Cobb school board member Tim Stultz is being challenged by Wells Fargo lending officer Jeff Abel and education consultant Susan Thayer today. The winner faces attorney and Democrat Kenya Pierre in November.
Stultz, an engineer, differs from his opponents on a number of key issues. At a May 8 candidate forum, Stultz said he opposes Common Core, a controversial set of education standards.
“I think there have been a lot of unintended consequences since the state started implementing Common Core,” he said.
Abel and Thayer said the same night they are behind the initiative — a program critics refer to as “Obamacore.”
Stultz also differed from his opposition on other issues.
The Cobb school board stirred controversy in March when it revealed plans to possibly relocate Brumby Elementary to a site off Terrell Mill Road near Sope Creek Elementary, which is in east Cobb’s Post 6. Razing East Cobb Middle School and building a new one on the Terrell Mill Road site has also been considered.
Parents from the Sope Creek community have voiced opposition to the plan for a variety of reasons, from traffic to redistricting to the amount spent purchasing land.
Stultz does not favor the idea, saying he believes a traffic study will find adding a middle school to the site will negatively impact the corridor.
Thayer wouldn’t take a position on the matter.
But Abel supports the idea.
Abel pointed out there are older middle schools in the Post 2 district which should be replaced before East Cobb Middle, but said putting both schools on the same site could be unavoidable because of the lack of available land in east Cobb.
Former Cobb and Fulton School Superintendent James Wilson is supporting Thayer. She is a consultant for his company, Education Planners, a firm that advertises services such as SPLOST preparation and stakeholder communications.
Thayer plans to host an invite-only party to watch election results tonight.
“We will be at a private gathering with friends,” she said via email.
Stultz and Abel had not returned questions about their election night plans by press time.
Acworth’s Anthony-Scott Hobbs, a former chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party, predicted a win for the incumbent.
“I think Tim Stultz will win at the end of the day,” he said. “I think he’ll win based on his conservative viewpoints and the direction of the board behind that. His challengers have great intentions, but I think he really is from the community and will prevail. Can he do so without going into a runoff? Maybe.”
Lockheed Martin analyst David Chastain and former Marietta Sixth Grade Academy Principal Bill Scott are vying for the seat soon to be vacated by retiring board Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci.
Scott and Chastain have some key differences. Candidates were asked about President Obama’s signature education initiative, Race to the Top, during an April 10 forum.
Scott called it innovative, while Chastain is an opponent.
Chastain will watch election returns at Paradise Grill on Sandy Plains Road in Marietta.
Scott had not returned questions about his election night plans at press time.
Hobbs sees Chastain as the easy winner.
“If you look at the voting record of Bill Scott, who voted in the 2012 Democratic primary (and) voted in the Democratic presidential primary in 2000 and 2004, I think voters recognize the differences of a Democrat vs. a Republican,” said Hobbs. “The positions of Bill Scott are more those of a Democrat. Republican voters will see through that. If you look at his voting record, he is a Democrat.”
The battle between Post 6 board member Scott Sweeney and challenger Kevin Nicholas, senior director for business development at Premiere Global, a Buckhead software firm, has been contentious.
In April, The Marietta Daily Journal reported Sweeney had been hired as a consultant by Promethean Ltd., a company that markets digital whiteboards to school systems as teaching tools.
Sweeney had been spotted in New Orleans at a national school board convention, but said he went on behalf of Promethean, rather than the school board.
When asked directly if he had been hired by the company, Sweeney admitted his involvement. But he made no mention of the company in a biography sent to the MDJ or on campaign financial disclosure forms.
Some have called Sweeney’s involvement with Promethean a conflict of interest, including Angelucci and retired school board chairwoman Teresa Plenge, who has also called for his resignation.
Asked if he would release his contract with Promethean in the interest of transparency, Sweeney said his contract was “confidential” but maintains it includes no commission element.
The CEO of Promethean, Jim Marshall, sits on the board of the Cobb Schools Foundation, along with Promethean’s vice president, who is the husband of the foundation’s executive director, Sheri Brante.
Nicholas proposed banning school vendors from serving on the board of the Cobb Schools Foundation, which is the practice of the Gwinnett Schools Foundation.
Stultz, Abel and Chastain agreed with Nicholas’s ban idea.
Scott and Thayer, however, said they were undecided about implementing such a ban, while Sweeney declined to answer the question.
Tensions only grew between Sweeney and Nicholas after Sweeney’s consultant work came to light.
Sweeney was accused of posting negative comments about Nicholas on Facebook, which also drew the ire of Angelucci when it hit her account.
“Scott, you and your campaign sent the hit piece on your opponent to my email,” Angelucci wrote on the Facebook page, Citizen Georgia.
“I don’t live in your post. I can’t vote for you, and there is no way for me to unsubscribe from your spam. Remove me immediately from your email distribution list.”
Denise Nicholas, Kevin’s wife, has said Sweeney supporters have attacked their choice of sending their children to Eastvalley Elementary.
“We have learned that Kevin’s opponents’ supporters have decided to engage in spreading some untrue statements about why our children attended Eastvalley Elementary instead of Brumby ten years ago, and we want to be open with regard to those statements,” Denise Nicholas wrote on Facebook. “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. Eastvalley did. We requested and received approval to attend Eastvalley.”
Michelle Sollicito of Marietta, who claims to have run the online part of the Cobb campaign for Barack Obama, is a controversial supporter of Sweeney’s who has repeatedly risen to his defense. Sollicito recently encouraged other Democrats to cross party lines and vote for Sweeney today.
“I implore Democrats to vote for Scott Sweeney for Post 6 of the school board if you are in his district, as he is soooo good for education around here and it’s thanks to him we also aren’t going to get a property tax hike from the school taxes,” Sollicito posted on Facebook.
‘Pretty damning,’ former Cobb GOP chair says
Sweeney is undecided on whether he supports placing East Cobb Middle and Brumby Elementary on the same site. Nicholas is against the idea.
Nicholas is holding an election night party at Marietta’s Rose and Crown Tavern, while Sweeney said he plans to stay at home.
Hobbs said the race is too close to call.
“It’s neck and neck,” Hobbs said. “I think Sweeney has alienated what you would consider his base four years ago. That has allowed a newcomer to come into the game quickly.”
Hobbs said Sweeney was a conservative when he started in 2010, but has become more of a moderate today. He also wondered about Sweeney’s ethics.
“You’d hope Georgia voters would stand up for ethics with who they choose to hire for these positions,” said Hobbs. “With Promethean, you have to step back and say, ‘Why didn’t you disclose this?’ I think that’s pretty damning.”