James Magazine Mar Apr 2020 - Page 26



he expression “You Can’t Go Home Again”
gained popularity as the title of a Thomas
Wolfe novel. It came to mind on a recent journey to Cherokee County to attend the community’s
Council for Quality Growth, Cherokee County and
Northside Hospital-sponsored “State of County” event.
Cherokee Chamber president and CEO Pam Carnes
welcomed chamber members and guests from the
community and recognized her team working to promote local businesses and the community while
expanding the economy.
Cherokee is where my wife and I started our family
30-plus years ago. However, if I was describing
Cherokee County to my kids today, I’d start with “This
is not your parents’ Cherokee County.”
After all, Interstate-575— constructed between
1979 and 1987— now provides quick access to southern and northern Cherokee. It makes commutes to and from metro Atlanta
faster and includes a
reversable express lane.
While Cherokee is still
identified as a bedroom community, where most of its citizens commute to work, it has
become a thriving location for
businesses and manufacturers. It’s a place where
26
JAMES
MARCH/APRIL 2020
its citizens find gainful employment that doesn’t
require a long commute— and allows many of them
to work in the community.
the site. And there are plans to add an additional
Emergency Room (ER visits have climbed to an additional 90,000 per year) as well as an MRI in radiology,
CT labs, and four more operating rooms.
“Our last plan was a 10-year plan,” Hayes says.
“And now we’re working on a four-year plan to ensure
we have the people and resources we need to serve
the community. We partner with organizations such as
Reinhardt College, MUST Ministries, National Cancer
Day, Women’s Olympics, and provide free cancer
screenings in the community.”
Northside Cherokee earned The Joint
Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Healthcare
Quality, as well as The Georgia Hospital Association
Core Measure Honor Roll Chairman’s Award for the top
5 percent of hospitals in the country.
Access to Quality Education
State-of-the-Art Healthcare
Northside Hospital Cherokee, a gleaming hospital
on a hill, opened May 6, 2017. It increases access to
high-quality healthcare and has already expanded.
Billy Hayes, Northside Cherokee’s CEO, explained
that the hospital recently opened two additional floors,
including more patient rooms, and has expanded service lines. “We provide oncology, neurosurgery, expanded cardiac care services, and recently added six new
cardiologists and a neonatal intensive care unit,” Hayes
said. Sports medicine also meets a need in a community populated with student athletes.
The hospital recently filed a
Certificate of Need to
add floors nine and
ten and is evaluating
where its next medical tower will be
located on
Dr. Brian Hightower, Cherokee County’s school
superintendent, leads an organization with 3,000
teachers and instructional support staff. He believes
that “solid, successful and vibrant schools are key to
the county’s success.” The district serves more than
42,000 students and ranks the 9th largest school district in Georgia. It employs 4,800 full-time employees,
including teachers, of whom 65 percent have advanced
degrees. Its facilities include 40 schools and centers,
including two state certified STEM schools and is the
largest employer in the county.
Furthermore, its schools are consistently ranked
among the top ten school districts in Georgia; its SAT
scores rank 9th in Georgia and its AP exam pass rates
are 2nd among metro counties, and 5th in Georgia.
“Our district is building, developing and refining,”
Hightower added. “We’ve been recognized by the
Georgia School Boards Association with its inaugural
award for community engagement, and our board was
named a Board of Distinction by the Georgia School
Boards Association.”
The School Board has also improved the system’s
financial standing, which resulted in five consecutive
years of operating surpluses since 2014, and
increased surpluses from $16.7 million to $54.8 million. “This allowed us to move a full property tax mill
from maintenance and operations to debt repayment,
which will reduce our debt by 70 percent over the
next ten years,” Hightower added. “This is important
because our forecasts indicate we will need to continue to build new schools, including an $80 million
high school.”
continued on page 28
MARCH/APRIL 2020
27

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