Gilmer BOE recognized as Quality Board by GSBA

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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga, – Gilmer Schools are celebrating this week as the Gilmer County Board of Education has been awarded the designation of 2021 Quality Board by the Georgia School Board Association (GSBA).

According to the GSBA, the Board Recognition Program is a 3 tier process to achieve the highest level in board governance. The 3 recognition levels are Quality, Distinguished and Exemplary with Exemplary the highest level. GSBA developed this program to reflect the state standards, which offers school boards additional ways to increase their effectiveness. The State Board of Education developed the state standards for governance that form the foundation for GSBA’s awards and recognition program.

Quality

Gilmer Schools Board of Education, from left to right, Michael Parks, Joe Pflueger, Chairman Ronald Watkins, Vice-Chair Doug Pritchett, and Michael Bramlett.

Recognition as a Quality Board requires board members to adhere to specific training requirements and standards of performance. Gilmer Schools said that as a part of the state recognition, the GSBA will be honoring the recipients at the 2021 GSBA/GSSA Annual Conference in Atlanta.

In conjunction with the board attending the annual conference, they also select board members as representatives to attend legal conferences to provide input on state policies and other issues. These are only a couple of the gatherings that the board does as a part of the GSBA. The state requires training, but to achieve each status of recognition in the GSBA, each increasing level requires additional training time.

GCS Superintendent, Dr. Brian Ridley stated “I am very happy to be working with this outstanding board. In my short time with them, I have been very impressed with their willingness to work together as a team for the benefit of our students and I am very proud of their accomplishment.”

In addition to meeting state goals in training and budgeting, the board also must incorporate additional state guidelines into their system. Quality Boards have and utilize a strategic plan while incorporating the Georgia Vision Project, adhering to a minimum of 5 of those state imposed guidelines. Additionally, the GSBA’s website states that the Board must comply with standards of all selected accreditation associations applicable.

This Board Recognition Program requires a high level of commitment from school boards and individual members. The GSBA states, “The ultimate goal is to provide a platform based on governance standards which challenges boards, but creates a culture of success for students and communities.”

This is not the first time that the Gilmer Board of Education has achieved this status, but with annual renewals the board must qualify for the status every year.

Sheriff’s K9 units Milo and Novak receive new protective vests in donation

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – “Invaluable.” This is the word that Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson used to describe the K9 units when they are needed for work that he calls “apprehension.” But even that is only a third of the value that he says the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office receives from K9 units Milo and Novak.

These are two of the Sheriff’s Office three K9 Units, the third being Arlo. Milo and Novak are more advanced in their training, though. These dogs are used daily in patrols and services by the Sheriff’s Office as Nicholson told FYN they are multi-purpose dogs. In addition to apprehension of suspects in dangerous situations, both dogs are used to detect or “sniff out” drugs and also to help in searches of lost people.

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Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office K9 unit Milo

With so much of Gilmer County being forested areas, and with the Cohutta Wilderness in the county, tracking can prove to be yet another “invaluable” skill for the Sheriff’s Office.

A state organization, the Georgia Police K9 Foundation (GPK9F) has vested 112 Georgia Law Enforcement K9s within the state through its program. Now, these two dogs have been selected to receive new protective vests to wear in their service. The vests are designed to be worn as body armor for the K9 units when engaging in their work while maintaining a lighter weight.

According to LOF Defence Systems, the retailer for these items, the basic “K9 Streetfighter” vests retail for a base price of $550 each with upgrades costing more. However, GPK9F are donating the vests to Gilmer’s K9 Units, made possible through the generous donation by Kelly Bostick in memory of Richard E. Bostick, Jr.

According to a release by GPK9F, “What is unique about these K9 protective vests is they have a soft body armor specifically constructed to be lightweight. This helps protect our Law Enforcement K9s from becoming exhausted from heavier vests, which may cause overheating. In Georgia, heat indexes can reach over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes. Keeping a K9s body temperature down is crucial while they are working to avoid heat exhaustion or even a heat stroke. The fabric in the LOF Streetfighter vest helps regulate the K9’s body temperature keeping them comfortable and cool and are meant to be worn for entire shifts so that our four legged officers are protected at all times. K9 Officers unconditionally run into dangerous situations, regardless of whether or not a suspect could be armed with a lethal weapon. These vests are bullet resistant and shield the K9’s vital organs during any apprehension that may involve tracking and even, detaining a fleeing suspect before an officer can take full control. The Georgia Police K9 Foundation could not be more excited knowing we have assisted in the protection of our K9 officers against work related injuries or worse yet, death.”

LOF Defence Systems uses a special fabric to help with the cooling system as well. They state, “The StreetFighter vest also contains an inner layer of Outlast Thermal Management Systems fabric to prevent excessive heat soaking and to help regulate your K9’s body temperature keeping them comfortable and cool.”

K9

Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office K9 unit Novak

According to Kyle Briley, Founder and President of Georgia Police K9 Foundation, “Our organization is honored to have these two heroes protected in memory of Richard E. Bostick, Jr. It is through generous contributions and support that we are able to make a difference.“

 

While these K9 units are the ones receiving the vests, it is their handlers who may be more pleased with the upgrades. Deputy David Ridings is the handler for Milo. Ridings did, at one time, serve as handler for Novak who is now in service with Corporal Frank Parks. Parks is a familiar name of recent weeks in Gilmer County after he made an arrest during a traffic stop, discovering over a pound and a half of Meth.

K9 Milo is a three-year-old Belgium Malinois. K9 Novak is a six-year-old Belgium Malinois.

GPK9F also stated in their release, “As a foundation, we want to especially thank Kelly Bostick for the generous donation in memory of Richard E. Bostick, junior to protect both K9 Novak and K9 Milo. We thank each sponsor, donor and supporter of our mission.”

According to Nicholson, the K9 program utilizes both Milo and Novak for detection, tracking, and apprehension, making them the prime candidates for the vests. They go through weekly continuous training under the guidance of their handlers, but Nicholson says the dogs do periodically attend larger training seminars as well. Eventually, he hopes to have the agency’s third dog, Arlo, trained and ready for everything that these two do as well. While Arlo is trained for detection and tracking, training and certifications for apprehension are expected to come at a later date.

Until then, it appears that Novak and Milo are the frontline in K9 unit operations in Gilmer County utilizing their new protective vests.

Georgia Police K9 Foundation (GPK9F) is an All Volunteer 501(c)3 non-profit, which helps raise awareness within the State and the local communities of the infinite contributions made by the Police K9s and how they save lives to make our communities safe. Our goal is to protect as many of Georgia’s four legged officers by providing them with safety equipment, such as, bullet-proof vests, heat alarm systems, and Naloxone (Narcan Kits) in the event a K9 is directly exposed to any opioids during a search and seizure. Once a K9 has retired, the Handler will adopt their K9 partner and best friend. In the absence of State or local retirement benefits for the K9s, GPK9F will help provide retirement support (food and medical care) for the retired law enforcement K9s, who have unconditionally served their communities for years. To date, the Georgia Police K9 Foundation has assisted over 1,000 Georgia K9s by provided 112 K9 Protection Vests, 45 Heat Alarms, 200+ Training equipment, seminars, and trainings were supplied to numerous K9 teams across the State of Georgia, and assisted 100+ Retired K9s. Read their full press release here.

State Superintendent Richard Woods visits Ellijay Elementary

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Group at Ellijay Elementary

ELLIJAY, Ga. – On a tour through several schools in North Georgia, the State Superintendent Richard Woods visited Ellijay Elementary School last week to tour the school and speak with administrators on the beginning of the new school term considering much of the changes and challenges this year.

State Superintendent Richard Woods speaks with administrators at Ellijay Elementary during a tour of schools as they return to class.

State Superintendent Richard Woods speaks with administrators at Ellijay Elementary during a tour of schools as they return to class.

Woods arrived at Ellijay Elementary late in the day to see how the school handles transportation, social distancing, and cleanliness and prevention practices during that process.

Met by school administrators and Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, Woods toured part of the school and spoke about the challenges that schools are seeing as they return to class. Through the line-up, car window tags, and computer system for parents picking up students, Woods saw the stream-lined system the Ellijay Elementary uses to identify parents, call for the student, and allow students into cars one at a time with space between.

In addition to this, Woods viewed several classes lining up for buses. Through the redistricting that Gilmer did last year, less buses come through the elementary school and reach homes far faster. This means less time on the bus, and less time spent with students from other schools.

As a part of the loading process, school personnel and the bus drivers spray sanitizer on students hands before the enter the buses and use assigned seating for students on the bus. Administrators also told Woods that, when possible, family members are kept together on the bus as well.

Personnel and Bus Drivers spray hand sanitizer on students hands as they line up to get on buses at the end of the school day.

Personnel and Bus Drivers spray hand sanitizer on students hands as they line up to get on buses at the end of the school day.

Woods also asked about the sports program at stadiums with schools returning to football. Dr. Downs replied saying they would be requesting those displaying symptoms stay home, and would be encouraging social distancing with fans. Yet, they did not want to distribute limited tickets to families as they had dealt with similar issues in previous years at graduation.

Continuing along, Woods has been asking the schools he visits how he and the state could help.

Dr. Downs noted that teachers in the state are not considered essential employees by the governor. That moniker means something as teachers who may have a possible exposure through detailed contact tracing or similar means are being sent home to quarantine for 14 days. Gilmer has had issue here as people who aren’t sick are being forced to go home. Some flexibility in the area could mean a world of difference.

Dr. Downs said that someone who may have had a possible contact could come to work with an N95 mask and fall under daily monitoring and observation. This way, at the first sign of any issue, they could be sent home then, but many teachers have been identified as a possible contact and gone through quarantine without ever getting sick or showing any signs. Downs added that those who feel the need to quarantine could still follow that procedure.

Dr. Shanna Downs, Lauree Pierce, Richard Woods, and Melinda Fonteboa pose for a photo during Woods visit to Ellijay Elementary School.

Dr. Shanna Downs, Lauree Pierce, Richard Woods, and Melinda Fonteboa pose for a photo during Woods visit to Ellijay Elementary School.

Downs clarified that they don’t want to put sick people in school, but rather avoid stigma and over-reactions to extended contact tracing that is sending a large number of people home and putting a strain on the school system which is struggling to provide substitute teachers. This comes from a dwindling pool of substitutes as those “at-risk” have decided not to substitute for the schools this year.

As the visit neared its end, Woods said he understands that every county is adjusting to their own needs and a “one-size-fits-all approach” would never have worked. But he made the visits to see the schools and hear their needs.

Woods is set to return to the state department and share all that he saw and learned from his tour. He has said that he wants the state to continue supporting the counties in their individual responses.

Woods said, “Please let us know how we can help and things that we can do to support what you all are doing… Success happens her.”

BOC to sell old Planning and Zoning Building

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Downsizing its facilities due to moving offices around, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is now looking to sell their building on the square that has been used recently as the Planning and Zoning office.

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Gilmer’s former Planning and Zoning building is located in the square immediately south of the courthouse.

The property disposal came before the commissioners in a Special Called meeting under an agenda item that encompassed both the “disposal of the property” as well as engaging a real estate agent.

Gilmer Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris stated that engaging a real estate broker will begin with a bid process to the board to find an agent to use in the process. However, engaging the bid should follow broad language on usage. County Attorney David Clark encouraged this option of specificty to allow the Commissioners options down the road. He stated, “That gives you the option to consider it, but you don’t have to use the agent with the additional piece of property.”

This means that the county could use the agent to sell the Planning and Zoning building, but wouldn’t have to go through the agent for every piece of property that may come up.

Paris also clarified further saying that if they get another piece of property they need to sell, but wish to just auction it off, they could do this. However, if they do wish to go through the real estate agent again, they would not need to complete the bid process again at that time.

Having the bid process set one agent into this position, the county is also looking to only extend the contract by a specific time period. After that time they would need to rebid the services of real estate agent. With that in mind, Clark also suggested the contract would terminate after a year unless the agent was amid a selling process at the time.

The final decision came through two motions, the first came to take bids for a real estate agent to handle disposing of county property while reserving rights to dispose of property in other ways. The second came to dispose of the building previously referred to as the Planning and Zoning building. Both were approved by the two present commissioners, with Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson absent.

Along with the disposal in this meeting, another issue arose that could become a major issue. While the office of the Board of Commissioners is attempting to satisfy requirements for a DOT audit with regards to Gilmer’s Airport Professional Services Agreement. According to Paris, Georgia’s Department of Transportation is going through an audit process.

As such, Gilmer has used grants they have used at the airport from the FAA. Part of those grants cover engineering requirements. The state’s audit saw a request for the master contract with the engineering firm from Gilmer County. Paris said that the county didn’t have a contract in 2015, but the county specified it was to be done under the contract of 2012. However, in 2012, the engineering firm, Croy Engineering, signed the contract and sent it to the county. The county at the time tabled the item to investigate. However, the county never revisited the contract.

With no contract, Gilmer County could be held responsible for reimbursement of all the engineering costs since 2012. Clark explained that the county has tried other options to resolve the issue, but have been rejected. Now, the county will authorize the chairman to sign the contract with a retroactive effective date to satisfy the needs.

The county has been operating under the contract over the years, but has simply not signed the contract.

Gilmer Schools asks for opinion on exempting Georgia from Testing and CCRPI

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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.

BOE enters July without Budget as they await State information

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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.

Lieutenants offer details on National Guard visit to Parkside

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Soldiers and Reservists from the National Guard met in Ellijay today as part of a running program from the state to help clean, sanitize, and train staff at Parkside Ellijay.

Parkside Ellijay Skille Nursing Care is one of the facilities being cleaned and sanitized by Georgia’s stations of the National Guard.

The facility is only one of many that Lieutenant Jacob Mizell of Bravo Company said his team has and will visit during the Coronavirus outbreak. Receiving the call only last week, these reservists were in action in a day.

Today, they went into Parkside Ellijay spraying down, disinfecting, and sanitizing hallways, railings, counters, and other high touch areas. But they also visited each of the 100 rooms to disinfect areas of the residents’ rooms as well. Lt. Mizell said they were working with the owner of Parkside to accomplish whatever the need dictates.

Lt. Mizell said, “Their staff can’t really stay at home in isolation because these facilities need their staff here to make sure that their residents get medication and food and any sort of care that they need. So, we’re doing our part to help the state, to help the community, and to help the citizens of Georgia.”

Lt. Nathan Ballew, left, and Lt. Jacob Mizell, right, of the National Guard, prepare for cleaning and sanitization of the Parkside Ellijay facility on April 7, 2020.

Lieutenant Nathan Ballew said the operations is a little bit of both cleaning and education at the facility. The guard is doing the actual cleaning, but they are also educating the staff on procedures, cleaning, decontamination suits, and mask usage. A process that owner Michael Feist says is more than welcome as the facility wants to take all the help for its residents as possible.

The teams come through the facility with minimal impact on residents but slight impact to staff, who may have to avoid certain areas or hallways for several minutes during the process.

Depending on the facility size, the process could take two to three hours, and this team that came to Ellijay is based in Canton, reaching out and visiting facilities in a radius around their station. They hit two facilities each day, but currently have no plans or orders to return to facilities after completion.

The National Guard is working with local facilities like Parkside Ellijay and with Public Safety agencies to clean and support community efforts during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Lt. Mizell said his unit has already visited eight facilities in their current tour. But their unit has two teams operating from Canton. Each team has 15 total soldiers.

Lt. Ballew said they are just a small part of the National Guard that is mobilized right now.

Lt. Ballew went on to add that he has personally been a part of responses for hurricanes and other disasters, but “It’s very similar because it’s just maintaining that flexibility to do whatever the state needs for us to help. That’s one of the most important parts of maintaining a National Guard.”

“We’re proud to admit that we have no cases. Nobody has tested positive and nobody is showing symptoms in the entire building. Nor have they shown since the beginning of this epidemic.” says Feist.

Lt. Nathan Ballew, left, and Lt. Jacob Mizell, right, of the National Guard, speak with members of the press about their presence in Ellijay and their orders to help in the facility.

More than just the National Guard’s efforts, Parkside has made major changes in recent months including an outside chair and window visits for family as no visitors are allowed inside the building. Though they have cancelled some events, social interactions are still continuing through events like hallway long bingo nights and turn-based visits to the courtyard and bird feeders.

Parkside has halted renovations since the beginning of the epidemic and has even worked alongside public safety for potential plans for unused medical space should a need arise. They also maintain a rolling updated training regimen for staff on infection control and just completed a new update in recent months before the outbreak. Education and training are also continuing with the Guard during today’s visit as time permits.

The mission isn’t just to sanitize and clean, but to educate, according to the two Lieutenants who reiterated that they wanted citizens to know that the process is about “flattening the curve.” A phrase many have heard in the media. Providing a service is what guardsmen sign up for as Lt. Ballew and Lt. Mizell said they are here to help.

County Approves Second Amendment Sanctuary

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Officially, Gilmer County has declared itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary. With the urging of citizens and submitted petitions to the county, the vote came unanimously in support of a resolution declaring the official adoption of this moniker of Second Amendment Sanctuary.

County Commissioner Charlie Paris stated during the meeting, “This is, essentially, the very same resolution that was presented to us initially. We’ve just had two or three very minor, one-word type changes.”

Jason Williamson speaks to to the Board of Commissioners about the Second Amendment Sanctuary at Thursday Night's, February 13. 2020, meeting.

Jason Williamson speaks to to the Board of Commissioners about the Second Amendment Sanctuary at Thursday Night’s, February 13. 2020, meeting.

The minor changes were not unexpected as even Jason Williams, one of the initiators of the agenda item and the one who submitted the collected petition signatures to the county, told FYN last week that he expected the County Attorney, David Clark, to have a few such changes for legal wordings or clarifications.

Applause came from the crowd as the motion and second came and was finalized by a yes vote from all three commissioners for the resolution to support the second amendment in Gilmer County.

The county has approved a resolution at this time, but said they would look an actual ordinance change in time. Williamson previously said that an ordinance change is what specifically he wanted as it is harder to take out or change than a resolution.

Stay with FYN as we delve into the citizens comments and responses to the approval along with the actual resolution wording over the next few days.

Gilmer wrestling sees 10 boys, five girls guarantee state spots

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Ten members of the Gilmer boys wrestling team are earned spots as guaranteed qualifiers for the state tournament at the Class 4A A Sectional Tournament on Feb. 7-8 at Lanier High in Sugar Hill.

The Bobcats had two wrestlers take the top overall spot in the tournament.

At 132 pounds, Brock Sumner placed first after winning four matches by decision. In the first round, Sumner won 12-9; in the quarterfinals, Sumner won 4-1; in the semifinals, Sumner won 6-2; and he rounded out the tournament by winning the final match by a 2-0 decision.

Caleb Waddell, defending 170-pound state champion, took first place in the same weight class. Waddell won matches by pin, including winning the quarterfinal match in 32 seconds and the final match by 1 minute, 3 seconds.

Three wrestlers placed second for the Bobcats.

At 120 pounds, Lucas Lopez won his quarterfinal match by pin at 2:49 after a first-round bye. He then won his semifinal match before falling in the finals.

Diego Jacinto, at 138 pounds, placed second after winning his quarterfinal match by a 3-2 decision and the semifinal match by pin at 4:53.

In the heavyweight division, Jacob Cruz placed second at 285 pounds. Cruz, who had a first-round bye, won his quarterfinal match by pin at 1:13 and his semifinal match by pin at 5:27.

Five members of the Gilmer wrestling squad placed third at the sectional tournament to earn a spot in the state tournament.

Gustavo Morales, in the 106-pound bracket, won his first match by pin at 1:12 before falling in his second. In the consolation bracket, Morales won four straight matches, including a win by a 9-3 decision, a win by pin at 2:13, and a win by pin in 14 seconds to place third.

At 113 pounds, Walter Lopez won his first three matches, the first by a 5-2 decision, the second by pin at 1:06, and the third by pin at 4:47, before falling in the semifinals. In the consolation bracket, Lopez won by pin at 31 seconds and pin at 3:25 to place third.

Abel Jacinto, at 160 pounds, also placed third. He won his first two matches by pin at 3:12 and a 5-1 decision before losing. In the consolation bracket, he won by a 3-1 decision and a 6-3 decision to take third.

Dylan Galloway, at 195 pounds, won his first two matches by pin before falling and heading to the consolation bracket. There, he won by pin at 1:45 and pin at 3:25 to place third.

Finally, Samuel Tercero, at 220 pounds, also placed third. After a first-round bye, Tercero won his quarterfinal match by pin at 3:18 before falling in the semifinals. In the consolation bracket, Tercero won by a 6-2 decision before winning the third-place match.

For the Gilmer girls wrestling squad, three members placed first, two placed second, three placed third, one placed fourth, and one placed fifth at the sectional tournament.

In the 112-A bracket, Laura Tercero took home first place, while in the 162-pound bracket, Francisca Lopez also placed first. At 152 pounds, Karina Montaya-Gonzale placed first.

Hannah Mayo, at 142 pounds, placed second in the tournament, as did Maribel Perez-Lopez at 197 pounds.

At 132 pounds, Anna Waddell placed third, while Noemi Torres did the same at 152 pounds and Claudia Zilke followed suite at 172 pounds.

In the 122-A bracket, Ange Davis came in fourth, while Valley Wofford placed fifth in the 102-pound bracket.

The top-two finishers at each girls weight class punched a ticket to the state wrestling tournament, meaning Laura Tercero, Mayo, Montaya-Gonzale, Francisca Lopez, and Perez-Lopez will be wrestling for state titles.

The state wrestling tournament is set for Feb. 13-15 at the Macon Centreplex in Macon.

Gilmer names Jones as 2020 STAR Student

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer High School has named Nathan Daniel Jones, 18, as the school’s 2020 PAGE STAR Student. Jones has subsequently selected Dr. Renee Hoard, a Mathematics teacher at GHS, as his STAR Teacher.

GHS 2020 PAGE STAR Student Nathan Jones

Nathan Daniel Jones, 18, has been named as Gilmer High School’s 2020 PAGE STAR Student.

Sponsored in Gilmer by the Ellijay Lions Club, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators’ (PAGE) program for Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) honors seniors in schools. To be nominated, a senior must have “the highest score on a single test date on the SAT and be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average.”

“We are very proud of Mr. Jones and Dr. Hoard and the academic excellence they exemplify at Gilmer High,” said GHS Principal Carla Foley.

Nathan is the son of Charlie and Starla Jones of Ellijay. He had Dr. Hoard as his teacher for Algebra II Honors, AP Statistics, and SAT/ACT Test Prep. Jones added that Dr. Hoard also helped him as he began sending off applications and preparing for college. Jones confirmed that he will be attending Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology) this fall.

While he has not decided on a major yet, Jones says he wants to pursue Math in some way in his degree. He said he finds a special satisfaction with math and he “just feels it.” His notion was echoed by Dr. Hoard who said she has seen him figuring out some math that even some professionals have had trouble with.

GHS 2020 PAGE STAR Teacher Dr. Renee Hoard

Dr. Renee Hoard has been named STAR Teacher for three of the last four years at GHS.

Dr. Hoard further commented on Jones’ award saying, “The best thing is he is just an all-around academic. You say he is a math person but he is excellent in all of his subjects.”

This is Dr. Hoard’s third nomination as STAR Teacher over the last four years, meaning that, including Jones, three of the last four STAR students picked her as their most influential teacher. She has been awarded in 2017, 2019, and 2020. She began teaching in 1989 and has taught for a total of 27 years since then.

Both the STAR Student Jones and his STAR Teacher Hoard will move on together throughout the remainder of the program. In the STAR Program, each high school’s STAR Student will compete for school system titles, and those winners compete for region honors. Region winners compete for the honor of being named State PAGE STAR Student.

 

Gilmer wins CDBG grant for water improvements

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GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) today announced that Gilmer County has been awarded $722,000 to make water system improvements through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. The funds will be used as part of a $1.9 million project to improve water infrastructure along Old Roundtop Road, Roundtop Road, Whispering Winds Lane and within the Lakeside Mobile Home Park.

Extending new water main lines into the area, the Ellijay-Gilmer County Water and Sewerage Authority (EGCWSA) will be extending lines to homes that have never had access to the public water system. They will be extending the mainline to communities that are currently using substandard wells or systems with heavy iron in the water as well as laying the groundwork for future plans. In fact, as this grant funds “Phase 1” of the project, Director of the EGCWSA, Gary McVey said, “After this grant is done, we’re actually going to extend even farther and, hopefully, even maybe get to the county line.”

McVey confirmed that once they reach the county line, they will pursue a connection with Pickens County Water as well. Gilmer already connects to Pickens through the Yukon Road/Talking Rock area.

“Continually maintaining and improving infrastructure is critical to the quality of life our residents enjoy,” said Speaker Ralston. “This is the kind of investment that will pay off for years to come, and I congratulate all those involved in winning this grant award for Gilmer County.”

County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris also commented on the grant saying, “These grants are competitive. You’ve got to present a good case in order to get them. And I think we’ve done that… We’re being more competitive and that’s what I like to see.”

According to Speaker Ralston’s Press Release, the CDBG program is available to eligible local governments through a competitive grant program. Each year, CDBG supports community projects that create jobs and assist citizens with low and moderate incomes. The release also stated,

Over the past decade, Georgia’s CDBG program has invested in health care facilities that have helped more than 35,000 Georgians gain access to improved health services, has provided resources for critical water and sewer improvements serving more than 177,000 residents in rural areas, has supported the construction or enhancement of community facilities to serve more than 16,000 youth and senior citizens, and has helped to create more than 6,100 new jobs through the Employment Incentive Program.

 

REACH signing in Gilmer

Bobcat's Corner, News
REACH Signing 2019

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Five new inductees have joined the Gilmer County REACH (Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen) program this week with the official REACH Signing Ceremony on Tuesday, November 12, 2019.

The ceremony was hosted at Clear Creek Middle School’s media center with special guests Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston and Brad Bryant from the Georgia Student Finance Commission.

2019 REACH Signing Student Scholars

Left to Right, Sarah Enfinger, Eduardo Gonzalez-Santos, Emma Heaslip, Sandra Pantoja, and David Rafael-Garcia are honored as the newest Gilmer REACH Scholars at a ceremony on November 12, 2019.

The inductees, Sarah Enfinger, Eduardo Gonzalez-Santos, Emma Heaslip, Sandra Pantoja, and David Rafael-Garcia, signed their agreements during the ceremony as did their parents to adhere to the requirements of the agreement and move toward their choices for post-secondary education.

Speaker Ralston said during the ceremony that this year’s students are joining a group of more than 2,400 students in Georgia who have been a part of the program over recent years.

Ralston said, “The REACH program exemplifies what can happen when communities come together and the public and private sectors work hand in hand to support our young people. REACH is also an example of the state’s continuing commitment to supporting our students and public education. Whether it has been fully funding public schools through QBE, paying for school security improvements, or raising teacher salaries, our general assembly continues to invest in education all across the state.”

REACH Signing 2019 David Ralston

Georgia Speaker of the House, David Ralston speaks to students and families at Gilmer’s REACH signing on November 12, 2019.

The REACH signing is a part of Georgia’s program as a needs-based scholarship that begins in 8th grade. REACH Scholars are paired with a mentor and an academic coach throughout high school. Scholars must maintain good grades (2.5 GPA in core courses), behavior, and attendance throughout middle and high school. Scholars who successfully complete the program and graduate from high school are awarded a $10,000 scholarship that can be used at HOPE-eligible institution in Georgia.

Bryant also took a moment to offer special thanks to the school board members and the mentors to these students for the time and effort they put forth to help the students saying the children are the future, but “it’s the adults that serve the children that are the future.”

Another surprise for the day’s events, the students saw a video message from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp congratulating them on the ceremony and their steps toward the future. Kemp said, “Today’s ceremony is the beginning of a journey. Your REACH scholarship puts you in the fast lane on a road to the future of success. I look forward to watching you accelerate into that future.”

 

See more photos from this event at FYN’s REACH 2019 Photo Album on Facebook.

Civil War: How do civil wars happen?

Opinion

A thought provoking perspective from the San Diego source / Worth a Peek.

Civil War: How do civil wars happen?
Dr. Jack Devere Minzey

Two or more sides disagree on who runs the country. And they can’t settle the question through elections because they don’t even agree that elections are how you decide who’s in charge. That’s the basic issue here. Who decides who runs the country? When you hate each other but accept the election results, you have a country. When you stop accepting election results, you have a countdown to a civil war.

The Mueller investigation is about removing President Trump from office and overturning the results of an election. We all know that.
But it’s not the first time they’ve done this. The first time a Republican president was elected this century, they said he didn’t really win. The Supreme Court gave him the election. There’s a pattern here.

What do sure odds of the Democrats rejecting the next Republican president really mean? It means they don’t accept the results of any election that they don’t win. It means they don’t believe that transfers of power in this country are determined by elections. That’s a civil war.

There’s no shooting. At least not unless you count the attempt to kill a bunch of Republicans at a charity baseball game practice. But the Democrats have rejected our system of government.

This isn’t dissent. It’s not disagreement. You can hate the other party. You can think they’re the worst thing that ever happened to the country. But then you work harder to win the next election. When you consistently reject the results of elections that you don’t win, what you want is a dictatorship.

Your very own dictatorship.

The only legitimate exercise of power in this country, according to Democrats, is its own. Whenever Republicans exercise power, it’s inherently illegitimate. The Democrats lost Congress. They lost the White House. So what did they do? They began trying to run the country through Federal judges and bureaucrats. Every time that a Federal judge issues an order saying that the President of the United States can’t scratch his own back without his say so, that’s the civil war.

Our system of government is based on the constitution, but that’s not the system that runs this country. The Democrat’s system is that any part of government that it runs gets total and unlimited power over the country.

If the Democrats are in the White House, then the president can do anything. And I mean anything. He can have his own amnesty for illegal aliens. He can fine you for not having health insurance. He can use the IRS as his own police force and imprison citizens who speak against him. He can provide guns and money (Fast and Furious) (Iran nuclear deal) to other countries to support his own agenda, and watch while one of America’s Ambassador’s is dragged through the streets and murdered doing nothing to aid our citizens. His power is unlimited. He’s a dictator.

But when Republicans get into the White House, suddenly the President can’t do anything. He isn’t even allowed to undo the illegal alien amnesty that his predecessor illegally invented. A Democrat in the White House has ‘discretion’ to completely decide every aspect of immigration policy. A Republican doesn’t even have the ‘discretion’ to reverse him. That’s how the game is played. That’s how our country is run. Sad but true, although the left hasn’t yet won that particular fight.

When a Democrat is in the White House, states aren’t even allowed to enforce immigration law. But when a Republican is in the White House, states can create their own immigration laws. Under Obama, a state wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom without asking permission. But under Trump, Jerry Brown can go around saying that California is an independent republic and sign treaties with other countries. The Constitution has something to say about that.

Whether it’s Federal or State, Executive, Legislative or Judiciary, the left moves power around to run the country. If it controls an institution, then that institution is suddenly the supreme power in the land. This is what I call a moving dictatorship.

Donald Trump has caused the Shadow Government to come out of hiding: Professional government is a guild. Like medieval guilds. You can’t serve in if you’re not a member. If you haven’t been indoctrinated into its arcane rituals. If you aren’t in the club. And Trump isn’t in the club. He brought in a bunch of people who aren’t in the club with him. Now we’re seeing what the pros do when amateurs try to walk in on them. They spy on them, they investigate them and they send them to jail. They use the tools of power to bring them down.That’s not a free country.

It’s not a free country when FBI agents who support Hillary take out an ‘insurance policy’ against Trump winning the election. It’s not a free country when Obama officials engage in massive unmasking of the opposition. It’s not a free country when the media responds to the other guy winning by trying to ban the conservative media that supported him from social media. It’s not a free country when all of the above collude together to overturn an election because the guy who
wasn’t supposed to win did.

Have no doubt, we’re in a civil war between conservative volunteer government and a leftist Democrat professional government.

Well now Pilgrims and Patriots, having read the above I suggest two things;
forward this very timely, very important analysis to those whom you believe think like you do and make sure you vote on every Election day!
(Dr. Jack Devere Minzey, born 6 October 1928- died 8 April 2018, was the Department Head of Education at Eastern Michigan University as well as a prolific author of numerous books, most of which were on the topic of Education and the Government role therein.)

Extent of the Deep State

Opinion

Extent of the Deep State:
The extent of the imbedded Deep State, an unholy corruption of ignorant worker bees in the peoples government is so pervasive, so tight and so protected that its very existence is mind blowing. That Obama weaponized federal agencies as political tools for the socialist Democrat party is undeniable but, I’m convinced that the rot started as far back as the Whitewater investigation in Arkansas as the Clinton’s began their political rise. Comey, the unlamented former director of the FBI was a young DoJ attorney in that inquiry then and other inquiries that protected the Clinton crime racket. He rose favorably through the ranks as a trusted confident, with their rise from State House to White House, owing his advancement to the only person who could be trusted to stand as a bulwark against potential future prosecution, Hillary Clinton.

We saw the IRS scandal with Lois Learner denying conservative groups lawful tax exemptions; we saw James Clapper, the DNI, lying to congress, We saw Clinton loyalist, James Comey, following Mueller in the FBI, doing what was expected of him, and the two incompetent AG’s, Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, all doing what was required of them to protect the machine and do the machines bidding.

It wasn’t a fluke that Obama defeated Hillary Clinton as the 2008 Democrat nominee because Obama presented an opportunity the Left couldn’t resist using, an articulate, clean, half black Senator as candidate. But it was of little matter because Obama proved himself incompetent both as a political leader and a policy maker yet, it was still the Clintons who called the shots. Everything Obama laid his hand to failed, including his Director of the CIA, the muslim, John Brennen. They have all lied to Congress, lied to investigators or were abetted by them, for the sole purpose of denying justice and yet, they all remain unaccountable for their crimes.

Now, apparently still protected by the corrupted deep state, employees who once worked diligently to ensure Hillary succeeded as President on her second try, faced a formidable opponent, a businessman, like no one they ever met before. Losing again, Clinton’s Democrat deep state is determined to destroy that businessman, Donald Trump, or ruin his presidency.

That ‘destroying Trump part,’ totally exposed as a fraud and fake investigation is, in fact, seditious, an illegal plot to overthrow a sitting president. Every excuse they’ve used to justify warrants against Trumps staff people has turned out to be bogus. No accusation has come close to meeting the standards of charge, proof and inditement required by criminal law, yet some innocents have yielded to the pressure because of the onerous costs of their defense.

Mueller himself was hired even when justification for a special council was not met. Mueller did not qualify as a special counsel because he was an insider with conflicts of his own. Comey recommended him. Instead of legally hiring unbiased investigators, He hired an all Democrat hit squad loaded with Hillary’s henchmen. The people they squeezed to turn on Trump were ambushed, tricked and illegally spied on even after any legal justification to do so, collapsed.

These people should be headed to the slammer for the worst anti-gov’t plot in US history. No Republican even contemplated such an action against Obama but now the new Democrat congress, under the leadership of Comrades Pelosi, Schiff, Waters & Schumer, using the odious apparatus of Democrat House Committee hearings, on the flimsy pretense of unmasking corruption and criminality in the Trump Administration will be frustrated by their failures. Trumps favorability this very day, is 52%, and they don’t know how to handle it except by blunt force.
Remember, freedom is the goal, the Constitution is the way. Now, go get ‘em!

Two State Wide Educational Conferences in Early February

Announcements, Education

Two State Wide Educational Conferences in Early February

By: Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

As we get into the heart of winter, often times we feel trapped in the house waiting for spring to arrive. Well perhaps not this year! If you’re interested in growing wine grapes or organic produce, there are a couple of opportunities in early February that will get you out of the house.

The annual Georgia Wine Producers Conference will take place February 4th and 5th at Chateau Elan in Braselton, Georgia. The conference begins Monday evening the 4th with a reception (tasting) featuring Georgia wines followed by a full day of educational sessions on Tuesday the 5th. Topics discussed include fermentation, branding, wine structure, and the importance of balanced fruit. Production topics include disease and insect management, bud density, trellis structure, delayed pruning and leaf removal. Attendees can learn about regional viticulture research efforts in addition to winemaking strategies and marketing tips from academic and industry specialists from Virginia, Cornell University in NY and UGA.

The Georgia Organics Conference & Expo, set for Friday and Saturday, February 8th and 9th at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center, is an important event for farmers and others interested in organic agriculture. With demand rising for organic produce and the industry growing to meet the need, this conference down in Tifton is a pivotal event for educating organic growers in Georgia and throughout the South. According to Juan Carlos Diaz-Perez, a University of Georgia scientist in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, organic agriculture has increased in the United States by about 10 percent a year over the last 15 years. It is likely that the increase in consumer demand for certified-organic produce has led some of Georgia’s larger growers to dedicate part of their land to growing certified-organic crops, said Julia Gaskin, UGA sustainable agriculture coordinator.

Along with UGA research entomologist Jason Schmidt, Diaz-Perez, who specializes in vegetables and plasticulture, will present at the conference and share some of his research from the two certified-organic acres on the UGA Tifton campus. He will also talk about research on high-tunnel production for vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce and spinach, as well as organic fertilization and utilization of cover crops. Event sessions, workshops and field trips to farms in South Georgia will be offered for attendees during the two-day event. Vanessa Shonkwiler, a public service assistant in UGA’s Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, will share marketing tips on how farmers can expand their brands and stories.

A key part of both meetings is networking with other producers and both require pre-registration which is available online. For the Georgia Wine Producers Conference, visit http://www.georgiawineproducers.org/2019-conference-registration and for the Georgia Organics Conference & Expo, visit https://conference.georgiaorganics.org/ and for more information about either conference, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Organization

Mountain View Elementary Honored by State

Bobcat's Corner, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Honors and recognition have gone from the local Board of Education meeting to Statewide recognition for Mountain View Elementary this month as the office of State Superintendent Richard Woods officially released, December 4, the 2018 list of Title I Distinguished Schools, the highest-performing Title I schools in the state.

Mountain View Elementary Principal Charles Walker

Mountain View Elementary Principal Charles Walker

Mountain View Elementary made that list for an exceptional year. Readers will recall the schools praise during the Board’s review of Milestones scores in “MVE jumps in 2018 Milestones scores.” This praise came from a 14.4 point jump, from 70.1 in 2017 to 84.5 in 2018, in CCRPI (College and Career Ready Performance Index). According to Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, the CCRPI scoring is what the state uses in distinguishing these schools saying, “This recognition is for scoring in the top 5% of Title I elementary schools in the state. CCRPI scores are based largely on milestones data, but takes other data into account as well.”

Mountain View Elementary School Principal Charles Walker credited the school’s entire staff for the achievement. He said, “We are absolutely excited. It is a team effort and it’s the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people.” Mountain View holds classes in both elementary and pre-k grades, however, only the elementary classes are graded on Milestones. Walker said Mountain View was a family that has worked extremely hard for their students making it all the more rewarding to see their efforts recognized.

A sentiment echoed by Downs who said, “I am so very proud that Mountain View Elementary has been recognized. I commend the hard work and dedication of everyone in the MVE family in earning this recognition and being named as a top-performing Title I school by the Georgia Department of Education.  Everyone in the school did an incredible job and the best part is that our students are the ultimate beneficiaries of the achievement.”

She went on to add that this recognition is only a part of what the Gilmer School system is accomplishing as the system has now scored above the state average for two years in a row, calling it “another indicator that our system is truly moving in a very positive direction.”

According to a release by the Georgia Department of Education, State Superintendent Richard Woods said, “In addition to identifying schools in need of additional support, it’s important for us to recognize and applaud schools when they’re doing well. These public schools are among the very best in the state and are doing extraordinary work on behalf of their students and communities. I extend my thanks and congratulations to every teacher, administrator, staff member, student, parent, and community partner who contributed to their success.”

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