The Laptop Minefield

It’s a scenario that has become all too familiar. A school board and a superintendent take a stand as leaders and try to change things for the better. But explosive politics, community outrage, and an expensive lawsuit derail the initiative. The superintendent resigns and board members face a difficult, if not impossible, challenge when voters return to the polls.

This is what happened in Cobb County, Ga., several years ago, when the 104,000 student district tried to provide laptops to students and teachers. The initiative led to the resignation of Superintendent Joseph Redden, a lawsuit by a former Cobb County commissioner, and the involvement of former Gov. Roy Barnes as the attorney for the plaintiffs.

Cobb County is a great example of an administrator and a school board walking into a political minefield. Was the project too big to be taken on all at once? Did it cost too much? Did the board and superintendent fail to get the public’s support for the project? Yes, yes, and oh, yes.

Hindsight is the same as perfect vision, but it is a wise board that learns from the mistakes of others. As an administrator who has worked as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent in three small Georgia counties, I followed closely what occurred in Cobb County and found some valuable questions that you should ask before taking on any large-scale initiative.

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