CCSD Lead Nurse Named Georgia’s School Nurse Administrator of the Year

CCSD Lead Nurse Named Georgia’s School Nurse Administrator of the Year

Category : CCSD

Gwen Chambers, who serves as CCSD’s senior lead nurse overseeing its school nurse program, is the Georgia Association of School Nurses’ 2017 Georgia School Nurse Administrative of the Year.

A Cherokee County School District nurse has been named the top school nurse leader in the state!

Gwen Chambers, who serves as CCSD’s senior lead nurse overseeing its school nurse program, is the Georgia Association of School Nurses’ 2017 Georgia School Nurse Administrative of the Year. She now is a nominee for the National Association of School Nurses’ top honor.

“This award confirms what we in Cherokee County have known for years: Ms. Chambers is a skilled nurse, dedicated educator and outstanding administrator, who cares deeply about her community,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “We’re so proud of her success and this statewide honor!”

Ms. Chambers, who joined CCSD as a school nurse 29 years ago and has served as a lead nurse for 17 years, was surprised with the honor at the Association’s annual conference last week in Savannah.

Georgia Association of School Nurses logoThe award recognizes excellence in school nursing leadership; the winner is selected based on criteria including: clinical practice leadership, administrative leadership, professional development, professional advocacy activity, community involvement and research.

“The school nurse is the only line of healthcare some students see,” said Ms. Chambers, who began her career with CCSD as an itinerant nurse, who traveled from school to school before the development of the current on-site school nurse program. The District’s program now employs 41 school nurses, led by two lead nurses, who serve 42,000 students and 4,500 full-time and additional 1,000 part-time/at-will employees throughout the year. “I feel I have fulfilled my vision of a structured school health program, and I have seen hundreds of students helped through the on-site school nurses. The program is thriving, and plans to continue to maintain, nurture, build and represent the program are in my future.”

Dr. Hightower praised Ms. Chambers for her knowledge and advocacy, citing her efforts to expand the school nurse program, implement best practices and procedures and increase professional development opportunities.

“Ms. Chambers provides valuable, informed insights to our operational leadership in order to develop the best recommendations possible for our school nurse program, which has led to increased staffing and clinic hours to better serve students and staff,” Dr. Hightower said. “We can turn to her whenever we have questions about health issues affecting schools and communities at the national or state level and know she will provide well-researched data and medical opinions, as well as her own perspective.”

Ms. Chambers, a graduate of Kennesaw State University, is a member of Georgia Association of School Nurses, Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Service League of Cherokee County.


Johnston ES Wins National Healthy School Award

Category : CCSD

Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s 2017 America’s Healthiest Schools Bronze Award logo

Johnston Elementary School has been named to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s 2017 list of America’s Healthiest Schools!

The school won a Bronze Award from the national organization for making changes that promote healthier eating and physical activity for students and staff. Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program is an evidence-based national initiative to create healthier school environments where children can thrive.

Schools are recognized for such efforts as serving healthier meals and snacks, getting students moving more, offering high-quality physical and health education and empowering school leaders to become healthy role models.

Principal Amy Graham and PE teachers, Michael L’Esperance and Josh Philpot, will be recognized by the Cherokee County School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the School Board’s August meeting.


Two CCSD Schools Win Top Media Center Awards

Two Cherokee County School District schools have won top State awards for their media center programs!

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Indian Knoll Elementary School is the winner of the 2017 Exemplary Media Program Award for elementary schools, and E.T. Booth Middle School is the winner of the 2017 Exceptional Media Program Award for middle schools presented by the Georgia Library Media Association and Georgia Library Association.

The programs, which are led by Indian Knoll Elementary School Media Specialist Jennifer Lewis and E.T. Booth Middle School Media Specialist Amanda Graves, will be honored during the opening ceremony of the Georgia Library Media Association’s Summer Institute on June 12 in Peachtree City.

Amanda Graves

Three Exemplary and three Exceptional Georgia Library Media Programs (one from each level: elementary, middle and high) are honored each year.

The Judy Serritella Exemplary/Exceptional Library Media Program Award was created by the associations “to recognize those library media programs that empower students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical users of information both in vision and in practice. Exceptional library media programs are ones that demonstrate these characteristics in a consistent and effective manner.” Exemplary programs, according to the associations, “go one step beyond and are a model for innovation, student empowerment, and leadership in the school library community.”

Both of the media specialists and their schools will be recognized by the Cherokee County School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the School Board’s June 15 meeting.


Superintendent of Schools Presents Four Inaugural “Game Changer Awards”

Category : CCSD

Superintendent of School Dr. Brian V. Hightower congratulates Dean Rusk Middle School teacher Heather Phillips as recipient of the “Superintendent’s 2017 Game Changer Award” for Instructional Excellence.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower has recognized the first class of recipients of an inaugural award he describes as his most important honor for Cherokee County School District employees.

The “Superintendent’s Game Changer Award” will honor four outstanding recipients annually, with one award each for the following categories: Instructional Leadership, to recognize a CCSD administrator; Instructional Excellence, to recognize a CCSD classroom teacher; Instructional Support, to recognize a CCSD employee with a support role; and Instructional Advocacy, to recognize a CCSD employee or community member.

“We are dedicated to continuous improvement of classroom instruction – teaching is our primary responsibility and what we’re called to do to serve our community,” Dr. Hightower said. “I strongly believe that recognizing excellence not only honors the very worthy recipients, but also inspires all of our team members by showing them who are the role models in their field they can look to as leaders, mentors and visionaries.”

Superintendent of School Dr. Brian V. Hightower presents the “Superintendent’s 2017 Game Changer Award” for Instructional Leadership to Assistant Superintendent of Educational Programs Susan McCarthy.

The inaugural 2017 awards were presented to:
Instructional Leadership: Susan McCarthy, CCSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Programs
Instructional Excellence: Heather Phillips, Dean Rusk Middle School teacher
Instructional Support: Sandi Adams, CCSD Technology Project Specialist
Instructional Advocacy: Lisa-Marie Haygood, longtime PTA volunteer and leader

Superintendent of School Dr. Brian V. Hightower congratulates CCSD Technology Project Specialist Sandi Adams as recipient of the “Superintendent’s 2017 Game Changer Award” for Instructional Support.

The surprise presentations were made in front of audiences of their peers, with Ms. McCarthy recognized at a school improvement leadership meeting; Ms. Phillips recognized at her school’s faculty meeting; Ms. Adams recognized at a CCSD Technology department meeting; and Ms. Haygood recognized at a School Board Meeting packed with parents and families. Live videos from the presentations were streamed on CCSD’s Facebook page, where they remain posted for the community to enjoy.

“We have top-notch educators and advocates throughout our community, so it wasn’t easy to select just four honorees,” Dr. Hightower said. “I look forward to presenting these awards every year and further encouraging our employees to rise up in our shared mission of ‘Educating the Emerging Generation.’”

Superintendent of School Dr. Brian V. Hightower presents the “Superintendent’s 2017 Game Changer Award” for Instructional Advocacy to longtime PTA volunteer and leader Lisa-Marie Haygood.

Each recipient received a bouquet and a rosewood plaque featuring a specially made medallion bearing CCSD’s logo, their name and the name of the award and recognition as “A Leader Among Leaders.”


Superintendent of Schools Presents First of His Inaugural “Game Changer Awards”

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower presents Assistant Superintendent of Educational Programs Susan McCarthy with the first of his inaugural ‘Superintendent’s 2017 Game Changer Awards.’ She was specifically recognized for Instructional Leadership.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower today presented the first of his inaugural awards for instructional excellence!

The surprise presentation of a “Superintendent’s 2017 Game Changer Award” was made to Assistant Superintendent of Educational Programs Susan McCarthy before a room full of CCSD leaders.

Ms. McCarthy was recognized for Instructional Leadership – one of the four categories of the new “Game Changer Awards” to be presented annually. The other categories, for which one award each will be presented later this month, will recognize a classroom teacher for Instructional Excellence, an employee with a support role for Instructional Support and an employee or community member for Instructional Advocacy.

Ms. McCarthy is surprised by the award, which she said humbled and honored her.

“She truly has been a leader for us,” Dr. Hightower said, noting the plaque, in part, reads: “A leader among leaders.” “This is not an award because she’s an assistant superintendent; this is an award because of who she is as an educator.”

Dr. Hightower in his presentation cited Ms. McCarthy’s stellar record as a classroom teacher, where she was recognized as a Teacher of the Year, and as a school administrator and district leader.

Her instructional leadership successes in the past year alone have included preparing for and guiding the successful external AdvancED accreditation team visit and developing and implementing the multi-year Instructional Framework plan for teaching and assessment standards and Professional Learning Communities for teachers to share best instructional practices.

Ms. McCarthy was surprised, humbled and honored by the presentation.

“It’s an extreme honor to receive this from Dr. Hightower… because of the opportunity you afforded me to be in this position,” she said, praising the superintendent for his support of instructional excellence. “This will be a pinnacle moment in my life, not just my career.”

Ms. McCarthy, who is retiring at the end of the school year, also reflected upon the idea that you should strive to leave an organization better than when you joined it.

“If the message,” of this award, she said, “is that the organization is better than when I started, that’s all I could ever ask for.”

Dr. Hightower congratulates Ms. McCarthy upon the award, citing her outstanding career in instruction, with accomplishments in the past year alone including the successful AdvancED reaccreditation review and development of Instructional Framework standards and Professional Learning Communities.


Etowah HS Counselor Named CCSD 2017 Counselor of the Year!

Etowah HS Assistant Principal Amanda Ruiz congratulates school counselor Michele Dowd, as she walks out to center court of the gym during the surprise CCSD 2017 Counselor of the Year presentation on Friday, March 31, 2017.

Michele Dowd knew she wanted to live a life of service, and found her calling in Etowah High School’s counseling office.

Her favorite quote speaks to this mission: “A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I loved in, or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child,” (Forest E. Witcraft).

And on Friday, March 31, 2017, Ms. Dowd was surprised with an award recognizing the difference she is making in the lives of thousands of children at Etowah High School as a school counselor: Cherokee County School District 2017 Counselor of the Year.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, center, and School Board member Kelly Poole, left, congratulate Michele Dowd of Etowah High School for her recognition as CCSD 2017 Counselor of the Year.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower presented her with the honor in front of a packed crowd assembled for a student-staff basketball game fundraiser for Relay for Life. The presentation, which also was attended by her husband, Billy, and other family and friends, and reception that followed were sponsored by Northside Hospital Cherokee, a CCSD Partner.

Dr. Hightower praised Ms. Dowd as “one of Etowah’s finest,” noting he’s especially proud to see one of his own former students be so successful and respected by her colleagues.

“Michele knows her why – she sees it in the faces of the kids she serves every day,” Dr. Hightower said. “Whether she’s providing them a shoulder to lean on in tough times or a helping hand in finding their career path, Ms. Dowd is all in and approaches her work with professionalism and passion.”

The award process begins with each Innovation Zone (high school and feeder elementary and middle schools) selecting a Counselor of the Year. Applications from these honorees then are considered by a panel of retired educators and community leaders, who select the CCSD Counselor of the Year.

In addition to Ms. Dowd for the Etowah Innovation Zone (IZ), the other Zone winners are: Cherokee IZ, Connie Hatcher, Canton ES STEM Academy; Creekview IZ, Angel Jane, Avery ES; River Ridge IZ, Phillip Crane, Mill Creek MS; Sequoyah IZ, Michelle Martin, Dean Rusk MS; and Woodstock IZ, Brent Harrison, Woodstock ES. They all will be recognized by the School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the April 20 School Board meeting.

Ms. Dowd is a graduate of Kennesaw State University, where she earned her bachelor of science in psychology, and University of West Alabama, where she earned her master of science in continuing education – school guidance and counseling.

She joined Etowah High School 2014, after serving one year as counselor for CCSD’s Polaris Evening Program and as a counseling intern at Avery Elementary School and a substitute teacher districtwide.

Among her roles at Etowah, Ms. Dowd provides students with a wide variety of counseling services, coordinates the Advance Placement (AP), hospital homebound and foreign exchange programs and serves on the school’s Leadership Team.

“When students come into my office during a personal crisis and can leave feeling better or with some resolution, then I know I have done my job,” said Ms. Dowd, who also is an active volunteer with youth at Christ Community Church in Cumming. “I love celebrating with students when they come into my office with exciting news or they have just been admitted into the college of their dreams. I want to be in the trenches with them during the valley moments of their life and celebrate with them on the mountaintop of their successes.”

Principal Dr. Bob Eddy said Ms. Dowd’s “core value” of service makes her an exceptional counselor and leader in her profession.

“No matter the responsibility,” he said, “Michele stays grounded in her service to students.”

And back to that favorite quote, which she has hanging up in her kitchen, as its message has come full circle for Ms. Dowd.

“When I started my tenure as a school counselor,” she said, “I thought I would be the one making a difference in the lives of students, and I hope I have so far, but little did I know that they and their families would be the ones to leave a lasting imprint on my heart.”

Ms. Dowd is welcomed to the center of the gym at halftime of the student-staff basketball game fundraiser for Relay for Life by CCSD leaders, family and friends including Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower; her husband, Billy Dowd; Deputy Superintendent Trey Olson; School Board member Kelly Poole; and Principal Dr. Bob Eddy.

Celebrating the recognition of Ms. Dowd, center, are, from left to right, Principal Dr. Bob Eddy; friends, Jason and Tiffany Skipper; her husband, Billy Dowd; her mother, Susan Hayhurst; her brother, Billy Hayhurst; and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.

Northside Hospital Cherokee representative Donnie Henriques congratulates Ms. Dowd. Northside Hospital Cherokee, a CCSD Partner, sponsored the presentation and reception that followed.


CCSD Earns Top Media Specialist Recognition for 2nd Year!

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Macedonia Elementary School Media Specialist Jennifer Rice has been named to Georgia’s Top 10 Media Specialists in the State list.

A Cherokee County School District media specialist has earned a spot on Georgia’s Top 10 Media Specialists in the State list for the second consecutive year!

Macedonia Elementary School Media Specialist Jennifer Rice on Thursday was honored by the Georgia Library Media Association with recognition on the list.  Last school year, Woodstock MS Media Specialist Wendy Cope received this honor.

Ms. Rice is CCSD’s 2016 Media Specialist of the Year and in June was named the Regional Media Specialist of the Year for North Central Georgia by the Georgia Library Media Association and Georgia Association of Instructional Technology.

A graduate of Georgia College & State University, where she earned bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degrees in education, Ms. Rice began her career as a classroom teacher before following her true calling to serve as a media specialist.  In addition to her traditional media specialist responsibilities, she also organizes the school’s reading bowl team, spelling bee and student news team.  Ms. Rice last school year was named to the Georgia Children’s Picturebook Award Committee for a three-year appointment.

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Ms. Rice, right, is congratulated by Woodstock MS Media Specialist Wendy Cope, who was named to the list last year.


CCSD School Nutrition Wins Georgia’s Golden Radish Award!

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From left to right Public Health Commissioner Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, State School Superintendent Richard Woods, CCSD School Nutrition Supervisor Tina Farmer and Coordinators Amanda Fleming and Linda Dittrich, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black and Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls

The Cherokee County School District has won a top State award for its outstanding school nutrition program!

CCSD’s School Nutrition program, which serves more than 5 million meals each year in school cafeterias, has won the Golden Radish Award at the Gold Level from the Georgia’s Departments of Agriculture, Public Health, Education and Georgia Organics.

The Gold Level is the highest recognition awarded to Georgia school nutrition programs for farm-to-school programs… from local food procurement to hosting taste-tests to gardening with students.  Districts were evaluated on their work in 10 different activity areas.

CCSD School Nutrition Supervisor Tina Farmer and Coordinators Amanda Fleming and Linda Dittrich accepted the award at a ceremony Monday at the Georgia State Capitol.

CCSD was recognized for its accomplishments during the 2015-2016 school year including:

  • More than 400 hands-on cooking and food activities held by CCSD, with many lessons led by volunteer chefs and farmers. Events included Chef Tony Pisconeri visiting classrooms to demonstrate proper knife skills and plating techniques and high school agriculture students learning about honey with Jeannie Ross of Ross Berry Farm and Apiaries;
  • More than 1,000 promotions held by CCSD to encourage students to choose local foods in the school cafeteria and participate in school garden activities and farm field trips; and,
  • Cherokee County’s Farm to School Committee collaboration by parents, teachers, school administrative staff, the Cherokee County Farm Bureau and local farmers, Cooperative Extension, Master Gardeners, FFA, churches, the Upper Etowah River Alliance, Girls Scouts and other groups. Local businesses also offered discounts for individuals purchasing supplies for CCSD’s school gardens;

“Having access to fresh, farm-to-school meals is great for Georgia’s students,” State Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Farm-to-school programs also connect students with agriculture, which is an enormously important industry for our state.  We appreciate the Golden Radish Award because it recognizes those school districts that are striving every day to provide more farm to school meals.”


CCSD Educator Wins Georgia Education Technology Innovation Grant!

A Cherokee County School District educator has won a 2016 Georgia Education Technology Innovation Grant from the Georgia Educational Technology Consortium!

Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy media specialist Madeline Hall is one of only four winners to earn the $2,500 grant.

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Madeline Hall

The grant will benefit the SMArTE (science, math, art, technology, and engineering) Space Ms. Hall created in the media center.  The project provides design process opportunities for students in all grades to use creativity and inventive thinking to build prototypes, explore questions, experience failure and successes and bounce  ideas off each other.  Ms. Hall works with classroom teachers to align SMArTE Space activities with curriculum and standards.

The Georgia Educational Technology Consortium is an independent nonprofit organization that also sponsors the annual Georgia Educational Technology Conference for educators and the Technology Fair student competition.

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Bascomb Elementary School Wins National Grant to Install Playground Sun Shade

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Category : CCSD

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Bascomb ES PTA recently applied for and won an $8,000 2016 Shade Structure Program Grant from the American Academy of Dermatology to install a permanent shade structure over the back playground.

Bascomb Elementary School is home to a new playground sun shade thanks to a National grant!

The school’s PTA applied for and won an $8,000 2016 Shade Structure Program Grant from the American Academy of Dermatology… and was one of only 19 winners nationwide.

The school recently held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the installation of the permanent shade structure over the back playground.  The ceremony was attended by school and PTA leaders including Georgia PTA President Lisa-Marie Haygood; Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower and Cherokee County School Board Chair Kyla Cromer and Board Member Rick Steiner.

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Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower speaks during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Atlanta North Dermatology dermatologist Dr. Jihyun “Ellen” Koo, a member of the Academy, sponsored the grant application and participated in the ceremony.  Bascomb ES is only the second school in Georgia to win the grant since the Academy began awarding it in 2000.

“Without this grant, which will cover more than half the cost, this project would not have been possible, ” Bascomb ES PTA immediate Past President Heather Shaw said. “We are extremely thankful to the American Academy of Dermatology, and Dr. Koo, for their help and generosity.”

The Shade Structure Grant Program is part of the Academy’s SPOT Skin Cancer campaign (www.SpotSkinCancer.org) to reduce the incidence of skin cancer by educating the public about effective skin cancer prevention tips.

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Celebrating the ribbon cutting for Bascomb Elementary School’s new permanent shade structure are, from left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, School Board Chair Kyla Cromer, Atlanta North Dermatology dermatologist Dr. Ellen Koo, PTA grant writer Amanda Weber, Principal Kathleen Chandler, Georgia PTA President Lisa-Marie Haygood and School Board Member Rick Steiner.