Stultz is seeking a second term representing southeast Cobb’s Post 2 seat on the Cobb Board of Education. He faces education consultant Susan Thayer in the Republican runoff July 22, with the winner facing Democrat Kenya Pierre, an attorney, on Nov. 4.
“As you know, the district has been running deficits up until this past year,” said the Georgia Tech graduate and engineer. “I’ve been one of the board members trying to get the district past that using some good fiscal sense. Now that money’s coming in, I think it’s an even more important time to make sure that what we’re spending is in line with what the taxpayers expect.”
Stultz commands the respect of such Cobb County conservatives as state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth).
“I admire Tim,” Setzler said. “I think he’s the kind of thoughtful, independent-minded person that the school board needs. He’s a detailed person, and he’s got the independence that the 700,000 people of Cobb County expect from school board members. I think it’s important that there be a healthy distinction between board members and staff of the district, and I think Tim’s done a very good job of striking that balance.”
During the May 20 Republican primary, Thayer won 1,876 ballots, or 45 percent of the vote, while Stultz took 1,403 votes, or 34 percent. Jeff Abel, a lending officer for Wells Fargo, took 878 votes, or 21 percent. A runoff is needed because neither candidate received 50 percent of the vote.
No new taxes
Asked if he’d consider a millage rate hike if re-elected this year, Stultz replied, “Absolutely not.”
Stultz said the school system draws plenty of cash from property taxes already.
“I’d like to position the district to where we can lower the millage rate,” Stultz said. “What we’re receiving, property tax wise, I think is a fair amount.”
He gave a similar answer when asked about the possibility of removing the senior property tax exemption.
“No, not at all,” Stultz said. “In fact, I think the tax exemption for the seniors is a good economic incentive for people who are looking for places to retire. I think it helps the property values here in Cobb County having people who can take advantage of that senior exemption coming into the county.”
School board leads the dance
The Cobb County School District recently named a new interim superintendent: Chris Ragsdale, who stepped into the job May 1. His interim term lasts one year, and the next school board will decide whether to keep him permanently or select someone else.
If leading the state’s second-largest school system were a waltz between the superintendent and the school board, Stultz said the school board should be dancing lead because the board hires the superintendent.
“The board (should dance lead),” Stultz said. “The board sets the direction. It’s up to the superintendent to make sure the district is doing what it needs to do in order to make sure that happens. The superintendent brings plenty of ideas and experience to help accomplish that and can definitely be a partner with the board, but the board definitely takes that lead.”
Stultz also said he was a supporter of hiring Ragsdale early on and has been impressed with his work. He described his ideal superintendent as a strong leader.
“I think it’s somebody that can lead the entire organization as a whole,” Stultz said. “Someone who may not have every single idea, but who can hire the right people to do so. I think we’re giving Mr. Ragsdale a good opportunity to prove himself capable of permanently leading this district. I don’t think it needs to be someone who rose through the ranks of education per se, but somebody who can bring in the operations side and the education side and make them work together.”
Stultz cited Ragsdale’s new executive staff as one of the reasons that he’s impressed by him.
“I think he’s brought in really good people in his cabinet,” Stultz said. “I’m impressed that he was able to bring in (former Campbell High School Principal) Grant Rivera as one of his deputies. I think Dr. Rivera brings in a wealth of experience, especially in the south Cobb area. That will definitely give not only Chris but the entire district a good perspective on how to tackle those problems. So far, so good.”
District not part of south Cobb
Stultz said the biggest challenge facing the next Cobb school board is the achievements between north and west Cobb compared to south Cobb.
“Fortunately, my area has seen a better improvement in scores than farther south in the county,” Stultz said. “I think we have good principals and good staff in place, good procedures. But there’s still more work to be done. I think the county is as good as the last-place finisher.”
Stultz said he does not consider his district, which includes the Smyrna and Vinings area, to be part of south Cobb. He said he considers it to be the Smyrna area, which has a “different type of environment” than neighboring areas.
“I think it’s a unique area outside of just south Cobb,” Stultz said.
Stultz also said he thinks Campbell High School, located near downtown Smyrna, should be the next Cobb high school rebuilt or renovated with SPLOST dollars.
“I think Campbell is probably going to be next on the list,” he said. “Campbell is a combination of two older schools. It definitely needs to be on the list, but we need to look beyond Campbell because of the expected population growth in the area. Building a more modern Campbell High School won’t necessarily address the total population growth. We may need to look at least at a new middle school and a new elementary school in the southeast corridor.”
The district’s other high school, Osborne, is set for a rebuild as part of the current SPLOST.
Charter district is best
Next year, school districts across Georgia will have to decide whether to become a charter district, an IE2 district or remain as a “status quo” district.
Stultz said he favors Cobb becoming a charter district over the other two options, citing the flexibility afforded charter districts.
“If those are the three choices that are available, then charter district is the best way to go.”
Regarding the ongoing political controversy over the Common Core education standards, Stultz vowed to continue fighting, even though Georgia’s General Assembly didn’t pull the state out of the standards last spring.
“Cobb has to go well beyond Common Core,” Stultz said. “I think the standards are on the lower end. I don’t think it promotes improving education at all, honestly. I think that’s the direction we want to go in as a board is to stay above that and continuously add rigor to our curriculum that Common Core doesn’t provide.”
He vowed to continue fighting against the standards.
“There have been several states just this year that have pulled out of it,” Stultz said. “I think it may be the beginning of the end, honestly, for the national type of standards like that. I’m disappointed that the state wasn’t able to come through on their pledge to take Georgia out of Common Core. Many in our Cobb delegation fought to make that happen.”
He said the biggest negative impact Common Core will have on local schools is in the home.
“It obviously changes the way that certain subjects are taught, especially math,” Stultz said. “Common Core is really showing its ugly head at home. Parents aren’t able to help children in their subjects at home like they used to be able to. In a time where we really try to advocate for more parental involvement in children’s education, putting parents in the position where they can’t do that goes completely against what we are trying to do.”
New teacher evaluations
Stultz isn’t a fan of the new Teacher Keys evaluation system being implemented in Georgia. The system ties teacher evaluations to student test scores, and some districts, such as Marietta City Schools, are working toward tying bonuses to the evaluations.
“In theory, it sounds like a great idea, but look at what happened with Atlanta Public Schools and the cheating scandal,” Stultz said. “You had bonuses based on performance. You set up this imaginary situation now where you’re trying to do everything possible, including illegal activities, in order to try and obtain those marks and those bonuses. In theory, it’s a good idea to be able to reward high–performing teachers. It works that way in business. I think there is merit, but there are a lot of safeguards that need to be built into any kind of system like that.”
Cobb designated $890,000 to create evaluations for subjects like band, art and physical education, which Stultz does not like.
“I have a large problem with trying to come up with a way to test band students and art students,” Stultz said. “These are subjects that a lot of students take because they want to be able to broaden their academic knowledge. It may not necessarily be something they’re good at. I was good at band, horrible at art. I’d hate to be an art student taking a test, being able to show growth and the teacher having to be accountable for my growth as an art student.”
Stultz sees himself as a conservative leader battling an opponent steeped in the education bureaucracy.
“I think I bring a lot more common sense, business-based solutions to problems,” Stultz said. “I think what Mrs. Thayer is looking to bring is a lot more education-bureaucracy types of solutions. When you’re looking at a board that already has some previous administrators on it, I think it’s good to have the balance of somebody who comes from the private sector.”