It was pulled.
After a week of constituents vocalizing their support and opposition, after they flooded the Cobb Board of Education with emails and calls, and even after a local newspaper made its opposition known, the proposal to bring 50 Teach for America teachers to South Cobb was pulled from the Board of Education’s agenda on Thursday.
District Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa withdrew the item before the meeting began, and before three South Cobb parents spoke in support of it. The board did not have a chance to discuss the item.
Vice Chairman David Morgan said now that the proposal has been pulled, it is unlikely to resurface “any time soon.”
Hinojosa told the Marietta Daily Journal, “It’s going to come back. It won’t come back this fiscal year, but it will come back in the future. A lot of people were concerned with the timing of it, and I didn’t want to bull rush something and try to push it through.”
Morgan, whose Post 3 serves the South Cobb schools, was behind the push to bring the TFA teachers to the area.
He said he was “disheartened, disappointed and quite frankly, angry,” about the decision to pull the item from the agenda.
“I think people are not doing it because it’s outside their comfort zone…People like doing the same thing over and over even it’s not working out,” Morgan said, adding that the comments from actual South Cobb parents should have shown the area’s support of the program.
Smyrna parent Leo Smith and South Cobb parents, Jay Young, Kiddada Grey and Valerie Testman spoke in support of the proposal during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“In all of this discussion, I have not heard ‘student first,’ and I am concerned about that,” Grey told board members. “Yes, we love our teachers. Yes, they’re great assets to us, but I understand that our largest and greatest asset is our children. Teach for America is a yes for the South Cobb area.”
Grey said that Cobb has great teachers, and Teach for America is needed in addition to them in South Cobb.
“Teach for America may not fit the image of Greater Cobb, but shame on us for not realizing that we have kids that are two and a half years behind, and this is not something that started yesterday,” Grey said, explaining that for the six years she has lived in Cobb, the achievement gap in South Cobb has continued to grow without a formidable solution.
The only opposition to the TFA proposal voiced during the public comment came from the directors of two local teaching associations, Cobb County Association of Education and Educators First.
Connie Jackson, president of CCAE, said she was "excited" by the proposal's withdrawal.
John Adams of Educators First spoke in opposition of the program during public comment.
“I represent teachers, and teachers are concerned that their jobs will be outsourced,” said Adams, who has worked as a police officer in South Cobb and as a teacher in South Cobb schools.
Adams said the South Cobb area has a teacher turnover rate, which is twice the turnover rate of the rest of the county. A solution needs to be found, he explained, but Teach for America is “not the right solution, and it’s certainly not the right time.”
Timing was a main concern for many of the board members who expressed skepticism of the proposal. The district may cut 350 teaching jobs and increase class sizes to decrease its $62.4 million deficit. To bring in 50 additional teachers seemed unfair to many of those opposing the plan.
“The teaching associations work to keep things the same. They won’t change anything,” Morgan said, explaining that teaching association officials are most concerned with ensuring job security for teachers.
BOE Chairman and East Cobb representative, Scott Sweeney had remained relatively silent on the issue.
Sweeney told South Cobb Patch, “I’m mixed. I know that there are opportunities to help close the achievement gap. There’s not a member of the board that doesn’t want to improve the achievement gap. I’m just not convinced that Teach for America is the answer.”
Sweeney said he does not have the answer right now, but perhaps the ongoing training that TFA delivers could be prescribed to the district’s current teachers.
Morgan said that solution would cost money and add to the district’s $62.4 million deficit.
Was Hinojosa right in withdrawing the Teach for America proposal? Tell us below in the comments.
In other South Cobb Board of Education news:
- No one showed up for the district's first public hearing on the school closures of Sky View Elementary and Brown Elementary, a result of the south county elementary school redistricting plan.
- Imagine International Academy of Mableton’s Interim Principal James Owmby and governing board member, Rev. Thaddeus Jones, asked for a recall of the September vote which denied renewal of the school’s expiring charter. Both men cited a conflict of interest on Morgan’s part as the reason for the recall and requested a one-year extension of the school’s charter. For more information about their request, click here.
- The district will pay for Pinnacle access for the county’s existing two charter schools. Central Cobb board member Alison Bartlett cast the lone dissenting vote on the matter, saying, “I have deep concerns because I don’t know where you draw the line. Right now, our charter schools, we support them, and we support them financially, which, in my opinion is detrimental to the overall system….I don’t know where you draw the line. Well, it’s $50,000 today. Well, you know, next year, it will be ‘we need to give them computers because all of our schools have computers.’”
In contrast, North Cobb board member Kathleen Angelucci said, “These two charter schools fall under the charter school umbrella. They have our students in them. Those parents should have the same rights to find out their children’s grades, absenteeism as the children in the other schools in Cobb County, so I don’t feel the cost is so prohibitive that we would not approve it.
- The district also approved building modifications for Mableton’s Lindley Sixth Grade Academy at a cost of $1.16 million, which will come from the district’s SPLOST III funds. The improvements will be made to the school’s sprinkler system, fire alarm system, restroom and home economics room and kitchen.