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New Principals, Leaders Approved for Next School Year

New Principals, Leaders Approved for Next School Year

From top left, Jessica Currie, Capt. Richard “Richie” Rich, Mike Dickerson, Leslie Bryant, Matthew Cates, Danielle Gradwell, Lauren Holtzer, Meghan Martin, Nick Singleton, Dr. Katie Smith, LaShonda Tucker, Dr. Chad Flatt, Coach Tyler Whitlock.

The Cherokee County School Board at its meeting on Thursday, March 16, 2023 approved the appointment of new principals and other new leaders for next school year.

As part of its monthly personnel agenda item, the School Board approved three changes to principal posts.

Dr. Carrie O'Bryant, current principal at Clayton ES, will serve next school year as principal of Macedonia ES as Principal Christy Rich is retiring.  Valerie Lowery, current principal of Boston ES, will serve next school year as principal of Clayton ES.

Jessica Currie, who currently serves as an assistant principal at Bascomb ES, has been appointed to her first principal post at Boston ES for next school year.  A 25-year educator, Ms. Currie began her teaching career in Savannah and joined CCSD in 2008 as a teacher at Avery ES and later served as an instructional lead strategist at Indian Knoll ES before taking on her current role in 2020.

Richard “Richie” Rich has been promoted to captain of the CCSD Police Department.  A 34-year officer and U.S. Army and Georgia Army National Guard veteran, Capt. Rich joined CCSD in 2008 after serving with North Central Police Academy, Woodstock Police Department and American Protective Services.

Mike Dickerson, who currently serves as a facility zone foreman, has been named coordinator for CCSD Support Services.  He brings 15 years of experience in facility maintenance to the post, and joined CCSD in 2016 after serving in similar roles for the Cobb County school system.

“Carrie and Valerie both have developed glowing reputations in our community for their leadership and expertise.  They are rockstars who would succeed at any school, and we think they are perfect matches for their new posts,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.  Jessica, Richie and Mike each have served with excellence in their roles and are ready to take on the new challenges of these appointments.  We look forward to all they will do to help our schools and district continue to improve.”  

Numerous assistant principal transfers and appointments also were approved.  These leadership appointments and transfers, which occur annually, are due to retirements, promotions or student enrollment growth.

“We’re so fortunate to be home to such a strong bench of teacher leaders and assistant principals who are ready to advance in our organization,” Dr. Hightower said.  “Each of these leaders brings to their new role outstanding experience that we know will be of great benefit to our students, teachers and staff, families and community partners.”

Eight teachers have been tapped for their first assistant principal post:
Leslie Bryant, a Freedom MS teacher, will serve as an assistant principal at Teasley MS;
Matthew Cates, a Cherokee HS teacher, will serve as an assistant principal at Cherokee HS;
Danielle Gradwell, a Little River ES teacher, will serve as an assistant principal at Bascomb ES;
Lauren Holtzer, a Sequoyah HS teacher, will serve as an assistant principal at River Ridge HS;
Meghan Martin, a Mountain Road ES teacher, will serve as an assistant principal at Boston ES;
Nick Singleton, an Etowah HS teacher, will serve as an assistant principal at Creekview HS;
Dr. Katie Smith, an Indian Knoll ES teacher, will serve as an assistant principal at Dean Rusk MS; and,
LaShonda Tucker, a Freedom MS teacher, will serve as an assistant principal at Woodstock MS. 

Dr. Chad Flatt, who currently serves as principal of Pickens Junior High School, is joining CCSD as an assistant principal at Woodstock MS.

Five current assistant principals will serve in the same role at other schools next school year:
Dr. Lea Campos, assistant principal at Woodstock MS, is moving to Arnold Mill ES;
Melissa Venezia, assistant principal at Woodstock MS, is moving to Macedonia ES;
Steven Payne, assistant principal at E.T. Booth MS, is moving to Avery ES;
Dr. Judy Wright, assistant principal at Cherokee HS, is moving to E.T. Booth MS; and
Lisa Rich, assistant principal at Dean Rusk MS, is moving to Freedom MS.

The School Board also approved the appointment of Tyler Whitlock to serve as head boys basketball coach for Creekview HS, where he also will teach PE.  Coach Whitlock has 16 years of coaching experience, most recently as head boys basketball coach for Denmark High School.  Among his successes on the court have been five state playoff appearances since 2019 and two region championships (2019 and 2020), with a 96-50 record for his last five seasons.

The School Board on Thursday also approved a proposal for modernizing the Sequoyah High School family and consumer science lab, which offers Career Pathway Nutrition and Food Science classes.  The $805,000 project will be constructed by SmithBuilt Construction, with plans for the new lab to be ready by August.

Dr. Hightower and his senior staff also shared updates on the current state legislative session, plans for CCSD summer school programs and plans to open an “international welcome center” one-stop shop office to help parents of English Learner students enroll their children, set up Canvas accounts and other services to start their student off right.

School Board members continued to express concerns about the ongoing debate in the state legislature over the future of Mountain Education Charter High School.  

Through a partnership with CCSD, the regional charter school offers an evening high school program at Etowah East on the Etowah HS campus.  The program’s continuation is in jeopardy due to a recent change in state law.  Dr. Hightower and his senior staff have been working with state legislators to ensure a new law is passed to enable the successful program’s continuation.

Dr. Hightower said Cherokee County’s legislative delegation has been very supportive, but noted that a majority of all legislators statewide also must support a new law in order for the program to continue.  

“I hope these people will put their political agendas aside and think of the students,” said School Board member Patsy Jordan, a retired CCSD teacher who now teaches for Mountain Ed’s program in Dawson County.

The School Board also:

•    Heard comments from School Board Chair Kyla Cromer about the anniversary of the start of the pandemic and praise for the resilience of CCSD teachers and staff; 
•    Heard comments from School Board member Dr. Susan Padgett-Harrison praising the work of Office of School Operations staff in presenting the recent National Girls and Women in Sports Day and Parent University programs;
•    Heard comments from School Board member Kelly Poole praising the state champion River Ridge High School girls basketball team and Mountain Road ES STEAM Night organizers;
•    Received recognition from Dr. Hightower, CCSD staff and the audience for their service in observance of Georgia’s School Board Member Appreciation Week.  Learn more here [CONTENT_REVIEW InternalLink];
•    Recognized CCSD 2023 Media Specialist of the Year Jennifer Martin of Boston Elementary School.  Learn more here [CONTENT_REVIEW InternalLink];
•    Recognized CCSD Transition Academy senior Merritt Wilson for earning a gold medal at the Georgia Special Olympics Winter Games. Learn more here;
•    Recognized CCSD 2023 Spelling Bee Winners.  Learn more here; [CONTENT_REVIEW InternalLink]
•    Recognized CCSD School Nutrition for earning the U.S. Department of Agriculture Silver Turnip the Beet Award.  Learn more here [CONTENT_REVIEW InternalLink];
•    Recognized CCSD middle and high school students selected for All-State Band, Orchestra and Chorus.  Learn more here [CONTENT_REVIEW InternalLink];
•    Recognized CCSD’s Georgia High School Association state and regional champions.  Learn more here;
•    Approved School Board Vice Chair Rick Steiner as the delegate and Ms. Poole as the alternate for 2023 Georgia School Boards Association Delegate Assembly;
•    Approved the first reading of updates to Policy BCBI Public Participation in Board Meetings;
•    Approved monthly financial reports; 
•    Approved out of state staff travel;
•    Approved out of state and overnight student field trips;
•    Approved the monthly update on capital outlay projects;
•    Approved special lease agreements; and,
•    Approved granting a permanent right-of-way for the new Free Home ES deceleration lanes to the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Cherokee County government.
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