During a called Board of Education meeting on Monday, March 7, 2022, Dr. Mark Elgart, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cognia, addressed the Cobb County Board of Education regarding the Cognia Special Review conducted from August 15-18, 2022.
In his remarks to the Board, Dr. Elgart stated the District provided evidence challenging the factual basis of findings and recommendations in the Special Review Team Report.
Following a review by Cognia’s professional staff, Cognia concluded: “It appears the Special Review Team did not adequately contextualize or incorporate factual evidence provided by the School District, drawing erroneous conclusions…Special Review Teams are . . . expected to place a higher weight on physical evidence than assertions of opinion or allegations,” noted Elgart. Under Cognia’s processes, “…if a factual error is tied to a finding in the report, the finding can be modified or rejected. That appears to have occurred in the system’s August 15-18, 2021 review.”
Dr. Elgart particularly focused on findings of the Team relating to procurement and communications with Board members.
Regarding procurement, Elgart stated: “The findings in the report related to procurement policies and procedures . . . were not an accurate reflection of the evidence provided. There are no concerns regarding allocation and use of resources by the Cobb County Schools. In fact, the community has historically provided the necessary resources, and the system has a track record of allocating these resources in the best interest of the educational system and its students.”
Regarding the Report incorporating assertions that Board members were not provided information by the District until they were expected to vote on items, Elgart stated this assertion was contradicted by evidence: “Additionally, findings relating to policy proposal and implementation were inconsistent with the factual evidence provided. While the report contained assertions that board members did not have adequate time to consider policy and procedure changes requested by the School District’s administration, the record demonstrated board members were provided all board meeting agenda items in advance of board meetings and asked to vote on those items. Additionally, the evidence indicates that the superintendent authorizes and encourages board members to contact members of the executive cabinet directly if they have questions regarding policies, procedures, or operations within those administrators’ areas of responsibility. It is not common practice for superintendents to provide board members this level of direct access and information. This level of access is to be commended. This practice is factually inconsistent with any suggestion that information is withheld from board members.”
Elgart did note Cognia’s continuing concern regarding interactions between members of the Board of Education. “It does not appear all Board members understand or fully appreciate the important role they occupy in School District governance, and the equal importance of acting within, not beyond, this role. It is incumbent upon every board member to set aside personal agendas and focus their efforts on governing together in the best interest of the school system.”
Emphasizing the importance of Board members being ‘truthful, professional, and collaborative,’ Elgart observed: “It is important that board members work cooperatively and collaboratively with each other, the leadership of the system and the community at large to ensure that the Cobb County Schools continue their proud history of student success and ongoing improvement.”
Elgart concluded by withdrawing the Review Team’s recommendation for a monitoring review in December 2022, stating Cognia will reconsider Board governance during the District’s next scheduled review in 2024.
Board Chair David Chastain appreciated the presentation, “Based on Dr. Elgart’s presentation, the Board is happy to hear Cognia’s review of the Special Review contained inaccuracies which have now been corrected in the letter provided to the District and the Board. Our Superintendent, staff, and families can now fully return their focus on students and schools.”
Regarding the findings, Mr. Chris Ragsdale, Superintendent of Schools, thanked Dr. Elgart and Cognia’s professional staff for considering the evidence the District provided to the Special Review Team that was not incorporated into the Report.
Superintendent Ragsdale said, “When we received the Special Review Team Report, we saw a number of findings were not consistent with the evidence we provided to the Team. We greatly appreciate Dr. Elgart and Cognia’s professional staff conducting a subsequent review of the evidence originally provided by the District and reversing findings and recommendations that appeared to be contrary to evidence, and based on statements of opinion and false allegations.”