Cobb BOE stalls on proposed change to how it elects chair

Credit: Cobb County School District

Credit: Cobb County School District

Cobb County School Board members are still at an impasse on how they should elect their chairman.

A discussion about a proposal to change the board’s policy stalled Thursday after a majority of the members failed to offer input.

Board member David Morgan’s proposal would have required anyone seeking the position to inform all board members of their plans and why they are running; garner six out of seven votes in favor; bar any member who is serving their first year on the board from running; and prohibits anyone who served as chair within the last four years from running again.

The proposed changes come after the board in January rejected Charisse Davis, the board's only black female from serving as chair for 2020. Board members instead named two of its white members — Brad Wheeler and David Banks — chair and vice chair, respectively.

The rejection of Davis’ candidacy raised questions of racial and gender bias since the board members who voted against her nomination were white men and concerns over the position changing hands among the same members.

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Wheeler and board member David Chastain have both served as either chair or vice-chair more than once within the past three years.

“What gnaws at me is when I feel that extraneous variables that I might not be able to control might ultimately determine my standing,” said Morgan, a black Democratic board member.

Morgan's proposals, which were originally unveiled in February, were met with silence from the four white male Republican members on the board: Banks, Wheeler, Randy Scamihorn and David Chastain.

Davis, who is also a Democrat, said Friday that she felt like any changes the board makes now could change in January with the arrival of new school board members.

She also said she didn’t feel like the issue could be solved with a policy change because she’d already informed her colleagues of her intentions.

“I don’t see a need for it,” she said. “It’s not a policy issue.”

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Board member Dr. Jaha Howard, who is black and also a Democrat, said he agreed that the current policy could be improved. When he prodded other board members to weigh in, he was met with silence.

“We’ve been in this situation before when things are brought up, and it’s the silent treatment, and it’s crickets,” he said. “Kind of like now.”

Wheeler on Friday said the choices board members make for chair are not based on race, gender or political party, but are “about who they are.”

He also said he would be wary of the requirement for candidates to receive approval from six out of seven members because that doesn’t happen some years.

“Sometimes that’s the way it is,” he said.

Scamihorn told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday that the requirement to get six out of seven votes may be too idealistic.

While Morgan “comes up with some good ideas on a regular basis,” Scamihorn said this proposal needs more work.

“I need to give it more consideration,” he said, adding he’s open to new ideas.

Morgan told the AJC on Friday that he was “deeply disappointed” because a non-response can be interpreted as being dismissive of the proposal.

He also said some board members are interested in preserving the “good ol’ boy system for as long as we possibly can.”

Morgan also said he thought his idea for candidates to notify other board members about their desires to seek the chairmanship would have been met with enthusiasm by all of his colleagues.

“I don’t understand that,” he said. “Why does it have to be clandestine process?”

Board members David Chastain and David Banks did not return calls for comment on Friday.

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