EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s Board of Education presented advertising for their 5 year Tax history and a Tentative Millage Rate to seek final approval in August.
Looking back over recent years and comparing to 2020, the digest saw an overall 4.6 percent increase countywide. According to Director of Finance Trina Penland, the county’s exemptions increase by 3 percent as well. Part of the increase came from a senior’s exemption increase of roughly 10 percent.
According to Penland, Gilmer is the only county that has unlimited senior exemptions in the tax digest. But because that exemption is a local exemption, the school still pays taxes to the state on the funds not collected due to the exemption.
The current millage rate sits at 14.248 mills for the Board of Education. As they look at the calculated rollback rate to prevent them from collecting any more that last year, Penland presented the Rollback Rate to the board at 13.963 mills.
If the board does not accept the Rollback Rate, Penland stated they would be collecting an additional $351,000.
Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs presented her recommendation that the board accept the Rollback Rate, and with a motion and second, the board unanimously approved the rate.
Additionally, Board Member Jim Parmer, stated that he appreciated the work that the finance staff and Dr. Downs put in. He went on to say, “Honestly, If we were going to do furlough days, I would say let’s keep our rate. But ya’ll have said you’re not doing that…”
Through additional discussions, Penland stated that the Rollback should collect just over $17 million. But adding in a look at the history, Penland stated, “If you look back at the history. When you look back in 2009, that was before the first recession, the school collected $24.7 million in property tax revenue. We have cut back. We have cut programs, benefits. We have cut everything to be as close as we can on the budget.”
She also noted several rollbacks including one that rolled back more than the recommended rate.
The Rollback Rate will go through the advertisement process and see final approval in August before sending the rate to the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners for their approval alongside their millage rate and implementation into the new tax year.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – February saw a threat and incident at the Gilmer Schools’ Transportation Depot as a single woman allegedly walked into the facility with a firearm. Now, nearly 150 days later, Mary Newberry has left the detention center on bond.
Allegedly the woman behind the incident, she faces felony charges of Aggravated Assault and Carrying a Weapon in School Safety Zone among others, according to information on the Sheriff’s website for the Detention Center. She also face misdemeanor charges of Simple Battery, Pointing or Aiming a gun at another, and Loitering at or Disrupting Schools.
Posting the bond late last week after it was set by Superior Court Judge John Worcester, she has been placed under 15 conditions according to documents filed with the Clerk of Superior Court.
Those conditions include the bond payment, house arrest, “no contact” orders with a 500-foot distance for witnesses and alleged victims, “no contact” orders including a 500-foot distance from properties of the Gilmer County Charter School System, restrictions on employment with any school system, ankle monitoring, restrictions from firearms, voluntary searches, and other restrictions against committing crimes in general.
In addition, the documents do reference a reasoning as for the bond coming now. The documents stated that both parties “have reached a consent agreement (due to the alleged present physical health conditions of the defendant at the request of the Gilmer County Jail) to the amount of bond and the conditions of bond for the Defendant…”
The alleged incident occurred on the afternoon of February 27, 2020, around 1:30 p.m. and caused the nearby Clear Creek Middle School to go into a “precautionary lock-down.”
As Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs reported at the time, there were no injuries from the incident.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer Schools is reaching out to parents, students, educators, and citizens to offer their opinions on Milestones testing and the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) through a survey.
Although linked on Gilmer Schools’ social media, the Georgia Department of Education is marked atop the survey as they seek a response about their request for waivers of these annual tests and reports
According to a joint statement from Governor Brian Kemp and State School Superintendent Richard Woods of the Georgia Department of Education:
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we have urged common sense regarding compliance in Georgia’s public schools, and a focus before anything else on the health, safety, and well-being of students, families, and school staff.
“On March 16, Georgia became one of the first states in the nation to suspend standardized testing requirements in the wake of the COVID-19 school closures, and later received approval from the U.S. Department of Education for the cancelation of all remaining standardized tests in the 2019-2020 school year.
“Given the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic and the resulting state budget reductions, it would be counterproductive to continue with high-stakes testing for the 2020-2021 school year. In anticipation of a return to in-person instruction this fall, we believe schools’ focus should be on remediation, growth, and the safety of students. Every dollar spent on high-stakes testing would be a dollar taken away from the classroom.
“Georgia will submit a waiver to the U.S. Department of Education for the suspension of the 2020-21 Georgia Milestones assessment and CCRPI school and district rating. To our knowledge, Georgia is the first state in the nation to make this announcement for the upcoming school year. Additionally, effective immediately, the Georgia Department of Education is suspending the teacher evaluation (TKES) summative rating for 2020-21.
“These efforts are in line with our longstanding shared belief that assessment has a place and a purpose in education, but the current high-stakes testing regime is excessive. Though the legislative session was shortened due to COVID-19, we are continuing to pursue Senate Bill 367, which aims to get Georgia’s state testing requirements in line with the federal minimum and maximize time for instruction.
“We are hopeful the federal government will recognize that the upcoming school year will not be ‘business as usual’ and will accept our request for a standardized testing waiver.”
The posted survey asks which county you live in and if you agree or disagree with this request, but also leaves ares for comments and written opinions on the topics as well.
FYN reached out today to Gilmer Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs for comment on the waiver and the survey and is currently awaiting response.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Despite a back and forth with state and Georgia Board of Education officials, Gilmer is still awaiting details to approve its budget for 2020-2021 school year. A now officially-approved spending resolution is allowing them to move forward despite that obstacle alongside other financial approvals for past budget and purchases.
The resolution came with itemized reports for extra expenses for academic supplies and subscriptions as reported in BOE to seek spending resolution tomorrow. utilizing one-twelfth, equivalent to one month, of the final amended budget from the previous year.
In their monthly purchasing policy report, the schools are continuing to expand the chromebook ratio to students as previous discussions show that the board is preparing for possibilities to return or not return to school in the fall. These discussions could see a final decision in July. The purchasing policy showed $49,140 for Chromebooks across Clear Creek Elementary School, Ellijay Elementary School, and Mountainview Elementary this month.
The board also approved their academic supplements for FY 21 including instructors and coaches for several extracurricular “academic” teams. Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs explained that some changes from last year and inclusion of Winterguard and Band in the Academic Teams as it is not recognized as a sport yet by GHSA.
A GHS Furniture purchase also saw approval as Downs explained that the “not to exceed $125,000” recommendation was to ensure any surprises as outfitting a number of rooms and spaces including mostly science classrooms.
Moving forward with their meetings into the year, the board is changing on date in September now that they have found the approved school calendar will coincide their September meetings with Fall break. Therefore, they approved a change moving the meeting dates from September 21 and 24 to its new date of September 14 and 17.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – “Because the State has not yet passed a budget for FY 21 it has been recommended across the state that districts pass a spending resolution for July until we receive final numbers,” said Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs at this week’s work session of the Board of Education.
A Spending Resolution, Downs explained, will allow use of one-twelfth, equivalent to one month, of the final amended budget from the previous year. Allowing for debt service and capital expenditures, Downs said that Gilmer has a number of items that are mostly curriculum related subscriptions. The entire Itemized List is included in the Spending Resolution posted by the BOE on their website. This list is set to be voted on tomorrow. These items must be approved above the one-twelfth allowed spending resolution.
The resolution will move the board into its new fiscal year without a fully approved budget as they await those numbers of the state budget and what that will allow for the county in state money.
Additionally, the board will be voting to approve their Financial Summary. Comparing with April of last year as the board begins looking at what financial impact the outbreak of COVID-19 has had, Board Member Tom Ocobock made note that, financially, it wasn’t as bad as some expected. According to the summary, April of 2019 saw revenues at $35,804,009, and April of 2020 saw revenues at $37,638,750. The difference totals a $1,834,741 increase.
Another financial vote to be held will be for Budget amendments. Downs noted that this could include shortfalls, carry over, and even additions from state funding. This budget amendment for approval is the “Budget Amendment for Grants” and will also be up for vote at tomorrow’s 5:30 p.m. Regular Meeting for the Gilmer Board of Education alongside the Spending Resolution and Financial Summary.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – According to Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, Gilmer has won a Financial Distinction award again this year as it draws closer to the end of its 2019-2020 year.
Won it “again” because it is starting to become a common thing in Gilmer Schools Administration as the financial department, led by Director of Finance Trina Penland, won the award last year and the year before. They also received the award two years prior, meaning that while this is the third year in a row that Gilmer Schools and Penland have achieved this award, it is actually the fourth time in five years that they have gotten it.
While a representative from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts was not at Gilmer’s meeting to deliver the award this year as they have done previously, Downs said this was due to the current outbreak situation, they did deliver their congratulations through Dr. Downs saying that they wanted to make the board aware of another year of excellence.
The “Award of Distinction for Excellent Financial Reporting for Fiscal Year 19,” as Down named it, is rare among the counties that are reported under this group. While the Board of Education and Penland did not know the numbers this year, previous reports on FYN confirmed that only 32 of the 159 entities audited in 2018 and only 27 of the 150 entities audited in 2017 received this award.
Dr. Downs accredited the hard work of the the entire Financial Department and Trina Penland as the Director to not only have achieved this goal once, but three times in a row. These awards are not just for one area, but include requirements from reporting, annual audits, and documentation.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Students are getting more updates as the administrative staff of both Gilmer High School and the Gilmer County School System continue working towards tentative dates for graduation ceremonies for seniors this year.
Throughout April, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs has constantly updated parents and students of their work to offer recognition and honor for these students despite the viral outbreak and shutdown. That continued with their Special Called Meeting this week as Downs revealed specific dates for their plans.
Dr. Downs did say “tentative” dates for these events as the school system is still planning and looking at the changing environment.
The current plan does include other grades as those schools wish to hold a celebration for their students to collect some items they may have left, to see friends and teachers, and to provide a little closure to the school year.
Ellijay Elementary School will hold theirs on July 6, 2020. Clear Creek Elementary School and Mountain View Elementary School will hold theirs on July 8, 2020. Clear Creek Middle School will be held on July 9, 2020. Specific times or a time range have not been set yet as plans and events continue to formulate.
Answering the most asked question of recent weeks, Gilmer is attempting to address both Graduation and Prom this year. Dr. Downs announced during the meeting that they are looking to hold their actual graduation ceremony on July 17, 2020, with prom the Friday before, July 10, 2020. Again, the specific time has not been finalized yet, though some time slots are already being considered.
Gilmer is, currently, still planning on a televised recognition video on May 22, 2020, in recognition of students and their honors and achievements, but also wants to give students the actual chance to hold their real graduation in July. Filming will be going on in early May as students, staff, and the school board plan to be a part of the video.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs took a few moments to correct some confusion among the community this week addressing the Seamless Feeding program.
The current bus routes and Seamless Feeding Program will continue through May 22, originally scheduled as the last day of school, according to Downs.
She went on to say, “After May 22, normally, post-planning, we do not do meals. However, given to the current situation, I’ve asked Ms. Waters to just immediately transition into the Summer Feeding Program.”
Also due to the current situation, this year’s summer program will be drastically different. Maintaining the social distancing orders, there will not be the same level of engagement possible as usual. Dr. Downs said that this year, volunteers will not be staying for hours as they have normally done activities like reading, coloring, or playing games among others.
This year, the program will only have four sites with the food coming from the Mountain View cafeteria. Those deliveries will occur very similar to how the feeding program is going now, bringing the meals and passing them out while maintaining distancing orders. They will then leave the sites shortly after. Downs said that while the program may have lasted from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. most days, these sites will likely be closer to 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
These sites will include Tower Road, Mulberry Street, the Gilmer Health Department, and Ellijay First United Methodist Church.
The school system is still concerned with finding volunteers to help and trying to fill gaps with some administrative staff where possible.
The program will see a gap on Memorial Day, but will continue on May 26 as normal.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer Seniors received good news about Graduation during the Board of Education’s April Regular Meeting as Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs read an email that was sent from Gilmer High School Principal Carla Foley.
The email noted details about the plans for graduation as well as a recognition on May 22, 2020. While some of these are similar to plans discussed earlier in the week at the work session, final details came through the email.
Foley said, “While we must wait to hold a large gathering, we do not want to let May 22nd pass without celebration.”
The school will give each senior an opportunity to walk across the field and receive their diploma with their parents and family members close by. They will video each senior having their name announced and receiving their diploma. Then, after having the videos = edited together, the plan is to air the Class of 2020 commencement proceedings on ETC 3 at 7 p.m. on May 22nd.
While these are the current plans as Gilmer will not be returning to class this year, the plans are in effort, according to Downs, to provide some closure to the year for these students through a graduation as well as a recognition day.
Downs did provide the specific details from the email later:
Seniors will be able to pick up their caps and gowns at GHS on Thursday, April 23rd, between 12-3pm. Please enter the GHS campus via Old 5 and Bobcat Trail, and follow the signs and directions.
At that time, each senior will be given a paper with a number (1-265), date (May 6th-8th), and time (9am-3pm) to arrive at Huff-Mosely Stadium, via Bobcat Trail, behind the Larry Walker Education Center. You will not be allowed to enter the stadium via Old 5 or Legion Road.
Seniors and their family members (1 carload – maximum 6 occupants, including the senior) will arrive at LWEC no earlier than 15 minutes before your assigned time.
We will be working in groups of 5 seniors at a time. The first 5 cars, in numeric order, will be lined up and directed around the LWEC toward the visitor entrance of the stadium.
The first senior and his/her family will enter the stadium and check in at the table, and proceed to the podium. In order for seniors to participate in the walking ceremony/taping, all fines and fees must be paid in full. Look for an email indicating if your child owes any money for fees or fines.
Once that senior leaves the check in table, the next senior and their family will get out of their car, enter the stadium, and check in, and so on. Please do not leave your car until directed to do so by a Gilmer County Sheriff’s officer.
At the podium, the senior’s name will be announced, along with any academic awards and scholarships from the Gilmer Education Foundation they have received. (Applications for Gilmer Education Foundation scholarships are due by noon, on Monday, April 20th, to your child’s counselor)
The senior will then proceed to the middle of the field to receive their diploma cover and a folder with additional awards and scholarship information from me, and Superintendent, Dr. Downs. Actual diplomas will be mailed to students after May 22nd. Students need to complete the following Google Form to indicate where their diploma should be mailed: https://forms.gle/RFVfJEVViSNpRwsZA
Next, the senior will go to a table to pick up their yearbook. If you haven’t ordered your child’s yearbook yet, it is not too late. You can order online at: https://tinyurl.com/y8rz5q8y , or you can order and pay in person when your child comes to pick up their cap and gown on April 23rd.
Finally, there will be a place on the field where parents and family members can take pictures with your senior.
Each senior will be given 15-minutes on the field from check-in to picture taking. Please honor this time in order to keep the number of people on the field to a safe capacity for all involved.
If you cannot make the date/time you have been assigned, please let me know ASAP. A few time slots will be available on Saturday, May 9th, from 10:30-12:00.
If your child will not be participating in this ceremony, please have your child notify their counselor ASAP.
Foley also said that the school will plan a graduation event in which all seniors and their families can meet on the field and celebrate their accomplishments should current circumstances change over the summer. “We just don’t want to miss the opportunity to provide something at this time.”
East Ellijay, Ga. – After the recent release from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announcing an extension of school closures, Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs offered an email for staff about the extension.
Downs said, “As you are aware, our schools will remain closed until at least April 26, 2020. This is an incredibly stressful time for everyone.”
Gilmer Schools originally closed until March 20, but mere days later, after an executive order from Kemp extended closures to March 31, Gilmer’s BOE went a step further extending it to April 3, 2020, butting up against their Spring Break, April 4 -12. Now, another order is extending it again.
Addressing concerns from students, parents, and citizens about upcoming events. Downs said that the board does not have answers for everything yet, but is working towards those answers while maintaining the current education cycle and Seamless Feeding Program for families.
Downs said, “I have received messages from students who miss their friends, have anxiety about their grades and graduation, and are worried about their own loved ones getting sick – all while still dealing with many non-coronavirus challenges in their lives. I have spoken to parents and caregivers who are worried about losing their jobs, paying rent, and providing 24/7 childcare for their children. I have heard from teachers and staff who have expressed how hard it has been to cope with the abrupt separation from their students while also dealing with their own family struggles. Sadly, things are likely to get even more challenging over the next several weeks. There are many questions about how extended school closures will affect school life like grades, promotion, prom, graduation, and so much more. We are working to develop the best answers possible to those questions.”
However, Downs went on to add a message of hope for staff. She thanked the educations staff, from teachers and administrators to office and support staff saying, “There is no doubt that we are in uncharted territory and an unprecedented time; however, fear will not take us anywhere. We need to be proactive and kind to one another as we stay as safe as possible. We are resilient people. We are all extremely proud of your commitment to our vision and mission during this most trying time.”
As the Superintendent, Downs said she was very proud of the teamwork and commitment being displayed not just to our school system, but to the community at large. She made special note of transportation and nutrition staff working in the Seamless Feeding Program.
Downs final note in the email came as a focus for the future:
Let us keep our current mission at the forefront of our minds:
1) Teach our students to the best of our ability—We will face challenges and things will not be perfect. As long as we are teaching to the best of our ability and circumstances, we will be successful.
2) Feed our students—Any hungry children that we might reach.
3) Do our part to “Flatten the Curve”—Work from home, social distance, and for those still reporting limit contact as much as possible.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer is continuing to change daily amid responses, suggestions, and instructions from state and national levels. The Board of Education is no different as they are developing several changes in their departments like transportation and nutrition as they prepare for the extended shutdown.
A few of those changes have come from established instructions since the beginning of the shutdown. Now, principals and schools administrators are expanding efforts to keep employees working and being paid despite the absence of students. The school system has already publicized efforts to keep teaching students during this time through paper packets in the lower grades and tablets and online learning for the upper grades.
Now, attention has fallen to the less publicized areas as the school attempts to expand its efforts to hourly employees. While the original response sent many hourly employees home, instead asking for volunteers to help support the initiatives like the school feeding program similar to Seamless Summer, now these instructions have changed. Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said that legal questions have been raised about allocating public tax funds to employees not working. As such, and upon further consultations with attorneys upon the subject, the schools are expanding efforts and using hourly stuff to reinforce these initiatives to support students outside of the classroom.
In a letter from Superintendent Downs to the staff of Gilmer Schools, she said, “We have received additional legal guidance from Harbin, Hartley and Hawkins in the last couple of days that impacts all of our staff as we look toward more long term closures. Legally, we must document hours to be able to pay hourly employees even during a closure of schools mandated by our Governor. Every staff member will be required to document hours worked. We are asking you for a little grace, patience and understanding as we make decisions throughout the next several days and weeks.”
However, this is not just one area as paraprofessionals, office staff, some nutrition staff, transportation staff, and other hourly workers employees that do not directly interact and teach students will be attending to new work and tasks no usually in their daily routine.
Downs also addressed concerned employees, families, or those that wish to stay home during the Coronavirus shutdown. Downs said that there will be work to be done from home, in isolated offices, or in other forms as assigned by each school’s administrators. Downs said, “There is stuff for people to do, but they are going to do it from home.”
Even those who are coming into the buildings will be working individually in areas that have been cleaned. Additionally, those who need to stay at home will take days of leave through a recent Georgia Act concerning these issues.
With the extra workers supporting the Seamless Feeding program, the schools have altered instructions on how they will be distributing the meals to students in the coming days. In an email released about the changes, Downs said, “The situation seems to be changing daily and we are striving to make the best decisions possible in the interest of student, staff, and community safety. We have no previous experience in this area and will most assuredly make some mistakes in the process. We will learn and grow together and be stronger as a result. All of our staff who are physically able, are working either teaching remotely or working to support our students. Our goal is to have only staff critical to serving and transporting meals, building maintenance, and limited technology staff to support student learning entering any of our buildings.”
She also relayed exactly how the schools will be changing and expanding the distribution to incorporate meals and paper assignment packets to students.
Beginning on Wednesday March 25th, buses depart schools at 11:00AM and run standard routes distributing food. This will allow meals to be distributed directly to the students; however, we will continue to keep our four busiest Seamless Feeding sites open from 11:30-1:00 in addition to these routes.
1) Tower Road
2) Mulberry Street Apartments
3) Ellijay United Methodist Church
4) Civic Center
Students in grades pre-K through 5 are working on paper assignments that were distributed on the last day of attendance for the first two weeks of closure. New updated packets will be distributed weekly through email, the meal distribution program, and designated pick up locations at the schools. Teachers of students in the elementary grades are also using online means to supplement the instruction. Students in grades 6-12 are assigned Chromebooks so that they can participate in virtual classes and interact with their teachers on a daily basis. For students in these upper grades without internet access, print resources will be distributed in the same manner as the curriculum packets for the lower grades.
GILMER, Ga. – According to a release from Gilmer County Schools, the system will shut down with school closed next week in the fallout from information and concerns over the Coronavirus in the county.
According to a public release from Gilmer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, the closure will last from Monday, March 16, 2020, through Friday, March 20, 2020.
The release states, “Our school district is committed to keeping our community informed about issues relating to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). There are no cases of COVID-19 at any Gilmer County school and currently there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in Gilmer County. Our schools are not closing Friday, March 13, 2020, as we need to allow time for students and staff to retrieve needed materials and technology to be prepared for this closure. We will use Digital Learning Days during this closure for 6th-12th grade and paper learning packets for Kindergarten-5th grade to continue teaching and learning.”
Students will be retrieving these materials tomorrow, March 13, in order to follow these instructions next week. The release acknowledges that some hardships will come from this closure but said the plans are being finalized at this time.
While the current announcement is just for the week listed, Downs confirmed that future closures could be possible based on the need saying, “The district will continually review conditions and publish updates. Should additional closures be necessary we will notify you as soon as possible.”
This closure will not just be for students, however. All Gilmer schools and offices will be closed during the week along with all activities including athletics and extracurriculars including GHSA (Georgia High Schools Association) events being cancelled, and additional closures could continue for these as well.
One point of note for testing, however, Downs said that, currently, SAT testing will still occur this Saturday, March 14, 2020.
With school closed, plans are being made to deep clean the schools and to provide meals in a similar manner to the Seamless Summer Program.
See the full release below:
GILMER, Ga. – Amid concerns from a positive case of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Canton, Georgia, and responses of a possible exposure in Pickens, Gilmer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs answered concerns today with a statement about Gilmer’s preparations.
The school system has established health safety protocols already in place but Downs addressed the issue saying, “The Gilmer County School district has not received any reports of COVID-19 cases or contact potential at this time; however, the landscape of this issue has been changing each day. In light of the rapidly changing nature of this issue, our safety team has been working with information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Department of Public Health (DPH), and the Georgia Department of Education (GADOE) to plan for possible scenarios.”
As the situation changes and new stories on the Coronavirus develop, Downs assured families that while there is no issue with the virus in Gilmer Schools, they are preparing in precaution at this time.
Downs said, “The district is diligently following the guidance of the CDC and DPH in our response to COVID-19 and will continue to be proactive in keeping our schools, buses, and other facilities clean by utilizing our protocols for health-related conditions. We are also modifying those protocols, when necessary, to include any updated guidance received from the CDC and/or DPH.”
As they do move forward with precautionary measures, Gilmer has one option that Downs pointed out through technology to answer such a need. Downs said “While we are hoping we will not face any closures in the near future, our curriculum and technology departments are working diligently to expedite our 1:1 computer program for 6-12th grade to facilitate online instructional opportunities and building take-home lessons for our elementary students should we face any closures in the future.”
The Board of Education does have their monthly meetings scheduled for next week and we could be hearing more on the Coronavirus as early as Monday’s, March 16, Work Session at 5:30 p.m.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – In a special called meeting in March, the Gilmer Board of Education approved their Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for Clear Creek Elementary School with Charles Black Construction Company.
The GMP is set at $15,910,671. The project is set to begin this spring as reported from the BOE’s February Meeting. According to reports, that date could be as early as late March or early April.
During their meeting, the board confirmed a few extra details including the use of the luxury vinyl tiles similar to those used in the high school. Despite being more expensive to install, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said it is more durable and doesn’t require the same waxing a buffing over summers and holidays that the older style of tiles required.
Some parts of the project will require the school system to follow up with certain internal projects like furnishings, technology, and security which are not a part of the GMP. Downs said the GMP is strictly for the construction of the facility.
As construction begins in the next coming weeks to continue over the summer, the Board of Education has said they will be hosting their groundbreaking ceremony soon. Additionally, the project is still not confirmed on the scale or need for adjustments to nearby county roads for the increase in traffic. However, the Board of Commissioners have held preliminary discussions about possible needs for turning lanes and road widening among others.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer Chamber is wasting no time in 2020 preparing for another “successful” year as President and CEO Paige Green called 2019.
During their annual meeting, the Chamber recounted many of their successes and honored members with the annual awards before looking to the future with induction of new ambassadors, the passing of the chairman’s gavel, and the new board.
The Chamber did have plenty to celebrate in 2019 according to, now Past-Chair, John Marshall who noted two major projects completed in 2019 when the Chamber cut the ribbon on their Downtown Welcome Center on the square in downtown Ellijay in March and also cut the ribbon on the new CORE (Collaboration On River’s Edge) Facility in July.
Both of these ventures have already seen large numbers of support and activity in 2019 alone with more than 5,500 people visiting the Welcome Center. Additionally, the CORE Facility caught support and acknowledgement from the state the same day it cut the ribbon as they were awarded $425,000 grant for future operation of the facility.
However, these were not the only projects and ribbon cuttings in the year. Marshall went on to note the Chamber cut the ribbon and celebrated the opening of 28 new businesses and welcomed 110 new members to the Chamber.
Also recognizing the successes of 2019, the Chamber awarded several awards including a brand new award that saw its first recipient ever at the banquet meeting.
The Chamber awarded Member of the Year to Tiffany Camp Watson. The Chamber said, “Member of the Year is an award given to Chamber members who truly go above and beyond in service to our Chamber and the community as a whole. Tiffany Camp Watson with Endless Ink exemplifies this spirit wholly. Whether it is serving as a Chamber Ambassador, rallying our community to care for those in need, or advocating for causes that matter to her, Tiffany puts her everything into all she does. Congratulations to Tiffany for being named the 2019 Member of the Year!”
For 2019’s Business of the Year, the banquet saw Chattahoochee Technical College receive the award. The Chamber said, “Chattahoochee Technical College’s investment in Gilmer County and commitment to equipping Gilmer citizens to enter the workforce is something that we are so thankful for. We consider this awesome institution of energized individuals a true partner in developing Gilmer’s workforce. Congratulations to Chattahoochee Tech for being named the 2019 Business of the year!”
Awarding the Citizen of the Year award highlights one specific citizen and their accomplishments in service through the year. This year’s recpient was Merle Naylor. The Chamber said, “Congratulations to our 2019 Citizen of the Year Merle Naylor! With decades of service to Gilmer County, we can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award. Thank you, Merle, for all that you have done for our county and all the children and families who call Gilmer home. Welcome to the COTY family!”
Usually, these three awards are the major awards the Chamber gives for the year. However, 2020 saw the introduction of something new. A brand new award honoring an especially dedicated community member with exceptional genorosity in their communal efforts. In it’s first year ever, the award was given to Dr. Shanna Downs, Superintendent of Gilmer County Schools. The Chamber said, “This year, we unveiled a new award: The Community Champion award. This award is intended to recognize an overall commitment to Gilmer County through collaborative efforts, philanthropy, investment or humanitarian efforts. These four categories that the Community Champion Award encompass come together in the commitment of it’s Inaugural recipient: Dr. Shanna Downs. Since becoming Superintendent of the Gilmer County Charter School System, Dr. Downs has shown an intense commitment not only to her staff and students, but also to our community at large. Thanks to Dr. Downs’ tireless work and dedication, Gilmer County will have a steady pipeline of hardworking and highly-qualified citizens who are ready to pour back into our community for years to come. Congratulations, Dr. Downs!”
Transitioning from 2019 to 2020, the Chamber introduced new Ambassador, a new board, and a new Chairman. During the meeting, Past-Chair John Marshall introduced and then officially passed the Chairman’s gavel to the new Chairman, Chris Wang, agent for State Farm Insurance. Marshall passed the gavel saying, “Chris Wang is wise beyond his years, he has a servant’s heart, and he is brimming with innovation and creative ideas to continue to move our Chamber and community forward. We are excited about the future with Chris at the helm.”
Additionally, the Chamber later took to social media welcome Wang saying, “We are so excited to have our 2020 Chairman of the Board, Chris Wang, on our team. Chris brings energy and enthusiasm to everything he does and always gives 100%. Chris has been actively involved with the Chamber since he started his business here several years ago and has been investing in our community from day one. Chris has previously participated in Leadership Gilmer, the Ambassador program, and was named the 2017 Member of the Year. Chris, we are so excited to have you on board and can’t wait to see what you do this year!”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs has confirmed that they have been affected by a bus recall on Thomas Built Buses.
Downs stated that 17 of system’s 78 buses (21.79 percent) have been affected by the recall and are awaiting a field repair saying that the current understanding is “Thomas Bus Company plans to visit districts and fix the issue onsite, but dates and times are not available yet.”
According to documents sent to Gilmer County Schools, this voluntary recall is over the cushioning placed around the seats edges along the frame. The cushioning does not meet the knee impact requirements of NHTSA’s (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 222.
The document stated “During testing for compliance to FMVSS 222; section S188.8.131.52 it had been determined that the resulting force at certain locations in the proximity of the seat frame exceeded the specified requirement. Following these performance requirements, this recall has been initiated to address and remedy the affected population of Syntec seats as specified in the standard.”
They do report that all other areas do meet the requirements. Additionally, Thomas Built Buses state in the document that the NHTSA has not made a “do not drive” warning with this recall.
According to an acknowledgment letter from the NHTSA, the affected products in the Bus Recall include:
THOMAS BUILT BUSES/MINOTOUR/2014-2020
THOMAS BUILT BUSES/SAF-T-LINER C2/2014-2020
THOMAS BUILT BUSES/SAF-T-LINER EFX/2014-2020
THOMAS BUILT BUSES/SAF-T-LINER HDX/2014-2020
Thomas Built Buses states, “No seats with 3 point seat belts or integrated child restraints are affected.”
The buses are moving forward with field repairs to correct this issue by adding “additional impact absorption material” to the back of these seats. According to the NHTSA, “The recall is expected to begin December 2, 2019.”
With the small area affected by the recall and considering the NHTSA not issuing a “do not drive” warning, Downs said that the school system has little choice but to continue to use the buses for now. Affecting 17 out of the 78 buses in the school system’s fleet, this represents over a fifth of the entire buses available in Gilmer County School System being listed under this recall.