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Hinojosa Overhauls Cobb Central Office

The county Board of Education unanimously approves the superintendent's changes, including naming Cheryl Hungerford as his chief of staff.

The Cobb County Board of Education voted 6-0 Wednesday to approve Superintendent Michael Hinojosa’s reorganization of top personnel in the .

The biggest changes were Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Hungerford’s promotion to the new position of chief of staff and a reduction in the number of department divisions from approximately eight to five.

Hinojosa said the changes would save nearly $80,000 in the current budget by eliminating three positions costing $230,000—executive to the superintendent, associate superintendent for operational support and executive secretary for operational support.

“I know my style as a superintendent, and for me to be effective, I need to be out of the office,” Hinojosa told the board, which was informed about the reorganization during an executive session. “I need to be out in the schools. I need to be out in the community. … This structure that I am recommending will allow that to happen.”

Hungerford now oversees the district’s communications, policy development and legislative liaison and the Cobb Education Foundation. The district will hire a policy development director to work under her.

After earning $109,941.53 during fiscal 2010, according to OpenGeorgia.gov, Hungerford’s annual salary will increase to $125,000, a district release reported.

Hinojosa described chief of staff as a “critical” position.

Hinojosa noted that the Atlanta, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett school systems employ chiefs of staff.

Interim Deputy Superintendent Alice Stouder loses the “interim” and becomes the deputy superintendent of leadership and learning. She oversees human capital (formerly known as human resources), support services and evaluation systems, employment, professional standards and ethics, the six area superintendents, principals, student support, alternative education, athletics, and facility use.

“That is the line,” Hinojosa said of Stouder. “That’s where all the accountability happens on all of the campuses.”

Her salary, which was $114,156.52 in fiscal 2010, rises to $138,000.

Robert Benson, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, will become an area superintendent, but Benson told Patch he wasn’t sure which area. Hinojosa noted that Benson previously was the principal at .

Chris Ragsdale, the chief technology officer, becomes the deputy superintendent of operational support, which includes technology. He also oversees the SPLOST program, construction, program management and accountability, planning, project services, transportation, maintenance, public safety, information systems, network operations, instructional technology, program management, field services, and infrastructure. He gets a raise from $126,903.57 in fiscal 2010 to $135,000.

Chief Financial Officer Mike Addison adds responsibility for food and nutrition to procurement, disbursement, budget and accounting services.

Chief Accountability and Research Officer Judi Jones becomes the chief academic officer. She oversees curriculum, instruction and assessment, professional learning, instructional administration, special student services, legal and policy issues, special education, HAVEN Academy, and psychological services.

Although some employees are seeing slight salary cuts, overall the reorganization results in raises totaling $150,000. But Hinojosa said Cobb County is “nowhere near the ballpark with our comparison districts.”

The salaries for deputies and chiefs in the Atlanta, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Fulton school systems, he said, average $150,000 and top out at $184,000.

“I have a lot of experience in doing this in a lot of districts,” said Hinojosa, who started in July after spending 15 of his 32 work years as a superintendent. “Because of vacancies, they assigned duties to other departments, and this probably assigns them where they should’ve been or where they were a long time ago.”

Board member Tim Stultz of Smyrna’s Post 2 didn’t attend the afternoon session of the all-day meeting, which is why only six members voted on the reorganization.

The school board discussed several other issues during its approximately seven-hour work session Wednesday, which included a 2½-hour lunch break and executive session:

  • Prompted by board member David Banks of East and Northeast Cobb’s Post 5, the district will informally try to determine current computer use in schools.
  • Board member Lynnda Crowder-Eagle of West Cobb’s Post 1 requested that Food and Nutrition Services Executive Director Cynthia Downs give a brief update about her department. Downs said the district provided 35 million servings of fruit, vegetables and milk in the 2010-11 school year, up 4 million from the previous school year. She also said 32 schools have raised garden beds for students to use.
  • Crowder-Eagle also had Success for All Students project manager Matt Yancey show a four-minute video that features students acting to illustrate the challenges and stressors that affect students’ ability to learn at school and home. Funded by an $8.5 million federal grant in 2008, Success for All is in Acworth, Powder Springs and Kennesaw schools, but Yancey said it could expand countywide with the board’s support.
  • The board went over new state-mandated board training with Georgia School Boards Association consultant Tony Arasi. It also learned about taking the GSBA’s Standards Program this fall and possibly becoming a Board of Distinction by the end of next year. Forty of the 180 school systems in Georgia have that status; is among them.
  • Hinojosa presented the results of his entry plan, which he conducted through 85 community interviews. Overall, respondents ranked student achievement as the district’s top priority, with 72 people mentioning it. Governance was next with 71, followed by communications, marketing and promotion with 60.

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