Almost two weeks after Cobb School Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn directed Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa to send an email to all county staff correcting the misinformation spread by one of Hinojosa’s administrators, the superintendent finally got around to sending the email Tuesday.
“It’s questionable as to why it took nearly two weeks to do that,” Scamihorn told the MDJ on Wednesday. “I don’t know why it took two weeks to do that.”
Not only did Hinojosa take his time in sending out information to correct the misinformation from his central office, the words which he used in his message were less than memorable, Scamihorn said.
“It was bland and robotic. I don’t know how I would give it a passing grade,” Scamihorn said.
Hinojosa’s Tuesday email sent to the district’s “entire organization,” begins by stating that on “On May 28, an email was sent to a group of mathematics supervisors and teachers. The email contained misinformation about a recent vote by the Board of Education to not purchase mathematics textbooks at this time. Because the email was forwarded widely and encouraged staff to contact Board members, I am sending this clarification to all staff to ensure that anyone who received the email will now have the facts on this matter. I regret that misinformation was conveyed, however, it is important that moving forward all employees have accurate information about an issue that has a critical impact on our district curriculum.”
Hinojosa ends his email by noting that he attached a “frequently asked questions” flier to address the key points of the math topic.
The attachment contains an opening statement by the district’s chief academic officer, Amy Krause, who writes: “As discussions continue around the adoption of learning resources for mathematics, questions continue to arise. We regret that recently information was distributed that may have added to the confusion.”
The board vote referenced by the superintendent took place in April when it voted 4-3 against a $7.5 million purchase of math textbooks affiliated with the Common Core standards.
Following that vote, a May 28 email blast from Michelle Mikes, Cobb’s math supervisor for grades six-12 — with the subject line “share with your department” — urged recipients to make sure administrators, teachers and parents know the School Board voted against using SPLOST III funds to buy the math textbooks.
“So, there will not be any new resources at all for at least the next six years,” Mikes inaccurately writes, going on to erroneously add that 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.
As her email spread throughout Cobb County, Scamihorn directed Hinojosa to correct the record June 12. Hinojosa agreed at the same meeting that he would do so in a matter of a few days, although it has taken him almost two weeks to make good on his promise.
“I would have done it differently,” Scamihorn said of Hinojosa’s email. “I would have been more expedient on my apology, and I would have been more thorough in stressing the positives that are available to us, and I also would have been more forthcoming that the board has not abandoned the teachers, that we are searching for an economical but adequate support for our teachers. That’s what I would have stressed.”
Board member Brad Wheeler said he would always be concerned if the school district sends out false information.
“In this issue, it’s a trust issue and some credibility, I think,” Wheeler said. “We need to depend on the district (staff) working with us and they need to have the same expectation back from us.”
Wheeler said Hinojosa’s email addressed the problem, but he did question some of the wording.
“It ‘may’ have caused trouble? It did cause trouble!” Wheeler said.
Wheeler also thought the email would have come sooner.
He regretted there wasn’t a better way to correct the record with the general public.
“What about those people in the public that received second and third generation of this thing (email)?” Wheeler asked. “Once again, here’s this credibility issue with the public.”
Scamihorn said he had a number of follow-up questions for Hinojosa. He said he would like to see the superintendent send out a more comprehensive set of “frequently asked questions” about the textbook issue.
“Do they (in the central office) concur that we could send out another email explaining what others are doing and how we can approach this, and that the board is still searching for acceptable alternatives?” Scamihorn said.
Scamihorn said he had hoped the superintendent would send out an email explaining what other school districts are doing.
“What is Cherokee County doing? What is Bartow County doing. How are they not doing it without books? Those things are not being communicated to our staff, which is causing the mistrust and the hurtful feelings because they feel like we’ve abandoned them,” Scamihorn said. “I’m not even sure in the frequently asked questions if they listed the options that I have suggested. I have not received any initiatives from the staff as to how they may approach this.”
In a recent speech to the Cobb GOP, Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge said prior to his election as state superintendent he was curriculum director for the Bartow County School District.
“We haven’t purchased textbooks in Bartow County for years because of the budget cuts,” he said.
Knowing districts have been in a financial crisis, at the state level he is developing visual resources that districts may use for free, he said.
“In fact, we have over 100 Georgia Virtual School courses online. Every one of those courses has its own digital textbook. It’s free to use,” Barge said. “Now I know not every district in the state, not every school in the state has a computer for every child, but the teachers have access to all those resources,” he said.
Refusing to approve the textbooks was more of an economic than ideological decision, Scamihorn said.
“People want to drag us into the Common Core and that is a factor,” he said.
But the issue with the board majority who voted no, Scamihorn said, is that there is a possibility Common Core will be repealed in next year’s legislative session. The governor could veto the bill, but the governor could also be overridden.
“Well, then what do we do with $7.5 million worth of stuff?” Scamihorn said. “So all we’re asking, and this is something that got lost in the misinformation. We’re not asking them to do nothing for six years; we’re asking that we figure out an adequate way for one more year while people above our pay grade figure out either we are or we aren’t (participating in Common Core). So that got lost in the shuffle.”
Hinojosa email to Cobb school staff
Dear School District Staff:
On May 28, an email was sent to a group of mathematics supervisors and teachers. The email contained misinformation about a recent vote by the Board of Education to not purchase mathematics textbooks at this time. Because the email was forwarded widely and encouraged staff to contact Board members, I am sending this clarification to all staff to ensure that anyone who received the email will now have the facts on this matter. I regret that misinformation was conveyed, however, it is important that moving forward all employees have accurate information about an issue that has a critical impact on our district curriculum. The attached Frequently Asked Questions (see story) address the key points unless the School Board should take further action.
Respectfully, Michael Hinojosa, Superintendent