Special Recognitions » 2022-2023


 2022 Education Youth Art Month Digital Report Award

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This year two Columbia County School District art teachers were selected by The Council for Art Education for this award.

Gail Peake from Lakeside High, and Tiffany Weser from the Columbia Virtual Academy serve as the state coordinators for Youth Art Month (as known as YAM).

Each year, The YAM coordinators from each state compile a digital report of data and images from all the events, programs, shows and other related activities for the year. The information is collected from art teachers from across the state of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Education Art coordinator. The information was gathered for the Georgia digital report presentation and sent to the Council for Arts Education for judging where the state presentation was selected by the council for special recognition.

As the state coordinators for YAM, Ms. Peake and Ms. Weser will represent Georgia at the National Art Educators Convention awards ceremony to be held in San Antonio, Texas in April.  Ms. Peake and Ms. Weser will also be presenting a session at the national conference about their collaboration between the virtual art program at Columbia Virtual Academy and the in-person art program at Lakeside High School.


Georgia Middle School State Cross Country Champions

Two Columbia County Schools were represented in the Georgia Middle School State Cross Co untry meet, held in Cochran, GA, in October 2022.
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Riverside Middle’s Kadence Thomas ran the two-mile run in an impressive 13 minutes, 40 seconds, and 41 milliseconds. Her performance earned her a second-place overall finish in the girl’s division at the Georgia Middle School State Cross Country Division 2 Championship. Kadence is coached by Barbara Petty.

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The Riverside Middle School Boys Cross Country Club took second place overall in the Boys Division. Prior to competing at the state championship, the team placed first in three previous meets. Team members and parent and community coaches, include the following: Corbin DeVries, Ian Hout, Rigel Kotas, Ty Martin, Devon McLoughlin, Miles Negro, Rylan Pettit, Aiden Pullum, Colin Ritz, Benny Stewart, RJ Thomas, Vance Walter, Bryan Dent - Parent Coach, Fran Martin - Parent Coach, Stacie Pettit - Parent Coach, Hunter Martin - Community Coach, and Barbara Petty - faculty sponsor.

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Evans Middle School’s Cross Country Girls took third place in the state out of 13 teams and 107 runners in the Girls Division 3 event. Team members and coach include the following: Monica Adee - Coach; Leliana Beemer, Estella Deal, Anastasia Hewitt, Paislea Jarrett, Alexis Lewis, Kylee McGowan, and Victoria Mellnick.

In addition to the team’s third-place finish Lilianna Beemer earned medals in the six races she competed in, along with first place in four of them. She finished the season at the state competition with another first-place win, and a personal record by running the two-mile run in 12 minutes, 24 seconds, and 91 milliseconds.   


Harlem Attic Treasures $50,000 School Donations

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Recently, Harlem Attic Treasures donated $50,000 to local schools in the Columbia County School District. Harlem High, Harlem Middle, North Harlem Elementary, Euchee Creek Elementary, and North Columbia Elementary received $10,000 each.

The donation was the result of profits received from sales at the local Harlem thrift store. For the past 14 years, Harlem Attic Treasures has worked to meet the needs of people in the community, including students and their families in the Columbia County School District.  In the Spring, Attic Treasures celebrated a huge milestone-donating a total of 1 million dollars to date to local schools and other nonprofits and organizations in the area. Store profits are also used to provide several college scholarship opportunities for local graduating seniors.

The Columbia County School District is grateful for Partners in Education like Harlem Attic Treasures and their dedication to public education in Columbia County.


State Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council

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Grovetown Elementary parent Julie Savina was selected to represent the Columbia County School District as a member of the Georgia Department of Education Superintendent's Parent Advisory Council.

Mrs. Savina is a mother of four Columbia County students who attend all levels of Grovetown Schools to include a fourth grader at Grovetown Elementary, seventh-grader twins at Grovetown Middle, and a sophomore at Grovetown High. Mrs. Savina volunteers weekly at Grovetown Elementary and is always willing to help in any way possible. She says she has enjoyed volunteering with the schools since her family moved to the area three years ago for her husband’s job at John Deere. 

With a background in teaching for six years prior to having children, Mrs. Savina says she is also planning to bring to the table what she has learned with navigating schedules for four children at three different schools, including sports and extracurricular activities, among other important educational topics.

Members of the council will meet three times this year with State School Superintendent Richard Woods to discuss education issues in Georgia, with a primary focus on increasing parent and family engagement to ensure student success, as well as to provide input on new policies, projects, and materials that impact students and their families. Members will then bring back the information learn, serving as advisors and ambassadors in their respective communities.  

Scholastic Art and Writing Award National Gold Medal Winner

Leila Hill - Columbia Virtual Academy

Last March, Leila Hill was recognized for being selected as a gold key winner at the state level for her drawing “The Heart of a Papa.”

On June 9, 2022, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Ceremony was held at Carnegie Hall in New York. National Gold Medal winners were invited to the awards ceremony with guest speakers and highlight reels of each winner's artwork and writing samples. During the ceremony, the Art gold medal winners were recognized as a group.

Lelia is such a talented artist who in 2021, won the Congressional Art Award for Senator Rick Allen. Leila’s awarded piece was featured in Congressman Allen’s office in Washington DC for a year. Leila has also submitted a portfolio for the 100th anniversary of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)/Scholastic Art competition in hopes of winning another gold medal and a scholarship to SCAD.



Georgia Cheerleading Coaches Association Cheerleader of the Year

Caroline Hilley - Lakeside High

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Coaches nominate their outstanding senior athletes, who then go through an application process, which is scored on the student’s academic achievements, community service, school activities, and passion for the sport of cheerleading.


From the application, the top 30 athletes are selected for their division. Caroline Hilley was one of 30 selected from regions 5A- 7A. She and other selected athletes in each division went on to compete in both an interview and performance competition. The pool was narrowed down to the top 16 athletes in each division, who were named to the GCCA All-State Team and received a scholarship. The overall highest score in each division is named the GCCA Cheerleader of the Year for their respective division.

Caroline was the overall winner for regions 5A-7A.


Georgia Department of Education Title I Distinguished School
Martinez Elementary

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 Martinez Elementary has been named a 2021-2022 Title I Distinguished School.

This designation recognizes the highest-performing Title I schools in Georgia, and Martinez Elementary is one of only 71 schools to earn the recognition this year.

The Distinguished Schools designation recognizes Title I schools that ranked in the top five percent based on combined English Language Arts (ELA) and Math Achievement Rate scores from FY2021 College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) Content Mastery data. While a full CCRPI report was not available in 2021 due to data limitations resulting from the pandemic and an associated federal waiver, Content Mastery data was available since students took state assessments in 2021.

Schools must be Title I to be eligible for the Distinguished School designation and must not currently be identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) or Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI).





Georgia Council Teachers of Mathematics Award Winners

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Teacher of Excellence in Secondary Mathematics

Stefanie Frey, Greenbrier High

This award is given to a teacher who is a member of GCTM; has taught mathematics at least three years in Georgia; has strong content foundation in mathematics appropriate for their teaching level; shows evidence ­of growth in teaching of mathematics, and shows evidence of professional involvement in Georgia Council Teacher Mathematics and National Counsel Teacher Mathematics, and who has not received the Excellence in Teaching Mathematics award the past five years. Congratulations, Ms. Frey.







Dwight Love Award

Taylor Thompson, Evans High

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This award is presented to a teacher in Georgia who models excellence in the profession and in life; gives much to others beyond the classroom as mentor, teacher, and leader; is a member of Georgia Council Teacher of Mathematics; is a master teacher; is professionally active; and promotes GCTM and its mission.




4-H Presidents - Blue Ridge Elementary 

Thanks to our 4-H Presidents from Blue Ridge Elementary for leading the Pledge at the Board of Education meeting. Great job, student leaders!

State School Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council

Two Lakeside High School students, Hudson Burch, a junior, and Millie Jane Mobley, a senior, were selected for the prestigious honor of serving on the State School Superintendent's Advisory Council for the 2022-2023 academic year. Only 67 students from the state were selected to serve on the council. It is rare for a student to be selected to represent a school district, but to have two is exceptional, particularly with both representing the same school.
The State School Superintendent's Student Advisory Council is a group of students in grades 10-12 who discuss how decisions made at the state level are affecting students throughout Georgia. Members meet throughout the school year with State Superintendent Richard Woods and serve advisors who act as liaisons between the Department of Education and the students of Georgia.
Hudson and Millie Jane will travel to Atlanta four times this school year to meet with Superintendent Woods at the Georgia Department of Education. As members of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, Hudson and Millie Jane will serve as ambassadors for Lakeside High, provide feedback on how state policies impact students in the classroom, discuss other education-related issues, and participate in service projects to benefit Georgia schools and students.


State Student Advisory Council



Georgia Association of Middle School Principals Awards

Two Columbia County School District school leaders were recently recognized for their leadership and service by the Georgia Association of Middle School Principals (GAMSP). GAMSP is the organization of and state voice for middle grades school principals, assistant principals, and aspiring school leaders in Georgia.

Jerry Davis Georgia Distinguished Principal Award
Dr. Holly Barnes
Dr. Holly Barnes, Principal - Columbia Middle
Dr. Holly Barnes received The Jerry Davis Georgia Distinguished Principal Award from the GAMSP in recognition of her outstanding leadership and service to middle school students. The award was established in 2011 to honor outstanding middle school principals in Georgia.
Dr. Barnes is one of four principals in the state selected by a committee of peers from the association. She was honored at the annual GAMSP Fall Conference that was held in October. 






Hal Beaver Outstanding Assistant Principal Award
Blake Stitcher, Assistant Principal at Harlem Middle
Blake Stitcher
Blake Stitcher received the Hal Beaver Outstanding Assistant Principal Award from the GAMSP at the Fall Conference. This award is presented to an assistant principal in Georgia who has demonstrated strong leadership in guiding his or her school as an effective middle school as defined by state and national standards.
Mr. Stitcher was selected by a committee of GAMSP peers as one of the three recipients from the state for his leadership and service to middle school students.













4-H Presidents - Riverside Elementary




Thanks to our 4-H Presidents from Riverside Elementary for leading the Pledge at the Board of Education meeting. Great job, student leaders!


The Augusta Chronicle Cyber City's Best Public School Winner 2022 

North Columbia Elementary

North Columbia Elementary was named the Best Public School by the August Chronicle’s Cyber City's Best Awards 2022. The contest receives nominations and then allows the public to vote on “the best” representative in each category. The Official Community Choice Awards is a one-of-a-kind contest where locals choose the best businesses and services in their city or town.

Exemplary High Performing National Blue Ribbon School 2022

North Columbia Elementary

On Friday, September 16, 2022, North Columbia Elementary School was announced a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School. The U.S. Department of Education began the National Blue Ribbon Schools program in 1982. The program seeks out and celebrates great American schools that demonstrate that all students can achieve high levels. It recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools in two performance categories: Exemplary High Performing Schools and Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools.
North Columbia Elementary was recognized as an Exemplary High Performing School and is one of only 297 schools nationwide, and only one of six schools in Georgia, selected this year.
The process began back in February when North Columbia Elementary was notified that they had been nominated by the Georgia Department of Education as a candidate for the national award. Each school that is selected, both public and private, are invited to submit an application. Principal Tonya Gambrell and a team of teacher-leaders worked diligently to submit the application.
Ms. Gambrell and Tiffany Eargle, a fourth grade ELA teacher at North Columbia Elementary, will represent the school at the National Blue Ribbon Recognition Ceremony in Washington, D.C. on November 3-4, 2022.
The coveted National Blue Ribbon School award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.

GHSA Cooperative Spirit Sportsmanship Award 2021-2022

Harlem High

HHS Sportsmanship award

The Cooperative Spirit Sportsmanship Award program was
 introduced in 2006 to reinforce GHSA’s philosophy which states: “Student athletes, coaches, spectators and all others associated with high school activities should adhere to the fundamental values of respect, fairness, honesty and responsibility.” This award honors schools that demonstrate exemplary sportsmanship during competitive events and is sponsored by Georgia’s Electric Membership Corporations.
Only one school in each division in each region is chosen to receive this annual award. The GHSA takes into consideration all aspects of sportsmanship during events. They look at how student athletes interact on the field, and how well fellow students, school staff, parents and game spectators demonstrate spirit and sportsmanship.

4-H Presidents - Martinez Elementary 

MES students
Thanks to our 4-H Presidents from Blue Ridge Elementary for leading the Pledge at the Board of Education meeting. Great job, student leaders!

Toshiba America Foundation Grant Publication Case Study

Crystal McDowell - Greenbrier High


Greenbrier High School AP Biology teacher, Crystal McDowell, was awarded a grant for a case study submitted to the Toshiba America Foundation.
In January 2022, the Toshiba America Foundation awarded Greenbrier High School a grant for $8,981.00 for Crystal McDowell’s proposal, “Developing STEM Literacy and Applied Science through Biotechnology.” The purpose of this grant is to integrate biotechnology into multiple disciplines using real-world applications that provide a relevant context for student learning. The equipment and lab kits for implementation were purchased through MiniOne Systems.
However, one of the lab kits related to Hypercholesterolemia did not include a lab protocol to accompany the lab. Given Mrs. McDowell’s family history of cardiovascular disease, bringing awareness to this genetic condition and its effect on the human body has special meaning; therefore, Mrs. McDowell wrote a case study to accompany the lab that correlated to GA Standards of Excellence for Human Anatomy and Physiology. After attending a training session at the National Science Teachers Association Conference in Houston, TX last spring, Ms. McDowell, shared her plan with MiniOne. MiniOne was so impressed with Mrs. McDowell’s case study they asked if they could use it with their lab kit so other teachers and students could use the “story” in their classrooms.
In recognition of Mrs. McDowell’s work, MiniOne is sponsoring her at the National Association of Biology Teachers Conference in Indianapolis in November. In addition, she has been invited to present the case study at the National Science Teachers Association Conference in Atlanta in March of 2023.

STEM/STEAM Professional Learning Innovation Competitive Grant

Valery Dinkins - Martinez Elementary

Valery Dinkins, the STEM Coordinator at Martinez Elementary, received the STEM/STEAM Professional Learning Innovation Competitive Grant through the GA Department of Education to help expand science, technology, engineering, and math opportunities for Martinez Elementary students. Teams of teachers will attend the Georgia STEM/STEAM Forum and the Georgia Educational Technology Conference. Students will be impacted as teachers come back into the classroom with new ideas to expand and integrate STEM into their daily learning objectives. This professional development will have a lasting effect on student achievement as they work on year-long STEM projects and tasks.
The goal of the STEM/STEAM Professional Learning Grant is to expand access to the STEM/STEAM education through project-based learning, content integration, process-based thinking, collaborative planning, and other STEM and STEAM professional learning. To ensure funds are used as intended, the GaDOE STEM/STEAM team will monitor the implementation of grant proposals by reviewing mid-year and annual reports.
Mrs. Dinkins and Martinez Elementary was one of only 15 districts selected and will be awarded $9,800.00 for the programming innovations!