The audience at the Cherokee County School Board meeting on Thursday rose for a standing ovation to thank School Board members for their service in honor of Georgia School Board Appreciation Week. More photos from the meeting are online here.
The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, March 17, 2022 approved a budget amendment to accept state funding for eligible part-time and full-time staff to receive a one-time bonus and appointed new school leaders for next school year.
Governor Brian Kemp on Wednesday signed into law a mid-year budget amendment that provides bonus funding and which provides school districts with the state funding lost for this year due to “austerity budget cuts.” The state provides bonus funding for about 4,000 of CCSD’s 5,100 part-time and full-time employees (based on the state funding formula) to receive $2,000 bonuses; the state does not provide bonus funding for CCSD’s additional nearly 2,000 employees, including temporary workers and substitute teachers.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower told the School Board that he and his staff will review the state funding information, which was received Thursday morning, and make a recommendation at the April School Board meeting for how the bonuses should be distributed as part of the April payroll. In the past, the School Board has used local funds to expand state bonuses to all part-time and full-time employees, and, during the pandemic, has additionally provided bonuses to temporary workers including substitutes based on days worked. The influx of $9.4 million in restored state funding withheld through “austerity budget cuts” could make such a bonus expansion possible, he added.
“Our teachers and support staff have shown us over the past two years that they can overcome incredible challenges,” Dr. Hightower said. “They are not as dedicated as they are because of a paycheck -- there are much easier and more lucrative jobs out there. They are dedicated because they love their work and they love our kids. When we do have the means to financially reward all of our employees for a job well done, I strongly believe we should, and that will be my recommendation next month.”
From left to right, Janet Baggett, Casey Belli, Amanda Blackwell, Brittany Holton, Josh Martin, Holly Miller, Dr. Robert Shaw, Melissa Venezia, Tyler Gwynn, Andy Hall and Charley Ingham.
As part of its approval of the monthly personnel report, the School Board made several significant appointments, which followed initial appointments made last month. Prior to the regular meeting, the School Board met with new school and district leaders at a reception annually hosted by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
The School Board also approved the retirement at the end of the school year of 35-year educator and administrator Bill Sebring, who currently serves as CCSD’s Chief Support Services Officer.
“We’re so proud of all he has done to support our students – as a teacher, a coach, an administrator and in his role supervising all of support services, which is a big job,” Dr. Hightower said. “We wish him the absolute best in his retirement.”
Mr. Sebring began his career as a teacher in Florida, joining CCSD in 1989 as a Special Education and PE teacher and coach at Sequoyah High School. He advanced to serve as an assistant principal and athletic director at Woodstock High School, and in 1999 began his tenure as Principal of Cherokee High School. Mr. Sebring began leading Woodstock High School as its Principal in 2006, and started his current district role in 2013. As Chief Support Services Officer, Mr. Sebring oversees capital improvements, facility maintenance and support services, planning, facilities and compliance, and warehouse operations.
He earned bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degrees in education, and is married to Tonya Sebring, CCSD’s supervisor of student activities and athletics. His daughter and son both graduated from Etowah HS, as did his stepdaughter, and Mr. Sebring is the proud grandpa of two grandsons.
The School Board on Thursday approved the following appointments of new leaders and leadership changes:
- Janet Baggett, Creekview HS teacher and 21-year educator, to serve as assistant principal for Etowah HS. Jennifer Jones, currently an assistant principal at Etowah HS, will serve as an administrator in the Office of Curriculum & Instruction to help oversee fine arts and humanities programs;
- Casey Belli, River Ridge HS teacher and eight-year educator, to serve as an assistant principal for Cherokee HS, following the appointment of assistant principal Charley Ingham to Principal of Woodstock HS;
- Amanda Blackwell, Teasley MS teacher and 17-year educator, to serve as an assistant principal at E.T. Booth MS next school year following the retirement of assistant principal Leigh Rogers;
- Brittany Holton, Sixes ES teacher and 14-year educator, to serve as an assistant principal at Boston ES next school year. Michelle Calkins, currently an assistant principal at Boston ES, will transfer to Holly Springs ES STEM Academy to serve in that role;
- Dr. Susan McQuade, assistant principal of Macedonia ES and 30-year educator, to serve as an assistant principal for both Clayton ES and Free Home ES following the retirement of assistant principal Lorraine Smith;
- Josh Martin, an assistant principal at Roswell HS and 16-year educator, to serve as an assistant principal at Dean Rusk MS. Scott Townsend, currently an assistant principal at Dean Rusk MS, will transfer to the ACTIVE Academies campus to serve in that role;
- Holly Miller, Avery ES teacher and 19-year educator, to serve as an assistant principal at Sixes ES next school year following the retirement of assistant principal Emily Bartlett;
- Dr. Robert Shaw, Principal of Roswell HS and 25-year educator, to serve as an administrator on special assignment for School Operations to assist with administrative leadership;
- Rocky Simpson, CCSD supervisor for facilities maintenance, to serve as director of facilities maintenance following the transfer of Trey Moores to director of capital improvements; and,
- Melissa Venezia, instructional lead strategist at E.T. Booth MS and 26-year educator, to serve as assistant principal at Woodstock MS next school year. Pam Estes, currently an assistant principal at Woodstock MS, will transfer to Macedonia ES to serve in that role;
The other new leaders approved in February who were formally recognized Thursday are:
- Tyler Gwynn, who most recently served as the chief human resources officer for Marietta City Schools, has joined CCSD’s Office of Human Resources as the executive director for middle school and high school staffing;
- Andy Hall, Principal of i-Grad Virtual Academy, who next school year will serve as Principal for the ACTIVE Academies campus, which, in addition to i-Grad, also includes ACE Academy, Cherokee College & Career Academy (C3) and Transition Academy; and,
- Charley Ingham, an assistant principal at Cherokee HS with 20 years of experience as an educator, will serve as Principal of Woodstock High School for next school year. Current Woodstock HS Principal Mark Smith will serve as an administrator in the Office of Curriculum & Instruction to help oversee assessments and accountability measures.
Dr. Hightower, in his announcements about the new leaders, noted how many have been honored as Teacher of the Year and STAR Teacher during their career including Mr. Gwynn, Mr. Hall, Mr. Ingham and the majority of the new assistant principals. He also noted that Dr. Shaw, a U.S. Army veteran, has earned many top honors as an administrator, including multiple Principal of the Year recognitions.
“The caliber of these leaders is incredibly impressive,” Dr. Hightower said. “They all are valuable additions to our leadership team.”
During the meeting, the School Board also heard an update on teacher recruitment efforts. CCSD has seen 98% of its current teachers sign contracts for next school year; the difference includes teachers who are retiring or relocating.
School Board Chair Kyla Cromer commended the “phenomenal” retention rate, as well as recent job fairs for next school year, about which she has heard very positive feedback.
The annual teacher job fair held earlier this month attracted a total of 463 candidates, through both in-person and virtual events. Principal response to candidate quality additionally has been very positive, Chief Human Resources Officer Rick Beaulieu said, with hiring already completed for some schools.
Also during Thursday’s meeting, a disruption led to an audience member being asked to leave the auditorium.
A small group of School Board candidates and about a dozen of their supporters attended the meeting. One of the supporters, who has demanded that 225 books (the majority of which are not in CCSD schools) be immediately banned from all CCSD schools, during Public Participation read an intimate scene from a high school-level book. School Board members stopped the speaker and reminded the audience that children younger than high school had access to watch the meeting livestream and also could access the video when later posted on the CCSD website.
Members of the group in the audience started shouting during these remarks by School Board members and did not stop, despite requests for civility from the School Board and School Board attorney. As the disruptions continued, several school police officers walked into the audience and asked the group to please stop shouting and be civil. All stopped but one woman, who argued with the police officers and, at one point, said the School Board members should be arrested. After continued conversation, the police officers were able to walk her out of the meeting without incident.
Following this disruption, School Board member Clark Menard thanked the police officers for showing great professionalism in diffusing the situation so that the meeting could continue. He also appealed to the candidates and their supporters to please show civility and respect should they attend future meetings.
The School Board also:
- Heard an update on CCSD’s Cognia accreditation review. The first step in the process was Cognia’s examination of the school district’s Pre-K program, which took place last week and resulted in the recommendation for its continued accreditation and multiple commendations for excellence. Cognia now is at work on its review of the school district’s Grades K-12 program, which will culminate with a review team visit later this month;
- School Board member Kelly Poole, in the meeting’s Inspiration moment, thanked CCSD staff for all their efforts through the CCSDcares initiative to support the well-being of students and staff. She shared her own personal story in regard to CCSDcares, crediting the efforts for saving the life of her son. A recent Woodstock High School graduate, her son while a student there went through a period of emotional and mental health struggles including a suicide attempt. The CCSDcares work by his teachers, counselors and administrators, she said, helped save his life;
- Mr. Menard thanked the Cherokee County Educational Foundation for the 2022 Celebration of Education Gala, which raised $175,000 to support CCSD through grants for teachers and programs;
- Ms. Poole thanked the volunteers and partners recognized at the 2022 CCSD Partner of the Year and Volunteer of the Year awards ceremony for all they do to support CCSD and its students and employees;
- School Board member Patsy Jordan thanked CCSD schools for invitations to participate in Read Across America guest reader events;
- Recognized 2022 STAR Students and Teachers from each high school and the overall CCSD STAR Student Benjamin Davis of Creekview HS and STAR Teacher Wendy McCarron. Read more here;
- Recognized Etowah HS senior Ryan Lofland for appointment to the National Association for Music Education's All-National Symphony Orchestra. Read more here;
- Recognized CCSD 2022 Media Specialist of the Year Leslie Hicks of Knox ES STEM Academy. Read more here;
- Recognized Mill Creek MS FIRST LEGO League Robotics Team Lego Cats - Navy Team for winning the state’s third-place Overall Champion Award. Read more here;
- Recognized Etowah HS junior Ila Prabhuram for being selected as a 2022 Georgia Youth Leadership Award recipient. Read more here;
- Recognized CCSD veterinary science students from Creekview HS and Creekland MS named State Champions in the Georgia FFA Veterinary Science Career Development Event. Read more here;
- Recognized the 2021-22 CCSD Elementary School and Middle School Reading Bowl first-place winners. Read more here;
- Recognized the 2021-22 CCSD Elementary Math Competition winners. Read more here;
- Recognized the River Ridge HS School Nutrition team for earning its 20th consecutive perfect health inspection score. Read more here;
- Recognized CCSD’s Georgia High School Association State and Regional Champions. Read more here;
- Recognized CCSD’s winners of Georgia School Public Relations Association communications and community engagement awards. Read more here;
- Recognized the School Board Members in honor of School Board Member Appreciation Week;
- Approved School Board member Rick Steiner as the delegate and School Board member John Harmon as the alternate for the 2022 Georgia School Boards Association Delegate Assembly;
- Approved monthly financial reports; and,
- Approved a required resolution for the renewal of CCSD’s state strategic waivers school system contract.