CCSD Students Continue to Exceed State Averages on Georgia Milestones Tests

CCSD Students Continue to Exceed State Averages on Georgia Milestones Tests

Category : CCSD

Cherokee County School District students for the second consecutive year exceeded State averages on the 2016 Georgia Milestones End-of-Grade and End-of-Course tests, which are used to assess the mastery of Georgia Performance Standards.

Milestones End-of-Grade (EOG) exams are administered every spring in Grades 3-8 in the subjects of English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies; Milestones End-of-Course (EOC) exams are administered for designated high school courses… and, middle school students who are taking any of those courses for high school credit must also take the EOC for that subject.

The tests 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 has met the State’s five-year goal!

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. Although comparing scores from year to year is not an accurate reflection of success due to differing groups of students being assessed, average scores have increased overall for CCSD.

“We congratulate our students, teachers and administrators for their continued exceptional performance on these new tests, which shows they’re mastering knowledge crucial to career and college readiness, and we have set our sights on greater success for every child in the coming year,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.

For third-grade, the percentage of CCSD students achieving Developing to Distinguished scores was: 76% for English Language Arts (as compared to 67% for Georgia), 88% for Math (79% Georgia), 84% for Science (76% Georgia) and 84% for Social Studies (75% Georgia).

For fifth-grade, the percentage of CCSD students achieving Developing to Distinguished scores was: 82% for English Language Arts (75% Georgia), 84% for Math (74% Georgia), 80% for Science (70% Georgia) and 83% for Social Studies (75% Georgia).

For eighth-grade, the percentage of CCSD students achieving Developing to Distinguished scores was: 89% for English Language Arts (80% Georgia), 89% for Math (79% Georgia), 74% for Science (65% Georgia) and 84% for Social Studies (75% Georgia). Math and science totals include EOG and EOC tests.

For high school credit courses, the percentage of CCSD students achieving Developing to Distinguished scores was: 88% for 9th Grade Literature and Composition (78% Georgia), 86% for Algebra (70% Georgia), 88% for American Literature and Composition (76% for Georgia), 87% for Analytic Geometry (70% Georgia), 81% for Biology (68% Georgia), 79% for Physical Science (66% Georgia), 88% for U.S. History (77% Georgia) and 87% for Economics (81%).

District and school leadership teams are analyzing these scores to improve teaching and learning strategies and School Improvement Plans. These scores are counted toward calculation of CCSD’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores; while the 2016 scores were not used to determine if students are ready to be promoted to the next grade, future results will be used for this purpose.


Board Briefs: School Board Updates Mission Statement, Motto

2015-16 Judy Johnson Scholarship Winners

Sequoyah High School senior Erin Wehunt, left, and Cherokee High School senior Megan Johnson, right, were recognized by CCSD School Nutrition Supervisor Tina Farmer, center, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, far right, and the School Board as recipients of the 2015-16 Judy Johnson Memorial Scholarship presented by CCSD’s School Nutrition Association.

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, July 21, 2016, approved the second reading of School Board Policy changes, which included the establishment of an updated mission statement and a new motto.

The new mission statement is: “We, the School Board of the Cherokee County School District, are committed to educating the emerging generation through learning environments designed to increase the performance of all students.” The new motto is: “Educating the Emerging Generation.”

The Board also approved monthly personnel recommendations, which included the appointment of Donna Bertram, a longtime CCSD teacher and administrator most recently serving as Assistant Principal at Carmel Elementary School, to lead Holly Springs Elementary School STEM Academy as its next Principal. She is succeeding Dr. Dianne Steinbeck, who will serve in a grant writer role for the CCSD Office of Educational Programs.

Julie Peppers, a longtime CCSD teacher most recently assigned to Bascomb Elementary School, was appointed to fill the newly vacated Assistant Principal spot at Carmel Elementary School.

The Board also took the first step toward expanding its social worker program to meet the explosive student enrollment growth experienced by CCSD over the last two decades by hiring a third social worker: Dr. Tara Quinn-Schuldt, who has worked as a social worker in Carroll County’s school system for 13 years.

Partnership Agreements with the Cherokee County Farm Bureau and East Cherokee Baseball both were renewed, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower praised the Farm Bureau, which was represented at the meeting by longtime staff member, Shirley Pahl.

“We truly value all that you and the Farm Bureau do to teach our students about agriculture and opportunities to pursue careers in that field,” he said, noting the numerous greenhouses, school gardens and programs made possible in CCSD with the Farm Bureau’s support.

School Board Vice Chair Patsy Jordan, a former classroom teacher, spoke of how the Farm Bureau’s “amazing” professional development programs for teachers gave her great tools to use in the classroom.

“I’m so appreciative for everything you do,” she said.

Ms. Pahl thanked the Board for its support and noted more help from the Farm Bureau is on the way to CCSD schools, such as through a new partnership with Indian Knoll Elementary School and a $1,000 grant for a Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy teacher’s school garden project.

“We really enjoy teaching the children about the importance of agriculture in their lives,” she said. “We have fun… and we hope the children are benefitting.”

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

  • Recognized Bascomb Elementary School and Principal Kathleen Chandler as winner of 2016 Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals’ “School Bell Award”;
  • Recognized Macedonia Elementary School Media Specialist Jennifer Rice as the Regional Library Media Specialist of the Year;
  • Recognized five Woodstock High School students and their coach for earning second place at the 2016 TEAMS (Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics, and Science) Best in Nation Competition
  • Recognized Georgia Positive Athlete Award winner Katie Beckham of Woodstock High School, the statewide honoree for volleyball;
  • Recognized Cherokee High School senior Megan Johnson and Sequoyah High School senior Erin Wehunt as recipients of the 2015-16 Judy Johnson Memorial Scholarship presented by CCSD’s School Nutrition Association;
  • Approved ballot language for the Education SPLOST renewal vote called by the School Board for Nov. 8;
  • Approved monthly financial reports;
  • Approved authorized school fundraising activities for the 2016-17 school year;
  • Approved out-of-state travel;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report;
  • Approved the annual establishment of a tribunal hearing panel for certified employees;
  • Approved the annual contract with Ninth District Opportunity for Head Start and prekindergarten programs; and,
  • After meeting in Executive Session to review real estate and student discipline matters, returned to open session and voted to reverse a student discipline decision.

Next School Board meeting: 7 p.m. Aug. 11, 2016 with a Strategic Work Session at 5:30 p.m.

School Board Members Tour New/Replacement Dean Rusk MS

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The new/replacement Dean Rusk Middle School is ready to open for the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 1.

Cherokee County School Board members recently toured the new/replacement Dean Rusk Middle School, getting a glimpse of the state-of-the-art facility that will serve more than 1,450 students when the school year begins on Monday, August 1.

The new/replacement school is ready to open on time and under budget!  Construction was funded locally through Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (Ed SPLOST) revenue, as approved by voters in 2011.

The tour on July 19 began with a welcome from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, who led School Board Chair Kyla Cromer, Vice Chair Patsy Jordan and District 3 Board Member John Harmon, who represents the area; as well as senior staff and local and Atlanta media on the tour.

Dr. Hightower gave an overview of the facility and noted several of the economic efficiencies featured in the building, such as polished concrete floors that will save on maintenance and cleaning costs, paying for itself in a year’s time.  He also highlighted new design features to increase safety and security, as well as technological innovations, such as the Global Learning Theatre video-conferencing classroom and Technology Lab classroom with a 3D printer, green-screen video room and Lego robotics table among its special features.

“It’s a point of pride to welcome you,” Dr. Hightower said, as he kicked off the tour.  “This school has the capacity we need, with even greater efficiencies, security and technology than our last school construction project… and it’s a beautiful building.  We can’t wait for students, staff and the community to enjoy their new school, and we appreciate the community’s support of the Education SPLOST that funded its construction.”

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Principal Cindy Cooper walks through the mobile seating area in the Cyber Café media center. All the furniture is on casters, and is equipped with handles, so chairs and tables can be easily moved for collaborative group work.


Architect: KRH Architects of Dalton designed the school using a modified version of the CCSD prototypical middle-school design utilized for the new/replacement E.T. Booth MS and Teasley MS.

Contractor: Womack, Lewis & Smith, Inc., which has constructed schools and other educational facilities statewide including numerous CCSD facilities (i.e., Little River ES, Liberty ES, Canton ES and Cherokee High Athletic Improvements), was awarded the $36.8 Million contract by the School Board in February 2014.  The site, which is adjacent to Hickory Flat ES, had been in the CCSD inventory for many years and became available for construction after the extension of sewer lines to the campus freed up previously unusable land.

Size: The building is 255,037 square feet, and the campus is 25.6 acres.

Capacity: The new two-story facility, with a capacity of 1,600 students (an increase of 400 from the former campus), allows for the standard middle school configuration of Grades 6-8 on one campus… which provides sixth-graders with greater opportunity for academic rigor, fine arts and career electives and athletic and extra-curricular activities, as well as 30 additional minutes of instructional time each day, compared to an elementary schedule.  Projected enrollment when classes begin on Aug. 1 is 1,476 students: 476 sixth-graders, 505 seventh-graders and 495 eighth-graders.  Dean Rusk MS draws students from Hickor0y Flat, Holly Springs STEM Academy, Indian Knoll and Mountain Rd Elementary Schools.

Address and phone number: 2761 East Cherokee Dr., Canton, Ga. 30115 and 770-704-1135


Instruction: 97 instructional units… including classrooms that all feature smart boards (Dean Rusk MS is CCSD’s first school to feature all touchscreen, flat-panel smart boards), computers and additional technology; computer labs; art and music rooms; gymnasium; cafetorium; and a Cyber Café media center and Global Learning Theatre… both featuring CCSD’s new prototypical digital learning-friendly design!

Efficiency: Constructed with metal roofing, brick/block masonry and structural steel frame; four-pipe chilled water and hot water system, which also increases equipment life expectancy; variable speed pumping system; mechanical mezzanine above the second floor for servicing of equipment without disrupting classroom activities or hallway traffic; and energy management/control system.  New features incorporated into this school include tankless water heaters, electric hand dryers and T-5 light fixtures, all greatly reducing energy costs.

Safety: In addition to CCSD’s safety standards, such as an electronic front-door “buzz-in” security system, this new modified prototypical middle-school design requires all visitor traffic to flow into the front office for an additional level of check-in and verification before entering the main hallway.  The site also allows for the separation of cars and buses through the construction of an internal drive system, which allows for ingress and egress between the schools (Hickory Flat ES, Dean Rusk MS and Sequoyah HS) without entering Hickory Road or East Cherokee Drive.

Aesthetics: Following the tradition started with the new/replacement E.T. Booth and Teasley Middle Schools, this campus features the colors of its Innovation Zone high school… which for the Sequoyah Zone are black and gold.  The colors are featured throughout… including in the efficient polished concrete floors.  As part of the transition, Dean Rusk MS also redesigned its mascot in keeping with the Sequoyah HS Chiefs.

Other: This campus also will house a CCSD Hearing Testing Center, which provides a site for students to be evaluated for special services provided by the School District.  The school is named for the late U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who was born in Cherokee County and served from 1961-69 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

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As part of the move, Dean Rusk MS adopted new colors, mascot and logo to align with their feeder high school, Sequoyah.


The former Dean Rusk MS is being renovated to provide additional capacity to Sequoyah HS beginning in January… much like how the former Chapman Intermediate School now is used as “Etowah East” by Etowah HS.  The District and school are collaboratively developing a plan for which programs will be housed in this facility.


July 28 and 29: Open houses and walk-throughs are: Grade 6, Noon to 2 p.m. July 28; Grade 7, 2 to 4 p.m., July 29; Grade 8, 3 to 5 p.m., July 28.  Students will participate in locker opening practice, tour of the facilities and review of their class schedules and other logistics for the new school.

August 1: First day of school; classes are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — these are new hours starting for the 2016-17 School Year.

TBD: A Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will be scheduled and open to the entire community… with School Board Members, the Superintendent, CCSD and Dean Rusk MS leaders participating in the festivities.

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Brady Harmon, who will be a sixth-grader at Dean Rusk MS, points out some cool features in the technology lab to his dad, School Board member John Harmon, as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, right, looks on.


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From left to right, School Board Vice Chair Patsy Jordan, Chair Kyla Cromer and Assistant Principal Catherine Holman examine pieces manufactured with the 3D printer in the Technology Lab classroom.

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Dean Rusk MS features CCSD’s first Global Learning Theatre, a classroom with movable furniture and six touchscreen flat-panel displays for video-conferencing and other online applications. Assistant Superintendent for Technology Bobby Blount, center, explains the features of the theater, as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, right, Assistant Superintendent for Support Services and Facilities/Construction Management Bill Sebring and Principal Cindy Cooper look on.

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Dean Rusk MS Principal Cindy Cooper demonstrates one of the touchscreen flat-panel screens in the Global Learning Theatre.

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Assistant Principal Catherine Holman shows Brady Harmon the 3D printer in the Technology Lab classroom.

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Walking down a hallway during the tour are, from left to right, Principal Cindy Cooper, Superintendent Dr. Brian V. Hightower, architect Kenneth Harless, Assistant Principal Catherine Holman, Director of Facility Construction Phil Parrot, and Assistant Superintendent for Support Services and Facilities/Construction Management Bill Sebring. In the foreground you can see the polished concrete floor, which saves on maintenance and cleaning costs, paying for itself in a year’s time

First Day Facts – What’s New with CCSD for 2016-17!

Category : CCSD

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How many students are expected in CCSD schools this school year?

How many miles will CCSD school buses drive?

How many meals will be served in CCSD cafeterias?

Find the answers to these questions and many more in the 2016-17 First Day Facts publication, which shares new information about the upcoming school year.

Here’s a link to the full report: First Day Facts 2016-17

CCSD Staff, PTAs Win Top Georgia PTA Awards

Category : CCSD

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Johnston Elementary School’s School Nurse Laure Carroll, right, is presented with the Georgia PTA Outstanding School Nurse Award by Georgia PTA President Lisa-Marie Haygood.

The Cherokee County School District has won top Georgia PTA Awards for school nurses, teachers and school PTAs!

The Georgia PTA, which is led by Cherokee County’s own Lisa-Marie Haygood as its President, presents statewide awards to outstanding educators and school PTAs at its summer conference.


Indian Knoll Elementary School teacher Jennifer Schroter won the Georgia PTA’s Birney Butler Outstanding Educator Award for the elementary-school level.

Johnston ES School Nurse Laure Carroll won the Georgia PTA Outstanding School Nurse Award, and Indian Knoll ES teacher Jennifer Schroter won the Birney Butler Outstanding Educator Award for the elementary-school level!

Mill Creek MS PTSA won the Outstanding Local Unit award out of all middle schools in Georgia and the President’s Membership Award!  Woodstock HS won second place in the State for Outstanding Local Unit among all high schools in Georgia.

River Ridge HS PTSA won the Overall Heart Family-School Partnership Award at the State level, and Indian Knoll ES, Macedonia ES and Mountain Road ES PTAs all won top awards for specific areas of service.

Four school PTAs won the Platinum Membership Award: Clark Creek ES STEM Academy, Dean Rusk MS, Hickory Flat ES and Indian Knoll ES.  A great showing of CCSD school PTAs earned the State’s Model PTA designation: Bascomb ES, Boston ES, Clark Creek ES STEM, Dean Rusk MS, Freedom MS, Hickory Flat ES, Holly Springs ES STEM Academy, Indian Knoll ES, Johnston ES, Little River ES, Macedonia ES, Mill Creek MS, Mountain Road ES, Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academy, River Ridge HS, Sequoyah HS, Sixes ES and Woodstock HS.

“Our schools, teachers and students benefit greatly from the outstanding alliance we foster with our PTA volunteers,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.  “The PTA’s support – whether raising funds for schools’ needs, logging thousands of volunteer hours or advocating for public schools locally and at the State Capitol – is invaluable to our success.  We’re so proud to see our employees honored by the Georgia PTA, and we’re delighted to see our PTA volunteers recognized at the State level for their dedication.”

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Mill Creek Middle School PTSA leaders, from left to right, Jessi Brenneman, Brenda Page, Ambrea Holman and Olga Spivey, celebrating winning the Georgia PTA’s Outstanding Local Unit award out of all middle schools in Georgia! The school’s PTSA also won the President’s Membership Award and Model PTA designation.

CCSD Employees Staying Busy Over Summer

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CCSD Fleet Maintenance Technician Adam Shelton checks a school bus during summer inspections. The Georgia Department of Public Safety checks every bus in the CCSD fleet during the summer.

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CCSD Facility Technician Lantz Cleveland passes a drill through to technician Terry Cornelison as they re-install air-conditioning units at Free Home ES following a window replacement project in the media center.

Summer break doesn’t mean vacation time for many Cherokee County School District employees, as the summer months offer an opportune time for maintenance work and training, as well as teaching and learning for more than 1,000 students who took advantage of various CCSD summer school programs.

This summer, hundreds of CCSD teachers are taking advantage of training opportunities offered by CCSD; school nutrition workers have been busy learning new skills and ideas for tastier lunchroom fare; more than 400 school buses will be inspected; warehouse and technology employees are stocking a brand new replacement Dean Rusk Middle School; and, maintenance department employees are busy burning through a list of repair and upgrade projects on various school campuses.

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CCSD School Nutrition Manager on Special Assignment Tiffany Ridley adds lime to a guacamole recipe during a training class this summer.

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Indian Knoll ES teacher Marissa Williams focuses on a task during a CCSD summer professional development class on Microsoft productivity tools.

Some of the work will continue right up until the first day of school, which is Monday, August 1.

CCSD Launches New Website!

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Category : CCSD

The Cherokee County School District has launched a new website for students, parents and the community, that’s designed to be easier to navigate and friendly to mobile devices.

The website,, was developed by CCSD employees, which allowed for a customized design and continuous updates at no additional costs to the School District.  As part of the launch, each school has its own new website as well, with a school staff member serving as its webmaster.

“Our School District’s and schools’ websites provide the community with a wealth of important information, and this new design makes it easier for everyone to access those resources,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.  “We’re focused on innovation, efficiency and excellence in every aspect of our operations, and our Technology and Public Information divisions collaborated to create a new website that exemplifies this dedication.  We’re excited about using it, and hope you are, too.”

The website’s home page features app-like buttons and a “I need help with” set of frequently-asked-questions to make navigation easier for users.  Students and parents now can click on these buttons to access popular content, such as the Aspen student and parent portal, MyPaymentsPlus cafeteria meal payment system, enrollment and “first day” forms and student handbooks.  Job-seekers can click on a link to resources just for them, as can existing CCSD employees.  Social media links also are on the home page including a Twitter feed showcasing CCSD and school news.

Fresh content is being added to the main website daily, and schools will begin expanding content later this month when staff return to schools.  The School District will continue to share news, announcements and recognitions on the website’s homepage, as well as continue to operate its transparency in government webpage, renamed Open CCSD, to provide the community with a one-stop data warehouse.