Cobb County school board selects new chair, retains vice chair

Credit: Cassidy Alexander

Credit: Cassidy Alexander

Board members stick to party lines in year’s first votes, including meeting schedule

A new year brings new faces to the Cobb County Board of Education — but if the first meeting is any indication, the board will stick to its habit of voting along party lines.

Two new members joined the school board this year, both Democrats replacing Democrats: Becky Sayler replaced Jaha Howard in the Post 2 seat. Nichelle Davis replaced Charisse Davis in the Post 6 seat.

At their first meeting of 2023, board members had to vote on a new chair and on the year’s meeting schedule. In both cases, the votes were split between the four Republicans on the board and the three Democrats.

In 2021, accreditation agency Cognia conducted a special review of the district after the three Democratic board members complained that, among other things, the board’s four Republicans were preventing them from speaking at meetings or adding items to the agenda. Leroy “Tre’” Hutchins is the only complainant who remains on the board.

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At the meeting Thursday, Republican Brad Wheeler was elected in a 4-3 vote to serve as chair for the year. The Democrats nominated and voted for Hutchins. Wheeler was first elected to the board in 2013, and served as chair in 2018 and 2020. He replaces David Chastain, another Republican.

Republican David Banks was elected vice chair for the fourth consecutive term in a 4-3 vote. Board members and community members have objected to his appointment to the role, after Banks has repeatedly emailed parents with false claims about COVID-19.

Credit: Cassidy Alexander

Credit: Cassidy Alexander

Regarding the schedule, Sayler proposed the board sometimes spread its work session and business meeting over two days — rather than having both happen on the same day. It’s something that members of the community have been calling for as a way to encourage more public input.

Again, the three Democrats in favor of the change were outvoted by the board’s four Republicans.

Despite the split votes, both Sayler and Davis said they’re looking forward to building relationships with the superintendent and with other board members.

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“I know it’ll be a challenge,” Sayler said. “But I’m eager to continue on despite that.”

Davis agreed: “Hopefully with time and building those strong relationships, we can still accomplish things across party lines.”