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Schools Director Talks Accomplishments, Challenges at District Breakfast

During the second annual State of the District Breakfast, Dr. Cathy Beck, Cheatham County Schools Director, highlighted accomplishments in the school system and the district’s five-year plan, looked ahead to future programs and construction of a new high school, and discussed strategies to help keep qualified educators in the school system. About 90 community, business, government, and school leaders attended the event at Cheatham Middle School on Jan. 28.

In her speech, Beck recognized achievements the district received during the 2018-2019 academic year. The Cheatham County School District was designated as an “Advancing” district by the Tennessee Department of Education. Harpeth High School and Sycamore Middle School achieved the highest composite score (a Level 5) on the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS), and Kingston Springs Elementary School and Pleasant View Elementary School were designated as 2018-19 Reward Schools by the Tennessee Department of Education.

A video showcasing the new fine arts program at Pegram was also shown during the breakfast. Pegram became the district’s first fine arts magnet school this year, according to Tim Adkins, Schools Communications Director. The school added new disciplines and content to its arts curriculum and integrated arts into the four core subject areas (math, language arts, science and social studies) to help students build skills in communication, collaboration and creativity.

“The Cheatham County School District is proud of the remarkable accomplishments we made this past year, but we still have plenty of work to do moving forward. Academic success will always be at the forefront of what we do,” she said.

Beck also highlighted the district’s five-year plan, which was adopted by the School Board in February 2017. “Our five-year plan is very much a living document - one that will get a closer look this year as part of year three to ensure it keeps us pointing in the right direction,” she said.

The five-year plan is used to guide the district in decision-making at both the school and district level through 2023, Adkins said. In addition, it helps drive budget development and resource allocation.

Beck’s speech looked to the future, specifically new programs and new construction. The district is in the planning stages of building a new Sycamore High School in the north cluster. Community meetings will tentatively be held in the spring to gather input from families and students on what programs they would like the new school to offer. That information will help the district determine what should be included in the new building, Adkins said.

In other future developments, the Director of Schools explained the district will implement a screener assessment for second graders to identify characteristics of gifted and talented students. Ashland City Elementary School is in the process of becoming a STEM Designated School by the Tennessee Department of Education. The district will purchase a new K-12 literacy curriculum with teacher training being held this summer.

Regarding new programs, the district will implement a “Grow Our Own” program to train and keep teachers in the community. The district is working in partnership with Austin Peay State University on this initiative, Adkins said. The district will implement the Cheatham Advantage program, which is a partnership with businesses and community organizations who provide incentives and/or benefits to district employees in an effort to recruit and retain quality educators.

The new initiatives should help with challenges highlighted during Beck’s remarks. Specifically, one of the district’s top priorities is to increase salaries in order to retain and attract quality teachers. She said the district must also address the growing social and emotional issues among students by hiring trained staff.

Two educators spoke at the breakfast: Lucas Winstead, the principal of Kingston Springs Elementary School; and Shea Phillips, a math teacher at Sycamore High School. Both are graduates of the Cheatham County School District and they spoke about why they returned to their home district to work. Alumni spotlight speaker Nathanael Raymer, a computer technician for the school system, graduated from the district and returned there to work.

Three high school students also gave speeches – one from each high school. This year’s speakers were Scarlett Canada (CCCHS), Cadiz Cantwell (HHS) and Daniel Saylor (SHS). They spoke about how attending their respective schools has helped them achieve success and prepare them for the future after high school graduation, Adkins said.

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