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 S126.96.36.199 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.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer citizens are finally getting a first look at designs and plans for the newest addition to the Gilmer County Charter School System.
While the plans are available to the public for viewing, Gilmer County School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs made sure to note that the plans are still in their preliminary stage. These plans can and probably will change in the coming months as the Board, Administration, Breaux & Associations Architects, and Charles Black Construction Company alter and address issues during the project.
During their recent meeting, the Board of Education noted that the plans for the new school were a “compact design” based on visits and analysis of another school they visited in March. The compact design is helpful with the school’s position as the Board wants to take advantage of the higher ground at the location.
The green line in the plans indicates a hill that will be cut and “tabletopped.” This allows the school to sit on earth that the Breaux & Associates Architects representative said is already “compacted by nature,” instead of sitting of fill dirt or looser foundations that might cause differential settlements.
The compact design will only cover 86,000 square feet in the school building alone, with a 212 car parking lot and space for bus traffic, playgrounds, and extra space unused in the current plan.
The third page shows the interior layout of classrooms with the central “core” being facilities including the cafeteria, gym, media center, offices, and more. Additionally, the architects have already left space on the ends of the wings for further expansion.
Additional design points are yet to be finalized, but the architects pointed out considerations for stonework on the exterior and skylights in the central area of the four-classroom “pods.”
Current plans are to finish designs by the end of 2019 in order to bid and begin construction in early 2020. They also indicated that they hope to have construction done and the school in use by the 2021-22 school year.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Approaching the coming school year, the Gilmer Board of Education is covering last minute changes to the coming year with their July Meeting.
Receiving some good news, Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs informed the board that while the State originally told them they would not be receiving bond money for bus purchases, they will now be receiving enough for two more buses.
Instead of increasing the planned four buses to six now, Downs recommended the board continue with four bus purchases using two from the state bond money and two from the school systems ESPLOST.
Reducing the ESPLOST purchase from four to two, according to Downs, will allow the BOE to save more money to put towards their construction projects like Clear Creek Elementary School.
As of now, the BOE approved maintaining four bus purchases and they are currently leaning towards continuing to purchase gas buses instead of Diesel.
The board also had last minute changes to Personnel as some resignations and staffing coming even between the Work Session and Regular Meeting in July.
Dr. Downs said the last minute changes are not unusual during this time of the year, even coming in so close to that start of the new school year. The BOE approved Personnel unanimously.
Additionally, the board’s agreement with the Boys and Girls Club of Gilmer was renewed with Boardmember Jim Parmer clarifying that the agreement covered changes to the systems elementary school redistricting done earlier this year.
The School System, said Downs, had already thought about these needs and addressed them in the agreement. The unanimous approval will continue with the school providing transportation to the Boys and Girls Club.
Installation of the new Centigex Security systems is also moving forward with final challenges coming through incorporating the different intercom systems in the different schools. However, Downs told the board that the new badges are being distributed and are already set for codes to instantly alert proper authorities to the level of incidents.
Downs also assured the board that she fully expected the installations to be resolved before school starts.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Despite a delay preventing them from announcing the millage rate at their work session earlier this week, the Gilmer County Board of Education announced and approved advertisement of the 2019 Millage Rate on July 25, 2019.
Looking at the tax digest representing a 3.33 percent increase in the net digest, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs recommended the Board stated to the Board, “After accounting for the reassessment of real property and the inflationary growth, the calculation of our 2019 Rollback Millage Rate is projected to be 14, 248 mills.”
Board Member Jim Parmer questioned how major the difference would be between the current and rollback rates. Downs answered him saying, “Not much.”
With the Superintendents recommendation, the motion to acceptance of the Rollback rate was unanimously approved for advertisement.
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.
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.”
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.”
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. – Walk into a restaurant and check the health scores, chances are, you won’t see a lot of 100’s. Sure, you will, hopefully, see a lot of high 90’s scores, but not that elusive 100.
This week, however, the Gilmer County School’s Nutrition Services not only managed to score a 100 in the latest health inspection, but they found that score in every school within the system.
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ELLIJAY, Ga. – With a few changes in details sparked from a recent state committee wanting state control over calendars, the Gilmer BOE is moving forward with its annual community vote.
Citizens are encouraged to visit the Gilmer County Charter School System website in order to participate in a vote over six possible calendars created by the schools in our county.
As educators and administrators have spent the last few months considering and creating the calendars up for the vote, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said they have actually identified which school created the calendar this year.
She said in February’s work session that she hopes this furthers peoples’ understanding that these options are not just thrown together, but planned and meticulously built by the schools for the school’s and student’s needs.
Downs is asking citizens to “Please review each of the calendars carefully, vote for the calendar of your choice, and remind others to vote as well.” The survey will be posted until March 8. After that, the results will be presented at the March 18 work session.
North Georgia – According to a recent article by the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC), a senate committee has recommended longer summers for Georgia Students.
Instead of quoting test scores, educators, or studies about student learning, the committee suggested a school year starting the first Monday of September, and ending around June 1.
The basis for this suggestion? Economic analysis.
According to the AJC’s article, the committee was devoid of teachers, school leaders, or PTA representatives. Their suggestion bypassed academics and said that the longer summer, roughly three months, would help tourism grow and increase summer workforce.
Taking a local response from Gilmer County Charter Schools System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs and Fannin County School System Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, the consensus seems to be that these systems are appalled at the thought of economic interests waylaying the education system in favor on money.
Dr. Downs told FYN that shortening the year would not only decrease the breaks that the local school system has in place for students, but would make testing in the first semester almost impossible. She noted an immense testing impact if students were to go through first semester and Christmas, only to then come back in January for end of course testing.
A sentiment that was separately echoed by Dr. Gwatney who also noted how much work these school systems put into their calendars, over 6 months of effort and staff input are taken by each of these two school systems before a final handful of calendars are presented for community input in the Board of Education. Finally, the Board approves a final Calendar in the spring for the coming school year.
Additionally, Dr. Gwatney pointed out how far the effect of these calendars reach as he also brought in fellow administrators to speak on the issue.
Fannin County Schools Deputy Superintendent Betsy Hyde(heading up the District’s Charter), Fannin County Nutrition Director Candace Sisson (also the Calendar Committee Coordinator), and Fannin County Assistant Superintendent Robert Ensley (Administration and Personnel) all agreed that stepping into the local schools in such a way without any representation from schools on the committee was not the way the state should be looking at the issue. From the time spent working on the calendar to allowing each individual county to cater to their student’s and county’s needs, these representatives of Fannin County exerted the necessity of individualized calendars.
Downs also noted this importance in Gilmer County as she noted that each school presents its own calendar that is put together by teachers and administrators and then put out for citizen input. Noting the influence of educators of the process, Downs said she was against the thought of a committee placing importance of economy over education.
While both these counties gain a lot from the tourism industry, they annually balance their own festivals, events, and economies against the education calendar. Local people provide local input from local expertise as they continually deal with this problem.
Though the recommendation is non-binding, it leaves citizens asking the question of how much control the state should have and exert over local governments. Though not directly related, they still recall the Governors “Opportunity School Districts” campaign in recent years. A campaign shot down at the polls. If moved forward and put in place, regulations on the school year may shift discussions from the economic benefit to the state as a whole and focus solely on the overreach of State Government into local communities.
According to the AJC, the committee includes chair and state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, Deputy Commissioner of Tourism for the Department of Economic Development Kevin Langston, Georgia Chamber of Commerce designee Michael Owens, Director of the Georgia Travel Association Kelsey Moore, Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus Jay Markwalter, former state Director of Community Affairs Camila Knowles, State Board of Education member Scott Johnson and Grier Todd, chief operating officer at Lake Lanier Islands Resort.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – As the Gilmer County Board of Education went through usual approvals for administration in January for the coming school year, an unusual take on the votes came as Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs said she was requested to go through approvals one at a time instead of all together.
Those individual votes came so a no vote could be given to Gilmer High School Principal Carla Foley. She was approved in a 3-2 decision with Tom Ocobock and Ronald Watkins as the dissenting votes. FYN later asked these two why they voted no. However, they simply commented that they had their reasons.
Watkins specifically said, “Hopefully, things will straighten up and next year will be a yes vote.” He did note simply that he wasn’t satisfied with the position, declining to explain further.
Ocobock did agree that he wanted next year to be a yes vote, but also declined further comment.
One other dissension came with the Central Administration positions. As Bob Sosebee was recommended for Director of Facilities and Transportation, Ocobock spoke in the meeting saying, “I’m giving him the yes vote, but I want to see marked improvement in maintenance on these schools in this year.”
Ocobock said he has seen trash and alluded to more as he repeated that he wanted a marked improvement.
With these approvals of administration, the Board will move forward next month with recommendations for staff and contracts for the coming school year.