Angelucci, an event planner in her first term on the board, takes the chairman’s gavel from Randy Scamihorn. Like her predecessor, she is perceived as an ally of rank-and-file educators and of parents and a supporter of greater board and system transparency and accountability.
Angelucci takes over at a crucial time. First and foremost are budget-related issues. The system has been hard hit by decreased state funding and plummeting property tax revenues since the onset of the recession in 2008. It has used spending cuts, layoffs and furlough days to address matters but at present, even with the economy finally beginning to slowly turn around, it is looking at a $79 million budget deficit. Angelucci prefers focusing future cuts on the central office — which is well-stocked with high-paid administrators — rather than classroom teachers, and that is an approach we feel the public supports as well.
Also landing in Angelucci’s lap is the question of how to respond to the Development Authority of Cobb County’s push to hand a 10-year tax abatement to John Williams for his $103 million Riverwalk development. That abatement would cost the school board about $4.3 million in tax revenues, although it would pay big dividends for the system in the long run.
The board should waste no time in finalizing revisions to the system’s discipline policy in order to prevent district staff from being fired unless they have been proven guilty by a court of law. Too many well-respected Cobb educators have seen their careers go up in flames after being terminated in the wake of what turned out to be unfounded, unsupported accusations. And the board should provide appropriate redress for those it has treated shabbily in such cases.
Angelucci is taking over in an election year, with her seat and those of fellow members Tim Stultz and Scott Sweeney all up for re-election. She has yet to disclose whether she’ll seek another term on the board. But don’t be surprised to see election-year politics influence various board decisions as the months play out.
Meantime, Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa’s employment contract is due to expire at year-end, and it’s an open question whether the votes will be there to extend it. The super and Angelucci have clashed on a number of issues, from the Common Core Standards to whether to bid out the board’s legal services. So his contract status will be another subtext as the year goes on.
There are no shortage of crucial issues as the new chair takes over — but then, it’s that way every January for the Cobb School District. We’re confident, though, that the board is in good hands with Angelucci.