Newly-elected Democrats Jaha Howard and Charisse Davis were sworn in to serve on the Cobb County school board Monday evening. Republican David Chastain was also sworn in for his second term in a building filled to standing-room only.
They were sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton, who attended East Cobb Middle School and graduated from Wheeler High School in 1984. He joked that he could still remember his locker combination, even though the building with his locker doesn’t exist anymore.
Howard, a pediatric dentist, replaced Susan Thayer in the Post 2 seat. Thayer did not run for reelection and Howard was unopposed in the general. Davis, a librarian and former teacher, beat incumbent Scott Sweeney in the November election for Post 6. Both have children in Cobb County Schools.
The more diverse board now has three Democrats and four Republicans.
Both Davis and Howard have stated the importance of equity for south Cobb schools and questioned the way that Cobb implements its school tax exemption for senior citizens. The exemption is a hotly-debated issue because of its leniency. Cobb residents are eligible at age 62 regardless of income level, length of residence in the county or home value. Howard and Davis have stated they don’t wish to do away with the exemption, but think the lack of qualifiers is worth discussion.
Newly-elected state representative Ginny Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) recently drew scrutiny to the issue penning an editorial in the Marietta Daily Journal, likening the new board members to the Grinch, who want to snatch “the rug of security out from under our seniors and stuffing it up the chimney.”
“I know why I’m here. It’s for the kids of Cobb County,” Davis said, when asked for a response to the editorial at the ceremony. “That, to me, is just noise and I think it’s more of a reflection on her than anything I say. Everything I say is going to be about kids and what’s best for kids and what we need as a county.”
Any change to the tax code would have to go through the state legislature.
Chastain and Wheeler Elected New Chair and Vice Chair
The board met again Tuesday morning to elect a new chair and vice chair. After three rounds of votes on chair nominees Charisse Davis, Randy Scamihorn and David Chastain, no one had received the required four-vote majority, creating confusion and requiring clarification of the rules. David Banks made a motion to change the policy that would prevent current chair Brad Wheeler from staying in his position. No one seconded the motion and the board took a 17-minute recess.
Upon return, the vote split along party lines between two nominees, with Democrat Davis receiving three votes and Republican Chastain receiving four. Davis then faced off with Republican Wheeler for vice chair, again with three votes for her and four for Wheeler.