A Cobb County school administrator’s job has been cut because of budget woes.
Mary Finlayson, the district’s professional standards and ethics director, has come under scrutiny from school board members and employees after two cases her office handled within the past year were dropped due to lack of evidence. However, officials with the district stopped short of tying the position elimination to the recent complaints.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and board chair Randy Scamihorn recently acknowledged in a joint statement that the human resources department will be reorganized as part of budget cuts. The school district is one of the county’s largest employers and Finlayson’s position is part of the human resources department. She led investigations of employee misconduct.
On Thursday, Cobb’s school board approved cutting 16 central office administration positions as part of an effort to close an $86.4 million budget deficit.
During the last five years, Cobb officials have disciplined at least 22 employees for violating the “mandated reporting law,” according to records. The law requires educators to report accusations of child abuse to the police or the Division of Family and Children Services within 24 hours. Nine employees lost their jobs as a result of the investigations, with some resigning or retiring.
The numbers are high in comparison to some other metro Atlanta school districts. Gwinnett County schools, the state’s largest district, charged three employees with breaking the law in the last five years. Meanwhile, no DeKalb County school employees have been charged with breaking the law in the last five years.
Last year, Trudie Donovan, then principal at Cobb’s Kell High School, was charged with a misdemeanor after she was accused by Finlayson’s office of violating the mandated reporting law, which was recently expanded to include school and church volunteers.
Donovan was accused of failing to report the abuse of a student by a teacher. She has since retired. The incident was reported to DFCS, but not in a timely manner. A counselor involved in the incident resigned but was not charged criminally.
A judge later dismissed the criminal charge against Donovan.
More recently, Finlayson’s office attempted to suspend Jeff Crawford, a principal at Awtrey Middle School, for insubordination and failing to properly report a student’s rape accusation. The accusation involved a teenager the same age as the female student. The alleged incident did not happen at the school. Administrators later dropped that case.
Cobb teacher advocates have said there has been a lot of confusion and anxiety around the reporting policy.
“We want to acknowledge the concerns that have been expressed about certain employment decisions made by the Cobb County School District and School Board,” Hinojosa and Scamihorn said in the statement. “We take the concerns very seriously and have spent the last several weeks looking at changes that need to be made. Our senior leadership and human resources staff have committed to learn from past decisions, and specifically they are factoring in discussions over the last several months that have taken place with prosecutors, DFCS, and others.”