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Cobb School Board's Web of Distrust

The process of hiring a new superintendent adds to mounting concerns about the Cobb County School Board.

As the entire process of hiring a new superintendent played out over the past month, I became aware that from the start I did not trust the candidate, Dr. Michael Hinojosa.

Before reading anything about the man, before his meet and greet sessions, and through no fault of his own, I simply did not trust the man.

Why then, did I have such an immediate, strong reaction?

Because the recommended him.

Under the covers, Internet security runs on webs of trust. In layman’s terms, this concept means if I want to talk to you but I’m not certain if I can trust you, a mutual friend authenticates you as a trustworthy individual. Then I trust you, and I confer my own trustworthiness to you when I introduce you to new people. This is not a new concept - society itself runs on webs of trust. When a friend recommends an article for you to read, that recommendation is a strand on your personal web of trust. When a door-to-door salesman wants you to change garbage companies, he tells you that he sold your neighbors, to try and cash in on the neighborhood web of trust.

Usually, a local school board would be at the center of a web of trust within a community. Instead, the Cobb County School Board managed to create something opposite of that -- they created a web of distrust.

This web of distrust works exactly like a web of trust, only in reverse. So, if the school board makes a decision, the community reacts skeptically, initially disliking the decision unless there are overriding reasons to like it. When the school board initially picked Dr. Hinojosa, the man walked into a situation where the majority of the community would not trust him, simply because the school board did. The ramifications of this distrust mean that the man gets no benefit of the doubt on statements, he gets no leeway from the community, and he works under scrutiny until he proves he does not need such scrutiny.

In case this seems unfair to you, remember that trust, or distrust, is contagious. That’s how the web works. If the school board wants for the distrust to change, they will have to make some changes internally and externally.

First, the school board needs to act in a normal manner. By “normal,” I mean act in a manner that is appropriate to the situation. Taking Dr. Hinojosa as an example, the school board approached the man and offered him the job for secret reasons. I know that they, the board, probably followed the letter of the law with this appointment, but it feels like they ignored the spirit of the law by having only one candidate. (As an aside, one candidate does not a candidate pool make.) Considering the closed door sessions on this topic, the allegations of misconduct from last fall, and the lack of public reasons for picking this particular man over anyone in either Cobb County or Georgia, the school boad’s behavior feels off to those of us on the outside.

The fact that Dr. Hinojosa is from Texas, the place where some of the school board members already have shady connections, also adds to the feeling of unease. The entire situation leaves me feeling that there are backdoor deals being made, deals which are probably not for the benefit of the students or parents of Cobb County.

The school board needs to stop this sort of behavior. It needs to be completely above board with its actions, and be even more that perfect about following both the spirit and letter of the law in their actions if they want to restore the trust. And school board members should want to restore the trust, considering “Utilize community in decision making” is one of their own priorities, and that priority does not happen in an environment of distrust. They need to follow their own rules, specifically from Treatment of Consumers, SD-3:

B. COMMUNICATION:
    ...

    2. Responses to telephonic requests should be made within 48 hours except for 
        weekends and holidays. 
    3. Responses to electronic requests should be given in a timely manner.
    ...

I don’t know about anyone else, but I have called several school board members, and the only one to return my phone calls was David Banks. In fact, for several months you could not even leave a phone message for Kathleen Angelucci. The same applies to emails.

As for the school calendar, school board representatives need to represent their own constituents, and vote accordingly. If this means going back to the balanced calendar, so be it.  But switching back to the balanced calendar will not restore the trust on its own, it is merely a step that needs to be taken.

I hope the Cobb County School Board realizes there own mistakes, and begins to make changes. Otherwise, like The Police sing, “Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, we’ll be watching you...”

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Andy Little June 07, 2011 at 02:19 PM
Spot on commentary.
Jack S June 07, 2011 at 10:27 PM
I didn't like the idea of Hijonosa either, but when you have a new school board thrown to the wolves for what they believed in (SACS and a Grand Jury) then have Sanderson and his former cronies (Crooks and Cash) yanking on Banks' strings every step of the way, especially him pushing for a calendar with every breath, and then having to be held to what the "Search firm" finds to be "board" certified (deep breath); you really aren't left with much but a bunch of politics. It is all garbage; the world wont end tomorrow and we will just have to suck it up and deal with the fall out....as usual. Neither Sanderson nor his predecessor were saints. life will find a way to go in in E.Cobb.
Jeremiah L June 08, 2011 at 09:19 AM
"Taking Dr. Hinojosa as an example, the school board approached the man and offered him the job for secret reasons." Since you have teased everyone with the "secret reasons" comment, please tell us what they are. You've suggested that there was only one candidate,when it's been reported that there were more. Did you forget about Sam King? What about widely reported internal candidates? The board was wise to name one finalist (not candidate). Look what happened in DeKalb when they named three.
M. Fresh June 08, 2011 at 01:59 PM
Jeremiah L: If you get a chance to talk to Kathyrn about the "secret reasons", could you please ask her where she got the divine ability to know the will of the majority: "When the school board initially picked Dr. Hinojosa, the man walked into a situation where the majority of the community would not trust him, simply because the school board did" If she has this ability to know what the majority thinks and wants, she should be running to be a board member rather than wasting her time ranting about them (except of course the brilliant Banks).
Kathryn A. Patterson June 08, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Glad you enjoyed the commentary, Andy.
Kathryn A. Patterson June 08, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Jack, I disagree with your points, but we can argue what happened later. What's important is that we do not have to suck it up. When elected officials act inappropriately, it is our duty to hold them accountable for their malfeasance. That is how our political system works. Kathryn
Kathryn A. Patterson June 08, 2011 at 02:48 PM
Jeremiah L, Perhaps you need to look up the word "secret" (I suggest www.m-w.com). If I knew how or why they choose Dr. Hinjosa, the reasons would not be secret. You are wrong about the number of candidates. There was only one official candidate for the position, as far as the people of Cobb County are concerned - Dr. Michael Hinojosa. And the school board was not "wise" to list only one candidate - they subverted the entire candidate system by doing that. Here's what is supposed to happen. The school board lists all acceptable candidates in a candidate pool. Then the people of Cobb County have fourteen days to learn about the candidates, and report to their representative which candidate they like/accept. Then the school board takes the public input, and votes on who should get the job. By providing only one candidate, they essentially cut the community out of the decision, transforming the fourteen day period from a time for meaning discussion to a superfluous two weeks. Kathryn Patterson
Beth June 09, 2011 at 01:46 AM
Thank you, Kathryn, for holding the CCSB accountable. It's so unfortunate that the 3 new Board members have chosen dishonesty and secrecy rather than serve the students, parents and teachers as they promised in their campaigns. Hoping for the best with Dr. Hinojosa, but agree that several well qualified candidates could have been hired from within.

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