The Cobb County School Board on Thursday voted to award a contract to build a career academy at Osborne High School, a decision that set off a debate about whether certain areas of the district are getting equal funding for much-needed improvements.
The board approved the $14.5 million contract with Carroll Daniel Construction Company at its March 21 meeting. School Board member David Chastain was not in attendance.
The Cobb Career Academy, which will be funded with education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars, will hold about 500 students and is an extension of the district’s Career, Technical and Agriculture Educational programs.
The academy, which is expected to be completed by May 2020, will be located on the campus of Osborne, which is also in the midst of being upgraded to a four-story building.
Cobb schools said more than 36,000 students took part in its CTAE programs last year.
“Our CTAE programs are not only preparing students for choice-filled lives through career opportunities, but clearly, they already having a positive impact on our county’s economic development, and they have yet to graduate from high school,” said Jennifer Lawson, the system’s chief academic officer.
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Thursday’s approval followed several comments from Pebblebrook High School students, parents and educators and a brief debate between two school board members about whether south Cobb was getting its fair share of SPLOST funding for improvements.
The students pleaded with the school board to consider improvements that would expand the school’s footprint to accommodate its growth, improve security and add covered walkways between buildings.
The students said the facilities are so crowded that they barely have time to eat lunch or use the restrooms. They also said there have been times in which people not associated with the school have ventured on to the campus, prompting calls for the installation of a wrought-iron fence and a single entrance and exit for visitors.
“We need you and we are worth your investment,” one student said.
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Gregory George, a parent and teacher at Pebblebrook High School, urged board members to attend a SPLOST information meeting set for 6:15 p.m. Monday, March 25 at the school at 991 Old Alabama Road SW in Mableton.
“We want you to hear our story so you can make an informed decision about the urgency of the issues that exist on our campus,” he added.
However, for Post 1 school board member Randy Scamihorn, CCSD has used SPLOST funding to make improvements to various schools in south Cobb, such as Campbell High School and Smyrna and Mableton elementary schools.
He also criticized the speakers, adding misinformation is spreading in the community that the school district is ignoring the southern part of the county.
By contrast, Scamihorn said schools in his district, such as North Cobb High School, were built in the 1950s and have yet to experience any upgrades or improvements.
He also said he would love to see another career academy constructed at Kennesaw Mountain High School, but added the county decided there was a “greater need” at Osborne.
“We do the best we can….to look at the county based on needs and what our limited income is for that particular period,” he said of the process.
Jaha Howard, the board member for Post 2, blasted Scamihorn's comments as "paternalistic, preachy and pretty much offensive." He also said it was disheartening for Scamihorn to talk about building another career academy on the north end of the county when Cobb has "so much to celebrate" with this new addition to the Osborne High School campus.
“This is a great win for the entire county,” he said.
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