GHS honored twice for AP Honor School and a student as Georgia Scholar


EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer Schools has reason to celebrate this week as Gilmer High School was honored by the state as 1 of 239 Advanced Placement (AP) Honor Schools from 88 LEAs that State School Superintendent Richard Woods named earlier this week for 2022.

The 2022 AP Honor Schools are named in eight categories, based on the results of 2021 AP courses and exams. AP exams are administered by the College Board, which also administers the SAT. AP courses are one of several ways Georgia students can access college-level learning at the high school level; students who receive a 3, 4, or 5 on an AP exam may receive college credit. ‘

The category that Gilmer High School was honored for was AP STEM Schools. Schools named to this category must have a minimum of five students testing in at least four AP STEM courses. (AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Statistics, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, AP Physics 1, AP Physics 2, AP Physics C, AP Computer Science A, AP Computer Science Principles).

This is an annual recognition for schools as the GaDOE began recognizing AP Honor Schools in 2008.

State Superintendent Richard Woods stated,  “We are committed to expanding opportunities for Georgia students, including in advanced and accelerated coursework. I offer my sincere congratulations to each of this year’s AP Honor Schools, and thank each teacher, student, and school leader who worked hard to create strong AP opportunities in these Georgia schools.”


Kinsleigh Purvis, Gilmer High School’s 2022 Salutatorian, 2022 PAGE STAR Student, and 2022 Georgia Scholar.

Gilmer Schools also offered congratulations to GHS and all of its AP students and AP teachers. However, their is one student among the high school who is being honored specifically as another annual recognition was presented by Woods recently, the 2022 Georgia Scholars.

GHS honored one of its students in February of this year as the 2022 PAGE STAR Student. That student is Kinsleigh Purvis. She is the daughter of Steven and Kara Purvis of Talking Rock, Georgia. As the PAGE STAR Student, she named former Mathematics teacher Ashley Stover as her STAR teacher at the time. Now, Purvis is still achieving more in here senior year at GHS as she is among Superintendent Woods’ 2022 Georgia Scholars.

According to Georgia State Department of Education, a total of 216 graduating seniors from across Georgia have been recognized as 2022 Georgia Scholars. Through the Georgia Scholar program, the Georgia Department of Education identifies and honors high school seniors who have achieved excellence in school and community life. Georgia Scholars are students who carried exemplary course loads during their four years of high school, performed excellently in all courses, successfully participated in interscholastic events at their schools and in their communities, and assumed leadership roles in extracurricular activities sponsored by their schools. Each Georgia Scholar receives a seal for their diploma as well.

Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley stated, “I offer my sincere congratulations to Kinsleigh on her designation as a 2022 Georgia Scholar. As our class of 2022 salutatorian and STAR student, it is obvious that she is an impressive young lady with a bright future ahead of her. We are extremely proud of her achievements.”

GHS announces STAR Student Kinsleigh Purvis

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer High School has announced the 2022 PAGE STAR Student as Senior Kinsleigh Elizabeth Purvis who, in turn, selected former Mathematics teacher Ashley Stover as her STAR teacher.

Kinsleigh Purvis is the daughter of Steven and Kara Purvis of Talking Rock, Georgia. She has earned this recognition due to hard work, academic achievement, and SAT scores. In addition to being named STAR Student, she stated that she has also been accepted to attend the University of Georgia and its honors program. Purvis plans to pursue an Environmental Health Science degree that fulfills Pre-Med needs to go into Medical School.

The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program is sponsored, administered, and promoted by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) and the PAGE Foundation. The STAR Student must be a senior with 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. The STAR program has honored nearly 28,500 students and the teachers selected as the most influential to their academic achievement over the years. There are competitions that continue in the STAR program at the region and state level.


Kinsleigh Purvis, Gilmer High School’s 2022 PAGE STAR Student.

Purvis told FYN that the award was not something she was directly looking to achieve. While she did know about the STAR student program, she said she has been working hard towards the highest SAT score she could get for herself and not towards the STAR program specifically.

STAR Teacher Ashley Stover taught Purvis in ninth grade Geometry before stepping out of the classroom to become the Dual Enrollment Coordinator for two years. A program that Purvis has utilized to attend Dalton State College where she has been taking classes for core credits to add to her AP classes in high school.

Now, Stover is with Ellijay Elementary School.

Purvis chose Stover as her STAR Teacher because, as she states, “In the classroom, she is always very encouraging to everyone, including myself, and always pushed me to do my best. Then, as dual-enrollment coordinator, she helped me a lot with scheduling and doing what’s best for my future career and what’s best for me now.”

When asked about how surprising it was to hear the Purvis had been named STAR student, Stover said, “She’s always been at the top.”


Ashley Stover, Gilmer High’s 2022 STAR Teacher.

She went on to add the Purvis was “the whole package.” She explained that the desire is there to fuel her. And while Purvis has always understood and gotten concepts quickly, she has stayed humble enough to realize the need is still there to work hard for what she wants. In addition to her drive and academics, Stover said she is kind and helpful to anyone.

That drive reaches out from school and academics as well. Purvis attends dance classes, teachers younger dancers from first and second grade, is a part of Girl Scouts, she is also very involved in her youth group that meets on Wednesday and Sunday nights.

Having gone through AP classes during the virtual academy and at-home days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Purvis still maintained her efforts and did “very well” on her AP tests according to Stover.

GHS Principal Carla Foley also lauded Purvis’ achievements saying, “We are very proud of Miss Purvis and Mrs. Stover and the academic excellence they have exemplified at Gilmer High.”

Speaking specifically about Purvis both as a past student and looking to the future, Stover said, “She’s going to do great things. I’ve known that since I met her, but she is. She is going to change the world.”

GHS Adulting Day sees community educating students

Featured News, Featured Stories, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – “It takes a village to raise a child.” An old proverb and quote repeated over the years comes home to Gilmer County as Gilmer High School returned to its annual Adulting Day event.

Adulting Day

From VCA Appalachian Animal Hospital, these volunteers spoke about working with animals and the veterinarian career.

The event sees members of the county coming into the high school setting and volunteering to educate students on skills and life in society today. The lessons have ranged over the years from financial things like writing checks, balancing checkbooks, applying for loans, or starting a small business to personal ideas about life after school like possible careers, joining the military, and even personal health and hobbies to support it.

These volunteers from the community work alongside teachers in classrooms and are put into lessons building off of their personal expertise. Led by the Guidance Counselor’s Office, Adulting Day looks to aid students in information not directly taught in standard core classes.

The event has also evolved from its original form, in recent years, lessons have changed as volunteers have come and go and the number of lessons have increased. While originally only held for one grade, Adulting Day now includes every student in the High School with certain lessons done at different grade levels.

One of the school’s three counselors, Daniel Marshall said that this year saw about 40 community members volunteer their time for the day. Those included close to 95 percent of the volunteers from the last time the school held the day. Unfortunately, the COVID outbreak required the event skipped. With virtual academy and other responses taken to mitigate the spread many events suffered this fate.

Adulting Day

Not only going through the details of what Fire Rescue employees do but showing the equipment they deal with, students were introduced to Gilmer’s Public Safety department.

However, while Marshall said that a couple did want to hold back this year, he added that they asked to be kept in mind for next year. He stated, “We are very grateful, very thankful that we live in a place where the community is willing to help.”

Starting in September, initially emailing community partners, the school fills in lessons and asks teachers if they have sessions they can teach. This allows every class to be filled in with important lessons about adult life. Classes also include careers in trades like welding and electrical work. Showcasing all forms of careers, the school branched into firefighters, military, nursing, veterinary, and much more. Layered on top of the other information, it becomes a day to prepare for life both soon after graduation and later on in life that could be post military or post college.

Adulting Day

Reece Sanford, of South State Bank, speaks with students about starting a small business and the impact it has on our area during Adulting Day at Gilmer High School.

Nixon Bunch, a teacher in Gilmer High School, introduced kids to hiking and equipment used. As something he is personally interested in and has nearly a decade of time vested into, he offered a beginner’s look into the hobby. He said that his session was about the hobby but also about finding balance and taking care of your own mental health. While not a career path or basic skill, he noted that in life nature, being outside, exercising, providing these positives in life help to balance that health.

Reece Sanford, a manager at South State Bank, led discussions and introductions into starting a small business. From source ideas to getting a small business loan, introducing these students to the idea broadens horizons into an area some may not have considered. Sanford said that in rural America a small business is often needed for the community as they have far less corporate based jobs. Relating back to the community, Sanford discussed the economic impact of such businesses in the area. He went on to add how important he feels it is to work with students and how much he hopes that each one is able to take something away from this day and his presentation.

Working alongside these volunteers during Adulting Day, the schools prepare each year for the day to offer as much as they can. Taking feedback from the community and building on their successes, they can consistently improve and offer more than they have in previous years.

Adulting Day

Students hold onto the jaws of life used by Gilmer’s Public Safety workers.

Marshall noted that each year also sees a survey given to the students for other lessons to add and to get feedback on the day along with the volunteers. He said that some of this years sessions came directly from suggestions made on the surveys from previous years stating , “We look at the data and we see where is the majority of the suggestion piling into. We take that information and see how we can incorporate it next year.”

When asked about the school and community cooperation, Marshall said, “It’s a massive impact because, we as counselors and educators in the building, our goal is not only to help the students learn the things they need to know while they are in high school but its looking forward and having a future focused mindset. What are your next steps? How can we help you get to that point? It’s things like this that help us get to that next level for those kids. Without the community people, we couldn’t make any of that happen.”


Gilmer Honors Veteran’s Day today

Community, News
Veteran's Day

At the 11th hour today, on this 11th day of this 11th month, a tradition continued for many citizens, a tradition of honor and recognition. This Veteran’s Day celebrates those veterans who have served in our armed forces.

Veteran's Day

Members of the 507th Civil Air patrol post the colors for the Veteran’s Day Ceremony on November 11, 2021.

Keeping the tradition of the signing of the armistice of World War I, the recognition in Ellijay began at 11 a.m., the eleventh hour. And today saw smiles and laughter, hugs amongst friends and family, and the honoring of our soldiers. It came from both loved ones and strangers. It came in the musical celebrations and the solemn prayers. It came in the casual handshakes and thanks and the rigid codes and regulations.

As a community, many traditions were honored at the Veteran’s Day gathering at the Ellijay Lion’s Club Fairgrounds. Traditions like the GHS Band playing “Salute to the Armed Forces” and singing “God Bless the USA.” There were newer additions like the PGBC Trio under direction of Doug Lee.

Veteran's Day

The award winning Gilmer High School Band performs the “Salute to the Armed Services” to honor veterans on November 11, 2021.

Most of the morning was saturated in familiar songs patriotically honoring the country and its defenders. Jeannette Kelly sang our National Anthem, Scott Eaton sang “God Bless the USA,” and the EES Chorus under direction of Katie Mayfield and GHS Chorus under direction of Hannah Carter sang together and each on their own.

A celebration as a community, incorporating veterans and civilians, students and adults, and young and older, becomes more meaningful. Watching members of the 507th Civil Air Patrol post the colors and deliver the memorial wreath beneath the American Flag instills pride as they work to make their moves precise, giving reverence to the soldiers who have done it before them.

Veteran's Day

George McClellan plays Amazing Grace on bagpipes during the Veteran’s Day Celebration at the Gilmer Lion’s Club Fairgrounds.

Listening to bagpipes play Amazing Grace is an amazing sound, but speaking with the man playing them, George McClellan, you gain insight on just how hard it is to play and handle the instrument. Couple this with his formal uniform, complete with kilt and sporran, and it gives a small glimpse into the dedication that men and women give to this celebration.

Incorporating the entirety of the community not only shows our thanks but teaches future generations how important this day is to us. It may seem convenient to award the poster and essay winners from the schools during this ceremony, but it may be the day to show support for these students, especially in the higher grades. Some of these students are now considering and talking with recruiters about joining the military themselves.

Veteran's Day

Marie Wych and SMSgt Sam Burrell, Retired USAF, pose with winners of the Poster contests and the Essay contests. Pictured from left to right on back row, Marie Wych, 12th Grade Essay Winner Reagan Boling, 11th Grade Essay Winner Sawyer Wishon, 10th Grade Essay Winner Lucy Ray, 9th Grade Essay Winner Tony Gonzalez, and SMSgt Sam Burrell.
Pictured from left to right on front row, 5th Grade Poster Winner Mattelyn Jones and 3rd Grade Poster Winner Olivia Steingruber.
Not Pictured, 8th Grade Essay Winner Tabitha Hunter, 7th Grade Essay Winner Bayleigh Jasinski, 6th Grade Essay Winner Payton Headricks, and 4th Grade Poster Winner Lissette Garcia.

‘Band’ing together for music amid a virus

Bobcat's Corner, Feature News

Being a member of the Gilmer High School Band requires effort, lots of it. From long practices in the sun with July heat for Band Camp to carrying up to a 20 or 30-pound sousaphone across 80 yards of open football field while wearing a uniform, this program can be physically taxing.

Or perhaps you are in Color Guard or Winterguard, performing maneuvers with a flag, rifle, or sabre while enhancing the show through dance, practicing in the same heat, but performing the taxing dance moves instead of carrying an instrument.

According to estimates and planning from GHS Head Band Director David Wiebers, the average student from Band Camp in July to the end of school in May, spends an average of 580 minutes, or just over nine-and-a-half hours, weekly on the program through class, camp, practice, and whatever else is needed.

Achieving as much as the Gilmer High School Band has achieved over the years is not easy, taking time, practice, effort, and no small amount of talent.

And that’s in a regular season.

bandAmid COVID, the Band has functioned very differently, operating the similar hours of practice, striving just as hard for excellence and “Superior” ratings at competitions and shows. Consistant Superior ratings are even harder, like the superior rating the symphonic band received just last week at Dawson County High School for Large Group Performance Evaluation through the Georgia Music Educators Association.

The band program, in all of its forms, has changed because of the virus. While the schools allow and conduct virtual learning in classes, Band has to work a little different. Individuals train, but a band has to operate and perform as one. It takes dedication from students who attend after school practices, Band Camp, performances. Things you cannot do from home.

Each student putting in the same or more effort as they always have, but for fewer performances, fewer chances to get that perfect show, fewer chances to shine for judges and audiences. Both Band Booster Vice President Christy Prisco made note of this being a devastating blow to band members as they have gone from a normal year averaging between 40 to 50 performances a year overall between football nights, parades, symphonic concerts, jazz band performances, and other shows.

This year, that number was 17. A total of 17 performances divided between the entire program. Only 17 chances to showcase the effort that students put into their music.

“That’s the number one thing that we’ve been affected by, is the morale and motivation of our kids… Getting kids to buy in and work hard towards something knowing that they could potentially not be performing it… it’s frustrating for the kids.” said Wiebers.

winterguardFewer performances on the field for half-time shows is only on point as the school has had to cancel pep-band for basketball games. They have cancelled performances for the jazz band and symphonic band like annual showings at the Festival of Trees during Christmas. They have cancelled the band’s annual trip to perform elsewhere, in other states for other people, seeing a small part of the world.

Unfortunately, for a performance based program like band, less shows means less exposure. Less exposure means less fundraisers, Less fundraisers means less support. Less support means increasing costs and increasing difficulty in nearly every facet of a program that has seen success after success over its storied history. Due to Covid-19, the program has lost key successful fundraisers, such as their most important event with Apple Festival Parking but also events like Monthly Spirit Night and this year’s Annual Gala and Silent Auction.

It means a harder time for parents who are members of the band boosters, who are the chief group for fundraising for members of the band.

On top of these issues, the situations have forced the band to increase its annual price per student for membership. The increase in annual fees is going from $225 to $325. Wiebers said the need comes as the band program really wants to maintain the greatest instructors and maintaining the essential building blocks for success.

However, Director Wiebers offered hope and a welcome to all students who want to be a part of the program, despite the increase in membership fees and funding amid the virus. He said, ” Do not let money be the reason your kid does not do band… Money is no thing, we will get your kid involved, one hundred percent, in this band.”

bandWhile the need is clear, the Director stressed the issue again as he asserted a desire to get more kids involved. He said, “The most important thing is that we want your kid in the band program and having a great time. We want to teach your kid, that’s what we want.”

It’s the band boosters who are a part of that process to make sure every student that signs up and wants to perform can perform. It is the band boosters, together with Wiebers, together with individual trainers for each instrumental section, that brings the Gilmer Board of Education motto of “Every Child, Every Opportunity, Every Day” to a program like the band.

It’s programs like the Gilmer High School Band that take a young man from Middle School back in the days when former Band Director Joe Pflueger then taught in the Middle School and Steve Calhoun was Band Director. That program took that young man to college for a degree in Music Education who then took his years of experience in performance into DCI (Drum Corps International) marching for Spirit Drum and Bugle Corps and then on to several years of the same excellence in a program to other counties in the state where he taught music.

But since COVID, it is harder for the program. Harder for students, harder to fundraise, harder to continue the history of excellence.

Harder, but not impossible.

Wiebers stated, “Gilmer Schools has done the best job possible during this pandemic as far as making things as normal as possible.”

The Board of Education funds part of the band as they always have. Through the budget each year, there is funding made available. Filling the gap between funding and need comes through the efforts of the Band Boosters and creative answers to the ongoing issue with the virus and new requirements for the program. Band Boosters have brought about change in the way they fundraise. New ideas like the band’s GoFundMe make small headway in the goal for the remainder of this school year, the summer, and fall marching season. Prisco was part of the group who launched the GoFundMe saying, “There are many costs that come with running a successful award winning program from staff, to props, flags, costumes and instruments.”

With stretch goals like personal thank you videos from the band, its sectional and overall leaders, and videos updating behind the scenes of what each ensemble is working on, the program holds an overall goal of $20,000.

bandBut $20,000 itself is only a portion of the estimated total for the next year. With a normal year of fundraising, the boosters program collects closer to $150,000 for the whole year. While the number of students in each year can change total costs, the boosters are still seeking more options to achieve more for the students. That’s why other programs like an auction or the band selling show shirts and gear from current and former shows are another new answer to the need.

According to Prisco, some things like paying the royalties to be able to play certain songs for the shows, instructors for sections, and instruments are just a few of the key things that the bad starts with before adding on much of the extras in support of the program.

Funding is not the only changes what the GHS Band and Director Wiebers has instituted. Adapting to the challenge is a part of the process, as he says he still looks to include, work with, and improve students who may have needed to quarantine for a time.

Solo practice sessions at home will cover the same music that the band is working on together. This ties in with a new program, called Smart Music, that listens to students play and offers feedback on missed notes or other key areas before allowing them to repeat the practice until the student is happy with it and submits a final playthrough for Wiebers to then listen to and continue from there.

Additionally, while very few may have noticed, this years half-time show for the Marching Band included social distancing practices and a drill that kept every single student at least six feet from anyone else at every moment of the show. A specific drill created wholly in response to the COVID virus.

With numbers decreasing, Wiebers has said it’s gotten easier as less and less students are out or quarantining.

Unfortunately there is no answer yet for the drop in shows. While the program’s stellar new Winterguard has seen successes in its formative years, it suffers from cancelled competitions and reduced showings the same as all of the ensembles throughout the year.

winterguardThat hasn’t stopped students from maintaining the quality, motivation, and spirit of the music, obtaining Superior ratings and continue to perform stellar shows for the community.

The Winterguard has one more competition this year on March 27, 2021, at the Buford Arena. The Band still has its silent auction fundraiser on May 6 at 6 p.m., the same time as their Spring Concert on Pflueger Field behind Gilmer High School offering a picnic style setting.

Past that, the program is already looking at next year for the designs and show for then, teasing an all original show for the band, Wiebers said he is excited for the future of the program, the future of the students, and the future of music coming out of Gilmer High School.

Much attention has been brought to artist and musicians over the years through “save the music” events as funding has dwindled. But now, a new challenge comes during a virus that seems to be doing as much damage socially as it does to an individual person.

Roy Ayers once said, “The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers.”

In today’s world, with everything so socially distanced, a musical connection among people can be one lifeline back to normal. And the path may come through the hard work and sweat of students to make that music. But it takes a community willing to listen to the music and support it to allow it to thrive.

Details on GHS lockdown released from Superintendent

Break-In closings, rally, lockdown

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County High School went under lockdown this morning after a student reported to the principal about possibly sighting a firearm.

According to a statement released by Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, “At approximately 0754 this morning, a student reported to an assistant principal that they saw a gun and ammo in a another student’s book bag.”

Downs went on to say that the Assistant Principal immediately used the Centegix Crisis Alert to place the school on lockdown. Reports began coming in about the lockdown and statements that the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) set up a command center and began searching the facility. According to Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson, the “best case scenario is that it’s a fluid operation and command is being set up while operations is dealing with the issue.”

Downs said, “GCSO and school officials began investigating, questioning witnesses, and viewing both classroom and hallway cameras.”

Thorough searches of involved students, their belongings, and facilities yielded no weapon. According to Dr. Downs, GCSO cleared the building at 8:51.

Sherriff Nicholson also commented to FYN this morning saying, “This morning, a student reported to faculty of GHS that another student possibly had a gun. The school immediately went on lockdown and law enforcement responded. It was quickly determined by Sheriff’s Office personnel and school officials that the student in question did not have a gun.”

As of now, sources say the lockdown has been lifted, including parents who say they have received a call from the school stating the same.

With less than an hour under lockdown, Gilmer administrators and the Gilmer County Sheriff reported, responded, and cleared the suspected. It is not the first time Gilmer has dealt with a lockdown situation this year as another lockdown in December came after a loud noise “like a gunshot” was reported at the Larry Walker Education Center in December, 2020, and Clear Creek Middle School went on Lockdown after an incident at the bus garage occurred in February, 2020.

Gilmer celebrates Vision 2020 with state reps


Celebrating what they have already accomplished while also looking ahead, Gilmer High School played host to State Representatives and local administrators with a Thanksgiving Meal in honor of “Vision 2020.”

Georgia Speaker of the House and GHS Alumnus David Ralston, left, shares a moment with Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, right, in celebrating "Vision 2020."

Georgia Speaker of the House and GHS Alumnus David Ralston, left, shares a moment with Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, right, in celebrating “Vision 2020.”

Georgia’s own Speaker of the House and Gilmer High Alumn David Ralston was present along with Georgia’s Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black and State Nutrition Director Dr. Linette Dodson. All shared in the Thanksgiving Meal provided by the High School and served by the GHS Culinary Pathway Students.

Additionally, Representatives from Kelly Loeffler’s Office were present to offer their support as well.

Part of the major celebration was noted as Gilmer Nutrition Director Linda Waters spoke about “Georgia Grown,” an effort to localize sourcing for school meals. Part of Vision 2020 was to achieve 20 percent for that goal. That means that schools in Georgia would have, at minimum, 20 percent of the food the serve to students be grown locally in our state.

Its a focus on the importance of Georgia’s Agriculture, but also its history. Black stated that agriculture has always been a major part of Georgia’s industry.

Vision 2020

Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs prepares to sit down with State Representatives to share a Thanksgiving meal at Gilmer High School.

He also stated that in the last five years, “186 school systems in the state of Georgia… have responded with the economic impact information we’ve been seeking.” With those 186 systems, $59 million of Georgia food was purchased for these school systems in 2019.

Black also noted how the state has been supporting agriculture and business during the economic downs in order to make sure the Georgia is supporting and supplying itself for these reasons. Through these efforts, Black said, “Georgia grown produce is available to every school, every day. Today and moving into the future.”

Yet, Black was not the only state representative touting the importance of Georgia’s agriculture. Speaker of the House David Ralston added that he was happy with the great job that both local schools like Gilmer and the Department of Agriculture are doing in supporting each other through projects like this. Ralston stated, “It has diversified so much. Who would have ever thought that now we’re making Olive Oil in Georgia? Georgia has become a Wine destination.”

He praised the continued growth and change in the agriculture business and it “remains number one.” He gave credit to Black’s leadership in continuing support of the growth.

Hosting the steps forward and continuing “Vision 2020” alongside Georgia Grown foods, the State Representatives gave Gilmer County Schools the first of many signs indicating these Vision 2020 schools that have achieved and are continuing towards the 20 percent and beyond as they move towards the next steps.

GHS Teacher arrested after alleged confession to student relationship

Break-In closings, rally, lockdown

ELLIJAY, Ga. – In speaking with Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, FYN has confirmed that a teacher at Gilmer High School has been arrested after allegations came in regards to an “inappropriate relationship.”

Nathan Sutton

Nathan Sutton

A former student of Gilmer High School came forward to speak with Principal Carla Foley about the situation and to voice concerns about the possibility of it continuing with others now.

This female student, that will not be named, spoke with both Foley and the Sheriff’s Office about her time in the school and her relationship with the teacher. Downs confirmed the teacher to be Nathan Sutton, a Technology Teacher focused in audio/visual and the Film Program Instructor.

According to Downs, the student originally offered to come and speak with Principal Foley and share her story. However, upon arrival, she was asked if she would be willing to speak to officers as well. Downs said that the former student was willing to speak with officers at the same time as Foley.

Downs stated that, normally, the school system would investigate itself and share their information with the Sheriff’s Office, they asked deputies to be present from the start this time because the female is not currently a student in Gilmer. The school also declined to say when the student graduated.

According to Downs, the school system was informed of the situation yesterday and spoke with the student. After this, she immediately placed Sutton on administrative leave.

She said that deputies went to speak with Sutton last night, at which point he allegedly confessed to the relationship. Downs said that she went immediately to speak with Sutton today, at which point he resigned from teaching at Gilmer High School. Sutton’s resignation will be brought before the Board of Education tomorrow night at their regular meeting as is procedure with all resignations.

Dr. Downs said that she will be filing further with the Georgia Profession Standards Commission. While the Sheriff’s Office is taking the investigation, Downs said the school system will be filing an ethics complaint against Sutton.

According to the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office website, Sutton is currently being held at the Gilmer County Detention Center having been arrested in less than twelve hours after allegations were brought against him. He is being held on a Felony Charge of “Sexual Assault by Persons with Supervisory or Disciplinary Authority.”

FYN has requested details about his arrest and the ongoing investigation.

Isabella Chastain tosses perfect game for Gilmer

GHS Softball, Sports, Team FYN Sports

The Gilmer County Lady Cats (6-1, 4-0) faced off against the struggling West Hall Spartans (0-11 0-7) on Monday, August 31st in a region game in Oakwood Georgia.  Isabella Chastain was on the mound for the Gilmer Lady Cats and boy, was she perfect. Literally perfect.

Chastain posted a bunch of zeros in the score book, allowing zero runs on zero hits while walking zero batters through three innings, and also striking out five West Hall Spartans.

Macy Hamby tripled in the first inning, driving in Jasmine Staley and Maddie Rosas-Wright. This started the offensive onslaught for the Gilmer Lady Cats.

GilmerLater in the 1st, Hamby came back around in the lineup and beaned a line drive into left field that scored 3 more runs.

Later in the first, Taylor Elliot laid down a suicide squeeze bunt that scored Macy Hamby and gave the Lady Cats an 11-0 lead.

In the bottom of the first inning, West Hall was set down in order by Isabella Chastain.

In the Second inning Hamby, Vick and Sirmans drove in six more runs.

West Hall was set down in order again in the second by Chastain.

In the third, Macy Hamby came around again and drove in the final two runs of the game.

Hamby ended up three for three at the plate while driving in eight runs. Taylor Elliot also went three for three while driving in four runs. Staley, Vick, Taylor, Sirmans and Hughes also drove in runs for the Lady Cats.

The Lady Cats also did not commit and error in the field, with Maddie Rosas-Wright going six for six in the field.

Gilmers next game will be against region foe Dawson County tonight.


Gilmer Lady Cats shutout North Hall, move to 4-1

GHS Softball, Sports, Team FYN Sports

The Gilmer Lady Cats (4-1, 2-0 region) headed into Monday nights game against the North Hall Trojans (1-4, 0-2 region) riding a 2 game winning streak and they were able to keep that alive, moving to 4-1 overall on the GHSseason.

Isabella Chastain was on the rubber for the Lady Cats, and she was really strutting her stuff as she tossed a complete game shutout and lead Gilmer to a 12-0 shutout over North Hall yesterday.

Jasmine Staley led the Gilmer offense by driving in four runs and going three for four at the plate. She was able to drive in runs in on a double in the fourth and a single in the sixth.

In the first inning, Taylor Elliot fired up the Lady Cats by laying down a sacrifice bunt that scored a run and put the Lady Cats on the board.

In the sixth inning the Lady Cats tallied five runs. Taylor Elliot, Jasmine Staley and Makenzie Taylor all drove in runs in the inning and gave the Lady Cats a nice and comfortable 12-0 lead heading into the final inning where Isabella Chastain was able to complete her shutout.

Macy Hamby was also a menace at the plate, going three for four with three Runs Batted In. Hamby also tallied a triple in Monday nights contest.

The Gilmer Lady Cats will continue their season tonight with another region game against the White County Trojans (2-3, 1-1 region) at six p.m. at home.



Gilmer names Jones as 2020 STAR Student

Bobcat's Corner, Community

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer High School has named Nathan Daniel Jones, 18, as the school’s 2020 PAGE STAR Student. Jones has subsequently selected Dr. Renee Hoard, a Mathematics teacher at GHS, as his STAR Teacher.

GHS 2020 PAGE STAR Student Nathan Jones

Nathan Daniel Jones, 18, has been named as Gilmer High School’s 2020 PAGE STAR Student.

Sponsored in Gilmer by the Ellijay Lions Club, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators’ (PAGE) program for Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) honors seniors in schools. To be nominated, a senior 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.”

“We are very proud of Mr. Jones and Dr. Hoard and the academic excellence they exemplify at Gilmer High,” said GHS Principal Carla Foley.

Nathan is the son of Charlie and Starla Jones of Ellijay. He had Dr. Hoard as his teacher for Algebra II Honors, AP Statistics, and SAT/ACT Test Prep. Jones added that Dr. Hoard also helped him as he began sending off applications and preparing for college. Jones confirmed that he will be attending Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology) this fall.

While he has not decided on a major yet, Jones says he wants to pursue Math in some way in his degree. He said he finds a special satisfaction with math and he “just feels it.” His notion was echoed by Dr. Hoard who said she has seen him figuring out some math that even some professionals have had trouble with.

GHS 2020 PAGE STAR Teacher Dr. Renee Hoard

Dr. Renee Hoard has been named STAR Teacher for three of the last four years at GHS.

Dr. Hoard further commented on Jones’ award saying, “The best thing is he is just an all-around academic. You say he is a math person but he is excellent in all of his subjects.”

This is Dr. Hoard’s third nomination as STAR Teacher over the last four years, meaning that, including Jones, three of the last four STAR students picked her as their most influential teacher. She has been awarded in 2017, 2019, and 2020. She began teaching in 1989 and has taught for a total of 27 years since then.

Both the STAR Student Jones and his STAR Teacher Hoard will move on together throughout the remainder of the program. In the STAR Program, each high school’s STAR Student will compete for school system titles, and those winners compete for region honors. Region winners compete for the honor of being named State PAGE STAR Student.


GHS mentors students in adult life with “Adulting Day”

Bobcat's Corner, Community

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Students all across Gilmer High School were introduced to life after Senior Year through a new event, Adulting Day.

Including students from all grades, the day showcased different experts in areas of the future from college and careers to everyday tasks like tax forms and budgets throughout the day. Students were also invited to speak with representatives from Military branches and colleges during the day.

Steak Parade at Adulting Day in Gilmer High SchoolWith more available, a few of the classes we visited included culinary skills at the Steak Parade, speaking with law enforcement about career options and opportunities, learning about traveling with a Travel Agency, local economy with JDA Executive Director Kent Sanford, dangers of Social Media, how to fill out Tax Returns, Budgeting, Healthcare careers, and trade careers. Some classes even dealt with current choices about high school life that will directly affect college or post-graduation life including SAT Prep and Personal Health and Wellness.

The day also included an outdoor experience as students attempted to “drive under the influence” through the use of special goggles and a guided course while driving a golf cart.

Drunk Driving Course during Adulting Day at Gilmer High SchoolThe experience used several different goggles that varied through vision and equilibrium impairment based on different BAC (Blood-Alcohol Content) levels. While not overly challenging the course showcased how difficult even simple obstructions become through the different levels of intoxication.

Students attended the classes and college fair throughout the day up to 2:15 p.m. sharing in information from teachers and experts alike. Different from normal college fairs, these classes added the extra step to prepare some who may not choose college or may take alternate paths in life. Additionally, granting these first experiences through necessary events like taxes allowed for questions and advice to be exchanged through the school environment.

The event was hosted by Gilmer High School Administration and Counselors involving the teachers and an additional 30 volunteers.

The Adulting Day event has been confirmed to continue annually as Gilmer High School Principal Carla Foley stated, “We will definitely make this a yearly event.”


See more photos of the event at FYN’s Facebook Page.

Lady Bobcats place second, open region play Tuesday

GHS Basketball, Team FYN Sports
Lady Bobcats

The third season of the Susan Nunn era at Gilmer High is off to a strong start after the Lady Bobcats placed second in the annual north Georgia Thanksgiving Tournament in Blue Ridge.

Gilmer (3-1) came one-point away from matching last year’s 4-0 start with a one-point, 40-39, loss to Fannin Co. (4-4) in the tournament championship game Nov. 26.

Sophomore forward Elly Callihan scored a team-high 15 points, but she was the only Gilmer player in double figures in the low-scoring affair.

Senior point guard Bailey Teague scored eight, while senior center Jalynn Ledford and junior guard Hope Colwell each put in six. Junior wing Emma Callihan rounded out the Gilmer scoring with four points.

Lady Bobcats

From left, sophomore Elly Callihan, senior Bailey Teague, and junior Emma Callihan were named to the all-tournament team for the Lady Bobcats.

Despite that loss, the Lady Bobcats have much to be excited about. The team’s three all-tournament team members come from three different classes. Teague, Emma Callihan, and Elly Callihan were the three players named from Gilmer.

On the opening day of the tournament, Saturday, Nov. 23, Gilmer ran away from area-rival Pickens (2-2) in a 71-53 victory. While Gilmer and Pickens are both in Region 6-4A, the game did not count toward either team’s region record.

Elly Callihan scored a game-high 24 points for Gilmer, while Colwell put up 17 and Teague scored 15 in the dominant victory against the Dragonettes.

While the Lady Bobcats led by just one point, 32-31, at halftime, the team exploded to take a 20-point lead at the end of the third, 56-36.

Elly Callihan scored nine in that third period, while Colwell scored five to propel the Lady Bobcats into the big lead.

Emma Callihan (5), Ledford (4), Beth Burnette (3), Reagan Boling (2), and Anne Elise Williams (2) rounded out the points for Gilmer.

The win will undoubtedly give the Lady Bobcats confidence when the two teams meet again on Dec. 17 in Ellijay for a region game.

In between the win against Pickens and the loss to Fannin Co., Gilmer defeated Hiwassee Dam (N.C.) 41-35 in a surprisingly hard-fought game Monday, Nov. 25.

Junior guard Emma Callihan led the team with 12 points in the game, including eight points in the fourth quarter when her team needed her the most.

The Lady Bobcats led 30-25 to start the period, but the Lady Eagles closed the gap several times during the final frame before finally being put away late.

Elly Callihan had 11 points, all in the first half, while Ledford scored eight.

Colwell (3), Teague (3), Jasmin Staley (2), Williams (1) and Burnette (1) rounded out the scorers for the Lady Bobcats.

Up next for Gilmer is the opening game in the Region 6-4A schedule against Southeast Whitfield Co. That game is scheduled to tip-off at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 3, in Ellijay.

Gilmer defeated Southeast Whitfield soundly in all three meetings last season, including a 60-36 victory in the region tournament.

To read about this week’s TeamFYNSports Writer’s Player of the Week, click here.



Schools lock down during investigation


ELLIJAY, Ga. – Confirmed by a representative inside the Gilmer County Charter School System, the campuses of Gilmer High School, Mountain View Elementary, and the Larry Walker Education Center, as well as the campus of North Georgia Christian Academy went into a soft lock down today, October 21, 2019.

FYN learned that the lock down was caused by an investigation in the area. Schools were advised to go on lock down for protection as it was said it was not directly involving the schools. This was later confirmed by the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office who stated in a public release, “The investigation that caused schools to be put on “lock out” has been completed by Ellijay Police Department. The investigation was unfounded and everything is to go back to normal operations soon.”

Schools are currently returning to normal operation as the Police Department is wrapping up its operations. There is no available information about the investigation itself at this time, but authorities are contacting schools to resolve the issue. North Georgia Christian Academy said it had contacted parents about the incident but declined to comment publicly about the lock down.

BOE presents 2019 Milestones results

GMP, Coronavirus

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Georgia Milestones Assesment System (GMAS) scores were released this month after the state embargo was lifted at the end of July.

Presented to the board, these scores show results from the 2018-19 school year as well as recent years for comparisons. While grades 3-8 separate scores into Math, ELA, Reading, Science, and Social Studies, High School scores are presented as End Of Course test results.

Chief Academic Officer Lottie Mitchell presented these results to the board in August noting the trends the county has seen in the last five years in levels 2-4, whereas Milestones scores are ranked by levels (level 1 – Beginner / Level 2 – Developing / Level 3 – Proficient / Level 4 – Distinguished). Mitchell also told the board that while the schools did retest this year, they are going to participate in retesting in the 2019-20 school year. In 3rd Grade, they can retest in Language Arts. In 5th Grade and 8th Grade, they can retest in Reading and Math.

In Math, Grades 3-8, Mitchell highlighted the 2019 scores which saw seven of the eight groups scoring above the State’s average. While Mountain View’s 4th Grade did decrease, they are still above the average as well. Only Clear Creek Middle School’s 7th Grade group was below average in Math, but they only missed the average by one percent.

“We are very pleased in Math,” said Mitchell as she pointed out the county’s relation to the state.

In ELA (English Language Arts), Mitchell noted that while the county did generally perform close to the state’s average in most of the groups when comparing levels 2-4, the chart on the right shows four groups above average when looking only at the percentage of those who score at Level 3 – Proficient and Level 4 – Distinguished.

Mitchell addressed the charts differences saying, “We are moving more of our developing up to our proficient.”

In Reading and Vocabulary, Mitchell said, “For the past few years, we have not had anyone. When we first applied for the L4GA Grant, we didn’t have anyone who was above the state average… This year Clear Creek 7th Grade was above the average. We are showing improvement. Sometimes we have a little dip, but we are overall showing improvement.”

With six of the eight groups showing high scores than five years ago, Mitchell said they are happy for the improvements. While administration is excited for the math scores, much of their concern and focus have been on improving these scores. She noted several initiatives to achieve that goal such as a new phonics program, increasing student time in tech and balanced literacy, increases in training and guided reading, and reading rewards programs that have already shown success in GMS and CCMS among other initiatives.

Additionally, she credited the success that CCMS has seen to a new program, WIN, that alligns students in groups according to their MAP scores to allow those of similar skill levels to improve together.

In Science and Social Studies, Mitchell noted that in recent years, only 5th and 8th Grades take these tests. Both grades beat the state average in Science and 8th Grade beat it in Social Studies. While 5th Grade did not score above average in Social Studies, they did scores just below, by one percent, similar to Clear Creek’s 7th Math group. This did, however, show a dip in scores compared to last year.


In High School End of Course Tests, only two groups beat the state average. However, Mitchell instead pointed to the growth the county has seen in the last five years. From 2015 to 2019, 9th Grade Lit percentages have gone up 33.1 percent, from 52.99 to 85.88 percent.  U.S. History percentages have gone up 36.58 percent, from 36.96 to 73.54percent. Economics percentages have gone up 35.49 percent, from 48.99 to 84.48 percent. In the past year alone, Physical Science scores went up 13.97 percent, from 70.72 to 84.69 percent.

Addressing the dip in Math scores, Mitchell pointed back to the higher math scores in lower grades saying, “We are sending students up to the high school with a stronger foundation and proficiency to do the rigorous math such as Algebra I and Geometry.”

Additonally, Principal Carla Foley is also arranging schedules to provide additional support in the fall for 9th grade lit and Algebra I to give the a year to master the content rather than one semester.

Mitchell said the Milestones scores not only showcase the successes of Gilmer County, but they are allowing answers and responses like these to address the issue areas in order to spread the success to all areas of the schools.

Gilmer Schools start THIS WEEK!

Bobcat's Corner, Community, News

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – While parents and students have been shopping back to school for a while in preparation of this week, this is the week that kids will return to classes on Wednesday, August 7, 2019, in Gilmer County across all six schools.

Today is the kickoff with open houses going all day starting with Pre-K through 5th Grade meeting from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., 6th Grade through 8th Grade meeting from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., and 9th Grade through 12th Grade meeting from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Additionally, each school will adhere to these school day times according to the Gilmer County Charter School Systems website:

Clear Creek Elementary School
Start Time: 7:50 am
Dismissal Time: 2:50 pm

Ellijay Elementary School
Start Time: 8:05 am
Dismissal Time: 3:05 pm

Mountain View Elementary School
Start Time: 8:10 am
Dismissal Time: 3:10 pm

Clear Creek Middle School
Start Time: 7:45 am
Dismissal Time: 2:45 pm

Gilmer High School
Start Time: 7:45 am
Dismissal Time: 2:45 pm


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