Things got bad when the super suddenly found himself without the crucial fourth vote to approve his plans to hire 50 Teach For America teachers for underperforming south Cobb schools, causing new board Chairman Scott Sweeney to unexpectedly pull the item off of Tuesday’s meeting agenda (without explanation) at the last moment.
And things got worse when the super disclosed on Thursday that he had applied — without the board’s permission — for $50,000 in federal Race to the Top funds to help create a STEM charter school, although he notified board members in writing last fall about the school. (Yes. This system — with then-Chairwoman Lynnda Eagle and then-Superintendent Fred Sanderson in cahoots — never voted for or even publicly discussed applying for Race to the Top funds. But it now has apparently applied — twice — for the funds without the board’s knowledge.)
The capper? The system, with egg on its face, might have to reject or return the money because it has been unable to find anyone to operate the new school. Georgia law allows school systems to operate “conversion” charter schools (like Walton High), but prohibits them from operating “start-up” charters.
The proposed STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school has become an unexpectedly hot potato. Both Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University have expressed willingness to help lay the groundwork for the funding application, but said “thanks, but no thanks,” to actually operating such a school.
And incredibly, even though Morgan was quietly pushing to get federal funding for his charter school, he cast the deciding vote last fall not to renew the charter for the Imagine International charter school, which would serve the same south Cobb area that his own school would. It’s a staggeringly obvious conflict of interest to everybody — except the Morgans and Hinojosa.
Around Town has now learned that the Georgia Federation of Teachers (AFL-CIO) has filed an Open Records request asking the school board to disclose each member’s employer and other affiliations. It’s clear the probe is aimed at Morgan, who is a paid lobbyist for the school-choice group that supports Teach For America.
As one board watcher put it, “Morgan’s day job is to tear down public education via his work as a lobbyist for charter schools. And his night job is to build up public education as a member of the school board.”
Like the Bible reminds us, one cannot serve two masters. And as one board member said privately, “This (charter school) thing stinks to high heaven!”
That’s a sentiment upon which we suspect all Cobb residents can agree.
“It looks suspicious that both of these issues (TFA and the charter school) came to light at the same time,” one member said.
Several board members are irked at Hinojosa’s support for hiring 50 rookie TFA teachers even as the system prepares to eliminate 350 teachers through attrition.
“I don’t understand why we’re getting rid of experienced teachers and hiring college kids,” said one.
Why not retrain experienced teachers rather than hire new ones, they ask? The combination of TFA and the RIF is hugely damaging to teacher morale, they say. And Hinojosa’s furtiveness on both issues brings to mind the penchant for secrecy shown over and over by Cobb’s superintendents in the past decade or so.
Hinojosa, meanwhile, is said to have spent the past week in “damage control” meetings with shook up school board members and top staffers.
Chairman Sweeney is said to have been so upset by the convergence of the two issues and the board’s tensions that he reportedly dialed the super late, late, late one night this week to request an early morning meeting with him at a local Waffle House.
But he apparently was busier than the public or his bosses realized, laboring under the radar to line up support for TFA and charter schools.
Board watchers are waiting to see if Sweeney or Hinojosa address any of those issues at Wednesday’s board meeting, or instead sweep them back under the rug.
HAS THERE BEEN AN OUTBREAK OF AMNESIA in Cobb County? Apparently so. The MDJ has been trying for several days to pin down Cobb Chamber head David Connell so we could ask who had requested he write his letter of recommendation on behalf of the Morgans’ proposed charter school. But Connell apparently is still checking his notes.
And it’s afflicting leaders at the courthouse, too. Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee was asked by the Journal how he selected Jerry Davis as facilitator for the day-long confab of county government brass Thursday.
Lee told us he couldn’t remember.
Turns out that Davis is an old friend of Connell’s from their days together at Georgia Power.
More evidence, you might say, that the Chamber is backing Lee to the hilt in his campaign for re-election this year.
COBB SUPERIOR COURT Judge Stephen Schuster has been designated to serve in place of Georgia Supreme Court Justice P. Harris Hines of Marietta in the appeal of Tampa Investment Group, Inc., v. Branch Banking and Trust Co., Inc. and Legacy Communities Group, Inc. v. Branch Banking and Trust Co., Inc. The Court will hear arguments in the case Monday. In this Fulton County case, two companies are appealing a Georgia Court of Appeals decision favoring the bank that sued them for more than $19 million in unpaid debt. In addition to hearing arguments, Schuster will participate in the Court’s decision.
Schuster has been on the Cobb bench since 2004. His rulings in the Cobb EMC case helped pave the way for new management at that utility.
Homebuilder Jerry Bonner was head of the search committee that found Easley.