After hearing the recent announcement that so many Cobb high schools have ranked top in the state, I’m grateful for the strong leaders that have helped make such achievements possible. I’m speaking of Cobb superintendent Chris Ragsdale, and school board members Randy Scamihorn, Brad Wheeler, David Banks, and David Chastain. You know them. They’re the ones NOT jeopardizing our schools’ accreditation, NOT engaging in divisive political activism, and NOT acting the fool at school board meetings. Can’t say the same for Charisse Davis, Jaha Howard, and Tre Hutchins.
Lately they’ve been deflecting blame for their roles in the accreditation scandal. Their defense strategy involves two steps. First, blame someone else. Second, diminish the seriousness of the threat to our school system’s accreditation by telling folks it’s “not so bad.” Don’t believe it.
Let’s address a couple of the Davis-Howard-Hutchins complaints. First is the elimination of the board members’ open comment time. It was done to keep the focus on the board’s purpose: schools and kids. You see, Jaha Howard hijacked it and turned it into an embarrassing “Open Mic Nite” where he’d lecture the board about non-school-related matters such as politics, President Trump, and other racially charged issues. That’s not your job, Jaha. Your focus should be on preparing Cobb students to excel academically and become competent members of society as they take their place in a competitive, 21st century workforce. BLM is not a career path, and no one cares what you think about Trump. My suggestion is that you find another location to kneel for the pledge and make political comments, thereby sparing the school board from being captive spectators of your one-man show.
Second is the sharp divide on the board. I agree. It’s a problem. I’m going out on a limb to suggest that hurling racist, ageist, sexist remarks at fellow board members will never inspire harmony on the board. Remember your remarks, Charisse Davis? Your colleagues on the board are still waiting for an apology. I agree with your suggestion that “intensive board training” is needed, and I’m happy to hear you’re willing to accept help. It will be a great first step toward overcoming your bigotry. I assume you’ll expect taxpayers to pay for this therapy? That might get expensive. There’s a cheaper solution that could greatly help the board. (1) Restrict agenda items and commentary to school-related topics. Period. (2) Treat your fellow board members respectfully. Don’t call them “old, white men.”
I doubt you’d take kindly to being called an “immature, black woman.” Right? (3) Accept that elections have consequences, even if you don’t like the outcome. We must all learn this lesson at some time. Try as you, Howard, and Hutchins might, you do not have enough votes to turn Cobb Schools into DeKalb schools, despite your valiant efforts. Instead, do your job and make academic excellence your mission, not political activism.
How about that confusion surrounding accreditation. Did you notice that after the hell storm of outrage from citizens, suddenly we’re hearing that Cobb schools “will not lose accreditation” following an “accreditation special review” that has yet to take place. That makes no sense. Certainly I know we shouldn’t lose it, but I’m asking why Mark Elgart, director of Cognia, is so sure we won’t. Could it be he already knows there’s no legitimate basis for revoking the accreditation of one of the state’s top school systems? The answer is yes. Could he also know that Cognia is using the threat of this review to exert pressure for ideological and political purposes? The answer is definitely. Accrediting agencies aren’t tools for anyone’s agenda, and reviews should never be tossed about in reaction to complaints from political activists and their supporters. Cognia, I’m speaking to you. If there is no egregious infraction that legitimately jeopardizes Cobb’s accreditation, then you’re just playing games, in which case you need to call off this review and get the hell away from our school system.
Folks, here’s the good news. In Georgia, we have multiple ways to deal with this sort of unchecked power, especially when it affects our kids. Getting rid of Cognia should be at the top of the list. Placing our school systems’ accreditation under a transparent, state-run agency that’s accountable to our elected state school board – and Georgia taxpayers – would be an effective option. This removes the “profit motive” for conducting accreditation reviews and would create an agency that is accountable for its actions – and budget. At the very minimum, legislation should be passed to create comprehensive oversight of any unelected accrediting agency associated with Georgia’s public schools and universities. You see, Cognia, you’re not the only one that’s going to conduct an “unscheduled special review.” I’d be worried if I were you.