ELLIJAY, Ga – The Gilmer County Board of Education (BOE) is moving forward for a change on one front while maybe avoiding change on another for next year.
First, the BOE has approved a motion to begin the process to change the board members compensation from $50 per meeting to $400 per month. Initial response from citizens have been conflicted with such a drastic increase. However, with this approval, the item will be sent to the General Assembly to be considered in the next session in early 2018. Then, if approved, Gilmer County Board of Education Member Michael Bramlett tells FYN that the change will not take effect for board members until the next time their seat is elected.
This means that the current Board of Education members will have to be re-elected before they, or the newly elected member, could take advantage of the compensation change, and that is if it is approved at the General Assembly.
Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes told FYN the Board has never set anything about compensation previously, which means it was automatically set at $50 per meeting. But a feeling now that the $50 was insufficient for the work put in ushered forth the motion for a change.
Wilkes also stated that this is already being done by neighboring Fannin County. The switch means going from some months with only the work session and regular session and some with at least five or more meetings. Wilkes stated it was likely, more when the Board was searching for a Superintendent before she was hired, to a set rate for the month regardless of the number of meetings.
As for avoiding a change, the BOE listened to one citizen who signed up to speak at their regular meeting. Brian Pritchard spoke to the board to ask them not to change the leadership of their football program. The Gilmer Bobcats football team has seen a lot of change over the last three years with continuing shifts in coaches across two 0-10 seasons. While Pritchard never mentioned names, he stated the current leadership was what the kids needed. It was a leadership “they would play for.”
The point to note came later in the meeting when the Board approved its November personnel changes. No resignations, terminations or retirements were shown on the list. While personnel was discussed earlier in the week during executive session, before Pritchard’s comments, it will be something they say they consider moving forward.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
ELLIJAY, GA – Due to citizens asking and continued confusion in the community, the Gilmer Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes asked Gilmer High School Principal Carla Foley to explain the situation of stadium parking at their August Meeting.
Foley explained that the high school has discussed in previous years the option of charging for parking at the football stadium. She stated other schools in the region charge for parking and the thought arose to use the parking to aid in funding our other sports programs.
Early in discussions, Foley states, a post reached Facebook about the charge before discussions had concluded causing confusion on what it would be and how it would be collected.
At the meeting, Principal Foley clarified that other sports programs are going to be present at home games to collect a donation for parking. At the end of the season, the donations will be divided out among the programs involved. Foley also stated that the collection is a donation, and not mandatory for parking.
Additionally, Foley reminded citizens that the parking lots will continue to have a transit system in place to take spectators from the lots to the stadium via bus.
ELLIJAY, GA – Following a trend that seems to be crossing most of North Georgia, Gilmer County Schools have reported that they will close on Monday, August 21, 2017.
In a release from Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes, safety concerns were partial reasoning for the cancellation as the peak of the event is set to occur just before the normal parent pick-up times for Ellijay Primary and Clear Creek Middle school causing darker conditions in the high traffic area and time. Another concern of the School System is the congestion on roads as North Georgia could expect hundreds of thousands of visitors and travelers.
Some counties, such as Georgia’s Towns County, are expecting 30,000 to 50,000 visitors alone. Venues are also selling out quickly for the even. Brasstown Bald has already sold all 450 tickets it made available for viewing.
The increased traffic of those who may be traveling to Gilmer or even through Gilmer could increase congestion making a later release unfeasible for the school system.
Dr. Wilkes also reports that the schools are siezing the opportunity for education as they will be spending class time lecturing about the solar event, safety, and proper care during the eclipse including a pair of “pair of NASA approved viewing glasses as they depart school on Friday afternoon prior to the eclipse.”
See the full release below and find a link for more information of the Eclipse and North Georgia’s place in the “totality.”
Due to safety concerns, Gilmer County Schools will close all schools on August 21, 2017 for students and 190-day (or less) personnel.
This date coincides with the first total solar eclipse to occur across the entire continental United States in 99 years. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly in front of the sun, and casts its shadow on the Earth below. The event will begin at approximately 1:00pm with the sky becoming darker until approximately 2:36pm when the eclipse reaches “totality” just to our north and the sky begins to lighten again. Gilmer County falls in a region expected to experience a 99% eclipse.
The darkest time of this event is occurring just minutes before we would normally begin parent pick-up for Ellijay Primary and Clear Creek Middle school. This means students would be moving about in crowded loading areas and parking lots in much darker than normal conditions. According to EMA officials, large crowds are expected on our roadways as viewers attempt to make their way to and from the total eclipse area just to our north where several festivals are planned to celebrate the event. Delaying parent pick-up would cause remaining parent pick-up times and school dismissals to be late thus placing student drivers, buses, and parents in greater congestion.
To capitalize on this incredible learning opportunity, our schools will be educating our students on the science of this event. Safety will be emphasized, including the dangers of looking at the sun at any time, even during the apex of the eclipse without the use of special safety glasses or other approved means; doing so is likely to result in permanent eye damage. Each student will receive a pair of NASA approved viewing glasses as they depart school on Friday afternoon prior to the eclipse.
The safety of our students is always our number one priority. By closing the schools we ensure the safety of our precious students, as well as the many GCCSS employees. I hope that you and your children are able to spend quality time together experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime event in an enjoyable and safe manner at home. Please visit https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/ to learn more about the solar eclipse safety.
ELLIJAY, GA – Offering low income first generation students a path to college access after high school graduation through additional services, the Upward Bound Grant was celebrated with members from both the Gilmer County Board of Education and the University of North Georgia.
Beginning Sept 1, 2017, the program will see two full time staff members at Gilmer High School in addition to extra resources and support for the selected students who participate. While the Grant was previously approved, see “Upward Bound Grant Confirmed for Gilmer Schools,” the press conference held on July 27 was the first official public meeting of the two entities celebrating the new partnership in Gilmer County.
Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes opened the meeting saying, “With the Gilmer County Upward Bound Project being the only one of its kind in this area of the state, I am so excited that we’re able to partner with University of North Georgia to offer support for post secondary opportunities to our students.”
The Federal Grant supporting this program equals $257,000 a year. University of North Georgia (UNG) President Dr. Bonita Jacobs commented on the yearly grant to assure citizens, “”We anticipate being here for five years, and it will make a difference… I am extremely excited about this program and about the impact it is going to have across our region.”
UNG currently hosts five campuses throughout northeast Georgia, according to Dr. Jacobs, and is the fastest growing institution in the fastest growing region of Georgia. She continued the conference saying, “As we look at businesses coming into our communities, one of the questions they ask is about workforce. Do you have the workforce?”
Dr. Jacobs also mentioned the University’s REED (Regional Economic Educational Development) Program is launching to work consistently with economic development in the area. The Upward bound program fits into the bigger picture with these other programs in UNG as it opens doors to colleges and career opportunities for these students. It helps them to understand what jobs are out there and how to get those jobs through the various pathways available in high school.
ELLIJAY, GA – Coming to the end of a process that began back in Fall, Gilmer County Schools’ Board of Education has approved a tentative budget for the 2018 Fiscal Year.
With some obvious changes such as One time Grants for projects like the School Cannery, other major changes are coming such as staffing adding two ESOL teachers, one Special Education teacher, one academic coach, one RTI Intervention Teacher, and one health pathway teacher for the Certified Nursing path in school among others. The school system is also moving forward on the Provision 2 Free Breakfast project for students.
Taking a closer look at the budget, our Schools are estimating to end FY18 with a $1,298,797 gap between revenues and expenditures. This estimation is not unheard of in Gilmer County as they have projected themselves under expenditures last year as well.
Gilmer Schools estimated in June of 2016 that they would be $1,631,875 under expenditures for their budget. This estimate left a fund balance of $14,962,247 by June 30,2017. However, the school system is currently estimating a fund balance of $20.7 million on July 1, 2017. Chief Financial Officer Trina Penland gave credit for the change to the Board of Education and specifically to Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes for continuously reviewing expenditures and cutting unnecessary items.
Regardless, the schools still estimates this year’s budget revenues to still come up short of expenditures by $1,298,797 leaving a fund balance of $19,401,203 by June 30, 2018.
While everyone remembers the mandated 2% salary increase for teachers, and our systems plan to increase the 2% to all faculty and staff, other changes have affected expenditures for the school system including a $300,000 increase in textbooks and a $560,000 increase to the TRS benefits (Teachers Retirement System) for employees. While the school system has been paying 14.27% of the costs for teachers TRS Benefits, this is now increasing to 16.81%. FY19 is also estimated to 20.9%.
One other notable increase comes as the Board approved a request from the Commissioners to increase their funding for School Resource Officers to 50% of the total costs, this $45,000 increase will take the total cost from its current $105,000 to $150,000.
On the Revenue side, the school system will be seeing a $635,000 increase to QBE Allotment from the State to aid in covering tuition and instruction in addition to the TAVT (Title Ad Valorem Taxes) Revenue. The TAVT is still being inflated due to repayment of taxes from the county and cities after the disbursement error in the Tax Commissioner’s office. This could offset in roughly a year and a half when the repayment is completed. However, Penland stated they have noticed an increase in collection from last year and are optimistic the economy could at least make up for a portion of the difference by the time those payments cease.
Additionally, during their meeting, the Board of Education also moved forward with approval for a Technology purchase of $90,000 for eight carts of Chromebooks. With 30 Chromebooks per cart, 240 total, Dr. Wilkes stated this would finally put 3rd and 4th Grades to a 1:1 ratio of Chromebooks and students.
While the budget is currently tentative, the Detailed Budget will be up for approval at the June 15 meeting. Citizens wishing to speak or comment on the budget can do so at their Work Session on June 12 or sign up to speak at the Regular Meeting on June 15.
According to a recent release from the University of North Georgia, they have been awarded “$2.6 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Education’s Upward Bound Program to help promising low-income high school students in Hall and Gilmer counties prepare for college.”
Split between our two counties, 120 students will have the opportunity to take advantage of tutoring, counseling, and advisement to help them become academically successful.
Gilmer specifically has local access to the University through a Blue Ridge Campus Branch where they can take courses as well as participate in the Blue Ridge Scholars program integrating course instruction with student support groups for first-time freshmen.
According to a UNG article by Sylvia Carson, the President of the University, Bonita C. Jacobs, said, “Through these grants and the Upward Bound program, we will be able to provide vital support to students in our region as they prepare for higher education and future career opportunities.”
UNG Blue Ridge Campus Director Sandy Ott leads the grant for Glmer High School saying, “Introducing the Upward Bound program in Gilmer County has the potential to greatly increase the progression of low-income students and first-generation college students through the academic pipeline.”
FYN followed up with Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes for more information. She offered anyone interested in the program to attend the Board’s June 12 meeting as they will have a full presentation on the award, the partnership, and Gilmer’s future alongside the University of North Georgia.