Ethics and Security questioned in Gilmer Administration

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Citizens are questioning the Gilmer County Board of Education this week after reports have surfaced of the involvement of and connections between the school systems Superintendent, Dr. Shanna Downs, and her husband’s, Jeff Downs, career in a company that the school is now engaging to install a security system in the schools.

Jeff Downs

Jeff Downs,  Senior Vice President of Sales

While allegations pointed that Shanna Downs financially benefited from this contract between the school and the company known as Centegix, where sources say Jeff Downs serves and Senior Vice President of Sales.

FYN looked deeper into the contract and Request for Proposals (RFP) process that was headed up by Gilmer Schools Director of Technology John Call. According to hid RFP listed, the criteria of the RFP included:

1. Bidder’s total proposed price
2. Product quality/appropriateness/compatibility/performance
3. Bidder’s qualifications/experience
4. Bidder’s ability to provide support/service
5. Bidder’s warranty/maintenance
6. Proposed product meeting the district’s present needs as well as future needs through
enhancements and upgrades.

Call headed the reviews and RFP process, according to Downs, who said, “When I realized that my husband would likely accept a position with Centegix in November,  I notified the board and I placed our technology director, John Call, in charge of the competitive bidding process for the security system.  I asked that I be left completely out of the process.”

Downs further stated that Call and Stuart Sheriff, Assistant Superintendent, contacted Harbin, Hartley and Hawkins Attorneys at Law on November 12 for legal advice. As they saw no problem after Downs recusal, Downs says she informed the Board of her husband’s potential future employment with Centegix.  She says, “Mr. Call assembled a committee of building level administrators to review and score the responses to the Request for Proposals (RFPs).   Details of that process can be found in our board minutes from December 13, 2018.  Until that process was complete, I stayed unaware of the selection of the product.”

Gilmer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs

Downs made one further note on her husband’s involvement saying, “My husband began work with Centegix on December 3rd and will not make any commission off of the purchase.”

The RFP continued under Call and received two proposals, one from Centegix and one from ETC in Ellijay. When questioned as to why only two proposals were received, Call noted that other companies did inquire about the RFP, but never submitted a proposal. Without an official submittal, there is no record of these inquiries and their company’s interests in the request.
The RFP advertisement did reach statewide as Call publicized the request in not only the school’s website, but on the state procurement website as well. According to the Georgia Procurement Registry, they directly emailed 231 contacts over 122 companies about the RFP while also being searchable to any vendors accessing the website.
Call further stated that the full product and network that Centegix offered isn’t easily found in other places. He indicated that Centegix, LLC, together with its parent, 34ED, LLC, and affiliates Kloud-12 and Dooley Education Solutions, has done something that many companies are just beginning to get into.
It isn’t so much any individual technology they have that others don’t, according to Call, but rather the way they “marry the technology together.”
Centegix’s proposal offered an alert button system alongside classroom camera systems that operates on a singular network incorporating a campus-wide CrisisAlert System, classroom cameras, and classroom educational video capabilities. It also provides exact location information through ID Badges that hold the alert button system with configurable presses to notify emergencies on two levels, campus-wide emergencies and local individualized incidents.
ETC’s proposal offered Camera system integration and wearable IneractWear control buttons to initiate camera recording and notifications to administrators for incidents or sever emergencies requiring 911 intervention.
According to Call’s recorded scoresheets filed with Gilmer Schools, the difference between the two proposals came down to only $10,698. However, with a full 1.742 points difference, the scoring was based on the six criteria of the RFP noted earlier.
FYN has also received the individual scorecards of each of the six people on the committee to judge the RFP responses, including Ashley CoatesTiffany Boyette,  Stephanie BurnetteNicole Pike John Call, and  James Jones.
With the final vote having been taken for the security proposals in December, Call presented these results to the Board who accepted Centegix’s proposal and are already well into the installation process in every school except Gilmer Middle School and a partial install in Ellijay Primary.
The school system has decided to move forward with installing the CrisisAlert system buttons as they attach easliy to the drop ceilings and operate on battery. With the ease of removal and moving the system, they intend to transfer this system to the Clear Creek Elementary School when constructed.

Centegix Proposal:

ETC Proposal:

ETC – Alert System – RFP – Additional InformationETC – Alert System – RFP – Additional Information

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Mountain View Elementary Thanks American Legion Riders

Bobcat's Corner

Mountain View Elementary would like to extend a HUGE Thank You to the American Legion Riders for their generous donation of shoes and clothes to the MVE Clothes Closet!

News from Mountain View Elementary School

Bobcat's Corner, Mountain Education Charter High School
On Thursday and Friday, September 6th and 7th, Mountain View Elementary celebrated all of the wonderful grandparents in our lives.  We had an amazing turnout, feeding approximately 175 grandparents.  We are so thankful for all the people that came out and made Grandparents’ Day so special for their children!

   

On Tuesday, September 11th brought a sea of red, white, and blue to Mountain View Elementary School.  The kids celebrated Patriot Day by wearing patriotic colors and participating in lessons that discussed the significance of September 11th.

News from Clear Creek Middle School

Bobcat's Corner, Clear Creek Middle

CCMS will host it’s Annual Title I Night on Thurs., Sept 27th.  The meeting will be held in the cafeteria at 5:30  All parents are encouraged to attend to learn about the Title I program and how it helps your child.  Our 8th Grade Chorus will also be performing their Fall Preview of Veteran’s Day music.  The bookfair will be open following the meeting.  Door prizes will be given out.  Don’t miss this exciting event!

The CCMS bookfair will be held the week of Sept. 24th  – 28th .  Gift cards can be purchased at www.follettgift.com and are an alternative to sending money with students.  Bookfair gift cards also are a way for family members to easily send a gift to your child.  All bookfair proceeds benefit the students of CCMS through the media program.

All stakeholders are invited to attend the School Governance Team meeting on Thursday, August 27 at 7:25 am with a condensed meeting in the afternoon at 2:30 pm.  Future meetings will be Oct. 25, Nov. 29., and Dec. 20. Send your feedback to renee.sauls@gilmerschools.com.

Bobcats Wrestling Recognized By B.O.E.

Team FYN Sports

The Gilmer Co. Board of Education recognized the Gilmer High School wrestling team for an outstanding season on Thursday.  Bobcat wrestling was first on the agenda with Coach Josh Ghobadpoor thanking Dr. Wilkes and the entire board for doing all they do for the schools in Gilmer Co.  Coach Ghobad, as he is commonly called by his team, brought to the forefront that the accomplishments for Gilmer wrestling this season once again followed the continued winning tradition the program is known for.

The 2018 season saw the Bobcats win 1st place in Traditional Duels and Area Duels with a Runner Up in State Duals falling just short of a strong Jefferson Dragons team.  On the individual level, the Bobcats had 12 athletes qualify for the GHSA State Tournament with 6 of those placing and bringing home the hardware.  All Bobcats performed well in the state tournament with Tristan Kendall(126 lbs) placing 4th, Alex Repetun(138 lbs) placing 6th, Caleb Waddell(152 lbs) placing 2nd, Grant Ledford(160 lbs) placing 6th, Ryan Crump(182 lbs) placing 3rd and Anthony Zilke(285 lbs) placing 3rd.

Congratulations to the 2017-2018 Bobcats on a great wrestling season!

See the video of these Bobcats being highlighted below:

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Interns & Apprentices within the Gilmer Schools Charter System “Growing Our Own”

Bobcat's Corner

Group Photo (Left to Right)

Front row; Halee Stone, Andrea Pantoja, Alexa Stone, Samantha Buntin, Elizabeth Stillwell, Allison Strickler, McKayla Chambers, Marli Cody, Jenny McCurdy, Amber Hancock and Kameron Stone. Back row: Rachel Bowen, Alexa Edens, Austin Daman, Chase Stone, Sierra Berry, Emily Beller, Maggie Parks, Mallory Kiser and Avery Bertanilli.

Not pictured are Erica Sharp, Brittani Ballew, Samantha Barrios, Drayton Bennett, Taylor Boling, Haleigh Crump (Mountain Academy), Marie Goswick, Faith Ralston and Katie Wells.

Gilmer Charter Schools are ‘growing our own’. Growing our own young talent to fill future positions within our system. Through rigorous academic classes and Teaching as a Profession, Business, Music, Spanish and other pathways students are learning curriculum and witnessing first-hand the demands of these professions through WBL internships and apprenticeships. The Teaching as a Profession pathway curriculum is designed for future teachers. Upon the completion of the two courses, an internship within a classroom and the passage of the ‘end of pathway’ assessment students may earn college credit and a paid apprenticeship within the school system.

Many students will successfully complete the “Teaching as a Profession” pathway requirements this school year. Senior Brittany Ballew completed the pathway fulfilling all requirements to earn college credit last year and is eligible for a paid apprenticeship this school year (see photo). Many types of WBL Internships and Apprenticeships are in place throughout the school system. We thank the leadership of our system for being visionaries.

 

Brittani Ballew apprenticing with Jennifer Keener at EES.

Andrea Pantoja with Mrs. Mary Hensley at EPS.


Migrant Tutor McKayla Chambers.

Allison Strickler apprenticing with Torri Hensley in Pre-K.

Haleigh Crump at Mountain Academy for Kids daycare.

Erica Sharp with Mrs. Kathy Cobb at EPS.

**Parents & students may inquire about participating the 2018-2019 school year. The application process will begin in February. This is the only time of year to apply. See Janet Davis 706 276-5090 with questions.**

Upward Bound Project Celebrated in Public Conference

News

ELLIJAY, GA – Offering low income first generation students a path to college access after high school graduation through additional services, the Upward Bound Grant was celebrated with members from both the Gilmer County Board of Education and the University of North Georgia.

Beginning Sept 1, 2017, the program will see two full time staff members at Gilmer High School in addition to extra resources and support for the selected students who participate. While the Grant was previously approved, see “Upward Bound Grant Confirmed for Gilmer Schools,” the press conference held on July 27 was the first official public meeting of the two entities celebrating the new partnership in Gilmer County.

Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes opened the meeting saying, “With the Gilmer County Upward Bound Project being the only one of its kind in this area of the state, I am so excited that we’re able to partner with University of North Georgia to offer support for post secondary opportunities to our students.”

The Federal Grant supporting this program equals $257,000 a year. University of North Georgia (UNG) President Dr. Bonita Jacobs commented on the yearly grant to assure citizens, “”We anticipate being here for five years, and it will make a difference… I am extremely excited about this program and about the impact it is going to have across our region.”

Dr. Bonita Jacobs, President of the University of North Georgia

Dr. Bonita Jacobs, President of the University of North Georgia

UNG currently hosts five campuses throughout northeast Georgia, according to Dr. Jacobs, and is the fastest growing institution in the fastest growing region of Georgia. She continued the conference saying, “As we look at businesses coming into our communities, one of the questions they ask is about workforce. Do you have the workforce?”

Dr. Jacobs also mentioned the University’s REED (Regional Economic Educational Development) Program is launching to work consistently with economic development in the area. The Upward bound program fits into the bigger picture with these other programs in UNG as it opens doors to colleges and career opportunities for these students. It helps them to understand what jobs are out there and how to get those jobs through the various pathways available in high school.

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Gilmer Schools Approve Budget

News

ELLIJAY, GA – Coming to the end of a process that began back in Fall, Gilmer County Schools’ Board of Education has approved a tentative budget for the 2018 Fiscal Year.

With some obvious changes such as One time Grants for projects like the School Cannery, other major changes are coming such as staffing adding two ESOL teachers, one Special Education teacher, one academic coach, one RTI Intervention Teacher, and one health pathway teacher for the Certified Nursing path in school among others. The school system is also moving forward on the Provision 2 Free Breakfast project for students.

Gilmer Schools Tentative Budget

Gilmer Schools Tentative Budget for the Fiscal Year 2018

Taking a closer look at the budget, our Schools are estimating to end FY18 with a $1,298,797 gap between revenues and expenditures. This estimation is not unheard of in Gilmer County as they have projected themselves under expenditures last year as well.

Gilmer Schools estimated in June of 2016 that they would be $1,631,875 under expenditures for their budget. This estimate left a fund balance of $14,962,247 by June 30,2017. However, the school system is currently estimating a fund balance of $20.7 million on July 1, 2017. Chief Financial Officer Trina Penland gave credit for the change to the Board of Education and specifically to Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes for continuously reviewing expenditures and cutting unnecessary items.

Regardless, the schools still estimates this year’s budget revenues to still come up short of expenditures by $1,298,797 leaving a fund balance of $19,401,203 by June 30, 2018.

While everyone remembers the mandated 2% salary increase for teachers, and our systems plan to increase the 2% to all faculty and staff, other changes have affected expenditures for the school system including a $300,000 increase in textbooks and a $560,000 increase to the TRS benefits (Teachers Retirement System) for employees. While the school system has been paying 14.27% of the costs for teachers TRS Benefits, this is now increasing to 16.81%. FY19 is also estimated to 20.9%.

One other notable increase comes as the Board approved a request from the Commissioners to increase their funding for School Resource Officers to 50% of the total costs, this $45,000 increase will take the total cost from its current $105,000 to $150,000.

On the Revenue side, the school system will be seeing a $635,000 increase to QBE Allotment from the State to aid in covering tuition and instruction in addition to the TAVT (Title Ad Valorem Taxes) Revenue. The TAVT is still being inflated due to repayment of taxes from the county and cities after the disbursement error in the Tax Commissioner’s office. This could offset in roughly a year and a half when the repayment is completed. However, Penland stated they have noticed an increase in collection from last year and are optimistic the economy could at least make up for a portion of the difference by the time those payments cease.

Gilmer Schools FY18 Expense Changes

The expected changes for Expenses in the FY18 Gilmer Schools Budget.

GIlmer Schools FY18 Revenue Changes

The expected changes for Revenue in the FY18 Gilmer Schools Budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additionally, during their meeting, the Board of Education also moved forward with approval for a Technology purchase of $90,000 for eight carts of Chromebooks. With 30 Chromebooks per cart, 240 total, Dr. Wilkes stated this would finally put 3rd and 4th Grades to a 1:1 ratio of Chromebooks and students.

While the budget is currently tentative, the Detailed Budget will be up for approval at the June 15 meeting. Citizens wishing to speak or comment on the budget can do so at their Work Session on June 12 or sign up to speak at the Regular Meeting on June 15.

 

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