Woodstock MS Math Teacher Named CCSD 2018 Teacher of the Year!

Woodstock MS Math Teacher Named CCSD 2018 Teacher of the Year!

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower surprises Cherokee County School District 2018 Teacher of the Year Stephanie Vidrine with flowers during class midday at Woodstock Middle School.

Watch a video from the surprise presentation here.

Woodstock Middle School teacher Stephanie Vidrine shapes math lessons into stories that remain in students’ hearts and minds long after the equations are solved.

Her extraordinary gift for teaching her students, especially those who struggle with math, resulted in an equally impressive honor presented on Tuesday: Cherokee County School District’s 2018 Teacher of the Year.

“Mathematics,” the 20-year teacher said, “is so much more than manipulating numbers and following procedures.  It is art, beauty, creativity, patterns and connections to other mathematical concepts and life experiences.”

The CCSD Teacher of the Year is selected by a panel of community leaders who evaluate applications from each school’s Teacher of the Year; school winners are selected by their peers.

Dr. Hightower gives Ms. Vidrine a congratulatory hug after the announcement that she will represent CCSD as its 2018 Teacher of the Year.

“We’re so proud of her,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower told a room full of Ms. Vidrine’s students after announcing their teacher’s honor. “She’s committed to you and what you do on a daily basis.”

Ms. Vidrine will be honored in November at the annual “Legacy Makers: CCSD Teachers of the Year Celebration” sponsored by Credit Union of Georgia and other community partners.  She also will serve as CCSD’s nominee for Georgia Teacher of the Year; the winner will be named in the spring.

A special new prize for CCSD’s Teacher of the Year was announced as part of Tuesday’s surprise presentation: Shottenkirk Automotive Group – Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Canton is giving Ms. Vidrine a one-year lease of the vehicle of her choice!  Already overwhelmed by the initial announcement of her new title, Ms. Vidrine was clearly delighted by the additional surprise.

Sales Associate Ed Denovellis, left, and General Manager David Booth present Stephanie Vidrine of Woodstock Middle School with a giant key while telling her that, as CCSD Teacher of the Year, she has won a one-year lease of the car of her choice from Shottenkirk Automotive Group – Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Canton.

“I’m going to park the van in the garage!” she said, with a laugh, as she received a giant glittering gold key to celebrate the gift.  She then turned to her students to thank them. “You guys are my heart and soul… you make me better.”

Ms. Vidrine, who is a two-time school-level Teacher of the Year having previously earned the honor at Etowah High School in 2001, discovered her passion as a middle school student.

Her eighth-grade pre-algebra teacher had looked her in the eye and said: “You’ll never be any good at math.”

Never say never.

Dr. Hightower tells the class about Ms. Vidrine’s qualities and accomplishments that made her stand out from CCSD’s 39 other Teacher of the Year school-level winners.

Ms. Vidrine dedicated the next three years of her studies to deeply understanding math and connected with an Algebra II teacher who believed in her. She earned a perfect score on her Algebra II exam and found her perfect career.

“From that point forward, I wanted to teach mathematics and provide for my students the opportunity to achieve and excel in mathematics no matter their previous level of performance,” said Ms. Vidrine, who went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics education from the University of Georgia.

Her addition of storytelling to math concepts totals a successful combination for students, who appreciate her so much that they stay in touch long after they’ve advanced, graduated and even pursued their own careers in math.

“She teaches in a way that almost prevents you from forgetting,” one student shared. “Almost every unit she taught had a personal story to it… and every story she told always related back to what we were learning, and everyone got excited when she announced she had a story to tell us.”

Woodstock Middle School Principal David Childress adds his congratulations and accolades for a teary-eyed Ms. Vidrine during the surprise announcement.

Principal David Childress recruited Ms. Vidrine to Woodstock Middle School from Etowah High School, where he previously worked alongside her as a fellow math teacher.

“She has a love for teaching the students who often struggle in math,” he said. “Stephanie is a powerful ball of mathematical energy.”

The proof of her powers, he said, is in the numbers: all of her students earned proficient or better scores on their State exams, and pulled CCSD’s highest marks for performance growth.

The improvement comes from hard work – on her part and on the part of her students, like those who choose to attend daily remediation classes she volunteers to hold during lunch.

As one student puts it, her class is like a Dr. Seuss book: a story, a lesson, a delight.

“Her teaching is like no other,” she said. “She is a teacher who I will never forget.”

From left to right: Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower poses with Cherokee County School District 2018 Teacher of the Year Stephanie Vidrine and Shottenkirk Automotive Group – Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Canton General Manager David Booth.

Dr. Hightower leads Ms. Vidrine’s class in applauding her selection as the CCSD 2018 Teacher of the Year.

David Booth, General Manager for Shottenkirk Automotive Group – Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Canton, adds to the surprise announcement by telling Ms. Vidrine she has won a one-year lease for the car of her choice at his dealership.

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 Launch Canvas: An Online Learning Management System for Students, Parents and Teachers

Canvas logo

The Cherokee County School District this summer will launch Canvas: an online learning management system for students, parents and teachers.

The Canvas system was piloted successfully this school year in select classes to replace CCSD’s Aspen student and parent portals. Schools are contacting parents now to begin the simple account set-up process for a seamless districtwide transition to Canvas for the 2017-18 school year.

Canvas offers teachers and students greater opportunities for teaching and learning, and parents can access more information about their child’s courses, assignments, calendars and academic progress. Through Canvas, parents also can message teachers and easily reset their own password. This brief video highlights the system’s benefits.

“Our School District long has been a leader in the effective use of technology, and Canvas is another tool for continuous improvement,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “Education is evolving with today’s emerging generation, and that means more of the online learning opportunities and digital backpacks that Canvas offers. I strongly believe that Canvas will take us to the next level in teaching and learning, and we already are preparing our teachers to fully harness its potential.”

Parents of students in kindergarten through fifth grade will continue to receive their child’s homeroom teacher name at the school’s walk-though/open house event. Students in Grades 6-12 will receive schedules via an email sent to their CCSD Office 365 account; the schedules subsequently also will be emailed to parents.

Parents are encouraged to learn more about Canvas by setting up an account; detailed instructions are online here. To set up an account, which takes only a couple of minutes, parents need the student ID (5 or 6 digits) and GTID (10 digits) for each of their children, who all can be added to one Canvas parent account. These IDs are in the Aspen system or can be obtained from the school’s front office. The Aspen system will be offline for public use as of June 30, 2017, so parents are encouraged to look up these IDs and any other data they want to save before then.

In addition to direct access via the myccsd link, the CCSD website also will feature an app-style button link on its homepage; Canvas also offers a highly-rated app (listed under Canvas by Instructure in app stores) for mobile devices. A CCSD Canvas help desk already is operational, and emails may be sent to CCSD Technology staff here. Plans are underway to provide parents with sign-up assistance and information at school open houses and curriculum nights.

CCSD Teacher Named to Apple Distinguished Educator Class of 2017!

Apple Distinguished Educator logoA Cherokee County School District teacher has been named to the Apple Distinguished Educators Class of 2017!

Woodstock Elementary School teacher Kristen Brooks is the first CCSD educator to achieve this distinguished honor, which Apple began in 1994 to recognize K-12 and higher education pioneers who use the company’s products to transform teaching and learning.

Kristin Brooks

Kristin Brooks

Ms. Brooks and her fellow Class of 2017 honorees were hand-picked from thousands of applicants and join 2,500 visionary educators and innovative leaders worldwide previously named to this elite group. Apple Distinguished Educators serve as advisors, authors and ambassadors for Apple and as advocates for their peers in the classroom.

“Our mission is to educate the emerging generation, and we must continue to advance our teachers’ technology knowledge to best prepare students for future success in our digital world,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “Teachers like Ms. Brooks understand that students need to do more than engage with technology – they need to develop a sense of ownership so they can fully benefit from all these tools offer. Congratulations to Ms. Brooks, who I know will continue to share her knowledge with not only her students, but also her peers throughout our District.”

Among her many accomplishments, Ms. Brooks created and launched CCSD’s first iPad Lab at Woodstock ES. She is a 2016 Apple Educator, Apple Vanguard Certified, a Certified BrainPOP Educator, OSMO Ambassador and Seesaw the Learning Journal Ambassador, as well as winner of a 2015 PBS Digital Innovator Award.

“Kristen is a true innovator for our students, is a model for other teachers and schools, and she has been a featured speaker at national conferences,” Woodstock ES Principal Kim Montalbano said. “It is exciting to see such a tremendous recognition of her vision and hard work.”

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


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

Watch a video from the surprise presentation:

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

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

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

Or “best chicken farmer teacher ever” for short.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

CCSD Increasing Substitute Teacher Pay Rate

The Cherokee County School District is increasing pay rates for all substitute teachers, effective December 1.

The new daily rate of $90 will move CCSD up in the rankings of metro Atlanta school systems to third-highest substitute teacher pay.

The School District in the past has used a three-tier pay rate based on qualifications of up to $75 per day; the new daily pay rate is $90 across the board, which is the same structure used by a majority of metro Atlanta school systems.

In conjunction with this change, which is designed to grow CCSD’s applicant pool, the time responsibility for substitute teachers is increasing from seven and a half hours to eight hours a day.

All CCSD substitute teachers still will be required to hold a high school diploma/GED; undergo pre-employment screening including a criminal background check and fingerprinting; and attend a CCSD Substitute Training Workshop before beginning work.  To apply, visit www.cherokeek12.net, click Jobs @ CCSD and complete an AppliTrack application; applicants will receive an invitation to the next training workshop, which is on Dec. 2.

CCSD Substitute Teacher Workshops Flier


CCSD to Host Parent Input Meetings on “Instructional Framework”

The Cherokee County School District is currently developing a comprehensive, consistent and systemic “Instructional Framework” plan for teaching and learning that is focused on establishing consistent, research-based expectations for teaching and learning, identifying the most effective instructional and assessment strategies to increase student achievement, as well as to support and sustain teacher effectiveness in the classroom.

The draft document can be reviewed here:  draft-instructional-framework

Opportunities for feedback on the “Instructional Framework” draft document  from CCSD’s parents and stakeholders have been scheduled for each CCSD Innovation Zone.  Parents and stakeholders are invited to attend any of the sessions listed below:

Instructional Framework Stakeholder Feedback Zone Meetings

Discussion/Feedback Facilitated by Susan McCarthy & Keith Bryant

Date Zone Location Time
Monday, October 10, 2016 Etowah Zone

Kathleen Chandler

(EIZ Lead Principal/host)

Etowah HS


6:00 p.m.
Monday, October 17, 2016 Woodstock Zone

Mark Smith

(WIZ Lead Principal/host)

Woodstock HS


6:00 p.m.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016 Cherokee Zone

Dr. Susan Zinkil (host)

(CIZ Lead Principal/host)

Cherokee HS


7:00 p.m.
Thursday, October 20, 2016 River Ridge Zone

Dr. Kerry Martin

(RRIZ Lead Principal/host)

River Ridge HS


6:00 p.m.
Monday, October 24, 2016 Sequoyah Zone

Dr. Ann Gazell

(SIZ Lead Principal/host)


Dean Rusk MS


6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 Creekview Zone

Karen Carl

(CIZ Lead Principal/host)

Creekview HS


6:00 p.m.