Here is a fascinating and candid response from Cobb County Superintendent Fred Sanderson.to the concerns of the accrediting agency SACS over recent school board actions.
Sanderson faults the board on many fronts. Please click on the link and read the entire letter, which is quite amazing for its criticisms, especially in the calendar reversal vote.
I am just sharing a small part of the five-page letter on the blog – Sanderson’s response to SACS’ concerns that the calendar vote “eroded public trust and public confidence in board members’ ability to govern stemming from the “efforts of four board members to exclude their fellow colleagues and use their personal and political agendas to drive school board decisions, including the decision regarding the calendar.”
The process of approving a system calendar in February 2011 was legal, but did not represent the spirit of effective governance. The board was hasty in raising the issue and voting to replace a three-year calendar that had been approved by a prior board, and had been in effect only five months. The effort to change the calendar was led by three newly elected board members, along with one veteran board member who is also board chair.
In November 2009, when the three-year balanced calendar was approved, board member
Alison Bartlett stated, “I was not willing to change the calendar because we had already set it
and I thought it was wrong to go back and undo what we had already set where people had
already set their calendars, so that is why last time I voted the way I voted because it wasn’t
right to go and do that.” In February 2011, as board chair, Ms. Bartlett did vote to change the calendar just six months prior to the start of a new school year.
The newly elected board members had campaigned on the issue of changing the calendar, but should have recognized their first priority on being sworn in was to become acclimated to and informed about district operations, and trained in the basics of school board leadership and effective governance. Had these first steps been taken, the new board members and one
existing member may have considered a more productive consensus-building approach to
honoring their campaign promises.
Instead, these four board members immediately brought the issue to the table for a vote,
despite the division it caused with their three board member colleagues and within the
community. The board chair appointed two of the newly elected board members to work with
the superintendent to develop alternative calendars. Additionally, the board chair directed
administration to conduct an online survey of stakeholders on the calendar issue and present the results to the board in less than one week’s time. The survey results indicated
overwhelming opposition to changing the calendar, but the four board members nevertheless
put the item on the board meeting agenda and, by a 4-3 vote, changed the school-year
The result has been widespread anger and distrust among a large contingent of the district’s stakeholders. Many stakeholders have voiced their displeasure at board meetings, public forums and in the news media, and have complained that the four board members who voted for changing the calendar failed to provide a valid rationale for doing so other than the fact that they campaigned on the issue. Other stakeholders have submitted multiple Open Records Requests to district administration asking for data pertaining to the calendar issue and board member emails. Retrieving information in response to these requests has consumed many hours of staff time. Additionally, on April 1, 2011 the entire Board of Education was summoned to appear before the Cobb County Grand Jury to answer questions about the calendar approval process, among other issues.
The calendar issue has created stark division between the four supporting board members and the three opposed. One of the opposed board members, David Banks, has used his constituent email newsletter, David’s Grapevine, to publicly criticize his four colleagues, and in at least one instance used the district’s email network to distribute the newsletter. These actions are a clear violation of district policy and the board’s own ethics policy.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog