Cobb schools in the ’70s: providing parking
by Bill Kinney
Columnist
November 18, 2012 12:00 AM | 1232 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bill Kinney
Bill Kinney
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Cobb County schools have been headed by many superintendents through the years, but few have had the impact of the legendary Kermit Keenum. Keenum served two as super two different times, from 1973 to 1980 and from 1989 to 1993. Now 76, he has just penned a memoir titled “From Sharecropper to Superintendent in One Generation.” It tells of his roots in rural Mississippi and the transition of Cobb’s schools from semi-rural to suburban.

Here is an excerpt:

One of the biggest challenges during Keenum’s first year as super was trying to provide adequate security for the schools.

“This became a political issue in 1972 and continued into 1973. I did not believe a plan that involved both the school district and the county government would work. I believed very strongly that the success of a security program needed to be tied very closely to each high school campus. I always believed that local school administrators should have control over those areas that affect their school operation.

“We developed over a number of months during the first year a plan for Cobb County high schools to have their own security program. We were having more and more students each month buying automobiles to drive to school. The larger the high school, the greater the problem. We were trying to add parking areas to take care of the needs of the students in this area. It created an atmosphere where accidents could happen and we were beginning to experience problems with automobiles having items stolen and other problems in this environment.

“The plan was finalized during the summer of 1974. It called for each high school parking area to be properly marked into parking spaces, each parking space assigned a number and students would be given the privilege of driving their car to school if they met certain criteria. Basically they had to be a student in the high school program, be in good standing as far as their school behavior, and they would be allowed to purchase a parking space.

“The parking space would require them to have a decal and the decal would be keyed to the parking space.

“We started this program with the proposal that each parking space assigned to a student for the purpose of driving their vehicle to school would be three dollars a month.

“The plan also called for us taking the revenue that would be generated from the parking plan to employ a school security guard for each high school campus. These security guards would be appropriately trained and would be equipped with two-way radios to keep them in contact with principals and assistant principals. This program was implemented and I was told many times by the high school principals how much this meant to the security and safety of the campus.

“Like most programs in Cobb County it did not have 100 percent support. There were parents who objected to paying the parking fee.

“We also had one member of the board, Mr. Smitha, who believed very strongly that we did not have the right to charge students to park on the school campus. We took the position that the school property belonged to the school board and the driving of a vehicle to school was a privilege, not a right. We were providing transportation to every student that qualified based on distance from school each day, so it was not necessary that they drive. They wanted to drive for their convenience, therefore it was a privilege, not a requirement.

“We were never tested in court, but I believe we would have won any court attempt to stop this program.”

Next: How Keenum’s trip to the Varsity landed Lassiter High.

Bill Kinney is associate editor of The Marietta Daily Journal.
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