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CCSD Board Business Briefs: Operations Update, Leadership Appointments

Posted On: Friday, March 19, 2021

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From top left from left to right, Melinda Roulier, Erica Morrie, Cecelia Lewis, Lea Henderson, Laura Casey, Scott Bradley, Beth Coryell, Amy Walker, Joni Adams, Gena Ergle, Dr. Leisa Griffin, Julie Crowe, and Ashley McElmore, are among the leadership appointments made by the School Board on Thursday.

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, March 18, 2021, heard school operations updates on plans for special events including graduation ceremonies and proms, as well as details for next school year including the continuation of a Digital Learning option.  

The School Board also approved several appointments for CCSD school leadership roles for next school year including new Principals for Ball Ground Elementary School STEM Academy and Mountain Road Elementary School, as well as the naming of the District’s first administrator focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower provided the School Board with updates on several important school operations decisions.

In addition to traditional in-person learning for the 2021-22 School Year, CCSD will continue to offer a Digital Learning option for students in Grades K-12 for the first semester.  “We know COVID isn’t going away by August,” Dr. Hightower said, as to the need to continue to offer Digital Learning as a choice for students and their families, adding that feedback from teachers and parents helped guide how the model should be improved for next school year.

Students in Grades K-2 will continue to be assigned to one Digital Learning teacher’s online class, and will receive a blend of direct live instruction during the school day on Microsoft Teams and assignments to be completed on their own through Canvas.  Students in Grades 3-5 will have the same model as lower grades, but they may have more than one teacher deliver instruction for different content areas.  This model will allow Grades 3-5 teachers to partner to teach their classes together, with the teacher who has more expertise in science and math teaching both classes those subjects, while the teacher who specializes in ELA and social studies teaches those lessons – similar to how two teachers split these responsibilities for in-person classes.

Digital Learning students in Grades 6-12 also will see changes in their model.  Instead of the Apex online curriculum platform, CCSD teachers will create blended learning lessons that will mirror classroom lessons and be available in Canvas for Digital Learners to access.  Teachers also will regularly provide recorded videos of lessons and/or direct live instruction through Microsoft Teams.  

The Digital Learning option is separate from CCSD’s new iGrad Virtual Academy that will begin in the 2021-22 School Year, initially for 200 students in Grades 9-12.  This permanent school choice option will use an application process to ensure students will be successful participating in an online learning model that gives them greater ability to learn at their own pace.  The iGrad Virtual Academy will use Edgenuity online curriculum facilitated by a CCSD teacher.

All CCSD parents on Tuesday will receive an email with more information about these options, as well as a Digital Learning Declaration Form.  The form will be due by 4 p.m. Friday, April 2, if they want their child to participate in Digital Learning for next school year.  

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer thanked Chief Academic Officer Dr. Nicole Holmes and Chief Operations Officer Debra Murdock, who gave a presentation on these changes, for their work and the work of their teams to improve Digital Learning for next school year.  “It looks like we’re going to have a really strong year,” she said of the proposed changes.  “We continue to make adjustments as we move forward.”

While specifics will be detailed when the Superintendent’s recommended budget for next school year is presented to the School Board this spring, it was shared during the meeting that one proposal will be to use a large portion of federal CARES Act funding to hire 125 additional teachers above and beyond what’s needed for anticipated enrollment.  These additional teachers would be focused on ensuring that students catch up in any areas where there may be learning gaps due to the pandemic’s effect on school operations.  How these teachers will assist will be a school-based decision, with, for example, some teachers assigned to further reduce class size and some focused on one-on-one intervention and remediation plans.

Dr. Hightower also shared updates on school end-of-year events, which will be held this spring, but with adjustments to adhere to current operations guidelines due to COVID. 

He announced that in-person graduation ceremonies will be held in May at First Baptist Church of Woodstock as planned.  While the event must again be ticketed due to social distancing requirements, graduates will be able to invite four guests – an increase from last year.  As another enhancement, the names of all graduates – including those who chose to not attend due to concerns about attending a large event – will be streamed onscreen as part of the live streaming of the event.  

High school prom will be celebrated as a senior-focused evening event held outdoors on the high school campus, with student input in the event planning.  While it will not be a traditional prom dance, the event will allow students to dress up to the level of formalness of their choice and enjoy activities such as photo booths, music, games and refreshments.

“Ultimately, we do want to honor our seniors,” Dr. Hightower said, but that venue capacity and social distancing and quarantine requirements prohibited a traditional indoor dance. 

As part of the monthly personnel report, the School Board accepted the resignation of Ball Ground ES STEM Academy Principal Dr. Julie Dutko, who is stepping down for personal reasons.  Mountain Road Elementary School Principal Melinda Roulier will take over the post at Ball Ground after successfully leading Mountain Road for the last five years.

Erica Morrie, who since 2018 has served as an assistant principal at Carmel Elementary School, will serve as the new Principal for Mountain Road ES.  A 20-year educator who has earned bachelor and master’s degrees in education, Ms. Morrie began her career as an elementary school teacher and joined CCSD in 2004 as a Woodstock Elementary School teacher.

The School Board also approved the appointment of CCSD’s first administrator focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Cecelia Lewis, who currently serves as a Principal in Maryland and has extensive school and district leadership experience, will join CCSD this summer as an administrator on special assignment for student services.  She will focus both on DEI and Social and Emotional Learning, two important newer initiatives for CCSD.  The decision to name a staff member to address DEI issues stems from input from parents, employees and students of color who are serving on Dr. Hightower’s ad hoc committees formed this school year to focus on the topic.

“We’re so excited to add Cecelia to the CCSD family,” Dr. Hightower said, noting both her impressive credentials and enthusiasm for the role. “In four days, she had a DEI action plan for us.”

The School Board on Thursday accepted the retirements of five assistant principals: Rad Dixon of Liberty ES, with 31 years of service; Jonathan Hall, 30 years of service, and Susan (Bruno) Selover, 33 years of service, both of Clark Creek ES STEM Academy; Paul Jones of Mill Creek MS, 30 years of service; and Chuck Wilson of Creekview HS, 30 years of service; and appointed new leaders:     

•    Lauren Roach, who previously worked for CCSD and had relocated to Tennessee, will return to serve as assistant principal at Ball Ground ES STEM Academy;
•    Lea Henderson, academic coach at Clark Creek ES STEM Academy, will serve as assistant principal at Carmel ES;
•    Laura Casey, a teacher at Clark Creek ES STEM Academy, will serve as an assistant principal there;
•    Joni Frederick, an assistant principal at Little River ES, will serve in the same role at Clark Creek ES STEM Academy; 
•    Loraine Smith, an assistant principal at Little River ES, will split her time as an assistant principal for both Clayton ES and Free Home ES, which previously have not benefitted from additional administrative support;
•    Chris Bennett, an assistant principal and the athletic director at Woodstock HS, will serve in the same roles at Creekview HS;
•    Scott Bradley, a teacher at River Ridge HS, will serve as an assistant principal and the athletic director at Etowah HS;
•    Beth Coryell, a teacher at Mill Creek MS, will serve as an assistant principal at Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy;
•    Amy Walker, instructional lead strategist at Knox ES STEM Academy, will serve as an assistant principal at Johnston ES;
•    Joni Adams, a teacher for the Cobb County School District, will join CCSD to serve as an assistant principal at Little River ES;
•    Debra Georges, an assistant principal at Johnston ES, will serve in the same role at Little River ES;
•    Gena Ergle, instructional lead strategist at Avery ES, will serve as an assistant principal at Liberty ES;
•    Dr. Chris Garity, an assistant principal at Teasley MS, will serve in the same role at Mill Creek MS;
•    Ken Nix, an assistant principal and the athletic director at Etowah HS, will serve in the same roles at River Ridge HS;
•    Dr. Leisa Griffin, an assistant principal in Fulton County, will join CCSD to serve as an assistant principal at Teasley MS;
•    Julie Crowe, a teacher at E.T. Booth MS, will serve as an assistant principal and the athletic director at Woodstock HS; and,
•    Ashley McElmore, a Title I director for the Griffin-Spalding County School System, will join CCSD to serve as administrator on special assignment for Title I.

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Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, left, and School Board Member Patsy Jordan, right, congratulate Cherokee County Educational Foundation Alumni of the Year Award winners Carolyn Turner and Judge Jackson Harris.

The School Board also:

•    Recognized the winners of the Cherokee County Educational Foundation’s prestigious Alumni of the Year Awards, which each year honor one female and one male graduate of CCSD high schools for outstanding professional and civic contributions.  This year’s honorees, who were named in a virtual ceremony on Saturday, are retired Cherokee County Superior Court Chief Judge Jackson Harris and retired CCSD teacher Carolyn Turner, who served 41 years as a teacher and 20 more years as a substitute.  Both attended the School Board meeting to be honored at the invitation of School Board Member Patsy Jordan, who nominated them for the awards and who, like Judge Harris, was a student in Ms. Turner’s class; 
•    School Board member Mike Chapman thanked Dr. Hightower and his staff for their efforts to organize last week’s successful two-day COVID-19 vaccination event for part-time and full-time employees and this week’s priority appointments for substitutes.  He also thanked the Department of Public Health, Cherokee County Health Department, Georgia National Guard, Canton First Baptist and other partners that helped make the event a success;
•    School Board member Kelly Poole thanked Dr. Hightower and his staff for their efforts to continue student and staff awards events by using technology to host recognitions virtually.  She also noted the USDA’s decision to extend grant funding to provide free breakfasts and lunches to all students through Sept. 30, 2021 and thanked CCSD School Nutrition for its ongoing work to ensure as many students as possible benefit from this program;
•    Ms. Cromer thanked Creekland Middle School for hosting this month’s School Board school visit and luncheon;
•    Recognized the overall CCSD winners of the 2021 Support Staff Employees of the Year Awards; 
•    Recognized the CCSD 2021 Media Specialist of the Year: Amanda Graves of E.T. Booth MS; 
•    Recognized River Ridge HS senior Riley Herrick, the Georgia Association of Conservation Districts’ poster contest winner;
•    Recognized Creekland MS seventh-grader Abigail Moore, third-place winner in the National Humanities Bee;
•    Recognized CCSD’s Girls and Boys Middle School Basketball County Champions;
•    Recognized CCSD’s Georgia High School Association County Champions;
•    Recognized CCSD’s Georgia High School Association State and Regional Champions;
•    Recognized School Board Members for School Board Member Appreciation Week;
•    Approved the renewal of the Partnership Agreement with Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame;
•    Approved monthly financial reports;
•    Approved a Fiscal Year 2021 budget amendment;
•    Approved out of state and overnight field trips;
•    Approved monthly Capital Outlay Projects update;
•    Adopted the Georgia Department of Education resolution of approval for CCSD’s Five-Year Facility Plan for Capital Outlay Projects;
•    Approved a School Year 2021-22 Attendance Area Map correction for a Canton neighborhood under construction and not yet occupied.

The next meeting is 7 p.m. April 15, 2021.

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