GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Both the BOC’s special meeting and the BOE’s monthly work session saw discussion after falling median sales ratios in the Tax Assessors Office could set the county up for another state consent order and penalties in fees.
Chief Appraiser, Theresa Gooch stated that if the county’s median falls below a 38, the first consequence comes as the possibility of losing some public utility money or tax revenue. This number comes from the state’s Department of Audits and Accounts (DOAA) studies that occur annually. This means the Audit will look at samples of sales in the year and look at the sale value and compare that to what the county Tax Assessors assessed the value at. Since the state expects the assessors to set there evaluations at 40 percent of the property’s value. The optimum ratio, according to the state, is set between 38 and 42 percent so that there is no major variations.
However, to “pass” the audit, a term presented by BOE Finance Director Trina Penland, the assessed evaluations must fall between 36 percent and 44 percent, allowing for a 4 percent margin of error on either side as some might say. The report of the test samples for 2021 in Gilmer County fell to 35.88 percent, according to Penland’s report.
The study lags, however, according to Gooch who explained that the Department uses 2021 sales to set 2021 values while the county must use 2020 sales to anticipate and set expected 2021 values. The time lag also comes as the county has to have its values set by January 1, 2021. The state, however, comes later as Gooch said in the August 2022 meeting that the county just received the study results. Since the county’s and the states values are at odds, the discrepancy arises. The difference is so stark this year with the rising inflation and market values in just the course of one year.
There is no immediate consequence this year as the county is not under an official review year, Gooch said that will take place next year with regards to the 2022 assessments currently in their final stages. The Tax Assessors will use this information to set the expected 2023 values, but the state will wait until the end of 2023 to set those values based on actual sales.
With the current issue, she urged the county to formally file an appeal to have their concerns on record that Gilmer is “not happy with the findings.” Additionally, Gooch noted that the county could rise up again and make the requirement by next year’s review, but she has concerns if the state continues studies with the time difference allowing major influences to change market values drastically between the county’s anticipatory values from 2022 and the states actuals from 2023.
Not meeting the state required study median causes a fine, County Chairman Charlie Paris noted $174,000. The option is going under a consent order. Paris also noted that the last time the county was under a consent order, “it cost us more than paying the fine.”
In addition to those, Penland reported to the BOE that the Tax Assessors will also have to change their ratios for the digest in coming years, further reducing the money collected for both the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners budgets.
Gilmer County is not the only county going through this issue currently as Penland showed reports from 2019, 2020, and 2021 audits with more and more counties falling out of compliance each year. In the 2021, the majority of North Georgia along with counties all over the state are facing this same issue of being out of compliance.
Gooch reported that the last time Gilmer County was out of compliance, with a median percentage below 36, was “prior to 2010” and the last time it was out of optimal range, with a median percentage below 38, was 2013.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – With a letter from from the state reapportionment office suggesting changes, this Thursday will see the Gilmer Board of Education considering redrawing district lines for the county in regards to the board members.
This does not affect the county’s voting registration or citizens voting districts within the county. Instead, it changes the lines of the county and the districts that each board of education members’ seat represents. The diagram, pictured to the right, shows these changes on Gilmer’s map. The green lines represent the former district lines, established in 2012. The colored sections represent how the districts will look if approved on Thursday.
Based on the recent census, Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley told board members that the changes look to rebalance populations within the districts.
The new lines show three major changes to the districts with the west side of District 5 reaching further west across Mountaintown, the east side of District 4 reaching further east towards the cities, and the southwest side of District 2 reaching further west across Yukon.
According to documents presented in their work session, this redraw will see each district with just over 6,000 people living in each of the districts.
This redistricting has not been approved yet, but is set for consideration this week, having the districts set for the coming election.
About voting on board members, Dr. Ridley stated, “The only thing that this affects is where future board members may live. Since all of you are voted on at large, it really doesn’t have any effect on who votes for who.”
Board Member Joe Pflueger question the origination of the map and Dr. Ridley clarified that the map was redrawn and provided by the state reapportionment office. Pflueger further noted that there has been no local input on the districts map as presented so far. Comments were made that the board would discuss legal options in executive session.
Dr. Ridley did note that the board could accept the map as presented or potentially alter it and ask for changes. Tomorrow’s, January 27, 2022, Regular Meeting of the Gilmer BOE will see the board’s decision on the map at 6:00 p.m.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – “We will shift our focus away from contact tracing and quarantine to monitoring children for signs of illness,” says a new statement from Gilmer County Schools as the announcement comes today that COVID response and state guidelines are changing again. Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley said it was a return to focusing on educating kids in school and not being an “arbiter of quarantines.”
Dr. Ridley sent the letter out with this statement today, notifying the community of the change. He added that he wants to be a partner with parents in their care for their children.
Ridley noted that the change is coming after the governor and the Department of Public Health (DPH) announced changes in their guidelines for COVID response,acknowledging the hardships that families have had due to quarantines on any possible exposure.
Now, instead of instantly quarantining students who have been around others in school who have tested positive, they will be allowed to stay in class while being “strongly encouraged” to wear a mask. His letter this morning stated 10 days, but Dr. Ridley said that continued updates have made that a misprint as the schools will be encouraging mask usage for 5 days.
Additionally, the statement extended this same change to those currently in quarantine due to exposure. While the last update on the school systems website noted 77 students currently in quarantine, Dr. Ridley said this number is not up to date with these changes as well as another set of changes to guidelines that the schools just received last Thursday.
The school system will continue notifying parents when their students have been exposed and will be sending out letters “notifying you that your child was in class, on the bus, participated in a sport, etc. with a positive case just as we do with any other communicable disease.”
As such, some tracing will still be done with this new response as the school is still asking parents to monitor their children and notify the school if they test positive. Dr. Ridley stated, “We will continue to notify DPH when a notifiable disease is reported and alert DPH of concerns with clusters and outbreaks which may require immediate public health intervention.”
But this isn’t contact tracing as it has been in the last year, these notifications will not continue for those that have been around someone who was around someone who was exposed to a student that tested positive.
The school system is asking parents to continue monitoring your child each morning before sending them to school. They also noted that students showing any signs of the virus or any illness should not be sent to school.
The school system is also taking extra steps for parents in understanding the change or with further needs as Ridley’s statement asked parents to contact their student’s school if they have any concerns of if their child might need extra help for a medical vulnerability.
Superintendent Ridley did confirm that he had discussed the new response individually with members of the Board of Education before implementing them. While he said they mostly agreed with the new format, he did confirm that the board could still add or reinstate any extra steps and precautions should they feel the need arises.
The school system had just posted recent changes on January 4, 2022, with updates from over the December break, but the state is already updating new changes with this today. Dr. Ridley also said in his letter, “While the constant change in guidance has been frustrating at times, we want to thank our Gilmer County families for their support throughout this pandemic. We hope that with the help of our parents, we can even more effectively monitor students for symptoms while also meeting the new DPH standard of keeping healthy students in class.”
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – A new statement from the National Weather Service has authorities in Gilmer County returning to caution and delaying schedules tomorrow in addition to early closures today.
Statements from the Gilmer County Courthouse and Gilmer County Schools have reported early closures for today. Both ended the day two hours early, roughly 3 p.m. for the county and 1 p.m. for schools. However, in addition to early closures both have issued statements for tomorrow, Friday, January 7, 2022. This is the second time this week that winter weather has caused a delay for the county.
The statement from the courthouse said, “The Gilmer County Courthouse will be closing at 3:00PM today and will delay opening tomorrow until 10:00AM due to incoming winter weather events that we anticipate will make driving difficult and perhaps dangerous.”
The statement from Gilmer Schools said, “Tonight’s weather forecast is predicting some severe Winter weather in the Northern end of Georgia, including parts of Gilmer. Therefore, the Gilmer County Schools will operate on a 2-hour delay on Friday January 7th, 2022.”
The National Weather service stated, “A strong cold front will bring cold and windy conditions to much of north Georgia tonight into Friday morning. Northwest winds of 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph this evening will gradually decrease overnight. However, with the very cold, sub-freezing temperatures, wind chill values will fall into the teens across north Georgia with readings in the single digits in the mountains.”
Closures and delays are not the only response coming through as Gilmer Public Safety is also responding to the extremely low temperatures by opening the Civic Center Warming Center. They said, “The Warming Shelter at the Civic Center – 1561 S. Main St. – will be open today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) from 5:00 PM to 7:00 AM for all those in need of protection from freezing temperatures. Visitors are asked to bring a bedroll if available. Pets are welcome.”
With slight rain today in areas of the county, some estimation totals have reached between a quarter and half of an inch possible. Lows are estimated between 17 and 20 degrees just before dawn. Some forecasts have even set the wind chill down to single digits in the area.
Gilmer is along the southernmost reach of the Winter Weather Advisories reach across the entire northern tip of Georgia coming from the front of “arctic air.”
JASPER, Ga. – A special called meeting of the Pickens County Board of Education met this week and put the final approval on the board’s millage rate.
Upon calling the meeting to order and approving the agenda, however, the Pickens County Board of Education retreated to an executive session to discuss, as Board Chair Sue Finley read, “the appointment, employment, compensation, hiring, disciplinary action or dismissal or periodic evaluation or rating of a public officer or employee. Or to interview applicants for the position of superintendent.”
The board took no action upon exiting executive session, but instead moved on to the regular agenda.
An official motion came to approve the Board of Education’s millage rate at 14.30 mills. Board Member Aaron Holland made the motion with a second from Steve Smith.
This sets the millage rate 0.53 mills lower than last year and continuing the steady decline according to the school’s 5-year history of the tax levied.
The system estimates, according to the 5-year history, $22,648,385 in total M&) taxes levied. The budget denotes $24,908,755 in local taxes.
Finley said, “I would like to thank Mr. Young and Ms. Smith for their hard work to make this happen to bring our budget to the point where we can have our millage rate at 14.30 and still have our budget in the black. Thank you very much.”
A unanimous vote for both the millage rate and the FY 22 budget saw the board passing an initial budget for the year.
That budget totals $48.7 million, estimating that the school system’s fund balance will remain at $10.5 million.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – “Gilmer Schools have seen an explosion of positive COVID cases and quarantines throughout this week.” Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Ridley read a statement during the Gilmer County Board of Education this week on Thursday night, August 19, 2021, during their Regular Scheduled meeting.
As of that meeting, the total cases in Gilmer’s school system surpassed a district wide 900 students in quarantine and 100 positive cases in students and staff.
That explosion also culminated in the cancellation of the season opening varsity football game against Pickens on Friday, August 20, 2021. The school system stated, “Decisions such as these are not taken lightly, and we must prioritize the safety and well being of all student-athletes and spectators for both teams.”
Dr. Ridley said in a letter to parents about COVID restrictions earlier this week that the school system would be mandating masks and face coverings starting on Monday, August 23, 2021. He stated, “I feel it is imperative that we act now in an effort to keep our students safe and our schools open.”
In efforts to notify and share the information well in advance, that letter was sent out. However, at the Thursday meeting, Dr. Ridley also informed citizens that while working with the Department of Health, new guidelines will be coming next week in implementation. He confirmed that he would be discussing these with the press on Monday to inform citizens more about those changes as the school looks to continue implementing DPH guidelines into the schools.
As of now, Monday will see masking on school buses only with strong encouragement to wear masks throughout the day. Dr. Ridley also urged others to consider using masks and getting vaccinated against the virus. During his statement in the meeting, Dr. Ridley stated, “Students and staff who are fully vaccinated or masked during exposure will not be subject to quarantine.”
Additionally, the Board of Education also approved COVID leave time for staff that have exposures and positive tests. Superintendent Ridley stated that the official numbers will be updated on their website tomorrow, August 20, 2021.
With the announcement of new COVID guidelines made and implementation on the way, the school system is currently working on the “logistics of implementing this new guidance as early as Monday or Tuesday of next week.”
Gilmer is continuing with quarantining for 10 days and requirements to be fever free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications with an improvement of symptoms.
Additionally, Dr. Ridley previously told FYN that virtual academy was not being implemented for the start of school, but Gilmer does have the option if the need arises. He did not mention virtual academy at the meeting.
As the Superintendent shares more information on the changing guidelines FYN will continue to share new articles with the updated information.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – After originally approved for advertising in July and a special called meeting from the Board of Education, final approval came this month for the County’s Millage Rates.
These rates have been advertised for 14 days and were approved in Gilmer’s Board of Education before moving over to the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners for approval to then be processed by the Tax Commissioner for collection.
Gilmer’s Board of Education approved their rate at 12.624 mills.
Gilmer’s Board of Commissioners approved their rate at 6.222 mills.
Gilmer’s Board of Commissioners also approved a decrease in their Bond Millage Rate to 1 mill. Another quarter mill reduction after last year removing a quarter mill and giving indications that they would be looking to drop it again this year.
Many citizens have been waiting and calling for this reduction over the years after the Bond Millage was increase previously due to economic issues not fulfilling the bond payments.
The BOC has reduced that back down to the original 1 mill to cover bond payments in addition to SPLOST being used to pay the bond payments.
As for the main Millage Rates, increasing property values, according to the Tax Assessors office, has individual homes revalued annually. Though the Rollback Rate was approved, lowering the Millage Rate, this Rollback Rate is calculated to determine, roughly, the rate that will bring in a similar amount of money as last year.
Individual citizens should still check with the Tax Commissioner to determine what this means for their individual property taxes. With those revaluations, the Tax Assessors’ inspections have shown increasing values, meaning the decrease in the Millage Rate, however, many citizens may fluctuate on their own property taxes and the Millage Rate reduction balances against the value increases.
With final approval, the county will soon be preparing to move into September and October when they usually work toward and then hold their public hearings on individual departments for budgeting. By October’s end, Gilmer will have a solid look at what next year’s finances should look like.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s Board of Education made Dr. Ridley official last night with a unanimous vote during their monthly work session for their new superintendent.
Dr. Hal Brian Ridley was named the finalist of the school system’s Superintendent search during a special called meeting on June 26, 2021. According to the Board of Education, “The Board voted unanimously to name Dr. Ridley as the single finalist for the position and announced its intention to name him as Superintendent after the 14-day period of public notice.”
Nearing the end of July now, the Board is trying to get Dr. Ridley in and ready before the start of the school within the next two weeks. Most teachers are returning and final preparations are coming into play this week in the school system such as teachers rooms being moved into Clear Creek Elementary today.
Normally, most votes don’t happen until the boards Thursday meetings as it is the regular session of the government entity.
During the meeting, the board voted to enter executive session along with Ridley. Returning a few minutes later, the official motion came to approve Dr. Ridley as the new Superintendent along with comments during the meeting about the school system and a special thanks to Kim Cagle, who served as Interim Superintendent over the summer.
Now approved, Ridley is likely to be taking his first meeting this Thursday as his first official meeting as Gilmer’s Superintendent. The board is also holding a reception on Thursday at 5 p.m for Dr. Ridley and to allow the public time to meet and speak with him before their Regular Meeting.
Dr. Ridley and the Board signed the contract after the meeting, right before the board retreated into their usual executive session for personnel.
Dr. Ridley stated, “I would like to thank the Board for this opportunity. And thank you to Kim Cagle, she has been very welcoming as I try to get myself oriented to this new job. I’m looking very forward to working with all of you and we’re going to do some great things in Gilmer County.”
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County Schools has initiated the final steps in inducting its new Superintendent into the system. With a formal motion over the weekend to announce the finalist, they have also released information on him.
That finalist is Dr. Hal Brian Ridley.
The school system is already making plans for a formal motion to employ Dr. Ridley and is hoping to have him in position before school starts again. This plan has been in place since the announcement of Dr. Downs retirement earlier this year.
Gilmer Schools has issued the following press release about Dr. Hal Brian Ridley.
The Gilmer County Board of Education named Dr. Hal Brian Ridley as the single finalist for the position of Superintendent of the Gilmer County Schools at a called meeting on June 26, 2021. The Board voted to name Dr. Ridley as the single finalist for the fourteen-day period of public notice as required by Georgia law.
After reviewing applications and interviewing a number of excellent candidates, the Gilmer County Board of Education determined that Dr. Ridley is the best applicant for the position of Superintendent. The Board selected Dr. Ridley from among the pool of 29 applications received from across Georgia and the Southeast. The Board voted unanimously to name Dr. Ridley as the single finalist for the position and announced its intention to name him as Superintendent after the 14-day period of public notice.
Because of the importance of Superintendent selection, the Board devoted a great deal of effort and time to the Superintendent search and followed a structured and deliberate process over a three-month period. The Board advertised the position widely and considered community and employee input to develop the profile and selection standards that were used in the search process. In making its decision, the Board considered skills of each applicant, knowledge of and familiarity with Gilmer County schools and the community, and fit of applicant leadership style with the people and needs of the system. The Board also considered each applicant’s potential and previously demonstrated ability to unify the school community, to work collaboratively with all categories of employees, and to raise important measures of student achievement such as graduation rates and career and college readiness. The Board specifically sought a Superintendent who would work with all elements of the community and school system to establish goals and who would lead the school system to achieve those goals over time.
Dr. Ridley currently serves as Assistant Superintendent of Haralson County Schools. He has 25 years of experience in education including time as a Middle School Principal, Elementary School Principal, and Band Director.
In the coming weeks, details of Dr. Ridley’s employment will be developed by the Board and formal action to employ him as Superintendent is expected at the next regular Board Meeting. After action to formally employ Dr. Ridley, he will cooperate with Ms. Kim Cagle, Interim Superintendent, to transition into the Superintendent’s position.
Dr. Ridley has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Berry College, a Master of Music Performance Degree from the University of West Georgia, a Specialist in Education Administration and Supervision from the University of West Georgia, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of West Georgia.
Dr. Ridley said about himself, “I am a principle-centered leader with a “no excuses” attitude and a focus on problem solving through innovation. I exhibit strong conflict resolution skills and I am experienced in dealing with difficult public relations and personnel issues in a professional manner. I am adept at building relationships among various stakeholder groups and fully intend to serve as a positive school representative within the community. I am truly excited by the possibility of bringing my dedication and knowledge to your school district.”
Currently the Assistant Superintendent of the Haralson County School System in Tallapoosa, Georgia, a system with a work force of over 500 employees serving approximately 3,500 students.
As part of the process, Gilmer Schools is publishing their release along with Dr. Hal Brian Ridley’s Resume and Cover Letter for 14 days to allow public input and feedback before the next Board of Education Meeting. They have also provided his Ridley Certificate to Publish.
As the process continues, citizens are invited to comment and add their input on Ridley. If wishing to speak publicly, the Board of Education allows public comments at their work session, or citizens could speak at the Regular Meeting if they sign up early.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – In March 2021, the latest revisions to Board Policy IDE(3) were made for Competitive Interscholastic Activities. This month, Band Director David Wiebers submitted a request to allow a waiver to the policy for the band.
That waiver would allow a small number of students in the 8th grade to march with the high school band. Wiebers told the board that the waiver would help the band as it has had middle schoolers march before. With stated benefits to the students, retention rate, the high school band, and the middle school band, the request would allow the continuation of the practice in spite of the policy.
The Board of Education (“the Board”) hereby adopts this policy regulating competitive interscholastic activities.
1. Each middle and high school principal is responsible for properly supervising and regulating competitive interscholastic activities in his or her school and shall ensure that all staff members adhere to the school system’s athletic guidelines, this policy, and related rules of the State Board of Education. The principal may delegate responsibility for supervising one or more student activities and clubs to a member or members of his or her professional staff, provided such individuals must act under the principal’s direction.
2. A student wishing to participate in interscholastic competitive activities must be enrolled full time in the school that sponsors the competitive activity. (Dual Enrollment students are included in the “enrolled full time” group eligible to compete.)
3. Retention of students for athletic purposes is prohibited by the Gilmer County School System.
4. Each principal of a school covered by this policy is responsible for ensuring and maintaining documentation of adherence to the requirement of this policy.
5. Permission must come from the Superintendent or Superintendent’s designee for a coach to have practice on a non-school day (Ex: snow day).
Because of line 2 in the policy requiring a student to be “enrolled full time in the school that sponsors the competitive activity,” a student of Clear Creek Middle School cannot be allowed to march competitively with the Gilmer High School band.
Wiebers said that middle schoolers who have marched with the high school return to their middle school program with stories and experiences to share, increasing interest in the high school program. It also increases the level of excellence for those students involved as they are introduced to the higher level program earlier than normal. Wiebers said that since only the highest level members of the middle school band are allowed to participate, it keeps the number lower while maintaining quality.
Wiebers said, “I don’t view it as a high school position, I view it as a six through twelfth grade band program.”
Assistant Director Holly Kinsey also spoke during the meeting supporting the request with her own story of when she was in middle school band and was given the opportunity to march with the high school. She spoke about how the experience reinvigorated her desire for band. She said she was bored with band at the time, and it was the gifted program for marching with the high school that gave her a bit of a push to continue.
However, all of this would be in direct violation of the policy due to IDE(3). Thus, the request for a waiver.
Even with participation, students have faced restrictions and extra requirements when participating in high school band as a middle schooler, according to Kinsey. They must be accompanied at all times as Kinsey spoke about busing the students and following in her car to the high school. Additionally, in long or overnight trips, these students must be accompanied by their parent and they would room with the parents in overnight situations.
The board also unanimously approved the policy, as it currently exists, in March, two months ago. Additionally, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs stated in the regular meeting, “I can’t, in good conscience, with the feedback we’ve received, recommend a change to that policy.”
Much of the board agreed as the motion came to approve a waiver from board member Joe Pflueger. A second to the motion never came, meaning the motion died and a waiver was not approved. Thus, eighth grade band members cannot participate in high school band due to the standing Policy IDE (3).
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Step by step, little by little, Gilmer County is lifting restrictions and slowly moving back to far more casual life. Leaving behind masks and other PPE, the entire nation is taking steps as people are returning to sports arenas and school events like proms and graduations are showcasing the step back to life without certain constraints.
This week saw Gilmer’s Board of Education take another step on that same path as requests came for the board to lift the mandate for masks on buses.
This mandate has been in place all school year since Gilmer welcomed students back into class with the options for in-person or virtual learning. Now, a week before graduation, the board unanimously agreed that the time has come to step back from such restrictions. This does not mean you won’t see masks anymore. Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs made note that lifting the mandate only means they are optional now. Each student and parent are still the ones talking about the choice. According to Downs, many students do still wear the masks and have their own ready.
Downs said that many drivers have noted that students who don’t wear masks throughout the day will tend to forget them in a classroom. Bus drivers have some available, but the need for more has gone up as more students have laid down their masks throughout their standard day.
Board member Ronald Watkins, who has voiced opinions in favor of personal choice before, commented in the work session saying, “I say let them take them off.” Watkins advocated in favor of the request as he said to give the kids the option to wear them or not.
When questioned, Downs said that she has seen more masks used in elementary levels as opposed to higher grades.
While some comments were made among the board that this is only taking effect in the final days of this school year, it does set an indication as to what the board plans moving forward. As of now, this means that masks will continue to be optional on buses into the next school year.
Of course, should things change, the Board could always reinstate, but for now, it is 5-0 vote for lifting the mandate and allowing students and parents to make their choice on masks.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Referencing the recent dissension over the school’s 2021-2022 calendar, board member and current Chairman Ronald Watkins said he has caught major backlash over the issue.
Watkins announced in the BOE’s public comments session this month that he will not be running again in the coming elections. Dealing with much of the frustration from the public and what he stated as “people telling a little bit of the truth and a little bit of lies,” Watkins voiced his anger over the issue and the backlash to him as a public official.
During his comments, he denounced citizens who, according to Watkins, claimed he voted based on his own vacations. Saying that he raises chickens, he said he could not plan vacations on the calendar regardless of which one it was. He went on to say that if he had his choice, Gilmer’s Calendar would be that of Murray County.
Watkins said he has been on the board for years working for the public. He said, “I took up for every kid, teachers, and everybody.” He condemned the public’s response on the recent issues referencing something he saw in “emails.”
As if speaking directly to those people in the meeting, Watkins said, “You ain’t going to get to vote against me next year,” as he announced that this would be his final term.
However, the calendar issue may not have been the direct cause of this announcement, Watkins claimed that he had previously spoken with Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs about this being his last term and not wanting to run again. He said he had “made that promise” a while ago.
Linking in another resignation, Watkins furthered addressed the resignation of Dr. Downs saying that she resigned and that “We did not run Dr. Downs off. She had my full backing. You can sit there and shake your head no, I don’t care. She had my full backing. This was her decision.”
While it is unusual to see such an early announcement of decisions on running for office, it was made publicly, in an open county meeting. This makes two absences that the Board of Education will face in its future. However, Watkins did not tender a resignation, meaning that he will continue to serve the remainder of his term as of this time.
The board has faced member resignations in the last five years, which is how Watkins current service began as he filled the remainder of a term left from a resignation before running for office for the following term.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – As the Board begins its search for a new Superintendent, they officially named Kim Cagle as the county’s Interim Superintendent.
Cagle is currently Assistant Superintendent for Student Services in Gilmer Schools. She will step into the role of Interim Superintendent on May 28, 2021, the final day for current Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs. This will also be when the board transitions from accepting applications to actively pursuing its new Superintendent through interviews.
AS the Interim Superintendent, she will be guiding the board over the summer during the selection process as she was approved as Interim Superintendent from from June 1 until August 31, 2021.
Cagle has operated alongside Downs during her time as Superintendent, bringing experience in the position, the board’s ongoing tasks and operations, and the community.
Official approval for Cagle came after an executive session during April’s regular meeting. There were no other recommendations made and she was unanimously approved.
Dr. Shanna Downs later stated in a press release, “I believe the Board’s selection of Mrs. Kim Cagle as Interim Superintendent will allow for a very smooth transition and help the district maintain continuity of progress and programs. I feel very comforted to know that I am leaving the district in such capable hands.”
Cagle will be working with the board and alongside King-Cooper and Associates during the search. While the board hopes to review applications and conduct interviews in late May and early June and to select the next Superintendent by July, the board’s approval is effective until the end of August should any delays arise.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – With official approval having come on April 15, 2021, in their monthly meeting, the Gilmer County Board of Education has begun its search for the next Superintendent with King-Cooper and Associates search firm.
With a press release, Gilmer Schools made a statement about the search saying that they would accept applications for the position until May 21, 2021. They stated, “The vacancy will be advertised by electronic postings on the school system web site, the search firm’s web site, and on the web sites of the Georgia School Superintendents Association and the Georgia School Boards Association.”
King-Cooper an d Associates was approved as the firm by a memorandum of understanding during the board’s April regular meeting. They are a small search firm based in Thomaston, Georgia. According to their release, “King-Cooper and Associates specializes in customized and affordable superintendent searches for small and medium size school systems. The firm assisted the Board in their last search in 2015 and has conducted over 65 successful superintendent searches in Georgia.”
Because they will accept application until late May, this date falls in conjunction with the previously reported final day of current Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs on May 28, 2021. In the time after, Gilmer’s Board of Education named Ms. Kim Cagle to serve as Interim Superintendent.
Steps of the search will include advertising the position, receiving and processing applications, verifying reference and background information, sorting applications based on the Board’s selection criteria, and the scheduling and facilitation of interviews. Dr. Sandy Addis will serve as the lead facilitator of the search.
“Our job is to secure a strong pool of applicants and to assist the Board to select the very best superintendent for Gilmer County,” Addis said. “We handle the details of the search and provide the best possible information for the Board to make a good choice but we don’t tell the board who to hire,” Addis stated. “There will be strong interest in the position because of the positive reputation of the school system, the community, and the Board. Gilmer County is one of Georgia’s most desirable and attractive school systems.”
According to their press release, the Board hopes to review applications and conduct interviews in late May and early June and to select the next Superintendent by July. During April, the Board will conduct surveys to determine what characteristics and qualifications the community and school system employees think are most important in the selection process. A survey for parents, students, and community members will be posted on the system web site at www.gilmerschools.com. A similar survey will be emailed to all school system employees.
They stated, “The Board will utilize survey results in the interview and selection process to employ a superintendent that meets the needs and expectations of the community.”
East Ellijay, Ga. – A special called meeting of the Gilmer Board of Education was silenced as the personnel section, the only item on the meeting’s agenda, saw Gilmer’s Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Shanna Downs recommend a motion to “accept the Superintendent’s resignation.”
The meeting room was silent as no board member made a motion or even a statement for a few moments. But only a few seconds before the official motion came from Michael Bramlett with a second from Michael Parks. The resignation is effect May 28, 2021.
This means that Dr. Downs will remain with Gilmer Schools through the next two months before officially moving on to her new position. In a statement after the meeting, Downs confirmed that she would be accepting the position of Executive Director of West Goergia RESA (Regional Education Service Agency).
She said it felt like the right time as “It’s a good opportunity, one that I didn’t think would present itself again.” Downs explained that positions like the one she will be taking are not often available.
In her resignation letter, she thanked the school board for the opportunity to serve the community saying, “After 6 years of continued improvement and multiple accomplishments for our students to academic achievement, updated facilities, new buildings, significantly lower millage rates, and strong financial reserves, my time has come to pursue a new endeavor.”
With the resignation set to take effect in May, the board ended their Special Called Meeting in Executive Session with no action anticipated. It was stated that they would be discussing a Superintendent search. The board could have two months to find the new Superintendent and complete the interview and hiring process.
She stated, “Given the recent change to the dynamics of the Board of Education, I believe the timing of my resignation will allow the Board to prepare for the FY22 school year with a candidate selected by the board.”
Downs promised to complete her last two months in Gilmer supporting the board’s mission and vision for the school system.
JASPER, Ga. – Pickens County could be seeing another chapter in its ongoing Superintendent troubles over the years after a three-hour-long meeting was held almost entirely in Executive Session.
On January 16, 2021, the Pickens County Board of Education held a special called meeting posted to host both an Executive Session and General Discussion items on the Agenda.
During the meeting, it was said that the general discussion was originally put in to discuss a different topic. However, some citizens present said they were present to “show support” for Superintendent Dr. Rick Townsend.
While the Board of Education spent almost all of the three hours in Executive Session, Dr. Townsend was not present for a large part of the meeting as he was seen exiting the room where the executive session was being held.
The only results of the meeting that were publicly stated as the Board returned from their executive session was the calling of yet another Special Called Meeting for this Monday, January 18, 2021.
However, sources have messaged FYN saying they are expecting the School Board to be dismissing or firing Dr. Townsend on Monday.
The board said in their Friday meeting, “We will have a Called Meeting on Monday at 3 p.m. It will be published over the weekend.” This means they will be meeting on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, although there is yet to be an agenda or meeting placed on the Pickens Calendar on their website as of the writing of this article.