Around Town: Who’s in Charge? Board? Super? Staffers? Anybody?
by Lee B. Garrett, Joe Kirby and Otis Brumby III
June 14, 2013 11:13 PM | 5997 views | 6 6 comments | 109 109 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHO’S RUNNING THE SHOW at 514 Glover Street? That is, who’s running the Cobb school system? The elected school board, as mandated by the Georgia Constitution? The superintendent? Or Central Office staffers (possibly in league with the super) with an agenda of their own, intent on undermining the board?

At issue are blast emails sent to system staffers from high-ranking Central Office personnel that were highly critical of the board’s 4-3 vote in April not to spend $7.5 million to purchase math textbooks that reflect the controversial Common Core Standards. Common Core advocates say the curriculum would bring Georgia’s math standards in line with most of the rest of the country. Critics contend they will lead to loss of local school control and increase federal meddling in education. The Standards have become an improbable hot-button issue this year in many parts of the country.

A May 28 email blast from Cobb 6-12 Math Supervisor Michelle Mikes (with the subject line “share with your department”) urges recipients to make sure administrators, teachers and parents know the school board voted against using SPLOST III funds to buy the math texts.

“So, there will not be any new resources at all for at least the next six years,” she writes, then adds, incorrectly but with what apparently was intended as sarcasm, that the math funds could be used instead to build “a playground or something of that sort.”

Mikes also urged recipients to attend the next school board meeting and speak during the public comment period.

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NOT SURPRISINGLY, news that system employees were being urged to pressure the board to reverse course did not go over well with the board itself. Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn described the emails’ accusations as “about as far from the truth as you can get.”

“I was a little distraught over that,” he said at Wednesday’s board meeting. “We’re here to give our students the best education that we can possibly afford, but we’re also here to be good stewards of (tax dollars).”

Board member Kathy Angelucci was more blunt, saying that the “common thread” among the emails was misinformation in a deliberate attempt by someone in the Central Office to “sabotage” the board’s vote.

“They’re being told something that’s not true,” she said.

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SCAMIHORN directed Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa — who had favored buying the textbooks — to send what amounts to a cease-and-desist email to district staff.

“If we can’t get to the bottom of it, at the very least it’s going to stop,” Scamihorn said of the emails.

Left unsaid at this point is whether there will be repercussions — as there should be — for underlings who were spreading inaccurate information in an attempt to stymie those who run the system. And will the board hold Hinojosa accountable for allowing — or at the least, turning a blind eye to — such shenanigans?

Cobb’s school board for at least the past decade has tended to defer to the superintendent on most issues. But the current board might be different. Before starting a second career as a teacher Scamihorn spent 27 years as an Army officer. Soldiers who ignore orders are court-martialed out.

As for the math texts, Scamihorn told the MDJ that, “We had a spirited discussion on this but once a decision is made, I expect the staff to carry out the board’s decision.”

But as former Superintendent Joe Redden (a retired Air Force three-star general) found out the hard way, the Cobb school system has its own ideas about command and control.

We’ll see if Scamihorn has better luck.

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WANT TO SERVE on a Cobb Commission-appointed committee? Fine. And thanks for volunteering your time and energy to serve the county. But be warned: Boat-rockers need not apply.

That message is coming through loud and clear lately from Commission Chairman Tim Lee.

The most recent example came this week when he quietly persuaded new Southwestern District Commissioner Lisa Cupid to put the brakes on her plans to appoint anti-tax activist Lance Lamberton to the county’s 15-member SPLOST Oversight Committee. That group’s mission is to ensure revenues from the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax are spent the way the county promised voters they would be spent.

Cupid did not run the appointment past Lee beforehand. The first Lee knew of it was when he read of it in Tuesday’s newspaper. After talking with the chairman, Cupid told the MDJ she was putting Lamberton’s appointment on hold in the interest of maintaining her good working relationship with him.

“Just out of respect I want(ed) to give (Lee) the benefit of conversation before I make a motion,” Cupid told the MDJ. “And if it means just holding this off for another meeting so we can have that conversation (about the appointment), I’m going to give my peer that respect.”

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LAMBERTON is president of the Cobb Taxpayers Association, which though small in number, has punched well above its weight while opposing recent SPLOST referendums. The vote on his nomination would come June 25, unless Cupid withdraws his name.

Lee told the MDJ that “it’s always good to have someone who is a subject-matter expert if it’s required and to have someone who is perceived by the community to have an unbiased, very even keel, educated perspective on the whole issue, not one that is to the extreme on one side or the other.”

But as a practical matter, most “subject-matter experts” tend to fall into one of three categories: activists with axes to grind; or academics and bureaucrats with agendas of their own to subtly push. Moreover, those in the latter two categories tend as often as not to be liberals.

In addition, keeping “lay” experts off such committees makes it easier for them to be dominated not just by the chairman’s favored appointees, but by staff — who usually share the same agenda.

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11TH DISTRICT Congressional hopeful Bob Barr has a major fundraiser planned for 6 p.m. Thursday at Adventure Outdoors in Smyrna. Tickets are $25 per person, but sponsor levels start at $500 and go to $7,800. Silent auction items include a Winchester Big Daddy gun safe that can hold 54 firearms; private-estate deer and turkey hunts with Barr and Adventure Outdoors owner Jay Wallace; and a trophy skull signed by guitarist Ted Nugent. Barr is board member of the NRA. RSVP to Maggie@barrcongress.com.

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EVENTS: Local authors Joe McTyre and Becky Paden will sign copies of their books “Cobb County” and “Historic Roswell, Georgia,” at two area Costco Warehouse stores today. Paden will sign the Cobb County books from 12 noon until 3 p.m. at the Costco store at 645 Ernest Barrett Parkway, Kennesaw, and McTyre will sign the Roswell book at the Alpharetta Costco at the same time. The book, published by Arcadia Publishing, will be available for purchase at both stores. ...

Glass-blower extraordinaire Don Lillie of Smyrna will be featured Thursday in the latest installment of the “Evening with History” series at the Marietta Museum of History Museum. Tickets to the 7 p.m. event are $5 for nonmembers and free for museum members, reports director Jan Galt Russell.

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COBB LANDMARKS is offering ringside seats at its headquarters (the historic Anderson House on Whitlock Avenue across from First Methodist) for the upcoming July Fourth fireworks in Marietta. Tables for eight on the porch can be had for $120, and $100 per table for the lawn. Reservation deadline is July 1. Contact Terri Bunten Guthrie at (404) 822-0530 or tbguthrie@firstlandmarkonline.com. ...

And The American Theatre Organ Society rolls into Marietta July 5 for its annual convention, with some of the best keyboard players in the country slated to play on the Mighty Allen Theatre Organ at the Earl Smith Strand Theater on Marietta Square. The Young Artist Competition will be at 10 a.m., followed by a Pops theatre organ concert at 1, reports Strand organist Ron Carter. Tickets for the entire day are $32.50. More than 400 conventioneers from around the world will be on hand, and only 40 tickets are available for the general public, he says. Call (770) 293-0080 or go to www.earlsmithstrand.org.

Comments
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Insubordination
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June 17, 2013
Mrs. Krause and Ms. Mikes be advised that Board Members are aware of the baited email Ms. Mikes sent out the week of May 6, 2013 to Math department chairs in which Ms. Mikes ended her vague email by telling Math Chairs if they wanted to know more they would need to call in. When contacted Ms. Mikes and her co-conspirator verbally completed what they knew they could not put in writing which was a call to arms for math teachers throughout the system to attend the May 16th Board Meeting and come out against the board's April 25th vote opposing the purchase of $7.5 million in math textbooks at this time. This was Mrs. Krause and Mrs. Mikes' first act of insubordination prior to Ms. Mikes second email dated May 28, 2013. Ms. Mikes references the May 16th showing of teachers in her May 28th email. Mrs. Krause knew her fingerprints could not be on this plan so she had her subordinates carry out her edict. Board members knew of Mrs. Krause/Ms. Mikes' ploy prior to the night the teachers showed up. This is just a heads up to Mrs. Krause & her minions to let her/them know their antics surface QUICKLY.
anonymous
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June 25, 2013
We teachers respect Ms. Mike's honest, open communication. We had questions and she did her best to find answers for us. If the unused splost funds can't be used for other projects, then I sure hope we all will be seeing a tax refund. Sweeney, Banks and Morgan- thank you for promoting student achievement and supporting us teachers. It is too bad that an "event planner" causes chaos at the board meetings. She helped orchestrate the April protest against math books and consistently keeps information from the other board members. The insanity needs to stop- we just want math books to help our students understand the math concepts. Get back to the matters at hand and leave politics out of it!
Be Careful
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June 15, 2013
$7.5 million for new math books?

Please tell me if I'm in error here, but isn't math, well, math?

Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. Algebra, Calculus...etc...etc...

Has math changed? Does 2 2 no longer equal 4?

Come on, just teach math.
@be careful
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June 20, 2013
You are showing your age and your ignorance.
EastCobbVoter
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June 15, 2013
I hope that Lisa Cupid listens politely and respectfully to what Tim Lee has to say in that "conversation", and then tells him to go buzz off.

After all, lets not forget that the voters put her in office to be an independent voice, not an echo of Tim Lee's Chamber of commerce-driven agenda.

Of course he doesn't want Lance on the oversight committee ... he might be too good at finding examples of waste and abuse. Better to have a stooge from the Chamber who will do his bidding.
Full Disclosure
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June 15, 2013
What I want to know is WHY is Michelle Mikes the CCSD 6-12 Mathematics Director when she is certified ONLY in 6-8 Mathematics per her PSC certification. Her 6-12 Math certification appears to have lapsed in June 2003. It is alleged she has been unable to pass the test to regain her certification for Math 6-12? Seeing as she is on vacation for 3 weeks maybe we can find out before she gets back.
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