The board will decide whether to approve a $490,000 budget adjustment to allow the district to hire five additional staff members to support the implementation of a new teacher evaluation system, said Jay Dillon, district spokesman.
The board will also vote on whether to appoint new principals to five schools, as well as select a new director of student discipline.
Dillon said the new system, known as the Cobb Keys for Teacher and Leader Effectiveness, will go into effect during the upcoming school year.
“Preparing the district for this shift is a massive undertaking that involves extensive training and the development of many resources,” he said.
Among other items, Dillon said the school board will discuss House Bill 60, the state gun law that went into effect July 1.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed the Safe Carry Protection Act in late April. The measure allows licensed gun holders to carry their firearms into bars, government buildings, places of worship and school board meetings.
Dillon said the board will discuss the impact, if any, the new law will have on schools at Wednesday’s work session.
New teacher evaluation a ‘labor-intensive process’
John Adams, the district’s chief human resources officer, said the new evaluation reportedly takes three times longer to complete than the current system.
Passed by the state in 2013, the evaluation debuted in several districts across Georgia as part of pilot programs before its mandatory state-wide implementation began ahead of the 2014-15 school year, Adams said.
“It’s a more labor-intensive process,” said Grant Rivera, the district’s chief leadership and learning officer.
Rivera said he experienced the new teacher evaluation system — called TKES for short — first-hand during the two years he spent as a principal in Fulton County.
He highlighted the elevated role of student surveys in TKES, noting the “more comprehensive” assessments require hundreds of students in third-grade and higher to receive online usernames and passwords and answer questions about their teachers’ performances through a Web portal twice a year.
Adams said TKES ties the traditional teacher evaluations compiled through classroom observation to standardized test scores, student surveys and teacher-submitted materials.
Half of the state-mandated evaluation is based on student growth as measured by standardized tests, Adams said, when such results are available.
When they aren’t, as is the case with music, art and physical education classes, teachers and administrators in each district must come up with their own set of “student learning objectives” to gauge student progress.
Adams said the school board has already committed about $1 million just to develop those objectives.
In total, Adams said the state has given Cobb $18,000 to fund the entirety of the transition to TKES.
“They’re not thrilled with the idea of another unfunded mandate, but they understand we have to do this right,” Adams said of the school board members he hopes will vote to approve spending $490,000 on five new staff members to support TKES.
Dillon said one of Adams’ first tasks as the new head of human resources for Cobb schools was to determine the county’s standing in the TKES implementation process.
Adams said he felt like Captain Brody in the movie “Jaws” when he and his team began digging through the list of requirements TKES would place on existing staff.
“We realized we were going to need a bigger boat,” he joked.
Adams said his team called around to other districts to see how they were handling the implementation.
Paulding County, which he said was a third the size of the Cobb school system, added 33 new positions to the general fund payroll, hiring three support staff for the central office and 30 spread among the schools who are dedicated to monitoring the evaluation process.
“They basically created a new quasi-administrative position at each school,” Adams said.
“We’d love to be able to do that in Cobb, but the money is just not there.”
He said Gwinnett County — which has 145,000 students to Cobb’s 110,000 — added 10 to its central office staff to oversee TKES and even purchased its own version of the state Web portal all schools will use.
Even Marietta City Schools, which Adams said is just one-ninth of the size of Cobb schools, hired a full-time staff member to oversee TKES.
If the board approves the budget adjustment at Wednesday’s meeting, Adams said his team will likely bring forward a list of names to fill the five new slots at the board’s July 31 meeting.
He said he hopes the new staff could be hired at the beginning of August.
Five principal appointments on the way
Gail Johnson, principal at Campbell Middle School in Smyrna, created a vacancy when she accepted a position in another school system, Dillon said.
Kristy Mason, principal at Kemp Elementary School in Powder Springs, and Mike Bivens, principal at Lindley Middle School in Mableton, are both retiring, he added, leaving their spots to be filled by the board at Wednesday’s meeting.
Cheatham Hill Elementary School in Marietta and Garrett Hill Elementary School in Austell could also welcome new principals after the board addresses the five principal appointments it has on its dockets.
The board meets at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at 514 Glover Street, Marietta.