Dr. Michael Gwatney speaks on retirement and announcement

Community, News

It’s not the end for Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney. It’s just a transition, but a transition to what?

“That’s a good question,” said Gwatney in an interview with FYN. He added that he has his time and is eligible for retirement. He also said, “I feel like its time in life to start a new chapter.”

To understand how impactful this retirement is to both Gwatney and to the schools, one need look at more than just his service as Superintendent. Reaching all the way back to 1991, Michael Gwatney wasn’t a doctor, yet. He had just graduated from Fannin County High School and was originally planning to follow into Military Service.

Instead, circumstances set him into staying local and applying for work as a substitute teacher. This position lead into full time teaching, which lead to seven years in school administration with time spent as principal. Later, that path pushed into 10 years of system administration and, ultimately, his selection as Fannin County Schools Superintendent.

During that rise through Fannin County Schools, he also fostered his own passion for education within himself as he notes it, a drive to continue learning each day. A passion for education cannot be denied with Gwatney, whose office wall is covered by six diplomas, from his high school diploma in Fannin to college degrees from Truett McConnell University, Brenau University, and a Masters and Doctorate from the University of Georgia.

Yet, always, he returned home to Fannin and to its school system, growing and rising from substituting to teaching to administration to district level.

Gwatney said, “This is the first time since entering Fannin County Schools that I won’t be with Fannin County Schools… I will definitely miss that.”

With 31 years of service in the school system, he said he is looking forward to the next thing and spending a little time traveling. However, he won’t travel too far for too long as Gwatney said his heart is still in Fannin County. Whatever is next, he wants to continue residing in the county.

Throughout his education, career, and even his next step after retiring, Gwatney maintains a focus on where God leads him. He noted that even in college, he started at the University of North Georgia but left and went to Truett-McConnell with a broken foot. He planned on returning to UNG, but was in an automobile accident. As he recovered from that, his substitute teaching picked up and new doors opened that kept him at Truett-McConnell and then lead on to not only degrees all the way up to a Doctorate in Education Law, but also having a specialist degree in Supervision and Student Services.


Fannin Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney

Speaking on his service and the time he will spend training instead of announcing a hard date for retirement, he said, “I’m open to helping the schools in any way that I can serve the schools. That’s always been my mindset from the beginning.”

And that offer of service is being taken as of now. This announcement is actually a very early announcement for him. Dr. Gwatney offered to stay on with the schools as they search for and hire a replacement. Even after that, he will be staying on to train and advise the new Superintendent until the board finishes the transition sometime during the next school year.

“More consistency,” this is the main thing that Dr. Gwatney said his continued service will offer the school system. Without the extra step of an interim Superintendent, the schools will continue on as normal while they complete their search and process. This also means no need for a transition and introduction of an interim and repeating the process for the final selection of the new Superintendent. “It’s certainly more efficient… more stable.”

While the board has the list of requirements and skills they will seek in a new Superintendent, Dr. Gwatney said he has hopes that his successor “loves Fannin County Schools and is the right fit for the board to be able to continue to accomplish the vision of the board.”

Accomplishing that vision, working with the board, and handling the issues and trials that each year brings are the daily tasks of a Superintendent. For Dr. Gwatney, those major challenges have been very public through issues like COVID and school closures, rising Vape usage, and the publicized issues with transgendered people and the bathrooms and locker rooms.

Yet, these were not just school issues alone. Gwatney noted that even though he is retiring, he is still a part of the Fannin County Community. He said, “Really, schools mirror the community.”

He went on to add, “When you’re the leader of an organization, whether you’re the superintendent or the principal of a school, your job is to keep things moving to the benefit of the children. As the superintendent, you are obligated to do so in an efficient manner that is respectable to the taxpayer as well. And so, whatever the issue is, we, I say we being the superintendent and my team, are professional problem solvers.”

It is the passion of the people leading that make experiences as normal as possible during times of abnormality like the closing of schools during COVID. It is a tying bond in this country that everyone receives an education. Gwatney said it is the one thing that we all have in common.

Improving that common bond in Fannin County has come through great teachers which have always been in the county since before he even started substitute teaching. Gwatney noted that he has great hopes for the future based on its past through those great teachers, strong leaders, and a stable Board. He said that the county’s support also has given amazing things to the kids through things like the ESPLOST. Gwatney noted it as the single greatest difference since he started teaching and one that has fundamentally changed the face of Fannin County Schools.

Facilities like the Performing Arts Center were possible because of the ESPLOST and projects continue to build and renovate other facilities like the gym, stadium, and the ag center. The change came as it added better resources to the fantastic people who work there.

Looking ahead, he said there are no set plans for his immediate future as he is focused on completing his time with Fannin Schools and preparing for the incoming Superintendent. Those preparations include guiding the board of education into its two new debt-free facilities on July 21, 2022, when they hold the ribbon cutting and first meeting in the new facility. He also said he looks forward to the current board’s location and its future as a public library.

It truly is the people that set Fannin County apart from other school systems in the country. Gwatney said that these schools can compete with anyone thanks to those people. With that in mind, Gwatney said his outlook on the future of the county and it’s school system after he leaves is “extremely bright, outstanding. I look for good things to happen in our district.”

Tying his past work with that outlook on Fannin’s future, Gwatney said that five years ago, he made a promise to the board to leave the school system better than he found it. He stated, “I think the record speaks for itself.”

He went on to add, “My challenge to the next one is the same goal, ‘Leave it better than you found it.’ And I know he or she will.”

An interview with Board of Education candidate Mike Cole

Board of Education, Election
Mike Cole

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. — Mike Cole is the current Vice Chair of the Fannin County Board of Education. His seat is uncontested, but he spoke with FYN to discuss his time on the board and goals for the future.

Mike Cole said his experiences as a member of the community initially led him to run for the board. He first mentioned that when taking his daughter to school he saw “lack in some areas, waste in other areas.” Cole also owns an automotive repair shop that he said needed employees. He believed the lack of workers in the area was a sign the school system did not have strong vocational education.

Since being elected, Cole said the board has accomplished many things, especially for vocational education. He highlighted a now established “state-of-the-art” welding program. Cole noted that an automotive teacher is already teaching and should have a full facility completed and ready for students by 2024. Along with construction, health and sports medicine programs in Fannin County schools, Cole said “I came in wanting to get the vocational up and get it moving again, and I believe we’ve done that.”

Cole told FYN that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of mental health care in the school system. He said, while many people are unaware, the schools in the county have resources to help students struggling with mental health issues, such as anxiety. To inform community members about the resources available within Fannin County schools, Cole said he has worked to get Shannon Miller, the Director of Student Services, to speak at a Republican Party meeting: “She’s got a fabulous team. They’re dealing with kids on a daily basis, and so I’m really proud of that, that were actually stepping in and taking a lead on that.”

He also noted increases in special-purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) funding, “In the last 12 months we’ve got nine million dollars, so we’ve put that to work.” Specifically, Cole mentioned a new, fully paid for bus facility that is under construction. He also said the board is considering plans to create a wellness center on 160 acres of land that the board purchased: “That wellness center will incorporate, hopefully, several different other aspects as far as sports.” Cole said the center would include dedicated wrestling spaces, as well as baseball and softball fields. The wellness center, he noted, would also expand access to vocational facilities that currently don’t have space in the schools.

When it comes to involving parents and teachers with his work on the board, Cole emphasized communication. He said during school visits he asks the teachers what their “needs, wants, and desires” are. To interact with parents, Cole says “I’m always trying to visit all these sports programs, FFA, wherever I can be a part of.” He also mentioned his recent participation in a nature trail walk with the middle school that allowed him to interact with parents.

Discussing possible improvements that could be made in his next term, Cole mentioned that he would like to see pay increases that would make janitor and lunch workers’ income competitive in the community. As far as curriculum, Cole said he is “well satisfied” with where the school system is now. He suggested that concerns over controversial issues, like Critical Race Theory, often come from national media. On a local level, however, Cole said: “It’s my knowledge that’s not being taught here at all. It’s not in our curriculum. The only thing we’re required to teach is Georgia Standards, and that’s what we teach.”

There are two board of education seats on the ballot this May, but only one seat is contested. Incumbent Bobby Bearden is being challenged by both Debi Holcomb and Clarence “Junior” Farmer. Incumbent Mike Cole, however, has no challengers. More information about the election on May 24, 2022 can be found here or on the Fannin County Board of Elections website.

An interview with Board of Education candidate Clarence Farmer

Board of Education, Election

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. — Clarence “Junior” Farmer is one of two candidates hoping to succeed the incumbent, Bobby Bearden, on the Fannin County Board of Education this year. Farmer, who has served on the board previously, was absent from a recent candidates forum due to a spinal surgery. Although he is still recovering, Farmer briefly spoke with FYN about his election bid.

Farmer, born and raised in Fannin County, emphasized his previous experience on the board. During his tenure, Farmer said he visited the Fannin County schools every month and talked to the teachers who worked there. “I’m for good schools, good education, and high graduation rate,” Farmer said, adding that the graduation rate had increased during his time on the board. He also noted that, when he was a member, the board worked to build a new football stadium and bring a college campus to the county. The campus was ultimately built in Ellijay, but Farmer said he advocated for Fannin County during the process.

Farmer also stressed vocational education as something the county needs. “There’s a lot of kids that can’t go to college, and they can go to a vocational school,” he said. Farmer, who attended a vocational school himself, said that they can provide opportunity to underserved communities. He cited education in plumbing, carpentry, and electrical work as jobs that students can be prepared for with vocational education. “Vocational school would help this county a whole lot,” he added.

He also noted his involvement with students during his previous tenure: “I worked with the kids and everything, and I attended every football game for four years, except four games.” Farmer said he attended just about every basketball, softball, baseball, and soccer game as well.

He made clear that his community involvement didn’t stop with students, “I was there for the parents, and they knew it too.” Similarly, he mentioned his open communication with Fannin County teachers. “I think the teachers right now are doing a good job, I really do,” Farmer said, adding “I talked to a lot of teachers when I was on the board, and they appreciate that.” As a board member, Farmer said he’d like to see all five members work together to help the people of the county.

When asked what he wants voters to remember about him, Farmer replied, “I want them to remember me as the peoples’ candidate. I hope they choose me as their choice, and if they do I’ll work with the parents, teachers, administrators, and I’ll work with them anyway I can, help them anyway I can.”

There are two board of education seats on the ballot this May, but only one seat is contested. Incumbent Bobby Bearden is being challenged by both Debi Holcomb and Clarence “Junior” Farmer. More information about the election on May 24, 2022 can be found here or at the Fannin County Board of Elections website.

An interview with Board of Education candidate Bobby Bearden

Board of Education, Election
Bobby Bearden

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. — Bobby Bearden has served on the Fannin County Board of Education for almost twenty years. “There’s two priorities that I have. Number one is the students. I want a quality education. Number two is the taxpayers and the citizens of Fannin County,” he told FYN during an interview discussing his re-election bid. Bearden is the incumbent candidate but is facing a challenge from both Debi Holcomb and Clarence “Junior” Farmer.

Bobby Bearden has lived in Fannin County for 48 years and currently works for the City of Blue Ridge. He has also served in the US Army, and he ran Bearden’s Muffler Shop for over thirty years. Now, Bearden is finishing his twentieth year working on the Board of Education. “Education, to me, is number one,” he said, adding, “not just for them to go to school, but I want them to get a quality education while they’re there, and I believe they’re doing that.”

Bearden said the board has made many accomplishments during his twenty year tenure. He specifically mentioned the updates and renovations that have been made to several buildings throughout the county. He also touched on the expansion of vocational education in the county during his time on the board. While they have already established a welding class and nursing program at the high school, Bearden said he would like to see an auto-mechanics and small engine class created. He believes those classes will expand opportunity for Fannin County students: “Not everybody that goes through school is going to go to college, and they need something to do.”

Another accomplishment, Bearden noted, is the purchase of 160 acres to be utilized by the school system, “It’s a tremendous thing, I think, that we was able to purchase that land next to the high school for future use.” He said the board will begin conversations on how to use the property this month.

Bearden, responding to criticism of the board’s transparency with the community, said “I think we are. The only thing that we can’t put out in public is what happens in executive session.” He said most people are aware of what is happening, especially because of online options that allow parents to see how their children are doing in school. “That’s one thing that I can tell you that I’m 110% for, is transparency,” Bearden added, “That’s how the school board and the school system and the community gets along.”

Bearden said he believes the school board does work well together and with the community as a whole: “We don’t all agree, but when it comes down to it, we agree for the good of the school.” That cooperation allows them to accomplish things like pay raises for employees, he emphasized: “They deserve it, all the people that work for us. Whether it be a custodian, a bus driver, a school teacher or whatever, they deserve all the money that they can get.” Bearden also said that the board has worked to decrease the millage rate over the last five years and has used special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST) funding to remodel the school buildings.

He also touched on state and federal government influence in Fannin County schools, which was a topic at a recent candidates forum. Bearden said that while “there’s certain things that you have to abide by,” being a charter system allows “more control over what happens at all of our five schools.” He also noted that there is a School Governance Team (SGT) at each school that meets to discuss the schools’ needs. “They know exactly what the school needs and the people in Atlanta don’t,” Bearden emphasized.

There are two board of education seats on the ballot this May, but only one seat is contested. Incumbent Bobby Bearden is being challenged by both Debi Holcomb and Clarence “Junior” Farmer. More information about the election on May 24, 2022 can be found here or the Fannin County Board of Elections website.

An interview with Board of Education candidate Debi Holcomb

Board of Education, Election
Board of Education candidate Debi Holcomb

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. — Debi Holcomb is one of two candidates challenging the incumbent, Bobby Bearden, for a seat on the Fannin County Board of Education this year. Holcomb, who is legally blind, spoke with FYN about her election bid, saying “it doesn’t take eye sight to have a vision, and I have a vision for a better Fannin County school system.”

Holcomb, who moved to Blue Ridge in 2005, said community involvement is important to her. She currently volunteers at Fannin County Animal Control and serves as a trustee on the Fannin County Library Board. She was also appointed to the Comprehensive Plan Planning Committee, where she served her term. Holcomb also noted that she started, and now chairs, a peer support group for visually impaired North Georgians.

Holcomb said she has always had interest in education because of her six children and five grandchildren, but her work as a reporter for the Fannin Sentinel made her more familiar with the school board. As she became more involved, Holcomb said she “became concerned about the time that the Board of Education stopped having public workshops, and started doing things not quite out in the open.” On a national level, Holcomb said that conversations about critical race theory and gender identification concerned her as well.

Holcomb also touched on drug usage and other misbehavior within the school system. “Of course education starts at home,” Holcomb said, “In our community we know the poverty level that’s kinda hid, and we know that not all home circumstances are the best.” When it becomes a reoccurring problem in the school system, however, she said the school board has a responsibility to review policies that are not working well: “Our job is to protect the children, and how can we protect the children if we’re turning our backs and ignoring what’s going on.” When it comes to reviewing those board and school policies, Holcomb said she would like to look at all of them, and have more discussion with both teachers and parents. Holcomb said she was floored to find out that not every school has a guidance counselor, and some special education classes only have one teacher at a time. She noted those instances are examples of when a policy should be reviewed.

Holcomb said she had recently attended a meeting with the Georgia State Superintendent Richard Woods: “He informed us that, contrary to what parents have been told in an open meeting, that the curriculum is handled at the local level.” Because of this, Holcomb said, preventing inappropriate curriculum and school library books from entering Fannin County schools is the responsibility of the county’s school board. “I am afraid that the current board members treat their job as part time, show up for your meetings, collect your money, and go. I myself feel that schools need to be visited on a regular basis, somebody needs to be monitoring exactly what’s being taught,” she emphasized.

She argued that the school system’s budget could be used in a way that better serves the students: “I know there are issues. Water issues, mold issues in the elementary schools. So, I don’t understand why we are doing a multimillion dollar bus and admin building with those SPLOST dollars instead of taking care of existing problems where our students are actually at.” Holcomb also noted that she had recently learned Fannin County shares a portion of its revenue with poorer counties. Holcomb said she would look at where the money is being sent and talk with the state government to see if that amount could be reduced.

When it comes to teachers, Holcomb believes that more communication and board involvement is important. “Right now, I don’t think that most of our school faculty feel that the board even listens, and I want to be one that they know is going to listen,” she said.

There are two board of education seats on the ballot this May, but only one seat is contested. Incumbent Bobby Bearden is being challenged by both Debi Holcomb and Clarence “Junior” Farmer. More information about the election on May 24, 2022 can be found here or at the Fannin County Board of Elections website.

Fannin County receives Fire and Life Safety House

Larry Thomas and Fire and Life Safety House

FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. — Lead Fire and Life Safety Educator Amanda Jones, with the Office of Commissioner of Insurance and Safety Fire, presented a new Fire and Life Safety House that will be stationed in Fannin County. Fannin County Fire Chief Larry Thomas also attended the walkthrough, where Jones shared the features of the safety house and her goals for the program.

Safety house

Jones walked through the features of the Fire and Life Safety House.

The safety house is divided into three rooms. The first includes a seating area for students, a television, and a kitchen area. The television will play videos from the Weather Channel, teaching students about what to do in different weather scenarios. “It’s proven that if kids do things repeatedly, and they know what’s going to happen, they’re not as scared in the case of an accident or an incident,” Jones said. The kitchen area allows the instructor to go over kitchen and cooking safety, including how to respond to a grease fire. Jones also shared that a microwave component will enable instructors to teach about the proper usage.

A second room lets instructors control the different components of the house. That control room also includes a phone system, so students can practice communicating with emergency dispatchers. The third room includes a heated door and an opening window where students are taught how to safely evacuate a house fire. The safety house is also equipped to release smoke, simulating a house fire.

Safety house

Jones demonstrated the smoke component.

Jones said that she “wanted to use every corner of this to be able to teach,” so even the outside of the house is decorated with informative material. The largest sides of the safety house depict a home escape plan and hold information about smoke alarms.

The current program is mostly aimed at elementary school students, but Jones noted that, depending on the age of students, different aspects of the safety house are emphasized. She also shared that future goals include safety lessons for not only younger students, but college students and the elderly.

Accessibility was also important to Jones: “Our goal is to get into the communities that maybe don’t have the money to have education, fire and life safety education, so we want to be able to help the those communities that may not have that resource.” She noted that the fire safety house is also handicap friendly.

While the fire safety house will be stationed in Fannin County, it will serve the entire North Georgia area. Jones noted it’s one of three in the state, with the other two in Central Georgia and the Atlanta area. “I’m very appreciative,” Jones said of the Fannin County Fire Department, “there’s not many departments that we could have room and would let us bring it in.”

Candidates Forum sees many absentees as issues are discussed

Election, News

Fannin County, Ga. – Hosted by the Fannin County Chamber and CVB, April’s Candidates forum saw more absentees than attendees on Monday, April 25, 2022. Less than half of the candidates running for office attended with the largest missing portion coming from the District 9 Representatives.

In the United States House of Representatives race for the 9th Congressional District, only Gregory Howard was able to attend the forum. Offering his three minute opening statement, Howard spoke on liberties and the assaults they have endured.

Howard stated, “I’ve been asked why do I want to be in congress and the very simple answer is this, to advance my work in restoring our lost freedoms and the God-given rights bestowed on behalf of the citizens in our U.S. Constitution.”


Candidates for the Fannin Board of Education, Bobby Bearden and Debi Holcomb speak at the candidates forum on April 25, 2022.

After his opening statement, the event did not move into forum, but instead moved on to the Board of Education’s contested seat. With Clarence “Junior” Farmer unable to attend due to spinal surgery, only Debi Holcomb and incumbent Bobby Bearden spoke in the forum.

Holcomb focused on state issues that the county is facing saying that she is ready and willing to take her shot to make a difference for families in the county and be more transparent while looking to oppose state oversight in the county level. Through her experience as a mom with kids in the schools, Holcomb said that she has attended meetings of the school board and has worked in county government before.

Holcomb also spoke on compensation for teachers and time off during COVID through stay-at-home orders and her feelings towards retaining teachers in the school and losing the experience of those long-time teachers. She stated, “One of the most important things that our students need is teachers who are happy to be here and are happy to be teaching them, teachers that care. Our teachers do care, but they are not getting what they need and it’s hard for them to get the students what they need.”

Bearden is the incumbent of the office. He said he is proud of Fannin County Schools and that the school system is doing very well in current times. Holding to his participation in the school board through their efforts and what he referred to as successes over the years. Bearden said he is for the children and the taxpayers as a board member and pointed to his record as proof of the board’s forward motion and cooperation with other government entities to provide for the citizens of the county.

The teachers became a topic discussed over several questions as Bearden replied in another question that Fannin never furloughed like other places. He said, “We’ve always paid our teachers 190 days if I’m not mistaken. As far as I know, we take care of our teachers.”

Bearden said that his heart is in the school system and in the kids and that the school system is doing very well. He quoted an old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Moving into the Post 2 Commissioner’s race candidates, Glenn Patterson, Larry Joe Sosebee, and Anita L. Weaver were present for the forum. Greg Staffins was absent due to allergies and Larry Syputa was absent due to a car accident. All three candidates supported the idea for a community center with meeting space, which was the Post 2 Commissioners opening question. With all three agreeing, the only question on each candidate’s mind was how to fund it and where to put it?

Patterson is the incumbent in the office. He noted successes in the county and its growth under the current leadership saying that projects like the recent announcement of a standalone library were proof of continued efforts and cooperation among state and local entities. He spoke about service to the citizens and continuing to pursue things like those he already has in his current term including paying off the courthouse, maintaining roads and bridges, protecting gun rights through resolutions like the second amendment sanctuary, improving public safety services, and improving broadband service among others.

Patterson spoke on affordable housing as a tough topic. He stated that the county needs to tackle the issue as it is facing many surrounding counties as well. He noted some hesitation in taking grants and state funds due to strings attached with many of those options. He said the county is already looking at ordinances and are working towards a type of solution. He spoke about town hall meetings and incorporating ideas from citizens on the issue. He said the topic is very difficult as he wants to support those people living here that are builders and that is how they make a living while also supporting citizens on the other side who view the continuing developments as a negative. He said he could see it both ways.

Sosebee was the Post 2 Commissioner in Fannin from 2010 to 2018. He also spoke on projects he was a part of saying that he would continue to work for Fannin County as it is dear to his heart. Increasing economic growth through new commercial businesses and jobs alongside financial responsibility through refinancing the courthouse were two examples he gave.

Touching on the topic of affordable housing, Sosebee noted the topic gains extra stress from rising costs of lumber and other building materials. He later added that despite the costs, he definitely believes the county has a problem with overdevelopment. Addressing the issue is a process as Sosebee said one option to help in controlling growth could involve a moratorium on the building of major subdivisions in some way. He noted that the need was present and a long term solution could likely involve moratoriums in some way whether short or long term.

Weaver is Chairman of the Fannin County Water Authority. Born and raised in Fannin County, she is also a retired Vice President from United Community Bank. She stated she is running to help save the county from what is happening to it.

With concern over the issue of water, Weaver is hoping to look into better supplies for water to the whole county. She said she wants to work with the cities to find ways to cooperate on water authority access and service to all citizens as many use insufficient wells or have too many families on the same well. The growth also pressures the water needs. With affordable housing and the county’s grown being specific questions asked in the forum, Weaver also suggested restrictions on building projects such as subdivisions through lot sizes or lot numbers. She agreed that overdevelopment is an issue and spoke on options like zoning as a possible answer. She noted that many may cringe at the topic of zoning specifically but insisted that the county needs to come together over the issue for a common solution.

Fannin County Announces new library in joint meeting


FANNIN COUNTY, Ga. – A special called meeting that was held as a joint meeting between the Fannin County Board of Education (BOE) and the Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) also saw special guest David Ralston, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives to announce a new public library to be constructed.

An unprecedented time as both Speaker Ralston and County Attorney Lynn Doss called it, the joint meeting is the beginning of a major, multi-million dollar project for Fannin County.

The meeting proceeded as the Fannin BOE made a motion and approval to donate land to the Board of Commissioners for the sole purpose of constructing a new public library. The BOE has purchased property from the United States Forestry Service near Blue Ridge Dam in order to construct two new facilities for the school system. The BOE is currently constructing a staff development center there that will be the new home for staff working out of the building at 2290 East First Street.

Because of this, the property at 2290 East First Street, soon to be empty with the move, has been donated to the county for a new library. The property, adjacent to Fannin High School, will be 0.85 acres in total. Though the project was described as a standalone library, there are no current designs for the building. Both the BOE’s motion to donate and the BOC’s motion to accept the land came with unanimous approvals of the present members of these boards.

Speaker Ralston said that a standalone library has been on the community wish list for many years. He stated, “I want to commend both the Board of Education and the Commissioners for this arrangement which will now expedite this project. The project is a result of cooperative efforts between the Fannin County Board of Education, the Fannin County Commission, and the state of Georgia.”


A special called meeting hosted the Fannin BOE, Fannin BOC, and Speaker of the House David Ralston on April 22, 2022, to approve land donation for a new standalone library.

Ralston noted that the general assembly’s budget is providing funding for part of the library project. The state’s commitment totals $2.6 million as Ralston stated, “The budget that we just passed this past session in the general assembly provided for an additional $1.3 million specified for this project. That goes with the $1.3 million that had been appropriated back two or three budget cycles ago.”

The county can begin planning but will not break ground or start construction until after the BOE faculty have moved to their new facility when construction is complete. Due to this, County Attorney Lynn Doss said there isn’t a start date for the project. She went on to add that the contract has a provision that if the property ever ceases to be a library, it will revert back to Board of Education ownership.

Ralston stated, “A library says a lot about a community. That’s why this has been important to me and I know its been important to many of you. Because when you go into a community and you see they have a nice library facility, that says volumes about where they put priorities on learning and education and all the things that we associate with a library. When this library is completed, it will say that Fannin County is proud of our past, our present, and our future.”

With the celebration of the donated land and the unofficial beginning of the county’s multi-million dollar library project, Ralston had one more note to say as he stated that good news will keep coming. Ralston said he would be returning to Fannin County in a few weeks for another meeting and announcement with another special guest.


BRES & Constitution Week

Rebel's Corner
constitution week

Today Tekia Cunningham and Donna Reece from the Captain James Kell Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution joined us today to sign a proclamation to designate September 17-23, 2020 as Constitution Week.

Pictured in pictures:

Dr. April Hodges in between students

Students: Left- Gaddis and Cannon Holloway

Teacher, Kelly Castro (to the right)

DAR members behind the students: Tekia Cunningham, Regent (right) and Donna Reece, Historian (left)



One of the key issues today is education.  Everyone should be interested in all children getting the best well rounded education available. Children are the future and it is concerning to have a growing populace that purposely remain ignorant due to the cookie cutter approach to public schools.

My question is why have the American people allowed education to become a government led agenda?

Initially, when America was young, there was no guideline for schooling. In England, schools were available for the privileged, but not the masses. 

The American spirit formed its own brand of education. Children were taught at home or in the homes of neighbors. As communities grew, the one room schoolhouse was brought into play. This building housed the school, served as a community center and often a church on Sunday.


There was usually a home or a “Teacherage” close to the schools, so that male teachers’ families were close to the school and able to assist the teacher with his duties. Unmarried female teachers were usually boarded with someone in the community. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House” books, became a schoolteacher two months before her sixteenth birthday. She taught in a one room schoolhouse.


The one room school system allowed for the parents and the community to decide on the curriculum and the values taught in the schools. The community that sponsored their own school would have been up in arms if anyone from the government had tried to interfere with their wishes. They accepted some guidelines, but interference would not have been tolerated.

The one room school allowed for a child to go further than his or her own age level. If the child was advanced, they could finish their lessons and listen to the next age level’s work. The community school usually only went up to the eighth grade. This provided basic education.

 If a student wanted further education, they could go to a central high school within the county or state. 

Standardized tests did not come into play until much later, if you went to school and attended and passed all of your classes, you could graduate. 

This system spawned many a leader within the United States.

My maternal Great Grandfather John Thomas Jones donated land for a two room schoolhouse here in Paulding County, Georgia. My Grandmother Clara M. Jones and her older brother Hershel Jones taught there for a period of time.

Though his scholastic career was interrupted by family needs on the farm, my Uncle Herschel returned to school later. He later completed all of his studies and graduated from Oglethorpe University. He went on to be the principal in the Paulding County school system.

Herschel Jones Middle School in Dallas, Georgia is his legacy to education, and a tribute to the power of the one room school.

Instead of relying on the government to educate children, parents need to be in charge of the local educational system. More thought needs to be given to how each parent is personally is going to provide education to their children. In this way, the values of the parents, not the government are instilled

Taking back the power of education is key to developing free thinkers.

The Federal Government’s interference has led to teaching to tests and leaving students behind on important basics, especially American History. It is an indictment of the public school system every time some reporter asks college age students questions, like who is on the $ 20 bill. The school systems have taught our young people to be ashamed of our great nation and have misled them on how our country was founded.

When school systems insist on teaching values that are contrary to the values taught at home, it is unacceptable.

It is time to take your children and their education back from those who are running their own agenda.


Fannin County Schools Start Back This Wednesday!

News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Fannin County Schools start back Wednesday, August 7, 2019!

The official calendar 2019 – 2020 calendar is as follows!

Note: Days for Spring Break and holidays can be used to make up days missed due to inclement weather or other reasons.

Thursday, August 1, 2019 – Tuesday, August 6, 2019: Preplanning


Wednesday, August 7, 2019: First day of school.


Monday, September 2, 2019: Labor Day Holiday, Emergency Make Up Day


Thursday, October 17, 2019: Early Release, Parent Teacher Conference


Friday, October 18, 2019: Professional Learning Day, Emergency Make Up Days


Monday, October 21, 2019: Holiday, Emergency Make Up Day


Monday, November 25, 2019 – Friday, November 29, 2019: Thanksgiving Holidays, Emergency Make Up Days


Monday, December 23, 2019 – Tuesday, December 31, 2019: Christmas Holidays, Emergency Make Up Days


Wednesday, January 1, 2020 – Friday, January 3, 2020: New Years Break, Emergency Make Up Days


Monday, January 6, 2020 – Tuesday, January 7, 2020: Professional Learning Day, Emergency Make Up Days


Wednesday, January 8, 2020: Students Return from Break


Monday, January 20, 2019: Martin Luther King Holiday, Emergency Make Up Day


Monday, February 17, 2020: Holiday, Emergency Make Up Day


Friday, March 13, 2020: Early Release, Parent Teacher Conference


Wednesday, April 1, 2020: Kindergarten Registration – BRES, EFES, & WFES


Friday, April 10, 2020 – Friday, April 17, 2020: Spring Break, Emergency Make Up Days


Friday, May 22, 2020: Last Day of School, Graduation


Monday, May 25, 2020: Memorial Day


Tuesday, May 26, 2020 – Thursday, May 28, 2020: Post Planning


Friday, May 29, 2020: Emergency Make Up Day

Testing Dates:
Sem/Final Exams: MS/FH Thursday, December 19, 2019 – Friday, December 20, 2019 & Thursday, May 21, 2020 – Friday, May 22, 2020.

Milestones test windows:
Winter 2019 EOC (FCHS only)
Monday, December 2, 2019 – Friday, December 13, 2019
Spring 2020 EOC (HS courses)
Monday, April 27, 2020 – Friday, May 15, 2020
Spring 2020 EOG (3rd-8th grades)
Wednesday, April 22, 2020 – Friday, May 15, 2020


Fannin County High School Daily Schedule: 

7:30 – 8:00 Students report to the cafeteria with breakfast being served starting at 7:40 am.

8:05 – 9:30 Block 1 Class

9:36 – 11:01 Block 2 Class

11:07 – 1:04 Block 3 Class and Lunch

1:10 – 2:35 Block 4 Class

2:40 – 3:10 FLEX Time/Block

West Fannin Elementary School Daily Schedule:

8:15 – 8:40
8:40 – 10:50
Academic Time
10:50 – 11:45
11:45 – 1:30
Academic Time
1:30 – 2:00
Gross Motor Skills
2:00 – 2:45
Academic Time

8:15 – 9:50
Academic Time
9:50 – 10:40
10:40 – 11:20
Academic Time
11:20 – 12:20
12:20 – 1:15
1:15 – 2:45
Academic Time

1st Grade
8:10 – 8:55
Academic Time
8:55 – 9:50
9:50 – 10:40
Academic Time
10:40 – 11:30
11:30 – 12:25
Academic Time
12:25 – 1:25
1:25 – 2:45
Academic Time

2nd Grade
8:05 – 8:55
Academic Time
8:55 – 9:50
9:50 – 10:45
10:45 – 11:40
Academic Time
11:40 – 12:40
12:40 – 2:45
Academic Time

3rd Grade
8:00 – 8:55
8:55 – 11:00
1st Block
11:00 – 12:00
12:00 – 12:55
12:55 – 3:00
2nd Block

4th Grade
8:00 – 8:50
8:50 – 10:55
1st Block/1st and 2nd Period
10:55 – 11:50
11:50 – 12:50
12:50 – 3:00
2nd Block/3rd and 4th Period

5th Grade
8:00 – 9:55
1st Block/1st and 2nd Period
9:55 – 11:50
2nd Block/3rd and 4th Period
11:50 – 12:35
ELA Block
12:35 – 1:25
1:25 – 2:10
2:10 – 3:00


Last-minute supply list:


Fannin County High School (9th – 12th grade):
#2 Pencils, Black or Blue Pens, Binder, College-ruled Notebook Paper, Colored Pencils, Highlighters (two colors), Calculator.


Fannin County Middle School (6th-8th grade):
2″ Binder with Divider, Notebook Paper, Composition Books, Pencils, Pens, Highlighters, Colored Pencils.


Blue Ridge Elementary, East Fannin Elementary, West Fannin Elementary:
Kindergarten, 1st-2nd Grade: Crayons, Glue Sticks, Pencils, Scissors, Paper, Pencil Box or Pouch
3rd-5th grade: Colored pecils, Pencils, Loose Leaf Paper, Spiral Composition Notebooks, Pencil Pouch
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WFES Character Award May

West Fannin Elem

The Character Ed word for the month of May was Perseverance. The definition is “sticking with things until they are finished without giving up”

These students were chosen for consistently displaying this character trait throughout the month. Congratulations to all of you!

Pictured from left to right- Front row: Isaac White, Willow Stiles, Lennon Lee, Harrison McDonald, Addy Martin, Mia Housley, Justin Leal, and Jonah Johnson. Middle row: Lilli Potzauf, Sophia Carroll, Israel Wood, Kaylee Dyer, Konnor Housley, Marshall McDaniel, and Leksi Wollschlager. Back row: Ella Oliver, Matthew Payne, Owen Mann, Reese Lewis, Ava Acker, Nevaeh Morgan, Danica Padrutt. Not pictured: Cole Burk and Delilah Naylor

Blue Ridge Box Car Derby Raises Money for STEM

Community, Rebel's Corner

Blue Ridge, Ga – The first annual Blue Ridge Soap Box Derby raised $4,900 for Fannin County School’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program on Saturday, April 27.

The derby race was created by locals to benefit the community, specifically the children. Co-founder Brian Higgins said, “We have festivals here almost monthly, but none of them are geared toward kids, so we wanted to do something for them, and the best part is all the money goes back to them with the STEM program.”

The founders chose to donate to STEM for a couple of reasons. According to Higgins, “[Science, technology, engineering, and math] is every bit a box car  when you think about.” It takes each area to build and race a soapbox car.

Second, STEM doesn’t receive SPLOST dollars. STEM’s funding comes from the general school budget, which also pays for other school supplies.

STEM teaches students computational thinking and how to use scientific methods to solve real-world problems. The program helps children to develop technological skills to find highly-sought after jobs.

All the cars adhered to soapbox derby car standards, using only gravity as a propulsion system. Each car and driver were weighed during the race qualifying to ensure everyone had a fair chance during the derby.

Local businesses sponsored and helped the children to build over 26 cars for the derby. The participants brought their creativity to the cars’ design from that paint to the wheels.

49 drivers raced down the hill at Fannin County Middle School on a great day for it. The school even donated the cafeteria for the day, so the children and spectators would have a lunch area. Local vendors were on hand to provide food for everyone in attendance.

Broken into three divisions, drivers fell into either the 7-11, 12-17, or 18 plus age groups. The 7-11 bracket had to win two out of three races during the preliminary round. The winners from those races moved on to the single race elimination round. The 12-17 and 18 plus brackets raced only a single elimination round.

Winners for the 7-11 Division
First Place: Watson
Second Place: Pierce
Third Place: Williams

Winner for the 12-17 Division
First Place: Twiggs
Second Place: Higgins
Third Place: Preising

All winners received $250, $75, or $25, depending on where they finished in the race.

Derby organizers hope to expand the event in the future with participants from across North Georgia.





SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 18, 2019) – Georgia turkey hunters are ready for the season to open on Saturday, Mar. 23. The 2019 turkey hunting season should be a fair season, similar to 2018, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.  

“Reproduction in 2017 was lower than the four-year average, so that could mean a lower than usual supply of 2 year-old gobblers across much of the state in 2019,” explains Emily Rushton, Wildlife Resources Division wild turkey project coordinator. “However, that lower average comes between two better years, so hopefully other age classes will remain plentiful.”

With a bag limit of three gobblers per season, hunters have from Mar. 23 through May 15 – one of the longest seasons in the nation – to harvest their bird(s).  

What should hunters expect this spring? The Ridge and Valley, Piedmont and Lower Coastal Plain should have the best success based on 2017 reproduction information. The Blue Ridge region had a poor 2017 reproductive season, but saw a significant jump in 2018, so there may be a lot of young birds in the woods. The Upper Coastal Plain saw reproduction below their five-year average for the past two years, so numbers in that part of the state may be down.

Cedar Creek and Cedar Creek-Little River WMA Hunters, take note! The 2019 turkey season will run April 6-May 15 on these properties. This is two weeks later than the statewide opening date. This difference is due to ongoing research between the University of Georgia and WRD, who are investigating the timing of hunting pressure and its effects on gobbler behavior and reproductive success. Through this research, biologists and others hope to gain insight to the reasons for an apparent population decline in order to help improve turkey populations and hunter success at Cedar Creek WMA and statewide.

Georgia Game Check: All turkey hunters must report their harvest using Georgia Game Check. Turkeys can be reported on the Outdoors GA app (www.georgiawildlife.com/outdoors-ga-app), which now works whether you have cell service or not, at gooutdoorsgeorgia.com, or by calling 1-800-366-2661. App users, if you have not used the app since deer season or before, make sure you have the latest version. More information at www.georgiawildlife.com/HarvestRecordGeorgiaGameCheck.

Hunters age 16 years or older (including those accompanying youth or others) will need a hunting license and a big game license, unless hunting on their own private land.  Get your license at www.gooutdoorsgeorgia.com, at a retail license vendor or by phone at 1-800-366-2661. With many pursuing wild turkeys on private land, hunters are reminded to obtain landowner permission before hunting.


Conservation of the Wild Turkey in Georgia

The restoration of the wild turkey is one of Georgia’s great conservation success stories.  Currently, the bird population hovers around 300,000 statewide, but as recently as 1973, the wild turkey population was as low as 17,000. Intensive restoration efforts, such as the restocking of wild birds and establishment of biologically sound hunting seasons facilitated the recovery of wild turkeys in every county. This successful effort resulted from cooperative partnerships between private landowners, hunters, conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Wildlife Resources Division.

The Georgia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has donated more than $4,000,000 since 1985 for projects that benefit wild turkey and other wildlife. The NWTF works in partnership with the Wildlife Resources Division and other land management agencies on habitat enhancement, hunter access, wild turkey research and education. The NWTF has a vital initiative called “Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt,” focused on habitat management, hunter access and hunter recruitment.

“Hunters should know that each time they purchase a license or equipment used to turkey hunt, such as shotguns, ammunition and others, that they are part of this greater conservation effort for wildlife in Georgia,” said Rushton.  “Through the Wildlife Restoration Program, a portion of the money spent comes back to states and is put back into on-the-ground efforts such as habitat management and species research and management.”

For more hunting information, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/regulations .   


Photos courtesy of Brian Vickery. After watching his older sister have two successful seasons, 7 year-old Luke is able to take his first bird during the special opportunity youth turkey hunting season.

Teaching Student Leads Lesson

Fannin County High, Rebel's Corner

Students in the Teaching as a Profession pathway learn what it’s like to plan and teach a lesson for students with various disabilities. Teaching students in Mrs. Dyer’s class were assigned a learning objective to teach. Their challenge was to create an interactive lesson that would include students with and without a physical or learning disability.

In the scenario pictured, teaching student, Olivia Sisson, created and led a lesson about vowels to her fictitious kindergarten class. A couple of the students pretended to have a sight disability and Olivia did a fantastic job differentiating her lesson so that they were able to master the objective.





SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. (March 18, 2019) – Do you need hunter education before you head to the woods? You have options! Hunters in need of the Georgia hunter education course can choose to go completely online or attend a classroom course, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.

“In 2018, over 14,000 people completed the Georgia hunter education course – either online or in a classroom,” says Jennifer Pittman, statewide hunter education administrator with the Wildlife Resources Division. “I am glad that we can continue to offer both classroom and online options, as it gives students a choice of what works best with their schedules, especially those with time constraints.”

The four available online courses each require a fee (from $9.95 – $24.95) but all are “pass or don’t pay” courses. Fees for these courses are charged by and collected by the independent course developer. The classroom course is free of charge.  

Completion of a hunter education course is required for any person born on or after January 1, 1961, who:

  • purchases a season hunting license in Georgia.
  • is at least 12 years old and hunts without adult supervision.
  • hunts big game (deer, turkey, bear) on a wildlife management area.

The only exceptions include any person who:

  • purchases a short-term hunting license, i.e. anything less than annual duration (as opposed to a season license).
  • is hunting on his or her own land, or that of his or her parents or legal guardians.

For more information, go to https://georgiawildlife.com/hunting/huntereducation or call 770-761-3010.

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