Board members Kathleen Angelucci, Alison Bartlett and Tim Stultz remained opposed in the 4-3 vote.
After the work session, vice chair Morgan said he changed his mind because of the costs the district would have incurred if they delayed the project, as well as the outcry that arose from the Harrison community when the board voted to postpone it at its March 22 meeting.
“When you think about the amount of money that’s already been put into the project, the amount of money that might be spent by delaying it and that that the cost might increase any more, but also, there’s a lot to be said for the commitment of the community and their belief in the ninth-grade center,” he said.
Breaking the proposal up, as Bartlett recommended on March 22, could have cost the district up to half a million dollars, mainly because of the cost of redesigning the project.
The $14.5 million project, which was approved by Cobb voters in 2008 as part of the SPLOST III notebook, included a new chorus room and cafeteria inside a freshman academy and renovations to improve a track that hasn’t been used for a meet in nearly eight years.
Bartlett and Angelucci, who have been vocal in their opposition to the project, have said they are concerned about the stagnant enrollment growth at Harrison, that the new facility will cost the district an additional $130,000 per year to maintain and that the project is approximately 5 percent, or $700,000, over budget.
The project is now back on track to be completed by July 2013, with the track being finished sometime over the summer, according to Chris Ragsdale, deputy superintendent of operations.
After the meeting, Lynnda Eagle, who currently represents Harrison, said she was very excited.
“I’m very relieved. I’m appreciative that one of the board members listened to the public, weighed the choices and changed the vote,” said Eagle, who asked for the revote. “I know that the Harrison community is thrilled. They too are appreciative, and I look forward to watching this construction begin.”
But while Eagle was happy with the outcome, Angelucci said she believed the board violated its own policy by revoting.
“I was really taken aback at what transpired after the last meeting,” she said during the meeting. “I checked with everyone and no one had changed their position, so for it to be placed on the agenda again violates policy.”
After the meeting, Angelucci said Rule No. 7 of the board’s Code of Ethics says “You express your opinion, but once a vote is taken, you abide by the majority.”
She previously brought up this rule when board member David Banks was continually asking for a revote on the school calendar last fall.
Angelucci argued that revotes will “hold this board hostage” because she could see them becoming an “ongoing thing.”
As for accusations of vote-swapping, Eagle denied she would help Morgan get Teach For America put back on the agenda if he voted for the ninth-grade center.
“I haven’t asked for Mr. Morgan’s vote,” Eagle said. “I did say to him that I thought he should do the right thing.”
Morgan has also denied making any agreements before Wednesday’s vote.
During the public comment session, eight members of the Harrison community encouraged the board to approve the construction. One parent even brought a portion of the track to the meeting, saying a soccer player was injured on it last week and had to have stitches.
Karen Boff, who also spoke at the last board meeting, asked the board to help her understand why they can’t get their track fixed.
“This is very confusing and frustrating,” she said.
Another parent said the board was obligated to approve the project because voters approved it in SPLOST III.
“Do what you told us you were going to do,” Tim Paradiso said.
After the vote was made, Heather Ryan, who has announced she will run against Bartlett in the upcoming election, said she was thrilled by the decision.
“I’m completely overwhelmed. When I saw Mr. Morgan’s hand go up, I had to question what I was seeing on the TV. Is that really his sleeve I see?” she asked. “You wouldn’t believe the emails going around. Everyone is so grateful and so thankful. They just couldn’t believe it.
Ryan said she got about 20 emails celebrating the vote within an hour of the project’s passing.
“I instantly called the chorus teacher (Erin Gunter) and I got to break the news to her,” she said. “The weight is off her shoulders now and, she is so grateful for everyone who has fought for this.”
Ryan likened the fight to get the project approved to David facing Goliath.
“It became political, and it wasn’t about our kids, and I don’t agree with that,” she said. “We all have our general beliefs and philosophies, but there is a moral obligation and a right.
“I’m just glad this battle is over.”