Sheriff Clinton and Superintendent Berrong discuss school security


HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County officials gathered nine days after the Parkland, Florida, massacre to discuss school safety concerns with the community. Sundance Grill was filled to near-capacity during Friday’s Movers and Shakers morning meeting as residents congregated to hear School Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong and Sheriff Clinton share their thoughts in the aftermath of the tragedy. Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, and Hiawassee Council Amy Barrett and Kris Berrong attended the weekly forum.



Robin H. Webb

Towns County Schools Make-Up Schedule

Towns County Schools
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Schools has listed the following make-up dates to the 2018 schedule. They will replace days missed due to inclement weather earlier in the school year.
  • Friday, Feb. 16;
  • Monday, Feb. 19; and
  • Friday, March 16.



Robin H. Webb

Towns County speech training program encourages student participation

Andrew Smith UGA

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The Towns County Speech Development and Showcase will begin a new year’s program on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, at 6:30 p.m. at the new Senior Center in Hiawassee. Sponsored in partnership with the Towns County Movers & Shakers and the University of Georgia (UGA) 4-H Extension, the training is geared to provide local students with an opportunity to improve their public speaking abilities, increase communication skills within group settings, and offer a chance for students to share their voices throughout the community.

“The Movers & Shakers speech contest provided me with the tools I need to be more confident and efficient in public speaking,” past participant C.J. Owens said. “The training I received has helped open doors for me in my education, as well as in the business realm.”

The goals of the program are designed to build student confidence levels in order to aid their interactions in classroom discussions, enhance the English, Language, Arts (ELA) Standards of Excellence, prepare for success in the workforce, and empower by helping the students to use their voices, rather than their actions, to solve problems.

“The Mountain Movers & Shakers speech competition has helped me more than I ever thought it could. Learning to speak in public has opened so many doors for me and has certainly helped to boost my confidence in social atmospheres,”  Emma Kate Ledford expressed.

The benefits of the speech training include necessary development for student body leadership positions, the ability for youth to create a “name” for themselves within the community, increased confidence levels in work or school interviews, and an opportunity to add program participation to college applications and employment resumes.

The training sessions will be held each Thursday from Jan. 25 until Feb. 22, 2018. The showcase will take place on March 1. All events are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the new Senior Center, 954 North Main Street in Hiawassee. Participation in the showcase itself is not mandatory but encouraged.

For more information, contact Andrew Smith at 706-400-8754.


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Robin H. Webb

Lady Indians score big win over 4A SE Whitfield


HIWASSEE, GA – It’s not the size of the town in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the town.  Or is it Towns?  Stay with me – you smell what I’m cooking, here.

When a Quad-A school travels to face a 1A opponent, most “experts” put their money on the big dog in the fight.  As far as the Lady Indians were concerned, all bets were off Monday night.  You could take your odds and toss them in the wood-burning stove.

The Towns County Lady Indians (1A-Region 8) hosted Southeast Whitfield (4A-Region 6) this past Monday (Dec 19) in what would prove to be one of the best performances by the ladies of Towns County so far this season.

When asked about the performance, TCHS head coach Brian Hunnicutt credited the effort of his defense.  He shared that although he didn’t have the stat book in front of him, his defensive stats and scoring leaders numbers were unforgettable.

The Lady Indians used defensive pressure to force 44 turnovers from SE Whitfield, an amazing display of hustle and determination, as well as noteworthy composure avoiding penalties in the process.

Towns County’s defensive pressure paid off as they defeated Southeast Whitfield by a final score of 61-43.
Equally as impressive as the performance of the defense was the ability of the offense to move the ball around.  Four different Lady Indians reached double-digits offensively.

Freshmen Kennedi Henson topped the scorebook with 17 points, while senior Madison McClure followed with 14 points. Sophia Shook had 12 points in the game and Taylor Cornett scored 10 pts.

The win moves Towns’ record to 3-6 on the year, and they are 2-0 in region play. The Lady Indians enjoy a brief break for the Christmas holiday before returning to action on their home court Wednesday, Dec 27, in the Towns County Holiday Tournament.  Their opponent is yet to be announced.


TCBOE: TCES earns High Progress Reward for Title 1 schools; TCMS on list of schools that Beat the Odds five years running; Safer, Smarter Kids curriculum is approved for ES

Education, News
Towns Co. BOE Jerry Taylor, Robert Williams, Superintendent Dr. Darren Barrong, Stan Chastain, Laura Banister, Dr. Kilee Smith

Towns Co. BOE Jerry Taylor, Robert Williams, Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong, Stan Chastain, Laura Banister, Dr. Kilee Smith

ES Prin Dr. Sandy Page, HS Prin Dr. Connie Hobbs, MS Prin Erica Chastain

ES Prin Dr. Sandy Page, HS Prin Dr. Connie Hobbs, MS Prin Erica Chastain






The Towns County Board of Education convened on Monday, March 13, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. at the Middle School Auditorium in Hiawassee. School Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong, Board Chair Robert Williams and Board Members Jerry Taylor, Stan Chastain, Laura Banister and Dr. Kilee Smith were present. Also present were Elementary School Principal Dr. Sandy Page, Middle School Principal Erica Chastain and High School Principal Dr. Connie Hobbs to update Dr. Berrong and the Board on their respective school happenings.
Dr. Page announced in her report on the Towns County Elementary School that TCES has placed in the top 10 per cent of all Georgia Title I schools, earning them the High Progress Award. She said this was based on three years of data. Dr. Berrong reiterated to the Board that this is a very difficult achievement and that Dr. Page has good reason to be proud of TCES.
Chastain announced in her report on Towns County Middle School that TCMS not only made the list for schools that Beat the Odds this year, but another list of schools that have Beat the Odds for the last five consecutive years. That means that TCMS has surpassed the statistical prediction range established by the Georgia Department of Education (GDOE); that is TCMS students have higher College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores than what GDOE predicted based on school size, grade clusters, economic disadvantages and student demographics. She said TCMS scored 61 out of approximately 2,200 schools in Georgia. Dr. Berrong said that being in the 95 percentile shows that TCMS is not just barely Beating the Odds, but doing it in a really big way; and that is something to be very proud of.
Dr. Berrong recommended approval of the “Safer, Smarter Kids” Program for the Elementary School because, he said, this program, like the “Good Touch, Bad Touch” Program, teaches what appropriate boundaries are, but goes further to address bullying and other inappropriate behavior. He described it as a character building platform. The Board agreed and approved the Program unanimously. Information on this Program can be accessed here: and here:
Dr. Hobbs, in her report on TCHS, said that students participating in the Young Harris College (YHC) Campus at TCHS have finished their Public Speaking course and are now underway for receiving credit for college algebra. She said a spokesperson from YHC approached her about the possibility of starting a program with TCHS students called Upward Bound Math & Science. She said YHC is applying for a grant (possibly by next fall) that will allow them to follow students through high school whose parents did not attend college and that are interested in math and science. The program would allow YHC to follow the students through high school providing activities, scholarships, mentoring and tutoring in hopes that they would continue through college majoring in math and science (not necessarily at YHC). Dr. Hobbs said she also met with Eric Miller last week from North Georgia Technical College (NGTC) to discuss the possibility of them having a campus at TCHS next year. Dr. Berrong remarked that courses completed at NGTC were just as transferable as courses taken through YHC; that NGTC isn’t just a technical school. Dr. Hobbs said there is the possibility that TCHS students might be able to take college algebra through NGTC as well next year.
Dr. Hobbs reported, in further news on TCHS, that Russel Cox would be attending Point University on a football scholarship and Jackson Taylor would be attending Cleveland State Community College on a baseball scholarship. Dr. Hobbs said the 2017 Senior Class was preparing for their graduation and scrambling for scholarships. She said TCHS Counselor Lana Parker had worked diligently to obtain several new scholarships from the local community. Dr. Hobbs said students were looking forward to Spring Break and the Prom. Spring sports (tennis, golf and baseball), she said, are well underway. She said 30 students traveled to the state leadership conference in Atlanta and “brought back twelve top 15 placers in the state”. Dr. Hobbs said, as she spoke, Ms. McConnell and Ms. Taylor were in Athens, GA at the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) awards conference and expected several texts from them on the results. TCHS, she said, is currently holding Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) study sessions every Thursday and teachers are providing remediation and enrichment for students for the upcoming EOC testing in May. Progress reports, she said, go out on Tuesday, March 14. Dr. Hobbs said TCHS enrollment was 333.
Dr. Page announced in other TCMS news that enrollment stood at 429. She said Julie Wilson was named by her peers as recipient of the VFW Teacher Award and that the 2017 TCES Teacher of the Year nominations are ongoing. She said Read Across America Week from the National Association of Educators was recognized with Family Literacy Night, which she said was a great success. Saturday, March 25, she said, 20 TCES students will travel to North Oconee County for the second Science Olympiad where the students will compete with city schools. She said TCES is preparing for Georgia Milestones end of grade assessments; that this year will only include reading and math. Practice tests will be on March 28. Finally, Dr. Page said TCES will be sending three teams to state basketball tournaments: boys aged ten and under, girls aged ten and under and boys aged 8 and under.
Chastain announced in further news about TCMS that enrollment was at 228. She said the second progress report for the second semester will be going out Wednesday, March 15. TCMS Teacher of the Year nominations for 2017 are being considered and, she said, TCMS was preparing for the Georgia Milestones end of grade assessment and that a practice test is scheduled for March 30. She said the TCMS student council was sent over to TCES to read for the elementary school students during Reading Across America week. She said the Middle School Chorus is going to take a trip to the Alliance Theater in Atlanta on Wednesday, March 15 to see “Cinderella and Fella”. She said the TCMS soccer and baseball teams were about half way through the year and doing well. Finally, Chastain recognized Brooke Merdel for winning the Daughters of the American Revolution speech contest, collecting $200 and qualifying for the state competition. Chastain also recognized Vanessa Floyd and Abbey Maulden for placing first in district competition for 4-H in a speech contest in their respective areas of choice.
Both Dr. Page and Chastain praised Andrew Smith for his help with enabling less fortunate kids to attend 4-H summer camp by raising money for them. Dr. Page said because of his efforts, 37 students will be going to the camp at Rock Eagle this year as opposed to only two last year.
Dr. Page, Chastain and Dr. Hobbs stood at the podium as a group and thanked the Board for their selflessness and all that they do since it is School Board Appreciation week this week. Dr. Berrong then distributed plaques to each of the five TCSD Board Members for their service to the community.
Dr. Berrong appointed Dr. Smith as the delegate to the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) Regional meeting.
The board approved the January 2017 Financial Report.
The Board approved:
1) The retirement of Nola Jean Nichols
2) The resignation Clark Helton and reassign to Substitute Bus Driver
3) The resignation of Trish Rogers and reassign to Substitute Teacher
4) The retirement of Judy Rogers
5) The hiring of Chelsey Noblett Byers, Rollie Thomas and Misty Jones as Elementary School Teachers
6) The hiring of Robert Oliver, Cynthia McEntire-Wade, Ryan Plourde and Andrew Smith as School Bus Drivers

With no further business to conduct (and heavy weather bearing down), the Board Adjourned.

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