Blue Ridge, Ga – Board of Education approved a new contract for Superintendent Michael Gwatney during June meeting.
Board of Education Chairman Lewis DeWeese commended Gwatney on his work, “The board has been pleased with the Dr. Michael Gwatney’s work as our Superintendent and based on the results of his evaluation and his performance this year, the board approves an additional year for a three year contract to begin July 1, 2019.”
During Superintendent Comments, Gwatney remarked on the honor to serve Fannin School District and the extraordinary work everyone in the county and education system does for the students.
“I’m privileged to have the opportunity to be a part of this system and serve for so many years,” observed Gwatney, “My time here has been an enjoyable experience, and like everything that is truly important in life, it’s the people who make it that way. So I want to thank my colleagues, the directors that are here, the staff that are here, and the principals that are here. Thank you for everything that you do for our kids.”
Gwatney introduced the three new department leaders to the board, starting with Director of Transportation, Denver Foster. He worked for the transportation department for 14 years under Ben Long.
“I feel like we have an exceptional department. We have 40 main route buses, transport about 1,250 children a day and our main focus is always student safety, said Foster, “I have a vision for our department. I have quite a few things I want to do, including upgrading technology – routing software and some other things to make that safer.”
Foster also brought the winners of the May 15 School Bus Road-e-o, where bus drivers participate in a skills course that includes parallel parking. The three winners were:
- Tim Massaro, First Place
- Tim Joiner, Second Place
- Jeff Johnstone, Third Place
Massaro also participated in the state school bus road-e-o and placed 20th out of 61.
Next, Gwatney introduced the Director of Instructional Services and Policy Sarah Welch. She’s the daughter of two educators and a graduate of Fannin County with 16 years of experience.
“I’m honored to be in this position,” said Welch, “I’ll be working a lot with our curriculum and professional learning. My vision is ensuring equity for all learners. We know that everyone comes in they start school in different places. We want everybody to be able to access the curriculum to meet their needs and no matter where you start to be able to push you forward.”
She cited depth, progression, and exploration as needed areas to develop for children to grow as learners. The school’s responsibility doesn’t stop when the children leave. It continues after hours and in the community, giving teachers and students the materials necessary to cultivate learning opportunities.
When Welch finished, DeWeese stated, “Contagious enthusiasm, if you pass that to your students, I don’t think they’ll ever forget you.”
After Welch, Gwatney stated that Darren Danner has officially started his position as Assistant Superintendent.
Danner remarked, “I’m honored to have this position and thanks to Dr. Gwatney and the Board for their support up to this point. We hope we can keep things going under the current leadership.
We’re going to automate some things in the maintenance department and continue building first-class facilities in the state of Georgia and the Southeast. We need your support to do that and the Fannin County voters to continue to support SPLOST. That’s my vision for the maintenance department.”
North Georgia – According to a recent article by the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC), a senate committee has recommended longer summers for Georgia Students.
Instead of quoting test scores, educators, or studies about student learning, the committee suggested a school year starting the first Monday of September, and ending around June 1.
The basis for this suggestion? Economic analysis.
According to the AJC’s article, the committee was devoid of teachers, school leaders, or PTA representatives. Their suggestion bypassed academics and said that the longer summer, roughly three months, would help tourism grow and increase summer workforce.
Taking a local response from Gilmer County Charter Schools System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs and Fannin County School System Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney, the consensus seems to be that these systems are appalled at the thought of economic interests waylaying the education system in favor on money.
Dr. Downs told FYN that shortening the year would not only decrease the breaks that the local school system has in place for students, but would make testing in the first semester almost impossible. She noted an immense testing impact if students were to go through first semester and Christmas, only to then come back in January for end of course testing.
A sentiment that was separately echoed by Dr. Gwatney who also noted how much work these school systems put into their calendars, over 6 months of effort and staff input are taken by each of these two school systems before a final handful of calendars are presented for community input in the Board of Education. Finally, the Board approves a final Calendar in the spring for the coming school year.
Additionally, Dr. Gwatney pointed out how far the effect of these calendars reach as he also brought in fellow administrators to speak on the issue.
Fannin County Schools Deputy Superintendent Betsy Hyde(heading up the District’s Charter), Fannin County Nutrition Director Candace Sisson (also the Calendar Committee Coordinator), and Fannin County Assistant Superintendent Robert Ensley (Administration and Personnel) all agreed that stepping into the local schools in such a way without any representation from schools on the committee was not the way the state should be looking at the issue. From the time spent working on the calendar to allowing each individual county to cater to their student’s and county’s needs, these representatives of Fannin County exerted the necessity of individualized calendars.
Downs also noted this importance in Gilmer County as she noted that each school presents its own calendar that is put together by teachers and administrators and then put out for citizen input. Noting the influence of educators of the process, Downs said she was against the thought of a committee placing importance of economy over education.
While both these counties gain a lot from the tourism industry, they annually balance their own festivals, events, and economies against the education calendar. Local people provide local input from local expertise as they continually deal with this problem.
Though the recommendation is non-binding, it leaves citizens asking the question of how much control the state should have and exert over local governments. Though not directly related, they still recall the Governors “Opportunity School Districts” campaign in recent years. A campaign shot down at the polls. If moved forward and put in place, regulations on the school year may shift discussions from the economic benefit to the state as a whole and focus solely on the overreach of State Government into local communities.
According to the AJC, the committee includes chair and state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, Deputy Commissioner of Tourism for the Department of Economic Development Kevin Langston, Georgia Chamber of Commerce designee Michael Owens, Director of the Georgia Travel Association Kelsey Moore, Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus Jay Markwalter, former state Director of Community Affairs Camila Knowles, State Board of Education member Scott Johnson and Grier Todd, chief operating officer at Lake Lanier Islands Resort.
Dear FCSS Community:
It is with a heavy heart that I share with you that Mrs. Sandra Mercier passed away earlier today.
Mrs. Mercier dedicated her life to our community through the field of education. She began her teaching career with the FCSS in 1972, and her service spanned five decades. She completed 26 years as a classroom teacher and served longest as “the” senior English teacher of FCHS. Mrs. Mercier was chosen as the STAR Teacher five times, was FCHS’s Teacher of the Year, and was selected as the 1999 FCSS Teacher of the Year.
In addition to her outstanding career as a teacher, Mrs. Mercier entered leadership in 1999 as an assistant principal at FCHS. In 2000, she was promoted to the central office to serve as a director, and from 2002 to 2007, Mrs. Mercier served as Superintendent. After retirement, she returned to serve as a member of our Board of Education.
Through her impeccable methodology, Mrs. Mercier taught countless students how to write and to think in a variety of ways; she did the same for many of our district’s current teachers and leaders. Generations looked up to her, and her legacy will impact many more to come. Please join me in keeping the family in thoughts and prayers.
Arrangements are available at the following link.
Dear FCSS Community:
This Sunday, November 11, is Veterans Day. An important tradition of the Fannin County School
System is having an annual Veterans Day program at each school. I am thankful that our schools
pause at this time each year to salute those who have served, as well as those who continue to serve,
our nation as a part of the United States Armed Forces. These events mean so much to the men and
women who have worn the uniform and take part – either as a spectator or a participant – in our
ceremonies. I am proud of our schools for all of their hard work to honor our veterans.
You are invited to any/all of the upcoming Veterans Day programs. They are scheduled as follows:
Monday, November 12
9:00 a.m.: West Fannin Elementary School
1:00 p.m.: East Fannin Elementary School
Tuesday, November 13
1:00 p.m.: Blue Ridge Elementary School
Wednesday, November 14
9:00 a.m.: Fannin County High School
1:00 p.m.: Fannin County Middle School
Americans turn to our military as a source of national strength. Freedom is not free, and our military
covers the cost to preserve it. There is a great pride in our nation’s veterans; because of them, we are
free. Thanks to today’s military, we will remain free. My very best wishes go to each veteran and
active member of the military. May God Bless America!
Michael Gwatney, Ed.D.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – It may seem like a small gesture to some, but for those in Gilmer County, Georgia, a simple jersey is relating a lot more than meets the eye as they receive a memorial jersey to honor Gilmer’s middle school principal, the late Larry Walker.
With a special moment before the middle school football games between these two schools on September 19, Fannin County School Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney took to the field with Gilmer County School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs and Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney Alison Sosebee for a special ceremony in order to present the jersey hosting the emblems of both Gilmer and Fannin.
After a few words about Walker’s life and a moment of silence honoring him, Gwatney and Downs shared their own moment holding the jersey together. The announcers explained the meaning of the ceremony saying,
“The jersey being presented to the Gilmer Middle School football team bears the name of Walker with the #1. Also on the jersey is the Fannin County School insignia and the Gilmer County School insignia. The jersey being presented is in memory of Larry D. Walker, principal of Gilmer Middle School, and signifying Fannin County and Gilmer County are together as one, both in spirit and community.”
With the funeral today, many are still dealing with the loss as they prepare their final respects. Others are coping in their own ways. But as a community comes together and the true reach of one man comes into focus, they are responding to the show of support. Kayann Hayden West offered her thanks on social media saying, “Thankful for the support of our community and the Walker family up and down the 515 corridor. Rivals on the field but united in purpose and heart.”
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