ELLIJAY, Ga. – Entering the new year, the Gilmer County Board of Education began discussions about the plans of moving into Phase 2 of the High School Renovations this summer.
With talks going back and forth on Calendars and the possibility of state involvement in school calendars, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said that even starting in the first week of August as the current calendar plans are incorporating the summer construction plans. The uncertainty comes that if the State moves forward with recommendations to extend the summers with schools starting the first Monday of September, and ending around June 1.
While no indication comes on what the future may hold on this, Downs assured the Board that the plans for construction and summer renovations can be fit in with the school systems currently planned summer break.
Additionally, the Board elected its new officers for 2019 with nominations and approvals for Michael Bramlett to continue as Board Chairman and Ronald Watkins as Vice-Chair.
North Georgia – According to a recent article by the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC), a senate committee has recommended longer summers for Georgia Students.
Instead of quoting test scores, educators, or studies about student learning, the committee suggested a school year starting the first Monday of September, and ending around June 1.
The basis for this suggestion? Economic analysis.
According to the AJC’s article, the committee was devoid of teachers, school leaders, or PTA representatives. Their suggestion bypassed academics and said that the longer summer, roughly three months, would help tourism grow and increase summer workforce.
Taking a local response from Gilmer County Charter Schools System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs and Fannin County School System Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, the consensus seems to be that these systems are appalled at the thought of economic interests waylaying the education system in favor on money.
Dr. Downs told FYN that shortening the year would not only decrease the breaks that the local school system has in place for students, but would make testing in the first semester almost impossible. She noted an immense testing impact if students were to go through first semester and Christmas, only to then come back in January for end of course testing.
A sentiment that was separately echoed by Dr. Gwatney who also noted how much work these school systems put into their calendars, over 6 months of effort and staff input are taken by each of these two school systems before a final handful of calendars are presented for community input in the Board of Education. Finally, the Board approves a final Calendar in the spring for the coming school year.
Additionally, Dr. Gwatney pointed out how far the effect of these calendars reach as he also brought in fellow administrators to speak on the issue.
Fannin County Schools Deputy Superintendent Betsy Hyde(heading up the District’s Charter), Fannin County Nutrition Director Candace Sisson (also the Calendar Committee Coordinator), and Fannin County Assistant Superintendent Robert Ensley (Administration and Personnel) all agreed that stepping into the local schools in such a way without any representation from schools on the committee was not the way the state should be looking at the issue. From the time spent working on the calendar to allowing each individual county to cater to their student’s and county’s needs, these representatives of Fannin County exerted the necessity of individualized calendars.
Downs also noted this importance in Gilmer County as she noted that each school presents its own calendar that is put together by teachers and administrators and then put out for citizen input. Noting the influence of educators of the process, Downs said she was against the thought of a committee placing importance of economy over education.
While both these counties gain a lot from the tourism industry, they annually balance their own festivals, events, and economies against the education calendar. Local people provide local input from local expertise as they continually deal with this problem.
Though the recommendation is non-binding, it leaves citizens asking the question of how much control the state should have and exert over local governments. Though not directly related, they still recall the Governors “Opportunity School Districts” campaign in recent years. A campaign shot down at the polls. If moved forward and put in place, regulations on the school year may shift discussions from the economic benefit to the state as a whole and focus solely on the overreach of State Government into local communities.
According to the AJC, the committee includes chair and state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, Deputy Commissioner of Tourism for the Department of Economic Development Kevin Langston, Georgia Chamber of Commerce designee Michael Owens, Director of the Georgia Travel Association Kelsey Moore, Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus Jay Markwalter, former state Director of Community Affairs Camila Knowles, State Board of Education member Scott Johnson and Grier Todd, chief operating officer at Lake Lanier Islands Resort.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – A single letter. One person’s thoughts is what ultimately led to a recent ceremony by the Board of Education to dedicate the auditorium at Ellijay Elementary School.
With the idea brought up in the Board’s meetings in recent months, Hefner’s family and the community of Gilmer County joined together to celebrate Hefner’s life and service in education.
Speaking at the event, Retired Superintendent Ben Arp said, “As I came to know Homer Hefner, I found him to have the traits of a good father.” He shared about Hefner’s lover for Esther, his wife, and how much it meant that Hefner was such a good example in his life.
He went on to speak of Hefner’s intensity and dedication through his life and how he took that through Gilmer High School, North Georgia College, and service in the United States Army. Returning to Ellijay after the Army, he came home to Ellijay to serve more through a 38-year career in education.
Hefner stretched through many facets of education as he served as a teacher, counselor, administrator, and, eventually, Superintendent.
Arp said it was Hefner’s leadership that was an integral part of Gilmer’s success during a changing and challenging time in education. Setting Gilmer as a beacon that many systems looked at and visited to learn from.
Also, Hefner received the Citizen of the Year Award in 1999. He was more than an educator as he volunteered in the community and organizations to grow Gilmer as a county alongside the education system.
The dedication ceremony also offered remembrance of Hefner with songs from the Ellijay Elementary School Choral students, led by Katie Mayfield, and a special plaque unveiled after the ceremony.
ELLIJAY, Ga – Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs has confirmed that Board Member Nicholas Weaver has tendered his resignation from the Board today, September 11, 2018.
According to the Board’s Official Statement, the resignation comes as he has moved out of the Post 3 area of Gilmer County, he can no longer hold his Post 3 position on the Board.
His resignation becomes effective immediately leaving the board down one member for the work session in two weeks on September 17. It is possible that they will move through this month without a fifth member, but plans are already in motion as an election will be needed to replace Weaver. However, the deadline has already passed to place anything new on November’s ballot.
Until the Board can officially hold an election for the seat next year, they will be looking to appoint someone to fill the space until then. Citizens will recall that current Board Member Ronald Watkins filled his position from a vacancy in 2016 before later running in the election.
As more details become available and the Board selects a replacement, stay with FYN as we continue to update you on this story.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With almost 2,000 people responding to their ESPLOST Survey, the Gilmer County Board of Education released the results at their June Meeting.
The choices include a Performing/Fine Arts Center (on GHS Campus), a Multi-use Sports Facility (Gym, Weight Rooms, wrestling center, batting cages, track), or an Indoor Swimming Pool.
Multi-use Sports Facility collected 684 votes and the Indoor Swimming Pool collected 282 votes.
Though seen as a somewhat surprising result according to Gilmer County Charter School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, she encouraged the Board to bear the survey’s results in mind as the moved forward with preparations for the ESPLOST referendum. While it is likely this vote will be seen as early as this November on the ballot, the ESPLOST cycle would not take effect until 2020. With the five-year cycles, the Board is attempting to plan several years ahead as they or only now at the midpoint of the current cycle.
While this may seem far off, officials say it is imperative to begin preparations now so that the voting, investigations, and preparations are in place when the 2020 cycle begins to move forward with the work as quickly as possible.
This does mean, however, that as the Board contemplates their survey, if they move forward with the Performing Arts center included as it seems they will, there are currently no plans setting when they will begin the project within the five-year cycle.
The project would stand next to others like the construction of a new Elementary School at the Board’s Clear Creek Property to replace the aging Ellijay Primary School currently in town on McCutchen Street.
Check out the Survey Results for the full tally and comments.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education has received an award from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts for Excellence in its Financial Audit for the second year.
The press release for the award states:
The Gilmer County Board of Education earned the” Award of Distinction for Excellent Financial Reporting ” issued by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts for FY 2017. This award was established to recognize excellence in financial reporting and controls. It encourages governmental organizations to go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and recognizes individual organizations that are successful in achieving this goal.
Though the Board receives the award as the reporting entity, they lay the recognition at the feet of Chief Financial Officer Trina Penland and the finance staff who manage the preparations and reporting for the Board.
According to Mary Dilbeck of the Department of Audits and Accounts, they delivered only 32 of these awards out of the 159 entities they do the audits for, stating the rest are covered by CPA firms. The award showcases a reporting excellence recognized by the state agency. However, it was also noted that many entities pay consulting firms to prepare the financial reports. The Gilmer BOE does not pay an outside firm as Penland and her staff prepares the documents and filings themselves.
This award is presented to organizations that submit quality financial statements and supporting documentation in a timely manner. To receive this award, the organization’s annual financial report must also be free of any significant deficiencies or material weaknesses, comply with all Transparency in Government requirements, and be given an unmodified audit opinion.
ELLIJAY, Ga – The June Meeting of the Gilmer County Board of Education saw 10 lucky winners of a bonus as a reward for their attendance levels through the year.
Sponsored by the Gilmer Chamber, the drawing awarded $500 to nine of the winners before the tenth name was drawn as the winner of a $2500 bonus.
Gilmer Chamber President and CEO, Paige Green was on hand at the meeting to draw the names alongside Gilmer Schools Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Stuart Sheriff. Entry into the drawing was given to eligible employees who missed two or fewer days out of the whole school year.
The drawing hosted 126 names in the bowl as eligible.
The $500 winners were:
The grand prize winner of $2,500 was Sherrill Davis.
According to Sheriff, the winners will receive the bonus attached to their June paychecks.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education has met its two meeting requirement and could be set to approve final adoption of their $43 million budget.
If adopted, the item will change from the tentative budget to the official FY 19 budget for the BOE. Any wishing to speak on the topic should contact the BOE before Thursday to sign up.
The budget is estimated to see a $2,996,931 shortcoming of Revenues under Expenditures draining the fund balance down to $17,403,069 but June 30, 2019.
Recent years have seen similar budgets set with millions over revenue, they have also seen the budget change drastically throughout the year. The FY 18 budget could see the Revenue under Expenditures reduced to $160,392 by the end of June according to a new amendment presented in the Boards June Work Session.