BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After hearing concerns expressed at the Jan. 11 Board of Education (BOE) meeting, Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, as well as other members of the board, added a new agenda item covering extracurricular activities within the school system.
At the Feb. 8 BOE meeting the board unveiled this new item. Dr. Gwatney explained that updates of Fannin County extracirruclar activities will be a recurring item.
While these updates will encompass all of Fannin County’s extracurriculars, the focus of the Feb. updates centered around the state of the Fannin County Athletics Department.
Fannin County High School Principal Erik Cioffi presented this information to the public.
“There were some questions about accountability,” Cioffi spoke of concerns presented at the previous BOE meeting. “You don’t have to look any further than right here. I am the one who has hired people and put them in positions. So if there is a concern it should come to my department.”
Cioffi spoke of the staff of Fannin County School System and added that the pool of educators in which coaches can be pulled from is currently 59 certified teachers.
“They are teachers first and they have responsibilities that make up a bulk of their time,” Cioffi added.
Athletic Director Dr. Scott Ramsey clarified that there are 62 coaching positions that have to be covered, and for this reason coaches have to work or coach in multiple departments. Ramsey backed up Cioffi stating that a coach’s first priority is to be an educator.
“As they should be,” Ramsey stated. “Because that is the ultimate thing, they (students) leave with a high school diploma.”
Cioffi discussed the current Georgia High School Association (GHSA) policy and why Fannin County continues to be placed a AAA region school. In the past GHSA reevaluated schools on a two year cycle. Recent changes, however, has left evaluations happening every four years.
“We have no control over the region we’re placed,” Cioffi explained.
A meeting is scheduled on Feb. 21 where representatives from Fannin County Athletics along with representative from other AAA schools will meet with GHSA officials to examine the new policy.
“It’s ridiculous. If they (GHSA) get it wrong, that’s impacted a child’s entire four years,” Cioffi told the crowd about plans to hopefully bring about change on the state level when it comes to athletics.
The possibility of dropping to AA classification could pose a different set of difficulties for the student athletes of Fannin County, as travel is cited to be a large consideration in the possibility of changing regions.
A new AA classification could mean that students would have to travel as far as three hours away to play other AA teams.
Cioffi also proposed what all parties (parents, coaches and administration) want a “Winning Culture”, and explained how to take steps in this direction: “Before we even get to a winning culture, we need a positive culture. That’s going to take everyone in this room and everyone outside this room to get there.”
“Stay positive. Our kids see when there’s negativity going around,” Cioffi spoke of the recent discussions taking place via social media. “One thing I can promise you is that coaches aren’t posting things on social media about kids and parents.”
“Communicate with each other and figure out how can we best meet the needs of all the programs,” Cioffi went on,”Ultimately we want all programs to be successful.”
The parents coming forward was a big step in addressing the issues that Fannin County Athletics faces, and administration wants to keep lines of communication open and figure out how to “get over the hump and move forward.”
Athletic Director Dr. Scott Ramsey concluded the presentation: “We’re working together, because we don’t ever want to be an us versus you mentality. There never needs to be adversary. We all need to be working for the good of the kids.”
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