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Board Business Briefs: School Board Celebrates 2021 Accomplishments

Posted On: Friday, December 10, 2021

School Board Dec 9 2021

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, Dec. 9, celebrated the School District winning the Georgia 2021 Governance Team of the Year Award with a review of accomplishments from the past year.

The Governance Team of the Year Award, the highest such honor in Georgia, is awarded to the School Board and Superintendent of Schools of only one Georgia school district in each of the three size categories -- small, medium and large - by the Georgia School Boards Association.  CCSD this month earned the honor for large districts (more than 10,000 students).  The prestigious award requires school districts and their governance teams meet stringent requirements, and national education experts who judge the awards review significant evidence including verifiable data that illustrates the school district’s excellence.

“We don’t do this for the accolades,” said School Board Chair Kyla Cromer, who with the School Board and Superintendent was congratulated with a standing ovation by the audience at Thursday’s meeting.  “We do this because we care deeply about this community.  We couldn’t do this without our professionals in our classrooms, our professionals leading our schools, and our professionals leading our school district.”

As part of the meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower presented a new report, “Evidence of Success - 10 Amazing Things We've Done in 2021,” to highlight the award-winning work by the entire CCSD family to provide the best education possible to CCSD students. 

“This statewide honor may, by name, recognize the leaders seated with me, but they will join me in making clear that this honor recognizes every CCSD employee; our PTA, School Councils and other valued parent volunteers; and our community and business partners,” Dr. Hightower said.

Dr. Hightower shared the following highlights from the full “Evidence of Success” report, which is online here.  The School Board at the meeting also shared a video celebrating CCSD, as all Governance Team of the Year finalists were asked to create one; the video is on CCSD’s YouTube Channel at https://bit.ly/CCSDbestinGA.

1. Preparing Every Student for Future Success

  • CCSD’s graduation rate has hit a new high of 90.82% ... increasing 15 points since 2012.
  • When CCSD students move on to college, 97% don’t need a single remedial class, according to new State data. 
  • CCSD Class of 2021 graduates earned $4.4 Million in Georgia college tuition through passing AP courses. 

As part of the meeting, CCSD Chief Academic Officer Dr. Nicole Holmes shared a presentation on CCSD’s AP program and its continued expansion and outstanding student passage rates.  The full presentation is online here.  “AP classes teach our students to think critically -- I can’t say that enough,” said Dr. Holmes, whose support for the AP program and CCSD’s AP teachers was echoed in remarks by Ms. Cromer and School Board members Clark Menard and Kelly Poole.  “Regardless of their path, we need our graduates to be able to think critically.”

2. Ensuring Every Student Has Opportunities for Success

  • CCSD has earned overall accountability performance scores better than 90% of Georgia school districts.
  • All CCSD high schools have been named AP (Advanced Placement) Honor Schools in recognition of the program’s strength and success. 
  • CCSD launched two new school choice options this school year: i-Grad Virtual Academy and Cherokee College & Career Academy. 

3. Recruiting and Retaining the Best Employees for Student Success

  • CCSD annually achieves a 90% teacher retention rate, which is among the best rates in the State.  The current CCSD rate is 93%.

School Board member Patsy Jordan during the meeting shared her strong support for CCSD teachers.  Ms. Jordan, who is a retired CCSD teacher, spoke up against public speakers at the last School Board meeting who made false and disparaging comments about CCSD’s outstanding teachers.

  • CCSD’s current teacher workforce maintains 15 average years of experience.
  • 72% of CCSD’s current teachers hold advanced degrees in education.

4. Encouraging Employee Growth and Celebrating Achievement

  • CCSD has continued to expand the Superintendent’s Leadership Academies for professional growth and career ladder opportunities.
  • This year, CCSD introduced two new employee recognition programs – Nurse of the Year and Coach of the Year - thanks to outstanding sponsors.
  • More than $1.1 Million in grants have been earned by CCSD teachers and staff so far this school year to improve classroom instruction and student services.

5. Ensuring Safe and Secure Facilities for All Students and Staff

  • The CCSD Police Department earned recertification as a Certified Agency ... and is one of only five certified school police agencies in the State.
  • CCSD has earned 4 stars (out of a possible 5) in the State’s annual rating cultivating a positive school climate.
  • CCSD boasts a current districtwide average of 99.06% for health inspections of school cafeterias.

6. Providing Strong Stewardship of Taxpayer Investment

  • CCSD’s zero-based balanced budget was approved without a local property tax millage rate increase … for the 11th consecutive year.
  • CCSD has earned a 4.5 rating (out of 5) for State’s Financial Efficiency Star Ratings ... ranking in the top 10% in State.
  • CCSD won voter approval of its Education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) continuation with a passage rate of 75%, an even higher approval rate than the last renewal.

7. Implementing Outstanding Instructional Technology

  • CCSD was recognized in January as winner of the Districts of Distinction Award for Educational Technology.
  • CCSD has achieved a third Microsoft Showcase School designation recognizing its use of educational technology.
  • CCSD now can boast 1 Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow, 27 Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts and 2,636 Microsoft Innovative Educators.

8. Improving Business Operations for Organizational Efficiency

  • CCSD earned its first Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Financial Officers Association.
  • CCSD implemented the ParentSquare system for schools to send more dynamic communication and secured documents.
  • CCSD’s communications efforts earned a National 2021 Golden Achievement Award and 15 State awards including three “Best in State.”

9. Engaging Parents and the Community in Student Learning

  • CCSD expanded use of Canvas for parent curriculum engagement with weekly lesson plan reports posted in advance.
  • CCSD’s partnership with the PTA resulted in two National PTA School of Excellence Awards.
  • CCSD’s community and business partnerships have grown to 411 school-level agreements and 311 school and District partners.

10. Leading the School District with Excellence in Governance

  • For the second year during a global pandemic, CCSD opened schools for in-person learning on time … with enrollment growing to 41,873 students.  CCSD welcomed the Governor to begin the new school year, and he commended the entire School District for the leadership and hard work to keep schools open and, as a result, the local economy open!
  • CCSD earned its third consecutive Georgia Leading Edge Award for innovative practices benefitting students; this year’s honor is for CCSD’s Social and Emotional Learning initiative.

Dr. Hightower noted that the SEL initiative’s value to students has been especially evident in recent weeks.  In the last two weeks, the initiative identified five students considering suicide and interventions saved their lives.  Additionally, of the most outstanding research-based Senior Projects by high school seniors that advanced to the CCSD Senior Symposium presentation level earlier this month, two-thirds focused on student mental health issues.  Ms. Cromer noted that at this month’s Georgia School Boards Association roundtable featuring high school student leaders, mental health issues was a top topic.  “It’s very important” to students, she said.  “We are leading the State.”

  • CCSD earned the State’s highest honor for school district leadership and governance: the Georgia 2021 Governance Team of the Year Award!

[NOTE: Photos from the meeting are online here]

The School Board also:

  • Recognized the overall winners of the CCSD 2022 Support Staff Employees of the Year Awards: Elementary School - Knox Elementary School STEM Academy kindergarten paraprofessional Carol Dunn; Middle School/High School/Centers - ACTIVE Academies School Nutrition worker Crystal Williams; and Central Office - CCSD Special Education Executive Director Administrative Assistant Nilda Tippins.  Learn more here;
  • Recognized Teasley Middle School as a Georgia Department of Education Family School Partnership Competition winner.  Learn more here;
  • Recognized the Cherokee County School Board as a 2021 Georgia Leading Edge Award Winner for CCSD's Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) initiative.  Learn more here;
  • Recognized CCSD’s Georgia High School Association State and Regional Champions:
  • Approved the Georgia Education Coalition 2022 Legislative and Policy Priorities;
  • Approved a resolution supporting the proposed School Board Member district reapportionment map, which is required every 10 years to update the districts for electing School Board members to reflect new Census numbers.  This has no impact on school attendance zones;
  • Approved the preparation, pricing and marketing of bonds for Education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for Education) projects.  Due to conservative fiscal planning, the School Board will borrow less than authorized -- $99 Million instead of $115 Million – and instead issue 10-year bonds, as opposed to a longer period, and avoid an extension the current timeline for repaying CCSD’s bond debt;
  • Approved monthly financial reports;
  • Approved out-of-state and overnight field trips requests for students;
  • Approved the monthly Capital Outlay Projects update;
  • Approved special lease agreements; and,
  • Approved the monthly personnel report.

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