Wheeler, Bartlett meet face to face
by Lindsay Field and Geoff Folsom
October 29, 2012 01:08 AM | 4176 views | 27 27 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Brad Wheeler (MDJ File / Todd Hull)
Brad Wheeler (MDJ File / Todd Hull)
slideshow
Post 7 incumbent Alison Bartlett waits her turn to speak to the parents at Sunday's forum at Harrison High. <br> Photo by Todd Hull
Post 7 incumbent Alison Bartlett waits her turn to speak to the parents at Sunday's forum at Harrison High.
Photo by Todd Hull
slideshow
WEST COBB – The two candidates for Cobb School Board Post 7 finally came face to face Sunday evening.

The forum at Harrison High School was originally scheduled for just Republican challenger Brad Wheeler, but after a challenge from incumbent Democrat Alison Bartlett, separate back-to-back one-hour meetings were scheduled. But 15 minutes into Wheeler’s “meet and greet,” Bartlett, who had never met Wheeler, walked in and took a seat with the 30 other attendees in the school library.

Toward the end of the meeting, Wheeler finally acknowledged Bartlett, who by then had been joined by state Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell).

“Thanks for coming,” Wheeler said.

Bartlett, who the Legislature moved to a more-Republican-leaning west central Cobb district after the 2010 Census, has accused Wheeler of dodging her and refusing to appear with her at candidate forums. Before Sunday’s forum, Wheeler said the two simply have a different approach.

“I go around the community and talk to people and get their input,” he said. “When you go to these debates and forums, there’s not a lot of people. I’m trying to build consensus and not put on a show and divide people. I wonder why a school board chair wants to debate an upstart rookie. If I were that, I’d run on my record.”

Wheeler said he has also made other commitments to campaign supporters that have prevented him from attending other scheduled forums.

“I guess you could say I’m more traditional,” he said. “I think the voters in west Cobb are tired of drama. They want people to work to get things done.”

After addressing residents, Bartlett dismissed Wheeler’s claims about the forums.

“I did a forum with (Rep.) Ed Setzler and (Georgia PTA Legislative Chair) Karen Hallacy, there was no drama,” Bartlett said, referring to a forum she had on the state charter schools amendment at Hillgrove High School last week. “It’s not like a presidential debate. There’s no getting in your face. They ask my point of view and your point of view, and we respect each other’s point of view.”

Wheeler and Bartlett showed relative agreement on the most contentious issue currently in education, the charter schools amendment that is on the same Nov. 6 ballot as their contest. If passed, Amendment 1 would allow a state commission to create charter schools over the objection of local school boards.

Wheeler said the amendment would add another layer of bureaucracy.

“I’m not opposed to charter schools, I’m opposed to this amendment,” he said.

Wheeler was asked what parents should do if the amendment isn’t passed and they aren’t happy with Cobb schools.

“You can go to private schools, you can move,” he said. “In this system, there are charter schools that are available.”

Bartlett said she has several concerns with charter schools including existing private schools seeking to gain charter status and out of state for-profit companies coming in and running the schools.

“Why would a big for-profit want to come into Georgia to start up a charter school? To make money,” she said. “I’m not against making money, but it takes money from public schools.”

Wheeler said it is too soon to determine whether or not he supports the projects on the planned SPLOST IV, which would collect $717.8 million over 5 years.

“Until you have the definite final pieces of what that is, you’re just talking conjecture,” he said. “I think it will be needed, but it needs to be needs, not wants. The voters need to spell out what they want.”

Bartlett said the SPLOST would address some, but not all, of the issues the district has with outdated or decaying facilities.

“SPLOST IV is not about building new schools, SPLOST IV is about we have $1.2 billion in assets that we have not maintained,” she said.

Attendees at Sunday’s meeting were initially told that Wheeler would meet with them in the library at 5 p.m., then they would have to go down the hall to the auditorium to see Bartlett’s forum at 6. But at the end of Wheeler’s time she announced that they could stay in place, and she would hold her meeting in the library.

But about half the audience departed anyway at the end of Wheeler’s presentation. Bartlett said she wasn’t concerned about the people who left.

“They’d already made up their minds,” she said.

The twist was just the latest in setting up the forum.

After originally deciding to host two separate forums for Bartlett and Wheeler the Harrison Parent-Teacher Association backtracked and allowed both to attend one candidate forum Sunday night.

A candidate forum for Wheeler was scheduled for between 5 and 7 p.m. Sunday at Harrison and a second for just Bartlett on Tuesday at Lost Mountain Middle School on Tuesday.

However, that changed and the two were merged into one.

Bartlett, who has never met Wheeler before, said she was pleased with the change.

“I think it gives people a chance to see both of us, ask both of us the same questions and get the response so they can compare apples to apples,” she said.

Prior to learning that the forums would be merged, Bartlett contacted Board Attorney Clem Doyle and Cobb Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa about the legality of the PTA hosting a forum and only allowing her to attend one of them. She said it was unfair that the school district’s attorneys were requiring that forums on the charter schools amendment hosted at campuses have both sides of the issue represented, but the district wasn’t using the same standards for candidate forums.

“Holding PTA candidate forums on different nights, at different schools, with different voters in attendance is not ‘equal opportunity’ but in fact is discrimination,” Bartlett wrote Hinojosa. “Mr. Wheeler was given an opportunity to attend both forums but I was only invited to one. What is also shocking is Harrison PTA’s failure to follow PTA regulations outlined in the ‘Georgia PTA Do’s and Don’ts of PTA During Elections’ which states ‘PTA may sponsor political forums or candidate meet-and-greet events. ALL candidates for the specific office MUST be invited to participate and each candidate given equal time to speak. A candidate invited but not attending will not invalidate the PTA activity.’ Not only I have not been invited to the Harrison Candidate Forum, the District has formally denied me access to voters at the Sunday Harrison Forum.”

At the forum, Bartlett said the ordeal was a simple misunderstanding and the PTSA shouldn’t be blamed.

Bartlett said after the forum that she wanted to sit in on Wheeler’s portion of the meeting because she wanted to hear what he had to say. She was surprised that Wheeler, a retired Cobb Schools administrator, did not know more about issues like benchmark testing, curriculum and development.

“Several of his statements were inaccurate,” she said.

Harrison parent Mellanie Chorney said she is currently represented by retiring board member Lynnda Eagle, but will be moved into Post 7 starting next year. Although she normally votes Republican, Chorney is pleased with the amount of time Bartlett spends talking with constituents.

“I’ve been to school board meetings in the past, and she’s such a dynamic person,” Chorney said of Bartlett. “At this point, I don’t want somebody with a steep learning curve.”
Comments
(27)
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Change time
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November 02, 2012
I agree, it's time for some of these power hungry women to be put in their place, principals included! So many forget the ideas that they are put their for, and become angry, drama queens! It's time for more men in our education system, that will lead without the hen club of soaps and get work done. Don't misunderstand me, I get the idea some women can handle leadership posts, but by in large they become drama, hens that are not effective leaders with teachers and students suffering their messed up style of leading.
New Blood
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October 30, 2012
We need new blood on our school board. Enough with what our kids and teachers have put up with/. I've met Brad Wheeler and I like what he has to say. He is a former teacher, coach and administrator. Time to try someone new. I'm voting for Brad Wheeler.
anonymous6077
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October 30, 2012
Brad is a man of integrity... running a upright campaign. It is easy for the public to see others throwing signs up without permission and violating our county ordinances which forces code enforcement to waste man hours and gas picking up signs at the taxpayer's expense. We need people of entegrity in government... Brad you have my vote :)
rumorhasit
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October 29, 2012
Rumor has it that David (dufus) Banks and John Crooks are helping Mr. Wheeler. Do we really want one of their puppets on the school board? Banks is a travesty, lame duck on this board, so he needs fresh meat to try and get his senile ideas passed... cmon Harrison folks, be informed, don't vote just on party.
Voting soon
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October 29, 2012
I attended the meeting at Harrison. Ms. Bartlett came across as a Democrat first, particularly with state Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell)in tow to answer questions for her. Mr. Wheeler came across as concerned about the students and families of the district (and not only Harrison students but the many students of varied backgrounds that are enrolled at Harrison, Hillgrove, and McEachern). Ms. Bartlett had a "learning curve" at the beginning of her tenure and any "learning curve" that Mr. Wheeler experiences will be minimal and greatly lessened by his 17 years of teaching and coaching at Pebblebrook High School in addition to his 8 years in Paulding and Cherokee counties. I believe Ms. Bartlett has a bigger agenda on her mind...that of the Democrat party.
Due Tell
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October 29, 2012
"Ms. Bartlett has a bigger agenda on her mind...that of the Democrat party."

What is that agenda and how did it manifest itself in the meeting?
Hillgrove Parent
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October 29, 2012
I attended the Harrison forum last night in the Media Center. Allison Bartlett must have been sleeping when Wheeler discussed curriculum and "benchmark testing". Wheeler answered a question from a South Cobb Teacher who was concerned about shrinking instructional time in the class room. Wheeler emphatically stated that he would do everything in his power to protect instructional time in the classroom and EOCT testing should be done at the end of the course not three weeks prior to the course ending. There was one question regarding the inconsistency throughout the district regarding scheduling. Wheeler stated that math and foriegn language should be taught daily. Those were the only questions regarding curiculum and testing at the forum. It was evident from meeting Mr. Wheeler that he cares more about the opinions of the parents and protecting instructional time in the class room than benchmark testing that does little to measure a child's capabilities. Enough with the testing let the teachers do their job. I am voting for Mr. Wheeler!
Concerned Open Minde
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October 29, 2012
Mr. Wheeler, like ALL politicians will say what

is needed to get elected.

Allison has the experience and to make the choices

that best support our children's education.

@Concerned Open Mind
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October 29, 2012
Let's see ... which one is the politician? Ms. Bartlett who has done nothing but (be a politician) for the past 3-4 years, or first time candidate, Mr. Wheeler?
anonymous
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October 29, 2012
Barlett needs to understand the difference between PTA/PTSA policy and the district's responsibility.

The burden is on the PTA/PTSA to uphold its policies. It's not the school district's job to enforce PTA/PTSA policies.

Apparently, Bartlett as a school board member wants the district to control who the PTA/PTSA should invite to present at their meetings. It's not the district's responsibility, yet she insists on blaming the district for being discriminatory.
Meow Kitty 2
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October 29, 2012
But apparently you aren't too upset about PTA not upholding its policies.
@Meow Kitty 2
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October 29, 2012
The PTSA "eventually" got around to doing what it should have done in the first place per the PTSA policy - invite both candidates to speak at the same forum.

The PTSA should have done the right thing initially thus avoiding any controversy. Yet Bartlett states that "the PTSA shouldn't be blamed." Instead, she casts her blame at the district and that is wrong.

Rob Lee
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October 29, 2012
crickets.... Will be glad when Bartlett is working for Six Flags...
for real
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October 29, 2012
she spent about one year as a "teacher" and claims to be an educator. folks, she's mean and nasty. It's one thing to have positions, it's another to be arrogant about them.
@for real
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October 29, 2012
Ms. Bartlett's 4 years as a school teacher coupled with her industry experience have helped her to be a bit more bold in questioning the status quo than was common at CCSB.

"she spent about one year as a "teacher" and claims to be an educator."

- wrong. Meow
West Cobb Voter
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October 29, 2012
To clarify: There was a public forum at Osborne H.S. which candidates were invited to speak. The only problem is that neither Ms. Bartlet nor Mr. Wheeler will represent that school.

At the Hillgrove meeting, there was a discussion about the charter school amendment with the school board member, PTSA and a member of the state assembly. Why would Mr. Wheeler attend just to be lectured by his opponent? (Especially in light of the fact that he already had another meeting of supporters scheduled that night?)
Survey Says
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October 29, 2012
If Mr. Wheeler is too weak to fend for himself at a discussion as a candidate, he would be too weak to fend for himself as a board member
Hoya Nation!
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October 29, 2012
I was glad to attend the candidate forum Sunday night and found it unfortunate that only a handful of voters were able to attend. I did find both candidates quite willing to engage - just in different ways.

To be quite honest, I found Mr. Wheeler's personal approach a nice change from the constant confrontational style practiced by Bartlett. As Ms. Churny pointed out, Mrs. Bartlett speaks "TO" voters, while Mr. Wheeler speaks "WITH" voters.

Fortunately, Mrs. Bartlett may have finally seen the value in this approach by the fact she was willing to keep the residents in the library and not take them to the theater to give another lecture to Harrison's parents.

All in all, I enjoyed hearing from both candidates but now understand why Mr. Wheeler has concentrated on the grassroots efforts than attending very poorly attended forums. Shame on the voters.

On a side note, I was surprised to learn, in this article, that Mrs. Bartlett had contacted the school attorney about attending this event. Kind of difficult for Mrs. Bartlett to claim she does not promote drama but then appears to threaten a lawsuit against our PTA and schools.

katiedo
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October 29, 2012
It is alarming that people don't pay more attention to who they vote for in a school board election. People do your homework or don't vote. Mr. Wheeler may have a nice "personal approach" however he doesn't have any idea about the issues, can't articulate what he would do to better this district, and board, and doesn't even have an opinion on most issues.. (see the League of Women voters guide from the AJC and also the MDJ voters guide from July). Ms. Bartlet is experienced, has integrity, and has not been one to trade votes like Banks, Morgan and Eagle. She is in this for the RIGHT reasons, not just for power like they are. Wheeler just makes excuses for not participating with Bartlett because he will look weak, and ill informed, as compared to her.
out with bartlett
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October 29, 2012
Bartlett is nothing but drama. Everything she touches is not in the best interest of all out kids - but what she thinks we should be doing.

Vote her out - it is time.
irked
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October 29, 2012
This is the time for a school board member to be confrontational.

Ms. Bartlett has shown that she is unwilling to accept the status quo which has brought the district to the brink of insolvency.

Mr. Wheeler avoids a face-to-face confrontation with Ms. Bartlett because it is in these types of forums where a candidate is forced to speak on the issues, to draw lines of distinction.

We don't need a "nice guy", we need a person ready, willing and able to fight for what is right.
Odd, meow
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October 29, 2012
I don't see anywhere where Ms. Bartlett threatened a lawsuit. Sounds like more catty gossip.
Concerned Parent
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October 29, 2012
I would hope that after serving four years on the Cobb County School Board she would be informed on the issues. Mr. Wheeler is far from weak but he is honest and fair and won't make idiotic promises and blast out a bunch of irrelevant facts that have nothing to do with what is going on in the classroom. We need a leader that cares about the teachers, students and increasing instructional time in the classroom. Remember Ms. Bartlett voted to raise class size. Vote Wheeler!
@concerned parent
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October 29, 2012
Essentially every board in the state and likely the country voted to increase class size at some point over the past 4 years.

What is the magic solution that Wheeler would have enacted? I don't see it mentioned above. Perhaps he was too busy avoiding the drama to come up with some solutions.
The wrong person
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October 29, 2012
Bartlett is the wrong person to lead the school district. She does not listen to consituents and follows her own agenda. She has never represented my family's interests well in the post, and I'm glad she will no longer be my board member. I've met her in person, and I can assume she is a decent person, but in this job she has been dismissive, out of touch, and, at times, rude.

While Mr. Wheeler lacks experience as a board member, he has wealth of experience in working for our schools. I have friends who knew him from McEachern, and they said he always had good ideas and was approachable, honest, and determined to help people. That's the kind of person I would enjoy seeing on this school board. Too many folks on it have no concept of what it's like on the front lines; he could make wise decisions because he knows the school-level impact those decisions have.
New Blood
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October 30, 2012
Clueless on the issues? I think an educator who has spent the time in the classroom and schools as Mr. Wheeler is more than clued in on the educational issues of today. Of course there will be a learning curve. However, when someone is so discouraged with what he is seeing in our schools today, cares about kids and their education AND is a good guy - I'm fine with having a learning curve. I don't need a politician on our school board. A guy who wants the best for our students and teachers with the desire to do right is good enough for me!!!! Voting for Brad Wheeler...
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