Dec 10, 2021 - News

New maps put Cobb school board members in same district

Cobb school board district map
Map courtesy of the Cobb County School District

A divided Cobb County Board of Education approved new district maps that put two incumbents in one post, but it’s possible the changes won’t be approved by the state legislature.

Why it matters: The school board is not responsible for redrawing its district boundaries because that task is done by state lawmakers following every census. In other words, any map the board submits to state legislators can be rejected.

  • Each district must contain a roughly equal number of people.
  • The new map, presented by Board Chair Randy Scamihorn, places Democratic board members Jaha Howard and Charisse Davis into the same district.
  • Howard was drawn out of Post 2 and placed into Post 6, which is currently held by Davis. Both are up for re-election in 2022. That means Post 2 will be an open seat.

What they’re saying: Howard told Axios that he has concerns about the process because “there’s not a lot of opportunity for the public to weigh in.” That was one of the things Cognia, the district’s accrediting agency, pointed out in its special review of the school system, he said.

  • “It’s a bad look to come out of the gates and continue doing one of the things we are being asked not to do anymore,” said Howard, who is considering a run for state schools superintendent in 2022.

Davis told Axios that Howard has not officially declared his candidacy, so she’s curious as to why they are drawn into the same district.

Board member Leroy “Tre” Hutchins told Axios he didn’t think the map mets the criteria set forth by Scamihorn, which were to ensure each post has at least two traditional high schools, follow existing precinct boundaries, avoid pairing incumbents to run against each other and keep similar communities of interest together.

Catch up fast: The school board in August approved hiring law firm Taylor English Duma LLP to redraw its district boundaries.

  • Scamihorn said didn’t have a final cost of how much Taylor English’s contract would cost, but previously said he would bring it back to the board if it exceeded $200,000.
  • “The reason why we hired the firm to draw the map was so that we would not be accused of playing politics,” he said.

Yes, but: Since redrawing boundaries is the responsibility of the legislature, state Rep. Erick Allen told Axios that the board’s map is just a suggestion.

Redrawing the boundaries will be done during the 2022 legislative session, the Cobb legislative delegation chair said.

  • Allen said he told board members that he would not consider any maps that were not approved unanimously.
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