Cobb school board in the dark on grand jury investigation

This time it's with the Cobb County Grand Jury.

The jury criticized the school board earlier this month for "operating in a manner that severely limits the open and public debate of school policy decisions," according to a report filed by the grand jury with Cobb County Superior Court Jan 7.

At Thursday's school board meeting school superintendent Fred Sanderson announced that he would from now on immediately notify the entire school board when he or any members of the school board are called before the grand jury.

Some school board members had complained that they were not informed that the school board chairman and others had been called last month.

School board member John Crooks told Sanderson that he only became aware that board members had gone to talk to the grand jury "when my boss came to me and showed me the newspaper and said, ‘What's this?' "

"How can we do this better?" Crooks asked Sanderson.

Following up, board member Alison Bartlett then suggested that Sanderson might want to share with the public that the grand jury has now asked the school district to come and answer questions about its transportation department.

Sanderson then acknowledged that was true and that the grand jury would tour the district's bus shop.

Earlier in the meeting bus drivers had told the board they were worried about the safety of the school buses, particularly citing tires, injectors and tie rods.

School Board Chairwoman Lynnda Crowder-Eagle said she was "excited" about the grand jury's visit to the transportation shop and that she was "very pleased" they would come.

In December, the grand jury had questions about the vote in which the school board on Nov. 11 approved a highly controversial change to the school calendar. The change, which would shorten the summer vacation by two weeks, angered many parents.

The grand jury asked the school board chairman, the vice chairman, Sanderson and the school board lawyer to appear Dec. 1 to answer questions about the board's vote on the calendar issue.

Parents previously accused the school board of fast-tracking a decision to put a cell phone tower at an elementary school despite strong parental opposition. The school board denied that it had broken the public meetings law, though opponents complained the issue was a last-minute addition to the agenda of a July 23 meeting, which could have been a violation of the state's open meeting statutes.

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