Post 2 board member Tim Stultz said there is already a bill in the General Assembly that would allow for armed staff inside schools.
“As a very staunch Second Amendment advocate, I think it is within the best interest of our schools to have somebody carry a weapon to help protect our children,” he said to applause from the audience of 100 people.
Post 4 board member Kathleen Angelucci said the Cobb School District already has safety resource officers at all its high schools and middle schools, who also spend some time at elementary schools.
“It would be wonderful to have one at every school, financially that is something we can’t support right now,” she said.
Post 6’s Scott Sweeney said he also supports the idea of plain-clothes, armed school staff, but said it shouldn’t necessarily be the principal, which some have suggested, because the principal is often taking care of off-campus business.
“I’d actually favor allowing schools the flexibility of deciding whether or not they want to make that happen,” he said. “It has to be done very prudently.”
Though he was on the panel at the Cobb GOP event, Post 3 board member David Morgan, the board’s lone Democrat, didn’t address the guns issue during the discussion. After the meeting, he said he has questions about allowing one armed person in a large school.
“It’s just one person with a weapon, and they would only be in one place,” he said. “I just don’t know if that makes our children safer.”
When he did address the meeting, it was Morgan who earned the largest applause of the morning from the partisan crowd. Morgan, who Cobb GOP Chairman Joe Dendy pointed out was the only one wearing Republican red, said that the best way to handle budget issues in school is to make the pay structure more efficient than the one that currently rewards teachers for the years they have taught and what they are certified to teach.
“Teachers, principals, human capital should be paid based upon how they perform,” Morgan said. “Until we systemically and structurally deal with that, and the reason it’s not dealt with, let me be honest, is politically it’s radioactive, but at the end of the day it’s about how well you deliver a job to the public and that’s what taxpayers deserve.”
Facing an $80 million budget shortfall for the upcoming year, Sweeney said that another problem that could face the district is teachers leaving for the private sector after years of furloughs and no pay raises. That could mean a shortage of teachers.
“There is nothing on the horizon that is going to indicate this is going to get better for them,” he said.
Sweeney defended the school district’s upcoming SPLOST 1 percent sales tax vote, saying projects like new concession stands at football stadiums were needed to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. He also said that having the referendum in March, as opposed to when other races would be on the ballot in November; will cost taxpayers an estimated $20,000 more, which he expects to recoup in saved construction costs by starting earlier. He said the district could begin construction on some projects in summer 2014 with a March vote, but would have to wait until 2015 if approved in December.
J.D. Van Brink, chairman of the Georgia Tea Party, said that saving money isn’t the only reason to have the election in November.
“I do know that if we have it in November and more people are participating in voting, there will be more incentive for the (SPLOST project list) to reflect true needs, rather than needs and wants,” he said.