Cherokee County School Board Continues School Safety Initiative

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.


School Board Hears Budget Forecast Including Enrollment Growth Projections

Woodstock High School senior A.J. Cox is congratulated by the School Board, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower and Marla Price of Waste Management as the winner of the 2017 Waste Management/Pine Bluff Landfill Scholarship of $5,000. The scholarship was presented by Waste Management, a CCSD Partner, at the May 4, 2017 School Board meeting.

The School Board on Thursday, May 4, 2017, heard a budget forecast from the Superintendent of Schools that funds student enrollment growth and continues class size reductions.

The highlights outlined during the Strategic Work Session will be followed up by release of the full recommended Annual Budget later this month, with public hearings scheduled for June 6 and 15 and a vote to approve the budget on June 15.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower noted the proposed budget does not call for a millage rate increase, but sustains CCSD’s financial focus on the classroom, with the hiring of 61 teachers and school-based staff to address projected enrollment growth and continued class size reduction.

Even with an anticipated 572 additional students, CCSD plans to lower class size further to an average of 20 students in kindergarten through third-grade classes and 26 in fourth- and fifth-grade… significantly smaller, on average, than allowed class sizes of 26 for kindergarten, 28 for Grades 1-3 and 35 for Grades 4-5.

Dr. Hightower said this trend is very impressive given that the State still has not restored $4 million in “austerity budget reductions,” with limited new funding earmarked by the Governor specifically for teacher salary increases. Despite financial constraints, the proposed budget for CCSD not only meets the cost-of-living salary increase in the State’s base compensation for teachers, but also extends it to all eligible employees, increases the local supplement for a true 2% raise and funds longevity step increases.

“This is very important,” Assistant Superintendent for Financial Management Ken Owen said of the significant investment in employee compensation, noting that salary is just one piece of the pie paid by CCSD, as health insurance, retirement system and other related costs funded by the District continue to soar. But, he added, it’s an expense that school districts cannot shortchange. “A teacher hiring shortage is looming ahead.”

Due to CCSD’s historical record of strong compensation packages for employees, even during the recent Recession, the District has not faced challenges in hiring like some other metro school systems. The School Board on Thursday also received an excerpt from the forthcoming Financial Facts report, which is produced by CCSD staff to provide employees and the community with budget highlights (available online here), and further details these personnel costs.

The Superintendent shared several other hints about his recommended Annual Budget now being finalized including additional investments in safety and security and learning resources.

The budget calls for funding to retrofit six more schools with security foyers that further regulate access by visitors. Transportation will see two major improvements: the previously announced plan to transition to smaller Special Education preschool buses that are lower to the ground and easier to drive, and the introduction of a new GPS system for all CCSD buses that will allow parents to track their child’s bus using an online tool.

A major investment of $3 million will upgrade CCSD’s English and Language Arts elementary school instructional resources for the first time in a decade, mirroring the update of math resources completed this school year.

Cherokee High School senior Zachary Quiros is congratulated by the School Board, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower and Oak Leaf Church Pastor Will Goodwin as the winner of the 2017 Oak Leaf Church Scholarship of $1,000. The scholarship was presented by the Church, a CCSD Partner, at the May 4, 2017 School Board meeting.

The School Board also:

• Heard plans by the Superintendent to introduce a new “Superintendent’s Game Changer Award,” which annually will recognize four outstanding employees or supporters who have made significant contributions to instructional excellence. The inaugural awards will be presented later this month;

• Heard a presentation from Student Delegate Isabelle Riddle of Sequoyah HS, who this week was named one of only 160 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the nation!

• Recognized Sixes Elementary School as a Common Sense Certified School for Digital Citizenship;

• Recognized CCSD’s 2017 Georgia Scholars;

• Recognized CCSD’s 2016-17 Governor’s Honors Finalists;

• Recognized Nathan Baker of Etowah HS for winning the Award of Excellence from the Georgia Department of Education;

• Recognized CCSD’s 2016-17 Regional Science and Engineering Fair Winners;

• Recognized CCSD seventh-graders who earned Grand or State recognition from Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP);

• Recognized CCSD’s Tome Student Literacy Society Students named State Champions;

• Recognized Region and State athletic and arts champions including the Cherokee HS Region Champions girls basketball team and Sequoyah HS State Literary competition winners;

• Recognized Cherokee HS senior Zachary Quiros as recipient of the 2017 Oak Leaf Church Scholarship of $1,000;

• Recognized Woodstock HS senior A.J. Cox as recipient of the 2017 Waste Management/Pine Bluff Landfill Scholarship of $5,000;

• Approved the first 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 annual plan for improvement of career, technical and agricultural education and one-year funding application for submission to the State; and,

• Approved monthly personnel recommendations.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 18, 2017