School Board Tours Newly Renovated and Opened Sequoyah East Annex

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.

Report: No CCSD Schools Reach ‘Critically Overcrowded’ Levels

The 2016-17 Cherokee County Inventory of School Housing shows the impact of returning enrollment growth and indicates several areas where additional classroom space will soon be needed.

Additionally, 2016-17 marks the fourth consecutive year during which none of the School District’s schools are considered “critically overcrowded,” reflecting long-standing successful management practices and School Board policies governing student enrollment growth forecasts and school construction project planning.

The below chart uses this school year’s 20-day enrollment count (Aug. 25, 2016) to measure the percentage of overcrowding. School Board Policy defines “critically overcrowded” as when a school exceeds 140% of its enrollment capacity and meets other criteria, including use of all existing portable classrooms. Pursuant to the School Board’s Critical Overcrowding Policy (FDBD), the impact of actual student enrollment is evaluated annually after the 20th day of classes, which is when attendance traditionally peaks, to determine critically overcrowded schools and what, if any, action is needed.

The effort to eliminate “critical overcrowding” in the School District began in 2001, with an aggressive, multi-tiered Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (Ed SPLOST) plan proposed by a Blue Ribbon Committee of community leaders and approved by the School Board for inclusion on a local ballot referendum.  This plan to “bond” future sales tax revenue, which has been extended twice by voters over the past decade, continues today with new construction and renovations, strategic land purchases, replacement school buses and emerging technologies for students and staff.

Unfortunately, if portable classrooms were not available, 11 schools would be operating at 100% or more of their capacity.  It should be remembered that, while portable classrooms provide relief for classroom instruction, they do not alleviate overcrowding in media centers, cafeterias, restrooms and hallways. The schools are: Free Home ES, Liberty ES, Woodstock ES, Creekland MS, E.T. Booth MS, Mill Creek MS, Woodstock MS, Cherokee HS, Creekview HS, Sequoyah HS and Woodstock HS.  Of those 11 schools, five are operating at more than 120% capacity… a decrease from seven reaching that level last school year: Free Home ES – 126%, Creekland MS – 126%, Woodstock MS – 121%, Cherokee HS – 133% and Sequoyah HS – 137%.

Staff continues to analyze this new data to determine recommendations that may be needed to address overcrowding in preparation for the next school year(s).  Data is compiled and analyzed year-round to monitor not only enrollment growth, but also the local real estate market, development trends, local birth rates and other demographics … in order to best determine when and where new and/or replacement school facilities are needed.

Relief has been provided to Dean Rusk Middle School, which had one of the highest levels of overcrowding in the School District last year.  With its opening this month, the School District gained capacity at that location, and also at its four elementary feeder schools — Hickory Flat ES, Holly Springs ES STEM Academy, Indian Knoll ES and Mountain Road ES — as the sixth-grade students from those facilities now attend Dean Rusk MS in its new Grades 6 – 8 grade configuration.  Additionally, Sequoyah HS will add classroom capacity as it gains the original Dean Rusk MS facility into its footprint later this school year!

Again, it should be noted that all new and replacement school construction and renovations in the School District are funded by Education SPLOST revenue.  Voters will again have the opportunity to authorize the School District to continue its capital outlay plans, as the School Board has called for a renewal of the Ed SPLOST in November.

2016-17 CCISH Chart

The 2016-17 Cherokee County Inventory of School Housing shows the impact of returning enrollment growth and indicates several areas where additional classroom space will soon be needed.

Board Briefs: Board Hears Positive Report on CCSD Finances

2016-17 Student Advisor and Student Delegates

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













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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

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

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

School Board Members Tour New/Replacement Dean Rusk MS

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The new/replacement Dean Rusk Middle School is ready to open for the first day of school on Monday, Aug. 1.

Cherokee County School Board members recently toured the new/replacement Dean Rusk Middle School, getting a glimpse of the state-of-the-art facility that will serve more than 1,450 students when the school year begins on Monday, August 1.

The new/replacement school is ready to open on time and under budget!  Construction was funded locally through Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (Ed SPLOST) revenue, as approved by voters in 2011.

The tour on July 19 began with a welcome from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, who led School Board Chair Kyla Cromer, Vice Chair Patsy Jordan and District 3 Board Member John Harmon, who represents the area; as well as senior staff and local and Atlanta media on the tour.

Dr. Hightower gave an overview of the facility and noted several of the economic efficiencies featured in the building, such as polished concrete floors that will save on maintenance and cleaning costs, paying for itself in a year’s time.  He also highlighted new design features to increase safety and security, as well as technological innovations, such as the Global Learning Theatre video-conferencing classroom and Technology Lab classroom with a 3D printer, green-screen video room and Lego robotics table among its special features.

“It’s a point of pride to welcome you,” Dr. Hightower said, as he kicked off the tour.  “This school has the capacity we need, with even greater efficiencies, security and technology than our last school construction project… and it’s a beautiful building.  We can’t wait for students, staff and the community to enjoy their new school, and we appreciate the community’s support of the Education SPLOST that funded its construction.”

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Principal Cindy Cooper walks through the mobile seating area in the Cyber Café media center. All the furniture is on casters, and is equipped with handles, so chairs and tables can be easily moved for collaborative group work.


Architect: KRH Architects of Dalton designed the school using a modified version of the CCSD prototypical middle-school design utilized for the new/replacement E.T. Booth MS and Teasley MS.

Contractor: Womack, Lewis & Smith, Inc., which has constructed schools and other educational facilities statewide including numerous CCSD facilities (i.e., Little River ES, Liberty ES, Canton ES and Cherokee High Athletic Improvements), was awarded the $36.8 Million contract by the School Board in February 2014.  The site, which is adjacent to Hickory Flat ES, had been in the CCSD inventory for many years and became available for construction after the extension of sewer lines to the campus freed up previously unusable land.

Size: The building is 255,037 square feet, and the campus is 25.6 acres.

Capacity: The new two-story facility, with a capacity of 1,600 students (an increase of 400 from the former campus), allows for the standard middle school configuration of Grades 6-8 on one campus… which provides sixth-graders with greater opportunity for academic rigor, fine arts and career electives and athletic and extra-curricular activities, as well as 30 additional minutes of instructional time each day, compared to an elementary schedule.  Projected enrollment when classes begin on Aug. 1 is 1,476 students: 476 sixth-graders, 505 seventh-graders and 495 eighth-graders.  Dean Rusk MS draws students from Hickor0y Flat, Holly Springs STEM Academy, Indian Knoll and Mountain Rd Elementary Schools.

Address and phone number: 2761 East Cherokee Dr., Canton, Ga. 30115 and 770-704-1135


Instruction: 97 instructional units… including classrooms that all feature smart boards (Dean Rusk MS is CCSD’s first school to feature all touchscreen, flat-panel smart boards), computers and additional technology; computer labs; art and music rooms; gymnasium; cafetorium; and a Cyber Café media center and Global Learning Theatre… both featuring CCSD’s new prototypical digital learning-friendly design!

Efficiency: Constructed with metal roofing, brick/block masonry and structural steel frame; four-pipe chilled water and hot water system, which also increases equipment life expectancy; variable speed pumping system; mechanical mezzanine above the second floor for servicing of equipment without disrupting classroom activities or hallway traffic; and energy management/control system.  New features incorporated into this school include tankless water heaters, electric hand dryers and T-5 light fixtures, all greatly reducing energy costs.

Safety: In addition to CCSD’s safety standards, such as an electronic front-door “buzz-in” security system, this new modified prototypical middle-school design requires all visitor traffic to flow into the front office for an additional level of check-in and verification before entering the main hallway.  The site also allows for the separation of cars and buses through the construction of an internal drive system, which allows for ingress and egress between the schools (Hickory Flat ES, Dean Rusk MS and Sequoyah HS) without entering Hickory Road or East Cherokee Drive.

Aesthetics: Following the tradition started with the new/replacement E.T. Booth and Teasley Middle Schools, this campus features the colors of its Innovation Zone high school… which for the Sequoyah Zone are black and gold.  The colors are featured throughout… including in the efficient polished concrete floors.  As part of the transition, Dean Rusk MS also redesigned its mascot in keeping with the Sequoyah HS Chiefs.

Other: This campus also will house a CCSD Hearing Testing Center, which provides a site for students to be evaluated for special services provided by the School District.  The school is named for the late U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who was born in Cherokee County and served from 1961-69 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

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As part of the move, Dean Rusk MS adopted new colors, mascot and logo to align with their feeder high school, Sequoyah.


The former Dean Rusk MS is being renovated to provide additional capacity to Sequoyah HS beginning in January… much like how the former Chapman Intermediate School now is used as “Etowah East” by Etowah HS.  The District and school are collaboratively developing a plan for which programs will be housed in this facility.


July 28 and 29: Open houses and walk-throughs are: Grade 6, Noon to 2 p.m. July 28; Grade 7, 2 to 4 p.m., July 29; Grade 8, 3 to 5 p.m., July 28.  Students will participate in locker opening practice, tour of the facilities and review of their class schedules and other logistics for the new school.

August 1: First day of school; classes are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — these are new hours starting for the 2016-17 School Year.

TBD: A Dedication and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony will be scheduled and open to the entire community… with School Board Members, the Superintendent, CCSD and Dean Rusk MS leaders participating in the festivities.

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Brady Harmon, who will be a sixth-grader at Dean Rusk MS, points out some cool features in the technology lab to his dad, School Board member John Harmon, as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, right, looks on.


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From left to right, School Board Vice Chair Patsy Jordan, Chair Kyla Cromer and Assistant Principal Catherine Holman examine pieces manufactured with the 3D printer in the Technology Lab classroom.

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Dean Rusk MS features CCSD’s first Global Learning Theatre, a classroom with movable furniture and six touchscreen flat-panel displays for video-conferencing and other online applications. Assistant Superintendent for Technology Bobby Blount, center, explains the features of the theater, as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, right, Assistant Superintendent for Support Services and Facilities/Construction Management Bill Sebring and Principal Cindy Cooper look on.

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Dean Rusk MS Principal Cindy Cooper demonstrates one of the touchscreen flat-panel screens in the Global Learning Theatre.

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Assistant Principal Catherine Holman shows Brady Harmon the 3D printer in the Technology Lab classroom.

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Walking down a hallway during the tour are, from left to right, Principal Cindy Cooper, Superintendent Dr. Brian V. Hightower, architect Kenneth Harless, Assistant Principal Catherine Holman, Director of Facility Construction Phil Parrot, and Assistant Superintendent for Support Services and Facilities/Construction Management Bill Sebring. In the foreground you can see the polished concrete floor, which saves on maintenance and cleaning costs, paying for itself in a year’s time