ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County Schools has been awarded two competitive grants totaling $25,000 from the Georgia Department of Education.
According to Director of Federal Programs and Title IX Coordinator Lindy Patterson, the funds will support the Gilmer High School band and the district’s computer science programs.
Patterson released a statement for Gilmer Schools stating, “To promote and further strengthen the award-winning band, stART grant funds will be used to purchase sound and amplification systems for the band hall and outdoor concerts and events. The computer science capacity grant funds will be allocated for the professional growth of teachers working in the computer science field.”
Upon receiving notification of the stART grant, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs stated, “The Arts are vital to the development of the whole child. The importance of the Arts is clear: while stimulating imagination and self-expression, the Arts hold a significant role in the development of critical thinking, responsible decision-making and cultural awareness. We’re delighted to receive this grant to enhance our overall program for our students.”
Throughout the year, the Georgia Department of Education awards grants through a competitive application and review process.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Among the final acts for Gilmer County’s government in 2020 comes the official swearing in for elected positions. Now that the local elections have long since completed and been finalized, these officials are preparing to take office as soon as January 1, 2021, now that they have been sworn in.
While many positions were re-elections like Hubert Parker moving from the special elected term to fill in for the remaining term of former Commissioner Dallas Miller, others are fresh faces in new positions like Gilmer Magistrate Judge Kevin Johnson.
In the realm of the Board of Education, new members Joe Pflueger and Michael Parks met with Probate Judge Scott Chastain to take their oaths on Friday, December 18, 2020. Additionally, Doug Pritchett also renewed his oath of office as he was re-elected after filling in for the remaining time of the previous term.
Two weeks before the new year and their own first days in the position, they met in Courtroom D of the Gilmer County Courthouse for a ceremony with close friends and relatives. Owing to the virus and procedures against it, each brought a very small group to witness the event.
Doug Pritchett was sworn in under oath with his wife, Lynne Pritchett, holding the bible for him.
Michael Parks was sworn in under oath with his wife, Donna Parks, holding the bible for him.
Joe Pflueger was sworn in under oath with his wife, Jeris Pflueger, holding the bible for him.
Each member swore two oaths, one for the office and the responsibilities associated with it, and another as a loyalty oath to people and the government,
Chastain told FYN that these would be the final oaths as he had previously administered much of the other renewals during the same day.
However, Kevin Johnson, newly elected Magistrate Judge of Gilmer County, received his oath of office on Thursday, December 17, 2020. He was sworn in by Judge Brenda Weaver in the presence of current Magistrate Judge Roger Kincaid and Probate Judge Scott Chastain.
EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Preparing for the new year and new board members, Gilmer Schools updated their students code and handbook as they hit their mid-year meeting and prepare for the return for the second semester in January.
Coming late in the year, changes to the student handbook were approved this week in order to provide for students needing certain credits for graduation. Adjusting specifically a world language instead of certain CTAE courses in graduation requirements, this change comes, according to Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, as the virtual academy is not able to do those courses online.
Because of this and because some students need to adjust and cover this requirement in their final semester of high school, the Board approved the change to support this digital students as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to require adjustments and changes from organizations moving into the future.
The Board is also looking at new meeting dates next year. They have looked at the dates since November, adjusting and changing as needed. The board of education usually approves these meetings in January of the year, approving the 11 months of that year along with the January Meetings for the following year.
This means that the Board’s two newest members, Joe Pflueger and Michael Parks, will have the opportunity to vote on these in their first meeting of the new year.
The Board is updating its Student Code of Conduct to incorporate new needs as the school shave reached a point when students have Chromebook for use throughout their grade levels. Incorporating information gained through use of a program monitoring what students are typing and reading through the Chromebook. This new update will incorporate the new screenings that the school is using along with protections on the Chromebook usage.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Last week’s news of a teacher’s arrest on charges of allegedly carrying out an inappropriate relationship with a student resulted in the following day a letter of resignation submitted to the Gilmer County Board of Education.
This culminated at the Board’s meeting when voting on personnel. Nathan Sutton’s, the teacher in question, resignation was a part of the agenda item.
Board member Ronald Watkins asked to vote on Sutton’s resignation separate from the other personnel changes. While the general personnel passed without issue, Sutton’s resignation was questioned.
Watkins said he wanted the Board to not accept his resignation as it allows him to part from the school board with a letter of resignation rather than being fired for the incident. Watkins referenced another recent resignation, saying it was similarly a situation of allowing a resignation before an investigation could prove any improper behavior.
While the Board was originally split with Board member Tom Ocobock saying he agreed that he wanted it to say on record that he was fired. Ocobock also indicated that he didn’t want Sutton “let off” with a resignation after the alleged incident. This was stressed even further as they both noted Sutton’s alleged confession.
However, Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs suggested to the board that the school system would proceed with whatever they voted, she counseled them to accept the resignation on the grounds that the if the Board wished to proceed with firing him instead, they would reject the resignation and continue paying Sutton as a teacher and keeping him as an employee, at least on paper, until the proceeding could go forward with the schools firing policy. With the investigation and the school board’s process to fire him. It could take up to a couple months or even 90 days was suggested as an extreme possibility.
Some of the complicating factors revolved around the victim not being a student anymore, new policy updates for Title 9 with the schools, and proceeding with the termination in face of a resignation letter.
Downs said that she has already filed paperwork with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC) for an ethics complaint on record regarding the incident, and that the police would be moving forward with their investigation. The complaint with the GaPSC also requested to pull Sutton’s certificate for education.
According to the GaPSC website:
Title 20, Education, of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), outlines the legal guidelines, which govern the state education program.
Title 20 creates the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC) and assigns it responsibility for providing a regulatory system for “certifying and classifying” professional employees in public schools. Title 20 also requires the professional employees of all Georgia public schools to hold state certification.
Downs added that the resignation allows the board to separate from Sutton immediately without the full process of investigating themselves and firing Sutton on those grounds. She said that as far as him going to another school or getting another job, there was little difference in firing Sutton or accepting the resignation. The difference was in paying him until they could fire him or terminating the contract now.
Ocobock said that he still wanted him fired, but with Downs saying she had filed the complaint and as long as he could not go to another school for a job, he was okay with the resignation path of separation.
However, Watkins still pushed for the official process saying that he was really discouraged that he has had two people know that will be allowed to resign instead of being fired. He stated, “I want to know how bad something has got to be to where I can fire someone.”
Indeed, with a motion on the floor to accept the resignation, Watkins made his official motion to proceed with the firing process. The motion did not receive a second and died. However, the Board then proceeded with approving the motion to accept Sutton’s resignation 4-0 with Watkins abstaining.
Watkins did make one comment saying he felt he was appearing like “the bad guy” because he abstained from the resignation, but was reassured by other Board members. Ocobock told him he wasn’t the bad guy saying, “You’ve got to think about what it’s going to cost the school and the disruption in the high school where now we’ve got to find another teacher to replace him.”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – A unanimous vote on Monday, August 24, 2020, saw the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners follow up on statements from last year where they discussed lowering the Bond Millage Rate in the county.
While they did not approve lowering the rate in 2019, many citizens have continued discussing and pushing for the reduction this year. A few have very vocally called for the reduction of the “extra half mill” that was put on the Bond Millage rate raising it from 1 to 1.5 mills. Additionally, the viral outbreak and subsequent shutdowns of counties and states cast a dark shadow on local economies and doubt for the financial future of Gilmer.
The Commissioners halted capital spending and major projects as they watched and waited to see just what kind of impact it would have, even delaying their pool project that has been underway for over a year now. The pool was closed at the beginning of May in 2019.
However, the last two months have shown quite the difference. Despite the cancellation of major events in the county and increasing numbers from the virus, recent reports show an increase in collections from tourism and SPLOST.
Whether this played a role in their decision, the commissioners did not say, but they did approve a drop in the bond millage rate by .25 mills, taking it from 1.5 to 1.25 mills.
The School-Board-approved millage rate of 13.963 was approved to be implemented by the Board of Commissioners. This is the Rollback Rate calculated for Gilmer County Schools as they have advertised over the past month since the July meeting. The Board of Education approved this rate last week during their regular August meeting.
They also moved forward with approval of the county’s M&O (Maintenance and Operations) Millage Rate of 6.783 mills. This is also a Rollback Rate calculated for the Board of Commissioners and advertised for the past month since their July Meeting.