Towns County Board of Education updates schools’ tobacco-free policy

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Towns County Schools

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- Towns County Board of Education revised its 100% Tobacco-Free School policy to include prohibiting vapor, hemp, and cannabis products on campus. All forms of tobacco products, including chewing tobacco and E-cigarettes, along with items depicting or promoting tobacco use, were previously banned from Towns County Schools, and the former measures remain in effect. Students, employees, and visitors are subject to adherring to the “24 hours per day, 7 days per week” anywhere-on-campus policy.

Added to the existing policy is the following clause:

“This prohibition shall include: unlawful use, cultivation,manufacture, distribution, sale, purchase, possession, transportation, or importation of any controlled drug or narcotic substance, being under the influence of any controlled drug, narcotic substance, or any mind-altering substance or intoxicant (legal or illegal) specifically including any product with cannabidiod (CBD), whether hemp or cannabis and regardless of the amount of THC in the product or the extent to which it is legal or illegal under state law,” the revised edition reads.

School district employees who violate the policy are subject to reprimand, suspension with or without pay, or termination. Student violators will be subject to disciplinary action under the school’s code of conduct provisions. Vistors will be reminded of the policy in a “tactful and courteous manner” and will be asked to adhere to the policy.

“This will be on the agenda for approval at the September 3rd meeting,” Secretary to the Superintendent Paula Whitehead said.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Towns County Schools 2019-2020 Calendar

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Towns County Schools calendar

2019 – 2020
Towns County Schools Calendar

Teacher Pre-Planning – August 7 – 14, 2019
Open House – August 13, 2019
First Day of School – August 15, 2019
Labor Day Holiday – September 2, 2019
Progress Reports – September 18, 2019
End of 1st Nine Weeks (42 Days) October 15, 2019
Teacher Work Day – October 17, 2019
Fall Break – October 18, 2019
Progress Reports – October 23, 2019
Progress Reports – November 20, 2019
Thanksgiving Holidays – November 25 – 29, 2019
End of 2nd Nine Weeks (43 Days) – December 20, 2019
End of 1st Sem./Early Release (85 Days) December 20, 2019
Christmas Holidays – Dec. 23 – Jan 2, 2020
Teacher Work Day – January 3, 2020
Students Return – January 6, 2020
MLK Day – January 20, 2020
Progress Reports – February 5, 2020
Teacher Work Day – February 17, 2020
End of 3rd 9 Weeks (46 Days) March 11, 2020
Progress Reports – March 18, 2020
Spring Break – April 6 – 10, 2020
Progress Reports – April 22, 2020
End of 4th Nine Weeks (46 Days) May 22, 2020
End of 2nd Sem./Early Release (92 Days) May 22, 2020
Graduation – May 22, 2020
Memorial Day – May 25, 2020
Teacher Post-Planning – May 26-29, 2020

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Towns County Schools to hold open house for renovation reveal

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Towns County Schools
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Schools is planning a community open house Wednesday, August 7, from 5 to 7 pm, for anyone who would like to tour the upgraded campus. The Towns County Board of Education applied for a $3.3 million modernization grant in 2017, based on an estimate from Robertson Loia Roof, an architectural firm located in Alpharetta, Georgia. Due to the true cost of the renovation amounting to $4.3 million, the school board opted to delay the wiring process, which included LED lighting, until this year when additional Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds became available.

Towns County Schools

New seating in the school’s gymnasium

“Our summer projects have gone smoother and faster than expected,” Towns County Schools Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong told FetchYourNews. “We successfully renovated all our classrooms with new LVT flooring and new paint. All our restrooms were upgraded to be ADA compliant in both the school building and high school gym. We installed a new fire alarm system and have completely replaced all the 40 year old wiring in the building. The high school-middle school library received a complete renovation with a new modern look and coffee shop feel. We replaced all the lighting in the school with LED lights with motion sensors to turn off when there is no movement in the building for energy management. The high school gym received all new paint as well as well as new gym seats. All exterior doors were replaced for security purposes to make it more difficult to enter our buildings. The newly installed turf on the soccer/football field is simply beautiful.  We also renovated the softball field with a new backstop, new windscreen, a new batting cage, and locker room. With the completion of all the projects from this summer and last summer, our school building and sports facilities rival any schools systems in the state of Georgia. I couldn’t be happier with the results or more proud that we are able to provide the students of Towns County and our community with state of the art facilities that they can use and be proud of many years to come.”
Towns County football

Towns County Schools football field received new turf

Dr. Berrong plans to provide a personal tour of the renovated campus to Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, and Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby on the mornng of Aug. 1.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Parents, students say bullying, discrimination accepted at local school

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Towns County Schools
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Shortly before Christmas, 2018, the distraught mother of a Towns County Schools’ 8th grade student took to social media, following her teen daughter’s suicide attempt, to share what she considered a serious, unaddressed issue in the local education system: school bullying. Alli Hurley’s post quickly went viral, gaining over 1,500 shares, and amassing comments from parents and students who let Hurley know that she was far from alone in her concerns.
Following what Hurley considered failed efforts to remedy the situation through the school administrative system, Hurley contacted FetchYourNews (FYN) with a heartfelt plea to share her daughter’s predicament with the public.
“Over the winter break, my 13-year-old daughter tried to commit suicide by taking a bottle of pills,” Alli Hurley said. “By the grace of God, she was unsuccessful in her attempt, but through this experience we learned that much of the reason for her attempt was due to being bullied at school. You see, since moving to Towns County, my daughter has been teased. Whether it be for her clothes, her hair, her socioeconomic class, or her geographical origins, the kids would always find a reason to pick on her. At the beginning of 8th grade, (my daughter) came out as a lesbian, and sadly, it gave them another reason to bully her. This was a devastating time for her, as she had exposed the most vulnerable part of herself, only for her spirit to be utterly crushed by her peers…(My daughter) went to the SRO (school resource officer) and the middle school counselor, Ms. Berrong. Also, during my meeting with (Mr.) Melton, I mentioned several names to him. Then during my meeting with Ms. Berrong,  I mentioned the names to her as well.”
According to StopBullying.gov, young people who are perceived as different from their peers are often at risk for being bullied. Bullying is not usually a simple interaction between a student who bullies and a student who is bullied. Instead, it often involves groups of students who support each other in bullying other students.
Over a series of months, additional parents of students at Towns County Schools contacted FYN with similiar stories of bullying, based on alleged discrimination.
“If a kid is not an athletic superstar, doesn’t come from a well known family, or doesn’t fit into the mold of what they think kids should be, then they don’t understand them. It is the most judgmental school, and for that matter, town, that I have ever been in,” Sharon Roach, the mother of three students who attended Towns County Schools, said. “There is so much diversity in the world that these educators need to learn how to accept and be role models for these kids in a positive way. Right now, they don’t stick up for the kids that don’t fall into what they think is acceptable, and the other students know they can pick on someone for being different, and nothing will happen to them. I think it’s just a matter of time before tragedy strikes that school if they don’t get it together.”
FYN contacted Towns County Schools Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong to provide an opportunity to address the issue.

“All three school counselors were recently certified Mental Health First Aiders,” Superintendent Berrong initially stated. “They have also completed the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). All Towns County staff attended the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) training which was held in the school auditorium this year. Towns County Schools is working with a team of Trainers from the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program which is customized for faculty, staff, adults, student peer leaders, and all other youth. Towns County Middle School also started the Sandy Hook Promise program this year. Counselors use small-group counseling, individual counseling, classroom guidance, mentoring programs, and Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) that encourages teaching positive behavior. Towns County Schools is partnered with AVITA to offer mental health counseling and support on campus. Towns County Schools also incorporated this winter the program called Teen Safety Matters, a comprehensive, evidence-informed prevention education program for middle school students in grades 6-8. The program educates and empowers teens and all relevant adults with information and strategies to prevent, recognize, and respond appropriately to bullying, cyberbullying, all types of abuse, relationship abuse, sex trafficking, and digital dangers. Towns County Schools also met with the PFLAG organization this winter and have their brochures and information readily available for students and parents.”

Bullying

A photo from Alli Hurley’s viral post

PFLAG  is an acronym for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – a support, education, and advocacy organization. Hurley, the mother of suicidal teen, told FYN that PFLAG took interest in her daughter’s plight, and contacted Towns County School administrators. Hurley has since removed her child from Towns County Schools in favor of home schooling.
A recurring theme from interviews and research conducted by FYN was harsh disapproval of a particular staff member: Towns County Schools Assistant  Principle Jim Melton. “We told the Vice Principal, Mr. Jim Melton, what happened and we left the meeting shaking our heads, furious, and completely understanding why (our daughter) felt compelled to keep things to herself,” Hurley wrote on social media  . “His response to a wonderful, sweet student that is making all A’s in advanced placement classes, one that never gets into trouble – a beautiful, gay girl that was simply trying to be proud of who she was — trying to kill herself due to relentless bullying, made comments to us (still in shock!) like, ‘I don’t like the word bullying – it’s such an overused word,’ and ‘You have to understand that this is a small town and gay people are relatively new to them,’ and ‘you know middle school is always tough on kids.'” Hurley went on to say that Melton’s response was inappropiate for an authority figure. FYN reviewed an audio recording of the conversation between Hurley and Melton to verify the paraphrased interaction.
Dozens of parents and students named Melton as problematic in the battle against bullying. On a counter note, several members of the community spoke in support of Melton. In contrast, however, those that advocated for the school administrator were from what one might consider influential, established families. FYN offered Melton an opportunity, through the Towns County Board of Education, to add personal input, and did not receive a direct response from the assistant principle. School Superintendent Berrong told FYN that his office had not received any complaints related to Melton and bullying in Berrong’s four years as an official.
“In (a) letter received from the Hurley’s written in March, they had two requests,” Superintendent Berrong responded in turn. “The first request was for the school to add additional programs and policies to help prevent bullying in our schools. From my previous email showing the programs and curriculums we use and have added since December, I believe we were already taking those steps. The second request was the termination of Mr. Melton. I feel it is important for the readers of this article to know that that Mr. Melton nor anyone else at the school had been given any names of students to investigate for this bullying. The parents validate this in their original Facebook post when they stated that their daughter would not give any specific names to the school as to who was bullying her. The school can’t consider terminating someone for a violation of ethics or breaking a law when they had zero prior knowledge to a situation until after the fact. What the school would like parents to know is that if their child feels they are being bullied or mistreated in any form, please let a teacher, counselor, or administrator know and something will be done. We can not help combat bullying if we are not informed.”
Hurley’s social media post, with hundreds of community comments, is available by clicking this link.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Reports of bullying and threats continue at Towns County Schools

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Towns County GA Schools

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Several instances of bullying and shooting threats have publicly surfaced at Towns County Schools in recent months, with numerous parents contacting FetchYourNews (FYN) to report on the matter. In December, 2018, a seventh grade student attempted suicide by overdosing on medication after alleged bullying by a classmate. The mother of the alleged victim stated that she did not feel the issue was properly addressed by school officials.

In early March of this year, a social media “prank”  warning that a weapon may be brought on campus was issued by a high school student, much to the dismay of concerned parents who were additionally troubled that they had not been notified by school administrators in an appropiate nor timely fashion.

On April 15, at a scheduled Board of Education meeting, the parent of a fifth grade student addressed school officials in reference to a recent shooting threat directed toward her daughter by a fellow student. Erin Cross, the mother of the alleged victim, stated publicly at the board session that school officials failed to rectify the situation accordingly. A male student in question penned a menacing note, claiming, “If I could shoot someone, it would be (female student’s name).”

Cross recapped previous interactions concerning the matter with Towns County School Superintendent Darren Berrong, campus administrators, and school resource officers. The mother of the fifth grader believes that the student who issued the threat should be permanately removed from Towns County Schools, thus better suited for an alternative schooling system. Cross noted that prior instances of bullying had been instigated by the student in the past, and relayed a conversation held with school staff.

“In this meeting, they informed me (that the student in question) wouldn’t return to school until the following Wednesday, March 30.” Cross said. “I did state that (Deputy) Donnie (Jarrard) told me that he nor (Deputy) Sally (Tanner) could search students without reason or cause, but that the school could, and I was advised he would be searched daily upon his return, as well as he would be removed from (alleged victim’s) class, but there was not an alternative school to send him to. I asked about in-school suspension (ISS), and I was told that wouldn’t be feasible. I questioned the high school student, and the incident that happened the week prior, and (that student) wasn’t allowed on campus. I was told again there was no alternative school…”

On April 22, FYN contacted School Superintendent Darren Berrong, offering an opportunity to issue a statement. “An elementary school (ES) student wrote a note to another student stating, ‘If I could shoot someone, I would shoot _______’,” Dr. Berrong told FYN. “The name in the blank was the daughter of the mother present at the board meeting. The note eventually made its way to the administration at the ES. The school gave appropriate consequences, as well as ensured the two students no longer had any common classes together. The information was turned over to the School Resource Officers (SRO) which was then turned over to the Juvenile Justice System. Since Towns County Schools, nor any districts near us, have an alternative school for ES students, the Board and ES administration are in discussions for a possible future need for extended disciplinary measures in case that need ever arises.”

The student who perpetrated the threat was temporaily suspended from campus, and due to answer in court as a result of charges brought forth by the Department of Juvenile Justice. Cross, however, maintains that the student should not be permitted to continue attending Towns County Schools. “I feel as if I have went through every chain of command to see that this situation is handled appropriately, to keep not only my child safe, but others as well. I don’t feel it is sufficient enough that (the student in question) can’t be assigned in a controlled enviroment to receive his education while he is getting the help that he needs through the courts…,” Cross concluded.

A 2016 study conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics revealed that over 20 percent of students reported being bullied at school in the United States. A total of 33 percent of students who reported incidents indicated that they were targeted at least once or twice a month throughout the school year.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Towns County Schools are CLOSED January 29, 2019

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Towns County Schools will be closed Tuesday, January 29 in anticipation of snow accumulation and black ice in the early morning hours.  Students will receive assignments in their google classroom and will be given credit for an online learning day upon completion of those assignments. 

Highway Safety Grant awarded to Towns County High School

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SADD Towns County

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County High School was awarded a grant by the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) in the amount of $6,181 for the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Club. Towns County Schools received the GOHS grant for the fourth consecutive year.  In 2016, Towns County was awarded a grant in excess of $20,000 to purchase a vehicle for the school’s Driver’s Education Program.

“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers,” Towns County Schools Federal Programs Director Roy Perren explained, “This grant will help provide students with the education and decision making skills needed to avoid tragedy. Along with our Driver’s Education Program, this grant will help prepare young drivers in Towns county to be safer when they get behind the wheel.”

The current grant runs through June 30, 2019, and will be applied toward bringing a guest speaker to advise local high school students on making wise decisions, especially while driving a vehicle, to send students to the National SADD Conference, and for supplies for the SADD Club.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Barney’s Tap & Grill to benefit Towns County Schools PTSO

Announcements, Community

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Barney’s Tap & Grill has offered to donate 10% of menu sales to the Towns County Parent-Teacher-Student Organization (PTSO) on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Enjoy a delicious meal for a great cause.

Beer Hiawassee

Barney’s Tap & Grill

Barney’s Tap & Grill is located at 147 South Main St. in Hiawassee.

 

 

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Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

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