Fannin County opts to remain a Charter School District

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Natalie Kissel

Rebels receive platinum farm-to-school award

Education, News, Rebel's Corner

“Fannin County School System was honored for farm-to-school excellence at the 2018 Golden Radish awards ceremony on Oct. 22 and we won the platinum level recognition at this awards ceremony,” Sisson said of the new accomplishment.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County Board of Education, Fannin County School System, Nutrition Director, Candice Sisson, Golden Raddish, Platinum, Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Department of Public Health, the UGA Cooperative Extension, Georgia Organics, Farm to School

84 districts in Georgia were honored at this year’s Golden Radish Awards.

The award is presented by the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Department of Public Health, the UGA Cooperative Extension, and Georgia Organics.

The farm-to-school program gives students an opportunity to learn the basics of gardening and helps support local economies through local food purchases for school meals.

Among the improvements that led to this achievement upgrade Sisson noted that students had participated in 165 taste tests with local items including a number of fruits and vegetables. Students had also raised and cared for chickens incubating and gathering their eggs.

The Fannin County School System boasts a number of edible gardens throughout the five campuses, as well as each campus having its own greenhouse.

“Out of 84 districts that were recognized, 22 recieved platinum, and Fannin County was one of those 22,” Sisson said of the district being honored.
With platinum being the top level to be achieved by the Golden Radish Awards, Sisson and all of the FCSS will work hard to maintain this accomplishment for years to come.


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


Natalie Kissel

West Fannin Elementary School becomes STEM certified

Community, News, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – A vision led to a goal, and diligent work led to accomplishment as West Fannin Elementary School (WFES) officially became STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) certified by the Georgia Department of Education.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, West Fannin Elementary School, WFES, Georgia Department of Education, Board of Education, Principal, Lucas Roof, Assistant Principal, Alison Danner, Cirriculum Director, Robert Ensley, STEM, Certification, Project 1954

Students from all grade levels meet with a STEM certification team.

Out of thousands of elementary schools in the state of Georgia, WFES is only the 36th school to have this recognition, and only the fourth in the north Georgia area.

Assistant Principal Alison Danner spoke about how this vision came about: “Five or six years ago there were several of us at the STEM conference at Athens at the University of Georgia, and we all said this is what we want.”

Danner spoke of Fannin County Curriculum Director and previous WFES Principal Robert Ensley: “He was the one that was kind of the forefront, that saw this as a part of the vision for West Fannin in years to come.”

Seeing this vision become a reality took years of hard work from WFES. After initiating a school STEM program and integrating its teachings into day-to-day classroom activities, the school then had to apply for certification.

WFES went through a series of pre-visits in which a team consisting of representatives from math, science, CTAE (career, technical and agricultural education), technology, and business would come to West Fannin and give feedback on how to reach certification level.

“When they do these pre-visits they give you tons of feedback on anything and everything,” Principal Lucas Roof said, describing the process, “and so we received all the feedback that we could possibly receive from them, and the cool thing about it is that we didn’t just sit on that feedback.

“We used that feedback. Our teachers used that feedback, and we got better and better.” Roof added. “We took that constructive criticism, and we put it to use.”

Nov. 3, 2017, was the third and final pre-visit to WFES, and the team at that time felt that the school was ready for a final visit.

“When the team comes in, they don’t talk to us. They don’t talk to the teachers. They talk to the kids. It’s all about what the kids can articulate to them,” Roof added, explaining the final visit, “and kids are going to tell the truth.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, West Fannin Elementary School, WFES, Georgia Department of Education, Board of Education, Principal, Lucas Roof, Assistant Principal, Alison Danner, Cirriculum Director, Robert Ensley, STEM, Certification, Project 1954

Students at WFES show a STEM certification team how they use skills used at school to solve real world problems.

What this means for WFES is that they are teaching children these fields in ways in which the children become critical thinkers and can apply the skills they are learning to real-world problems.

“It means you are doing what’s right for the kids in terms of hands on learning, in terms of math and science integration, involving the community,” Roof explained of what the Georgia Department of Education looks for in the certifying process.

The students at WFES have applied the skills taught and integrated them into improving their own school environment through Project 1954.

According to Danner, this project involves each grade level to focus on a particular area and come up with ways to improve these areas. An example can be scene in the nature trail created by fourth-grade students.

Roof says that none of this would be possible without the effort of an entire team: “I would like to thank our entire faculty and staff for working so hard and so diligently. I also want to thank our parents, community business partners, our Fannin County School System county office directors, and our Board of Education members for always supporting us throughout this lengthy process. Most of all, I want to thank our students.”

Danner pointed out that while Roof would not acknowledge it himself, a huge thank you is due to him as well: “He was the integral part that took us to the final phases. Mr. Roof just came in and filled that piece that solidified that this was what was going to happen.”

Ensley, the educator credited with the vision of STEM certification, commented on the news that WFES had finally reached its goal. “It has been a dream of mine. I cannot be more excited for West Fannin. They put a lot of time, a lot of effort into making this a success. They did a phenomenal job,” Ensley said.

“Hands down, so proud of them,” Ensley added with a beaming smile.



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


Natalie Kissel

First Annual GaDOE Student Chef Competition

Fannin County High

City, State: On April 26, 2017, the Georgia Department of Education, School Nutrition Program held the first annual Student Chef Competition in Macon at the W.S. Hutchings College and Career Academy. Six teams from all over Georgia competed for the top spots in two recipe categories; Chicken Entrée and Vegetable Salad. The six teams that reached the finals were from the following counties: Fannin, Columbia, Pickens and Youth Villages from Douglas County. Teams that reached the final competition were judged on overall appeal, appearance and execution, taste, presentation and sanitation and food safety. Ellen Steinberg, GaDOE Food Safety Specialist, observed the teams as they prepared recipes to determine if they were following key food safety guidelines and requirements. Chef Stuart Hardy, Executive Chef at W.S. Hutchings, assisted teams in the kitchen as they prepared their entries for judging. Laura Tanase, Farm to School Specialist, said “Reaching the finals in this competition was difficult. These teams had to meet the current nutrient standards for school meals for fat, calories and sodium.”

The teams placed as follows:

Vegetable Salad

1 st Place – Columbia County – Vegetable Penne

2 nd Place – Fannin County – Pretty n’ Peaches Salad

Chicken Entrée

1 st Place – Columbia County – Chicken Fajitas

2 nd Place – Pickens County – Warm Ranch Chicken Wrap

3 rd Place – Youth Village – Curry Chicken

4 th Place – Fannin County – Sizzling Stir Fry

The 2nd Annual Student Chef Competition will be held at an earlier date so that the winning team will have the opportunity to compete in a USDA Southeast Regional Jr. Chef Competition in Kentucky in 2018.



Jessica DeCosta created the salad and Tiffany Abt and Kate Weaver created the stir fry.



Five schools recognized as Family-Friendly Partnership School Award winners

East Fannin Elem

May 18, 2017 – Five Georgia schools have been identified as the 2017 winners of the Georgia Family-Friendly Partnership School (FFPS) Award. The winners were selected based on their exceptional customer service for Georgia families.

Each selected school has created a welcoming environment with courteous staff members who are eager to help students and their families. By welcoming parents, family members, and the community, the schools are building partnerships with families and community members to focus on student success. Each school also provides continuous outreach efforts for family engagement to successfully involve all families in the school.

“Parent engagement is an essential component of every successful school – it has an enormous impact not just on the individual child, but on every child in the school building,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Schools can only build those partnerships when parents and families feel welcome in their child’s school – welcome to visit, to engage, and to be a part of the learning process. I commend each of our 2017 Family-Friendly Partnership Schools for providing that welcoming environment for parents and families.”

The winners are:

  • Bear Creek Middle School in Barrow County School System
  • East Fannin Elementary School in Fannin County School District
  • Elm Street Elementary School in Rome City Schools
  • Garden Hills Elementary School in Atlanta Public Schools
  • Mossy Creek Elementary School in White County School System

They were chosen from a pool of ten finalists. The five other schools named finalists are:

  • East Jackson Elementary in Jackson County School System
  • Georgia Cyber Academy, K-12 Virtual School
  • Sand Hill Elementary School in Carroll County School System
  • South Columbus Elementary School in Muscogee County School District
  • Vineville Academy of the Arts in Bibb County School District

Each school applied to the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE)’s Parent Engagement Program describing the family engagement initiatives in their schools. The Family-Friendly Partnership Review Team scored the applications and ten finalists were selected. The ten schools were informed that members of the review team would call the school office and conduct a surprise visit sometime between February and April, posing as parents looking for information or assistance. The team conducted walkthroughs of each school and interviewed school staff, parents, students, and community members as part of the selection process. The review team is comprised of members from the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), GaDOE’s divisions of Curriculum and Instruction, Federal Programs, and Special Education Services and Support, the Georgia Parent Mentor Partnership, theGeorgia Statewide Afterschool Network, and a former parent leader from the Superintendent Woods’ Parent Advisory Council.

Superintendent Woods will visit all five winning schools in the fall and will present a plaque to the school community. The winning schools will also receive a welcome mat for their front entrance. This initiative is organized by the GaDOE and sponsored by the Georgia Foundation for Public Education, Georgia Association of Educators, and three Ritz-Carlton hotels in Georgia: The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta (Downtown); The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead; and The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee. Teams from each of the winning schools also will get the chance to learn more about providing welcoming environments during a professional learning seminar hosted by The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. The seminar is designed to assist the schools in increasing family engagement to help improve the academic achievement of students not only in their schools but also in other schools within their district.

Erwin Schinnerl, the general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, said: “Through The Ritz-CarltonSucceed Through Service program, our hotels continue the partnership with local schools and students in practicing transferable life skills for college and career paths. The general managers of The Ritz-Carlton hotels in downtown Atlanta and at Reynolds, Lake Oconee join me in congratulating the winners and finalists for cultivating a welcoming environment for all families in helping students to succeed.”

The 2016-2017 school year is the last year of the FFPS Awards. Starting in 2017-2018, the FFPS initiative will transition to focus on improving outcomes and helping school teams create welcoming environments, rather than an awards program.

Click here for more information on the Georgia Family-Friendly Partnership School Initiative and to view the previous winners and finalists since 2012.


The Fannin County School System does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, religion, creed, or disability in admission to its programs, services, and activities, in access to them, in treatment of individuals, or in any aspect of their operations. For additional information or referral to the appropriate system coordinator, contact the system superintendent’s office at 2290 East First Street, Blue Ridge, Georgia 30513 or 706-632-3771.   ­­


Fannin Board of Education Issues “Bathroom Policy” as Georgia Joins 11-State Lawsuit Over Transgender Bathrooms


The decision about transgender bathrooms in Fannin County schools has been taken out of the hands of the Fannin County School Board. On May 25, Georgia, along with 10 other states sued the federal government over the federal guidelines that directed school to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker facilities that match their gender identities.  The other 10 states in the lawsuit are from all over the county:  Texas, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arizona, Maine, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Utah. On Friday, Kentucky joined the lawsuit. North Dakota’s Attorney General said he would like North Dakota to join the lawsuit and probably more states will follow. The federal departments that are defendants in the lawsuit are the Department of Education, Department of Justice, United States Equal Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor.

The original eleven states say that they are bringing the lawsuit against the federal government because:

“Defendants [the federal government agencies] have conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the county into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights… Absent action in Congress, the States, or local communities, defendants cannot foist these radical changes on the nation.” (click here to read the lawsuit)

Georgia and the other states filed the lawsuit in response to the May 13, US Department of Justice and the Department of Education’s “Dear Colleague” letter sent to schools across the nation.  The letter’s purpose is to provide information and examples about how school districts across the nation provide bathrooms and locker room facilities for transgender students.  The letter also states that the federal government will evaluate other schools’ transgender policies and actions using the example school districts as a guideline. (click here to read the “Dear Colleague Letter”)

Along with the letter, the federal government sent a 18-page description of programs different schools and school districts throughout the United States have in place to accommodate transgender students.  The description covers 20 local and state school districts.  (read guidance programs described in the Department of Education’s “Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students”)

On May 25th ,the same day Georgia joined the 11-state lawsuit against the US Government, Fannin County Board of Education sent a letter to Fannin County parents. (read Mr. Henson’s letter here)  The letter begins with quoting Georgia Department of Education’s belief the federal governments’ actions regarding accommodations for transgender students are an overreach of the Executive Branch of the Federal government.  It goes on to quote Georgia’s Superintendent of School Richard Woods, who says, “I do not believe a student of another gender should use a restroom or locker alongside students of the opposite sex.”

Towards the end of the letter, Fannin Schools Superintendent Mark Henson states, “Fannin County will maintain restrooms and locker rooms for the 2016-2017 school year which are based on birth sex rather than gender identity.  Alternate restrooms will be provided for any transgender students we may have enrolled next year.”  Mr. Henson affirms that all current board members and staff support the Board of Education’s decision.  Mr. Henson ends his comments about transgender bathrooms saying, “At the same time, we will continue to support ALL students in our system and protect each student’s personal right to a free, safe public education and the respect that each individual deserves at all times.”

Georgia started openly moving towards it opposition of the Federal government’s position regarding transgender bathrooms House Speaker David Ralston’s letter to Senator Isakson and Perdue on May 12th.  Speaker Ralston wrote the letter on behalf of the citizens of Fannin County.  In it Speaker Ralston says “the federal government is dictating to our locally-elected Board of Education with regards to the policies they enact in a way never seen before.” Coincidentally, May 12th , the day of Speaker Ralston’s letter, is also the day the Board of Education listened to 2 ½ hours of public opinion about transgender bathrooms.  At the end of the public comments section, Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss, stated the school system’s opinion that forcing transgender bathrooms is government overreach and encouraged people to speak to their elected officials.  (watch Ms. Doss’ comments here) The School Board echoed Ms. Doss’ comments during their comments at the end of the meeting.  School Board Member Terry Bramlett said the people at the meeting tonight should share the same level of passion with representatives in Washington.  He encouraged everyone to write to state and national officials whose duty it is to make legislation about transgender bathrooms.

On May 17th, State Senator Steve Gooch told the Helen City Commission that we’ve asked the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general to take a strong stand against the Federal government’s position on transgender bathrooms.  That same day, Governor Nathan Deal issued a statement reading:

“Until Congress acts, I assure the citizens of Georgia that the offices of the governor, attorney general and state school superintendent will work cooperatively to protect the interests of Georgia’s children from this abuse of federal executive authority.”

Deal also asked Superintendent Woods to provide uniform state-wide guidance to Georgia schools in regards to accommodations for transgender students.  May 20th, State School Superintendent Richard Woods sent a sort of “Dear Colleague” letter to Georgia Superintendents.  In it, Mr.  Woods uses the same language as Speaker Ralston’s letter.  Mr. Woods says that the federal government’s guidance letter is an overreach of the Executive Branch of the federal government.  The letter goes on to state Mr. Woods’ opinion about transgender bathrooms.  He says, “I do not believe a student of another gender should use a restroom or locker room alongside students of the opposite sex.” The letter also promises that if the federal government brings a lawsuit against any school district, the state of Georgia will “take appropriate action.” (read Superintendent Woods’ letter here)

Later this week FetchYourNews will speak with Mr. Henson about how Georgia’s joining the 12 state lawsuit affects Fannin County School Systems’ potential financial liability in regards to accommodating transgender students.


See Related Posts:           “Fannin County Board of Education Hears Public Comments About Transgender Bathrooms in Fannin Schools”

 “Fannin Board of Education Workshop:  Middle School Principal, Lunch Prices, Buses, Rain Barrels and Bathrooms”  

“Fannin Board of Education: Superintendent Henson Will Follow US Law Regarding Transgender Bathrooms”

“Fannin County Schools’ Bus Driver and Pastor, Larry Williams, Says Job Never Threatened”



See Related Videos:   “Fannin County Board of Education Public Comments Concerning Transgender Bathrooms”

 “Fannin Board of Education: Superintendent Henson Will Follow US Law Regarding Transgender Bathrooms”






Georgia Schools’ Superintendent Richard Woods Responds to Federal Guidance Over Transgender Bathrooms


Dear Superintendents:

On Friday, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued a joint “Dear Colleague Letter” regarding the rights of transgender students in the K-12 education setting.

We at the Georgia Department of Education believe the “Dear Colleague Letter” openly violates, misinterprets and moves to rewrite established U.S. law. This overreach of power by the Executive Branch of the federal government is compounded by the threat to withhold federal funds should the context of the letter not be followed.

As this guidance does not have the force of law, you are not required to comply with this directive or make changes to your established actions and policies. However, if the federal government does decide to withhold federal funds, enforce this directive, or bring suit against any district in Georgia because of a decision a local district makes, we will work with all parties to take appropriate action.

The doctrine of “local control” is deeply rooted in our constitution and laws here in Georgia, and I am confident that you, as the superintendent of your district, along with your board of education and with counsel and support from your local board attorney, will continue to appropriately address concerns surrounding this complex and sensitive matter.

There are fundamental elements in all public schools, including a safe school environment and an appropriate response to the needs of individual students. Those two elements are essential and compatible and are the responsibility of local school systems.

My first priority is to ensure our schools are a safe environment for students. I believe there are safety and privacy concerns associated with allowing students of different genders to use the same bathroom and locker rooms. For that reason, I do not believe a student of another gender should use a restroom or locker room alongside students of the opposite sex.

In closing, I wish to thank you and the staff in your districts and schools for your excellent work and commitment to your children. Our priority in Georgia is to provide all children with the opportunity to receive a great education, and we should not allow federal politics to distract us from that priority.


Richard Woods


Fannin CRCT Scores Exceed State

Featured Stories, News

Released today, the recent CRCT scores report Fannin County scoring higher than this year’s state scores. (more…)

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