Decision to close schools not taken lightly

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The decision to close all schools in Fannin County for the week of March 16 to March 20, 2020, was not a decision that was taken lightly. Administration and healthcare experts were present at the March Board of Education meeting to present the public with details leading up to the conclusion to close.

Dr. Dillon Miller of Blue Ridge Medical Group has been working closely with the Fannin County School System and explained the facts and myths surrounding the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 ) and the disease Covid-19.

Fannin County, Board of Education, School System, Closing, Closed, Coronavirus, Covid-19, Blue Ridge Medical Group, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dr. Dillon Miller

Dr. Dillon Miller addresses the board about the impacts of Coronavirus.

“We’re almost facing two challenges,” Miller said addressing the public and the board, “There’s the virus itself, of course, but then there’s the misinformation.”

Miller explained that unlike the seasonal flu that has a potential transmission rate of 1.4 people for every 1 person infected, the Coronavirus has approximately a 2.4 potential person-to-person transmission rate.

“We are almost mirroring each other as far as the number of cases, statistically similar,” Miller spoke of the challenges being faced in Italy and how examining the data can give insight into the actions that we should take in our communities. “Our Day Eight, which is where we’re at now, is almost eerily similar to their Day Eight.” 

Miller pointed out that Italy waited until Day 12 to close schools, and stressed the importance of school systems to have preparedness and coordination with other agencies during this time: “We always have to think about worst case scenarios. Expect the worst and hope for the best.”

Educating the public and being proactive rather than reactive can have a significant positive impact. According to Miller, steps can be taken to “flatten the curve”, referring to slowing the impacts of the virus so that healthcare systems do not get overwhelmed.

“Fortunately from a school system perspective we are dealing with a virus that doesn’t impact children the same way it is our elderly population,” Miller spoke of the potential impact on Fannin’s children and added that the virus carries a “significant” impact for those over the age of 60. “They (children) can carry this virus and potentially give it to those that are in that high risk area.”

Dr. Dillon Miller recommended the following advice for the public and parents of children in Fannin County:

  1. Wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

  2. Social awareness. Try to implement the six foot rule when possible and avoid a proximity of closer than six feet to another person when out in public.

  3. If your child is sick, do not allow them to come to school.

  4. Avoid rushing to an Emergency Room, Doctor, or Walk-In Clinic if you or your child is not significantly ill. If a trip to the doctor is inevitable, Miller recommends calling these places ahead of time. This gives staff time to prepare to potentially stop those infected from coming into contact with those that are not.

In looking at not just the health and safety of the children but also of the community, Miller pointed out that no two school systems are the same and Fannin County would have to weigh their options on how to proceed: “There’s not a black and white answer.”

“There’s a fire alarm going off. We hear that fire alarm, we don’t know if there is a fire in here,” Miller gave an analogy of the current state of affairs and added that there aren’t enough tests to know the true impacts of the virus at this time.  “Early intervention for school closures is when you get the most bang for your buck, the most success.” 

“The use of data is powerful,” Fannin County Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney said before announcing the closure. “We want to do our part to flatten that curve. Fannin is going to be a part of that. We are all literally in this together, as a community, as a state, as a nation, as a world.”

Gwatney spoke of the ongoing communication that the school system has had with healthcare professionals, as well as local and state agencies. On the day leading up to the decisionto close schools Fannin County Leadership staff had a conference call with Governor Brian Kemp and a follow-up conference call with other regional districts.

“The Governor today announced and gave strong guidance for school districts and gave grace for school districts,” Gwatney stated. “We want to do our part to keep this community safe.”

The Fannin County School System will be closed to students next week (March 16 to March 20, 2020). Dr. Gwatney released a letter giving further details on how the school system will operate during this time.

“We will revisit that decision (to close) a week from now to see about the following week,” Gwatney said of the board’s decision adding, “This is a very dynamic and fluid situation and we want to stay ahead of it.”

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

See Something, Say Something. SafeSchools Alert.

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – School safety continues to be a top priority for the Fannin County School System. Assistant Superintendent and District Emergency Planning Coordinator Darren Danner wants to remind the citizens of Fannin County of a very important tool the district utilizes to keep the children in our area safe.

SafeSchools Alert is Fannin County School District’s tip reporting service. This online service can allow students, teachers, and parents to report incidents of bullying, intimidation, harassment, weapons, drugs or other threats, and remain anonymous.

“The best information we can get, is what we hear from the kids,” Danner spoke of SafeSchools Alert’s importance and the role the students themselves can play in keeping their schools safe for all. “They’re (students) are on the frontline, so to speak. They see what’s happening. They know what’s going on.”

SafeSchools Alert can be accessed on Fannin County School System’s website by scrolling to the bottom and clicking the SafeSchools Alert icon located at the bottom left of the page. SafeSchools Alert also offers an app that can be downloaded onto mobile devices, and it is this app that students generally choose to use.

According to Danner 95 to 98 percent of tips from the student body come from the use of the downloadable app. 

Once a tip has been submitted, SafeSchools Alert will send out numerous emails to faculty within the district. Danner acknowledged that not all tips are reliable, but that some have proven to be very accurate and that all tips are taken seriously and looked into.

“The district has used this going on two years now,” Danner continued. “We’ve had some things that have been put to rest very quickly because of this.” 

The Fannin County School System urges everyone that has information about a threat to report it.

 

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Education, School System, High School, Middle School, East Fannin, West Fannin, Blue Ridge, Sheriff’s Office, School Resource Officer, Law Enforcement, Appreciation, Superintendent, Sheriff, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dane Kirby, Darren Danner, Darvin Couch, Anthony Walden, Thomas Kay, Tracy Summers, Jim Burrell, Lewis Dewesse, Chad Galloway, Bobby Bearden, Mike Cole, Terry Bramlett, SafeSchools Alert

Fannin County School System’s main page where the SafeSchools Alert link can be found.

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Education, School System, High School, Middle School, East Fannin, West Fannin, Blue Ridge, Sheriff’s Office, School Resource Officer, Law Enforcement, Appreciation, Superintendent, Sheriff, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dane Kirby, Darren Danner, Darvin Couch, Anthony Walden, Thomas Kay, Tracy Summers, Jim Burrell, Lewis Dewesse, Chad Galloway, Bobby Bearden, Mike Cole, Terry Bramlett, SafeSchools Alert

You can find the link to report tips anonymously, by scrolling to the bottom of the main page and clicking the SafeSchools Alert icon at the bottom left.

Click here to read about Fannin County School System’s 2019 Award of Excellence in School Safety

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

School Resource Officers honored by Fannin County Board of Education

Community, News, Police & Government, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education took time during their Jan. 9 regular monthly meeting to recognize a special group of personnel that work every day to keep the children of Fannin County safe.

“Our relationship with the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office is special,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney spoke of the importance of Fannin County’s School Resource Officers (SROs).

Jan. 9, 2020 marked National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. This day is set aside for citizens to show their support for their local law enforcement.

Gwatney displayed a photo and recognized each individual SRO, as well as Assistant Superintendent Darren Danner whose duties, among others include District Emergency Planning and School Resource Officer Coordinator.

Currently the following officers are stationed at each of the five schools in the district:

  • Lt. Darvin Couch – Fannin County High School
  • Deputy Anthony Walden – Fannin County Middle School
  • Deputy Thomas Kay – East Fannin Elementary School
  • Deputy Tracy Summers – West Fannin Elementary
  • Deputy Jim Burrell – Blue Ridge Elementary School

 

Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Education, School System, High School, Middle School, East Fannin, West Fannin, Blue Ridge, Sheriff’s Office, School Resource Officer, Law Enforcement, Appreciation, Superintendent, Sheriff, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Dane Kirby, Darren Danner, Darvin Couch, Anthony Walden, Thomas Kay, Tracy Summers, Jim Burrell, Lewis Dewesse, Chad Galloway, Bobby Bearden, Mike Cole, Terry Bramlett

(L – R) Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, SRO Anthony Walden, SRO Thomas Kay, Lt. Darvin Couch, SRO Tracy Summers, SRO Jim Burrell, and Assistant Superintendent Darren Danner

Before presenting a certificate to Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby, Gwatney concluded, “I am thankful for these individuals. I’m thankful for the relationship that we have with the Sheriff. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Upon accepting the certificate, Kirby acknowledged that Gwatney’s sentiment goes both ways: “We really do cherish this relationship.”

Click here to read about last year’s Award of Excellence in Safety to the Fannin County School System

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin Co. High School Marching Band Wins Grand Championship

Community, Rebel's Corner

The Fannin County Band has had an outstanding competitive season. Our 2019 marching show is
titled: “Tribute to the American Spirit” honors the determination and patriotism of our military, law
enforcement, firemen, and leadership that have made our country great.

On September 28th, The Fannin County High School Marching Band earned 1st place in Class 4A
at the Armuchee Invitational Band Contest. The Band earned a superior band rating, superior drumline
rating, superior drum major rating, and excellent rating in colorguard. Lora Gwatney earned 1st place
drum major in class 4A; the drumline earned second place in class 4A, and the colorguard earned third
place in class 4A. The band earned an overall 3rd place finish out of 14 bands for the day regardless of
classification.

On October 5th, The Fannin County High School Band earned Grand Champion at the Lake
Lanier Tournament of Bands at Chestatee High School. The band earned the highest score of the day out
of 14 bands regardless of class. The band also earned 1st place colorguard, 1st place percussion, Lora
Gwatney earned 1st place drum major, with an overall 1st place band in class 4-A competition. In
addition band, in addition, earned straight superior ratings in band, colorguard, percussion, and drum
major.

On October 12th, The Fannin County High School Band hosted the Blue Ridge Mountain
Marching Festival hosted by the Fannin County High School Band Booster Club with 19 bands from
around North Georgia and East Tennessee attending. The Fannin County Band performed for a standing
room only crowd and earned a standing ovation from the many bands in attendance.
Fannin County has a proud and rich tradition of excellence in bands beginning with the West
Fannin High School Band, then in 1976 through the present with the Fannin County High School Band.
The band has consistently earned superior ratings in all areas of performance.

Directors Scott Barnstead, Mike Weaver, and Donna Weaver would like to thank our
hard-working Band Booster Club parents and their president Sherry Gibbs for all they have helped make
possible through fundraising, feeding, collect donations, and supporting our students in every way
possible, We would also like to thank Erik Cioffi, Principal, and Dr. Michael Gwatney, Superintendent, for
ensuring that band and the arts are valued in the education of the whole child. And finally we would like
to thank our communities in Fannin County that have always been enthusiastic supporters of the band.
We look forward to seeing you soon as we continue to support the Fannin County High School Rebel
Football Program, cheering them on to victory!

New Football Stadium Lights Benefit Players and Students

Education
Football Stadium

Blue Ridge, Ga – 2019 football season will begin with new LED lights shining on the field, and the system will give students a chance to create a unique light show.

38 football stadium lights have burnt out, and many need new ballasts or entirely new fixtures to properly work.
Four bids came in, and the lowest bid from Over and Under General Contractors was for $242,490.00.
Previously, Phillips estimated around $400,000 to $500,000 for updating the lights before the project went out to bid.

LED stands for light emitting diode and produced 90% more light than incandescent bulbs.

Danner explained, “The old light fixtures, the old cages will be coming down. New fixtures will be going up. It won’t be 88 fixtures anymore because LEDs are brighter, so it will be fewer fixtures, guaranteed for 10 years. Anything goes wrong, they come out and take care of it.”

football stadium lights

The red blocks showcase all the football stadium lights that no longer work on the field.

The new lights will be installed before the 2019 football season.

“I think it’s pretty good that the lights that were there lasted as long as they did because it was a month ago, we changed out the speakers, and all that and they were totally gone,” stated Board Member Bobby Bearden.
“Would this control module allow some of our technology student to manipulate the lighting system?” asked Board Member Terry Bramlett.

Yes, the system comes with three pre-programmed settings. Once training’s complete, the school and students can create unique light shows.

SPLOST covers the new football stadium lights.

New Pick-Up Lane at East Fannin

East Fannin Elementary School requested to widen the parent pick-up lane because the two to one lane environment caused extra congestion.

“It’s a high priority for Mr. Bryce and East Fannin Administration,” “it causes great concern, and we only received one quote back for $25,500.00 for 575 feet to widen it. It will be a dual lane from Old 76 all the way up to the bus line.”

Bryce added that they rearranged the pick-up for safety reasons as well. In the past, The school used two different parent drop-offs, and it caused congestion.

“Where it bottlenecked, they were starting to go out on the gravel and create potholes, so two lanes all the way around will be even safer,” stated Bryce.

New Security Cameras at West Fannin

Next West Fannin Elementary School requested security cameras to be paid for by a security grant from the Department of Education. The project cleared DOE requirements but needed Board of Education approval.

“What we have now, you can’t even zoom. With this, you’ll be able to tell what color shirt they have on, but you might not see facial expressions,” explained Danner.

New cameras will let the administration see 425 feet in the distance.

The cameras provide visibility up to 425 feet and the same system as the high school. The connected system allows the administration to view both schools’ security cameras on one screen.

“I think it’s a good use of the state’s safety grant money,” advised Superintendent Michael Gwatney.

Propane Bids

Propane bids for the district came in, and one provided a lower price than what the school currently spends on the gas. UPG/ Fort Mountain Propane received approval to supply the district for the next school year.

Construction Updates

The turning lane and new entrance for the agricultural center are open and ready for use.

Blue Ridge Elementary received a new metal door for security purposes.

East Fannin painted the dug-outs on the lower field and rusted handrails. The school removed a derelict trailer as well. East Fannin Middle school’s building a new administrative office for the bookkeeper. Additionally, an ADA-regulated walkway extends down to the playground. These walkways can only drop one inch per foot.
Fannin County High School pressured washed the sidewalks and painted as well as sandblasted the rusted stairs.

Local SPLOST taxes paid for the majority of the updates.

FYI Teaches Students Professional Development

Education
FYI Students

Blue Ridge, Ga – Fannin Youth Initiative (FYI) successfully taught Fannin County High School students about professional development and job opportunities available to them.

Executive Director of the Fannin County Development Authority Christie Gribble spoke about the first year of FYI to the board and the impact it made on students.

Leadership Fannin served as a template for the program, except tailored to high school students. It demonstrated the opportunities in the county for jobs and helped students to learn soft skills, such as letter writing, communication, resumes, and interviewing.

“Education and having a relationship with the school is very important,” said Gribble when speaking about her role as executive director of the development authority.

The students spent five days out in the community learning from small business owners, social services, government roles, and the arts. The program included trips to the Chamber of Commerce, courthouse, and the state capitol.

Fannin Youth Initiative

Fannin Youth Initiative (FYI) visited the capitol and met with Speaker Ralston.

Gribble and her fellow workers held 10 in-school sessions during FLEX to teach high schoolers about professional development skills.

Ten students from 10th and 11th grade participated in the program. Mrs. Lynn Birch acted as the faculty advisor and made sure everyone was where they needed to be.

The participants were given a mentor, took a career assessment, and voiced opinions about young people needing a place to hang out.

“When the kids talk about a place to hang out, what’s their definition of that?” asked Board Member Mike Cole.

The answer: It varies from student to student, some wanted a diner, and others said games, in general just something different than cruising The Home Depot or Wal-Mart parking lot.

The students received internships, contacts, and contract work. The Development Authority hired an intern, and a videographer student started working for a business in the county.

FYI is also a finalist in a state CTA program and will know by July if it won first, second, or third place.

“Opportunity and preparation come together, then that’s when you have success. I’m really pleased to hear the success of these students,” stated Superintendent Michael Gwatney.

Board Chair Lewis DeWeese said, “If they learned as much about the community as they do at other Chamber events, that’s tremendous.”

Superintendent Gwatney Contract Renewed

Education
Board and Superintendent Gwatney

Blue Ridge, Ga – Board of Education approved a new contract for Superintendent Michael Gwatney during June meeting.

Board of Education Chairman Lewis DeWeese commended Gwatney on his work, “The board has been pleased with the Dr. Michael Gwatney’s work as our Superintendent and based on the results of his evaluation and his performance this year, the board approves an additional year for a three year contract to begin July 1, 2019.”

During Superintendent Comments, Gwatney remarked on the honor to serve Fannin School District and the extraordinary work everyone in the county and education system does for the students.

Dr. Michael Gwatney

Gwatney’s new term begins on July 1.

“I’m privileged to have the opportunity to be a part of this system and serve for so many years,” observed Gwatney, “My time here has been an enjoyable experience, and like everything that is truly important in life, it’s the people who make it that way. So I want to thank my colleagues, the directors that are here, the staff that are here, and the principals that are here. Thank you for everything that you do for our kids.”

Gwatney introduced the three new department leaders to the board, starting with Director of Transportation, Denver Foster. He worked for the transportation department for 14 years under Ben Long.

“I feel like we have an exceptional department. We have 40 main route buses, transport about 1,250 children a day and our main focus is always student safety, said Foster, “I have a vision for our department. I have quite a few things I want to do, including upgrading technology – routing software and some other things to make that safer.”

Foster also brought the winners of the May 15 School Bus Road-e-o, where bus drivers participate in a skills course that includes parallel parking. The three winners were:

School bus Road-e-o participants took part in several activities to demonstrate skill operating the vehicle.

  • Tim Massaro, First Place
  • Tim Joiner, Second Place
  • Jeff Johnstone, Third Place

Massaro also participated in the state school bus road-e-o and placed 20th out of 61.

Next, Gwatney introduced the Director of Instructional Services and Policy Sarah Welch. She’s the daughter of two educators and a graduate of Fannin County with 16 years of experience.

“I’m honored to be in this position,” said Welch, “I’ll be working a lot with our curriculum and professional learning. My vision is ensuring equity for all learners. We know that everyone comes in they start school in different places. We want everybody to be able to access the curriculum to meet their needs and no matter where you start to be able to push you forward.”

She cited depth, progression, and exploration as needed areas to develop for children to grow as learners. The school’s responsibility doesn’t stop when the children leave. It continues after hours and in the community, giving teachers and students the materials necessary to cultivate learning opportunities.

When Welch finished, DeWeese stated, “Contagious enthusiasm, if you pass that to your students, I don’t think they’ll ever forget you.”

After Welch, Gwatney stated that Darren Danner has officially started his position as Assistant Superintendent.

Danner remarked, “I’m honored to have this position and thanks to Dr. Gwatney and the Board for their support up to this point. We hope we can keep things going under the current leadership.

We’re going to automate some things in the maintenance department and continue building first-class facilities in the state of Georgia and the Southeast. We need your support to do that and the Fannin County voters to continue to support SPLOST. That’s my vision for the maintenance department.”

Fannin County School System aces SPLOST audit

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – An audit of the Fannin County School System’s SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) collection and spending has shown that the district is being good stewards of these funds.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney explained the purposes of the independent audit were a requirement by the state when SPLOST collections exceed $5 million within a county.

SPLOST collections for 2017 totaled approximately $5.1 million and collections for 2018 topped that number bringing in $5.6 million.

Finance Director Susan Holloway explained that the Fannin County School calendar year ran from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, and that collections during this period was the first fiscal school year that the system met the amount requiring an audit.

Georgia code section O.C.G.A.20-2-491 requires public school systems to maintain continuing performance audits for expenditures of sales tax.
Mauldin and Jenkins was selected to carry out the audit for the school system.

“They audit 40 school systems, including more schools in Georgia than any other firm. They also audit 53 counties including more counties in Georgia than any other firm, and they audit 112 cities including more cities in Georgia than any other firm,” Holloway said explaining the reason for choosing Mauldin and Jenkins and added, “We felt they were solid.”

The audit’s purpose was to find out if the Fannin County School System was meeting 3 requirements:

  • 1. Provide a goal that ensures tax funds are spent efficiently and economically, so that the school district receives the maximum benefit from dollars collected.
  • 2. Provide reports not less than once annually to ensure that the terms laid out in item 1 are being met.
  • 3. Provide for periodic public recommendations not less than once annually for improvements in meeting the goal specified in item 1.

Mauldin and Jenkins tested approximately 60 claims. These claims accounted for $1,027,970 or 15.3 percent of total disbursements for the year.
Holloway announced the findings of the audit saying that Mauldin and Jenkins “concluded that the Fannin County School District’s SPLOST is operating in compliance with all laws and regulations, the referendum approved by the county citizens and industry best practices.”

Special recognition was given to Director of Maintenance and Facilities Danny Shinpaugh by the auditing firm for his role in providing the BOE with continuous and thorough updates regarding construction projects relating to school properties.

Having looked into the bidding and decision making processes involved, focusing on the recently constructed Agricultural Center, along with negotiations that had been made, Mauldin and Jenkins also recognized Shinpaugh’s outstanding management in overseeing construction projects.

“It was a very fair process,” Holloway said of the manner in which the audit was performed and gave special credit to her team in the finance department for the hard work and many hours they put in all year: “There’s a lot of times they’re the first ones here and the last ones to leave and they’re willing to dig in.”

“With the Superintendent and the Board’s support I have been able to hand pick these awesome ladies. I appreciate you for that,” Holloway said expressing thanks for all her fellow coworkers.

Dr. Gwatney shared his thoughts on the findings of the SPLOST audit: “It’s comforting to have the reassurance of an external audit to show that these funds that are being collected are being utilized legally, properly, ethically and in the manner that matches the referendum.”

The Fannin County School System is now hoping that the residents of Fannin County will continue the district’s success and provide the school system with a continuation of collections for SPLOST.

With the SPLOST IV referendum allowing the school system to collect but not exceed $27.5 million by March 2021, projections are indicating that this goal will be met before the ability to collect SPLOST funds expires.

It is the hopes of the BOE and fellow faculty with in the Fannin County School System that the public will allow for a continuation of this collection with the increased cap amount to be $34.5 million.

A Special Election will be held on Tuesday, March 19 for the approval of the SPLOST V referendum and Early Voting is taking place now. If passed the new referendum would allow FCSS to move the cap of SPLOST funds to $34.5 million.

 

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Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin County awarded excellence in school safety

Community, News, Rebel's Corner
Exemplary Board

Blue Ridge, Ga. – When it comes to school safety, Fannin County continues to excel and was recently acknowledged by local law enforcement and emergency response for their efforts.

“One of the things that I am very very proud with Fannin County, our school system, is the relationships we that have between our government agencies, especially the sheriff’s department and the emergency management services,” Director of Transportation and Safety Benny Long said explaining that all agencies play a vital role in protecting the youth of the community.

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, School Resource Officer, SRO, Lieutenant, Darvin Couch, Safety, Emergency, Plan, GEMA, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Comprehensive Plan, Mock Drills, Certification

Fannin County School System not only met but exceeded state requirements in the area of emergency preparedness.

Faculty of the school system often train alongside these agencies preparing for a number of scenarios and Long acknowledged that there is a comfort in knowing that Fannin County’s emergency personnel is “just a phone call away”.

Looking back on the past year, the Fannin County School System took a number of proactive steps in the process of making its campuses as safe as possible for all who attend.

At the April 12, 2018 Board Of Education (BOE) meeting the board introduced the GAMB policy. This policy was adopted and essentially gave Fannin County schools the option of arming personnel.

While the new policy definitely grabbed the attention of parents and residents alike, administration and staff had also been working in other ways to help secure campuses and ensure the safety of Fannin County children.

“We work diligently everyday to ensure the safety of our students,” Long said of the ongoing efforts, “If a child doesn’t feel safe at school, they can’t learn. Those are one of the basic needs that have to met.”

One element of safety that Fannin County is proud to offer is that a School Resource Officer (SRO) is assigned to each of the school campuses.

“This is a community effort by the Fannin County School System, the Sheriff’s Department, and Blue Ridge City Police,” Long explained of groups working together for the betterment of the schools.

Long spoke specifically of the resource officers in Fannin County stating that “it takes a special person to be a resource officer. It takes someone who loves the students, who wants to be involved, and who wants to make a difference in that young child’s life.”

“That’s the best set of eyes that we have,” Long continued to explain the importance of SROs in our schools, “when a student feels comfortable reaching out to our resource officers and confiding in them and giving them information.”

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, School Resource Officer, SRO, Lieutenant, Darvin Couch, Safety, Emergency, Plan, GEMA, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Comprehensive Plan, Mock Drills, Certification

Fannin County’s School Resource Officers credited with going above and beyond for the students.

Fannin County also has an emergency operation plan for the schools. This emergency operation plan has been in effect and constantly evolving since 2003.

The comprehensive safety plan covers a number of scenarios from weather and gas leaks to active shooters and bomb threats.

The plan in the past was vetted or checked by GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency), but recently under new guidelines has been handed over to local agencies for approval.

Though local agencies are now in charge of reviewing the district’s comprehensive safety plan, it still must meet all requirements laid out by the state of Georgia as stated in O.C.G.A.20-2-1185.

“I’m going to brag on ours. Ours exceeds the minimum requirements by the state,” Fannin County School Resource Officer Lieutenant Darvin Couch said of the district’s most recent plan.

Active shooter drills were performed at the schools during the summer of 2018, but none of these drills have taken place while students were present.
Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) also performed a mock disaster drill over spring break of 2018.

Fannin County Transportation Department participated in this drill and school bus drivers got to experience the scenario of moving people during a disaster. This drill also included the setting up of shelter at Morganton Baptist Church.

Long informed the public that all schools have top of the line cameras in place, and that SRO’s as well as the Sheriff’s Office have the ability to remote access the cameras. These cameras are capable of producing clear images of not only people but also vehicles and vehicle tags.

Through the use of these high tech devices, security is able to pinpoint the “location of whatever the threat could be” and know “what they are getting ready to go into”.

Fannin County High School added 52 of these cameras in the months of March and April in 2018.

“We are working with all three of our elementary schools to work on a plan to control access at our elementary schools,” Long said of the ongoing effort to continue safety improvements.

“None of us wants to limit anyone to come to school with their child,” Long added. The school system wants parents and guardians to always feel welcome, but would like to know who and when someone enters a school building or campus.

The high school will experience a similar point of entry security measure with a “storefront” door being placed before the office at the main entrance. This door will require either a key card entry or for a person to be buzzed in.

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, School Resource Officer, SRO, Lieutenant, Darvin Couch, Safety, Emergency, Plan, GEMA, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Comprehensive Plan, Mock Drills, Certification

Members of the Board of Education along with faculty of the school system receive certification for emergency operations plan.

Beyond local networking with various emergency providers to our county, the school system was also in contact with the Georgia Secret Service Agency.

“We have actually reached out and have a contact with an agent out of Atlanta,” Long said, “and they are going to be working with us on some different measures that we can use to keep our schools safe.”

“Safety also takes on many aspects. It’s not only the school’s safety of the buildings, the campus, and the faculty, but also involves our faculty members and our employees,” Long stated.

SRO Couch presented the BOE with a certificate recognizing the work the school system has done through extensive planning in exceeding the requirements set forth in providing and updating a comprehensive safety plan.

Couch read from a letter written by Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby: “From tornadoes to terrorism, Fannin County faces a variety of ever-evolving threats, underscoring the importance of updating plans in cooperation with local public safety professionals.”

Kirby added in his letter,”I am pleased to inform you that your school emergency operations plans have once again successfully met the requirements of O.C.G.A. 20-2-1185.”

The BOE, administration, and staff continue to work within the community and access outside resources to provide the best safety solutions for the students of Fannin County.

 

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

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Fannin County Schools are CLOSED January 29, 2019

News, Rebel's Corner

The current weather forecast from the National Weather Service indicates snow is expected to arrive in our area tomorrow morning.  At least one recently updated forecast model shows this occurring in the morning around the time school begins.  The safety of our students and staff is always the top concern; therefore, Fannin County Schools will be closed tomorrow (Tuesday), January 29. 

 

No personnel should report on January 29. 

 

Please stay safe!

 

Thank you,

Michael Gwatney

 

Fannin County opts to remain a Charter School District

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) voted unanimously for the Fannin County School System to remain a charter school district.

Fannin County schools officially became a charter school system July, 01, 2015. According to the Georgia Department of Education (GDOE), a charter district must renew their intent and contract with the state every five years.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Fannin County High School, Fannin County Middle School, East Fannin Elementary, West Fannin Elementary, Blue Ridge Elementary, Board of Education, Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, Chair, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Betsy Hyde, Lewis Deweese, Chad Galloway, Bobby Bearden, Terry Bramlett, Mike Cole, Georgia Department of Education, AdvancedEd, Charter, SGT, School Governance Team, QBE

Deputy Superintendent Betsy Hyde spoke with the BOE on what it means to remain a charter district.

Deputy Superintendent Betsy Hyde spoke to the BOE, “They (GDOE) asked us if we would amend our charter and say that we would review in 4 years.”

Upon Fannin County looking to obtain AdvancedED accreditation, the Georgia Department of Education asked administration to review their charter application a year early.

AdvancED is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts rigorous, on-site external reviews of schools and school systems. Every five years a school system must participate in a targeted self-reflection process.

The AdvancedED helps to evaluate purpose and direction, governance and leadership, teaching and assessing for learning, resources and support systems, as well as engagement with stakeholders.

The charter renewal as well as the AdvancedEd accreditation are expected to have coinciding site visits to Fannin County Schools.

Hyde explained that during 2015, when Fannin County officially entered into the charter system, the state of Georgia offered three flexibility options for districts to pick from.

The first of these options was Status Quo. Under this option the school system would not be allowed waivers and have limited flexibility on the local level to customize the school learning environment.

The second option presented was the IE2/Strategic Waiver. This gave districts the ability to ask for specific waivers, but did not allow for School Governance Teams (SGT) to be established.

Lastly school systems had the option of becoming a charter district. This option did not restrict waivers and required the formation of SGT. With this option Fannin County would be provided more flexibility in exchange for maintaining at or above state levels in reviews.

“One of the things that we do in our system is we had to have waivers for instance to do block scheduling, class size, different things like that,” Hyde said explaining the benefits of being a charter district.

The decision to initially become a charter school system was not one that was taken lightly, Hyde explained that countless hours of research went into the decision, including speaking with other charter systems and visiting different districts.

Some of the advantages to being a charter district include flexibility to innovate educational opportunities, financial savings from waivers, and possible additional funding in Quality Basic Education (QBE) if appropriated.

One of the outstanding characteristics is the creation of SGT within each of the Fannin County schools. The first SGT was established in June of 2015. These teams, comprised of 7 members, each meet on a regular basis and include school system faculty as well as parents.

Hyde explained the role of SGT more in depth,”Student Government Teams kind of help us distribute our leadership instead of you all being the only board in the whole system. You all are still over the whole system, but this gives some government back to the schools.”

BOE Chair Lewis Deweese admitted to being skeptical of the formation of SGT in the beginning but said of his feelings now, “I think what we’ve really created are some advocates for public education.”

Before taking vote, board member Terry Bramlett questioned, “Whenever we chose to become a charter system it seemed to be the fairer choice of offering the most flexible options and the greatest opportunity for our students. Would you agree that that’s still the case?”

Hyde replied that she still felt very strongly that being a charter system is the best option for Fannin County and added that it also allows the school system a wider range of options as future needs within the district arise.

The BOE took the first step in renewing its contract to stay a charter district by passing a resolution updating their procedures. While there are still many steps to take before this renewal is official, administration is confident in their choice and ability to continue with charter district status.

 

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

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Fannin County Schools will seek SPLOST continuation

Community, News, Rebel's Corner
Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Education, GEMA, FEMA, Michael Ruple, EMA Director Robert Graham, Lt. Darvin Couch

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) has voted in favor of the continuation of collections for SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) and now they hope the public will do the same.

SPLOST has helped in the funding of several projects within the Fannin County School System (FCSS). Some of the more recent notable projects include the construction of the Agricultural Building located off of Windy Ridge Road and the technology upgrades seen throughout the FCSS campuses.

Blue Ridge, Board of Education, Fannin County School System, Fannin County Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County, Georgia, Terry Bramlett, Finance Director, Susan Holloway, Director of Planning, Policy, & Curriculum, Darren Danner, Lynn Doss,  Raymond James and Associates, Gray Pannell and Woodward LLP, Mary Ann Conner, Chuck Cook, Fannin County Elections and Registration, SPLOST IV, SPLOST V, Special Election, March 19, 2019

The new Agricultural Center located off of Windy Ridge Road is a direct result of Fannin County SPLOST collections.

“That’s where I feel like we are being good stewards of our taxpayer dollars,” FCSS Finance Director Susan Holloway addressed the BOE concerning SPLOST funds, “Because what we have is aged facilities, but we are doing, I think, an excellent job of maintaining and keeping them in top notch shape.”

The latest SPLOST update for Nov. 2018 in the amount of $500,946.90 shows that collections in the account are following an increasing trend.
With the SPLOST IV referendum allowing the school system to collect but not exceed $27.5 million by March 2021, projections are indicating that this goal will be met before the ability to collect SPLOST funds expires.

Holloway explains, “We’re in our SPLOST IV referendum and that referendum is for $27,500,000.00. The collections for this referendum began in April of 2016. It ends in March of 2021. A SPLOSTt referendum runs for 5 years. If we stay on this path that we are on we are probably going to cap out at that $27.5 million before we get to that date.”

It is the hopes of the BOE and fellow faculty with in the FCSS that the public will allow for a continuation of this collection with the increased cap amount to be $34.5 million.

The school system has worked closely with local council Lynn Doss, Raymond James and Associates, Gray Pannell and Woodward LLP, and Mary Ann Conner and Chuck Cook with the Fannin County Elections and Registration Office to have an SPLOST referendum added as a Special Election in 2019.

Based on projections from Gray Pannell and Woodward LLP, the FCSS is asking for the increased amount of $34.5 million. Holloway explains the number, “We should not cap out on this one. Hopefully in five years we’ll get the life out of this SPLOST.”

Along with the additional requested SPLOST collections, the BOE discussed preapproval of bonding $14 million for emergency purposes.
“The Board of Education utilizes bonding not to complete projects, but as emergency funding,” Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney clarified the discussion for the preapproval.

School Board Member Terry Bramlett expanded on the subject, “We’re simply reserving the right to do that (obtain a bond) should we have an emergency, because there would be interest related to a bonded portion of the money. All efforts would be exhausted not to do that.”

What will the Fannin County School System use SPLOST collections for? According the new referendum the purpose of these funds will be allocated in the following areas:

  • A) adding to, renovating, repairing, improving, equipping, and demolishing existing school buildings, school system facilities, parking lots and driveways, physical education/athletic facilities and fields;
  • B) updating and purchasing HVAC systems, system technology, electrical systems, nutritional equipment and electronic communications systems;
  • C) acquiring new computer hardware, technology equipment, safety and security equipment, and software;
  • D) acquiring miscellaneous new equipment, fixtures, and furnishings for the school district;
  • E) acquiring school buses and other vehicles, transportation and maintenance equipment and facilities;
  • F) acquiring, constructing and equipping new buildings and facilities useful and desirable, including but not limited to, a new          STEM/Science wing at Fannin County Middle School, a new Health and Wellness Multipurpose Facility; a new professional development facility;
  • G) acquiring and/or improving land for school system facilities;
  • H) purchasing traditional and electronic textbooks, purchase new and upgrades to print and electronic media collections

The new projected STEM/Science wing at Fannin County Middle School, along with the new projected Health and Wellness Multipurpose Facility at Fannin County High School were highlighted as projects of the SPLOST V referendum.

According to Bramlett SPLOST “allows people who visit our fair country to participate rather than having to rely solely on the property owners.”

Attorney Lynn Doss backed up this statement saying that statistically between 54 -70 percent of SPLOST collections in Fannin County comes from visitors.

Director of Planning, Policy, & Curriculum Darren Danner spoke of the SPLOST V referendum: “This is not an additional tax. This is a continuation of SPLOST IV. If we meet that threshold before March of 2021,” adding, “If Fannin County voters approve this it will kick in immediately.”

Gwatney summed up the feelings of the BOE with a simple statement: “Thankful for SPLOST.”

A Special Election will be held on Tuesday, March 19 for the approval of the SPLOST V referendum, allowing FCSS to move the cap of SPLOST funds to $34.5 million. This referendum is expected to be the only item on the ballot.

 

 

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

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Fannin County election winners speak after hearing results

Uncategorized

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Nov. General Election has come to a close in Fannin County. After a large number of early voters, it was not surprising that the local polls were packed as Tuesday Nov. 6 marked the last day to have your voice heard.

Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner will now be held by Republican candidate Glenn Patterson. Patterson won out over Democratic challenger Dixie Carter with 81.71 percent of the vote.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, General Election 2018, Election 2018, Post 2 Commissioner, Fannin County Board of Education, Republican, Democrat, Glenn Patterson, Dixie Carter, Bobby Bearden, Jeff DePaola, Mike Cole, Susan DeMoura, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney

Fannin County Post 2 Commissioner Elect Glenn Patterson.

“I’m very excited! It hasn’t hit me yet. It’s kind of overwhelming,” Patterson spoke of his win shortly after hearing the results.

Of his plans once sworn into office Patterson said, “I’m brand new but I plan to learn fast and just do things for the people. That’s why I ran and I won’t forget after the race that the people put me in there.”

“I want to help Fannin County,” Patterson also acknowledged the division among political parties across the nation and locally. “Not just the Republicans or the Democrats but all of them. I will look at the issues critically. While I think we are headed down a good path, there is always room for improvement.”

One of the two seats open with the Fannin County Board of Education will now be held by Republican Mike Cole. Cole won the republican nomination in the May General Primary over several challengers and incumbent Steve Stanley. He then went on to defeat Democrat Susan DeMoura in the General Election with 82.31 percent of the vote.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, General Election 2018, Election 2018, Post 2 Commissioner, Fannin County Board of Education, Republican, Democrat, Glenn Patterson, Dixie Carter, Bobby Bearden, Jeff DePaola, Mike Cole, Susan DeMoura, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney

New Fannin County Board of Education board member Mike Cole with family.

“I’m excited about it,” Cole said as the final results were announced.

During his campaign Cole was an enthusiastic proponent of bringing vocational training back to the schools of Fannin County and he plans to continue to advocate for these classes.

“It’s all about policy,” Cole said speaking of ways in which to make more vocational options a reality, and while not knowing if he would be elected at the time Cole still began making progress by contacting agencies concerning welding and looking into possible grants for the school system.

Although Cole will be a newcomer to the Fannin County Board of Education, he looks forward to working with fellow board members and Fannin County Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney: “Gwatney is a great guy. I’ve had some interaction with him before and I like him a lot.”

In the closest race locally, incumbent Republican Bobby Bearden won over challenger Democrat Jeff Depaola with 79.49 percent of the vote. Bearden has held a seat on the Fannin County Board of Education for 16 years and will serve another four year term.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, General Election 2018, Election 2018, Post 2 Commissioner, Fannin County Board of Education, Republican, Democrat, Glenn Patterson, Dixie Carter, Bobby Bearden, Jeff DePaola, Mike Cole, Susan DeMoura, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney

Set to serve another term, Fannin County Board of Education board member Bobby Bearden.

Bearden is no stranger to winning elections but humbly spoke of hearing the results: “I’m just thankful for everyone who believed in me, had faith in me, thought I was doing a good job and was willing to have me for four more years.”

“The children are first and the taxpayers are second,” Bearden spoke his platform as he did during the campaign. For the taxpayers, Bearden would like to focus on keeping Fannin County’s millage rate one of the lowest in the state of Georgia.

“I’m really honored and blessed to live in a place like Fannin County. I tell people all the time that we have the best schools and I still believe that,” Bearden said of his years on the Fannin County Board of Education.

All three candidates will take office in 2019 to serve a 4 year term.

You can see all of Fannin County’s Election Results by following the link below:

Fannin County – State Election Results (FINAL)

 

 

 

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

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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

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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

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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

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