Cobb school board suppressing Black members, racial discussions, board member says

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Cobb County School Boardmember Charisse Davis says that her colleagues on the Cobb school board are suppressing needed conversations on systemic racism and ignoring the Black members of the board.

Davis said that she and board member Dr. Jaha Howard drafted and sent a call to action to Superintendent Chris Ragsdale addressing systemic racism. Davis sent their letter to the rest of her colleagues on the board to respond and sign on to Wednesday, June 10.

Davis and Howard’s call to action calls on Ragsdale and his cabinet to provide cultural bias training for employees and analyze the disproportionate rates at which students of color receive certain disciplinary outcomes, among other action items.

Davis said that the following day, board members received an email stating that board member Randy Scamihorn would be drafting a resolution condemning racism. Additionally, she said that as of Sunday evening, none of her colleagues acknowledged her and Howard’s call to action.

“Randy is drafting a resolution condemning racism, without the input of any of the Black board members, apparently. …[the resolution] is going to be put on the agenda,” Davis said. “I asked to have my letter placed on the agenda if that’s what we were saying had to be the process, and of course, I got a no.”

There are three Black people on Cobb’s school board and four white men.

When the Courier emailed a district spokesperson to ask if a statement condemning racism was in the works for Cobb County School District, they said that Scamihorn was working on and introducing a resolution condemning racism at the board meeting happening Thursday, June 25.

Davis said that she received the meeting agenda earlier than usual and she is very concerned with Scamihorn writing the resolution. She also said that Cobb should have released a statement addressing racism about a month earlier, after the police killing of George Floyd.

Additionally, Davis said that part of the reason she and Howard drafted the call to action was for Ragsdale to research and examine systemic issues of race and racism at Cobb schools with his cabinet and create solutions. Condemning racism does not go far enough, she said.

“Anyone that did a resolution already — that was supposed to be a start,” she said. “You’re not like, ‘let me check the box, I’m good, I did a resolution’ — the resolutions don’t mean anything. If we can just put on paper that racism is bad, and you think that’s okay — that is the most basic thing. We should have been able to say that six months ago, six weeks ago.”

Davis believes that the lack of transparency from the school board exposes a longer trend of Cobb school board members ignoring and actively suppressing the concerns of students and people of color.

She pointed to a controversial meeting in October 2019 in which board members ended board member comments in future meetings in a 4-3 vote. The vote was split between the Black and white members of the Cobb school board, with all Black members voting the latter.

Some faculty and parents believed the board ended board comments after Davis and Howard addressed racism and deportations of immigrant students’ parents in Cobb schools at an earlier meeting.

Davis said that many Black students face racism in Cobb schools and have pleaded with the school board to take action, but that they are continually silenced.

Additionally, Davis said that Scamihorn writing a resolution without any of the Black members on the board negates the purpose of writing a resolution condemning racism.

Davis said that she plans on pushing back on Scamihorn’s resolution at the June 25 meeting.

“I don’t know how you can draft a resolution on racism without the members of your board that are Black, especially considering that you’ve been suppressing any talk about these topics through this point,” she said. “So honestly, I just don’t trust it.”

The Courier asked Board Chair Brad Wheeler why he did not respond to Davis’ letter and if Davis’ letter was on the agenda. Wheeler wrote the following:

“No response is a response. It appeared to be a [sic] all or nothing proposal. Although I agreed with several items, there were several I did not as proposed. Some items needed more clarification. The Call to Action was never submitted for a board agenda item. I felt they were looking for a separate action with this proposal. When Mr. Scamihorn’s item is discussed, members may amend it if they would like to add to it. Hopefully, together we can find agreement with a proposal that unites us in this fight.”

The Courier reached out to Scamihorn twice and received no response as of the deadline for this article.

Arielle Robinson is an undergrad at Kennesaw State University. She is the president of the university’s Society of Professional Journalists and an editor at the KSU Sentinel. She enjoys music, reading poetry and non-fiction books and collecting books and records.

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1 Comment on "Cobb school board suppressing Black members, racial discussions, board member says"

  1. Russell Clay Sr. | June 25, 2020 at 7:32 am | Reply

    Dear Board of Commissioners,

     

    I am writing to protest the appointment of Fire Chief Randy Crider as Director of Public Safety. I am requesting the Cobb County Board of Commissioners rescind the appointment of former Fire Chief Randy Crider as the Director of Public Safety.

     

    He wanted to thank the folks at the Fire Dept. for their support. I am a retired Firefighter of Cobb County Fire Dept. and I certainly do not support his appointment. The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved his appointment on May 21, 2020 according to the posted public safety announcement.  

     

    Please see the Director’s Message at the following link:  https://www.cobbcounty.org/public-safety/news/directors-message

     

    However, his message of bringing many stakeholders together begins with a blemish.  There was a Faith and Community Forum electronically advertised for Monday August 12, 2019. Many Residential tax-paying stakeholders were unable to attend this meeting. This meeting was held at an inopportune time for many residents. It was held in a location with very limited capacity, and the RSVP process was an absolute failure of notification and verification for residents.  There were more Public Safety Employees in attendance than members of the community.  There was a failure to communicate the information shared at this meeting to the residential stakeholders at large. They failed to have Cobb TV 23 live broadcast the event or record for showing at a later time. There were no known news reporters in attendance at this event. However, I did audio record a portion of the community forum and have provided a link to the audio recording. The speakers at the community forum are clearly identified. 

     

    Please see the Faith Community Forum link:

    https://www.cobbcounty.org/public-safety/fire/events/faith-and-community-forum

     

    Please see the link for the audio recording of the Faith & Community Forum:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/aabftqjxxcwua79/FaithForum%202019%200812%202.m4a?dl=0

     

    The information Fire Chief Crider shared at the Faith & Community Forum provides a historical view of his stated cultural commitment of Unity through Diversity.  Fire Chief Randy Crider stated of the Fire Department, “We are far from a Department representing the community that we serve from a demographic perspective.” In addition, Fire Chief Crider stated, “ I get it and I value that we as a department need to represent the community that we serve and we are far from that.”  Why did it take so long for Fire Chief Crider to get on board with the idea of the Fire Department work force being reflective of the community served? 

     

    Before and during Fire Chief Crider’s employment with the Cobb County Fire Department there were parameters in place to address and resolve this issue of the Fire Department work force not being reflective of the community served. In October 1990 Fire Chief Randy Crider joined the Cobb County Fire Department.  In 1989 the Cobb County Board of Commissioners adopted an Affirmative Action Plan (AA).  Jay Schaudies, the labor attorney wrote specific mandates in the AA plan, which included “As vacancies occur, however, we will exert every effort to recruit, employ, and advance minorities and females.”  The Affirmative Action Officer and Personnel Director at that time were planning to produce and distribute semi-annual reports to give number of blacks, females and all other groups.  In 2017, The Cobb County Accreditation Committee peer assessment group stated recommendation under Criterion 7B that stated the workforce composition should be reflective of the service area demographics or that a reasonable effort was given to an effective recruitment plan to reach the desired workforce composition. With the requirements of the AA plan and the recommendation of the Accreditation Committee already in place prior to 2019, currently Cobb County Fire Department has no minority Chief Officers. The current make up of the Fire Department is still not reflective of the community served and is far worse today relative to the population increase over the years. Chief Crider had a grand opportunity to address this problem head on and initiate action to effect real change at resolving this problem during his service as the top Chief Officer of the Fire Department. He served as Fire Chief from 2014 until his appointment as Director of Public Safety in 2020. 

     

    I supposed he used the information presented at the Faith Forum to publicly acknowledge the lack of diversity in the Fire Department, to acknowledge the disparate impact of the hiring practices that negatively impacted minorities, to acknowledge that they need to look at the promotional process and written tests, to acknowledge that they didn’t reach down and bring up minorities through the organization.  I submit to you Director Crider completed his appointment as Fire Chief just as those who support racism and systemic racism would like for it to be. He left the Chief Officer position with no minority Chief Officers appointed and failed to reasonably meet the requirements of the AA plan and failed to meet the recommendations given by the Cobb County Accreditation Committee. Ultimately, he failed in his duty to the minority residents and business owners in Cobb County. Therefore, why should he be appointed as the Director of Public Safety with such a horrible track record?

     

    I admonish you to do your research and make an informed decision about those who are chosen to serve the entire community and not just a select group of people. In addition, Chief Crider did not step forward on his own accord and begin to seriously address this problem of diversity and systemic racism. Action to effect change on this matter began after I submitted my concerns via email to the Board of Commissioners in 2018 and my continuance to voice my concern via email and at a Board meeting on March 29, 2019. 

     

    I have attached some additional links and items for review to assist you with your research concerning my protest.

     

    Sincerely,

     

    Russell Clay

     

     

     

     

    Links and attachments:

     

    Cobb County Open Records Request

    https://www.cobbcounty.org/board/county-attorney/open-records-requests

     

    11 Alive Investigative Report blacks/females lack opportunity

    https://www.11alive.com/article/news/blacks-females-lack-opportunities-in-cobb-county-fire-and-police-departments/85-70de3704-57d1-4671-9815-f3abdf008986

     

    Cobb Police and Fire Protest

    https://cobbcountycourier.com/2019/03/cobb-police-firefighters-protest/

     

    01 Director Message

    02 Faith and Community Forum

    03 Faith Forum Presentation

    04 Affirmative Action

    05 Affirmative Action

    06 Diversity Profile 2018

    07 MGMT Accountability

     

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