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Cobb school chief resigns tonight

Cobb picks ‘battle-proven' leader as next super
Jim Mahoney, The Dallas Morning News

Big news out of Cobb where Superintendent Michael Hinojosa resigned at tonight's board meeting.  He came to Cobb in 2011 from Dallas.

He told the school board he plans to return to Texas.

Any ideas on likely replacements?

When school boards lose an out-of-town hire brought in with a lot of fanfare and promises, they often look closer to home for the next candidate. In part that reflects the public criticism that the district made a mistake scouring the country for a knight on a white horse who comes and goes quickly. (At three years running Cobb Schools, Hinojosa reflects the national average tenure for big district superintendents.)  That approach didn't work well for DeKalb, which replaced superstar Johnny Brown with in-house hire Crawford Lewis.

I can't admit any premonition that Hinojosa was leaving, but I was surprised to read news reports that he left his office midafternoon Tuesday to head home despite the challenges faced by his students and teachers from the storm.  Here is a column in the Marietta Daily Journal contrasting Hinojosa's actions with those of Marietta City Schools chief Emily Lembeck, who spent the night in her office.

I have been getting email complaints about Hinojosa bailing early, including the letter below shared with the AJC from a Wheeler High School department head. Hinojosa defended his actions, maintaining that he managed the dire situation from his home.

Hinojosa said his resignation was not tied to his district's storm performance but family considerations.

The AJC reports:

“I had some heartburn when I made this decision over the holidays because of the tremendous budget deficits that we were facing,” Hinojosa said at the end of the meeting.

Hinojosa said he plans to leave at the end of May and has been offered a “lucrative” position as a senior vice president at a company, but he did not identify his future employer. Hinojosa said his new job will offer him the ability to work from home.

“As much as I love Cobb, I love my family more,” Hinojosa said.

But many teachers who contacted me were unhappy with their school chief.  This letter is an example. Ironically, the letter ends with a plea for Hinojosa to be more present in the district.

Dear Dr. Hinojosa:

I am one of the teachers in your district who spent Tuesday and Wednesday at my high school caring for stranded, frightened students during the snow/ice event. I am writing this letter and asking that it be published in a public forum because this is not a private issue between you and me; this is an issue to be examined and addressed by you and the people in the community you serve: the Cobb County School District.

I will not write anonymously. I have been an educator for 18 years; eight in the CCSD. I proudly work at Wheeler High School as English Department Chair, and I love my job and my Wheeler family.

I have never been more proud of them as we worked together to make it through an extremely difficult situation that could have been avoided had school been called off the morning the storm warning was announced. Because you made the choice to keep school in session, and because you were not there, I feel that I need to inform you and our stakeholders EXACTLY what happened at my school.

We were informed at about 10:00 that students would be released at 1:30 p.m. As the snow had already begun to fall, melt and ice the roads, kids began to get anxious and worried. Some called parents to come get them early. Many stayed, believing their buses would arrive soon and get them safely home. We stayed with our students when those buses did not-could not-arrive, and we calmed them as best we could well into the late afternoon and evening. We got an email from the district saying that schools would close at 3:00 so staff could get home safely.

Still, those buses could not come. Some teachers had to leave to pick up their own children, but many stayed to calm and comfort our stranded students. My principal worked hard to keep us all informed and updated on the situation. My colleagues and I were TERRIFIED that our student drivers, released early to their cars, might not make it home alive. I believe you had made it home safely by this time, Dr. Hinojosa. Teachers who left school were becoming stuck on crowded, icy roads, with no food, water, or gas. Many did not arrive home until Wednesday or Thursday.

By late Tuesday evening a few buses became stuck in ditches or on ice. The drivers then gathered all the children and walked them BACK to our school. Frantic parents who could not reach or locate their kids kept our phones ringing, and we were there to answer, to calm, to help as best we could. A message from you would have helped soothe nerves, Dr. Hinojosa, but we did not hear your voice.

My principal, admin team, and our resource officer walked groups of students across treacherous roads to make sure that they got safely to their rides or buses. When it got late and we had no food to feed our hungry charges, my principal went out on the dangerous roads with another teacher to pick up and bring back Zaxby sandwiches for dinner and then for breakfast for the students and teachers still at school.

Fifty students, several teachers, our resource officer and most administrators spent the night at Wheeler High School. Some children had special needs, some were ill, and a couple were diabetic. We put the boys on gym mats in our cafeteria, and the girls slept in the media center or upstairs in the medical sciences room.  My principal walked the building and watched over the children most of the night and into the morning. He was PRESENT and that meant everything to all of us. The staff mostly sat up and watched over our children. We covered them with any sheets or blankets we could find.

Wednesday morning we fed our kids any leftover Zaxby sandwiches we had and waited for a few parents and buses to come. The final bus arrived around 10:30 on Wednesday morning. When the last child exited the building, the staff began to go as well. Dr. Hinojosa, my husband walked 10 miles and then got a ride from a good Samaritan to Wheeler so he could then drive me and a colleague home. My principal, Dr. David Chiprany, remained at school until every student and staff member had left the building. He’s my hero, and the definition of a world-class leader.

Dr. Hinojosa, the bus drivers, faculty, students, administrators, and parents of CCSD need to hear your voice.  We need you, as the school district leader, to physically visit each school not only to apologize, but to hear you admit that you made a mistake, and that you do not intend to repeat it. We need you to be PRESENT.


Juliann Angert

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