The Harrison PTSA and school leadership have rallied the community to lobby for a different outcome regarding the $14.5 million Harrison construction project that would include the ninth-grade academy.
The revote comes on the heels of a town-hall meeting with board member Alison Bartlett, who faced her new constituents at Harrison Saturday and defended her decision to vote against the project.
Bartlett explained her position to about 100 attendees, saying she was perhaps the most fiscally conservative of the board’s seven members, reported the Marietta Daily Journal.
She also said projections from the Cobb School District’s central office showed Harrison’s enrollment would drop from 2,044 students to 1,966 students next school year and that building the new center now would negatively affect the district’s general fund, which is already facing a $62.4 million shortfall, the MDJ reported.
"So for me, why am I building a building that’s going to cost more in general fund in an area that I don’t see growth coming in any projections?” Bartlett asked.
On a motion from Bartlett, the board voted 4-3 March 22 to postpone the ninth-grade center indefinitely and move ahead only with the other renovations and improvements proposed for Harrison under SPLOST III.
That decision, if it holds, will delay any work at Harrison by at least a year while the architects and engineers go back to the drawing board. At least $460,000 in planning for the project will have to be redone.
Bartlett has steadfastly opposed the ninth-grade center, leading the unsuccessful effort to stop it in February 2011. The board voted 4-3 at that time to proceed with the architectural work for the project.
Kathleen Angelucci and Tim Stultz joined her on the losing side in voting no last year.
They were part of the winning majority in March because Vice Chairman David Morgan of South Cobb switched sides without explanation and voted against the ninth-grade center. Lynnda Eagle, David Banks and Chairman Scott Sweeney voted for the full project.
The Marietta Daily Journal’s About Town column speculated Saturday that Morgan’s vote was payback for Eagle’s opposition to hiring 50 Teach for America teachers for South Cobb and that Morgan will switch his vote again Wednesday in return for support for TFA.
Due to redistricting, Bartlett’s central Cobb district has moved westward to encompass Harrison. That means Bartlett needs the support of the community she has angered if she is to win re-election in the fall.
Bartlett's opposition to the full Harrison project has inspired at least one parent to run against her. Heather Ryan, who spoke in favor of the ninth-grade center at the school board meeting April 26, has said she will run as a Republican, according to the MDJ.
"For the Hoyas, this isn’t a matter of feeling entitled. The big area of contention is that the parents of Harrison High School were promised enhancements to their school, in return for voting in favor of SPLOST 3," wrote Kennesaw resident Mike Sansone in a letter to Patch.
"The parents of Harrison High School have lived up to their end of the bargain, and have suffered through higher taxes. Now, the County is reneging on their end of the bargain, and the parents of Harrison High School are left holding the bag," Sansone wrote.
The school board meets Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. at 514 Glover St., Marietta.