Speaking at the Canton Rotary Club meeting Tuesday, Petruzielo said he was proud of the state of the school district.
“One in three kids is living at or below the poverty level in Cherokee County, but we had the best SAT scores in the state of Georgia,” he said. “The 2012 score on the SAT was 1,587. That is 89 points above the national average, and it is 135 points above the Georgia average.”
Petruzielo said he was proud that Cherokee County special needs students typically scored 15 to 30 percent higher than the state average for special needs students on statewide tests.
The new Teasley Middle School is expected to open in fall 2014, and Petruzielo said he is excited to use the old Teasley Middle School building as a technical high school.
“We’re working cooperatively with Chattahoochee Technical College on the program and the manner in which that program will be implemented,” Petruzielo said.
Petruzielo said the Sequoyah area will “likely be developed” and see growth over the next five to 15 years, and said he expects the new Dean Rusk Middle School to open in about three years.
“Opening the brand new Dean Rusk behind Hickory Flat will enable the high school to use the Dean Rusk facility as additional class space for the high school,” Petruzielo said.
Petruzielo said the district uses a portion of their SPLOST funds to “make sure that our kids are technologically proficient and ready for college and ready for jobs, for which technology is no longer optional.”
He said the Bring Your Learning Device to school program has worked “extremely well” in the schools where it has been piloted.
“Most kids use more technology at home and on the weekend than they do in school,” Petruzielo said. “We’re just trying to take advantage of the fact that they’ve got access to a lot of technological opportunities, and to have that be something that occurs not just at home, but in school as well.”
Petruzielo said the program allows students to bring their own Web-enabled devices to school to use during class time, and said that students who cannot afford their own have access to loaned devices.
Petruzielo said that the district’s eighth-grade students took the required Twenty-first Century Skills Assessment test, and the district was ranked “proficient” with an overall score of 321.
“The district ranked well above the state average of 290, and the global average of 298,” Petruzielo said. “We’re really proud of being ahead of the global average.”
He said 19,000 families use the district’s Family Portal website, which allows parents and guardians to see students’ attendance, grades and assignment information.
Petruzielo said Cherokee County school cafeterias had an average score of an “A” over the past year, and 5.3 million meals were served.
“We have eliminated all of our fryers; stuff that used to be fried is baked and there are lots of healthy choices for kids on the menu,” he said.
Petruzielo said about 72 school nutrition employees are CPR- and first-aid certified, and said as a result of their training, three children have been saved by CPR over the past four years.
Petruzielo said the Common Core State Standards are about common standards, not the curriculum, and said Georgia recently backed out of a national test development consortium.
He commented on Georgia backing out of the test development associated with Common Core, and about the state deciding to make their own test: “That kind of takes us back in the direction we used to be at, where every state has its own test, every state had its own idea of how hard a test had to be, how many questions you had to miss in order to get a ‘B,’ or a ‘C,’” Petruzielo said. “So I’m hoping that Georgia can develop its own test and that they can be credible, but really for the long run, if we’re really concerned about preparing our kids for what has become an international economy, we need to meet the international standards.”
Petruzielo said increasing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics opportunities in the school district was a priority, and noted that five out of six Cherokee County high schools received AP STEM grants to increase their course offerings.
Petruzielo said he was proud of the district’s millage rate history.
“We have only raised the millage rate once in the last 15 years, and that was by one mill,” Petruzielo said.
He thanked the Cherokee County Commissioners for reducing the charge on the district to collect taxes, and said it will save the district about $250,000 this year.
“With the economy improving, Cherokee will continue to be a destination of choice for lots of people in metro Atlanta, throughout the state, for that matter, throughout the nation,” Petruzielo said.