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Northwest Georgia Regional Commission hears from regional census specialist

Mandy Maloney, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau’s Atlanta Regional Census Center, listed off Thursday some of the various things the census being conducted this year will impact: government representation, district determinations, state and federal funding, grant considerations, money for schools and roads.

“There are a billion ways those numbers are used. But you guys know how important it is,” Maloney said while speaking to the monthly meeting of the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission in Calhoun.

She emphasized the importance of not only participating in the census, a resident count that only happens every 10 years, but of encouraging everyone else to make sure they get counted as well, regardless of status. She noted that in Floyd County, where she lives, about 74 percent of residents filled out and mailed the census form last time around. But that meant about 26 percent of the residents there had to be visited by workers, she said, and it’s hard to know if you accurately counted everyone.

What isn’t hard to know is the importance of participating in the census.

“Because they equal money and power. That’s really what the census is about,” Maloney said. “Just know that every single person equals dollars left of the table when they’re not counted.”

She noted that because the commission is largely comprised of elected officials from regional cities and counties, the census should be of particular importance to them.

“If you can’t plan for the people in your county, you can’t provide for them,” Maloney said. “It’s that important and we only get the chance every 10 years.”

Maloney also noted that the 2020 census is the shortest questionnaire ever from the bureau and that it can be completed online.

She also noted that the census bureau is hiring. Jobs are obviously temporary but can be performed part time, and pay starts at $14 per hour. She said there are multiple job options and not everyone will be knocking on doors.

In other action, the commission elected new officers: Ted Rumley, who had been serving the unfinished term of the previous chair, was elected to the position for a full term; Jennifer Hulsey was picked as vice chair; Shannon Whitfield was named secretary; and Robert Jones was chosen for treasurer.

Board approves 2020-2021 school calendar, moves forward with SHS Baseball field

The Gordon County Schools Board of Education approved a new calendar for the 2020-2021 academic year and decided to move forward with work on two potential Education Local Option Sales Tax (ELOST) projects, including the development of a Sonoraville High School baseball field and repaving at the district transportation complex.

The two projects would be paid for with remaining funds in the existing ELOST budget, which, according to Superintendent Kimberly Fraker, are estimated to be approximately $2 million after all collections are made. She said that number was on the “low end” and the total could be significantly higher.

From those funds, Fraker said an estimated $150,000-$250,000 would go toward paving areas that need work at the transportation complex. A more complete overhaul and repaving would cost closer to $2 million and was decided against by the board.

The cost estimate for creating a new baseball field for high school player use at Sonoraville High School ranges from $450,000-$500,000 up to $600,000. This would not include things any new restroom facilities or similar add-ons and would require renovating the existing school field, which is currently used by the Red Bud Middle School team, rather than constructing an entirely new one.

“To do that, to take the middle school field that we currently have there and change it into a high school field, which would mean we could still use some of the existing structure there, to do it and do it in the right way and add lighting, we’re looking at $450,000-$500,000,” said Fraker. “It could be up to $600,000 depending on the price of materials and how much dirt has to be brought in.”

An engineer will be brought in to talk with the board about their options for renovating the existing field at a future meeting and will also take notes on what the board would like to see developed there. Then the project will go through the Request For Proposal (RFP) process.

Also discussed related to ELOST was when a request for continuation for that tax will be brought before voters. At previous meetings, the board had discussed November 2020 as an option but decided to move forward with the continuation set for May 2021.

“Sometimes people get caught up in the presidential election and lose focus,” said board member Bobby Hall. “We still have projects that we need to do, even when that big election is happening.”

The 2020-2021 academic calendar was also approved on Monday evening.

The first day of school is set for Wednesday, Aug. 12, and the last day of the school year is set for May 26 for a total 176 student school days. The major out-of-school holidays are as follows:

♦ Fall break: Oct. 5-6

♦ Thanksgiving break: Nov. 23-27

♦ Christmas break: Dec. 21-Jan. 4

♦ Winter break: Feb. 15-17

♦ Spring break: April 5-9

A full version of the calendar is available for download on the county school system e-Board website.

In other business, the board recognized its December 2nd Mile Award winner, Red Bud Middle School nurse Kristi Langham, and Gordon County Schools’ Community Connection Award winner for the month, Rosellen Burns.

Langham was nominated by a number of her coworkers at Red Bud Middle School, including her principal, Amy Stewart.

“Nurse Kristi wholeheartedly serves more than 900 students at RBMS. She is diligent in her effort to keep students healthy while maximizing their school attendance,” said Stewart. “While her competence is unquestionable, it is the consistent nurturing and kindness exhibited that make Kristi truly special.”

Burns was nominated by the district’s student services staff for her work throughout the community with children in need.

“Rosellen has leveraged her time in retirement to continue to help the children in our community by organizing and creating the program ‘Christmas in July’, which provides back to school supplies to 100 families in our community each year,” said Georgette Hunt, Gordon County Schools’ social worker. “This is only one of the services Rosellen provides for our community. She also regularly attends the Interagency Collaborative meetings as a representative of her church and the Gordon County Christian Ministerial Alliance. She helps with the Hunger Walk, which provides food to four of our local food banks as part of her Ministerial Alliance duties. The Alliance also donated $500 to Ashworth’s Samaritan’s Closet to come alongside the assistance that is provided to students through this endeavor.”

Burns was honored by the Board of Education during its regular monthly meeting in January, and received a gift sponsored by North Georgia National Bank.

Calhoun City Schools hosts planning meeting to discuss future of education

Calhoun City Schools hosted its first meeting of the year on Tuesday to discuss the system’s 2020-2025 Five Year Strategic Plan, and Superintendent Michele Taylor explained that feedback from the participants of the event will be used to further shape the plan that was discussed.

“It’s fluid. It’s not a plan we put on the shelf,” Taylor said.

Deb Page, president of the Institute for Performance Improvement, led the event Tuesday, walking a room packed full of educators and community members through the plan and asking groups to talk about what the contents of the plan mean to them and how they see those goals being achieved.

Themes that repeatedly surfaced included training students to be lifelong learners, competing with technology for student attention, preparing students to be able to adapt and overcome problems, and developing so-called soft skills such as dressing appropriately, being on time and being concerned about and active in one’s community.

Calhoun Primary School Principal Mana Smith was the note-taker for one of the groups, and she told the audience that people at her table had discussed how “excellence in education” can look different to different people and how teachers are working to prepare students for jobs that may not even exist yet.

“We talked about how students need to be ready for tomorrow, even if we don’t know what tomorrow is yet,” Smith said.

Page also emphasized that idea, pointing out how differently the current job market looks compared to five or 10 years ago. She said research predicts that the demand for unskilled workers will continue to drop as automation continues to expand.

Page challenged the groups to talk about how aware they believe teachers and the community are of these potential obstacles and how that might impact schools, the economy and the overall quality of life.

“We are living in a world when things are so rapidly changing,” Page said.

The planning session featured several pauses for group discussions regarding various sections of the plan, and the notes taken by each group were given to Taylor for her consideration as the system continues to modify the five year plan. A second meeting for local business partners and other community members was conducted on Wednesday.

Taylor said the meetings this week are not the last stop. Participants will also receive surveys to provide additional feedback, and there are more meetings scheduled at later dates so that others can weigh in on the plan.

“It’s looking long range to decided what we can and need to do to best meet community expectations,” said Taylor.

Page praised the school system and the community for being proactive and considering these things ahead of time, noting that not every school system takes such an approach.

GCSO: Fugitive arrested after standoff in connection with Monday's missing person case

A Calhoun man already wanted on warrants was arrested on multiple charges after deputies say he held a woman against her will and then forced an armed standoff when they surrounded his home.

According to a press release from the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office and jail records, Philip Manning Neal II, 36, of 144 Laurel Place, was arrested Monday and charged with a probation violation, battery — family violence, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

The case began when Kayla Silvers was reported missing Monday morning. A family member said she had last been seen on Friday afternoon.

Deputies soon learned that Neal was likely responsible and, after learning he was already wanted for a probation violation (original charge: possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute), surrounded his home on Dews Pond.

Deputies located Neal hiding under the home and he told them Silvers was with him and that he had a gun. Eventually Silvers was released, and after about 30 to 45 minutes of “tense negotiations,” Neal surrendered.