The storm left their children on a bus for more than six hours.
“From the very beginning, it was a domino of errors, a recipe for a disaster,” said Lisa Morchower, who has a child at Pebblebrook High School’s magnet program.
At 4:30 p.m. the day of the storm, Morchower received a text from her child saying she was on a bus heading to their east Cobb home.
By 10 p.m. that night, Morchower’s daughter was still not home.
Neither was Susan Niemayer’s child, who also attends Pebblebrook.
“My issue is, I’m sorry Mr. Superintendent, but the reports that you left early while our kids, your employees were still out there trying to get our kids home safe. I see your position as captain of the ship. Captain is the last person to get off the ship after his employees have been brought home safely, after his crew, the kids, are brought home safely, and that was not the case,” Niemayer said.
She chastised Hinojosa, who has said he left his office after 5 p.m. and made it home in about two hours Tuesday night.
“While you were home, kids were on the bus urinating in water bottles, urinating in bags, urinating on themselves because they had no facilities to do it. As captain of the ship you should have been here to the very end to make sure that all your employees were home safely because our kids deserve better, your employees deserve better and we deserve better,” Niemayer said.
Morchower and Niemayer want a policy put into place immediately to handle the next weather disaster.
“The school district needs a policy for dealing with the problems that the snow or whatever emergency things can occur. There was no communication at all from Cobb County School District other than snowflakes floating on the website page. That’s the only communication we had,” Morchower said.
Hinojosa took notes and listened to the criticism while adjusting his tie.
“It’s not working. Y’all need to do something better than this,” said fellow Pebblebrook parent Sandy Goldstein.
After public comment ended, Board Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci took a minute to thank parents, administrators and Cobb staff who worked through the night to get students home safely.
Angelucci singled out Deputy Superintendent Chris Ragsdale for working at the district 36 hours straight.
“It was Chris Ragsdale at 2:30 in the morning who took my call and told me that our county public safety officers were coming to the rescue as well as the National Guard,” Angelucci said.
Angelucci called the bus drivers “heroic” for risking their lives in the storm, and thanked board member Brad Wheeler for spending the night in the central office.
She did not thank or even mention Hinojosa in her comments.
“When something like this occurs, we take responsibility, we look to improve and move forward, and we wanted to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to everyone that was there to help,” Angelucci said to applause.
Hinojosa took a moment to also thank everyone involved, but did not apologize.
“In Cobb County we transport 80,000 students, 80,000. That’s a significant number, higher than any other percentage I’ve been aware of, and the fact that we’ve got all but less than 400 students home, we had 300 staff members, and we had community members that were also stranded in our schools and our people stepped up,” Hinojosa said.
After the meeting, Hinojosa said he was already working with central office staff and the board to set a snow policy in place. He anticipates one will be created by the time he retires in May.