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.
Jasper, Ga – The Pickens County Board of Education hosted a no-threat lockdown today on the campus of Pickens High School.
Parents and citizens saw the Pickens County Sheriff respond to concerns saying:
We currently have a team of deputies and K-9 units participating in a controlled sweep of the Pickens High School campus. While the school is being checked, students are being placed in a non-emergency lockdown status. Students are safe and no threat exists at the school.
When questioned about the lockdown, Pickens County Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson said the K-9 sweep was scheduled for a few weeks ago, but had to be pushed back due to scheduling conflicts with Cherokee County who supplies the K-9 units. As the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has retired its last K-9 unit for medical reasons, Wilson stated it is a part of the agreement with Cherokee County to utilize theirs.
With the lockdown and sweep completed, Wilson informed FYN that no drugs were located during the sweep today. Though he noted it was not directly related to the rising use of vape devices, Wilson did respond to questions about the trend saying that it is a concern in the school system.
Sweeps like this is a part of the school’s enforcement of its code of conduct as well as state and federal law. Though Wilson said there is more going on behind the scenes in the system’s response to the rising vape concerns and to school security in general, he declined to release details saying, “There is a number of things that we are doing and things that we are working with the Sheriff’s Office, some of that we just can’t publicize at the moment.”
More information on these steps like the K-9 sweeps and other programs the school already has in place over its years in operation can be found at the upcoming Monday, September 24, day of events involving the Office of the Sheriff, the District Attorney, and Pickens School district as they hold a meeting for parents for information and the ‘Chat with the Superintendent’ at Pickens High School at 6 p.m.
Wilson went on to note that the school system is being forced to change the way it views vaping devices. While he notes that it is against the law for underage kids to possess cigarettes and vaping devices and they have enforced the law, he did state that the school system may have, at times, not utilized the most extreme forms of discipline available in every situation involving the use of nicotine. He went on to say, “Now that this added ability of being able to vape just about anything, that brings it to a whole different level.”
As part of the school’s efforts to inform parents and students about the dangers that vapes present with not knowing what is in them, the board is working with the District Attorney and the Sheriff’s Office. Wilson said, “We may have looked at vaping in the past as more of a replacement for a cigarette, and not as a delivery device for drugs… Going forward, we probably would.”
He added later, “We’re going to have to really start disciplining to the fullest extent that we can, given to us by our Code of Conduct or either by the Law to keep our children safe.”
East Ellijay, Ga. – The Gilmer Christian Learning Center (CLC) opened the doors of its new addition at the Clear Creek Campus this week to dedicate the building and allow the public to see where students will be learning and growing in the coming years.
The new campus adds on to the already well-established work being done at the High School campus located on Bobcat Trail between Gilmer High School and Gilmer Middle School.
As stated in Executive Board Member Loy Jarrett’s opening remarks of the Dedication Ceremony, the CLC began as a dream from Joel Stembridge. With the dream accomplished in 1985, Jarret went on to say that this building represents “Joel’s second wish.”
Jarret said the CLC exists to, among other things, teach kids about self-image, individual achievements, people skills, and spiritual foundation. As the mind, body, and soul make up a person, the soul stands most important.
“Life is a marathon,” said Jarret, “It’s not just a sprint… The more that we can expose these kids to this marathon, the more that they will improve our next generation.”
Accomplishing the 20-month long process, the building stands completed. With only interior items like landscaping, shelving, and supplies left to put the finishing touches in, CLC Director Jennifer Colson said the Gilmer CLC Clear Creek Campus will achieve its deadline to be ready for classes this fall. With students already lined up from last years class registrations, the building will begin seeing use in just a few weeks.
With one 7th grade class and one 8th grade class, the cycle changes every 9 weeks to help reach as many students as possible. More than that, Colson says they are excited to have the new building in the Clear Creek campus and will be looking to host 6th, 7th, and 8th grades in the building as the system goes through changes to its schools’ restructuring in the coming years.
s Director, Colson says she will be splitting her time between the two buildings in order to support the staff of the CLC’s two locations.
Colson spoke at the Dedication Ceremony to offer thanks for those who donated, volunteered, and provided in every way for the new building. She also noted that the CLC program will be moving into the new building debt-free, an amazing feat as the CLC is a completely non-profit organization.
Thanking God for provisions and guidance, Colson said it has been astonishing as people have continuously volunteered and donated time and time again for the expansion. Whether it was volunteers working, others financially supporting, and professionals donating services, the progress has marched on to prepare the new facility as Colson states, “It’s just been amazing to see how the community has come together and said ‘We believe in CLC. We believe in the mission of this ministry. We believe our seventh and eighth graders need to hear about Jesus daily.'”
Check out these photos and more from the ceremony and open house at FetchYourNews’ Facebook Page.
Albert E. Harrison Scholarship recipients from Gilmer and Fannin Counties (l-r) Filipe Arreaga, Christopher Byrd, Bryson Darnell, Madison Davenport, Phebee Garrett, Mallory Grimes, Lindsay Irons, Makenzi Ledford, Katelyn Roberts, Dakota Skiles, Pennie Tuck, Lexus Walden, and Jadie Weaver, also pictured Mr. Jason Smith and Mr. Doug Harrison of Ellijay Telephone Company.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Mountain Education Charter High School (MECHS) dedicated a night special for its own seniors set to graduate this year.
As a part of the graduation season, the school held a banquet honoring those seniors and their accomplishments. The dinner, held at First Baptist Church in Ellijay, honored those from the Gilmer site before the Graduation Ceremony at Fannin County High School Performing Arts Center honoring graduates from Fannin, Gilmer, and Union.
The night also noted Gilmer’s success with holding the entire system’s Salutatorian, Dakota Skiles. She was one of the four Honor Graduates from Gilmer alongside Filipe Arreaga, Bryson Darnell, and Jessica Jones.
Additional honorees for the night included winners of the President’s Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement: Christopher Byrd, Kacie Crook, Phebee Garrett, David Green, Mallory Grimes, Sonia Guzman, McKenzie Hagin, Jacob King, Luke McClure, Luis Olea, Katelynn Roberts, Pennie Tuck, and Jadie Weaver.
As the ceremony continued, each senior was presented with a special “shadow box” for their graduation. This class gift was presented as a token of the staff’s pride in the students and their hard work.
Still more, for her special achievement of reaching Salutatorian, Dakota Skiles was given a tablet computer for her future work and education endeavors.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer High School (GHS) saw a new celebration this year as they held a signing day for students committing to a college in order to become teachers themselves.
The inaugural event, held April 27 this year, showcased 11 students dedicating to three different colleges. Eight will be attending the University of North Georgia. Two will attend Dalton State College. One will attend Chattahoochee Technical College.
William Barnes, a senior, committed to the University of North Georgia.
Brittani Ballew, a senior, committed to the University of North Georgia.
Mckayla Chambers, a junior, committed to the University of North Georgia.
Callie Kerr, a senior, committed to the University of North Georgia.
Jenny McCurdy, a senior, committed to Dalton State College.
Andrea Pantoja, a senior, committed to Dalton State College.
Erica Sharp, a junior, committed to the University of North Georgia.
Kameron Stone, a senior, committed to the University of North Georgia.
Allison Strickler, a senior, committed to Chattahoochee Technical College.
Sarina Tran, a senior, committed to the University of North Georgia.
Rachel Waddell, a senior, committed to the University of North Georgia.
These students have all been a part of the high school’s “Teaching as a Profession” pathway in the school as well as Work Based Learning so that each student will be heading into college with experience in his or her field. As a part of the day, students met with representatives from their colleges and receive a certificate recognizing their dedication and hard work.
A state event “signing day” will be held May 8. However, due to testing at that time, GHS held their signing day early.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer High School (GHS) Marching Band is looking to replace their uniforms after 13 years of use.
The legacy of the current uniforms stretches across over a decade of champion level performances, nation-spanning shows like Hollywood for the Christmas Parade, and growth into new avenues, such as this year’s inaugural Winter Guard Competitive Season.
After all the events these uniforms have been showcased at, the time has come to hang up the old and ring in the new. Director of Bands Joe Pflueger has worked since November on finding the new look and gauging interest of both band members and Band Boosters members. Originally engaging three companies for design bids and ideas, Pflueger has finally come to a definitive design.
Noting the resemblance of the front design to that of our iconic mountains, he said he has decided on the final design from Fruhauf Uniforms, Inc. The competition line uniform will bear the school’s emblematic G as seen in the photo.
Achieving this goal, however, is something the band team is still working towards. Pflueger took time to speak with FetchYourNews (FYN) saying he felt the new uniforms, along with the board’s August approval for replacing percussion instruments, bear a rewarding feeling for the students after the constant work and successes in recent years.
The uniforms are more than just a new design for some though. Band mom Bobbi Leigh Mullins said it represented the chance to have her son “sparkle and shine” as he marched for the band.
Consisting of 130 musicians, the GHS Band has always grown from support from its band boosters, support from the school and school board, and support from the community to further its efforts. Pflueger spoke with FYN confirming that the band has already raised half of the funds necessary to purchase the uniforms. However, if they are to meet their hopes of fielding these uniforms at the opening show next season, this fall, they need to garner another $30,000 to finish the project.
Attempting to raise the necessary funds, the band has turned to its community for help. An official release from the organization has offered game-time announcements and program recognition for sponsorship at different “star levels.” Each level represents a part of a uniform up to “5 Star” level at $395 for a full uniform.
Pflueger said the process has included over 20 designs and numerous minor changes to designs before ending on this arrangement. Though the current band stands at 130 students, Pflueger admitted the band could see growth toward 140 in the coming years, making it the largest band Gilmer has fielded to date. Pflueger told FYN, “With all the organizations, it’s just getting the kid involved. It makes for a better, well-rounded kid. And it provides those kids with memories they can keep the rest of their lives … That’s the satisfying part of it.”
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.
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.