Meet and Greet – Candidate Forum~Hosted by Williamson for GA State House District 7

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When we need action – David Ralston is there for us

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Sam Snider 5/13/16

Election, Politics

Candidate for Georgia State House 7th District Representative Sam snider sits down with BKP to speak about citizens and legislation.

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Fannin County Head Start / Pre-K holds tree planting ceremony in recognition of Prevent Child Abuse Month

News

Fannin County Head Start / Pre-K in Mineral Bluff Georgia held a tree planting ceremony on April 20th in recognition of Prevent Child Abuse month.  The idea came from Bill Kendall, the school’s custodian, and the tree was a Dogwood.

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It was a beautiful sunny day, the little children played in the spacious, fenced in area, all safe and sound, and watched intently as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston and Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby spoke regarding keeping our youth safe.  Diane Scoggins, CASA Director spoke to the crowd as well.

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Following the speakers, Bill Kendall planted the Dogwood by the entrance to the school grounds while all the children and others in attendance watched.  Then the kids placed their flowers/pinwheels on the fence to recognize Prevent Child Abuse month.  Click here or more information on Fannin County Head Start / Pre-K     Click here for more information on Prevent Child Abuse 

Citizens React to Possible Closing of North Georgia Medical Center

News

A bomb is exactly what citizens are calling this information that they say came out of nowhere. With continuing questions of what this means to Gilmer County, FYN sat down with Executive Director of the Greater Gilmer JDA (Joint Development Authority), Chuck Scragg in an interview Wednesday.

As DirectoScraggr Scragg said, the impact of that information and the potential loss to Gilmer County could be quite substantial as losing a $31,000,000 business,  which the hospital as a whole contributes to the county, would be a large impediment on the economy, stating, “in 2006 there were 9,035 jobs in Gilmer County, right now, today, there are 7,200 jobs.” Losing a business is losing jobs.

In a county that is still not recovering from the recession, it will be much harder to entice companies to join and move into Gilmer county with no inpatient care services. Director Scragg said when people visit for business scouting, after seeing potential sites, there are always three things they ask to see in the county; Schools, Downtown Area, and Healthcare Facilities.

While FYN has learned of a non-disclosure agreement covering the leasing or closing of the Medical Center, FYN has continued requesting comments from Piedmont Mountainside about the Transition and Services they would provide for Gilmer County considering there is a deadline of January 27 to contest the issue and the filing of a Request for Determination.

Citizens and employees of the Medical Center both are commenting and responding to this information saying “there are employees there that depend on their job to support their family” and many saying this is the first they have heard of the possible closing. With this being the first information they have received, many are still questioning why they were not informed earlier with the deadline only a week away?

House Speaker David Ralston’s office also released the following statement concerning the hospital via Kaleb McMichen, Spokesman.

Under President Obama’s administration, actions at the federal level have driven up the costs of healthcare including deductibles and premiums of commercial health insurance policies as well as the state’s portion of Medicaid spending.  Unfortunately, many hospitals and doctors across Georgia, particularly those in rural areas, are struggling to cope with these changing financial realities.

As recently as last week, Speaker Ralston has said time and again that maintaining access to high-quality healthcare for Georgia’s citizens is a priority. He remains engaged with stakeholders and is working with them to find the best of available solutions to preserve access to hospital care in Gilmer County.

According to Director Scragg, the Greater Gilmer JDA will be having a Special Called Meeting on Monday morning at 9:00am at the Gilmer Chamber. We at FYN have also received the Agenda for this meeting, one of the major items on the agenda being ‘Review & Action on Hospital DET.’ This is an open meeting for citizens to sit in to listen and participate in a Citizens Wishing to Speak Section.

Listen to the full interview with Executive Director Chuck Scragg below:

 

 

 

 

 

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Town Hall, Fannin Teachers concerned with Vague answers on Merit Pay

News

 

Fannin County educators welcomed the opportunity to speak to Georgia’s Speaker of the House, Rep. David Ralston district 7 about sweeping education reforms proposed by Gov. Deal’s Education Reform Committee (read the Commission’s report).  Speaker Ralston helped organize the Fannin County Teacher Town Hall, the 2nd in a series question and answer meetings for his 3rd district teachers.  Accompanying him were two legislators instrumental in delivering Gov. Deal’s initiatives to the Georgia Assembly:  Rep. Coleman, who is Chair of the House Education Committee, and Rep. England, who is Chair of the House Appropriations Committee.  Over well over 100 Fannin educators attended the Dec. 17th meeting.

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The first Teacher Town Hall meeting in Gilmer County gave the Representatives and teachers state-wide a chance to test out proposals in the report.  So, during the Fannin County Teacher Town Hall meeting, all participants, Speaker Ralston, Reps. Coleman and England and Fannin County educators, were more resolute in their remarks.  Most Fannin County educators read from prepared questions and examples to ensure including real classroom situations they experienced and the effect that years of education reform initiatives and the proposed reforms have on their personal attitudes to teaching.

Speaker Ralston reiterated his fundamental disagreement with Gov. Deal about requiring merit-based pay for educators entering teaching in Georgia after 2017.  He believes that educating children is not something that is quantifiable and measurable because public education takes all types of children. Additionally, Ralston feels that the uniqueness of each classroom’s student population makes it difficult to come up with a measuring stick applicable to enough classrooms to go down the road of merit-based pay.

Ralston also stated his unease with the recommendation that local school districts will be deciding the district-specific metrics for merit-based pay.  This brought up an often overlooked aspect of merit-based pay; who is deciding the performance metrics.  According to the Education Reform Commission report, local districts will have flexibility to set the metrics depending on the academic and community needs of the local district.  School boards and system administrators will also have power to change performance metrics at any time and the right to incorporate training and education into these metrics.  In fact, 178 public charter school districts have the flexibility to create their own performance metrics right now.

Ralston also showed more hesitancy in bringing some education reforms, especially merit-based pay, before the Georgia House this year.  He cited his disagreement with some aspects of the report and that this year is an election year.  Indeed, in the upcoming Georgia Assembly, the competition for floor time is competitive because casino style gambling and religious liberty bills are also slated for debate in 2016.  He also repeated his strong message to Gilmer County educators that just because recommendations are in a report, it doesn’t mean that they are law.

A new subject England brought up is teacher retirement.  He related that Georgia’s Teacher Retirement System Fund is one of the best managed funds in North America and he will not fix something that isn’t broken.  Ralston was stronger about changes in teacher retirement.  He said, “As long as I am in this job, we will not touch teacher retirement.”

As before, Rep. Coleman covered education initiatives present in the report.  He, as well as England and Ralston, champion how the future reforms and newly-developed current programs recognize each student as an individual learner with a unique learning style and time line for successfully progression.  Several times the three representatives acknowledged each student brings personal situations like a disability, home life and parental support, social class and English language ability that affect how the student behaves in school and internalizes knowledge.  Coleman praised the current “Move On When Ready” program that gives high school students the opportunity to earn technical and college credit in subjects while still in high school.  Fannin County School System Superintendent Henson agrees that “Move On When Ready” has increased the quality of education for Fannin students. Peppered throughout Coleman’s comments was that changing education takes communication.  Educators are welcome to attend House Education Committee meetings and give comments.

Coleman offered more information about how the state will encourage, prepare, and stream-line the process for young adults to become educators.  Among his suggestions are getting rid of “fluff” courses in teacher education, extending student teaching to one year and reducing university studies to three years.  Possible teacher preparation pathways will become part of Career and Technical Education. Coleman, unlike the proposed merit-based pay metric, emphasized the importance of continuing teacher education. He says that his additional degree in Reading Instruction, which was encouraged through pay increase for additional training, is his most valued degree.  Fannin County High School teacher Bubba Gibbs suggested increasing HOPE Scholarship funds for those studying education.  All three Representatives showed interest in this idea.

Coleman unveiled initiatives in the report that incentivize teachers to try out innovative classroom techniques.  Coleman didn’t say how incentivization nor merit-based pay will account for the fact that innovation can fail as much as succeed. Another way to bring innovation into the classroom, according to Coleman, is a district’s flexibility to hire adjunct instructors.  He gave the example of hiring a local engineer who may not have teaching experience to teach one class of high school physics. He did not say how the state will

At this meeting, Ralston told Fannin educators Gov. Deal’s perspective on the state of Georgia’s education.  He said that Gov. Deal feels the school system is broken.  Rep. Coleman, however, gave a different example of the quality of Georgia’s education.  He said Georgia was recently listed top nation to do business in because of the quality of its work force and training.  He added that businesses wouldn’t be coming to Georgia in the numbers that they are coming if the education system is broken. Ralston feels that public education can always be improved, but he doesn’t hold the strong negativity that Gov. Deal does.  Ralston also hopes that proposed initiatives will roll back the heavy-handedness of the State Department of Education’s in the function of local districts.

Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. England, presented funding aspects.  First off, he repeated his stance on merit-based pay stating that, left up to him, he would scrap the teacher pay proposal. Once again, he stated that the report’s proposed district funding schemes will give flexibility with accountability.  The benefit of flexibility is that money will follow the unique characteristic of a student, not just the number of students.  For example, the reform report defines a new category of student, economically disadvantaged.  This demographic category recognizes that districts with high poverty rates need strong afterschool academic, social, childcare and nutrition support. England recognized that in an economically disadvantaged school district, a teacher may only move a class two steps but those two steps are a giant leap. Though he gave several examples of benefits of flexibility, he did not clearly state where the accountability lay.

A new subject England brought up is teacher retirement.  He related that Georgia’s Teacher Retirement System Fund is one of the best managed funds in North America and he will not fix something that isn’t broken.  Ralston was stronger about changes in teacher retirement.  He said, “As long as I am in this job, we will not touch teacher retirement.”

As before, Rep. Coleman covered education initiatives present in the report.  He, as well as England and Ralston, champion how the future reforms and newly-developed current programs recognize each student as an individual learner with a unique learning style and time line for successfully progression.  Several times the three representatives acknowledged each student brings personal situations like a disability, home life and parental support, social class and English language ability that affect how the student behaves in school and internalizes knowledge.  Coleman praised the current “Move On When Ready” program that gives high school students the opportunity to earn technical and college credit in subjects while still in high school.  Fannin County School System Superintendent Henson agrees that “Move On When Ready” has increased the quality of education for Fannin students. Peppered throughout Coleman’s comments was that changing education takes communication.  Educators are welcome to attend House Education Committee meetings and give comments.

Coleman offered more information about how the state will encourage, prepare, and stream-line the process for young adults to become educators.  Among his suggestions are getting rid of “fluff” courses in teacher education, extending student teaching to one year and reducing university studies to three years.  Possible teacher preparation pathways will become part of Career and Technical Education. Coleman, unlike the proposed merit-based pay metric, emphasized the importance of continuing teacher education. He says that his additional degree in Reading Instruction, which was encouraged through pay increase for additional training, is his most valued degree.  Fannin County High School teacher Bubba Gibbs suggested increasing HOPE Scholarship funds for those studying education.  All three Representatives showed interest in this idea.

Coleman unveiled initiatives in the report that incentivize teachers to try out innovative classroom techniques.  Coleman didn’t say how incentivization nor merit-based pay will account for the fact that innovation can fail as much as succeed. Another way to bring innovation into the classroom, according to Coleman, is a district’s flexibility to hire adjunct instructors.  He gave the example of hiring a local engineer who may not have teaching experience to teach one class of high school physics. He did not say how the state will control for a district’s heavy reliance on part-time adjunct teachers.

Fannin County School System educators’ comments and questions proved their commitment to the education profession and Fannin County schools goes beyond pay.  Fannin teacher Todd Garren said that Fannin County School System is a system of teachers that gives everything for their students and educators don’t enter the profession because of pay.  They become teachers because they believe in the fundamental responsibility of a community to educate its future community leaders. To Garren, giving everything also means being a model of lifelong learning for students.  Training costs money and takes time away from your own children; teachers should be compensated for that believes Garren.

Middle school teacher Barry Abott talked about how dire teacher recruitment and retention is for Georgia.  He cited the drop in students enrolling in teacher education courses.  At Kennesaw State University there is a 20% drop and a 15% drop at the University of Georgia.  Additionally, he said, Georgia teachers have not had an across-the-board raise in seven years and, currently, Georgia teachers’ salaries are $4000 below the national average. The three representatives agreed that it is a problem in the making and promised to see if states paying more than Georgia are having drops in their teacher recruitment and how merit-based pay is affecting recruitment and retention in other states.

In a later interview with FetchyYourNews.com Fannin County School Superintendent Mark Hanson gave a franker description of how Fannin County educators feel.  “We are at our wit’s end,” he said. Beginning with “No Child Left Behind” in 2001, Fannin County students and educators have experienced excessive testing, constantly changing methods of teacher evaluation and more accountability which requires hiring more administrators but not receiving more funding for the additional responsibilities.  Above all is the vagueness for educators and students. More changes are on the way, but no one has given a consistent answer about what is new and what we need to do.

The vagueness for both students and teachers was underlined by Fannin teacher David Dyer’s example of the end of course tests that his 12th grade Economics students recently took. The test, required by Georgia, counts for 20% of the students’ course grades.  Before the test, neither students nor teachers received information about how the answers are evaluated.  Also, when the state returned test scores, students nor teachers knew how tests were graded.  Because of this, the students still don’t know how they should improve and Dyer does not have the information which will help him improve his classes’ quality.  Also, Dyer questioned that if the state cannot tell students what they are graded on, how can teachers expect the state to tell them what they will be evaluated on.

In terms of teacher recruitment and retention, several second- and third-generation Fannin teachers stated they have advised their children not to become a teacher.  Their advice originates from the consistent changes and vagueness in Georgia’s education policies, not concern about pay.  In fact, Superintendent Henson, a second-generation Fannin County educator, has given his 15 year-old daughter the same advice.

Teacher Sarah Welch showed how merit-based pay will affect comradery within a school.  She spoke about her friend who teaches in Gwinnett County, a system which already uses merit-based pay.  The Gwinnett County teacher and her colleague taught exactly the same subject with exactly the same course goals.  In the end, one teacher received a merit pay increase and the other didn’t.   The teacher with merit pay felt guilty because the only difference between their classes was the students.

Superintendent Henson agrees that merit pay will divide teachers.  He prefers the traditional pay scale which uses training and experience to determine salary.  “It pays out fairly,” he said.

Next, a Fannin teacher questioned why children have power to influence his salary through tests tied to merit-based pay. Ralston agreed that students already have the feeling for which standardized tests evaluate teachers’ performance and could choose to retaliate against teachers.

As in the Gilmer County meeting, teachers criticized the amount of mandated testing.  According to the testing administrator for Fannin County, in the academic year 2014-2015, high school students took 7,619 mandated tests, which is approximately 9 tests per each of Fannin County’s 853 high school students. Superintendent Henson showed how testing takes away from instruction. Last year, 9th grade Fannin students lost 30 days of learning to testing.  Henson hints at the riddle of using more tests to quantify teacher ability.  He states, “Testing takes more and more instructional time away from classes to prove that teachers can teach.”

Since Ralston, Coleman and England’s examples of how proposed funding changes will affect Fannin County schools and citizens were vague, FetchyYourNews.com asked Superintendent Henson to explain.  He said that Georgia has a lengthening tradition of underfunding education.  His example is that in fiscal year 2003 Fannin County received from the 60% from the state, 30% from local funding and 9% from the federal government for education expenses; whereas in 2015, it was 37% from the state, 57% from the county and 3% from the federal government.  His fear is under the guise of local flexibility, the state will send one lump sum of money to Fannin County and it will be up to the citizens to stabilize funding and maintain Fannin school’s excellent education quality through property tax increases.  He says Fannin County is lucky because it is a resort community which has a low number of students compared to the property tax revenue thus, Fannin has not had to raise property taxes to fund education.  However, he says, the day will come when Fannin County has to raise property taxes because the state has lowered funding and, due to merit-pay, increased competition among districts for excellent teachers.

In upcoming articles, FetchYourNews.com interviews Reps. Coleman and England about the Fannin County Teacher Town Hall meeting.  You can watch the Fannin County Teacher Town Hall meeting at FetchYourNews.com

 

Correction:  In the article Georgia’s Speaker of the House David Ralston Listens to Gilmer County Teachers, FetchYourNews.com incorrectly identified Rep. Coleman as the Chair of the Education Reform Commission.  Dr. Charles Knapp is the Chair of the Education Reform Commission.

 

 

 

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GMFTO! Tea Party Trojan Horse? 8/3/2015

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Good Morning from the Office! North Ga’s only LIVE ONLINE NEWSCAST! Watch LIVE M-F 7am @ FetchYourNews.com!

BKP on an article written in Z Politics. Why is Speaker of the House, David Ralston, tagged first in this article? What ‘Preachin’ are you sitting under? Is there a Trojan Horse in the Tea Party?

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Special Master Steps Down from Ralston’s Case 7/31/2015

State & National

Good Morning from the Office! North Ga’s only LIVE ONLINE NEWSCAST! Watch LIVE M-F 7am @ FetchYourNews.com

BKP Talks Speaker of the house, David Ralston, and how the Special Master has stepped down from the case.

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