BOC discusses new school zoning for BOE


ELLIJAY, Ga. – During their June meeting, the Gilmer Board of Commissioners saw an item requesting a rezoning to PI-1 for the Gilmer County Board of Education.

This item is a part of planning and preparations for a new school to be built on the school’s Clear Creek property next to Clear Creek Middle School (CCMS). The school is set to replace the current Ellijay Primary School (EPS) as part of a plan to reorganize the school system.

This item is far ahead of any concrete plans on construction as the BOE is awaiting approval of a new ESPLOST referendum before they could move forward with this construction project.

During their work session, the Board of Commissioners discussed the item. With all three in favor of the school, the only discussion came from understanding what impact the project would have on the counties surrounding infrastructure. Post Commissioner Dallas Miller asked what changes would need to be done to the roads like Clear Creek Road and Yukon Road. Miller inquired if they would need deceleration lanes or traffic lights. While no solid answer is available at this time due to the project not even being out of idea stages without ESPLOST money to support it, there did become an understanding between the two entities for continued communication.

With CCMS already at the location, there may not be much, if any, change in school vehicle traffic like buses on the road, however, effectively “moving” EPS to the new location would obviously increase traffic on Yukon Road and Clear Creek Road from staff and parents.

While the BOC did approve the rezoning request, Miller’s comments at the work session made it apparent that they will be looking for constant communication on the project so that they may prepare the streets accordingly. Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs and two members of the Board of Education, Chairman Michael Bramlett and Vice Chair Ronald Watkins, were on hand during the BOC Regular Meeting to speak with the Commissioners before the meeting.

FYN’s current understanding of the project is that discussion is still going on how to maintain the communication. There is no information yet on if this would take the form of a report during commissioner’s meetings, a liaison between the two boards, or something else.


Gilmer ARTS endorses Arts Center in ESPLOST survey

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer ARTS program has weighed in on an ongoing survey from the Gilmer County Charter School System.

The survey is for options on an upcoming Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) cycle starting in 2020. As FetchYourNews previously reported in “BOE asks for citizen input on 2020 ESPLOST,” the options include a performing/fine arts center (on the Gilmer High School campus), a multi-use sports facility (gym, weight rooms, wrestling center, batting cages, track), or an indoor swimming pool. There is also an option for citizens to forego these options and write in their own suggestion in an “other” box.

Now, Gilmer ARTS has endorsed the option for a Performing Arts Center noting, “The options included a much overdue and badly needed performing arts center. Gilmer is far behind our neighbors in Fannin to the north and Pickens to the south. Both counties have wonderful performing arts facilities that enhance the performances of not only school system student programs but also community use for concerts and events.”

Gilmer ARTS also noted their partnership agreement with the school system and the hard work that the students have put in for some of the most successful programs in the high school. In their official release, Gilmer ARTS stated, “We have competition-winning programs in our schools with art, instrumental and choral music and have had for many years (Champions if you will).”

With little time left for the survey, the release asks for all citizens to either follow the Survey link or log on to the Gilmer Schools website and click the survey link at the top of the page, so they can offer their voice and vote on the possible options.


BOE asks for citizen input on 2020 ESPLOST

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education is almost halfway through its current ESPLOST plan completing projects like the renovations on Huff Mosley Stadium, building a new Agriculture Education center, and the current renovations to Gilmer High School.

However, anticipating the process needed to prepare for continuing the ESPLOST after this one ends in 2020, the board is already moving into discussions for that next cycle. As a part of that process for ESPLOST, the board must have planned projects they intend to use the money for.

In that discussion, Gilmer County Charter Schools System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs has turned to the citizens by placing a survey on their website. The board already has certain plans for projects to continue to upgrade technology, improve safety measures, purchase buses, and build an elementary school to replace Ellijay Primary.

However, the survey itself is intended to add more to the list with citizen input on three additional suggestions for the ESPLOST cycle. 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. There is also an option for citizens to forego these otpions and write in their own suggestion in an “other” box.

Citizens can either follow the Survey link or log on to the Gilmer Schools website and click the survey link at the top of the page to offer their opinion as well as speaking at the next meeting of the Board of Education.


Financial Decisions Dominate June BOE


The running theme for the Board of Education’s June meeting brought financial decisions to the forefront as they prepare for their next fiscal year.

One of the major decisions came with awarding two of four bids for Fuel/Oil Products. Awarding Fuel Supply to Petroleum Traders, the BOE’s set price for the year will be $0.0278 over rack price for Unleaded and $0.0329 over rack price for Diesel. The second award went to Appalachian Propane at $0.848 per gallon of Propane Fuel.

The one bid received for Automotive Batteries from O’Reillys was declined with a comment that these will be purchased as needed for the year. Towing Services for the schools will also be called on as needed as that received no bids.

Right after awarding the bids, the Board discussed a proposal for school lunch prices increases. According to the proposal, the USDA is requiring school’s charging less than $2.86 to recalculate their prices. This will put the Primary, Elementary, and Middle Schools on a 10 cent increase to total $2.10 per meal. The High School will see a 25 cent increase to total $2.25. The Boards approval also set the reduced meal price at $0.40.

Along with the 2010 ESPLOST, 2015 ESPLOST, and Financial Reports, the Board received a report on recent Expenditures and Board Approved Purchases including the changes coming to the School Resource Officers after the recent changes to the budget when the Board agreed to a request from the Board of Commissioners to increase their funding of the Officers.

The changes to the budget, having gone through one meeting in March and another in June, were adopted at the June Regular Session to prepare for July as the beginning of FY 18. The budgets details can also be found in FYN’s recent article: “Gilmer Schools Adopts Budget

Also in preparation for FY 18, the Board made final approval for a new Pre-k and State Salary Schedule.


BOE Moving To Tech Up 2017


The Gilmer County Board of Education is looking to the second half of its Fiscal Year with tech on the brain.

Discussions are rising on incorporation of new simplifying technology including digitized application forms for the internal and external applicants to the School System. According to Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes, this new form of applying will not only incorporate better collection and record keeping through the digital format, but services could also allow applicants to be notified for other similar or non-similar opportunities opening in the system or be notified of a need to reapply.

This would tie in with Substitutes as well as the Board is moving forward with an option for online absence reporting for its teachers. The system will handle situations such as the case of a current teacher suddenly or preemptively needing to call out, say a sick child or sick themselves. Instead of physically calling substitutes trying to find someone to cover them, the new system will incorporate an automated call to a pre-made list of substitutes where they can respond yes or no to cover. The system also automatically removes subs from the list if they accept a position for the day. When they do accept, Dr. Wilkes stated the teacher will receive a message that their day is being covered. Additionally, the system will allow teachers to request specific substitutes for one or several days as well.

The Board is also carrying over their infrastructure project from the E-Rate Federal Grant for which the school had previously applied. The project is set to upgrade and improve the school systems network infrastructure.

Although approved for Category 1 E-Rate Grants involving basic communications and network costs like monthly bills, Gilmer County’s Board of Education is still waiting for the Category 2 Grant specifically designated for the upgrades to the School System’s 6-year-old network. These upgrades will allow for greater loads and more stable connections, especially important as Gilmer County’s standard testing is being done online now.

Due to an issue on the Federal level, last years application has not completed the cycle from our school system. However, anticipating the possibility of the reimbursement funds arrival before next month, the Board pre-approved spending $658,000 on the improvements to the School System’s internal network and wireless infrastructure. Dr. Wilkes assured FYN the approval is based upon the grant approval and will not be spent without the estimated $588,000 maximum reimbursement ready. Tom Ocobock, one of the two newest members to the Board, noted on the Grant and the approval, “I think this is very, very important for the school system to get up to speed on technology. I’m in a high tech job, and we need people. So, the quicker we get our kids trained up on high tech stuff, the better jobs they’re going to have here, not necessarily leaving Gilmer County.”

However, Technology wasn’t the only thing on the agenda for the night. The Board approved several organizational details for the new physical year including the election of Officers, which they voted to keep the same officers of Jim Parmer as Chair and Michael Bramlett as Vice-Chair, as well as the Meeting Dates for 2017.

Additionally, the Board’s usual report and votes on policy changes included First Readers for BBA Board Officers, BBD-R(1) Board – School Superintendent Relations-Protocols, IDE(3) Competitive Interscholastic Activities, Grades 6-122, and LA Inter-Organizational Goals and Objectives as well as Rescinding BBD-E(1)  Board – School Superintendent Relations-Protocols. Second Readers and adoption came for BCBI-R(1) Public Participation in Board Meetings, EE Food Services Management, EEE Wellness Program, GBC Professional Personnel Recruitment, IBB Charter Schools, JCDAE Weapons, and JGFGB Concussion Management as well rescinding BBFB Governance Teams.

The BOE also spoke on its Financial Efficiency Star Rating for 2013 – 2015. This Rating is used by the State Board of Education to track, on a scale from one-half star to five stars, the Financial Expenditures for School Systems and Per-Pupil Expenditures against their CCRPI Test Scores for an “estimation” on how efficient a school spends its money for student achievement. This State will also use this as a part of the school system’s CCRPI.

Our school system’s rating has averaged around 3-stars looking back at the last three years, according to Trina Penland, Chief Financial Officer for Gilmer County Charter School System. It is also estimated to remain at 3-stars for the next report, though Dr. Wilkes did note that government financial grants are now accounted for the spending rather than just focusing on the Board’s basic budget. This means that projects that have received additional outside funding, such as the School’s cannery at the new Agriculture Center by Clear Creek Middle School, could in fact hurt the school’s rating by being counted as “school spending” even though it may be state or private funds. For more financial information on the school, check out the Financial Summary Report, 2010 ESPLOST Report, and 2015 ESPLOST Report.



Dr. Webb’s Contract Explored


At a special called meeting Thursday, August 20, FYN had a chance to learn more about construction projects with the Board of Education.

As Dr. Charles Webb is beginning his new contract with the Board of Education, these projects are continuing to move expeditiously through their individual steps. Through his new contract, Dr. Webb’s main purpose now is to continue overseeing these projects as a sort of “Manager.”

Many will recall Erick Hofstetter previously fulfilling these duties. A position now left open after his departure. As the projects were in need of immediate attention, the Board decided to temporarily fill this void with Dr. Webb as he fulfills the needs of education and construction experience while also bringing a benefit of experience with Gilmer County specifically.

Dr. Wilkes states as it is so late in the summer, most people who would properly fit the role left by Hofstetter would already hold positions at other places. However, they will be looking into permanently filling the position next summer.

Until then, they will continue to utilize Dr. Webb as part of the ESPLOST construction projects, because of this Webb’s contract pay will come out of ESPLOST funds for all of his construction advisement and managing instead of the general fund.

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