Randy Scamihorn, the freshman school board member from Kennesaw, was elected chair of the Cobb County Board of Education on Wednesday, the same day that he took office.
A retired Cobb school teacher and administrator with a background in the military, Scamihorn said he is "confident" he can do the job.
"In the military, when you are enlisted, you learn to roll your sleeves up depending on the situation," he said. "You build the team and the team gets the job done."
Scamihorn, 63, was elected without opposition to the Post 1 seat that covers Acworth and Kennesaw after his predecessor, Lynnda Eagle, decided not to seek another term.
He recently answered questions about gun control, the upcoming referendum to extend the Education SPLOST and his plans for the next four years.
This is what he had to say.
Q: What a turn of events. The rookie is now school board chair. When board members cast their votes, were you surprised with the outcome?
A: Mildly surprised, but I had been approached by a couple of board members and several community leaders (who asked) would I consider being the chair. And I said, 'Well, I've always been a team player. If the board feels like I'm needed, I'll be happy to step up and do the best that I can.' But I would never have thought to seek it because it's just not my personality to think that a new member should be so arrogant as to think that they should move right up to the top.
Q: So you had some inkling before Wednesday that you would be considered for the chairman's post. When did these "board members and community leaders" approach you about the position?
A: At different times. It wasn't like a group or whatever. Probably mid-October at the earliest. As the candidates were shaping up, and the possibilities were finite, somewhere along in there. And then somebody else asked me about it after that. And then just before Christmas, about four weeks ago, somebody else asked me about it. I said, 'Wow.'
Q: Introduce yourself.
A: As a newly elected Cobb County Board member and resident of Kennesaw, I am proud to say that my children attended and graduated from CCSD. Also, my grandchildren now attend or have graduated from CCSD. I have been married for 43 years to a retired Cobb County teacher. My daughter is a current Cobb County teacher, and I too am a retired Cobb County teacher/administrator. Education is definitely in my blood! As a teacher, I was asked by my superiors to become career and technology chair. Years later, I was asked by other superiors to become an administrator. As a North Cobb High School administrator, I was voted by the entire faculty as the outstanding educator for the year. In 14 years of education, I took every opportunity to experience different schools and positions as opportunities presented themselves. I have a technical and engineering background as well as decades in leadership positions, working with people to solve issues and get things done. One of my strongest assets is the willingness to listen to others. In summary, I believe my background in the military, where I served for 20 years as a commissioned officer, 14 years of service as a teacher and administrator in CCSD, plus my business management degree uniquely positions me to understand issues from multiple points of view.
Q: Are the items on the SPLOST IV list worthy of investing taxpayer dollars? Why or why not?
A: I have glanced at the list, but I have not thoroughly investigated it. As a candidate and as an outsider until (Wednesday) night, I wasn't privileged with all of the information obviously.
I do believe that it was the most transparent process that any SPLOST has taken and there are some necessary things on there. Nationally as well as statewide, we are in dire need of skilled labor, welders, nurses, things like that. If we're going to move in that direction, we're going to have to invest some funds to bring our high schools up to speed and possibly build career tech-oriented high schools. I'm in strong favor, if the SPLOST goes through, of making these new programs and revised programs as accessible to all the students of Cobb County, whether it's located atOsborne or Lassiter or Allatoona. We're not going to be able to duplicate everything in every high school, but we might be able to locate programs where it's convenient for other kids to get to.
Q: In light of the Connecticut school shooting, please share your thoughts on gun control.
A: I am not a gun enthusiast, but I am a supporter of the Second Amendment. The county is not empowered to change gun laws, so I’ll leave that decision up to the state and federal governments, but I will say that violence in schools is a complex issue, one that can’t be solved solely through stricter gun laws. Connecticut and other places like Chicago have very strict gun laws, but the laws haven’t prevented violence. I believe we need to look at our mental health laws as well. Morality can’t be legislated, but as a community, we need to address the negative influences within and outside our schools.
Cobb County Schools are already protected as well as most schools in our nation. A police officer is assigned to every high school; one police officer is assigned to every two middle schools (which are located close to one another), and a police officer is available to every elementary school on call. Additionally, Cobb County has electronic access control systems for all elementary schools, and of course, surveillance cameras in every school.
All of our schools also have safety plans that are frequently reviewed with the staff. Schools implement scheduled practices for lockdown so that every staff member and every student know what to do and where to go. The school district’s Public Safety Department has requested assistance from all police agencies in Cobb County so the community may notice an even greater vigilance this school year. Could we improve our safety measures? It’s certainly worth exploring, so the School Board will definitely be revisiting this important issue, looking for ways to fund even greater safety measures like one officer per middle school. Our children are our greatest resource!
Q: What are some of the major goals you'd like to achieve?
A: Develop an efficient model to reallocate fiscal resources while maintaining the integrity of the institution and mission. Continuously monitor and conduct valid evaluations of programs to insure the delivery of necessary services. Construct reliable projections for the basis of all decisions. Evaluate the impact of different educational models.
Q: What challenges do you think you will face as an elected official?
A: I believe the pressure from many leaders at the state and federal level has forced our leaders to attempt to micromanage our school administrators and classroom teachers. In addition, the contraction in the economy has added additional pressures on many schools, teachers and parents.
Q: What are you looking forward to the most?
A: As a former teacher, administrator, and parent, I often felt frustrated that I couldn’t do more to further the education of our students. As a board member, I will have the chance to hear the ideas of educators, parents, and community leaders across the county, and then I will be blessed with the opportunity to speak for those concerned individuals and hopefully make a difference, moving all students toward a quality education.
Q: What do you think are some major challenges facing Cobb County Schools and what are some specifics you want to do to address those challenges?
A: I’m looking for operational and instructional areas that are expensive to operate and yet have a minimal impact on our students’ education. We must question every dime spent of the taxpayers’ money. I am also committed to reaching out to our state legislators and being a strong voice concerning the financial pressures put upon our district through the austerity cuts we have endured. In addition, I plan to point out the inherent unfairness that the current QBE formula places upon our community during times of economic downturn.
Q: Are there any smaller, less pressing issues you want to address?
A: I would also revisit the ramifications of social promotions. Another growing issue involves the distractions outside of education which lure our students away from academic disciplines both in and outside of school.
Q: What do you hope to take away from this experience?
A: I hope that the next four years will bring the inner satisfaction that I have helped to create a better learning environment for our students, better support for our teachers, parents, and administrators, and a safer community.
Q: Anything else you want people to know about you?
A: My platform has been and still is:
- Kids first, world-class education. We need to focus on keeping qualified teachers in the classroom and keeping a manageable ratio of students to teacher.
- Leadership. We need to keep politics out of the board room and lead upfront, not from behind.
- Fiscal responsibility. Cobb County needs to practice sound conservative fiscal policies and protocol to protect the assets of the districts.