Registration Open for LEGO Build Contest at Holly Springs ES STEM Academy on March 3

Registration Open for LEGO Build Contest at Holly Springs ES STEM Academy on March 3

Love LEGOs? Holly Springs Elementary School STEM Academy will host a community LEGO Build Contest on Friday, March 3, 2017.

The LEGO Build contest is for children in second grade through adults and is sponsored by Cobb EMC. The event is limited to 40 registered participants per group (see Registration Form for groups), and there’s still plenty of room.

Registration is available online:…

Congratulations to CCSD’s STAR Students & Teachers!

Congratulations to this year’s Cherokee County School District STAR Students and Teachers!

The Canton and Woodstock Lions Clubs recently honored CCSD students and teachers at their annual STAR Student and Teacher Recognition Ceremony held earlier this month at the Cherokee Arts Center in downtown Canton. These honorees will be recognized by the Cherokee County School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the March 16, 2017 School Board meeting.

The STAR, or Student Teacher Achievement Recognition, Student honor is awarded to the student from each Cherokee County public and private high school with the highest score on any single test date of the SAT (taken through the November test date of their senior year) and be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average. Each honored student is invited to select his or her favorite teacher to be named that school’s STAR Teacher.

High school STAR Students compete for system titles, and the overall Cherokee County STAR Student is Isabelle Riddle from Sequoyah High School! Her STAR Teacher is Dr. Wendy Roberts.

System STAR Students compete for region-wide honors in the 12 STAR Regions, and Region winners are invited to Atlanta to compete for the state PAGE (Professional Association of Georgia Educators) STAR scholarships and awards. STAR Teachers continue on with their STAR Students at every level of the program.

“Congratulations to all of our STAR Students and Teachers!” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “We greatly appreciate the Lions Clubs and PAGE recognizing and celebrating excellence in teaching and learning in our schools. We look forward to honoring these top scholars and educators with our School Board!”

Cherokee HS
STAR Student: Pragya Sharma
STAR Teacher: Charley Ingham

Creekview HS
STAR Student: Austin Miles
STAR Teacher: Wendy McCarron

Etowah HS
STAR Student: Brandon Baker
STAR Teacher: Dr. Wright Vermilya

River Ridge HS
STAR Student: Anabelle Paulino
STAR Teacher: Joy Clarkston

Sequoyah HS
STAR Student: Isabelle Riddle
STAR Teacher: Dr. Wendy Roberts

Woodstock HS
STAR Student: A.J. Cox
STAR Teacher: Debbie Hipp

CCSD Celebrates Cherokee Academies at Annual Spring Expo Events

Category : CCSD

The Cherokee County School District every spring celebrates its award-winning Cherokee Academies school choice initiative with Expo events!

These events, which are open to current families and families considering making the switch to one of our Academies, include demonstrations, exhibits, performances and other opportunities for teachers and students to show off their accomplishments.

Here’s the schedule for this year’s events:

School Date Time Expo/


Ball Ground ES STEM Academy 5/3/17 6:00pm to 8:00pm Expo
Canton ES STEM Academy 4/27/17 6:00pm to 8:00pm Expo
Clark Creek ES STEM Academy 5/16/17 6:00pm to 7:00pm Expo
Holly Springs ES STEM Academy 2/16/17 6:00pm to 7:30pm Expo
Hasty Fine Arts Academy 3/9/17 8:00am to 12:00pm for 3 –  5 Showcase
  5/3/17 6:00pm to 8pm for 3 – 5 Expo
Oak Grove Fine Arts Academy 3/7/17 All Day Showcase
5/9/17 6:30 for Grades K and 1 Expo
5/11/17 6:30 for Grades 2 – 5 Expo


Six CCSD Seniors Qualify as National Merit Scholarship Finalists

Category : CCSD

Six Cherokee County School District high school seniors have qualified as finalists in the 2017 National Merit Scholarship competition! They are: of Creekview HS, Jack Pace; of River Ridge HS, Anabelle Paulino; of Sequoyah HS, Katie Bates and Alex Morrison; and of Woodstock HS, Alex Andon and A.J. Cox.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which oversees the prestigious competition, narrowed the finalists down from a group of 16,000 semi-finalists nationally, who were selected based on outstanding 2015 PSAT scores.  Less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors are named finalists.

To be considered as a finalist, the students submitted detailed applications noting their academic achievements, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors; an endorsement and recommendation from a high school official; and an essay.  Students also must earn SAT scores that confirm their PSAT performance.

Finalists will compete for 7,500 scholarships worth about $33 million, which will be awarded in the spring.  Approximately half of all finalists will win a scholarship.  In the National Merit® Scholarship Program, three types of Merit Scholarship® awards are offered to Finalists: National Merit $2500 Scholarships, corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards, and college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards. Special Scholarships are awarded to outstanding students who are not finalists and meet a corporate sponsor’s criteria.


School Board Tours Newly Renovated and Opened Sequoyah East Annex

The former Dean Rusk Middle School campus has been renovated for use as the Sequoyah East annex to provide more capacity for adjacent Sequoyah High School.

The Cherokee County School Board joined the Superintendent of Schools on a tour of the newly renovated and opened Sequoyah East annex on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017.

Sequoyah East, formerly the home of Dean Rusk Middle School, now is in use by students and staff from the adjacent Sequoyah High School, with further expansion plans slated for next school year.

With the opening of the new/replacement Dean Rusk Middle School in August, the original Dean Rusk MS campus (built for 725 students with 45 classrooms and lab classrooms) was available for repurposing to provide Sequoyah HS additional space to reduce overcrowding and prepare for anticipated growth.

“Moving forward, this will be a great space for Sequoyah High School,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “We’re really proud of it.”

In order to make this new use possible on the campus constructed in 1985 (with an addition constructed in 1990), it required some rehabilitation work, including:
• Installation of a new air-conditioning system in the gymnasium using a new external fabric duct system that avoided $50,000 in duct work costs (the same system next will be installed in the original Teasley MS gym now used by ACE Academy);
• Installation of a new phone system and new fiber optic lines for technology; all classrooms are outfitted with smart boards, computers and other technology;
• Repainting of walls and installation of new ceiling tiles;
• Installation of new flooring in the administration area using a vinyl tile product with minimal maintenance costs as a pilot project;
• Resurfacing of restroom floors and office and classroom cabinetry and countertops using new epoxy products as a pilot project, with a $10,000-plus cost avoidance versus replacement;
• Replacement of pedestal sinks and installation of new wall-hung fixtures that avoided more costly wall removal and replacement costs;
• Installation of new signage at the main entrance; and,
• Installation of a new school-wide LED lighting system sourced from a Holly Springs company (underway and to be completed by Spring Break)… reducing power usage for lighting by 80% to 112 amps – the first such system for a CCSD school and a significant cost savings!

Additionally, a newly installed covered walkway creates a safe route for students and staff between Sequoyah East and the main Sequoyah HS campus. Construction of an internal drive system allows for the separation of cars and buses and ingress/egress between the schools without entering Hickory Road or East Cherokee Drive.

CCSD Maintenance staff completed the work, with some support from vendors for renovation work; Education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funds covered the $500,000 in costs.

The “facelift,” according to Maintenance Director Ronald Barnes and Facility Technician Brian McDonough, who led the project, not only freshened up the facility, but also improved operating efficiency and allows them to test new products for possible use districtwide.

“They’ve done a phenomenal job,” Bill Sebring, Assistant Superintendent for Support Services and Facilities/Construction Management, said of his staff. “They transformed the space to where you wouldn’t know the building is over 30 years old.”

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer and Board members were impressed by the improvements.

“It’s a beautiful facility,” she said. “I appreciate all you have done… the economical choices, using local suppliers. Thank you!”

After gathering input from the school community, Sequoyah HS students began using the Sequoyah East annex this semester:
• Current classes now served at Sequoyah East include: World Languages (Latin, French and Spanish II), the Teacher Cadet program and several core academic classes (Social Studies – 4 teachers, Math – 3 teachers and English – 2 teachers). As a result of opening Sequoyah East, the school was able to eliminate the need for teachers to “float” between classrooms, as well as reduce the number of teachers housed in mobile classrooms; and,
• Future plans for 2017-18 include moving Junior ROTC classes to the facility, as well as relocating additional core academic classes and beginning use of the cafeteria to reduce overcrowding on the main campus. If Sequoyah High adds new Career Pathways course offerings for 2018-19, those classes also likely would be housed at Sequoyah East.

The response to Sequoyah East, Principal Elliott Berman said, has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The kids are amazed,” he said, noting Assistant Principal Matthew May’s office is housed at Sequoyah East to provide administrative oversight there. “They’ve said, ‘It didn’t look like this when we were at Dean Rusk.’”

Facility Technician Brian McDonough shows an LED light fixture to School Board members, from left to right, Kelly Poole, Chair Kyla Cromer and Clark Menard. The fixtures were purchased locally from a Holly Springs company.

Maintenance Director Ronald Barnes, left, explains the benefits of LED lighting in the school, which is the first CCSD facility to completely transition to the cost-efficient lighting– which is expected to cut amperage usage by 80%. Listening are, from left to right, Principal Elliott Berman, Deputy Superintendent Trey Olson and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.

Bill Sebring, Assistant Superintendent for Support Service and Facilities/Construction Management, stands in the lighter and brighter lobby of Sequoyah East at the former Dean Rusk MS and explains enhancements including more cost-efficient lighting.

The gym has been updated with a new air-conditioning system, which was added through the use of ceiling-mounted fabric ducts, which avoided $50,000 in duct work costs. The same technique is being considered for the former Teasley Middle School gym, currently in use by ACE Academy.

The front office has been rehabilitated with lighter colors including fresh paint, low-maintenance vinyl floors and an epoxy coating on cabinets and countertops — at a fraction of the cost of replacement.

School Reassignment Requests Accepted Through March 1; Academies Enrollment Opens March 15

Category : CCSD

The window for school reassignment/transfer requests for the 2017-18 school year opened Wednesday, February 1 and continues through March 1.  Sixteen CCSD schools are “open” (meaning classroom space is available to accommodate students from outside the attendance zone) for requests.  Information and application forms are accessible here

The enrollment window for CCSD’s STEM and Fine Arts Academies will be open from March 15 to March 31.  Additional information on that process will be posted closer to the opening date.  CCSD STEM Academies include Ball Ground, Canton, Clark Creek and Holly Springs Elementary Schools; CCSD Fine Arts Academies include Hasty and Oak Grove Elementary Schools. More information on these programs can be found here.

Information about all CCSD school choice initiatives is shared in this document, CHOICES, at this link:

National School Counseling Week Feb. 6-10

Category : CCSD

In honor of National School Counseling Week, we asked some of our amazing school counselors about the challenges and rewards of their job.  Here is what they shared:

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

The most rewarding part about being a school counselor is when we help our students turn the corner for the better. Many of the issues we address are behind closed doors, so the school as a whole doesn’t know what we truly do to help our students succeed. –Chris St. Vrain, Woodstock High School

As a middle school counselor, we work with students during some of the most awkward years; that being said, it is amazing to see the growth in students and to be able to provide them with a safe outlet is an incredible privilege.  –Phillip Crane, Mill Creek Middle School

I love it when students come to my office with some kind of issue and leave with the knowledge that they have power within themselves to resolve that issue or cope with whatever life brings.  Our students are unique, resilient, and strong. To be able to witness their growth and feel like I’ve provided them with some of the skills that will benefit them throughout life is truly rewarding.  –Sarah Bigelow, Freedom Middle School

What I find most rewarding about my job is that every day is a new adventure!  I love that I can walk into DRMS each day and not know what the day will bring.  No matter how challenging it is, I will love every minute of it because in the end, I know that I am helping a student, a parent or a colleague be the best they can be!  –Michelle L. Martin, Dean Rusk Middle School

What I find most rewarding about my job as a counselor at an alternative school is seeing students who struggle in different aspects of their life be able to graduate.  These are students who wouldn’t typically make it at a regular school.  Watching them overcome their circumstances makes my heart happy. –Alina Saavedra, ACE Academy

A few weeks ago, I was approach by a parent of a child that attended R. M Moore several years ago. The parent stopped me and thanked me for the help that I provided to the family and to the child when they attended our school. She explained that the family was going through a very difficult time and my assistance made all the difference. They are now back on track and the child is getting ready to graduate. Knowing that I help people in the moments that they most need it makes my job the most rewarding job I could hope to do. –Jon Costales, R. M. Moore Elementary School

What words of advice/insight would you like to share with parents about their child’s school counselor?

As School Counselors, we are a resource for our students.  We help them learn to be kind.  We help them become an advocate for themselves and others.  We help them learn to cope with life’s curve balls and become valuable members of their communities.   School counselors care. –Brenda Norton Hall, Joseph Knox Elementary School

Often I have parents say to me, “You probably don’t know my child and have never met with them before because they are not having any problems.” My response is always that I do want to know their child because counselors don’t just work with the “problem students”. We support and assist students with academic, career and social and emotional growth. We have a wealth of resources to share and strive to be available to all students and parents as well. –Donna W Ratliff, ET Booth Middle School

We are here to help in any way we can.  We would like to partner with our parents to make those mountains easier to move!  –Tina Word, Johnston Elementary School

What are the biggest challenges you face in your job?

Fitting in the overall responsibilities in a proactive way is such a challenge.   You have to think on your feet using knowledge, training, instincts, insight, professionalism and compassion. You have to be in tune with whatever comes your way! To have a student and/or their family seek you out asking for support, advice and counsel is gratifying. What an incredible privilege to enter into the lives of students and families as a school counselor!  –Crista Sycks, Woodstock Elementary School

My biggest challenge is having time to be available for everyone.  With a caseload of over 500 students for each counselor in most schools, it is hard to address every need from the student, to the parent, to the teacher, to the administration, to the college, to workforce, to the community.   We are the first responders of the school and may have to triage numerous problems very quickly and pray we are making the right diagnosis for the symptoms presented to us.   The common problems school guidance counselors come across in High School are more complex because this is the transition into adulthood. They (students) are beginning to search for their independence, and peer pressure is very powerful in influencing their decisions.    –Jeff Bennett, River Ridge High School

What does your “typical day” involve/look like?

One of my favorite things about being a school counselor (besides helping the children, of course) is that you never know what the day’s going to involve/look like.  Student safety and well-being is our top priority, so as school counselors, we adjust our day accordingly. Every day I’m able teach classroom guidance lessons, see students individually and in groups, speak on the phone or e-mail parents and meet with teachers, handling whatever comes my way.  –Lisa Morales, Bascomb Elementary School

None of my days are typical, it can be a hundred different things coming at you at once, or relatively quiet.  I like that the days are never the same, that nothing is typical, but for me, some of the same things that occur are lunch with my students.  I do not have a traditional office space, I am directly on the hall, so quite frequently I have students in here during lunch who just cannot take the crowd in the lunchroom, who need to work on apex, or need help with an assignment.  While it is sometimes difficult to get everything done with them in here, I am glad that they know my office is a safe space for them.   –Tracy Tuck, Cherokee High School

Why did school counseling appeal to you? 

After four years as a middle school teacher, I found that I had a desire to work with students and their families in a more holistic and systemic way, addressing academic, social/emotional, and personal issues, as well as supporting teachers and administrators in nurturing a school climate of kindness and character development.  –Jason Himstedt, Carmel Elementary School

Dr. Seuss said, “Kid, You’ll Move Mountains!” I wanted to be the one to tell the kids they have this power.  –Tina Word, Johnston Elementary School





Clark Creek ES STEM Academy Wins International Organization’s Award for STEM Education!

Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy has received an international organization’s top honor for excellence in technology and engineering education!

The school has been named the Georgia winner of the 2017 Program Excellence Award presented by the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) and Paxton-Patterson.

Principal Joey Moss

“Through the review process, it was recognized that our school’s technology and engineering education program is truly exemplary among other programs in our state,” Principal Joey Moss said. “Our students are the ones who will have richer lives as a result. Not many endeavors are more important than helping students become technologically literate and learn more about the world around them.”

ITEEA praised the school for the “tremendous amount of work and dedication that is required to design, maintain, and improve quality programs like yours.”
This news follows two consecutive years of top accolades for the school: in 2015, it earned the prestigious State STEM Certification… only the 11th elementary school in Georgia to earn this commendation, and the first in Cherokee County; and last year, the school was recognized as a finalist for the Technology Association of Georgia’s STEM Certified School Outreach Award.

“Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy is an outstanding example of innovative academic school choice,” Dr. Hightower said, noting the school is one of CCSD’s six award-winning Cherokee Academies open to all CCSD elementary school students. “Not only does Clark Creek soar like its RedHawk mascot among schools statewide, these achievements are especially remarkable given its Title I status due to the economic challenges many of its students and their families face. We’re so proud of this continued success!”

Principal Moss said the support of the entire school community — including business partners — made the ITEEA recognition possible, and she especially appreciates the efforts of Teresa Bailey, the school’s Odyssey Lab teacher, who prepared the award application and fifth-grade teacher Cindy Reeves.

Teresa Bailey

Cindy Reeves

Ms. Bailey and Ms. Reeves will join Principal Moss in presenting at the ITEEA Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas from March 16-18, 2017, and they will be recognized at the Conference’s Program Excellence Ceremony. They will be recognized by the Cherokee County School Board and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower at the April 20 School Board meeting.

CCSD Job Fair Set for Saturday, March 4 at River Ridge HS

Cherokee County School District’s Division of Personnel Management will be hosting a job fair on Saturday, March 4, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at River Ridge High School in Woodstock.  The fair is designed to attract teacher applicants, as well as potential Transportation Department candidates to drive school buses and School Nutrition workers to prepare/serve breakfast and lunch for students.  Applicants can meet principals and assistant principals at the event, which attracted more than 500 job seekers last year.

New Teachers

Eligible teacher candidates include those graduating from educator preparation programs , as well as experienced educators who currently hold professional certification in Georgia or another state.  Anticipated areas of high need include special education, math and science at elementary, middle and high school levels.  School psychologists and speech language pathologists are also positions with anticipated vacancies.  A short video about teaching in the Cherokee County School District (produced by students at Etowah High School) can be viewed at this link:

Transportation and School Nutrition

CCSD is also interviewing for anticipated vacancies in transportation and school nutrition.  School bus driver candidates do not need to hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in order to apply; this certification can be obtained after hiring.  Restaurant or food service experience is a plus for school nutrition worker candidates, but not required.  All positions in transportation and school nutrition include extensive training.

Those interested in employment with the school district are encouraged to complete an online application prior to the event, accessible at the following link:  Current job openings can be viewed at this link:

Cherokee County School District is a high-performing, award-winning public school district serving 42,000 students in Metro Atlanta.  Learn more about us at

2017 Recruitment Fair March 4

Congratulations to Dr. Brian V. Hightower for a Successful First Year as Superintendent!

Congratulations to Dr. Brian V. Hightower on a successful first year as Superintendent of Schools for the Cherokee County School District!

Here’s a brief video to celebrate the occasion: