Cherokee County Educational Foundation Awards Record $25,000 in Grants to CCSD

Cherokee County Educational Foundation Awards Record $25,000 in Grants to CCSD

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Category : CCEF

CCEFThe Cherokee County Educational Foundation this month held its Annual Meeting and presented a record $25,000 in Special Projects Grants to the Cherokee County School District!

CCEF is a charitable, non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the students and staff of the Cherokee County School District by promoting teaching and learning and celebrating achievements. The Foundation seeks funding and resources to enrich CCSD schools in areas not fully funded in the regular school program.

“It’s so impressive to see the support we’ve received, as we had hoped, from the community,” CCEF President William “Billy” G. Hasty Jr. said at the meeting, which was held on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at Freedom Middle School. “We are so thankful that we have the opportunity to support these important programs and projects.”

The presentation of $25,000 in these grants was a significant increase from last year’s $8,750, and Mr. Hasty noted that the generosity of supporters of fundraisers such as the CCEF “Celebration of Education” Gala, presented by Northside Hospital-Cherokee, make such giving possible. The 2016 Gala date has been set for March 12 at the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Conference Center.

Special Projects Grants support CCSD programs not funded or not fully funded by Local, State and Federal funds. The Board presented:

  • Credit Connect (Credit Recovery), $8,000: This grant continues and significantly expands CCEF’s sponsorship of scholarships offered to high school students who are at risk of not graduating on time without taking or retaking courses online and who otherwise could not afford to take these classes. This scholarship program would not be possible without donations from the community like this grant.
  • Cherokee Academies, $6,000: This grant allows the expansion of special learning opportunities at its STEM and Fine Arts Academies through the purchase of additional software and supplies.
  • CEISMC Program, $2,700: This grant allows the expansion of a partnership with Georgia Tech that provides STEM learning opportunities to middle school students through the purchase of robotics and 3D printer supplies.
  • Pre-K Program, $2,700: This grant allows the expansion of learning materials provided to CCSD’s Preschool Centers to increase phonics awareness among pre-kindergarteners.
  • CHOICES Program, $2,000: This grant allows the expansion of the CHOICES program, which provides extra support to Special Education high school students who are working toward earning regular education diplomas.
  • Partner of the Year, Volunteer of the Year and Teacher of the Year recognition programs, $1,750: This grant continues the Foundation’s sponsorship of these programs, which recognize and encouraging outstanding teachers, partners and volunteers.
  • FOCUS Initiatives for Canton Elementary School STEM Academy and Hasty Elementary School STEM Academy, $1,600: This grant provides these Title I schools with additional academic resources to assist at-risk students, including those who come from low-income homes and whose parents do not speak English.
  • Science Olympiad, $500: This grant allows CCSD’s Science Olympiad program to expand to offer more students the opportunity to expand their knowledge, compete and earn recognition for their success.
  • ACE Literary Magazine, $250: This grant allows the school’s award-winning literary magazine to improve its photography equipment so students can learn higher skills through participation in the program.

Additionally, thanks to Books-A-Million at Canton Marketplace and its customers, the Principals for ACE Academy, Canton ES STEM Academy, Cherokee HS and Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy each received a donation of grade-appropriate books for their schools.

CCEF returns all funds raised in the community to CCSD through several different grant programs, another one of which is the IMPACT Grants program for “bright ideas” submitted by teachers, departments and schools to encourage and support innovation and creativity in teaching and learning. Earlier this year, CCEF awarded $15,000 in these grants… and in February 2016, a record $25,000 in these grants will be awarded!

During the Annual Meeting, the Woodstock Innovation Zone Principals presented the CCEF Board with a donation of more than $1,400 raised through recent fundraisers at their schools. Foundation Board Member Rod Drake, the Area Manager for Georgia Power, during the meeting also presented CCEF with a $3,000 donation from the utility company’s Foundation.

For more information about CCEF, please visit its website at or find CCEF on Facebook.

School Board Unanimously Approves Dr. Brian V. Hightower as Superintendent of Schools

Dr. Brian V. Hightower Accepts New Post as SuperintendentThe Cherokee County School Board tonight unanimously approved the appointment of Dr. Brian V. Hightower as the next Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Hightower, who has served for the last 29 years in CCSD beginning as a classroom teacher and rising through school and central office administrative roles, will take office on Feb. 1.

“I stand ready to serve as your next Superintendent,” Dr. Hightower told Board members during a brief speech to thank them, retiring Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo, his family, his colleagues and his mentors and friends. “To be a part of this organization for 29 of my 30 years [in education] has turned into being the privilege of a lifetime.”

School Board Chair Dr. Brian V. HightowerKyla Cromer said the Board was very impressed by Dr. Hightower’s experience and education, as well as his interview and recommendations. She said the strengths his supporters noted in recommending Dr. Hightower included: hard working, professional, well-respected, consistent, fair, thoughtful, problem-solver, leader.

“Your vote of confidence steels my resolve that we continue to be one of the best school districts in the Nation,” he said.

Teasley MS Named a State Reward School for Highest Progress

Category : CCSD

Teasley Middle School has been recognized as a 2015 Reward School: Highest-Progress by the State for its increased student achievement from 2011 to 2014. The Reward School designation recognizes top performing Title I schools in Georgia each year, and Highest-Progress schools are among the top 10 percent of the state’s Title I schools in improving the performance of all students over a three-year period on state assessments.

Title I is a federal program that provides additional resources to schools serving a high number of economically disadvantaged families. More than half (53%) of the students at Teasley MS qualified to receive free or reduced cost meals last year.

“The Teasley MS administrators, teachers and support staff are all to be commended for their outstanding efforts to ensure that the students with the most challenges are given every opportunity to succeed,” said Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo, Superintendent of Schools. “In the Cherokee County School District, we embrace the fact that it takes unequal resources to meet unequal needs, and this recognition is evidence that the additional supports and programs enacted at Teasley MS are having the desired effect, which is driving up achievement for all students, including those who face some very real challenges in all parts of their lives.”

Teasley MS Principal Dr. Sue Zinkil said staff and students are very appreciative of all the support they receive from the School District and the community to help students succeed.

“The Superintendent and his staff could not be more supportive of schools like Teasley that need more flexibility and assistance in meeting the needs of our students,” said Dr. Zinkil. “I couldn’t be more proud of the hard work put forth by our parents and families, as well as the Teasley staff, to ensure their students’ success.”

Teasley MS serves 1,400 students in grades 6-8 in Canton. It is part of the Cherokee Innovation Zone and enrolls students from Canton ES, Clayton ES, Hasty ES, Knox ES and RM Moore ES. It was named a “Distinguished Breakout Middle School” by the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals in 2013 and was a finalist for the Georgia Family Friendly Partnership Award in 2014. The Technology Association of Georgia named Teasley MS as a finalist in its State STEM Awards in 2015.

For more information about the Reward Schools designation, please see the announcement on the Georgia Department of Education website.

CCSD Annual Surplus Sale Set for Saturday, Dec. 12

Category : CCSD

The Cherokee County School District will hold its annual Surplus Sale on Saturday, December 12 at the warehouse in Holly Springs. The sale begins at 9 a.m.; you can arrive at 8 a.m. to preview the sale. The address is 201 Mountain Brook Court, Canton, Ga. 30115. To view a list of items for sale, see the following Board Agenda item:

Annual Surplus Sale 2015

CCSD Students Continued to Exceed State, Nation on AP Exams

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Category : CCSD

Cherokee County School District high school students not only continue to exceed State and National averages on rigorous Advance Placement (AP) exams, but the school system has also garnered national recognition for its AP achievement for the third consecutive year. CCSD has earned the third-highest AP exam passage rate in Georgia in 2015, as well as being named to the College Board’s AP Honor Roll. Only six school districts in Georgia were named to the AP Honor Roll for 2015, and this was CCSD’s third consecutive year to earn the distinction.

The School District, with a passage rate of 73% among the 4,125 tests administered in the spring of 2015, ranks third out of Georgia’s 180 school systems and exceeds the State average of 55% and the National average of 58%. “This achievement, which is coupled with a 20% increase in the number of tests administered in CCSD, is further testimony to the dedication of not only students, but also teachers, administrators, parents, volunteers, business partners and the entire community . . . to ensure that each student has the opportunity to start and complete college as successfully as possible,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo said. The AP program has grown significantly in CCSD, with AP courses and exams currently offered in 26 subjects. The number of exams taken by CCSD students has increased 83% in the last five years alone.

Scores of 3, 4, or 5 receive college credit at most colleges and universities.

Total AP Exams 560 732 801 626 568 838 4,125
Total AP Courses 18 20 21 22 19 21 26
AP Scores 3,4,5 73% 75% 71% 55% 80% 82% 73%
No. of students tested 352 382 424 329 329 405 2,221

Selection for the 6th Annual AP District Honor Roll is based on the examination of three years of AP data (from 2013 to 2015), looking across 34 AP Exams, including world language and culture. The following criteria were used. According to the College Board, School Districts must:

  • Increase participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts, and at least 11 percent in small districts;
  • Increase or maintain the percentage of exams taken by black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students; and
  • Improve or maintain performance levels when comparing the 2015 percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher to the 2013 percentage, unless the district has already attained a performance level at which more than 70 percent of its AP students are scoring a 3 or higher.

The AP Program allows high school students who score a 3, 4 or 5 on an AP exam to earn college credit in high school and, subsequently, to exempt those courses in college. Studies show that students who participate in AP courses are more likely to earn higher scores on the SAT and ACT and to complete their college education. Passage of AP exams places students at an academic and financial advantage, studies show, as they can both begin classes in their major sooner and avoid tuition costs for exempted courses.

All of CCSD’s high schools additionally have been named Georgia AP STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or AP STEM Achievement High Schools in recognition of outstanding student passage and participation levels and the variety of course offerings.

These results will be reviewed by Principals with their Data Management Teams, department heads and AP teachers to evaluate improvement strategies, including sharing best practices among teachers and use of College Board preparatory materials.

“Advanced Placement classes are the most challenging high school courses available to students nationwide; and these results show that CCSD students, teachers and schools are more than up to that challenge!” Dr. Petruzielo said. “We remain focused on continuing to increase participation in these courses and passage of these exams in tandem with our mission of ensuring that each child is prepared to succeed in further studies and careers.”

Board Briefs: School Board Unanimously Approves Contract for New Educational Services Facility

CCSD Educational Services Facility Plans

The $16 Million contract to build the CCSD Educational Services Facility on Bluffs Parkway in Canton was awarded to Womack, Lewis and Smith Construction. Funded by Education SPLOST revenue, construction will begin in January and be completed by August 2017.

The School Board on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, unanimously approved a contract for construction of a new administration building that will reunify staff and increase efficiency in central office operations.

The new/replacement facility has been needed, as well as approved by voters through Education Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referenda, for 15 years; but Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo had repeatedly recommended postponement in order to construct 19 new schools.

“We can no longer productively and efficiently manage and supervise the School District with central office staff spread out throughout the County in facilities that were not designed to meet current operational needs,” Dr. Petruzielo said. “This new facility will allow for more efficient operations and better serve students, employees and the general public.”

The $16 Million contract funded by Education SPLOST revenue to build the 90,300 square-foot CCSD Educational Services Facility in Canton was awarded to Womack, Lewis and Smith Construction.

The complex, which includes an office building and a professional development training center/School Board auditorium, will be built on more than 15 acres on the Bluffs Parkway north of Riverstone Plaza. The School District received the property in an exchange with the City of Canton for CCSD Buildings A and B downtown.

Construction will begin in January and be completed by August 2017. The new facility will reunite 150 employees from various departments in one centrally located, cost-effective office building; and the training center/auditorium, with a capacity for 690, will allow for professional development, special events and School Board meetings in a space that is significantly larger than current options.

School Board members at Thursday’s meeting also heard several presentations from staff.

School Board Member Mike Chapman requested a presentation on school safety in light of recent mass shootings in the U.S. and France. School District Police Chief Mark Kissel gave an overview of the department’s history, current operations and recent upgrades, such as the installation of buzz-in electronic school entrance systems that eliminate the practice of keeping one front door unlocked.

“We take it very seriously that this threat is out there,” Mr. Chapman said of school safety, noting that he has been “very impressed” by the Department’s operations and partnerships with other local law enforcement, especially in light of the fact that CCSD receives no State funds for safety and security.

At the request of Board Chair Kyla Cromer, Susan McCarthy, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs, Student Support and Professional Development, spoke about student out-of-country field trips. Ms. McCarthy assured the Board that CCSD works closely with its vendor for travel services, which monitors safety and security issues before and during such trips.

Also at the request of the Chair, Ken Owen, Assistant Superintendent for Financial Management, spoke about CCSD’s recent State audit and the closing meeting that they and the Superintendent attended this week with the auditors. Per State law, the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts may at any time elect to perform a random audit on any state or local unit of government. The State in November 2014 notified CCSD that Fiscal Year 2014 operations would be audited, in part due to the actions of a former School Board member.

The State audit concentrated on the financial statement work performed by Williamson and Company, the third-party, independent auditor hired by the School Board. After nearly six months of on-site review, an unprecedented experience for CCSD, the State found no instance of fraud, waste or mismanagement. The State’s report concludes with an unmodified opinion, the most positive rating possible.

“The people from the State were very complimentary of [Mr. Owen],” Ms. Cromer said. “They were very impressed… and very satisfied with what we are doing.”

The State report’s findings refer only to the financial statements produced by Williamson and Company, and not to the staff or operations of the CCSD Office of Financial Management. All recommended changes to FY14 financial statements have been made by Williamson and Company at no charge to CCSD. All operational recommendations have been implemented (more than 75% were in place prior to completion of the State audit) or will be in place by the end of the current fiscal year.

Mr. Owen also noted that CCSD hired an internal auditor this fiscal year, who began work on July 1, to continually review and test internal controls and assist in identifying additional opportunities for operational improvements/efficiencies.

Board Member Kelly Poole, who is an accountant, asked as to whether the internal auditor would assist CCSD in developing its own financial statements. Mr. Owen said that work is underway to do just that, beginning with a parallel process for FY16 that will be compared to the independent auditor’s statements.

The Board, at the request of the Chair, also heard a presentation on the Tax Allocation District (TAD) being considered by the City of Holly Springs. School Board Attorney Tom Roach explained the process, which, if approved by the School Board, would allow the City to withhold a certain percentage of property tax growth revenue that otherwise would fund school operations to instead be used by the City to redevelop its downtown area.

Mr. Roach and Dr. Petruzielo both voiced concerns that the City has not provided the legally required written proposal or basic information about the project’s scope and the financial impact to CCSD, but the City is holding public meetings at which the TAD is being potentially erroneously described as in CCSD’s best interest.

Dr. Petruzielo said it appears that the City’s proposed TAD could significantly increase residential growth (which increases the cost of CCSD operations), rather than focusing solely on increasing commercial growth, which would improve the property tax base to the benefit of CCSD operations.

As a result, both Mr. Roach and Dr. Petruzielo said it would be premature and irresponsible for staff to make a recommendation to the Board that this TAD be approved.

“You don’t want to be in a position where money that should be spent on students and teachers is being spent to develop Holly Springs’ downtown,” he said.

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

  • Recognized Cherokee County School District Teacher of the Year Jeremy Law of Teasley MS;
  • Recognized the Creekview HS girls’ cross-country team members and coaches for winning first-place at the Regional competition and second-place at the State championship meet;
  • Recognized the Cherokee HS advanced welding teacher and students for constructing a 28-foot Eiffel Tower tribute for the Holiday Lights of Hope display at Hobgood Park benefitting the Anna Crawford Children’s Center;
  • Approved a resolution in regard to the planned use of construction bonds;
  • Approved monthly financial reports;
  • Approved the disposal of surplus property through a surplus sale at 9 a.m. on Dec. 12 at the CCSD Warehouse at 201 Mountain Brook Court in Canton;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved monthly update on capital outlay projects;
  • Approved monthly personnel recommendations; and,
  • Approved an amendment to the Aramark custodial services contract to increase staffing.

Next School Board meeting: 6 p.m. Dec. 18, 2015

Cherokee County School Board Calls Meeting to Appoint Superintendent of Schools

The Cherokee County School Board will meet for a called meeting on Friday, Dec. 18, to consider the appointment of a new Superintendent of Schools.

The School Board established a process to attract and vet a new Superintendent of Schools that began on September 3, 2015. The process included a statewide publication of a notice of vacancy that attracted inquiries/applications from four states, hours of individual review by Board members of letters of interest, applications, résumés, independent education verification, and background screens, as well as two extended executive sessions of the Board.

The School Board will consider the appointment and employment subject to contract negotiations of Dr. Brian V. Hightower as Superintendent of Schools at a special called meeting on Friday, Dec. 18, at 6 p.m. at the Historic Canton High School/School Board Auditorium located at 111 Academy Street, Canton, GA 30114.

A presentation regarding Dr. Hightower’s credentials and experience will precede an opportunity for public input and a vote of School Board regarding Dr. Hightower’s appointment.

CCSD Tops Metro Atlanta on 2015 Georgia Milestones End of Course Tests

Category : CCSD

Cherokee County School District students not only exceeded State passage rates on the new, more challenging Georgia Milestones statewide exams, but its middle and high school students also topped their Metro Atlanta peers in a majority of subjects.

Georgia Milestones, which assesses the mastery of Georgia Performance Standards and replaces the State’s previous testing system, includes End of Grade tests for Grades 3-8 and End of Course tests for middle and high school students taking specific classes for high school credit. Results are reported as percentages of students who are Beginning, Developing, Proficient or Distinguished Learners and include English Language Learners and students who receive Special Education services.

On the End of Course tests, CCSD middle and high school students, in addition to exceeding State passage rates (Developing to Distinguished Learners) on every test, also lead all Metro Atlanta county school systems in six of the eight subjects: American Literature and Composition, Biology, Coordinate Algebra, Economics, Ninth Grade Literature and Composition and U.S. History (tied with Cobb County).

Middle school students in CCSD who meet eligibility requirements have the opportunity to take two of these classes to earn high school credit: Coordinate Algebra and Physical Science; and these students performed extremely well… even when compared to high school students in Metro Atlanta and statewide.

“These results continue to show our community that we provide an outstanding public education to each child in Cherokee County, and one of the best available not only in Georgia, but also in Metro Atlanta and its most competitive school districts,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo said. “As families relocating to Metro Atlanta decide where to call home, those choosing Cherokee will find an outstanding public school no matter the zip code they choose.”

To view test result percentages, please see CCSD 2015 Georgia Milestones – Metro Atlanta End of Course Tests (PDF) and CCSD 2015 Georgia Milestones – Middle Schools End of Course Tests (PDF).

CCSD Students Exceed State Averages on 2015 Georgia Milestones Tests

Cherokee County School District students exceeded State averages on the 2015 Georgia Milestones End-of-Grade and End-of-Course tests… the first year that new, more challenging State exams were administered.

The tests, which are used to assess the mastery of Georgia Performance Standards, will be administered every spring in Grades 3-8 in the subjects of English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies and for middle and high school students taking courses for high school credit.

Milestones exams include open-ended questions to better assess students’ content mastery; and, with some exceptions for special education students with specific testing accommodations, the tests will be administered entirely online to students statewide within five years. CCSD already met the State’s five-year goal in this first round of tests for all students except those taking the third-grade English Language Arts test, which will be added to our online system this spring.

While Milestones’ Achievement Levels are reported as percentages of students who are Beginning, Developing, Proficient or Distinguished Learners, it should be noted that these percentages include English Language Learners and students who receive Special Education services. Also, these percentages cannot be compared to results for the Georgia Criterion Referenced Competency Tests (GCRCTs) that were administered in past years, due to significant differences in the exams and student performance expectations.

  • For third-grade, the percentage of CCSD students achieving Developing to Distinguished scores was: 75% for English Language Arts (as compared to 66% for Georgia), 83% for Math (79% Georgia), 81% for Science (75% Georgia) and 78% for Social Studies (74% Georgia).
  • For fifth-grade, the percentage of CCSD students achieving Developing to Distinguished scores was: 79% for English Language Arts (73% Georgia), 84% for Math (74% Georgia), 77% for Science (70% Georgia) and 80% for Social Studies (75% Georgia).
  • For eighth-grade, the percentage of CCSD students achieving Developing to Distinguished scores was: 86% for English Language Arts (76% Georgia), 86% for Math (75% Georgia), 74% for Science (62% Georgia) and 81% for Social Studies (71% Georgia).
  • For high school credit courses, the percentage of CCSD students achieving Developing to Distinguished scores was: 89% for 9th Grade Literature and Composition (76% Georgia), 89% for American Literature and Composition (76% for Georgia), 86% for Coordinate Algebra (69% Georgia), 81% for Analytic Geometry (65% Georgia), 79% for Biology (63% Georgia), 76% for Physical Science (65% Georgia), 86% for U.S. History (74% Georgia) and 81% for Economics (69%).

The State also compared select Milestones responses to the performance of students Nationwide; and CCSD students scored on average exceptionally well in comparison.

The Milestones results, which parents will receive for their own child next month, also include an assessment as to whether a child is reading at grade level. For third-grade, the percentages of CCSD students reading on or above grade level was: 77% (69% Georgia); fifth-grade, 75% (66% Georgia); and eighth-grade, 85% (71% Georgia).

Leadership teams at both District and school levels will closely review these scores to determine needed adjustments in teaching and learning, as well as in strategic planning tools (such as School Improvement Plans), to ensure that students are mastering Georgia Performance Standards. Just as with the GCRCT, Milestones End-of-Grade scores, beginning with the 2015-16 administration, will help teachers and administrators determine if students are ready to be promoted to the next grade. Additionally, results from this administration will be counted toward calculation of CCSD’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores, which comprise the State’s new accountability system.

“We commend our students, teachers and administrators for their performance on these new tests, which required everyone involved to increase their efforts to achieve success,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo said. “Teaching and learning is our primary mission; and we are committed to ensuring that each child learns the knowledge necessary for success in their next step… whether that be the next grade in school, enrolling in college or launching their career!”

For further information, please see the CCSD Milestones Results 2015 memo issued by Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo, Superintendent of Schools.

CCSD to Test School Messenger Notification System Friday, Nov. 20, 2015

Category : CCSD

CCSD will be testing its School Messenger notification system Friday afternoon, Nov. 20, 2015, so parents should expect a text, email or phone call. If parents do not receive a communication by 8 pm Friday evening, they are asked to please check their contact information in the Aspen Parent Portal to be sure it is updated to reflect any changes.

CCSD uses the School Messenger system to send important timely information to parents, such as school closings and other important communications. CCSD will continue its practice of posting important information on its website and through social media; School Messenger is an enhancement of our communication system.

If parents have not signed up for Aspen Parent Portal access for their child, please contact the school front office after Thanksgiving Break to obtain a username and password.