CCSD Hosts Reception for New Leaders, School Board

CCSD Hosts Reception for New Leaders, School Board

School Board member Robert “Rick Steiner” Rechsteiner, left, shares a laugh with Robert “Bob” Van Alstyne and his son, Robert Jr. Mr. Van Alstyne, currently an Assistant Principal at Etowah High School, has been appointed to serve as Principal of Sequoyah High School next school year.

The Cherokee County School District recently hosted a New Leaders Reception for the School Board to meet the educators recommended by the Superintendent of Schools for leadership roles including Principal posts.

CHOA logoThe reception, which was sponsored by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a CCSD Partner, gave School Board members the chance to meet and talk with the leaders before voting to approve their new roles for next school year.

The new leaders and their families enjoyed a warm welcome, refreshments and the gift of a journal from Children’s Healthcare. This is the first reception of its kind for CCSD, and a second event will be hosted next month for the School Board to meet additional new leaders including those recommended for Assistant Principal posts.

From left to right, Deputy Superintendent Trey Olson, School Board Vice Chair Mike Chapman, School Board Member Patsy Jordan and Matthew May enjoy the reception together. Mr. May, currently an Assistant Principal at Sequoyah High School, has been appointed to serve as Principal of Mill Creek Middle School next school year.

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer, left, gets to know Laura Akers during the event. Ms. Akers, currently an Assistant Principal at Little River Elementary School, has been appointed to serve as Principal of Johnston Elementary School next school year.

Board Briefs: School Board Approves New Principals, Turf Installation

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Category : Board Briefs | CCSD

March 15, 2018: Regular Meeting


The School Board on Thursday, March 15, 2018, approved the appointment of new Principals for next school year and the voter-supported installation of artificial turf at all high schools.


Two high schools will see new Principals for next school year: River Ridge HS and Sequoyah HS, as both Principal Darrell Herring and Elliott Berman are retiring.


Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower announced Principal Herring’s retirement at the meeting, thanking him for outstanding service to CCSD for the last 11 years.


“Mr. Herring successfully opened a new high school for us with River Ridge, and that’s no easy feat,” Dr. Hightower said.  “We know he’s made a positive difference in the lives of thousands of students.”

photo of Kerry Martin

Dr. Kerry Martin, River Ridge HS Principal for 2018-19

Mr. Herring will be succeeded at River Ridge HS by Dr. Kerry Martin, the current Principal at neighboring Mill Creek MS, past Principal at Arnold Mill ES and a past Teacher of the Year who brings 28 years of education experience to the role.


Mr. Berman, whose retirement was announced earlier this year, will be succeeded at Sequoyah HS by Robert Van Alstyne.  Mr. Van Alstyne, with 19 years of experience, has served the last nine years as an Assistant Principal, and, in his current post at Etowah HS, earned the 7A State Athletic Director of the Year honor and twice won the regional award.

Photo of Bob Van Alstyne

Robert Van Alstyne, Principal of Sequoyah HS for 2018-19

As a result of Dr. Martin’s move from Mill Creek MS, her Principal post there will be filled by Matthew May, currently Assistant Principal at Sequoyah High School.  A past Teacher of the Year, Mr. May has 16 years of experience and has served the last two years in his role at Sequoyah HS.

photo of Matthew May

Matthew May, Principal of Mill Creek MS for 2018-19

Dr. Hightower on Thursday also announced the retirement of longtime educator Cathy Elliott, past Principal at Macedonia ES who currently serves as a staffing director in CCSD’s Human Resources division.


“Ms. Elliott has shared her exceptional talents with us for the last leg of her 36-year career in public education, and we are so appreciative of all that she has done to support our students, staff and schools,” he said.


Ms. Elliott will be succeeded by Amy Graham, currently the Principal at Johnston ES, who has worked for 19 years in education including as a classroom teacher and an Assistant Principal at Creekland MS and Teasley MS.

photo of amy graham

Amy Graham, Staffing Director

As a result of Ms. Graham’s move, her Principal post at Johnston ES will be filled by Laura Akers, an Assistant Principal at Little River ES and past Teacher of the Year at Liberty ES with 19 years of experience.

photo of Laura Akers

Laura Akers, Principal of Johnston ES for 2018-19

Victoria Thom, a 32-year educator, will advance from Assistant Principal of CCSD’s Preschool Centers to the Principal post with the retirement announced earlier this year of Principal Donna Adams.  Ms. Thom’s long career has included teaching in CCSD classrooms and serving as an Assistant Principal at schools including Liberty ES and Mountain Road ES.

photo of Victoria Thom

Victoria Thom, Principal of CCSD Preschool Centers.

Kim Montalbano, Principal at Woodstock ES, will be moving to Indian Knoll ES following the retirement of Principal Dr. Ann Gazell announced earlier this year.  Ms. Montalbano’s Principal post at Woodstock ES will be filled by Matthew Freedman, Principal of Park Street Elementary School in Marietta.

photo of matt freedman

Matt Freedman, Principal of Woodstock ES for 2018-19.

Dr. Hightower said Mr. Freedman’s impressive results at the 100% Title I school included significantly increasing student performance, improving student behavior, adding STEM education and engaging community partners… making him a “great catch” for CCSD and Woodstock ES.


The School Board next month will appoint Assistant Principals to vacancies created by some of these moves, as well as any other leadership roles still to be filled for next school year.


The long-awaited installation of artificial turf at all of CCSD’s high schools was unanimously approved by the School Board.  The $4.9 Million contract with Sports Turf, Inc./AstroTurf will be funded using Education SPLOST revenues, as overwhelmingly approved by voters in the 2016 Ed SPLOST renewal.  The installation will replace grass at five schools and outdated turf funded by community donations at Etowah High School.  Through this installation, CCSD will avoid significant annual maintenance costs and will increase safety for players, while also evening the playing field for our student athletes in competitive divisions.


The School Board unanimously approved the sale of the CCSD Downtown Center (Historic Canton High School), the last building CCSD still owned in downtown Canton, to the City of Canton for $2.5 Million.


Dr. Hightower also presented a brief report on his Ad Hoc Safety and Security Committee, which was formed following the Sandy Hook school shooting and which he asked to begin meeting again following the Parkland tragedy last month.


The Committee is made up of CCSD and school leaders; the county’s sheriff, marshal, municipal police chiefs and additional leaders from local law enforcement; and parents representing each Innovation Zone who are graduates of CCSD’s VILLA parent academy.  He has tasked the group with reviewing CCSD’s current safety and security levels and making recommendations to him, prior to the development of next year’s budget, for possible improvements.


School Board Vice Chair Mike Chapman said he appreciates Dr. Hightower’s responsiveness and involvement of local law enforcement leaders and parents.


“Our School District and this School Board will continue to be proactive and transparent in our response to safety and security concerns,” Mr. Chapman said, noting the District does this without any financial support from the State.  “This is too important an issue for our community not to take care of on our own, even if the State is shirking its financial and ethical responsibility.”


The School Board also:

  • Recognized Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy as a Georgia High-Progress Reward School;
  • Recognized Sequoyah High School senior Victoria “Tori” Turk as recipient of Georgia Thespians’ 2018 Outstanding Student Achievement Award;
  • Recognized Sequoyah High School Speech and Debate Team as 2018 National Speech and Debate Tournament qualifiers;
  • Recognized 2017-18 STAR Students and STAR Teachers;
  • Recognized CCSD students selected for All-State Band, Chorus, Orchestra and Reading Chorus;
  • Recognized 2017-18 Middle School County Academic Bowl Team champions from Creekland Middle School;
  • Recognized Woodstock Elementary School as a Common Sense Certified School for Digital Citizenship;
  • Recognized Cherokee County School District Middle School Basketball Tournament Champions;
  • Recognized State and Regional Champions from Creekview HS wrestling and competition cheer teams and Sequoyah HS swim team members;
  • Recognized Cherokee County School District Library Media Specialists of the Year;
  • Recognized School Board Members During School Board Member Appreciation Week;
  • Approved the renewal of a Partnership Agreement with the United Way of Greater Atlanta;
  • Adopted a resolution supporting the City of Woodstock’s annexation of the Woodstock MS/HS campus in order to provide services including inclement weather road clearing;
  • Approved the School Board’s application for the Georgia School Boards Association’s (GSBA) Quality Board recognition;
  • Approved the naming of School Board Member Robert Rechsteiner as delegate to GSBA’s Delegate Assembly;
  • Approved monthly financial reports;
  • Approved transferring the CCSD School Police Department’s K9 canine through an intergovernmental agreement to the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office and the sale of K9 program equipment to interested buyers;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips and professiosnal development;
  • Approved special lease agreements; and,
  • Met in Executive Session to discuss student disciplinary matters.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19, 2018

CCSD PTAs, Staff & Parents Win Top Georgia PTA Awards

Category : CCSD

The Cherokee County School District swept top Georgia PTA Awards for Principals, school nurses and school PTAs!

The Georgia PTA presents statewide awards to outstanding educators, PTAs and parents at its annual conference, and CCSD claimed an impressive list of high honors. The CCSD winners were recognized by the Cherokee County School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the Board’s September meeting.

Dr. Kerry P. Martin

“We’re extremely proud to see our parents and employees applauded at the State level, as they our vital to our School District’s success,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “The PTA devotes thousands of volunteer hours in our schools, raises significant funds for school needs and advocates on behalf of our schools, our teachers and public education… and we can’t thank them enough for their dedicated service.”

Dr. Kerry Martin, Principal of Mill Creek MS, won the Outstanding Principal Award for middle schools.

“To be named Outstanding Principal of the Year is a huge honor,” Dr. Martin said. “I am committed to collaborating with all stakeholders to make our school the best it can be. In the end, it’s all about the students. If they, too, believe that I’m outstanding, that is the validation I need to continue doing what I love, supporting students in a positive way.”

Whitney Nolan

Whitney Nolan, Principal of Hickory Flat ES, won the Outstanding Principal Award for elementary schools.

“Just to be nominated for this award by our nationally recognized PTA at Hickory Flat is both an honor and a blessing!” she said. “Serving this community as principal is one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my life. I have stated many times that as the leader of Hickory Flat Elementary, I do not want the community to follow me — I want the community to join me. Being selected as the Outstanding Principal Award recipient for doing what I absolutely love makes it that much sweeter.”

Thania Molina

Mill Creek MS School Nurse Thania Molina won the Georgia PTA Outstanding School Nurse Award. After earning local and District 13 PTA honors, she was recognized as the best school nurse in the state for the significant and exceptional service she provides to the students and staff of her school.

Two CCSD PTA parent volunteers earned the prestigious Visionary Award: Sue Palermo of Johnston ES and Scott Steinbrenner of Little River ES. This high honor recognizes PTA volunteers who demonstrate an “above and beyond” approach to addressing and resolving community issues and concerns.

Sue Palermo

Scott Steinbrenner


CCSD PTAs swept the elementary division for the top honor of Outstanding Local Unit, with Little River Elementary School winning first place, Johnston Elementary School placing second, and Bascomb Elementary School ranking third.

The Georgia PTA recognizes excellence by school PTAs in fulfilling the organization’s various standards, and two CCSD PTAs won recognition for their projects.

Mill Creek MS was honored as the best in Georgia for Standard 1: Welcoming All Families. Little River ES was named tops in the State for Standard 4: Speaking Up for Every Child.

“We feel very strongly that Mill Creek MS should be inclusive of all students and families,” Dr. Martin said, noting the school PTSA last school year for its “Welcoming All Families” project made a specific effort to ensure students with special needs were included in recognitions such as Student of the Month and embraced programs including the Special Olympics and Exceptional Children’s Week.

“During Exceptional Children’s Week, we cherished the theme, ‘Every Child is a Different Kind of Flower and Together Make a Beautiful Garden,’” she said. “All students were supplied packets of wildflower seeds in science class to promote the message of inclusion. Our PE teachers embraced the week by modifying activities to promote empathy exercises to teach tolerance and understanding.”

Little River ES PTA made children with special needs the focus of its “Speaking Up for Every Child” project.

The PTA enlisted the participation of local businesses to help raise funds to enhance the school’s observance of Exceptional Children’s Week and arranged for a local drama troupe to educate and engage all students through a special performance.

Clark Creek ES STEM Academy PTA earned the Presidents Membership Award. Outstanding Advocacy Awards were earned by the PTAs of: Johnston ES, Mill Creek MS, River Ridge HS and Woodstock HS. Platinum Target Membership Awards were earned by the PTAs of: Hickory Flat ES, Mountain Road ES and Sixes ES.

The following schools earned Model PTA Awards: Bascomb ES, Freedom MS, Hickory Flat ES, Indian Knoll ES, Johnston ES, Little River ES, Mill Creek MS, Mountain Road ES, River Ridge HS and Woodstock HS.

School Board Appoints New, Reassigned Administrators and Principals

Retiring Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs Susan McCarthy listens as she is praised by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower for her lifetime of service to public education.

The School Board on Thursday, March 16, 2017, approved the appointment of new and reassigned district administrators and principals for the 2017-18 school year and received a clean 2016 audit report.

The slate of appointments presented by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower for approval began with the recognition of a retiring leader: Assistant Superintendent for Educational Programs Susan McCarthy.

Dr. Hightower praised Ms. McCarthy for her lifetime of service, rising from a classroom teacher and Teacher of the Year to an assistant principal, principal, district leader and member of his senior staff.

“We’re very proud of you and wish you the best,” Dr. Hightower said, j

Dr. Nicole Holmes

oining the audience in giving Ms. McCarthy a standing ovation.


Dr. Nicole Holmes, who currently serves as Director of School Operations overseeing CCSD’s elementary schools, was approved as her successor, with the title Chief Academic Officer, which reflects a new “chief” title structure for senior staff beginning in 2017-18.

The role in which Dr. Holmes currently serves will be filled by Beth P. Long, current Principal of Canton Elementary School STEM Academy, whose appointment also was approved Thursday; its new title will be Executive Director of School Operations.

Beth P. Long

Other new or reassigned district administrators appointed Thursday to fill positions vacated by retirements or created to meet growth needs include:

• Dr. Christina Clayton, current facilitator for the Office of Instructional Technology, as Supervisor of Digital Content;
• Lynda Wallace, currently a director for Pickens County’s school system, as Supervisor of Federal Programs;

Dr. Christina Clayton

• Melissa Sneed, currently a program specialist for Cobb County’s school system, as Supervisor of Special Education;
• Karla Tipton, currently a systems analyst, as Supervisor of Technology Support Services;
• Chris Saxon, currently a facilitator for enterprise field services, as Supervisor of Technology Field Services;
• Dr. Rouel Belleza, currently an administrator with Educational Programs, as Supervisor of Student Services; and,
• Danielle Ross, currently a coordinator with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, as Emergency Operations Facilitator.

Other new or reassigned Principals appointed Thursday to fill positions vacated by retirements or reassignments include:

• Robert Horn, currently an Assistant Principal for Cobb County’s school system, as Principal of Etowah High School;
• Dawn Weinbaum, currently Principal of E.T.

Booth Middle School, as Principal of Dean Rusk Middle School;
• Dr. Sue Zinkil, currently Principal of Teasley Middle School, as Principal of Creekland

Lynda Wallace

Middle School;
• Christian Kirby, currently Principal of Little River Elementary School, as Principal of Ball Ground Elementary School STEM Academy;
• Michael Manzella, currently Assistant Principal for Woodstock High School, as Principal of E.T. Booth Middle School;
• Dr. Benjamin Lester, currently Assistant Principal for Cherokee High School, as Principal of Teasley Middle School;
• Karen Carl, currently Principal of Free Home Elementary School, as Principal of Little River Elementary School;
• Kim Hagood, currently Assistant Principal for Carmel Elementary School, as Principal of Free Home Elementary School;
• Melinda Roulier, currently Assistant Principal for Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy, as Principal of Mountain Road Elementary School; a

Melissa Sneed

• Dr. Abby May, currently an Assistant Principal for Cobb County’s school system, as Principal of Canton Elementary School STEM Academy.

During its strategic work session, the School Board heard a presentation by the independent external auditor, who reported 2015-16 fiscal year audit received a clean opinion with no new findings or unresolved prior findings.

“Great job on a clean audit report,” School Board Member Clark Menard said, specifically thanking Ken Owen, Assistant

Karla Tipton

Superintendent for Financial Management, and his staff. “‘None listed’ on the list of follow-ups – that’s a good thing. Job well done.”

The work session also included a presentation on the Canvas learning management system currently being piloted by select teachers with a planned districtwide launch for next school year.

“We’re completely changing the way we’re delivering instruction,” said Dr. Clayton, who is leading the initiative, noting the online system allows students, teachers and parents to access

Chris Saxon

instructional materials, homework assignments, student performance data and other information all in one space.

The new system will lead to cost avoidance, both through the discontinued use of multiple programs with services duplicated in the one Canvas system, and also through the decreased use of paper and paper materials, printer ink and energy and flash drives and other supplies.

School Board Member Kelly Poole, whose son’s class is a part of the pilot, spoke very highly about the increased resources and

Dr. Rouel Belleza

information available to students and parents and the system’s ease of use.

“From a parent perspective, I love that,” she said, noting students no longer can use forgetting their book at school as an excuse to not complete homework and continue learning. “I support anything we can do to make our kids more successful, and this program helps with that.”

The School Board also:

• Thanked Dr. Hightower for a successful first year as Superintendent

Danielle Ross

of Schools and screened a video celebrating his past year;

• Thanked Etowah HS teacher Linda Yunker and students Josh Downen, Sarah Podstata and Grace Zaski for creating a teacher recruitment video to assist CCSD’s Division of Personnel Management; the video also was shown during the meeting;

• Recognized School Board Members in honor of School Board Member Appreciation Week;

• Recognized Liberty Elementary School as a 2017 State School of

Robert Horn


• Recognized CCSD Library Media Specialists of the Year;

• Recognized CCSD high school seniors named 2017 National Merit Finalists;

• Recognized 2016-17 STAR Students and STAR Teachers;

• Recognized Creekland Middle School as the 2016-17 CCSD Academic Bowl Team Champions;

Michael Manzella

• Recognized Region and State athletic champions;

• Approved a new partnership agreement with Give a Kid a Chance and a renewed agreement with the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce;

• Named School Board Member Robert “Rick Steiner” Rechsteiner as its delegate for 2017 Georgia School Boards Association Delegate Assembly;

• Approved monthly financial and Education SPLOST reports;

Dr. Benjamin Lester

• Authorized financial consultants to prepare, price and tentatively market a bond sale for voter-approved Education SPLOST purposes;

• Approved out-of-state travel;

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

• Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report;

• Approved CCSD’s Five-Year Facility Plan for capital outlay projects;

Kim Hagood

• Approved special lease agreements;

• Approved a boundary line agreement at the Buffington Educational Service Center;

• Approved a quit claim deed releasing a sewer easement to the Cherokee County Water and Sewerage Authority; and,

• Met in executive session to review pending litigation and a student discipline tribunal appeal.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 20, 2017

Melinda Roulier

Dr. Abby May


CCSD Schools, Staff Honored by Cherokee County and Georgia PTA District 13

Category : CCSD

The Mill Creek Middle School PTSA was named the Outstanding Local Unit award for middle schools by Georgia PTA District 13.  The PTSA also earned the top honor from the Cherokee County Council PTA, as well as the Heart Family-School Partnership Award for ‘Sharing Power’ and the Model PTA designation.  From left to right: Laura Logan, Carolyn Kenney, Hope Burgamy, Ambrea Holman, Olga Spivey and Principal Dr. Kerry Martin.

Laure Carroll

Cherokee County School District educators and PTAs won top Georgia PTA District 13 Awards at the organization’s annual awards ceremony.

The Georgia PTA District 13 organization, which represents the school PTAs and county PTA councils of Cherokee, Forsyth, Gordon and Whitfield counties, presents annual awards to recognize outstanding educators and school PTAs.

Teacher Jennifer Schroter of Indian Knoll ES won the Birney Butler Outstanding Educator Award, and Laure Carroll of Johnston ES was named Outstanding School Nurse.

Five school PTA units won District 13 awards including Mill Creek MS, which earned the Outstanding Local Unit award for middle schools.

Mountain Road ES won the Best Idea Award for schools of its size (750 students or smaller) for the “Battle at Thunder Mountain” video.

Three schools won Heart Family-School Partnership Awards: River Ridge HS won the Overall Award; Indian Knoll ES won in the “Welcoming All Families” category and Macedonia ES in the “Supporting Student Success” category.

The Cherokee County Council of PTA also presents annual awards. It honored Indian Knoll ES Principal Dr. Ann Gazell as the Outstanding Principal of the year, and also named Laure Carroll as its Outstanding School Nurse. Clark Creek ES STEM Academy teacher Lauren Abrams received a Birney Butler Outstanding Educator Award, and Hickory Flat ES won a Best Idea Award for its “Thunder Mountain” obstacle course fun run.

Indian Knoll ES PTA member Steve Miller won the Visionary Award, and Hearst-Family School Partnership winners, in addition to those that also won at District 13, are Mill Creek MS for “Sharing Power” and Bascomb ES for “Collaborating with the Community.”

School PTAs honored as Outstanding Local Units are: elementary school (750 or smaller), Sixes ES, first place; Johnston ES, second place; Hickory Flat ES, third place; elementary school (751 and larger), Indian Knoll, first place; Macedonia ES, second place; Little River ES, third place; middle school, Mill Creek MS, first place; Dean Rusk MS, second place; Freedom MS, third place; high school, Woodstock HS, first place; Sequoyah HS, second place;

Dr. Ann Gazell

Schools honored for Model PTAs are: elementary schools, Sixes ES, first place; Macedonia ES, second place; Johnston ES, third place; and Indian Knoll ES, Mountain Road ES, Hickory Flat ES, Bascomb ES, Little River ES, Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academy, Clark Creek ES STEM Academy; middle schools, Mill Creek MS, first place; Freedom MS, second place; Dean Rusk MS, third place; high schools, Sequoyah HS, first place; Woodstock HS, second place; and River Ridge HS, third place.