The Cobb County Board of Education approved a proposal from Superintendent Chris Ragsdale to build a $50 million multi-purpose facility during a work session on March 23. In the session, Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said the facility would mostly be used for academic purposes such as science fairs, fine arts presentations, robotic competitions, Career, Technical and Agricultural Education industry credentialing, band, ROTC, college, job fairs, and ACT and SAT administration. He later cited graduation ceremonies as “the most important reason” for bringing the proposal forward.
“High school graduation has been described as the most unifying American experience,” said Ragsdale during the work session. “It is a rare life milestone shared across the diverse cultures and experiences of our county, state, and nation. It is a goal we as a district began emphasizing in pre-k and one shared by every student in every academic and career pathway. It is as important as a goal and achievement spans generations. And the faces of families are not the only ones glowing. I know I’ve been accused of being a pro-teacher superintendent. Not that that’s a bad thing. I would hope everyone would agree. But you should see the faces of our teachers at graduation ceremonies. They are truly beaming.”
Ragsdale also said the facility would increase capacity for these ceremonies, allowing grandparents, step-parents, foster parents, guardians, aunts, uncles, ministers, and more than two siblings to attend. The motion to begin work on the facility passed by a 6-1 vote.
Some Cobb County parents are criticizing the approval to build the facility, saying that it is not the best way to allocate money and resources. A couple of parents voiced their concerns through public comments during a Board of Education meeting last Thursday.
“Over 26% of Cobb third graders are reading below grade level,” said Melissa Martin, a Cobb County parent during the meeting. “That is shameful. For a county that has $50 million to spend on an event facility. This district is no leader when it comes to curriculum.”
“I suspect the statement that will be read in a few minutes will mention the Atlanta shooting and the chase in Dekalb and include a thank you to the local police and I thank them too,” said Andrew Cole, another Cobb parent during the meeting. “But then nothing will be mentioned about the need to address the societal scourge of gun violence from within using proven social, educational, logistical, and medical measures. And that’s the issue. We can do more, and we aren’t. Thoughts and prayers, I have many unalloyed thoughts and prayers for my local leaders to stop whining about wokeness and wake up. I don’t need a new facility for events, my family and I will park in a gravel lot and attend graduation in the rain in a muddy field if it means that my daughters live to graduate.”
The district has not found a location to begin building the facility yet, but board members such as Randy Scamihorn say that it is important to begin working on it “while we still can.”