New leaders appointed Thursday included, from left to right, Dr. Lyn Turnell as director of student assessment, Thomas Davis as supervisor of applications support services and Brandy Phillips as assistant principal for Ball Ground ES STEM Academy.
The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, May 16, 2019 reviewed the Superintendent’s proposed budget for next school year and approved a new crackdown policy to stop student vaping.
During its strategic work session, the School Board heard an overview of the budget, which calls for increased investment in attracting and retaining the best teachers possible, continued decreases in classroom size, and new initiatives to improve services for at-risk students.
The budget keeps the millage rate steady, and the School Board will hold three public hearings on both the rate and the budget at 11:30 a.m. June 12 and 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on June 20, with a final opportunity for public input during the 7 p.m. June 20 meeting when the budget is considered for approval. All of the hearings and the meeting will be held in the school board auditorium in Canton.
The $481 Million general fund day-to-day operating budget uses local funds to pay the balance that the State budget does not cover to ensure all teachers receive a true $3,000 raise -- and that the raise is extended to all certified employees. Similarly, local funds will ensure that all classified employees (not just the specific groups identified by the State budget) receive a 2% raise. Annual longevity step increases for all eligible employees also are included in the budget, as is funding to increase starting teacher pay and salaries for some classified positions, such as police officers, that CCSD’s recent salary study determined should be more competitive.
“I’m proud of this budget,” School Board member Clark Menard said after the presentation by CCSD Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Owen, which noted that 87% of spending is in salaries and benefits. Of all spending, 67% is in the classroom, 27% is in student support, such as counselors and nurses, and 6% is in other operating costs. “I’m proud that it underscores we’re in the people business. We need to keep the best and most talented… to provide the best education to our students that we can.”
Other highlights of the budget, which are further detailed in CCSD’s reader-friendly Financial Facts report, include funding to reduce average class sizes to a six-year low, ranging from 20 in kindergarten to 25-30 for middle and high school classes; the shifting of a half a mill from operations to debt service to reduce borrowing for construction and technology and position CCSD for an improved credit rating; and spending more on programs to target students with the greatest needs – both academic and emotional.
One initiative to address the need to further focus on students’ emotional needs is the hiring for next school year of two mental health counselors. These new positions will specifically focus on students in crisis and support the work in that regard already being done by school counselors, nurses, social workers and psychologists.
“Whether they’re academically or emotionally at risk, we want healthy kids, and we’re doing whatever we can,” School Board Chair Kyla Cromer said of these investments.
The School Board on Thursday unanimously approved an updated student discipline code for next school year, which significantly toughens punishments for student vaping.
Beginning on the first day of school, any students found with vaping devices or oil will be treated as if they are in possession of felony-level marijuana.
This “extreme” zero-tolerance policy, with punishments including immediate external suspension from school, long-term reassignment to an alternative school and possible expulsion, comes in the wake of a rising number of students using these dangerous devices at school.
“It’s an extreme measure, but this is an extreme situation that deserves an extreme measure,” School Board Attorney Tom Roach said, as he detailed the policy.
The policy will shift the burden to students to prove that their devices and oils do not contain marijuana-derived THC oil in order to avoid the most serious punishments, but even if that is proved, students still will face discipline for possessing nicotine-based or other vaping products.
Dr. Hightower said, in addition to communication shared with parents earlier this school year about the dangers of any vaping, his staff will launch a more extensive public awareness campaign next school year. This campaign will include a student public service announcement video contest, with a $500 cash prize donated by the Service League of Cherokee County.
“Students and their parents need to understand that vaping is dangerous: short-term, you can overdose and suffer serious resulting health problems or death; long-term, you can damage your brain and lungs… and maybe worse, as too little research has been done,” Dr. Hightower said. “We hope students who are vaping and may be addicted to nicotine or THC will heed this warning and seek immediate help for treatment.”
As part of its approval of the Superintendent’s monthly personnel recommendations, the School Board filled the last leadership vacancies for next school year.
- Dr. Lyn Turnell, a longtime CCSD educator with experience from the classroom to counselor’s office to assistant principal role, will advance to serve as director of student assessment. Dr. Jennifer Scrivner will take on a new role focused on research to further improve teaching and learning.
- Thomas Davis, a successful programmer, coder and product developer in the private sector, was tapped to serve as CCSD’s first supervisor of applications support services to develop software solutions for improving District operations.
- Brandy Phillips, a past Teacher of the Year and current instructional lead strategist at Indian Knoll Elementary School, will serve as the assistant principal at Ball Ground Elementary School STEM Academy for next school year.
- Jaime Stowe, a Registered Nurse with 18 years of clinical experience including as a staff nurse with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, will serve as one of the District’s lead nurses. She is filling the vacancy created by the retirement of longtime Lead Nurse Gwen Chambers.
The School Board also:
• Recognized Tippens Education Center seventh-grader Connor Oakes as a National 180 Student Award Winner;
• Recognized Cherokee High School senior Jack Edmondson as recipient of the Award of Excellence presented by the Georgia Department of Education;
• Recognized Etowah HS senior Chase Thomas as recipient of the 2019 LGE Community Credit Union Service Scholarship;
• Recognized Little River ES “Coding Eagles” Team as Top 10 winners in the National Code Rush Challenge;
• Recognized River Ridge High School junior Sathvika Narasimhan as a National Center for Women & Information Technology’s Award for Aspirations winner;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2018-19 Governor's Honors Finalists;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2018-19 Elementary School Academic Bowl Team Champions - Indian Knoll Elementary School;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2018-19 Regional Science and Engineering Fair Winners;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2018-19 Social Studies Fair District, Regional and State Winners;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2018-19 Young Georgia Authors Competition District, Region and State Winners;
• Recognized Cherokee High School senior Erendira Lucas as recipient of the 2019 East West Bank Scholarship;
• Recognized Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy for earning AdvancED STEM Certification;
• Recognized Skills USA State Competition winners from Cherokee High School and Sequoyah High School;
• Recognized CCSD student athletes honored as Positive Athlete Georgia Regional Winners;
• Recognized CCSD’s Georgia High School Association State and Regional champions;
• Recognized Cherokee High School sophomore Morgan Atchley for placing at the Career and Technical Instruction State Competition;
• Recognized River Ridge High School senior Billie O'Bryant as recipient of the 2019 Waste Management/Pine Bluff Landfill Scholarship;
• Recognized the 2018-19 Student Advisor to School Board and Student Delegates for their service and commitment to CCSD;
• Approved a new Partnership Agreement with ABM Industry Groups LLC that provides a $1,000 scholarship each year to one outstanding graduating high school senior from each CCSD high school beginning with a presentation at the June 20 School Board meeting to Class of 2019 winners;
• Approved monthly financial reports;
• Approved the local plan for improvement of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education and a one-year State funding application for next school year;
• Approved out-of-state travel and out-of-state and overnight field trips;
• Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report; and,
• Approved special lease agreements.
Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, June 20, 2019