Request for 8th Graders to march with band denied

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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.

Policy IDE (3) states,

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).

Employee from February incident out on bond

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Mary Elaine Newberry, bond

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – February saw a threat and incident at the Gilmer Schools’ Transportation Depot as a single woman allegedly walked into the facility with a firearm. Now, nearly 150 days later, Mary Newberry has left the detention center on bond.

Allegedly the woman behind the incident, she faces felony charges of Aggravated Assault and Carrying a Weapon in School Safety Zone among others, according to information on the Sheriff’s website for the Detention Center. She also face misdemeanor charges of Simple Battery, Pointing or Aiming a gun at another, and Loitering at or Disrupting Schools.

CCMS Clear Creek Middle, bond

Clear Creek Middle School in Gilmer County 

Posting the bond late last week after it was set by Superior Court Judge John Worcester, she has been placed under 15 conditions according to documents filed with the Clerk of Superior Court.

Those conditions include the bond payment, house arrest, “no contact” orders with a 500-foot distance for witnesses and alleged victims, “no contact” orders including a 500-foot distance from properties of the Gilmer County Charter School System, restrictions on employment with any school system, ankle monitoring, restrictions from firearms, voluntary searches, and other restrictions against committing crimes in general.

In addition, the documents do reference a reasoning as for the bond coming now. The documents stated that both parties “have reached a consent agreement (due to the alleged present physical health conditions of the defendant at the request of the Gilmer County Jail) to the amount of bond and the conditions of bond for the Defendant…”

The alleged incident occurred on the afternoon of February 27, 2020, around 1:30 p.m. and caused the nearby Clear Creek Middle School to go into a “precautionary lock-down.”

As Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs reported at the time, there were no injuries from the incident.

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