Fannin County Board of Education adopts GAMB policy

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County School System officially became the second county in the state of Georgia to adopt a policy giving the option of arming school personnel. In April, the Laurens County school board in Georgia adopted a similar policy.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, Terry Bramlett, Benny Long, Laurens County, Brent Warberg, Kyle Raque, Michele Bradley, Sheila Gooch, Jack Taylor

Standing room only as citizens gather to voice their opinion on GAMB.

The unanimous decision by the Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) is one that board members said they did not take lightly and that much thought and planning was involved in the policy of Possession of Weapons by Employees or GAMB.

“We have given careful consideration to as many aspects of this as we possibly can,” board member Terry Bramlett stated during closing thoughts.

This decision by the BOE was not met without opposition as the Fannin County Board of Education facility was filled to capacity Thursday night.

Board members listened to several speakers from the community. Ten citizens in all signed up to have their voices heard during public commentary.

“It’s madness. That the way you solve a problem is to kill somebody,” Brent Warberg, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) profiler and hostage negotiator, said, showing his passion for his stance. “If you arm a teacher and that teacher shoots somebody, you own it.”

Warberg’s feelings were shared by others during public commentary. Dr. Kyle Raque, a clinical psychologist, cited that there is no evidence that arming school personnel works to provide a safer environment.

Mother of two, Michele Bradley, shared her thoughts: “Are you prepared to be sued when one of these teachers innocently kills a child?”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, Terry Bramlett, Benny Long, Laurens County, Brent Warberg, Kyle Raque, Michele Bradley, Sheila Gooch, Jack Taylor

Former FBI profiler Brent Warberg urges board members to not adopt the new policy.

Most who spoke in opposition of the newly adopted policy offered other solutions to the issue of safety on school campuses. Among the solutions discussed were those of addressing mental health of not just students, but of faculty as well, and trying to intervene at a young age when a child first shows signs of mental illness.

As many spoke in opposition, just as many spoke in favor of the GAMB policy. The public commentary portion of the meeting was split evenly between the two sides.

“As a former resource officer, I can tell you that evil is at the front door,” Jack Taylor, chairman of Blue Ridge Patriot Friends of the National Rifle Association (NRA) addressed the board, “and it’s knocking.”

“I commend you all for having the guts to do this,” Taylor added.

Retired educator and NRA certified pistol instructor Sheila Gooch also spoke in favor of GAMB: “We need options. We need to look at what we can do to protect our children.”

Before board members placed their vote, Fannin County Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney reiterated his views that he had expressed during the April BOE meeting when the GAMB policy was first read.

“There is no higher purpose of our school system than to provide a safe and secure environment for our students, faculty and staff,” Gwatney said, explaining his position on adopting the policy.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, Terry Bramlett, Benny Long, Laurens County, Brent Warberg, Kyle Raque, Michele Bradley, Sheila Gooch, Jack Taylor

Former resource officer Jack Taylor commends the board for taking steps to adopt the new policy.

“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.

It was clear by Gwatney’s speech that his biggest concern when it comes to setting policy for the safety of Fannin County schools is the mistake of taking no action at all.

He concluded his thoughts by sharing 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.”

After fully reading the policy for a second time and with tension high in the room, the BOE unanimously passed GAMB. Many present in opposition of the policy stormed out of the building upon its passing.

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.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, Terry Bramlett, Benny Long, Laurens County, Brent Warberg, Kyle Raque, Michele Bradley, Sheila Gooch, Jack Taylor

Fannin County Board of Education unanimously votes to adopt new GAMB policy.

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 expressed his opinion of the policy at the previous BOE meeting held in April: “I support it 100 percent. I think that drastic acts require drastic responses.”

Kirby went on to say, “I’m very thankful that the board and the superintendent were willing to step out into these waters. I think it was done right.”

Fannin County Assistant Superintendent Benny Long pointed out that this policy is a foundation from which the school system can build: “At this given time, it is still in the very formative stages. There are lots of questions, I think, that all of us have but we are working on developing this process.”

If the board chooses to put this policy into practice, the personnel approved would remain confidential. Gwatney previously 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 is just one more option, one more tool, that we could use to keep our schools safe,” Gwatney said, explaining that by adopting the policy it simply just gives the school board that option to possibly take. “The policy in and of itself could act as a deterrent to someone wishing to do harm.”

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.

 

 

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

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Arming Fannin County educators

News, Rebel's Corner

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.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School

Fannin County Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney

“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.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School

Dr. Gwatney’s full letter concerning the board’s decision to look into arming educators for added security on Fannin County school campuses.

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, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School

Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby

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.

 

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

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Discussions continue over Board of Education $250,000 land purchase

News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After news spread of the Fannin County Board of Education’s recent approval to purchase one acre of land on Highway 515 for a price tag of $250,000, citizens questioned the necessity of this purchase and inquired about the legalities of its use.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, along with Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss and Fannin County School System’s Director of Facilities and Maintenance Danny Shinpaugh, sat down with FetchYourNews to answer questions and address concerns over this purchase.

This one-acre plot of land, which will serve as a connector to the school system’s new agricultural development positioned off of Ada Street, is located along Highway 515 between Windy Ridge Road and Josh Hall Road.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Danny Shinpaugh, Agricultural Department, Ada Street, Highway 515, Windy Ridge Road, Property Purchase, $250,000, Georgia Department of Transportation, GDOT

Main entrance to agricultural campus will be shared with Fannin County’s new fire station and E-911 center.

Doss explained that the 31 acres off of Ada Street has been under the ownership of the Fannin County School System for many years: “The school system has owned that property for about 15 years.”

According to Doss, the Ada Street land was originally purchased in 2006 with plans to build a new school if the need arose. The land itself was centrally enough located and met state requirements at that time for a new school.

Since the need for a new school never came to pass, the school system, over the years, have looked at a number of ways in which to utilize this property and, in recent years, decided that it would be ideal for an agricultural facility.

The property currently has an entrance/exit along Ada Street, but Gwatney pointed out that it would be used very minimally and primarily in the event of an emergency.

The property’s main point of access is along the Windy Ridge Connector, where the school system has partnered with Fannin County, and a roadway will be shared with the new fire station and allow access to the agricultural facility.

Questions arose about the need for the acre of land located on Highway 515 and the logistics of its use after Gwatney released a statement explaining the purchase.

In the statement, Gwatney said, “If you hear that our school system paid $250,000 for an acre of property, it is true; however, there is more that you need to know about this purchase, and I want you to have the facts.”

Gwatney also pointed out in the same statement that district personnel, including himself, has already met with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), and it has been determined that a deceleration lane may be placed ahead of the existing entrance to the property on Hwy. 515.

No official approval has been granted to the school system to make changes to the property in the GDOT right of way, but a GDOT representative did confirm with school officials that these changes were possible.

Gwatney clarified about circumstances of the possible deceleration lane: “We just wanted to make sure whether it was feasible, and that’s what we talked to GDOT about.”

In order for any improvements to be made to the entrance of the property, including a deceleration or an acceleration lane, permission would have to be granted from GDOT and special permits would need to be obtained by the Fannin County School System.

Fannin County School System’s Director of Facilities and Maintenance Danny Shinpaugh confirmed that any of these improvements would have to be carried out by GDOT-approved contractors and engineers and meet GDOT-approved standards and plans.

According to the GDOT Regulations for Driveway and Encroachment Control, a right turn lane may be required of the school system in order to use this property as an entrance: “Right turn deceleration lane must be constructed at no cost to the Department if the daily site generated Right Turn Volumes (RTV) based on ITE Trip Generation (assuming a reasonable distribution of entry volumes) meet or exceed” 50 right turns into the property daily.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Danny Shinpaugh, Agricultural Department, Ada Street, Highway 515, Windy Ridge Road, Property Purchase, $250,000, Georgia Department of Transportation, GDOT

Ownership and maintaining of a deceleration lane after completion is also described in the GDOT regulations as: “The R/W for accel/decel lanes may be dedicated in fee simple to the Department for the Department to maintain or the applicant must sign an agreement with the Department to maintain the lane to the Department’s standards and to hold harmless the Department in the event that section of roadway is identified in any liability action.”

While the addition of the deceleration lane could be an expensive venture for the school system, Gwatney stated that there are currently no plans to implement the right turn lane, and the main reason for the purchase of the property was for direct Hwy. 515 access and to allow for a variety of options in traffic control onto and off of the land.

“We would have acquired this property without that (deceleration lane),” Gwatney said, explaining the school system’s stance on the purchase. “It wouldn’t be near the worth if we couldn’t do that.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Board of Education, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Attorney, Lynn Doss, Director of Facilities and Maintenance, Danny Shinpaugh, Agricultural Department, Ada Street, Highway 515, Windy Ridge Road, Property Purchase, $250,000, Georgia Department of Transportation, GDOT

Site where possible future deceleration/acceleration lanes would be placed.

A question also arose pertaining to whether the property’s existing entrance was already zoned for commercial use, as getting a commercial entrance onto Hwy. 515 could be difficult and costly.

According to the GDOT regulations, in the case of Non-commercial Driveways “a driveway serving a school, government building, church, hospital or other non-commercial organization inviting public use. Design guidelines relating to commercial driveways will be applicable to driveways serving these land uses.”

However, Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss said that this is not a concern for this project: “It’s not a thing where we are because we’re outside of the city limits. In the county, we don’t have zoning, so we have no commercial, residential or industrial.”

While the plans for the one-acre tract are yet to be determined, Gwatney suggested some possible uses. The land could serve as an exit from the facility for southbound traffic turning right onto Hwy. 515, and the main entrance off of Windy Ridge Connector would serve as an exit for northbound traffic allowing this traffic access to a traffic light in order to turn left onto Hwy. 515.

Another plus noted by both Gwatney and Shinpaugh in relation to purchasing this land is the use of the existing buildings on the property.

“The school system is always hurting for storage,” Shinpaugh noted.

The property currently has 18 storage units, all of which have the space to house large equipment. These buildings will be put to use by the school system.

As for the purchase of this tract, Gwatney explained that it was not needed for the land’s original purpose in 2006, but as the purpose of the land changed, so did the needs to accommodate the facility: “It makes our existing project better.”

The new agricultural facility is expected to be completed by June 30 of this year.

[Featured Image: Entrance onto recently purchased property from Highway 515. According to Doss, this entrance will not require a commercial zoning permit.]

 

 

 

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

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Board of Education agrees to purchase commercial tract for $250,000

News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – At a special called Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) meeting held March 22, the board unanimously agreed to purchase commercial land located on Highway 515.

Fannin County BOE agrees to purchase commercial tract for $250,000

The one acre property is located between Windy Ridge Road and Josh Hall Road.

This one-acre plot of land, which will serve as a connector to the school system’s new agricultural development located off of Ada Street, was purchased by the board for an agreed upon price of $250,000.

A statement released by Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney explains the circumstances behind this purchase: “If you hear that our school system paid $250,000 for an acre of property, it is true; however, there is more that you need to know about this purchase, and I want you to have the facts.”

The district currently has an easement beside the site of the new Fannin County Fire Department Fire Station 1 (off of the Windy Ridge Connector) that has been utilized to access the 31+ acres of land located off Ada Street.

“This new tract will connect our existing acreage and provide us with a continuous piece of property connecting directly to Highway 515,” Gwatney explains.

“This second Highway 515 access will be a safer and quicker way to enter our agricultural facility, and it will alleviate the need for visitors to travel to the Windy Ridge Connector,” Gwatney said in his statement.

The new tract of land is located along Highway 515 between the Windy Ridge Connector and Josh Hall Road.

Fannin County BOE agrees to purchase commercial tract for $250,000

Entrance to the property is located just beyond the Windy Ridge overpass heading south on Hwy. 515.

Gwatney pointed out that district personnel, including himself, has already met with the Georgia Department of Transportation, and it has been determined that a deceleration lane may be placed ahead of the existing entrance to the property on Hwy. 515.

Gwatney explained, “This deceleration lane will help safely ease the transition off Highway 515 for our buses, student drivers, and large vehicles that may be towing trailers.”

The property is owned by AAH Properties of Blue Ridge, LLC. who purchased the tract in 2006 for $380,000. According to Gwatney, it is also important to note that “all usable commercial frontage on Highway 515, especially with an access road already in place, is quite valuable.”

This tract of land has buildings that are currently being used commercially and these buildings along with signage will become property of the Fannin County School System.

The terms in the selling contract states that closing on this property will occur within 90 days of the termination of current tenant leases. The purchase of this property will come from Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) funds allocated to the Fannin County School System.

 

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

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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.

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

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.”

 

 

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

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@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

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@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.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

FetchYourNews.com - Dedicated to serve the needs of the community. Provide a source of real news-Dependable Information-Central to the growth and success of our Communities. Strive to encourage, uplift, warn, entertain, & enlighten our readers/viewers- Honest-Reliable-Informative.

News - Videos - TV - Marketing - Website Design - Commercial Production - Consultation

Search

FetchYourNews.com - Citizen Journalists - A place to share “Your” work. Send us “Your” information or tips - 706.276.NEWs (6397) 706.889.9700 chief@FetchYourNews.com

Back to Top