State super interested in Cobb position
by Emily Boorstein
August 30, 2014 04:00 AM | 6360 views | 15 15 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb County Schools Interim Superintendent Chris Ragsdale discusses challenges and opportunities in currently planned building projects in the district as Board Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci listens in. <br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Cobb County Schools Interim Superintendent Chris Ragsdale discusses challenges and opportunities in currently planned building projects in the district as Board Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci listens in.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Cobb Board of Education Vice Chairman Randy Scamihorn listens to Ragsdale.
Cobb Board of Education Vice Chairman Randy Scamihorn listens to Ragsdale.
MARIETTA — Having lost the race for governor, state School Superintendent John Barge is looking for a new job, but Cobb school board members indicate they’re pleased with the leader they have.

Cobb Board of Education Vice Chairman Randy Scamihorn said following Barge’s loss in the primary, Barge called him to talk about education in Cobb.

“It was a very short conversation,” Scamihorn said. “I would say three minutes. Five at the most. He said something about ‘Have you selected your superintendent?’ I said, ‘Yes, we have Chris Ragsdale, he’s the interim.”

During that phone call, Scamihorn said he told Barge that the board had decided to make Ragsdale’s appointment as interim for one year before deciding on a permanent superintendent.

Barge disclosed to Scamihorn he couldn’t wait that long, given his term as state superintendent expires at the end of the year.

“I do recall him saying something to the effect of, ‘Well, I’m looking now’ or ‘I’ve got to have a job before then,’” Scamihorn said.

The MDJ asked to speak with Barge about the topic on Friday, but his spokesman, Matt Cardoza, said he was unavailable.

Scamihorn said if Ragsdale continues the performance he’s doing, he wants him to stay on as the permanent superintendent.

“It’s Chris’s job to lose,” Scamihorn said. “He started out with a fantastic start. He’s put in place an A-plus-plus team, and we have had the best start of the school year that we’ve had in recent years.”

Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci did not seek another term on the school board, but hopes her successors will offer Ragsdale the position.

“I support Mr. Ragsdale,” Angelucci said, adding she had heard Barge had made inquiries about the job but he has not approached her about it.

Scamihorn believes Ragsdale has the support of the rest of the board as well.

“I think he’s won all the other board members over as far as I know. I’ve not heard anybody say they’re not happy with them,” Scamihorn said.

Board member David Banks agreed.

“We just have a lot of positive momentum going right now, and I think as long as he keeps that going when we get down to talking about a permanent, I think he’s got an excellent opportunity,” Banks said.

Board member David Morgan said it was premature to talk about a permanent superintendent, but he too is happy with the job Ragsdale is doing.

Banks and Morgan said they hadn’t spoken with Barge. But like Banks, Morgan said he is pleased with Ragsdale.

“I think that he has galvanized the district,” Morgan said. “I think he thinks student success, achievement is very important to him, and I think that he has a very good grasp of the district, and the dynamics of the district, and how we keep ourselves moving forward.”

Ragsdale, meanwhile, said the decision to make his job permanent is “up to the board.” He said he’s pursuing his goal of “One Team, One Goal: Student Success,” to get everyone from his executive cabinet to the board on down working together.

“I think the start of the school year is a testimony to that teamwork approach working,” Ragsdale said, adding he wants to maintain that momentum and keep it going.

New schools

Ragsdale, Angelucci and Scamihorn met with the MDJ’s editorial board Friday where the superintendent’s position was discussed, along with the district’s plans for new schools.

Ragsdale said the district is in the early planning stages for the replacement Brumby Elementary School, which will be paid for with funds from the 2013 education special purpose local option sales tax.

The district purchased a 35-acre property on Terrell Mill Road earlier this year to build the new school. The state requires a minimum of 15 acres to build an elementary school, but the actual footprint the new Brumby Elementary will make on those 35 acres will be determined by enrollment projections.

Ragsdale noted the current Brumby Elementary on Powers Ferry Road has the largest number of portable classrooms of any Cobb school.

“We’ve got to make sure we build a school big enough for the current zoning and current enrollment,” he said.

Once Brumby Elementary does move —Ragsdale doesn’t expect construction to start until 2016 or 2017 — the school board is envisioning selling the previous property.

“It’s always been kind of the thought process that as we rebuild Brumby Elementary and relocate it that we could recoup some revenue from the disposition of the property. That’s the ultimate goal,” Ragsdale said.

As for the remaining property on Terrell Mill, the school board members said relocating East Cobb Middle School there is an option, but they haven’t made any recommendations yet.

Another school scheduled for major renovations from the same SPLOST funds is Walton High School.

Ragsdale said student population projections, along with the school’s landlocked property, are causing hiccups with that project.

He said the district was originally looking to accommodate 2,700 to 2,800 students, but a recent study gives a 10-year projection of 3,600 students.

Ragsdale said the district isn’t going to tear down the entire facility, and it is looking at building a multi-story, main academic building on the campus’ existing site.

“The lay of the land there, that plot is really, really difficult; it’s challenging” he said, explaining the back side of the property has power lines which limit what can be built near them and the proximity to them.

Plans also call for relocating the school’s softball fields and tennis court.

About $40 million has been set aside for Walton, but Ragsdale couldn’t estimate what the final cost will be.

Backlash on education initiatives

Angelucci and Scamihorn were vocal about their dislike for educational “fads” such as No Child Left Behind, Common Core and recent changes to the state’s curriculum for its AP U.S. History course.

It’s very concerning to me, not just as a school board member but as a Georgian that this is OK to rewrite history,” Angelucci said.

The College Board says the history course presents a balanced view of American history to prepare students for college-level history courses, but Republicans have blasted it, saying it emphasizes negative aspects of U.S. history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.

Angelucci said she was disappointed the state Legislature didn’t repeal Common Core in its last session and wants Georgia to “have more courage” to take a stand against it.

“As a district we kind of get our marching orders from the state and so that’s where I think we need to make our concerns made,” she said.

Scamihorn predicted Common Core will eventually go the way of No Child Left Behind: “It will be a shell of a program” … and then we’ll try to move on to something else instead of getting down to the fundamentals.”

Angelucci said she was a product of another education fad that didn’t work: open classrooms and a huge graduating class of more than 700.

“That was supposed to be the next thing, the best thing. You’re supposed to glean all this learning from what’s going on around you and it was a huge failure.”

Angelucci likened the educational initiatives such as Common Core and open classrooms to New Coke — Coca-Cola’s attempt in the mid-1980s to reformulate its signature beverage that was a huge flop among consumers.

“If you repackage something, you’re showing your stakeholders and your board of directors that you’re making these so-called changes for the good and you’re really not,” she said. “You’re going to go back to the original product because it was good.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Mom comment
August 30, 2014
MJD with three members of the Cobb County School Board meeting with you at one time they violated the open meetings act. When two or more members of a board are at a meeting it must be advertised x days or hours in advance to the public and open to the public.

These current dodo's on the board don't have that simple knowledge. Plus, they do not as individuals get to select the Superintendent only as a body. There will be new members in January who have been voted on not to agree with this pact mentality.

Just wait until all of Cobb has a few months to see Rivera who was previously non-renewed as a principal in Cobb.
September 04, 2014
Not 3 BOE members, 1 Superintendent, 2 BOE members.
August 30, 2014
Until we see more changes for the positive, I'm going to withhold judgment for Ragsdale. We have over 30 students in our 4th and 5th grade classrooms and first grade classes with 24 students now. Where are the additional teachers at my child's school? And also - it seems like the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing in this district. Unless it personally pertains to someone - they don't know what other people do in this district. Teachers and other employees are OVERLOADED with responsibilities that they should not be doing. TAke care of these things, Chris and I'll totally be in favor of you!
August 30, 2014
Fix the buses and transportation too!!!! I hear they have 100 unfilled spots!!!!
Keep the Super
August 30, 2014
I have been teaching in Cobb for a long time and I can't remember a more positive school opening than this year. We still have fools everywhere and there is definitely some cleaning up to do on the South side of town but I have been more and more impressed by the Super. I say keep him for a while by giving him one of those 3 year contracts and asking for some performance goals. Personally, I don't care if he has a masters' degree or not (Redden had one, Hinojosa the impersonator had one) and look what we got for those advanced degrees.....larger classes, pay reductions, and low morale. Chris - if you are reading this message - the teachers are listening to you and we want to keep you at least 3 more years. Board members - take note and do something right for a change.
Facts !
August 30, 2014
Scamihorn, as the past chair and current vice-chair should clearly understand that No Child Left Behind is still the law of the land. Clearly, from his comments he doesn't understand. NCLB hasn't changed. It won't change until the do nothing Senate and House agree to revisit/reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as ESEA.

The only reason Georgia public schools are not subject to certain aspects of NCLB is because of waivers secured when Georgia agreed to certain accountability standards (i.e. teacher accountability, leadership accountability and education standards, etc...). If Georgia were to forego the waivers, Georgia would then still be subject to NCLB.
Oh Oh......
August 30, 2014
How is the Master's Degree coming Chris? I believe that is a requirement by the State of Georgia, hence your one year interim appointment.
Rude statement
August 30, 2014
It isn't about the degree. We have had many superintendents that had degrees and that did not work out. Mr.Ragsdale is doing a great job and much better than anyone has in years.
Overloaded classroom
August 30, 2014
I would be more impressed if you would have discussed the overloaded classrooms this year. 30-34 children sitting in 4th and 5th grade classrooms, 26 children sitting in 2nd and 3rd grade. Where are all the teacher positions to reduce c;ass sizes? Regarding Common Core, we need to get back to basics. How about letting the teachers decide what is best for the children, not the politicians!
Pro Chris
August 30, 2014
Ragsdale is doing a great job! He's off to a great start and is a breath of fresh air. Give him the job,
Teachers Love Chris
August 30, 2014
Mr. Ragsdale is much loved by teachers He even personally responds to emails....imagine....
Ragsdale Great
August 31, 2014
Ragsdale seems to be working out great so far. He needs to lower the class sizes though. He is on the right track and very enthusiastic.
August 30, 2014
Stick with Ragsdale...he's solid.

Cobb does not need anymore goofus politicians.
August 30, 2014
Its a shame that we'll be losing Kathy after her term. She has been one of the best board members ever! Clear headed, not one to trade votes, ethical, and not afraid to stand up to the puppetmasters who control other board members. Unlike some, she doesn't fall asleep, get confused, or propose outlandish ideas. Cobb schools have been lucky to have her serve!
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