BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education met in a special called meeting Wednesday, May 30, to approve the purchase of 750 Chromebooks to be used by students in the school system in grades eight through 12.
Heather Finley, director of instructional technology, explained the HP G6 Education Edition Chromebooks would be purchased from SHI for a total of $159,525. The purchase will be mostly reimbursed by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement with funds received through a Connections for Classroom grant. The grant, which is for $146,550, will cover the price ($146,337.60) for 688 of the 750 Chromebooks. The remaining 62 Chromebooks will cost $13,187.40 and this purchase will be made with funds from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).
The devices, according to information presented by Finley, feature four gigabytes of RAM (random access memory), high definition graphics, and WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities.
“We are very excited,” Finley said of the purchase. “I feel like I’ve been working all year for this.”
The bid from SHI was the lowest among eight sealed bids, and the purchase of the Chromebooks adds to the 500 the school system already has in use.
“(This purchase) is going to complete the mission of putting a Chromebook in every child’s hands (grade) eight through 12,” Fannin County School Superintendent Michael Gwatney said.
According to Finley, when the Chromebooks are distributed to students in August at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, students will be allowed to take the devices home to use.
After Board member Steve Stanley asked if the devices would function for students who do not have Internet access at home, Finley explained homework assignments could be easily downloaded before leaving school or another WiFi hotspot and completed without the use of Internet.
Stanley also inquired about the possibility of outfitting more school buses with WiFi. Currently, according to Finley, seven buses have WiFi technology. “I think it’s more important to try to expand it to get it on all of our buses because as you know, many of our kids that live out in Suches – being able to, on an hour bus ride, to get your homework done on the way home, that’s a huge benefit,” Finley stated.
After further discussion, the board unanimously approved the purchase of the Chromebooks. Board members Chad Galloway and Terry Bramlett were absent from the meeting.
In addition, the board also approved a purchase for content filtering software from STRYKE Security, Inc. in the amount of $16,320.00. As Finley explained, this purchase, when combined with a previous purchase from the same company for content filtering devices totals $36,784.04. Finley also noted the previous purchase utilized SPLOST funds while the current purchase would draw from local funds. The new filtering devices and software will replace the current content filter, which is unable to handle planned Internet speed upgrades and increased devices on the school’s network.
“Even if (the students are) on their own WiFi at home, this new content filter can let us know and even block things that they’re doing at home that they shouldn’t be doing. Everything gets rerouted back through our servers here at the tech hub,” Finley said.
The board also approved this purchase unanimously.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Several school system accomplishments were mentioned and this school year’s retirees were honored at the end-of-the-year meeting of Fannin County Schools at the Performing Arts Center Wednesday, May 30.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney kicked the meeting off by announcing 198 students recently graduated from Fannin County High School.
“That’s reflective of the wonderful work that is done by the faculty and staff and leadership at Fannin County High School,” Gwatney added, “but it also speaks volumes for what happens at elementary and middle schools to prepare the students to get them to these levels.”
Gwatney also thanked the Board of Education for a 1 percent across-the-board permanent pay increase for school system personnel.
“And as I stand here before you today, always remember that you are a member of the greatest and most honorable profession,” the superintendent told the countless number of educators and school employees in attendance. “Ladies and gentlemen, ours is the one profession in which all professions must pass.”
Later, Board of Education member Steve Stanley praised Gwatney’s own leadership asking everyone in attendance, “Don’t you guys think that Dr. Gwatney did a great job this year?”
To this, the audience responded with a resounding round of applause for the superintendent.
Lewis DeWeese, BOE chairman, also spoke of the change he saw this year under Dr. Gwatney. “I’ve been saying it for the last year or so, our system has a new spirit, a new friendly, open, honest willingness to share (and) work together,” DeWeese stated.
BOE member Bobby Bearden also took a moment to thank the employees of the school system saying, “It’s been a blessing and an honor to work with people like you.”
Several awards and achievements, received both for schools and individuals throughout the school year, were recognized at the meeting.
This school year’s Teachers of the Year were also mentioned again during the meeting. Those educators included Erin Colbert, from Blue Ridge Elementary, Kathy Culpepper, from East Fannin Elementary, Amber Mitchell, from West Fannin Elementary, Nathasha Anderson, from Fannin County Middle, and Shan Culpepper, from Fannin County High. Culpepper also held the distinction of being Teacher of the Year for the entire school system.
Sarah Welch and Jordan Newman were also recognized this past school year for being the Star Teacher and Star Student of the Year for 2017-18, respectively.
Regarding the high school, Fannin County High School (FCHS) was also ranked statewide and nationally in U.S. News’ annual Best High Schools rankings. According to those rankings, FCHS was ranked 63 in the state and 2,593 in the nation. This was the third time in the last four years FCHS has been ranked by U.S. News in this category with the previous years being 2015 and 2017. The high school also earned a Silver Award for falling in the top 12 percent nationally.
Fannin County Middle School (FCMS) was also praised for its accomplishments, most notably in that the school placed first in an online Reading Bowl and fourth in face-to-face competition. FCMS also earned an honorary degree in life science.
Blue Ridge Elementary received recognition for earning a High Progress Award among Title 1 schools. High Progress Award schools are among the top 10 percent of Title 1 schools based on the three-year average of College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) progress scores.
East Fannin Elementary held the distinction this school year of being one of only five Family-Friendly Partnership Schools in the state of Georgia.
Also, West Fannin Elementary enjoyed the success of becoming the 36th Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) certified school in the state.
Twenty-five educators in the school system became certified as Level 1 Google Educators this school year. This status indicates that an educator is able to successfully implement Google Suite for Education into their teaching practice in order to enhance teaching and learning.
The school system’s nutrition program participated in the Shake It Up initiative, which is a state-wide initiative to change the culture school nutrition in three areas: tasty meals, friendly cafeterias and happy schools. The nutrition programs at all five county schools received the Gold Award in this initiative.
The school system also took time to honor this year’s retirees throughout Fannin County Schools. Those retirees included:
· From Blue Ridge Elementary, media specialist Robbie Callihan and nutritionist Mildred Johnson;
· From East Fannin Elementary, teachers Katie Holloway and Lynn Weeks, academic coach Crystal Cooke, and paraprofessional Sandra Ross;
· From West Fannin Elementary, nutritionist Wanda Stewart and teacher Betty Holsonback;
· From Fannin County Middle, teachers Cindy Wood and Linda Nave, and nutritionists Judy Glasgow, Sue Postell, and Gayle Queen;
· From Fannin County High, secretaries Robin Kirby and Gail Bennett, paraprofessional Phillip Nastyn, teachers Terry Callihan and Kim Kribbs, and nutritionists Amanda O’Neal and Leslie Perenich;
· System-wide deaf/hard of hearing teacher Marcie Harper and speech therapist Pam Lapham;
· School bus drivers Margie Kolesky and Sheryl Campbell;
· From the school system maintenance department, Archie Bice; and
· From the Central Office, accounts payable bookkeeper Connie Grindstaff and Associate Superintendent Betsy Hyde.
“What an honor this has been,” Gwatney told the retirees. “I wish you all the best.”
Following the ceremony, the rock band Apollo, which is comprised of three Fannin County students, played a spirited version of the Foo Fighters’ classic anthem “My Hero” as a tribute to the retirees as well as the existing educators and employees of the Fannin County School System.
Concluding the day’s event, Gwatney stated, “Ladies and gentlemen, we aspire to guide and lead the future, but most of all, you remember why we’re here. It’s for the kids. Everyone have a great summer.”