The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, voiced their support of parents and employees, who overwhelmingly voted in a recent survey to keep the current school calendar – and local control of it.
In response to widespread media coverage of the formation of a Senate Study Committee to mandate a school start date after Labor Day for all Georgia public schools, the CCSD Office of Communications over the past week conducted a brief survey of parents, employees and the School Board’s Student Delegates. The survey resulted in 8,305 responses from parents and 2,674 responses from employees.
The overwhelming majority – 80% of parents, 86% of employees and 83% of Student Delegates – voted against a mandated start after Labor Day. The groups cited the September and February break as the most important features of CCSD’s balanced calendar, which has been in place for more than 15 years.
Their responses were even stronger when asked which elected body should determine school calendars, with 92% of parents, 95% of employees and 83% of Student Delegates, opting in favor of local schools boards retaining that role. The full results of the survey are posted online here.
“We appreciate our community sharing their opinions,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “Neither I nor the School Board have any plans to change our calendar; we wanted to gather your input so the State Legislature would know where we stand when it considers this issue. It’s clear that our community supports local control and keeping our school calendar.”
School Board Chair Kyla Cromer pointed out that the Study Committee is stacked with members who have ties to tourism, adding that she hopes the Legislature will put aside special interest groups’ desires and focus on what’s best for students and their families. The Student Delegates, who were invited to share comments, noted that the current calendar benefits their academic success and emotional well-being, citing the regular breaks, the ability to take finals before the winter holidays, and the month-long head start on preparing for Advanced Placement (AP) exams to earn college credit.
Ms. Cromer also reported that the State legislators who represent Cherokee County all have said they will not support a State-mandated calendar. The survey results will be shared with the local Legislative Delegation, as well as with the Senate Study Committee’s leadership.
Dr. Hightower presented another important study to the School Board on Thursday: the annual report on critical overcrowding.
For the sixth consecutive year, no CCSD schools have reached the “critical overcrowding” mark of operating at 140% capacity and meeting other criteria, including use of all existing portable classrooms.
Dr. Hightower praised the School Board’s support of continuous planning and forecasting and willingness to make difficult decisions, such as merging the Canton Elementary School campus into neighboring Cherokee High School to alleviate the latter’s overcrowding.
While new student enrollment is lower than usual this year, believed to be in part due to the low inventory of “starter” homes in the county, CCSD’s middle school classrooms remain full. Some relief is on the way, with classroom construction projects planned at Mill Creek and Woodstock middle schools.
“We’re watching these numbers very closely,” Dr. Hightower said of middle school capacity, noting the likely need in the next Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax renewal to include construction of a new middle school in northeast Cherokee to relieve Teasley and Creekland middle schools.
The School Board on Thursday approved the monthly personnel report, which included the appointment of Kenneth “Ken” Locke as lieutenant for the CCSD School Police Department. Mr. Locke, who earned bachelor, master and specialist degrees in the field and graduated from the FBI National Academy, currently serves as captain of courthouse security and division commander for the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office. He joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1989, and has served in roles including SWAT commander and BridgeMill precinct commander.
“He’s very accomplished, very respected, very impressive,” Dr. Hightower said. “We so proud to welcome him to our force.”
The meeting included other important news for the CCSD School Police Department: formal presentation of its State recertification. Chief Mark Kissel and Cpl. John Edgar, who oversees certification for the Department, were recognized by the School Board and Superintendent of Schools and accepted the recertification plaque from Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police Assistant Executive Director Dwayne Orrick.
Mr. Orrick, a Cherokee County resident whose daughter graduated from Etowah High, said he knows the quality of CCSD and its police department personally. The community, he said, should be proud of the recertification, noting only five school police departments have achieved this recognition.
“They are held to a higher standard,” Mr. Orrick said of police departments that earn certification, describing it as a “blueprint” for the highest quality law enforcement agency operations.
The School Board also:
• Recognized Liberty Elementary School for being named a National School of Character and a 2018 Promising Practice Award winner by Character.org;
• Recognized Creekview High School's FFA Chapter for earning the 3 Star Chapter Award – the highest honor awarded;
• Recognized Teasley Middle School teacher Dr. Iona Strougo as a 2018 State-level finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching;
• Recognized Georgia High School Association Regional Champions, the Woodstock HS Baseball Team;
• Recognized 27 CCSD schools as Governor's SHAPE (Student Health and Physical Education) Honor Roll honorees;
• Recognized Creekview High School’s rocketry team as the International Rocketry Challenge Champions;
• Issued a proclamation in honor of Constitution Week;
• Issued a proclamation recognizing September as National Attendance Awareness Month;
• Approved the renewal of the Partnership Agreements with the Service League of Cherokee County and the Cherokee County Department of Juvenile Justice;
• Approved monthly financial reports;
• Approval the annual issuance of tax anticipation notes. School Board Member Kelly Poole praised the Office of Financial Management and Chief Financial Officer Ken Owen for the successful efforts to reduce the amount borrowed and increase the District’s credit rating;
• Approved out-of-state travel and out-of-state and overnight field trips;
• Approval an application for State funding to build an agriculture program lab at Creekview High School. An official construction timeline has not yet been set, but the estimated start date would be no earlier than April 2019, and it would take a year at most to complete.
• Approved monthly capital outlay projects report;
• Approved special lease agreements;
• Approved the annual contract with Ninth District Opportunity, Inc. for Head Start preschool programs; and,
• Approved a property exchange with the Cherokee County government. The county government will receive enough land for a possible fire station adjacent to CCSD’s site for a future elementary school between Free Home and Ball Ground; CCSD will receive land adjacent to its Educational Services Facility campus.
Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018