The school board spent about 30 minutes of Wednesday’s six-hour work session talking about the district’s partnerships and Race to the Top grant applications with STEM Inventors Academy and Teach For America. Most of that time specifically was spent on the charter school, why it was not formally presented to board members earlier and Morgan’s association was with the school.
Kathleen Angelucci, who represents north Cobb, made the request to talk about the two topics during “Board Business” at the February work session. Alison Bartlett, whose post includes central Cobb, gave her the needed support to get the request on the agenda.
“It is vitally important for the board to not only have full knowledge of anything that may impact the system, academically, fiscally or otherwise, but to have these discussions and understandings take place in public, in accordance with the law,” Angelucci told the board.
During the conversation, Bartlett asked Morgan to make a public statement about his involvement with the charter school because she keeps “tripping across this in (her) community,” which Morgan said he would be “happy” to do.
Angelucci wanted to know why Morgan hadn’t told the board about the charter school and if he understands why they were concerned about it.
Morgan, who represents south Cobb, said the idea for STEM Inventors Academy came from one of his constituents, Nate Riley, and that as Riley’s representative, he felt committed to pursue the opportunity.
“My role is making sure that constituents had access to people and information about something they felt would benefit children,” he said. “From there, there were meetings that took place. That’s how the planning grant came to fruition.”
Morgan said he didn’t know how much people didn’t know about the partnership or grant.
“From my vantage point, I looked at it like any other idea that any of us might have that is in the best interest of the district,” he said. “It’s hard for me to say that I couldn’t see how other people didn’t know.”
Angelucci said the charter school wasn’t just “an idea.”
“It had been followed through,” she said. “There were monies that were applied for, there were meetings. When any of us have an idea or we’re excited about something, we talk about it or we mention it or we discuss it … so that if it’s something that really seems to have legs, that we’re all involved and we all support it and it can come up in the future for all of us to get behind.”
Morgan maintained he couldn’t “gauge how much another person knows or does not know.”
“If I had known that there was a gap in terms of what people felt they did or did not know, then of course, but hindsight’s 20/20,” he said. “I didn’t know that people felt like they didn’t know.”
Additionally, Morgan said he wanted to clarify that there was never a board of directors at the school that he or his wife, Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell), were associated with.
However, Bartlett said the planning grant, which Morgan said he never read, listed his wife and a member of her staff as members of the school’s governing board.
During that meeting, Bartlett also asked Cobb Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa to publicly state whether or not the district was under any contract with Teach For America, which he responded with a no, and after the meeting said he felt like the discussion on both topics was “good … absolutely.”
Angelucci, too, said she was pleased that the two topics had finally been brought up in public but, “I wish more had been shared by other board, members but that’s not for me to say. I shared my concerns, and that’s all I can do.”