From left to right, top row to bottom: Major Buster Cushing, Amanda Schoeniger, Lee Davis, Caroline Miley, Dana Townsend, Sandi Harrison, Ashley Polito, Adam Parker, David Dyer, Peter Vajda, Dr. Joel Roth, Pamela Estes, Steven Payne, and Angela Martin.
The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, April 18, 2019 approved the appointment of a new CCSD School Police Chief and new assistant principals to fill vacancies for next school year.
The School Board unanimously approved naming Major Buster Cushing, who currently serves as commander of field operations for the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, as the next CCSD School Police Chief effective July 1. Major Cushing will fill the role held by retiring Chief Mark Kissel since the Department’s establishment 20 years ago.
“Major Cushing is just the right leader to continue to legacy of excellent service by Chief Kissel,” Dr. Hightower said. “His experience, education, reputation and commitment to our community will serve our School District and community well as he takes on this incredibly important role in our organization.”
Major Cushing’s past roles with the Sheriff’s Office over the last 22 years also have included commander of criminal investigations, lieutenant of internal affairs, narcotics agent supervisor, SWAT Team leader, crime suppression team leader and uniform patrol shift commander, after beginning his career as a deputy for one year in Early County. During his tenure with the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, he has earned three Commendation Awards.
He’s a graduate of CCSD’s VILLA (Volunteer Instructional Leadership Learning Academy) parent academy and has won the Guardian of Ethics Award from the Rotary Club of Canton, for which he serves as sergeant-at-arms, and the Cristal Stancil Leadership Award from the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce.
Major Cushing earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Georgia, and a master’s degree in public administration from Columbus State College. He was not present for Thursday’s School Board meeting to be officially introduced as the new Chief, as he currently is studying at the prestigious FBI National Academy.
He and his wife, Christy, have a daughter, Preslie, and son, Sadler, who both are students at Creekview High School.
Following last month’s appointment of new Principals, Dr. Hightower and his senior staff have focused on filling all of the vacancies for assistant principals for next school year due to advancements, retirements and reassignments.
“We’re so proud of their careers so far and know they will serve our students, staff and community well in their new leadership roles,” Dr. Hightower said before introducing each new leader to the audience. Prior to the School Board meeting, the new leaders attended a reception with the School Board, and Dr. Hightower and his senior staff, thanks to a sponsorship donation made by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
The newly appointed assistant principals approved Thursday are:
• Avery Elementary: Amanda Schoeniger, 15 years of experience including her current role as a special education facilitator for Carmel ES and Clayton ES;
• Clark Creek ES STEM Academy: Lee Davis, 11 years of experience including her current role as a teacher on special assignment at the school;
• Creekview HS: Caroline Miley, 15 years of experience including her current role as an assistant principal at Centennial High School in Fulton County;
• Freedom MS: Dana Townsend, 22 years of experience including her current role as a PE and health teacher at Mill Creek MS, which this school year earned her the title of CCSD’s Teacher of the Year;
• Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy: Sandi Harrison, 14 years of experience including her current role as an instructional lead strategist for Ball Ground ES STEM Academy and R.M. Moore ES STEM Academy;
• Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academy: Ashley Polito, seven years of experience including her current role as the school’s academic facilitator;
• R.M. Moore ES STEM Academy: Adam Parker, 12 years of experience including his current role as a special education facilitator for Creekview HS, Dean Rusk MS, Hickory Flat ES and Liberty ES;
• River Ridge HS: David Dyer, 26 years of experience including his current role as a teacher at Fannin County High School;
• Sequoyah HS: Peter Vajda, 14 years of experience including his current role as an associate administrator at Cambridge High School in Fulton County;
• Woodstock HS: Dr. Joel Roth, nine years of experience including his current role as an instructional lead strategist at River Ridge HS; and,
• Woodstock MS: Pamela Estes, 23 years of experience including her current role as an instructional lead strategist at Carmel ES.
The School Board also voted to approve several reassignments for existing assistant principals and other CCSD leaders to assistant principal roles, and they are:
• Arnold Mill ES: Jennifer Johnson, who currently serves as an assistant principal at Ball Ground ES STEM Academy; and Abbey Philpot, who currently serves as Principal at Clayton ES;
• Ball Ground ES STEM Academy: Dr. Pam Green, who currently serves as an assistant principal at Liberty ES;
• Dean Rusk MS: Dr. Scott Townsend, who currently serves as an assistant principal at E.T. Booth MS;
• E.T. Booth MS: Steven Payne, who currently serves as a coordinator in the Office of Curriculum & Instruction;
• Indian Knoll ES: Angela Martin, who currently serves as a teacher on special assignment in the Office of Curriculum & Instruction;
• Liberty ES: Dr. Christy Bowling, who currently serves as an assistant principal at Arnold Mill ES;
• Mill Creek MS: Leigh Gutierez, who currently serves as an assistant principal at Freedom MS; and,
• Ralph Bunche Center: Angela Moody, who currently serves as an assistant principal at Arnold Mill ES.
Two assistant principals will move to CCSD roles: Richard Carnes from Mill Creek MS will serve as an administrator on special assignment in the Office of School Operations; and Dr. Krista Webb from Creekview HS will serve as an administrator on special assignment in the Office of Curriculum & Instruction.
As part of its monthly personnel recommendations vote, the School Board additionally approved the hiring of two new teachers who also will serve as head basketball coaches. Aaron Darling, who currently teaches and leads the boys’ basketball program at Cambridge High School in Fulton County, will serve in the same role at River Ridge High School. Chris Yarbrough, who currently teaches and leads the girls’ basketball program at Northview High School in Fulton County, will serve in the same role at Sequoyah High School.
During Dr. Hightower’s presentation portion of the meeting, he called upon staff members to provide updates on a new financial initiative, as well as plans to seek AdvancEd STEM accreditation for Clark Creek ES STEM Academy and further refine the Senior Capstone project based on positive feedback from students and teachers in regard to changes made this year.
The financial initiative, outlined by Chief Financial Officer Ken Owen, is a plan to “pay as you go” on some capital projects using Education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) revenue instead on bonding. This proposal, which also calls for shifting a half a mill of existing operating property tax to debt service, will allow CCSD to reduce its planned borrowing for construction, technology and other capital expenses from the $115 Million approved by voters to $95 Million.
“This is an important step for us,” Dr. Hightower said, noting careful budgeting and planning, improving sales tax revenue and the shift last summer of a half a mill to debt service all have contributed to CCSD’s improving financial state. “To think we could cut down the borrowing by $20 Million – to me, that’s huge.”
He noted that a decreasing dependence on bonding not only saves CCSD unnecessary interest, it also better positions the District for an improvement in its credit rating.
The School Board also:
• Recognized Romeo Lorenzo, a fifth-grader at Johnston ES, for his heroism and extraordinary service to others for how he assisted and calmed his classmates when their school bus was rear-ended by another driver;
• Recognized Kelly Gilstrap, a Mountain Road ES kindergarten teacher, one of only two teachers in the U.S. invited by the International Center for Leadership in Education to present at its 27th Annual Model Schools Conference in Washington, D.C. in June;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2019 Spelling Bee Winners;
• Recognized Free Home ES fifth-grader Katie Rickert as the first-place statewide winner of the Daughters of the American Revolution's American History Essay Contest;
• Recognized Cherokee High School sophomore Rebekah Seng as a Congressional Award Silver Medal recipient;
• Recognized Teasley Middle School teacher Scott Reece as a LEGO Master Education Program Ambassador;
• Recognized CCSD’s Elementary School, Middle School and High School Reading Bowl first-place winners;
• Recognized Clark Creek ES STEM Academy Media Specialist Lisa Boysen as a Common Sense Media Educator;
• Recognized CCSD students who placed at the Tome Student Literacy Society State Conference/Competition;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2018-19 Piedmont Regional & Georgia State Technology Competition Champions;
• Recognized CCSD’s Georgia High School Association State and Regional Champions in Literary competitions;
• Recognized CCSD’s 2019 Counselor of the Year and Innovation Zone Counselors of the Year;
• Recognized Woodstock HS Teacher Loretta Muise as Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics' 2019 High School Teacher of Excellence;
• Recognized E.T. Booth MS Teacher Kara Reeder as a 2019 Georgia STEM Scholar;
• Approved a new Partnership Agreement with East West Bank that provides a $2,500 scholarship each year to one outstanding CCSD graduating high school senior, beginning this year with a Class of 2019 Cherokee HS graduating senior;
• 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 special lease agreements; and,
• Approved a modification to the Superintendent's Organizational Chart.
Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 16, 2019; Strategic Work Session at 6 p.m.