School Board Takes Stand Against State “Opportunity School District” School Takeover Plan

School Board Takes Stand Against State “Opportunity School District” School Takeover Plan

Here is a printable factsheet about OSD.

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, September 1, 2016, took a stand against the State’s “Opportunity School District” school takeover plan by unanimously approving a resolution opposing the constitutional amendment on ballots this fall.

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer said she’s “proud” that the Board stepped up even though CCSD currently has no schools on the so-called “failing” list that would trigger a takeover by a Governor-appointed czar should the amendment pass.

“The big part of this in my mind is that as a member of this School Board our job is to protect the children of Cherokee County,” Ms. Cromer said.  “And I see no benefit in this to them.”

The School Board has heard staff presentations over the last year outlining how the amendment could potentially affect CCSD, especially as the metric used to trigger takeover is constantly changing and targets Title I schools that serve the community’s most at-risk students.

Board members also have raised concerns about the amendment usurping local control, as it removes the oversight of the locally elected School Board and would seize assets communities have voted to fund through sales tax collections.

Here is the language of the resolution:

“WHEREAS, on November 5, 2015, the Cherokee County School Board (“School Board”) unanimously approved its 2016 Legislative Program which included as a priority, “Align current and future legislative initiatives (e.g., Governor’s proposed Opportunity School District Constitutional Amendment) with State Constitutional provisions regarding local control and management of public schools, rather than usurping locally-elected School Boards’ authority;” and,

WHEREAS, the School Board supports the authority of the State’s local boards of education to manage and control the operation of the local public schools, opposing any legislation that attempts to override the constitutional authority of locally-elected boards to make educational decisions for their communities; and,

WHEREAS, in November 2016, a State Constitutional amendment will be included on the ballot, which would, if approved, give the State authority to take control from certain Georgia schools and create a State-operated school district; and,

WHEREAS, if approved, local control will be eliminated and schools that have been determined as “failing” by the State may be placed into an “Opportunity School District;” and,

WHEREAS, if approved, the administration of schools placed in the “Opportunity School District” would be overseen by a State-appointed Superintendent, to be confirmed by the Senate, with authority to waive State board of education rules, regulations, policies, procedures or provisions; and,

WHEREAS, if approved, facilities of qualifying schools shall come under control of the “Opportunity School District,” where the “Opportunity School District” Superintendent may repurpose the facility for use by an education service provider; and,

WHEREAS, if approved, qualifying schools may be subject to any of the following intervention models, as determined by the “Opportunity School District” Superintendent:

(1) Direct management of the qualifying school by the “Opportunity School District;” or,

(2) Shared governance of the qualifying school by the “Opportunity School District” and the local board of education pursuant to a contract in which the local board of education operates the school and the “Opportunity School  District” Superintendent has the authority to direct changes to be made at the school; or,

(3) Reconstitution of the qualifying school as an “Opportunity School District” charter school in which the “Opportunity School District” works in collaboration with the State Charter Schools Commission to build capacity of petitioning governing boards and charter school applications to establish a charter that will be approved by the State Charter Schools Commission; or,

(4) Closure of the qualifying school which is not enrolled at full capacity and reassigning the students to a non-qualifying school within the local school system. School closure shall be the intervention of last resort; and,

WHEREAS, if approved, the total allotment of state and federal funds to the local school system in which a qualifying school is located will be calculated as otherwise provided in enabling legislation of this title with an ensuing reduction equivalent to the amount of funds appropriated to any such schools; and,

WHEREAS, other state takeover efforts (e.g., Louisiana and Tennessee) have not proven to be successful and have not improved student achievement results; and,

WHEREAS, taking away local control, diminishing resources, and making efforts to shift the governance of local schools, will do just the opposite for the successful outcomes of Cherokee County School District students, and will not result in the needed infusion of state resources for the full support of Local Educational Agencies; and,

WHEREAS, ensuring real opportunity for every student means providing struggling schools with resources that attract the best faculty and staff, improved access to health and social services, and enhanced supports for academic enrichment opportunities;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Cherokee County School Board opposes creation of a state-run school district, otherwise known as the “Opportunity School District,” and that we commit to fully educate our community about the issues raised by this proposed Amendment.”

The School Board also heard a presentation on the process underway to develop an instructional framework for CCSD, which will create standards for how teachers design instruction and assess student learning.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower told the Board that, while they’re hearing about many projects underway to improve CCSD, “as far as impacting the classroom, this will have the most impact.”

The School Board also took the following action:

  • Heard a presentation on The Smile Run to be held on October 8 at First Baptist Canton in memory of late Ralph Bunche Center preschooler Christian Egner, with proceeds to benefit the Center;
  • Recognized Sequoyah HS Marketing Teacher Kari Palmer for winning an international entrepreneurship education program award;
  • Recognized students Lukas Freeman of Creekview HS and Chandler Stevenson of Freedom MS Students for Georgia 4-H Achievements;
  • Approved a proclamation in honor of Constitution Week;
  • Approved a proclamation recognizing September as National Attendance Awareness Month;
  • Approved renewal of a Partnership Agreement with the City of Ball Ground and a new Partnership Agreement with Raising Giants baseball program;
  • Approved the final reading of technical modifications to School Board Policies; School Board Member Clark Menard successfully proposed adding the lack of available locker space to the list of indictors that a school is overcrowded;
  • Approved the issuance of a Tax Anticipation Notice;
  • Approved monthly financial and Education SPLOST reports;
  • 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 including the appointment of Andy Hall as an Assistant Principal at River Ridge High School where he currently serves as a Teacher on Special Assignment;
  • Continued planning for required annual School Board Member training;
  • Approved a contract with Ninth District Opportunity, Inc. for Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2017; and,
  • Met in Executive Session for Board Self-Evaluation.

Next School Board meeting: 7 p.m. Oct. 13, 2016;  6 p.m. Strategic Work Session

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