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Board Briefs: School Board Approves New Strategic Plan Based on Community Input

Board Briefs: School Board Approves New Strategic Plan Based on Community Input

NOTE: A gallery of photos from the meeting is online here [CONTENT_REVIEW InternalLink].

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 approved Blueprint, a new long-range plan for the Cherokee County School District’s continued success, developed based on community input. 

The creation of the new five-year strategic plan, which is posted here, evolved over six months of meetings with students, families, teachers, support staff, business and community partners to determine what matters most to them and how CCSD could better serve them.

“For the past three years, we’ve worked together to build upon the strong foundation constructed by the leaders and educators who came before us,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “While we’ve followed an outstanding strategic plan, it’s time for a new blueprint for our future.  We’ve called it Blueprint because we see it as just that: a new long-range plan for our continued success.  This is a very targeted plan, and we believe we’re going to do great things.”

The plan begins with a new vision -- “Together, we will prepare the emerging generation to confidently rise up to limitless learning potential and success,” and three Core Beliefs around Rigor, Relevance and Relationships:

  • We believe in a growth mindset, as every student can learn, achieve and thrive.
  • We believe the meaningful connections we forge with students, families and community partners positively influence how we teach, lead and prepare graduates for success in a knowledge-based, technology rich and culturally diverse world.
  • We believe safe, diverse and inclusive schools are critical for successful teaching and learning and strengthening our culture of belonging, kindness and possibility.

It then builds upon those with five priority areas: Student Achievement: Equity & Access; Organizational & Operational Effectiveness; Family, Partner & Community Engagement; Positive Culture & Climate; and Quality Workforce.  For each priority area, CCSD senior staff have set performance objectives that map out the steps to take toward success and how progress will be measured.  Dr. Hightower told the School Board he would be reporting back to them with a “progress report” every fall for the next five years as the Blueprint is followed to success.

School Board members during the meeting spoke about the process and how much they appreciated the involvement of the community and the incorporation of CCSD’s new focus on Social and Emotional Learning.

“I think it’s going to be very dynamic for our District and set us apart again,” School Board Chair Kyla Cromer said. 

Dr. Hightower also took time to thank the Georgia School Boards Association and Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement, which partnered with CCSD to craft the plan, and the Office of Communications for its work to oversee the process and design the eight-page final project, which builds upon the Blueprint theme and CCSD’s blue-ribbon logo.

“This process has been a labor of love, and I’m so appreciative of our School Board for its initiative to begin this important endeavor,” Dr. Hightower said. “I’m also grateful for the several hundred community members who attended meetings and the more than 2,200 who answered our surveys to help draft our Blueprint: it truly is inclusive and community based.  It’s an exciting time for our School District, with much work to be done, and we’re more ready than ever to do the work.”

During the meeting, the School Board also celebrated the retirement of a longtime leader: Ronald Barnes, who is retiring after 39 years of service to CCSD’s maintenance department.  The director of facility maintenance over his career has supervised daily operations of a 43-member staff and significant special projects including the automation of energy systems and remote system controls and the rehabilitation of Etowah East, Sequoyah East and Cherokee North.

“He’s not just a super employee and a super leader, but he’s also a super person,” Dr. Hightower said before thanking Mr. Barnes with a standing ovation by the School Board, senior staff and the maintenance team, which attended the meeting to show their appreciation.

The School Board also:

• Heard a presentation from the Mountain Education Charter High School program, which operates evening high school programs throughout north Georgia.  The School Board granted Dr. Hightower authority to pursue contracts for Mountain Ed to operate CCSD’s 2020 high school summer school credit recovery program and Polaris evening high school program beginning in fall 2020.  The contract would require as seamless a transition as possible for both current students and current employees at Polaris;

• Viewed the welcome-back video for students and their families featuring all of CCSD’s Principals and their leadership teams sharing Social and Emotional Learning-inspired messages, which was produced by the Office of Communications and is online at;

• Heard a presentation from School Board members on their recent back-to-school visits of classrooms across the District.  A slideshow of photos is online here [CONTENT_REVIEW InternalLink].

• Heard brief updates from Dr. Hightower on four projects: the first-ever CCSD magazine, Class Act, edited by the Office of Communications and available online here [CONTENT_REVIEW InternalLink]; the Office of Curriculum & Instruction’s newly published Instructional Framework guidebook for teachers; a report on community engagement activities by the School Police Department and Chief Buster Cushing; and the new Construction Career Pathway program at Etowah High School, which began this semester with two classes; 

• Recognized CCSD’s 2019 Georgia State Winter and Summer Special Olympics Games Gold Medal winners;

• Recognized special education teacher Katie Proctor as the Lions of Georgia’s Anne Sullivan Award recipient;

• Recognized Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy as winner of the 2019 Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals’ School Bell Award;

• Recognized Cherokee High School senior Austin Ledbetter for ranking in the top 5 at the Skills USA National Contest;

• Recognized Woodstock High School’s Technology Student Association members as National competition winners;

• Recognized students who achieved Grand and State Recognition through the Duke University Talent Identification Program as seventh-graders;

• Recognized Sequoyah High School freshman Lily Carras as the CCSD 2019 Eighth-Grade Short Story Writing Contest winner;

• Recognized CCSD Adaptive Technology specialist Hollis Grabrovac and retired AT support staff member Debbie Brineman as Georgia Department of Education Excellence in AT Service Delivery Award recipients;

• Recognized CCSD’s Georgia PTA Reflections winners;

• Recognized Georgia PTA State-level and National Award winners;

• Recognized the 2019-20 Student Advisor to School Board and Student Delegates;

• Approved the surplus of retired school buses through the State’s Surplus Sale Program;

• Approved 2019-20 School Improvement Plans;

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

• Approved the State-required capital outlay funding application for the installation of the Sequoyah HS healthcare science lab, and construction of the Woodstock MS classroom addition and Woodstock HS auxiliary gym;

• Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report;

• Approved special lease agreements; and,

• Approved granting a temporary driveway easement at the former Buffington Educational Services Center to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019.