Woodstock HS Earns Prestigious State STEM Certification

Woodstock High School is the first high school in the Cherokee County School District to earn prestigious State STEM Certification … and only the 12th high school in all of Georgia.

A Georgia Department of Education State STEM Certification Team visited the school Wednesday to make the final determination as to whether the school had achieved the high standards required for the elite designation. The Team unanimously gave the school its seal of approval.

“The certification committee could not stop praising the efforts of Woodstock High School and the opportunities our students have to be part of such a rich experience,” Principal Mark Smith said.

Woodstock High School is the first high school and only the second school in the district, following Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy, to earn this distinction.

“For Woodstock High School, this is the culmination of several years’ worth of planning and implementation on the part of our teachers, parents, business partners, and students,” Principal Smith said of the accomplishment. “Moving forward, this will allow our students who choose to follow one of our STEM Pathways to be officially recognized by the State as having completed a certified STEM Pathway.”

The path to State STEM certification is a complex, multi-year process requiring strong evidence of meeting and exceeding standards in areas such as math and science instruction, technology integration, teacher collaboration, STEM competitions, and business partnerships.

Principal Smith and the school will be recognized for earning this State honor by the Cherokee County School Board and Superintendent of Schools at the Board’s Nov. 16 School Board meeting.

“This is an amazing accomplishment that the entire Cherokee County community can be proud of, and for which so many deserve kudos and thanks for their efforts and support,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower said. “We knew that Woodstock’s team was leading the charge on high school STEM education, and this recognition is an extraordinary validation that we’re on the right path in preparing students for the STEM careers of today and tomorrow. The lessons learned through this process have evolved into best practices that all of our schools can adopt. Congratulations on this outstanding achievement!”

River Ridge HS Students Bring Anti-Bullying Message to Elementary Students

The River Ridge High School Team: HEROIC student club takes its anti-bullying message on the road for performances at local elementary schools.

Through an engaging series of skits, the high school students define bullying, explain its effects, and encourage a more inclusive environment.

Headed out for a visit to Arnold Mill Elementary School are River Ridge HS students, from left to right, front row: Henry Fornuto; back row: Addison Hoorfard, Chris Cochran, Reece Pappas, Olivia Brianas, Lexxa Emory, Calise Hammonds, Matt Henao, Ana Ramirez, Justin Bacon and Noah Fornuto. Credit: CHerokee County School District

Superintendent Wins Award for School & Community Relations

Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, center, is congratulated on winning the Georgia School Public Relations Association’s Outstanding Leadership in School/Community Relations Award by President-Elect JD Hardin and President Barbara P. Jacoby. The surprise presentation was made at the Association’s Annual Conference. Credit: Cherokee County School District

Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower has been honored with a top state award for school and community relations.

The Georgia School Public Relations Association presented Hightower with the Outstanding Leadership in School/Community Relations Award at its Annual Conference.

The award recognizes an individual, other than those directly responsible for a public relations program, who has proven himself or herself to be a leader in using effective school and community relations to build support for public education in his or her community.

“Dr. Brian Hightower’s support for school and community relations sets a standard that all School Superintendents should aim to achieve,” GSPRA President Barbara Jacoby said. “He truly understands the importance of communicating with students, parents, employees, volunteers, partners and the community at large and the value of building relationships with all of these groups that are vital to the success of a school system.”

Previous recipients of the annual award in recent years include: former Fulton County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Avossa; Dr. Stan DeJarnett, Executive Director, Georgia Vision Project; and former Georgia PTA President Lisa-Marie Haygood.

“Communicating with and engaging with our community is a responsibility I take very seriously as Superintendent of Schools,” Dr. Hightower said. “Public schools play a vital role in the lives of everyone in a community. It’s my job as Superintendent not only to ensure that the best teaching and learning possible happens in our classrooms, but also that our community knows about our successes and challenges and has the opportunity to get involved and support our mission.”

Hightower was praised for initiatives he has championed since taking office including an increase in internal and external communications, a user-friendly website redesign, an image and identity campaign and the newly launched VILLA parent academy in cooperation with the Georgia School Boards Association.

He participates in nonstop community outreach including visiting all of CCSD’s schools and centers several times a year and attending school special events; meetings with parents, employees from all levels of the organization, business partners and community leaders; and giving informational presentations for civic clubs and business and economic development groups.

Beyond engaging with his School District, Hightower also was recognized for his advocacy efforts on behalf of public education in his community and statewide.

Hill Freeman Library Renovated

Credit: Jeff Reed/Reinhardt University

Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce teamed up with Reinhardt University Oct. 10 for a ribbon-cutting reception that celebrated a transformed Hill Freeman Library and Spruill Learning Center – for its students and for the community.

“The change here is marvelous,” Chamber President Pam Carnes said at the ceremony. The renovated second floor of the library was filled with community leaders, residents, University faculty and staff, and members of Reinhardt Board of Trustees.

“Days like this are days that college presidents live for,” Reinhardt President Dr. Kina S. Mallard said, smiling. “My heart is full.”

President Mallard thanked Cherokee County Manager Jerry Cooper, the Sequoyah Regional Library System and Waleska Mayor Doris Jones for their partnership and support.

The renovation creates a multi-use space for the Reinhardt family and community. It was made possible by approval of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners to release $1 million of voter-approved Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax money. SPLOST funds are 1 percent of the county’s overall sales tax.

“This renovation brings new life to Reinhardt’s library. Everything we do is for our students. My vision was for it to be a learning hub, and it is,” Mallard said.

Renovations completed this summer in the 14,411-square-foot space include a new community room, six collaborative learning rooms, children’s area, career and vocational counseling office, tutoring rooms, technology lab and more.

“The community room seats 96 people and is for everyone to use,” Mallard added.

Reinhardt Board Vice Chair Ken White, ’61, told the audience “When I was here, there were books only in the library, and it was quiet. Today we have collaborative learning as well as books, and it is just wonderful.”

CCSD Lead Nurse Named a State Award Finalist

A Cherokee County School District nurse is a statewide award finalist.

Cherokee County School District Lead Nurse Jami Stefano is a finalist for the March of Dimes 2017 Georgia Nurse of the Year Awards, which recognize exceptional patient care, compassion, and service.

Hundreds of nurses are nominated in 15 categories ranging from Advanced Practice to NICU to Public Health. The nominations are reviewed and scored by high-ranking nurse leaders to determine the finalists.

Stefano, who began her service with the district in 2011, is one of only three school nurses statewide named to the elite group, which includes 200 nurses from hospitals, medical centers, healthcare systems and universities. She previously was honored with the 2015 Georgia PTA Outstanding Nurse Award in recognition of her work as the School Nurse at Bascomb Elementary School.

The finalists will be honored, and the 2017 Georgia Nurse of the Year Award winners for each category will be named, at the Nurse of the Year Awards on Nov. 4 at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta – Buckhead. Credit: Cherokee County School District

CCSD Launches Inaugural Parent Academy Program

The inaugural Cherokee County School District VILLA class members take a group photo with School Board Members and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower and members of his senior staff, and Lisa-Marie Haygood of the Georgia School Boards Association. Class members are: Donnamarie Alcott, Jamie Bobo, Buster Cushing, Robert Ditchen, Judith Dobbs, Samantha Dunn, Lauren Hekking, Bob Kovacs, Monica Orrico, Corrie Riggs, Robin Schorr, Katie Roller Shulz, Dawn Stastny, Kathy Strom, Kyle Tomeny and Kathy Winiarczyk. Not pictured: Bob Kovacs. Credit: Cherokee County School District

The Cherokee County School District this week launched its inaugural parent academy program.

Developed by the Georgia School Boards Association, VILLA (Volunteer Instructional Leadership Learning Academy) offers parents the opportunity to learn more about the public schools in their community. On Tuesday, Oct. 9, the Cherokee County School District became the first school district in the state to pilot the program and will be featured in a GSBA video to promote VILLA.

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer brought up the idea of creating such a program during her re-election campaign, and said she was glad to partner with GSBA to make it a reality.

“The goal is for you to learn more about Cherokee County School District and take what you learn back out into the community and be advocates for CCSD,” Board Chair Cromer told the inaugural class during its first session on Tuesday night.

Applications were accepted from parents throughout the community, and the class of 16 participants will attend six sessions this fall including a field trip to several Cherokee County School District schools. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower said he hopes to make the free program an annual offering, noting the first session was a great success.

“We truly appreciate the community’s interest in learning more about our operations and joining our School Board and employees in advocating for public education, our schools and our students,” Hightower said. “Our schools are stronger with our community involved, and VILLA is an outstanding opportunity to engage with parents.”

Through VILLA, participants will learn more about the district, including an overview of its governance model and the role of School Board members, Major System Priorities and district day-to-day operations. The program includes question-and-answer sessions with School Board members, the Superintendent and senior staff. The program ends with a graduation dinner, sponsored by district partner, Credit Union of Georgia.

Inaugural class members are: Donnamarie Alcott, Jamie Bobo, Buster Cushing, Robert Ditchen, Judith Dobbs, Samantha Dunn, Lauren Hekking, Bob Kovacs, Monica Orrico, Corrie Riggs, Robin Schorr, Katie Roller Shulz, Dawn Stastny, Kathy Strom, Kyle Tomeny and Kathy Winiarczyk.

School Board Member Kelly Poole speaks to the VILLA class during its first session, as Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower looks on. Credit: Cherokee County School District

Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academy Celebrates Georgia PreK Week

Woodstock Police Officers Ryan Bleisath, Brittany Duncan, and Greg Stepp celebrate Georgia PreK Week as guest readers in teachers Lindsey Lark’s and Lisa Smith’s Georgia PreK classes at CCSD’s Preschool Center at Oak Grove Elementary School Fine Arts Academy. Children in the classes are: Emiliano Aboytes, Ansley Addams, Nevaeh Agnew, Huda Bargh, Makenzie Bauer, Jireh Belcher, Jacob Benitez, Arjun Brahmbhatt, Madison Burgess, Bry Copeland, Jene Epperson, Kaitie Espinosa, Parker Evanoff, Wyatt Fretwell, Trey Garvery, Xavia Ginns, Yatziri Gonzalez, Raelynn Houston, Kaleb James, Eli Jimenez, Angel Julian, Cataleya Lara, Olivia Lark, Malcolm Lathem, Aiden Limontas, Emmanuel Lopez, Colton McPhee, Daniel Mullins, Kani Olwana, Sophia Reardon, Antonella Restrepo, Jade Rolland, Natalia Ruiz, Kira Savenko, Emma Schwettman, Levi Sutton, Zehra Tawfiq, LJ Thornton, Harper White, Jamere Young and Malakai Woods. Students from CCSD’s Transition Academy program assisted with the event. Credit: Cherokee County School District

Woodstock Police Officer Brittany Duncan (right) reads about Pete the Cat during her Georgia PreK Week visit to CCSD’s Preschool Center at Oak Grove Elementary School Fine Arts Academy. Credit: Cherokee County School District

The Cherokee County School District recently celebrated Georgia Pre-K Week with special activities including guest readers.

The Cherokee County School District serves 198 4-year-olds in classes funded by the Georgia Lottery Pre-K program, which is celebrating its 25th birthday this year; the School District also provides Head Start and Special Education preschool programs to eligible children.