Cobb Parents target school board members with Facebook recall efforts
It looks like Cobb County Schools may be headed down the same ugly path of other school districts such as DeKalb County and Clayton County, with infighting being an issue and continued accreditation for the County on the line.
Thanks to three of its members, Jaha Howard, Charisse Davis, and Tre’ Hutchins, Cobb now finds itself under a microscope, with its accreditation agency scheduled to come in to undertake a review for what many say are silly issues that should be manageable by the people who were elected to these positions.
In a January 2021 letter, the trio blindly contacted the accreditation agency, Cognia, to adjudicate their bickering.
Superintendent Chris Ragsdale made the announcement this week of the review and said, “determinations made through a Special Review Team can negatively impact college acceptance rates, college scholarships, enrollment, funding, and educator recruitment and retention, as occurred in Clayton and DeKalb counties in 2008 and 2011. Impacts can also negatively affect a county’s economy, property values, and bond credit ratings.”
Parents are furious and property owners are alarmed, but neither group are taking this issue lying down. They are now demanding recalls for the three board members through a newly launched Facebook page that has garnered nearly 400 signatures. Dysfunction, bickering, poor communications skills, ineffective governance, and an incredible waste of staff time and resources are some of the word’s parents are using to describe what is occurring right before their eyes. They also point to the possibility of academic achievements slipping due to the actions of these board members and fear their continued presence will only serve to erode academic quality. They went on to suggest that accreditation loss will be imminent if they are not removed, which is why they are supporting recall efforts. Some added that these members have placed Cobb in a position it should not be in as its accreditation was not subject to another review until 2024. Several pointed to a factor that Cobb School Board members have not taken into consideration, which is once a review agency comes in, it is free to investigate any and everything, not just the issues you pointed out in your letter. So, Cognia is free to look at the disruptive actions of all board members, among other things.
As this Facebook group tries to recall the three, they say it is incumbent on voters to educate themselves to pick good school board candidates rather than names on the ballot that they happen to recognize.
Some parents we talked to remember the myriad of issues that caused other schools’ problems years ago as they pointed to Clayton County losing its accreditation in 2008 and DeKalb County losing theirs in 2013. They say a “can of worms” that these members did not consider is the state law enacted in 2011, which allows Governor Kemp to replace some or all school board members in systems on probation. Then Governor Dean did so with DeKalb when he replaced 6 of the 9 members of that school board in 2013.
Those familiar with accreditation say decisions by an accrediting agency could also have wide-ranging effects on the local economy from discouraging businesses from relocating to Cobb, to depressing housing values, to students fleeing the system, to the loss of millions in state and federal funds.
Like everything that goes on in our community, some have tried to make this a left versus right issue, saying the members targeted are all Democrats, while others say that this is not about politics as they reject politically driven sentiment. Instead, they say it is about protecting children and the school system from dysfunction.
Sandy Burke, the Facebook group’s creator and administrator, said, “Although they are . . . This issue goes far beyond political parties. It has been my experience that mature leaders always care more about the greater good for their community. 100% of Cobb will be negatively impacted if the schools lose their accreditation.”
Howard, who represents Post 2 and Davis, who represents Post 6, are up for re-election in 2022. Some in the South Cobb community say Hutchinson, who was just elected and has no record of achievement to point to, may have issues Cognia may want to also investigate.
When asked about the board issues and accreditation, Cobb Chair Cupid declined to provide any leadership or comment on this troubling moment within the Cobb school system.
One parent contacted for this story said she and others moved their families to Cobb because of the great reputation of its schools but thinks there will be a mass exodus if Cobb losses its accreditation. She also pointed to this being a textbook example of an old saying….“anybody can get elected, but everybody can’t lead.”