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Board Briefs: School Board Appoints Social and Emotional Learning Leader, New Principals

Board Briefs: School Board Appoints Social and Emotional Learning Leader, New Principals

Clockwise from top left: Dr. Debra Murdock, Dr. Mark Merges, Dr. Richie Carnes and Dr. Sue Zinkil.

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, July 18, 2019 appointed a longtime CCSD leader to head up the new Social and Emotional Learning initiative, as well as several resulting Principal changes.  

Dr. Debra Murdock, the former Principal of Cherokee High School and Georgia High School Principal of the Year, who most recently has served as the School Operations’ executive director overseeing middle and high schools, will take on the newly created role focused on developing new ways to better support students’ and employees’ emotional and mental health and well-being.

“Debbie grew up here, raised her own family here, and loves every child in our schools as if they’re all her own,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.  “She taught hundreds of students before advancing to serve as an assistant principal and then Principal and then CCSD leader -- and every time she was promoted, we heard complaints from the students and families who didn’t want her to leave them.  In this new role, she will be focused again on our students and how we can better care for them.”

This appointment is the first step in adopting recommendations of the Superintendent’s new Ad Hoc Committee studying Social and Emotional Learning.  The Committee of teachers, administrators and school counselors, nurses and psychologists developed numerous recommendations to improve supports for students and staff, which Dr. Hightower has committed to phasing in for CCSD.

As a result of Dr. Murdock’s appointment, Creekview High School Principal Dr. Mark Merges has been appointed to serve in her former role as the School Operations’ Executive Director of Administrative Leadership for middle and high schools.  A 25-year educator, Dr. Merges has led Creekview HS since 2016, earning recognition as a finalist for Georgia High School Principal of the Year, and previously served as an assistant principal at Sequoyah HS and Dean Rusk MS.

The Creekview High School Principal post will be filled by longtime educator Dr. Sue Zinkil, who most recently has served as Principal of neighboring Creekland Middle School.  She previously led Teasley MS as its Principal, which she opened on its new campus and where she was named Georgia’s Middle School Principal of the Year.

Dr. Richie Carnes, who most recently served as assistant principal at Mill Creek Middle School, will lead Creekland Middle School as its new Principal.  He brings 25 years of experience as an educator to the role, including as an assistant principal at Carmel ES and Indian Knoll ES and as a teacher at Cherokee HS.

Dr. Jillian Seibert, an assistant principal at Little River ES, has been tapped to serve in the Office of Curriculum & Instruction, with Holly Springs ES STEM Academy Assistant Principal John Hultquist moving to Little River.  Rachel Wasserman, who previously has served as an assistant principal at Woodstock ES, will serve in that role at Holly Springs. 

The School Board also:

• Heard an update on summer work by CCSD staff including programs that served students over the break and preparations for the new school year.  The update is posted here [CONTENT_REVIEW InternalLink]along with a slideshow video.  School Board Member John Harmon shared details from his visit aboard CCSD’s Cruisin’ Café cafeteria on wheels, which is delivering USDA-sponsored meals and activities like exercising and arts and crafts to students in need over the summer break. “What a great thing School Nutrition is doing – reaching out to neighborhoods where kids may or may not have access to food.  You see kids come out five or six deep and so excited,” he said;

• Heard a presentation from School Board Member Clark Menard on CCSD’s successful pilot implementing the educational version of Minecraft into classrooms.  Microsoft, which owns Minecraft and Minecraft: Education Edition, was so impressed by CCSD’s instructional use of its technology that they filmed a series of videos in CCSD classrooms to share globally across its platforms.  Mr. Menard shared one of the videos during the School Board meeting and praised the program for its teaching of “soft skills” like collaboration;

• Recognized CCSD’s Office of Communications - - winner of four National awards from the National School Public Relations Association;

• Renewed the Partnership Agreement with Kennesaw State University;

• Approved the final reading of the annual update of School Board Policies; 

• Approved authorized school fundraising activities for the upcoming school year;

• Approved out-of-state travel and out-of-state and overnight field trips;

• Approved the monthly capital outlay projects report;

• Approved special lease agreements; 

• Approved employee tribunal hearing panel appointments;

• Approved plans for the School Board’s annual governance training, which includes training sessions prior to School Board meetings throughout the year as well as plans to host a Georgia School Boards Association regional training summit in the fall;

• Approved to surplus the Buffington Educational Services Center and property tract and authorize a real estate firm to advertise it for sale; and,

• Approved an attendance area map adjustment; the adjustment will not impact any current CCSD students.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019.  There will be a 6 p.m. strategic work session.