ELLIJAY, Ga. – Reaching all the way back to October of 2018, the proposal of wage increases for Post Commissioners finally reached the stage of First Reader this month.
This topic has been hotly debated, and even now, the public hearing saw more debate over the issue that has spanned five months and the changing of the Post 2 Commissioner. After a community push, successfully, to keep the issue in county instead of sending the topic to Atlanta for a vote, the discussion now moves to the actual topic of accepting or denying the proposed Post Commissioner salary raise from 10% to 18% of the Chairman’s Salary.
With only a couple people standing in the Public Hearing to speak, discussion centered on justifying the raise. Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson was asked about this, and replied with some statistics about her hours saying she has put in 134 hours since taking office at the new year. She calculated the pay versus hours and reported that she has received close to $7.74 /hr ($1,036.82 total pay over 134 hours).
Additionally, Dallas Miller was asked about his hours comparatively, if he has more or less than Ferguson, being a new commissioner and attending training. Miller admitted that the hours don’t go down as he said more people know who you are and will stop you to talk, email you, or call you.
Miller stated again, as he has in previous meetings, that he did feel it would have been better at a different time, and he ultimately voted no on the First Reader citing the same issues he noted in the public meeting about timing.
It wasn’t until another citizen, Brian Pritchard, spoke about his issues with the change. Among his own questions for justification, he eventually asked the Board to push the vote back to year end for citizens and commissioners to look at the raise.
Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris noted that pushing this back that far could create a perception of conflict with the Post 1 Commissioner position so close to qualifying and re-election in 2020. Paris said he did not believe that it was necessary, and the board could avoid the conflict altogether by not pushing the issue off to year-end.
Taking the issue now would be far separated from any decisions on running again according to Paris.
The first reader was officially approved with Karleen Ferguson giving the motion, Charlie Paris giving the second, and the final vote passing on 2-1.
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. – 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. – May 3 saw exciting news for Gilmer county as State School Superintendent Richard Woods made the announcement of Gilmer County Charter School System as the second highest score in the Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading in Georgia (L4GA) grant by the Georgia Department of Education.
Over sixty districts applied for funding and a panel of trained reviewers scored the applications. The districts with the highest scores received the grant.
Chief Academic Officer of the Gilmer County Charter School System Lottie Mitchell said, “We are so very proud of the hard work and dedication of our site facilitators, district, community and school literacy teams.”
According to Mitchell, Georgia was awarded a total of $61,579,800 over three years through the federal Striving Readers grant competition. Ninety-five percent of the funds are sub-granted to 38 districts. The funds are distributed on per-pupil allocations to achieve the goal of the L4GA initiative, to improve student literacy learning.
With this grant in our county, Gilmer will receive approximately $1.46 million dollars over the next three years. These funds are allocated for students in schools within a feeder system (including birth-age 5 childcare providers and elementary, middle, and high schools).
Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes expanded on the excitement saying, “As your superintendent, I could not be any prouder of this team! The dedication and commitment to the students and teachers in our district is overwhelmingly outstanding! I am so proud to work alongside of all of you every day!”
Though the school system does not have specific details yet on exactly how the money will be spent, Mitchell states it is to be dedicated specifically to the improvement of literacy in the schools.
“It’s a great day for literacy in Georgia,” said Woods. “I am confident the $61 million Georgia is now able to invest in local schools and communities to support literacy will impact the lives of thousands of students. I commend each L4GA grant recipient – the competition was fierce as we received an unprecedented number of applications. Making sure Georgia students are reading on grade level remains mission-critical, top-priority work for us and I have no doubt these districts – who submitted clear, focused, student-centered plans to improve literacy outcomes – are going to use these funds to make a tremendous difference for kids.”
Additionally, the $61,579,800 Georgia received through the federal Striving Readers grant competition, the “parent grant” Georgia received from the federal government and is subgranting to 38 of its districts, was the highest award received by any state. Georgia was one of three states to receive the funding a second time after the initial grant cycle (2011-2016).
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – According to Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes, a new issue arising at Clear Creek Middle School drew law enforcement and emergency management to the school near dismissal time Friday, Feb. 16.
Wednesday, staff noticed writing in pen on a boys bathroom stall saying, “I have a bomb.” Wilkes tells FetchYourNews that law enforcement was contacted and the school searched. No evidence pointed toward a bomb being present that day.
Today, at approximately 1:45 p.m., Wilkes reported that a teacher was notified of more writing in a different boys bathroom on a stall. The writing this time appeared smeared across the wall in ink, as if someone had broken a pen to smear the writing. The writing read, “I have a bomb, you will die.”
After contacting emergency services and law enforcement, emergency management investigated for the presence of a bomb again. In an effort to find someone who may have written the message, school staff checked students hands for ink. Wilkes also noted that the staff was also checked for ink.
Though no device or other suspicious activity was found again, emergency management is continuing to question and combing through film. Wilkes once again noted that while the current thought is that this threat is a hoax, they will continue investigating the threat seriously.
With next week seeing Gilmer students on winter break, Wilkes tells FYN that they will be open for authorities to fully access the school for inspection for any signs, and the school will see heightened security when they return from the break.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With more questions than answers, the current investigation into the bus wreck on Yukon Road cannot complete fast enough.
Citizens are continuing to debate the incident with the information available. FetchYourNews (FYN) sat down to discuss the situation further with Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes. Though she reiterated that details such as the name of the bus driver and the specifics of the State Patrol were unavailable, she did update that the Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) required investigation of the bus proved the bus sound and complete excluding the damage caused by the wreck.
This means that while some had questioned the bus’s condition at the time of the incident, a formal investigation has stated the bus itself was not at fault. Of course, with the damage to the vehicle, Wilkes tells FYN that the bus will obviously not be put back on the road. Instead, the system has put one of its back-up buses into use and is utilizing a substitute driver on the route. No other bus routes or drivers have been affected by the incident, and Wilkes confirmed that the school utilizes substitute drivers regularly in its operations.
Going deeper into the bus condition, Wilkes commented that the bus maintenance program follows stringent schedules regularly inspected by the GDOT, which also inspected the bus after the wreck. As the bus garage adheres to those schedules, they monitor each bus’s engines and details down to measuring the tread on tires.
The driver of the bus that wrecked has been with the school for over three years but has been placed on administrative leave for now. Wilkes said that such leave is common but would not comment on the driver’s permanent status with the school until the investigation completed.
Wilkes also took time with FYN to deny a rumor of a fight on the bus distracting the driver saying, “I can tell you that there was no fight on that bus at the time. That is one rumor I can completely squelch.”
Though not every question is seeing answers at this time, details continue to reveal as more unfolds.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – A Gilmer County Charter School System bus has crashed roughly three miles out of town on Yukon Road.
The road is currently shut down and drivers need to find alternative routes as they attempt to travel. The bus was not involved with another vehicle. According to Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes, the bus overturned on the wet, rainy road resulting in minor injuries to children on board.
She did confirm the only students on board were from Clear Creek Middle School. With only minor, non-life-threatening, injuries, emergency services are transporting seven students to the emergency department in Ellijay and eight are being transported to the emergency room in Jasper. However, the other students on board were uninjured or only received scrapes or bruises and, having been checked by emergency response units, are being transported back to Clear Creek Middle School for parent pick-up.
According to the Gilmer County Charter School System, they are working to notify parents and are not releasing names of the students injured.
Witnesses on scene are reporting officers from Gilmer Fire, Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, and the Georgia State Patrol are still working on the vehicle which is blocking both lanes of the road.
While emergency services are on scene, there is no set time expected for re-opening the road. Stay with FetchYourNews (FYN) as we continue to follow updates from authorities.
UPDATE: According to Dr. Shanna Wilkes, the accident coupled with response from parents to the schools delayed bus routes today, causing many students to arrive home far later than usual. With State Patrol undertaking a formal investigation into the incident, the use of this bus would demand a halt whether it is operational or not as authorities’ investigation will entail a full inspection in addition to questioning and investigating those involved.
While it is FYN’s understanding that the bus overturned after an over-correction by the driver, possibly trying to return to the road from the shoulder, it has not been confirmed by officials.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – As the incident of the school threat continues in Gilmer, FetchYourNews (FYN) sat down with Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes to discuss the incident.
Wilkes told FYN the school system would not be identifying any of the students or current details about the case. However, Wilkes did take time to share with FYN the incident basically occurred when a student, student one, took a photo of himself with what appears to be a gun. Student one then shared the photo with a peer, student two, who shared it with another peer, student three.
Wilkes tells FYN this student, student three, was the one who added text to the photo representing a possible threat and shared it through social media with others. While administration assumes the photo was originally taken prior to this school year, it was not shared until this weekend.
Additionally, student one, who took the photo without any text, was not arrested or disciplined and is currently still in class. As student three admitted to adding the text and sending it to multiple individuals, he faces school-level disciplinary action as well as charges filed against him by law enforcement.
Wilkes has previously stated that the school treats all threats seriously and continues to assert the importance of student safety to school and system administration.
Follow more on this story as FYN continues to update you and by reading our previous article, “Threat resolved at Gilmer High School.”
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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Rumors continue circulating this morning about messages students have been receiving on SnapChat. Allegedly, a child has threatened the school and others inside it.
According to Gilmer County Charter School System Administration, the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office became involved during the night and have identified the suspect. As administration has continued working with the sheriff, they stated on social media, “The safety of our students and staff is always our main priority. All appropriate action will be taken to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”
Today, administration stated progress had been made and the Sheriff’s Office had made an arrest in the case stating, “At this time, there is no credible risk to students and staff of Gilmer High School.”
However, claiming laws for student confidentiality, administration is declining to comment further on the student involved or more information on the incident.
In light of the continued rumors about the credibility of the threat, administration did offer this: “It is imperative for students and everyone to know that credible or not, threats of this type against our schools cannot be tolerated or accepted.”
Repeated comments from citizens and students claim the threat came as a picture on SnapChat of a student holding a gun and saying not to come to school Monday.
Many changes arose in Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Commissioners.
On Tuesday September 6th, Oakland Academy Charter School (OACS) held a community meeting at the Oakland Community Center. Oakland, which was closed by the Board of Education (BOE) in May 2011, plans to resurrect itself as a charter school. After the school closed, a small board of members petitioned to the BOE for a waiver for the charter school application deadline, so it did not have to wait and prolong the process. The BOE, however, denied the waiver. Shortly following the BOE’s decision, The Supreme Court ruled that local school districts have the sole authority to grant or deny the existence of charter schools. Previously, schools that wanted a charter designation could appeal to state charter school commissions for approval. (more…)
“Do not partition Gilmer County into two separate school systems,” this was one of the comments Isaac Lassiter intended to make in his presentation to the BOE regarding the request to waive the application deadline for the Oakland Academy Charter School. (more…)