The Character Ed word for the month of January was Ambitious. The definition is “having or showing a strong desire to succeed.”
The following students and staff were chosen for consistently displaying this character trait throughout the month. Congratulations to all of you!
Pictured from left to right- Front row: Waylon Cheramie, Alivia Hurd, Lila Roof Lily Cortez, Thatcher Tatum, Evelyn Clark, Madeleine Guiterrez, Liam Stokes, and Hunter Turner. Middle row: Addy Martin, Ella White, Haygen Mathis, Patterson Waters, Ryder Collins, Tucker Ledford, Hailey Bledsoe, and Owen Mann. Back row: Reed Puckett, Addyson Plott, Colton Bradburn, Tucker Ledford, Mrs. Mary Jean Pace, Mrs. Tiffany Ingle, Will Jones, Eli Plush, Elohi Law, and Yarely Vargas.
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Education approved a West Fannin Elementary School paving project during their called meeting on Wednesday, July 17, 2019.
There was only one bid for this project which came from local vendor Johnson Paving, LLC. in the amount of $197,383.00 for the replacement 10,650 square yards of overlay and 4,314 square yards of mill and replace. The plan does include striping.
The board discussed how these repairs have been much needed for quite some time now, and none of the board members were opposed.
The project is said to be paid for with special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST) funding.
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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.
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.
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Calling all believers! Blue Ridge Elementary, East Fannin Elementary, West Fannin Elementary,
and Fannin County High School will be co-hosting a free literacy event on Thursday, December
13 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on the Fannin County High School campus. Students, families,
and community members are invited to come immerse themselves in a joyous holiday
experience. Following the festival, the Swan Drive-in will present a showing of The Polar
Express at 6:15 p.m. as a fundraiser for literacy programming at the schools.
Pick up your map to the North Pole at the FCHS main entrance to guide you around the campus to our various activities; if you get lost along the way, a wandering elf will help direct you to your destination. If you are lucky, the conductor himself might even stop to punch your ticket!
Some of the interactive experiences offered will include themed crafting projects and a book walk. Wal-Mart and Ingles have generously donated a cookie decorating station and a hot chocolate bar. Home Depot will host a Holiday Builder’s workshop! Along the way to the Elf Workshop, where eager elves will assist with letter writing to Santa, feel free to peruse the artistic creations presented at the FCHS Gingerbread House Contest. The Fannin County Regional Library will also host on-site library card sign-up booth!
Also, various guest readers will provide dramatic readings of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar
Express. Santa Claus himself will be there for free pictures and to hear all your holiday wishes.
Community and PTO partnerships have also generously donated several door prizes to reward
the attendance of these avid readers. Please join us for this magical evening!
All children fifth grade and under will receive free admission into the film. All other tickets will
go on sale for the film at the Swan Drive-in on December 2, and ticket prices are $5 each. On
December 13, you will be able to purchase tickets to the Swan’s showing of the film at FCHS or
at the entrance to the Swan. All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit future literacy projects.
Various other corporate and community sponsors are working together to help make this event a
success, and they will all be recognized at the event.
This event is designed to welcome all ages. If you would like more information, please feel free
to contact Sarah Welch, Literacy Coordinator, via email at email@example.com or by phone
at 706.632.2081 ext. 125. Follow event details on Facebook with Fannin County Schools, or use
#literacyexpress or #fanninreads on Twitter to share your experiences. Fannin County, a Get
Georgia Reading community, was awarded the L4GA grant at the end of last year, and we have a
lasting commitment to sustainably impact literacy at all levels!
Character Ed word for the month of October was Responsibility. The definition is “dependable and accountable for your words and actions; not blaming others for your mistakes”
These students were chosen for consistently displaying this character trait throughout the month. Congratulations to all of you!
Pictured above from left to right- Front row: Hannah Carranza-Alvarez, Addie Welch, Rayleigh Schuknecht, Kage Cook, Ella Lackey, Jonathon Chambers, McKinley Sandefur, and Serenity Frazier. Middle row: Savannah Herndon, Riley Vaughan, Tallie Mull, Clay Dillard, Addy Plott, Colton Bradburn, and Toni Harrison. Back row: Lesly Alvarado, Jamari Patterson, Will Jones, Grayson Rhoads, Fox Sharp, Casi Mealer, Carlee Klinesmith, and Lily Hawkins. Not pictured: Jada Harper
National School Lunch Week was from October 15th – 19th. West Fannin’s nutrition department celebrated by giving out random prizes to students who ate school lunch. Our nutrition staff serves over 330 lunches each week with a smile on their face. We truly appreciate these ladies and everything they do for our students and staff.
School Lunch 9: Kindergarten student Khaleesi Roberson is very excited about winning a prize.
School Lunch 15 (Featured Image at top): Fifth-grade students all enjoying our school lunch – left side of table front to back: Crystal Dockery, Harley Stanley, Devon Meissner. Right side of the table front to back: Natalee Reeves, Michael Chastain, Eli Hughes.
Some third graders at West Fannin Elementary School were fortunate enough to visit with Tim Mercier of Mercier’s Orchards on Thursday, October 18th. Mercier’s has worked with 1st and 3rd-grade students for two years in their apple orchard beginning with helping to plant our 15 trees. These 15 trees are part of our on-going STEAM project. Students learn about our three different types of apples in our orchard (Arkansas Black, Gold Rush, Crimson Topaz). Students learn about the origin of the trees and how and when to plant the trees. Students also go out once a month and measure each tree and graph them in a bar graph. These graphs are then used to compare from month to month and from year to year the growth of the trees. As students were measuring this month they noticed that some of our trees were not growing as we had hoped and that there were some brown spots on our leaves. As they were researching they wanted to ask Mercier’s to come back and see our trees and help us to diagnose our problems. Mr. Mercier was kind enough to come out and share with our students. These students will now go back and redeliver the findings to the rest of the third-grade students. As the kids would say, “ We now know our problem so now we will start planning on how we will create a solution to solve this problem.”
Picutred at the top: Tim Mercier, Brody Graham and Keats Miller (2 boys in front), Josalyn Deal and Sadie Patto
By, Mrs. Mary Jean Pace, 4th grade science teacher
West Fannin Elementary had the great privilege of joining in the Rivers Alive Clean-up on Saturday, September 29th. We began our morning at WFES with a safety briefing from Trout Unlimited representative, Peggy Reich, who then passed out Rivers Alive t-shirts, gloves, trash bags, and bug spray. Students from Pre-K through fifth grade, along with family members, scoured our school campus, nature trail, and stream for trash and debris.
Some of the items removed included rubber tires, a toilet tank, rusty gallon cans, foam stuffing, metal poles cemented into rubber tires, as well as plastic containers and trash. After loading the trash and debris onto a trailer, we shared a delicious lunch and dessert by the river at Tammen Park, with many of our kids enjoying a wade or swim at the boat ramp! Our WFES Rivers Alive Clean-up Day was a great success! Cleaning our campus, nature trail, and stream of rubber tires, trash, and old building debris has made West Fannin a safer and more environmentally-healthy place to learn and enjoy! Thanks again to our families who attended as well as Trout Unlimited for including West
Fannin Elementary in the 2018 Rivers Alive clean-up!
By: Lucas Roof, Principal
As a Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) STEM Certified school, West Fannin Elementary was chosen by the GaDOE to host multiple STEM Open House Days throughout this school year where educators and educational leaders throughout the state are invited to visit West Fannin. West Fannin’s first STEM Open House of the school year took place on September 26th, 2018.
Approximately 20 visitors from across the state came to observe best practices in STEM education, to receive support and advice from West Fannin teachers and administrators on the topic of STEM education, and to have conversations with West Fannin’s students about STEM projects. Many West Fannin business partners and stakeholders were also present for this STEM Open House to work with the students. The visitors were impressed; this was an exciting and rewarding day for West Fannin.
West Fannin will also have STEM Open House Days on November 16th, 2018 and March 12th, 2019.
STEM Open House: 1st and 3rd grade working together in the orchard – Conner Reddin (1st grade) and Keats Miller (3rd grade)
STEM Open House 2: Chelsea Osborne (1st grade), Sadie Patton (3rd grade), Karlyn Martin (1st grade)
STEM Open House 3: 2nd grade students Owen Man and Luke Strobel. Second grade students are working to make plaques for the butterfly garden in Braille that identify the plants. Owen is using our Braille typewriter.
STEM Open House 4: Kindergarten students (left to right, front row) Ellee Gibbs, Rylee Burk, Tinsley Plush. Back Shaun Simmons
STEM Open House 5: 2nd grade students using the STEM Engineering Design Process to create windmills – Netalie Freeman, Kaylee Callahan, Triston Cross, Brody Ingle
STEM Open House 6: 5th grade investigative research team is working on the Phenology of leaves they are finding the average temperature outside – Natalee Reeves (sitting) and Kalyn Martin
Feature Image – (left to right) – Georgia Hasson (striped dress), Madison Queen, Samantha Combs
On September 4th and 5th students in 3rd grade followed the STEM/STEAM process to create solar ovens. The challenge: Can you make a solar oven that will cook a s’more? Students were given various materials such as foam, black paper, aluminum foil, and boxes. They could only use the materials provided for them. Students worked in small groups to plan and construct their oven. Then, the ovens were taken to the blacktop where students strategically placed them to cook the s’mores. There was another unplanned challenge: overcast weather. However, students were not disappointed. They were able to see the rise in the temperature, record it, and do observations each 5 minutes.
By, April Shinpaugh, (3rd grade math teacher)
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – Several school system accomplishments were mentioned and this school year’s retirees were honored at the end-of-the-year meeting of Fannin County Schools at the Performing Arts Center Wednesday, May 30.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Gwatney kicked the meeting off by announcing 198 students recently graduated from Fannin County High School.
“That’s reflective of the wonderful work that is done by the faculty and staff and leadership at Fannin County High School,” Gwatney added, “but it also speaks volumes for what happens at elementary and middle schools to prepare the students to get them to these levels.”
Gwatney also thanked the Board of Education for a 1 percent across-the-board permanent pay increase for school system personnel.
“And as I stand here before you today, always remember that you are a member of the greatest and most honorable profession,” the superintendent told the countless number of educators and school employees in attendance. “Ladies and gentlemen, ours is the one profession in which all professions must pass.”
Later, Board of Education member Steve Stanley praised Gwatney’s own leadership asking everyone in attendance, “Don’t you guys think that Dr. Gwatney did a great job this year?”
To this, the audience responded with a resounding round of applause for the superintendent.
Lewis DeWeese, BOE chairman, also spoke of the change he saw this year under Dr. Gwatney. “I’ve been saying it for the last year or so, our system has a new spirit, a new friendly, open, honest willingness to share (and) work together,” DeWeese stated.
BOE member Bobby Bearden also took a moment to thank the employees of the school system saying, “It’s been a blessing and an honor to work with people like you.”
Several awards and achievements, received both for schools and individuals throughout the school year, were recognized at the meeting.
This school year’s Teachers of the Year were also mentioned again during the meeting. Those educators included Erin Colbert, from Blue Ridge Elementary, Kathy Culpepper, from East Fannin Elementary, Amber Mitchell, from West Fannin Elementary, Nathasha Anderson, from Fannin County Middle, and Shan Culpepper, from Fannin County High. Culpepper also held the distinction of being Teacher of the Year for the entire school system.
Sarah Welch and Jordan Newman were also recognized this past school year for being the Star Teacher and Star Student of the Year for 2017-18, respectively.
Regarding the high school, Fannin County High School (FCHS) was also ranked statewide and nationally in U.S. News’ annual Best High Schools rankings. According to those rankings, FCHS was ranked 63 in the state and 2,593 in the nation. This was the third time in the last four years FCHS has been ranked by U.S. News in this category with the previous years being 2015 and 2017. The high school also earned a Silver Award for falling in the top 12 percent nationally.
Fannin County Middle School (FCMS) was also praised for its accomplishments, most notably in that the school placed first in an online Reading Bowl and fourth in face-to-face competition. FCMS also earned an honorary degree in life science.
Blue Ridge Elementary received recognition for earning a High Progress Award among Title 1 schools. High Progress Award schools are among the top 10 percent of Title 1 schools based on the three-year average of College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) progress scores.
East Fannin Elementary held the distinction this school year of being one of only five Family-Friendly Partnership Schools in the state of Georgia.
Also, West Fannin Elementary enjoyed the success of becoming the 36th Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) certified school in the state.
Twenty-five educators in the school system became certified as Level 1 Google Educators this school year. This status indicates that an educator is able to successfully implement Google Suite for Education into their teaching practice in order to enhance teaching and learning.
The school system’s nutrition program participated in the Shake It Up initiative, which is a state-wide initiative to change the culture school nutrition in three areas: tasty meals, friendly cafeterias and happy schools. The nutrition programs at all five county schools received the Gold Award in this initiative.
The school system also took time to honor this year’s retirees throughout Fannin County Schools. Those retirees included:
· From Blue Ridge Elementary, media specialist Robbie Callihan and nutritionist Mildred Johnson;
· From East Fannin Elementary, teachers Katie Holloway and Lynn Weeks, academic coach Crystal Cooke, and paraprofessional Sandra Ross;
· From West Fannin Elementary, nutritionist Wanda Stewart and teacher Betty Holsonback;
· From Fannin County Middle, teachers Cindy Wood and Linda Nave, and nutritionists Judy Glasgow, Sue Postell, and Gayle Queen;
· From Fannin County High, secretaries Robin Kirby and Gail Bennett, paraprofessional Phillip Nastyn, teachers Terry Callihan and Kim Kribbs, and nutritionists Amanda O’Neal and Leslie Perenich;
· System-wide deaf/hard of hearing teacher Marcie Harper and speech therapist Pam Lapham;
· School bus drivers Margie Kolesky and Sheryl Campbell;
· From the school system maintenance department, Archie Bice; and
· From the Central Office, accounts payable bookkeeper Connie Grindstaff and Associate Superintendent Betsy Hyde.
“What an honor this has been,” Gwatney told the retirees. “I wish you all the best.”
Following the ceremony, the rock band Apollo, which is comprised of three Fannin County students, played a spirited version of the Foo Fighters’ classic anthem “My Hero” as a tribute to the retirees as well as the existing educators and employees of the Fannin County School System.
Concluding the day’s event, Gwatney stated, “Ladies and gentlemen, we aspire to guide and lead the future, but most of all, you remember why we’re here. It’s for the kids. Everyone have a great summer.”
Article by: Jocelyn Miller
Ask an average first-grader about bats and they might cringe. Ask a first-grader in Katy Roberson’s class at West Fannin Elementary and you will walk away an expert. After reading the book, Stella Luna by Janell Cannon, Reid Summers shared with his classmates details about observing bats around his home.
The class became instantly intrigued. Ms. Roberson took this opportunity, and immediately sought out information, experts, and volunteers, to design a year-long STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) unit centered around bats native to Fannin County.
Students began their project by inviting a guest speaker, Georgia Master Naturalist Jocelyn Miller, to discuss the 16 species of Georgia bats, their habitats, and foraging behaviors. Students later conducted a mock research study where they measured and weighed different “bat species” then recorded data similar to how an actual biologist would monitor bat populations in the field. As the unit continued, students built upon their knowledge and did additional research in small groups where children produced a portfolio demonstrating what they learned. Along the way, students realized that bat habitat and conservation was a serious concern.
Bats in Georgia and around the United States have seen a
significant and steady decline in their populations due largely to pesticide use, water quality, and white-nose syndrome. White-nose syndrome has killed between 5.7 to 6.7 million bats in the U.S. since the mid-1990s when the disease was first discovered. The students in Ms. Roberson’s class wanted to do something about it. Their solution was to erect a bat house on the campus of West Fannin.
Using guidelines from Bat Conservation International along with the help of Trent Summers and Chad Anderson, students were able to design and build a large three-chambered bat house capable of housing up to 500 bats. Once the house was constructed, students weatherized and painted the house. Emma Dills, a student in the class, said her favorite part was painting the bat house. Bat houses must stay dry and warm (around 100 degrees Fahrenheit). Students chose a dark color to help raise the internal temperature of the house. The bat house was installed over spring break with the help of Chris Rogers. The students chose to locate the house near the school apple orchard as a form of pest management. According to first-grader Lilli Potzauf, “Bats eat mosquitoes and are natural bug controllers.”
The long-term goal of this passionate group of first-graders is not only to improve the habitat for bats at West Fannin but also to encourage members of the community to follow suit. They are planning a bat garden with native plants that will attract nighttime insects and hope to cultivate and sell those plants to parents and members of the community. They are also working to acquire funds in order to install a camera in the bat house to allow streaming video of the bats’ daytime activities. First-grader Carson Callihan summed up the project perfectly: “We need to help the bats because a lot of them are dying and we need them to eat mosquitoes.” The complex relationship between ourselves and the local ecosystem is difficult to understand at any age, but these first-graders are already making a difference that will have a lasting impact on our community for years to come.
The Character Ed word for the month of April was Courage. The definition is “facing hard things without fear; brave.”
These students were chosen for consistently displaying this character trait throughout the month. Congratulations to all of you!
Pictured are, from left to right, front row: John Baxter, Jacob Curtis, Connor Owens, Ella Lackey, Hervin Sutton, Reid Summers, Ivy Aponte, and Mariana Espinoza-Garcia; middle row: TJ McGuire, Sara Rush, Johnny Garland, Konnor Housley, John Henry Chastain, Kaylee Trotter, Matthew Cash, and Easton Mathis; back row: Kristen Mashburn, Danica Padrutt, Alex Banks, Knox Puckett, Cole Kendall, Luke Holsonback, Rilee Flowers, and Cody Fults.
The Character Ed word for the month of December was Empathy. The definition is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
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: Silas McFarland, Nevaeh Dyer, Brianna Davenport, Jonah Strobel, Kaydee Parris, Kaylee Wood, Tallie Mull, and Alex Flores. Middle row: Reed Puckett, Ayla Walton, Toni Harrison, Selena Meissner, Logan Thompson, Cayson Mitchell, Brayden Barker, and Bella Frazier. Back row: Crystal Dockery, Brady Payne, Eli Hughes, Abbie Dillard, Landon Kaylor, Carson Callihan, and Ali Jones. Not Pictured: Cheyanne Hasker.
The Character Ed word for the month of November was Thankfulness. The definition is “feeling or expressing gratitude – appreciative.”
Pictured from left to right- Front row: Zoe Lundquist, Bella Smith, Natalie Jones, Aiden Eshleman, John Waddell, Stephen Weaver, Austin Rogers, and Connor Dixon. Middle row: Sierra Howard, Aeryauna Deal, Keats Miller, Cayden Reece, Peyton Grindstaff, Logan Long, Benjamin Holsonback, and Evan Smith. Back row: Magdalena Garcia-Leal, Nevaeh Morgan, Lilly Garland, John Holsonback, Emma Ledford, and Sadie Thomas. Not Pictured: Castle Barnett and Chase Graham.