ELLIJAY, Ga. – Two coaches spoke during the Gilmer Board of Education’s (BOE) Public Comments this week on a policy change close to approval.
The item is in its second reading this month for the BOE and is set for the vote on Thursday, March 21, 2019. The contention on the policy comes with changes to Community Coaches. The policy, IDFC Community Coaches, is seeing changes in requirements, pay, and eligibility for those wishing to serve, as noticed by the strikes and bold print in the policy. Those who spoke had each had one issue in common, though. The pay limit on community coaches, “lay coaches” as they are also called.
First to speak, Softball Coach Kim Charles addressed the board saying that as a head coach, she had always wanted to make the major decisions for her team. She felt that the revision was restrictive to the teams who use lay coaches more. She advocated for these coaches calling them “great people” and “very involved in the community.” She went further saying she wanted to remain loyal to these lay coaches who have and will serve in sports programs to the benefit of the students involved.
Charles said she didn’t want this to be a cut to current coaches, turning into a force to drive off those who have volunteered loyally over the years. She said they are the ones who have tried so hard to build and improve the kids when the head coaches need help. These coaches, said Charles, have proven themselves in their areas. She also pointed out that several of the sports that have seen success over the years have had long years of the same lay coaches, providing the stability needed to foster that kind of success.
Second to speak, Track Coach Josh Snider echoed the feelings that restricting and limiting the community coaches of the county would only detriment the sports and those students involved. He noted that the track programs work with three lay coaches and go through certifications at their own costs to become certified for their positions. The revisions in this policy also require GHSA community coach training and a rules clinic and assessment to become certified to coach their desired sport.
Snider also commented that he wanted to add to the policy that community coaches might also have their past experience in the sport with Gilmer Schools under consideration when they apply. When this is considered, Snider noted you might have a coach who meets the requirements but didn’t “mesh well” with the coaching staff or students in that sport.
He further agreed with the sentiments spoken by Charles as he noted several sports who are seeing success and past lay coaches who have also been well received and went on to further and enhance their sports and areas.
The third speaker, District Athletic Director Rodney Walker, began his address quoting a statistic of Gilmer Schools utilizing 75 percent of its coaches as certified staff coaches and 25 percent of them as lay coaches. Walker urged the board to move forward with the revisions. Though he said he had no issue with lay coaches, he noted that having so many puts the county at risk. He said he was thankful that the county had many willing to serve and admitted that there has been success with community coaching. Walker pointed out that the intent isn’t to get rid of lay coaches, instead limiting them in favor of certified personnel.
Walker said, “There’s no way that a guy that goes to college, or a lady goes to college, and they train and they get paid to do this job. And then we’re bringing people off the streets, and they may be good people, they may be great people, great coaches. But they shouldn’t make the same thing as a certified personnel. That’s just not right.” Walker pushed for the limited pay saying that the county needs to hire the best qualified people to teach in the school and be a part of the programs.
Walker also noted accusations that the revisions was put in place to give the football coaches more money. He said they have one coach they hired. He also said they were fortunate enough last year to have hired three coaches that now coach a second sport. He noted that his biggest push was to get coaches who are also in the school teaching. Walker said that these coaches who teach and coach build better relationships saying, “If we can get these people in the building, that’s what I think helps. You can’t tell me it doesn’t help to be able to have them.”
Ultimately, Walker said he is trying to take care of the system, to protect it.
This issue is already in the second reading before the board, meaning that if citizens are wishing to speak at the meeting or weigh in on the subject they must sign up with the Superintendent before Thursday to be allowed to speak at the regular session. Additionally, citizens are encouraged to speak with board-members about how they want their district’s representative to vote.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Over the past two months, the Gilmer County Board of Education has listened to proposals from Kloud-12 on possible changes to their school system’s security.
Stretching back further than that, even when planning the renovations of Gilmer High School, security increases have grown more accustomed to their spot in the forefront of discussion. The renovations saw the High School go from an open glass lobby with multiple ways into the school, to a single point, secured entrance.
Not uncommon in today’s world where school shootings and threats are on the rise, this style of an entrance is already in Gilmer County at Clear Creek Middle School where visitors and parents are guided into the front office before gaining entrance to the school as a whole.
Now, the Board of Education is moving again on the security front. A tentative approval came this week for the board to move forward with proposals from Kloud-12 to implement two new features into the school system. In her phrasing of recommending the motion, Gilmer County Charter School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs and the board indicated a 2-phase implementation.
The first phase garnered the most support with changing the id badges of employees in the schools to incorporate an electronic button that they can use for instant communication. The button is flexibly programmed to the board’s desires for levels of alert and levels of notifications. For example a single press could immediately notify the school’s principal and key staff in case of a medical issue, fight, or some simple call for help, holding the button could signal could signal a real medical emergency notifying 911, and rapidly and repeatedly pressing the button would notify police and authorities for an active threat such as a shooter. This is just an example as Brent Coleman with Dooley Education Solutions representing the Kloud-12 service said the Board could set up the program however they wanted.
The badges are not coded or restricted in any way, meaning that there is a possibility of accidental presses or “false alarms,” but Coleman said continuing changes to the system are combating that likelihood with the button recessed and set on an id badge instead of somewhere open. I was later noted that this could help if a teacher had a medical emergency and a student needed to push the button to call for help.
Coleman has shared with the board over these two months his pitch for the service noting that in several of the recent shootings across America, an expedited response would have helped with response time and saved lives. The badge button not only notifies administration, but a proper input would immediately set alarms off across the school initiating an instant lockdown. The process takes seconds instead of the common way of finding a way to notify the office and then spreading the message to initiate the lockdown.
The system also operates on a “mesh network” allowing the system to operate on its own network outside of the wi-fi system and also to allow the system to work around outages. This means if one receiver should fail, others would be ready and able to pick up the signal and operate normally without interruption.
This system for crisis management is designed to work alongside another system that the board saw hesitation on from staff members. Video integration is the Phase 2 of the motion. Separating the item, Downs said they were awaiting clarification for the board’s Tech Department on technical specifications, data storage, recurring licensing, support fees, and other areas.
If clarification indicates what the board wants out of the project, it could increase video footage of the schools. Each school already has cameras watching the hallways and common areas, but this change would see cameras moving into the classrooms as well. With pushback from teachers over being “watched” during the day, Coleman indicated that they could set the cameras to where only administration and select staff could access the feeds and could even give the teachers control over whether the cameras are recording or not.
Meant to work on three levels, the cameras were presented to be used for instruction, safety, and protection. Over the discussions, it was presented that these cameras can be set to record only certain “quadrants of the feed to leave students out if a teacher wanted to make his or her lessons available for replay. This could also be used for snow days or other situations to make the feeds available to students at home. This instructional use could be set for availability by administration or by the teachers.
On the safety and security aspect, the live feeds of the cameras are instantly turned on and set to record if the id badge button is pushed. Coleman noted this feed could be sent live to authorities in threat situations to give a look inside of the school and to aid in locating threats as the id badge system has a built-in location system. In other situations, the button press for a fight could instantly set the live feed to the School Resource Officer and principle for an immediate response without involving police or emergency responders. Aiding in discipline and averting disciplinary situations was a major point of the cameras safety aspect.
Finally, the protection of teachers was presented by Coleman as a tool to aid in allegations against teachers as they could set their cameras to record their class time and student interactions. Providing video documentation to combat false allegations would allow many situations, according to Coleman to be prevented before they escalate.
Throughout discussions, Gilmer High School Principal Carla Foley noted she had several teachers questioning why the need for additional cameras as they haven’t had a high amount of discipline issues.
With the board moving forward on these proposals, they are looking at $132,347 for Phase 1 to begin as soon as the board receives its bidding or sole source documentation implementing the id badge system, and $451,224 for the camera system contingent upon satisfactory answers to the outstanding technical questions as well as the bidding or sole source documentation.
With teachers potentially seeing these upgrades as early as Jan 2, they will only see them in Ellijay Elementary School, Mountain View Elementary, Clear Creek Middle School, and Gilmer High School. Downs stated the would not be putting the systems into Ellijay Primary School as they are planning to replace it in the near future, nor in Gilmer Middle School until they are certain of which classrooms will be utilized by the High School in the coming years.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education formally accepted their 2018 Millage Rate this week with unanimous approval from the present board members.
The final vote came 4-0, Nick Weaver was absent, on Thursday, August 23, setting the rate at 14.458 mills for the year.
After discussing the rate on Monday’s Work Session and over the last month since their July Meeting, where Gilmer County Charter School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs informed the board that their calculated rollback rate was 14.458 mills, decreasing from 2017’s 16.12 mill., the final decision lowered the rate by 1.662 over last year.
Downs mentioned in the board’s regular session that no citizens have commented on the Rollback Rate this year or the boards advertisement of it over the last month.
Continuing along the financial discussions, a bid for two extra buses was approved. Coming from extra funding the state found and spread among school systems, this unexpected item set the board with an opportunity to try a different engine. Originally, Director of Operations Bob Sosebee’s Bid Analysis offered the board the bids for both a diesel engine bus and a gasoline bus.
Sosebee said in the meeting that he wanted to offer the board the option of trying gasoline buses instead of diesel with this extra funding as a trend is beginning to see other school systems do similar. Mentioning emissions and testing stresses on the increase, causing a major increase in time spent on repairs, as one point pushing to change, he presented three company’s bids including both engines. the bids include warranty’s on both engines.
The system currently runs its entire bus fleet on diesel engines. When asked for his recommendation, Sosebee suggested the board try the gas buses to be able to compare the two types. Ultimately, approval came from the board as they said they would be willing to use these, as the extra funding came in from the state, as a test pair.
While continuing to replace and grow the bus fleet, Downs noted the Board is still struggling to find bus drivers. Upon a request, Downs is moving forward of increasing the sign on bonus for new drivers from $500 to $1000. As the board discussed the rise and answers to problem, one suggestion arose that the board may look at possibly considering changing the salary as well. Though no real action came except to notify the board of increasing the sign on bonus, indications lean that we could learn more at next month’s meeting.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education has debated their plans for the future of Gilmer’s ESPLOST. Debating about the final item in plans for construction as well as bonding projects for the coming cycle.
While no official motion could be heard for the item as it was only the Board’s work session, the did take time to debate the issue with one member having to conference call in to join the discussion. Three major points of the plans to continue the county’s ESPLOST into another cycle were agreed to during the meeting.
With the results from the survey put forth by Gilmer County Charter School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, the clear winner within the community became a Performing Arts Center.
Collecting more votes than the other two options combined, the Performing/Fine Arts Center (on GHS Campus) reached 1,069 votes. The multi-use Sports Facility collected 684 votes and the Indoor Swimming Pool collected 282 votes.
Downs presented this information to the Board on Monday, July 17, along with the three options for a final decision by the Board as a whole on which item to add to the ESPLOST referendum.
As the members considered the option, most agreed that they wanted to follow the survey. Board member Jim Parmer said, “People have had a choice in making a decision and voting. I think we need to be open and transparent if that’s what they want.”
The only member who didn’t agree on the Performing Arts Center was Nick Weaver who said, “There was a lot of money spent the wrong ways before I got here, on the football stadium and everything else, and I think there’s a sports program out there that deserves and earned things and they’ve not gotten anything.”
An informal poll of the board went for the Arts Center with on Weaver as a dissenting vote. However, the final motion and decision will be made on Thursday, July 19, at 6 p.m. during their Regular Session meeting. The final vote will come on a final resolution drafted by the board’s attorney to include this as well as bonding and collection caps.
Those other items were also discussed during the work session as the board will be looking to bond the project for a new Elementary School on the board’s Clear Creek property. The board indicated this project would be bonded while all of the other projects will be done as collections reach the necessary point for them. A maximum bonding of $15 million was placed, but Downs noted they could lower this later if the entire amount was not needed.
The collection cap is an indication of the maximum amount collected by the ESPLOST during its cycle. Downs noted for the board that if they do not meet the maximum collection, there is no penalty, but if they do meet the maximum collection before the end of the cycle, they will be forced to stop collections early. Originally planning on a maximum of $25 million, the board discussion looked at the county’s growth and decided to stretch the maximum collection to $28 million to cover the potential for high growth in the county over the ESPLOST cycle.
As the board put these notes to its lawyer, Attorney Herman Clark, they will be officially looking at their official “Call for Election” on Thursday night to meet an early August deadline to be put on the November ballot for citizens.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Education (BOE) began 2018 already considering changes coming for the 2018-19 school year.
The board is moving ahead with Administrative Renewals for the coming school year as they are already facing nine retirements and two resignations approved in January alone. Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes stated the board wanted to approve the administrative renewals now so they could move forward with their own recommendations for teachers to fill the empty spots.
The approved staff recommendations for January show those changes for January, but more are sure to come as the teacher hiring season begins with schools everywhere looking to fill positions for next year.
Even board personnel adjusted positions as new officers were elected. The position of BOE chairman came with a nomination for Michael Bramlett and appointed by acclamation. Vice chairman, however, saw more action with two nominations, one for Jim Parmer and one for Ronald Watkins.
The vote for Parmer came down to two for and three against (2-3). Nick Weaver, Tom Ocobock, and Ronald Watkins were the dissenting votes.
Watkins saw three for, none against, and two abstentions (3-0-2). Parmer and Watkins abstained on their votes.
In addition to the administrative and personnel approvals, the board set their meetings dates officially for 2018 as well as January 2019. The meetings will continue being held at 6 p.m. on these meeting dates:
Feb. 12 and 15
March 19 and 22
April 23 and 26
May 21 and 24
June 18 and 21
July 16 and 19
Aug. 20 and 23
Sept. 17 and 20
Oct. 15 and 18
Nov. 12 and 15
Dec. 10 and 13
Jan. 14 and 17, 2019
For Immediate Release:
Gilmer County Schools is joining in a statewide celebration this week to salute the efforts of local school board members. This week of March 13-17, 2017, has been proclaimed School Board Appreciation Week in Georgia. The week long observance calls attention to the contributions of local boards of education.
“Citizens elect board members to represent our community’s voice on education matters and to set the vision for the school district. Our board spends countless hours fulfilling its responsibilities and working together to continually improve our education system. Our School Board represents a continuing commitment to local citizen control and decision-making in education,” said Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes.
As constitutional officers of Georgia, school board members are responsible for setting educational policies, employing school personnel, providing buildings and equipment, operating a transportation system and disbursing school funds. As community leaders, school board members serve as advocates for the children in our community and must study, evaluate and decide what actions are in the best interest of those students.
The Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) sponsors this celebration. The mission of GSBA is to ensure excellence in the governance of local school systems by providing leadership, advocacy and services, and by representing the collective resolve of Georgia’s elected boards of education. Please go to http://www.gilmerschools.com/board-of-education for more information.
Photo: Ronald Watkins, Thomas Ocobock, Jim Parmer (Chairman), Shanna Wilkes (Superintendent), Michael Bramlett (Vice-Chairman), Nicholas Weaver
Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services
Gilmer County Charter School System
134 Industrial Blvd.
Ellijay, GA 30540
Every Child, Every Opportunity, Every Day!
The Gilmer County School System does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, religion, creed, or disability in admission to its programs, services, and activities, in access to them, in treatment of individuals, or in any aspect of their operations. For additional information or referral to the appropriate system coordinator, contact the system superintendent’s office at 134 Industrial Blvd, Ellijay, Ga 30540 -(706) 276-5000.
The Gilmer County School System does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, religio
The official 2017-2018 Academic School Calendar has tallied votes online and been approved for Calendar 2.
Calendar 2 was put forth by faculty and administration from the Ellijay Primary School and recieve a total 33.11% of the votes (249 votes) online by Gilmer County’s citizens. Though Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes stated the calendar was relatively similar to this year’s one, there were some changes such as the first day of school occurring on Friday, August 4th, less early release days, and a later winter holiday beginning with a early release on December 20th.
However, the approval came after some discussion among the Board members. Board Member Ronald Watkins suggested the Board put forth its own calendar option next year as well as looking at improving information on the voting process as he has received calls from citizens who missed the vote. Board Member Tom Ocobock asked why the school was starting so early in the year. Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes offered that the early start allows the Schools to get the full 90 days in before the semester’s testing process. The calendar also allows full week breaks, pending weather days, for the schools’ spring break, winter break, and a full week off for Thanksgiving break.
Dr. Wilkes stated the school’s governing councils and administrators provided the calendar options who seemed to have the common opinion. Members Ocobock and Watkins both requested again that the Board also put forth a calendar next year. Chairman Jim Parmer and Dr. Wilkes both suggested the request to be very doable and it seems the requests will be followed for next year’s process.
Other options for calendars could include longer school days, which was shortly discussed but seemed to be quickly squashed due to athletic conflicts, inefficiency of student learning later in the day, and missed time for early release of certain students who travel with teams for events.
The Board also discussed a proposal to increase incentives for bus drivers in Gilmer County through a bonus. The structure would have a $500 sign-on bonus for new drivers after completion of their CDL’s and 6-months of successful employment with the school system. The same would be given to coaches and club sponsors upon completion of CDL’s and 5 trips as well as adding a $300 annual supplement after the initial year for the club sponsor or a coach as long as they continue driving. The additional supplement would provide the coach or club sponsor as drivers while not taking a regular driver off of their routes and further requiring additional drivers to cover routes for that driver.
Beginning the Board’s attempt to improve recruitment and retention of bus drivers for the county, Dr. Wilkes commented on the bonus saying, “We have enough buses, we just don’t have the people to drive.”
Ocobock questioned what else the Board was doing to bring in drivers saying he sees counties all over the state looking for drivers. Requesting a better effort than supplements and bonuses he sees the other counties doing, Ocobock expressed concern over competition with other counties for drivers. While Chairman Parmer suggested that most of your bus drivers will be local, Ocobock did assert he didn’t want the bonus to be the end of the Board’s efforts to increase drivers. He was assured by Dr. Wilkes that efforts would continue as she stated, “This is the first step.”
Also in the meeting, the Board approved the reappointment of Jody Holmes to the Gilmer County Library Board of Trustees as well as reappointing Chairman Jim Parmer as Legislative Delegate to the GSBA Summer Conference.
As the meeting moved toward the Board’s regular Policy Review Section, Board Member Ronald Watkins made a suggestion that the Board consider changing BBA Board Officers to either hold 4 districts and have the Chairman be elected at large from the county or do away with districts and have all Board Members be elected openly from anywhere in the county. While no action was taken and the suggestion simply made as “food for thought,” the Board would have to consult legal council before any change be made to the election process. However, discussion from the Board indicated that the change would actually need to be voted on by citizens and not the Board of Education.
For more information on the Board of Education’s February Meetings, check out the Policies for First Reading, Policies for Second Reading (Approved), Financial Report, 2010 ESPLOST Report, and 2015 ESPLOST Report.
The Gilmer County Board of Education unanimously voted to extend Superintendent Bryan Dorsey’s contract tonight during its December meeting. (more…)