East Cobb’s Scott Sweeney named chairman of Ga. Board of Education

Former Cobb Board of Education member Scott Sweeney will serve this year as the chairman of the Georgia Board of Education.Scott Sweeney, Georgia Board of Education

Sweeney is an East Cobb resident who represented the Walton and Wheeler clusters from 2011-2018.

“I look forward to working with Scott and Jason to pursue continued improvements in Georgia’s K-12 public schools and expanded opportunities for our students,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a statement. “They are both upstanding individuals with strong experience in education governance, and Georgia’s students will benefit from their leadership.”

Sweeney is a Senior Business Advisor for InPrime Legal of East Cobb, a business law firm recognized as one of four 2019 Small Business ROCK STARS by the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Georgia Economic Developers Association.

“It’s an honor to serve as Chairman of the State Board of Education,” Sweeney said. “I look forward to working with Governor Brian Kemp, Superintendent Richard Woods, and my board colleagues as we all strive to do our best serving Georgia’s K-12 students, their families, teachers and administrators.”

During his time on the Cobb school board, he served as chairman and vice chairman and currently serves as a member of Georgia’s Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) Business & Advisory Committee and as a member of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee.

Georgia Board of Education members are chosen by the governor via Congressional district. Sweeney represents the 6th Congressional District, and vice chairman Jason Downey of Macon is from the 8th District.


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Three people injured, two seriously, in Woodstock Road crash

Woodstock Road crash

Three people were taken to WellStar Kennestone Hospital Saturday night after their car crashed with another vehicle on Woodstock Road in Northeast Cobb, according to Cobb Police.

Officer Sydney Melton said in a release Sunday morning that Dorothy Graham, 81, and Victoria Graham, 67, both of Marietta, suffered serious injuries. Cline Graham, 74, of Marietta, had non-life-threatening injuries, Melton said.

Melton said they were in a blue 2008 Honda CR-V traveling westbound on Woodstock Road at 9:44 p.m. Saturday when Cline Graham, the driver, tried making a left turn onto southbound Mabry Road.

The Honda hit a silver 2014 Jeep Wrangler that was heading east on Woodstock Road, according to Melton. She said the Jeep’s driver, Brittany Bonner, 18, of Marietta, did not require medical attention at the scene.

Melton said the crash is still being investigated and that anyone with information is asked to call the Cobb Police Selective Traffic Enforcement Program Unit at 770-499-3987.


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Creative classes coming up this week at Sewell Mill Library

Submitted information:

Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center features a creative studio that houses sound booths for audio recording, a state-of-the-art recording studio, a video production room with a green screen, an iMac editing station and Adobe hardware and software for creating projects.

Below are some of the upcoming classes and activities:

  • Paper to Digital: Transforming hand drawn sketches to digital paintings
    6 p.m., Monday, Jan. 27
    Space is limited and registration required. Call 770-509-4988 to register.
  • Music Business Marketing with Rich Productions
    6 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 29
  • Learn with Awesome Design Academy
    • Discover Design Careers (2-3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 8)
    • You Can with Canva! (2-4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 29)
    • Let’s Create (2-4 p.m., Saturday, April 4)

Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Center is located at 2051 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta. For more information, visit cobbcat.org/news-updates/sewellmilllibrary.


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Keegan’s Irish Pub to close and reopen as East Cobb Tavern

Keegan’s Irish Pub has announced that it’s undergoing remodeling at its East Cobb/Roswell location starting Sunday and when it reopens next Friday, it will be known as East Cobb Tavern.East Cobb Tavern, Keegan's Irish Pub

The restaurant and bar located in the Shallowford Corners Shopping Center (4401 Shallowford Road) is having an Irish wake from 8-11 Saturday to close out the old place.

Menu changes are planned but there’s nothing specific for now. Keegan’s will close out at 3 p.m. on Sunday, then reopen as East Cobb Tavern next Friday, Jan. 31, at 11 a.m.

Keegan’s has been the only Irish pub in the East Cobb area, and is one of four locations in metro Atlanta (Kennesaw, Vinings and Woodstock, the latter being known as Keegan’s Public House) and all feature live music.

For Saturday’s wake at Keegan’s East Cobb, there will be drink specials and raffle prizes, and they’ll be making framed Guinness, Harp and Smithwick’s mirrors available during the festivities.

Updates on the renovations are being posted on the Keegan’s Facebook page, and it’s created another for East Cobb Tavern.

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Wheeler student talks about cultural differences at Jewish school

Ashleigh Ewald

Submitted information and photo about Wheeler High School student Ashleigh Ewald, at left, who recently spoke to students at an Atlanta Jewish school with Rukaiya Masika, an Atlanta-area high school student from the Congo:

Rukaiya Masika is a 17 year old Atlanta metro high school student who is originally from the Congo of Africa. She shared her story about being born in the Congo and having to flee to another country because of the war going on in her native land. She described her tiring journey of traveling by foot from Congo to Uganda and recalled not being able to feel her legs from exhaustion. Rukaiya had to attend boarding school because her mother could not afford to feed her; the school provided food instead. She spoke about her hardships and even about being bullied by kids in her new school. Some kids teased her because of her cultural differences and even wearing a hijab (a religious garment used as a head covering).  

She encouraged the students to be themselves and that fitting in is a waste of time because their difference is also their strength. Questions were posed at the end where one 5th grader asked if Rukaiya would be able to see her family again. Rukaiya replied by saying that some of her family was already in the United States; however, due to the exodus from her country she does not know who her father is. She then gave the students advice about staying hopeful in difficult situations and of the importance of always being themselves.  

The audience consisted of 5th through 8th graders who rotated into the classroom to hear the stories being presented by the speakers. Ashleigh speaks about being born in the time of the One Child Policy. She was born on October 6, 2002, when the One Child Policy was happening. She discussed how being born a girl and cleft-affected  were not safe combinations during the One Child Policy.

The students were in dismay, and Ashleigh continued by telling them how she felt fortunate to be alive. She went on about being adopted from Shenyang, China, at the age of 4 and being brought to live in Georgia. Then, she spoke about being put up for adoption a second time because of the possibility that her first adopted parents didn’t know how to care for a traumatized child. Ashleigh then revealed that foster home experiences are different for each child and that some grow out of the system.

Ashleigh shared her middle-school experiences of trying to cope with the need to be accepted, discussing how hanging out with the “cool kids” to try and fit in only slows down an individual from achieving their dreams. 

Ashleigh started becoming a follower and a gossiper. In addition, Ashleigh informed the students that they will become the people they associate with, and so they should be mindful of that. Students were urged to be good to all and that people remember the way you treat them later on. Then, she explained how, ever since she dropped from that group, she was able to focus more on her goals and who she was, helping her get to her dream of being a U.S. Senator and motivational speaker. Her inspiration came from meeting a Holocaust survivor, and she knew she wanted to be a politician who will protect human rights. Finally, she wrapped up her speech by discussing how to slowly gain self-confidence and not seek acceptance from others. Ashleigh gave them advice on how being different is power rather than on fitting in. The unique is original!   


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Revised Cobb public safety step-and-grade would cost $5.7M

Cobb County Chairman Boyce, revised Cobb public safety step and grade

With a new budget season on the horizon, Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce said this week his agenda for 2020 is clear-cut.

He told members of the East Cobb Business Association on Tuesday that his top budget priorities are to keep the current property tax millage rate in place, and continue reducing the amount of money the county borrows from the water fund.

Another major objective he’s bringing up next week is a revised step-and-grade salary proposal for public safety personnel that he said “is a really big deal” for police officers, firefighters, sheriff’s deputies, sworn personnel and others.

“There’s nothing else on my plate,” Boyce said during a luncheon at the Olde Towne Athletic Club.

After the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved a one-time bonus, a seven-percent pay raise and an outline for a step-and-grade plan last year, Boyce floated a more detailed proposal last fall that fell flat with some of his colleagues or public safety leaders.

On Tuesday, Boyce will present a revised proposal that would cost an additional $5.7 million annually: $2.1 million for police, $2 million for fire and $1.6 million for the sheriff’s office.

Boyce wants to fast-track this proposal as well, having it take effect for the pay period starting on March 22, if approved.

According to a summary of the proposal included in the commissioners’ meeting agenda, $3.3 million of that new revenue would come from state title and ad valorem tax (TAVT) collections, with $1.1 million coming from the county’s general fund, and another $1.1 million from the fire fund.

The step-and-grade structure is similar to what Cobb County School District employees receive—annual, incremental and automatic raises based on a combination of factors, including years of service, promotions and performance reviews.

Under the revised proposal, the starting salary for an entry-level police officer, sheriff’s deputy or firefighter would jump from around $41,000 a year to $46,000, with the highest salary at that position earning $70,840.

Salaries for the highest police officer and firefighter positions would range from $67,290 to $103,626. For rank-and-file sheriff’s deputies, that top-end range would be $48,435 to $74,590.

The pay raises would be around three percent; under the draft proposal, however, they would not have been automatic and the salary boost would be subject to a performance review.

The revised numbers are slightly higher than what was presented in October. (For the full step-and-grade breakdown chart, click here, and for other proposed public safety salary ranges, click here.

After the ECBA luncheon, Boyce told East Cobb News said he is confident the new formula “is the issue that will restore confidence” to current public safety personnel, and will help with recruiting and retention.

He said that “we’ve engaged the officers,” and that “the key to me is, can we do this without a millage increase?”

For those critical of the draft proposal in October, the revision may pose similar concerns. East Cobb commissioner Bob Ott said then that the plan wouldn’t be step-and-grade if it needed annual budget approval.

Included in the recommendation in Tuesday’s budget item is language that would “authorize the County Manager to proceed working with county staff to develop a policy to review the Step & Grade Plan on an annual basis to determine effectiveness including an annual step as a top priority in future adopted budgets.”

Boyce, a Republican from East Cobb, is seeking re-election in November. His declared opposition includes South Cobb Democratic commissioner Lisa Cupid and East Cobb Republican Larry Savage, who ran for chairman in 2012 and 2016.

Two years ago, Boyce angered fiscal conservatives with a millage rate increase that didn’t address public safety staffing shortages and morale problems over pay and retention.

During last year’s budget deliberations, public safety staffers and advocates, as well as community leaders, implored commissioners to take measures to address what they termed a “crisis.”

One-time bonuses approved in May were promised as a “first step,” and when commissioners approved the fiscal year 2020 budget in July, it included a seven-percent raise for public safety employees.

Tuesday’s commission meeting is at 7 p.m. in the second floor board room of the Cobb government building, 100 Cherokee St., downtown Marietta. You can read through the full agenda by clicking here.


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East Cobb food scores: Rosa’s; California Pizza Kitchen; more

Rosa's Pizza, East Cobb businesses alcohol compliance checks, East Cobb food scores

The following East Cobb food scores from Jan. 20-24 have been compiled by the Cobb & Douglas Department of Public Health. Click the link under each listing for details of the inspection:

Blue Moon Pizza
2359 Windy Hill Road, Suite 100
January 24, 2020 Score: 87, Grade: B

Buddha Delight
2731 Sandy Plains Road, Suite A
January 22, 2020 Score: 70, Grade: C

California Pizza Kitchen
4250 Roswell Road, Suite 620
January 22, 2020 Score: 86, Grade: B

Chili’s Grill & Bar
4111 Roswell Road
January 24, 2020 Score: 96, Grade: A

Jamaican Dutch Pot Restaurant
2555 Delk Road, Suite A-11
January 22, 2020 Score: 82, Grade: B

Jamba Juice
4101 Roswell Road, Suite 304
January 24, 2020 Score: 99, Grade: A

Rosa’s Pizza
3605 Sandy Plains Road, Suite 110
January 22, 2020 Score: 84, Grade: B

3605 Sandy Plains Road, Suite 200
January 22, 2020 Score: 100, Grade: A

The Wing Factory
1475 Terrell Mill Road, Suite 106
January 22, 2020 Score: 75, Grade: C

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Ga. DOT to hold open houses on I-285 Top End Express Lanes

I-295 Top End Express Lanes open house

Submitted information:

As we all know, the northern portion of Interstate-285 is one of the most heavily-traveled and congested highways in the country. Georgia Department of Transportation staff seeks to improve traffic flow and safety with the Major Mobility Investment Program.

You are invited to GDOT public information open house meetings Jan. 23-30 to discuss the I-285 Top End Express Lanes and I-285 Advanced Improvement Projects. The open houses in Cobb will be held noon-2 p.m. and 4:30-7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Gallery at Cobb Galleria. These are important projects in our area and residents should attend to provide their input.

The open houses will discuss proposed improvements for the northern I-285 corridor including: the I-285 Top End Express Lanes and three of the six I-285 Advanced Improvement Projects: I-285 Westbound Auxiliary Lane Extension, the I-285 Westbound Collector-Distributor Lanes and the I-285/Peachtree Industrial Boulevard Interchange Improvements. 

Meeting information:

  • Thursday, Jan. 23
    Noon – 2 p.m.
    4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
    City Springs, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs
  • Tuesday, Jan. 28
    Noon – 2 p.m.
    4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
    St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church, 1978 Mt. Vernon Road, Dunwoody
  • Thursday, Jan. 30
    Noon – 2 p.m.
    4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
    The Gallery at Cobb Galleria, 1 Galleria Parkway Southeast, Atlanta

Georgia DOT also released today the following visualization of what the project may look like when it’s complete:

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Cobb rape cases from 1999 solved via advanced genetic testing

The Cobb District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday it’s been able to close three cold case rape files dating from 1999 using advanced genetic genealogy testing.Lorinzo Novoa Williams, Cobb rape cases solved

But the man identified by Cobb investigators as the suspect died in December, shortly after they took DNA samples from him in Arkansas, where he lived.

Lorinzo Novoa Williams, who was 48, went missing after Cobb investigators, with help from Arkansas law enforcement, executed a search warrant to collect his DNA samples, according to Cobb DA’s office public information officer Kim Isaza.

She said that after they returned home, Cobb investigators were told by their Arkansas counterparts that Williams was later found dead.

Isaza said the rapes took place within a three-mile radius in southeast Cobb between June and October 1999. In each case, the attacks took place during pre-dawn hours, with each woman waking up to find an unknown man standing over her.

She said each victim reported her attack to police, which took a rape kit, and that the DNA profile in all three cases was identical, meaning they were assaulted by the same man.

But the profile didn’t match an offender in the CODIS combined DNA index system at the time, according to Isaza.

Cobb Senior Assistant DA Theresa Schiefer began looking at the cases again in 2018 at the request of a cold case unit, and secured a $10,000 grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance to retest the rape kits with advanced technology, Isaza said.

Early last year, the profile was submitted to a private lab that constructed a genetic tree of the suspect, she said.

From there, the Cobb DA’s office sexual assault investigating unit and its cold case unit discovered the suspect lived in metro Atlanta at the time of the 1999 rapes. He had been arrested on peeping tom, indecent exposure and burglary charges in Cobb and Gwinnett, also during that time.

Isaza said that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Biology Section determined that the DNA collected from Williams matched the profile of the 1999 rape kits.

Isaza said Schiefer spoke to each of the rape victims after the match was confirmed.

“I feel very fortunate that we could provide some answers to these women after all this time. We want anyone who has experienced sexual assault to know that we will continue to work their cases in hopes that their turn will come, too,” Schiefer said.

According to his obituary, Williams worked for a construction company in Hampton, Ark., and was married with four children. He and his wife became Jehovah’s Witnesses in Macon in 2003.


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Fundraising continues for survivor of fatal NE Cobb crash

NE Cobb car crash survivor

A 16-year-old girl who was seriously injured in a two-car crash that took the life of a Kell High School student last week is recovering, and her friends are raising money for her hospital bills.

The Zaxby’s restaurant at 2756 Sandy Plains Road will donate 10 percent of its receipts from 5-8 p.m. Tuesday for a girl named Emily.

According to a Go Fund Me account set up by Peyton Miller, nearly $19,000 has been raised for Emily (in photo above), who’s a student at Lassiter High School.

The girl was not identified by Cobb Police since she is a juvenile. Kayleigh Neste, 17, a senior at Kell, was killed in the crash, which took place January 12 on Jamerson Road near the Kell campus.

Police said Neste’s Nissan lost control heading westbound on Jamerson and crashed into a Kia driven by the 16-year-old that was heading eastbound.

Both girls were taken to WellStar Kennestone Hospital, where Neste was pronounced dead.

The Zaxby’s fundraiser was announced in Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell’s weekly newsletter on Friday (flyer at right).

According to a message posted by Miller on the Go Fund Me page for Emily, “Major surgeries have been completed for now and she is looking 100 times better.”


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East Cobb restaurant update: Clean Juice coming to Sandy Plains MarketPlace

A second Clean Juice location in East Cobb will be opening in late March. Clean Juice

The smoothie and juice bar chain announced in late December it would be expanding to the new Sandy Plains MarketPlace retail center. Last week it received a business license from the Cobb Community Development Department.

According to the restaurant and retail site What Now Atlanta, franchisee Kim Burrows is planning an April grand opening.

Clean Juice, based in Charlotte, has more than 60 locations in 18 states. A location at Woodlawn Square opened in July.

Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ was the first business to open at Sandy Plains MarketPlace, which will be anchored by a Publix GreenWise store that’s under construction.

Approved to pour

Updating some anticipated restaurant openings in the Johnson Ferry corridor: McCray’s Tavern, which is moving into the former Loyal Q/Loyal Tavern space at Parkaire Landing, got a pouring license last week from the county.

So did Mellow Mushroom, which announced last summer it was coming to Woodlawn Square. But the opening has been delayed for months, after an initial pouring license was granted in September.

No specific opening dates or timetables have been announced.


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Pope wrestling team wins state championship in duals

For the first time since 2014, the Pope wrestling team has won a state championship.Pope wrestling

The Greyhounds went down to the wire in Saturday’s Georgia High School Association Class 6A finals in Macon, and edged Richmond Hill of Augusta 30-24.

Pope went into the final match of the day nursing a 26-24 lead, after Richmond Hill closed the gap by winning the 182-pound class to gain three critical points.

In the 195-pound class, Pope’s Dylan Moss solidified the title with an 11-3 win over Caleb Gonser, good for four points.

On Friday, Pope barely advanced to the finals as Moss also won the last match of the semifinals in downing Creekview.

In duals wrestling, teams face one another head-to-head as in other team sports, while the traditional format has them competing at the same time.

The state championship was the sixth overall and the fourth in duals for Pope, which also won duals titles in 2012, 2013 and 2014. The Greyhounds won traditional state titles in 2011 and 2012.

The finals against Richmond Hill was close the entire way. The Greyhounds lost the first two matches on falls and fell behind 12-0. But Pope’s Aidan Karpinski picked up six big points for his team in the 106-pound class by recording a fall.

Joey Robinson (120) and Max Druholt (126) won back-to-back. Alex Hearn won by an 11-0 score at 138 for four more points, and was followed by Patrick Haskins (145) and Connor Weeks (152).

Richmond Hill won two of the next three matches to set up the finale, but picked up only six points.

The traditional post-season begins at the end of January and into mid-February, when the state finals also will be contested in Macon. Pope was runner-up in 2019.


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