CCSD 2017 Varsity Brands Senior Bowl Set for Dec. 7

CCSD 2017 Varsity Brands Senior Bowl Set for Dec. 7

Category : CCSD

UPDATE 12/14/17: Here’s a highlight video from the game and half-time celebrations!

Please join us at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, for the CCSD 2017 Varsity Brands Senior Bowl at River Ridge HS to support our high school seniors and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital!  The showcase game celebrates our high school senior football players, cheerleaders, marching band musicians and Junior ROTC Cadets.  Admission is $5. #CCSDfam

Check out this video to learn more about the game!

Senior Bowl graphic

CCSD Using New Online Payment System Starting on Dec. 18

Category : CCSD

The Cherokee County School District on Dec. 18, 2017 will switch from RevTrak to Online School Payments for online payment of school-related purchases.

CCSD contracts with an online payment system vendor so schools can accept online payments for such purchases as After School Program, field trips and parking permits; this is not the online system to pre-pay for school breakfasts or lunches – that system is not changing.  There is no cost to CCSD to make an online payment system available to parents.

The vendor change is needed to accommodate growing use of online payments by parents; the convenience fee charged to parents by the vendor to make online payments will not change (3.49% of the transaction total).  Schools will continue to accept payments of cash and checks, for which there is no convenience fee.  Here is a link to the system homepage, where new users will set up an account:

If you have questions, please contact the front office of your child’s school for more information.

CCSD Schools Earn High Marks for School Climate

Category : CCSD

Freedom Middle School 2018 Teacher of the Year Janelle Haysman gives a student a high-five during class.

The Cherokee County School District earned high marks from students, parents and employees for school climate, according to new data from the Georgia Department of Education.

The District earned an average of 4 stars on a 5-star scale in the annual rating, which measures how a school community views the quality of its school’s culture and character; the highest possible rating is 5 stars. The rating is calculated based on a survey of students, parents and teachers; student discipline issue rates; and daily attendance.

Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy earned a perfect score of 5; all CCSD middle schools earned 4 stars each; and no CCSD school scored less than 3 stars. Reports on individual schools’ climate ratings are posted online by the GaDOE.

Research, according to the GaDOE has found that schools with positive school climates usually report better test scores and graduation rates and create a culture of feeling socially, emotionally and physically safe.

“While much of the focus on how to measure a school’s success is placed on academic achievement and progress, it’s just as important for us to know that students, their families and our employees feel welcomed, safe and appreciated,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “We’re committed to improving our schools’ culture and ensuring that every child, parent, employee, volunteer and partner feels like they’re part of a family that cares about them and their future success.”


Climate scores chart

Dealership Donates Truck to Raise $200K for CCSD High School Football & Band Programs

Category : CCSD

Raffle ticket sales are underway to raise $200,000 for CCSD’s high school football and band programs… and one lucky ticket-holder will win a 2017 Dodge Ram 1500 Truck valued at $48,700 donated by Shottenkirk Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Canton!


shottenkirk logoTickets are $5 each; the drawing will be during halftime at the CCSD Varsity Brands Senior Bowl on Dec. 7 at River Ridge HS (you don’t need to be present to win; you must be 18 or older to win; taxes, tags and title to be paid by winner).

Tickets are for sale through CCSD’s high schools; online sales still are available through these sites: Cherokee HS:; Creekview HS:; Etowah HS:; Sequoyah HS:

donated truck

Cherokee County School Board Shares Priorities with Legislative Delegation

The Cherokee County School Board on Friday, Nov. 17, continued its tradition of sharing its legislative partnership priorities with the local Legislative Delegation over breakfast.

During the breakfast, School Board Chair Kyla Cromer shared an overview of the 2018 Legislative Partnership Priorities unanimously approved by the Board at its meeting on Thursday night.

Ms. Cromer and Board Members John Harmon, Patsy Jordan, Clark Menard and Kelly Poole expressed their opinions and answered questions asked by State Representatives Mandi Ballinger, Michael Caldwell, Wes Cantrell and Scot Turner.

The Priorities include three main areas of concern: Funding, Local Control & Governance, and Educational Opportunities.

“It really comes down to these three big topics,” Ms. Cromer said. “Over the years, we’ve stayed focused on them.”

In regard to Funding, the Board is asking the Delegation to push for full restoration of $4 Million in State education funding that CCSD has earned under the State’s formula, but is being withheld in the name of “austerity budget cuts.”

These cuts, which were implemented as a tool to help the State’s budget recover from the Recession, should cease, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said, given that the State’s “rainy day” reserves fund has ballooned to $2 Billion (with another $500 Million likely to be added in 2018), while school districts statewide struggle.

“We still have a lot of school systems statewide feeling pain,” Dr. Hightower said, noting that in CCSD it means class sizes remain higher than pre-Recession levels and less opportunity for innovation. “All we’re asking for are for the ‘austerity’ cuts to be restored.”

The statewide “austerity budget cuts” total $167 Million… so they could be restored with hundreds of millions still available for further growing the State’s piggy bank.

This, Dr. Hightower said, would lessen the additional pain school districts are feeling due to the continuous shift of costs from the State to local systems both for the State Health Benefit Plan (which, for tens of thousands of classified employees, now is entirely paid for by local systems and employees with no State contribution) and the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia.

Also, under Funding, the School Board is asking the Delegation to refrain from funneling taxpayer dollars to private schools through any means.

Under Local Control & Governance, the School Board continues its request for the Delegation to support local control in regard to public school systems, with a specific mention of school calendars.

Business interests are lobbying to require all schools statewide revert to the old, agrarian calendar that starts school after Labor Day, removes popular “balanced calendar” breaks and reduces holiday breaks. These lobbyists argue tourist attractions need the calendar changed so attractions can pull in more local dollars from families, and so businesses have more opportunities to take advantage of low-cost student labor.

This potential State mandate would overturn CCSD’s balanced calendar model that began 15 years ago with strong and continued support from parents and employees and the locally elected School Board.

“We don’t accept one-size-fits-all education for our children, and a statewide calendar that silences local community input is just as damaging a State mandate,” Dr. Hightower said. “Our calendar not only works for our community, but it’s also so successful that surrounding communities have adopted it as well. We need to put our children’s best interests first.”

Under Educational Opportunities, the School Board asks the Delegation to support a return to the dual-track for high school students, so they can either choose a college prep track or a career readiness track. Without the latter option, students are unable to take as many Career Pathway classes as they’d like and earn industry certification, as they must instead take sometimes unnecessary college preparatory classes.

“We want our kids to graduate,” School Board Member Clark Menard said, referring to a dual-track’s positive impact on graduation rates. “There will be kids who find it more desirable to stay in high school and get trained to go to work. It’s a real push that can help a lot of kids.”

Four CCSD Schools Honored for Outstanding Academic Performance!

Clayton Elementary School Principal Abbey Philpot, center right, and her teachers celebrate the school’s Gold Award for Greatest Gains announced today by the Governor’s Office.

Four Cherokee County School District schools have been honored by Gov. Nathan Deal for outstanding academic performance!

Clayton Elementary School earned a top Gold Award in the “Greatest Gains” ratings, which recognize only 139 schools statewide that earned a three-year average CCRPI (College and Career Ready Performance Index) Progress Score that ranks in at least the 93rd percentile.

Sequoyah High School earned Silver in “Greatest Gains,” and Bascomb Elementary and Woodstock Middle earned Bronze.

Bascomb Elementary also earned Bronze in the “Highest Performance” ratings, which recognize only 142 schools statewide that have earned a three-year average CCRPI Achievement Score that ranks in at least the 93rd percentile.

“Congratulations to the educators and administrators in Georgia’s award-winning schools who have exceeded expectations in preparing their students,” Gov. Deal said in his awards announcement today. “By implementing the best methods for teaching young minds, educators at Highest Performing and Greatest Gains schools are going above and beyond to help their students develop the skills needed for future success.”

This is the third consecutive year for Sequoyah HS and Woodstock MS to be honored, and the second for Bascomb ES.

Winners receive a certificate to display at their school. The Cherokee County School Board and Superintendent of Schools will recognize CCSD’s winners at the Dec. 14 School Board meeting.

“These teachers and leaders give 110% every day… and it’s not for Gold Awards or other glory, but to help their students be as successful as possible,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “We’re so proud of the academic achievement and progress that led to this recognition, and are thankful for the parents and partners who support us and work with us to continually improve teaching and learning.”


School Board Hears from Parents on Cherokee HS Overcrowding

The School Board on Thursday, November 16, 2017, heard from five parents during a public hearing on potential solutions to overcrowding at Cherokee High School.

The hearing, which was attended by a small crowd of parents and teachers, followed two rounds of community meetings to gather input in response to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower’s decision to trigger an Attendance Area Review process.

“This is really a phase-one piece of a multi-year plan,” Dr. Hightower said of addressing overcrowding at Cherokee HS.  “While we have only seen an increase of 50 students this fall over last year’s enrollment, infrastructure continues to be severely taxed… and enrollment is expected to continue to grow north of 3,000 – sooner than later.”

While Cherokee HS doesn’t meet the “critically overcrowded” standards due to mobile classrooms and other fixes already in place, Dr. Hightower announced earlier this year he would ask the School Board at its Dec. 14 meeting to approve a mitigation plan to take effect next school year.

The process began with a dozen possible solutions, including those as far-reaching as countywide redistricting, which have been narrowed through public input and staff review.  Parents at Thursday’s hearing spoke only to two of those solutions:

Option 1. Cherokee HS expands to include the neighboring Canton ES STEM Academy campus; Canton ES STEM Academy students are consolidated into Knox ES and R.M. Moore ES, with STEM programs added to both of those campuses and R.M. Moore ES retaining Title I services (while Knox ES will not see enough of a demographic shift to qualify as Title I, students in need will continue to receive extra services).  This option will reduce CCSD operating costs by $1.5 Million over five years.

Option 2. Cherokee HS expands to include Canton ES STEM Academy campus; Canton ES STEM Academy students relocate to the ACE Academy campus (the 30-year-old Teasley MS building on Knox Bridge Highway); ACE Academy students move to the former Tippens ES (50-year-old building on Glenwood Street in Canton, which will need significant renovations before that move can occur).  This option will increase CCSD operating costs by $3.49 Million next year, and $5.1 Million over five years.

Five parents spoke at Thursday’s Public Input Session, with two favoring Option 1; a husband and wife favoring Option 2; and one focusing on the need to build a new Cherokee High School as soon as possible.

“To think of any other scenario is not feasible,” parent Andy Slanina said of Option 1, adding that he would like to see the savings generated by the plan used to make further improvements to Cherokee HS until a new campus is constructed.

Donnamarie Alcott also said she sees Option 1 as the “only logical and fiscally responsible option.”

Two parents, Kurt and Alexandra Stark, spoke to their desire to see Canton ES STEM Academy stay intact under Option 2, to preserve its strong sense of community.

Parent Jonathan Kessler spoke to the need for the School Board to build a new high school instead of continuing with temporary “Band-aids.”

Dr. Hightower said he is committed to doing just that — as soon as funding is available.  Due to aggressive school construction over the last 15 years in response to Cherokee’s population explosion, CCSD does not have the borrowing capacity to build a new high school, which would cost at least $70 Million, until after the 2021 Education SPLOST renewal at the earliest.

The Cherokee Innovation Zone during those 15 years received $140 Million in new construction including the replacement Canton ES, Hasty ES, Knox ES, Liberty ES and the replacement Teasley MS, a classroom addition at R.M. Moore ES and two rounds of improvements to Cherokee HS since 2002 that alone total nearly $15 Million.

Melissa Whatley

The Board also approved monthly personnel recommendations on Thursday that included recognizing the retirement of longtime employees Joy Mabrey, who began teaching in 1953 and later managed the teacher resource center, and Debbie Childress, who is retiring as Supervisor of Instructional Technology after 42 years as an educator.  The appointment of Melissa Whatley, longtime Executive Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent, to Coordinator of Human Resources Services, was approved as well.

The School Board also:

  • Recognized Woodstock High School for earning State STEM Certification;
  • Recognized Cherokee High school Senior Emily Costello for achieving a perfect ACT score;
  • Recognized CCSD School Nutrition for winning the Georgia Golden Radish Award – Platinum Level for practices in support of Farm to School initiatives;
  • Recognized CCSD Teacher of the Year Stephanie Vidrine of Woodstock Middle School;
  • Recognized Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy Teacher Karen Garland for being named the Georgia Conservation Teacher of the Year;
  • Recognized River Ridge High School Career Pathways teacher Judi Haggerty for being selected for a State leadership program;
  • Recognized the Creekview High School Army JROTC program as State Champions at the Georgia State Raider Championship;
  • Recognized CCSD staff for Georgia School Public Relations Association (GSPRA) Publication Awards;
  • Recognized State and Regional Champions from Cherokee High School’s Varsity Softball team and Etowah High School’s One Act Play cast and crew;
  • Approved the renewal of a Partnership Agreement with the Cherokee County Board of Elections & Registration;
  • Approved monthly financial reports;
  • Approved surplus of Police Department property;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved 2017-18 School Improvement Plans;
  • Approved special lease agreements;
  • Approved 2018 Legislative Partnership Priorities; and,
  • Approved annual update of Five-Year Strategic Plan.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, December 14, 2017.

Inaugural Class for CCSD Parent Academy Program Graduates!

The inaugural CCSD VILLA class members celebrate their graduation on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 with School Board Members, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower and members of his senior staff, and Georgia School Boards Association representatives. Class members are: Donnamarie Alcott, Jamie Bobo, Buster Cushing, Robert Ditchen, Judith Dobbs, Samantha Dunn, Lauren Hekking, Bob Kovacs, Monica Orrico, Corrie Riggs, Robin Schorr, Katie Roller Schulz, Dawn Stastny, Kathy Strom, Kyle Tomeny and Kathy Winiarczyk. Not pictured: Judith Dobbs.


The inaugural class for Cherokee County School District’s new parent academy program has graduated!

VILLA (Volunteer Instructional Leadership Learning Academy), developed by the Georgia School Boards Association, offers parents an opportunity to learn more about their community’s public schools.

The last session of VILLA included a graduation dinner sponsored by Credit Union of Georgia, a CCSD community partner.

This fall, CCSD became Georgia’s first school district to present the program and will be featured in a video about VILLA debuting at the Association’s statewide Annual Conference’s next month. The program aligned with School Board Chair Kyla Cromer’s vision, as shared during her re-election campaign, of offering a parent academy.

Sixteen parents, who applied for the six-session program, were celebrated at a final session on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, which included a graduation ceremony and dinner, sponsored by Credit Union of Georgia, a CCSD community partner.

VILLA participants Monica Orrico, left, and Kathy Strom enjoy the group’s field trip day to three schools including Holly Springs ES STEM Academy, as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower looks on.

Inaugural class members are: Donnamarie Alcott, Jamie Bobo, Buster Cushing, Robert Ditchen, Judith Dobbs, Samantha Dunn, Lauren Hekking, Bob Kovacs, Monica Orrico, Corrie Riggs, Robin Schorr, Katie Roller Schulz, Dawn Stastny, Kathy Strom, Kyle Tomeny and Kathy Winiarczyk.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said participants’ feedback makes clear this is a needed program, which will be offered annually. As one participant said: “VILLA provided a great overview of everything that goes into providing a quality education for our children.”

VILLA participant Kyle Tomeny shares a laugh during an interactive session with Tammy Castleberry, left, and Judy Withey of CCSD’s Office of Curriculum & Instruction.

“Our school district grows stronger as parents become advocates for public schools and their success,” Dr. Hightower said. “We’re so appreciative of the participants’ commitment, of our School Board’s vision and of GSBA for its support.”



Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower and School Board Members listen as School Board member Kelly Poole makes a point during a VILLA session.

Power Up! It’s National School Psychology Awareness Week Nov. 13-17

Category : CCSD

November 13-17 is National School Psychology Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is “Power Up! Be A Positive Charge.” CCSD has 25 school psychologists and one lead school psychologist to assist children in the school district who are struggling with emotional or behavioral issues. Last school year, this group of CCSD professionals conducted 4,787 consultations, along with 1,138 comprehensive evaluations and 2,157 partial evaluations. School psychologists work with students to develop the academic and social-emotional skills they need to promote personal achievement, growth and resilience, as well as a sense of belonging and wellbeing.

Lead School Psychologist Sharyl Williams-Bandy notes that school psychology is a field requiring extensive education and training, and CCSD is fortunate to have a talented staff working hard to help and support students and families.

“After completing a specialist-level or doctoral-level graduate program, we have a year-long internship and must pass written examinations in order to be credentialed by the state,” she said.  “School Psychologists receive extensive training in data collection and analysis, assessment, school-wide practices to promote learning, consultation and collaboration, academic and mental health interventions, research and program evaluation, and professional ethics.”

This education and training makes them uniquely qualified to provide support to students, teachers, families, other mental-health professionals, and administrators on academic and behavioral issues and to serve as advocates for children.

Several of our CCSD School Psychologists recently shared some insight into their role in the school district:

What is a typical day in your job involve?

Attending Response to Intervention and Section 504 meetings, evaluating students, consulting with teachers and other school personnel regarding students’ academic, social, emotional, and/or behavioral difficulties, and writing psychoeducational evaluations. Megan Foster

What do you wish parents/community knew or understood about your job?

That it is tough and very emotionally draining. Even though I try not to get attached, I have such a big heart for these children and often invest a lot of time and energy into their wellbeing. Laura Killen

Our job is using eligibility criteria, which is not always the same as medical criteria.  I think that piece gets confusing for parents and the community. Deborah Silverstein

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

I think one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is when I receive an update from a parent or see the first-hand progress that a student has made.  I have been stopped at sporting events, in the grocery store, or in the school hallway by parents who are so excited to tell me about their child’s most recent accomplishment.   I think we all wonder if we are making a difference in our work and fortunately in my profession, I can see the rewards on a daily basis.  Sharyl Williams-Bandy

I find it rewarding to engage in problem solving with teachers or through an evaluation to help determine why a child is struggling and providing suggestions or solutions on how to best help meet the child’s needs. Kimberly Nofi

One of the most rewarding things about my role as a school psychologist is seeing students make progress towards academic, social, and behavioral goals. I enjoy seeing students take steps, sometimes small but sometimes large, to help themselves learn. While I watch a student light up when reading, when they were having difficulty only a couple of months prior, is something that I will always love to be a part of. Rebecca Smith

What I find rewarding is the collaboration and consultation that I get to have with so many other professionals because they help me figure out what areas that I need to evaluate in order to identify what students’ specific strengths and needs may be.  Wendy Fuhrman

I enjoy problem solving and finding a solution for a child who is struggling. Laura Killen

The most rewarding part of this job for me is being able to see (and hopefully help) students, educators and families overcome difficulties to positively change the lives of students. Megan Foster

I really enjoy helping people – teachers, kids, and families!  I think we have a limited role and it takes everyone working together.  However, when that collaboration works well, it can be really powerful for all involved. Deborah Silverstein

What are the biggest challenges students struggle with today?

I am seeing many more of our students struggling with mental health issues that are impacting their daily functioning and educational progress. Kimberly Nofi

Mental health issues are on the rise, and that is affecting our students at a very young age. We need more resources in the schools and affordable options within the community. Laura Killen

I think that students are struggling more and more with social media and the advances in technology that are happening all around us.  While it is making our society progressive as a whole, I think that students need more direction on how to maintain a sense of relationship with people and how to wisely manage the technological world around them.  I know that this is a struggle for parents as well.  As school psychologists, I think that we have the opportunity to offer guidance for students and families on how important both relationships and technology are in building the future.  Wendy Fuhrman

What drew you to the field of school psychology (in general, or as opposed to general practice)?

I was drawn to this field by a passion for the children who fall through the cracks and are misunderstood. Lauren Killen

I was an undergraduate psychology major and I enjoyed all of the psychology courses that I took. My mom, who was a special education teacher, suggested that I look into school psychology, and the rest is history. I enjoy the school atmosphere and working closely with children, parents, and school staff.   Rebecca Smith

School Psychology is part of the CCSD Special Education Department in the Curriculum and Instruction Division.


CCSD Schools Celebrate Veterans Day with Special Events

Category : CCSD

R.M. Moore ES students wore special Veterans Day T-shirts and gathered in the gym for a program honoring more than 40 veterans from the community. The veterans were treated to breakfast afterwards.

Sixes ES students Javontae Rainey and Andrew Shewfelt enjoy the Veterans Day breakfast with dad, Greg Shewfelt.

Bascomb ES student Cullen Patterson gets into the spirit of his school’s Veterans Day celebration.

Cherokee County School District schools honored our community’s veterans with special Veterans Day programs.  Students heard guest speakers and performed patriotic songs at Veterans Day assemblies, completed classroom activities to learn about veterans’ service and shared special breakfasts with their loved ones who have served our country.

Here’s a video of R.M. Moore Elementary School’s program.

More photos are on our Facebook page: