BOE Member Nick Weaver Resigns

News

Nick Weaver was sworn into Office on December 19, 2016.

ELLIJAY, Ga – Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs has confirmed that Board Member Nicholas Weaver has tendered his resignation from the Board today, September 11, 2018.

According to the Board’s Official Statement, the resignation comes as he has moved out of the Post 3 area of Gilmer County, he can no longer hold his Post 3 position on the Board.

His resignation becomes effective immediately leaving the board down one member for the work session in two weeks on September 17. It is possible that they will move through this month without a fifth member, but plans are already in motion as an election will be needed to replace Weaver. However, the deadline has already passed to place anything new on November’s ballot.

Until the Board can officially hold an election for the seat next year, they will be looking to appoint someone to fill the space until then. Citizens will recall that current Board Member Ronald Watkins filled his position from a vacancy in 2016 before later running in the election.

As more details become available and the Board selects a replacement, stay with FYN as we continue to update you on this story.

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Gilmer Schools: Increasing Security

News

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.

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BOE final decisions on Buses and Millage

News

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.

 

 

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Finance decisions dominate BOE’s July Meeting

News

ELLIJAY, GA. – Casting the final vote for the coming ESPLOST, alongside votes on bids and lunch prices, set the theme for the Board of Education’s last regular meeting before school starts back.

As previously reported in last week’s BOE to call for an ESPLOST Election, the survey results were provided to board member along with the choices for the final item on the list of projects. While Gilmer County Charter Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs reiterated that the priorities of the new ESPLOST will remain with the continuing technology, security, safety, and bus purchases, this sets two major projects into Gilmer County’s Educational future.

Those projects take up two of the five items as set on the official ballot question which reads as:

(a) upgrading the technology used to support teaching and learning at all facilities, including the purchase and
installation of computers, laptops, tablets, mobile devices, servers, wiring, wireless antennas, and other technology upgrades with necessary hardware, software, and programs; (b) the acquisition, construction, equipping, and installation of safety and security equipment to improve security in all facilities located within the School District (c) the purchase of new school buses; (d) the acquisition, construction, and equipping of a new elementaryschool to replace the current Ellijay Primary School; and (e) the acquisition, construction, and equipping of a new performing/fine arts center, all in accordance with the facilities plans of the School District…

The official resolution was approved in a 4-1 vote with board member Nick Weaver as the dissenting vote. With earlier disagreements on which final project was to be implemented and the polled decision leaning towards the Performing Arts Center, this vote count was not entirely unexpected as the board’s poll on the project inclusion was a mirror outcome.

Moving forward with the ESPLOST at this point will see the Board of Education formally submitting their Notice of Sales and Use Tax For Educational Purposes Election to Gilmer County Probate Judge Scott Chastain, as Election Superintendent, to have the referendum voted on by the public in the November 2018 elections. Citizens will take this opportunity to voice their opinions on the ESPLOST and decide on the continuing the already in place ESPLOST for another cycle with its new projects.

Financially, the board is estimating $28 million in collections but is aiming high so as not to have an interruption in collections during the cycle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finance discussions continued through the meeting during the board’s nutrition and financial reports. The board voted unanimously to support a recommendation by Director of Nutrition Services Linda Waters to increase staff lunch prices from $3.50 to $3.75 and visitor lunches from $4.00 to $4.25. The quarter increases on each of these follow federal regulations which Waters’ recent changes to menus. She stated in the work session, “By Federal Regulations, we have to charge what it costs us to produce a meal.”

Additionally, the July meeting saw the board vote to approve fuel bids for the year. They awarded Petroleum Traders Corp the bid for diesel and gasoline at $0.0315 over costs of diesel and $0.0196 over costs of gasoline. They also awarded Thomas Oil for Propane at $0.95 per gallon.

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BOE to call for an ESPLOST election

Election, News

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.

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Board of Education begins 2018 by looking to next school year

News

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

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