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

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.

Sequoyah HS Science Teacher Named CCSD 2017 Teacher of the Year!


Cherokee County School District 2017 Teacher of the Year Brian Carnes, center, is congratulated by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, left, and Sequoyah Principal Elliott Berman.

Watch a video from the surprise presentation:

When Brian Carnes reflects on his successes, he humbly jokes: “not bad for an old ‘chicken farmer.’”

“Chicken farmer” has been a nickname for the poultry industry leader-turned-science teacher at Sequoyah High School since he made the career change 12 years ago.

Today, Nov. 4, 2016, he earned a new nickname: Cherokee County School District’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.

Or “best chicken farmer teacher ever” for short.


Cherokee County School District 2017 Teacher of the Year Brian Carnes of Sequoyah High School.

“I was very surprised and excited just be to named Sequoyah High School’s Teacher of the Year… it’s such an excellent school.  I know all of the great teachers we have in Cherokee County, so this,” the Cherokee County native said after being surprised with the CCSD honor by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, “this is just kind of overwhelming to me.”

The CCSD Teacher of the Year is selected by a panel of community leaders, who evaluate applications from each school’s Teacher of the Year.  The school winners are selected by their peers.  Mr. Carnes will be honored in December at the annual “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” sponsored by Northside Hospital-Cherokee and Credit Union of Georgia.  He also will serve as CCSD’s nominee for Georgia Teacher of the Year; the winner will be named in the spring.

“He teaches with a lot of heart,” Dr. Hightower said, as he congratulated Mr. Carnes, who he calls “a super-teacher,” in front of one of his AP (Advanced Placement) Chemistry classes.  “Besides having tough academics — I know he pushes you — he cares about you.  I know he helps you all along the way.  And that’s what we’re about.”

Mr. Carnes, who attended Buffington Elementary School and graduated from Cherokee High School where he was active in FFA, began his career in the poultry industry.  With degrees in agriculture (bachelor’s from University of Georgia) and quality systems technology (master’s from Southern Polytechnic State University), Mr. Carnes succeeded in the industry for 15 years.

But his heart began to whisper of another plan for him: teaching children to love science.

He talked to mentors, like his former agriculture teacher Dr. Dwight Pullen, and his family and friends.  And then he flew the coop.

Principal Elliot Berman said he’s proud to say he hired Mr. Carnes in 2004.  Mr. Carnes began teaching special education, then moved into science and then took on AP Chemistry.  Along the way, Mr. Carnes earned certifications, endorsements and awards… like the Delta Kappa Gamma International Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching, STAR Teacher and, last year, the valedictorian picked him as her “outstanding teacher” for CCSD recognition.

“Mr. Carnes has taught some of the most challenged to some of the most gifted, yet they were taught with the same compassion,” Principal Berman said. “Positively impacting lives is what Mr. Carnes was destined to do, and that is what he continues to do here at Sequoyah.”

Not only is Mr. Carnes beloved for the care he shows students in the classroom as their teacher and outside the classroom in roles such as Student Government Association sponsor, he also delivers when it comes to making challenging materials comprehensible and guiding students to success on demanding AP exams.

“He honestly does care about his students and their grades and wants to develop a relationship with them,” junior Zach Davis said.  “In my opinion, he really is the most deserving teacher.”

Mr. Carnes and his wife, Pam, President & CEO of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, have two daughters, Sarah, a Sequoyah HS and University of Georgia graduate now studying for a master’s at Georgia Tech, and Rebekah, a Sequoyah HS junior.  In addition to his many roles at school, Mr. Carnes also has coached his daughters’ softball teams and volunteers with his church, Canton First United Methodist.

“My most notable accomplishments are witnessed through the many students I have impacted throughout my career,” he said.  “Each example is meaningful whether it be a special education student who overcame great obstacles to become a productive member of society or my many AP students who have been inspired to pursue careers in the sciences as doctors, engineers or physicists; not bad for an old ‘chicken farmer.’”


Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower surprises Sequoyah HS chemistry teacher Brian Carnes with the news he is CCSD’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.


Sequoyah HS Chemistry teacher Brian Carnes, center, with AP Chemistry students shortly after he is surprised with the announcement he has been named CCSD’s Teacher of the Year for 2017.


Mr. Carnes’s AP Chemistry class gives a round of applause for their outstanding teacher.


Mr. Carnes hugs his wife, Cherokee Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Pam Carnes, after the surprise announcement.


The Carnes family celebrates his award; from left, Sarah, Brian, Rebekah and Pam.