CCSD PTAs, Staff & Parents Win Top Georgia PTA Awards

The Cherokee County School District swept top Georgia PTA Awards for Principals, school nurses and school PTAs.

The Georgia PTA presents statewide awards to outstanding educators, PTAs and parents at its annual conference, and the Cherokee County School District claimed an impressive list of high honors. The district winners were recognized by the Cherokee County School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the Board’s September meeting.

“We’re extremely proud to see our parents and employees applauded at the State level, as they our vital to our School District’s success,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower said. “The PTA devotes thousands of volunteer hours in our schools, raises significant funds for school needs and advocates on behalf of our schools, our teachers and public education… and we can’t thank them enough for their dedicated service.”

Dr. Kerry Martin, Principal of Mill Creek Middle School, won the Outstanding Principal Award for middle schools.

“To be named Outstanding Principal of the Year is a huge honor,” Martin said. “I am committed to collaborating with all stakeholders to make our school the best it can be. In the end, it’s all about the students. If they, too, believe that I’m outstanding, that is the validation I need to continue doing what I love, supporting students in a positive way.”

Whitney Nolan, Principal of Hickory Flat Elementary School, won the Outstanding Principal Award for elementary schools.

“Just to be nominated for this award by our nationally recognized PTA at Hickory Flat is both an honor and a blessing!” she said. “Serving this community as principal is one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my life. I have stated many times that as the leader of Hickory Flat Elementary, I do not want the community to follow me — I want the community to join me. Being selected as the Outstanding Principal Award recipient for doing what I absolutely love makes it that much sweeter.”

Mill Creek Middle School school nurse Thania Molina won the Georgia PTA Outstanding School Nurse Award. After earning local and District 13 PTA honors, she was recognized as the best school nurse in the state for the significant and exceptional service she provides to the students and staff of her school.

Two district PTA parent volunteers earned the prestigious Visionary Award: Sue Palermo of Johnston ES and Scott Steinbrenner of Little River Elementary School. This high honor recognizes PTA volunteers who demonstrate an “above and beyond” approach to addressing and resolving community issues and concerns.

CCSD PTAs swept the elementary division for the top honor of Outstanding Local Unit, with Little River Elementary School winning first place, Johnston Elementary School placing second, and Bascomb Elementary School ranking third.

The Georgia PTA recognizes excellence by school PTAs in fulfilling the organization’s various standards, and two CCSD PTAs won recognition for their projects.

Mill Creek Middle School was honored as the best in Georgia for Standard 1: Welcoming All Families. Little River Elementary School was named tops in the State for Standard 4: Speaking Up for Every Child.

“We feel very strongly that Mill Creek MS should be inclusive of all students and families,” Dr. Martin said, noting the school PTSA last school year for its “Welcoming All Families” project made a specific effort to ensure students with special needs were included in recognition’s such as Student of the Month and embraced programs including the Special Olympics and Exceptional Children’s Week.

“During Exceptional Children’s Week, we cherished the theme, ‘Every Child is a Different Kind of Flower and Together Make a Beautiful Garden,’” she said. “All students were supplied packets of wildflower seeds in science class to promote the message of inclusion. Our PE teachers embraced the week by modifying activities to promote empathy exercises to teach tolerance and understanding.”

Little River Elementary School PTA made children with special needs the focus of its “Speaking Up for Every Child” project.

The PTA enlisted the participation of local businesses to help raise funds to enhance the school’s observance of Exceptional Children’s Week and arranged for a local drama troupe to educate and engage all students through a special performance.

Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy PTA earned the Presidents Membership Award. Outstanding Advocacy Awards were earned by the PTAs of: Johnston Elementary School, Mill Creek Middle School, River Ridge High School and Woodstock High School. Platinum Target Membership Awards were earned by the PTAs of: Hickory Flat Elementary School, Mountain Road Elementary School and Sixes Elementary School.

The following schools earned Model PTA Awards: Bascomb Elementary School, Freedom Middle School, Hickory Flat Elementary School, Indian Knoll Elementary School, Johnston Elementary School, Little River Elementary School, Mill Creek Middle School, Mountain Road Elementary School, River Ridge High School and Woodstock High School.

Woodstock HS Presents Career Programs

Woodstock High School’s media center, through its Career Café program, regularly presents speakers to help prepare students for college career readiness.

Recent programs included guest speaker Marcus Hilliard of, who talked about scholarships, grants, loans, ACT and SAT prep, and assessments; and a résumé writing workshop presented by Goodwill’s CareerCollegeCatalyst program.

Student Scott Tanner talks with guest speaker Marcus Hilliard. Credit: Cherokee County School District

River Ridge HS Students Serve as Knox ES Reading Buddies

River Ridge High School students (from left) Paige Schroeder, Callie Goins and Anna Hospodka volunteer as readers. Credit: Cherokee County School District

River Ridge High School students serve as virtual reading buddies for local elementary school students through video-conferencing technology.

The program is coordinated by Media Specialist and Leadership Reading Buddies Advisor Keara Rubin, and the virtual readings will be provided to elementary schools throughout the Cherokee County School District.

“High school students who volunteer with River Ridge High School Reading Buddies learn valuable interactive and presentation skills, and the elementary students who participate hone their listening skills and enjoy,” Ms. Rubin said.

The first reading of the school year was provided to kindergartners at Knox Elementary School and was coordinated there by Media Specialist Leslie Hicks. River Ridge High School students Anna Hospodka, Paige Schroeder, and Callie Goins read David Shannon books to the kindergartners.

River Ridge HS Student Wins State-level Photography Honor

River Ridge High School junior Angelica Millen has won a State-level award for her yearbook photography.

Angelica was named the Grand Prize Winner for Photography from a pool of high school students statewide selected for the Jostens summer yearbook program held at the University of Georgia.

She was praised for her photography, which illustrates a mastery of lighting, shutter speed and aperture. Credit: Cherokee County School District

Reinhardt University Advances in Ranking

Dr. Aliya Donnell Davenport, assistant professor of biology in the School of Mathematics and Sciences, teaches in the classroom. Credit: Reinhardt University

Reinhardt University earned 28th place in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Regional Colleges in the South, continuing its rise in rankings by reputable national organizations. With this new ranking, Reinhardt has moved up 26 spots over the past two years.

“Rankings are part of credibility of a university, and the fact that Reinhardt University moved up a spot over the last year and 26 places from the 2016 ranking shows our commitment to always remain a high quality university,” said University President Dr. Kina S. Mallard. “The dedication of our faculty and staff is paramount to our continued success and commitment to our students.”

Reinhardt’s peer assessment improved from 2.7 to 2.8. That ranking captures the opinions of those in a position to judge a school’s undergraduate academic excellence and weighs 22.5 percent in the overall score. It is based on a survey sent to presidents, provosts and directors of admissions at peer institutions in spring 2016 and spring 2017.

Reinhardt’s exceptionally strong student to faculty ratio of 12-to-1 and average class sizes of 13 were key factors in its ranking in the top 25 percent of 110 institutions in the South.

“Our trend upward in the rankings is further proof of our commitment to helping each Reinhardt student thrive,” said Reinhardt Provost Dr. Mark Roberts. “Our learning community is devoted to educating the whole person. This devotion in action translates into positive experiences for our students and respect from our peers.”

Overall, the U.S. News and World Report rankings analyzed seven different components: graduation and retention rates (22.5 percent), assessment of excellence (22.5 percent), faculty resources (20 percent), student selectivity (12.5 percent), financial resources (10 percent), graduation rate performance (difference between predicted and actual, 7.5 percent) and alumni giving rate (5 percent).

CCSD Celebrates School-Based Speech-Language Pathologists

The Cherokee County School District is celebrating its School-Based Speech-Language Pathologists as part of the statewide appreciation week for these professionals.

Sixty-five speech-language pathologists – or SLPs, as they also are known –are highly trained professionals responsible for evaluating and treating district students who have difficulty with communication.

Students who struggle with language also may struggle with understanding instruction, expressing what they know, or with making friends… but the work of speech-language pathologists assists them in overcoming these challenges.

“I know the positive difference these professionals make in the lives of children. I appreciate them, and hope you will join me in thanking them for their service,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower said. “From teaching a child to say her first words to teaching a significantly impaired child to ask for help using a communication device, their contributions to the lives of students with these special needs are tremendous and long-lasting.” Credit: Cherokee County School District

CCSD Class of 2017 Earns Record High Scores on ACT

The Cherokee County School District continues to excel at preparing students for college and career success.

Scores released today show the Class of 2017 exceeded previous record high averages on the challenging ACT college entrance and placement examination. The students’ performance on the test also continues to top National and State averages.

“Our mission is to ‘educate the emerging generation’ in preparation for the challenges of higher education and the workplace, and these results show our community that our teachers are achieving that goal,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower said. “We are so proud of these students and their teachers, and we are so grateful for the leadership of our School Board and the support of our community that enables us to continuously exceed expectations!”

The CCSD average ACT composite/total score on the curriculum-based test is 23.2, rising from 23.1 last year and from 20.8 over the past decade; the State average increased to 21.4 (now ranked as the fifth in the U.S. among states that test at least half their students), and the National average rose to 21. Students earn a score on a scale of 1 to 36; the ACT is taken in lieu of or along with the SAT. Class of 2017 SAT scores are expected to be released later this month.

The CCSD Class of 2017 earned the system’s highest-ever scores across all subjects: Reading (24), English (22.9), Math (22.3) and Science (23) – and all of these subject scores exceed State and National averages. The number of CCSD seniors taking the ACT also climbed to 1,688, up from 1,623 the previous year.

When CCSD students enter college, according to State data, they also are more prepared than their peers, as 91.5 percent of graduates who enroll in a state college or university don’t need a single remedial class.

School and individual student ACT results are closely reviewed by Principals and their leadership and data-management teams to develop instructional improvement plans. Counselors also use the data to refine recommendations as to which entrance exams best position individual students for college admission and scholarship success. The ACT will be administered in CCSD this year on Sept. 9, Oct. 28, Dec. 9 and Feb. 10.

“While we celebrate these results, we remain focused on ensuring every student receives the best education possible and fulfilling the responsibility entrusted to us by their parents,” Hightower said. “Our country’s public schools provide a vital service to 51 million students and their families, and I believe there’s no greater public school system in our country than the one we have here in our community. We care about your children. We care about your children’s future. We care about your children’s future success.”