BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Parents recently expressed concerns over the state of the Fannin County Athletics Department at the Jan. 11 Board of Education (BOE) meeting. These concerns were heard by members of the BOE as well as administration and staff within the school system.
Fannin County Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Athletic Director Dr. Scott Ramsey, and Fannin County Curriculum Director Robert Ensley spoke with FetchYourNews about the issues raised during the meeting.
Gwatney expressed concerns about parents being unable to speak directly with coaches or administration in the schools: “That can happen. There might be a parent that has concern with the administration at the school and they want to come see me or somebody in my office.”
Wanting parents to feel comfortable with approaching administration at the schools, Gwatney did advise that speaking with administration first would allow the parent “to speak to people closer to the issue than the board.”
Gwatney also wanted it to be clear saying, “I don’t ever want to dissuade anybody from speaking at the public comment (during the BOE meetings) if it’s on their heart to do so.”
Many parents were surprised to learn of the salaries of several of the coaches as the matter was publicly announced at the January BOE meeting. Gwatney broke down the process of how educators are paid in Fannin County: “These coaches, they are teachers. Legally on paper, they are teachers as well, which can speak to their salaries. They do receive a coaching supplement, but that supplement is a small percentage of their overall salary.”
In Fannin County, an educator’s salary is based on a number of components, the first being the level of education and experience an educator possesses. The higher the degree of learning (ex. bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate) an educator has obtained will directly affect the base salary given to that educator by the state of Georgia.
The second factor in determining an educator’s salary is a local supplement that is given in Fannin County. This supplement is a flat percentage based on the salary being given by the state of Georgia. Both the supplement and the base pay increase based on years of service in the educational field.
Finally, there is a coaching supplement for those educators who take on the task of instructing Fannin County’s young athletes in their sporting endeavors.
Ensley spoke directly about his thoughts on Fannin County Athletics saying, “I think we’ve got great coaches. They’re building character. Obviously, we want to win.”
Ramsey agreed, “Obviously, we would like to be winning more. I don’t think there is anybody who would argue that, but I think our coaches are working hard. I think they are doing things that they can do to help our kids be successful.”
“The hurdles that we face is that we are a small AAA school. Third smallest in the state,” Ramsey spoke on the difficulties within the program.
Ramsey stated that there are many talented athletes in Fannin County but further explained the hurdles of being a smaller school. “What gets us is the depth. When we have an injury, or kids wear out, there may not be somebody sitting over on the sidelines or sitting on the bench that can come fill those shoes,” Ramsey stated.
“I’m not sitting here making excuses. Our numbers are what they are,” Ramsey clarified as he shared his thoughts on the athletics program.
There is also the problem of multiple sports within the same season. Having a smaller pool of athletes can cause some key players to miss opportunities in one area due to scheduling conflicts. The girl’s softball team and volleyball team was cited as an example of splitting the athletic pool among the two sports.
“Softball is very successful,” Ramsey pointed out despite this obstacle.”I think five out of seven years (Coach David Dyer has) made state, and finished in the top five in the state one year.”
Ramsey also addressed allegations made during the public commentary portion of the BOE meeting concerning his second job as an educator at a local night school: “My schedule at the second job is set around the schedule that Mr. Cioffi (Fannin County High School principal) makes for the after school stuff. Mr. Cioffi makes the schedule at the beginning of each season, not just for athletics.”
“It’s a two night a week job and one of those nights is always on Wednesday, and there is nothing athletically on Wednesday. The other is based on whatever the need is,” Ramsey further explained.
Ramsey also spoke of whether other administrators had been asked to cover for him. “If they’re there it’s because they were scheduled to be there. They’re not covering for me. Just like I’m not covering for them when I’m at a drama event or academic thing. We all have a schedule, and we go by that schedule,” Ramsey said.
As far as the future of Fannin County Athletics, Ramsey explained, “We evaluate programs every year. We try to look at it realistically, and we have made changes. This year won’t be any different. We’ll evaluate the programs this year, and if we feel based on the direction of the program that a change needs to be made, then we’ll certainly do that.”
Ramsey did point out that a coach in Fannin County is an educator first, and for a change in coaching to take place, there must also be a need and an opening in an academic department.
Ramsey said that he understood the parents’ frustration and shared a piece of advice given to him during his coaching days saying, “There is a natural conflict built in between coaches and parents because coaches watch the kids with their head, and parents watch the kids with their heart.”
He added that that is the way it should be. “A parent should be their kid’s biggest fan and biggest advocate,” Ramsey said.
Gwatney concluded, “It really is all about the kids. The kids here are our number one priority, and we want to provide them with what is best for them.”
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com