BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Several school system accomplishments were mentioned and this school year’s retirees were honored at the end-of-the-year meeting of Fannin County Schools at the Performing Arts Center Wednesday, May 30.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney kicked the meeting off by announcing 198 students recently graduated from Fannin County High School.
“That’s reflective of the wonderful work that is done by the faculty and staff and leadership at Fannin County High School,” Gwatney added, “but it also speaks volumes for what happens at elementary and middle schools to prepare the students to get them to these levels.”
Gwatney also thanked the Board of Education for a 1 percent across-the-board permanent pay increase for school system personnel.
“And as I stand here before you today, always remember that you are a member of the greatest and most honorable profession,” the superintendent told the countless number of educators and school employees in attendance. “Ladies and gentlemen, ours is the one profession in which all professions must pass.”
Later, Board of Education member Steve Stanley praised Gwatney’s own leadership asking everyone in attendance, “Don’t you guys think that Dr. Gwatney did a great job this year?”
To this, the audience responded with a resounding round of applause for the superintendent.
Lewis DeWeese, BOE chairman, also spoke of the change he saw this year under Dr. Gwatney. “I’ve been saying it for the last year or so, our system has a new spirit, a new friendly, open, honest willingness to share (and) work together,” DeWeese stated.
BOE member Bobby Bearden also took a moment to thank the employees of the school system saying, “It’s been a blessing and an honor to work with people like you.”
Several awards and achievements, received both for schools and individuals throughout the school year, were recognized at the meeting.
This school year’s Teachers of the Year were also mentioned again during the meeting. Those educators included Erin Colbert, from Blue Ridge Elementary, Kathy Culpepper, from East Fannin Elementary, Amber Mitchell, from West Fannin Elementary, Nathasha Anderson, from Fannin County Middle, and Shan Culpepper, from Fannin County High. Culpepper also held the distinction of being Teacher of the Year for the entire school system.
Sarah Welch and Jordan Newman were also recognized this past school year for being the Star Teacher and Star Student of the Year for 2017-18, respectively.
Regarding the high school, Fannin County High School (FCHS) was also ranked statewide and nationally in U.S. News’ annual Best High Schools rankings. According to those rankings, FCHS was ranked 63 in the state and 2,593 in the nation. This was the third time in the last four years FCHS has been ranked by U.S. News in this category with the previous years being 2015 and 2017. The high school also earned a Silver Award for falling in the top 12 percent nationally.
Fannin County Middle School (FCMS) was also praised for its accomplishments, most notably in that the school placed first in an online Reading Bowl and fourth in face-to-face competition. FCMS also earned an honorary degree in life science.
Blue Ridge Elementary received recognition for earning a High Progress Award among Title 1 schools. High Progress Award schools are among the top 10 percent of Title 1 schools based on the three-year average of College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) progress scores.
East Fannin Elementary held the distinction this school year of being one of only five Family-Friendly Partnership Schools in the state of Georgia.
Also, West Fannin Elementary enjoyed the success of becoming the 36th Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) certified school in the state.
Twenty-five educators in the school system became certified as Level 1 Google Educators this school year. This status indicates that an educator is able to successfully implement Google Suite for Education into their teaching practice in order to enhance teaching and learning.
The school system’s nutrition program participated in the Shake It Up initiative, which is a state-wide initiative to change the culture school nutrition in three areas: tasty meals, friendly cafeterias and happy schools. The nutrition programs at all five county schools received the Gold Award in this initiative.
The school system also took time to honor this year’s retirees throughout Fannin County Schools. Those retirees included:
· From Blue Ridge Elementary, media specialist Robbie Callihan and nutritionist Mildred Johnson;
· From East Fannin Elementary, teachers Katie Holloway and Lynn Weeks, academic coach Crystal Cooke, and paraprofessional Sandra Ross;
· From West Fannin Elementary, nutritionist Wanda Stewart and teacher Betty Holsonback;
· From Fannin County Middle, teachers Cindy Wood and Linda Nave, and nutritionists Judy Glasgow, Sue Postell, and Gayle Queen;
· From Fannin County High, secretaries Robin Kirby and Gail Bennett, paraprofessional Phillip Nastyn, teachers Terry Callihan and Kim Kribbs, and nutritionists Amanda O’Neal and Leslie Perenich;
· System-wide deaf/hard of hearing teacher Marcie Harper and speech therapist Pam Lapham;
· School bus drivers Margie Kolesky and Sheryl Campbell;
· From the school system maintenance department, Archie Bice; and
· From the Central Office, accounts payable bookkeeper Connie Grindstaff and Associate Superintendent Betsy Hyde.
“What an honor this has been,” Gwatney told the retirees. “I wish you all the best.”
Following the ceremony, the rock band Apollo, which is comprised of three Fannin County students, played a spirited version of the Foo Fighters’ classic anthem “My Hero” as a tribute to the retirees as well as the existing educators and employees of the Fannin County School System.
Concluding the day’s event, Gwatney stated, “Ladies and gentlemen, we aspire to guide and lead the future, but most of all, you remember why we’re here. It’s for the kids. Everyone have a great summer.”
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After an executive session to discuss personnel that lasted over an hour, the Blue Ridge City Council reconvened the public portion of their Tuesday, Feb. 13, meeting and approved a number of city employee appointments and entry-level pay scale proposals in the Water and Utilities Department.
Among the many hirings and appointments, the council appointed William Long as water distribution supervisor at a rate of $17.50 an hour, Tony Byrd as acting chief mechanic and street supervisor at a rate of $17.00 an hour, and Shannon Payne as water loss and mapping supervisor at a rate of $22.54 an hour. Each was appointed with a six-month probation period.
As for the proposed entry-level pay scale changes in the Water and Utilities Department, Mayor Whitener read the pay scale list as follows:
- Water plant supervisor – $19.00 an hour;
- Water treatment plant class I employee – $16.50 an hour;
- Water treatment plant class II employee – $15.25 an hour;
- Water treatment plant class III employee – $14.00 an hour;
- Equipment operator – $14.00 an hour;
- Maintenance worker – $12.50 an hour;
- Meter technician – $12.50 an hour;
- Customer service manager – $12.50 an hour; and
- Utilities director – $19.00 an hour.
“These are entry level (pay scales) and most of those (positions) are already filled by somebody that’s had some tenure here,” Mayor Donna Whitener explained. The council unanimously approved the proposed pay scale.
Also discussed at the meeting was the farmer’s market property. Mayor Whitener reported the city has received recent interest from potential buyers of the property. Whitener continued stating if the city is unwilling to sell the property, a plan to refurbish the property needs to be put in place soon. Whitener explained the facility would need some water line upgrades and some re-engineering to make the space ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant “And we need to come up with a plan. We need a plan in place as to how we’re going utilize the farmer’s market,” Whitener said.
The council discussed the success of the Blairsville farmer’s market on the weekends. Whitener further clarified a decision was not to be made at the meeting but that she would like to hear feedback from the council regarding whether to sell, lease or upgrade the facility in the next 30 days.
“It’s such an amazing venue. I just cannot see us selling it,” Thomas-Haight stated. “I, personally, would not vote for that.”
While admitting the city would have to address the ADA compliance issue of the venue, Councilman Ken Gaddis concurred with Thomas-Haight’s sentiments saying, “It’s a heritage point of Fannin County. I think everybody here has been to that farmer’s market. Nobody owns that except the city of Blue Ridge, in my opinion, and the citizens … We grew up going there – I know I did – and I’d like to see the next generation of kids going there too.”
The council also reviewed a quote from KorKat Playgrounds and Site Amenities for shade covers for the downtown park playgrounds. The steel and aluminum column supports would come with a lifetime warranty while the Kevlar fabric canopies would have a 10-year limited warranty. According to Thomas-Haight, the shade cover would decrease the burn potential to children of the playground equipment during the summer months. The total cost of the shade covers would be $19,210.01, which would include a $1,500 engineering fee, according to the KorKat quote.
Kate George, of the Blue Ridge Elementary School (BRES) Cool Kids Gardening Club, spoke on behalf of the organization and told of its success. George stated the club has existed at BRES for seven years and the club typically consists of around 15 third and fourth graders. The club, George said, allows the students to gain gardening knowledge and have hands-on experiences related to gardening.
“The objective of being in our garden club is to become a Junior Master Gardener,” George explained, “and at the end of the year, if these kids come to 80 percent of the meetings and take the final exam and complete two service projects, then they will become Junior Master Gardeners.”
This year, for one of those projects, the students built bluebird houses and donated them to the city of Blue Ridge, presenting the birdhouses to the council at the beginning of the meeting.
“We hope that you enjoy putting them up, and that they attract a lot of lovely bluebirds to our wonderful town,” George said.
Later, Mayor Whitener reported the city had recently received a claims check for $20,165 for storm damage to the city hall roof suffered in an April 2017 storm. The mayor explained the damaged portion was mainly confined to the old drive-through area of the building. Councilwoman Thomas-Haight stated she felt re-roofing the area would be wasteful until future parking and city hall expansion plans are determined. Haight-Thomas recommended depositing the funds into the general fund for now.
Also, the council approved a $10,000 amount to be spent toward repairs and improvements for the Blue Ridge Police Department station. The mayor explained the building has several repair needs, including plumbing, guttering, painting, flooring, ceiling and electrical improvements and repairs. “Other than that, it’s a good building,” Police Chief Johnny Scearce laughed. “Solid as a rock.”
Though the amount was approved for $10,000.00, the mayor explained the repairs should cost closer to $6,000 or $7,000. Whitener also said city Finance Director Alicia Stewart had studied the budget closely and found enough leeway to cover the full amount, if needed.
Later, the council approved a number of other expenditures:
- A $4,200 invoice from Appalachian Cable Installers, Inc. for a four-inch bore casing for water service under state Route 515;
- A $4,012.50 invoice from Carter & Sloope for additional engineering and consulting services for an Orchard Boulevard project;
- A $5,164.98 quote from Sutton Tire, Inc., of Clarkesville, Georgia, for new tires for police department vehicles;
- A $25,000 annual purchase order from Industrial Chemical for chemicals for the city water treatment plant;
- A $4,105 purchase order from Hydocal LLC for yearly calibrations at the water treatment plant; and
- Two invoices totaling $4,942 from Lance Trucking for gravel.
In public commentary, Cesar Martinez, president of the Blue Ridge Business Association, reminded the council and the audience of this weekend’s eighth annual Fire and Ice Chili Cook Off to be held in downtown Blue Ridge Saturday, Feb. 17, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Martinez reported 21 ice sculptures will be situated in the downtown area, 16 chili vendors will be participating in the cook off, and the Owl Creek Band will be performing.
Kit Miracle told the council of a vehicle accident she experienced at a narrow section of road on Trackside Lane where the side of the road collapsed. Miracle stated she maneuvered the vehicle to the side of the road as an oncoming vehicle was coming toward her from the other lane. Mayor Whitener explained to Miracle the council had approved the widening of the road at the last city council meeting and improvements are now proceeding.
Nancy Zimmerman asked the city to communicate with Patriot Rail and coordinate a plan to clear vegetation from the mostly unused portion of railroad tracks south of the city rail yard.
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BRES Fire safety poster winners were recently announced.
Those winners are: (from left)
Front: Zoe Walker, Aubree Franklin, Henry Schueneman
Back: Roni Oyster, Abby McFarland, William Raines