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

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: School Board Honors Retiring Superintendent of Schools

Board Briefs - Dr. Petruzielo HonoredThe School Board on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016 unanimously voted to recognize retiring Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo by naming the new Educational Services Facility in his honor.

Dr. Petruzielo, who is retiring at the end of the month and served at his final School Board meeting on Thursday, was humbled by the recognition, noting that the past 17 years of service to the Cherokee County School District “have been the best of my 50-year career in education.”

“I was expecting a plaque,” Dr. Petruzielo joked after the surprise honor was announced. “This is an extraordinary honor and an unbelievable recognition. I don’t think that in my career I’ve ever felt as appreciated as I do this evening!”

Dr. Petruzielo, whose leadership and accomplishments were celebrated with numerous standing ovations, went on to thank: CCSD teachers, noting how much he appreciates their “sacrifices and hard work”; his wife and family; his senior staff; School Board members; local education reporters; his dedicated executive secretary and administrative assistant; and the community’s “incredible” PTA volunteers and leaders.

“I hope everyone will agree that I am leaving the School District in good shape and in good hands,” Dr. Petruzielo said. The much-needed administrative facility is under construction on the Bluffs Parkway in Canton and will open in August 2017. A dedication ceremony for “The Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo Educational Services Facility” will be held upon the facility’s completion.

School Board members praised Dr. Petruzielo for his dedication and success and thanked him for his service on behalf of students, parents and the broader community; and expressed appreciation for the professional relationships he built with them.

“Sir, you have set the standard for education,” said Board Member Rick Steiner, who stood to deliver his message as a sign of respect. Mr. Steiner noted his heroes are his father; his wrestling coaches; Ted Turner and Muhammad Ali, for whom he worked; and that he adds Dr. Petruzielo to that list: “You have taught me how to be a leader.”

Board Briefs - Dr. Petruzielo RetirementBoard Vice Chair Patsy Jordan wiped away tears as she thanked Dr. Petruzielo for beginning a life-changing journey for her… from his recommendation that she be hired as a CCSD teacher 17 years ago to serving alongside him on the School Board dais. “It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” she said.

The meeting included several other surprise recognitions for Dr. Petruzielo, including establishment by the Cherokee County Educational Foundation of a professional development annual scholarship in his name. The “Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo Leadership Award” is a $1,500 annual award that will be granted by CCEF to the most outstanding graduate of the CCSD Superintendent’s Leadership Academy for teacher-leaders, a capacity-building program instituted by Dr. Petruzielo. The grant enables the winner, who will be selected by his/her peers, to participate in additional professional development opportunities.

“Dr. P is a visionary with unsurpassed leadership,” CCEF Board President William “Billy” G. Hasty Jr. said as he announced the scholarship. Since its establishment in 2012 with Dr. Petruzielo’s support, CCEF has issued more than $80,000 in grants to the School District’s teachers, students and schools, with another $25,000 to be awarded in February. “It has been such a pleasure to be a part of this and witness all that is happening in the School District. You’re an inspiration.”

Following recognition of CCSD for its third consecutive inclusion in annual Advanced Placement (AP) District Honor Roll Recognition, which celebrates school districts with increasing percentages of student participation and success in the AP Program, Dr. Petruzielo was honored by The College Board, which administers the Program. “During your tenure, you have opened the door of opportunity for so many students,” Kendall Hawkins with The College Board said in her remarks praising Dr. Petruzielo for increasing student access to not only AP courses, but also to SAT and PSAT testing. Since Dr. Petruzielo’s arrival in 1999, CCSD has seen dramatic increases in participation and passage rates for these courses and tests… 108% increase in SAT participation, 260% increase in PSAT participation and 809% increase in AP participation.

During the Public Participation section of the meeting, longtime CCSD teacher Anita Geoghagan praised Dr. Petruzielo for his passionate advocacy for teachers and public education. “You didn’t take no for an answer even when there were times when that would have been easier,” she said.

The School Board’s regular meeting followed a Strategic Work Session, during which Dr. Petruzielo and his staff briefed the Board on important issues, including: a 2016-17 CCSD budget forecast in light of the Governor’s release of his proposed State budget for next year and anticipated State legislation (an initial CCSD report in this regard is attached); a capital outlay program update; the most recent status report on the Governor’s “Opportunity School District” local school State takeover plan; and a draft 2016-17 CCSD Organizational Chart.

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

  • Approved a three-year employment contract for Dr. Brian V. Hightower, whom the Board unanimously appointed last month to serve as the next Superintendent of Schools, from Feb. 1, 2016 through Jan. 31, 2019;
  • Re-elected Patsy Jordan to serve as Vice Chair for a second one-year term;
  • Recognized Teasley MS as a Georgia 2015 Reward School for outstanding student progress, designating it as among the top 10% of Title I schools in Georgia;
  • Recognized Johnston ES for being named a Platinum-Level Fit Friendly School by the American Heart Association… making it the first in CCSD to earn this National recognition. Lynn Ziner, youth market director for the Association, attended the meeting to present Johnston ES with the plaque;
  • Recognized CCSD Adaptive PE teacher Amy Aenchbacher as Recipient of 2015 BlazeSports Triumph of the Human Spirit Award for making a significant impact in Georgia through adaptive sport and recreation;
  • Recognized 2015-16 Reinhardt University/CCSD Mathematics Tournament Winners;
  • Recognized State and Region Champions from Creekview HS Competition Cheerleading, Softball and Volleyball teams and Sequoyah HS Volleyball team;
  • Adopted the Georgia Education Coalition (GEC) 2016 Legislative Priorities;
  • Approved monthly financial reports;
  • Approved 2015-16 School Improvement Plans (SIPs);
  • Approved out-of-state travel;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved monthly update on capital outlay projects; and,
  • Approved monthly personnel recommendations.

Next School Board meeting: 7 p.m. Feb. 4, 2016


School Board Unanimously Approves Dr. Brian V. Hightower as Superintendent of Schools

Dr. Brian V. Hightower Accepts New Post as SuperintendentThe Cherokee County School Board tonight unanimously approved the appointment of Dr. Brian V. Hightower as the next Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Hightower, who has served for the last 29 years in CCSD beginning as a classroom teacher and rising through school and central office administrative roles, will take office on Feb. 1.

“I stand ready to serve as your next Superintendent,” Dr. Hightower told Board members during a brief speech to thank them, retiring Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo, his family, his colleagues and his mentors and friends. “To be a part of this organization for 29 of my 30 years [in education] has turned into being the privilege of a lifetime.”

School Board Chair Dr. Brian V. HightowerKyla Cromer said the Board was very impressed by Dr. Hightower’s experience and education, as well as his interview and recommendations. She said the strengths his supporters noted in recommending Dr. Hightower included: hard working, professional, well-respected, consistent, fair, thoughtful, problem-solver, leader.

“Your vote of confidence steels my resolve that we continue to be one of the best school districts in the Nation,” he said.


Board Briefs: School Board Unanimously Approves Contract for New Educational Services Facility

CCSD Educational Services Facility Plans

The $16 Million contract to build the CCSD Educational Services Facility on Bluffs Parkway in Canton was awarded to Womack, Lewis and Smith Construction. Funded by Education SPLOST revenue, construction will begin in January and be completed by August 2017.

The School Board on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, unanimously approved a contract for construction of a new administration building that will reunify staff and increase efficiency in central office operations.

The new/replacement facility has been needed, as well as approved by voters through Education Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referenda, for 15 years; but Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo had repeatedly recommended postponement in order to construct 19 new schools.

“We can no longer productively and efficiently manage and supervise the School District with central office staff spread out throughout the County in facilities that were not designed to meet current operational needs,” Dr. Petruzielo said. “This new facility will allow for more efficient operations and better serve students, employees and the general public.”

The $16 Million contract funded by Education SPLOST revenue to build the 90,300 square-foot CCSD Educational Services Facility in Canton was awarded to Womack, Lewis and Smith Construction.

The complex, which includes an office building and a professional development training center/School Board auditorium, will be built on more than 15 acres on the Bluffs Parkway north of Riverstone Plaza. The School District received the property in an exchange with the City of Canton for CCSD Buildings A and B downtown.

Construction will begin in January and be completed by August 2017. The new facility will reunite 150 employees from various departments in one centrally located, cost-effective office building; and the training center/auditorium, with a capacity for 690, will allow for professional development, special events and School Board meetings in a space that is significantly larger than current options.

School Board members at Thursday’s meeting also heard several presentations from staff.

School Board Member Mike Chapman requested a presentation on school safety in light of recent mass shootings in the U.S. and France. School District Police Chief Mark Kissel gave an overview of the department’s history, current operations and recent upgrades, such as the installation of buzz-in electronic school entrance systems that eliminate the practice of keeping one front door unlocked.

“We take it very seriously that this threat is out there,” Mr. Chapman said of school safety, noting that he has been “very impressed” by the Department’s operations and partnerships with other local law enforcement, especially in light of the fact that CCSD receives no State funds for safety and security.

At the request of Board Chair Kyla Cromer, Susan McCarthy, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs, Student Support and Professional Development, spoke about student out-of-country field trips. Ms. McCarthy assured the Board that CCSD works closely with its vendor for travel services, which monitors safety and security issues before and during such trips.

Also at the request of the Chair, Ken Owen, Assistant Superintendent for Financial Management, spoke about CCSD’s recent State audit and the closing meeting that they and the Superintendent attended this week with the auditors. Per State law, the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts may at any time elect to perform a random audit on any state or local unit of government. The State in November 2014 notified CCSD that Fiscal Year 2014 operations would be audited, in part due to the actions of a former School Board member.

The State audit concentrated on the financial statement work performed by Williamson and Company, the third-party, independent auditor hired by the School Board. After nearly six months of on-site review, an unprecedented experience for CCSD, the State found no instance of fraud, waste or mismanagement. The State’s report concludes with an unmodified opinion, the most positive rating possible.

“The people from the State were very complimentary of [Mr. Owen],” Ms. Cromer said. “They were very impressed… and very satisfied with what we are doing.”

The State report’s findings refer only to the financial statements produced by Williamson and Company, and not to the staff or operations of the CCSD Office of Financial Management. All recommended changes to FY14 financial statements have been made by Williamson and Company at no charge to CCSD. All operational recommendations have been implemented (more than 75% were in place prior to completion of the State audit) or will be in place by the end of the current fiscal year.

Mr. Owen also noted that CCSD hired an internal auditor this fiscal year, who began work on July 1, to continually review and test internal controls and assist in identifying additional opportunities for operational improvements/efficiencies.

Board Member Kelly Poole, who is an accountant, asked as to whether the internal auditor would assist CCSD in developing its own financial statements. Mr. Owen said that work is underway to do just that, beginning with a parallel process for FY16 that will be compared to the independent auditor’s statements.

The Board, at the request of the Chair, also heard a presentation on the Tax Allocation District (TAD) being considered by the City of Holly Springs. School Board Attorney Tom Roach explained the process, which, if approved by the School Board, would allow the City to withhold a certain percentage of property tax growth revenue that otherwise would fund school operations to instead be used by the City to redevelop its downtown area.

Mr. Roach and Dr. Petruzielo both voiced concerns that the City has not provided the legally required written proposal or basic information about the project’s scope and the financial impact to CCSD, but the City is holding public meetings at which the TAD is being potentially erroneously described as in CCSD’s best interest.

Dr. Petruzielo said it appears that the City’s proposed TAD could significantly increase residential growth (which increases the cost of CCSD operations), rather than focusing solely on increasing commercial growth, which would improve the property tax base to the benefit of CCSD operations.

As a result, both Mr. Roach and Dr. Petruzielo said it would be premature and irresponsible for staff to make a recommendation to the Board that this TAD be approved.

“You don’t want to be in a position where money that should be spent on students and teachers is being spent to develop Holly Springs’ downtown,” he said.

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

  • Recognized Cherokee County School District Teacher of the Year Jeremy Law of Teasley MS;
  • Recognized the Creekview HS girls’ cross-country team members and coaches for winning first-place at the Regional competition and second-place at the State championship meet;
  • Recognized the Cherokee HS advanced welding teacher and students for constructing a 28-foot Eiffel Tower tribute for the Holiday Lights of Hope display at Hobgood Park benefitting the Anna Crawford Children’s Center;
  • Approved a resolution in regard to the planned use of construction bonds;
  • Approved monthly financial reports;
  • Approved the disposal of surplus property through a surplus sale at 9 a.m. on Dec. 12 at the CCSD Warehouse at 201 Mountain Brook Court in Canton;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved monthly update on capital outlay projects;
  • Approved monthly personnel recommendations; and,
  • Approved an amendment to the Aramark custodial services contract to increase staffing.

Next School Board meeting: 6 p.m. Dec. 18, 2015


Cherokee County School Board Calls Meeting to Appoint Superintendent of Schools

The Cherokee County School Board will meet for a called meeting on Friday, Dec. 18, to consider the appointment of a new Superintendent of Schools.

The School Board established a process to attract and vet a new Superintendent of Schools that began on September 3, 2015. The process included a statewide publication of a notice of vacancy that attracted inquiries/applications from four states, hours of individual review by Board members of letters of interest, applications, résumés, independent education verification, and background screens, as well as two extended executive sessions of the Board.

The School Board will consider the appointment and employment subject to contract negotiations of Dr. Brian V. Hightower as Superintendent of Schools at a special called meeting on Friday, Dec. 18, at 6 p.m. at the Historic Canton High School/School Board Auditorium located at 111 Academy Street, Canton, GA 30114.

A presentation regarding Dr. Hightower’s credentials and experience will precede an opportunity for public input and a vote of School Board regarding Dr. Hightower’s appointment.


Board Briefs: School Board Unanimously Approves 2016 Legislative Program

The School Board on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, approved its 2016 Legislative Program, which is published annually to inform the community as to how the Cherokee County State Legislative Delegation could better assist the Cherokee County School District.

The 2016 Legislative priorities outlined in the Program, which was unanimously approved by the School Board, ask the State Legislature to:

  • Fund the existing State educational funding formula to fully restore “austerity budget cuts”;
  • Address skyrocketing premiums and out-out-pocket expenses for participation in the State Health Benefit Program;
  • Support local control and management of public schools rather than supporting State takeover plans like the Governor’s proposed “Opportunity School District” Constitutional Amendment;
  • Correct evaluation models for teachers and administrators to allow greater emphasis on observation of their performance by trained administrators and supervisors;
  • Stop the erosion of the State’s tax base through tax exemptions for private companies;
  • Oppose the continuation and/or expansion of programs that use public funds to pay for private school tuition and/or provide tax incentives; and,
  • Undertake no modifications to Federal funding access and availability that would delay or reduce local school districts’ earned allocations.

School Board Member Clark Menard thanked the Superintendent and his staff for adding the last priority, which he had requested. Mr. Menard said he is frustrated by State Legislators’ proposals to take away the local control of a school board’s ability to accept Federal funds for such needs as Title I schools, which have higher percentages of low-income students, and outstanding teachers who qualify for grants.

“There’s nothing more local than a school board,” Mr. Menard said, as to who should make the decision whether to accept Federal funds.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo agreed, and also spoke to the recently unveiled proposals from the Governor-appointed Education Reform Commission that would continue to shortchange public schools the State funding they are owed through the existing funding formula by reconfiguring the formula with a lower starting point.

“It’s convenient to say ‘we’re going to fully fund a new formula,’ but to not start it out at the funding levels we’re currently owed,” Dr. Petruzielo said, noting the State “austerity budget cut” for CCSD currently totals $11 Million. “I think it’s irresponsible, and the quality of education is going to be in direct correlation with the lack of full funding. People like to say ‘You can’t fix a problem by throwing money at it,” but I’m here to say that I’ve been a superintendent for 25 years, and I don’t remember anyone ever throwing money at me. I’ve had to fight and claw for every dollar that our children were owed.”

Dr. Petruzielo’s passionate advocacy for public education resulted in a special moment at Thursday’s meeting when two Woodstock High School students, Brittany and Sydney Gunter, spoke during Public Participation to thank him for his 50 years of service as an educator and present him with a U.S. Flag flown over the U.S. Capitol.

Woodstock High School students Sydney, left, and Brittany Gunter present Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo with a U.S. flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in appreciation of his 50 years of service as an educator and his advocacy for public education.

Woodstock High School students Sydney, left, and Brittany Gunter present Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo with a U.S. flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in appreciation of his 50 years of service as an educator and his advocacy for public education.

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

  • Recognized CCSD Transportation Department for earning ASE Blue Seal of Excellence… becoming one of the first school systems in the State to obtain this prestigious level of National certification. A list of all recognized employees is posted online;

    The CCSD Transportation Department was recognized at the School Board Meeting for earning ASE Blue Seal of Excellence… becoming one of the first school systems in the State to obtain this prestigious level of National certification.

    The CCSD Transportation Department was recognized at the School Board Meeting for earning ASE Blue Seal of Excellence… becoming one of the first school systems in the State to obtain this prestigious level of National certification.

  • Recognized CCSD High School Seniors named 2016 National Merit and National Achievement Semi-Finalists: Matthew Wang of River Ridge HS, Mackenzie Joy of Sequoyah HS and Paula Ruiz of Woodstock HS;
  • Recognized Georgia School Public Relations Association (GSPRA) Publication Award-winning CCSD staff members;
  • Presented a “trailer” with excerpts from the first “Learning from Legends: Retired Educators Share Their Wisdom” video record, a new collaboration between CCSD and the Cherokee Retired Educators Association inspired by the StoryCorps national oral history project and the annual observance of Retired Educators Day;
  • Approved monthly financial reports;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved monthly update on capital outlay projects;
  • Approved monthly personnel recommendations including appointing: Abbey Philpot, currently an assistant principal at Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy, as the new Principal of Clayton ES; Jennifer McIntosh, currently a teacher at Clark Creek ES STEM Academy, as a new assistant principal at Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy; and Dr. Susan McQuade, a teacher at Boston ES, as a new assistant principal at Macedonia ES; and,
  • Met in Executive Session to review a personnel matter and a student discipline matter; upon returning to open session, the Board voted to uphold the tribunal’s decision in regard to the student discipline matter. Next School Board meeting: 7 p.m. Dec. 3, 2015

Nest School Board meeting: 7 p.m. December 3, 2015


Board Briefs: New Board Member, Plans Shared for New Facility

The School Board on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015 reviewed plans for the new/replacement CCSD administration building and officially welcomed the new District 1 Board Member.

Swearing In of Kyla Cromer, District 1 Seat The Board last month appointed Kelly Poole, an accountant and longtime PTA and community volunteer, to the District 1 seat, which was vacated when Kyla Cromer was appointed School Board Chair. Ms. Poole, accompanied by her husband and two children, was sworn into office on Thursday by Cherokee County Probate Court Judge Keith Wood. The term expires Dec. 31, 2016, and District 1 includes the BridgeMill and Sixes area.

During its Strategic Work Session, the Board heard a status report from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo and his staff on planning for the new/replacement administration building to be constructed on Bluffs Parkway in Canton. The Board in March unanimously approved a land swap agreement with the City of Canton to build what will be called the CCSD Educational Services Facility. In exchange for Buildings A and B in downtown Canton, CCSD received 16 acres of City-owned property across from the Cherokee County government’s administration building north of Riverstone Plaza. The new CCSD building will allow for the reunification of 150 employees from various departments in one more cost-effective facility and will include an open meeting space for professional development, special events and School Board meetings that is significantly larger than current options.

An advertisement seeking proposals from general contractors to build the complex will be published today; the Board will consider selection of a proposal at its December meeting. Construction would begin in January and be completed by August 2017. Construction of the $15 Million project will be funded by Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenue, as previously approved by voters. Estimated costs per square foot are less than similar projects recently constructed in the county, and the design and construction will incorporate the same cost- and energy-efficient elements as featured in newer CCSD schools.

Board Member Mike Chapman said it makes good business sense to build professional office space for administrative staff and training needs in order to attract and retain the best employees. “Anyone who sees this plan should understand that,” he said, noting that taxpayers have shown their support through approving the project as part of three Ed SPLOST votes. Board Member Clark Menard said he is pleased that the design allows for some future staff growth, which extends the lifespan of the facility without the need for immediate additions. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo said the facility is “long overdue,” noting that the county’s other government entities have made significant investments in infrastructure, while CCSD prioritized building 19 new and replacement schools to accommodate student enrollment growth. “It’s always difficult to justify spending on administrative infrastructure, but we can’t be as productive an organization as we have been or hope to continue to be without efficient facilities,” he said. “I think we’ve built a strong case for the need.”

Honoring Past Board Chair, Janet Read The Board and the audience rose to its feet several times for a special recognition during the regular meeting to honor Immediate Past School Board Chair Janet Read for distinguished service. Ms. Read, who for two decades served CCSD as a PTA volunteer and then as a School Board member and its first countywide elected Chair, stepped down earlier this year due to an employment opportunity that would not allow her to serve in public office. She was thanked not only by the Board and Superintendent of Schools, which presented her with a framed gavel and commemorative plaque, but also by the Cherokee County Council of PTA and Georgia PTA, which presented her with a Life Achievement Award – the PTA’s highest honor for a volunteer.

During its work session, the School Board also took the following actions:

  • Heard a report on the Governor’s proposed “Opportunity School District” State takeover plan, which would allow the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement to seize local schools, including CCSD schools, and turn the operations and the assets over to for-profit charter operators;
  • Heard a status report on the implementation of Kronos, an integrated personnel and payroll system to improve CCSD operational efficiency;
  • Reviewed the draft 2016 Legislative Program, which calls on the Cherokee County Legislative Delegation to:
    • Fund the existing State educational funding formula to fully restore “austerity budget cuts”;
    • Address skyrocketing premiums and out-out-pocket expenses for participation in the State Health Benefit Program;
    • Support local control and management of public schools rather than supporting State takeover plans like the Governor’s proposed “Opportunity School District” Constitutional Amendment;
    • Correct evaluation models for teachers and administrators to allow greater emphasis on observation of their performance by trained administrators and supervisors;
    • Stop the erosion of the State’s tax base through tax exemptions for private companies;
    • Oppose the continuation and/or expansion of programs that use public funds to pay for private school tuition and/or provide tax incentives.
  • Heard staff updates including the announcement that Boundary Focus Groups will not be needed this fall, as no boundary redrawings will be proposed for the 2016-17 School Year. During its regular meeting, the School Board also took the following actions:
  • Recognized Clark Creek ES STEM Academy for Earning State STEM Certification; • Recognized Hickory Flat ES as 2015-2017 National PTA School of Excellence;
  • Recognized CCSD Schools as Governor’s SHAPE (Student Health and Physical Education) Honor Roll Honorees (names of recognized teachers are posted here);
  • Recognized the 20th Anniversary of Georgia Pre-K in CCSD;
  • Approved a proclamation in honor of Retired Educators Day, Nov. 1, 2015.
  • Approved monthly financial reports;
  • Approved out-of-state travel;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved monthly update on capital outlay projects;
  • Approved monthly personnel recommendations including the retirement of Dr. Pat Kearns, Director of Curriculum and Academic Standards, who began her tenure with CCSD in 1999 after working for the Sequoyah Regional Library System and in public school administration in Iowa;
  • The School Board Attorney recommended that the School Board meet in Executive Session following the Nov. 5, 2015 regular meeting in order to review applications for the Superintendent of Schools position and possibly select finalists for interviews; and,
  • Met in Executive Session to review an attorney-client privilege matter, but took no action upon returning to open session. Next School Board meeting: 7 p.m. Nov. 5, 2015

Board Briefs (PDF) 10/16/2015


Board Briefs: School Board Approves Superintendent Selection Process

The Cherokee County School Board met for a called meeting on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015 to approve the process for seeking the next Superintendent of Schools.

The Board unanimously approved the process to advertise the vacancy and review applications; Board Member Rick Steiner was not present.

The vote authorized the School Board Attorney’s office to facilitate the advertising of the vacancy and collection of applications for review by the Board.

The advertising notice and brochure have been posted on the home page of the CCSD website at www.cherokee.k12.ga.us; the notice and brochure direct applicants to contact the School Board Attorney’s office for the official application. The notice will be placed on the Georgia School Boards Association website and will be advertised twice in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Official applications and supporting materials (formal letter of application; current resume; transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate-level education; reference letters) are due to the School Board Attorney’s Office by midnight on Monday, October 19, 2015.

The Board will subsequently screen applications and supporting materials and determine which applicants will be interviewed.

During the meeting, Board Vice Chair Patsy Jordan suggested that all Board members weigh in on which applicants should be interviewed, as opposed to the original proposal that a committee of Board members take on this task. The Board unanimously accepted this as an amendment, and then approved the amended agenda item.

“I have faith in this process,” Board Chair Kyla Cromer said after the votes. “We are going to take the confidentiality (of the process) very seriously. We welcome all applications.”

The Board at a prior work session determined, based on the qualifications it’s seeking in a Superintendent and the competency of the Superintendent’s senior staff members who may apply, that there was no need to hire a search firm.

Board members at that work session outlined qualifications they’re seeking in a Superintendent, which they will use when reviewing applications and making their hiring decision.

These included:

• Strong educational leader, advocate locally and statewide and spokesperson for public education, who has a knowledge of the local and Georgia political landscape;

• Commitment to a comprehensive education for all students and an understanding of our community and its diversity;

• Successful classroom teaching and school system superintendent or senior staff-level administrative experience;

• Proven record in school operations including with a system(s) that has faced significant enrollment growth, construction of new schools and redistricting;

• Strong management and communication skills;

• Desire to build upon CCSD’s strong foundation, execute existing Board Policies, Strategic Plans and the Strategic Waiver School Systems contract, while also sharing the Board’s vision for the District’s future successes;

• Current or future residency in Cherokee County; and,

• Doctorate degree in education is preferred.

Next School Board meeting: 7 p.m. October 15, 2015