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.
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.
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Calling all believers! Blue Ridge Elementary, East Fannin Elementary, West Fannin Elementary,
and Fannin County High School will be co-hosting a free literacy event on Thursday, December
13 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on the Fannin County High School campus. Students, families,
and community members are invited to come immerse themselves in a joyous holiday
experience. Following the festival, the Swan Drive-in will present a showing of The Polar
Express at 6:15 p.m. as a fundraiser for literacy programming at the schools.
Pick up your map to the North Pole at the FCHS main entrance to guide you around the campus to our various activities; if you get lost along the way, a wandering elf will help direct you to your destination. If you are lucky, the conductor himself might even stop to punch your ticket!
Some of the interactive experiences offered will include themed crafting projects and a book walk. Wal-Mart and Ingles have generously donated a cookie decorating station and a hot chocolate bar. Home Depot will host a Holiday Builder’s workshop! Along the way to the Elf Workshop, where eager elves will assist with letter writing to Santa, feel free to peruse the artistic creations presented at the FCHS Gingerbread House Contest. The Fannin County Regional Library will also host on-site library card sign-up booth!
Also, various guest readers will provide dramatic readings of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar
Express. Santa Claus himself will be there for free pictures and to hear all your holiday wishes.
Community and PTO partnerships have also generously donated several door prizes to reward
the attendance of these avid readers. Please join us for this magical evening!
All children fifth grade and under will receive free admission into the film. All other tickets will
go on sale for the film at the Swan Drive-in on December 2, and ticket prices are $5 each. On
December 13, you will be able to purchase tickets to the Swan’s showing of the film at FCHS or
at the entrance to the Swan. All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit future literacy projects.
Various other corporate and community sponsors are working together to help make this event a
success, and they will all be recognized at the event.
This event is designed to welcome all ages. If you would like more information, please feel free
to contact Sarah Welch, Literacy Coordinator, via email at email@example.com or by phone
at 706.632.2081 ext. 125. Follow event details on Facebook with Fannin County Schools, or use
#literacyexpress or #fanninreads on Twitter to share your experiences. Fannin County, a Get
Georgia Reading community, was awarded the L4GA grant at the end of last year, and we have a
lasting commitment to sustainably impact literacy at all levels!
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Several school system accomplishments were mentioned and this school year’s retirees were honored at the end-of-the-year meeting of Fannin County Schools at the Performing Arts Center Wednesday, May 30.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney kicked the meeting off by announcing 198 students recently graduated from Fannin County High School.
“That’s reflective of the wonderful work that is done by the faculty and staff and leadership at Fannin County High School,” Gwatney added, “but it also speaks volumes for what happens at elementary and middle schools to prepare the students to get them to these levels.”
Gwatney also thanked the Board of Education for a 1 percent across-the-board permanent pay increase for school system personnel.
“And as I stand here before you today, always remember that you are a member of the greatest and most honorable profession,” the superintendent told the countless number of educators and school employees in attendance. “Ladies and gentlemen, ours is the one profession in which all professions must pass.”
Later, Board of Education member Steve Stanley praised Gwatney’s own leadership asking everyone in attendance, “Don’t you guys think that Dr. Gwatney did a great job this year?”
To this, the audience responded with a resounding round of applause for the superintendent.
Lewis DeWeese, BOE chairman, also spoke of the change he saw this year under Dr. Gwatney. “I’ve been saying it for the last year or so, our system has a new spirit, a new friendly, open, honest willingness to share (and) work together,” DeWeese stated.
BOE member Bobby Bearden also took a moment to thank the employees of the school system saying, “It’s been a blessing and an honor to work with people like you.”
Several awards and achievements, received both for schools and individuals throughout the school year, were recognized at the meeting.
This school year’s Teachers of the Year were also mentioned again during the meeting. Those educators included Erin Colbert, from Blue Ridge Elementary, Kathy Culpepper, from East Fannin Elementary, Amber Mitchell, from West Fannin Elementary, Nathasha Anderson, from Fannin County Middle, and Shan Culpepper, from Fannin County High. Culpepper also held the distinction of being Teacher of the Year for the entire school system.
Sarah Welch and Jordan Newman were also recognized this past school year for being the Star Teacher and Star Student of the Year for 2017-18, respectively.
Regarding the high school, Fannin County High School (FCHS) was also ranked statewide and nationally in U.S. News’ annual Best High Schools rankings. According to those rankings, FCHS was ranked 63 in the state and 2,593 in the nation. This was the third time in the last four years FCHS has been ranked by U.S. News in this category with the previous years being 2015 and 2017. The high school also earned a Silver Award for falling in the top 12 percent nationally.
Fannin County Middle School (FCMS) was also praised for its accomplishments, most notably in that the school placed first in an online Reading Bowl and fourth in face-to-face competition. FCMS also earned an honorary degree in life science.
Blue Ridge Elementary received recognition for earning a High Progress Award among Title 1 schools. High Progress Award schools are among the top 10 percent of Title 1 schools based on the three-year average of College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) progress scores.
East Fannin Elementary held the distinction this school year of being one of only five Family-Friendly Partnership Schools in the state of Georgia.
Also, West Fannin Elementary enjoyed the success of becoming the 36th Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) certified school in the state.
Twenty-five educators in the school system became certified as Level 1 Google Educators this school year. This status indicates that an educator is able to successfully implement Google Suite for Education into their teaching practice in order to enhance teaching and learning.
The school system’s nutrition program participated in the Shake It Up initiative, which is a state-wide initiative to change the culture school nutrition in three areas: tasty meals, friendly cafeterias and happy schools. The nutrition programs at all five county schools received the Gold Award in this initiative.
The school system also took time to honor this year’s retirees throughout Fannin County Schools. Those retirees included:
· From Blue Ridge Elementary, media specialist Robbie Callihan and nutritionist Mildred Johnson;
· From East Fannin Elementary, teachers Katie Holloway and Lynn Weeks, academic coach Crystal Cooke, and paraprofessional Sandra Ross;
· From West Fannin Elementary, nutritionist Wanda Stewart and teacher Betty Holsonback;
· From Fannin County Middle, teachers Cindy Wood and Linda Nave, and nutritionists Judy Glasgow, Sue Postell, and Gayle Queen;
· From Fannin County High, secretaries Robin Kirby and Gail Bennett, paraprofessional Phillip Nastyn, teachers Terry Callihan and Kim Kribbs, and nutritionists Amanda O’Neal and Leslie Perenich;
· System-wide deaf/hard of hearing teacher Marcie Harper and speech therapist Pam Lapham;
· School bus drivers Margie Kolesky and Sheryl Campbell;
· From the school system maintenance department, Archie Bice; and
· From the Central Office, accounts payable bookkeeper Connie Grindstaff and Associate Superintendent Betsy Hyde.
“What an honor this has been,” Gwatney told the retirees. “I wish you all the best.”
Following the ceremony, the rock band Apollo, which is comprised of three Fannin County students, played a spirited version of the Foo Fighters’ classic anthem “My Hero” as a tribute to the retirees as well as the existing educators and employees of the Fannin County School System.
Concluding the day’s event, Gwatney stated, “Ladies and gentlemen, we aspire to guide and lead the future, but most of all, you remember why we’re here. It’s for the kids. Everyone have a great summer.”
The Teaching as a Profession pathway (TAP) prepares students for a career in education. Students enrolled in these courses don’t just learn about teaching from sitting in their classroom at Fannin County High School; they see first-hand what it’s like to teach young children by working with mentor teachers in various grade levels across the county.
Jill Dyer, TAP Program Coordinator, says, “Research shows that there will be a significant shortage of teachers in the next few years. There are many more teachers who will be retiring than there are students who will complete college degree programs in education. We are growing our own teachers here in Fannin County by offering these students an opportunity to see what a great career it can be.”
Students in the first course of the pathway, Examining the Teaching Profession, recently volunteered their time at Fannin Head Start in Mineral Bluff and the TAP students aren’t the only ones that benefit from these visits. Mary Beth Deal, Curriculum Director of Fannin Head Start said, “Our preschool students get so excited when the high school kids visit because they look up to them as role models. The biggest evidence of their excitement is the smiles on their faces.”
The TAP program consists of three courses that include FCHS classroom instruction and mentoring with teachers who work with ages PreK – 8th grade. In the 2 nd and 3 rd level courses, students work with a mentor teacher several days a week. By the time they finish the pathway, they are actually teaching real lessons that they have written and developed on their own.
Senior Victoria Keaton recently taught a class of 2 nd graders at East Fannin Elementary. “Having the
opportunity to work with these precious children has encouraged me even more to become a teacher and make a difference in the generation of tomorrow,” said Victoria.
Her mentor teacher, Lauren Seber said, “From the time I had Victoria in 2nd grade, I knew she was born to teach. I believe that good teachers are born and not made. Over the years I have watched her as a student and her poise, personal dedication, and determination prevails. She was born to make a difference, and it takes a special person to have the strength and compassion needed to nurture each and every student that walks through the door. Victoria will change the world and positively affect the lives of young children. When Victoria says, ‘I love kids’, she really means it!”
By completing the courses and passing the state-wide assessment, students earn college credit. The classes are open to all high school students in grades 9-12.
Junior, Dylan Walton takes time with Copper at
Fannin Head Start in Mineral Bluff, Georgia.