Cobb school system is lacking in sense
by Dick Yarbrough
Columnist
April 13, 2013 12:00 AM | 6738 views | 14 14 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dick Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough
slideshow
What has happened to common sense in our country? Or to be more specific — in our county school system?

There isn’t much I can add to the well-deserved shellacking of the Cobb County school system on the by the editors of the MDJ on the editorial page this past Thursday for the system’s shoddy treatment of former Kell High School Principal Trudie Donovan.

Donovan, a 34-year veteran of the school system was charged with failure to report “in a timely fashion,” as required by state law a teacher who allegedly had slapped two students. She abruptly “retired” in June 2012 under a cloud of suspicion.

Now, the Cobb Solicitor’s Office has announced that it will drop the charges against Donovan due to “a lack of evidence.” Assistant Solicitor General Latonia Hines wrote, “After an extensive investigation, the state is unable to pursue this charge due to a lack of facts or supporting evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violated the ‘willfully and knowingly’ portion of (the mandatory reporting law).”

Everybody from the Cobb County school board to Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa to the faceless bureaucrats behind the keel-hauling of Ms. Donovan owes her a public apology.

This isn’t the first time the CCSD has rushed to judgment. Equally disturbing is the case of elementary teacher Gregory Leontovich, who was fired by the Cobb school board in 2005 on charges he sexually assaulted a 7-year old girl, despite the fact that her teacher swore the girl had not left her classroom on the day the assault supposedly took place and that a hospital exam confirmed no signs of an assault. It took Mr. Leontovich three years to clear his name in Cobb County Superior Court, not to mention 26 days in jail.

And let’s not forget Tapp Middle School Principal Jerry Dority, counselor Yatta Collins, and Awtrey Middle School Principal Jeff Crawford being hung out to dry by the CSDD as described in the MDJ editorial.

Suffice it to say that it is not the teachers who are the villains here. It is a school system that presumes one is guilty until proven innocent. I can’t believe that somewhere along their paths to the education mountaintop at least one of the faceless bureaucrats didn’t take a course in political science and learn how our democratic system is supposed to function.

As the MDJ editorial so rightly put it, “Police officers who shoot someone in the line of duty typically are put on desk duty with pay until the matter is resolved. Cobb educators, however, are presumed guilty unless they can somehow prove their innocence.”

Equally guilty are our legislators, who seem more interested in promoting their educational self-interests (read: private schools) than in supporting public school teachers who bust their butts daily trying to educate our young people in spite of a myriad of complex rules and regulations coming at them from every government entity with an oar in the education water.

Perhaps I missed something but I have not heard a peep out of one single legislator over this shameful episode. Remember, a state law is the root cause of the problem. Don’t be shocked, however, if our intrepid public servants make no effort to change the law next session. For whatever reason, public school teachers don’t seem to be very high on their agenda these days.

The worst part of this whole mess is the lack of loyalty shown to Cobb County educators by the Cobb school board, the superintendent and the bureaucrats in the central office. Cobb school teachers can certainly identify with that great Okeefenokee philosopher Pogo the Possum who opined, “We have met the enemy and it is us.”

I appreciate the fact that the Cobb school board and school system officials are wringing their hands over the financial decisions facing them in the upcoming year. That is important stuff to be sure, but nowhere near as important as assuring teachers and administrators that somebody has their back. First things first.

I have four public school teachers in my family — none in Cobb County. In addition to dealing with the myriad social issues that don’t stop at the school house door and apathetic parents, bureaucratic red tape, politically-motivated school boards, make-work central offices and unsupportive legislators, they and the rest of their colleagues around the state shouldn’t have to live in fear that the slightest accusation, no matter how spurious, will cost them their jobs, their reputation and the meager money they get paid in order to defend themselves.

So, back to my original question: What has happened to common sense? If you are looking for it, look some place other than the Cobb County school system. It doesn’t live there anymore.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.
Comments
(14)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Leah44
|
April 22, 2013
I wish someone would look into how substitute teachers are treated. They can be fired for the most trivial reason (or no reason at all) and have no recourse.
Weazie
|
April 24, 2013
What happened? I would love to hear your story. Email me right away @ cshowmepin@aol.com
Joaquin Sanders
|
April 18, 2013
I think, Mr. Yarbrough, that you are missing an aspect of this issue: In the case of at least one of the people you mentioned, Dr. Dority, the school has improved measurably in both academics and environment since she was replaced.

Perhaps those in control knew she wasn't getting the job done and wanted to remove her but didn't feel right just doing it on the basis of the data they had at hand? Perhaps they were waiting for some infraction, no matter how minor, to take action?

I hope I am wrong as that would make the board and superintendent even worse than you paint them: It would make them passive-aggressive. This is the last thing a school board needs to be. It needs to be decisive, principled, compassionate and logical.

So far I think the CCSD board fails on most of those aspects.

In the case of the aforementioned Varner elementary, I can't say I've heard good things about the principal there other than the non-specific "she's done what she had to do" type comments. Meanwhile, her detractors can site specific examples of the negative impact she's had. She may be heading down the same slope Dr. Dority did. If so, she should probably make sure she is following every guideline and law to the letter or it may her name appearing in an MDJ essay in the coming months.
JustmePJD
|
April 18, 2013
Principal Pamela Adeli at Varner bans parents from the school if they disagree with her for any reason. She then has police officers call and bully parents threatening to arrest them if they come onto the school property. This makes it impossible to take your children to and from school if you are not allowed on the property. Your only choice then is to enroll them elsewhere.

The CCSD will not allow a parent to dispute any type of "ban" or criminal trespass warning that has been issued because according to the CCSD "Currently the District does not have a specific policy/rule regarding the issuance of a police warning or the dispute of such a warning. I have contacted our Department of Public Safety and understand that one of their staff members will be contacting you to discuss your concerns regarding the warning." That is very disturbing considering a lot of parents have been banned in the CCSD.

In other words, once issued a warning, ban, etc. by Pamela Adeli or a CCSD employee, you are forever banned from CCSD property regardless of whether or not it is a legitimate ban. So parents of Varner children, walk on eggshells around that woman or you too will be finding another school for your child to attend.

I feel so sorry for any parent, teacher, or child that has to deal with Pamela Adeli and so thankful that she is no longer destroying the education of my children.
Sides of the Fence
|
April 15, 2013
Excellent column Mr. Yarbrough. And you speak the truth.

Parents unfortunately have to remember, in the CCSD once an employee makes it to the level of principal, they generally have it made and the sky is the limit. But, if changing schools or firing the principal diffuses the problem or decreases the amount of money the school system will have to play, then that principal is gone!

Principals manage and set the tone at a school, but the teachers are the ones who are responsible for actually teaching the children during school hours. Some commenting teachers on this article seem to think the parent is favored more than the teacher, but that certainly has not been my experience when I have questioned something. The result has always been a compromise,which is the best I can hope for.

Now, if principals and teachers think they get no respect or are easily expendable, then let them be any of the support staff at a school- office, parapro, custodial, and most definitely the school bus drivers. Bus drivers drive your children on the crazy roads of Cobb County, twice a day, with 20-45 children who are oblivious to anyone or anything except the moment. If there is a problem with a student that continues after the bus driver warns them, then the driver is dependent upon the school principal to do something about it. Once the students leave the school, these types of problems are way, way down the list of priorities for the administrators. And even though the CCSD begs for bus drivers all the time, they are given very little support.
Varner Parent
|
April 15, 2013
I am appalled by these comments. As a parent of a fifth grader and someone who has been at Varner for 6 years, the best thing that has happened to Varner has been Dr. Adeli's leadership. Thankfully she came and cleaned up our school.
Varner Supporter
|
April 15, 2013
Amen! The changes that have occurred over the last four years have been such a benefit to students, staff and parents. We are grateful for Dr. Adeli’s courage to make necessary changes.
CCSDParent
|
April 15, 2013
Either you guys are Adeli or one of her minions, or she's got you drinking her Kool-Aid. If you're really just a Varner parent, I guess you've never stepped foot inside that school building.
Bob Terwillerger
|
April 14, 2013
In Cobb, you need to expect to be abandoned by the administration. They won't help you. It is easier and cheaper for them to just fire you than to work to the bottom of something to find out the truth.

They work on the "terminate, then investigate" model of management and leadership.
anonymous
|
April 15, 2013
I said it before and I will say it again. The public sector is now facing the same heat the private sector has taken for over 15 years. It is about time.
Thank You Mr. Y
|
April 13, 2013
Wow - thank you so much Mr. Y. As an educator for over 30 years, I could not have stated it better! It truly saddens me what we have allowed public education to become - and that is not much more than a baby sitting service. We feed these children and care for them for approximately 7 hours a day and yet the parents still call the shots when it comes to the behavior and academic results of the kids. AND the administration backs up the parents because we don't want to "make them mad". Come on people - does it REALLY matter that your 2nd grade child got a "2" in ART? Is it really worth a conference and an argument? What about the child who threw a desk at me and called me a slew of 4 letter words...is it REALLY in HIS best interest for me to "let it slide" and then be shown through a behavior modification "specialist" how best to deal with this child in the regular classroom? Every parent these days thinks that their child is perfect and when the teachers tell them differently, it is the teacher's fault. Surely we have done something to this child that inhibits their perfection. The majority of teachers LOVE children. That is one of the reason that we went into education in the first place. Parents and administrators - please keep this in mind when you choose to challenge us and assume that we are "out to get" the students. I'm old and tired and almost done with this profession. Hopefully things will improve with time - but what I fear is that the GOOD, INTELLIGENT people who used to major in Education will no longer be doing this. Teaching is a demanding job with low pay. Why would anyone in their right mind go into it today?
fed up with CCSD
|
April 13, 2013
Obviously those principals weren't one of the chosen few. There are a few principals, such as the one at Timber Ridge, who are allowed to make up lies and get rid of long term employees for no good reason. Most of these employees had years and years of exemplary service. Thy don't give anyone a chance to defend themselves, just believe every stupid thing the principal says and treats the one she is targeting like a common criminal. This woman has been allowed to ruin countless lives and I can't wait till the lawsuits pending against her go to court and CCSD has to foot the bill.
Fed Up Too
|
April 14, 2013
I'm so fed up with CCSD as well! Principals are the ones that are in charge of OUR children YET they are the problems. Not all of them BUT one in particular for numerous families at Varner Elementary. Her name is Pamela Adeli....excuse me...DOCTOR Pamela Adeli. Principals can be bullies and they have EVERYONE held by their purse strings and scared out of their mind because no one wants to lose their jobs. A CALL TO ACTION IS NECESSARY!
CCSDParent
|
April 14, 2013
Fed Up,

I completely agree. The entire administration at Varner Elementary seems to be able to do whatever they want, no matter how destructive to the educational environment, and the School Board just looks the other way. They've gotten any teacher that might question their actions fired and left the others in fear for their jobs. They've alienated the parents and push to insure that no one wants to volunteer. They have decimated the PTA board. They've sent the police to homes of parents that have issues with them. And yet, with all of this taking place, the School Board ignores it.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides