Meanwhile, the issue has been so controversial in west Cobb that it has resulted in an election challenge for board member Alison Bartlett. New redistricting maps put Harrison in her district.
On Thursday night, board member Lynnda Eagle requested, and chairman Scott Sweeney agreed, to revote on the SPLOST-paid project on May 9. With east Cobb’s David Banks, the three were in the minority and opposed delaying the Harrison project when the board voted 4-3 on March 22.
Instead, amid declining enrollment at the school, the board agreed to build only a new chorus room and cafeteria, and reconstruct the track.
“There is so much community interest in this,” Eagle said Friday. “We can’t really afford to have a whole section of the voters not willing to consider a SPLOST IV because of this. … It all comes down to one of those four. Maybe they will consider changing their minds. We can still keep the summer schedule if we could approve it May 9. It’s the last chance to meet that window.”
Bartlett, though, sees no need for reconsideration and doesn’t believe any board member will change his or her vote. Vice chairman David Morgan and members Tim Stultz and Kathleen Angelucci voted with Bartlett on Harrison.
“In speaking to the people who voted the way I did, no one has changed their votes,” Bartlett said, adding that without new information, her vote will remain the same.
Bartlett also said she is “disappointed in Mr. Sweeney as chair.”
“What is going on at the Harrison ninth-grade center is the same kind of behavior that we had with the calendar. When a committee votes you should be working actively to support that vote. It’s called an oath of loyalty,” she said.
Bartlett said she’s received some emails and phone calls since the March vote but not as many as Eagle, who claimed to have received about 300 since the March 22 vote.
“The emails I’m getting, they are concerned about it and often some of the facts they have are inaccurate,” Bartlett said. “But I live in the community so I have a lot of interaction with the Harrison community.”
Not all emails are from frustrated residents, Bartlett added. She said some have been from people thanking her for being fiscally responsible, because the project was over budget by about $700,000, or 5 percent.
The deciding vote in March came from Morgan, who had previously voted in favor of hiring an architect to design the Harrison project. Morgan did not immediately respond to inquiries on Friday, but Eagle said she would “hold out hope” he or another member of the majority would change his or her vote.
“David is very reasonable, and I do know some of the west Cobb group have either met with him or made contact,” Eagle said. “Maybe after seeing what’s there, he would consider this.”
Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa had recommended to the board that the ninth-grade center and other improvements at Harrison be built all together, with a completion date of July 30, 2013. The district has already spent nearly half a million dollars on architectural fees to design the addition.
“The administration is pleased that the matter is back on the agenda, as it was our original recommendation to proceed with the project,” Hinojosa said in an email to the Journal on Friday.
Meanwhile, Heather Ryan, a business owner and parent of a Harrison senior, told the Journal on Friday that she will run against Bartlett this year, in large part because the redistricting pushed her into the area represented by Bartlett.
Ryan is a Republican while Bartlett is a Democrat. If no other candidates enter the race, the two would face off in the November general election. The party primaries will be July 31.
“I didn’t have a problem with the way that Lynnda handles business,” Ryan said of Eagle, her current school board representative. “I don’t know much about Alison, but my view about what’s gone on with Harrison just makes me extremely disappointed.”
Regarding the March Harrison vote, she said board members “aren’t doing what’s right for the kids, and they should have come out and looked at the facilities when they made this vote. That’s just wrong. Come out during the school day when the halls are full and check out the condition of the trailers, look at the cafeteria … look at the things that you have now voted for us to do, and it’s not going to work because you haven’t seen it,” she said. “I think as a board member, you should be required to go look at the facilities that you’re actually going to vote on. You can’t make a decision unless you’ve seen it.”
Ryan has lived in Cobb for seven years and owns Southryan’s Surgical Group, a medical recruiting company, with her husband, David. Her daughter, Morgan, is a senior at Harrison, and her son, Campbell, is in seventh grade at Lost Mountain Middle.
She attended Thursday night’s school board meeting and said she was extremely pleased that the Harrison project will be reconsidered.
“We’re excited, and it’s time to get the troops rallied even more. We’re gaining momentum, finally,” Ryan said.
Bartlett had no comment on the election challenge but is trying to schedule a public forum on the Harrison project.
“I am trying, the key word trying, to coordinate a public forum at Harrison to respond to the community’s needs on the ninth-grade academy,” Bartlett said. “This is how I operate across the board, anywhere, not just in my own post. My goal is to meet with the community and help them understand where I’m coming from and how the board got to where we are.”
Bartlett will host a town hall meeting on May 3, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Norton Park Elementary, 3041 Gray Road, in Smyrna.