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Walker graduation rates above state average

Walker County high schools graduation rates are well above the state graduation rate, according to a report released Thursday, Sept. 20, by the Georgia Department of Education.

The Walker County School System also continues to see a positive increase in the graduation rates at both LaFayette and Ridgeland High Schools.

"The innovative efforts and tireless dedication of every employee has created the momentum driving this positive trend as we work toward the goal of a 100% graduation rate," said Schools Superintendent Damon Raines.

2018 4-Year Cohort Graduation Rate(s)

State graduation rate - 81.60%

Walker County schools graduation rate - 87.99%

LaFayette High School - 84.53%

Ridgeland High School - 90.80%

Total 2018 Walker County schools graduates - 522


Substitute accused of obscene messages

Amanda Pardue

On Thursday, Sept. 20, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) arrested Dade County substitute teacher Amanda Lenea Pardue, 35, of Trenton, on charges of electronically furnishing obscene material to minors and computer or electronic pornography and child exploitation (felony).

On Friday, Aug. 31, the GBI was requested by Trenton Police Chief Christy Smith to conduct a child molestation investigation concerning Pardue sending inappropriate messages and pictures of herself to several 14-year-old male juveniles.

After numerous investigative acts and consulting with the Lookout Mountain District Attorney's Office, the GBI obtained arrest warrants for Pardue.

Pardue turned herself in to the Dade County jail without incident.

This investigation remains active and ongoing. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the GBI at 706/624-1424.


Farm to school
Walker County Ag Festival spotlights work of area youth

The second annual Walker County Ag Festival is Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Walker County Ag Center on U.S. Highway 27 (just behind the Walker County Civic Center), just north of Rock Spring.

The festival is an opportunity for county residents to "showcase our agricultural history, agricultural product, local school and community organization and local talent."

Exhibits will be on display from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Residents bring, display, show off, and brag on their produce, animals, and handiworks. Some exhibitors will present their needlework and quilting and even posters and photography, while other will display their canning and baking.

County youth enjoy bringing their sheep, goats, rabbits and poultry and vying for ribbons and bragging rights.

According to Becky Forrester, agriculture education teacher and Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor at Gordon Lee High School and member of the festival committee, the fair started last year as "a chance to have a one-day event that showcases the county's students."

She said the organizers decided to focus on "true agricultural events" because visitors to the fairs held at Mountain Cove Farms "kept inquiring about the animal displays."

Agriculture is "the No. 1 industry in Walker County and in the state of Georgia," explained Michael Gardner, agriculture teacher at LaFayette High School, last year.

Ag classes, projects, and the FFA are always very popular in county schools, so the ag fair was a logical extension of those.

The teachers agree that raising livestock helps youngsters build confidence, learn responsibility and gives every child an opportunity to participate in an activity that aims to serve individuals and groups.

The festival lets them proudly show off the result of their hard work and dedication.

Area residents are invited and encouraged to come and support Walker County youth as they compete in the annual junior goat and lamb show, junior rabbit show, and junior and open chicken show. There will also be competition in the poster and photo contest, as well as the fruits and vegetables, baked goods, and flowers contests. Fairgoers can also speak with master gardeners, beekeepers, quilting experts and the one and only Georgia Grown Executive chef.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Friday, Sept. 28

5 – 8 p.m. – Setup for vendors and exhibitors, needlework, quilting, canning, baking, fruits, vegetables, flowers, photography, art, rabbits and youth posters must be checked in

Saturday, Sept. 29

7 – 8 a.m. – Setup for vendors, sheep, goats and poultry check in

8 – 9 a.m. – Exhibit judging, exhibits closed to public during judging

9a.m. – 5 p.m. – "Ask a Master Gardener" booth/display

9a.m. – 5 p.m. – Northwest Georgia Beekeepers Association booth/display

9 a.m. – 5 p.m. – Entertainment all day

9 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Inflatables to enjoy

10 a.m. – Rabbit show, rabbits on display until 5 pm

11a.m. and 1 p.m. – Georgia Grown cooking class with Georgia Grown Chef

9 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Quilting demo, quilts on display all day

Noon – Open poultry show

2 p.m. – 4-H poultry show/auction to follow

9 a.m. and 12 noon – Beekeeping class

3 p.m. – Goat show

4 p.m. – Wildflower arranging demo

5 p.m. – 6 p.m. – Participants pick up entries


Battlefield Outdoors wins Walker Rocks

Walker Rocks will soon be hitting the road. David Bridges, owner of Battlefield Outdoors, won a $5,000 grant at the first Walker Rocks Start-up Challenge pitch competition held Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Walker County Civic Center.

Bridges competed against two other finalists, Back Archer Farms and Tess de'Carlo, selected from a pool of applicants. Each presented their ideas to a panel of judges and fielded questions from the judges.

Bridges pitched the idea of adding a passenger van to his business to transport outdoor enthusiasts to hiking, biking and kayaking destinations in Walker County and other parts of the southeast. The van will be wrapped with the Walker Rocks logo, along with artwork featuring Walker County-based attractions.

"It's a way for people to find out about us and to get interest in an area that we know is so great," said Bridges. "There are so many things that would lend to people wanting to come here."

The Walker Rocks Startup Challenge pitch competition was designed to help a recreational, travel or hospitality business get started or expand in Walker County, building on the momentum created by the launch of Walker Rocks this summer.

Walker Rocks highlights the scenic and stunning destinations available in Walker County for rock climbing, caving, kayaking, hiking, biking and other outdoor adventures. The new tourism initiative embraces the county's environmental assets and invites outdoor enthusiasts to come play.

In addition to promoting tourism in Walker County, Bridges said the shuttle, which will be able to carry up to 15 people, will make it feasible for Battlefield Outdoors to take people to Pigeon Mountain, McLemore Cove and other locations for excursions.

The $5,000 start-up grant is funded by a partnership between the Walker County Chamber of Commerce and Peach State Federal Credit Union. Grant funds will be distributed in the form of a reimbursement for documented expenses.


Kemp plan would boost schools' security, counselors

Brian Kemp

Stacey Abrams

State GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp unveiled on Wednesday, Sept. 19, a $90 million proposal for school security focused on mental health and local control.

His plan would add school counselors in all 343 state public high schools, provide one-time funding for schools to spend as they see fit and create a school safety division within the Georgia Department of Education. He said his plan would ensure that Georgia classrooms are ripe for learning, not violence.

His plan did not mention guns in the schools. "This is a school safety proposal. This has nothing to do with Second Amendment protections or gun control ideas that my opponent might have," Kemp said. "commonsense gun safety measures, including repealing campus carry, are essential to ensuring our schools are safe."

In response, Abrams' spokeswoman Priyanka Mantha said that

Kemp's plan would put a support counselor in every school, who would be tasked with assisting and guiding students battling mental health issues, opioid abuse, violence in the home, bullying and suicide. In addition, they would work to improve graduation rates by connecting students, families with available academic resources and services.

His plan would provide for a onetime $30,000 allotment for each of Georgia's 2,292 public schools that local officials can use for "school security purposes" specific to their schools. Kemp said the program would cost taxpayers nothing, indicating he would be able to find the money in the state budget.

Kemp also wants to create a new school safety division within the Georgia Department of Education using existing funds from the department.