Cobb approves a scaled-down math package
by Lindsay Field
July 25, 2013 12:12 AM | 4766 views | 11 11 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — After months of arguing, a divided Cobb Board of Education on Wednesday approved a scaled-down version of math resources for kindergarten through 12th grades.

In April, the board rejected Superintendent Michael Hinojosa’s proposal to purchase $7.5 million in online math resources and hardback books, citing the high cost and alignment of those resources with the Common Core national standards, which critics say erodes local control by contributing to the federalization of education.

The board majority worried that if the state pulled out of Common Core it would have wasted $7.5 million.

On Wednesday, the board approved a smaller, $2.9 million purchase of math resources in a 4-3 vote with members David Morgan, Tim Stultz and Kathleen Angelucci opposed.

In addition to the lower cost, the difference between the two packages is the $2.9 million version is composed of mostly digital resources with the exception of advanced courses unaffiliated with Common Core.

While the digital resources the board purchased are aligned with Common Core, they can be revised if the state pulls out of the controversial standards. By comparison, the $7.5 million version would have included textbooks that once purchased could not have been changed, leaving the district stuck with them.

The vote to approve the $2.9 million package came after three previous votes were turned down by the board majority.

Board member Scott Sweeney of east Cobb, for example, tried to convince the board to approve Hinojosa’s original $7.5 million proposal.

Sweeney said while he is not a fan of Common Core, his intent is to get math resources into the hands of teachers and students as quickly as possible.

“My deep concern is that we’re not supplying all the tools that we have at our disposal … that can be delivered,” Sweeney said. “I would urge my colleagues to give due consideration to a full restoration of the recommendations that the district made in April.”

Sweeney also argued that he didn’t believe the Georgia Department of Education would depart from Common Core in the future.

“The likelihood that the standards will be shifted again, I personally feel, is quite remote,” he said.

Yet board Chairman Randy Scamihorn questioned Sweeney’s confidence that Georgia’s education standards won’t change, given that Common Core is the third set of such standards Georgia has implemented in six years.

“Three (times) and now we’re going out on a limb saying that ‘I doubt there will be another change?’” Scamihorn said. “I’m sorry, throw another rock at me.”

Angelucci, who opposed Hinojosa’s April recommendation, has been an outspoken critic of Common Core.

“It’s not the end of the world, the sky is not falling,” Angelucci said. “This is not, ‘We have to have this or our teachers won’t have resources and our students won’t have resources.’ I just don’t buy that.”

Angelucci’s original concern, along with Common Core having ties to President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program, has been that she doesn’t want the district to spend almost $8 million on resources if the state is going to shift standards again.

She pointed out that on Monday there has already been a change involving Common Core with Gov. Nathan Deal’s announcement that Georgia is cutting ties with the testing component of the national standards.

“My big concern is the expense, being fiscally responsible and just waiting to see what happens,” Angelucci said. “We may very well be staying with what we have, but we don’t know.”

Just as it failed in April, Sweeney’s recommendation to approve the $7.5 million math package was voted down 3-4, with Scamihorn, Stultz, Angelucci and Brad Wheeler opposed.

Angelucci’s recommendation to postpone the purchase altogether was also voted down.

She argued that the public hadn’t had enough time to review the materials since the meeting agenda and final list of resources was only released Monday. In July, the board combines its traditional two monthly meetings into one marathon meeting.

“We gave no time for the public to give input,” Angelucci said. “There are some pretty big items on this agenda.”

Stultz’s recommendation, which also failed, would have slashed the math package down to a $1.2 million price tag.

Hinojosa said he was grateful for the reconsideration by the board after the meeting.

“It wasn’t my original proposal, but I am relieved that we are going to get some resources for our staff,” Hinojosa said.

Public also voices

support, opposition

Board members weren’t the only ones who spoke passionately Wednesday about the topic.

Eleven people addressed the board on the $2.9 million math resources purchase during public comments, six in favor and five against it, including one Kennesaw mother who said she’d run for office if the board can’t make better choices than to approve what she called the “bizarre” and “ridiculous” lessons of Common Core Standards.

“This is a total travesty of (our children’s) education,” said Tammy Slater of Kennesaw. “I don’t own a private school, I won’t financially gain from Race to the Top funding or deals with any publishers, and I’m not (obligated) to the (Cobb) Chamber of Commerce. I’m a parent.

“My one and only true-vested interest in being here is my children and the quality of their education. That should be yours as well. If we can’t trust in this, then people need to be replaced, and I’ll run against you if I have to. Our children deserve better.”

Slater asked that the board, who she believes are obligated to be “honest stewards” of taxpayer money, make decisions that are in the best interest of the children and give the public more time to review the materials like Angelucci asked.

“To even consider spending $3 million on materials without a shred of open public discussion or thoroughly vetting them yourselves is truly disgusting,” Slater said. “The board can’t possibly know what’s in them, let alone make an informed decision, but you want to vote. That kind of betrayal and lack of accountability to the taxpayers, children and parents of this county is stunning.”

Yet Durham Middle School teacher Brian Lewis, who sat on the committee that recommended the books in the original $7.5 million proposal, said the teachers are in dire need of the resources.

“No matter the politics, no matter if you agree with Common Core or not, the ultimate factor is how are we going to impact our students?” he said. “Keeping the teachers without resources and further delaying the vote to August would keep them from having the proper resources to begin school, to lay the foundation for a brand new school year.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Cobb Reporter
July 26, 2013
The last thing we need is to spend $31,000 per police car so the kiddie cops can leave it parked in the lot. Just look at how KSU kiddie cops are out on the surrounding surface streets making traffic copy just like they are actual police officers. NO MONEY FOR PLAY COPS! Let 'em walk around and get some exercise!
Teacher 18 years
July 25, 2013
I have taught sixth grade math for 18 years. In that time, Cobb has been on a 5-6 year cycle of adopting updated textbooks to keep up with changing state curriculum. I can speak for middle school by pointing out that our contract with the most recent textbook company has expired and our consumable resources (workbooks) will not be replenished. With CCGPS beginning one year ago, we struggled to supplement with various resources, sometimes at the teacher expense, to provide the students with the best learning oppotunities. That part no good teacher would mind. It is awkward and confusing to students and their parents to not have a base resource known as a textbook to turn to throughout the year. As an experienced teacher and parent of two Cobb County students, I am heartbroken to learn of a $3,000,000 decision made by a few non-teachers that affects so many young people. It sounds appealing to think our county has gone digital, but in reality, many of our families and classrooms do not have reliable hardware and internet that is required to be a successful learning resource. Many times the software and internet resources I have explored look amazing at first glance and then reveal themselves to be just pretty "fluff" after a close examination. A textbook aligned to standards seems like a less expensive and reliable way to meet the needs of our kids.
Just Wait
July 25, 2013
How many more times will people pull out the "it's for the kids" slogan. This whole debate is not about the kids, or the teachers or education. It is about some warped belief that the federal government, i.e. Obama, is trying to take over the Cobb County school system. PLEASE, just admit it is all about politics. At least that would explain why Georgia's kids consistently rank at or near the bottom in the nation. If it where about the kids, this would not be the case.
July 25, 2013
Why do teachers like Brian Lewis always have such a burning desire to spend our money?

Math is extremely important to our educational process and society as a whole. But, math is a finite science. Seriously, it hasn't "changed" in decades - or for over a century in some cases.

Are new math materials going to produce minds smarter than those of the 20th century? The ones that engineered flight, computers, space travel, electronics, and advances in medical science?

Tell me what any "new" math textbooks have that the "old" ones don't. It's my money you want to spend after all. Sell me on the "new" and I'll support it.

You, Mr. Lewis, learned math using "old" textbooks. You seemed to have turned out okay.

I've yet to see one single convincing argument to justify this expense.
Mom of two
July 25, 2013
Agree 100% - math is math. If the material is arranged differently then you can follow the text book in a different order. Online material is not going to buy much. Fourth grade my son had an online science book. He loved science but was making C's. I bought a used version of the book and his C went to A's. It was easier for him to read "a real book" (his words) than a computer book. Not sure it would apply to math, but I think the money could have been better spent elsewhere.
Brian Lewis
July 25, 2013
To respond to your remarks, The math curriculum has changed over the past 7 years thus our math materials that we had in the classroom do not match the curriculum. I do agree that math has not changed in itself, but when we teach certain topics has changed. Go sit in a classroom and use the old textbooks and than go home and ask your parents for help. This is not possible. The books do not help. Parents also need the support at home to help their kids.

As far as "a burning desire to spend OUR money", I believe the voters voted on SPLOST 3 which included provided capital materials including textbooks to help our students. The ultimate factor is helping our students succeed with the best possible resources.

Visit a classroom and see what is going on.

Danny Orlando
July 25, 2013
I agree. As an engineer who graduated Georgia Tech, nothing has changed in mathematics - nothing. It is a core science and Cobb County does not need new resources, they need teachers that can TEACH math, require and grade homework and hold students accountable. There also needs to be a path to graduation for those that are not able to handle higher level math. I could teach math from 40 year-old texts and IF I was a great motivating teacher the kids would understand and enjoy mathematics; not a penny spent!
Lib in obb
July 25, 2013
We all know that federally funded education really means Socialist/Liberal/Obama Indoctrination of your little darlings. This is closely aligned to the nonsense which went on in Cobb schools several years ago when President Obama wanted to address the children in our schools on the importance of education. Those who listen to and believe in "the screaming hamsters" on Fox and Rush and Beck were keeping their children away from anything Obama on that day. I will remind you that standardized testing and No Child Left Behind were and are DISMAL failures. I will also remind all parents in Cobb, GA schools rank near the very bottom of the high school graduation rate scale. The current GA Superintendent of Schools and the previous supt. and the previous supt. have not been able to make any significant difference in those graduation rates. Let's judge the supt. on his/her success from this point forward. Has anyone thought of listening to the Cobb educators, instead of the constant patronizing lip service? Hire good teachers, fund the classrooms and let those good teachers teach to the needs of their students.

At a time when the schools are in a desperate financial situation, our property taxes have been cut! Brilliant just brilliant.
News Flash for KA
July 25, 2013
Hey Kathy... The GaDOE press release stated the following yesterday concerning the withdrawal from the PARCC Assessments;

"As GaDOE begins to build new assessments, please note that our Georgia assessments WILL BE aligned to the math and English language arts state standards."

That would be the CCGPS otherwise known as the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards.

July 25, 2013
Angelucci argued... imagine that!

She argued that "the public hadn’t had enough time to review the MATERIALS since the meeting agenda and final list of resources was only released Monday."

The MATERIALS were part of the original recommendation presented in April.

In Angelucci's mind, earlier than April wasn't enough time and it's only misinformation if it comes from staff, not from her mouth.
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