Mill Creek MS Earns Digital Citizenship Certification

Mill Creek MS Earns Digital Citizenship Certification

Common Sense logoMill Creek Middle School has earned national certification for digital citizenship!

Alicia Davis

The school has been named a Common Sense Certified School for Digital Citizenship by Common Sense, a national nonprofit organization dedicated “to helping kids and families thrive in a world of digital media and technology.”

The school earned the recognition by preparing students to use digital media safely by avoiding dangers such as plagiarism, loss of privacy and cyberbullying.

School Counselors Alicia Davis and Jamie Vecsey coordinated the school’s certification process and will be recognized by the Cherokee County School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the Board’s meeting on Thursday.

Jamie Vecsey

“Mill Creek Middle School and its staff deserve high praise for giving students the foundational skills they need to compete and succeed in the 21st-century workplace and participate ethically in society at large,” said Liz Kline, Vice President of Education Programs for Common Sense Education.

Board Briefs: School Board Hears Safety & Security Recommendations, Approves School Calendars

The School Board on Thursday, May 3, 2018, heard the Superintendent of Schools’ recommendations for improving safety and security in CCSD schools and approved three more years of school calendars.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower in February, following the Parkland school shooting, re-established his Ad Hoc Safety and Security Committee, which initially formed after the Sandy Hook school shooting.

“On Valentine’s Day, our hearts again were broken by a tragic school shooting, this time in Florida,” Dr. Hightower said.  “As I shared after Parkland, while I would keep its families in my prayers, I also would take action to ensure the safety of our students, employees and schools.”

Dr. Hightower asked the Cherokee County Sheriff, Chief Marshal, all of Cherokee’s city Police Chiefs, parents and Principals from every one of CCSD’s Innovation Zones and CCSD leaders to serve on the Committee, which was chaired by CCSD School Police Chief Mark Kissel.

Chief Kissel led the Committee through two months of work: visiting schools to evaluate safety measures and practices; reviewing hundreds of suggestions from parents; surveying the School Board’s Student Delegates (high school seniors who represent each of CCSD’s high schools); hearing feedback from an external expert review of CCSD’s safety and security (including Georgia Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security personnel); reading up on research and trends; and, finally, together developing recommendations for Dr. Hightower.

“This Committee took the safety and security of our schools very seriously,” Chief Kissel said.

The Committee’s full recommendation report is posted here and includes suggested improvements to how CCSD secures its facilities, protects them with its POST-certified and armed law enforcement officers, trains employees and students on emergency response, and makes sure every student knows to “see something, say something” whether it’s a danger to their school or a classmate crying out for help.

“Some of the recommendations don’t require any expense, while some may take us several years to fully implement, but we’re committed to meeting the goals of every one,” Dr. Hightower said.

The School Board on Thursday approved the next three-year block of school calendars – 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22 – which all follow the longtime “balanced calendar” format popular with students, parents and CCSD employees, and all continue with an August start date and May end date.

In addition to approving future school calendars, the School Board also adjusted next school year’s calendar to accommodate for needed professional development and inclement weather make-up days.  The previously designated Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 school holiday will instead be a regular school day, and Monday, Oct. 8, 2018 (Columbus Day) will become a school holiday for students.  In a one-time adjustment for next school year, the Feb. 20-22, 2019 potential inclement weather make-up days will instead be scheduled as regular school days to be cancelled if make-up days are not needed.

“We are committed to permanently restoring the full week-long February Break beginning with the 2019-20 school year by using our Canvas online learning system when schools close for inclement weather,” Dr. Hightower said.  “This is a big mind-shift for our students, parents and teachers, so we need the next school year to prepare high-quality online lessons and test our capacity for true blended learning.  The last three days of February Break next school year will instead be regular schools days, but these days (Feb. 20-22, 2019) will be cancelled if our winter is mild.”

Dr. Hightower shared a brief budget planning report with the School Board, to keep them up to date as work continues to prepare the recommended budget for presentation later this month.  In order to stay competitive with compensation and starting teacher salaries in other metro Atlanta counties, Dr. Hightower announced plans to give all eligible employees a locally funded 1% raise and increase the starting CCSD’s entry-level educator pay to $43,000 a year.

The School Board also:

  • Recognized 2017-18 Regional Science and Engineering Fair Winners;
  • Recognized Creekview HS as the 2018 Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl High School District, Regional, North Division and State Champion;
  • Recognized CCSD students’ achievement at the Tome Student Literacy Society State Conference/Competition;
  • Recognized Woodstock HS students for winning statewide Technology Student Association honors, junior Greg Carroll for being elected to the Association’s student board and teacher Karen Zayance for being elected to the Association’s Board of Directors;
  • Recognized CCSD’s Georgia PTA Reflections contest winners;
  • Recognized Hickory Flat ES as the 2017-18 Elementary School County Academic Bowl Team Champion;
  • Recognized Dean Rusk MS sixth-grade teacher Lindsey Mason as a National STEM Scholar;
  • Recognized the Cherokee HS girls basketball team as the Region 4-AAAAAAA Champions and State Tournament Elite 8 and Coach Matt Cates as County and Region Coach of the Year;
  • Recognized Etowah HS freshman Sarah Oburu for acceptance into the Disney Dreamers Academy
  • Recognized Cherokee HS senior Sarah Snyder as recipient of the 2018 scholarship from Oak Leaf Church, a CCSD Partner;
  • Approved a new Partnership Agreement with Berry College;
  • Approved a resolution and purchase agreement for the sale of bonds for Education SPLOST projects;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips and professional development;
  • Approved special lease agreements;
  • Approved monthly personnel recommendations;
  • Approved proposal from ABM (American Building Maintenance) Industry Groupto serve as CCSD’s custodial services provider for the next school year beginning July 1, after reviewing an evaluation report produced by staff as part of the request for proposals committee’s process; and,
  • Met in Executive Session to discuss a student disciplinary matter.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 17, 2018 (Strategic Work Session at 6 p.m.)

Message from the Superintendent: Student Political Activity

Tags : | |

Category : CCSD

The following message was sent on behalf of the Superintendent of Schools to CCSD parents on Feb. 28, 2018:

Dear Parents,

High school students across the country are planning to participate in the National School Walkout on Wednesday, March 14, to protest school shootings and to honor the students and teachers killed on Feb. 14 at Stoneman Douglas High School.

We respect students’ rights to political speech and to assemble, but also are strongly committed to ensuring such activities don’t disrupt the education of their classmates.

In anticipation that our students will want to join in the National event, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower today directed all of our high school Principals to assist their school’s student government leaders in planning student-led observances.

These events will be held at the same time as the National event from approximately 10 to 10:17 a.m. on March 14. While student led, the events will be supervised by school administrators and CCSD School Police Officers to ensure safety and security.

Students are not required to participate in these events, and classroom activities will continue during these events. Students who participate in the events will not face academic penalty or disciplinary action as long as they promptly return to class at the event’s conclusion.

It is our hope that these events will be a time for students to reflect on the lives lost in Parkland, strengthen their feelings of school unity and know that their School District supports them.

Barbara P. Jacoby
Chief Communications Officer
Cherokee County School District


Message from CCSD: Social Media Posts About SHS

Tags : | |

Category : CCSD

On behalf of the Superintendent, please be advised that we are aware of social media posts by “Ray Andres” threatening “SHS.”  CCSD School Police investigated these posts on Feb. 21, 2018 and learned they refer to a high school in Ohio.  These posts are being circulated nationwide and causing similar alarm in other communities.  We take threats to the safety and security of our schools very seriously.  We appreciate the parents who contacted police immediately and directly to report these posts.

Message from the Superintendent: School Safety

Tags : | |

Category : CCSD

Please see the Feb. 16, 2018 message below from Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower:

Dear Parents,

Like many of you, I have spent the past two days reflecting on the horror that occurred on the campus of Stoneman Douglas High School and praying for Parkland and our country.

Such a tragedy is the greatest fear not only of every parent, but also of every educator and every Superintendent of Schools.

While our School District long has been a leader in ensuring school safety and security, we continuously evaluate what more we can do to protect our children and our employees.

Following the Sandy Hook school shooting tragedy, we established the Superintendent’s Ad Hoc Safety and Security Committee.  This group, made up of CCSD police and school operations leaders, Principals, parents and our community’s sheriff and municipal police chiefs, visited every one of our schools to audit security measures and procedures and reviewed all of our District safety policies and protocols.

The recommendations from that group have led to important improvements made over the last five years, such as the addition of more POST-certified officers to our CCSD School Police Department; the redesign of school entrances, and installation of electronic front-door buzzer and camera systems and security foyers; and the introduction of the School Messenger notification system being used to send you this message.

Knowing the past effectiveness of this Committee, I’ve called upon CCSD School Police Chief Mark Kissel, who serves as chairman of the group, to hold a series of meetings beginning next month.  We’ve notified Committee members today of our need for their assistance, and we appreciate their service.

The focus of these meetings will be to assess current and emerging school safety initiatives, determine the programmatic, operational and fiscal impact of CCSD’s safety and security protocols and practices, and provide me with recommendations this spring prior to the presentation of my recommended Annual Budget to the School Board.  If you have any input you would like to share with the Committee, please email it to Chief Communications Officer Barbara P. Jacoby at

As you know, three educators lost their lives protecting the children of Stoneman Douglas High School.  Our School District’s team – from the teachers in the classroom to the leaders on our School Board – cares about your children as if they were their own.  That care is what makes Parkland so heart-breaking for us and why I’ve called upon this Committee to take action.

Dr. Brian V. Hightower
Superintendent of Schools

School Board Members Visit Police Department’s New Headquarters

Category : CCSD

From left to right, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, School Board Chair Kyla Cromer, CCSD School Police Lt. Jay Baker, School Board members Patsy Jordan and Kelly Poole, and CCSD School Police Chief Mark Kissel and Emergency Operations Facilitator Danielle Ross.

School Board Members on Wednesday, Dec. 13, visited the Cherokee County School District School Police Department’s new headquarters.

Board Chair Kyla Cromer and Board members Patsy Jordan and Kelly Poole took a tour of the offices, which relocated from downtown Canton and now share space with CCSD’s warehouse at 201 Mountain Brook Ct. in Holly Springs. The site provides a more central location for its officers, with quick access to Interstate 575, and also adds convenience for job applicants and volunteers who need fingerprint services.

Chief Mark Kissel led the tour, and Board members had the chance to speak with department leaders including Lt. Jay Baker and Emergency Operations Facilitator Danielle Ross.

The Board members and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, who also attended the tour, took the opportunity to thank the Department for its service during Friday’s inclement weather early dismissal to ensure all students arrived home safely as quickly as possible.

“Our Police Department’s POST-certified law enforcement officers serve and protect our students and employees every day, and play an important role in inclement weather situations. On Friday, they were communicating with county emergency management officials, coordinating dismissal, transporting students and assisting our schools in whatever manner they could,” Dr. Hightower said. “We greatly appreciate them and all they do to keep our community safe.”



Cherokee County School Board Continues School Safety Initiative

Category : Board Briefs | CCSD

The School Board on Thursday, July 20, 2017, unanimously approved the second phase of a safety initiative to install security foyers in schools, with six projects planned for this school year.

The Board approved a proposal from Womack, Lewis & Smith for $207,500 to complete the second phase of the multi-phase project; the vote was unanimous, with Board member Kelly Poole abstaining.

Security foyers, which create a second layer of front entrance doors to better monitor visitor access, already have been successfully installed by the company at eight schools. Foyers will be installed this school year at Clark Creek ES STEM Academy, Hasty and Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academies and Indian Knoll, Knox and Woodstock Elementary Schools. Additional phases are planned to further secure other schools.

“We were pleased we had a bid and pleased it was a strong bid,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said, noting that while only one proposal was submitted, it is for less than the amount budgeted by the School Board. Due to the special nature or the project and the company’s installation of the first phase, the lack of competition wasn’t surprising. “But if we were uncomfortable with this bid, we would have put it out again.”

School Board members heard two presentations during the meeting about upcoming pilot projects: one will improve Gifted programs for elementary school students, and the other will transform the “first day forms” process into a paperless experience for parents and staff.

The Gifted program improvements will be piloted at Avery Elementary and Macedonia Elementary Schools, with students participating in daily special advanced activities during a personalized learning time in their regular classroom, with all of these students in classrooms led by Gifted-endorsed teachers. This will replace the current model of pulling Gifted students out of all classes for one day a week for special activities.

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Nicole Holmes said the pilot will provide Gifted students with more challenging coursework without missing regular classwork or increasing their workload.

“They’re extremely excited about what could possibly be one of the greatest years we’ve had as far as our Gifted learners,” she said of feedback from students, parents and teachers, who all have been involved in the planning process. If the pilot proves successful, it will be expanded through multiple phases districtwide.

School Board member Patsy Jordan, a former CCSD Gifted-endorsed teacher, praised how the plan improves both teaching and learning opportunities.

“I’m super excited about this – I love this idea,” she said.

The second presentation focused on a pilot to replace paper registration forms with a digital system beginning in December. Mid-year enrollments will test the system, with a planned full launch for the 2018-19 school year.

The system will allow parents to provide CCSD with emergency contacts, required documents and other “first day” information for all of their children online in advance without the need to enter duplicate data. Not only will this save parents time, it also will improve CCSD staff efficiency and the accuracy of recorded information and reduce paper and printing costs.

“It’s painful,” Chief Information Officer Bobby Blount said of the current paper system, noting that much time and thought has been invested in planning the pilot. “We are tackling it through a collaborative effort.”

Dr. Michele Harcarik

The School Board approved monthly personnel recommendations, which included the appointment of a new assistant principal to fill a vacancy at Carmel Elementary School. Dr. Michele Harcarik will bring 17 years of education experience to the position, having served as a teacher and administrator in Florida and Virginia, most recently as an assistant principal in Falls Church, Va.

Thursday night’s meeting was the last to be held at the CCSD Downtown Center in the Historic Canton High School building downtown. The August 17 School Board meeting will be held in the newly constructed Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo Educational Services Facility, which will dedicated the same evening.

The School Board also:

• Recognized Anne Nechvatal of Cherokee High School as the Georgia Library Media Specialist of the Year;

• Approved the renewal of the Partnership Agreement with Special Olympics;

• Approved the final reading of recommended updates to School Board Policies and the establishment of a New Debt Management Policy, which was a suggestion by credit rating agencies to further improve CCSD’s credit rating;

• Approved authorized CCSD School Fundraising Activities for the 2017-18 school year;

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

• Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report; and,

• Approved 2017-18 employee tribunal hearing panel appointments.

School Board Member Mike Chapman was not present for the meeting.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, August 17, 2017

Board Briefs: Cherokee County School Board Approves 2017-18 Budget

Category : Board Briefs

The School Board on Thursday, June 15, 2017, unanimously approved the Superintendent’s Recommended 2017-18 Annual Budget, which funds improvements in teaching and learning and safety and security without a millage rate increase.

The budget invests $382 Million into day-to-day operations, with 71% of that total in classroom instruction, including the continuing effort to decrease class size and the purchase of the first new instructional resources for elementary English and language arts classes in more than a decade.

Other major investments include reconfiguring Boston Elementary School’s entrance road to improve safety; retrofitting six more schools with security foyers limiting visitor access; purchasing 19 school buses to meet demand and replace aging vehicles; and piloting a new online GPS system that will allow parents to track the location of their child’s school bus. Operating reserves also are rising to $49 Million, with an additional $29 Million in the building fund reserves, as part of the District’s plan to further raise its credit rating.

“We appreciate the strong support of our School Board and community in meeting our mission of educating the emerging generation,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower. “We are dedicated to serving as responsible stewards of our community’s resources, and this budget shows our focus is exactly where it should be: on the children.”

While State funding increased to cover its portion of a 2% salary increase recommended by the Governor, rising mandated retirement system fees and student enrollment growth, the State continued its “austerity budget reduction” withholding of $4 Million in funds earned by the School District – funding that would have otherwise allowed for greater class size reduction.

Thursday’s meeting also included a presentation on the School District’s new teacher induction program, which will expand professional development, mentoring and collaboration opportunities and extend this support over three years. Data collected through surveys of new teachers hired in the last two years, as well as evaluation results and feedback from administrators, was used to develop the new model.

Dr. Hightower praised the work by curriculum and instruction leaders to develop the initiative, which he believes “will pay significant dividends with our younger teachers” and provide a model for other school districts statewide.

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer and School Board Member Clark Menard both complimented staff on their efforts, especially the program’s extended timeline and varied opportunities for growth and development.

“It’s going to be very helpful for those new teachers,” Ms. Cromer said.

Also on Thursday, the School Board approved the sale of a small parking lot at Hill Circle and Academy Street in downtown Canton to the highest bidder, Harris Development, for $50,000.

The School Board also:

• Recognized CCSD’s School Nutrition Program — winner of two USDA “Best Practices” State Awards and a National Turnip the Beet award;

• Recognized Indian Knoll Elementary School Media Center and Media Specialist Jennifer Lewis, Winner of the 2017 Exemplary Media Program Award, and E.T. Booth Middle School Media Center and Media Specialist Amanda Graves, Winner of the 2017 Exceptional Media Program Award;

• Recognized Teasley MS Special Education Teacher Dr. Jennifer Reynolds for selection as a “Top 10 in 10: Young Professionals to Watch” Award winner;

• Recognized 2016-17 Elementary Science Olympiad Winners;

• Recognized CCSD’s Georgia PTA Reflections Winners;

• Recognized State and Regional Champions including Cherokee HS track team members, Creekview HS boys’ golf team members and the AAAAAAA State Champion Etowah HS baseball team;

• Recognized Etowah High School Class of 2017 graduate Drew Waters — 2016-17 Gatorade Georgia Baseball Player of the Year and USA Today ALL-USA Baseball First Team member, who has been drafted by the Atlanta Braves;

• Approved the renewal of the Partnership Agreement with City of Canton;

• Approved the first reading of recommended updates to School Board Policies and the establishment of a New Debt Management Policy, which was a suggestion by credit rating agencies to further improve CCSD’s credit rating;

• Approved monthly financial and Education SPLOST reports;

• Approved a bid for the annual hairnet purchase through the Georgia Educational Cooperative purchasing program in which CCSD School Nutrition participates;

• 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 granting a permanent easement to the City of Ball Ground for a new streetscape project including sidewalk installation and maintenance;

• Approved monthly personnel recommendations; and,

• Approved the School Board’s annual governance training plan.

School Board Members Mike Chapman and John Harmon were not present for the meeting.

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

CCSD to Host National Advanced School Resource Officer Course June 19-21

Category : CCSD

NASRO logoThe Cherokee County School District School Police Department next week will host a national training program for officers from across the state!

In cooperation with the Georgia Association of Secondary School Law Enforcement Executives (GASSLEE), CCSD will host the National Association of School Resource Officers’ (NASRO) Advanced School Resource Officer Course from Monday, June 19, through Wednesday, June 21, at Teasley Middle School in Canton.

Sessions will be from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, with CCSD School Police Chief Mark E. Kissel, President of GASSLEE, giving opening remarks on Monday. Capt. Joe Carter of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, past president of NASRO, is the course instructor.

“As President of the Georgia Association of Secondary School Law Enforcement Executives, I believe this program reflects the professionalism of those officers assigned to work within their respective schools to provide a safe and secure environment for teaching and learning,” Chief Kissel said.

NASRO, the world’s leader in school-based policing, serves school-based law enforcement officers, school administrators, and school security/safety professionals working as partners to protect students, faculty and staff, and their school community. The organization’s mission is to provide the highest quality of training to school-based law enforcement officers in order to promote safer schools and safer kids.

The advanced course builds upon the Basic School Resource Officer course approved by Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council; CCSD School Police Officers all have attended and successfully completed the basic course. The training offered in Canton will cover numerous topics including threat assessment, critical incident planning and technology and social media.

Several local businesses have provided door prizes and donations for the event, and their sponsorship is greatly appreciated: AMC Riverstone 15, Big Woods Goods, Chick-fil-A of Canton, Credit Union of Georgia, Killer Creek Harley-Davidson, Northside Hospital Cherokee and The Home Depot.

CCSD Salutes School Nurses on National School Nurse Day

Category : CCSD

National School Nurse Day Collage

While a Band-aid and a little TLC can go a long way, the needs presented in Cherokee County School District school clinics every day require much more of the professionals who staff them.

Today is National School Nurse Day, and we hope you’ll join us in thanking the school nurses who keep our students healthy, safe and ready to learn.

The District’s team of 43 school nurses serve all of CCSD’s schools and centers, and provide nearly 42,000 students as well as 4,500 full-time and 1,000 part-time employees with services ranging from first-aid to emergency response.

School nurses dispense medication to students, care for medically fragile children and stand ready to administer CPR, an EpiPen or an AED in a life-saving situation to anyone on campus. They screen children for health concerns, teach about proper hygiene and wellness and raise awareness in school communities about the benefits of preventative care.

“School nurses save lives,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “We appreciate their service, their professionalism and their commitment to continuous improvement… but most importantly, we appreciate how much they care.”

CCSD School Nurses
CCSD Lead Nurse Gwen Chambers, 1988
CCSD Lead Nurse Jami Stefano, 2011
Sherrie Smith, ACE Academy, 2007
Betty Miller, Arnold Mill ES, 2010
Sandra McFarland, Avery ES, 2000
Kim Bishop, Ball Ground ES STEM Academy, 2013
Rebekah May, Bascomb ES, 2015
Amber Thayer, Boston ES, 2007
Lisha Smith, Canton ES STEM Academy, 2006
Stefanie Schoeller, Carmel ES, 2002
Denise Blackwell, Cherokee HS, 2012
Joy Harrison, Clark Creek ES STEM Academy, 2013
Teresa Tatum, Clayton ES, 1995
Carol Reed, Creekland MS, 2016
Amanda Hansell, Creekview HS, 2014
Christine Lynch, Dean Rusk MS, 2015
Wanda Ligon, E.T. Booth MS, 2002
Cathy Alexander, Etowah HS, 2002
Sharon Sullivan, Free Home ES, 2004
Dana Oden, Freedom MS, 2000
Kristy Hough, Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy, 2015
Mariellen Metraw, Hickory Flat ES, 2000
Renee Michael, Holly Springs ES STEM Academy, 2014
Maria Hicks, Indian Knoll ES, 2011
Laure Carroll, Johnston ES, 2008
Ivanka Ivanova, Johnston Preschool Center, 2015
Allison Rhodes, Knox ES, 2011
Charlene Dalfonso, Liberty ES, 2005
Resa Breitbart, Little River ES, 2005
Pam Tomeny, Macedonia ES, 2008
Thania Molina, Mill Creek MS, 2016
Janet Jarvis, Mountain Road ES, 1996
Vicki McGill, Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academy, 1995
Deana Fronebarger, R.M. Moore ES, 2001
Tricia Griffith, Ralph Bunche Center, 2015
Kim Bearden, River Ridge HS, 2005
Erin Krantz, Sequoyah HS, 2015
Sue Dyer, Sixes ES, 2003
Kathy Thomas, Teasley MS, 2015
Dawn Beasley, Tippens Education Center, 2007
Tayler Cahill, Woodstock ES, 2015
Vickie Hyde, Woodstock HS, 2008
Traci Baggett, Woodstock MS, 2015