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Board Business Briefs: School Board Approves New School Calendars

Board Business Briefs: School Board Approves New School Calendars

From left to right: Michael Santoro, Tia Bryller, Beth Watkins, Kari Barbour, Joe Veihman.

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, April 15, approved school calendars for three more years and appointed several new leaders for next school year.

The approved calendars for the 2022-23, 2023-24 and 2024-25 school year now are posted at  They were developed by a committee of CCSD employees and parents and use the same balanced calendar model as currently in place.  

As a result of the announcement last month by Creekview High School Principal Dr. Sue Zinkil that she would be stepping down from her role, the School Board approved several leadership appointments recommended by the Superintendent. 

Michael Santoro, who currently serves as Principal of Woodstock Middle School, will be the next Principal for Creekview High School.  A 24-year educator, Principal Santoro previously has served as a high school assistant principal, athletic director and award-winning coach and AP teacher.

Tia Bryller, who currently serves as an assistant principal at E.T. Booth Middle School, will be the next Principal for Woodstock Middle School.  A 17-year educator, Ms. Bryller has 15 years of experience as a school administrator in Cobb County where she served prior to joining CCSD in 2020. 

“Mike and Tia both are exceptional leaders, who will bring strong experience as educators and administrators to their new roles,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.  “We know they will succeed in building positive relationships with their new school communities.”

Beth Watkins, the instructional lead strategist (ILS) at Creekland Middle School, will advance to serve as an assistant principal at E.T. Booth Middle School.  A CCSD graduate, Ms. Watkins has worked her entire 14-year career with CCSD as a middle school teacher, academic facilitator and ILS.  Kari Barbour, the ILS at Mill Creek Middle School, will advance to serve as assistant principal at Teasley Middle School.  She also has served as an educator for 14 years with all of her tenure in CCSD, as a middle school teacher, response to intervention specialist and ILS.

Dr. Hightower also announced the selection of Joe Veihman as Cherokee High School’s new boys’ basketball coach.  Coach Veihman currently teaches social studies at Sequoyah HS, where he also serves as the boys’ basketball assistant varsity coach and head junior varsity coach; he will teach the same subject at Cherokee HS.

The School Board on Thursday approved an expanded version of the State bonus for educators proposed by the Governor and approved by the State Board of Education.

Board Members, following the Governor’s announcement of his $1,000 bonus for teachers, asked the Superintendent about possibly expanding the bonus to recognize the work of all CCSD employees to successfully reopen schools on time and operate both in-person and online school options.  Dr. Hightower and his staff developed the plan approved Thursday, which provides in April’s pay: a $2,000 one-time bonus to full-time employees, $1,000 to part-time staff and bonuses for substitutes, based on days worked, ranging from $500 to $2,000.  These bonuses will not be received by Dr. Hightower or his Cabinet senior staff.

“Bonus and education are not two words that ever go together,” School Board Chair Kyla Cromer said.  “The fact that these educators will get this bonus is phenomenal.”

Ms. Cromer praised the efforts of both teachers and support staff to successfully open schools on time and with both models -- praise that was echoed by School Board member Mike Chapman, who asked the School Board to give CCSD employees a standing ovation.

“They carried the load,” Mr. Chapman said.  “The least we could do was $2,000.”

School Board member Patsy Jordan noted that the Superintendent and his Cabinet will not receive the bonus, despite their equal dedication and hard work, and she led the Board in also giving them a standing ovation.

The School Board approved several school naming requests, which were proposed through CCSD’s community based process.  The current campus for ACE Academy and Transition Academy will be renamed the ACTIVE Academies Campus to reflect the addition for next school year of the i-Grad Virtual Academy, which also was officially named Thursday.

The Sequoyah High School band room will be renamed as the David E. Harrison Center for Music Performance, in honor of the school’s first band director who led the growth of not only its program, but also music programs throughout CCSD and at Reinhardt University, and who passed away last year.  His wife, Dr. Susan Padgett-Harrison, also a retired longtime CCSD educator and leader, attended the meeting to accept the honor on his behalf.

“He was a superb educator,” Dr. Hightower said, noting how proud he is to help honor the late Mr. Harrison.  “He made a marvelous impact across the state.”

During the Superintendent’s presentation of informational items, School Board members heard plans for this summer’s distribution of free meals to students in need, as well as efforts to improve the Canvas learning management system to make it easier for students, teachers and parents to use.

The CCSD School Nutrition Summer Feeding program will expand this summer thanks to continued USDA grant funding and support from local nonprofit, MUST Ministries, a CCSD Partner.  MUST, which for many years has operated its own summer lunch program, will partner with CCSD and distribute to-go meals prepared by School Nutrition staff rather than preparing its own meals.  The volunteer power of MUST will allow for CCSD to increase the number of meals served from 7,000 per week to 11,000 per week and avoid duplication of work by the two groups.

Bags of to-go meals will be distributed to students in need on the last day of school, May 28, and then the summer program will kick off June 7 and continue through July 26, with distribution on Mondays of bags filled with breakfasts and lunches for the week.  The distribution sites will be at Cherokee High School, Creekview High School and Etowah High School.  CCSD will use two Cruising Café vans to deliver meals to specific sites in the community, and MUST Ministries volunteers will run their usual routes using CCSD to-go meal bags.  More details will be shared with parents before the end of the school year.

While the USDA funds will reimburse CCSD for most expenses, Ms. Farmer said she does anticipate $90,000 in community support will be needed, as it was last summer, to cover remaining costs and meet rising needs.  A donation page has been set up at to allow for community members to make donations.  

“We’re excited about this partnership,” CCSD School Nutrition Director Tina Farmer said of MUST.  “We look forward to fully meeting our community needs.”

Staff from the Office of Curriculum & Instruction shared a presentation on improvements being made to Canvas, which include consistent landing pages for all courses for Grades 6-12 to make it easier for users to find important information like the syllabus and course pacing guide.  

The Office also has made significant progress in creating pacing guides for these courses, with work completed on 61 courses, to ensure teachers are covering the same standards in the same order at every school.  These guides do not dictate lesson plans or instructions as to how teachers must teach these standards, Dr. Hightower emphasized, as teachers will retain that creative control over their instruction.  

School Board member Kelly Poole thanked the staff for this work, noting she was glad to know the system also allows teachers to upload materials, including videos, in advance.

The School Board also:

•    Recognized the CCSD 2021 Counselor of the Year and Innovation Zone Counselors of the Year;  
•    Recognized the CCSD 2021 Partner of the Year and Volunteer of the Year;
•    Recognized CCSD’s 2021 Spelling Bee Winners;
•    Recognized CCSD students who placed at the Tome Student Literacy Society State Conference; 
•    Recognized CCSD students selected for All-State Band and Orchestra;
•    Approved new Partnership  Agreements with Cherokee Thanksgiving, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Georgia Power.  The agreement with Children’s includes the sponsorship of a new CCSD School Nurse of the Year awards program;
•    Heard a final update on Georgia’s legislative session, which recently concluded;
•    Heard a COVID-19 status report and discussed plans to share a revised Reopening of School plan for next school year later this spring;
•    Heard an update on planning the annual budget, which will be presented to the School Board at the May 20 regular meeting with budget hearings scheduled for 11:30 a.m. June 9 and 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. June 17, followed by a vote on the budget at the 7 p.m. June 17 meeting;
•    Approved Citigroup Global Markets as CCSD’s bond underwriter for bond sales for the pending referendum in November to renew the five-year Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.  The fee rate was set at 2.75%, down from 4.4% from the previous service agreement.  The total fee is calculated based on borrowing;
•    Approved monthly financial reports;
•    Approved out of state and overnight field trips; and,
•    Approved the monthly Capital Outlay Projects update.

The next School Board meeting is 7 p.m. May 20, 2021.