Cobb BOE names chair, vice chair for 2021; new member takes office

Credit: Cobb County School District

Credit: Cobb County School District

The Cobb County Board of Education has chosen which of its members will serve as chair and vice chair this year, decisions that highlight the body’s continued division along racial and political divide.

Members of the Republican majority will lead the board through 2021 with the selection of Randy Scamihorn as chair and David Banks as vice chair.

Both were elected to the positions during a called meeting Thursday. Republicans David Chastain and Brad Wheeler, who served as chair in 2020 and presided over the nominations, supported each of their nominations while Democrats Charisse Davis, Leroy “Tre” Hutchins and Dr. Jaha Howard voted against them.

Howard nominated Davis to serve as chair and Hutchins to serve as vice chair, both of which were rejected by the Republicans. Banks and Scamihorn nominated each other for the positions they were chosen to serve.

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Scamihorn told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his main priority as board chair is the “safety of our students, faculty and staff” and to continue academic excellence in the district. He also said he wants to help attract and keep quality teachers for the Cobb County School District.

“I’m looking forward to a great year,” he said. “We hope to end the year a little better than we came into it.”

Thursday was also the third time in as many years the board’s Republican majority, all of whom are white men, voted to reject the nomination of a Black colleague to serve as chair or vice chair. All three Democratic school board members are Black.

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Last year, Howard nominated Davis, a Black woman, to serve as chair and vice chair, and both attempts were rejected by all four Republicans.

The Cobb school district is a majority-minority system. As of August, 37% of its students identified as white, 30% as black, 22% as Hispanic, 6% as Asian, 4% as two or more races, and 1% identifying as Pacific Islander or Native American, according to its website. The latest enrollment number for the district shows it has about 107,300 students, according to the Georgia Department of Education. In 2019, the AJC reported 74% of district teachers are white, as are 68% of principals and 70% of administrators.

Each of the Republican members have served as chair or vice chair multiple times. Scamihorn served as chair in 2013 — his first year in office — and 2015, as well as vice chair in 2014. Wheeler and Chastain have both served as either chair or vice chair more than once within the past four years. This is Banks’ second-consecutive year as vice chair.

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During Thursday’s meeting, Howard and Davis asked Wheeler if board members could discuss why they wanted to become chair. Wheeler declined that request.

“I don’t see any need for that,” Wheeler said, adding any comments about why a member wanted to serve as chair or vice chair should have been made before the meeting.

Hutchins was sworn into office at the start of the meeting. He replaces David Morgan, who did not seek re-election to another four-year term. Hutchins told the AJC that he wasn’t surprise by the majority approving Scamihorn and Banks serving as chair and vice chair. He said he hopes he can help reconcile the division on the board.

“I’m excited to finally get the opportunity to serve the children of Post 3 and Cobb County,” he said.