The overall winners of the Cherokee County School District 2022-23 Support Staff Employees of the Year Awards are, from top to bottom: Boston ES kindergarten paraprofessional Debbie McMichen, CCSD Preschool Centers Head Start paraprofessional Julissa Izaguirre and CCSD Technology & Information Services technology specialist Jill Phillips. They each are pictured as the surprise announcement is made and as they are congratulated by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.
The Cherokee County School District celebrated the important role of support staff at its Fifth Annual Support Staff Employees of the Year Awards on Thursday evening.
The celebration honored one Support Staff Employee of the Year from each of CCSD’s schools, centers and central office divisions. Each of the honorees was recognized by the Superintendent of Schools and School Board members, received a plaque and gifts of appreciation including a $200 Visa card and $50 Amazon gift card funded by sponsors, including Presenting Sponsor, the Cherokee County Educational Foundation; Platinum Sponsors, Credit Union of Georgia, ProLogics and Roof Technology Partners; and Gold Sponsors, Cobb EMC and Nova Engineering.
[See more photos from the event online here]
At the conclusion of the evening, surprise presentations were made to one overall CCSD winner each in three categories: Elementary School to Boston ES kindergarten paraprofessional Debbie McMichen; Middle School/High School/Centers to CCSD Preschool Centers Head Start paraprofessional Julissa Izaguirre; and Central Office to CCSD Technology & Information Services technology specialist Jill Phillips. These overall winners were selected by a committee of retired educators and community leaders.
“Too often, we know that support staff employees can be underappreciated in the education world – yet you are indispensable. We depend on your skills and the support you provide to our students, teachers and administrators in order to keep our schools safe, healthy and operating smoothly,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “Simply put, CCSD could not operate with you. Thank you!”
School Board Chair Kyla Cromer thanked the honorees on behalf of the School Board.
“As Helen Keller once said, ‘Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.’ Each one of you is like a puzzle piece that fits together with the teachers, administrators, students and parents to make this school district such a success!” she said.
The three overall CCSD winners received: a $500 Visa card funded by sponsors, $200 Amazon gift card from Cobb EMC, a CCSD or school logo embroidered jacket valued at $150 from Allegro Business Products, $100 gift certificate from Practically Perfect Day Spa, $100 gift certificate to Downtown Kitchen from Shottenkirk Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Canton, Birthday-in-a-Box valued at $80 from Nothing Bundt Cakes Woodstock, $50 gift card from Buffalo’s Café, $50 gift card from Riverstone Corner Bistro, a French press brewing device from Alma Coffee and gift certificates from Cherokee Lanes, Chick-fil-A of Cherokee County and Marco’s Pizza.
All winners, in addition to the gift cards, also received gifts from Alma Coffee, Buffalo’s Café, Cherokee Lanes, Chick-fil-A of Cherokee County, Cobb EMC, Credit Union of Georgia, Double V Restaurants Inc., McDonald’s, Marco’s Pizza, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt Riverstone, Northside Hospital Cherokee, Nothing Bundt Cakes Woodstock, Practically Perfect Day Spa, Riverstone Corner Bistro and Shottenkirk Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Canton.
As part of the presentation to the three overall winners, excerpts from the nomination forms were shared to give the audience of greater sense of their value to their school and community.
Elementary School Winner: Boston ES kindergarten paraprofessional Debbie McMichen
Ms. McMichen has 29 years of service with CCSD, all in the same role.
From her nomination: “Ms. McMichen is the ‘OG’ Boston Bear! She was a mama bear and a PTA president before becoming a paraprofessional. Her children attended Boston, and her grandchildren are now Bears! She is the most dedicated and dependable teammate – arriving at 6 a.m. each morning and rarely missing a day! She loves her students and is loved in return. Most importantly, she is the ever-present cheerleader, giving high fives to celebrate all our students and giving hugs as needed. She has devoted three decades to this school and the families it serves. Ms. McMichen is Boston Elementary.”
Middle School/High School/Centers Winner: CCSD Preschool Centers Head Start paraprofessional Julissa Izaguirre
Ms. Izaguirre has 15 years of service with CCSD, all in the same role.
From her nomination: “In her classroom, which is an Special Education inclusion classroom, Julissa supports a variety of learners and differentiates instruction to meet students where they are and assist them in accessing curriculum, building their self-worth and helping them find their voice, while instilling a love of learning and setting the trajectory for their school career. While Julissa is in a support staff role, she has been responsible for assisting in the growth and development of many new teachers who have shared her classroom workspace. Many of our teachers and students have become the best they can be because of Julissa.”
Central Office Winner: CCSD Technology & Information Services technology specialist Jill Phillips.
Ms. Phillips has 22 years of service with CCSD, including six years in her current role. She started her CCSD career as a School Nutrition cafeteria staff member and advanced to the role of cafeteria manager at Creekview High School. While serving in that role, Ms. Phillips went back to school at night and completed her networking specialist associate of applied science degree.
From her nomination: “Jill is a true ‘go getter’ in every sense of the phrase. She loves to acquire knowledge and is always quietly working to resolve complex problems and learn more about the many products and services she supports in order to provide the best customer/technical service to her customers. From helping to image laptops at the technology warehouse to making equipment deliveries to schools, she pitches in wherever she is needed without complaint. She strives to see everyone on the team succeed. Perhaps her best trait is that she treats everyone - regardless of their job title - with the same dignity and respect.”
School- and division-level honorees were selected by their colleagues, and everyone who works in a support role for CCSD is eligible for the honor. Teachers, counselors, media specialists and administrators are not eligible, as they are honored through other awards programs.
Every week, a different school or division Support Staff Employee of the Year winner will be featured on CCSD’s website and social media platforms. The three overall winners also will be congratulated by the School Board at its December meeting.
2022-23 CCSD Support Staff Employees of the Year
Lynnette Greene, student records facilitator
Arnold Mill Elementary School
Amy Morris, instructional lead strategist
Avery Elementary School
Maria Vega, custodian (mid-day porter)
Ball Ground Elementary School STEM Academy
Rebecca Heard, instructional lead strategist
Bascomb Elementary School
Merissa Haymore, front office secretary
Boston Elementary School
Debbie McMichen, kindergarten paraprofessional
Carmel Elementary School
Sarah Mallow, instructional lead strategist
CCSD Preschool Centers
Julissa Izaguirre, Head Start preschool program paraprofessional
Cherokee High School
Cherie Owens, Special Education facilitator
Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy
Livi Avila, parent engagement facilitator
Clayton Elementary School
Meredith Hardt, instructional lead strategist
Creekland Middle School
Dianne Schumacher, instructional lead strategist
Creekview High School
Trina Hutchison, bookkeeper
Dean Rusk Middle School
Christine Lynch, school nurse
E.T. Booth Middle School
Heather Chappell, school nurse
Etowah High School
Lisa Funderburk, instructional lead strategist
Free Home Elementary School
Katie Northcutt, student records facilitator/principal's secretary
Freedom Middle School
Mary Robinson, principal's secretary
Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy
Fatima Flores, student records facilitator
Hickory Flat Elementary School
Jennifer Thompson, supportive instruction paraprofessional
Holly Springs Elementary School STEM Academy
Kimiko Kirkland, kindergarten paraprofessional
Indian Knoll Elementary School
Mary Small, lunch monitor/after school program worker
Johnston Elementary School
Jaclyn Williams, principal's secretary/after school program bookkeeper
Knox Elementary School STEM Academy
Jaime Pitts, student records facilitator
Liberty Elementary School
Maria Riera-Palomeque, kindergarten paraprofessional
Little River Elementary School
Shavon Deal, after school program bookkeeper
Macedonia Elementary School
Sarah Allen, speech language pathologist
Mill Creek Middle School
Dana Jacobs, supportive instruction paraprofessional
Mountain Road Elementary School
Steve Haynes, custodian (day porter)
Oak Grove Elementary School STEAM Academy
Susan Beavers, school secretary
R.M. Moore Elementary School STEM Academy
Sharon Satterfield, supportive instruction paraprofessional
River Ridge High School
Rex Gavilla, technology specialist
Sequoyah High School
Violet Heeman, assistant principal's secretary
Sixes Elementary School
Amber Palmer, school nurse
Teasley Middle School
Megan Antunez, school nurse
Tippens Education Center
Jamie Gramling, School Nutrition manager
Woodstock Elementary School
Diane DuMond, supportive instruction paraprofessional
Woodstock High School
Carol Pontius, principal's secretary
Woodstock Middle School
Susan Barker, instructional lead strategist
CCSD Office of Curriculum & Instruction
Jody Page, director’s secretary
CCSD Office of Financial Management
Karla Lunsford, accounting clerk
CCSD Office of Human Resources
Laura Walters, executive director’s secretary
CCSD Office of Safety & Security
Neil Stein, safety and security specialist
CCSD Offices of Communications/School Operations/Superintendent
Grace Abalos, executive director’s secretary
CCSD Office of Support Services
Rick Phillips, maintenance facility zone foreman
CCSD Office of Technology & Information Services
Jill Phillips, technology specialist
CCSD Transportation Department
Debra Basone, secretary