Lumpkin County Schools lands top 10 finalist for inaugural Governance Team of the Year Award

Community, Education

LUMPKIN, GA

The Lumpkin County School System has been named one of the top ten finalists for the inaugural Governance Team of the Year Award, presented by the Georgia School Boards Association.

Lumpkin County Schools named top 10 for GSBA Governance Team of the Year

Lumpkin County Superintendent Dr. Rob Brown, told Fetch that, “We are proud for the Lumpkin County School System to be selected as a Finalist for this award. To be recognized in the Top 10 out of 180 school systems for any award is an honor. While always keeping the best interests and needs of our students in mind, our school board and our leadership team are always working to support our incredibly talented group of educators in Lumpkin County. This recognition is a small reflection of the many great things happening in Lumpkin County Schools.”

Lumpkin County Board of Education member, Mera Turner, also expressed her excitement over receiving the honor, “Proud that we were 1 of the 10 systems in Georgia selected for this award.  I want to thanks all the Governance teams for their hard work and dedication to the students of Lumpkin County Schools.”

GSBA President and Rockdale County Board of Education member explains that, “This group of ten school districts from all over Georgia exemplify what it means to achieve at the highest levels. We are very pleased with this inaugural class for the Governance Team of the Year.”

According to the GSBA website, the award will be presented on December 6, 2018, during the banquet at the 2018 GSBA/GSSA Annual Conference in Atlanta, “To one Georgia public school district’s board of education and superintendent who have achieved all-around success in their district.”

 

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Greg Murray named Lumpkin County System Teacher of the Year

Business

Dahlonega, GA

Lumpkin County Middle School teacher, Greg Murray, was named System Teacher of the Year during the Board of Education meeting on Monday, October 8.

Murray teaches 8th grade Social Studies at LCMS and is the current department chair. According to LCMS principle, Matt Remillard, “When you look to see what a model teacher would be like, it’s an example of Mr. Murray.” Remillard went on to explain that Murray excels at creating lessons that “actively engage students,” and he is constantly researching new and creative ways to keep students engaged in learning, “In my opinion, if the kids are engaged, they’re learning.”

Greg Murray named Lumpkin County System Teacher of the Year

After being named LCMS Teacher of the Year, Lumpkin County School System’s Selection Committee selected Murray as the System Teacher of the Year for 2020. The teachers who were selected for individual Teachers of the Year include: Cynthia Williamson for LCHS, Paige Gooch for LBES, Greg Murray for LCMS, Amanda Barton for LCES, and April Bowen for BES.

Congratulations, Mr. Murray.

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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.

Author

Lumpkin County Sheriff Office investigating alleged high school threat

Community, News

LUMPKIN CO., GA

Lumpkin County Sheriff, Stacy Jarrard, confirms that LCSO has opened an extensive investigation into the alleged threats by a Lumpkin County High School student on Thursday, September 20. The threats involved the student threatening a possible school shooting.

According to Lumpkin County Schools, once the they learned of the alleged threat, they conducted an investigation into the situation. They posted on the LCSS Facebook page Thursday evening that they did not find any evidence of a threat. “Today a Lumpkin County High School student alleged that another LCHS student made a threat to harm the school. Law enforcement and school administrators took swift action to isolate the student in question and to conduct a thorough investigation. Conclusion: There is no evidence that a threat was ever made. Rumors perpetuated on social media have caused concern in our community, so we wanted to share the facts. Student safety is and will continue to be our first priority!”

Jarrard explained that once the LCSO received information regarding the alleged incident, after receiving numerous phone calls from concerned parents and Lumpkin County residents, they reached out to the school system Thursday evening and began their own investigation into the matter on Friday, September 21, to further ensure the safety of LCHS students. Jarrard also explained that they have confiscated all electronic devices from the student in question, and the investigation is being thoroughly examined.  

Fetch Your News also reached out to LCSS staff for  information, but they declined to comment at this time.

This investigation is currently ongoing; please check back for updates.

 

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Lumpkin County BOE highlights student success plan and faculty of the month at Monday’s meeting

Community, Education

Dahlonega, GA

Lumpkin County teachers and employees of the month for September 2018 were recognized during the Board of Education meeting that was held on Monday, September 10.

September 2018 Teachers of the Month from left to right: Erin Endicott, Beth Holland, Nichole Stancil, Shalece Mull, and Susan Corvacchioli.

The teachers of the month include: Susan Corvacchioli (BES), Nichole Stancil (LCES), Shalece Mull (LBES), Beth Holland (LCMS), and Erin Endicott (LCHS). They were presented with a wooden plaque, made by Lumpkin County High School students

Employees of the month include: Freddy Lingerfelt (LCES), Bea Flatt (LBES), Delton Davis (BES), Tammy Martin (LCES), Brenda Orkins (BES), Sherry Scott (LBES), La

September 2018 Employees of the Month

rissa Birk (LCES), Michelle Scott (LMCS), and Kim Gooch (LCHS).

Long Branch and Lumpkin County Elementary Schools were also highlighted during Monday’s meeting, for student success. LCES Principle, Stacie Gerrells, presented new activities and incentives target towards student success, specifically in reading, that are new to Lumpkin Elementary this year. Some of the programs mentioned is Caring Paws, where select students are allowed to read with a therapy dog from Trained Paws Therapy Dogs, and also “Starbooks”, which is a spinoff from Starbucks. Starbooks is a reading incentive where students can earn ‘Starbooks Cash’ that can be spent on hot cocoa and other rewards.

Long Branch Elementary School Principles, Jan Mullinax and Nathan Gerrells, explained they also offer a reading-with-the-dogs program, but their students are most excited over their newest positive-behavior inspiration, a “House Point System.” This gives students an opportunity to earn house points for good behavior. The ‘House’ with the most points at the end of the month will celebrate with a small party, and the house with he most points at the end of the year will be rewarded with a larger celebration. There are four houses that represent different character traits and they are identified by a color and animal that is specific to that trait.

The houses are: Animo, House of Courage, (green), Reverenta, House of Respect, (red), Concordia, House of Harmony (blue), and Unum, House of Unity (yellow). You can learn more about the House System here.

LBES Assistant Principle, Nathan Gerrells, and teacher, Angela Denny, represent the Animo House

 

 

 

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Lumpkin County BOE approves application for new JROTC/Science facility funds

Community, Education

LUMPKIN, GA

The Lumpkin County Board of Education approved the Capital Outlay Project Application submitted to the board during the Regular Session on Monday, September 10.

According to the Lumpkin County  School System website, Superintendent, Dr. Robert Brown, submitted a recommendation, which states, “making [an] application for funds to construct a JROTC/Science facility with the Georgia Department of Education for State Capital Outlay funds as earned for Lumpkin County in the amount of $595,183”

The board also decided to make the Science wing of the new facility two-stories instead of one, with two new Science classrooms. The board also found a way to save building costs by designing access to the second level either via the stairs or elevator that was included in the previous blueprints, instead of installing a second elevator.

More details from the Capital Outlay Project Application can be found here.

 

Lumpkin County Board of Education holds called meeting

Business, News

LUMPKIN COUNTY, Ga.– The Lumpkin County Board of Education held a called meeting on Friday August 24. According to Superintendent Dr. Rob Brown, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the press release that was posted earlier this week on the Lumpkin County School System Facebook page. He also stated during opening comments that, “We’re here tonight to ensure our community understands that our elected school board members do desire their feedback and are available to them.”

Brown opened the floor to anyone who had concerns regarding school system finances. Dahlonega resident, Seth Alhadeff, addressed his concerns with the board, “The first talking point I’d like to mention is the elephant in the room; the senior tax exemption.” Alhadeff suggested that the board should allow the community to share their opinions on the tax exemption, in order to find a solution, “If you guys [LCBOE] would team up with the county and possibly host a public opinion focus group, to get everyone’s opinion on the senior tax exemption…maybe opinions have changed in the past 10 years.”

He also stated the he felt like the focus of the board has primarily been on extra-curricular activities, rather than academics, “It seems like over the past couple of years, since Dr. Brown has been the Superintendent, there’s been a focus and emphasis, and a considerable amount of funding towards extra curricular activities; specifically the brand new tennis courts, wrestling, and weight room, and of course now the ROTC center.”

Alhadeff added that he was a fan of sports and understood their significance, but was still concerned, “I know the gifted program has shifted, and I understand the changes that were made…with two young children in the school, I feel like it’s a disservice that the gifted program has now changed, for whatever reason.” Brown asserted that, “The senior tax exemption is a challenging proposition for everyone who pays taxes in Lumpkin County…that is not, in my opinion, for the school system to host a forum and to fight that battle. It’s the community. We have zero control over that”

The other points presented to the board included the elementary school that no longer has a teacher to lead the Science Club since the former teacher moved to Lumpkin County Middle School, and also the possible discontinuation of the Odyssey of the Mind program

Brown addressed Alhadeff‘s concern relative to an increased focus on extracurricular activities by stating, “I’ll make no apologies, because that is what was addressed in our SPLOST.” Brown also mentioned that the previous ESPLOST included academic improvements such as, technology, technological devices, and increased internet speeds.

In regards to JROTC/Science building, Brown explained that the project has not been approved as of yet, “We are in the planning stages. The Nugget inappropriately posted that it had been an approved project. We are still in the very preliminary stages of that facility, and we discussed last week what it was going to look like.” He further explained that the project will create new science classrooms and laboratories for the students to use. The space used for JROTC, Brown stated, would be determined based on what the state says they need, and also by what the program needs.

Concern over the absence of the board during their most recent public hearing in regards to the millage rate vote was not discussed.

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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