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Posted On: Friday, February 14, 2020

2020 CCSD New Leaders 2 14 20

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 approved the appointments of new Principals and other leaders for next school year.

The openings were prompted by the announcement that several longtime school and CCSD leaders will retire at the end of the school year including Beth Long, who serves as the Office of School Operations’ executive director of administrative leadership for elementary schools; Freedom MS Principal Sheila Grimes, Carmel ES Principal Paula White, and Holly Springs ES STEM Academy Principal Donna Bertram.  

All four retiring leaders were recognized by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower during the meeting for their service to the students of CCSD. 

“Education has been a lifelong calling for these outstanding leaders,” Dr. Hightower said.  “They have served our students, their colleagues and, as administrators, their employees well.  We are deeply grateful for their excellent service and wish them all the best in this next chapter!”

Ms. Long joined CCSD in 1994 and served as a teacher, assistant principal and Principal, including at Canton ES STEM Academy, where she earned the Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals' School Bell Award and statewide recognition for its STEM program.  

After teaching in several other states, Ms. Grimes joined CCSD in 2002 as a teacher and then served in CCSD’s special education department.  She advanced to administration as an assistant principal at Cherokee HS, and began her tenure as Freedom’s leader in 2013. 

Ms. Bertram, who began her career with CCSD in 1985, served as a teacher – earning a Teacher of the Year title at Ball Ground ES; assistant principal and Principal, with her last four years in that role at Holly Springs ES STEM Academy.  

Ms. White joined CCSD from Henry County in 2014 as Principal at Carmel ES, where she has led the school to statewide honors for “Beating the Odds” through academic improvement. 

Following the School Board’s approval of his recommended administrative appointments, Dr. Hightower introduced them to the audience and shared brief career highlights.  Prior to the meeting, the School Board spent time getting to know them at the annual CCSD New Leaders Reception held in the administration building’s lobby and sponsored by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“Each of these leaders is exceptional,” he said, “and we know they are the best fit for their new roles to keep us on track for continuous improvement in service to our students.”

River Ridge High School Dr. Kerry Martin was appointed Thursday night to fill the role of executive director of administrative leadership for elementary schools.  In this position, she will oversee elementary school Principals and all operations at elementary schools.

Dr. Martin has served with CCSD for more than 30 years; she began her career as a high school and middle school teacher, earning the Teacher of the Year title at Woodstock HS; worked as a special education facilitator for all grade levels; and advanced to assistant principal roles at the elementary school level.  She led Arnold Mill ES as its Principal for four years, then Mill Creek MS as Principal for three years, where she was named the region’s Outstanding Middle School Principal of the Year, and has served as Principal of River Ridge HS for the past two years.    

As a result of Dr. Martin’s appointment, Cherokee High School Principal Todd Miller will take on the Principal role at River Ridge HS.  Hasty Elementary School Fine Arts Academy Principal Rodney Larrotta, who most recently previously served as assistant principal at Cherokee HS, now will lead Cherokee HS as its next Principal.  

A 24-year educator and former assistant principal at Hasty ES for six years, Dr. Maria Rosario-Regan, who currently serves as a Title I administrator in the Office of Curriculum & Instruction, will advance to serve as Principal at Hasty.

Dr. Benjamin Lester was appointed Thursday to serve as the administrator for student services, a role in the Office of School Operations that supports school counselors, social workers and nurses.  He has served as a teacher and assistant principal in CCSD middle and high schools, and as a professor for Kennesaw State University and University of Miami.  The position has been left unfilled since the passing late last year of beloved counselor and administrator Dr. Rouel Belleza. 

Katherine Monti, an assistant principal at E.T. Booth MS and this year’s Georgia Middle School Assistant Principal of the Year, will serve as the next Principal of Teasley MS.  A 25-year educator, Ms. Monti began her career as a middle school teacher and was named a finalist for Georgia Teacher of the Year in 2010 before joining the State Department of Education staff for two years until her 2013 appointment to her current role.

Hickory Flat ES Principal Whitney Nolan, who has extensive experience in middle school education including as assistant principal at Dean Rusk MS and Woodstock MS, will take on the Principal role at Freedom MS.  Kerry Estep, an assistant principal at Hickory Flat ES, will advance to serve as its Principal.  An 18-year educator, Ms. Estep began her career as an elementary school teacher and then special education facilitator prior to her appointment three years ago to her current role.  

Free Home ES Principal Kimberly Hagood will move to Carmel ES, where she previously served as an assistant principal, to lead as its Principal.  Julie Peppers, currently an assistant principal at Sixes ES, will serve as the next Principal for Free Home ES.  A 14-year educator, Ms. Peppers began her career with CCSD as an elementary school teacher, advancing in 2016 to an assistant principal post at Carmel ES and in 2018 to the same role at Sixes ES.

Avery ES Assistant Principal Amanda Schoeniger was appointed Thursday to serve as Holly Springs ES STEM Academy’s next Principal.  A 16-year educator, Ms. Schoeniger previously has served in CCSD as a teacher and special education facilitator, and as a teacher and assistant principal in Marietta.

Tonya Sebring, a 25-year educator, coach and administrator whose past roles include assistant principal/athletic director for Woodstock HS, will serve as supervisor of student activities and athletics in the Office of School Operations.  She is renowned in the high school athletics community as a State champion softball team coach, State Athletic Director of the Year, Georgia Dugout Hall of Fame member and GHSA Excellence for Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity Award winner.

Melissa Whatley, who began her career with CCSD 25 years ago and currently serves as the Office of Human Resources’ coordinator for HR services, will advance to lead its benefits and risk management department as director.  Greg Mason, who has worked for the Office of Support Services for more than 30 years and currently serves as a zone foreman, has been appointed its coordinator of facilities maintenance.  These two promotions take effect this month, as the positions already have been vacated.

Also during the meeting, Dr. Hightower shared news with the Board about several upcoming initiatives.

The School District is supporting a new initiative with the Cherokee County Council PTA called “Parent University.”  

The PTA will regularly present free programs at CCSD’s high schools that will focus on varying issues and be open to all parents -- no matter the CCSD school their children attend.  The first topic is mental health awareness and suicide prevention with speakers from CCSD’s School Police Department and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) initiative, and Highland Rivers Health.

The program will be 6:30 to 8 p.m. on March 5 at Woodstock High School; March 11 at Cherokee High School; March 18 at Etowah High School; March 25 at River Ridge High School; and March 31 at Sequoyah High School (Creekview HS already has hosted its program on this topic).

Dr. Hightower also announced plans to pilot this spring the use of school bus external cameras to catch drivers who pass stopped buses, with plans to expand the use countywide if it proves successful.  

Similar systems are in place in other metro school districts; companies that provide this service do not charge school districts, but cover their costs through receipt of a portion of the fines collected from violators by police and courts.  The School Board has considered such a proposal in the past, but now has the support of local law enforcement and court officials needed to move forward.  

Dr. Hightower noted that CCSD school bus drivers, on one day a year all count the number of drivers who pass them when stopped, and the most recent count day total was 178 violators in one day.

Another project in the works is an effort to expand the availability of specific special education programs, known as self-contained classes, to every Innovation Zone (a high school and its feeder middle and elementary schools).  This decision, Dr. Hightower said, is driven by the goal of allowing children, no matter their disability, to attend elementary school closer to home and advance to the same middle and high school as their siblings and neighbors. 

The School Board also:

• Heard a tribute by Board member Patsy Jordan honoring Carmel ES second-grader Ellie Pruitt, who passed away Feb. 6; 

• Recognized winners of the 2020 Yes I Can Awards;

• Recognized Mill Creek MS teacher Ann-Margaret Somers as a 2019-20 Teacher Fellow selected by the Northrop Grumman Foundation and National Science Teaching Association;

• Recognized Woodstock HS junior Thomas Arntzen for achieving a perfect ACT score;

• Recognized 2019-20 STAR Students and STAR Teachers;

• Recognized Woodstock HS Athletic Director Chris Bennett as Region 4-7A Athletic Director of the Year;

• Recognized Freedom Middle School as the 2019-20 Middle School County Academic Bowl Team Champions;

• Recognized Etowah HS senior Faith Ediae-Holly, who was elected Georgia HOSA State President;

• Recognized Etowah HS senior Savannah Bray, who was named the 2019-20 Gatorade Georgia Volleyball Player of the Year;

• Approved a resolution recognizing Feb. 25, 2020 as “PTA Day in the Cherokee County School District”;

• Approved the renewal of a CCSD Partnership Agreement with the Optimist Clubs of Canton and Towne Lake and a new Agreement with Georgia Commute Schools;

• Approved the application for the Georgia School Boards Association’s Governance Team Recognition -- Exemplary Board Level III;

• Approval Board member Rick Steiner as its delegate and Board member John Harmon as its alternate for the 2020 Georgia School Boards Association’s Delegate Assembly;

• Approved the monthly financial reports;

• Approved out-of-state travel and out-of-state and overnight field trips; 

• Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report;

• Approved a Georgia Department of Transportation land purchase and permanent construction easement offer;

• Approved special lease agreements;

• Approval the $267,000 proposal from Albion Scaccia Enterprises LLC for the construction over summer break of the new Sequoyah High School healthcare classroom lab; and,

• Approved an attendance area map correction; the change will not affect any enrolled students.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, March 19, 2020





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