Seven CCSD Teams Advance to First LEGO League Super Regionals

Seven CCSD Teams Advance to First LEGO League Super Regionals

Category : CCSD

The Legocats Garnet team (from left, Vihaan Jaiswal, Christopher Markley, Eric Brown, Wyatt Clements, Noah Kenny and Nandita Bipin) explains their robot design to volunteer judge and State Senator Brandon Beach.

Seven CCSD teams will be heading to the First LEGO League Super Regionals next month at Kell High School after competing at a regional event last weekend. More than 32 schools across six neighboring school districts attended a regional First LEGO League competition on the Mill Creek MS campus on Saturday, Dec. 16, competing in three different groups.  Four CCSD teams won titles in various categories, led by a championship title win for Mill Creek MS LegoCats/Garnet team.  The other category wins included:

  • Woodstock Elementary School’s Team 1982, coached by Debbie Pinion, won the Robot Design Award for Group A.
  • E.T. Booth MS team Booth Bot Builders, coached by Dillon Armbruster, won the Project Award for Group A.
  • Dean Rusk MS team Brick Army, coached by Lisa Naliwajka, won the Project Award for Group C.
  • Mill Creek MS team Garnet LegoCats, coached by Mark Markley, won the Robot Performance Aware for Group C and captured the overall Champions Award for Group C.

From left, Levi Little and Bennett Keel of Woodstock ES watch as Woodstock MS student Bryce Jones checks out his robot.

CCSD teams who accumulated enough points to advance to Super Regionals include:    Woodstock ES WESbotics team, Booth MS Booth Bot Builders, Dean Rusk MS Brick Army, Clark Creek ES STEM Academy BrickMasters, Canton ES STEM Academy HydroColts, and two teams from Mill Creek MS, the LegoCats Garnet and LegoCats Gold teams.

From left in the black shirts, Nathan Boronat, Evan Fistel, Brett Lougheed, and D.J. Colonna work on their robot at a practice table.


In First LEGO League competition, each team designs and builds a robot based on the LEGO Mindstorms system.  The robots are designed and then programmed by the team to solve a set of missions, which are laid out on a First LEGO League playing field with models made from LEGO bricks. Each team also completes a research project affiliated with the tournament theme (this year’s is Hydro Dynamics), where they research and analyze a problem.  Awards are given for Robot Design, Core Values, Robot Performance, and Project.  More information can be found here:

Lauren Hunter, left, and Emily Craig watch their robot attempt the missions.

Champions from each group get an automatic entrance to Super Regionals; additional teams may secure a spot based on overall scores at the end of the regional competitions.

Community judges for the event included State Senator Brandon Beach; CCSD School Board member Kelly Poole; County Commissioner Bob Kovacs; former County Commissioner Harry Johnston; Dina Menard, wife of School Board member Clark Menard; Meagan Biello, Assistant Principal at Cherokee HS; and John Carter, Assistant Principal at Teasley MS.  Organizers also wished to thank the teachers and staff at Mill Creek MS for volunteer efforts and support for the event.   Other CCSD schools competing on Saturday included Canton ES STEM Academy, Clark Creek ES STEM Academy, Holly Springs ES STEM Academy, Freedom MS, Teasley MS and Woodstock MS.


CCSD Earns Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Award

First Sgt. (Ret.) Thomas “Randy” Hardin, left, presents the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Patriotic Employer award to CCSD Office of Human Resources Director Dr. Adrian Thomason and Chief Human Resources Officer Rick Beaulieu. Teasley Middle School Assistant Principal John Carter, right, serves as a staff sergeant with the U.S. Army Reserve and nominated CCSD for the award.

The Cherokee County School District has earned a National honor for its support of employees serving in the National Guard and Reserve.

The School District was nominated for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Patriotic Employer Award by Teasley Middle School Assistant Principal John Carter. The Award recognize employers for “policies and practices that facilitate employee participation in the Guard and Reserve.” Mr. Carter serves as a staff sergeant with the U.S. Army Reserve, and is a member of the 313th Army Band supporting the 81st Regional Support Command.

“I immensely appreciate CCSD’s support of my military service,” said Mr. Carter, who prior to beginning his service as a school administrator worked for CCSD as a school band teacher and director. “Last school year, as well as throughout my career with the School District, I have been met with nothing but support from this county. I know for a fact that many of my fellow soldiers do not enjoy the same level of support” from their employers.

The award recently was presented to CCSD by First Sgt. (Ret.) Thomas “Randy” Hardin, representing the Georgia Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. It was accepted on behalf of CCSD by Chief Human Resources Officer Rick Beaulieu and Director Adrian Thomason.

They will be recognized for this honor by the Superintendent and School Board at the Jan. 18 School Board meeting.

“We want every student to learn about our great Nation’s history and the important role our military has played and continues to play in securing and preserving freedom at home and around our world,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, a former history teacher. “Our employees who have served our country’s military, and those like Mr. Carter who continue to serve, play an important role in making these lessons real for our students. We appreciate our veterans and service members and are honored to employ them and humbled by this recognition.”


CCSD Celebrates Newly Formed Student Services Department

Dr. Rouel Belleza, right, Supervisor of Student Services for the Cherokee County School District, presents Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower with a T-shirt designed to raise awareness of the services provided by the newly created department, which includes school nurses, counselors and social workers. Looking on are, from left to right, Lead Nurse Gwen Chambers, Social Workers David McFerrin, Perry Marshall and Dr. Tara Quinn-Schuldt, and Lead Nurse Jami Stefano.

The Cherokee County School District is celebrating a newly formed department organized to improve support to the whole child.

The Student Services department, which is part of CCSD’s Office of School Operations, brings together school nurses, counselors and social workers under one umbrella.

Led by Supervisor Dr. Rouel Belleza, the department was created at the start of the school year by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower with the goal of increasing communication and collaboration.

“Many of the children who come to our schools arrive in need of extra help… whether it’s due to a medical condition, family financial troubles and food insecurity, or crises that call out for counseling,” Dr. Hightower said. “While our primary mission is teaching and learning, we can’t succeed in fulfilling that mission if the children we serve are in pain, hungry, scared or grieving. Student Services meets these needs, and this reorganization will allow us to continuously improve our care for students.”

To raise awareness, Student Services asked several community and business partners for their support in making T-shirts for all of the department’s team members. CCSD thanks the following generous sponsors: Gold Level, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Credit Union of Georgia and Reinhardt University; and Silver Level, AED Brands and School Health.


Holly Springs ES STEM Academy Named Microsoft Showcase School!

Holly Springs Elementary School STEM Academy is again being celebrated as a global leader in leveraging technology to improve teaching and learning!

Showcase Schools logoThe school has been selected by Microsoft as a 2017-2018 Microsoft Showcase School in recognition of its successes in integrating educational technology in the classroom to the benefit of both students and teachers. Only 27 schools nationwide were selected as Showcase Schools!

“We’re so proud of Holly Springs Elementary School STEM Academy and its teachers and staff for embracing these powerful tools to increase student success in the classroom and prepare them for college and career readiness,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “Technology doesn’t replace a gifted and dedicated teacher, but it’s a valuable resource for guiding innovation and exploring new ways to help students learn.”

Showcase Schools receive access to special resources and benefits from Microsoft and are tapped to share their transformational educational practices with other schools.

Principal Donna Bertram and teacher Lauren Pittman, a Microsoft Innovation Education Expert, will be recognized for their roles in achieving this honor by the Superintendent and School Board at the Jan. 18 School Board meeting.

Holly Springs ES STEM Academy during the 2014-15 school year became the first whole school ever to be Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) certified, and the following year was selected for the Showcase. In May, Ms. Pittman and her students were featured in an international Microsoft campaign promoting its educational products and their positive impact on teaching and learning.

Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy Celebrates Food Pantry Partnership with MUST Cherokee

Celebrating the opening of Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy’s new food pantry in collaboration with MUST Ministries on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 are, from left to right, Principal Rodney Larrotta, Cherokee County School Board Chair Kyla Cromer and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.

Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy in Canton on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 welcomed community leaders to cut the ribbon on its new food pantry to be stocked with support from MUST Ministries.

It’s the first partnership of its kind in the Cherokee County School District for the nonprofit organization, which operates 26 such school-based pantries in Cobb County. Hasty was selected as the pilot location due to the Title I school’s need –80% of the school’s 895 students qualify for free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch, and its pre-existing food pantry program.

“Our families and community need this very much,” Principal Dr. Rodney Larrotta said, as he thanked MUST and its supporters at the event.

Hasty, like many schools throughout CCSD, already operated its own small food pantry to help students in need over weekends and school breaks. Through the new partnership with MUST Cherokee, Hasty’s pantry will receive supplies from the nonprofit and its supporters that, beginning this week, will provide 45 families from the school with 75 pounds of food and hygiene supplies weekly… with hopes to double and then triple the number served as soon as support allows.

“Our goal is to eliminate hunger for at-risk students in our schools. A pantry like this can help to make that difference,” MUST Ministries President & CEO Dr. Dwight “Ike” Reighard said of the expanded pantry, which will allow students and their families to choose the food items they like best, rather than receiving a pre-selected box of staples.

The food pantry, located in a storage area, is designed to ensure that hunger pangs don’t affect learning for Hasty Huskies.

The converted supply room includes shelves of canned and boxed foods, and a refrigerator to complement those items with fresh ingredients; the pantry also offers health and hygiene projects, which bridges a gap created by the inability to use government assistance food allowances for such products.

“We see our mission as serving the whole child,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, who was joined at the event by School Board Chair Kyla Cromer and CCSD staff who coordinate student services and partnerships. “Working with a valued community partner like MUST to ensure children are focused on their lessons, rather than a rumbling stomach or fears of a weekend without food, is an important way to accomplish this. We greatly appreciate MUST, the school staff who operate the pantry, and everyone who supports Hasty and its students.”

The food pantry will be stocked with donations, many of which will be collected through MUST’s Save it Forward program, which provides volunteers with shopping lists and associated store coupons to purchase needed items at considerable discounts. More information is available online or by calling MUST at 770-427-9862.

Cutting the ribbon for Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy’s new food pantry in collaboration with MUST Ministries are, from left to right, MUST Senior Vice President Chris Fields, Board Chairman Don Hausfeld, “Save it Forward” founder Rhonda White and Senior Director of Volunteer Services Yvonne Byars, Cherokee County School Board Chair Kyla Cromer, Principal Rodney Larrotta, MUST Ministries President & CEO Dr. Dwight “Ike” Reighard and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.

Many community leaders from Canton and the surrounding community attended the ribbon-cutting.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, right, speaks with MUST Ministries President & CEO Dr. Dwight “Ike” Reighard and former MUST staff member Rhonda Smith before the ribbon cutting. The “Save It Forward” initiative was founded by Ms. Smith when she worked for MUST.

Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy Principal Rodney Larrotta, right, thanks MUST Ministries Board Chair Don Hausfeld as the program begins.

Listening to the speakers during the ceremony are, from left to right, Ron Sumpter with MUST Ministries, School Board Chair Kyla Cromer, Northside Hospital Cherokee CEO Billy Hayes, MUST Ministries Senior Vice President Chris Fields, CCSD Supervisor of Student Services Rouel Belleza and MUST President & CEO Dwight “Ike” Reighard.

A sign in front of Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy directs people to the food pantry.

Board Briefs: School Board Approves Plan to Relieve Cherokee HS Overcrowding

The School Board on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, approved a plan to relieve Cherokee High School overcrowding by using the neighboring Canton Elementary campus.

The unanimous vote followed several months of public input meetings to hear from the community, which informed the recommendation presented to the School Board by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.

“These are kids that we love.  These are teachers we respect,” Dr. Hightower told the School Board as it prepared to vote.  “This is really the first tough decision in regard to attendance areas that we’ve had to make in recent years.”

Dr. Hightower earlier this school year announced that while Cherokee High School doesn’t meet “critically overcrowded” standards due to mobile classrooms and other solutions already in place, more significant action was needed to relieve the campus.

The plan approved by the School Board will expand Cherokee High School for next school year to include the neighboring Canton Elementary School STEM Academy campus.  The plan not only will alleviate overcrowding at Cherokee HS, but also will reduce CCSD operating costs by $1.5 Million over five years.

Canton ES STEM Academy students will be consolidated into Knox Elementary and R.M. Moore Elementary Schools, which both offer plenty of capacity to accommodate more students (520 students will move R.M. Moore ES, and 270 to Knox ES).  The District will make both campuses STEM Academies; R.M. Moore ES will retain its Title I services that support schools with higher populations of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch (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).  The entire proposal approved Thursday is online here.

While some Canton ES STEM Academy parents and teachers lobbied for a plan to keep the school intact, that plan would have increased operating costs without a funding source, which Board members said made the decision all the more challenging.

“We did not take this lightly.  We have looked at every single option,” School Board member Patsy Jordan said, speaking directly to a group of Canton ES STEM Academy teachers in the audience.  “Just remember that the love and grace you have for those kids, that will be the winner in the end.”

Now that the Board has selected a plan, Dr. Hightower said his staff will begin meeting with staff at the affected schools (he has committed that all staff will remain CCSD employees, noting enrollment is up and continues to rise) and map out a timeline and all actions steps needed in order to complete the project for an August opening with the new configuration.

Dr. Hightower also repeated his pledge that this plan is a “phase one” of a larger effort to solve overcrowding for Cherokee High School, which ultimately will require construction of an additional high school.

While that estimated $70 Million-plus construction project is not feasible until the next Education SPLOST referendum in 2021 due to borrowing constraints, Dr. Hightower said his staff will explore renovations that could be made to the Cherokee High School campus once the school begins using Canton ES and moves mobile classrooms offsite.

The Board heard the Superintendent’s recommendation that students not be required to make up the three days missed so far due to inclement weather, to which there was no objection.  Employees are required to make up missed work time, and information now will be shared with them about that process.

The Board on Thursday also approved a new Partnership Agreement with the Atlanta Braves Baseball Club that includes many exciting opportunities, such as bringing baseball into the classroom to teach STEM concepts and bringing high school sports marketing and sports medicine students to SunTrust Park to learn about possible careers.

“We know a lot of our fans come from Cherokee County, so we’re really looking forward to working with the School District, students and staff,” Braves Director of Community Affairs Ericka Newsome Hill said.

The Board, in approving the monthly personnel recommendations on Thursday night, accepted the retirements of three longtime principals: Jan Adamson of R.M. Moore Elementary School, Elliott Berman of Sequoyah High School and Dr. Ann Gazell of Indian Knoll Elementary School.

“We have been very privileged to have them as leaders,” Dr. Hightower said.

Following approval of the personnel recommendations, Dr. Hightower also introduced his new Executive Administrative Assistant, Renée Coleman, a 19-year CCSD employee, whose previous roles have included administrative assistant to the Assistant Superintendent of School Operations and the Deputy Superintendent.

Dr. Hightower also was granted approval by the Board to serve as a Superintendent Consultant/Education Fellow for the Education Research & Development Institute, an opportunity extended to select superintendents to gain their input on research and trends in education.

The School Board also:

• Recognized Clayton ES, Woodstock MS, Sequoyah HS and Bascomb ES for CCRPI Progress and Achievement awards;

• Recognized Knox ES as a Common Sense Certified School for Digital Citizenship;

• Recognized CCSD Lead Nurse Jami Stefano as a finalist for the March of Dimes 2017 Georgia Nurse of the Year Awards;

• Recognized the 2017-18 Reinhardt University/CCSD Mathematics Tournament winners;

• Recognized State and Regional Champions from Creekview HS for Softball and Cross Country, Etowah HS for Softball and Volleyball and Sequoyah HS for One Act Play;

• Approved the renewal of a Partnership Agreement with the Cherokee Soccer Association

• Approved monthly financial reports;

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

• Approved a resolution to certify the closeout of construction for the new Dean Rusk MS;

• Approved special lease agreements;

• Dr. Hightower announced that no bids were submitted meeting the Board’s minimum price for the sale of the Downtown Center at Historic Canton High School.  As a result, CCSD will retain the building and use it for the Special Education department, which currently is housed at the former Buffington Elementary School;

• Heard a presentation on the CHOICE program, a Special Education Department program to assist at-risk high school seniors in graduating on time by providing them with additional support and resources.  The program, which began in 2013-14, has been expanded annually and, last year, boasted a 98% success rate;

• Heard a presentation on plans to begin Course Extension, a new program to allow high school students who fail a unit and, as a result, fail a class and jeopardize graduating on time, to retake that unit using an individualized online course, during a 10-day period.  This new opportunity allows students to pass a class without needing to retake the entire class over nine or 18 weeks.  The program will begin in January, both before and after school, for select students (initially, 50 at each high school) in seven different literature, social studies and math classes.  The cost will be $40 per student per unit, with hardship waivers available; and,

• Met in Executive Session to review three student discipline cases.

• School Board Member Rick Steiner was not present for the meeting.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, January 18, 2018

School Board Members Visit Police Department’s New Headquarters

Category : CCSD

From left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, School Board Chair Kyla Cromer, CCSD School Police Lt. Jay Baker, School Board members Patsy Jordan and Kelly Poole, and CCSD School Police Chief Mark Kissel and Emergency Operations Facilitator Danielle Ross.

School Board Members on Wednesday, Dec. 13, visited the Cherokee County School District School Police Department’s new headquarters.

Board Chair Kyla Cromer and Board members Patsy Jordan and Kelly Poole took a tour of the offices, which relocated from downtown Canton and now share space with CCSD’s warehouse at 201 Mountain Brook Ct. in Holly Springs. The site provides a more central location for its officers, with quick access to Interstate 575, and also adds convenience for job applicants and volunteers who need fingerprint services.

Chief Mark Kissel led the tour, and Board members had the chance to speak with department leaders including Lt. Jay Baker and Emergency Operations Facilitator Danielle Ross.

The Board members and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, who also attended the tour, took the opportunity to thank the Department for its service during Friday’s inclement weather early dismissal to ensure all students arrived home safely as quickly as possible.

“Our Police Department’s POST-certified law enforcement officers serve and protect our students and employees every day, and play an important role in inclement weather situations. On Friday, they were communicating with county emergency management officials, coordinating dismissal, transporting students and assisting our schools in whatever manner they could,” Dr. Hightower said. “We greatly appreciate them and all they do to keep our community safe.”



CCSD Schools Closed Monday 12/11/17

Category : CCSD

UPDATE 2:14 p.m. 12/10/17: All CCSD schools are closed Monday, December 11, 2017 for students and staff due to continued poor travel conditions on secondary roads and neighborhoods throughout the county as well as compromised access to multiple school campuses. #SafeCherokee


UPDATE Noon 12/10/17: We’re working with our community safety partners to check conditions throughout the county – including the accessibility of all our school campuses – in order to make a decision about opening school on Monday. That decision may not be made until tonight. #SafeCherokee

UPDATE 12/8/17 2:44 p.m.:All Cherokee County School District campuses are now clear, with all students delivered safely or picked up by parents. We greatly appreciate our outstanding bus drivers for the job they do every day, and especially in inclement weather. We’re grateful to our teachers and staff for making early dismissal run as smoothly as possible. We also thank our students and parents for working with us to ensure everyone arrived home safely before conditions worsened. Please stay safe this weekend. #SafeCherokee

UPDATE 12/8/17 10:12 a.m.: Due to deteriorating weather conditions, CCSD is starting early dismissal immediately today, 12/8/17. All parents may pick up their students now. Student drivers will be dismissed at 10:30 a.m. Buses will begin leaving campuses on the following schedule: 11 a.m. high schools, 11:45 a.m. middle schools and 12:30 p.m. elementary schools. After School Program is canceled, as are all extra-curricular activities today and Saturday, 12/9/17, including ACT Testing. #SafeCherokee

12/8/17: In anticipation of this evening’s forecasted conditions, all CCSD extra-curricular activities are cancelled for today, Dec. 8, and Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. After School Program (ASP) at elementary schools will operate as usual today, but parents are encouraged to pick their children up as early as possible. ACT Testing at CCSD schools on Saturday, 12/9/17, is part of the cancellation of all activities tomorrow; the testing dates will be rescheduled.  We continuously monitor conditions and forecasts to ensure students and staff are safe. Learn more about our decision-making process here: #SafeCherokee

12/8/17: CCSD Monitoring Inclement Weather Forecast

Are you watching the weather?

So are we, in coordination with our valued community safety partners.

Please check out this brief video to learn more about how CCSD monitors inclement weather and decides whether to close school.  More info is on the same page posted below the video.

If a decision is made to close, you’ll see a post on this website and our official social media ( and, and we’ll email a notice out to parents.  If you don’t see a notice about closure, school is in session as scheduled.


Knox ES Earns National Certification for Digital Citizenship

Knox Elementary School has been 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.”

Common Sense logoThe 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 Knox Elementary School for embracing digital citizenship as an important part of their students’ education,” said Liz Kline, Vice President of Education Programs for Common Sense Education. “The school and its staff deserve high praise for giving students the foundational skills they need to compete and succeed in the 21st-century workplace and participate ethically in society at large.”

Leslie Hicks

Media Specialist Leslie Hicks, K-2 Counselor Jenilee Curtis and Principal Tammy Sandell coordinated the school’s certification process.

Jenilee Curtis

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

They will be recognized by the School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the Dec. 14 school board meeting.

Principal Tammy Sandell

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.