The discussion is on the 7 p.m. meeting's agenda. Sanderson also will, according to the agenda, update the board on the status of flooded Clarkdale Elementary School.
Board member Alison Bartlett is expected to grill Sanderson, board chair Lynnda Crowder-Eagle and member Dr. John Abraham tonight about why she and the rest of the board had to find out about the Dec. 1 grand jury visit by reading a report in the Journal on Wednesday of last week. Glenn Brock, the board's attorney, accompanied the trio to the grand jury, at Abraham's request.
Bartlett sent Crowder-Eagle an e-mail last week recommending the board postpone this weekend's retreat in North Georgia and, instead, have a special called meeting at the school board room to discuss the grand jury report and why the full board was not informed.
The grand jury report was harshly critical of the board's reluctance to entertain public input at meetings.
Dr. John Crooks - who has said he will not attend the retreat because of the out-of-town expense funded by taxpayers - also said he intends to discuss a particular board policy tonight regarding communications. Rule SD-9 states, in part: "The Superintendent shall ensure that the Board is informed and is provided such staff or other support as the Board shall require for its work."
In its presentments read in Cobb Superior Court on Jan. 7 before Judge Kenneth O. Nix, the grand jury admonished the school board for its lack of openness. The presentments were also published in the Journal's legal advertisements on Jan. 15.
"Based on this Grand Jury's review, the current Board is operating in a manner that hinders the expression of opposing views and/or makes policy decisions in non-public forums," the grand jury wrote, and recommended that future grand juries review the board's operations at least four times per year.
Cobb school board leaders and district executives knew of a grand jury inquiry at least by Nov. 19, according to copies of correspondence received under an Open Records Request.
On Nov. 30, the day before the scheduled visit, Sanderson apparently met with his executive assistant, Michelle Luckett, and Communications Director Jay Dillon to discuss the grand jury's questions.
The grand jury subcommittee wanted to learn more about why a majority of the board members voted to adopt the 'balanced' calendar, which will start school on the first Monday in August for the next three years.
On Dec. 3, the district attorney's office, on behalf of the grand jury, asked for nine additional pieces of documentation regarding the calendar vote.
Among the information requested was a cost-benefit analysis of the calendar change. At the board meeting on Nov. 11, Crowder-Eagle asked Sanderson which of the calendars were the costliest and he said he didn't know.
"Cost analysis is difficult to do when you haven't experienced that. What we can do and what you can utilize is average cost of utilities, things of that nature, on various times of the year. And in our estimation, you're still in school 180 days, that's what's important, and you trade off one week for another week. So any cost savings, I can't say there would be, I can't say there would not be at that time, but I think it would be insignificant in the total look at our budget," Sanderson said then.
Dillon did not reply to Journal requests Wednesday for a copy of any cost-benefit analysis provided to the grand jury.
The District Attorney's Office, though, provided the one-page document that the grand jury received. The top is a chart that shows estimated weekly utility costs in each of eight months.
On the bottom are three simple calculations showing estimated savings by start date. The 'balanced' calendar would save the district $76,527, according to the sheet. The current calendar with a week off in February would save $95,919. And a calendar with an Aug. 16 start would save $11,493.
It is unclear who created the analysis or when, because Dillon again did not respond to questions.
When questioned about the grand jury's presentments on Jan. 19, Abraham and Crowder-Eagle both said they had not yet read the report. Crowder-Eagle emailed this statement: "Encouraging public forums on issues of a systemic nature will greatly enhance community input and will be meaningful to the board as difficult decisions are made in the future."
Sanderson issued this statement: "We appreciate the Grand Jury's input and will address the concerns and recommendations as appropriate."
Regarding Clarkdale, Crowder-Eagle told the Journal this week that, "I hope we will rebuild," though later in the conversation said she was sure the school would be rebuilt.
But the district may not have the money. A new school will cost about $23 million, Crowder-Eagle said, and she estimated that reimbursements from the district's insurance carrier and the Federal Emergency Management Agency would total only about $16 million.
Documents provided under an Open Records Request indicate the district was insured for the actual cash value of the losses at its schools, rather than the replacement cost value. In many cases, the cost to replace an item is higher than the actual value of the item before it was lost.
Dillon did not respond Wednesday to questions about whether FEMA will allow the district to rebuild Clarkdale on the same site, and how much FEMA will pay for Clarkdale losses.
Retreat trip planned
Just hours after tonight's meeting ends, the board will convene in a retreat at 9 a.m. Friday at Amicalola Falls State Park in north Georgia, near Dahlonega.
Tonight, the board apparently will approve the agenda for the retreat. Crowder-Eagle said earlier this week that the board "would stick to team building," throughout the retreat.
Bartlett said Wednesday that she will insist that the retreat agenda specify that it will only focus on team building, or she also would stay home.
Crooks has already said he will skip the retreat, and he confirmed on Wednesday that he will do just that unless board leaders are able to find a "sugar daddy," in his words, to pay for the retreat. Crooks said the leaders have until 6 p.m. today, when the board meets in executive session, to find someone else to pay the bill.
The day and a half long retreat is expected to cost just under $6,000, including the $4,500 fee for a one-day presentation by consultant Nancy Broner of the Texas-based Center for Reform of School Systems.