CCSD Recognizes Student Delegates to the School Board!

CCSD Recognizes Student Delegates to the School Board!

Celebrating the Student Delegates and their successful year of service are, from left to right, front row: Katie Bishop of Etowah HS, Katherine Relick of Woodstock HS, School Board member Kelly Poole, Arely Gonzalez-Labra of ACE Academy, Board Chair Kyla Cromer, Board member Patsy Jordan, Student Advisor Ashlee Floyd of Cherokee HS, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Board member Clark Menard; back row: Christian Fanning of River Ridge HS, Bryce Goodwyn of Creekview HS, Theodore Campbell of Sequoyah HS, Board Vice Chair Mike Chapman, and Board members John Harmon and Rick Steiner.

The Cherokee County School District recently recognized its Student Delegates to the School Board for the 2017-18 School Year in appreciation of their service!

The School Board has included a Student Advisor position on its board since 1999, and, for the past seven years, a Student Delegate from each high school.

The Cherokee High School Student Delegate, Ashlee Floyd, this year served as the Student Advisor and sat on the dais with the School Board and adjourned meetings.  Her fellow Student Delegates for the past school year have been: Arely Gonzalez-Labra of ACE Academy, Bryce Goodwyn of Creekview HS, Katie Bishop of Etowah HS, Christian Fanning of River Ridge HS, Theodore Campbell of Sequoyah HS and Katherine Relick of Woodstock HS.

They were recognized by the School Board and Superintendent of Schools at a recent School Board meeting at which they each were presented with a certificate of appreciation and special honor cords to wear at their graduation ceremony.

In addition to attending School Board meetings, the Student Delegates’ service for the past year has included: giving input and feedback to the School Board; participating in meetings and/or surveys to assist the Office of Curriculum & Instruction, the Superintendent’s Ad Hoc Calendar, Safety and Security, and Technology Committees, and the Comprehensive LEA (Local Educational Agency) Improvement Plan (CLIP) Review process; and sharing other student-based suggestions and input.


CCSD Presents Leadership Degree and Certification Fair

Newly appointed R.M. Moore ES Assistant Principal Denna Vance, left, speaks with Dr. Susan Padgett-Harrison about Kennesaw State University’s program.

The Cherokee County School District recently presented its first CCSD Leadership Degree and Certification Fair to share information on leadership degrees with interested teachers and leaders.

Forty-eight teachers and leaders attended the free session, which included one-on-one time with university representatives from Berry College, Kennesaw State University and Piedmont College. Berry and Piedmont College will be offering degree programs at CCSD facilities beginning this summer; KSU’s programs are fully online.

Indian Knoll ES Principal Dr. Ann Gazell and teacher Patrick Walker discuss Piedmont College programs.

CCSD Chief Human Resources Officer Rick Beaulieu gave an overview of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission rules on advanced degrees, and CCSD Supervisor for Professional/Staff Development Jackie Miller reviewed each university’s program, including model, cost and unique features.


CCSD teachers, from left to right, Kirsten Hargadon, Debbie Ritter and Dana Townsend participate in the session.

CCSD Chief Human Resources Officer Rick Beaulieu speaks to attendees.


CCSD Celebrates School Board Member Appreciation Week!

It’s School Board Member Appreciation Week, and we’ll be shining the spotlight this week on each of our representatives to thank them for their service… check back here for a new recognition each day this week!

School Board Vice Chairman Mike Chapman, left, serves up lunch in Captain America costume to students on School Lunch Hero Day along with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.

Mike Chapman

Canton businessman Mike Chapman has served on the School Board for an impressive 13 years, with four as chairman!

Mr. Chapman has been elected five times by his fellow Board members to the Vice Chairman post, including this school year.

Many successful initiatives in CCSD have occurred due to his support, including the nationally recognized Cherokee Academies program developed in response to Mr. Chapman’s call for more educational school choice in our community and the expansion of CCSD’s safety and security program. Mr. Chapman is known as an advocate for fiscal conservatism and transparency and supported the development of the Open CCSD webpage, which includes hundreds of public records including video of School Board meetings.

His strongest passion may be for career education, fueled by his own successful business career as plant manager for Morrison Products in Canton and longtime membership with numerous civic clubs and community boards of directors, and his wife’s expertise as a career education teacher. Mr. Chapman, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, not only champions this cause and supports it with his votes as a Board member, he also opens his workplace for school field trips and visits classrooms to talk about career choices.

“Our School District would not be as successful as it is today without the support of Mr. Chapman… he’s the definition of a model School Board member, and we greatly appreciate his service,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “He has represented the Board at the State level for many years through the Georgia Education Coalition, and he’s just as eager to read to a classroom of kindergarteners or to jump in the cafeteria line – in a Captain America costume – to serve meals on School Lunch Hero Day.”

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer of Canton welcomes community members to the dedication of the new School Board auditorium.

Kyla Cromer

Cherokee County School Board Chair Kyla Cromer of Canton has dedicated her life to education, both as her vocation and as her passion.

She earned her degree in elementary education and worked as a classroom teacher and learning center director; later, as a stay-at-home mom to two, Ms. Cromer found herself drawn back to school to volunteer.

Ms. Cromer became an active PTA member and School Council member and, after great success in leading at the school level, felt called to the School Board. Now in her fifth year on the School Board and her fourth year as the countywide-elected Chair, Ms. Cromer is well-respected locally and statewide for her knowledge of curriculum and instruction and dedication to continuous improvement of teaching and learning.

While the role is not defined as full-time, Ms. Cromer devotes herself to the post of School Board Chair as if it is, spending many hours visiting schools to engage with students and staff, listening to the community’s citizens, and representing CCSD at the state level to identify opportunities for further improving public education.

“Ms. Cromer may no longer work in the classroom, but the classroom still is in her heart,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “You can hear it in her comments when voting on an issue: she’s focused on what’s in the best interest of each of the children we serve. She couples that with a deep understanding of school district operations and her role as a policy maker and responsible steward of taxpayer resources. That combination is a rare find, and we’re so fortunate and appreciative to have her as our Board’s chair.”

School Board Member John Harmon of Hickory Flat congratulates a graduating senior at the commencement ceremony for Sequoyah High School.

John Harmon

After John Harmon recognized the positive difference he could make in the lives of Cherokee County youth through coaching baseball and basketball and serving on the Hickory Flat ES School Council, he decided in 2014 to try a larger playing field as a School Board member.

Mr. Harmon is hitting home runs there, too, as a leader known for his focus on the impact School Board decisions will have on children and families.

A Hickory Flat businessman and father of three, Mr. Harmon does his research before School Board meetings, asking the Superintendent of Schools for more information on decisions ranging from approval of the annual budget to new School Board policies governing operations. He’s a strong advocate for parents becoming more involved in their child’s school, such as by volunteering through PTA, serving on School Council, or participating in CCSD’s new VILLA parent academy program that he helped launch last year.

While he’s just as comfortable speaking in the boardroom as he is visiting a classroom, it’s clear that Mr. Harmon’s favorite part of being a School Board member is engaging with students, especially reading to elementary school classes and congratulating graduating high school seniors at commencement.

“Mr. Harmon uses his knowledge and experiences as a business owner, a community volunteer and a dad to three CCSD students when making important decisions as a School Board member, and that’s a very valuable triple play for our organization,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “His leadership style is collaborative and thoughtful, and that willingness to listen to others and value their opinions, along with the joy he experiences in supporting our students, makes him such a pleasure to serve alongside.”

School Board Member Patsy Jordan creates a pinhole projector to show students at Creekland Middle School, where she viewed the eclipse last year. Ms. Jordan used her CCSD business card to make a projector.

Patsy Jordan

Public schools have been a daily part of life for School Board Member Patsy Jordan of the Yellow Creek community for nearly all of her life.

She attended school here, found her first job here as a school custodian, went on to drive a school bus and then became one of our teachers – and a Teacher of the Year – before retiring and coming back in 2012 to serve as a School Board Member.

Her peers elected her Vice Chair last year for a one-year term, and the community re-elected her last year to a second four-year term.

Given her background as an outstanding teacher, it’s an easy A to guess she’d be a strong advocate for students and educators.  But she earns extra credit in the hearts of employees districtwide for being just as concerned about the “classified” workers, who prepare the meals, drive the buses and keep everything from the lights to the heat running.

Ms. Jordan is definitely in her element when the Board member role brings her to schools for special events like judging competitions and awarding honors, but her talent for teaching follows her wherever she goes, even as she speaks from the Board dais.

“Every time Ms. Jordan speaks, I learn something,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “She constantly looks for and finds teachable moments, and her care for every one of our students and employees is evident in all that she does and says. Her own love of learning, willingness to share knowledge and deeply rooted connections in this community make her an exemplary Board member and a caring friend and teacher to all.”

School Board Member visits with Woodstock High School engineering technology teacher Karen Zayance and some of her students.

Clark Menard

If you take a dad who’s engaged with his children’s education and add in an accountant’s knowledge, a love of technology and the willingness to volunteer in his community, the result would be School Board Member Clark Menard.

The Woodstock certified public accountant, whose degree in the field includes a specialization in information systems, joined the School Board in 2015 after serving as youth sports coach and PTA volunteer for his two daughters’ schools.

His expertise in financial management and accounting systems greatly benefits the School Board and the School District.  Mr. Menard regularly asks questions to further understand budget issues, and he proposes ideas to the Superintendent of Schools to continuously improve operational efficiencies.

Mr. Menard not only uses know-how from his profession to guide his service as a School Board member, but he also relies upon his experiences as a parent of two CCSD students in making policy decisions, reviewing student discipline matters and fulfilling the other responsibilities of his elected office.  Career education is another key issue for Mr. Menard, who strongly supports CCSD’s efforts to increase industry certification opportunities for students while in high school.

“We’re in the envious position of working with a School Board that’s made up of leaders with varied and valuable skill-sets, and Mr. Menard brings many talents to the table including his deep understanding of finance and technology,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “As we look to incorporating more business technology into our operations and further enhancing the career education opportunities for our students, we know we can rely upon Mr. Menard’s expertise and advocacy, which we’re so fortunate to have.”

School Board Member Kelly Poole, center, tours Mill Creek Middle School with Principal Dr. Kerry Martin and CCSD Chief Human Resources Officer Rick Beaulieu.

Kelly Poole

School Board Member Kelly Poole of Canton is a natural-born volunteer.

Any time there’s an opportunity for School Board Members to participate – whether it’s judging a student technology contest, cheering on Special Olympians or surprising classrooms as a Read Across America guest reader – you can count on Ms. Poole.

Her passion for volunteering, through her two children’s schools from preschool through high school and in PTA committee and leadership roles, led Ms. Poole to join the School Board in 2015.

A bookkeeper with experience in nonprofits and their audits, Ms. Poole relies upon her insights as both a parent and a volunteer to make School Board policy decisions, advocate on behalf of students and look for more ways to engage parents and the community in schools.

She’s been a longtime supporter of adopting tools like the Canvas learning management system to give parents greater opportunities to be involved in their child’s education and communicate with their teachers. Ms. Poole participated throughout the School Board-initiated VILLA parent academy program launched this school year in collaboration with the Georgia School Boards Association. She sees the program as a way to not only better educate parents about their school system, but also to encourage more parents to become active school volunteers.

“Ms. Poole is on School Board Member duty at all times,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “She understands that she can shed neither her ‘mom’ hat nor ‘School Board Member’ hat at the door, but instead has melded the two roles into an authentic and effective voice advocating for every child we serve and every one of those children’s families.”

School Board Member Rick Steiner gets a hug from student Aiden Carr during a visit to Bascomb Elementary School.

Robert Rechsteiner

Robert Rechsteiner serves as a Cherokee County School Board member, but it’s his nickname that catches most people’s attention: Rick Steiner.

That’s because this longtime School Board member and community volunteer is renowned worldwide as a professional wrestling star under his nickname.

While today he’s wrestling the best deals he can for clients as a real estate agent, Mr. Rechsteiner has grown his fan base beyond the world of his first career to include thousands of Cherokee County students and their families who know him because of his community service.

His School Board post includes southwest Cherokee County, and that’s where he raised his three sons – who all graduated from Etowah High School – and where he became known in the community for volunteering in schools and with youth sports.

His support of schools and students is what led neighbors and friends to encourage him to join the School Board in 2006, and since then, he’s served not only as a Board member, but also as the Board’s Delegate to the Georgia School Boards Association. Mr. Rechsteiner, who earned his degree in education, is dedicated to reading up on budget and policy decisions… but his favorite part of School Board Meetings is when it’s a packed house of outstanding students there to be recognized with handshakes, hugs and words of congratulations from him and his fellow Board members.

“Mr. Rechsteiner for years has impressed me in many ways, but I’m most appreciative for his attitude of servant leadership,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “For someone so famous, he stays very humble and truly listens to and values the opinions of parents, our employees and his fellow School Board members.”


Board Briefs: School Board Begins Annual Leadership Hiring Process

The School Board on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, began its annual leadership hiring process with the approval of the Superintendent of Schools’ recommendations to fill two central administration vacancies.

With its approval of the Superintendent’s monthly personnel recommendations, the Board appointed Dr. Shannon Carroll as the new Supervisor for Instructional Technology and Rocky Simpson as the new Coordinator of Maintenance.  With these approvals, the Board next month can proceed with approving recommendations for Principal openings, and, in April, approve appointments for Assistant Principals and any other subsequently vacant leadership positions.

“Both of these appointments add more depth to our leadership strength,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said of Dr. Carroll and Simpson.  “Shannon, in her current role as a curriculum coordinator, has been a critical resource for STEM instruction, and we know she will expertly guide our use of classroom technology.  We’re so proud of Rocky, who’s a graduate of Cherokee High, for coming back to us after college to use his expertise to support our schools.”

Dr. Carroll joined CCSD in 1993 as a teacher and, after a classroom career that included twice earning her school’s Teacher of the Year title, moved into District leadership roles in curriculum and professional development.  Mr. Simpson joined CCSD in 2002 after earning his degree from Kennesaw State University.

The School Board also:

• Recognized Holly Springs ES STEM Academy as a Microsoft Showcase School;

• Recognized CCSD as the recipient of the National Employer Support of the Guard

and Reserve Patriotic Employer Award;

• Recognized Carmel ES teacher Merry Willis and Holly Springs ES STEM Academy teacher Lisa Lougheed as Global Minecraft Mentors;

• Recognized Woodstock HS economics teacher Josh Sailers as the 2018 Georgia Economics Teacher of the Year;

• Recognized E.T. Booth Middle School as a Common Sense Certified School for Digital Citizenship;

• Recognized the Woodstock ES FIRST Lego League (FLL) Robotics Team as first-place winners in Core Values for Team Work at the State finals and as Super Regionals champions;

• Recognized Sequoyah High School junior Hanna Palmer for being elected to the 2018-2019 Georgia DECA State Executive Officer Team;

• Recognized State and Regional Champions from the Etowah High School wrestling team;

• Approved a resolution recognizing March 1, 2018 as “PTA Day in the Cherokee County School District”;

• Adopted International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for students and educators;

• Approved the renewal of Partnership Agreements with Aramark Management Services, Cherokee County Historical Society and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society;

• Approved month

ly financial reports;

• Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips and professional development;

• Approved special lease agreements; and,

• Met in Executive Session to discuss personnel, real estate and student disciplinary matters.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, March 15, 2018

CCSD Leader Elected as President of Statewide Special Education Organization!

Charlette M. Green

A Cherokee County School District leader is speaking up for Special Education students and educators at the state level!

Charlette M. Green, CCSD’s Executive Director of Special Education, is serving a one-year term as president of the Georgia Council of Administrators of Special Education.

The organization, known as GCASE, is part of the International Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) and is dedicated to improving schools’ services to children with special needs. The group provides its members the opportunity to study issues and solutions through discussion and publications.

“Our School District is focused on ensuring that every child receives the best education possible, and Ms. Green’s role with our organization is critical to achieving that mission,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “She is a leader in her field, and we’re proud that she is representing our School District and advocating for our State’s special education students and educators.”

In her role as President, Ms. Green leads a Board of Directors made up of representatives from 18 districts across the state and ad-hoc members from other organizations. As President, Ms. Green also represents GCASE on the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders and CASE Board of Directors.

“I believe that it is important for CCSD to have representation at the State and National levels to ensure that we remain progressive and at the forefront of meeting the needs of students with disabilities,” said Ms. Green, who joined CCSD in 2008. “It is also important to share what we have found to be effective in CCSD with others, as we have and will continue to make great strides for our students with disabilities. Serving as the President of GCASE is an opportunity for me to share and learn from others to benefit our students, families, and staff in CCSD.”

Ms. Green, who earned her bachelor’s degree in audiology and speech pathology and master’s degree in speech-language pathology from Florida State University, began her career in 1999 as an elementary school speech-language pathologist. She went on to work as a special education representative and local education advisor at the school level and as an education program specialist for the Georgia Department of Education. She joined CCSD as a supervisor for Special Education and has led the department since 2009.

She is frequently published and requested as a conference presenter, and has earned numerous awards including being named a 2014 Fellow of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, 2013 Professional of the Year by the Georgia Administrators in Education Leadership and 2012 Outstanding New Special Education Administrator of the Year by GCASE.

A member of GCASE for more than 10 years, Ms. Green previously has served as its Co-Chair of Professional Learning Committee, Vice President, and President-Elect.


School Board Members Visit Schools for First Week Peek!

While Cherokee High School students hurry past on their way to class, Principal Todd Miller points out to School Board Chair Kyla Cromer some of the renovation projects that were completed over the summer at CCSD’s largest high school.

School Board members visited schools across the Cherokee County School District this week for a “first week peek”!

School Board Member Rick Steiner gets a hug from student Aiden Carr during his tour of Bascomb Elementary School.

During their visits, School Board members toured the school with the Principal, observed teaching and learning in classrooms, visited with staff from various areas of operations and enjoyed a surprise hug or two from students.

School Board Member Clark Menard’s visit included an appearance on Woodstock High School’s live student news show; here he’s pictured in front of the show’s green screen with students Hailey Hovda, left, and Kharli Major.

“These visits were an excellent opportunity for us to see how well prepared our schools are for the start of the year,” School Board Chair Kyla Cromer said. “Teachers were engaging the students in learning, and we had a wonderful time visiting with them all.”

School Board Vice Chair Mike Chapman, center, as he tours Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy with Principal Rodney Larrotta, left, and CCSD Deputy Superintendent Trey Olson, stops for a photo with pre-kindergartners and teacher Megan Little, left, and paraprofessional Molly Elkins.

Board Chair Cromer visited Cherokee High School; with Vice Chairman Mike Chapman at Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy; and Board Member John Harmon at Indian Knoll ES, Patsy Jordan at Avery ES, Clark Menard at Woodstock HS, Kelly Poole at Mill Creek MS and Rick Steiner at Bascomb ES.

School Board Member John Harmon snaps a selfie with students in teacher Rebecca Wooten’s class during his visit to Indian Knoll Elementary School.

“Our School Board cares about our students, our teachers and staff and our schools,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “While they may be most associated with their role as thoughtful policy makers and responsible stewards of our community’s resources, these School Board members were called to serve because of the kids and the opportunity to make their futures brighter. We appreciate their service and their commitment to our CCSD family.”

School Board Member Patsy Jordan, center, smiles for a photo with students during her visit to Avery Elementary School.

School Board Member Patsy Jordan checks out the school garden at Avery Elementary School during her tour, as CCSD Chief Information Officer Bobby Blount looks on.

School Board Member Kelly Poole, center, stops by the gym to see PE classes in action at Mill Creek Middle School during her visit.

School Board Member Rick Steiner listens to teacher Melinda Martinez, right, during his visit to her classroom at Bascomb Elementary School. Looking on are Principal Kathleen Chandler, third from left, and CCSD Chief Academic Officer Dr. Nicole Holmes. Students pictured include Leslie Delgadillo, left, and Ferrial Phillippe.

School Board Member Clark Menard visits with Introduction to Engineering Technology students and teacher Karen Zayance at Woodstock High School.

School Board Member John Harmon’s visit to Indian Knoll Elementary School included time with PE teachers Coaches Scott Barber and Jason Bermudez and their students.

School Board Member Kelly Poole, center, tours Mill Creek Middle School with Principal Dr. Kerry Martin and CCSD Chief Human Resources Officer Rick Beaulieu.

School Board Member Patsy Jordan, center, smiles for a selfie during her visit to Avery Elementary School with Principal Dr. Lisa Turner, right, Assistant Principals Michelle Whitmire and Matt Harper, right, and CCSD Chief Information Officer Bobby Blount.

School Board Vice Chair Mike Chapman, left, listens to Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy with Principal Rodney Larrotta, right, during the tour, as CCSD Deputy Superintendent Trey Olson looks on.

It wouldn’t be a visit to Woodstock High School without a selfie with Principal Mark Smith, left, so School Board Member Clark Menard joined in.

Board Chair Kyla Cromer and CCSD Chief of Staff Mike McGowan, right, listen to Cherokee HS Principal Todd Miller explain some of the changes made in the school media center.

School Board Member Clark Menard is interviewed for Woodstock High School’s live student news show by student Hailey Hovda.

Cherokee High School Principal Todd Miller, left, and Assistant Principal Neil Howell show School Board Chair Kyla Cromer the courtyard students may use during lunch periods. The school’s PTSA helped fund the project, which gives students another choice for eating and socializing during lunch.

CCSD School Wins Prestigious Georgia School Bell Award!

OGES logo The Cherokee County School District continues its Georgia School Bell Award-winning streak with Oak Grove Elementary School Fine Arts Academy earning the prestigious honor for 2017!

The Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals presents the distinguished Award to 10 schools in Georgia each year in recognition of outstanding curriculum and organizational leadership initiatives… this is the seventh consecutive year that at least one CCSD school has been honored.

GAESP logo

Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academy, led by Principal Penny Valle, earned the award for her program, “Anchor Standards.” The selection committee selects exemplary initiatives that result in positive change and demonstrate strong involvement of staff, students, parents and community.

“Anchor Standards” is a school-wide initiative through which teachers identified specific learning goals for each grade level, subject and grading period to be prepared for, tracked and updated through collaboration within Professional Learning Communities teacher groups. Administrators, community partners, volunteers and parents all play a role in the program’s success, and a Data Room provides a place to review results and talk strategy.

Principal Penny Valle

“We continually analyze the impact of prioritizing standards and aligning the targeted content and language objectives to show student mastery of key concepts and skills,” Principal Valle said. “So far, the results indicate significant student achievement growth in math and reading due to the implementation and focus on anchor standards.”

The school will be formally recognized and presented with the Award at the Association’s Fall Principals’ Conference in Savannah, and they will be recognized by the Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools and School Board at the School Board Meeting on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017.

“We’re so proud of Oak Grove and Principal Valle for earning this impressive recognition in honor of their work to continuously improve classroom instruction,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “Digging into data gives our teachers a better understanding of each individual child’s learning needs — where each needs more help or more challenges – and this impressive initiative does just that. Congratulations to the entire school community, as everyone played a role in this success, and their efforts and care are much appreciated!”

Recent past CCSD winners are: 2016, Bascomb ES; 2015, Holly Springs ES STEM Academy and Woodstock ES; 2014, Canton ES STEM Academy; 2013, Free Home ES; 2012, Liberty ES; 2011, Oak Grove ES.

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.

CCSD Recommended for Continued AdvancED Accreditation!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teasley MS Principal Recognized as Georgia Principal of the Year!


Teasley Middle School Principal Dr. Susan Zinkil is officially recognized as Georgia Middle School Principal of the Year at the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals’ annual fall conference on Monday.

Teasley Middle School Principal Dr. Susan Zinkil was officially honored Monday as Georgia’s Middle School Principal of the Year by the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals


Dr. Susan Zinkil

Dr. Zinkil, who in February was named the winner of the statewide honor, was selected from a large, statewide pool of nominees.  The award recognizes her excellence in educational leadership, success in resolving complex problems, development of self and others and community service.

She was presented with the award at the Association’s annual fall conference held Oct. 29-31 in Savannah.

Appointed the Principal of Teasley MS in 2010, Dr. Zinkil has led the school to be recognized as: a “Distinguished Breakout Middle School” by the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals in 2013, a finalist for the Georgia Family Friendly Partnership Award in 2014 and a Title I Reward School in 2012 and 2015 by the Georgia Department of Education.  Additionally, the Technology Association of Georgia named Teasley MS as a finalist in its State STEM Awards in 2015.  In March, Teasley MS became the nation’s first middle school to have all its teachers become Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) certified!

The Principal of the Year recognition program is sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals; the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals, which serves 1,300 members; and Association Member Benefit Advisor.