The Cherokee County School Board this evening unanimously approved the Superintendent of Schools’ recommendation to end school early on May 8 and to postpone a decision on high school graduation ceremonies until July 1.
Dr. Brian V. Hightower said his recommendations were made using input from thousands of CCSD parents, teachers and high school students, who responded to surveys on the issues.
“These are important decisions that I know we could make on our own, using our knowledge and experience as educators and leaders, but we also are a family. We can’t gather around a kitchen table to talk about what’s best, but we can ask and listen,” Dr. Hightower said, noting that other factors, including student online learning participation and performance data and school administrator feedback, also were considered. “Just like in decisions we make with our own families, we’re not always going to all agree, but we do our best. These decisions, I believe, are for the best.”
School Board members shared their appreciation for teachers and staff and their nimble transition to online learning, as well as for the strong support shown by CCSD parents and the community as a whole.
“I appreciate the effort they’re putting in to make us successful … kudos to everyone who’s been involved with that,” School Board member Mike Chapman said of teachers and staff. “It’s amazing the amount of work that kids are doing and the learning that’s going on.”
Mr. Chapman also noted the years of CCSD leadership and School Board support for instructional technology and the significant investment in technology infrastructure by taxpayers through Education SPLOST over the last 20 years. “The work that has been done in the past and the work that is being done today is paying dividends,” he said.
“Word cannot express my appreciation for all of the hard work,” School Board member Patsy Jordan said. “I am so proud.”
School Board Chair Kyla Cromer shared an inspiring tribute to students she found online, which ended with: “I’m proud of our kids because they stayed in. They weathered the storm. They felt sad. They stayed connected. They adapted to a new way of learning. They showed up. They did the right thing.”
Teachers will work from May 9-22 with students who need more time and help to complete assignments and tests to pass classes, and will continue preparing high school students for AP course exams to potentially earn college credit. Final grades will be issued on May 22 in Canvas for high school students, and through emailed report cards for elementary and middle school students. Prior to May 22, CCSD also will provide parents with links to available online resources for students who want to continue their learning over the summer. A plan for CCSD’s annual summer school remediation and credit recovery program is still being developed.
School Board member Clark Menard asked about what the start of next school year will look like following so much time away from the traditional school day. Dr. Hightower shared that he and his curriculum and instruction leadership staff are developing models to assess students’ mastery of standards and provide any needed remediation.
A decision on Class of 2020 high school graduation ceremonies will be postponed until July 1. If social distancing guidelines have changed substantially by July 1 to allow for traditional ceremonies, they will be scheduled at a location and on a schedule to be determined. If large gatherings remain a public health risk as of July 1, a virtual ceremony will be planned.
At Board Chair Cromer’s request, Dr. Hightower has directed his staff to, as soon as possible, set a proposed schedule for possible in-person ceremonies in July, which will be shared with families along with a reminder that these dates are tentative.
“Being the mom of a senior, your child missing a lot of milestones, has been hard,” School Board Vice Chair Kelly Poole, whose son is a member of Woodstock High’s Class of 2020, said with audible emotion. “We’re going to get through this together. Hang in there.”
The School Board this evening also approved several other recommendations related to school closings including to not only continue to pay all employees their contracted salaries through June 30, but to also pay hourly staff, such as lunchroom monitors and After School Program workers, a true average salary -- rather than just base pay, through their applicable pay periods. CCSD employees will receive more detailed information from the Office of Human Resources.
A resolution aimed at assisting the School Board Attorney in retrieving from vendors monies paid for field trips also was approved. The majority of field trip funds have been returned to CCSD and to parents, thanks to supportive vendors. Principals will continue to communicate with parents about remaining refunds.
Dr. Hightower also reviewed the significant day-to-day operations work continuing within CCSD including deep cleaning of schools, renovation and construction projects, bus maintenance and security system installation.
A brief budget update was shared with the School Board. There are concerns the State Legislature, when it convenes to approve a budget this spring, may cut education funding, prompting the possible need for furlough days next school year. In preparation, Dr. Hightower said he has directed his senior staff to identify 5% budget cuts within each central office division, and he has frozen hiring for unfilled central office positions.
“We know this pandemic will lead to significant shortfalls in State, local and federal revenue,” Dr. Hightower said. “We are focused on doing whatever we can now to limit any potential negative impact on our students.”
The meeting was brief and, to comply with social distancing guidelines, each School Board member sat in a separate office in the administrative building and conducted the meeting online via a Microsoft Teams Live event. A link was published prior to the meeting’s start so the public could watch the meeting, and about 300 people appeared to be watching from home.
Also during the meeting, the School Board approved monthly personnel recommendations, which included the appointment of new assistant principals and a new head girls basketball coach for Creekview HS. The new assistant principals are filling vacancies created by retirements, advancements and enrollment growth.
“We grow outstanding leaders in CCSD, and I’m so proud to recommend these appointments, as each is the perfect match for their new role,” Dr. Hightower said.
The newly appointed assistant principals are:
• Avery ES: Ginger Morgan from E.T. Booth MS;
• Bascomb ES: Jessica Currie from Indian Knoll ES;
• Cherokee HS: Dr. Christian Kirby from Ball Ground ES STEM Academy;
• Creekland MS: Celeice Hood from Woodstock HS;
• Creekview HS: Mark Vance from Etowah HS;
• Etowah HS: Dr. Curt Ashley from Polaris Evening School;
• E.T. Booth MS: Tia Bryller from Dodgen MS in Cobb County;
• Hickory Flat ES: Nicholas Zomer from Creekland MS;
• Hickory Flat ES: Denna Vance from R.M. Moore ES STEM Academy;
• R.M. Moore ES STEM Academy: Kimberly Moody from Holly Springs ES STEM Academy;
• Sixes ES: Emily Bartlett from Bascomb ES;
• Teasley MS: Dianne Schumacher from Creekview HS; and,
• Woodstock ES: Laura Casey from Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy.
John Domville will serve as the head girls basketball coach for Creekview HS, bringing eight years of teaching and coaching experience to the post. A special education teacher, he currently teaches, serves as his department chair and coaches the girls varsity basketball team at Centennial High School. He was named Centennial’s 2018-19 Athletics Coach of the Year and 2017-18 Teacher of the Year.
The School Board also:
• Reviewed the new Annual Report of District Progress, which is posted online at https://bit.ly/CCSDar19;
• Approved the renewal of the partnership agreement with The Children's Haven, formerly known as CASA for Children;
• Approved monthly financial reports; and,
• Approved monthly capital outlay project reports.