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Sweeney Defends School Calendar Change

East Cobb school board member wants to get beyond "contentious" atmosphere.

Appearing relaxed and open, Cobb County Board of Education member Scott Sweeney spoke for 54 minutes with the East Cobb Civic Association at the East Cobb Government Center Thursday night.

The first-year board member, who represents East Cobb’s Post 6 (covering the and high school districts), opened by briefly discussing his thoughts on controversial topics such as the hiring of new superintendent Michael Hinojosa, the 2011-12 district budget process and the ongoing spirited debate regarding the board’s decision to return to a traditional calendar. Sweeney was one of the four board members to vote in February for of Aug. 15 for the upcoming school year.

A married father of two young boys, Sweeney said he heard a lot of people in the community complaining about this year’s balanced calendar and the frequency of weeklong breaks it had incorporated in it. He said some business officials told him they were having trouble offering vacation time to all the employees that sought time off during the school year. He said that they would prefer if the school district had more time off in the summer to alleviate the problem.

Sweeney also said that high school football coaches said ditching the balanced calendar was beneficial to them as well “because practices can’t start until Aug. 1.” This would keep players from being exposed to some of the area’s worst summer heat.

Sweeney, who is the school board vice chairman, also wanted to set the record straight on a belief that he was involved in the special interest group Georgians Need Summers, which proponents of the balanced calendar charge.

“My special interest is my two children and the children of Cobb County,” he said to the attentive crowd.

After noting that he would agree with the in going forward to not change the school calendar without 12 months notice, Sweeney then opened the floor to questions.

After a man who described himself as former neighbor of Sweeney’s asked about the quality of education Cobb County public school students were receiving, Sweeney said he wanted to cut down on the extensive testing Georgia students are currently required to do by state and federal education authorities.

“What can we do to help teachers teach because so much time is wasted administratively on testing,” said Sweeney, who graduated from UCLA in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in economics.

Another community member asked Sweeney what he thought about the apparent contentious nature of the Cobb County School Board.

“I recognized this very early on and I have been very purposeful,” Sweeney said. “I do not attack other board members. I won’t do that. … I have been very critical of the board and communication because I don’t think the district has done enough to control its message. Yes, it’s contentious.”

Sweeney went on further to explain the importance of improving the district’s image in the media.

“It doesn’t need to be a slugfest in the media or in the blogs,” he said. “The bottom line, we have a great education system and that message needs to get out.”

He also reminded the crowd that despite the Cobb district being the 25th largest in the country and having a diverse and often transient student population, it has a lot to boast about. This includes having one of the nation’s top-ranked high schools in Walton, according to Newsweek magazine.

He illustrated the transient state of . Sweeney said that 80 percent of Brumby’s school population that begins the school year at the Powers Ferry Road school is not there when the school year ends in May. He also noted that 40-45 different languages are spoken by students there.

“The school is still able to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) – that is remarkable,” said Sweeney, a financial consultant. “These are the challenges we face today. Cobb County is an urban school district. We have challenges of an urban school district.”

Sweeney closed the discussion by acknowledging the impact the district’s large number of volunteers has on each school and student He said some Cobb County schools have so many volunteers that they help at other nearby schools as well.

“The volunteerism in this community is incredible,” he said. “I would recommend you to do a volunteer effort and step out into these other communities as well."

Resident Lynn Rosenblatt, who moved to East Cobb County six months ago from Melbourne, Fla., said she heard a lot of the same concerns about education where she previously lived.

“I think a lot of school districts all over the country are teaching to testing because that’s a federal mandate,” Rosenblatt said in reference to AYP. “If they’re teaching to testing, then the subject matter is too narrow. They’re learning concrete things instead of more broad.”

Dave Hong, who has lived in Cobb County for 30 years and has two grown daughters who graduated from , came away from the discussion impressed with Sweeney.

“I thought it was very encouraging,” he said. “To me, it was a new image for the school board. We keep hearing about the faction and Scott belies that.”

J Vane July 01, 2011 at 05:25 PM
Al, I am part of the "Disney Crowd" but haven't been to Disney since I was a kid! We loved our breaks last year even though we stayed home. The breaks gave everyone a chance to breath; parents, students and staff. It also gave us a chance to take my middle schooler to needed doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointments and not have to miss school to do that. I think summers are too long, I have felt this way since i was a child. I would much rather have short breaks throughout the year (maybe 4 day weekends, not necessary to be a whole week off) and less time during the summer since it takes more time to get back into the groove of school after so much downtime and so much that was learned forgotten. The difference between "us" and "them" is that they are steering and directing the school board. It is evident that they have told the school board how to vote, what to say and even where to sit! You say it is creepy that we have looked at "private" emails, but they should have never had the anticipation of privacy if they are discussing a public matter such as the school board. Why do they use their private email addresses for public school board business? Why didn't they send school board related emails to all 7 school board members? Maybe you can answer these questions for me since you were part of the emails too. If it wasn't for people like "us" looking into things, the public would not be aware of the shady dishonest dealings of the school board.
Al July 01, 2011 at 05:50 PM
Mr./Ms. Vane, Actually I was only referring to the emails sent by private citizens. How do you defend to your neighbor or member of your church, civic group that you read a private email they sent to a public official. I am willing to bet most of your friends, outside the Disney World, would even know that anything you send to an elected official is exposed to an open records request. I am sure they will kind of 95% of them would sort of laugh when you tell them, but walk away with the impression that it is very creepy for small groups of citizens to read private citizens emails. You just do not get the moral high ground on this issue. Regarding the 4 day school week, I would encourage you ask teachers how their students do with the slightly longer breaks. My teacher friends, most of the time agree it is much more difficult to get them back on track after a break of more than 2 days. While appreciate your attempt to cloak you actions as kind of like a Watch Dog over the school system, - sort of like Ralph Nadar, your actions do not match your words. Again, try to get involved with the schools and make a positive difference. They really could use the energy and talent that many of the Donald Duck crowd seems to have. p.s. Ralph Nadar also has a history of also being a hypocrite. Especially with airline tickets
J Vane July 01, 2011 at 05:55 PM
Al, the only emails we had access to was those that were in relation to the school board and calendar issue. We did not have access, nor did we want access, to any private emails that were between family/friends. There is no point in going back and forth with you. I merely wanted to clear up any confusion there might be about the emails that were given to anyone that requested them through open records. I'm sorry you didn't know how things worked, if you have any other questions please let me know and I'll be happy to help you out.
Al July 01, 2011 at 06:04 PM
When you quoted the amount of support from reading the emails from private citizens to the school board, you had access to your neighbor's emails. There is no confusion about this issue. I would challenge you to ask one of your good friends who will tell you the truth, "Is it a little creepy, I read the intended private email to a school board member?" Make sure you watch their body language. Have a great Holiday Weekend
Robin July 01, 2011 at 06:28 PM
The grand jury’s calendar findings: •The calendar switch fulfilled the campaign promises of the three new members of the board, Stultz of Smyrna, Angelucci of North Cobb and Sweeney of East Cobb, and was not based on student achievement, attendance, discipline, retention, teacher morale or operational expenses. •The school board’s majority did not consider the effect of the calendar change on private schools. And, the grand jury said it got no answer when it asked whether the change’s proponents considered the effects on the community. Beyond the calendar, the grand jury also reported that four members of the school board did meet with a candidate for superintendent and that the called Sunday meeting in January at which the new members elected Bartlett chairwoman without Banks, Morgan or Crowder-Eagle present was not an emergency, and Sunday meetings do not fall under the usual protocol of the Board. When you have hypocritical board members who feel they can bend the rules to suit their own interests and who don't have the best interests of the community they serve at heart, I don't find Open Records Requests "creepy" or any other investigations for that matter; I find it necessary. Why does Sweeney feel the need to defend himself in the first place if he knows he is doing the right thing?
Al July 01, 2011 at 06:49 PM
I not know for sure, but where did he defend himself? A honest discussion of the facts are always part of any dialogue. I do not think it was well thought out but I think you might agree reading the private emails of your neighbors sent to the elected members of the school board might seem a little strange to most citizens. I certainly would not want my friends and neighbors to think I had done this type of "investigation" Other than the calendar, what issues, do you really bring to the table? I will give you the fact, the called Sunday meeting was not necessary, however, I am willing to give a brand new member of the board a little latitude ,Other than electing a new leadership, which was going to have the same results there was not really anything else done. It is my understanding all members were told of the meeting and chose not to come. No policy or anything else was done, to my understanding.
Kathryn A. Patterson July 01, 2011 at 09:06 PM
Al, No one is reading private emails - emails sent by the school board members are part of the public record. That makes them public. And no one is "creeping around". The process for requesting public records is also public. From the tone of your email, it is clear that prefer to smear people's reputation that have an honest debate.
CD July 01, 2011 at 09:22 PM
When it comes to a child's education and the suspected corrupt nature of the Board responsible for advocating for said education, it is not "creeping" to submit and gain an Open Records Request any more than it is "creeping" for a police officer to obtain a search warrant for suspected criminal activity. It IS, however, responsible parental involvement. I take it this "creeping" resulted in the discovery of some dirty politics? The four elected officials involved -- now there are your creeps, sir.
Kathryn A. Patterson July 01, 2011 at 09:33 PM
Well said, CD.
Al July 01, 2011 at 09:43 PM
CD, surely you are not saying is not creepy to look at your neighbor's private emails he sent to a public official. If you don't think that is creepy behavior,, then you must also agree the Peeping Tom is performing a community service by making sure there is no suspected criminal activity going on inside home of your neighbor. I do not believe you found any illegal behavior in the creepy reading of your neighbor's emails! Because if there was something illegal, I quite sure it would have appeared on the front page of the newspapers, with great glee. No, these board members were just doing what they campaigned on. To be honest, I got to say I am glad you ain't my neighbor
Georgianeedseducation July 01, 2011 at 09:58 PM
TThe founder of Georgia Needs Summers was/is Scott Sweeney Campaign Manager-plain and simple. The four used their personal emails to try to hide their GNS connections. Clem told them to because of email conversations because of ORR, although he forgot to mention once a personal email is used by a public official, it is no longer private. It is obvious by Sweeney emails he is and will only listen to GNS.
Robin July 01, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Freedom of information Act...Georgia Open Records Act...nothing new, not "creepy" or strange, and put into place for good reason. Change the law if you don't like it.
Georgianeedseducation July 01, 2011 at 10:56 PM
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/03/georgians-need-summers.html
Georgianeedseducation July 01, 2011 at 11:02 PM
http://electscottsweeney.com/why-sweeney See Link above, then see who Scott's Campaign Manager is. Notice how he did not denied it, it just stated his special interest is his children.
M. Stone July 01, 2011 at 11:11 PM
There is nothing wrong with Mr. Sweeney having a different opinion than you, and voting however he wants. There is nothing wrong with his having friends, supporters, campaign managers, neighbors, or constituents who have a different opinion than you, supporting him. Is this a part of participatory democracy that you do not get? What I find most troubling in this thread is how some Balanced Calendar fanatics are so willing to sling the mud and call Mr. Sweeney a liar, and make allegations of wrongdoing, while hiding behind internet anonymity. This is so childish and nasty, I can't help but suspect these people are teachers' union members, given the tactics and the narrow-minded focus on the very small, very personal-to-them picture. Take a hint: you are not doing your cause any good by the way you present yourself, and you are certainly not changing any hearts or minds.
Vanessa July 01, 2011 at 11:38 PM
From CCSB Ethic's Policy: Reflect through actions that his or her first and foremost concern is for the educational welfare of children attending schools within the school system. 4. Render all decisions based on available facts and his or her independent judgment and refuse to surrender his or her judgment to individuals or special interest groups - so yes, there is a problem with him "voting however he wants". As for why some people choose to hid behind "anonymity"- it because they have been personally attached on the interent, at home and through facebook and other social media. I know because it has happen to me. It might happen again because I am commenting on your comment.
Vanessa July 01, 2011 at 11:46 PM
PS- I am not a teacher, do not believe in unions. PSS-Georgia teachers are not union :)
Robin July 01, 2011 at 11:57 PM
M. Spade, I'm a parent, and an angry one. There is nothing wrong with affiliating yourself with whomever you want to in your personal life or on your campaign. However, when you hide the fact that you are affiliated with a special interest group, present mistruths, half truths and downright incorrect information or a spin on that information while you campaign I do have a problem with that. I feel that we were all swindled. Why was this affiliation such as secret? The trail is clearly marked, the affiliations and ties are clearly out there. Why the secret? Transparency? That's a joke and unfortunately, it's on us.
Vanessa July 02, 2011 at 12:00 AM
4. Render all decisions based on available facts and his or her independent judgment and refuse to surrender his or her judgment to individuals or special interest groups. 5. Uphold and enforce all applicable laws, all rules and regulations of the State Board of Education and the board and all court orders pertaining to the school system. Board So yes there is a problem with Sweeney "voting however he wants" No-I am not a teacher, nor do I like unions. FYI- Georgia Teachers are not union employees. As far as people wanting to "hide under anonymity"- as someone who has been personally attacked because of my stance on the calendar, I cn understand why some do not want their name out there.
Vanessa July 02, 2011 at 12:02 AM
4. Render all decisions based on available facts and his or her independent judgment and refuse to surrender his or her judgment to individuals or special interest groups. 5. Uphold and enforce all applicable laws, all rules and regulations of the State Board of Education and the board and all court orders pertaining to the school system. Board So yes there is a problem with Sweeney "voting however he wants" No-I am not a teacher, nor do I like unions. FYI- Georgia Teachers are not union employees. As far as people wanting to "hide under anonymity"- as someone who has been personally attacked because of my stance on the calendar, I cn understand why some do not want their name out there.
Vanessa July 02, 2011 at 12:04 AM
4. Render all decisions based on available facts and his or her independent judgment and refuse to surrender his or her judgment to individuals or special interest groups. 5. Uphold and enforce all applicable laws, all rules and regulations of the State Board of Education and the board and all court orders pertaining to the school system. Board So yes there is a problem with Sweeney "voting however he wants" No-I am not a teacher, nor do I like unions. FYI- Georgia Teachers are not union employees. As far as people wanting to "hide under anonymity"- as someone who has been personally attacked because of my stance on the calendar, I cn understand why some do not want their name out there.
Al July 02, 2011 at 12:09 AM
Everyone agrees Mr. Sweeney's campaign manager was involved with Georgia Needs Summers! So What? Everyone agrees they probably exchanged numerous emails before and after his election trying to get him elected. So What? Everyone agrees Mr. Sweeney said he was partially running to keep the traditional calendar. So What? Everyone agrees some, if not all, the board members did exchange emails which were not copied to every member. So What? Everyone agrees the school board engages in politics. So What? The local club of the Mickey Mouse Club of Walt Disney World appears to be willing to call people liars, claim they have participated in criminal activities, Engaged in creepy behavior by snooping into the private emails of private citizens, claim elected officials who engage in politics are dishonest, claim that their open records request was a noble effort and not designed to intimidate private citizens..... and that was only in this thread of blogs. Please put all this senseless use of energy into something constructive - help our schools during these tough economic times instead of engaging character assassination.
Vanessa July 02, 2011 at 12:22 AM
Render all decisions based on available facts and his or her independent judgment and refuse to surrender his or her judgment to individuals or special interest groups.
Vanessa July 02, 2011 at 12:30 AM
A. ORGANIZATIONAL DIRECTION: The job of the Cobb County Board of Education (Board) is to represent the citizens and taxpayers of Cobb County in determining and demanding appropriate organizational performance. 1. The Board will produce the link between the organization and the citizens of Cobb County, utilizing appropriate strategies to ensure input from students, staff, parents, and the community as a means to link the entire community.
Robin July 02, 2011 at 01:00 AM
Duplicity, collusion, contention, derisiveness, hypocrisy...politics. So what??????
Al July 02, 2011 at 01:02 AM
I now see the problem. The Year Round School supporters truly believe that elected officials should agree with every item they decide to weigh in on. They the feel any disagreement with their opinions justifies the use of character defamation, spins, and snooping around reading the private emails of Cobb Citizens in an attempt to justify creepy behavior. I am out of this house of mirrors discussion used by Mickey Mouse and his pals.
JD July 03, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Classic politician move. Decry the "contentious nature" of the board, after you help create it. No mention of online survey results about the school calendar either. And when it doubt, mention that the football coaches hate the balanced calendar too.
Robb July 04, 2011 at 07:22 PM
C'mon, everyone sing along (you too Alan)... It's getting time to say goodbye,To Bartlett's company M-I-C, see you at the ballot box next year. K-E-Y, why? because active citizens hold the power. M-O-U-S-E Say, who's up for some great lawyer jokes?
Jackie July 04, 2011 at 07:42 PM
What is wrong with folks wanting to go to Disney World? What is wrong with folks wanting to go anywhere? What is wrong with wanting to travel at less crowded times? What is wrong with wanting to travel when it isn't so hot? What is wrong with having breaks? What is wrong with wanting to save money? What is wrong with wanting to spend time with your kids? What is wrong with starting school two weeks early? What is wrong with wanting a break between August and Thanksgiving? What is wrong with kids having a break? What is wrong with staying at home? What is wrong with teachers taking a break? What is wrong moving an August week to September? What is wrong with moving another to February? What is wrong about keeping up with the world in education? What is wrong with improved test scores? What is wrong with Cherokee County's top ranking? What is wrong for thinking it could be a balanced break, student, teacher and parent? What is wrong with you people that think it's wrong?
JRo July 14, 2011 at 03:21 AM
Robb, I was wondering if you could share any other information about Wanda Becker and her strings? She has been emailing teachers and telling them that they are on a "list" with Sweeney. Just wondering what would be the motive to intimidate teachers that may be pro balanced calendar. I can send a copy of the email that was sent to a friend of mine if you are interested.

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