Teach for America Proposal Withdrawn

The Cobb Board of Education did not discuss or vote on the proposal to bring 50 Teach for America teachers to South Cobb at the board's Thursday night meeting.

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 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

 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.

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 and Brown Elementary, a result of the south county elementary school redistricting plan.
  • ’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.
  • The district will . 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 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.
Michael (Teacher) January 28, 2012 at 11:21 PM
I think we can agree on one thing- our schools should only house teachers who are effective, driven, and committed to producing positive results that help our children toward construct solid foundations for flourishing futures. For those GOOD teachers who have been laid off, I stand in your corner. We new teachers need you back to learn from you, to configure our own skill sets, and to simply receive good advice. And the kids need successful instruction, rigorous assessment, and structured discipline that leaves them at the end of the year with a mastery of the skills needed and behaviors conducive to future success. But for as long as the achievement gap remains a factor, whether TFA or traditional, GOOD teachers need to be brought ON- and continually pushed to push their kids to a higher standard, while ineffective teachers need to either improve or step aside. Our kids deserve nothing but the best; without teaching, there would be no other professions. And if we do not do the best for our communities, they may not retain their charm and positivity for much longer. Whatever happens, I hope those kids in Cobb get exactly what they need.
Leo Smith January 28, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Michael: It would be a great service to the cause if you could copy and paste your comments and send them to all the BOE members. It would also help to send a letter to the Editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. The MDJ is the newspaper that also came out against the Superintendent's proposal. Since E.Cobb is more active in BOE issues, generally wealthier, etc.etc., the BOE naturally listens to them for their own security. Do you think a newspaper would have spoken out against spending money on the Walton swim team? (careful readers, I value swimming, I was once Virginia Tech's Aquatic Director) But look at this S. Cobb, we fund aquatic programs in N. and E. Cobb but not academic emergencies in S. Cobb. We should be moved to get organized for the sake of the children and all of Cobb County's educational integrity. Now to that end - the Walton Swim Coach went to VT with me. I left the BOE meeting to drown my sadness at Marietta's Dunkin Donuts, and to write more letters to the BOE. The clock strikes 11:00 p.m. and I am still there preparing more arguments for TFA. In walks the Coach with her assistant to work on Swimming Stats and to review their swimmers ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE. That is a cultural standard we are up against folks. TFA was a proposal to in part bring similar energy to the problem of academic achievement. S. Cobb, you have a right to demand it and seek creative ways to help the county reshape itself to fit the challenges.
janis stevenson January 29, 2012 at 12:46 AM
michael, please send your thoughts to the school board! If some sort of meeting or group forms over this, we sure would love to have you give your insight. thanks for pointing out that just because the teachers banded together to form girl scout troops doesn't mean the kids at that school are getting all they deserve academically. at the school board meeting when the argyle elem teacher brought the girl scouts up, my very insightful 9 year old turned to me and said "it's not fair to bring in the girl scouts." i am baffled that the teachers are reacting in this fashion and at far off the mark their comments have been from the real issue and the need for steps to be done NOW! and Michael, the walton story makes me kind of sad......
C.J. January 29, 2012 at 02:20 AM
I agree 100 percent, Leo. I understand the benefits of sports. However, it's inexcusable to expect academics anywhere to do with less while funds are being allocated to athletics.
C.J. January 29, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Hear, hear.


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