The School Board on Thursday, May 3, 2018, heard the Superintendent of Schools’ recommendations for improving safety and security in CCSD schools and approved three more years of school calendars.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower in February, following the Parkland school shooting, re-established his Ad Hoc Safety and Security Committee, which initially formed after the Sandy Hook school shooting.
"On Valentine's Day, our hearts again were broken by a tragic school shooting, this time in Florida," Dr. Hightower said. "As I shared after Parkland, while I would keep its families in my prayers, I also would take action to ensure the safety of our students, employees and schools."
Dr. Hightower asked the Cherokee County Sheriff, Chief Marshal, all of Cherokee's city Police Chiefs, parents and Principals from every one of CCSD's Innovation Zones and CCSD leaders to serve on the Committee, which was chaired by CCSD School Police Chief Mark Kissel.
Chief Kissel led the Committee through two months of work: visiting schools to evaluate safety measures and practices; reviewing hundreds of suggestions from parents; surveying the School Board's Student Delegates (high school seniors who represent each of CCSD's high schools); hearing feedback from an external expert review of CCSD's safety and security (including Georgia Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security personnel); reading up on research and trends; and, finally, together developing recommendations for Dr. Hightower.
"This Committee took the safety and security of our schools very seriously," Chief Kissel said.
The Committee's full recommendation report is posted here and includes suggested improvements to how CCSD secures its facilities, protects them with its POST-certified and armed law enforcement officers, trains employees and students on emergency response, and makes sure every student knows to "see something, say something" whether it's a danger to their school or a classmate crying out for help.
"Some of the recommendations don't require any expense, while some may take us several years to fully implement, but we're committed to meeting the goals of every one," Dr. Hightower said.
The School Board on Thursday approved the next three-year block of school calendars – 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22 – which all follow the longtime “balanced calendar” format popular with students, parents and CCSD employees, and all continue with an August start date and May end date.
In addition to approving future school calendars, the School Board also adjusted next school year’s calendar to accommodate for needed professional development and inclement weather make-up days. The previously designated Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 school holiday will instead be a regular school day, and Monday, Oct. 8, 2018 (Columbus Day) will become a school holiday for students. In a one-time adjustment for next school year, the Feb. 20-22, 2019 potential inclement weather make-up days will instead be scheduled as regular school days to be cancelled if make-up days are not needed.
“We are committed to permanently restoring the full week-long February Break beginning with the 2019-20 school year by using our Canvas online learning system when schools close for inclement weather,” Dr. Hightower said. “This is a big mind-shift for our students, parents and teachers, so we need the next school year to prepare high-quality online lessons and test our capacity for true blended learning. The last three days of February Break next school year will instead be regular schools days, but these days (Feb. 20-22, 2019) will be cancelled if our winter is mild.”
Dr. Hightower shared a brief budget planning report with the School Board, to keep them up to date as work continues to prepare the recommended budget for presentation later this month. In order to stay competitive with compensation and starting teacher salaries in other metro Atlanta counties, Dr. Hightower announced plans to give all eligible employees a locally funded 1% raise and increase the starting CCSD's entry-level educator pay to $43,000 a year.
The School Board also:
- Recognized 2017-18 Regional Science and Engineering Fair Winners;
- Recognized Creekview HS as the 2018 Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl High School District, Regional, North Division and State Champion;
- Recognized CCSD students’ achievement at the Tome Student Literacy Society State Conference/Competition;
- Recognized Woodstock HS students for winning statewide Technology Student Association honors, junior Greg Carroll for being elected to the Association’s student board and teacher Karen Zayance for being elected to the Association’s Board of Directors;
- Recognized CCSD’s Georgia PTA Reflections contest winners;
- Recognized Hickory Flat ES as the 2017-18 Elementary School County Academic Bowl Team Champion;
- Recognized Dean Rusk MS sixth-grade teacher Lindsey Mason as a National STEM Scholar;
- Recognized the Cherokee HS girls basketball team as the Region 4-AAAAAAA Champions and State Tournament Elite 8 and Coach Matt Cates as County and Region Coach of the Year;
- Recognized Etowah HS freshman Sarah Oburu for acceptance into the Disney Dreamers Academy
- Recognized Cherokee HS senior Sarah Snyder as recipient of the 2018 scholarship from Oak Leaf Church, a CCSD Partner;
- Approved a new Partnership Agreement with Berry College;
- Approved a resolution and purchase agreement for the sale of bonds for Education SPLOST projects;
- Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips and professional development;
- Approved special lease agreements;
- Approved monthly personnel recommendations;
- Approved proposal from ABM (American Building Maintenance) Industry Groupto serve as CCSD’s custodial services provider for the next school year beginning July 1, after reviewing an evaluation report produced by staff as part of the request for proposals committee’s process; and,
- Met in Executive Session to discuss a student disciplinary matter.
Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 17, 2018 (Strategic Work Session at 6 p.m.)