CCSD Celebrates School Board Member Appreciation Week!

CCSD Celebrates School Board Member Appreciation Week!

It’s School Board Member Appreciation Week, and we’ll be shining the spotlight this week on each of our representatives to thank them for their service… check back here for a new recognition each day this week!

School Board Vice Chairman Mike Chapman, left, serves up lunch in Captain America costume to students on School Lunch Hero Day along with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.

Mike Chapman

Canton businessman Mike Chapman has served on the School Board for an impressive 13 years, with four as chairman!

Mr. Chapman has been elected five times by his fellow Board members to the Vice Chairman post, including this school year.

Many successful initiatives in CCSD have occurred due to his support, including the nationally recognized Cherokee Academies program developed in response to Mr. Chapman’s call for more educational school choice in our community and the expansion of CCSD’s safety and security program. Mr. Chapman is known as an advocate for fiscal conservatism and transparency and supported the development of the Open CCSD webpage, which includes hundreds of public records including video of School Board meetings.

His strongest passion may be for career education, fueled by his own successful business career as plant manager for Morrison Products in Canton and longtime membership with numerous civic clubs and community boards of directors, and his wife’s expertise as a career education teacher. Mr. Chapman, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business, not only champions this cause and supports it with his votes as a Board member, he also opens his workplace for school field trips and visits classrooms to talk about career choices.

“Our School District would not be as successful as it is today without the support of Mr. Chapman… he’s the definition of a model School Board member, and we greatly appreciate his service,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “He has represented the Board at the State level for many years through the Georgia Education Coalition, and he’s just as eager to read to a classroom of kindergarteners or to jump in the cafeteria line – in a Captain America costume – to serve meals on School Lunch Hero Day.”

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer of Canton welcomes community members to the dedication of the new School Board auditorium.

Kyla Cromer

Cherokee County School Board Chair Kyla Cromer of Canton has dedicated her life to education, both as her vocation and as her passion.

She earned her degree in elementary education and worked as a classroom teacher and learning center director; later, as a stay-at-home mom to two, Ms. Cromer found herself drawn back to school to volunteer.

Ms. Cromer became an active PTA member and School Council member and, after great success in leading at the school level, felt called to the School Board. Now in her fifth year on the School Board and her fourth year as the countywide-elected Chair, Ms. Cromer is well-respected locally and statewide for her knowledge of curriculum and instruction and dedication to continuous improvement of teaching and learning.

While the role is not defined as full-time, Ms. Cromer devotes herself to the post of School Board Chair as if it is, spending many hours visiting schools to engage with students and staff, listening to the community’s citizens, and representing CCSD at the state level to identify opportunities for further improving public education.

“Ms. Cromer may no longer work in the classroom, but the classroom still is in her heart,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “You can hear it in her comments when voting on an issue: she’s focused on what’s in the best interest of each of the children we serve. She couples that with a deep understanding of school district operations and her role as a policy maker and responsible steward of taxpayer resources. That combination is a rare find, and we’re so fortunate and appreciative to have her as our Board’s chair.”

School Board Member John Harmon of Hickory Flat congratulates a graduating senior at the commencement ceremony for Sequoyah High School.

John Harmon

After John Harmon recognized the positive difference he could make in the lives of Cherokee County youth through coaching baseball and basketball and serving on the Hickory Flat ES School Council, he decided in 2014 to try a larger playing field as a School Board member.

Mr. Harmon is hitting home runs there, too, as a leader known for his focus on the impact School Board decisions will have on children and families.

A Hickory Flat businessman and father of three, Mr. Harmon does his research before School Board meetings, asking the Superintendent of Schools for more information on decisions ranging from approval of the annual budget to new School Board policies governing operations. He’s a strong advocate for parents becoming more involved in their child’s school, such as by volunteering through PTA, serving on School Council, or participating in CCSD’s new VILLA parent academy program that he helped launch last year.

While he’s just as comfortable speaking in the boardroom as he is visiting a classroom, it’s clear that Mr. Harmon’s favorite part of being a School Board member is engaging with students, especially reading to elementary school classes and congratulating graduating high school seniors at commencement.

“Mr. Harmon uses his knowledge and experiences as a business owner, a community volunteer and a dad to three CCSD students when making important decisions as a School Board member, and that’s a very valuable triple play for our organization,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “His leadership style is collaborative and thoughtful, and that willingness to listen to others and value their opinions, along with the joy he experiences in supporting our students, makes him such a pleasure to serve alongside.”

School Board Member Patsy Jordan creates a pinhole projector to show students at Creekland Middle School, where she viewed the eclipse last year. Ms. Jordan used her CCSD business card to make a projector.

Patsy Jordan

Public schools have been a daily part of life for School Board Member Patsy Jordan of the Yellow Creek community for nearly all of her life.

She attended school here, found her first job here as a school custodian, went on to drive a school bus and then became one of our teachers – and a Teacher of the Year – before retiring and coming back in 2012 to serve as a School Board Member.

Her peers elected her Vice Chair last year for a one-year term, and the community re-elected her last year to a second four-year term.

Given her background as an outstanding teacher, it’s an easy A to guess she’d be a strong advocate for students and educators.  But she earns extra credit in the hearts of employees districtwide for being just as concerned about the “classified” workers, who prepare the meals, drive the buses and keep everything from the lights to the heat running.

Ms. Jordan is definitely in her element when the Board member role brings her to schools for special events like judging competitions and awarding honors, but her talent for teaching follows her wherever she goes, even as she speaks from the Board dais.

“Every time Ms. Jordan speaks, I learn something,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “She constantly looks for and finds teachable moments, and her care for every one of our students and employees is evident in all that she does and says. Her own love of learning, willingness to share knowledge and deeply rooted connections in this community make her an exemplary Board member and a caring friend and teacher to all.”

School Board Member visits with Woodstock High School engineering technology teacher Karen Zayance and some of her students.

Clark Menard

If you take a dad who’s engaged with his children’s education and add in an accountant’s knowledge, a love of technology and the willingness to volunteer in his community, the result would be School Board Member Clark Menard.

The Woodstock certified public accountant, whose degree in the field includes a specialization in information systems, joined the School Board in 2015 after serving as youth sports coach and PTA volunteer for his two daughters’ schools.

His expertise in financial management and accounting systems greatly benefits the School Board and the School District.  Mr. Menard regularly asks questions to further understand budget issues, and he proposes ideas to the Superintendent of Schools to continuously improve operational efficiencies.

Mr. Menard not only uses know-how from his profession to guide his service as a School Board member, but he also relies upon his experiences as a parent of two CCSD students in making policy decisions, reviewing student discipline matters and fulfilling the other responsibilities of his elected office.  Career education is another key issue for Mr. Menard, who strongly supports CCSD’s efforts to increase industry certification opportunities for students while in high school.

“We’re in the envious position of working with a School Board that’s made up of leaders with varied and valuable skill-sets, and Mr. Menard brings many talents to the table including his deep understanding of finance and technology,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “As we look to incorporating more business technology into our operations and further enhancing the career education opportunities for our students, we know we can rely upon Mr. Menard’s expertise and advocacy, which we’re so fortunate to have.”

School Board Member Kelly Poole, center, tours Mill Creek Middle School with Principal Dr. Kerry Martin and CCSD Chief Human Resources Officer Rick Beaulieu.

Kelly Poole

School Board Member Kelly Poole of Canton is a natural-born volunteer.

Any time there’s an opportunity for School Board Members to participate – whether it’s judging a student technology contest, cheering on Special Olympians or surprising classrooms as a Read Across America guest reader – you can count on Ms. Poole.

Her passion for volunteering, through her two children’s schools from preschool through high school and in PTA committee and leadership roles, led Ms. Poole to join the School Board in 2015.

A bookkeeper with experience in nonprofits and their audits, Ms. Poole relies upon her insights as both a parent and a volunteer to make School Board policy decisions, advocate on behalf of students and look for more ways to engage parents and the community in schools.

She’s been a longtime supporter of adopting tools like the Canvas learning management system to give parents greater opportunities to be involved in their child’s education and communicate with their teachers. Ms. Poole participated throughout the School Board-initiated VILLA parent academy program launched this school year in collaboration with the Georgia School Boards Association. She sees the program as a way to not only better educate parents about their school system, but also to encourage more parents to become active school volunteers.

“Ms. Poole is on School Board Member duty at all times,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “She understands that she can shed neither her ‘mom’ hat nor ‘School Board Member’ hat at the door, but instead has melded the two roles into an authentic and effective voice advocating for every child we serve and every one of those children’s families.”

School Board Member Rick Steiner gets a hug from student Aiden Carr during a visit to Bascomb Elementary School.

Robert Rechsteiner

Robert Rechsteiner serves as a Cherokee County School Board member, but it’s his nickname that catches most people’s attention: Rick Steiner.

That’s because this longtime School Board member and community volunteer is renowned worldwide as a professional wrestling star under his nickname.

While today he’s wrestling the best deals he can for clients as a real estate agent, Mr. Rechsteiner has grown his fan base beyond the world of his first career to include thousands of Cherokee County students and their families who know him because of his community service.

His School Board post includes southwest Cherokee County, and that’s where he raised his three sons – who all graduated from Etowah High School – and where he became known in the community for volunteering in schools and with youth sports.

His support of schools and students is what led neighbors and friends to encourage him to join the School Board in 2006, and since then, he’s served not only as a Board member, but also as the Board’s Delegate to the Georgia School Boards Association. Mr. Rechsteiner, who earned his degree in education, is dedicated to reading up on budget and policy decisions… but his favorite part of School Board Meetings is when it’s a packed house of outstanding students there to be recognized with handshakes, hugs and words of congratulations from him and his fellow Board members.

“Mr. Rechsteiner for years has impressed me in many ways, but I’m most appreciative for his attitude of servant leadership,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “For someone so famous, he stays very humble and truly listens to and values the opinions of parents, our employees and his fellow School Board members.”


Board Briefs: School Board Hears First Report on 2018-19 Budget

The School Board on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, heard its first report on anticipated revenue for the 2018-19 budget, including expectations that the State will continue withholding $4 Million as an “austerity budget cut” as recommended by Gov. Deal and further increase costs to school districts for providing employees with mandated health and retirement benefits.

These three factors will create a $7.8 Million negative impact on the School District’s operating budget, according to Chief Financial Officer Ken Owen.  If the School Board approves a longevity step increase in employee salaries, that will cost an additional $6.6 Million… totaling $14.4 Million, which will use up nearly all revenue gains as a result of enrollment growth and anticipated improvements in local property values.

Facing a potential net new revenue of $1.5 Million or less, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said the District likely will have to postpone non-essential new hiring and any new initiatives and will be unable to make significant reductions in class size.

“We continue to feel a painful pinch from ‘austerity budget cuts,’ despite the State government’s financial recovery and increases in its ‘rainy day’ reserve fund,” Dr. Hightower said.  “While we’d rather not also be burdened with the State’s cost-shifting for the State Health Benefit Plan and Teachers Retirement System, we had hoped the State – at a minimum – would fully restore the education funding we earn under the State’s own formula.  While the Governor’s budget does not call for the end of this ‘austerity,’ we have again asked our Legislative Delegation and our community to lobby on our behalf as it is again our School Board’s No. 1 Legislative Priority.”

The Superintendent then officially began the District’s budget development process by asking the Board members to provide him by next month with their proposed budget priorities.  These priorities will be reviewed by the Superintendent and his budget committee, as they begin drafting the budget that will be presented to the Board in May.

The Superintendent and Board on Thursday also discussed the number of days missed by students so far this month due to inclement weather, which at the time of the meeting was three days, but rose to four with today’s closing.  As a Strategic Waiver School System, the School District has a waiver from State mandates for required school days, but the decision as to whether to make up missed days due to inclement weather is left to the Superintendent and School Board.  All staff are required to make up missed days of work.

Dr. Hightower said he would meet with his senior staff the next morning to review options and promptly share his recommendation with Board members to hear any concerns from them before announcing the plan to parents and employees as soon as Monday.

The Board, in approving the monthly personnel recommendations on Thursday night, accepted the retirement of CCSD Preschool Centers Principal Donna Adams.  A longtime educator, Ms. Adams joined CCSD in 1982 as a teacher and has served in her current role since 2011.

“She’s a wonderful educator, and we deeply appreciate the exceptional service and great care she has given to our community’s children and families,” Dr. Hightower said of Ms. Adams, who received a standing ovation.

The recommendations also included the transfer of Principal Dr. Abigail “Abby” May from Canton Elementary School STEM Academy to R.M. Moore Elementary School for next school year.

Canton Elementary will be temporarily closed to allow Cherokee High School the use of its campus beginning next school year; the elementary school’s students will be split between R.M. Moore and Knox Elementary Schools.  Jan Adamson, Principal of R.M. Moore ES, had previously announced her retirement at the end of this school year.

“We wanted to make this appointment as soon as we could,” Dr. Hightower said of Dr. May.  “The School Council at R.M. Moore has met her with open arms, and we’re ready for her to start doing the critical planning for this transition.”

The Board held its annual Vice Chair election on Thursday night, and Board member Mike Chapman was re-elected to another one-year term in this role.

The School Board also:

• Approved the renewal of a Partnership Agreement with the Cherokee County Arts Council;

• Adopted the Georgia Education Coalition (GEC) 2018 Legislative Priorities;

• Approved monthly financial reports; and,

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

• School Board Member Clark Menard was not present for the meeting.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, February 15, 2018

Inaugural Class for CCSD Parent Academy Program Graduates!

The inaugural CCSD VILLA class members celebrate their graduation on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 with School Board Members, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower and members of his senior staff, and Georgia School Boards Association representatives. Class members are: Donnamarie Alcott, Jamie Bobo, Buster Cushing, Robert Ditchen, Judith Dobbs, Samantha Dunn, Lauren Hekking, Bob Kovacs, Monica Orrico, Corrie Riggs, Robin Schorr, Katie Roller Schulz, Dawn Stastny, Kathy Strom, Kyle Tomeny and Kathy Winiarczyk. Not pictured: Judith Dobbs.


The inaugural class for Cherokee County School District’s new parent academy program has graduated!

VILLA (Volunteer Instructional Leadership Learning Academy), developed by the Georgia School Boards Association, offers parents an opportunity to learn more about their community’s public schools.

The last session of VILLA included a graduation dinner sponsored by Credit Union of Georgia, a CCSD community partner.

This fall, CCSD became Georgia’s first school district to present the program and will be featured in a video about VILLA debuting at the Association’s statewide Annual Conference’s next month. The program aligned with School Board Chair Kyla Cromer’s vision, as shared during her re-election campaign, of offering a parent academy.

Sixteen parents, who applied for the six-session program, were celebrated at a final session on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, which included a graduation ceremony and dinner, sponsored by Credit Union of Georgia, a CCSD community partner.

VILLA participants Monica Orrico, left, and Kathy Strom enjoy the group’s field trip day to three schools including Holly Springs ES STEM Academy, as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower looks on.

Inaugural class members are: Donnamarie Alcott, Jamie Bobo, Buster Cushing, Robert Ditchen, Judith Dobbs, Samantha Dunn, Lauren Hekking, Bob Kovacs, Monica Orrico, Corrie Riggs, Robin Schorr, Katie Roller Schulz, Dawn Stastny, Kathy Strom, Kyle Tomeny and Kathy Winiarczyk.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said participants’ feedback makes clear this is a needed program, which will be offered annually. As one participant said: “VILLA provided a great overview of everything that goes into providing a quality education for our children.”

VILLA participant Kyle Tomeny shares a laugh during an interactive session with Tammy Castleberry, left, and Judy Withey of CCSD’s Office of Curriculum & Instruction.

“Our school district grows stronger as parents become advocates for public schools and their success,” Dr. Hightower said. “We’re so appreciative of the participants’ commitment, of our School Board’s vision and of GSBA for its support.”



Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower and School Board Members listen as School Board member Kelly Poole makes a point during a VILLA session.

CCSD Launches Inaugural Parent Academy Program

Category : CCSD

The inaugural CCSD VILLA class members take a group photo with School Board Members and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower and members of his senior staff, and Lisa-Marie Haygood of the Georgia School Boards Association. Class members are: Donnamarie Alcott, Jamie Bobo, Buster Cushing, Robert Ditchen, Judith Dobbs, Samantha Dunn, Lauren Hekking, Bob Kovacs, Monica Orrico, Corrie Riggs, Robin Schorr, Katie Roller Schulz, Dawn Stastny, Kathy Strom, Kyle Tomeny and Kathy Winiarczyk. Not pictured: Bob Kovacs.

The Cherokee County School District this week launched its inaugural parent academy program.

Developed by the Georgia School Boards Association, VILLA (Volunteer Instructional Leadership Learning Academy) offers parents the opportunity to learn more about the public schools in their community. On Tuesday, Oct. 9, CCSD became the first school district in the state to pilot the program and will be featured in a GSBA video to promote VILLA.

School Board Member Kelly Poole speaks to the VILLA class during its first session, as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower looks on.

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer brought up the idea of creating such a program during her re-election campaign, and said she was glad to partner with GSBA to make it a reality.

“The goal is for you to learn more about CCSD and take what you learn back out into the community and be advocates for CCSD,” Board Chair Cromer told the inaugural class during its first session on Tuesday night.

Applications were accepted from parents throughout the community, and the class of 16 participants will attend six sessions this fall including a field trip to several CCSD schools. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said he hopes to make the free program an annual offering, noting the first session was a great success.

VILLA logo“We truly appreciate the community’s interest in learning more about our operations and joining our School Board and employees in advocating for public education, our schools and our students,” Dr. Hightower said. “Our schools are stronger with our community involved, and VILLA is an outstanding opportunity to engage with parents.”

Through VILLA, participants will learn more about CCSD, including an overview of its governance model and the role of School Board members, Major System Priorities and CCSD day-to-day operations. The program includes question-and-answer sessions with School Board members, the Superintendent and senior staff. The program ends with a graduation dinner, sponsored by CCSD partner, Credit Union of Georgia.

Inaugural class members are: Donnamarie Alcott, Jamie Bobo, Buster Cushing, Robert Ditchen, Judith Dobbs, Samantha Dunn, Lauren Hekking, Bob Kovacs, Monica Orrico, Corrie Riggs, Robin Schorr, Katie Roller Schulz, Dawn Stastny, Kathy Strom, Kyle Tomeny and Kathy Winiarczyk.


The class of 16 parents from the community will attend six VILLA sessions presented by the Cherokee County School Board and CCSD staff.


CCSD Names 2017-18 Student Advisor, Student Delegates to School Board

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower thanks the 2017-18 Student Advisor and Delegates following their first School Board Meeting of service on August 17, 2017. From left to right, front row: Katie Bishop, Etowah HS; Arely Gonzalez-Labra, ACE Academy; Student Advisor Ashlee Floyd, Cherokee HS; Katherine Relick, Woodstock HS; back row: Christian Fanning, River Ridge HS; Bryce Goodwyn, Creekview HS; and Theodore “Teddy” Campbell, Sequoyah HS.

The Cherokee County School District has named the 2017-18 Student Advisor and Student Delegates to the School Board.

The School Board has included a Student Advisor position on its board since 1999, and for the past seven years, a Student Delegate from each high school also has been selected. These students serve for one year to give input and feedback to the School Board; the advisor role is rotated among the county’s high schools.

“Our mission is ‘Educating the Emerging Generation,’ and we best serve our students at a governance and policy-making level by engaging with them and gaining their perspective,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “We appreciate our Advisor and Delegates’ service and look forward to working with this outstanding group of young leaders. We know they will be outstanding representatives for their schools and inspire our School Board and me to continue striving for excellence for them and all of our students.”

This year’s Student Advisor is Ashlee Floyd of Cherokee HS. The Student Delegates are: Arely Gonzalez-Labra of ACE Academy; Bryce Goodwyn of Creekview HS; Katie Bishop of Etowah HS; Christian Fanning of River Ridge HS; Theodore “Teddy” Campbell of Sequoyah HS; and Katherine Relick of Woodstock HS.

The students began their service at the School Board meeting on August 17.

Students selected to serve as Student Advisor or Student Delegates share common traits: they excel in the classroom, often ranking in the top 10 percent of their class and earning titles like valedictorian; they are involved in their school, often participating in numerous clubs, sports and organizations; and they seek out opportunities to serve and lead.

Cherokee HS, Ashlee Floyd
• Recipient of: Academic Letter, Superintendent’s Key Scholar Award, UGA Honors, Mock Trial Team Region Champion
• Member of: Beta Club, Mock Trial Team, National Honor Society, Academic Bowl and Alpha Gamma Council
• Volunteers for: Northside Hospital and River Green Peanut Butter Drive

ACE Academy, Arely Gonzalez-Labra
• Recipient of: Excellence in American Literature, Excellence in Math and Diamond Dolls
• Member of: ACE Academy Student Council, Book Club, Special Education Speech Class Assistants, DECA Club, National Novel Writing, Strikers Allstar Cheerleading and Passion CrossFit Training
• Volunteers for: Revolution Youth Group

Creekview HS, Bryce Goodwyn
• Recipient of: Academic Letter, Lamp of Knowledge, Scholar Athlete, Superintendent’s Key Scholar Award, Georgia Certificate of Merit, DAR U.S. History Award, Optimist Club Student of the Year, 1st Team All-Region in Soccer, 2nd Team All-Region in Soccer and Soccer Letter (all four years)
• Member of: Varsity Soccer (Varsity Captain), National Honor Society, Model UN, Habitat for Humanity and National Spanish Honor Society
• Volunteers for: Gardening Project with Creekview HS Varsity Soccer Program

Etowah HS, Katie Bishop
• Recipient of: Academic Letter, Superintendent’s Key Scholar Award, Varsity Lacrosse Letter for two years and Community Service Letter for two years
• Member of: Student Government (Student Body President), Beta Club, National Honor Society, Math Team and Model UN
• Volunteers for: Vacation Bible School with her church, Shop with an Eagle and other various activities through SGA (150+ hours of community service)

River Ridge HS, Christian Fanning
• Recipient of: Microsoft Power Point Certification and Academic Letter
• Member of: Student Advisory Board (Senior Class President), Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy Program, Crusading Knights Community Service Club and Junior Varsity Cross Country (2015-16)
• Volunteers for: Woodstock City Church, Co-leader for River Ridge Challenger Basketball Program and with Crusading Knights Service Club

Sequoyah HS, Theodore “Teddy” Campbell
• Recipient of: AP Scholar Award from College Board, Principal’s Academic Achievement Award for PSAT, Georgia Certificate of Merit, SHS Award for highest GPA (three years in a row) and Triple Letter in Varsity Tennis
• Member of: Varsity Tennis, Beta Club, National Honor Society, Student Government (Past Class President) and Habitat for Humanity
• Volunteers for: Habitat for Humanity and local Tennis Academy

Woodstock HS, Katherine Relick
• Recipient of: Math Award, Superintendent’s Key Scholar, UGA Merit Award and Teen Leadership Program Completion Participant
• Member of: National Honor Society, Beta Club, Student Government (Vice-president), Women in Science & Engineering, Science National Honors Society, Math National Honors Society and Giving Children Hope Club (President)
• Volunteers for: Anna Crawford Children’s Center Student Advisor, SPLASH (a volunteer group that teaches children with special needs to swim), Cherokee Family Violence Center and as a Sunday School teacher with her church

School Board Members Visit Schools for First Week Peek!

While Cherokee High School students hurry past on their way to class, Principal Todd Miller points out to School Board Chair Kyla Cromer some of the renovation projects that were completed over the summer at CCSD’s largest high school.

School Board members visited schools across the Cherokee County School District this week for a “first week peek”!

School Board Member Rick Steiner gets a hug from student Aiden Carr during his tour of Bascomb Elementary School.

During their visits, School Board members toured the school with the Principal, observed teaching and learning in classrooms, visited with staff from various areas of operations and enjoyed a surprise hug or two from students.

School Board Member Clark Menard’s visit included an appearance on Woodstock High School’s live student news show; here he’s pictured in front of the show’s green screen with students Hailey Hovda, left, and Kharli Major.

“These visits were an excellent opportunity for us to see how well prepared our schools are for the start of the year,” School Board Chair Kyla Cromer said. “Teachers were engaging the students in learning, and we had a wonderful time visiting with them all.”

School Board Vice Chair Mike Chapman, center, as he tours Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy with Principal Rodney Larrotta, left, and CCSD Deputy Superintendent Trey Olson, stops for a photo with pre-kindergartners and teacher Megan Little, left, and paraprofessional Molly Elkins.

Board Chair Cromer visited Cherokee High School; with Vice Chairman Mike Chapman at Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy; and Board Member John Harmon at Indian Knoll ES, Patsy Jordan at Avery ES, Clark Menard at Woodstock HS, Kelly Poole at Mill Creek MS and Rick Steiner at Bascomb ES.

School Board Member John Harmon snaps a selfie with students in teacher Rebecca Wooten’s class during his visit to Indian Knoll Elementary School.

“Our School Board cares about our students, our teachers and staff and our schools,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “While they may be most associated with their role as thoughtful policy makers and responsible stewards of our community’s resources, these School Board members were called to serve because of the kids and the opportunity to make their futures brighter. We appreciate their service and their commitment to our CCSD family.”

School Board Member Patsy Jordan, center, smiles for a photo with students during her visit to Avery Elementary School.

School Board Member Patsy Jordan checks out the school garden at Avery Elementary School during her tour, as CCSD Chief Information Officer Bobby Blount looks on.

School Board Member Kelly Poole, center, stops by the gym to see PE classes in action at Mill Creek Middle School during her visit.

School Board Member Rick Steiner listens to teacher Melinda Martinez, right, during his visit to her classroom at Bascomb Elementary School. Looking on are Principal Kathleen Chandler, third from left, and CCSD Chief Academic Officer Dr. Nicole Holmes. Students pictured include Leslie Delgadillo, left, and Ferrial Phillippe.

School Board Member Clark Menard visits with Introduction to Engineering Technology students and teacher Karen Zayance at Woodstock High School.

School Board Member John Harmon’s visit to Indian Knoll Elementary School included time with PE teachers Coaches Scott Barber and Jason Bermudez and their students.

School Board Member Kelly Poole, center, tours Mill Creek Middle School with Principal Dr. Kerry Martin and CCSD Chief Human Resources Officer Rick Beaulieu.

School Board Member Patsy Jordan, center, smiles for a selfie during her visit to Avery Elementary School with Principal Dr. Lisa Turner, right, Assistant Principals Michelle Whitmire and Matt Harper, right, and CCSD Chief Information Officer Bobby Blount.

School Board Vice Chair Mike Chapman, left, listens to Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy with Principal Rodney Larrotta, right, during the tour, as CCSD Deputy Superintendent Trey Olson looks on.

It wouldn’t be a visit to Woodstock High School without a selfie with Principal Mark Smith, left, so School Board Member Clark Menard joined in.

Board Chair Kyla Cromer and CCSD Chief of Staff Mike McGowan, right, listen to Cherokee HS Principal Todd Miller explain some of the changes made in the school media center.

School Board Member Clark Menard is interviewed for Woodstock High School’s live student news show by student Hailey Hovda.

Cherokee High School Principal Todd Miller, left, and Assistant Principal Neil Howell show School Board Chair Kyla Cromer the courtyard students may use during lunch periods. The school’s PTSA helped fund the project, which gives students another choice for eating and socializing during lunch.

Cherokee County School Board Reviews Proposed 2017-18 Budget

The School Board on Thursday, May 18, 2017, in preparation for next month’s vote, reviewed the Superintendent’s Recommended 2017-18 Annual Budget, which not only increases the District’s investment in classroom instruction, but also its reserves savings.

Following a preview earlier this month, the School Board spent the business portion of Thursday’s meeting diving into the details of the budget, which includes $382 Million for day-to-day operations, with 86% of that total funding salaries and benefits for CCSD’s 4,500 full-time and 1,000 part-time and at-will employees.

The School Board will hold public hearings on the budget at 11:30 a.m. on June 6 and 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on June 15, with the budget up for a vote at the 7 p.m. regular meeting on June 15; the hearings and the budget all will be held in the CCSD Downtown Center school board auditorium.

The budget, which does not call for a millage increase, directs 71% of day-to-day operating funds to classroom instruction, with new hiring in preparation for anticipated student enrollment growth, continued lowering of average class sizes and new instructional resources for elementary English and language arts classes.

“That’s spectacular,” Assistant Superintendent of Financial Management Ken Owen said of the percentage directed to classrooms, noting it’s a “very tight budget,” but entirely focused on the priorities outlined by the School Board.

State funding did increase, Mr. Owen said, but those monies only covered the State portion of a 2% salary increase recommended by the Governor, hikes in required retirement system fees and costs associated with rises in student enrollment. The State’s continued “austerity budget reduction” withholding of $4 Million owed to the District based on the education funding formula is a pinch that still hurts.

“It’s a significant reduction,” Mr. Owen said of the $4 Million. “We could really use that money to fund more teachers.”

The total budget calls for investing $18.5 Million through the building fund in construction, renovation and technology projects, including the renovation of the Boston Elementary School entrance to ease traffic congestion and the replacement of older computers and devices used by teachers and students. Six more schools will be retrofit with security foyers to tighten visitor security, 19 school buses will be added to the fleet for growth and retirement of older vehicles and a new online GPS system will allow parents to track the location of their child’s school bus.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said the budget also works toward his goal of earning a triple-A credit rating for the District by increasing reserves – the operating budget’s savings account, and paying off bond debt incurred by the rapid construction plan required by the county’s incredible growth over the last two decades.

“We really want that perfect credit rating,” Dr. Hightower said, noting it will greatly reduce costs for insurance and borrowing and enhance overall financial stability. “Setting aside more reserve funds and staying focused on retiring debt may keep us from moving forward on every innovation we’d like to see in our schools, but it’s just as important an investment.”

To that end, the budget calls for shifting half a mill in the tax rate from operating to debt service, as well as increasing the proposed operating reserves to $49 Million, with an additional $29 Million in the building fund reserves.

The Board during its meeting Thursday also approved monthly personnel recommendations including the appointment of Nate Cline, currently a teacher on special assignment to assist with administration at Etowah High School, to serve as an Assistant Principal at Creekland Middle School next school year.

In a surprise announcement, Dr. Hightower presented the third of his four inaugural “Superintendent’s Game Changer Awards,” with the recognition for Instructional Advocacy presented to Lisa-Marie Haygood, a longtime outstanding advocate for CCSD schools as a PTA volunteer and leader at the local, regional and State level including past service as Georgia PTA President.

The School Board also:

• Heard presentations from Student Advisor Joseph Henderson of ACE Academy and Cherokee HS Student Delegate Julia Kochansky on their experience serving and their post-graduation plans;

• Dr. Kecia Ray, Executive Director for the Center for Digital Education, presented to CCSD and Assistant Superintendent of Technology Bobby Blount a plaque in recognition of CCSD being named for the 12th time to the nation’s “Top 10” of large school systems effectively using technology in education;

• Recognized Holly Springs ES STEM Academy teacher Lauren Pittman and her students for their featured role in Microsoft national campaign and commercial;

• Recognized Woodstock ES teacher Kristen Brooks as an Apple Distinguished Educator;

• Recognized Creekview HS Athletic Director/Assistant Principal Dr. Kevin Higgins as an inductee into Georgia Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame;

• Recognized Etowah HS junior Joseph Young as winner of a 2017 Junior Travel Award for Outstanding Achievement on National Spanish Examination;

• Recognized 2016-17 Social Studies Fair District, Regional and State Winners;

• Recognized 2016-17 Young Georgia Authors Writing Competition Winners;

• Recognized Avery ES as 2016-17 Elementary School County Academic Bowl Team Champions;

• Recognized State and Regional Champions

• Recognized 2016-17 Student Advisor to School Board and Student Delegates for their service;

• Recognized recipients of 2017 Aramark Education Scholarships;

• Approved a Partnership Agreement with Tri-State Communications (which includes WLJA 101.1 FM and Enjoy! Cherokee magazine) that includes Student of the Day and Game of the Week recognitions, as well as a public service campaign to raise awareness of bus traffic laws and sharing the road safely with school buses;

• Adopted a House Bill 306 Resolution to move forward with the State Legislature’s approval to change the School Board compensation model effective January 2019;

• Approved the final reading of updates to personnel and student harassment policies;

• Approved monthly financial and Education SPLOST reports;

• Approved out-of-state travel;

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

• Approved monthly capital outlay projects report;

• Approved special lease agreements;

• Approved annual update of 2017-18 Student Discipline Code; and,

• Met in Executive Session to review a student discipline matter.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cherokee County School Board Appoints New and Reassigned Assistant Principals and Administrators

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, April 20, 2017, approved the appointment of new and reassigned assistant principals and other administrators for the 2017-18 school year.

The list of appointments is the final piece in the School District’s three-month process to fill leadership positions due to retirements, promotions and growth.

Dr. Hightower praised School Operations and Personnel Management staff for their diligence and dedication in completing the significant hiring and promotion effort. The group of new leaders, he said, is “simply phenomenal.”

The new and reassigned administrators approved Thursday are:

• Dr. Amanda Ruiz: Supervisor, Middle School/High School Curriculum
• Steven Payne: Coordinator Curriculum Support (Social Studies/Career, Technical and Agricultural Education)
• Joy Silk: Coordinator Curriculum Support (Digital Content)
• Angie Goff: Transportation Coordinator of Routing
• Lt. Jay Baker: Lieutenant, School Police Department
• Connie Henderson: Coordinator of Payroll
• Angela Greene: Assistant Principal, Arnold Mill ES
• Michelle Calkins: Assistant Principal, Boston ES
• Lauren Roach: Assistant Principal, Canton ES STEM Academy
• Rachel Wasserman: Assistant Principal, Carmel ES
• Susan Bruno: Assistant Principal, Clark Creek ES STEM Academy
• Kerry Estep: Assistant Principal, Hickory Flat ES
• Jennifer Landry: Assistant Principal, Indian Knoll ES
• Tammie Anderson: Assistant Principal, Knox ES
• Emily Spira: Assistant Principal, Knox ES
• Patricia Nay: Assistant Principal, Macedonia ES
• Yolanda Torres: Assistant Principal, Woodstock ES
• Leah Bleisath: Assistant Principal, Creekland MS
• Nicholas Zomer: Assistant Principal, Creekland MS
• Dr. Dianne Steinbeck: Assistant Principal, Dean Rusk MS
• Leigh Rogers: Assistant Principal, E.T. Booth MS
• Lawrence Gluckson: Assistant Principal, Freedom MS
• Dr. Lea Campos: Assistant Principal, Woodstock MS
• Charles Ingham: Assistant Principal, Cherokee HS
• Dr. Judy Wright: Assistant Principal, Cherokee HS
• Ken Nix: Assistant Principal, Etowah HS
• Cassandra Mathious: Assistant Principal, Etowah HS
• Stephanie Barber: Assistant Principal, River Ridge HS
• Stephanie Norris: Assistant Principal, River Ridge HS
• Mike Santoro: Assistant Principal, River Ridge HS
• Heather Phillips: Assistant Principal, Sequoyah HS
• Chris Bennett: Assistant Principal, Woodstock HS
• Dan Gagnon: Assistant Principal, Woodstock HS
• Nancy Henson: Assistant Principal, Woodstock HS
• Lori Etheridge: Teacher on Special Assignment, Mountain Road ES
• Nate Cline: Teacher on Special Assignment, R.M. Moore ES

During the meeting, the School Board also heard a positive report from Citigroup Global Markets, which was approved to issue and sell bonds for voter-approved Education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) uses, and from Davenport & Co. financial consultants.

The presentation reported that CCSD’s recently improved credit rating and already strong reputation made for a successful bond sale, noting that the numerous interested buyers allowed for the interest rate to be lowered to 2.56% overall, while yielding $21.8 Million in funding for SPLOST projects.

The School Board also heard a presentation on a new type of school bus that has been successfully piloted this school year and will be proposed for expansion next school year.

The “Type A” bus, which is smaller and lower to the ground, will be used for CCSD’s special needs preschool children. The buses are equipped with seat belts, air-conditioning, a lower first step and all standard bus safety features.

“These are built like a bus and perform like a bus,” Transportation Director Jim Georges said, noting the “Type A” buses will be easier to drive and run on regular unleaded gas instead of diesel.

The proposed order of seven buses, which will be incorporated into the recommended budget presented to the School Board for review next month, will cost $423,143 – which is $224,876 less than the same purchase of traditional buses.

The School Board also:

• Announced CCSD’s observation of April as the Month of the Military Child and Friday, April 21, as the related Purple Up Day;

• Heard presentations from Student Delegates Kayla Brader of Woodstock HS and Meghan Hines of Etowah HS;

• During Public Participation, the Cherokee Chorale, a CCSD Partner, presented $500 grants to each of CCSD’s seven middle school chorus programs, as well as a gift to the family of the late E.T. Booth MS chorus teacher Kevin White;

• Recognized Creekview High School senior Austin Miles for achieving a perfect ACT score;

• Recognized E.T. Booth Middle School Media Specialist Amanda Graves as winner of the 2017 Georgia Library Media Association Intellectual Freedom Award;

• Recognized Clark Creek ES STEM Academy as 2017 Georgia winner of the Program Excellence Award Presented by the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association;

• Recognized CCSD Counselors of the Year;

• Recognized CCSD 2017 Spelling Bee Winner Sharon Pradeep of Little River ES;

• Recognized 2017 Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl first-place District, Regional and Divisional Winners;

• Recognized CCSD Region and State Technology Fair Winners;

• Recognized Clark Creek ES STEM Academy’s BrickMasters, a FIRST Lego League Robotics Team, as winners of the Research Presentation Award at State Finals;

• Recognized Region and State athletic champions;

• 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 the surplus of a small parking lot adjacent to the former Building B; and,

• Met in executive session to review a real estate matter and litigation, but took no action upon returning to open session.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 4, 2017; Strategic Work Session at 6 p.m.

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