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Axios Atlanta

It's Monday. And it'll be alright. It might even be all we hoped it would be.

☀️ Today's weather: Clear skies with a high in the 50s. Wear a jacket.

🎵Sounds like: "Good Day Sunshine"

Situational awareness: We're reading George Chidi's Atlanta Magazine essay on the relationship between crime and poverty.

Today's newsletter is 907 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Distrust plagues Cobb County schools

A Cobb County School bus. Photo: Mike Stewart/AP

Educator Julia Varnedoe was hospitalized with COVID-19 in late 2020, around the same time two fellow teachers, Patrick Key and Dana Johnson, were fighting for their lives in the ICU with the same disease.

  • Varnedoe, who at the time taught at Mount Bethel Elementary School in Cobb County, survived her battle. Johnson and Key did not.

Why it matters: It’s been about a year since Key, Johnson and Cynthia Lindsey, a paraprofessional at Sedalia Park Elementary School, died from COVID-19. Some say not enough has been done to improve morale among teachers and repair the Cobb County School District’s relationship with parents.

Driving the news: Cobb County Superintendent Chris Ragsdale announced this month that the district would not contact trace for all suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases and that it would change how it posts cases to its website.

  • After not updating its numbers since Dec. 17, the district Friday only posted the total number of COVID cases for the week of Jan. 14-21.

What they’re saying: Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, tells Axios that teachers have felt demoralized, scared and frustrated over the last year.

  • A lack of transparency at the district level and varying COVID protocols by schools have led to a general feeling that the system doesn’t have the best interest of educators in mind, she said.

The other side: The school district tells Axios in a statement that it factors in “the importance of in-person learning and the frequent changes associated with COVID-19” when it comes to updating its guidelines.

Read the full story.

2. What's on Gov. Kemp's bedside table?

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Brian Kemp, his politics and his policies often make it into our newsletter and the headlines. (See: here, here and here.)

But do you know what he keeps on his bedside table? Or reads on his phone first thing in the morning? We asked.

🌅 First tap of the day: "I read the Wall Street Journal, CNBC and the AJC— just so I know what the headline reads versus what the truth is."

🎶 Do you have a go-to radio station or Spotify playlist? "I really don't get to listen to too much radio. Normally, I'm on the phone when I'm in the car."

📖 What's on your bedside table? "I'm reading a book that [Kemp's daughter] Lucy gave me right now that a former pastor of a megachurch wrote about slowing down and how rushed society is. It's pretty good."

🔫 But beyond books, Kemp said he keeps a Smith & Wesson Governor on his bedside table at his Athens home. And a Walther 9mm handgun by his bed at the governor's mansion.

Read the full story.

3. ✌️ Georgia is for quitters (and help wanted ads, apparently)

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Looking for the epicenter of the Great Resignation? Head to the restaurant down the street.

  • For the last several months of 2021, Georgia saw some of the highest quit and hiring (and firing) rates in the country.

Why it matters: In August 2021, Georgia ranked first in the nation for the percentage of workers quitting, second for employers giving out pink slips, third for job openings and fourth for hiring, state economist Jeffrey Dorfman told state lawmakers last week.

Between the lines: Employers are bringing on new workers at almost the exact same rate they’re quitting or being fired, Dorfman told the joint appropriations committee.

  • “Our employers are working really hard just to sort of tread water to keep the number of employees and job openings even,” he said. “We just can’t get ahead because there’s so much churn in the job market."

What we’re watching: The most recent data says Georgia is near the top for job openings, which Dorfman tells Axios is thanks to, among other reasons, Georgia not shutting down during the COVID pandemic and companies relocating or expanding their businesses here.

Read the full story.

4. 🖼 Money and art

A dress rehearsal of the play "In the Solitude of Cotton Fields" at 7 Stages. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/AP

Nearly 30 Atlanta arts organizations are receiving thousands of dollars in grant funding from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

  • 45% of this $1 million round’s funding was awarded to BIPOC-led and -serving organizations, the foundation said in a statement. 72% of the 18 applicants of color received funding.

Why it matters: Over the decades, Black artists and creators have played an overlooked, underfunded and important role in the city’s arts communities.

Flashback: In June 2020, artists and advocates called out the foundation after a $580,000 round of emergency COVID funding did not include Black-led arts organizations.

Foundation officials partnered with arts groups to make the competitive grants more inclusive and accessible and promised to focus on equity.

  • The following round, more than 90 percent of the funds went to arts organizations founded or led by people of color.

Read the full story.

5. 🖐 Five-ish Points: See you in Venice

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏡 A Fulton County program to help keep seniors in their homes needs an overhaul, advocates say. (WSB)

🏭 Residents near the future Rivian plant want more information about the factory and its potential effect on the communities. (AJC)

🗯 Buckhead cityhood boosters are crying foul after city inspectors ordered them to change their HQ's sign. (Saporta Report)

🚔 Today's interesting real estate listings include *rubs eyes* a former jail in Putnam County. (GovDeals)

🧑‍🎨 Three Atlanta visual artists will exhibit their work at the Venice Biennale, the "Olympics of the art world." (ArtsATL)

🤔 One metro Atlanta landlord kept filing eviction notices, even during the federal moratorium. (GPB)

🎙 In case you missed it, here is our conversation with local media relations whiz Mitch Leff about Axios Local and our goals for this newsletter.