ELLIJAY, Ga. – With a few changes in details sparked from a recent state committee wanting state control over calendars, the Gilmer BOE is moving forward with its annual community vote.
Citizens are encouraged to visit the Gilmer County Charter School System website in order to participate in a vote over six possible calendars created by the schools in our county.
As educators and administrators have spent the last few months considering and creating the calendars up for the vote, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said they have actually identified which school created the calendar this year.
She said in February’s work session that she hopes this furthers peoples’ understanding that these options are not just thrown together, but planned and meticulously built by the schools for the school’s and student’s needs.
Downs is asking citizens to “Please review each of the calendars carefully, vote for the calendar of your choice, and remind others to vote as well.” The survey will be posted until March 8. After that, the results will be presented at the March 18 work session.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County got its first look at its newest Board of Education member, Doug Pritchett, in January’s meetings, but now, FYN sits down for a few questions with the man selected to fill the vacant spot.
Pritchett is a life-long resident of Gilmer County, having graduated from its High School and only leaving for Reinhardt University and later graduating from University of Georgia. He has been a banker for much of his life as his wife taught in the Gilmer County School System for 34 years. He has had three children graduate from Gilmer as well.
On joining the Board, Pritchett said, “I’ve always worked in the community. I believe in giving back to the community, and I felt like this was a way I could continue to do that.” He went on to say that he wants to be a positive influence with his only goal to continue the quality that he has seen in the school system so far.
That quality, says Pritchett, is starting to gain momentum with the “stability” the school system has seen in recent years. With a number of Superintendents and changes now behind us, he wants to continue that momentum and stability that has led Gilmer to successes in testing and classes as well as programs like the FFA (Future Farmers of America).
He went on to explain that the county has seen more investment into the students in whatever path they choose through projects like the new Agricultural Center and the coming restructuring of Gilmer County School buildings with a new elementary school. These projects through each cycle reinvest more into the school and students as they study, practice, learn, and compete. With ESPLOST Bonds, Pritchett told FYN that the short term bonds and quick payoff through the life of the ESPLOST allows these projects to be available for the students quicker.
Pritchett has been through board orientation, but will be seeing more training in April and June as he gets deeper into the new position. He acknowledged the trials ahead as he begins looking deeper at items like the recently debated State-Controlled summers issue as well as the needs of the local community. Pritchett said he has received a lot of help from his fellow board members in getting up to speed and getting through his first meeting already.
Ultimately pointing to the students, Pritchett says he wants to focus on helping to prepare them for their futures. Highlighting Gilmer County’s focus on college and career readiness in addition to trade skills and work force preparedness, he touted Gilmer County as one of the best in the state as he said he is looking forward to the next two years and getting to be a part of steering that success.
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. – As the Gilmer County Board of Education went through usual approvals for administration in January for the coming school year, an unusual take on the votes came as Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said she was requested to go through approvals one at a time instead of all together.
Those individual votes came so a no vote could be given to Gilmer High School Principal Carla Foley. She was approved in a 3-2 decision with Tom Ocobock and Ronald Watkins as the dissenting votes. FYN later asked these two why they voted no. However, they simply commented that they had their reasons.
Watkins specifically said, “Hopefully, things will straighten up and next year will be a yes vote.” He did note simply that he wasn’t satisfied with the position, declining to explain further.
Ocobock did agree that he wanted next year to be a yes vote, but also declined further comment.
One other dissension came with the Central Administration positions. As Bob Sosebee was recommended for Director of Facilities and Transportation, Ocobock spoke in the meeting saying, “I’m giving him the yes vote, but I want to see marked improvement in maintenance on these schools in this year.”
Ocobock said he has seen trash and alluded to more as he repeated that he wanted a marked improvement.
With these approvals of administration, the Board will move forward next month with recommendations for staff and contracts for the coming school year.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Highlighting the L4GA Grant (The Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading in Georgia Grant) in January, Gilmer Schools have been talking about the fruits of the grant, Literacy Nights and Book Donations. These events are a part of Gilmer’s usage of the grant and their attempt to “get the message out that Reading Matters!”
According to Katrina Kingsley, GCCSS Pre-K Director and PBIS District Coordinator, all of Gilmer County Schools were awarded the L4GA Grant this school year in order to promote literacy and language development for children in the community. Kingsley made an official release stating “On January 11th, a total of 250 books were given to the following community members: Gilmer County DFCS, Gilmer County Health Department, Piedmont Urgent Care, East Ellijay Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, and Lifetime Medical Center.”
That’s not all as the school is already planning additional book donations to the community for the spring of 2019.
Additionally, Lottie Mitchell, Chief Academic Officer of the Gilmer County Charter School System, took time during January’s meeting to highlight the points of Literacy Nights, an event that each school in the system has already hosted once this year. A family night of fun and books, the events showcases the importance of reading and its effects on students.
Kingsley also noted that a child who reads 20 minutes per day is exposed to 1.8 million words per year and scores in the 90th percentile on standardized tests. A child who reads 5 minutes per day is exposed to 282,000 words per year and scores in the 50th percentile on standardized tests. A child who reads one minute per day is exposed to 8,000 words per year and scores in the 10th percentile on standardized tests.
The school system’s goal is to encourage parents to read to their children and to encourage their children to read at home in order for students to experience higher levels of academic success. Taking the time to highlight these Literacy Nights and the Book Donations is the next step in accomplishing that goal.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Vacant since September 11, the Board officially named a new member to fill the seat at a Special Called Meeting this week.
Held on December 17, 2018, the Special Meeting saw Board Chairman Michael Bramlett report to the board that Doug Pritchett is willing to serve alongside them and will be taking the spot in January.
Bramlett stated in their meeting, “Mr. Pritchett is a long time resident of Gilmer County and he will make a good Board-person.”
Moving forward with the new appointment, Pritchett will serve the remaining 2 years of the current term. At that point, he will be free to run in the regular election for the position.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County has been searching for a new coach since the official announcement of the resignation of Casey Wingard.
It seems that Gilmer’s Christmas present could be a new coach. Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs announced that she expected a meeting to be called for next week in which information on the new head coach would be released. She stated, “Once the final selection is made and references are checked, then I will ask the Board to hold a called meeting next week so that we can name that coach before we go home for Christmas break.”
With 55 people showing interest and 44 of them completing applications process. Eventually, the Board narrowed this to seven people selected to be interviewed.
That meeting has now been announced. On Monday, December 17, 2018, the Board of Education will be holding a Special Called Meeting. There are actually two items on the agenda, one simply states personnel, if approved this personnel item could hold the name of Gilmer’s newest football coach.
The other agenda item relates to recent events regarding the resignation of Board Member Nick Weaver. Appointment for vacant board seat” is the item on the agenda. Yet, no indication has been made yet if this is to actually announce the newest member or simply to begin open board-discussions.
One meeting could, hopefully, fill two large gaps in Gilmer County’s School System by Christmas.