Cobb Board of Education commits to rebuild Harmony-Leland Elementary
by Haisten Willis
May 15, 2014 01:35 AM | 5072 views | 19 19 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The Cobb Board of Education committed $5 million to rebuild Mableton’s Harmony-Leland Elementary School during a marathon meeting Wednesday.

The board voted to designate $5 million in the general fund toward a rebuild of the 1951 building, which is tied for the county’s oldest school. A rebuilt school also would likely replace nearby Clay Elementary.

The meeting ran from 8:30 a.m. to 5:25 p.m. with a few short breaks.

Originally, the agenda item said only that a new school would be built in south Cobb. But after a lengthy discussion the board decided to specially state the new school would replace Harmony-Leland.

“We made a commitment to our communities,” said school board vice chair Randy Scamihorn.

Several Harmony-Leland parents have complained that the school wasn’t included for a rebuild on the last education sales tax vote. Instead, Brumby Elementary and Mountain View Elementary are being rebuilt.

The vote was 4-2. Board members David Banks and Scott Sweeney voted against the measure, with David Morgan not present for the afternoon portion of the meeting. Morgan said he missed the second half of the meeting to pick up his daughter from school and attend an awards program. The rebuilt school would be in Morgan’s district.

Banks argued Powers Ferry Elementary, which is located in his district, is just as old and equally deserving of a rebuild.

“I think they have equal needs,” he said. “Since Powers Ferry is in my post, yeah, I want the money spent in my post.”

But according to School Board Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci, Powers Ferry parents had told board members during a recent meeting they weren’t necessarily seeking a new building. Banks disagreed, but ultimately the board decided to commit the money to Harmony-Leland.

Budget includes 300 new teachers, not 400

Another 4-2 vote by the board shot down an idea floated by Sweeney to add 400 new teachers into next year’s budget rather than 300, which the board included in its tentative budget. The extra 100 teachers would cost an estimated $7.5 million, which would have been taken out of reserve funds. Sweeney argued there was plenty of money in the budget to cover the added expense and the extra teachers would reduce class sizes, but other board members were more cautious.

Sweeney is nearing the end of a re-election bid against fellow Republican Kevin Nicholas, who has three children who attend Cobb schools. The race will be decided May 20, with the winner holding the office from 2015-18, since there are no Democrats running for the post.

“I’d like to see a minimum of 400,” Sweeney said.

School Board Vice Chair Randy Scamihorn opposed the idea. He said Sweeney had been trying to cut the budget as much as possible during last year’s process and wondered aloud why Sweeney was wanting to spend more money in this round.

“You’ve almost flip-flopped,” he said.

Sweeney argued the recovering economy meant the budget should come in even higher next year.

Angelucci agreed more teachers would be great for the system, but said it’s not worth the risk.

“We should never balance the budget on one-time funds,” she said.

In the end, only Sweeney and Banks voted in favor of the extra teachers.

The board did vote to add other positions, increasing the overall budget number from $899,131,695 to $900,243,511. The budget for the expiring school year is roughly $856 million.

Eleven new school resource officers will be added next year at a cost of $575,000. The extra resource officers ensure a police officer will be assigned to every high school and middle school in the county starting next fall. Six groundskeepers also will be added at a cost of $402,000, and a new central office position known as a discipline administrator will be hired at a total cost of $134,816. The numbers include benefits, which are roughly 34 percent of the cost of hiring an employee, according to Chief Financial Officer Brad Johnson. The money for police vehicles and equipment for the grounds crews are separate will come out of sales tax dollars.

Board member Tim Stultz brought up the need for grounds crews, saying Campbell High School had painting done after neighbors complained about the school’s appearance.

“We have a need for a professional-looking environment,” he said.

Next fall, the board will also look at giving employees a 1 percent raise. Employees were given a 2 percent cut in 2010. Half of that will be restored starting next year and the other half will be restored as well if the budget numbers are strong in the fall. The 1 percent raise already included in the tentative budget will cost the district $7 million.

According to a personnel report approved by the board, Dr. Karen Frost, principal of Tritt Elementary, and Dr. Susan Galante, principal of Durham Middle, will retire at the end of the school year.

A budget hearing for public comment will take place tonight at 7 p.m. at district headquarters. The school board makes its final vote on the budget May 29.

Comments
(19)
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Tes Socra
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May 15, 2014
The Board made a horrible and political decision to rebuild Mt. View with SPLOSH funds and now they are really going nuts by obligating "general purpose funds" for capital ( building new schools ) porjects. These general operating funds are for operations like teachers, salaries, benefits, utilities and security along with maintenance and NOT building schools.

There are two mechanisms for building new schools - one is the old fashioned way of issuing bonds and two using SPLOSH funds.

The Board has neglected to budget sufficient general funds for years, even since the first SPLOSH, for maintenance and now they do this - this willl make the Harmony Leland school community shut up but that does not make it right nor even appropriate. Besides 5 million will only build 1/4 of a school.

The Board and Ragsdale need to suck up, stand up and lead ! Not irresponsibily pander !
@Tes Socra
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May 16, 2014
If you could properly spell SPLOST, someone might pay attention to your comment.

If you can't spell it, you don't know what it stands for.

Not much credibility here... know your facts in the future....
Dave Z
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May 15, 2014
Now is NOT the time to rebuild Powers Ferry Elementary. East Cobb Middle has to relocate first, freeing the Holt Road site for a new school. Put the Powers Ferry rebuild on the next E-SPLOST - the timing works out best.
anonymous
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May 15, 2014
The Cobb County School Board continues to spend money they can only "speculate " will be there instead of baseing their projections on a bottom line figure.

Questions ???
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May 15, 2014
Is there a reason the MDJ cites that Nicholas has three children in the school system, yet fails to state that Sweeney has children in the school system?

Nicholas resides in the Brumby attendance zone. Why didn't Nicholas send his children to Brumby, but instead to Eastvalley?

Did Nicholas use his address to register his children at Eastvalley?

Or, might he have used a relative's address - a certain Carrie Nicholas-Welkis who led the recall effort against John Crooks and whose husband Rick Welkis was a democrat school board candidate?
Denise Nicholas
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May 15, 2014
If you know us, you know that our son has physical special needs; he was born without an esophagus and still has a feeding tube. When he started school, he required a school nurse present out of medical necessity. Brumby, at that time, did not have one. East Valley did. We requested and received approval to attend East Valley. Please respect our family, especially our kids.
School choice
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May 15, 2014
We have school choice, and I believe one of their children has a disability. Not every school has children with disabilities. Those children attend the closest school. Why is this an issue? Sweeney has been horrible for the school district. He flip flops on promises and is out for himself!
C. Nicholas-Welkis
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May 15, 2014
@ Questions ???

Get a life. And stand up for something of merit vs. making false and scandaleous accusations. If that's what Scott Sweeney has going for his campaign than it's not much. Our family has stood up for the rights of the community and it's citizens. What have you done lately???
@ Questions
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May 15, 2014
You're spot on... How come no one has put this out there before now? Carrie Nicholas-Welkis couldn't get her (democrat) husband elected so she got her (republican) brother to run! Very interesting. Oh, and if that's all Nicholas has to run on, which continues to be repeated over and over... 3 kids in the school system..., then we're in real trouble. He needs to get his hands dirty in the real issues and and stop mud slinging at Sweeney. It's not getting you (Nicholas) any votes.
@ C. Nicholas-Welkis
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May 16, 2014
Obviously, your husband lost to Sweeney 4 years ago. Too bad for Rick - hey - what did you expect here in Republican East Cobb? And now you've put your brother up. Poor guy. He's obviously uncomfortable in this role and hasn't a clue about any of the issues.
Great Job!
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May 15, 2014
Chris Ragsdale did a great job in his first meeting as Supt. He looked like he'd been in the job for years!
Which Way Ray
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May 15, 2014
Lets see if I remember my math right.

Groundskeeper

402000/6 with the benifit 34% (22780)adjustment 44220 for someone to cut grass???

Shocker! A NEW central office position!! In the six figures! Whose buddy is that one for?

Why not look at what we have and maybe kick them up some in pay to balance with other counties. No wait.. we'd have to spend a million for someone to study that one. There are certain positions that are under paid and not appreciated. Yet we need to make sure that there are more people to stand around watch the grass grow and someone's buddy gets a nice central office spot!

Mike D
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May 15, 2014
I'd be willing to bet that a grounds keeper is responsible for quite a bit more than "cutting grass"
Thank you !
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May 15, 2014
Thank you to Mr. Sweeney for advocating to reduce class sizes further as the economy improves.

It seems the real "flip-flopper" is actually Scam-i-horn. He gambled with the budget last year when he ignored the tax assessor's advice that there would be a decline in the tax digest. The decline happened.

Last year, Sweeney supported using fund balance and going to a one-month level. So did Scam-i-horn. Sweeney's willing to go to the same level this year to add more teachers and reduce classroom sizes and Scamihorn isn't.
@ Thank you !
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May 15, 2014
Neither was Angelucci, Stultz or Wheeler.

They had an opportunity to reduce class sizes further and blew it.

You left out that Sweeney also suggested restoring an additional 1% of the salary reduction about six months into the year depending on how strong the books look then. That is also a welcomed approach as the economy improves.

Folks - ya'll need to wake up here.

Cobb grew last year and it's growing this year as well. Enrollment will be up. New teachers will reduce classroom sizes less than you think.
Go back
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May 15, 2014
Why don't you go back and review the budget talks last year; you are so far up Sweeney's derriere that you can't see the forest for the trees. Sweeney DID flip from last year and previous years. This is campaign rhetoric on Sweeney's part. He is a political fille de joie.
East Cobb Champion
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May 15, 2014
Well funny what a diffrence a year makes. Last year 4/3/13 I quote Mr. Sweeney "the reserve fund can't be a shock absorber...we have to figure out how we are going to essentally dlliver the education...with the flat revenue stream or develop another revenue model" well that seems to be a flip and a flop from this year Spending Sweeney OH yea its an election year so I have to buy some votes...
Not a raise
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May 15, 2014
Please call it restoring of the salary cut. not a raise. The county has cut special ed. and EIP positions at Title I schools, and principals need training on how to maximize their staff in those areas to keep allotments. Principals refuse to create models that would keep those allotments, and the way we are serving those students doesn't give us the proper teaching needed. In addition, we have gone to keeping all the sp.ed kids in the classroom instead of pull out small groups which are better for the kids learning. The board needs to give out those 300 teacher allotments now!
The Class Advocate
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May 15, 2014
Sweeney has spent the last three years spending us into a hole and where other districts are able to discuss giving raises to their teachers we are just trying to get our teachers back to square one Sham on Sweeney. Oh yea he hired Hinojosa and followed his plan of distruction so maybe he should just follow him on out.
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