Most of us were first exposed to the “5 Ws” sometime around 5th Grade: who, what, where, when and why — the building blocks of journalism.
In this newspaper’s reporting of the latest maelstrom emanating from our Cobb school board, one of the Ws is missing.
Why is it necessary to seek a review when the system’s accreditation was just recently confirmed through 2024?
Why jeopardize the standing of our students, the livelihoods of their faculty and the reputation of what is by all metrics one of the best school systems in the state?
Why put at risk one of the most-cited benefits of living in Cobb County: quality education for your children?
The questions are being asked but answers remain unclear.
Since the news of the accreditation review request became public, the MDJ has on a near-daily basis reached out to the three board members — Charisse Davis, Jaha Howard, Leroy ‘“Tre” Hutchins — who signed and sent the review request to the system’s accrediting agency, Cognia.
Thus far, they’re not talking.
Obscure clues can be found in the letter of request and documents filed and in carefully choreographed and controlled social media postings. But no clear evidence to justify taking such a drastic step has been shared.
Acrimony among board members is clear but not uncommon. In most cases, board squabbles should be the board’s to fix.
Voters will ultimately hold them accountable. Calling in a third-party accrediting agency is unsound and unwarranted.
We would suggest that Ms. Davis and Messrs. Howard and Hutchins publicly explain to their constituents, the public and the press why a “re-review” is in order.
Certainly it cannot be due to the performance of our schools.
Long a feather in the county’s cap, a strong education system is one of the most oft-cited reasons why people want to live in Cobb and why companies want to do business in Cobb.
So while talk of the possible loss of accreditation has already smudged an otherwise yeoman’s effort by teachers and staff, let’s remind ourselves of these positives:
♦ Cobb’s graduation rate of 88.6% tops the state’s graduation rate of 83.8%, as well as other metro Atlanta systems: Fulton — 85.5%, Gwinnett — 83.2, Atlanta — 80.3%, Clayton — 76.6%, DeKalb — 76.0%.
♦ Since 2015, the graduation rate for five Cobb schools increased by more than 10 points: Sprayberry High School (17 points), Campbell (16.5), McEachern (13.8), Osborne (12.8) Wheeler (10.1).
♦ Ten Cobb high schools have earned a graduate rate of 91% or higher.
♦ Cobb’s CCRPI score (the state’s accountability system) leads metro Atlanta: Cobb — 86.1, Fulton — 83.8, Gwinnett — 82.5, DeKalb — 75.4, Atlanta — 74.1.
♦ Cobb landed three high schools in the Top Ten for CCRPI scores.
♦ Cobb landed three middle schools in the Top Ten for CCRPI scores.
With a record as strong as this, we are perplexed by the motivation behind a call for review.
Given the high stakes of the situation, as elected officials, it is imperative the board members discuss their positions and reasoning and answer questions from their constituents. Otherwise, perception is reality, and this appears nothing more than a political ploy launched by a Democrat minority against a Republican majority.
The Cobb school system, like any organization, has room for improvement. Both Republican and Democratic board members can improve their behavior for starters and refocus their collective efforts on policies that will continue to raise the bar, attract top teachers and improve student achievement.
The risk is high, but not only for our children, teachers and school system. This community, its property owners and businesses all have a stake in the outcome. Look no further than what transpired in the districts of Clayton (loss of accreditation) and DeKalb (lowering of accreditation) when those schools’ went under review. The ripple effect is widespread and profound.
Davis, Howard and Hutchins should stand up, take questions and defend their motives. They need to tell us why.