With the long Memorial Day holiday weekend, plus the Class of 2022 wrapping up a week of commencement ceremonies, this time of celebration has been tempered by this week’s tragic news out of Uvalde, Texas.
For educators and school administrators, it’s tough to strike a balance between respect, revelry and reassurance. Local school superintendents — Chris Ragsdale of Cobb schools and Grant Rivera of Marietta schools — did well in finding that balance in statements issued in the waning days of the school year and in the wake of the horrific massacre.
Ragsdale’s email to staff on Wednesday:
“As another year draws to a close, we have much to be excited about — our employee focused budget and being able to get back to normal school operations. However, that excitement seems out of place as we think about the tragic and senseless attack on the students, staff and families of Robb Elementary School in Texas. We, as parents and educators, know that all 108,000 of our students come to school each day excited to learn from the best teachers in the world.
“Yes, it is a tremendous responsibility that we have to ensure the safety and security of our 108,000 students each day they are in our care. I have said many times and continue to pledge that our top priority in the Cobb County School District is the safety of our staff and students. We have multiple processes and procedures making up our safety plan, and we will be discussing any needed additions and enhancements to those in the coming weeks.
“Personally I cannot fathom the pain that the parents in Uvalde are feeling right now. Not knowing that when they told their children goodbye as they left for school, it would be the last time they saw them. There is nothing that anyone can do to fill the void left by such an evil act. Please know that we will continue to do everything possible to make sure our schools are safe and secure places for learning. While our thoughts and prayers will continuously be with all of those affected by this tragedy, we will continue to keep the safety of our students and staff as our top priority.
“Thank you for everything you continue to do for our students each and every day. Please have a restful and enjoyable summer. I am so thankful for the One Team we have in Cobb!”
Marietta’s Rivera’s message to parents:
“The city and school community of Uvalde, Texas, remain heavy on our hearts and minds this morning. I know you join me in sending strength and support to the children, families, and staff of Robb Elementary School,
“While many continue to process the emotions that stem from yesterday’s tragedy, I also am mindful that our MCS children have longed for the joy and laughter that come from this last week of the school year. During these final days, we will gather at events to honor and recognize the many accomplishments of our students, culminating in Friday night’s Commencement for the Marietta High School Class of 2022. These award programs, end-of-year parties, and other events will be filled with the pride, joy, and excitement that our students and staff so richly deserve.
“At the same time, I recognize that yesterday’s tragedy is front of mind for every family who sends their child to school today. In an effort to give all of us some reassurance, I want each of you to know we have been collaborating with the Marietta Police Department (MPD) and MCS principals late into last night and early this morning. Our priority is to maintain the celebratory tone of the final days of the school year while keeping subtle, yet meaningful, safety measures in place.
“Specifically, as of this morning, MPD will have additional officers on all MCS school campuses and at all awards and graduation ceremonies. Additionally, our principals will be making extra efforts to secure exterior doors and monitor visitors who are entering our school buildings for recognition events. While we have had no concerns or threats specific to MCS, our hope is these measures allow us to be responsive to and mindful of the emotions resulting from yesterday’s tragedy.
“Look for more communication regarding school safety as we open next school year. For now, please know our complete time and attention are focused on both celebrating your child and ensuring their safety.”
Marietta Police Chief Marty Ferrell echoed Rivera’s comments on the partnership between schools and police:
“The tragic deaths of the children and teachers in Uvalde, Texas, weighs heavy on my heart and mind. As your interim Chief of Police, I want you to know that the Marietta Police Department has a longstanding solid partnership with our Marietta City School (MCS) system. While we have no knowledge of any threat within our city, leaders from both organizations worked together last night and this morning to enhance security measures at all MCS facilities.
“Our mutual goal was, and is, to ensure all our city school children, teachers, administrators, and parents can wrap up the 2022 school year with joy and celebration. We have temporarily reassigned officers from our specialized units to ensure each city school has a visible law enforcement presence. Again, we are not aware of any threats, but want to give a visible reassurance of our commitment to everyone’s safety.
“I cannot imagine how many lives have been forever impacted by the senseless violence that occurred at Robb Elementary School in Texas. Please join me in keeping all who were impacted by that tragedy in your prayers.”
Amen to that.
TRUMP TRIAGE: While the three cityhood movements may have dominated this week’s elections in Cobb, across the state, a different storyline rose to the top — that of the Trump ticket’s mediocre showing.
Trump-backed candidates for governor (David Perdue), secretary of state (Jody Hice), attorney general (John Gordon) and insurance commissioner (Patrick Witt) all went down in flames. The revenge of the Georgia Republican establishment has the national media trying to read the tea leaves and answer this: What do Tuesday’s results say about Trump’s hold on the GOP?
Former Cobb GOP Chair Jason Shepherd couldn’t help but take a victory lap after Gov. Brian Kemp‘s landslide primary win.
Recall that last fall, the Cobb GOP voted to censure Gov. Kemp for “his failure to keep his campaign promises and meet his obligations to end illegal immigration in the state of Georgia,” as Cobb GOP Chair Salleigh Grubbs put it.
While ostensibly about immigration, the censure came after Kemp had resisted pressure from Trump, who wanted the governor to overturn the will of Georgia voters.
Shepherd resigned from the Cobb GOP over the censure.
“I was mocked for being out of touch with Cobb Republicans and told attacking Kemp, (Attorney General Chris) Carr, and (Secretary of State Brad) Raffensperger was the way forward to victory for Cobb Republicans,” Shepherd wrote on Facebook.
It turned out that most Cobb Republicans were on the side of Shepherd. Kemp trounced Perdue in Cobb with a 64-point margin. Raffensperger won Cobb by 35 points; Carr won it by 54 points.
“Tonight Cobb GOP voters soundly rejected that (strategy), giving Kemp, Carr, Raffensperger, and (Insurance Commissioner) John King huge victories in the Cobb County GOP Primary,” Shepherd continued. “Cobb GOP leaders also recruited candidates against GOP incumbents Rep. Sharon Cooper. Sen Kay Kirkpatrick, and Commissioner JoAnn Birrell. All (three incumbents) won their primaries overwhelmingly as well. I backed all three.
“Congratulations to our winning candidates who know and serve their constituents, not a fringe group who seem stuck in Nov. 2020. Hopefully this will be their wake-up call and we can pivot as a party to victory in November.”
Only time will tell.
DISAPPEARING ACT: There’s humility in defeat, and then there was the East Cobb Cityhood Committee‘s ignominious Wednesday morning.
After getting crushed by a nearly 50-point margin at the ballot box, by 9 a.m. the day after, the committee’s hitherto very active Facebook page had vanished from cyberspace. Its website likewise had been scrubbed, with only a link to a Tuesday MDJ story remaining.
The website has since been restored, with a brief note: “Thank you for your support, we continue to be committed to East Cobb and protecting our neighborhoods.”
The Facebook page remains gone with the wind.
MAKING HER PRESENCE KNOWN: Speaking of East Cobb, we all knew Commissioner Jerica Richardson was opposed to the cityhood matter, having told the MDJ she would vote “no” in Tuesday’s referendum.
It nonetheless raised an eyebrow to see Richardson at the victory party for the anti-cityhood East Cobb Alliance. (By law, local governments and officials are barred from using taxpayer funds to advocate for or against a referendum.)
When asked about her presence, the commissioner’s winking reply was that the votes were in and counted — and she was simply exercising her First Amendment rights as a private citizen.