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

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

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

Watch a video from the surprise presentation:

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

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

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

Or “best chicken farmer teacher ever” for short.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


Seven CCSD High School Seniors Named National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalists

Seven Cherokee County School District high school seniors today were named 2017 National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists!

They are: of Creekview HS, Jack Pace; of River Ridge HS, Anabelle Paulino; of Sequoyah HS, Katie Bates and Alex Morrison; and of Woodstock HS, Alex Andon, A.J. Cox and Evan Vines.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which oversees the prestigious competition, has named 16,000 semi-finalists, who were selected based on outstanding 2015 PSAT scores.  Less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors are named semi-finalists.

To be considered as a finalist, the students next will submit a detailed application noting their academic achievements, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors; an endorsement and recommendation from a high school official; and an essay.  Students also must earn SAT scores that confirm their PSAT performance.

The anticipated 15,000 finalists will compete for 7,500 scholarships worth about $33 million, which will be awarded in the spring.

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Alex Andon

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Katie Bates

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A.J. Cox

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Alex Morrison

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Jack Pace

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Anabelle Paulino

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Evan Vines


CCSD Educators Selected as MIE Experts

The Cherokee County School District is congratulating nine more of its educators named Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Experts!

Microsoft MIE ExpertBobby Blount, CCSD Assistant Superintendent for Technology and Information Services; Sixes ES Principal Cindy Crews; Indian Knoll ES Media Specialist Jennifer Lewis; Teasley MS teacher Tammy Lafoon; Woodstock ES teacher Caitlin Crews; CCSD Technology Project Specialist Freda Williams and Instructional Technology Specialists Jim Berry, Susan Dreschel and Lee Patti are joining 4,800 educators in the MIE Expert program worldwide.

Recognized as global leaders in using technology to transform education, MIE Experts are selected by Microsoft to share ideas, try new approaches and learn from each other as a global community dedicated to improving student outcomes through technology.

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Assistant Superintendent Bobby Blount

“Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts are inspiring examples of educators applying new ways of teaching and learning in their classrooms that motivate students and empower them to achieve more,” said Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education for Microsoft. “We celebrate and support the work they do every day!”

Eleven CCSD employees previously named MIE Experts also were invited by Microsoft to continue in the program: Sandi Adams, Jessica Hemphill, Stephanie Gauthier, Dianne Steinbeck, Lauren Pittman, Karina Bailey, Julie Key, Kimberley Forrester, Lee Coker, Lisa Lougheed and Merry Willis.

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Principal Cindy Crews

The new MIE Experts will be recognized by the Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools and School Board at the Oct. 13 meeting of School Board.


CCSD Announces School-Level Teacher of the Year Winners

Congratulations to the Cherokee County School District’s School Teacher of the Year winners!

At the start of every school year, each CCSD school is asked to select its own Teacher of the Year.  These school-level winners now are eligible for the honor of Cherokee County School District’s 2017 Teacher of the Year!

The Districtwide competition will be judged by a panel of community leaders based on applications submitted by the school-level winners.  The CCSD winner will be surprised in his or her classroom by the Superintendent of Schools this fall and will be honored, along with each school’s winner, at a Teacher of the Year Banquet in December.  The banquet is sponsored by CCSD Partners including Northside Hospital-Cherokee and Credit Union of Georgia.

The CCSD winner will be entered into the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition.

2017 CCSD School Teachers of the Year

Stephen Schroter, ACE Academy

Terry Chadwick, Arnold Mill ES

Ta-Tanisha Hill-Guy, Avery ES

Chessa McGinnis, Ball Ground ES STEM Academy

Bettina Miller, Bascomb ES

Scott Lambert, Boston ES

Darby Bewley, CCSD Preschool Centers

David Cornn, Canton ES STEM Academy

Dianne Bussey, Carmel ES

Clyde Lowery, Cherokee HS

Lauren Abrams, Clark Creek ES STEM Academy

Andrea Ingham, Clayton ES

Debby Amoss, Creekland MS

Kerri Schmitt, Creekview HS

Jacqueline Allen, Dean Rusk MS

Daniele Deneka, E.T. Booth MS

Debbie Rufa, Etowah HS

Kristi Townley, Free Home ES

Brandi Shook, Freedom MS

Ashley Mounts, Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy

Erika Graves, Hickory Flat ES

Jana Cervone, Holly Springs ES STEM Academy

Shelly Brumbelow, Indian Knoll ES

Michael L’Esperance, Johnston ES

Tricia Weathers, Knox ES

Maria McCall, Liberty ES

Maureen Boll, Little River ES

Tenille Turner, Macedonia ES

Andrew McEntyre, Mill Creek MS

Tina Rogers, Mountain Road ES

Mary Kenney, Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academy

Ada Rogers, R.M. Moore ES

Joel Roth, River Ridge HS

Brian Carnes, Sequoyah HS

Lori Pelkey, Sixes ES

Dr. Jennifer Reynolds, Teasley MS

Elaine Warner, Tippens Education Center

Emily Spira, Woodstock ES

Julie Crowe, Woodstock HS

B.J. Mazza, Woodstock MS


CCSD Student Named to State School Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council

A Cherokee County School District student has been named to the State School Superintendent’s 2016-17 Student Advisory Council!

Hannah Culver, an eighth-grader at E.T. Booth Middle School, is one of 108 students statewide tapped to serve on the council made up of middle and high school students.  Members were selected from more than 800 applications based on answers to essay questions about public education and how they think it could be improved.

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Hannah Culver, an eighth-grader at E.T. Booth Middle School, has been named to the State School Superintendent’s 2016-17 Student Advisory Council!

“It was refreshing and valuable to hear these students’ feedback and ideas,” Superintendent Richard Woods said.  “This is a fantastic group of students with great ideas for the future of our educational system, and I can’t wait to work with them.  I’d like to thank every student who took the time to apply and share their thoughts.”

The Council will meet with Superintendent Woods to talk about issues including how state policies affect their classrooms, and also will serve as the Superintendent’s student ambassadors and participate in service projects.

“Meeting with my Student Advisory Council has been, and will continue to be, an invaluable part of my decision-making process,” Superintendent Woods said. “To develop child-focused, classroom-centered policies, we have to hear directly from students.  We can only improve their educational experience by bringing them to the table.”


Board Briefs: School Board Updates Mission Statement, Motto

2015-16 Judy Johnson Scholarship Winners

Sequoyah High School senior Erin Wehunt, left, and Cherokee High School senior Megan Johnson, right, were recognized by CCSD School Nutrition Supervisor Tina Farmer, center, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, far right, and the School Board as recipients of the 2015-16 Judy Johnson Memorial Scholarship presented by CCSD’s School Nutrition Association.

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, July 21, 2016, approved the second reading of School Board Policy changes, which included the establishment of an updated mission statement and a new motto.

The new mission statement is: “We, the School Board of the Cherokee County School District, are committed to educating the emerging generation through learning environments designed to increase the performance of all students.” The new motto is: “Educating the Emerging Generation.”

The Board also approved monthly personnel recommendations, which included the appointment of Donna Bertram, a longtime CCSD teacher and administrator most recently serving as Assistant Principal at Carmel Elementary School, to lead Holly Springs Elementary School STEM Academy as its next Principal. She is succeeding Dr. Dianne Steinbeck, who will serve in a grant writer role for the CCSD Office of Educational Programs.

Julie Peppers, a longtime CCSD teacher most recently assigned to Bascomb Elementary School, was appointed to fill the newly vacated Assistant Principal spot at Carmel Elementary School.

The Board also took the first step toward expanding its social worker program to meet the explosive student enrollment growth experienced by CCSD over the last two decades by hiring a third social worker: Dr. Tara Quinn-Schuldt, who has worked as a social worker in Carroll County’s school system for 13 years.

Partnership Agreements with the Cherokee County Farm Bureau and East Cherokee Baseball both were renewed, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower praised the Farm Bureau, which was represented at the meeting by longtime staff member, Shirley Pahl.

“We truly value all that you and the Farm Bureau do to teach our students about agriculture and opportunities to pursue careers in that field,” he said, noting the numerous greenhouses, school gardens and programs made possible in CCSD with the Farm Bureau’s support.

School Board Vice Chair Patsy Jordan, a former classroom teacher, spoke of how the Farm Bureau’s “amazing” professional development programs for teachers gave her great tools to use in the classroom.

“I’m so appreciative for everything you do,” she said.

Ms. Pahl thanked the Board for its support and noted more help from the Farm Bureau is on the way to CCSD schools, such as through a new partnership with Indian Knoll Elementary School and a $1,000 grant for a Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy teacher’s school garden project.

“We really enjoy teaching the children about the importance of agriculture in their lives,” she said. “We have fun… and we hope the children are benefitting.”

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

  • Recognized Bascomb Elementary School and Principal Kathleen Chandler as winner of 2016 Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals’ “School Bell Award”;
  • Recognized Macedonia Elementary School Media Specialist Jennifer Rice as the Regional Library Media Specialist of the Year;
  • Recognized five Woodstock High School students and their coach for earning second place at the 2016 TEAMS (Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics, and Science) Best in Nation Competition
  • Recognized Georgia Positive Athlete Award winner Katie Beckham of Woodstock High School, the statewide honoree for volleyball;
  • Recognized Cherokee High School senior Megan Johnson and Sequoyah High School senior Erin Wehunt as recipients of the 2015-16 Judy Johnson Memorial Scholarship presented by CCSD’s School Nutrition Association;
  • Approved ballot language for the Education SPLOST renewal vote called by the School Board for Nov. 8;
  • Approved monthly financial reports;
  • Approved authorized school fundraising activities for the 2016-17 school year;
  • Approved out-of-state travel;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report;
  • Approved the annual establishment of a tribunal hearing panel for certified employees;
  • Approved the annual contract with Ninth District Opportunity for Head Start and prekindergarten programs; and,
  • After meeting in Executive Session to review real estate and student discipline matters, returned to open session and voted to reverse a student discipline decision.

Next School Board meeting: 7 p.m. Aug. 11, 2016 with a Strategic Work Session at 5:30 p.m.


CCSD Media Specialist of the Year Named Regional Winner!

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Cherokee County School District’s 2016 Media Specialist of the Year has been named the Regional winner!

Macedonia Elementary School Media Specialist Jennifer Rice in March was surprised with the CCSD award, and this week was named the Regional winner for North Central Georgia by the Georgia Library Media Association and Georgia Association of Instructional Technology!  She now will be considered for the statewide Georgia Library Media Specialist of the Year award to be announced in November.

“This award confirms what we in CCSD already know: Jennifer Rice is an extraordinary media specialist and talented educator, as well as a passionate advocate for her profession,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said, noting this is the second consecutive year a CCSD media specialist has won the Regional title.  “Congratulations to Jennifer and the Macedonia Elementary School community for this outstanding recognition!”

Winners are selected based on the following criteria:

  • Leadership role through staff development, committee involvement, or professional advocacy;
  • Involvement in professional organizations;
  • Promotion of information technology utilization and literacy;
  • Promotion of reading and literature;
  • Involving parents and/or the community in the library media program as partners;
  • Working collaboratively with the educators in your building;
  • Innovative techniques used in your library media program; and,
  • Deliberate and ongoing professional development as a learner which is relevant to media services.

Ms. Rice and other Regional winners will be recognized at the Georgia Educational Technology Conference this fall, at which the State winner will be named.  Regional winners will receive plaques and $50 awards; the State winner will receive a $200 award.

A graduate of Georgia College & State University, where she earned bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degrees in education, Ms. Rice began her career as a classroom teacher before following her true calling to serve as a media specialist.  In addition to her traditional media specialist responsibilities, she also organizes the school’s reading bowl team, spelling bee and student news team.  Ms. Rice recently was named to the Georgia Children’s Picturebook Award Committee for a three-year appointment.


Board Briefs: Board Approves Two New Partnership Agreements with Community Organizations

Aramark Scholarship Winners 2016

The Aramark Scholarship Committee selected the following winners for a total of $6,000 in scholarships, who recently were recognized at a Cherokee County School Board meeting: Cherokee HS: Nishi Patel and Logan Willis; Creekview HS: Peyton Heath and Alyssa Powell; Etowah HS: Elizabeth Joann Dillard and Aaron Torres; River Ridge HS: Kaila Banker and Pierce Livesay; Sequoyah HS: Madison Evans and William “Will” Garrett Sanders; and Woodstock HS: Connor Booz and Bree’ara Murphy.

Highlights from regular meetings of the Cherokee County School Board

May 19, 2016: Strategic Work Session & Regular Meeting

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, May 19, 2016 spent its work session reviewing the Superintendent’s 2016-17 Annual Budget, which calls for reductions in class size and improvements in services for students without the need for a millage rate increase.

The tentative Annual Budget, which includes a $359 Million day-to-day operating budget, was approved to be tabled for a month of public review prior to an adoption vote on June 16.  The Executive Summary of the budget and annual Financial Facts report, a quick read on CCSD financial issues, both are posted on the CCSD website at www.cherokee.k12.ga.us.  Public hearings will be held at 11:30 a.m. June 7 and 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. June 16 at the Historic Canton High School/School Board Auditorium.

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer praised the Superintendent and his staff for incorporating all of the Board’s major budget priorities: maintaining 180 instructional days; continuing to reduce class size; improving classroom technology access; increasing budget reserves (to $48.8 Million… a positive for financial stability and credit ratings); offering competitive compensation and benefits; providing more resources for support services; and considering more innovative models like the Cherokee Academies.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower during the budget presentation highlighted an impressive list of operational enhancements, such as the hiring of 68 additional teachers to address student growth and further reduce class size, as well as the adoption of new math instructional resources for all grade levels and the appointment of three teachers on special assignment to serve as District “content coaches” to assist schools with using the new Grades K-12 resources and online tools.

“We’re not just going to throw resources at the schools,” Dr. Hightower said, as to why content coaches are important to the adoption’s success, noting that, in addition to the new content coaches, he also is recommending the appointment of four teachers on special assignment to pilot an assistance program in selected schools to provide teachers with better academic intervention and remediation efforts for at-risk students.

Other budget highlights include recommendations to:

  • Increase the starting pay for beginning teachers to $42,250;
  • Provide annual longevity step raise for all eligible employees;
  • Provide a 1% cost-of-living raise to all eligible employees;
  • Utilize one additional school social worker to reduce the caseloads of the existing two social workers;
  • Add a school nurse to serve students attending ACE Academy;
  • Add three additional technology specialists to provide hardware and software technical assistance to teachers and support personnel;
  • Add 14 new bus drivers and two new bus attendants to address continued increases in student ridership, improve efficiency and reduce ride time for students;
  • Continue to allocate one-half teacher allotment at each high school… dedicated to credit recovery/helping students stay on track for graduation;
  • Expand the school entry door security system that was successfully piloted this year to include card “swipe-in” access for employees at critical playground and mobile classroom area entry ways;
  • Construct school front hallway security foyers at eight pilot elementary schools;
  • Prepare the original Dean Rusk Middle School for occupation by Sequoyah High School (January 2017); and,
  • Repair/realign the bus drive at Macedonia Elementary School.

Assistant Superintendent for Financial Management Kenneth Owen said, although the State “austerity budget cut” was reduced to $3.9 Million and the Local property tax digest is improving, revenue continues to lag behind pre-Recession levels.

“We’re so glad to see property values again rising, but they’re still $4.2 Million less than what we got in 2007, and here we are 5,400 kids later,” Mr. Owen said.

As a result, CCSD will need to continue to address class size reduction, additional new instructional materials adoptions and other budget priorities in future budget cycles.

The Board during its regular meeting also approved the refinancing of some of CCSD’s bond debt from school construction projects, which will save $3.3 Million in interest over the next seven years… which, at more than 6% interest savings, is twice the standard goal level of savings.

“This makes those dollars go that much further… we’re really, really happy with the results,” Bryce Holcomb of Citi Group, CCSD’s bond underwriter, said of the refinancing pricing, which was conducted Thursday morning.

During its regular meeting, the School Board also:

  • Recognized CCSD’s School Nutrition Association for Winning Georgia Gold Scroll Award;
  • Recognized Etowah High School as Region 5AAAAAA GEMC Cooperative Spirit Sportsmanship Award Winner and River Ridge High School as 7AAAAA GEMC Cooperative Spirit Sportsmanship Award Winner;
  • Recognized 2015-16 Regional Science and Engineering Fair Winners;
  • Recognized 2015-16 Social Studies Fair Regional and State Winners;
  • Recognized 2015-16 Star English Learners and Star ESOL Teachers;
  • Recognized State and Regional Champions: Cherokee HS wrestling and track, Creekview HS girls soccer and Woodstock HS boys and girls swimming;
  • Recognized Recipients of Aramark 2016 Education Scholarships;
  • Recognized Cherokee HS Senior Bailee Gilbreath as recipient of the 2016 Oak Leaf Church Scholarship;
  • Recognized Free Home ES Principal Karen Carl as a 2016 Georgia Distinguished Principal;
  • Approved the renewal of a Partnership Agreement with the Cherokee County Health Department and a new Partnership Agreement with the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research;
  • Approved selection of a bond underwriter and financial advisor and authorization to select bond counsel;
  • Approved out-of-state travel;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
  • Approved monthly capital outlay projects;
  • Approved monthly personnel recommendations;
  • After meeting in executive session, voted to modify a student discipline decision to allow the student transportation to school, 5-2, with Board Members John Harmon and Robert Rechsteiner dissenting.

Next School Board meeting: 7 p.m. June 16, 2016