CANTON — Cherokee County School Board members are working to develop their annual legislative priorities, which are estimated to be finalized next month. Later, the school board will share the priorities with local representatives in state government in a breakfast meeting.

The school board, with Chief of Staff Mike McGowan, discussed bills Thursday that could be brought or reintroduced in the state legislature that the district is watching.

The “Tim Tebow” bill would require public schools to allow homeschooled students into their athletic programs. Teachers Retirement System bills pending include House Bill 109, which was withdrawn this spring but if it returns could raise teachers’ retirement age to 60, increase the required amount of employee contributions. Educators could also no longer count unused sick leave toward retirement. Another bill that failed earlier this year but could return to the legislature is a universal voucher bill, which would allow state money to be spent on private school tuition. There’s also a proposed limit in the number of dual enrollment hours students can take.

In recent years, the board’s priorities have including maintaining local control on issues like school calendars and protecting state funding for public schools. Board members have also asked state lawmakers to develop an alternative, career-focused high school diploma track.

McGowan said vetoes from Gov. Brian Kemp on a recess bill, a sovereign immunity bill and a school safety bill, were significant for the district. Kemp cited local control in his some of the vetoes.

“I appreciate Kemp’s concerns on some of these issues, keeping local control. We want to keep Georgia schools safe, but we also want to do it in a way that fits our needs here in the county,” said School Board Chairwoman Kyla Cromer at the board meeting Thursday. “Another shout-out to our local delegation for their support in the statewide start time bill, because I know that was something our local delegation is behind us on. I hope that our local delegation also can join us in helping us get better funding for school counselors and mental health professionals in our schools, because I think that’s going to need to be a big push with them this year.”

Earlier in the meeting, Superintendent Brian Hightower shared a significant change in the district’s leadership: Cherokee County School District Deputy Superintendent Trey Olson is retiring this spring.

Olson, who has also served as chief operating officer, has worked three decades in education. His retirement will begin in April.

He has worked for CCSD since 1997, working in roles including assistant principal and assistant superintendent for personnel. In his current position, he also manages the divisions of school operations, including overseeing principals and other administrators. Much of his time at the district office was spent in personnel, making hiring recommendations. Before joining the Cherokee school system, Olson was a special education math teacher in Cobb County.

“We will greatly miss Trey and his dedication to our students and our employees,” Hightower said in a statement. “Countless educators began their careers because Mr. Olson saw their potential, recommended their hiring and supported their growth. He made thoughtful improvements to both our human resources practices and our school operations protocols. Trey has modeled servant leadership and always encouraged his colleagues to ‘give more than we get.’”

With the retirement, board members approved a change to the district’s organizational chart. When Olson leaves, the deputy superintendent position will be eliminated, and the chief operations officer will be the head of the operations division.

Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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