Administration addresses athletics at Board of Education meeting

Community, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After hearing concerns expressed at the Jan. 11 Board of Education (BOE) meeting, Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, as well as other members of the board, added a new agenda item covering extracurricular activities within the school system.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Athletics, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Bobby Bearden, Lewis DeWeese, Terry Bramlett, Chad Galloway, Steve Stanley, East Fannin Elementary School, West Fannin Elementary School, Blue Ridge Elementary School, Fannin County Middle School, Fannin County High School, Athletic Director, Dr. Scott Ramsey, Fannin County School System, Rebels, Georgia High School Association, GHSA

Fannin County High School Principal Erik Cioffi discussed athletics at the Feeb. BOE meeting.

At the Feb. 8 BOE meeting the board unveiled this new item. Dr. Gwatney explained that updates of Fannin County extracirruclar activities will be a recurring item.

While these updates will encompass all of Fannin County’s extracurriculars, the focus of the Feb. updates centered around the state of the Fannin County Athletics Department.

Fannin County High School Principal Erik Cioffi presented this information to the public.

“There were some questions about accountability,” Cioffi spoke of concerns presented at the previous BOE meeting. “You don’t have to look any further than right here. I am the one who has hired people and put them in positions. So if there is a concern it should come to my department.”

Cioffi spoke of the staff of Fannin County School System and added that the pool of educators in which coaches can be pulled from is currently 59 certified teachers.

“They are teachers first and they have responsibilities that make up a bulk of their time,” Cioffi added.

Athletic Director Dr. Scott Ramsey clarified that there are 62 coaching positions that have to be covered, and for this reason coaches have to work or coach in multiple departments. Ramsey backed up Cioffi stating that a coach’s first priority is to be an educator.

“As they should be,” Ramsey stated. “Because that is the ultimate thing, they (students) leave with a high school diploma.”

Cioffi discussed the current Georgia High School Association (GHSA) policy and why Fannin County continues to be placed a AAA region school. In the past GHSA reevaluated schools on a two year cycle. Recent changes, however, has left evaluations happening every four years.

“We have no control over the region we’re placed,” Cioffi explained.

A meeting is scheduled on Feb. 21 where representatives from Fannin County Athletics along with representative from other AAA schools will meet with GHSA officials to examine the new policy.

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Athletic Director Dr. Scott Ramsey was also present to talk with parents.

“It’s ridiculous. If they (GHSA) get it wrong, that’s impacted a child’s entire four years,” Cioffi told the crowd about plans to hopefully bring about change on the state level when it comes to athletics.

The possibility of dropping to AA classification could pose a different set of difficulties for the student athletes of Fannin County, as travel is cited to be a large consideration in the possibility of changing regions.

A new AA classification could mean that students would have to travel as far as three hours away to play other AA teams.

Cioffi also proposed what all parties (parents, coaches and administration) want a “Winning Culture”, and explained how to take steps in this direction: “Before we even get to a winning culture, we need a positive culture. That’s going to take everyone in this room and everyone outside this room to get there.”

“Stay positive. Our kids see when there’s negativity going around,” Cioffi spoke of the recent discussions taking place via social media. “One thing I can promise you is that coaches aren’t posting things on social media about kids and parents.”

“Communicate with each other and figure out how can we best meet the needs of all the programs,” Cioffi went on,”Ultimately we want all programs to be successful.”

The parents coming forward was a big step in addressing the issues that Fannin County Athletics faces, and administration wants to keep lines of communication open and figure out how to “get over the hump and move forward.”

Athletic Director Dr. Scott Ramsey concluded the presentation: “We’re working together, because we don’t ever want to be an us versus you mentality. There never needs to be adversary. We all need to be working for the good of the kids.”

 

 

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Parents question the finances of Fannin County Athletics

News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Feb. 8 Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) meeting was packed, with many left at standing room only, as parents and supporters of Fannin County Athletics gathered once again to voice concerns over the direction of the program.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Athletics, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Bobby Bearden, Lewis DeWeese, Terry Bramlett, Chad Galloway, Steve Stanley, East Fannin Elementary School, West Fannin Elementary School, Blue Ridge Elementary School, Fannin County Middle School, Fannin County High School, Athletic Director, Dr. Scott Ramsey, Fannin County School System, Donnie Kendall, ryan Walton, Cliff Shirah, Brian Johnson, Rebels

The Board of Education listens as public commentary focuses on athletics.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney addressed the crowd before the meeting got underway saying, “Safety is always the top priority. With that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, we have received a maximum number that’s allowed in this room from the state fire marshal, and we must adhere to that number.”

School principals were present to help usher the crowd and school resource officers were stationed at all emergency exits.

“Our room is at capacity,” Gwatney continued. Gwatney announced that the BOE had set up accommodations in expectations of the large turnout. The meeting would be streaming online and alternate locations had been set up at the high school as an overflow where supporters could watch the live-stream.

Ten community members signed up prior to the meeting to ensure that their voices would be heard during public commentary.

Donnie Kendall, who spoke at the January BOE meeting, led the way again and spoke first during the public’s allotted time.

“The last four weeks the administration has not only been helpful, but they have also made theirselves available in hearing all of my concerns, ” Kendall began. “The problem is our administration is reactive instead of proactive.”

Kendall voiced that the same accountability that is placed on educators in the school system should also be placed on coaches, citing the boys basketball team finishing with just three wins and 21 losses.

In comparing this with an academic classroom where only three students were passing with 21 failing, Kendall stated that that educators job would come into question, and the likelihood of their position being renewed would be slim.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Athletics, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Bobby Bearden, Lewis DeWeese, Terry Bramlett, Chad Galloway, Steve Stanley, East Fannin Elementary School, West Fannin Elementary School, Blue Ridge Elementary School, Fannin County Middle School, Fannin County High School, Athletic Director, Dr. Scott Ramsey, Fannin County School System, Donnie Kendall, ryan Walton, Cliff Shirah, Brian Johnson, Rebels

Donnie Kendall addresses the board first during public commentary at the BOE meeting.

“If you choose coaching as career path, you will ultimately be judged by your wins and losses,” Kendall added.

A point of concern among many of the public commentators and mentioned first by Kendall is a need for the BOE to produce total financial transparency of the athletic departments. Kendall, like many others, would like to know what formulas are in place for the funding and who is responsible for the financial decisions.

Speaking of the numerous booster clubs throughout the different athletic departments, who are responsible for raising tens of thousands of dollars every year, Kendall stated, “What we can do and what we are prepared to do is refuse to support that program financially.”

Another commentator, Cliff Shirah spoke from experience on the financial transparency that is desired by parents. Shirah has been treasurer of the Dugout Club for four years.

In those four years, Shirah cited that approximately $192,000 had been raised by the community for this club and the money directly supports Fannin County Athletics.

“We want to know how programs are funded and from what budget, and what is the process or guidelines that those decisions are made?” Shirah questioned the BOE.

Shirah pointed out that the Dugout Club had spent $34,000 in field maintenance and asked, “Why are parents forced to pay for these facilities and field expenses?”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Athletics, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Bobby Bearden, Lewis DeWeese, Terry Bramlett, Chad Galloway, Steve Stanley, East Fannin Elementary School, West Fannin Elementary School, Blue Ridge Elementary School, Fannin County Middle School, Fannin County High School, Athletic Director, Dr. Scott Ramsey, Fannin County School System, Donnie Kendall, ryan Walton, Cliff Shirah, Brian Johnson, Rebels

Brian Johnson counters reasons given by administration about the state of Fannin County Athletics.

Brian Johnson, former president of the Basketball Booster Club, also touched on finances, stating the Tip Off Club had raised upwards of $200,000 in four years, and asked the board, “What will the school board’s actions be if financial support is taken away from these programs?”

Johnson also addressed what many parents felt were excuses being given by administration for the current state of Fannin County Athletics: “excuses have been given from, ‘we don’t have talent’ to ‘we’re rural and secluded’ to ‘other teams should be playing in higher classifications.'”

Johnson countered these arguments by stating, “What in your minds makes us more secluded than Union County, Murphy, North Carolina, Hayesville, Towns County, or Hiawassee, Georgia? We have struggled against these very schools that are as small or much, much smaller than we are.”

Ryan Walton, who also spoke alongside Donnie Kendall at the January BOE meeting, did not agree with the explanations that the administration has offered. “All I’ve heard is excuses on why we don’t compete. I haven’t heard any answers,” Walton said.

Walton added, “I will say that the coaches at Fannin County right now are doing a great job of teaching our kids that life is not fair and that the best person does not always get the job, but the athletic director and board are doing a terrible job by showing these kids that you can be terrible at your job and not get fired.”

Other parents were present giving testimonials on how success in athletics directly correlates with success in a child’s personal life and their academics. These parents expressed concern over what they saw as the coaches’ lack of involvement with or enthusiasm displayed for their athletes.

Ultimately, the parents and supporters united under a common theme of change. They wish to see a winning culture come back to Fannin County and want the full chain of command, from the BOE down to the coaches, to take responsibility for this turn around.

Follow FetchYourNews as we look into obtaining full financial transparency for the Fannin County Athletics Department.

 

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

S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G Bee champion moves forward to regional competition

Community, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After a lot of practice and many rounds, Fannin County School System (FCSS) named their champion speller. Eighth-grader Chloe Carter will advance for a third year to the Region 1 Competition held in Rome, Georgia, later this month.

FCSS held school-wide spelling bees in the month of January, and the winners from each school met on Jan. 31 at the Board of Education to determine a champion.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Blue Ridge Elementary School, West Fannin Elementary School, East Fannin Elementary School, Fannin County Middle School, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Cirriculum Director, Robert Ensley, Keith Nuckolls, Literacy Coach, Sarah Welch, Principal, Lucas Roof, April Hodges, Matt Price, Jade Dlugokinski, Cole White, Chloe Carter, Fox Sharp.

Spelling Bee contestants at the Board of Education. From left to right, Fox Sharp, Jade Dlugokinski, Chloe Carter, and Cole White.

“Before I say anything else, I would like to say how proud I am of each of you for reaching the Fannin County School System spelling bee,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney said, welcoming the competitors.

With family and faculty present, each principal introduced their respective champion.

From Blue Ridge Elementary School, Principal April Hodges introduced school champion Jade Dlugokinski. Cole White, winner of East Fannin Elementary School, was presented by Principal Matt Price. Principal Keith Nuckolls announced the Fannin County Middle School Champion Chloe Carter, and West Fannin Elementary School Principal Lucas Roof introduced their champion Fox Sharp.

Curriculum Director Robert Ensley read the rules and formalities of the spelling bee. These rules must be strictly adhered to within each district for champions to move forward in hopes of reaching the national bee.

Fannin County High School Literacy Coach Sarah Welch was the official caller for the event, giving each student his or her word and further clarification if needed.

The second round saw two competitors eliminated, with a third contestant being eliminated in the following round.

Students Chloe Carter and Cole White battled it out for another round with Carter spelling the winning word for the round, “cruiser”.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Blue Ridge Elementary School, West Fannin Elementary School, East Fannin Elementary School, Fannin County Middle School, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Cirriculum Director, Robert Ensley, Keith Nuckolls, Literacy Coach, Sarah Welch, Principal, Lucas Roof, April Hodges, Matt Price, Jade Dlugokinski, Cole White, Chloe Carter, Fox Sharp.

Spelling Bee winner Chloe Carter will advance to the Region 1 Competition in Rome, Georgia, later this month.

As dictated by the rules Carter then had to spell an additional champion word. “Ninja” was spelled with ease by Carter and solidified her as Fannin County spelling champion.

“We are proud to have Ms. Chloe Carter as our eighth grade spelling champion,” Welch announced, officially bringing the bee to a close.

Carter is no stranger to this honor. It is Carter’s third year winning the Fannin County School System spelling bee. Last year, Carter also advanced from the Region 1 Competition to compete at the state level.

The Region 1 competition will take place on Feb. 24 in Rome, Georgia. Carter will face other district champs in hopes of progressing to the state finals.

“Your achievement sets a fine example for the students across our county,” Gwatney beamed to the contestants and congratulated all of the students on their achievements.

 

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

Fannin County Board of Education restructures for 2018

Education, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) began 2018 by restructuring their board. This restructuring took place publicly at their Jan. 11 meeting.

An annual restructuring is in accordance with the BOE’s charter which states: “The Board of Education shall elect by majority vote at the first regular meeting of the calendar year a chairperson and vice-chairperson.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Education, Superintendent, Chairman, Vice Chairman, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Bobby Bearden, Lewis DeWeese, Terry Bramlett, Chad Galloway, Steve Stanley, Heather Finely, Director of Instructional Technology, Budget, SPLOST

New Chairman of the Board of Education Lewis DeWeese.

The now former Chairman Bobby Bearden opened up the restructuring by saying, “Mr. Superintendent, I would like to recommend Mr. DeWeese as the chair.”
Bearden then made the motion for Lewis DeWeese to step in as chairman of the BOE, with board member Steve Stanley seconding the motion. The board voted unanimously for this change, with DeWeese refraining from voting.

Stanley then opened the floor to the selection of vice chairman, “Mr. Chairman, I would like to place a nomination for Mr. Chad Galloway.”

Stanley then made the motion for Chad Galloway to step in as vice chairman of the BOE, and fellow board member Terry Bramlett seconded this motion. Galloway abstained from voting, but was unanimously voted in by other members of the board.

The BOE discussed their meeting schedule and voted to keep the schedule the same for the 2018 calendar year.

“So for the public,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney explained, “this means that we will continue as is for this year, which is all regular meetings for the Fannin County Board of Education will be held on the second Thursday of each month.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Education, Superintendent, Chairman, Vice Chairman, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Bobby Bearden, Lewis DeWeese, Terry Bramlett, Chad Galloway, Steve Stanley, Heather Finely, Director of Instructional Technology, Budget, SPLOST

New Vice Chairman of the Board of Education Chad Galloway.

Gwatney added, “Monthly work sessions will be held on the Tuesday prior to each regularly scheduled board meeting at 8 a.m., and these meetings will be held here at this office in Blue Ridge. All meetings are open to the public.”

The newly arranged board then got straight to business reviewing the latest financial report for the Fannin County School System. The report showed the latest information as of Nov. 30, 2017, these numbers account for 41.66 percent of the annual 2017-2018 budget.

“Local revenues are at 22 percent ($4,037,844.60) versus 20 percent for this time last year. Total revenues are at 30 percent ($10,021,377.90) versus 29 percent this time last year, and total expenditures are currently at 40 percent ($13,589,826.95) versus 41 percent this time last year,” Gwatney pointed out.

Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds collected for November 2017 totaled $466,740.32.

“This is a healthy financial report,” Gwatney concluded.

Heather Finely, director of Instructional Technology, was present at the board meeting to present the public with the highlights of how the Fannin County School System is staying up-to-date with the ever changing world of technology.

Finely stated that she and her team are currently working on a three-year plan on how to approach technology advancements and how these advancements would best be utilized in Fannin County schools.

A major focus of this three-year plan is the use of WiFi technology in education. In a student survey conducted at the schools, 84 percent of students reported to have working Internet at their home, and 76 percent felt that they could do homework that requires Internet access. Only 11 percent of the students who responded said that they have no way to complete homework that requires Internet access.

Fannin County School System has been working to aid the students without any Internet access. Currently, five buses used by the county to transport students are equipped with WiFi capabilities.

Internet access in the schools is improving as well. “The state provides us with 750 mbs of Internet service. We purchase an additional 250 from TDS,” Finely explained of the Internet speed.

There are currently 108 WiFi access points in instructional areas throughout the schools. Finely hopes to up the number of WiFi access points in the schools, citing that the schools having cinder block walls slows the connections in some areas.

Finely aims to have tablets for every student to be able to use while in school: “We are working towards a one-to-one with Chromebooks.”

There are 1,749 mobile tablets currently available for students and teachers to use while at school. Finely pointed out that the school would also like to offer tablets for students to be able to take home for use. A grant has been applied for that would help to reach this goal.

“Right now, students in AP (advanced placement) take one home to use,” Finely spoke of the current use of mobile tablets.

The Fannin County Board of Education will hold their next regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018.

Fannin County School administration responds to parents’ concerns

Education, Rebel's Corner

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.

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Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney.

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.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Fannin County Athletics, Board of Education, East Fannin Elementary School, West Fannin Elementary School, Blue Ridge Elementary School, Fannin County Middle School, Fannin County High School, Superintendent, Athletic Director, Curriculum Director, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dr. Scott Ramsey, Robert Ensley, Fannin County Rebels

Fannin County Curriculum Director Robert Ensley.

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.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Fannin County Athletics, Board of Education, East Fannin Elementary School, West Fannin Elementary School, Blue Ridge Elementary School, Fannin County Middle School, Fannin County High School, Superintendent, Athletic Director, Curriculum Director, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dr. Scott Ramsey, Robert Ensley, Fannin County Rebels

Fannin County Athletic Director and Fannin County High School Assistant Principal Dr. Scott Ramsey.

“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

Mercier Orchards celebrates 75 years

Community, Featured Stories
Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mercier's Orchard, Bill Mercier, Adele Mercier, Tim Mercier, Helen Mercier, Amanda Mercier, Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band, 75 Anniversary, Reverend Michael Brunson, Bernard Sims, Vice President to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau, Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Jan Hackett, President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County School System Superintendent, Caroline Lewallen, President of the Georgia Agritourism Association, David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Fannin County Business of the Year 2010

Tim Mercier cuts the ribbon and begins the year-long celebration of Mercier Orchards’ 75th anniversary.

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Friends, family, fellow business owners, and Georgia dignitaries gathered to celebrate an important anniversary on Friday, Jan. 19. Mercier Orchards, a Fannin County staple and a Georgia landmark, is celebrating 75 years of business.

Founded by Adele and Bill Mercier in 1943, Mercier Orchards has adapted over the years to become one of the area’s largest attractions, boasting more than 600,000 visitors each year. One aspect of Mercier Orchards that has remained the same throughout the years is family.

As crowds gathered for the kick off of Mercier Orchards year-long celebration, the theme of Farm and Family could be felt throughout the room. While the business itself has been passed down through the Mercier family with four generations having worked to help build the brand, the employees were praised and acknowledged for their roles in helping Mercier’s to become what it is today.

“They make us what we are,” Tim Mercier, current chief executive officer of Mercier Orchards, said of the employees. “They do all the work. They present the part of us that the public sees, and they’re really the true family of Mercier’s Orchards.”

Reverend Michael Brunson began the celebration by offering a blessing: “Thank you for this beautiful planet that you provided for all of us.”

Brunson spoke directly of the blessing that Mercier Orchards has bestowed upon our community: “It provides our livelihood and that of many in Fannin County.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mercier's Orchard, Bill Mercier, Adele Mercier, Tim Mercier, Helen Mercier, Amanda Mercier, Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band, 75 Anniversary, Reverend Michael Brunson, Bernard Sims, Vice President to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau, Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Jan Hackett, President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County School System Superintendent, Caroline Lewallen, President of the Georgia Agritourism Association, David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Fannin County Business of the Year 2010

Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, left, presents a resolution to Tim Mercier.

Among the dignitaries at the event to recognize Mercier Orchards were: Bernard Sims (vice president to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau), Gary Black (Georgia Department of Agriculture commissioner), Jan Hackett (president of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce), Larry Joe Sosebee (Fannin County Post 2 commissioner), Dr. Michael Gwatney (Fannin County School System superintendent), Caroline Lewallen (president of the Georgia Agritourism Association), and David Ralston (speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives).

Commissioner Gary Black presented a resolution from the Georgia Department of Agriculture: “It is a special treat to come spend this very special time with a family that’s very dear to me, dear to this department.”

Black joked that the department sometimes allows him to have input on the resolutions, but then turned to Tim Mercier and said, “I wrote this one, and I want to read it to my friend.”

“Indeed business ideas, inventions and discoveries have a starting point,” Black read from the resolution, “and it is notable and appropriate that Mercier Orchards be recognized as one of the first and certainly as a demonstrated leader in Georgia’s multi-million dollar agritourism industry. And the state of Georgia and countless Georgia agritourism operators owe a debt of gratitude to the Mercier family for their leadership.”

President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce Jan Hackett spoke of the impact of Mercier Orchards on Fannin County. Hackett joked that her husband once said, “The Merciers are kind of like the Kennedys of Fannin County.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mercier's Orchard, Bill Mercier, Adele Mercier, Tim Mercier, Helen Mercier, Amanda Mercier, Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band, 75 Anniversary, Reverend Michael Brunson, Bernard Sims, Vice President to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau, Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Jan Hackett, President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County School System Superintendent, Caroline Lewallen, President of the Georgia Agritourism Association, David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Fannin County Business of the Year 2010

Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives David Ralston, right, came to celebrate with the Mercier family.

On a serious note, Hackett spoke of the adaptation to change that Mercier Orchards has displayed in its long history of business. She noted that Merciers was the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year in 2010.

“Mercier Orchards is one of the county’s most successful businesses,” Hackett stated to the crowd,”one that brings hundred of thousands of visitors and shoppers to Blue Ridge and Fannin County every year.”

David Ralston, speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, presented a resolution that was recently passed in the Georgia General Assembly.

“Those of us who have lived in Fannin County for a while and knew Bill and Adele Mercier are better for having that experience,” Ralston began.

“Mercier Orchards enjoys the distinction of celebrating the 75th anniversary of its founding,” Ralston read from the resolution. “This outstanding company has grown from its humble beginnings in 1943 to become one of the leading orchards in this country.”

The Mercier family was present as well to celebrate with friends and family. Tim Mercier, son of founders Bill and Adele, as well as current CEO of Mercier Orchards, joked about the history of the establishment: “My mother’s philosophy was if she didn’t do it herself, it didn’t get done right. My dad’s philosophy (was), if you can’t hire it out, the hell with it.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Mercier's Orchard, Bill Mercier, Adele Mercier, Tim Mercier, Helen Mercier, Amanda Mercier, Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band, 75 Anniversary, Reverend Michael Brunson, Bernard Sims, Vice President to the board of the Georgia Farm Bureau, Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Jan Hackett, President of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce, Larry Joe Sosebee, Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County School System Superintendent, Caroline Lewallen, President of the Georgia Agritourism Association, David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, Fannin County Business of the Year 2010

The Mercier family gave a heartfelt thank you to all of their supporters throughout the years.

Judge Amanda Mercier, granddaughter of Mercier Orchards founders, also joked, “My family believed that work ethic started the second you were basically born, and if anybody knew my grandmother, you know that.”

Amanda Mercier spoke of growing up as a child and working at the orchard: “I used to joke that I was going to grow up to be a child labor lawyer. I got real close.”

An emotional thank you came from Helen Mercier, daughter of Bill and Adele, who said, “My mom and dad would be so proud to see all of you here, to see these guys (indicating fellow family members and employees of Mercier Orchards) and see what a great job they have done. Thank you.”

Guests enjoyed live music from the Wolf Creek Bluegrass Band and cuisine provided by Mercier Orchards as they celebrated into the evening. Mercier Orchards will continue the festivities all year long with special events to commemorate 75 years of business.

 

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

WoodmenLife donates to Children’s Fund

Community, Education
Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Education, GEMA, FEMA, Michael Ruple, EMA Director Robert Graham, Lt. Darvin Couch

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Richard York, of WoodmenLife, presented a check to Fannin County School Systems on Friday, Nov. 17, to help with the school system’s Children’s Fund.

Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge, Fannin County School System, WoodmenLife, Children's Fund, Feed Fannin, Family Connection, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Shannon York, Richard York, Social Worker, Tara Cantrell, Betsy Hyde

Dr. Michael Gwatney receives check from Richard York on behalf of the Children’s Fund.

WoodmenLife is a not-for-profit fraternal benefit society. While they are in the business of selling insurance, WoodmenLife also focuses on giving back to the community.

Former Fannin County educator Shannon York explained, “Every year they pick a particular community focus, and this year it was hunger.”

Having worked with Feed Fannin and Family Connection this year, Shannon York said that giving to the Children’s Fund was naturally a good fit for the theme and filling the needs of children in our community not only allows them a better education but also a sense of belonging.

The Children’s Fund is set up through the Fannin County School System. System Social Worker Tara Cantrell explained the workings of the program: “It is a fund that all of the schools have worked to develop because we just keep seeing needs arise. Any of the schools are able to use the funds.”

Established in early 2016, the Children’s Fund has already helped students of Fannin County with purchases of books, glasses, food and clothing.

The fund doesn’t just supply the basic needs of kids, it also gives children opportunities that might not be available to them only for lack of funds. The Children’s Fund has also been used to supply instruments and uniforms as well as help pay for college applications.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney pointed out that the Children’s Fund has been self-sustaining through fundraising and donations from the community.

Cantrell added, “We couldn’t do it without community support. It just goes to show how much the community values our children.”

 

 

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

East Fannin Elementary Presented With Family Friendly Partnership Award

East Fannin Elem, Education

BLUE RIDGE, GA – East Fannin Elementary School (EFES) came together in celebration as the school received the Family Friendly Partnership Award. EFES held the ceremony in their gym on Wednesday, October, 11, 2017.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, East Fannin Elementary School, Morganton, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Principal, Matthew Price, Music Teacher, Kimberly Huffman, Richard Woods, Adam Born

Georgia Superintendent Richard Woods presents award to EFES.

The gym was filled with students, staff, and family as the school met with Georgia’s School Superintendent Richard Woods. Excitement was high as only five schools are chosen annually for this award.

The Georgia Department of Education launched the Georgia Family Friendly Partnership award in the summer of 2010. This honor is for Title I schools who place importance on the role of the family in a student’s education.

Schools are judged on a number of factors including friendliness and helpfulness of the staff, displays of student work throughout the building, and the school’s ability to provide “unique and innovative parent and family engagement programs.”

Fannin County School Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney was present to speak at the ceremony. Gwatney has a long history with EFES. He attended the school in the late 1980s when it was a junior high school. He then taught at the school as an educator, and later became principal.Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, East Fannin Elementary School, Morganton, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Principal, Matthew Price, Music Teacher, Kimberly Huffman, Richard Woods, Adam Born

Gwatney said, “As member of this community, as well as former student, and former member of this faculty, I can honestly say that welcoming and family are two great words to use when describing East Fannin Elementary School.”

Parents were also present to speak of their experiences with EFES. Parent Adam Born said of EFES and the parent involvement, that it is more than just a school, it’s a community.

Born stated that it’s “a community where parents always feel comfortable at their child’s school. Where they can be engaged in their child’s development. A community where a student knows that their parents and teachers are working together to help them achieve higher results.”

The entire student body worked with Music Teacher Kimberly Huffman to prepare a song for the visitors. Smiles of enjoyment were seen on the state representative’s faces as the students performed “Kick It Up A Notch”.

The unique song choice reflected EFES’s staff involvement and dedication, both of which are key components to having won this award.

Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods spoke at the presentation. He explained the process on which the schools are chosen, and stated that within the three years he has presented this award that the EFES’s presentation was the first time where he had seen family presented as speakers for the school.

Woods stated, “Hats off to your presentation.”

He went on “This is something that is extremely hard to get. Roughly we have about 2,300 schools in the state of Georgia. There are only five schools that get this each year. You’re really in the top 1% of the 1%.”

 

 

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

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