BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – At the April 12 Board of Education (BOE) meeting, a new policy was introduced that would give Fannin County Schools the option of having armed educators on their campuses.
“There is no higher purpose of our school system than to provide a safe and secure environment for our students, faculty and staff,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney began, addressing those in attendance about the proposed policy addition about to be publicly read.
“Your board and I have been unable to ignore the many tragic events across our nation that have resulted in the deaths of so many,” Gwatney continued.
Gwatney cited that schools have a number of precautions in place to protect students and faculty in the event of a crisis. He listed fire extinguishers, bleed response kits, and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) as examples.
Following these examples, Gwatney pointed to the fact that school resource officers (SROs) are present for much the same reason: “During the course of my career, I have seen the numbers of SROs progress from none in our district to one; then the number has grown over the years to our current ratio of one SRO for each school.”
“Emergencies do occur, though, and just like a defibrillator, a tourniquet, or a fire extinguisher, a firearm is – at its core – a tool,” Gwatney expounded on the board’s decision to present this legislative option.
“As a professional educator, I will be the first to say that simply increasing the number of weapons already legally on our campuses is not, at least in of itself, the answer,” Gwatney said, acknowledging that the issues faced when dealing with violence is multifaceted and other aspects such as mental health need also be addressed.
Gwatney concluded his thoughts with a quote from John F. Kennedy: “There are risks and costs to action. But are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”
The new Possession of Weapons by Employees policy (GAMB) states that “the Board of Education may authorize certain personnel to possess or carry weapons on any property or in any building owned or leased by the District, at a school function, or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the District”.
Those approved to carry weapons on school property must meet and adhere to certain criteria, the first of which being that proper training and review of skill must be approved in advance by the superintendent and the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.
Continued evaluation will also be required upon approval: “To receive and subsequently maintain authorization, all approved personnel shall regularly qualify to the standard required by the Fannin County Sheriff for each type of weapon authorized.”
Types and quantities of weapons and ammunition each individual will be allowed to possess will be approved and monitored by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office and the superintendent.
Personnel will not be required to carry arms and the program will be carried out on a volunteer basis. Furthermore the new legislation states, “The final appointment will be made by the Superintendent consistent with the requirements of this policy. Each employee appointed must be licensed under the laws of the state to carry a firearm and shall be subject to an annual criminal history background check. Approval will not be granted for any employee who has had an employment or other history indicating any type of mental or emotional instability as determined by the Board or Superintendent. The Superintendent shall be able at any time to remove or suspend the authority granted to any employee under this policy.”
Specific guidelines were also laid out in the new policy for proper carrying and storage of weapons.
Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby was present to share his thoughts: “I support it 100 percent. I think that drastic acts require drastic responses.”
Kirby cited the process of an active shooter scenario from the time that the first act of violence occurs until his officers could be on scene to respond.
He acknowledged that times may vary but stated, “By the time all of that is done, that could take up to 15 minutes, in all reality for someone to respond to one of our schools.”
“I’m very thankful that the board and the superintendent were willing to step out into these waters,” Kirby said, finalizing his opinion on the new policy. “I think it was done right.”
If implemented, the personnel approved would remain confidential. Gwatney explained, “By pursuing a policy, the Board of Education intends to reserve the option to take action that is permitted by state law; whether and/or how the board chooses to implement the policy, if approved, is a confidential matter.”
This new policy has been tabled and will be addressed at the Board of Education regular meeting held May 10.
Policy Possession of Weapons by Employees (Descriptor Code: GAMB):
The Board of Education is committed to maintaining a safe and secure working and learning environment. Unless authorized by the Board of Education or an administrator in accordance with this policy, or specifically authorized by state law, employees shall be prohibited from bringing weapons on any property or in any building owned or leased by the District, at school functions, and on school buses or other transportation furnished by the School District. Employees in violation of this policy shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-11-130.1, the Board of Education may authorize certain personnel to possess or carry weapons on any property or in any building owned or leased by the District, at a school function, or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the District, subject to the following conditions:
1. Training of approved personnel shall occur prior to their authorization to carry weapons. The training shall be approved in advance by the Superintendent and Fannin County Sheriff and shall, at a minimum, include training on judgment pistol and long gun shooting, marksmanship, and a review of current laws relating to the use of force for the defense of self or others. The Superintendent, with the approval of the Fannin County Sheriff, may substitute for certain training requirements an individual’s prior military or law enforcement service if he or she has previously served as a certified law enforcement officer or has had military service which involved similar weapons training. To receive and subsequently maintain authorization, all approved personnel shall regularly qualify to the standard required by the Fannin County Sheriff for each type of weapon authorized.
2. An approved list of the types and quantity of weapons and ammunition each approved individual is authorized to possess or carry shall be prepared and maintained by the Superintendent and shall be approved by the Fannin County Sheriff;
3. Selection of personnel to possess or carry a weapon shall be done strictly on a voluntary basis.The final appointment will be made by the Superintendent consistent with the requirements of this policy. Each employee appointed must be licensed under the laws of the state to carry a firearm and shall be subject to an annual criminal history background check. Approval will not be granted for any employee who has had an employment or other history indicating any type of mental or emotional instability as determined by the Board or Superintendent. The Superintendent shall be able at any time to remove or suspend the authority granted to any employee under this policy; and
4. Weapons possessed or carried by personnel under this paragraph shall be secured as follows: Concealed weapons are permitted if they are carried in a holster and not in a purse, briefcase, bag, or similar other accessory which is not secured on the body. If maintained separate from the body, the weapon shall be maintained in a secured lock safe or similar lock box that cannot be easily accessed by students.
In addition to those employees appointed pursuant to this policy, the Board recognizes that other exceptions exist under O.C.G.A. §16-11-127.1. All records regarding the appointment of individual employees and the implementation of this program shall be exempt from production under the Open Records Act as specified in Georgia law.
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BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – In a recent interview on FYNTV, Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston made an announcement regarding the University of North Georgia’s (UNG) Blue Ridge campus.
Ralston confirmed in the interview that the state has set $5.5 million into a line item to establish a new standalone “brick and mortar” building for the university. The budgeted funds are set for construction only, meaning that the university will be responsible for locating and acquiring a spot suitable for the new campus. Once the college purchases the location, they can utilize the state funds for their new building to expand into that new home in Fannin County.
As such, the location of this facility is yet to be determined. According to Campus Director of Blue Ridge for UNG, Sandy Ott, she hopes to begin construction as soon as possible. Ott spoke with FetchYourNews (FYN) about the fund allocation saying, “We are thrilled with the opportunity to expand the Blue Ridge campus. We are so excited for the opportunities for the students in our region. This is going to have an impact, truly.”
Ott noted some of the major capabilities that a standalone campus will allow including expanded course offerings, lab spaces for sciences and core classes, as well as development space to cater to the region’s specific needs. While college officials are still searching for the best location at this time, Ott confirmed that they are still very early in the process and uncertain if the new standalone campus will see them completely leaving their current location just off of 515 at 83 Dunbarton Farm Road.
UNG has been at that location since 2015, offering opportunities such as dual-enrollment courses for high school students, a full-time program for first-time freshmen, courses for adult learners getting started or returning to college, and continued education programs.
With the passing of the state’s budget, this is now set for UNG to utilize when available. Ott assures FYN they are moving quickly to take advantage of the funds to increase their services as soon as possible for students. See more by checking out the announcement at 14 minutes into FYNTV’s video below.
Dual enrollment allows students to attend college while in high school earning college credits and fulfilling graduation requirements at the same time. It is a great opportunity for students to get a head start on their college classes. Pictured, Ms. Dillard, right, discusses dual enrollment possibilities with Shea Ross. Ms. Dillard gave a presentation on dual enrollment to all Mountain Education Charter students during Student Appreciation Week.
High school athletics are a huge part of character development for our young men and women, teaching them how to overcome adversity, work together, balance studies with extracurricular activities, and last but not least: It is their first legitimate introduction to health and fitness.
You may have heard of the “Five Parts of Physical Fitness” before – but there are actually 11 components of what a coach evaluates when assessing the physical fitness of an athlete.
3. Body Composition
4. Cardiovascular Endurance
7. Muscular Endurance
8. Muscular Strength
10. Reaction Time
We use these components of physical fitness in our everyday lives, but the first true test of each of these measures typically comes by way of high school sports. Strength coaches help their athletes with endurance, strength, power and balance. Conditioning coaches help their athletes with cardiovascular endurance, reaction time, coordination and agility. All coaches typically impact an athletes body composition, flexibility and speed.
The one coach who assists the athletes with all of the above, however, is the athletic trainer. Day or night, when there is a ball game, a wrestling tournament, a track meet, or even at power puff flag football; the athletic trainer stands ready to help the athletes prevent accidents, stay hydrated, and in worst-case scenarios; diagnose and treat injuries as they occur. Oftentimes their hard work is overshadowed by the gameplay itself, but when a player goes down these coaches show their true value by coming to the immediate aide of all involved. Humbly waiting in the shadows of the sidelines, the athletic trainer answers the call that no one else would ever want to.
Fannin County High School’s head athletic trainer is Jeremy Keith King, a 2007 FCHS graduate who went on to study Sports Medicine with an emphasis in Athletic Training at Valdosta State University. Coach King graduated with his Bachelor of Science degree in 2011 and after completing his internship at Northeast Medical Center/The Rehabilitation Institute in Gainesville, Ga, he began his career at Fannin County High School.
In 2013, he was hired as the Head Athletic Trainer for FCHS, and he was offered a full time teaching position in Healthcare Science.
When asked about his experience, King shared that he’s worked closely with multiple doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists and EMT’s; as well as many other sports medicine professionals. “To come home to my high school and serve as the head athletic trainer and instructor of the Sports Medicine program is a dream come true for me,” King told TeamFYNSports.
We asked one of his students/trainers about her experience learning from the head athletic trainer and participating in the Sports Medicine program at FCHS. Trudy Cobb is a senior, and could be seen carrying water bottles to players, coaches and even GHSA officials at each home and away football game this year.
“It’s a great experience to get to learn things that people my age don’t usually know,” Cobb told TeamFYNSports. “Coach King is a great teacher inside the classroom working with all high school grade levels, but in OUR program we learn SO MUCH MORE.” Cobb shared that she has been introduced to many healthcare professionals by King, and she felt that has helped her understand and develop a genuine interest in sports medicine as a potential career.
“I truly think that the key to knowing if you want to be in that career, you should immerse yourself into those type of situations,” Cobb explained, “but through [King’s] program, I have learned the hands-on of taping an ankle and working on rehabilitating athletes. You have to know the ins-and-outs of each and every sport because not only are you watching – and hopefully enjoying – the games; you must also know the essential motions of movements that the particular athletes you are working with use. It’s an experience that I am very blessed to have been a part of through my years in high school.”
Although his position at FCHS is a demanding one, King still makes time for his family and his other passions.
“I am happily married to Christa [King] and we have two daughters, Evie and Lyla,” said King. “They attend Fannin County schools.” He added that he and his wife recently welcomed their son, Thaddeus, to “Rebel Nation” this year.
King is also a member of the Blue Ridge Rugby Club and he is a proud member of the Phi Sigma Kappa National Fraternity. “I currently still serve as a mentor and advisor for new members [of Phi Sigma Kappa] and I serve on the Alumni Board of Executives,” King explained.
TeamFYNSports had an opportunity to catch up with Coach King, and since this is the time of year so many people tend to look at their new year resolutions, we thought we’d ask him if he had any advice for anyone getting out to the gym to try and shed a few pounds after a relatively sedentary holiday break. Here’s what he had to say:
“From an injury prevention measure, know your limitations. Don’t feel like you have to show out, your body can not just pick up right where it left off. Slowly ease yourself back into a workout program and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Gyms have personal trainers there to give you feedback and help you – if they don’t – consider a different gym. Also, don’t forget about the diet and stretching parts of a workout program. If you are wanting to get stronger or healthy, the diet is an important part of it. Our body needs “good” fuel to run on, especially if we are asking more from it. Stretching is important before and after a workout. Get a good dynamic (moving) 10-minute warm-up in before your start and a good cool down period before you stop. Static stretching (holding a stretch) is best after you are done with you entire workout. Remember it is all a process and results do not happen overnight, so stick with it even when you feel like giving up.”
We also asked King what was the most common cause for injuries in high school sports. His answer came as no surprise:
“#1 is accidents, stepping on another players foot, a plant and twist of the knee, getting hit. They are all freak accidents that you can’t control. That is where most injuries occur, but there are preventable injuries that happen too. The number one cause of “preventable” injuries in high school sports in my opinion is not stretching enough or not stretching adequately. Whether it is a dynamic warm up or static stretching after practice, kids just don’t do it enough. Our coaches do a great job having warm ups and giving kids time to stretch but if the kids don’t actually put the effort into it then it doesn’t do much good.”
If you’re a parent of a student athlete at FCHS, you may have already known who Coach King was; do us a favor the next time you see him and shake his hand. This is one coach who has put his whole life into his education, then turned around and brought his skills back to Fannin County to apply them in our community.
We are fortunate to have Coach King as the FCHS Head Athletic Trainer.
West Fannin Elementary School hosted two days of Thanksgiving meals for students and their families on Nov. 7 and 8. Our cafeteria staff served over 1,200 meals during the two-day period. The smiles and warm fellowship felt during these meals was so special. Thank you to the many volunteers that made this event possible, but most of all, thank you to our wonderful cafeteria staff.
Pictured above is: Daniel Bolling, Alyssa Bolling, Lilly Bolling, Leann Bolling
Pictured above is: Vanessa Nye, Bella Messer, Peyton Messer
Pictured above is: Jocinda Padrutt and Danica Padrutt
Pictured above is: Brittany Sanders and Patricia Kimsey
Pictured above is: Gary Weaver, Stephen Weaver, Amanda Weaver
The coaches at Fannin County High School have had the pleasure of coaching some talented individuals over the years. Some athletes shine on the field, others in the weight room, and many are just great students. That’s nothing new in a school that boasts some of the best teaching, coaching and administration the state has to offer.
What’s rare is finding an athlete that encompasses the “total package” – a great student, talented athlete, and a pristine example within the community. A coach can go his entire career hoping to mold and mentor such an athlete. Jon Ayers took over the baseball program at FCHS four years ago, and upon his arrival, he met Will Shirah; i.e. the total package. The credit not only goes to Ayers and the FCHS coaching staff for polishing Shirah’s performance on the baseball field and in the classroom; but also to his parents, Cliff and Julie Shirah, who have raised more than a great baseball player. They’ve raised a fine young man.
Academically speaking, Shirah’s awards nearly outweigh his baseball trophy case. Ranked #1 out of 204 students, the Hugh O’Brien Leadership Award Winner has already earned 25 college semester hours as a Dual Enrollment student with a perfect (4.0) grade point average. A member of the National Honor Society as a sophomore, a member of the FCHS Academic Team both his junior and senior years, and recognized with Student Athlete Community Service Network’s All Area Honors; it’s no surprise Shirah was Senior Superlative voted “Best All Around” student at Fannin County High School.
When Shirah isn’t throwing 90mph fastballs across the plate at the baseball diamond, he’s throwing mashed potatoes and dinner rolls on plates at the Feed Fannin Thanksgiving Dinner as a Charity Good Samaritan volunteer – much slower than the fastballs, thankfully.
Shirah also volunteers to help prepare bags of food, furniture and clothing for homeless and indigent families with his church group at the Copper Basin Crisis Center. He’s a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event leader and actively works with multiple Christian outreach programs such as Fields of Faith.
He is a member of the United Community Bank Junior Board, along with 11 other seniors, which gives back the community by participating in monthly events such as Relay for Life and more.
Shirah’s work as a volunteer with the Fannin County High School Baseball Camp will be missed when he leaves for college, but he will undoubtedly also be missed at First Baptist Church where he regularly helps in the nursery. His resume for community service serves as a role model and positive example for everyone around him, a trait his coaches and parents each shared with everyone in attendance at Shirah’s college commitment signing.
His grades are superior, his involvement in the community is respectable, and his attitude is humble; but his performance on the baseball field is phenomenal.
Shirah has lettered his freshman, sophomore and junior years at FCHS. He was also named All Region First team (7-AAA) all three of those years. He received the pitching award all three years, and he averaged 1.7 K’s per inning pitched with 190 K’s in 108 innings (Author’s note: In baseball scorekeeping, a swinging strikeout is recorded as a K). He received the batting award as a freshman and a junior.
Shirah was recently named to the Preseason All State Region 7-AAA team and he was selected to be on the cover of the 2018 Georgia Dugout Club Preview Magazine. He’s also been named to the Rawlings PG National Preseason Underclass All America Team for the third year in a row. In 2016 and 2017, he made the All-Tournament team in the 17u and 18u World Championships.
Shirah was named to the Top Prospect Team at PG Jr Nationals and Nationals (an invitation only event held in Ft Myers, FL for the nation’s top rising high school junior and senior baseball players).
Truth be told, there are too many accomplishments in Shirah’s high school baseball career to list them all. His ability to play the game has garnered national attention – including baseball recruitment (and/or offers) from Stanford, Notre Dame, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, Louisville, Vanderbilt, Penn State, Harvard, Coastal Carolina, College of Charleston, and last but not least: Georgia Tech.
On Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 3:45pm, Will Shirah thanked his coaches, parents, friends and teammates. He gave credit to his faith and everyone who supports him as he put pen to paper and signed his commitment to play baseball for the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets. We look forward to following his continued success in the future.