the opportunity to consider four new potential textbook purchase options proposed at Wednesday’s work session that preceded an almost two-and-a-half hour long discussion.

The discussion also led Board Chair Randy Scamihorn to direct Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa to send an email to all district staff in the coming week in an effort to dispel rumors spread by emails originating from district employees.

Hinojosa said he plans to send the email out in the next few days.

Scamihorn and other board members said the staff emails contain false information about the April vote to reject a purchase of math textbooks aligned with the Common Core Standards.

In a May 28 email blast with the subject line “share with your department,” Michelle Mikes, the 6-12 Mathematics Supervisor for the Cobb School District, wrote how she is receiving questions from administrators and teachers about when they will receive new textbooks and workbook orders.

“Please make sure today that all administrators/teachers/parents understand the School Board voted 4-3 against adopting mathematics textbooks K-12 with SPLOST 3 funds,” Mikes writes. “So, there will not be any new resources at all for at least the next six years.”

Mikes goes on to warn that the math funds could be used to build “a playground or something of that sort.”

She writes that if they want to encourage the board to change its mind, “then you have the chance to speak up as well. I have done everything in my power that I am able to, it is now up to you,” she writes before going on to describe when the next board meeting is and how to sign up for the public comment portion of it.

Though the textbook talks inevitably failed to get away from the controversial issues surrounding the alignment of the materials with Common Core Standards, some board members seemed willing to consider a compromise that would cost the district less than the originally proposed $7.5 million purchase.

Supporters of Common Core describe it as a way of ensuring that the algebra taught in Georgia is the same Algebra taught in New York or Kansas, but critics claim the standards will lead to a loss of local control and federalize the public education system.

Scamihorn did not give a timeline as to when the proposals would be acted upon, if at all.

Math materials still up in the air

After four different proposals were presented for potential textbook purchases by Chief Academic Officer Amy Krause, it’s unclear whether any of the options — including the initial proposal and three condensed versions ranging from $3.7 million to $6.3 million — would be taken action on in the near future.

While some board members will take the time to consider the new proposals, which ranged from the initial $7.5 million proposal containing all materials deemed needed by an appointed teacher committee to a $3.7 million proposal that included print resources for only teachers and advanced high school classes, Board member David Morgan indicated he wouldn’t support anything but the full original proposal.

“I think that (the original proposal) is the direction that we should go in terms of this math book adoption,” Morgan said when Scamihorn asked board members if they were in favor of the other options.

Board member Kathleen Angelucci said she had a recent conversation with State Superintendent Dr. John Barge, in which he told her the new standards are 90 percent aligned with Georgia Performance Standards, the state’s present standards.

“If it’s 90 percent aligned, I’m trying to figure out why there is such a need to change if we already have the Georgia Performance Standard curriculum in the current textbooks,” she said. “Wouldn’t we just have to supplement to make up that extra, so that if we do stay, we could be aligned, or in the mean time, we could be aligned?”

Krause said the state revised the mathematics curriculum a few years ago and with the shift, the school district did not change its textbooks.

“So that moved a lot of pieces around for teachers,” Krause said. “So they have textbooks, but they may have to pull out two or three textbooks when they are teaching a course as it is now.”

Board member David Banks said he felt the board’s decision was not centered on student and parent needs and failed to consider the district’s textbook recommendation committee’s choice based on general opposition to Common Core.

“I’m concerned that the direction of the board is, we’re trying to dictate what the curriculum and what the text will be as far as what’s being used in the classroom,” Banks said. “If we go in that direction, we’re getting very close to a SACS violation, which is what happened in DeKalb County… We do have power over the purse. But that doesn’t mean we’re supporting our students, our teachers and our parents (with this decision.)”

Scamihorn said he has previously served on textbook recommendation committees where his committee’s recommendations had not been approved. He added he valued the teachers’ hard work in making the recommendation, but that they only represent one point of view.

“But this board represents everyone — the community, parents, businesspeople, students,” Scamihorn said.

Along with board members Brad Wheeler and Tim Stultz, Angelucci and Scamihorn seemed to agree their opposition is not solely about Common Core —it’s about ensuring the money is well-spent in an environment where state politicians have largely hinted that Common Core “has not been put to rest yet,” as Scamihorn put it.

“We want to make sure we are prudent so we can see where the state goes so that we don’t spend $7.5 million and be concerned that we are (stuck) for six years with those textbooks,” Angelucci said.

Morgan disagreed, saying the group of teachers recommended the textbook package with their full support, regardless of changes that could happen at the state or federal level.

“I don’t see how we would be compromising our autonomy or our direction because we have a group of Cobb County stakeholders …who say, ‘This is the direction we want to go,’” Morgan said.

After the work session, Scamihorn said he expected he and other board members would need time to digest the proposals before taking action on them at a future meeting.

For now, Scamihorn said the option considering full implementation is not a “serious option,” but he believed the others to be worth considering.

Correcting the record

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa was quietly supportive of the request made by Angelucci and seconded by Scamihorn to send all district staff a detailed email correcting misinformation regarding the math textbook vote, which was supported by other board members who voiced their frustration over false claims swirling around the community that were rooted in emails from district staff.

Scamihorn said he brought up the emails because they contained accusations that were “about as far from the truth as you can get.”

“The reason I brought this up is… part of the misinformation is that the board may not support our math teachers and we’re going to leave them out there hanging, which is absolutely not true,” Scamihorn said. “I was a little distraught over that, that this is what we’re hearing from parents and teachers. We’re here to give our students the best education that we can possibly afford, but we’re also here to be good stewards of (tax dollars).

Angelucci said a “common thread” in the emails was misinformation that came from someone at the central office that she contended was an attempt to “sabotage” the board’s vote.

“When the board votes on something, whether the central office is happy with it, whether the district is happy with it, it is a vote that we took,” she said. “And this email does not point to that support… instructing teachers and parents to come in here and complain and pressure the board to change their opinion. And that bothers me because it’s one thing to come in with true concern, it’s another for them to come in because they’re being told something that’s not true.”

Wheeler said he hoped the employees who sent the emails were not purposefully trying to mislead others.

“I hope that that’s not true that we’ve got people in our district that are sending out stuff because they didn’t get what they want,” Wheeler said.

Krause apologized and said there was a “misstep in judgment” on the part of the sender(s), who were not identified by either the board members or district staff during the discussion.

The sole speaker to address the board Wednesday was Carrie Newman, a math teacher in her third year at East Cobb Middle School, who asked the board to reconsider their vote on the math textbooks, saying the teachers are in need of the new materials.

“I love the kids. I love seeing the spark in their eyes when they learn something new,” Newman said. “What I do not love is how the county treats their teachers. We’re without textbooks, without updated resources, without adequate access to materials that we need.”

Newman may have been a recipient of the emails as she referenced one of the erroneous claims mentioned in the correspondence, which stated math teachers would not get new textbooks for another six years if the board does not reconsider the vote.

Krause said teachers like Newman are referencing the typical six-year cycle the state Department of Education recommends.

“That’s the pattern of review they (teachers) understand,” Krause said. “A member of the board at any time can choose to purchase materials outside that window. That’s just the cycle they are used to, so I think that’s why that keeps coming up.”

The funds for the textbook purchase would come from SPLOST, and to be considered a capital improvement the books must be used for over a year. The funds could not go toward “building a playground,” as one email suggested.

“It’s this kind of stuff that does not do any good,” Angelucci said. “It’s the kind of thing that causes fear and anxiety where it shouldn’t be.”

The next board meeting will be June 27 at 7 p.m.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
June 14, 2013
Kathleen Angelucci shows her ignorance every time she opens her mouth. I for one think a Board member should be aware that the current textbook adoption doesn't support either Common Core or Georgia Performance Standards. She is an embarrassment to the county.
Oh Please...
June 15, 2013
Your ignorance is what is showing. It isn't just about high school math, Cobbmomof2 - why don't you call the state and see how concerned they are about textbooks?
@oh Please
June 17, 2013
The textbooks aren't the only thing she has shown her ignorance about, it is just the most recent.
June 13, 2013
The CRCT and High School End-of-Course tests are aligned with the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards NOW.

Angelucci, Stultz, Wheeler and Scamihorn have voted to not deliver recommended math resources to students and teachers and which resources are aligned with the math students will be tested.

The funds for the resources are budgeted as a voter approved SPLOST expenditure and which expenditure will not affect the district's operation budget.

Angelucci is clearly "asleep at the wheel" to not know that the math curriculum, sequence and pacing has changed significantly since the last math resources were adopted at least 6 years ago, or even worse is simply feigning she does not know just to support her position.
June 15, 2013
Isn't is interesting that in 2006-2007, when parents complained about students not having textbooks, Jill Kalina stated that textbooks were only one resource used to teach; that it wasn't the primary one. Can't have it both ways.
June 15, 2013
Well stated.

I believe the above mentioned board members who voted against the adoption not only have shown their ignorance regarding the alignment of the curriculum, but made this misinformed decision because of the pressure of the vocal few who are beyond clueless.

Unused Textbooks
June 13, 2013
I think the board should go back and see how few pages are used out of the text books. It's amazing that we are cutting funding but each year the books are sent home near the end of school with 50-75% unused. It's a waste. If the teachers aren't using the material send them monthly to help the kids work out at home, not two days prior to school being sent out. Like to hear how many parents get these text books sent home unused, that is what the board should look at.
June 13, 2013
You need to consider math books today do not align with what students are being taught and on which materials they are being tested.

For example, math books used at the 9th grade level may contain segments 8th graders are now expected to master. So, let's have 8th grade math teachers borrow resources from high schools. It doesn't work.
Third Grade Teacher
June 13, 2013
The reason you see so many unused pages is because those pages do not go with our Standards. It would be wonderful if we actually had materials that go with the Standards. Textbooks are not the end-all, be-all, but they offer a good starting and jumping off point. They offer the basics and then good teachers will supplement those basics with other resources.
Just Wait
June 13, 2013
If it were Republicans in the White House and supporting Common Core, the CCSB would be all over these new text books. Just be honest with yourselves.
June 13, 2013
David Banks is concerned about "getting very close to a SACS violation" NOW? Really David, your behavior for years has had the board close to that. You have been reprimanded by every board chair since you have "served" for your questionable ethics violations. Just take a nap and don't comment on the important issues anymore.
Mom of Two
June 13, 2013
Those of you who want the new textbooks, why when the new CCS math aligns closely what GA already has AND GA was used as a base for the CCS? Be careful of anything that Michele Mikes recommends, she is a wolf and not even in sheep's clothing. I have many dealings with her and she is seldom open to anything other than her own ideas.

I think the Super is behind a lot of this, but knows how to play the game. Read other blogs, Cobb teachers are stating they are teaching fine without the books and many don't want the books as it will tie their hands more on how to teach. It seems there is no consensus from the teachers on the books. I'm surprised MDJ is showing such a one sided view. There is much more to this story. Voters need to educate themselves before deciding which side to take.
June 14, 2013
Did you not read the entire article? Yes, CC aligns closely with GAPS, but GAPS has changed since Cobb last adopted math textbooks. The current math books DO NOT cover the standards. You are a perfect example of the problems in this county. You only get half the information and start shooting off your mouth.
Who's Going?
June 13, 2013
So when are the senders of the false emails going to be fired? Unfortunately in Cobb, the dysfunctional school board is far worse than anything rogue employees could dream up, so nothing will happen. Prodding along with their heads up their proverbial derrieres seems to be the s.o.p. around here.
June 13, 2013
@Who's going - You are correct. The sender of the emails will not be fired. But had a teacher sent the email they would have been put on a PDP, received a bad evaluation and fired. All of this is about kickbacks that someone in the district will receive.
Just Little Me
June 13, 2013
I wonder just who the board members voting against as they put it, "Common Core" are serving? Our children and parents, or interests outside of Cobb?
@just little me
June 13, 2013
Speaking as a parent and teacher in Cobb, I know they aren't speaking for me. They are listening to the few flag-wearing paranoid types as opposed to what is best for our students.

I am especially disappointed in Mr. Scamihorn. I truly believed he was one of the few who could see the big picture and not sell out to the few vocal opponents.

Michele Mikes is one of the few in the district office who has the passion and integrity to speak out. Her ONLY agenda is to support teachers and students. Her email stated only the facts: the fact that the board failed to adopt a Math textbook out of fear from the conspiracy theorists.
June 13, 2013
Ms. Mikes' eMail WAS NOT completely truthful!

She did not write the eMail on her on.

I wonder who at CCSD helped her compose the eMail and who gave final approval for publication.
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