Cobb Board of Education members went out of their way to praise the passion, organization and dedication of parents and community members behind the proposed Smyrna Academy of Excellence.
But a majority of the school board could not give the charter school petition their votes when the measure came up during Thursday night's business meeting.
Concerns over financing prompted a 4-3 split to turn down the SAE request, which also had been recommended for rejection by superintendent Michael Hinojosa.
"What I struggle with is separating the passion and the facts," vice chairman David Morgan told a crowded board meeting room full of SAE supporters. "If we approve the charter, the numbers don't add up. The superintendent and his administrators are saying that it is not a sound financial plan to sustain this school.”
Morgan, chairman Scott Sweeney, Allison Bartlett and Kathleen Angelucci were the board members voting against, with Smyrna-area representative Tim Stultz, Lynnda Eagle and David Banks voting in favor.
After voting 7-0 to renew the charter for East Cobb's Walton High School, the school board took a skeptical view of the Smyrna plans before a packed house of SAE supporters, many of whom pleaded for approval by bringing their children to the podium during the public comment session.
"People move to East Cobb because of the schools," said parent Anshika Karamchandani, who holds an MBA degree from MIT and had her young daughter by her side. "We want the same for South Cobb."
The SAE proposal calls for starting a K-6th grade program with 670 students for the 2013-14 school year, adding a grade level each year through 12th grade. The organizers have received nearly $600,000 in community pledges and have been invited to apply for grants totalling nearly $13 million.
But the funding levels per pupil would be far less -- around $5,900 compared to the standard district average of nearly $8,000. And SAE chairman Jimmy Arispe admitted that the group had only $5,000 in reserves.
"We can do it on the 59," said Arispe, a former Cobb schools teacher and adminstrator, referring to the per-pupil expenditutre. "It's going to be a squeeze, but I know we can do it."
That wasn't enough to satisfy Sweeney, worried that teachers "are working harder for less money" as it is. "We want people to be successful, but I have financial questions. These are very, very deep concerns."
For more coverage of the SAE issue, visit .
The board also took action on the following items Thursday:
Campbell Middle School Renovations
The board voted 6-1 to approve $4.3 million to refurbish the school's aging gym, some classrooms, band and orchestra space and other upgrades, but not without some heated discussion about the cost for the project.
Banks tried to get the board to table the matter, concerned by 21 percent cost overruns that he wanted school system staff to analyze.
But Post 7 board member Bartlett lashed out at the proposed delay, saying improvements to the more than 60-year-old facility "are desperately needed.
"It has areas that have not been maintained, and the gym is one," she said. "It costs money to maintain our older buildings, and this is one of them."
Banks was the only vote against approval of the project.
Chief Financial Officer
The school board also approved Hinojosa's recommendation to hire Brad Johnson, currently the deputy chief financial officer for Atlanta Public Schools, to succeed retiring chief financial officer Mike Addison.
Johnson has been in his current position since 2010 and has been with the Atlanta school district since 1989. He has worked as an accountant in the private sector for the Ivan Allen Co., Enstar Communications and United Parcel Service.
His appointment is effective Oct. 1.
- Current Lost Mountain Middle School principal Robert Downs has been named principal at Pope High School.
- Hightower Trail Middle School assistant administrator Pamela Cain becomes assistant principal at Compton Elementary School.
- Barry Frazier moves from being a counselor at Powder Springs Elementary School to an assistant principal there.
- Floyd Middle School assistant administrator Damian Bounds has been appointed Lindley Middle School assistant principal.
- Campbell High School assistant principal Angela Crisler has been appointed to the same position at Hightower Trail Middle School.
- Pine Mountain Middle School teacher Parecia deNeergaard becomes an assistant administrator at Simpson Middle School.
- Lindley Middle School teacher Sabrina Richardson has been appointed an assistant principal at the same school.
- Belmont Hills Elementary School principal Terry Floyd has been named director of intervention and support, curriculum, instruction and assessment for the school district.
- Kennesaw Mountain High School teacher Angelo Washington will split teaching and administrative duties at Osborne High School.
- Chalker Elementary School principal Jo Ann Sappington.
- Internal Audit Services Director Mima Carpenter.
- Lindley Middle School assistant principal Alan Lavizzo.
- Pope High School assistant principal Steven Craft.
- Campbell High School assistant principal Audra Saunders.