COBB SCHOOL DISTRICT officials were on the business end of criticism from upset Campbell Middle School parents during Thursday’s school board meeting. As reported by the MDJ’s Thomas Hartwell, parents decried a lack of effort, equity and transparency on the progress of a new middle school for the Smyrna community.
As it happens, Cobb school board member Charisse Davis raised the topic last Saturday during the Cobb Democrats monthly “Donuts with Democrats” gathering at the Smyrna Community Center.
“I’ll tell you right now Campbell Middle is the largest middle school in the county. Campbell High is the largest high school in the county. Those schools are overcrowded. We need new schools. We needed them years ago. We have issues with water coming in. You know, this is just being real,” Davis told the Democrats. “And we have to have a way of taking care of our facilities. We’ve got large class sizes. There’s just a lot of different needs, and we just haven’t been able to do everything we want to do.”
An audience member said there are Cobb schools with a high student percentage on the free and reduced lunch program and schools with a low percentage of such students, something that is a big problem. The audience member asked if anything could be done about school zonings, believing that has a big impact on student success.
Davis answered the question by saying representation matters.
“The fact is this board looked a lot different before November 2018. Dr. (Jaha) Howard and I both live in this community, and I’d like to think we’ve been some loud voice for the south part of the community,” Davis said. “I really want us as a board to wrap our arms around where is the need, even if I don’t live there, and I think we all need to agree, we all should know right now the need is in the south part of the county. We’re working on that. I’m hoping things are going to get better. There’s a lot of things in the works for Campbell High. We need a new middle school. We needed it a long time ago, and I know they’re working on it, and any new school comes with redistricting, and I’m willing to tell any parent who has a problem with that, you can’t build a new school and have everyone go there. People tend to like to go to new schools. But yeah, I’m there.”
A PARTISAN BOARD: In her talk, Davis flashed a photo of the school board on the screen behind her, noting how she unseated two-term Republican incumbent Scott Sweeney (who has since been appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to serve on the Georgia Board of Education).
“So this is the current school board. We’ll play ‘one of these things is not like the other.’ Yes, I am the only woman on the school board,” Davis said.
When an audience member asked: “Charisse, are all the old white guys Republican?” Davis responded in the affirmative, noting the board is partisan.
“It’s 4-3. So we’ve got four Republican, four older people, and you know, four white males. Yeah,” she said.
Davis also pointed out four of the seven Cobb school board members would be up for reelection next year. Board member David Morgan, a Democrat, has drawn a Democrat challenger, Leroy “Tre” Hutchins, PTA president at Pebblebrook High School.
Davis flashed an image on the screen showing three pie charts of the posts held by Republican board members David Banks, Randy Scamihorn and Brad Wheeler.
The pie charts for each showed the Republican vs. Democrat breakdown in the 2018 governor’s race between Kemp and Stacey Abrams.
♦ In Banks’ Post 5, the chart showed 55.3 Republican to 44.7 Democrat.
♦ In Scamihorn’s Post 1, the chart showed 57.4 percent Republican to 42.6 percent Democrat.
♦ And in Wheeler’s Post 7, the chart showed, 50.6 percent Republican to 49.4 percent Democrat.
“So you’ll see that Post 7, that is a half and half split in November 2018. In 2020, that district, these districts, have been held by Republicans, you know, it probably will not be,” Davis said.
REVISITING THE SENIOR EXEMPTION: Raising a favorite topic, Davis spoke of how much the senior tax exemption costs the Cobb School District.
“My name is just kind of synonymous with this at this point, the senior school tax exemption,” she said, noting while she doesn’t advocate getting rid of it, she does want to make “common sense” changes.
“This is a huge exemption in our county,” she said, telling the crowd how during a school board retreat she attempted to make one of those common sense changes.
“I asked the board to consider doing a study or getting a study — we put out a request for proposals to have someone like Georgia State do a study on our particular exemption.”
Her proposal was voted down 4-2 with David Morgan absent.
“So there’s no interest in it and that’s fine. I think it’s something we’ll revisit. All I was asking for was to have a study done on that particular exemption,” she said.
No one is trying to make it financially harder for a grandmother on a fixed income, Davis said.
“Now, if I’m a billionaire, and I move into Cobb County yesterday, I don’t have to pay school taxes. So we, as a community, just have to decide are we OK with that? If we are, that’s the will of the people. But I just think we’ve been having a conversation based on a lot of misunderstandings about the exemption,” she said.
Speaking of taxes, Davis said if you eye your property tax bill, two thirds goes to school taxes unless you are exempted. She then gave a pop quiz, asking what percentage of the state budget revenue comes from corporate tax.
Does anybody know? 4.2 percent. We are No. 1 for business, yeah,” she said.
BLUE LIVES: This week’s swearing-in ceremony for Chief Deputy Sheriff Sonya Allen saw tears and laughter. The laughter was supplied by Comdr. Robert Quigley, who, after finishing his task of introducing all the elected officials and judges in the room, was met with a stare from his boss, Sheriff Neil Warren, whom he failed to include in his introductory list.
“How about that, folks?” Warren said to laughter.
Allen spoke of what large shoes she had to fill in succeeding retiring Chief Deputy Milton Beck.
She described what Beck meant to her through her career.
“It’s mostly the friendship and support I’ve had. He’s like a brother to me. He’s exactly like my brother,” she said, noting the two were partners working narcotics and he was “always telling me what I was doing wrong,” which got a laugh.
Turning to give the command staff a shoutout, she asked where Quigley was.
“I’m in time out,” Quigley said from the hallway.
It’s something akin to using dynamite to move an ant hill.
When the prank exchange between neighbors Gary Studenic and attorney Richard Calhoun went awry Wednesday, Calhoun reached out to the best his profession has to offer.
We don’t need to recount a blow-by-blow of the affair, but suffice it to say the antics brought in the bomb squad, forced the evacuation of six downtown buildings and closed streets south of Marietta Square.
To address the incident, Calhoun called on Jimmy Berry, a Marietta attorney known for keeping killers off death row. In fact, Berry has represented some 50 killers who were facing the death penalty. He’s spared all but three.
So MDJ staff was a bit taken aback when Berry came over to the newspaper offices to speak on behalf of Calhoun. Calhoun faced no charges and Studenic was only facing a misdemeanor.
Some would cry overkill … you only call Berry when your case is close to dead … or you’re near to it.