Cobb school board appoints first assistant super for school safety

·3 min read

Jul. 28—MARIETTA — The Cobb County Board of Education voted Thursday to appoint longtime Osborne High School Principal Joshua Morreale to the newly created position of assistant superintendent for school safety.

The board approved creating the position and appointing Morreale unanimously in a 6-0 vote without discussion, with Charisse Davis absent, following an executive session to discuss personnel matters.

The district said in a news release that Morreale "will directly oversee the District's school safety initiatives."

Asked to describe the position after the meeting, Cobb school board Chairman David Chastain said Morreale "will be looking at the infrastructure, making sure that things are secure, expediting changes that need to be made ... (be) on-site with our people when there's a drill, so that during the debrief, that person can make the notes and say, 'OK, there's certain things that we need to look at ... and make the recommendations to the superintendent."

Chastain said Morreale will not have oversight of the district's 67-officer police force, and will be working alongside Chief Technology & Operations Officer Marc Smith.

"My understanding is this, it'll be basically infrastructure, the hardware, basically, or a policy that affects how it's used," Chastain said. "That's my understanding, but again, remember, we've got a person in place, now we've got to build on that to figure out which direction, how we're gonna get there. And that's all under the superintendent's purview, the board is not micromanaging that process."

The appointment comes two weeks after the board's Republican majority approved Superintendent Chris Ragsdale's request to add armed, non-police security personnel to schools, a new policy billed as a way to improve safety in case of a mass shooting.

That policy, which board Democrats opposed, faced fierce opposition from protesters at the meeting. A group of attendees argued during public comment that increasing the number of guns in schools, and allowing employees who are not certified police officers to wield them, would not make schools safer. Later, when the item came up for a vote, they stood and chanted "delay the vote," leading Chastain to call a 10-minute recess. The board eventually came back and continued the meeting despite the chants, approving the policy.

The policy does not allow the district to arm teachers, and requires the non-police security to go through training and background checks. Ragsdale said at the time that while the policy gives the superintendent purview over the new security, Cobb Schools Police Chief Ron Storey would be their primary supervisor.

In other efforts to increase security, the district plans to have a new alert system, Centegix, up and running at all district schools by Aug. 1, the first day of school. Employees wearing Centegix badges can press a button to trigger an alert in the event of an attack.

Centegix is meant to replace Alertpoint, a previous security system used in Cobb schools. In February 2021, a false "code red" Alertpoint alarm led to lockdowns across the district, and was initially chalked up to a technical glitch. Weeks later, school district officials announced the alarm was intentionally triggered through a cyberattack.

"Student and staff safety will always be the top priority in the Cobb County School District," Ragsdale said in a Thursday news release. "Our school police officers are well prepared and ready to respond every single day. Over a dozen safety supports, which we call Cobb Shield, continuously support student safety. And now, the new Assistant Superintendent for School Safety Operations will make sure our school buildings are as safe and prepared as they can be, so our principals and teachers can concentrate on teaching and learning."

Morreale has served as Osborne's principal for more than a decade, having been appointed in June 2011. Prior to leading Osborne, he was an assistant principal at South Cobb High School.