Around Town: Hinojosa weighing new program for Cobb school
by Otis Brumby, Bill Kinney and Joe Kirby
Around Town Columnists
March 03, 2012 12:01 AM | 7128 views | 24 24 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WILL MAINSTREAM STUDENTS at Belmont Hills Elementary in Smyrna someday be routinely taught in Spanish? It’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility.

The Journal first learned that some Cobb district staff were talking about a dual-language program at the Title 1 school in Smyrna from a district executive not too keen on the idea.

News editor Kim Isaza spoke to Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa Wednesday afternoon and he confirmed the rumor, though he was only able to discuss it on the phone for about five minutes, due to his very busy schedule.

“The principal at Belmont Hills is considering dual language. She’s mentioned it to her supervisor, but there’s been no authorization for her to proceed,” Hinojosa said. Terry Floyd has been the principal at Belmont Hills since at least 2007.

The Superintendent couldn’t recall when he had first heard of the idea, though he said it had been since Jan. 1.

What exactly does dual language mean? We heard students would get their lessons in Spanish for half the day, and lessons in English the other half.

“There are different models of dual language,” Hinojosa said. Principal Floyd, he said, was “going to do some research and was supposed to bring something back to the central office.”

Hinojosa does have some experience with dual language schools in Dallas, Texas, where he was previously the superintendent.

Do parents have any say in the matter?

“Oh yes,” he said. “These are schools of choice. I’ve seen it work very well in certain instances. I’ve seen the bilingual program fail, and others fail when they did not learn English and have command of English. English is the language of commerce, and students have to learn English.”

Hinojosa said Belmont Hills was the only Cobb school he knew of that was interested in dual language, though our district executive source said he had reason to believe Hinojosa was interested in expanding it to other schools.

Belmont Hills is a kindergarten through fifth grade school, though it enrolls fewer than 500 students, Hinojosa said. The school has a high number of non-English speaking students, he said.

“It’s 90 percent Hispanic,” Hinojosa said. “The language is up to them, but obviously it would be Spanish. That’s their native language.”

(Incidentally, that’s not exactly what the district reported to state officials just a few months ago. According to student demographic data reported on Oct. 4, Belmont Hills’ student body was 60 percent Hispanic, 30 percent black, 7 percent white and 3 percent “other.”)

And the story changed dramatically by Thursday morning, when the district’s communications director, Jay Dillon, emailed Isaza and said: “After your interview yesterday with Dr. Hinojosa, we talked to Terry Floyd, principal at Belmont Hills, to get an update on the dual language initiative. She said it was something they looked at but have decided not to pursue at this time. She said they do not intend to submit a proposal for a dual language program.”

Isaza tried to pick Floyd’s brain on the idea and her vision for her school, but Floyd emailed her Friday morning to say: “As principal of Belmont Hills Elementary School, it is my job to research instructional programs that may improve student achievement and benefit our diverse community of learners. Dual Language is just one of many programs I have researched. Following my research and considering the transitional state of Belmont Hills due to the recently approved redistricting, I have determined that Dual Language is not a program that we intend to pursue at this time. Thank you.”

AT wonders whether most Cobb residents who pay the taxes that finance the school system would be happy about a program like this, regardless of its merits. We also wonder if this is another issue that the superintendent and school principal could implement without any say from the elected board — which begs the question of why even have a board of education?

Three public elementary schools in Georgia are dual language schools, according to state officials. They are Unidos, in Clayton County; World Languages Academy, in Hall County; and Beulah Elementary, in Douglas County.

Beulah Elementary began the program in 2008, according to information on its website. Parents of incoming kindergarteners choose whether their child is in one of the three English classrooms, or one of the two Spanish classrooms, and the students continue in such through grade five there.

Beulah, like Belmont Hills, is a Title 1 school, which indicates most of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

JUST-RELEASED MINUTES of the January Cobb EMC directors meeting confirm what many had suspected: That the utility co-op didn’t actually plan to build the controversial coal-fired Plant Washington, but instead was working to obtain the potentially lucrative permits for the 850-megawatt plant it in order to sell them.

The minutes of the Jan. 24 meeting have been posted on the co-op’s website for registered members to read — but not copy electronically or print out.

Dean Alford, whose company, Allied Energy, had received a no-bid contract to develop the plant and who also is spokesman for Power4Georgians, updated the board at that meeting.

“Mr. Alford … commented that coal is still the backbone of the country and that it is important to have a diversified portfolio of energy. Power4Georgians owns the permits but he stated that P4G never intended to build Plant Washington. He stated P4G’s goal has always been to obtain the permits needed and then sell them to any interested party that could build the plant.”

Later the directors went into executive session, where they voted on the Power4Georgians 2012 budget. Some details of that were included in the posted minutes, and confirmed that the vote to cut off funding to the coal plant was 7-2, as Around Town had previously reported, and that the two who wanted to continue pouring members’ money into the highly controversial venture were Johnny Gresham and David McGinnis.

“Director (Cheryl) Meadows made a motion, seconded by Director (David) Tennant, not to fund Power4Georgians 2012 budget. All directors voted aye with the exception of Directors McGinnis and Gresham voting nay. The motion was carried.”

Alford’s remarks that “P4G never intended to build Plant Washington” are likely to further infuriate Cobb EMC’s member-owners, who involuntarily committed $13.5 million toward getting those permits. The power plant was the “baby” of now-indicted ex-Cobb EMC head Dwight Brown and his sidekick Alford, who also served as vice chairman of corporate spinoff Cobb Energy.

Meanwhile, two high-placed sources in the electric cooperative world say Alford’s claim is flat-out untrue.

“It’s not correct to say there was never a plan to build it,” said one person who was part of the talks from the very beginning. While talk of possibly selling permits has been heard in the last six months or so, the source said, the plan “all along” was to build the plant. As for the argument that the permits could be sold? “Good luck,” our first industry source said. “Who would buy those, if Cobb and others are saying they don’t need all that power?”

Another source with knowledge of the industry says he finds Alford’s claim “very interesting.”

“I questioned myself if they ever intended to build it, and I’m convinced that if they had pursued that course, it would have driven Cobb EMC into bankruptcy,” he said. “But I think Dean’s a smoke-and-mirrors guy who’ll say anything to keep his business going.”

CONGRATULATIONS to state Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) and husband Andrew, who welcomed daughter Ashley Blayne Evans into their lives on Wednesday, Leap Year Day. Little Ashley weighed seven pounds, 11 ounces, and is 19 inches long. Her mom last week enjoyed a baby shower courtesy of the House Democratic Caucus.

***
NEWT GINGRICH addressed an SRO Cobb Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Thursday and got an almost too-warm greeting from Marietta attorney Roger Plichta during the Q&A period.

“Mr. Speaker, to paraphrase ‘Hello Dolly!,’ it’s so good to have you back where you belong,” Plichta said.

Replied Gingrich to the crowd, “You don’t get that every morning. But I know him. Thankfully he did not sing it.”

***
HAPPY BIRTHDAY in advance to Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham. She turns “the big 6-0” on March 22, but says that’s such a significant year that she plans to celebrate the day all month. So Happy Birthday!
Comments
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Dan Davis
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March 06, 2012
Regarding Dean Alford and Plant Washington:

This finally makes sense of the fact that Power4Georgians never actually purchased the primary 1200-acre Plant Washington site parcel from its owner, Sandersville Railroad’s Hugh Tarbutton. He could make a nicer profit from someone like LS Power, perhaps tying it all together with an exclusive transport service contract. And why would Alford tie up all that money in land when he could put it in his pocket instead? So he advised P4G to buy up smaller parcels around the primary site. This lent legitimacy to the effort and enabled Alford and his cronies to profit from high-end management and consulting fees for handling permitting, land transactions, timber rights, and public relations.

No matter what happened to the Plant (or to Dwight Brown, for that matter), Alford knew he would walk away with millions. Who knew all his suits were made of Teflon?

anonymous
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March 04, 2012
Ever heard of the International School? The benefit for the dual language program is not the Latinos. It is the other students who will become fluent in two languages, therefore, much more desirable as an employee in just about any field.
Who's in control?
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March 03, 2012
The following statement was in the MDJ on 2/11/12 - Around Town: "MOST OF THE BOARD in the past two weeks has been blindsided by developments regarding a pair of ongoing issues, Teach For America and charter schools. And Hinojosa is the central figure in each case."

1. Was the board blindsided again by Hinojosa?

2. Was this discussed with the board?

3. Did Hinojosa discuss the dual language program with anyone else in the school system?

4. What else is Hinojosa doing that will be another surprise?

5. When we hear from School Board about this issue?

not again
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March 03, 2012
Super Hinojosa caught again operating out of sight of public and his board. When will board wake up and tell him who is boss? Sweeney is a real disappoinrment so far.
Three Strikes.....
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March 03, 2012
you're out!!! Teach for America, STEM Charter and now dual languages. If this was a business and an "employee" went out and did things without consulting with their superiors, they would be fired. The school board has very little respect but if they want to show they are not just a "yes" board, now is the time to give Cobb taxpayers, teachers and students what they desire. Get rid of Hinojosa now. To Cobb residents: we are changing Cobb EMC, looks like we have to begin changing the CCSB and the Supertindent. BTW - this is not Dallas!
Julie Smart
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March 03, 2012
This dual language for this county school is so wrong. We are encouraging the latinos not to learn English. We certainly would not be given this option in Mexico. It should be up to the parents to learn dual languages and help their own children learn instead of putting this off on the school system. That is one of the reasons people are putting their children in private schools, because our children cannot get quality education for taking the time to teach English to those children just sitting in class that have no idea what is being said and looking up at the moon.
mmmmmm
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March 03, 2012
Has Hinojasa gotten rid of Dennise Magee at Campbell High School. It appears she was promoted over her head from Campbell Middle School prior to his coming on as Supt. After the very wise move by Dale Gaddis of non-renewal of Rivera's contract ( who is now Fulton County's Westlake's worst nightmare). Magee has lost respect and control of the school by treating the students as though they are middle schoolers. Her edicts that you can't attend junior-senior prom if you have tradies, have caused quite the contraversy. Then there have been hall sweeps between classes and anyone that can't make to class in the 7 minutes, and is late ( this parent can not walk from the 2000 building to the 100 hallway with the halls empty under 10 minutes). Are now required to be in Saturday School. The first period this was instituted resulted in 200 students being issued citations to Saturaday School. That was Tuesday or Wednesday. The kids staged protests, over these middle school type rules.

Magee was not there on Thursday or Friday. However on Friday the new Principal all day was Supt. Hinjosa himself. Along with the drug dogs. 27 students were arrested for marijauna possesion, including some stars of the baseball team. Then there were the food fight in the Cafeteria both in 2nd period lunch and in 4th period lunch. All with Supt. Hinjosa still on Campus as the acting Principal with no Denise Magee in sight either Thursday or Friday.

My Child asked me this morning if I saw anything about this on the news. I said no, it was all about the storm. She said that in her 3 years at Campbell this would definitely go down in history as one of the biggest weeks. After the week of Protests when Rivera fired all the favorite teachers to bring his South Cobb crew under cover of the Rift. She attended Riverwood for awhile and said they regularly use the drug dogs, so she was use to them, but she had never seen them used at Campbell like this. She had also never seen any Supt. at the School all day.

So my question is Magee out??? I would suspect yes if Hinjosa himself has to come in and do her job.
anonymous
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March 04, 2012
Maybe the kids should get to class on time...
whine whine whine
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March 05, 2012
I'm sorry - since when did being to class on time become a middle school rule? I have to be at work on time - to meetings on time. I bet your kids expect you to pick them up on time or better yet get to the bus on time!

Get to class ON TIME
yawn1
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March 05, 2012
Thanks for taking the time to report on positive disciplinary actions being taken at a school that has needed it for a long time.
anonymous
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March 03, 2012
this will only make more latinos want to come to Cobb. Then it will be in more schools. Nip it in the bud.
ProJour
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March 03, 2012
Another classic example of how MDJ takes something speculative and whips up a frenzy. One line cuts to the heart of their intent in running this: "AT wonders whether most Cobb residents who pay the taxes that finance the school system would be happy about a program like this, REGARDLESS OF ITS MERITS." (my caps) So it really doesn't matter if something improves education, if it helps children learn, if taxpayers don't like a certain program, we shouldn't have it?
YouAreCorrectSir!
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March 04, 2012
"So it really doesn't matter if something improves education, if it helps children learn, if taxpayers don't like a certain program, we shouldn't have it?"

That is EXACTLY the point. If it's so wonderful and beneficial for the children, let their parents pay for it. We provide a good basic education to the children of Cobb County. Generally speaking our schools are clean, safe, well maintained, well equipped and well staffed. While not perfect, they are certainly better than some of the other school systems in this part of the state.

But at some point you have to draw the line and say "enough". Dual-language education for children that don't want to bother learning the native language of the country they now live in? Why not iPads for all the kids too? Or perhaps new cars for all the high school juniors and seniors to eliminate the stress that comes from standing alongside the road waiting for a school bus to come along?

Sure, we could keep throwing more and more of our taxpayer dollars at every fancy new program or idea that comes along, but at some point we have to acknowledge that we have done our job of providing an education to our children and let the parents start picking up the tab for the extras.

ProJour
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March 05, 2012
Keep up with that line of thinking, and next thing you know, our science textbooks will have stickers that say evolution is only a theory. Oh wait; been there done that.
anonymous
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March 05, 2012
WAIT A MINUTE - my kid does get dual language teaching, in a language other than SPANISH. And I have to pay - a pretty penny I might add - to get it.

So would that be considered discrimination if Cobb county doesn't have dual-language in every language? WHERE DOES IT STOP!! Why are they so special???
LiarLiarPantsonFire!
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March 03, 2012
P4G never intended to build Plant Washington. The whole thing has been a scam from the onset. There was never any typical utility load and resource planning process that indicated a need for the plant. The project originated when Cobb was approached by TXU in late 2007 to potentially acquire the interest in one of their coal projects that they were divesting as part of an agreement to settle litigation surrounding eleven proposed coal plant projects.

TXU contacted a bunch of companies not just Cobb. Mr. Brown seeing the opportunity to set himself and his cronies Dean Alford, JW Rayder, Anis Sherali and the Tarbuttons in various, very lucrative, no bid development, planning, consulting and land deals paid for by uninformed and trusting GA EMC ratepayers decided to pretend to assume the project and pretend to build a coal plant. The payoff of course would be a very lucrative annuity while pretending to build the plant and then a nice kicker at the end when the permits were sold.

Who knew Alford would finally fess up? Just who owns those permits? I’d like to know.

NO!
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March 03, 2012
This is AMERICA- our language is ENGLISH! That is the only language that classes should be taught in. I am sick and tired of adjusting our standards. If I was in Mexico, they would not change their standards and teach me in English. ENOUGH is ENOUGH! But what did we really expect form Dr. H.......
anonymous
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March 03, 2012
This taxpayer was just waiting for them to start rattling the spanish language in our schools cage.

Then he'll have to hire a bunch of spanish-speaking teachers from other countries, get them all fake social security numbers the way he did in dallas and the next thing you know, he's laying off more veteran Cobb teachers, the way he did in Dallas.

And way to backtrack, principal. You're a smart lady to understand how unpopular your proposal would be with taxpayers. The next thing you know, we'll have the Mexican flag flying above the American flag at your school, to make the kids "feel good" and a few years from now they'll be marching in the streets, demanding we pay for their college, their birth control and their mortgages. Unreal.
steam is bubbling
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March 03, 2012
This business about teaching children in Spanish "because it is their native language" is bunk. For one thing, they are probably the children of illegals and can leave and go back to their own country at any time, furthermore, why, why, why, are we asking, no begging, to spend more taxpayer dollars to do this? And I just love the way these people connected with it run from the press. Thank goodness for this paper!
mary kirkendoll
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March 03, 2012
Well, I can asure you, here is ONE tax paying Cobb County American , that is AGAINST MY tax money being spent on 'dual language' schools, to make it easier for anchor babies & children of illegal aliens to live under the radar, in in the barios they have created in this part of south Cobb County.(while taking my work, my quality of life & my house values due to this invasion)

This is about open borders & amnesty. This about destroying America's middle class & paving the way for Mexicos poor & uneducated to obtain the American dream, courtesy of us.

Keep Kathy Inman in your prayers today, as she just had another surgery yesterday, stemming from the accident an illegal alien caused on fathers day, 2000, that killed their son Dustin & the family dog. The criminal illegal , is still on the run,... somewhere in the USA, while Kathy is confined to a wheelchair!!

There IS a price to pay !!

BHES Teacher
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March 03, 2012
In addition to the language issue, Belmont Hills has a principal who is very unpopular among her own staff, when compared to most principals. Last year, a relatively large percentage of our teaching staff sought transfers to other schools, mainly because of the school leadership. Teachers here live in fear of the principal, her tactics of intimidation, her micro-management, and her retaliation against those of us who don't agree with her.
A. Beaverhausen
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March 03, 2012
That is a throwback from the Sanderson days...
Satisfied Teacher
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March 03, 2012
In response to the teacher addressing the leadership of Belmont Hills Elementary, let me say, you are dead wrong.

We have strong visionary leadership who support the staff by providing many opportunities for teachers to become masters at their profession. This continued encouragement, along with high expectations for students and staff alike, has allowed us to provide the best education for ALL the children who are enrolled at BHES.

I say BRAVO to people who are committed to improving their practice for the sake of children, and the honor of the teaching profession
anonymous
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March 03, 2012
Ever heard of the International School? Guess dual language programs are different when they're used in pricy private schools....
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