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. – Fannin County Middle School (FCMS) was the site for the 2018 Special Olympics on Wednesday, May 16, as athletes young and old competed in a full-court dash, a tennis ball throw, and the long jump. The event, originally scheduled to take place on the high school football field, was moved to the FCMS gym less than 24 hours before the scheduled start time. Heavy rain and thunderstorms were forecasted but thankfully for the athletes never happened.
Without the hard work and dedication of four individuals, the last-minute move would not have gone so effortlessly. Gini Bell, director of Special Olympics -Fannin, and Fannin Middle School administrators Principal Keith Nuckolls and Assistant Principals Dr. Connie Huff and Tony Tichler made the transition from outside to inside allowing everyone to focus on the athletes. The remainder of the FCMS teachers and staff deserve a huge pat on the back as well. The normal school day was reworked, including bringing each grade in at different times to cheer on the stars of the day. The cafeteria staff fed the everyday students on time while the athletes were fed by Chick-fil-A.
Now to the really important part of the day … the ATHLETES! From all over Fannin and Gilmer counties these athletes ranged from elementary students to senior citizens. There were smiles all around from the faces of the students, volunteers and, of course, the athletes. There were also tears. Tears from those that did not receive medals or compete to the level that their hearts told them they could. At the end of the day, every athlete was full of excitement in knowing that they gave their all and most importantly … they had fun! The only real truth to take away from this event and in life is to know that no matter what happens, you are still a WINNER.
The Fannin REACH scholars visited Berry College March 22, 2018, for an information session, Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) activities at the HackBerry Lab, and a campus tour.
HackBerry lab – STEM activity
The students were working with circuit boards, computers, and fruit to simulate touch screen electronic devices.
The Fannin County School System is closely monitoring today’s weather. The National Weather Service webinar held this morning at 4:00 a.m.indicated the winter weather is expected to arrive in our area by 4:00 p.m. School will be in session today; however, in the interest of safety, all Fannin County Schools will have a 3-hour early release.
In addition, all after school activities are cancelled today (Tuesday), January 16
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – According to the official website for the Fannin County School System, all county schools are closed today due to inclement weather that began in the early morning hours Friday, Dec. 8, and is expected to continue throughout the day and evening.
Also, the Fannin County Tax Commissioners office will close early Friday at noon, followed by the the closing of the entire Fannin County Courthouse at 3 p.m.
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for Fannin and surrounding counties until 7 a.m. Saturday.
Continue to follow FetchYourNews for more weather updates, closings and stories surrounding this weekend’s winter weather.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The crowd spilled into the hall outside the Jury Assembly Room of the Fannin County Courthouse for a town hall meeting addressing a potential Homestead Property Tax Exemption for seniors Thursday, Nov. 16, as hundreds attended, mostly to oppose the exemption.
The change would exempt Fannin property owners 65 and older from paying the school property tax.
The meeting began with brief addresses from Georgia House Speaker and Fannin County resident David Ralston and Georgia State Senator Steve Gooch who were present to hear arguments for and against the exemption.
Ralston explained the exemption would have to pass with a two-thirds majority vote in both the Georgia House of Representatives and State Senate before being placed on the ballot for the 2018 Fannin County General Election. The speaker added neither he nor Senator Gooch had come to a position yet concerning the potential change for Fannin taxpayers.
“It’s a big issue,” Ralston said at the town hall, “and big issues have big consequences. Consequences for people that are on fixed incomes having to pay property taxes that are seniors and big consequences for our public schools here in the county.”
Senator Gooch told of his experience with the exemption during his tenure as Sole Commissioner of Lumpkin County. “I warned people at the time that there were good and bad consequences to legislation like that, and I hope whatever happens here in Fannin County, people will get the facts before they make their decisions on whether they support something or not support something.”
Gooch stated he was not in favor of property taxes and would like to see a shift to a consumption tax to allow property tax relief for all taxpayers. The senator also stated, “Every time you create an exemption for any kind of a tax, you’re shifting the burden to everyone else that’s not getting these exemptions.”
Following Gooch was Blake Doss, policy analyst for the Georgia House Budget and Research office. Doss gave a short presentation and told that Fannin has a population of 6,523 age 65 and older, which accounts for approximately 26 percent of the county’s total population of 24,985. Doss also said the local school system received $18,501,250 (55 percent) of its 2016-17 revenue from property taxes while the remainder derived from state and federal funding.
Doss estimated a senior tax exemption would shift the burden to 40 to 45 percent of the county population. Later, Doss also said 33 to 35 percent of the county’s population would fall under the exemption eligibility in the next few years. He further stated the county currently has two tax exemptions in place available for seniors. One such exemption, Doss said, gives taxpayers 62 and older an up to $30,000 exemption of their 40 percent assessed property if they meet income qualifications. Another, again based on income qualifications, provides a property valuation freeze for taxpayers 70 and older.
The overwhelming majority of citizens in attendance opposed the issue as evidenced by wearing bright orange stickers reading “Support Education.”
Among those, Rita VanOrsdal stated, “Without adequate funding, schools will send (students) out less prepared … I believe that cutting my age group’s taxes will do nothing but denigrate the quality of education of those coming after.”
Mike Queen, former Fannin School Board chairman, said he understood both arguments concerning the issue but added the exemption would put a burden on younger taxpayers and families. “I pay a hefty tax … Every dollar I spend on education is an investment in the future of this county,” Queen said.
Current Fannin School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney informed the audience Fannin County spends more per capita on students -$10,923.20 per student – than the state average – $9,020.46 – despite having the sixth lowest school millage rate in the state (11.23 mills). According to Gwatney, the state average for school millage rates is 16.36 mills. Gwatney estimates Fannin County Schools would lose $1.4 million dollars annually if the exemption is passed.
“Education is an investment, and it’s a good investment,” Gwatney said.
Gwatney also alluded to the struggles Gilmer County Schools have had since that county instituted a similar exemption in recent years. “History has a tendency to repeat itself. The showing in this room tonight does not want to repeat the history of Gilmer County,” Gwatney said.
Chief Executive Officer of Fannin Regional Hospital David Sanders also opposed the exemption and explained that the exemption would affect more than just the school system. Sanders stated during his seven years as CEO of the hospital he has recruited over 25 new physicians.
“Every time I recruit a new physician here, the first question they ask is ‘What’s the school system like?'” Sanders said. “And every time it is a privilege to be able to say we’ve got one of the best public school systems in the country.”
Another exemption opponent told Ralston and Gooch, “I feel like our opinion has been voiced … and if our opinion has not been voiced and (the exemption) makes it to the ballot, that will be on the same ballot as the election you guys will be campaigning for.”
Among those in favor of the senior exemption was Fannin County citizen Jim Klack who explained he had lived in Fannin for over 20 years and in that time has paid approximately $100,000 in school taxes. Klack added he currently pays $500 a month in school taxes.
“I’m 85 years old. When do I get any (tax) relief?” Klack asked. “I support the schools and I give them money, but I should not be paying school taxes – $500 a month – when I’m 85 years old and never had a kid in school in Fannin County.”
Also, Klack said 28 counties in Georgia offered a senior tax exemption for taxpayers 65 and older.
Another supporter of the exemption pointed out the majority of opponents and claimed older taxpayers were not notified of the town hall meeting to the same level of publicity that opponents of the exemption were.
To this, Speaker Ralston told the lady he had sent out personal letters over the last two weeks to supporters of the exemption for whom he had contact information, inviting their attendance and participation, and also sent out proper notifications to newspapers informing all residents of the meeting.
In a follow-up interview with Ralston, the speaker described the meeting as “very helpful and very spirited” and said he saw “intense feelings on both sides of the issue.”
“There are certain issues that a community needs to have a discussion about,” Ralston said, “and this meeting helped me to gauge the sense of the community on this exemption.”
The speaker added that he and Senator Gooch would take their time to digest what was said at the town hall before moving forward with the senior tax exemption.
Continue to follow FetchYourNews for more on the status of the senior tax exemption.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – An evacuation of students at Blue Ridge Elementary School occurred Thursday, Nov. 9, after the City of Blue Ridge notified the school of a gas line leak, according to a statement released by Fannin County Schools.
The statement reported that no students were in immediate danger but, as a precaution, were transported to Fannin County High School. No other schools within the system were affected by the gas leak, and students at those schools are safe.
A Veteran’s Day program that was scheduled for Thursday at 1 p.m. at BRES has been cancelled.
No decision has been made as to when BRES will reopen, and students will remain at FCHS until clearance to return to BRES is given.
Continue to follow FetchYourNews.com for further developments in this story.
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