School Board Members Visit Schools for First Week Peek!

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.

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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!

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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

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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.


Cherokee County Superintendent Named to State Superintendents’ Advisory Council

Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower has been selected to serve on the State Superintendents’ Advisory Council.

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Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower

State School Superintendent Richard Woods annually appoints the Council, which is made up of about 20 local superintendents representing urban, suburban and rural districts from regions across the state.

The Council provides feedback on the local impact of State-level decisions, and its first meeting recently held at the State Department of Education’s offices focused on the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  The group will meet regularly to discuss important issues affecting public education and share feedback from their communities.

“It’s my honor to represent our School District and our region at the State level, as I see it as part of my duty as a Superintendent of Schools to speak up for our students, teachers and parents in every way possible,” Dr. Hightower said.  “They have put their trust in me and our School Board to be their voice, and this is an outstanding opportunity to continue to fulfill my role as an educator, leader and advocate for public education.”