By Jessica Bergeron and Heather Tolley-Bauer
Our tax dollars fund the Cobb County School District’s almost $1.3 billion budget. According to Marc Smith, chief technology and operations officer, 90% of that budget pays for salaries alone, leaving very little left over for facilities, maintenance, and technology costs.
SPLOST money bridges the gap and the recent award of federal CARES ACT funds were intended to help the district fund COVID-19 related expenses.
Our school district’s budget is like our own household budgets; hard-earned and limited. Every dollar spent in one place means it cannot be spent somewhere else. We have a responsibility to use our resources sensibly to benefit our families, and the Cobb Board of Education, the Superintendent, and procurement staff have the same duty to spend our money conservatively and in our best interests.
Recently a group of five women got together to form a watchdog group called Watching The Funds-Cobb. Our mission is to watch how our district spends our money because we believe the Cobb School Board and superintendent Chris Ragsdale have been irresponsible in their duties to spend taxpayer and COVID-19 relief money wisely and effectively.
One glaring example is the recent, multi-million-dollar purchase of the “Iggy” aqueous ozone hand rinsing machines by manufacturer 3Oe.
In December, based on the superintendent’s recommendation with no presentation of data and no meaningful discussion allowed by the board chairman, the board voted 4-2 to spend up to $12 million in CARES Act funds on two COVID-19 mitigation products, including these hand rinsing machines installed in Cobb elementary schools.
Yes, you read that right. Hand rinsing, not hand sanitizing, as was requested in the district’s request for proposal late last year.
Each unit costs $14,361 with a yearly maintenance cost of $2,154. We have not seen documentation showing the total number of machines purchased, where they are installed or how much the district has spent so far.
However, we do know that is that Iggy does not kill the COVID-19 virus. A scientist from 3Oe presented at the March 18 board meeting, showing a list of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that Iggy can kill. While “Coronavirus 229e” was on the list, it is just the technical term for the common cold. COVID-19 is NOT on the list of viruses that Iggy can kill, yet COVID- 19 relief money was used to fund this purchase.
Why not spend our limited budget on resources proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including improved ventilation, additional teachers for smaller class sizes, and PPE for teachers, staff, and bus drivers?
Iggy does not replace soap and water. The scientist from 3Oe admitted that a child with dirty hands must wash their hands with soap and water before using the Iggy machine. If this machine was originally marketed to clean hands, why would a child need to wash hands and then use the machine to rinse their hands?
From the beginning of the pandemic, health officials have told us to wash our hands with soap and water, so why are we spending millions on a product that is not proven to kill COVID-19 when soap and water is all that is needed! Let’s prioritize putting warm water and soap in every bathroom at every Cobb school.
Iggy was never tested in schools until now. This product has never been used in schools in the United States. In fact, the Cobb County School District is the first ever customer for the Iggy product. Why are we pouring millions of dollars into unproven and untested technology?
Whether you have children in school or not, you pay taxes. The community pays the board members and school leaders to keep our kids healthy and safe while maintaining a healthy budget. We recognize it is a hard job -- but they signed up for it, they work for us, and we deserve better.
Please join us as we hold leaders accountable. Contact your board representative and our superintendent to demand they cancel the contract with 30e for the Iggy hand rinsing machines, review all other technology purchases, eliminate redundancies and conduct an audit of all procurement procedures.
Let them know that together, we are watching the funds.