Board Briefs: School Board Hears Plans for Relieving Cherokee HS Overcrowding

Board Briefs: School Board Hears Plans for Relieving Cherokee HS Overcrowding

 

 

Etowah HS student delegate Katie Bishop leads the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The School Board on Thursday, September 14, 2017, heard plans for a public review of options to relieve overcrowding at Cherokee High School.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said he and his senior staff have been closely monitoring Cherokee High School enrollment, which now tops 2,600 — and developing options to provide relief.

While the campus is not “critically overcrowded” due to solutions already implemented, the Superintendent has committed to gathering public input to make a recommendation for School Board action… to take effect in the 2018-19 school year.

“This is a transparent process,” Dr. Hightower said.  “We will hold meetings that are open to the public, and we want to hear from everyone who has an opinion or concern about the possible solutions.”

Not only is the campus now home to 14 mobile units with 28 classrooms and 22 floating teachers, but 700 students crowd the cafeteria for each lunch period.  Only 196 students – a fraction of the 458 seniors – are able to park on campus (no underclassmen have the opportunity); and hallways, restrooms and other infrastructure cannot comfortably accommodate any further growth.

“Unfortunately, due to our School District’s decades of rapid growth coupled with a tax base that cannot generate enough revenue for us to ‘pay as we go’ with construction, we have a ‘mortgage’ to pay off from our aggressive building and major renovations plan… and not enough borrowing capacity to fund construction of a new high school ($70+ Million) in the next five years,” Dr. Hightower said.

While Dr. Hightower already had advised the School Board of his plans to include construction of a new high school campus to relieve Cherokee HS, which will take approximately three years to build, in the 2021 Education SPLOST referendum, he said Thursday that he strongly believes a solution is needed now.

“If we were two years from a solution, I might say we could do double sessions or another solution that would only involve Cherokee High School’s campus,” Dr. Hightower said.  “But we’re not in that kind of timeframe.”

To begin the recommendation process, Attendance Focus Group Meetings will be held Oct. 9-12 (a detailed schedule is below).  These meetings are open to the entire community: parents, employees, volunteers, partners, neighbors.  At these meetings, the Superintendent’s staff will share current data, projected growth and possible solutions.

The most important factors the Superintendent will take into consideration when reviewing these solutions are whether the changes will negatively impact teaching and learning and whether the recommendations will be fiscally responsible.  He will make a recommendation to the School Board at its November meeting, with a vote scheduled for the December meeting.

“No matter what options are considered during the process, I want our employees to know they will not lose their position with CCSD because of the solution the School Board chooses.  You will have a home,” he said.  “We’re in growth mode, and we need all the teachers and staff we have… and we’ll need more as we continue to grow.”

Several possible solutions already are being floated by parents in the community involving various schools in the Cherokee Innovation Zone, including ACE Academy.  All would require a shift of students or programs… and would need additional analysis as part of this input process.

The schedule of meetings is below – the public can attend any and all meetings, all of which are from 7 to 9 p.m.:

Canton ES STEM Academy: Oct. 9

Knox ES: Oct. 10

R.M. Moore ES: Oct. 11

Cherokee HS and ACE Academy: Oct. 12 at Cherokee HS auditorium

Also on Thursday, the School Board voted to advertise the CCSD Downtown Center, which is the name used for the offices at the Historic Canton High School building, and adjacent larger corner parking lot for sale.

The School Board also:

• Heard Strategic Work Session presentations on “Trends in Education” including topics such as the Canvas learning management system, the Balanced Literacy model, middle school STEM activities and a pilot program to use cameras in classrooms to improve instruction;
• Recognized Woodstock High School Navy JROTC Cadet Lt. Commander Katlyn Deveau as winner of National-level Legion of Valor Award;
• Recognized Georgia PTA State-level award winners;
• Recognized 19 CCSD educators for earning Apple Vanguard certification;
• Recognized 16 CCSD educators for earning Microsoft Innovative Educator Classroom certification;
• Recognized 10 CCSD educators as Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts;
• Recognized 31 CCSD schools and their PE and Health teachers for being named to the Governor’s SHAPE (Student Health and Physical Education) Honor Roll;
• Recognized Creekview HS Senior Elhana Kelley for her election to the Area 1 North Region FFA Officer Team;
• Approved a proclamation in honor of Constitution Week;
• Approved a proclamation recognizing September as National Attendance Awareness Month;
• Approved the renewal of Partnership Agreements with Cobb EMC, Hobgood Baseball Inc., North Georgia Regional Education Services Agency, Piedmont College and Sequoyah Regional Library System; • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips; • Approved monthly financial reports;
• Approved the issuance of a tax anticipation note;
• Approved the surplus of property to be sold at CCSD’s annual surplus auction on Oct. 7 (more information posted here);
• Approved granting an easement to the Cherokee County Water & Sewerage Authority;
• Approved special lease agreements;
• Approved monthly personnel recommendations; and,
• Approved the annual contract with Ninth District Opportunity Inc.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, October 19, 2017

Creekview HS senior Elhana Kelley is congratulated by the Board and Superintendent for her election to the Area 1 North Region FFA Officer Team.

The School Board recognized PE teachers from CCSD schools that were named to the Governor’s SHAPE Honor Roll.

The School Board recognized CCSD teachers for earning Apple Vanguard Certification as well as those earning Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert certification.

The School Board recognized Georgia PTA State-level award winners for 2016-17, including Model PTAs, Outstanding Principals, Outstanding Units, membership awards, as well as the 2017 Georgia PTA Outstanding School Nurse– Thania Molina from Mill Creek MS.


Board Briefs: Cherokee County School Board Launches Parent Academy Program

VILLA logo

The School Board on Thursday, August 17, 2017, held its first meeting in its new auditorium and announced plans to offer a parent academy program this fall in collaboration with the Georgia School Boards Association.

Thursday’s meeting was the first held in the auditorium of the Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo Educational Services Facility at The Bluffs in Canton and followed a dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting.

“Today is a milestone for CCSD,” School Board Member Patsy Jordan said in her Inspiration moment remarks that open the meeting, and then connected the opening with CCSD’s 2017-18 theme of family.  “This building is equipped to house part of our CCSD family.”

The Georgia School Boards Association’s parent academy program, VILLA (Volunteer Instructional Leadership Learning Academy), will be piloted in the Cherokee County School District this fall.  School Board members on Thursday night reviewed the program application, which will be shared with the community today.  Applications are posted online here and due to CCSD by Sept. 5.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said the free program likely will be offered annually, and the first class set for this fall will be open to 24 participants.  Beginning on October 9, The class will meet for six sessions; five meetings will be on Monday evenings, and one will be a Monday morning field trip to several schools.

Participants will learn more about CCSD, including an overview of its governance model and the role of School Board members, Major System Priorities and CCSD day-to-day operations.  The program will include question-and-answer sessions with School Board members, the Superintendent and senior staff.

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer, who during her last campaign talked about the idea of creating such program, said Thursday she was glad to see this “citizen awareness opportunity” become reality.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for our community to learn more about our award-winning school district,” Dr. Hightower said, adding that community input is integral to the success of CCSD, especially it’s strategic planning and vision casting efforts.

Also on Thursday, the School Board took the first step in constructing additional classrooms at Mill Creek Middle School by sending a request to the State, as the project will be built using Education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) and State construction funds.  The project will add 16 regular classrooms, four science labs, a family consumer science classroom and a Global Learning Theatre; construction is planned to begin next spring.

The School Board also:

• Recognized  Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academy for winning the Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals’ 2017 School Bell Award;

• Recognized CCSD Lead Nurse Gwen Chambers as the Georgia Association of School Nurses’ 2017 Georgia School Nurse Administrative of the Year;

• Recognized CCSD’s Office of Communications for winning three National awards from the National School Public Relations Association;

• Recognized eight CCSD schools for being named 2017 National Beta Schools of Merit;

• Recognized Johnston Elementary School for being named to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s 2017 List of America’s Healthiest Schools;

• Recognized Donna Lloyd, Creekview HS Career Pathway teacher, as the winner of Georgia’s Work-Based Learning “Top Gun WBL Educator” Award’

• Recognized Sequoyah High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC Unit for winning the Silver Star Community Service with Excellence Award;

• Recognized State and Regional champions from Creekview HS for track and field and Woodstock HS for baseball;

• Recognized CCSD’s 2017 Georgia State Summer Aquatics Special Olympic Games Gold Medal recipients;

• Recognized CCSD’s 2017 Special Olympics Bowling Winter Games Gold Medal recipients;

• Recognized CCSD’s 2017 Georgia State Summer Soccer Special Olympics Games Gold Medal recipients;

• Recognized the 2017-18 Student Advisor to School Board and the Student Delegates

• Approved the renewal of Partnership Agreements with the Cherokee Tribune, City Waleska, Delta Kappa Gamma – Gamma ETA Chapter, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and Upper Etowah River Alliance;

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

• Approved monthly financial reports;

• Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report;

• Approved special lease agreements;

• Approved monthly personnel recommendations;

• Approved ratifying the millage rate, which is unchanged from last year at 19.45 mills.

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


Cherokee County School Board Continues School Safety Initiative

Category : Board Briefs | CCSD

The School Board on Thursday, July 20, 2017, unanimously approved the second phase of a safety initiative to install security foyers in schools, with six projects planned for this school year.

The Board approved a proposal from Womack, Lewis & Smith for $207,500 to complete the second phase of the multi-phase project; the vote was unanimous, with Board member Kelly Poole abstaining.

Security foyers, which create a second layer of front entrance doors to better monitor visitor access, already have been successfully installed by the company at eight schools. Foyers will be installed this school year at Clark Creek ES STEM Academy, Hasty and Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academies and Indian Knoll, Knox and Woodstock Elementary Schools. Additional phases are planned to further secure other schools.

“We were pleased we had a bid and pleased it was a strong bid,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said, noting that while only one proposal was submitted, it is for less than the amount budgeted by the School Board. Due to the special nature or the project and the company’s installation of the first phase, the lack of competition wasn’t surprising. “But if we were uncomfortable with this bid, we would have put it out again.”

School Board members heard two presentations during the meeting about upcoming pilot projects: one will improve Gifted programs for elementary school students, and the other will transform the “first day forms” process into a paperless experience for parents and staff.

The Gifted program improvements will be piloted at Avery Elementary and Macedonia Elementary Schools, with students participating in daily special advanced activities during a personalized learning time in their regular classroom, with all of these students in classrooms led by Gifted-endorsed teachers. This will replace the current model of pulling Gifted students out of all classes for one day a week for special activities.

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Nicole Holmes said the pilot will provide Gifted students with more challenging coursework without missing regular classwork or increasing their workload.

“They’re extremely excited about what could possibly be one of the greatest years we’ve had as far as our Gifted learners,” she said of feedback from students, parents and teachers, who all have been involved in the planning process. If the pilot proves successful, it will be expanded through multiple phases districtwide.

School Board member Patsy Jordan, a former CCSD Gifted-endorsed teacher, praised how the plan improves both teaching and learning opportunities.

“I’m super excited about this – I love this idea,” she said.

The second presentation focused on a pilot to replace paper registration forms with a digital system beginning in December. Mid-year enrollments will test the system, with a planned full launch for the 2018-19 school year.

The system will allow parents to provide CCSD with emergency contacts, required documents and other “first day” information for all of their children online in advance without the need to enter duplicate data. Not only will this save parents time, it also will improve CCSD staff efficiency and the accuracy of recorded information and reduce paper and printing costs.

“It’s painful,” Chief Information Officer Bobby Blount said of the current paper system, noting that much time and thought has been invested in planning the pilot. “We are tackling it through a collaborative effort.”

Dr. Michele Harcarik

The School Board approved monthly personnel recommendations, which included the appointment of a new assistant principal to fill a vacancy at Carmel Elementary School. Dr. Michele Harcarik will bring 17 years of education experience to the position, having served as a teacher and administrator in Florida and Virginia, most recently as an assistant principal in Falls Church, Va.

Thursday night’s meeting was the last to be held at the CCSD Downtown Center in the Historic Canton High School building downtown. The August 17 School Board meeting will be held in the newly constructed Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo Educational Services Facility, which will dedicated the same evening.

The School Board also:

• Recognized Anne Nechvatal of Cherokee High School as the Georgia Library Media Specialist of the Year;

• Approved the renewal of the Partnership Agreement with Special Olympics;

• Approved the final reading of recommended updates to School Board Policies and the establishment of a New Debt Management Policy, which was a suggestion by credit rating agencies to further improve CCSD’s credit rating;

• Approved authorized CCSD School Fundraising Activities for the 2017-18 school year;

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

• Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report; and,

• Approved 2017-18 employee tribunal hearing panel appointments.

School Board Member Mike Chapman was not present for the meeting.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, August 17, 2017


Board Briefs: Cherokee County School Board Approves 2017-18 Budget

Category : Board Briefs

The School Board on Thursday, June 15, 2017, unanimously approved the Superintendent’s Recommended 2017-18 Annual Budget, which funds improvements in teaching and learning and safety and security without a millage rate increase.

The budget invests $382 Million into day-to-day operations, with 71% of that total in classroom instruction, including the continuing effort to decrease class size and the purchase of the first new instructional resources for elementary English and language arts classes in more than a decade.

Other major investments include reconfiguring Boston Elementary School’s entrance road to improve safety; retrofitting six more schools with security foyers limiting visitor access; purchasing 19 school buses to meet demand and replace aging vehicles; and piloting a new online GPS system that will allow parents to track the location of their child’s school bus. Operating reserves also are rising to $49 Million, with an additional $29 Million in the building fund reserves, as part of the District’s plan to further raise its credit rating.

“We appreciate the strong support of our School Board and community in meeting our mission of educating the emerging generation,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower. “We are dedicated to serving as responsible stewards of our community’s resources, and this budget shows our focus is exactly where it should be: on the children.”

While State funding increased to cover its portion of a 2% salary increase recommended by the Governor, rising mandated retirement system fees and student enrollment growth, the State continued its “austerity budget reduction” withholding of $4 Million in funds earned by the School District – funding that would have otherwise allowed for greater class size reduction.

Thursday’s meeting also included a presentation on the School District’s new teacher induction program, which will expand professional development, mentoring and collaboration opportunities and extend this support over three years. Data collected through surveys of new teachers hired in the last two years, as well as evaluation results and feedback from administrators, was used to develop the new model.

Dr. Hightower praised the work by curriculum and instruction leaders to develop the initiative, which he believes “will pay significant dividends with our younger teachers” and provide a model for other school districts statewide.

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer and School Board Member Clark Menard both complimented staff on their efforts, especially the program’s extended timeline and varied opportunities for growth and development.

“It’s going to be very helpful for those new teachers,” Ms. Cromer said.

Also on Thursday, the School Board approved the sale of a small parking lot at Hill Circle and Academy Street in downtown Canton to the highest bidder, Harris Development, for $50,000.

The School Board also:

• Recognized CCSD’s School Nutrition Program — winner of two USDA “Best Practices” State Awards and a National Turnip the Beet award;

• Recognized Indian Knoll Elementary School Media Center and Media Specialist Jennifer Lewis, Winner of the 2017 Exemplary Media Program Award, and E.T. Booth Middle School Media Center and Media Specialist Amanda Graves, Winner of the 2017 Exceptional Media Program Award;

• Recognized Teasley MS Special Education Teacher Dr. Jennifer Reynolds for selection as a “Top 10 in 10: Young Professionals to Watch” Award winner;

• Recognized 2016-17 Elementary Science Olympiad Winners;

• Recognized CCSD’s Georgia PTA Reflections Winners;

• Recognized State and Regional Champions including Cherokee HS track team members, Creekview HS boys’ golf team members and the AAAAAAA State Champion Etowah HS baseball team;

• Recognized Etowah High School Class of 2017 graduate Drew Waters — 2016-17 Gatorade Georgia Baseball Player of the Year and USA Today ALL-USA Baseball First Team member, who has been drafted by the Atlanta Braves;

• Approved the renewal of the Partnership Agreement with City of Canton;

• Approved the first reading of recommended updates to School Board Policies and the establishment of a New Debt Management Policy, which was a suggestion by credit rating agencies to further improve CCSD’s credit rating;

• Approved monthly financial and Education SPLOST reports;

• Approved a bid for the annual hairnet purchase through the Georgia Educational Cooperative purchasing program in which CCSD School Nutrition participates;

• Approved out-of-state travel;

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

• Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report;

• Approved special lease agreements;

• Approved granting a permanent easement to the City of Ball Ground for a new streetscape project including sidewalk installation and maintenance;

• Approved monthly personnel recommendations; and,

• Approved the School Board’s annual governance training plan.

School Board Members Mike Chapman and John Harmon were not present for the meeting.

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


Cherokee County School Board Reviews Proposed 2017-18 Budget

The School Board on Thursday, May 18, 2017, in preparation for next month’s vote, reviewed the Superintendent’s Recommended 2017-18 Annual Budget, which not only increases the District’s investment in classroom instruction, but also its reserves savings.

Following a preview earlier this month, the School Board spent the business portion of Thursday’s meeting diving into the details of the budget, which includes $382 Million for day-to-day operations, with 86% of that total funding salaries and benefits for CCSD’s 4,500 full-time and 1,000 part-time and at-will employees.

The School Board will hold public hearings on the budget at 11:30 a.m. on June 6 and 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on June 15, with the budget up for a vote at the 7 p.m. regular meeting on June 15; the hearings and the budget all will be held in the CCSD Downtown Center school board auditorium.

The budget, which does not call for a millage increase, directs 71% of day-to-day operating funds to classroom instruction, with new hiring in preparation for anticipated student enrollment growth, continued lowering of average class sizes and new instructional resources for elementary English and language arts classes.

“That’s spectacular,” Assistant Superintendent of Financial Management Ken Owen said of the percentage directed to classrooms, noting it’s a “very tight budget,” but entirely focused on the priorities outlined by the School Board.

State funding did increase, Mr. Owen said, but those monies only covered the State portion of a 2% salary increase recommended by the Governor, hikes in required retirement system fees and costs associated with rises in student enrollment. The State’s continued “austerity budget reduction” withholding of $4 Million owed to the District based on the education funding formula is a pinch that still hurts.

“It’s a significant reduction,” Mr. Owen said of the $4 Million. “We could really use that money to fund more teachers.”

The total budget calls for investing $18.5 Million through the building fund in construction, renovation and technology projects, including the renovation of the Boston Elementary School entrance to ease traffic congestion and the replacement of older computers and devices used by teachers and students. Six more schools will be retrofit with security foyers to tighten visitor security, 19 school buses will be added to the fleet for growth and retirement of older vehicles and a new online GPS system will allow parents to track the location of their child’s school bus.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said the budget also works toward his goal of earning a triple-A credit rating for the District by increasing reserves – the operating budget’s savings account, and paying off bond debt incurred by the rapid construction plan required by the county’s incredible growth over the last two decades.

“We really want that perfect credit rating,” Dr. Hightower said, noting it will greatly reduce costs for insurance and borrowing and enhance overall financial stability. “Setting aside more reserve funds and staying focused on retiring debt may keep us from moving forward on every innovation we’d like to see in our schools, but it’s just as important an investment.”

To that end, the budget calls for shifting half a mill in the tax rate from operating to debt service, as well as increasing the proposed operating reserves to $49 Million, with an additional $29 Million in the building fund reserves.

The Board during its meeting Thursday also approved monthly personnel recommendations including the appointment of Nate Cline, currently a teacher on special assignment to assist with administration at Etowah High School, to serve as an Assistant Principal at Creekland Middle School next school year.

In a surprise announcement, Dr. Hightower presented the third of his four inaugural “Superintendent’s Game Changer Awards,” with the recognition for Instructional Advocacy presented to Lisa-Marie Haygood, a longtime outstanding advocate for CCSD schools as a PTA volunteer and leader at the local, regional and State level including past service as Georgia PTA President.

The School Board also:

• Heard presentations from Student Advisor Joseph Henderson of ACE Academy and Cherokee HS Student Delegate Julia Kochansky on their experience serving and their post-graduation plans;

• Dr. Kecia Ray, Executive Director for the Center for Digital Education, presented to CCSD and Assistant Superintendent of Technology Bobby Blount a plaque in recognition of CCSD being named for the 12th time to the nation’s “Top 10” of large school systems effectively using technology in education;

• Recognized Holly Springs ES STEM Academy teacher Lauren Pittman and her students for their featured role in Microsoft national campaign and commercial;

• Recognized Woodstock ES teacher Kristen Brooks as an Apple Distinguished Educator;

• Recognized Creekview HS Athletic Director/Assistant Principal Dr. Kevin Higgins as an inductee into Georgia Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame;

• Recognized Etowah HS junior Joseph Young as winner of a 2017 Junior Travel Award for Outstanding Achievement on National Spanish Examination;

• Recognized 2016-17 Social Studies Fair District, Regional and State Winners;

• Recognized 2016-17 Young Georgia Authors Writing Competition Winners;

• Recognized Avery ES as 2016-17 Elementary School County Academic Bowl Team Champions;

• Recognized State and Regional Champions

• Recognized 2016-17 Student Advisor to School Board and Student Delegates for their service;

• Recognized recipients of 2017 Aramark Education Scholarships;

• Approved a Partnership Agreement with Tri-State Communications (which includes WLJA 101.1 FM and Enjoy! Cherokee magazine) that includes Student of the Day and Game of the Week recognitions, as well as a public service campaign to raise awareness of bus traffic laws and sharing the road safely with school buses;

• Adopted a House Bill 306 Resolution to move forward with the State Legislature’s approval to change the School Board compensation model effective January 2019;

• Approved the final reading of updates to personnel and student harassment policies;

• Approved monthly financial and Education SPLOST reports;

• Approved out-of-state travel;

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

• Approved monthly capital outlay projects report;

• Approved special lease agreements;

• Approved annual update of 2017-18 Student Discipline Code; and,

• Met in Executive Session to review a student discipline matter.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, June 15, 2017


School Board Hears Budget Forecast Including Enrollment Growth Projections

Woodstock High School senior A.J. Cox is congratulated by the School Board, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower and Marla Price of Waste Management as the winner of the 2017 Waste Management/Pine Bluff Landfill Scholarship of $5,000. The scholarship was presented by Waste Management, a CCSD Partner, at the May 4, 2017 School Board meeting.

The School Board on Thursday, May 4, 2017, heard a budget forecast from the Superintendent of Schools that funds student enrollment growth and continues class size reductions.

The highlights outlined during the Strategic Work Session will be followed up by release of the full recommended Annual Budget later this month, with public hearings scheduled for June 6 and 15 and a vote to approve the budget on June 15.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower noted the proposed budget does not call for a millage rate increase, but sustains CCSD’s financial focus on the classroom, with the hiring of 61 teachers and school-based staff to address projected enrollment growth and continued class size reduction.

Even with an anticipated 572 additional students, CCSD plans to lower class size further to an average of 20 students in kindergarten through third-grade classes and 26 in fourth- and fifth-grade… significantly smaller, on average, than allowed class sizes of 26 for kindergarten, 28 for Grades 1-3 and 35 for Grades 4-5.

Dr. Hightower said this trend is very impressive given that the State still has not restored $4 million in “austerity budget reductions,” with limited new funding earmarked by the Governor specifically for teacher salary increases. Despite financial constraints, the proposed budget for CCSD not only meets the cost-of-living salary increase in the State’s base compensation for teachers, but also extends it to all eligible employees, increases the local supplement for a true 2% raise and funds longevity step increases.

“This is very important,” Assistant Superintendent for Financial Management Ken Owen said of the significant investment in employee compensation, noting that salary is just one piece of the pie paid by CCSD, as health insurance, retirement system and other related costs funded by the District continue to soar. But, he added, it’s an expense that school districts cannot shortchange. “A teacher hiring shortage is looming ahead.”

Due to CCSD’s historical record of strong compensation packages for employees, even during the recent Recession, the District has not faced challenges in hiring like some other metro school systems. The School Board on Thursday also received an excerpt from the forthcoming Financial Facts report, which is produced by CCSD staff to provide employees and the community with budget highlights (available online here), and further details these personnel costs.

The Superintendent shared several other hints about his recommended Annual Budget now being finalized including additional investments in safety and security and learning resources.

The budget calls for funding to retrofit six more schools with security foyers that further regulate access by visitors. Transportation will see two major improvements: the previously announced plan to transition to smaller Special Education preschool buses that are lower to the ground and easier to drive, and the introduction of a new GPS system for all CCSD buses that will allow parents to track their child’s bus using an online tool.

A major investment of $3 million will upgrade CCSD’s English and Language Arts elementary school instructional resources for the first time in a decade, mirroring the update of math resources completed this school year.

Cherokee High School senior Zachary Quiros is congratulated by the School Board, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower and Oak Leaf Church Pastor Will Goodwin as the winner of the 2017 Oak Leaf Church Scholarship of $1,000. The scholarship was presented by the Church, a CCSD Partner, at the May 4, 2017 School Board meeting.

The School Board also:

• Heard plans by the Superintendent to introduce a new “Superintendent’s Game Changer Award,” which annually will recognize four outstanding employees or supporters who have made significant contributions to instructional excellence. The inaugural awards will be presented later this month;

• Heard a presentation from Student Delegate Isabelle Riddle of Sequoyah HS, who this week was named one of only 160 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the nation!

• Recognized Sixes Elementary School as a Common Sense Certified School for Digital Citizenship;

• Recognized CCSD’s 2017 Georgia Scholars;

• Recognized CCSD’s 2016-17 Governor’s Honors Finalists;

• Recognized Nathan Baker of Etowah HS for winning the Award of Excellence from the Georgia Department of Education;

• Recognized CCSD’s 2016-17 Regional Science and Engineering Fair Winners;

• Recognized CCSD seventh-graders who earned Grand or State recognition from Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP);

• Recognized CCSD’s Tome Student Literacy Society Students named State Champions;

• Recognized Region and State athletic and arts champions including the Cherokee HS Region Champions girls basketball team and Sequoyah HS State Literary competition winners;

• Recognized Cherokee HS senior Zachary Quiros as recipient of the 2017 Oak Leaf Church Scholarship of $1,000;

• Recognized Woodstock HS senior A.J. Cox as recipient of the 2017 Waste Management/Pine Bluff Landfill Scholarship of $5,000;

• Approved the first reading of updates to personnel and student harassment policies;

• Approved monthly financial and Education SPLOST reports;

• Approved out-of-state travel;

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

• Approved annual plan for improvement of career, technical and agricultural education and one-year funding application for submission to the State; and,

• Approved monthly personnel recommendations.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 18, 2017


Cherokee County School Board Appoints New and Reassigned Assistant Principals and Administrators

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, April 20, 2017, approved the appointment of new and reassigned assistant principals and other administrators for the 2017-18 school year.

The list of appointments is the final piece in the School District’s three-month process to fill leadership positions due to retirements, promotions and growth.

Dr. Hightower praised School Operations and Personnel Management staff for their diligence and dedication in completing the significant hiring and promotion effort. The group of new leaders, he said, is “simply phenomenal.”

The new and reassigned administrators approved Thursday are:

• Dr. Amanda Ruiz: Supervisor, Middle School/High School Curriculum
• Steven Payne: Coordinator Curriculum Support (Social Studies/Career, Technical and Agricultural Education)
• Joy Silk: Coordinator Curriculum Support (Digital Content)
• Angie Goff: Transportation Coordinator of Routing
• Lt. Jay Baker: Lieutenant, School Police Department
• Connie Henderson: Coordinator of Payroll
• Angela Greene: Assistant Principal, Arnold Mill ES
• Michelle Calkins: Assistant Principal, Boston ES
• Lauren Roach: Assistant Principal, Canton ES STEM Academy
• Rachel Wasserman: Assistant Principal, Carmel ES
• Susan Bruno: Assistant Principal, Clark Creek ES STEM Academy
• Kerry Estep: Assistant Principal, Hickory Flat ES
• Jennifer Landry: Assistant Principal, Indian Knoll ES
• Tammie Anderson: Assistant Principal, Knox ES
• Emily Spira: Assistant Principal, Knox ES
• Patricia Nay: Assistant Principal, Macedonia ES
• Yolanda Torres: Assistant Principal, Woodstock ES
• Leah Bleisath: Assistant Principal, Creekland MS
• Nicholas Zomer: Assistant Principal, Creekland MS
• Dr. Dianne Steinbeck: Assistant Principal, Dean Rusk MS
• Leigh Rogers: Assistant Principal, E.T. Booth MS
• Lawrence Gluckson: Assistant Principal, Freedom MS
• Dr. Lea Campos: Assistant Principal, Woodstock MS
• Charles Ingham: Assistant Principal, Cherokee HS
• Dr. Judy Wright: Assistant Principal, Cherokee HS
• Ken Nix: Assistant Principal, Etowah HS
• Cassandra Mathious: Assistant Principal, Etowah HS
• Stephanie Barber: Assistant Principal, River Ridge HS
• Stephanie Norris: Assistant Principal, River Ridge HS
• Mike Santoro: Assistant Principal, River Ridge HS
• Heather Phillips: Assistant Principal, Sequoyah HS
• Chris Bennett: Assistant Principal, Woodstock HS
• Dan Gagnon: Assistant Principal, Woodstock HS
• Nancy Henson: Assistant Principal, Woodstock HS
• Lori Etheridge: Teacher on Special Assignment, Mountain Road ES
• Nate Cline: Teacher on Special Assignment, R.M. Moore ES

During the meeting, the School Board also heard a positive report from Citigroup Global Markets, which was approved to issue and sell bonds for voter-approved Education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) uses, and from Davenport & Co. financial consultants.

The presentation reported that CCSD’s recently improved credit rating and already strong reputation made for a successful bond sale, noting that the numerous interested buyers allowed for the interest rate to be lowered to 2.56% overall, while yielding $21.8 Million in funding for SPLOST projects.

The School Board also heard a presentation on a new type of school bus that has been successfully piloted this school year and will be proposed for expansion next school year.

The “Type A” bus, which is smaller and lower to the ground, will be used for CCSD’s special needs preschool children. The buses are equipped with seat belts, air-conditioning, a lower first step and all standard bus safety features.

“These are built like a bus and perform like a bus,” Transportation Director Jim Georges said, noting the “Type A” buses will be easier to drive and run on regular unleaded gas instead of diesel.

The proposed order of seven buses, which will be incorporated into the recommended budget presented to the School Board for review next month, will cost $423,143 – which is $224,876 less than the same purchase of traditional buses.

The School Board also:

• Announced CCSD’s observation of April as the Month of the Military Child and Friday, April 21, as the related Purple Up Day;

• Heard presentations from Student Delegates Kayla Brader of Woodstock HS and Meghan Hines of Etowah HS;

• During Public Participation, the Cherokee Chorale, a CCSD Partner, presented $500 grants to each of CCSD’s seven middle school chorus programs, as well as a gift to the family of the late E.T. Booth MS chorus teacher Kevin White;

• Recognized Creekview High School senior Austin Miles for achieving a perfect ACT score;

• Recognized E.T. Booth Middle School Media Specialist Amanda Graves as winner of the 2017 Georgia Library Media Association Intellectual Freedom Award;

• Recognized Clark Creek ES STEM Academy as 2017 Georgia winner of the Program Excellence Award Presented by the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association;

• Recognized CCSD Counselors of the Year;

• Recognized CCSD 2017 Spelling Bee Winner Sharon Pradeep of Little River ES;

• Recognized 2017 Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl first-place District, Regional and Divisional Winners;

• Recognized CCSD Region and State Technology Fair Winners;

• Recognized Clark Creek ES STEM Academy’s BrickMasters, a FIRST Lego League Robotics Team, as winners of the Research Presentation Award at State Finals;

• Recognized Region and State athletic champions;

• Approved monthly financial and Education SPLOST reports;

• Approved out-of-state travel;

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

• Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report;

• Approved special lease agreements;

• Approved the surplus of a small parking lot adjacent to the former Building B; and,

• Met in executive session to review a real estate matter and litigation, but took no action upon returning to open session.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 4, 2017; Strategic Work Session at 6 p.m.


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;
• Amy Chafin, currently a director for Worth County’s school system, as Supervisor of Middle and High School Curriculum;
• 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.

Amy Chafin

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

nd,
• 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

Character;

• 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

 


Cherokee County School Board Appoints Etowah HS Interim Principal

The School Board on Thursday, Feb. 2, approved the appointment of veteran educator and principal Dr. Bob Eddy as interim principal for Etowah High School through the end of the school year.

Dr. Bob Eddy

Dr. Eddy, whose long career in the Cherokee County School District has included serving as a classroom teacher, award-winning wrestling coach, principal of Dean Rusk MS and as the first principal of Creekview HS, will transition into the role this month in anticipation of the departure of Principal Keith Ball. Principal Ball is leaving CCSD to move closer to his extended family in New York and pursue a new career opportunity there.

Although retired, Dr. Eddy has worked part-time for CCSD in recent years to assist with its implementation of the State’s new teacher and leader evaluation system. He will officially begin serving as interim principal on March 1 and continue in the role through the end of the school year.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said he and his staff will use the next six weeks to seek out and interview candidates for this principal post, as well as other principal slots and district leadership roles that need to be filled for next school year. He said he anticipates recommendations will be presented to the School Board at the March 16 meeting.

“We’ll be doing a lot of interviewing,” Dr. Hightower said. “We are committed to finding the best possible leaders for our schools and district offices.”

The School Board also:

• Heard a presentation from Jordan Mason, River Ridge High School’s Student Delegate to the School Board, on his senior project, which includes a CCSD student leadership academy on Feb. 18, 2017 at Reinhardt University and the development of senior project recognition pins;

• Recognized Etowah HS senior Nathan Baker for achieving a perfect ACT score;

• Recognized Woodstock HS Assistant Principal Tonya Sebring for being inducted into the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame and being named Region 4-AAAAAAA Athletic Director of the Year;

• Recognized CCSD middle and high school students selected for All State Band, Chorus, Orchestra and Reading Chorus;

• Recognized Region and State athletic champions;

• Approved a resolution proclaiming Feb. 16, 2017 as “PTA Day in the Cherokee County School District”;

• Approved the final reading of an amended School Board Policy regarding student records;

• Approved monthly financial and Education SPLOST reports;

• Approved out-of-state travel;

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

• Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report;

• Approved monthly personnel recommendations; and,

• Approved the 2017-18 and 2018-19 Superintendent’s organizational chart.

School Board Member Clark Menard was absent.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, March 16, 2017


School Board Welcomes Chair, 2 Board Members for New Terms; Purchases Land for School Site

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer is sworn into office on Thursday, Jan. 19, for a four-year term by Cherokee County Probate Court Judge Keith Wood, as her husband, Randy, and daughter, Mallory, look on.

School Board Member Patsy Jordan listens as Cherokee County Probate Court Judge Keith Wood administers her oath for another four-year term. Holding their father’s Bible for the ceremony is her sister, Shelley.

School Board Member Kelly Poole signs official documents after being sworn into office for a four-year term by Cherokee County Probate Court Judge Keith Wood.

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, Jan. 19, welcomed Chair Kyla Cromer and members Patsy Jordan and Kelly Poole back for another four-year term, and purchased land for a future school site in northeast Cherokee.

The three Board Members were sworn in at the start of the meeting by Cherokee County Probate Court Judge Keith Wood; all three were elected in the November General Election without opposition.  Following the ceremonies, the Board selected Board Member Mike Chapman as its Vice Chair for the year.

The Board unanimously approved the purchase of 40 acres of property, for $13,000 an acre, at Flatbottom Road and Highway 372 near Ball Ground adjacent to existing CCSD holdings.  The site will expand CCSD’s holdings in northeast Cherokee and allow for future construction of multiple schools, such as a middle and high school, on one campus.

“While construction of these schools is not in our current Five-Year Facilities Plan, we expect residential development will quickly occur as the area’s infrastructure improves, and this purchase better positions us to prepare and respond,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said, noting CCSD similarly acquired property on Owens Store Road ahead of the growth in east Cherokee, and now that site is home to Creekland MS and Creekview HS.

The Board also unanimously approved a resolution requesting the Cherokee County Legislative Delegation pass local legislation increasing Board Chair compensation from $600 per month to $1,200 per month and increasing Board Member compensation from $600 per month to $1,000 per month.  The increase is the first since 2002 and takes into account the 2012 State legislation that created a countywide Board Chair and larger Board Member posts.

Cherokee County Council of PTA President Kathy Strom presented a letter, on behalf of her executive board and all school PTA Presidents, in support of the increase.

“Their compensation rates have not been adjusted in many years; and though they will never be appropriately compensated for the hours of travel and time they put into their roles, it certainly should not be a position that ends up costing them money to serve,” she said.  “Help us make this a school district that has competitive compensation to get the best to stay here with us.”

Board Members thanked the PTA for its support of their service.

“It’s not why we’re here,” Board Member John Harmon said of being thanked.  “But every now and again, it feels good when someone stands behind you.”

The Board heard the first or two readings to adopt an amended School Board Policy regarding student records, and learned of a related planned pilot project.  Dr. Hightower said he has authorized plans to pilot the installation of security cameras in several classrooms serving CCSD’s most challenged Special Education students to further enhance record-keeping, safety and security.

“We want to enhance security both for our students and our staff,” he said.  “We have an outstanding reputation for Special Education programs, and we work collaboratively with parents and teachers to ensure these children receive the highest-quality education and care possible.  This pilot is another way for us to focus on continuous improvement.”

The School Board also:

  • Recognized CCSD for fourth consecutive appearance on Annual AP (Advance Placement) District Honor Roll;
  • Recognized five CCSD Schools as National Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified Schools and nine CCSD Educators as National Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified Educators;
  • Recognized Cherokee HS senior Julia Kochansky, Creekview HS senior Kelly Hart and River Ridge HS senior Anabelle Paulino as National Hispanic Scholars;
  • Recognized CCSD staff for winning a record 15 Georgia School Public Relations Association (GSPRA) Publication Awards;
  • Recognized CCSD bus driver Brianna McNeese for life-saving actions by swiftly and successfully administering the Heimlich maneuver to a choking student;
  • Approved the renewal of the Partnership Agreement with the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners;
  • Adopted the Georgia Education Coalition 2017 Legislative Priorities;
  • Approved monthly financial and Education SPLOST reports;
  • Approved out-of-state travel;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report;
  • Approved monthly personnel recommendations including the retirements of several CCSD administrators and Principals; and,
  • Met in Executive Session for the Superintendent’s annual evaluation and to discuss a real estate matter, but took no action upon returning to open session.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017

Additional photos from School Board meeting, including photos of recognitions: