Luke Sellers, son of Mark and Jean Sellers, told the board during the public comment portion of the regular meeting he has been in Cherokee schools since the first day of kindergarten.
Sellers, who is senior class president at Woodstock High School, said he was recently awarded a U.S. Navy scholarship to attend Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Tonight I stand before you not as a critic, not as an angry citizen, but as a concerned and genuinely scared student,” Sellers said.
The senior said the school district has done a great job of distributing the financial burden over the last few years so students don’t feel the cuts, but said he noticed fewer Advanced Placement classes were offered this year as classes had to be combined or reduced because of fewer teachers.
“To be exact, since my freshman year of high school, August of 2009, for every 10 students that this county increases in student population, three teachers have left,” Sellers said, citing the Financial State of the District publication on the CCSD website.
“Yet Cherokee County has the highest SAT scores in the state and I applaud that and I am so proud. But should the situation continue to snowball downhill, I’m afraid the students of tomorrow won’t have the same preparation to achieve the high scores on those tests,” he said.
But Sellers defended the efforts of teachers like his parents—his mother, Jean, a social studies teacher at Woodstock High School and father, Mark, a fifth-grade teacher at R. M. Moore Elementary School.
“The declining quality of education has never been and never will be the result of willingness or effort put forth by the teachers in Cherokee County,” Sellers said and was met with a round of applause.
Sellers said entire families like his are feeling the furloughs, noting his parents can no longer supplement his sister’s Berry College education, so she decided not to return to the school.
“And it’s not your fault, I know that,” he said to the board.
Sellers then gave the audience a call to action.
“It’s time that we the people stand up and hold our legislators accountable for the job that they simply haven’t gotten done and don’t plan to do it seems,” Sellers said. “Should the situation continue to escalate, will children in the school system have the same opportunities I’ve been blessed with? The obvious answer is no…Please support me in my mission to go stand in front of the Georgia General Assembly so that we can make a difference and ensure the same top education for any up and coming Cherokee County student,” Sellers said.
After a standing ovation, Board Chairman Mike Chapman congratulated Sellers on his successes.
“I would ask you to do one thing,” Chapman said. “When you’re away at Harvard or MIT or wherever it is that you’re going to end up at, come home and vote.”
The meeting continued in a celebratory manner, with cake for the audience made by School Nutrition Supervisor Susan Turner and recognition of all district high school principals for their efforts in helping students post the highest SAT scores in the state.
Then students from Ball Ground Elementary School STEM Academy performed a song medley from their recent Fall Expo written by fourth-grade teacher Cortnie Freeman and the school’s new alma mater written by music teacher Jessica Carter.
“We’ve just had such a fun time delivering curriculum with a STEM focus,” said Principal Doug Knott.
Also at the meeting, the board:
* Approved 7-0 to put an advertisement in local newspapers to thank teachers and staff for their efforts to help Cherokee post the highest average SAT score in the state;
* Approved unanimously a bid by W.E. Contracting Co., Inc. to construct a new parent drive at Holly Springs Elementary School STEM Academy for a total of $558,216;
* Approved 7-0 the 2012-13 School Improvement Plans; and
* Approved unanimously partnership agreements with multiple entities.