School Board Member John Harmon is joined for his swearing-in ceremony by two of his children.
Please see the gallery here of photos of four School Board members' swearing-in ceremonies and more images from Thursday's meeting.
The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019 heard a forecast for next year’s budget and weighed in on legislative issues anticipated to come up this session.
The meeting began with the swearing in of four Board members, who all were re-elected to four-year terms: Mike Chapman, John Harmon, Clark Menard and Robert “Rick Steiner” Rechsteiner. The School Board then elected Kelly Poole its vice chair, who will serve in the additional role through the end of the 2019.
The School Board unanimously approved adoption of the Georgia Educational Coalition 2019 Legislative Priorities. These priorities represent the shared goals for the State’s largest school systems, including CCSD, and mirror many of the School Board’s own priorities approved last month. They focus on points including continued local control of issues, such as setting the calendar; revisions to the State’s QBE education funding formula to increase funding to cover the real costs of running school buses and employing school nurses, counselors; and opposition to divert any State funding to vouchers for private schools.
“It’s no accident that the Coalition’s legislative priorities closely mirror our priorities,” School Board Chair Kyla Cromer said, noting that schools statewide are struggling with the same issues and are concerned about the same potential State overreaches. “There’s a difference between fully funding QBE and fully funding education - just look at our transportation budget, and you’ll see [the State’s underfunding].”
Chair Cromer repeated the School Board’s “vehement” opposition to vouchers for private schools and any efforts to undercut local control, such as mandating a statewide school calendar. The School Board also is lobbying for the discontinued State mandated use of schools as polling sites due to safety and security concerns.
The adoption followed a review during the School Board’s pre-meeting strategic work session of issues likely to come up during the Legislative Session, as well as a revenue forecast for next year’s budget.
The work session included a review of Gov. Brian Kemp’s inaugural “State of the State” address issued Thursday morning during which he announced plans to include a $3,000 raise for all teachers in the 2020 budget, as a “down payment” on his campaign promise to give $5,000 raises, as well as a 2% raise for school bus drivers, school nurses, and school nutrition workers. He also announced he would be amending the current budget to send $30,000 to every public school in Georgia to improve safety and security.
“We’re excited and encouraged” by his remarks, Chair Cromer said. “It appears there’s a lot of support for K-12 schools.”
Chief Financial Officer Ken Owen presented a very early budget forecast, which shows increased revenue as a result of the Governor’s plans, student enrollment growth, and an improving economy.
School Board members were asked to submit their priorities for next year’s budget, which Mr. Owen and his staff will use, along with requests from CCSD division and department leaders, to begin their zero-based budgeting process that leads to the development of the Superintendent’s recommended annual budget.
Chair Cromer asked Mr. Owen about the impact of the ongoing federal government shutdown. He said, while checks are continuing to come in for programs such as the federally funded free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch program, Head Start preschool program and other needs, his staff is closely monitoring the situation.
Mr. Owen also presented a first for CCSD: a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which is considered the gold standard in government financial reporting. The report presents financial records already created by government entities, such as budgets, audits and management reports, but in one consolidated report.
School Board Member Clark Menard, who is a CPA, praised Mr. Owen and his staff for successfully undertaking what he described as a “monumental effort.”
“It’s as transparent as you can get… and that’s a good thing,” Mr. Menard said. “It’s not required, but it really is the highest level of financial reporting.”
The School Board also approved monthly personnel recommendations, which included the retirement of three CCSD leaders.
“It has been a great joy for me to work with these folks and see their significant contributions to the District,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “They will be greatly missed.”
Tammy Castleberry, Supervisor of Curriculum, will retire with more than 30 years of service as an educator, which began in CCSD in 1987 and has included roles as a classroom teacher (for which she was named Teacher of the Year), assistant principal and Principal of Macedonia Elementary School.
Phil Parrott, Director of Facility Construction, is retiring after 19 years of service, which included supervising $550 Million of school and office construction projects.
Judy Withey, Coordinator of Curriculum, also is retiring with 19 year served in CCSD, including as a classroom teacher and graduation coach, among her roles.
The personnel recommendations also included a significant hire: Michael Collins as the new head football coach for River Ridge High School. Coach Collins, a Cherokee High School graduate who has built a statewide reputation as a successful coach, will teach physical education and begin work March 1.
The School Board also:
• Recognized Woodstock Middle School seventh-grader Bryce Jones as Regional winner of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District’s 17th Annual Water Essay Contest;
• Recognized Boston Elementary for being named a 2018-19 National Beta School of Distinction;
• Recognized four CCSD Schools honored by the Governor for academic progress and success: Avery ES, R.M. Moore ES STEM Academy, Bascomb ES and Creekview HS;
• Approved monthly financial reports;
• Approved out-of-state travel and out-of-state and overnight field trips;
• Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report;
• Approved granting at Indian Knoll ES a permanent drainage easement and two right-of-way deeds to the Cherokee County government and granting a permanent sanitary sewer easement to the Cherokee County Water and Sewerage Authority; and,
• Approved authorizing the Superintendent of School to negotiate a contract with the Georgia School Boards Association/Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement for assistance services with CCSD's Strategic Improvement Plan Process through the Georgia Vision Project
Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019