Cobb school board hears update on district-funded teacher degree program

Mike Dishman of the University of West Georgia speaking at Cobb school board meeting

by Rebecca Gaunt

Cobb school board members received an update at Thursday’s work session on the Georgia’s BEST program and partnership with the University of West Georgia they approved last year.

According to Superintendent Chris Ragsdale, the district received over 5,000 applications for 500 spots in the first 48 hours. The program pays the costs of advanced teaching degrees in exchange for a five-year commitment to Cobb.

Mike Dishman, dean of the College of Education at UWG, said it has been a great opportunity for enrollees to make connections across the district.

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“You have a cohort full of folks who are getting graduate degrees in special education and leadership,” he said. “The goal is to create assistant principals and others who are deeply versed in special education, which this board should see tremendous benefits in cutting your legal bill.”

Of the first 500 teachers to enter the program, 50 are pursuing graduate degrees in reading education, Dishman reported.

According to the district, it costs $21,000 to recruit and train a replacement when a teacher leaves. The Georgia’s BEST program is intended to help with retention and recruitment.

“For $21,000, the cost of replacing a single teacher, this board can pay for the education of four educators to go fully through a master’s program or specialist program, and ensure they will be with your district for five years,” Dishman said.

Evening session

Not on the agenda tonight: Leroy Tre’ Hutchins safety plan, which has renewed interest as a result of the Feb. 1 parking lot shooting at McEachern High School. He first tried to bring it up for discussion in August.

Despite initially seeming to have the support of fellow board member Brad Wheeler as the fourth vote needed to get it on the agenda in advance of the meeting, the item was not listed when the agenda went public Tuesday.

Wheeler pulled his support, saying it was a matter for executive session, after initially telling the Marietta Daily Journal otherwise.

Hutchins made another attempt to add it during the work session, but was not permitted to do so as it is not considered an emergency item for last minute addition to the agenda, according to board attorney Suzanne Wilcox.

During afternoon public comment, McEachern parent Sequoia Callaway told the board, “I know you can’t be totally transparent…so the bad guys won’t know what we’re doing, but as parents, we kind of feel like we’re on the outside. And we really don’t know what’s being done, if anything is being done at all.”

The board is expected to approve the following tonight:

*A contract with a guaranteed maximum price of $14,504,996 to Carroll Daniel Construction for the renovation and rebuild of Sprayberry High School. Completion date is estimated to be July 2026. The project is funded by SPLOST VI.

*A $9.3 million contract for upgrades to Blackwell Elementary School.

*Flooring replacements at Baker Elementary, Still Elementary, HAVEN Academy, and McCall Primary School for a total of just over $1 million.

*A $5.1 million classroom addition at Nickajack Elementary, funded by SPLOST VI.

*$4.4 million in SPLOST VI funds for Lindley Middle School’s roof replacement.

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