The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday reviewed the recommended budget for next school year, which includes hiring more teachers to lower class size while not raising the school property tax millage rate, and adopted a resolution that prohibits implementing Critical Race Theory (CRT) and The 1619 Project.
Superintendent Dr. Brian V. Hightower presented the School Board with his proposed total balanced budget of $567 Million that was developed through a zero-based budgeting process. Despite a State education funding austerity cut of $9.4 Million, the budget was balanced and allowed for the hiring of additional teachers due to $15.7 Million in CARES II Federal funds allotted to CCSD in response to the pandemic’s impact on school operations.
“Our School Board and our School District have a well-respected reputation for strong financial stewardship,” Dr. Hightower said. “This budget reflects our efforts to balance needs and resources, while adding some services and supports we know our students and employees need to be even more successful.”
The General Fund operating budget comprises most of the annual budget, with $435 Million for day-to-day operations. While the millage rate stays the same, this budget shifts a quarter of a mill from operating fund to debt service to reduce the need for future construction borrowing and associated interest costs. The School Board has not increased the tax rate in 11 years and has earned top ratings from the State for its financial efficiency. The School Board tabled the budget for a 30-day public review and will hold three public hearings for input, then take action for formal adoption on June 17.
The CARES funding will allow for CCSD to hire 125 teachers above and beyond enrollment growth needs to allow for lower class sizes and more individualized support to ensure students are not negatively impacted by learning opportunity loss due to the pandemic. Other highlights of the budget include salary increases for teachers and eligible support staff; more student support services staff including additional school nurses, psychologists and social workers; and additional teachers for Career, Technical and Agriculture Education and Gifted programs.
The budget also includes CCSD’s Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue, which next school year will be used to continue classroom additions at Creekview High School and Creekland Middle School and to begin plans to build a replacement Cherokee High School and a replacement Free Home Elementary School. Construction of the replacement schools is dependent upon the community’s renewal of the current 1% Ed SPLOST in the fall; there are no plans to increase the Ed SPLOST beyond 1%.
Read more about the budget in the Financial Facts report posted online here.
The School Board voted to adopt a resolution (posted online here) prohibiting the implementation of Critical Race Theory (CRT), under that name or any other name, and prohibiting the use of The 1619 Project curriculum, under that name or any other name.
The resolution was proposed by School Board members in response to misinformation circulating in the community that CCSD planned to implement these concepts and curriculum, which CCSD has not done nor were there ever any plans to do so.
Dr. Hightower said this decision does not mean teachers are prohibited from teaching students about race and its role in our history and current events, as these lessons are part of Georgia Performance Standards of Excellence, which are followed in CCSD schools. CCSD teachers will continue to have access to many approved instructional resources to assist them in continuing to provide objective instruction.
Dr. Hightower's remarks from the meeting are posted online here.
The School Board also:
• Recognized CCSD Teacher of the Year Chelsea Leming of Indian Knoll ES;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2021 Georgia Scholars;
• Recognized ACE Academy Class of 2021 graduate Michael Benjamin Gerow as a recipient of the Georgia Department of Education’s Award of Excellence;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2020-21 Regional and State Science and Engineering Fair Winners;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2021 Young Georgia Authors Competition Winners;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2020-21 Governor's Honors Finalists;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2021 Yes I Can Awards;
• Recognized 2021 Region and State Career and Technical Student Organization Competition winners from Cherokee HS, Creekview HS and Woodstock HS;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2020-21 STAR Students and STAR Teachers;
• Recognized CCSD’s Mill Creek MS student Annie Mercer as a 2021 Jostens Photo Contest winner;
• Recognized CCSD’s Georgia PTA Reflections winners;
• Recognized CCSD’s Georgia High School Association State and Regional Champions;
• Recognized Etowah HS Class of 2021 graduating senior McKenzie Anderson as recipient of the 2021 Southeastern States Pupil Transportation Conference Buster Bynum Scholarship;
• Recognized Etowah HS Class of 2021 graduating senior Margaret Bradley as recipient of the 2021 Waste Management/Pine Bluff Landfill Scholarship;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2021 Jason T. Dickerson Family Foundation Scholarship recipients;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2020-21 Student Advisor to School Board and Student Delegates for their service;
• Approved the renewal of the Partnership Agreement with ABM Industry Groups LLC;
• Approved applying for Georgia School Boards Association Governance Team of the Year Award;
• Approved monthly financial reports;
• Approved out of state travel;
• Approved out of state and overnight field trips;
• Approved the monthly Capital Outlay Projects update;
• Approved special lease agreements; and,
• Approved the monthly personnel report.
• The School Board did not take a vote on the 2021-22 CCSD Code of Conduct; consideration is postponed until the June 17 meeting.
The next meeting is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 17.