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

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.

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:

CCSD Recommended for Continued AdvancED Accreditation!

See the video of the AdvancED External Review Team’s presentation here.

The Cherokee County School District on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 was recommended for continued AdvancED district accreditation as a Quality School System!

The AdvancED external review team announced the recommendation at a called Cherokee County School Board meeting on Wednesday afternoon following a comprehensive evaluation process that culminated with a three-day site visit to interview stakeholders at all levels and see teaching and learning in action.

The recommendation for accreditation renewal, which lasts for five years and includes the School District as a whole and all of its schools and centers, will be considered for official approval by the AdvancED Commission at its next meeting in June. The School District in the 2006-07 school year became one of the first school systems in the United States to be awarded districtwide accreditation, and this prestigious national designation was renewed in 2011-12.

“This nationally recognized accreditation affirms for our community that our School District is of the highest quality and committed to excellence and continuous improvement. Accreditation is a rigorous process that not only confirms our blue-ribbon reputation, but also provides our leadership with valuable insights and suggestions from fellow educational leaders who participate in the external review,” Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “One year ago today I accepted the great honor and privilege of serving as your Superintendent, and I today feel even prouder to be able to thank our community for its support of our School District, schools, teachers and students. Your dedication and support makes our success possible.”

The accreditation process, which is a voluntary method of quality assurance, requires that schools and school districts meet high quality standards, maintain a process of continuous improvement and engage in regular internal and external reviews.

To earn AdvancED accreditation, a school district must identify and sustain the implementation of a systemic continuous improvement process and monitor its schools for compliance with five Standards for Quality School Systems: Purpose and Direction, Governance and Leadership, Teaching and Assessing for Learning, Resources and Support Systems and Using Results for Continuous Improvement. AdvancED is the global leader in accrediting schools and universities, and the nine-member team that evaluated CCSD has more than 229 years of educational experience combined.

After reviewing CCSD surveys, performance data and other reports and records, the AdvancED team during its site visit this week interviewed more than 500 stakeholders including School Board members, the Superintendent of Schools, District and school administrators, teachers, support staff, students, parents and community and business partners and visited 90 classrooms in nine schools (Avery ES, Bascomb ES, Canton ES STEM Academy, Carmel ES, E.T. Booth MS, Etowah HS, Ralph Bunche Center, Teasley MS and Woodstock HS).

During the School Board meeting, Dr. Cheryl Allread, the AdvancED external review team leader, presented a report on the team’s findings.

“If there was ever a district that fits what you see on the slide,” she said referring to the high standards for accreditation, “it’s the Cherokee County School District. You’re never satisfied with the status quo… and as good as you are, you’re not satisfied – you want to get better.”

The school district was rated above the AdvancED network average, which is calculated from evaluations of 32,000 institutions, in all areas assessed… with an overall Index of Education Quality score of 315.85 out of 400 points and 37 points above average!

Overall Themes of educational excellence in CCSD cited by the team in its report include:

• Cohesive, supportive governing board that understands its role and responsibilities;
• Strong, visionary leadership;
• Shared leadership and support for collaboration;
• Commitment to shared values;
• Caring culture (family-like atmosphere);
• Clear direction, focused on the vision;
• Proactive and persistent communication efforts;
• Community investment;
• Parent engagement; and,
• Commitment to improve.

The team issued three Powerful Practices commendations to the School District. Dr. Allread defines these, which the team is not required to issue, as practices “that you do better than anyone else.” They are:

1. The governing board is a cohesive and supportive unit that operates responsibly with clearly defined policies and clearly respects the autonomy of the administration to attain goals for student achievement and instructional growth, while effectively managing the day-to-day operations of the school system.

2. The superintendent, system administration and school administration are strong, visionary leaders who support and encourage collaboration and shared leadership, thus fostering a caring culture that is consistent with the system’s purpose and direction.

3. System and school leaders engage in proactive, persistent and embedded efforts, which result in meaningful parent and community involvement and a sense of pervasive ownership and investment from stakeholders and families regarding student learning, school performance and achievement of system and school purpose and direction.

The team issued one Opportunities for Improvement suggestion to the School District. Dr. Allread said these, which the team is not required to issue, are “strictly that”: opportunities to build upon existing practices, but not required actions. The suggestion is:

1. Formalize processes whereby each student has an adult advocate who builds strong relationships over time with the student.

The team issued one Improvement Priority to the School District. Dr. Allread said the team must issue at least one action step for an area of specific improvement, and school districts must report back to AdvancED in two years on implementation progress. The action step is:

1. Fully implement the Instructional Framwork initiative [note: CCSD began this four-year implementation in January 2017] in order to refine and enhance the instructional process used by teachers to systematically support quality student learning across all classrooms in the school system.

During the meeting, Dr. Hightower and School Board members thanked the review team as well as CCSD staff, led by Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs Susan McCarthy, who received a standing ovation from the audience, for their work to prepare for the evaluation process.

“The teaching and learning you saw there the last three days happens all 180 days,” Board Chair Kyla Cromer told the AdvancED team, noting that Principals had the opportunity to let their schools shine during the site visits, and didn’t disappoint.

The hospitality costs associated with the AdvancED review team’s visit were sponsored by business and community partners. A special thanks is extended to the following sponsors for their support: Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, Cherokee County Council of PTA, Cherokee County Educational Foundation, Cherokee County Office of Economic Development, Cherokee Retired Educators Association, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Credit Union of Georgia and Cobb EMC.

“You really tell your story very well, and people buy into it,” Dr. Allread said. “If I could have put my child, who’s 34 years old, here as a first-grader now, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

Congratulations to CCSD’s Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl Winners!

Congratulations to the winners of the Cherokee County School District’s 2017 Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl competition!

The first- and second-place teams will proceed to the regional level of literary competition on Feb. 4, 2017 in Gainesville on their quest to earn the State title.

Arnold Mill Elementary School won the elementary school bowl, with Macedonia Elementary School placing second.

Freedom Middle School placed first in the middle school competition, and Mill Creek Middle School earned second.

Creekview High School won the high school showdown, and Etowah High School came in second.

Celebrating their success are Arnold Mill ES team members, from left to right, front row: Ramses Rivas, Dellaina McCarty, Jack Cavender, Michael Wells, Charlie Tyson; second row: Deliah Stanley, Kathryn Lamboley; back row: Coaches Jane Morris, Jacquie Zaski and Assistant Principal Dr. Christy Bowling.


Celebrating their success are Freedom MS team members: Haley Cook, Kaylan Effner, Braden Flournoy, Ashley Lyen, Parker Kuczmanski, Maddie Schaeffer, Celan Trowers, Michelle Voyles, Rylan Waters and Milan Yadav.  Coaches are teachers Allison Cook and Amber Effner.

Showing off their first-place awards are Creekview HS team members, from left to right, Gillian Brown, Grace Godwin, Emily McGhee, Tori Padgett, Kelsey Henson, Megan Halverson, Alex Kaye, Caitlin Canfield, Hannah Oliver and Alyssa Auten; and coaches media specialist Anne Thiers, far left, and teacher Liana Howard, far right.  Not pictured: Caitlyn Bergey, Thomas Roberts and Anika Duff.

Etowah HS Senior Earns Perfect ACT Score

Category : CCSD

Etowah High School senior Nathan Baker has achieved a perfect score on the ACT!

Nathan Baker

Nathan earned the top composite score of 36 on a recent administration of the college entrance and placement test.

Nationally, while the actual number of students earning a composite score of 36 varies from year to year, on average, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of students who take the ACT earns the top score.  Only 2,235 out of the nearly 2.1 million students who took the exam in 2016 earned a score of 36, according to ACT.

“[This] achievement on the ACT is significant and rare,” ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda said.

The ACT includes English, mathematics, reading and science sections; each section is scored on a scale of 1-36, and a student’s composite score is the average of the four.  Some students also take ACT’s optional Writing Test, but that score is reported separately and is not included within the composite.

ACT test scores are accepted by all major U.S. colleges.  Exceptional scores of 36 provide colleges with evidence of student readiness for the academic rigors that lie ahead, according to ACT.

Nathan will be recognized by the Cherokee County School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the School Board Meeting on Feb. 2, 2017.

CCSD Makes AP Honor Roll for Fourth Consecutive Year as Students Continued to Exceed National Average

Cherokee County School District high school students not only continue to beat State and National averages on college-level Advance Placement (AP) exams, but CCSD also has earned national recognition for its AP achievement for the fourth consecutive year!

The School District is one of only 10 school districts in Georgia named to the College Board’s elite AP Honor Roll for 2016, and this was CCSD’s fourth consecutive year to earn the prestigious distinction.  With a passage rate of 70% among the 4,784 tests administered in the spring of 2016, CCSD exceeds the State average of 58% and the National average of 57%.

“Preparing students for college and career is our primary mission, and this recognition affirms that we’re delivering on that promise,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.  “I’m especially pleased to see both the number of courses offered and the number of students participating increase, as research shows the significant positive impact this rigor has on students’ future success.”

The AP program has grown significantly in CCSD, with AP courses and exams currently offered in 30 subjects… up from 26 last year.  The number of exams taken by CCSD students increased by 16% from 2015, and has risen by more than 80% in the last five years.

The AP Program allows high school students who score a 3, 4 or 5 on an AP exam to earn college credit in high school and, subsequently, to exempt those courses in college.  Studies show that students who participate in AP courses are more likely to earn higher scores on the SAT and ACT and to complete their college education…. AP exams were administered to 22% of all CCSD high school students in 2016. Passage of AP exams places students at an academic and financial advantage, studies show, as they can both begin classes in their major sooner and avoid tuition costs for exempted courses.

Selection for the 7th Annual AP District Honor Roll is based on the examination of three years of AP data (from 2014 to 2016).  To qualify for the elite list, school districts must:

  • Increase participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts, and at least 11 percent in small districts;
  • Increase or maintain the percentage of exams passed by black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students; and
  • Improve or maintain performance levels when comparing the 2016 percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher to the 2014 percentage, unless the district has already attained a performance level at which more than 70 percent of its AP students are scoring a 3 or higher.

All of CCSD’s high schools additionally have been named Georgia AP STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or AP STEM Achievement High Schools in recognition of outstanding student passage and participation levels and the variety of course offerings.

Principals annually review these scores with teachers, department heads and Data Management Teams to evaluate improvement strategies, including use of College Board preparatory materials and sharing best practices among teachers.

“Continuous improvement is more than a catch-phrase for us — it’s what we do, and new initiatives like our Instructional Framework standards for teaching and assessment will only further enhance our ability to build on successes like this,” Dr. Hightower said.  “I’m so proud of the team effort that makes such achievements possible, from the students and teachers in the classroom to the vast support network of staff, volunteers, partners and parents.  Congratulations to you all!”

Four CCSD Schools Honored by Gov. Deal for Outstanding Academic Performance

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

E.T. Booth Middle, Woodstock Middle and Sequoyah High all have received Silver Awards for “Greatest Gains,” while Bascomb Elementary received a Bronze Award for “Highest Performing.”

“I congratulate all of the students, teachers and administrators in Georgia’s award-winning schools who worked tirelessly toward these accomplishments,” Gov. Deal said.  “The bright minds of Georgia’s students are the state’s most precious resource and I commend the schools that are exceeding expectations in preparing their students for future success.”

To earn “Greatest Gains” awards, schools must earn a three-year average CCRPI (College and Career Ready Performance Index) Progress Score that ranks in at least the 93rd percentile.  Only 139 schools in the State received a “Greatest Gains” award.

To earn “Highest Performing” awards, schools must earn a three-year average CCRPI Achievement Score in at least the 93rd percentile.  Only 130 schools in the State received a “Greatest Gains” award.

Winners receive a certificate to display at their school.  Sequoyah High and Woodstock Middle also were recognized last school year.

“We’re very proud of this accomplishment,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.  “These honors are the result of hard work happening in our schools on a daily basis.  These four schools, like many throughout our School District, are making continuous, significant gains in academic achievement, and the students, teachers and staff, parents and partners deserve a huge congratulations.”

Five More CCSD Schools Earn National Recognition for Digital Education

Five more Cherokee County School District schools have earned national recognition for digital education initiatives!

Ball Ground Elementary School STEM Academy, Holly Springs Elementary School STEM Academy, Knox Elementary School, Mountain Road Elementary School and Teasley Middle School all have been named Common Sense Certified Schools for Digital Citizenship by Common Sense, a national nonprofit organization dedicated “to helping kids and families thrive in a world of digital media and technology.”

The schools earned the recognition by “taking a whole-community approach” to preparing students to use digital media safely by avoiding dangers such as plagiarism, loss of privacy and cyberbullying.

“We applaud the faculty and staff of these schools for embracing digital citizenship as an important part of their students’ education,” said Jessica Lindl, Head of Common Sense Education. “These schools all deserve high praise for giving their students the foundational skills they need to compete and succeed in the 21st-century workplace and participate ethically in society at large.”

In addition to certifying both schools as a whole, Common Sense also announced that Ball Ground ES STEM Academy Media Specialist Hollen Pope, who coordinated her school’s certification process, has been certified individually as a Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified Educator, as has Holly Springs ES STEM Academy Media Specialist Stephanie Gauthia, who coordinated her school’s certification; Knox ES Media Specialist Leslie Hicks, who coordinated her school’s certification; Mountain Road ES teachers Alexis Basel, Kristin Day, Kelly Gilstrap and Frank Graham; and Teasley MS teacher Lee Banks, who coordinated her school’s certification.  Mountain Road ES Media Specialist, Shelley Sheldon, who coordinated her school’s certification process, was awarded individual certification last month.  Both schools and these educators will be recognized for the accomplishments by the School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the School Board meeting on Jan. 19.

Common Sense Education’s digital citizenship resources were created in collaboration with Dr. Howard Gardner of the Good Play Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  The free resources teach students, educators and parents skills related to Internet safety, protecting online reputations and personal privacy, managing online relationships and respecting creative copyright.

Johnston Elementary School in 2016 became the first CCSD school to earn the certification.

Hollen Pope

Leslie Hicks

Frank Graham

Alexis Basel

Kelly Gilstrap

Kristin Day

Stephanie Gauthia

Lee Banks

Shelley Sheldon


Two CCSD Seniors Named 2016-2017 Coca-Cola Scholars Program Semi-Finalists

Category : CCSD

A.J. Cox

Two Cherokee County School District high school seniors have been named semi-finalists for a prestigious national scholarship!

Isabelle Riddle of Sequoyah High School and A.J. Cox of Woodstock High School are 2016-17 Coca-Cola Scholars Program semi-finalists.  Only 1,914 students were selected from 86,000 applications nationwide.

Semi-finalists were selected based on their outstanding leadership,

Isabelle Riddle

academic achievements, and dedication to their community.

Detailed applications submitted by semi-finalists will be evaluated by a review committee this month to determine finalists.  The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation will award 150 college scholarships worth $20,000 each.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, a joint effort of Coca-Cola Bottlers across America and The Coca Cola Company, is one of the largest corporate-sponsored, achievement-based scholarship programs of its kind in the United States.

“As a premier scholarship provider, we recognize our role in helping young people achieve their college goals,” said Mark Davis, President of the Foundation. “The economy continues to affect many students’ ability to attend the college of their choice, so it is critical we continue to stay the course.  The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation received nearly 86,000 applications this year, and the Semifinalists are truly some of the most accomplished students in the country.”

Three CCSD High School Seniors Named National Hispanic Scholars

Three Cherokee County School District high school seniors have earned National recognition for outstanding test scores and academic performance!

Julia Kochansky of Cherokee High School, Kelly Hart of Creekview High School and Anabelle Paulino of River Ridge High School all have been named National Hispanic Scholars by the College Board.

Julia Kochansky

The National Hispanic Recognition Program recognizes only the top 2% of the more than 250,000 Hispanic/Latino juniors who take the Practice SAT nationwide.

To be eligible, students, as juniors, must earn qualifying high scores on the Practice SAT, as well as a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 and have at least one-quarter Hispanic/Latino ethnic

Kelly Hart

heritage.  This ancestry can be from any of the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, or Venezuela.

Anabelle Paulino