The Cherokee County School District approved the Annual Report of District Progress at the Board of Education meeting Thursday, detailing the district’s progress over the past year for community stakeholders.
In the report, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo wrote he was proud of the school system for excelling in the face of many challenges.
“Despite continued substantial reductions in education funding on the state and local levels, I am extremely proud of how our teachers, administrators and support staff have remained focused on our primary mission of teaching and learning, even as class sizes have grown and furlough days have cut deeply into their household budgets,” Petruzielo wrote.
School District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said Friday the district “continues to make outstanding progress.”
“As evidenced through test scores that consistently top state and national averages and expanded services highlighted in the annual report such as the Cherokee Academies, Bring Your Learning Device, Cherokee County Educational Foundation, increased online learning options and enhanced communications with stakeholders including increased online resources,” Jacoby said.
The district opened Fine Arts and Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics programs at six elementary schools this school year, as part of the “Cherokee Academies” initiative.
STEM Academies were established at Ball Ground, Canton, Clark Creek and Holly Springs elementary schools, and Fine Arts Academies were implemented at Hasty and Oak Grove elementary schools.
“These programs are being expanded to additional grade levels in the current school year, and we are adding STEM components in middle school classes as well,” Petruzielo wrote.
Any family within the district can apply for their children to attend a Fine Arts or STEM Academy, and the application process happens each spring. More than 225 students enrolled in an academy from outside the designated attendance zone in the initiative’s first year, according to the report.
Jacoby said the annual report focuses on the past school year, 2012-13.
“The most recent information would be the 2013 SAT results, which although for students who graduated in May, only were released by the College Board in September,” Jacoby said.
Cherokee students exceeded state and national test scores, and the 2013 graduating class had the second highest ACT scores in the state.
“Our students continue to exceed state and national averages on test scores across the board,” Petruzielo wrote in the report. “CCSD high schools were included on every major national high school ranking report in 2012-13.”
Students in the district scored above the state average on Georgia’s College and Career Ready Performance Index in elementary, middle and high schools. The CCRPI is a comprehensive evaluation of knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge.
Cherokee County elementary schools scored an average of 88.9 out of a possible 100 points, exceeding the state average of 83.4 points for middle school students. Local middle schools also exceeded the state average of 81.4 points, scoring an average of 91.7 points out of 100. Cherokee County high school students scored an average of 83.7 points, while the state average was 72.6 points.
The district’s seniors also exceeded state and national SAT and ACT scores. The ACT and SAT are used to test college readiness and preparation.
The number of students in Cherokee that took the SAT rose by 119 in 2013, bringing the total to 1,450 students who took the exam.
Cherokee County seniors scored an average of 1,567 out of 2,400 possible points on the SAT, while the average state score was 1,452 and the national average was 1,498 points.
The number of Cherokee students taking the ACT also rose in 2013, with an additional 123 students taking the exam, bringing the total number up to 1,283.
Not only did more students take the ACT in 2013, but the average score exceeded both the state and national averages.
Cherokee County seniors scored an average of 22.7 out of 36 possible points on the ACT in 2013, while the state average was 20.7 and the national average was 20.9 points.
The annual report also gave an overview of schools and projects to come. The district has 24 elementary schools, seven middle schools and six high schools, along with the alternative of ACE Academy for seventh through 12th grade. Also in the district are the Ralph Bunche Head Start Center and Little River Preschool Center, and the L.R. Tippens Educational Center.
The report notes the replacement E.T. Booth Middle School that opened in August, and points to future projects. A replacement Teasley Middle School is slated to open in August 2014 and a replacement Dean Rusk Middle School is set for completion in august 2016.
Other future projects in the district include parent entrances at Holly Springs, Carmel and Boston elementary schools.
Finally, the report notes some of the many state and national awards that the district has received, naming 14 specific national awards and 23 state awards.
A few national awards the district received include:
• CCSD named eighth in the nation in education technology in 2013, by the Center for Digital Education and the National School Boards Association;
• Four of the district’s six high schools were named “America’s Best High Schools” by Newsweek magazine in 2013;
• Four district high schools were named “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” by the Washington Post in 2013;
• A National School of Character Award was given to Carmel Elementary School.
A few state awards the district received include:
• Lead Speech Pathologist won the statewide Jack Bess Memorial Award from the Georgia Speech-Language-Hearing Association;
• Lead Psychologist won the Debbie Rondem Award for Outstanding Leadership from the Student Support Team Association of Georgia;
• Statewide school winner of the Georgia Family-Friendly Partnership School Award from the State Department of Education; and
• Green Ribbon Schools first place winner for the medium-sized district division.