School Board Appoints New, Reassigned Administrators and Principals

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:


Cherokee County School Board Sets Legislative Partnership Priorities

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, approved its annual Legislative Partnership Priorities (read online here), which outline its position on major education-related issues likely to be considered by the Georgia General Assembly in the upcoming legislative session.

The majority of the priorities are largely unchanged from those set last year, with the addition of a request for the General Assembly to consider bringing back a career-track diploma with course requirements that better prepare students for technical college and/or directly entering the workforce.

The School Board’s requests for the Cherokee County legislative delegation to consider are:

  1. Partner with K-12 public school districts by requiring any changes to the State’s education funding formula to fully restore “austerity budget cuts” or provide for the equivalent in new state revenue… thereby empowering local School Boards to: address continued student population growth in Georgia; maintain a 180-day school calendar for students; reduce class sizes to State-funded maximums; and, replenish annual reserve fund balances. Locally-earned Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula funding was fully provided to local school districts by the Georgia General Assembly for 15 years with initial funding beginning in 1986-87 and continuing thereafter until 2002. Since 2002, $205.2M ($3.9M this year and $84M over the past five years) of statutorily-required QBE formula funding earned by CCSD has gone unfunded through austerity budget cuts… all during a time when CCSD student enrollment increased by more than 53% (14,527 students). 
  1. Partner with K-12 public school districts and their employees by addressing cost-prohibitive premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for participation in the State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP)… thereby empowering local School Boards to provide competitive, affordable and responsible health and benefit packages to their employees. Develop a statewide strategy for State Health Benefit Plan cost containment … rather than continuing to pass annual premium increases along to local school districts and their employees. State-level policy planning and budgeting, and the appropriation of necessary funding in this regard, are critically needed to address immediate and future healthcare needs of educators, noncertified staff and educational system retirees. Between FY2008 and FY2017, State appropriations for non-certified health insurance premiums have been systemically reduced and are slated for total elimination. Non-certified employees most often represent local school district’s’ lowest wage-earners and have been the most negatively impacted by the State’s recent actions in this regard.  SHBP is currently projected to operate with an annual deficit of more than $55 Million in FY 2018, signifying probable continued premium increases under current policy and planning. Extraordinary employee health care costs (in the form of significantly higher premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for deductibles, annual maximums, reduced credits and co-insurance expenses) continue to erode the quality and competiveness of the overall compensation package developed by local school districts for its employees.  While CCSD had approximately 350 fewer non-certified employees participating in SHBP in FY2016 compared to FY2009, employer contributions increased over $7M (from $3.6 to $10.7M) during that same time period. CCSD has been forced to privatize custodial and grounds services and increase the use of part-time/ temporary workers for non-certified staffing as cost-reduction measures. The annual cost of providing health insurance for a non-certified employee has risen from $2,000 in 2010 to $9,000 in 2016 a $7,000, or 450% increase! And with an additional $100 per employee per month increase effective Jan 2017, the cost of providing health insurance for a non-certified employee will increase to $846.20 per month and more than $10,000 per year. CCSD benefit costs for non-certified employees are projected to be $11.7M for 2016-17; up from $10.7M in 2015-16; $8.2M in 2014-15 and $7.5M in 2013-14. Local school systems cannot continue to absorb these extraordinary costs. 
  1. Partner with K-12 public school districts by ensuring proposed legislative initiatives strengthen provisions for the local control and management of schools . . . thereby empowering local School Boards to fulfill their Constitutional authority and responsibility to involve their local constituency, develop locally derived educational policy and oversee continued performance improvements among their students. CCSD FACTS: CCSD and its highly-respected School Board has garnered multiple State and National awards relative to student achievement gains and innovative educational programs. Through a model of determining a visionary Mission Statement, a prioritized listing of Major System Priorities and collaborative, governance-based policies, the CCSD School Board has a transparent and proven ability to guide its schools in exemplary teaching and learning. 
  1. Partner with K-12 public school districts by developing statutory provisions to further insure workforce readiness skills and preparation by high school graduates for transitions directly into careers or secondary-level career educational opportunities by providing students in Georgia with an alternative diploma option in the area of Technical/Career Preparation. 
  1. Partner with K-12 public school districts by implementing statutory provisions designed to address continued erosion of the State’s tax base through exemptions from the sales and use tax, income tax and other State taxes. 
  1. Partner with K-12 public school districts by opposing the continuation and/or expansion of existing programs that directly or indirectly use public funds to pay private school tuition for students or provide tax incentives for their parents. 
  1. Partner with K-12 public school districts by insuring timely, state and local access to all federal funding allocations.

The School Board hopes to meet next month with Cherokee County’s legislative delegation to review the priorities.

“I want us to be proactive in this process,” School Board Chair Kyla Cromer said.

Prior to the Regular Meeting, the School Board held a public hearing for input on 2016-17 school year attendance zones; no one came forward to speak.  A formal boundary redrawing process was not needed this year, as the only attendance zone adjustments planned are for neighborhoods not yet under construction that will be assigned to Ball Ground Elementary School STEM Academy.

The School Board also:

  • Recognized Woodstock ES teacher Pam Morgan as the 2017 Georgia Art Educator of the Year;
  • Recognized five CCSD high school students for appointment to the Model Atlanta Regional Commission;
  • Recognized CCSD School Nutrition for winning the Georgia Golden Radish Award at the Gold level;
  • Approved the renewal of Partnership Agreements with the Atlanta Area Council Boy Scouts of America, Cherokee Day Training Center and Northside Hospital-Cherokee;
  • Presented the “trailer” for the CCSD-Cherokee Retired Educators Association annual oral history video project, “Learning from Legends: Retired Educators Share Their Wisdom,” in celebrated of Retired Educators Day on Sunday, Nov. 6;
  • Set Feb. 11, 2017 as the date for its next School Board Training session;
  • 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 granting right of way to the Georgia Department of Transportation for an intersection improvement and signal/crosswalk upgrade at the main entrance of Cherokee High School on SR 140/Marietta Highway;
  • Approved monthly personnel recommendations including the appointment of Brad Orth as Supervisor of Staffing; he currently works as a solutions consultant for Kronos Incorporated and previously served as Chief Information Officer for the City of Salem, Va.; and,
  • Reviewed a timeline for the upcoming AdvancED (SACS-CASI) accreditation renewal external team visit to CCSD.

 

School Board Member Clark Menard was absent.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, December 1, 2016


School Board Takes Stand Against State “Opportunity School District” School Takeover Plan

Here is a printable factsheet about OSD.

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, September 1, 2016, took a stand against the State’s “Opportunity School District” school takeover plan by unanimously approving a resolution opposing the constitutional amendment on ballots this fall.

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer said she’s “proud” that the Board stepped up even though CCSD currently has no schools on the so-called “failing” list that would trigger a takeover by a Governor-appointed czar should the amendment pass.

“The big part of this in my mind is that as a member of this School Board our job is to protect the children of Cherokee County,” Ms. Cromer said.  “And I see no benefit in this to them.”

The School Board has heard staff presentations over the last year outlining how the amendment could potentially affect CCSD, especially as the metric used to trigger takeover is constantly changing and targets Title I schools that serve the community’s most at-risk students.

Board members also have raised concerns about the amendment usurping local control, as it removes the oversight of the locally elected School Board and would seize assets communities have voted to fund through sales tax collections.

Here is the language of the resolution:

“WHEREAS, on November 5, 2015, the Cherokee County School Board (“School Board”) unanimously approved its 2016 Legislative Program which included as a priority, “Align current and future legislative initiatives (e.g., Governor’s proposed Opportunity School District Constitutional Amendment) with State Constitutional provisions regarding local control and management of public schools, rather than usurping locally-elected School Boards’ authority;” and,

WHEREAS, the School Board supports the authority of the State’s local boards of education to manage and control the operation of the local public schools, opposing any legislation that attempts to override the constitutional authority of locally-elected boards to make educational decisions for their communities; and,

WHEREAS, in November 2016, a State Constitutional amendment will be included on the ballot, which would, if approved, give the State authority to take control from certain Georgia schools and create a State-operated school district; and,

WHEREAS, if approved, local control will be eliminated and schools that have been determined as “failing” by the State may be placed into an “Opportunity School District;” and,

WHEREAS, if approved, the administration of schools placed in the “Opportunity School District” would be overseen by a State-appointed Superintendent, to be confirmed by the Senate, with authority to waive State board of education rules, regulations, policies, procedures or provisions; and,

WHEREAS, if approved, facilities of qualifying schools shall come under control of the “Opportunity School District,” where the “Opportunity School District” Superintendent may repurpose the facility for use by an education service provider; and,

WHEREAS, if approved, qualifying schools may be subject to any of the following intervention models, as determined by the “Opportunity School District” Superintendent:

(1) Direct management of the qualifying school by the “Opportunity School District;” or,

(2) Shared governance of the qualifying school by the “Opportunity School District” and the local board of education pursuant to a contract in which the local board of education operates the school and the “Opportunity School  District” Superintendent has the authority to direct changes to be made at the school; or,

(3) Reconstitution of the qualifying school as an “Opportunity School District” charter school in which the “Opportunity School District” works in collaboration with the State Charter Schools Commission to build capacity of petitioning governing boards and charter school applications to establish a charter that will be approved by the State Charter Schools Commission; or,

(4) Closure of the qualifying school which is not enrolled at full capacity and reassigning the students to a non-qualifying school within the local school system. School closure shall be the intervention of last resort; and,

WHEREAS, if approved, the total allotment of state and federal funds to the local school system in which a qualifying school is located will be calculated as otherwise provided in enabling legislation of this title with an ensuing reduction equivalent to the amount of funds appropriated to any such schools; and,

WHEREAS, other state takeover efforts (e.g., Louisiana and Tennessee) have not proven to be successful and have not improved student achievement results; and,

WHEREAS, taking away local control, diminishing resources, and making efforts to shift the governance of local schools, will do just the opposite for the successful outcomes of Cherokee County School District students, and will not result in the needed infusion of state resources for the full support of Local Educational Agencies; and,

WHEREAS, ensuring real opportunity for every student means providing struggling schools with resources that attract the best faculty and staff, improved access to health and social services, and enhanced supports for academic enrichment opportunities;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Cherokee County School Board opposes creation of a state-run school district, otherwise known as the “Opportunity School District,” and that we commit to fully educate our community about the issues raised by this proposed Amendment.”

The School Board also heard a presentation on the process underway to develop an instructional framework for CCSD, which will create standards for how teachers design instruction and assess student learning.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower told the Board that, while they’re hearing about many projects underway to improve CCSD, “as far as impacting the classroom, this will have the most impact.”

The School Board also took the following action:

  • Heard a presentation on The Smile Run to be held on October 8 at First Baptist Canton in memory of late Ralph Bunche Center preschooler Christian Egner, with proceeds to benefit the Center;
  • Recognized Sequoyah HS Marketing Teacher Kari Palmer for winning an international entrepreneurship education program award;
  • Recognized students Lukas Freeman of Creekview HS and Chandler Stevenson of Freedom MS Students for Georgia 4-H Achievements;
  • Approved a proclamation in honor of Constitution Week;
  • Approved a proclamation recognizing September as National Attendance Awareness Month;
  • Approved renewal of a Partnership Agreement with the City of Ball Ground and a new Partnership Agreement with Raising Giants baseball program;
  • Approved the final reading of technical modifications to School Board Policies; School Board Member Clark Menard successfully proposed adding the lack of available locker space to the list of indictors that a school is overcrowded;
  • Approved the issuance of a Tax Anticipation Notice;
  • 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 monthly personnel recommendations including the appointment of Andy Hall as an Assistant Principal at River Ridge High School where he currently serves as a Teacher on Special Assignment;
  • Continued planning for required annual School Board Member training;
  • Approved a contract with Ninth District Opportunity, Inc. for Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2017; and,
  • Met in Executive Session for Board Self-Evaluation.

Next School Board meeting: 7 p.m. Oct. 13, 2016;  6 p.m. Strategic Work Session


Board Briefs: Board Hears Positive Report on CCSD Finances

2016-17 Student Advisor and Student Delegates

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower welcomes the 2016-17 Student Advisor and Student Delegates to the Cherokee County School Board at the Aug. 11, 2016 School Board Meeting. From left to right, front row: Meghan Hines, Etowah HS; Kayla Brader, Woodstock HS; Parker Quarles, Creekview HS; second row: Julia Kochansky of Cherokee HS; Jordan Mason of River Ridge HS; Isabelle Riddle of Sequoyah HS; back row: Student Advisory Joseph Henderson of ACE Academy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, August 11, 2016, devoted its strategic work session to an update on the financial state of the Cherokee County School District, and the Board heard very good news.

The School District has received a “clean opinion” on its most recent financial audit, with no findings, which means that the finances and accounting all are in proper order and following best practices. The State also has issued its letter of acceptance, which closes the process.

The School District’s overall financial position continues to improve as the county recovers from the recession, with local property tax collections expected to exceed projections by approximately $3.5 Million, which will increase reserves. Intentionally increasing the reserves “savings account” is one way that CCSD is strategically improving its credit rating from the already positive Aa2 and AA levels, as rated by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, to the top AAA rating.

“We’re in much better shape than we have been,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said, noting he and his staff are meeting with county government leaders to discuss possibly adjusting the tax collection timeline to further improve CCSD’s financial position as it relates to the timing of the annual infusion of local tax dollars into the operating budget.

The School Board then reviewed more detailed plans for the five-year renovation plan to begin if the Education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) renewal is approved by voters in November. The renewal of the penny sales tax is focused on: retiring bond debt from school construction; building new classrooms and learning spaces at three schools; continuing to fulfill technology infrastructure and instructional needs; acquiring land for future school construction; purchasing 35 replacement school buses; and major renovation projects at more than two dozen schools.

In addition to reviewing a detailed list of those renovation projects, the School Board heard plans to install artificial turf in all of CCSD’s high school stadiums, which will save $1.6 Million in grass field maintenance costs over the lifetime of the turf… about $110,867 in savings a year that could instead be spent on teaching and learning in CCSD classrooms.

The installation of artificial turf, which already has been completed in other metro school systems such as Cobb, Forsyth and Fulton counties, offers other benefits in addition to the savings, such as fewer injuries to students, faster recovery time after rain and increased usage opportunities by multiple athletic teams and marching bands for both games and practices.

If the Education SPLOST is approved in November, the turf installation would likely take place the summer of 2018; while Etowah HS already has turf that was installed by its school foundation, it would receive a needed resurfacing as part of the project. Additionally, new restrooms would be installed at the Etowah HS and Sequoyah HS stadiums to replacing outdated facilities.

School Board Member Clark Menard said he appreciates the thought put into developing the Education SPLOST plans.

“Paying down the debt and increasing our bond rating will have a direct impact on being able to meet our financial obligations,” Mr. Menard said, adding he sees the value in projects like the turf installation that reduce maintenance and operating costs. “It’s not sexy. It’s not a great big high school. But it provides some real return for our operating fund.”

The School Board also heard another installment in a series of staff presentations on the negative impact the Governor’s Opportunity School District Constitutional Amendment, which will be on the ballot in November, would have on CCSD if approved by voters.

The Amendment would allow the State to take over so-called “failing schools” and turn operations of the schools and their assets paid for with local monies over to for-profit private operators overseen by an appointed statewide czar — despite the fact that the metric (CCRPI) used to issue this label is based on a faulty barometer of achievement.

“How can the State seriously consider overriding local control of a community school based upon a metric that changes each year,” Dr. Hightower said. “They’re using a metric that’s seriously flawed, and this is as high-stakes as it gets.”

School Board Members spoke up in agreement with Dr. Hightower’s concerns; and at the Sept. 1 meeting, the Board likely will consider adopting a resolution opposing the Constitutional Amendment.

“This really bothers me,” School Board Chair Kyla Cromer said of the potential for State takeover of local schools. “Our schools are working their tails off… the students are working, the teachers are working, the parents are working.”

School Board Member Mike Chapman said it’s a smack in the face to anyone who supports local control of their community schools, but the ballot language is deceptive.

“The language is all motherhood and apple pie, unicorns and rainbows,” he said. “It’s crazy what’s going on here and counter to everything we talk about [as conservatives].”

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

  • Recognized Georgia PTA Outstanding School PTAs and Award Winners;
  • Recognized Johnston ES as a National Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified School and Media Specialist Angel Ginn as a National Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified Educator;
  • Recognized CCSD Technology Project Specialist Sandi Adams as a National Microsoft Innovator Educator Expert Award winner;
  • Recognized Creekland Middle School’s Sixth-Grade Academic Bowl Team for Nationals win;
  • Recognized the 2016-17 Student Advisor to School Board, Joseph Henderson of ACE Academy, and Student Delegates;
  • Approved renewal of Partnership Agreements with Cherokee County Council of PTA and Cherokee County YMCA;
  • Approved the first reading of technical modifications to School Board Policies;
  • Approved monthly Education SPLOST report;
  • 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 monthly personnel recommendations; and,
  • Began planning for required annual School Board Member training.

Next School Board meeting: 7 p.m. Sept. 1, 2016


Board Briefs: School Board Updates Mission Statement, Motto

2015-16 Judy Johnson Scholarship Winners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

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

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


Board Briefs: Board Approves Annual Budget, Calls for Education SPLOST renewal

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, June 16, 2016 unanimously approved the Superintendent’s 2016-17 Annual Budget, which reduces class size, improves student services and further restores reserves, all without increasing the millage rate.

The Annual Budget, which includes a $359 Million day-to-day operating budget, fulfills School Board members’ top priorities, such as hiring 68 additional teachers to address student growth and further reduce class size, offering competitive pay and benefits to attract and retain the best workforce possible and investing in instructional resources and technology.  The millage rate remains steady at 19.45 mills.

“This is a long process – six months in the making – and we appreciate all of your work,” School Board Chair Kyla Cromer told Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower and his senior staff, who annually conduct a comprehensive, zero-sunset budget review.

The School District operates on a balanced budget with no operating debt, and Dr. Hightower emphasized that while the State government has reduced its “austerity budget cut,” CCSD still is not receiving $3.9 Million in State funds owed to its students; and while the local property tax digest is improving, revenue remains at 2007 levels… despite the increase of thousands of students since then.

“We are still coming out of the Recession,” Dr. Hightower said, noting that ineffective programs and spending continually are cut, and any proposed new spending is closely reviewed prior to approval.

The Board during its meeting also called for an election on Nov. 8 to continue the current 1-percent Education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), which funds school construction, renovation and repairs; technology; land acquisition; school buses; and retiring bond debt for another five years.

The plan calls for continued use of the Board’s longtime system of bonding future Ed SPLOST revenue, which has been necessary to keep up with the community’s explosive population growth.  Specific projects planned include classroom additions for Woodstock Middle School and Mill Creek Middle School and an additional gym/multi-use space for Woodstock High School… all of which are needed to offset overcrowding.

“I also will continue to drive my staff to look for land because we’re going to continue to grow,” Dr. Hightower said.

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

  • Recognized Johnston ES Principal Amy Graham as a “Top 10 in 10: Young Professionals to Watch” Award Winner;
  • Recognized Woodstock ES Assistant Principal Rachel Wasserman as the Georgia 2016 National Distinguished Assistant Principal;
  • Recognized Carmel ES and Liberty ES for winning international Character.org awards recognizing effective strategies to develop positive character in students;
  • Recognized Creekview High School Army JROTC Dual Exhibition Team as Regional Winners, State Champions and Nationally ranked competitors;
  • Recognized Liberty ES as the CCSD 2015-16 Elementary Science Olympiad Winners;
  • Recognized CCSD’s 2015-16 Young Georgia Authors Writing Competition Winners;
  • Recognized Creekview HS Team America Rocketry Challenge competitors and UAS4STEM National competition qualifiers;
  • Recognized CCSD’s Georgia PTA Reflections Winners;
  • Recognized State and Regional Champions from Creekview HS and Etowah HS;
  • Approved the first reading of School Board Policy changes;
  • Approved a hairnet bid as part of the School Nutrition cooperative program;
  • Approved the annual request for State assistance with developing a new/replacement Five-Year Facilities plan;
  • Approved special lease agreements;
  • Approved a $235,000 low bid from Womack, Lewis & Smith for construction of security foyers at eight elementary schools, the first phase of a three-phase project;
  • Approved out-of-state travel;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved monthly capital outlay projects;
  • After meeting in executive session, approved monthly personnel recommendations, which included the appointment of George Brown as Coordinator of Vehicle Maintenance.

 


Board Briefs: Board Approves Two New Partnership Agreements with Community Organizations

Aramark Scholarship Winners 2016

The Aramark Scholarship Committee selected the following winners for a total of $6,000 in scholarships, who recently were recognized at a Cherokee County School Board meeting: Cherokee HS: Nishi Patel and Logan Willis; Creekview HS: Peyton Heath and Alyssa Powell; Etowah HS: Elizabeth Joann Dillard and Aaron Torres; River Ridge HS: Kaila Banker and Pierce Livesay; Sequoyah HS: Madison Evans and William “Will” Garrett Sanders; and Woodstock HS: Connor Booz and Bree’ara Murphy.

Highlights from regular meetings of the Cherokee County School Board

May 19, 2016: Strategic Work Session & Regular Meeting

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, May 19, 2016 spent its work session reviewing the Superintendent’s 2016-17 Annual Budget, which calls for reductions in class size and improvements in services for students without the need for a millage rate increase.

The tentative Annual Budget, which includes a $359 Million day-to-day operating budget, was approved to be tabled for a month of public review prior to an adoption vote on June 16.  The Executive Summary of the budget and annual Financial Facts report, a quick read on CCSD financial issues, both are posted on the CCSD website at www.cherokee.k12.ga.us.  Public hearings will be held at 11:30 a.m. June 7 and 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. June 16 at the Historic Canton High School/School Board Auditorium.

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer praised the Superintendent and his staff for incorporating all of the Board’s major budget priorities: maintaining 180 instructional days; continuing to reduce class size; improving classroom technology access; increasing budget reserves (to $48.8 Million… a positive for financial stability and credit ratings); offering competitive compensation and benefits; providing more resources for support services; and considering more innovative models like the Cherokee Academies.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower during the budget presentation highlighted an impressive list of operational enhancements, such as the hiring of 68 additional teachers to address student growth and further reduce class size, as well as the adoption of new math instructional resources for all grade levels and the appointment of three teachers on special assignment to serve as District “content coaches” to assist schools with using the new Grades K-12 resources and online tools.

“We’re not just going to throw resources at the schools,” Dr. Hightower said, as to why content coaches are important to the adoption’s success, noting that, in addition to the new content coaches, he also is recommending the appointment of four teachers on special assignment to pilot an assistance program in selected schools to provide teachers with better academic intervention and remediation efforts for at-risk students.

Other budget highlights include recommendations to:

  • Increase the starting pay for beginning teachers to $42,250;
  • Provide annual longevity step raise for all eligible employees;
  • Provide a 1% cost-of-living raise to all eligible employees;
  • Utilize one additional school social worker to reduce the caseloads of the existing two social workers;
  • Add a school nurse to serve students attending ACE Academy;
  • Add three additional technology specialists to provide hardware and software technical assistance to teachers and support personnel;
  • Add 14 new bus drivers and two new bus attendants to address continued increases in student ridership, improve efficiency and reduce ride time for students;
  • Continue to allocate one-half teacher allotment at each high school… dedicated to credit recovery/helping students stay on track for graduation;
  • Expand the school entry door security system that was successfully piloted this year to include card “swipe-in” access for employees at critical playground and mobile classroom area entry ways;
  • Construct school front hallway security foyers at eight pilot elementary schools;
  • Prepare the original Dean Rusk Middle School for occupation by Sequoyah High School (January 2017); and,
  • Repair/realign the bus drive at Macedonia Elementary School.

Assistant Superintendent for Financial Management Kenneth Owen said, although the State “austerity budget cut” was reduced to $3.9 Million and the Local property tax digest is improving, revenue continues to lag behind pre-Recession levels.

“We’re so glad to see property values again rising, but they’re still $4.2 Million less than what we got in 2007, and here we are 5,400 kids later,” Mr. Owen said.

As a result, CCSD will need to continue to address class size reduction, additional new instructional materials adoptions and other budget priorities in future budget cycles.

The Board during its regular meeting also approved the refinancing of some of CCSD’s bond debt from school construction projects, which will save $3.3 Million in interest over the next seven years… which, at more than 6% interest savings, is twice the standard goal level of savings.

“This makes those dollars go that much further… we’re really, really happy with the results,” Bryce Holcomb of Citi Group, CCSD’s bond underwriter, said of the refinancing pricing, which was conducted Thursday morning.

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

  • Recognized CCSD’s School Nutrition Association for Winning Georgia Gold Scroll Award;
  • Recognized Etowah High School as Region 5AAAAAA GEMC Cooperative Spirit Sportsmanship Award Winner and River Ridge High School as 7AAAAA GEMC Cooperative Spirit Sportsmanship Award Winner;
  • Recognized 2015-16 Regional Science and Engineering Fair Winners;
  • Recognized 2015-16 Social Studies Fair Regional and State Winners;
  • Recognized 2015-16 Star English Learners and Star ESOL Teachers;
  • Recognized State and Regional Champions: Cherokee HS wrestling and track, Creekview HS girls soccer and Woodstock HS boys and girls swimming;
  • Recognized Recipients of Aramark 2016 Education Scholarships;
  • Recognized Cherokee HS Senior Bailee Gilbreath as recipient of the 2016 Oak Leaf Church Scholarship;
  • Recognized Free Home ES Principal Karen Carl as a 2016 Georgia Distinguished Principal;
  • Approved the renewal of a Partnership Agreement with the Cherokee County Health Department and a new Partnership Agreement with the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research;
  • Approved selection of a bond underwriter and financial advisor and authorization to select bond counsel;
  • Approved out-of-state travel;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved monthly capital outlay projects;
  • Approved monthly personnel recommendations;
  • After meeting in executive session, voted to modify a student discipline decision to allow the student transportation to school, 5-2, with Board Members John Harmon and Robert Rechsteiner dissenting.

Next School Board meeting: 7 p.m. June 16, 2016


Board Briefs: Board Approves Two New Partnership Agreements with Community Organizations

Category : Board Briefs

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, May 5, 2016 recognized a full house of outstanding students and approved two new Partnership Agreements with community organizations.

The School Board maintains District-level Agreements with more than 80 Partners, which range from local businesses and civic groups to institutions of higher learning and nonprofit organizations that support students in need.

The Agreements approved Thursday are with CURE Childhood Cancer and MUST Ministries.

CURE Childhood Cancer is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conquering childhood cancer through funding targeted research and through support of patients and their families.

The Agreement outlines how CCSD schools can participate in the organization’s efforts to raise awareness of childhood cancer, which is the No. 1 cause of death by disease among children; and to raise funds through programs such as its Coins4CURE coin drive.

The organization’s mission was brought home on Thursday night, by a moment of silence held by the School Board in memory of Teasley Middle School student Emily Rose Lamanac, who passed away on Wednesday after battling childhood cancer.

“What a fitting tribute that our School Board approved this Agreement tonight, as we are grieving the loss of a beautiful life cut short by cancer,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.  “Our schools raise significant funds for organizations fighting cancer, and this Agreement provides them with the opportunity to do more.”

The Agreement approved Thursday with MUST Ministries formalizes the District’s longtime support of the nonprofit organization, which has a mission of serving needy families in the community by providing food, clothing, housing and employment services.

“Children who do not know whether there will be food in the refrigerator or an eviction notice on the door will not be as successful in school as their peers.  We cannot turn a blind eye to that hardship,” Dr. Hightower said.  “MUST helps our School District and our community ensure these most at-risk children feel assured their basic needs will be met, so they can focus on mastering academic standards that will help them be college and career ready and escape the cycle of poverty.”

Through the Partnership, CCSD schools are encouraged to not only continue existing collection drives of food, clothing, toys and other items to benefit MUST, such as the Sequoyah High School JROTC’s longtime and extremely successful Thanksgiving food box drive, but also to expand their efforts.

As part of the new Agreement, MUST hopes to help schools develop food pantries on their campuses to help students in need and their families.

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

  • Recognized Sequoyah HS seniors Madison Evans and William “Will” Garrett Sanders as recipients of 2016 Waste Management/Pine Bluff Landfill Scholarships;
  • Recognized 2015-16 Georgia Scholars;
  • Recognized 2015-16 Governor’s Honors Finalists;
  • Recognized Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP) seventh-graders who achieved Grand and/or State Recognition;
  • Recognized Middle and High School Region and State Technology Fair Winners;
  • Recognized Etowah High School students Josh Minter, Noah Minter and Gwenevere Wrye as members of the FIRST Robotics Competition Team that won the Peachtree Regional District Chairman’s Award and advanced to International competition;
  • Recognized individual Regional golf champion Brady Keran of Creekview HS and Coach Jimmy Thigpen;
  • Approved monthly financial reports;
  • Approved the annual local plan of improvement for vocational, technical and agricultural education and one-year State funding application for 2016-17;
  • Approved out-of-state travel;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved monthly personnel recommendations;
  • Approved authorizing the development and implementation of the 2016 Education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) renewal policy and legal requirement; and,
  • Approved the 2016-17 Student Discipline Code.

Next School Board meeting: 7 p.m. May 19, 2016 with a 6 p.m. Strategic Work Session