Cobb Schools Can't Turn Page on Calendar
East Cobb school board member David Banks accused of keeping issue "alive to the point of obsession."
Kaycee Velazquez, Lisa Wells and Dara Fairgrieves put the Cobb County Board of Education on notice Thursday night that the fight over the school district's calendar is not over yet, and the board then did its best to prove that point.
But the most active agitator on the calendar this month, East Cobb board member David Banks, said Friday he is leaning toward dropping the fight.
Velazquez, Wells and Fairgrieves accused the board of not following its established parliamentary procedures under Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised when it voted 4-3 Feb. 17 to drop the balanced calendar instituted this year in favor of a traditional calendar next year, starting Aug. 15.
Board Chairwoman Alison Bartlett members Scott Sweeney of East Cobb (who represents the Wheeler and Walton high school districts), Kathleeen Angelucci and Tim Stultz voted for the traditional calendar. Banks, who represents the Lassiter, Pope and Sprayberry districts, Lynnda Crowder-Eagle and David Morgan were the dissenting votes.
Velazquez said that under Robert’s Rules, “in order to rescind or amend something that was previously adopted, it would require a two-thirds vote.”
Velazquez, Wells and Fairgrieves also said that Sweeney’s motion to “postpone indefinitely” further calendar discussion March 9 was not proper.
“From my understanding, Mr. Sweeney’s motion would be void since it was a motion done incorrectly on business that had already been adopted and thus would put in place the original calendar that was voted on by the previous board,” Wells said. “This motion would be subject to a two-thirds vote and not a majority vote, as stated in Robert’s Rules Newly Revised. He could make a motion to amend the previous calendar to be the calendar that allows a start date of Aug. 15 or make a motion to rescind the calendar. If he makes a motion to rescind the calendar, he would then need to make a separate motion to adopt the calendar with the Aug. 15 start date.”
He said his group has a lawyer reviewing the procedures.
Fairgrieves made an open-records request with the district for all board members' cellphone records and text messages since January, when Stultz, Sweeney and Angelucci joined the board.
“There’s been a lot of allegations about collusion, and everything out there in the press warrants further investigation because it’s a concern,” she told Patch during a break in the nearly four-hour meeting. “I took issue with the motion to postpone indefinitely. It’s inappropriate to suppress debate, per Robert’s Rules of Order.”
Banks also took issue with that motion later in the meeting when he revived the calendar issue, which for a change was not on the board’s agenda.
Before the board voted to approve the March 9 meeting minutes, Banks wanted them changed to show that Sweeney’s motion was out of order. Banks argued that Sweeney could not make a motion to permanently table anything because the board was discussing a proposed agenda item on rescinding the Feb. 17 vote, not an actual motion to do so.
Meeting Morphs into Courtroom, Classroom
The meeting at that point turned into a 30-minute combination of courtroom drama and seminar on parliamentary procedure.
Board Attorney Clem Doyle and Banks posed questions to each other to resolve exactly what happened March 9 and what it meant. Other board members chimed in.
Banks argued that a two-thirds vote was required Feb. 17 to switch back to a traditional calendar from the balanced calendar the previous board adopted in 2009.
“I’m talking about rescinding a vote,” Banks said, not voting on something new. Doyle didn’t change his opinion that the Feb. 17 vote was sufficient to change the calendar.
“It would be helpful if the board chair would make a ruling on this either tonight or the next meeting,” Doyle said.
At Doyle’s request, Bartlett polled the board to see whether anyone was “remotely open to changing your mind” on the calendar, making further discussion valuable. Each of them said no.
In a scene reminiscent of Ken Starr and Bill Clinton discussing what meaning of “is” is, Doyle and the board then delved into defining “postpone indefinitely.”
As board parliamentarian, Crowder-Eagle said, she needed to understand what that means outside the immediate debate over the calendar.
Doyle said that when “postpone indefinitely” is used in the context of a subsidiary motion to table another motion, the postponement applies only until the end of that session.
But he agreed with Banks that Sweeney’s March 9 motion was an independent motion. Instead of considering the motion out of order for that reason, Doyle said that independence means that the postponement “lasts forever” for that issue unless the majority votes to bring it up again.
Banks complained that such an action would take the unprecedented step of denying him his right to speak.
Doyle said each board member has many opportunities to talk about anything during a meeting, but that doesn’t mean the issue has to be allowed onto the agenda.
The board member later asked Doyle, “Is that parliamentary or legal opinion?”
“It’s both,” Doyle said.
Bartlett said, “We need to move on,” and after more discussion, she ruled that the calendar would be postponed indefinitely as an agenda.
Banks immediately appealed the decision. Sweeney, Angelucci, Morgan, Stultz and Bartlett voted against his appeal, and Crowder-Eagle abstained.
“We have to allow the superintendent to plan, and continually bringing this up is counterproductive since no board member supporting the calendar change appears willing to change their vote,” Sweeney said later.
Banks Likely to Drop It
Friday morning, Banks indicated agreement with Sweeney on that point.
“I haven’t decided anything yet, but I’m leaning toward just dropping it right now because it’s quite evident the other four aren’t going to listen to the public,” he told Patch. Doyle “made his opinion, but someone else will have to decide about that. I don’t agree with him, but he made it.”
Banks added: “I’m a political animal. I was on the side of the majority of the citizens. I’ve moved on. … I don’t think it’s going to go away.”
Marietta resident Pat Negron called on Banks to move on during the public-comment period Thursday night.
She said Banks keeps “the calendar debate alive to the point of obsession. . . I call on David Banks and other minority board members to do as our own family does: Build a bridge and get over it."
But Banks said Friday that the calendar fight has eroded public trust in the entire board. As a result, he said, the school district will have a harder time winning passage of its fourth Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in March 2013.
“Those voters that they’re ignoring, they’re going to have to pass SPLOST for them,” he said. “That’s what you have to worry about. That’s the big issue. That’s really what the board has a lot of control over. And if it goes down, there’s no money coming down. And just look at the county (SPLOST vote), it almost went down. The voters for the school SPLOST are the parents, so how are you going to get those votes?
“You may have won the battle, but you lost the war.”