Etowah HS Counselor Named CCSD 2017 Counselor of the Year!

Etowah HS Counselor Named CCSD 2017 Counselor of the Year!

Etowah HS Assistant Principal Amanda Ruiz congratulates school counselor Michele Dowd, as she walks out to center court of the gym during the surprise CCSD 2017 Counselor of the Year presentation on Friday, March 31, 2017.

Michele Dowd knew she wanted to live a life of service, and found her calling in Etowah High School’s counseling office.

Her favorite quote speaks to this mission: “A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I loved in, or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child,” (Forest E. Witcraft).

And on Friday, March 31, 2017, Ms. Dowd was surprised with an award recognizing the difference she is making in the lives of thousands of children at Etowah High School as a school counselor: Cherokee County School District 2017 Counselor of the Year.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, center, and School Board member Kelly Poole, left, congratulate Michele Dowd of Etowah High School for her recognition as CCSD 2017 Counselor of the Year.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower presented her with the honor in front of a packed crowd assembled for a student-staff basketball game fundraiser for Relay for Life. The presentation, which also was attended by her husband, Billy, and other family and friends, and reception that followed were sponsored by Northside Hospital Cherokee, a CCSD Partner.

Dr. Hightower praised Ms. Dowd as “one of Etowah’s finest,” noting he’s especially proud to see one of his own former students be so successful and respected by her colleagues.

“Michele knows her why – she sees it in the faces of the kids she serves every day,” Dr. Hightower said. “Whether she’s providing them a shoulder to lean on in tough times or a helping hand in finding their career path, Ms. Dowd is all in and approaches her work with professionalism and passion.”

The award process begins with each Innovation Zone (high school and feeder elementary and middle schools) selecting a Counselor of the Year. Applications from these honorees then are considered by a panel of retired educators and community leaders, who select the CCSD Counselor of the Year.

In addition to Ms. Dowd for the Etowah Innovation Zone (IZ), the other Zone winners are: Cherokee IZ, Connie Hatcher, Canton ES STEM Academy; Creekview IZ, Angel Jane, Avery ES; River Ridge IZ, Phillip Crane, Mill Creek MS; Sequoyah IZ, Michelle Martin, Dean Rusk MS; and Woodstock IZ, Brent Harrison, Woodstock ES. They all will be recognized by the School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the April 20 School Board meeting.

Ms. Dowd is a graduate of Kennesaw State University, where she earned her bachelor of science in psychology, and University of West Alabama, where she earned her master of science in continuing education – school guidance and counseling.

She joined Etowah High School 2014, after serving one year as counselor for CCSD’s Polaris Evening Program and as a counseling intern at Avery Elementary School and a substitute teacher districtwide.

Among her roles at Etowah, Ms. Dowd provides students with a wide variety of counseling services, coordinates the Advance Placement (AP), hospital homebound and foreign exchange programs and serves on the school’s Leadership Team.

“When students come into my office during a personal crisis and can leave feeling better or with some resolution, then I know I have done my job,” said Ms. Dowd, who also is an active volunteer with youth at Christ Community Church in Cumming. “I love celebrating with students when they come into my office with exciting news or they have just been admitted into the college of their dreams. I want to be in the trenches with them during the valley moments of their life and celebrate with them on the mountaintop of their successes.”

Principal Dr. Bob Eddy said Ms. Dowd’s “core value” of service makes her an exceptional counselor and leader in her profession.

“No matter the responsibility,” he said, “Michele stays grounded in her service to students.”

And back to that favorite quote, which she has hanging up in her kitchen, as its message has come full circle for Ms. Dowd.

“When I started my tenure as a school counselor,” she said, “I thought I would be the one making a difference in the lives of students, and I hope I have so far, but little did I know that they and their families would be the ones to leave a lasting imprint on my heart.”

Ms. Dowd is welcomed to the center of the gym at halftime of the student-staff basketball game fundraiser for Relay for Life by CCSD leaders, family and friends including Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower; her husband, Billy Dowd; Deputy Superintendent Trey Olson; School Board member Kelly Poole; and Principal Dr. Bob Eddy.

Celebrating the recognition of Ms. Dowd, center, are, from left to right, Principal Dr. Bob Eddy; friends, Jason and Tiffany Skipper; her husband, Billy Dowd; her mother, Susan Hayhurst; her brother, Billy Hayhurst; and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.

Northside Hospital Cherokee representative Donnie Henriques congratulates Ms. Dowd. Northside Hospital Cherokee, a CCSD Partner, sponsored the presentation and reception that followed.

CCSD Website Scheduled for Maintenance Midnight to 5 am Friday

Category : CCSD

The CCSD website and some of its web-based resources (e.g., Aspen) will be undergoing scheduled maintenance between midnight and 5 am on Friday, March 24. Access will be intermittent or unavailable during this window.  While web traffic during these early morning hours is typically minimal, we advise any night owls or very early risers that they should plan ahead on Thursday afternoon/evening to download homework and other materials they may need to complete assignments in a timely manner.  Thank you for your patience– we expect all systems to be fully operational Friday morning in time for the start of the school day!

CCSD Named a Top 10 Technology District in U.S. for 12th Time!

The Cherokee County School District for the 12th time is in the nation’s “Top 10” of large school systems effectively using technology in education.

The honor recognizes results from the annual Digital School Districts Survey conducted by the Center for Digital Education and the National School Boards Association. The survey compares public school districts nationwide and awards Top 10 rankings to those that fully integrate technology into the classroom, and throughout the system’s operations. With this year’s recognition, CCSD has made its 12th appearance in the Top 10 since 2004.

“Effectively using technology is a requirement for success in our world, and we’re focused on ensuring each of our students not only is engaged with technology, but also develops a sense of ownership through usage,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said, noting he views technology as a valuable tool for every aspect of operations. “We set a goal to further embrace business technology to improve operations and have implemented successful new systems, with more on the horizon.”

The survey evaluates use of technology in areas including: integration of technology and curriculum and related professional development; infrastructure and networks; leadership and transparency in governance; operational improvements; strategic planning, data management and safety; and communications with students, parents, employees and the community at large.

“Technology is an essential tool for the transformation of education in our country,” said Dr. Kecia Ray, executive director for the Center for Digital Education. “The Digital School Districts Survey helps districts measure progress toward transformation and I’m proud to recognize these districts and the work that is represented in their award. Congratulations to all of the award winners and great thanks to all who participated in the survey.”

Winners will be recognized at the National School Boards Association’s Annual Conference in Denver on Saturday.

“The school boards in these districts are recognized for utilizing technology solutions to make their work as a board more transparent and their district operations more efficient,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director & CEO, National School Boards Association. “Their accomplishments demonstrate that innovative approaches can be embraced by any district, regardless of its size or location.”

The Center for Digital Education is a national research and advisory institute specializing in K-12 and higher education technology trends, policy and funding. The Center provides education and industry leaders with decision support and actionable insights to help effectively incorporate new technologies in the 21st century.

Sixes ES Earns National Recognition for Digital Education!

Sixes Elementary School was named a Common Sense Certified School for Digital Citizenship this week by Common Sense, a national nonprofit organization dedicated “to helping kids and families thrive in a world of digital media and technology.”

The school earned the recognition by preparing students to use digital media safely by avoiding dangers such as plagiarism, loss of privacy and cyberbullying.

“We applaud the faculty and staff of these schools for embracing digital citizenship as an important part of their students’ education,” said Jessica Lindl, Head of Common Sense Education. “Sixes Elementary School deserves high praise for giving its students the foundational skills they need to compete and succeed in the 21st-century workplace and participate ethically in society at large.”

Assistant Principal Clay Gunter and Media Specialist Kim George coordinated the school’s certification process.

Principal Cindy Crews

“We’re honored to be recognized as a Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified School,” Principal Cindy Crews said. “By preparing our students to use technology safely and responsibly, we are providing them unlimited opportunities to maximize and personalize their learning.”

The school’s leadership will be recognized by the School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the May 4 school board meeting.

Common Sense Education’s digital citizenship resources were created in collaboration with Dr. Howard Gardner of the GoodPlay Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The free resources teach students, educators and parents skills related to Internet safety, protecting online reputations and personal privacy, managing online relationships and respecting creative copyright.

CCSD Media Specialist Wins State Intellectual Freedom Award!

A Cherokee County School District media specialist has won the 2017 Georgia Library Media Association Intellectual Freedom Award!

Amanda Graves

E.T. Booth Middle School Media Specialist Amanda Graves has won the prestigious honor, which recognizes an individual for upholding the principles of intellectual freedom as set forth by the American Library Association of School Librarians and the American Library Association.

Ms. Graves earned her early childhood education degree from Brenau University and her masters of library and information science degree from Valdosta State University in 2012, where she received dual degrees in school media and public librarianship. In 2013, she began working for Cobb County’s school system, and this school year joined E.T. Booth Middle School, where she serves more than 1,700 students and 100-plus faculty and staff members.

She will be honored at the Georgia Library Media Association Summer Institute Conference in June in Peachtree City and will be recognized by the Cherokee County School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the April 20 school board meeting.

School Board Appoints New, Reassigned Administrators and Principals

Retiring Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs Susan McCarthy listens as she is praised by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower for her lifetime of service to public education.

The School Board on Thursday, March 16, 2017, approved the appointment of new and reassigned district administrators and principals for the 2017-18 school year and received a clean 2016 audit report.

The slate of appointments presented by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower for approval began with the recognition of a retiring leader: Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs Susan McCarthy.

Dr. Hightower praised Ms. McCarthy for her lifetime of service, rising from a classroom teacher and Teacher of the Year to an assistant principal, principal, district leader and member of his senior staff.

“We’re very proud of you and wish you the best,” Dr. Hightower said, j

Dr. Nicole Holmes

oining the audience in giving Ms. McCarthy a standing ovation.


Dr. Nicole Holmes, who currently serves as Director of School Operations overseeing CCSD’s elementary schools, was approved as her successor, with the title Chief Academic Officer, which reflects a new “chief” title structure for senior staff beginning in 2017-18.

The role in which Dr. Holmes currently serves will be filled by Beth P. Long, current Principal of Canton Elementary School STEM Academy, whose appointment also was approved Thursday; its new title will be Executive Director of School Operations.

Beth P. Long

Other new or reassigned district administrators appointed Thursday to fill positions vacated by retirements or created to meet growth needs include:

• Dr. Christina Clayton, current facilitator for the Office of Instructional Technology, as Supervisor of Digital Content;
• Lynda Wallace, currently a director for Pickens County’s school system, as Supervisor of Federal Programs;

Dr. Christina Clayton

• Melissa Sneed, currently a program specialist for Cobb County’s school system, as Supervisor of Special Education;
• Karla Tipton, currently a systems analyst, as Supervisor of Technology Support Services;
• Chris Saxon, currently a facilitator for enterprise field services, as Supervisor of Technology Field Services;
• Dr. Rouel Belleza, currently an administrator with Educational Programs, as Supervisor of Student Services; and,
• Danielle Ross, currently a coordinator with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, as Emergency Operations Facilitator.

Other new or reassigned Principals appointed Thursday to fill positions vacated by retirements or reassignments include:

• Robert Horn, currently an Assistant Principal for Cobb County’s school system, as Principal of Etowah High School;
• Dawn Weinbaum, currently Principal of E.T.

Booth Middle School, as Principal of Dean Rusk Middle School;
• Dr. Sue Zinkil, currently Principal of Teasley Middle School, as Principal of Creekland

Lynda Wallace

Middle School;
• Christian Kirby, currently Principal of Little River Elementary School, as Principal of Ball Ground Elementary School STEM Academy;
• Michael Manzella, currently Assistant Principal for Woodstock High School, as Principal of E.T. Booth Middle School;
• Dr. Benjamin Lester, currently Assistant Principal for Cherokee High School, as Principal of Teasley Middle School;
• Karen Carl, currently Principal of Free Home Elementary School, as Principal of Little River Elementary School;
• Kim Hagood, currently Assistant Principal for Carmel Elementary School, as Principal of Free Home Elementary School;
• Melinda Roulier, currently Assistant Principal for Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy, as Principal of Mountain Road Elementary School; a

Melissa Sneed

• Dr. Abby May, currently an Assistant Principal for Cobb County’s school system, as Principal of Canton Elementary School STEM Academy.

During its strategic work session, the School Board heard a presentation by the independent external auditor, who reported 2015-16 fiscal year audit received a clean opinion with no new findings or unresolved prior findings.

“Great job on a clean audit report,” School Board Member Clark Menard said, specifically thanking Ken Owen, Assistant

Karla Tipton

Superintendent for Financial Management, and his staff. “‘None listed’ on the list of follow-ups – that’s a good thing. Job well done.”

The work session also included a presentation on the Canvas learning management system currently being piloted by select teachers with a planned districtwide launch for next school year.

“We’re completely changing the way we’re delivering instruction,” said Dr. Clayton, who is leading the initiative, noting the online system allows students, teachers and parents to access

Chris Saxon

instructional materials, homework assignments, student performance data and other information all in one space.

The new system will lead to cost avoidance, both through the discontinued use of multiple programs with services duplicated in the one Canvas system, and also through the decreased use of paper and paper materials, printer ink and energy and flash drives and other supplies.

School Board Member Kelly Poole, whose son’s class is a part of the pilot, spoke very highly about the increased resources and

Dr. Rouel Belleza

information available to students and parents and the system’s ease of use.

“From a parent perspective, I love that,” she said, noting students no longer can use forgetting their book at school as an excuse to not complete homework and continue learning. “I support anything we can do to make our kids more successful, and this program helps with that.”

The School Board also:

• Thanked Dr. Hightower for a successful first year as Superintendent

Danielle Ross

of Schools and screened a video celebrating his past year;

• Thanked Etowah HS teacher Linda Yunker and students Josh Downen, Sarah Podstata and Grace Zaski for creating a teacher recruitment video to assist CCSD’s Division of Personnel Management; the video also was shown during the meeting;

• Recognized School Board Members in honor of School Board Member Appreciation Week;

• Recognized Liberty Elementary School as a 2017 State School of

Robert Horn


• Recognized CCSD Library Media Specialists of the Year;

• Recognized CCSD high school seniors named 2017 National Merit Finalists;

• Recognized 2016-17 STAR Students and STAR Teachers;

• Recognized Creekland Middle School as the 2016-17 CCSD Academic Bowl Team Champions;

Michael Manzella

• Recognized Region and State athletic champions;

• Approved a new partnership agreement with Give a Kid a Chance and a renewed agreement with the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce;

• Named School Board Member Robert “Rick Steiner” Rechsteiner as its delegate for 2017 Georgia School Boards Association Delegate Assembly;

• Approved monthly financial and Education SPLOST reports;

Dr. Benjamin Lester

• Authorized financial consultants to prepare, price and tentatively market a bond sale for voter-approved Education SPLOST purposes;

• Approved out-of-state travel;

• Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;

• Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report;

• Approved CCSD’s Five-Year Facility Plan for capital outlay projects;

Kim Hagood

• Approved special lease agreements;

• Approved a boundary line agreement at the Buffington Educational Service Center;

• Approved a quit claim deed releasing a sewer easement to the Cherokee County Water and Sewerage Authority; and,

• Met in executive session to review pending litigation and a student discipline tribunal appeal.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 20, 2017

Melinda Roulier

Dr. Abby May


The Job Is ‘Heartbreaking Yet Rewarding.’ March is National School Social Work Month

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Category : CCSD


March is National School Social Work Month.  CCSD has three full-time social workers who assist the families of our 41,700 students in overcoming challenges that might affect their education.  Our social workers strive daily to connect families with community resources and provide interventions to address situations like homelessness, hunger, truancy, drug abuse, neglect and other challenges.   Perry Marshall, David McFerrin and Tara Quinn-Schuldt share a few insights about their work:

What drew you to the field of school social work?

During my years of teaching, I always enjoyed working with students who were at risk and struggling. I empathized with them because I understood some of the barriers they faced in getting a quality education. I was the first person in my family ever to earn a college degree. I will never forget my father’s reaction when I told him I wanted to go to college. The first words out of his mouth were “How do you expect to pay for it?” Some students do not see a path to college or technical school due to poverty, family issues, etc., especially when they don’t have someone to guide them in that direction. When an opportunity to work with at-risk families came available, I jumped at the opportunity and went back to school to get my certification in school social work. That was 28 years ago, and I have never looked back. Sometimes the work is heartbreaking, but it is also very rewarding. –Perry

I’ve always enjoyed hearing people talk about their dreams and goals and helping them find ways to reach them. Education is a critical component for children being able to build the life they want. Being a school social worker gives me an opportunity to help students and their families solve the problems and remove the barriers which stand in their way to getting a good education. — David

I think I was drawn to this field because my parents were community helpers, my father a fire fighter and my mother worked for the Department of Family and Children Services.  They really set the example for me on how we can help our fellow community members.  I also knew I wanted to work with children and school is where the kids are! –Tara

What would surprise most people about your job?

Most people think my job is sad and depressing, but I find it hopeful and optimistic. I’m constantly surprised by and impressed with people’s resiliency and ability to thrive in the face of horrible circumstances. I work with people whom I consider to be quite heroic every day, but you’ll never hear them on the radio or see them on TV. –David

Some people would be surprised to learn that during home visits, most families are very cordial and open to discussing issues they face. Occasionally, I may run across a hostile parent, but most of the time these families are just looking for answers and trying to do the best they can. Some may be hesitant to change habits that have been ingrained over several generations, but they listen, and sometimes are willing to step outside their comfort zone and try something new.  –Perry

What is your “typical” day like?

One thing I like about this job is that there really is no typical day. When you spend time visiting with families, you never know the story you or going to hear and what obstacles they need to overcome. I spend a lot of time visiting with families, looking for resources, attending parent/student conferences,  conferencing with teachers or administrators, preparing petitions for court or DFCS, facilitating our truancy panel collaborative, investigating situations involving homelessness, etc.  A typical day is sometimes overwhelming, but never boring.   -Perry

I always say, I typically have a plan for the day, but those plans must be flexible as I may get an emergent situation or a request for home visit that must be made immediately.  My day can consist of home visits, school meetings, local agency contacts and visits, meetings with children and/or a visit to the Juvenile Court.  Typically, I fly by the seat of my pants and juggle all the way!  –Tara

What are the biggest challenges you face in your job?

For me the biggest challenges are those situations in which I have tried everything I can think of to help and improve a situation, my toolbox is empty and nothing has worked.  I am able to refer these families for additional services but I just can’t fix everything and unfortunately have no magic wand!  It is easy to be told, “Hey you can’t fix everything,” but that reality can be hard to swallow when you are working with children.  I have to try and remember that “something is better than nothing” and to just keep trying to help one step at a time.  –Tara

What do you most want parents to know/understand about your role?

Often parents equate a school social worker with DFCS. We are not DFCS. We are not here to judge you and we certainly don’t want to damage you or your family in any way. We are here as a resource to help you and your family remove barriers to your child’s education.  — David

I would like parents to understand that my role is to help them so that their child can have a successful school experience! — Tara

Open Enrollment for STEM and Fine Arts Academies is March 13-31

Category : CCSD

Enrollment at one of CCSD’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or Fine Arts academies will be open from March 13 through March 31 for the 2017-18 school year.  All elementary-aged students in Cherokee County are eligible to enroll.

Applications will be processed on a “first come, first served” basis, and approvals granted where enrollment space is available.   Transportation is available within a “hub”system.

Fine Arts sites are:

  • Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academy (Woodstock)
  • Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy (Canton)

STEM sites are:

  • Ball Ground ES STEM Academy (Ball Ground)
  • Canton ES STEM Academy (Canton)
  • Clark Creek ES STEM Academy (Acworth)
  • Holly Springs ES STEM Academy (Holly Springs)

For more information on the Academies program, please see this update on the CCSD website here:

Enrollment guidelines can be found on the CCSD website under the Forms button, here:

The application can be downloaded here (and must be returned to the front office of your desired Academy, or at the Division of School Operations at 1030 Keeter Road, Canton, GA 30114).

CCSD’s First-Ever Senior Series Basketball Classic Set for March 15, 2017

Want to cheer on CCSD’s senior girls and boys basketball players in the first-ever CCSD Senior Series Basketball Classic… and raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at the same time?

Join us Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at Etowah High School for games, recognitions and awesomeness. Pre-game ceremonies start at 6:45 p.m., with girls’ tip-off at 7 p.m. followed by the boys’ game. Admission is $5, with all proceeds benefitting St. Jude.

Big thanks to Senior Series sponsor Varsity Brands and Basketball Classic sponsor Northside Hospital-Cherokee!

CCSD Publishes Annual Report of District Progress

The Cherokee County School District has published its Annual Report of District Progress, which provides a yearly snapshot of accountability-based performance results and accomplishments.

“Our outstanding performance is a testament to the continuing effort of our teachers, administrators and support staff, who work tirelessly to ensure each student is as successful as possible,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “Additionally, we must acknowledge the significant contributions of our extended community — we would be unable to accomplish CCSD’s mission without the support of volunteers, families and business partners!”

The Annual Report features strong representation of CCSD’s continued excellence organized through the following themes:
• “Educating the Emerging Generation”
• “Raising the Bar”
• “Always Improving”
• “Engaging Community”

It also showcases evidence that CCSD is performing well above its peers at both State and National levels using performance- and survey-based metrics:
• Student Achievement Measures;
• College Readiness Indicators;
• Fiscal Responsibility Indexes;
• Student Growth Measures;
• Community Support Indicators; and,
• General Demographic Profiles.

The Annual Report has been newly redesigned to serve as a foldable brochure for presentations or a poster for display purposes. The redesign placed a greater emphasis on infographics and streamlined text to increase user-friendliness.

“We hope you enjoy reading this year’s Annual Report,” Dr. Hightower said. “We think all of our stakeholders will be proud to call their own.”