First-time politicians and former Cobb educators Randy Scamihorn and Brad Wheeler were elected to serve as the chair and vice chair for the board in 2013. Both were sworn into office Wednesday afternoon and chosen for the positions less than two hours later.
Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), who served on the county board of education between 1997 and 2008, said, “It’s not the norm but I know both of the individuals, and I think they’ll do a good job.”
He also said there is “obviously” a learning curve in anything new but believes both Scamihorn and Wheeler have good resources to draw from in their veteran colleagues on the board.
Betty Gray, who sat on the board for the 16 years leading up to 2008, said she couldn’t remember a time in her 58 years working with educators when two new people were elected to those positions.
“It puts on the pressure to learn as quickly as you can, and I’m sure that they realize they will be scrutinized very carefully, but I wish them the best,” she said Thursday. “Education is very stressful right now … it requires a unique leadership, and maybe this is the beginning of a unique format for doing that in Cobb County. I hope so, because I really, really care deeply for education in our schools.”
Curt Johnston served as a board member between 1997 and 2006 and now sits on the district’s Facilities and Technology Committee, overseeing SPLOST-related projects.
He said he doesn’t believe newcomers serving as chair and vice chair should be a problem in 2013.
“It’s unusual but not a bad thing,” he said.
He personally waited until five years into his service to consider being chair.
“People tend to think that the board chairman is a power position, but it really isn’t,” Johnston said. “It’s very time-consuming and that’s why a lot of people don’t particularly want the job … to deal with a lot of administrative details. Most of the time, first-time people don’t want to do that.”
Representatives from Cobb’s two teacher unions said they have faith in what the two former educators will bring to the table as well.
Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, said, “I’ve never heard of new board members being elected, but it’s exciting.”
She said she believes both men are bringing a “wealth” of educational experience to the board, and she is sure that their knowledge of the school district from the inside will lead them to be “great” leaders.
“I think it is great for the school board to have education professionals on the board and that they will be leading it. I think that’s exciting,” she said. “They will have a steep learning curve as far as procedure, but I think it’s fantastic!”
John Adams, the co-founder of Educators First, echoed Jackson’s comments.
“I think it could be a very good thing, and although they may be rookies on the board of education, this isn’t their first rodeo,” he said. “They are veteran, career educators. I’m not at all concerned about having a rookie chair and vice chair. I’m excited and think it’s going to be a great board. They are really great guys with great backgrounds and reasonable folks.”