Fannin Co. High School Marching Band Wins Grand Championship

Community, Rebel's Corner

The Fannin County Band has had an outstanding competitive season. Our 2019 marching show is
titled: “Tribute to the American Spirit” honors the determination and patriotism of our military, law
enforcement, firemen, and leadership that have made our country great.

On September 28th, The Fannin County High School Marching Band earned 1st place in Class 4A
at the Armuchee Invitational Band Contest. The Band earned a superior band rating, superior drumline
rating, superior drum major rating, and excellent rating in colorguard. Lora Gwatney earned 1st place
drum major in class 4A; the drumline earned second place in class 4A, and the colorguard earned third
place in class 4A. The band earned an overall 3rd place finish out of 14 bands for the day regardless of

On October 5th, The Fannin County High School Band earned Grand Champion at the Lake
Lanier Tournament of Bands at Chestatee High School. The band earned the highest score of the day out
of 14 bands regardless of class. The band also earned 1st place colorguard, 1st place percussion, Lora
Gwatney earned 1st place drum major, with an overall 1st place band in class 4-A competition. In
addition band, in addition, earned straight superior ratings in band, colorguard, percussion, and drum

On October 12th, The Fannin County High School Band hosted the Blue Ridge Mountain
Marching Festival hosted by the Fannin County High School Band Booster Club with 19 bands from
around North Georgia and East Tennessee attending. The Fannin County Band performed for a standing
room only crowd and earned a standing ovation from the many bands in attendance.
Fannin County has a proud and rich tradition of excellence in bands beginning with the West
Fannin High School Band, then in 1976 through the present with the Fannin County High School Band.
The band has consistently earned superior ratings in all areas of performance.

Directors Scott Barnstead, Mike Weaver, and Donna Weaver would like to thank our
hard-working Band Booster Club parents and their president Sherry Gibbs for all they have helped make
possible through fundraising, feeding, collect donations, and supporting our students in every way
possible, We would also like to thank Erik Cioffi, Principal, and Dr. Michael Gwatney, Superintendent, for
ensuring that band and the arts are valued in the education of the whole child. And finally we would like
to thank our communities in Fannin County that have always been enthusiastic supporters of the band.
We look forward to seeing you soon as we continue to support the Fannin County High School Rebel
Football Program, cheering them on to victory!

Fetching Features: a look at former Superintendent Mark Henson

Community, Lifestyle

Have you ever had a goal that you wished to achieve? Something became a driving force in your life as it took a point of focus. It may have been that you wanted to become something, maybe a firefighter, an astronaut, or a soldier. You strove to follow that dream, to grow closer to that goal. The achievement was your motivation.

For some, at least.

Many people will recall the nearly 30 years Mark Henson spent as the Superintendent of Fannin County Schools teaching and influencing the kids of Fannin County. Many may think of this as a life well spent. Henson himself would agree, but it was not always so.

Growing up among a family of educators, Henson knew the life well before he even graduated high school. It was part of the reason he struggled so hard against it. While it may seem like 30 years in the career isn’t the best evasion strategy, Henson says it came down to logic as to why he finally gave in.

After high school graduation, he took his goal of avoidance instead of achievement to heart. “If you go back and look at my high school annual, my ambition was to do anything but teach school because everybody in my family at that time, were teachers,” says Henson as he explains attending the University of Georgia shortly before moving back to Blue ridge to work for the Blue Ridge Telephone Company.

Spending about a year at the job after college didn’t work out. Henson doesn’t speak much on the topic as he says his father knew someone working for Canada Dry in Athens. With a job opening available and good pay to entice him, Henson made the switch to working for the soda company.

Moving to Athens, Henson became an RC/Canada Dry Salesperson over the surrounding five counties in Athens. A hard job that required many hours, Henson said he’d be at work at 6 a.m. and got back home at 8:30 p.m. Though well-paying, the job fell flat for Henson as he came to terms with the long hours and little time for himself. With two years under his belt at the company, he began thinking about Blue Ridge again and his options. As he says, “Teaching didn’t look so bad then.”

Despite the years in opposition, the effort spent running away from the ‘family business,’ Henson began thinking ahead at the rest of his life. Already considering retirement at the time, it was this that ultimately turned his attention back to teaching. It wasn’t family, it wasn’t friends, but rather, it was logic that drew him to the career his life’s ambition avoided.

“I made pretty good money, there just wasn’t any retirement,” says Henson about his time at Canada Dry. As he looked harder at teaching and began seriously considering the career path, he says, “When you look at teachers, you’re never going to get rich being a teacher, but there’s a lot of benefits like retirement and health insurance that these other jobs just didn’t have.” He also notes he proved what he wanted as he retired at 54-years-old.

After much thought, it began with a call to his father, Frank Henson. He told his father he wanted to come home and pursue teaching. Though his father told him to come home and stay with them again, Henson says it was the money he had saved from his position at Canada Dry that allowed him to attend school for a year before being hired as a para-pro, a paraprofessional educator. It was a very busy time in his life as Henson states, “I would go up there and work until 11:30, and then I would work 12 to 4 at what used to be the A&P in McCaysville. I went to school at night…”

The next few years proved to be hectic as he graduated and started teaching professionally “with a job I wasn’t even certified for.” It was January of 1989 and the new school superintendent had been elected in November and as he took office in January he left a gap in the school. To fill the Assistant Principal position the, then, Superintendent had left, they promoted the teacher of the career skills class. With the vacancy in the classroom, Henson was appointed to step in to teach the class. Half a year was spent teaching a career path and skill class to 9th graders in what Henson refers to as a “foreign world.”

The first full-time teaching position he holds was perhaps the one he was least qualified for. Henson noted his nervousness taking the state-funded program. The previous teacher had gone to the University of Georgia to receive training to fill the position. Talking with the previous teacher about the class, Henson shared his reservations about the lack of training and certification. Receiving note cards and guidance on how to handle it helped, but only so far.

Henson recalled looking at the cards and seeing tips like, “Talk about work ethic for 20 minutes.” He was stuck in a position without a firm foundation. He spent the next semester “winging it” and juggling the class with student placement in businesses. Struggling through the day to day at the time, he now looks back and says, “Apparently, I did pretty good at it.”

The interesting part was that the promotions that led him into this position similarly mirrored Henson’s own path to Superintendent one day. An omen easily looked over at the time, but glaringly obvious in hindsight. Though he wouldn’t take the direct path from Teaching to Assistant Principal to Superintendent, they did set the milestones that he would hit on his way.

He also saw plenty of doubt on his way, too. He never looked at the Superintendent position as a goal, but even maintaining a teaching position seemed bleak as he was called into the office one day and told his career class position was no longer being funded.

Thinking he was losing his job, he began considering other opportunities as well as missed options, he had just turned down a position in Cartersville where Stacy, his wife, was teaching. Worrying for no reason, Henson says he was racing through these thoughts until they finally told him they were moving him to Morganton Elementary.

Taking up a Math and Social Studies teaching at Morganton Elementary, Henson found more familiar territory in these subjects. Yet, having gotten used to the career skills, he says he still felt like he was starting over again. The years proved later to be quite fortuitous as Henson says he still has people to this day stop him and talk about their time learning from him as students. Relating back to his own school years, he admits he wasn’t the best student and he made his own bad decisions.

From situations in band and class alike, he notes that he worked hard, usually sitting in first and second chair as he played the trombone, but he still found plenty of things to get into as he, by his own confession, “made the drum major’s lives and stuff miserable.” Enjoying every opportunity he could get to goof off, it became a trend throughout his school career.

Yet, in teaching, he brought those experiences and understanding to the kids as he tailored his classes each year. He shared one story of a girl that stopped him to speak for a while. Eventually, she asked, “You don’t remember me, do you?”

Admitting that he didn’t, she replied, “Well, you really helped me a lot. I was ADD and you would let me sit at your desk.” He says she went on talking about the way he changed her life.

It seems almost common now to associate teachers with stories like these, changing people’s lives, yet, it’s not often you may think a student causing trouble would become that kind of teacher.

The effort returned in a major way as Henson was elected Teach of the Year at Morganton Elementary in only his second year. The award was a testament to his efforts and success, but also evidence of how much he had changed in his life.

“You get out of school and you work a couple of real hard jobs, you see there might be more to life than goofing off. That got me redirected and helped me get through college and get my teaching degree,” says Henson.

It was more than just awards, though. Morganton Elementary created several relationships for Henson that followed him throughout his career and his life. spending four years at Morganton made it the longest position at the point, but it led to so much more. It led to three more years of teaching at East Fannin Elementary before receiving a promotion to Assistant Principal at West Fannin Middle School.

Moving from a position as a teacher to Assistant Principal isn’t just a promotion, it is a major change into school administration. No longer dealing with individual classes of students, Henson says it becomes far more political as you get pressed between teachers and parents. You walk a tightrope as you want to support your teachers in what they do, and you want to listen to concerned parents and find that middle ground. “You have got to kind of be a buffer between them… You’re always walking a tightrope,” he said.

He served as Assistant Principal to Principal David Crawford who served as Assistant Principal to his father, Frank Henson. Mentoring him in administration, he says David was a “laid back guy” that would still “let you have it” some days. It set him on a steep learning curve. Despite the jokes and stories, he led Henson on a quick path to his own education. In a sort of ‘sink or swim’ mentality, Henson said he was given a lot more authority than he expected, but he enjoyed the job.

How much he enjoyed it was a different point. Though Henson says he has never had a job in education he hated, he did say that his year as Assistant Principal was his “least-favorite job.” Though stressing he has enjoyed his entire career, he noted that the stress and shock of transitioning from Teaching to the Administration as a more big picture job factors into the thought.

Even that wasn’t meant to last long as he moved from Assistant Principal to Principal after just one year.

Nearing the end of his first, and only, year as Assistant Principal, he was called into the office again. This time it was the school systems office as his Superintendent at the time, Morgan Arp, wanted to speak with him. As he tells the story, “He said, ‘I’m looking at restructuring the system a little bit on principals and administrators. I’m not saying this is gonna happen, but if I made you Principal at East Fannin, would that be okay?’

I said, ‘Sure, I’ve been there and I know the people fine.’

He said, ‘What about West Fannin?’

I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been there a year, I can deal with that.’

He said, ‘What about Blue Ridge Elementary?’

I said, ‘Well, that’s the school I know the least. I’m sure if you put me in there, I could. But the other two make me feel a little more comfortable.’

So the next day I got a call, and I was principal for Blue Ridge Elementary.”

Though comical, Henson said it actually worked out great as he met two of his best colleagues there. Cynthia Panter later became an Associate Superintendent and Karen Walton later became his Assistant Superintendent. Both were teachers he met at Blue Ridge Elementary.

“Blue Ridge was really where I made a lot of later career relationships,” says Henson.

His time as Principal was also a lot easier for him as he says after the year at West Fannin he knew what he was doing and had more confidence in the position. Having ‘matured’ into the job, he says the Principal position has more latitude in decisions. Having a great staff at both schools made the job easier, but the transition was simpler also because he felt he was always second-guessing himself as an assistant principal. His maturity also gave him new outlooks on the choices and decisions made.

“I think a good administrator serves as a shield between the public and teachers who need someone in there to mediate,” he says. Molding things into a larger plan for the schools and taking views from all those who take a stake in their education, “Everybody wants what’s best for the child.”

Surrounding himself with assistant principals and administrators that were detail oriented to allow him to deal with people and focus on the ‘big picture,’ two of his favorite parts of his career as he says.

After three years at Blue Ridge Elementary, the Curriculum Director at the county office resigned. Applying on a fluke instinct, he later got a call saying he got the position. He joined the staff as K-6 Director of Curriculum alongside Sandra Mercier as 7-12 Director of Curriculum.

However, his time in the office saw much more work as he spent time covering as Transportation Director and other fill-in duties. It wasn’t until 2003 when Sandra Mercier took the office of Superintendent, according to Henson, that she named him as Assistant Superintendent and really began his time in the Superintendent position.

He had never thought about going for the position, applying, or even thinking of it. Henson said he did want to be a Principal, but the county offices were beyond his aspirations.

Largely different from transitioning from Teacher to Administrator, the transition into the Superintendent position was far easier says Henson. You’re already dealing with a lot of the same things on a single school scale, but moving to the Superintendent position crosses schools and districts. He did not there is a lot more PR involved, but nothing to the extreme change as he experienced his first year in administration.

Becoming Superintendent in 2007, he says he focused on opening the school system up and growing more transparent than it already was. Sharing information and speaking straight about his feelings allowed a certain connection with people. It seems, in truth, that he never quite outgrew some of the goofiness of his childhood as he recalls joking with colleagues and staff.

Henson says he wanted to have a good time in the office despite everything they dealt with. He pushed the staff, but they also played pranks on each other and shared moments like a school secretary embarrassing her daughter with a funny picture.

Noting one particular instance, Stacy recalls a story with finance running checks in the office. With one office member in particular who would always try to jump scare people running the check machine. Henson quickly opened the door and threw a handful of gummy bears at her. Unfortunately, a few were sucked into the machine and ruined the check run. It wasn’t a good day considering, yet the staff laughed about it and shared in the comedy.

A necessary part of the job is what Henson calls it. The lightheartedness was key to maintaining his staff. “If you stay serious a hundred percent of the time, it’s going to kill you,” he says.

The position wasn’t just laughter and jokes though, tough times came plenty enough. Not all of them were the expected issues that you might expect. Aside from the general politics that face schools daily in these times, Henson even dealt with death threats in his position. Having let people go and dealt with others careers, he admits he had that one employee’s spouse threated his life after a firing.

As he speaks about some of the hardest moments like this, it’s hard to find out how harrowing the event really was. Henson says now that it’s not a big deal, it wasn’t the only threat he had. His wife speaks a little more plainly as she confesses some days, she couldn’t tell if it was worth it for him to be the Superintendent. Yet, even she says in hindsight that she is proud of the honesty, integrity, and openness that permeated his ten years.

Additionally, dealing with things like the shootings and issues that have plagued schools in the last decade, he adds, “It’s a more stressful job than when I started 30 years ago. It’s much more stressful. There are so many things that the state expects, that locals expect, that parents expect… I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like in another 30 years.”

Henson agreed that schools have lost a lot of the innocence they used to have within the teachers and staff. As these people continue to rack their brains on following the mission to educate and keep kids safe, they take a lot of the stress off the kids as they are at school. He said, “I don’t know if it’s spelled out, but I think if you’re a good teacher, you feel that inherently.”

It also branched over into policies, with increased focus on testing and numbers, Henson said the position got a lot more into the realm of politics as you deal with the state legislature and handling the constant changes that came from the state adds another item to juggle.

As a superintendent, you don’t need state tests, as Henson says, to tell you how well a teacher teaches. “I can sit in a class for five minutes and tell you if a teacher can teach.”

In the face of everything, Henson said he wouldn’t burn any bridges about returning to education, but he’s enjoying his retirement.

Henson has already reached the “what’s next” point in his career as he retired last year. One year into retirement, he says he is just as busy as ever with his position on the Board of Tax Assessors and putting a daughter through college at the University of Georgia. On top of maintaining his own projects, he says he’s focusing on being a parent and husband and making up for time lost in his position as Superintendent.

Once he hit ten years in the office, Henson said he felt like he had done what he wanted, it was time to hand it over to someone else for their impressions and interpretations. Though retiring from his career, he didn’t fade into obscurity. With Stan Helton asking him to sit on the Board of Tax Assessors and others still seeking advice and counsel, he simply transitioned once more.


Fannin offers memorial jersey to honor Larry Walker


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.”



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

Fannin County High School uses national movement as a chance to connect with students

Community, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – March 14 marked a nationwide movement among America’s youth. School-age children from across the country banned together in solidarity in a campaign labeled Walk Out.

This protest comes as a response to one of America’s deadliest mass shootings in modern history. Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, experienced terror in their hallways as a lone gunman and former student went on a killing spree that claimed 17 lives.

In the wake of this tragedy, discussions have opened up about school safety and what can be done to prevent situations like this from occurring in the future.

The Walk Out campaign was organized for students to take a stand against gun violence and to lobby for gun legislation reform. The nationwide walk out was scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. and last for 17 minutes, one minute for each life lost in Parkland, Florida.

A counter-movement spurred as Ryan Petty, a father of one of the students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, spoke of a different option than walking out.

Petty released the following message via Twitter:

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Fannin County School Systems, Fannin County High School, Walk Out, Walk Up Not Out, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Principal, Erik Cioffi, Acts of Kindness, Ryan Petty

Fannin County High School (FCHS) chose to combine these two movements and provide students with a more politically neutral environment to express themselves and honor the lives of the 15 students and 2 staff members who tragically died.

FCHS conducted one of their mandatory safety drills prior to 10 a.m. and then allowed students to remain outside if they wished for 17 minutes following.

“I had heard where other districts were discussing suspension of students,” Erik Cioffi, principal of Fannin County High School, spoke of the decision made by administration to work with the students during this time, “and that’s not right. We wanted to give our students the ability to express themselves.”

In a statement released by Cioffi via Facebook, students at FCHS conducted a normal school-wide advisement period prior to the safety drill. This advisement period focused on “Acts of Kindness” and how to treat one another with respect.

“It is very real, and it has affected these students,” Cioffi spoke of local impacts from the tragedy. “Some of these students truly question their safety, and we wanted to give them an opportunity to talk and to remember and honor those who lost their lives.”

Staff members were present during the 17 minute demonstration and spoke with the different groups of students that had gathered outside.

In a Facebook statement, Cioffi described his own interactions: “As I walked around outside, I had the opportunity to speak with students and discuss the tragedy that took place and how our number one priority will always be student and staff safety.”

Some students, moved by the demonstration, discussed with Cioffi their plans to follow through with 17 acts of kindness in honor of the Parkland victims. Another group focused on being kind to someone they did not know for 17 seconds.

Cioffi concluded his statement with a plea to parents and a commitment from FCHS:

“Please take the time if you have not done so already and talk with your child about the many issues regarding the horrific event that took place one month ago today at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida. Thank you for allowing us to work with your student(s) each and every day. We are very fortunate to have the student population that we have and we are committed to helping them navigate their way through very difficult times.”



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

S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G Bee champion moves forward to regional competition

Community, Rebel's Corner

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After a lot of practice and many rounds, Fannin County School System (FCSS) named their champion speller. Eighth-grader Chloe Carter will advance for a third year to the Region 1 Competition held in Rome, Georgia, later this month.

FCSS held school-wide spelling bees in the month of January, and the winners from each school met on Jan. 31 at the Board of Education to determine a champion.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Blue Ridge Elementary School, West Fannin Elementary School, East Fannin Elementary School, Fannin County Middle School, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Cirriculum Director, Robert Ensley, Keith Nuckolls, Literacy Coach, Sarah Welch, Principal, Lucas Roof, April Hodges, Matt Price, Jade Dlugokinski, Cole White, Chloe Carter, Fox Sharp.

Spelling Bee contestants at the Board of Education. From left to right, Fox Sharp, Jade Dlugokinski, Chloe Carter, and Cole White.

“Before I say anything else, I would like to say how proud I am of each of you for reaching the Fannin County School System spelling bee,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney said, welcoming the competitors.

With family and faculty present, each principal introduced their respective champion.

From Blue Ridge Elementary School, Principal April Hodges introduced school champion Jade Dlugokinski. Cole White, winner of East Fannin Elementary School, was presented by Principal Matt Price. Principal Keith Nuckolls announced the Fannin County Middle School Champion Chloe Carter, and West Fannin Elementary School Principal Lucas Roof introduced their champion Fox Sharp.

Curriculum Director Robert Ensley read the rules and formalities of the spelling bee. These rules must be strictly adhered to within each district for champions to move forward in hopes of reaching the national bee.

Fannin County High School Literacy Coach Sarah Welch was the official caller for the event, giving each student his or her word and further clarification if needed.

The second round saw two competitors eliminated, with a third contestant being eliminated in the following round.

Students Chloe Carter and Cole White battled it out for another round with Carter spelling the winning word for the round, “cruiser”.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County School System, Blue Ridge Elementary School, West Fannin Elementary School, East Fannin Elementary School, Fannin County Middle School, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Cirriculum Director, Robert Ensley, Keith Nuckolls, Literacy Coach, Sarah Welch, Principal, Lucas Roof, April Hodges, Matt Price, Jade Dlugokinski, Cole White, Chloe Carter, Fox Sharp.

Spelling Bee winner Chloe Carter will advance to the Region 1 Competition in Rome, Georgia, later this month.

As dictated by the rules Carter then had to spell an additional champion word. “Ninja” was spelled with ease by Carter and solidified her as Fannin County spelling champion.

“We are proud to have Ms. Chloe Carter as our eighth grade spelling champion,” Welch announced, officially bringing the bee to a close.

Carter is no stranger to this honor. It is Carter’s third year winning the Fannin County School System spelling bee. Last year, Carter also advanced from the Region 1 Competition to compete at the state level.

The Region 1 competition will take place on Feb. 24 in Rome, Georgia. Carter will face other district champs in hopes of progressing to the state finals.

“Your achievement sets a fine example for the students across our county,” Gwatney beamed to the contestants and congratulated all of the students on their achievements.


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

East Fannin Elementary Presented With Family Friendly Partnership Award

East Fannin Elem, Education

BLUE RIDGE, GA – East Fannin Elementary School (EFES) came together in celebration as the school received the Family Friendly Partnership Award. EFES held the ceremony in their gym on Wednesday, October, 11, 2017.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, East Fannin Elementary School, Morganton, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Principal, Matthew Price, Music Teacher, Kimberly Huffman, Richard Woods, Adam Born

Georgia Superintendent Richard Woods presents award to EFES.

The gym was filled with students, staff, and family as the school met with Georgia’s School Superintendent Richard Woods. Excitement was high as only five schools are chosen annually for this award.

The Georgia Department of Education launched the Georgia Family Friendly Partnership award in the summer of 2010. This honor is for Title I schools who place importance on the role of the family in a student’s education.

Schools are judged on a number of factors including friendliness and helpfulness of the staff, displays of student work throughout the building, and the school’s ability to provide “unique and innovative parent and family engagement programs.”

Fannin County School Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney was present to speak at the ceremony. Gwatney has a long history with EFES. He attended the school in the late 1980s when it was a junior high school. He then taught at the school as an educator, and later became principal.Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, East Fannin Elementary School, Morganton, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Principal, Matthew Price, Music Teacher, Kimberly Huffman, Richard Woods, Adam Born

Gwatney said, “As member of this community, as well as former student, and former member of this faculty, I can honestly say that welcoming and family are two great words to use when describing East Fannin Elementary School.”

Parents were also present to speak of their experiences with EFES. Parent Adam Born said of EFES and the parent involvement, that it is more than just a school, it’s a community.

Born stated that it’s “a community where parents always feel comfortable at their child’s school. Where they can be engaged in their child’s development. A community where a student knows that their parents and teachers are working together to help them achieve higher results.”

The entire student body worked with Music Teacher Kimberly Huffman to prepare a song for the visitors. Smiles of enjoyment were seen on the state representative’s faces as the students performed “Kick It Up A Notch”.

The unique song choice reflected EFES’s staff involvement and dedication, both of which are key components to having won this award.

Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods spoke at the presentation. He explained the process on which the schools are chosen, and stated that within the three years he has presented this award that the EFES’s presentation was the first time where he had seen family presented as speakers for the school.

Woods stated, “Hats off to your presentation.”

He went on “This is something that is extremely hard to get. Roughly we have about 2,300 schools in the state of Georgia. There are only five schools that get this each year. You’re really in the top 1% of the 1%.”



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 - Dedicated to serve the needs of the community. Provide a source of real news-Dependable Information-Central to the growth and success of our Communities. Strive to encourage, uplift, warn, entertain, & enlighten our readers/viewers- Honest-Reliable-Informative.

News - Videos - TV - Marketing - Website Design - Commercial Production - Consultation

Search - Citizen Journalists - A place to share “Your” work. Send us “Your” information or tips - 706.276.NEWs (6397) 706.889.9700

Back to Top