Ralston visits MVE to read as part of Georgia Pre-K Week

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Mountain View Elementary (MVE) school hosted the Georgia Speaker of the House, Rep. David Ralston, on Thursday, October 4, as part of the Georgia Pre-k Week program.

Originally launched in 1992, Georgia Pre-K is a lottery-funded program serving four-year-olds in the state regardless of parental income. After almost losing the program to cuts in 2010, the Pre-K Week celebration was created to emphasize the importance of quality early childhood education by providing opportunities for leaders to engage with pre-k classrooms in their local communities.

Ralston’s visit came to MVE in its second year of the return to pre-school classes at their location. Visiting both pre-k classrooms, he read Behind the Little Red Door in Katlin Johnston’s class and Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons in Gina Brock’s class.

Having previously visited Ellijay Primary school year’s ago, his return to the new location is made possibly by Gilmer County’s L4GA Grant providing supplemental literacy funds to the education system. A part of the grant, the “Birth-to-5 piece,” is the major part of increasing literacy and putting books into the hands of kids at home. By extensions, educators hope to build the language skills and development for not only those children, but also to other younger children in the household as well.

Gilmer’s Pre-K Director Katrina Kingsley told FYN this is usually an annual event to host lawmaker’s in our schools and allow them firsthand knowledge of what’s going on in these classrooms. Kingsley asserted the importance of programs like this as it not only educates lawmakers on our schools, but the grant and program allow pre-k teachers to affect even more students. Just as the body needs food and nourishment, Kingsley said these kids need “nourishment for the brain.

 

Check out more photos of the event at FYN’s Facebook Page.

 

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Facilities plan discussed at board retreat

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education has detailed the plans for their buildings over the next five years at a board retreat in March.

The plan incorporates the use of Instructional Units (IUs) in relation to state and federal programs utilized to spread funding to counties based on their “need.” By better planning facility use and more details on those facilities, the Gilmer County Charter School System (GCCSS) hopes to maximize their IUs to secure as much funding as possible from these state programs.

The funding itself, however, comes in the form of reimbursements instead of pre-project funds. Most citizens should recall this is the same process the board is currently using a part of its coming renovations at Gilmer High School (GHS). The applications will allow for partial reimbursement of a few parts of the project including items like roofing and HVAC work.

Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes

Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes

Additionally, the board retreat allowed members to discuss and see the current plan on what they will be seeking in terms of facility changes and movements to come. Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes asserted that the plan is the board’s current intentions for the future, but that it was also not set in stone. Parts of the plan rely on approval of the next Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) for example. She also told FetchYourNews that the plan could change with major unforeseen circumstances.

Allowing the flexibility to change gives the school board a cushion for contingencies and alterations while also giving the guide for the next five years.

The plan described will see the board finishing up the GHS renovations before adding onto Mountain View Elementary school. The board is planning to have Ellijay Primary School (EPS), Ellijay Elementary School (EES), and Mountain View Elementary School converted into full, preschool through fifth grade (P-5) elementary schools. Looking even further ahead, the board is also discussing moving what is now EPS to a new building on the board’s property near Yukon, near Clear Creek Middle School.

As a part of this conversion, the three P-5 elementary Schools would serve their local districts where they are located. Students would then move to Clear Creek Middle School as the county’s sole middle school for grades six through eight. Moving up from there, students would attend Gilmer High School’s campus with the current Gilmer Middle School serving on campus as a ninth-grade academy and the current GHS building serving grades 10 through 12.

One possibility could see EPS becoming a preschool to second grade with EES as third grade to fifth grade until the new building can be completed, but regardless the plan will ultimately end in the three P-5 schools.

That new facility would have the board moving away from Ellijay Primary School, avoiding the damages from its location in the flood plain and moving out of a nearly 50-year-old building, as well as having the new building in a better location for its district.

Once the new building for EPS is completed, the board wants to look at EES for needed renovations at that time. According to Gilmer Schools Assistant Superintendent, Administrative Services, Stuart Sheriff, completing EES renovations should see a potential 10-year period where the board’s facilities would only need normal maintenance, requiring no major renovations.

With people still asking why the board does not utilize their old location for Oakland Elementary, Dr. Wilkes noted that Oakland can only house 247 students making it too small to be utilized. She also noted other issues the board has faced with the location, including sewage leasing and relative location to other schools and district possibilities.

With the plan set, the board has already been moving on GHS renovations and will begin phase one of the two-phase project this summer.

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Calendars approved in Board of Education’s March meetings

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Final tallies have been made and the Gilmer County Board of Education (BOE) have officially approved their calendar for the 2018-2019 school year.

The 2018-2019 Calendar Poll Results (click to enlarge).

A stark change this year showed one calendar was far above the others. Calendar 2 collected 859 votes, accounting for 48.18 percent of the vote. Approved by the board, this calendar is set as the plan for the next school year and will be utilized to plan everything for the coming year.

The votes were collected over the last month online on the BOE’s website through polling from public citizens, but the candidate calendars were created by teams within each school before being submitted for consideration.

Be sure to look below to find the Draft 2 Calendar approved in the board’s March meeting.

Also set for next year, schedules were set for salaries and supplements. The workforce continues to see rises in insurance as well as minor changes for positions in transitions as well as the step up raises for staff and teachers hitting milestones in their careers.

Financial reports were presented at the meeting setting the board’s status as of the end of January with revenue coming in over expenditures by $5,168,037. Just past the fiscal year’s midpoint, the finances still reflect expectations to see that number drop under expenditures to -$1,298,797. Though no one showed for the board’s first scheduled budget session for next year, there will be another meeting set for citizens to speak closer to June as the budget gets set into detail for the next fiscal year.

Along with finances, the board ratified a purchase approved by poll for equipment purchases for the elementary and primary schools. Mountain View’s approved expense equaled $85,179 from Southeast Outdoor Solutions. Ellijay Elementary’s approved expense equaled $71,88o from Superior Play Systems. Ellijay Primary’s approved expense equaled $76,493 from Hasley Recreation Inc. All three purchase funding comes from the Local Capital Projects budget.

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Student injured in accident at Mountain View

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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Reports today confirm that a student at Mountain View Elementary School was injured by a pencil inserted into his face.

Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes told FetchYourNews it seems that the child was walking when he tripped and fell onto the pencil in his hand. Despite the appearance of an accident, Wilkes did confirm that they are investigating further to make sure.

The child was taken by their parents for medical care and Mountain View Elementary has returned to its normal classes despite the incident. While Wilkes declined to comment on the student or what grade that student is in, she did reiterate that information points that this was a freak accident.

Wilkes also confirmed the injury was to the face, possibly a sinus cavity or eye socket, but did not comment further details on the exact injury.

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Gilmer Receives CCRPI Scores

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County Charter School System has received results for 2017’s CCRPI. Releasing the following information, the schools have shown marked improvement in testing since last year.

The schools utilize this information when creating plans for next year as they see what areas need help and what areas have succeeded with current teaching methods.

These scores also indicate an above average scoring for most of the county’s schools, as well as an above average score overall for the district, which is an obvious improvement over years passed.

The following is a release from Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes:

 

The Georgia Department of Education released the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) 2016-2017 school year data on November 2nd.

The CCRPI is Georgia’s statewide accountability system, implemented in 2012 to replace No Child Left Behind’s Adequate Yearly Progress measurement (AYP). It measures schools and districts on a 100-point scale based on multiple indicators of performance.

Five of Gilmer County Charter Schools six schools saw an increase in their CCRPI scores compared to their 2016 scores.

Ellijay Elementary School (EES) made an impressive gain of 13.6 points with a 2017 CCRPI score of 81.1, compared with a 2016 CCRPI score of 67.5. Lauree Pierce, principal at Ellijay Elementary School, stated, “The data indicates that EES is heading in the right direction. To add to the excitement, changes implemented in the 2017-18 school year are sure to have a positive effect on these numbers next year.”

On Nov. 3, Pierce and her administrative staff cooked a steak lunch with homemade desserts for all EES staff to show appreciation for all their hard work.

Gilmer Middle School is comprised of fifth and sixth grades and each grade receives a CCRPI score. The fifth grade receives an elementary CCRPI score and the sixth grade receives a middle school CCRPI score.

According to the scores released, the state’s 2017 CCRPI average was 72.9 for elementary schools, 73 for middle schools and 77.00 for high schools. The state CCRPI average was 75.

For Gilmer County Charter School System, the averages for elementary, middle and high school were 74.3, 79.1 and 71. The district average is 75.2, which exceeded the state average.

EES staff are treated to a steak lunch in celebration of the hard work to get the school to a 13.6 point increase on the 2017 CCRPI.

EES staff are treated to a steak lunch in celebration of the hard work to get the school to a 13.6 point increase on the 2017 CCRPI.

The numbers are based on data from the 2016-2017 academic year. The CCRPI incorporates 50 points for achievement, 40 points for progress and 10 points for achievement gap. The score can also include additional Challenge Points.

Ellijay Elementary, Gilmer Middle and Clear Creek Middle are well above the state CCRPI average; however, there is still continued work to be done.

Gilmer High Schools’ graduation rate is well above the state average and we are working to close the gap on CCRPI performance at the high school level.

Our teachers, leaders, and staff have worked diligently to focus their efforts on student achievement and success. The hard work and dedication of each school’s team led to the improved CCRPI scores and they should definitely be commended.

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Stolen Vehicle Report Leads to Three Arrests

Bobcat's Corner, News
Phillip Wayne Morris, Jr.

Phillip Wayne Morris Jr.

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Approximately 8 a.m. this morning, Nov. 6, Gilmer County Sheriff’s Deputies reportedly spotted a vehicle on North Main Street matching description of a stolen vehicle report from Nov. 2.

As deputies began to initiate a traffic stop, Sheriff Stacy Nicholson reports, the vehicle pulled into a residence and three suspects fled the vehicle on foot. These three moved in the direction of the Ellijay Primary and Elementary schools.

Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes told FYN that the two schools SROs (School Resource Officer), Officer Josh Ensley for EPS and Officer Zach Weaver for EES, heard another officer reporting a spotting of a stolen vehicle and calling for back-up. “At the call for back-up, our SRO team recognized the area as being in close proximity to our schools and notified school administration who placed the schools on lockdown,” Dr. Wilkes said.

Kristin Charlene Nunez

Kristin Charlene Nunez

As the suspects fled into the vicinity, the SROs joined the pursuit after locking down the schools. Wilkes goes on to say those same two officers were also a part of the apprehension of the suspects.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Heather Raquel Pisony, Kristin Charlene Nunez, and Phillip Wayne Morris Jr. were apprehended without incident in the area behind Ellijay Primary School.

They are currently in custody and the Sheriff’s Office states, “There is no further cause for alarm.” All three currently face charges on Obstruction of an Officer (Misdemeanor), Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a Police Officer (Felony), Theft by Receiving Stolen Property (Felony), and Possession of Tools for the Commission of a Crime (Felony).

Dr. Wilkes also informed FYN that the schools response was “a textbook lockdown” with no incidents in either school.

Heather Raquel Pisony

Heather Raquel Pisony

Lasting 15 minutes, the schools proceeded with the lockdown according to plans. The system practices drills for lockdowns like this several times a year with more for other reasons on individual needs.

When asked about the incident, Dr. Wilkes replied, “We are truly blessed to have such outstanding law enforcement officers from the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office serving to keep our students and staff safe.”

 

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Gilmer County Announces Teacher of the Year

Bobcat's Corner, News

Ellijay, GA – Gilmer County saw recognition during October’s Board of Education (BOE) meetings for teachers selected as Teacher of the Year for each school in the system. Within 24 hours of their official recognition at the board meeting, one of these teachers would be named the Gilmer Teacher of the Year.

Recognized for Ellijay Primary School, Casey Whitley is a 14-year veteran teacher who has a Masters Degree in Special Education as well as a certification for Special Education for Pre-K to 12th grade. She has taught at Ellijay Primary School for three years. Prior to EPS, Whitley was the preschool specialist at Gilmer Head Start. She and her husband have three daughters of their own.

She says the best part of teaching is watching students progress. She has been called an advocate for her students as her Principal reports she builds engagement resources and strategies for student success.

Students and Teachers prepare for announcing the Gilmer County Teacher of the Year.

Students and Teachers prepare for announcing the Gilmer County Teacher of the Year.

Recognized for Ellijay Elementary School, Connie Dean is an ESOL teacher and Secretary of the School Governance Team. She works to support students as a leader of several student service projects.

Dean also was a part of a Grant allowing students access to the EES Media Center one day a week for most of the Summer.

Recognized for Mountain View Elementary, Arlene Bryan is a 30-year veteran of special education. Her administration nominated her due to a continuous impact on children through high expectations and her efforts as a role model for fellow teachers.

Bryan will be retiring this year from Mountain View. Administration continued to praise her humility throughout her years of service.

Recognized for Clear Creek Middle School, Adam Palmer serves as the Chorus Teacher and the Cross Country Coach. Palmer was praised for a unique ability in the school to work with all students to improve character building in daily lessons.

His administration’s nomination praised the lasting effects of his teacher-student relationships that they say have improved the school’s quality.

Recognized for Gilmer High School, Mary-Melissa May is in her sixth year of teaching at the high school where she teaches Honor Biology and coaches the Swim Team. She also serves on the GHS Leadership Team as the Science Department Chair. Constant hard work sees May researching best practices for teaching Biology and sharing in Professional Learning Communities (PLC).

Not only does she coach the GHS Swim Team, but May was reported by her administration as instrumental in starting the varsity team four years ago. She also took 10 swimmers from Gilmer to state competition last season.

Principal Larry Walker offers flowers to Shannon Goble as he announces her as Teacher of the Year.

Principal Larry Walker offers flowers to Shannon Goble as he announces her as Teacher of the Year.

As for the teacher who received prestige as the Gilmer County Teacher of the Year, recognized from Gilmer Middle School, Shannon Goble was treated to a surprise announcement early in the morning of October 17.

As she was “pulled from her classroom” for a quick word with one of the faculty, her students and fellow teachers prepared the hallway where she teaches for a warm reception for the announcement. Returning, Goble rounded the corner on her hall to a flood of cheers as students and teachers alike waved a banner of congratulations and offered flowers for her.

Shannon Goble, Teacher of the Year, stands with her students after the announcement.

Shannon Goble, Teacher of the Year, stands with her students after the announcement.

Shannon Goble is called always positive and helpful by her peers who also say she shows she cares through a friendly and kind nature. Even her students note she always smiles and is funny as she helps them with their daily lessons.

Administration says it is her servitude that shows them she is all about the people she interacts with daily.

Goble herself says she never really thought about achieving Teacher of the Year for her school, much less for the entire system. She told FYN, “There is nothing better. It let’s you know that what you are doing truly matters.”

Teacher of the Year Shannon Goble takes a moment to share with fellow teachers from Gilmer Middle School.

Teacher of the Year Shannon Goble takes a moment to share with fellow teachers from Gilmer Middle School.

Goble said she never doubted her students appreciated her as they share their happiness with her, but it is something more to also know her colleagues think so highly of her.

With over 20 years of educational experience, Goble worked in the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) prior to teaching. She has been teaching 5th grade for most of her years at GMS.

Speaking of the award, Goble said she wants to continue her efforts as she has been for all of her years. Saying that just like the kids she has to continue learning new things and improving every day, Goble commented, “I think of myself as a big kid.”

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