GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – February saw a threat and incident at the Gilmer Schools’ Transportation Depot as a single woman allegedly walked into the facility with a firearm. Now, nearly 150 days later, Mary Newberry has left the detention center on bond.
Allegedly the woman behind the incident, she faces felony charges of Aggravated Assault and Carrying a Weapon in School Safety Zone among others, according to information on the Sheriff’s website for the Detention Center. She also face misdemeanor charges of Simple Battery, Pointing or Aiming a gun at another, and Loitering at or Disrupting Schools.
Posting the bond late last week after it was set by Superior Court Judge John Worcester, she has been placed under 15 conditions according to documents filed with the Clerk of Superior Court.
Those conditions include the bond payment, house arrest, “no contact” orders with a 500-foot distance for witnesses and alleged victims, “no contact” orders including a 500-foot distance from properties of the Gilmer County Charter School System, restrictions on employment with any school system, ankle monitoring, restrictions from firearms, voluntary searches, and other restrictions against committing crimes in general.
In addition, the documents do reference a reasoning as for the bond coming now. The documents stated that both parties “have reached a consent agreement (due to the alleged present physical health conditions of the defendant at the request of the Gilmer County Jail) to the amount of bond and the conditions of bond for the Defendant…”
The alleged incident occurred on the afternoon of February 27, 2020, around 1:30 p.m. and caused the nearby Clear Creek Middle School to go into a “precautionary lock-down.”
As Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs reported at the time, there were no injuries from the incident.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – In a special called meeting in March, the Gilmer Board of Education approved their Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for Clear Creek Elementary School with Charles Black Construction Company.
The GMP is set at $15,910,671. The project is set to begin this spring as reported from the BOE’s February Meeting. According to reports, that date could be as early as late March or early April.
During their meeting, the board confirmed a few extra details including the use of the luxury vinyl tiles similar to those used in the high school. Despite being more expensive to install, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said it is more durable and doesn’t require the same waxing a buffing over summers and holidays that the older style of tiles required.
Some parts of the project will require the school system to follow up with certain internal projects like furnishings, technology, and security which are not a part of the GMP. Downs said the GMP is strictly for the construction of the facility.
As construction begins in the next coming weeks to continue over the summer, the Board of Education has said they will be hosting their groundbreaking ceremony soon. Additionally, the project is still not confirmed on the scale or need for adjustments to nearby county roads for the increase in traffic. However, the Board of Commissioners have held preliminary discussions about possible needs for turning lanes and road widening among others.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office has released the arrest record including a felony charge for yesterdays incident near Clear Creek Middle School.
Mary Elaine Newberry, 59, was described as a disgruntled employee by Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs in a statement where she gave credit to a quick response from the School Resource Officer and the school’s security system for the quick response in locking down the school during the incident.
Newberry was taken into custody at the Transportation Facility next to Clear Creek Middle School by the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office as is now facing felony charge on Aggravated Assault.
According to reports from Gilmer Schools late yesterday, a firearm was involved in the incident. However, Dr. Downs confirmed there were no injuries or damage to the facility during the incident.
Despite the resulting lockdown and the school, Downs was reported yesterday saying, “Please know that our students were not in danger. This was implemented as a precautionary measure toward ensuring their safety.”
UPDATE: New information from Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs has confirmed a firearm was involved with the incident at Clear Creek.
According to reports, several transportation employees detained the individual until help could arrive. Dr. Downs stated, “The School Resource Officer from the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) stationed at Clear Creek Middle School adjacent to the transportation facility was able to use the Centegix Crisis Alert System to place the school in lockdown instantly and respond immediately to arrest the individual.”
While the Sheriff’s Office continues investigation, the suspect is currently in custody, and is being held at the Gilmer County Detention Center.
Dr. Downs went on to add, “Our district is fortunate to be supported by a School Board and Board of Commissioners who recognize the need and work together to fund GCSO School Resource Officers at each school. Steps taken by our system to have these School Resource Officers and the Centegix Crisis Alert System in place today has proven invaluable in ensuring the safety of our students and staff.”
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – On the afternoon of February 27, 2020, an incident involving a disgruntled employee of the Gilmer County School System resulted in a lockdown at Clear Creek Middle School.
According to a statement from the Gilmer County School System, the lockdown was precautionary. The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office was called in to handle the situation and the school system says the incident was “quickly contained.”
The incident occurred about 1:30 p.m. when the employee began “a disturbance at the transportation facility next to Clear Creek Middle School out Yukon Road.
The school also offered the following in their statement, “In a lockdown, all doors and windows are locked and noone is allowed either on or off school campus. Please know that our students were not in danger. This was implemented as a precautionary measure toward ensuring their safety.”
Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs confirmed that a disgruntled employee showed up in a threatening manner, but declined to comment further saying that the incident is still being investigated by the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office. However, she did also confirm that there was no major injuries or damage to the facility during the incident.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Announcing the 2019 Teacher of the Year, Gilmer County’s Board of Education celebrated the award during their November meetings as they named Tina McDaniel as recipient.
Moving from School Teacher of the Year to the system-wide Teacher of the Year, McDaniel said, “This is just a great honor. It’s a blessing to be able to work with such wonderful people in this county. It’s awesome.”
Administration actually surprised McDaniel in first period Science class a week before they announced her during their meeting. McDaniel said she couldn’t believe that she had been named Teacher of the Year as the surprise came early in the morning. The celebration brought smiles to both the teacher and her first period students who shared cake with their teacher during the surprise.
McDaniel has been teaching for 16 years now. Her first year she taught 7th Grade Science and Social Studies, but the last 15 years have been spent in 6th Grade Science and is currently a PLC Leader. She was named Clear Creek Middle School’s Teacher of the Year in October where she was described as “greeting everyone on a daily basis with a warm and welcoming smile, inspires all students to learn through engaging hands-on activities, very well respected by her colleagues, and spends time in the community by being a soft ball and basketball coach for Gilmer Parks and Recreation.”
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Students at Clear Creek Middle School enjoyed celebrating Georgia Apple Day on September 13, 2019. Students connected food and agriculture with Penland’s Apple House providing history and apple facts, along with samples of apples in season, fresh apple cider, and even pencils for students.
Penland’s is located along Highway 515 at 41 Talona Spur Road in Ellijay, Georgia. The apple house is a family owned and operated business. Along with apples, Penland’s offers ciders, jams, and various baked goods, including great tasting apple pies and apple fritters.
Gilmer County is nicknamed the “Apple Capital of Georgia”. The apple season runs from late August through December. Every year, over 200,000 bushels of apples are produced, and every taste bud can find its perfect apple with over 30 varieties grown locally.
With the apple season getting into full swing, and Gilmer county preparing for the various Apple events, the Georgia Apple Day was a great kick off for the students. Clear Creek Middle School was able to enjoy the benefit of being part of the Apple Capital of Georgia. This event was made possible by the event host, Penland’s Apple House.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer citizens are finally getting a first look at designs and plans for the newest addition to the Gilmer County Charter School System.
While the plans are available to the public for viewing, Gilmer County School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs made sure to note that the plans are still in their preliminary stage. These plans can and probably will change in the coming months as the Board, Administration, Breaux & Associations Architects, and Charles Black Construction Company alter and address issues during the project.
During their recent meeting, the Board of Education noted that the plans for the new school were a “compact design” based on visits and analysis of another school they visited in March. The compact design is helpful with the school’s position as the Board wants to take advantage of the higher ground at the location.
The green line in the plans indicates a hill that will be cut and “tabletopped.” This allows the school to sit on earth that the Breaux & Associates Architects representative said is already “compacted by nature,” instead of sitting of fill dirt or looser foundations that might cause differential settlements.
The compact design will only cover 86,000 square feet in the school building alone, with a 212 car parking lot and space for bus traffic, playgrounds, and extra space unused in the current plan.
The third page shows the interior layout of classrooms with the central “core” being facilities including the cafeteria, gym, media center, offices, and more. Additionally, the architects have already left space on the ends of the wings for further expansion.
Additional design points are yet to be finalized, but the architects pointed out considerations for stonework on the exterior and skylights in the central area of the four-classroom “pods.”
Current plans are to finish designs by the end of 2019 in order to bid and begin construction in early 2020. They also indicated that they hope to have construction done and the school in use by the 2021-22 school year.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Progress on constructing the new Clear Creek Elementary School is moving forward as the School System has officially redistricted the county based upon the concept of hosting three elementary schools.
This is the first step in kicking off the major changes to come in Gilmer’s Educations system in the next few years as renovations, redistricting, and redistributing students to different schools are all a part of the steps forward.
Some of these changes to come include a new elementary school to be built in the Clear Creek area and the current Gilmer Middle School facility to be converted to a College and Career Academy as part of Gilmer High School.
According to the Gilmer County Board of Education, “Each of the three elementary schools will serve students in pre-K through 5th Grade and Clear Creek Middle will serve all students in grades 6-8. Administration for each of the schools will remain stable. This plan will allow students to experience less transitions during critical early learning years and will improve efficiency of bus routes for community schools.”
Plans for the changes have been in place for over a year, included in the 2018 Spring Board Retreat, revolving around the Five-Year Facilities Plan which also include renovations upcoming and currently underway for Ellijay Elementary School and Mountainview Elementary. With the construction of the Clear Creek Elementary School, the BOE will not be using Ellijay Primary School. The school has been prone to floods and damage over its 50-year life.
This Board has presented a map (seen above) to clearly outline school zones using Highway 515 and Highway 282 as zone boundaries.
School System Administration said, “Letters will be sent to parents based on registered primary address confirming assigned school zone by April 12.”
However, with some citizens already saying they want a certain school, the system is looking to accommodate families who wish for their children to attend a school outside of their assigned school zone. The district will provide parents the opportunity to apply for “School Zone Preference.”
School Zone Preference:
Bus transportation will be provided only for the assigned school zones as presented on the map; however, a parent or guardian, may submit a School Zone Preference request to have their child possibly placed in another elementary school within our school system as long as the school district has determined that there is available classroom space at the requested school after all assigned students have been enrolled.
If a parent elects to exercise this School Zone Preference, the parent assumes all responsibility for transporting the student to and from the selected school. School bus transportation will be provided only for the school zone determined by the school zone map.
An application for School Zone Preference will be posted on the Gilmer Schools Website from April 15th- April 30th for parents to apply for the school they prefer their child to attend. Parents will be notified by May 15th if their request was fulfilled.
Students on an Attendance Support Team (AST) Contract at the time of registration for School Zone Preference will not be eligible for transfer. If a student, has been selected for the School Zone Preference and is placed on an Attendance Contract during the school year, they may be transferred back to the school zone determined by residence address so they can take advantage of school system transportation.
With these changes only months away, Parents are encouraged to look for these letters and follow up with the Board Representatives or the School Administration offices for more details on applications.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Walk into a restaurant and check the health scores, chances are, you won’t see a lot of 100’s. Sure, you will, hopefully, see a lot of high 90’s scores, but not that elusive 100.
This week, however, the Gilmer County School’s Nutrition Services not only managed to score a 100 in the latest health inspection, but they found that score in every school within the system.
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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Authorites at Gilmer Schools have cleared the threat at Clear Creek Middle School with the following information.
The lockdown is now clear. There was no threat found. In an effort to prevent this from happening, we have several procedures in place to monitor restroom use. We will continue to investigate the situation to find who is responsible. If found, students will receive school consequences and be charged for making terroristic threats. Please know safety is always the first priority at CCMS. We will continue to treat any and all threats seriously to protect our students. As parents, you are always invited to our monthly SGT meetings to provide us with feedback and suggestions. Our next meeting will be Feb. 28 at 7:25 AM. We need to work together as a school community to prevent these issues.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – School authorities have revealed information about a possible threat written on a bathroom wall at CCMS.
The Gilmer County School System alerted the county to the lockdown earlier today.
Previous threats have been found in Gilmer Schools with nothing coming from the threats. However, the school system has repeatedly stated in the past that they take all threats seriously. They currently have law enforcement investigating.
The official post of information from the schools follows.
Atthis time, CCMS is under a lockdownwith law enforcement investigating a threat written on a bathroom wall. At this point there is no reason for panic. Please do not tie up the phone lines.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Authorities responded to a threat made against Clear Creek Middle School yesterday, December 12.
When school officials were made aware of the threat, according to a statement on their Facebook, they informed law enforcement and proceeded with disciplinary action. Investigations were handled by the SRO and Sheriff’s Office.
At this time, the Sheriff’s Office has stated that the student has been removed from the school pending possible criminal charges and school tribunal.
Both the school system and sheriff’s office have made statements about taking every threat to a school serious and addressing the issues as such.
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.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer High School Principal Carla Foley has announced the schools PAGE STAR student for 2018.
Tylea Hernandez scored 1,470 on her Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) placing her as the top-scoring senior and obtaining the award. Locally sponsored by the Ellijay Lions Club, this award highlights Hernandez’s achievement statewide through the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE). The award also has Hernandez name a teacher to accompany her in recognition of the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) award.
Naming Mr. Michael Crocker, a former mathematics teacher at Clear Creek Middle School, as her STAR Teacher, he will follow along with Hernandez through continued competition at every level of the program.
STAR begins each year in participating Georgia high schools when the STAR Student is named and chooses a STAR Teacher to share in this recognition. The students and their teachers are honored by their schools and receive special recognition in their communities from one of the more than 165 statewide civic organizations and businesses that serve as local sponsors of the STAR program.
Hernandez will now compete for school system recognition as the top STAR Student, and those winners compete for
region honors. Region winners contend for the honor of being named state PAGE STAR Student.
Hernandez is hoping to attend Emory University to major in psychology after high school. Hoping to become a psychiatrist, Hernandez also has plans for medical school after Emory. She has already applied and hopes to know for sure in April. On the award, she said, “It’s surprising, but it’s nice to be awarded.”
After taking the SAT three times over the last two years, she told FetchYourNews, “My goal was to get a 1,400 on the SAT, and I didn’t really realize how high of a score that was. So, I wasn’t really expecting STAR Student.” She said taking the test several times helped her achieve higher every time she did it.
Speaking on Hernandez and the award, Foley stated, “We are very proud of Miss Hernandez and Mr. Crocker and the academic excellence they exemplify.”
Since its creation by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in 1958, the STAR program has honored nearly 26,500 students and the teachers selected as the most influential to their academic achievement. High school seniors must have the highest score on a single test date on the SAT and be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average to qualify for STAR nomination.
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.