Fannin County hires new head football coach

Rebel's Corner
Football Stadium

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The search and wait is now over. Fannin County High School has found its new head football coach.

After an announcement came earlier this year that the Rebels head football coach Jim Pavao would be leaving Fannin County to pursue an offer from Coffee County, the search for Fannin County’s next head coach was underway.

Pavao accepted a position with Coffee County as special teams coordinator and will also be focusing on coaching defensive linebackers.

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Fannin County’s new head football coach Chad Cheatham.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney confirmed today that Fannin County had found its new head football coach, Chad Cheatham. Cheatham was officially announced as a school system teaching hire yesterday at a special called Board of Education meeting.

Fannin County High School Principal Erik Cioffi spoke with FetchYourNews about the hiring process. Out of 27 applicants, nine sat with Fannin County School System staff for a first-round interview.

Two of the nine first-round interviewees were called back for a final interview. Cioffi, along with current Athletic Director Dr. Scott Ramsey, David Henson, who will be taking Ramsey’s place as new athletic director for school year 2018-19, and Fannin County High School Assistant Principal Theresa Dillard conducted the final interviews and ultimately decided Cheatham would make a great fit.

“We really enjoyed his enthusiasm and his commitment,” Cioffi said, explaining the decision.

Cioffi added, “He has the energy level and excitement that we were looking to bring to the program.”

Cheatham is no stranger to Fannin County. Having strong ties to our area, Cheatham was a Fannin County High School graduate of 1991.

“Everything just worked out and the timing was right for him (Cheatham) to come back to this area,” Cioffi spoke of Cheatham’s connections with Fannin County.

Cheatham will be leaving Banks County after being named head coach of the Leopards late last year. Cheatham had worked with the Leopards as an assistant coach to the defensive backs prior to the off-season hire decision that made him head coach.

Some of Cheatham’s previous coaching experiences include serving as a head middle school football coach, head track coach, and several coordinator positions at the varsity level. Coaching the Rebels will be Cheatham’s first on-field experience as a varsity head football coach.

Cheatham is expected to be in Fannin County next week to meet with Fannin County High School players and staff.

 

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

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Administration addresses athletics at Board of Education meeting

Community, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After hearing concerns expressed at the Jan. 11 Board of Education (BOE) meeting, Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, as well as other members of the board, added a new agenda item covering extracurricular activities within the school system.

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Fannin County High School Principal Erik Cioffi discussed athletics at the Feeb. BOE meeting.

At the Feb. 8 BOE meeting the board unveiled this new item. Dr. Gwatney explained that updates of Fannin County extracirruclar activities will be a recurring item.

While these updates will encompass all of Fannin County’s extracurriculars, the focus of the Feb. updates centered around the state of the Fannin County Athletics Department.

Fannin County High School Principal Erik Cioffi presented this information to the public.

“There were some questions about accountability,” Cioffi spoke of concerns presented at the previous BOE meeting. “You don’t have to look any further than right here. I am the one who has hired people and put them in positions. So if there is a concern it should come to my department.”

Cioffi spoke of the staff of Fannin County School System and added that the pool of educators in which coaches can be pulled from is currently 59 certified teachers.

“They are teachers first and they have responsibilities that make up a bulk of their time,” Cioffi added.

Athletic Director Dr. Scott Ramsey clarified that there are 62 coaching positions that have to be covered, and for this reason coaches have to work or coach in multiple departments. Ramsey backed up Cioffi stating that a coach’s first priority is to be an educator.

“As they should be,” Ramsey stated. “Because that is the ultimate thing, they (students) leave with a high school diploma.”

Cioffi discussed the current Georgia High School Association (GHSA) policy and why Fannin County continues to be placed a AAA region school. In the past GHSA reevaluated schools on a two year cycle. Recent changes, however, has left evaluations happening every four years.

“We have no control over the region we’re placed,” Cioffi explained.

A meeting is scheduled on Feb. 21 where representatives from Fannin County Athletics along with representative from other AAA schools will meet with GHSA officials to examine the new policy.

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Athletic Director Dr. Scott Ramsey was also present to talk with parents.

“It’s ridiculous. If they (GHSA) get it wrong, that’s impacted a child’s entire four years,” Cioffi told the crowd about plans to hopefully bring about change on the state level when it comes to athletics.

The possibility of dropping to AA classification could pose a different set of difficulties for the student athletes of Fannin County, as travel is cited to be a large consideration in the possibility of changing regions.

A new AA classification could mean that students would have to travel as far as three hours away to play other AA teams.

Cioffi also proposed what all parties (parents, coaches and administration) want a “Winning Culture”, and explained how to take steps in this direction: “Before we even get to a winning culture, we need a positive culture. That’s going to take everyone in this room and everyone outside this room to get there.”

“Stay positive. Our kids see when there’s negativity going around,” Cioffi spoke of the recent discussions taking place via social media. “One thing I can promise you is that coaches aren’t posting things on social media about kids and parents.”

“Communicate with each other and figure out how can we best meet the needs of all the programs,” Cioffi went on,”Ultimately we want all programs to be successful.”

The parents coming forward was a big step in addressing the issues that Fannin County Athletics faces, and administration wants to keep lines of communication open and figure out how to “get over the hump and move forward.”

Athletic Director Dr. Scott Ramsey concluded the presentation: “We’re working together, because we don’t ever want to be an us versus you mentality. There never needs to be adversary. We all need to be working for the good of the kids.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Parents question the finances of Fannin County Athletics

News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Feb. 8 Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) meeting was packed, with many left at standing room only, as parents and supporters of Fannin County Athletics gathered once again to voice concerns over the direction of the program.

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The Board of Education listens as public commentary focuses on athletics.

Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney addressed the crowd before the meeting got underway saying, “Safety is always the top priority. With that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, we have received a maximum number that’s allowed in this room from the state fire marshal, and we must adhere to that number.”

School principals were present to help usher the crowd and school resource officers were stationed at all emergency exits.

“Our room is at capacity,” Gwatney continued. Gwatney announced that the BOE had set up accommodations in expectations of the large turnout. The meeting would be streaming online and alternate locations had been set up at the high school as an overflow where supporters could watch the live-stream.

Ten community members signed up prior to the meeting to ensure that their voices would be heard during public commentary.

Donnie Kendall, who spoke at the January BOE meeting, led the way again and spoke first during the public’s allotted time.

“The last four weeks the administration has not only been helpful, but they have also made theirselves available in hearing all of my concerns, ” Kendall began. “The problem is our administration is reactive instead of proactive.”

Kendall voiced that the same accountability that is placed on educators in the school system should also be placed on coaches, citing the boys basketball team finishing with just three wins and 21 losses.

In comparing this with an academic classroom where only three students were passing with 21 failing, Kendall stated that that educators job would come into question, and the likelihood of their position being renewed would be slim.

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Donnie Kendall addresses the board first during public commentary at the BOE meeting.

“If you choose coaching as career path, you will ultimately be judged by your wins and losses,” Kendall added.

A point of concern among many of the public commentators and mentioned first by Kendall is a need for the BOE to produce total financial transparency of the athletic departments. Kendall, like many others, would like to know what formulas are in place for the funding and who is responsible for the financial decisions.

Speaking of the numerous booster clubs throughout the different athletic departments, who are responsible for raising tens of thousands of dollars every year, Kendall stated, “What we can do and what we are prepared to do is refuse to support that program financially.”

Another commentator, Cliff Shirah spoke from experience on the financial transparency that is desired by parents. Shirah has been treasurer of the Dugout Club for four years.

In those four years, Shirah cited that approximately $192,000 had been raised by the community for this club and the money directly supports Fannin County Athletics.

“We want to know how programs are funded and from what budget, and what is the process or guidelines that those decisions are made?” Shirah questioned the BOE.

Shirah pointed out that the Dugout Club had spent $34,000 in field maintenance and asked, “Why are parents forced to pay for these facilities and field expenses?”

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Brian Johnson counters reasons given by administration about the state of Fannin County Athletics.

Brian Johnson, former president of the Basketball Booster Club, also touched on finances, stating the Tip Off Club had raised upwards of $200,000 in four years, and asked the board, “What will the school board’s actions be if financial support is taken away from these programs?”

Johnson also addressed what many parents felt were excuses being given by administration for the current state of Fannin County Athletics: “excuses have been given from, ‘we don’t have talent’ to ‘we’re rural and secluded’ to ‘other teams should be playing in higher classifications.'”

Johnson countered these arguments by stating, “What in your minds makes us more secluded than Union County, Murphy, North Carolina, Hayesville, Towns County, or Hiawassee, Georgia? We have struggled against these very schools that are as small or much, much smaller than we are.”

Ryan Walton, who also spoke alongside Donnie Kendall at the January BOE meeting, did not agree with the explanations that the administration has offered. “All I’ve heard is excuses on why we don’t compete. I haven’t heard any answers,” Walton said.

Walton added, “I will say that the coaches at Fannin County right now are doing a great job of teaching our kids that life is not fair and that the best person does not always get the job, but the athletic director and board are doing a terrible job by showing these kids that you can be terrible at your job and not get fired.”

Other parents were present giving testimonials on how success in athletics directly correlates with success in a child’s personal life and their academics. These parents expressed concern over what they saw as the coaches’ lack of involvement with or enthusiasm displayed for their athletes.

Ultimately, the parents and supporters united under a common theme of change. They wish to see a winning culture come back to Fannin County and want the full chain of command, from the BOE down to the coaches, to take responsibility for this turn around.

Follow FetchYourNews as we look into obtaining full financial transparency for the Fannin County Athletics Department.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin County School administration responds to parents’ concerns

Education, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Parents recently expressed concerns over the state of the Fannin County Athletics Department at the Jan. 11 Board of Education (BOE) meeting. These concerns were heard by members of the BOE as well as administration and staff within the school system.

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Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney.

Fannin County Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, Fannin County Athletic Director Dr. Scott Ramsey, and Fannin County Curriculum Director Robert Ensley spoke with FetchYourNews about the issues raised during the meeting.

Gwatney expressed concerns about parents being unable to speak directly with coaches or administration in the schools: “That can happen. There might be a parent that has concern with the administration at the school and they want to come see me or somebody in my office.”

Wanting parents to feel comfortable with approaching administration at the schools, Gwatney did advise that speaking with administration first would allow the parent “to speak to people closer to the issue than the board.”

Gwatney also wanted it to be clear saying, “I don’t ever want to dissuade anybody from speaking at the public comment (during the BOE meetings) if it’s on their heart to do so.”

Many parents were surprised to learn of the salaries of several of the coaches as the matter was publicly announced at the January BOE meeting. Gwatney broke down the process of how educators are paid in Fannin County: “These coaches, they are teachers. Legally on paper, they are teachers as well, which can speak to their salaries. They do receive a coaching supplement, but that supplement is a small percentage of their overall salary.”

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Fannin County Curriculum Director Robert Ensley.

In Fannin County, an educator’s salary is based on a number of components, the first being the level of education and experience an educator possesses. The higher the degree of learning (ex. bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate) an educator has obtained will directly affect the base salary given to that educator by the state of Georgia.

The second factor in determining an educator’s salary is a local supplement that is given in Fannin County. This supplement is a flat percentage based on the salary being given by the state of Georgia. Both the supplement and the base pay increase based on years of service in the educational field.

Finally, there is a coaching supplement for those educators who take on the task of instructing Fannin County’s young athletes in their sporting endeavors.

Ensley spoke directly about his thoughts on Fannin County Athletics saying, “I think we’ve got great coaches. They’re building character. Obviously, we want to win.”

Ramsey agreed, “Obviously, we would like to be winning more. I don’t think there is anybody who would argue that, but I think our coaches are working hard. I think they are doing things that they can do to help our kids be successful.”

“The hurdles that we face is that we are a small AAA school. Third smallest in the state,” Ramsey spoke on the difficulties within the program.

Ramsey stated that there are many talented athletes in Fannin County but further explained the hurdles of being a smaller school. “What gets us is the depth. When we have an injury, or kids wear out, there may not be somebody sitting over on the sidelines or sitting on the bench that can come fill those shoes,” Ramsey stated.

“I’m not sitting here making excuses. Our numbers are what they are,” Ramsey clarified as he shared his thoughts on the athletics program.

There is also the problem of multiple sports within the same season. Having a smaller pool of athletes can cause some key players to miss opportunities in one area due to scheduling conflicts. The girl’s softball team and volleyball team was cited as an example of splitting the athletic pool among the two sports.

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Fannin County Athletic Director and Fannin County High School Assistant Principal Dr. Scott Ramsey.

“Softball is very successful,” Ramsey pointed out despite this obstacle.”I think five out of seven years (Coach David Dyer has) made state, and finished in the top five in the state one year.”

Ramsey also addressed allegations made during the public commentary portion of the BOE meeting concerning his second job as an educator at a local night school: “My schedule at the second job is set around the schedule that Mr. Cioffi (Fannin County High School principal) makes for the after school stuff. Mr. Cioffi makes the schedule at the beginning of each season, not just for athletics.”

“It’s a two night a week job and one of those nights is always on Wednesday, and there is nothing athletically on Wednesday. The other is based on whatever the need is,” Ramsey further explained.

Ramsey also spoke of whether other administrators had been asked to cover for him. “If they’re there it’s because they were scheduled to be there. They’re not covering for me. Just like I’m not covering for them when I’m at a drama event or academic thing. We all have a schedule, and we go by that schedule,” Ramsey said.

As far as the future of Fannin County Athletics, Ramsey explained, “We evaluate programs every year. We try to look at it realistically, and we have made changes. This year won’t be any different. We’ll evaluate the programs this year, and if we feel based on the direction of the program that a change needs to be made, then we’ll certainly do that.”

Ramsey did point out that a coach in Fannin County is an educator first, and for a change in coaching to take place, there must also be a need and an opening in an academic department.

Ramsey said that he understood the parents’ frustration and shared a piece of advice given to him during his coaching days saying, “There is a natural conflict built in between coaches and parents because coaches watch the kids with their head, and parents watch the kids with their heart.”

He added that that is the way it should be. “A parent should be their kid’s biggest fan and biggest advocate,” Ramsey said.

Gwatney concluded, “It really is all about the kids. The kids here are our number one priority, and we want to provide them with what is best for them.”

 

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

Parents angered over current state of Fannin County Athletics

News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Parents of Fannin County school children gathered at the Jan. 11 Board of Education meeting to express their concern and anger over the current state of the Fannin County Athletics Department.

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Donnie Kendall addresses the Board of Education about Fannin County Athletics.

Accusations of student favoritism, parent interference, and overall lack of accountability among administration were discussed as parents addressed the board.

First to speak during the public commentary portion of the meeting was parent Donnie Kendall.

“We have a culture here at this school that has been accepted and embraced. That’s a losing culture, and it’s considered the norm,” Kendall spoke of Fannin County Athletics. “If we continue to accept mediocrity as being good enough, then your endeavors will always be mediocre.”

Kendall cited that parents and residents are told that Fannin County is small and rural, and therefore not able to attract or produce the athletes like areas with a larger population.

“This is simply not true,” Kendall stated of the athletes in our area. He pointed to Union County as an example. This county according to Kendall is smaller and just as rural, but manages to play in the same AAA region with much better results.

Kendall spoke directly of assistant principal and athletic director Dr. Scott Ramsey: “We have an athletic director who makes $93,000 to run these programs, whose job undoubtedly ends at 4:30 so he can go to his second job while different administrators are asked to cover for him at our sporting events on a regular basis.”

Coaches in Fannin County are paid a premium salary according to Kendall and “all finish dead last respectively in their regions almost every year.”

Kendall did praise the community of Fannin County for their enthusiasm and support of the school system’s athletics and commented that the booster programs consistently raise $30,000 to $50,000 a year.

“I think it may be time for the community to match the effort of our administration and our coaches and suspend some of our fundraising,” Kendall remarked about actions to take until significant change happens within the program.

Ryan Walton, another parent with children who participate in numerous sports, also spoke during public commentary.

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Ryan Walton wants to see change in Fannin County Athletics program.

Walton began, “My problem with the athletics here, and I don’t speak just for myself, when you get coaches here that will play to win instead of letting parents influence who plays sports, who starts, you’ll have a little bit better result.”

Walton spoke of parent influence over coaches, “It’s obvious that it goes on,” and spoke of his own son, “He should play because he’s good enough not for what I do for that team.”

Other issues mentioned at the meeting were athletes being asked to pick a sport that would be their primary sport and the coaches lack of flexibility for students who participate in multiple activities. The practice of Fannin County’s basketball coach starting with a team in middle school and then moving up with that team to high school was also brought up.

“It’s not moral, it’s not ethical, it’s not right,” Walton said on the issue of coaches moving up with teams.

Walton stated, “I could stand up here for 24 hours and not repeat myself about all the stuff,” and concluded, “Something needs to change. I’m tired of losing. Our kids deserve better. I know mine do. We’re paying people a lot of money not to do their job.”

Other parents were scheduled to speak but expressed that their concerns had been addressed by both Kendall and Walton. Ultimately, the group wanted answers for who is accountable for the Fannin County Athletics Program and for that person or persons to make significant changes soon.

Stay with FetchYourNews as we follow up with the Fannin County School Board and Fannin County Athletic Administrators on issues discussed at the Board of Education meeting.

 

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

King Finds Fannin Lady Rebel Queen: Emily Morgason Signs Softball Scholarship with King University

Featured Stories

Former Fannin County Lady Rebels softball team outfielder, Emily Morgason, signed a softball scholarship with King University in Bristol Tennessee. Morgason was a two year starter for the Lady Rebels playing 32 of a possible 36 games during the team’s latest playoff success. Morgason’s turn as a Tornado may come early as King looks rebuild its outfield. (more…)

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Fannin Cuts “No Cut” Policy

Featured Stories

The Fannin County Board of Education recently decided to forgo Fannin’s long held tradition of all Fannin County athletics having a “no cut” policy, which allowed for any student willing to participate in school sports the opportunity. Student athletes will no longer be guaranteed a spot on a sports team. FYN spoke with Fannin County High School Athletic Director, Dr. Scott Ramsey, about the Board’s decision. (more…)

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Rebels Rally Around Patterson At Baseball Banquet

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The Fannin Rebels’ baseball team held their end-of-the-year banquet on Monday night, giving all of the players, parents, and coaches a chance to reflect on the season that was. (more…)

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