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Calhoun City Schools names its school-level teachers of the year

Jennifer Holley

Dena Pullen

Calhoun City Schools named its four school-level teachers of the year recently, the first step toward ultimately picking a Teacher of the Year later in the school year.

The teachers picked in included Dena Pullen at Calhoun Primary School; Jennifer Holley at Calhoun Elementary School; Skylar Benham at Calhoun Middle School; and Dedra Rasbury at Calhoun High School.

The Teacher of the Year program is sponsored by First Bank of Calhoun.

The following details about the teachers were provided by the school system:

Dena Pullen

Pullen is currently in her 18th year in the education profession, where she teaches first grade at CPS. She began her teaching career at Red Bud Elementary in Gordon County and came to Calhoun Primary in 2010. Pullen has taught kindergarten and first grade, and she holds a math and English language learner endorsement. She has one son, Gunner, who is in the fifth grade at CES, and two daughters, Marlee, a junior at CHS, and Bailee, who graduated from CHS in 2019.

Pullen is described as a positive influence, passionate, driven and someone that welcomes everyone she meets. She is known for building positive relationships and enjoys when her students come back to visit her.

One of her peers stated, “Dena is an outstanding educator. She is always prepared and ready for all of her students. She is very caring and captures the hearts of all the students in her classroom.”

Jennifer Holley

Holley is currently in her eighth year of teaching. She began her teaching career in Cobb County and came to Calhoun Elementary in 2015. She currently teaches fourth grade math at CES. Holley holds a math and a gifted endorsement. She is a team player and can always be counted on to offer help and support to her colleagues and students. Holley greets her students with a smile each morning and her colleagues describe her as a natural motivator. She is married to Brock Holley and they have one daughter, Julia.

One of her peers stated, “Jenn goes above and beyond for her students, parents, and fellow teachers! She takes initiative and heads up difficult tasks.”

Skylar Benham

Benham is currently in his fifth year in education and third year at Calhoun Middle School. He serves as a seventh grade social studies teacher and also serves as a member of both the CMS leadership team and school governance team. Benham holds a bachelor’s degree in middle grades education from Kennesaw State University, a master’s degree in instructional technology from Kennesaw State University and a specialist’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Piedmont College.

In addition to his teaching duties, Benham is the sponsor of the CHS senior class and serves as the Student Government sponsor for Calhoun High School.

Benham’s peers stated, “Mr. Benham does a great job of connecting with his students, as well as pushing them to strive towards perfection. Skylar attends as many extra curricular activities and supports as many organizations as possible. He always has a smile on his face and warms the hearts of all those around him.”

Dedra Rasbury

Rasbury currently teaches geometry at CHS, serves as lead teacher for the math department and is a member of the CHS leadership team. The 2020-2021 school year marks Mrs. Rasbury’s 18th year in education. Rasbury holds a master’s degree in math education from the University of Alabama.

Her peers shared, “Dedra is very organized and caring. She is a great teacher who focuses on the individual student and is continually seeking to meet students’ needs through differentiated instruction. She keeps a positive attitude and students seem to really connect with her and enjoy her class. She gives tough love along with extending them grace. She is also a great department head and PLC lead who uses her life and teaching experience to inspire fellow teachers to be lifelong learners in pursuit of always improving our craft. She strives to be an example and mentor to other teachers.”

City Council dedicates 2020 as William Laurens Hillhouse memorial year

Calhoun Mayor Jimmy Palmer and members of the city council paid tribute to the city’s first mayor and founder of the longest continually occupied church building in town during their meeting Monday, declaring the year the 2020 William Laurens Hillhouse Centenary Memorial Year.

Hillhouse founded Calhoun First Presbyterian Church on Trammell Street 100 years ago, and in 1989 that congregation moved to Red Bud Road, allowing St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church to move into the stone building in Downtown Calhoun.

Palmer read a proclamation detailing the resolution and then presented the document to Anthony King, Calhoun historian, charter member of St. Timothy’s and chair of the church’s Centenary Celebration.

“It’s certainly great to recognize someone who did so much for our community,” said Palmer.

King listed off some of the accomplishments Hillhouse made for the city of Calhoun before joking that Hillhouse was probably so successful because he never married.

“It’s hard to believe how much he accomplished in his 90 years,” King said.

King provided the following details regarding Hillhouse’s life and impact on Calhoun.

On Nov. 1, 2020, All Saint’s Day according to the liturgical calendar, the parish of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta will commemorate the 100th anniversary of its historic church building on Trammell Street. Built from native stone by Calhoun founder Hillhouse, it was originally home of the Calhoun First Presbyterian Church. In 1989 the Presbyterians moved to their new campus on Red Bud Road, and the church was acquired by the Episcopalians —enshrining it Gordon County’s oldest continuously-occupied house of Christian worship.

The centenary commemoration will center around the unmatched contribution of Hillhouse — and the Hillhouse family — to the civilization of present-day Calhoun.

Hillhouse was one of nine siblings, son of the Rev. Joseph B. Hillhouse (1820-1887) of Union, South Carolina, and Ester Love Steele of Cherokee County. His father was an original Anglo-American settler, the son of Huguenot and Scots-Irish Presbyterians from the Ulster Province of Ireland. In 1873, Joseph moved his family to Calhoun — when son Laurens was 12 years old — to serve as headmaster of the Calhoun Academy. In 1874, Joseph Hillhouse served as first minister of the Calhoun [First] Presbyterian Church after the Civil War.

William Laurens Hillhouse was born in 1861, surviving the pulverizing poverty of the post-Civil War South, the son of a hardscrabble Presbyterian itinerant preacher and pedagogue. His secondary education was from the Calhoun Academy, precursor of the Calhoun City School System. After that, he, along with this brother, attended Princeton University — making them the first local residents to attend an Ivy League school.

Both Gordon County and Calhoun were established in 1850. Calhoun was incorporated in 1852. It was governed by volunteer citizen commissioners until 1895 when voters approved a charter to elect a paid mayor and aldermen. William Laurens Hillhouse, architect, general contractor and financial benefactor, became the first mayor of Calhoun at the age of 34.

William Laurens Hillhouse inherited the refinement and intellect of his father and was gifted in many fields, including architecture, landscape design, horticulture, civic activism and Christian ministry. By all accounts, he was a duly accorded 19th century “Renaissance Man.”

Incredibly, added to Laurens Hillhouse’s local accomplishments, he served 10 years as Presbyterian missionary in the Congo Free State of Africa when he was in his 50s.

Hillhouse did not conform to contemporary cultural norms: he neither married nor fathered children, instead choosing to keep house with his unmarried sister Idalette.

William Laurens Hillhouse built his first home, a stunning Victorian edifice, on North Wall Street in 1888 (demised 1970) — and his last home, a self-designed vernacular bungalow, on Trammell Street in 1907, which has since been painstakingly restored by James B. Langford, Jr., now the home of Barbara Mauldin Langford. It stands across the street from the church.

William Laurens Hillhouse, as an architect and general contractor, is perhaps most renowned for his rock masonry, his medium — the area’s proprietary local fieldstone, known to earth scientists as Knox Chert — deposited some 488 million years ago in the Ordovician Epoch.

From those riches of creation, William Laurens Hillhouse crafted countless edifices — porches, walls and entire structures — over 100 that remain today as everlasting sentinels of his legacy: quite literally the foundation of present-day Calhoun.

Beyond the generic contribution of this historic church on Trammell Street, it stands as a signature work of William Laurens Hillhouse — representing the culmination of his handiwork — for it he bequeathed the totality of his work and artifice — without debt, charge, or obligation — to the Glory of God and to the Community of Calhoun.

Quote, James A. Hall, editor of the Calhoun Times, upon the consecration of the church in AD 1920:

“There is something about this unusual building that grows upon one. There is something about its massive and rugged rock walls, its graceful arches, the strength and simplicity of the building which makes it different from anything in this town or this section of the state.

“It is expressive to a marked degree of the character of the man who planned and built it — William Laurens Hillhouse — strong, durable, simple, unpretentious.

“Made of nature’s best materials, it is the kind of structure that gives dignity and charm to a place. One can imagine it three hundred years hence, a venerable pile, but still stately and upright and durable as the hills. It is in a class all its own.

“Few communities have produced men like Laurens Hillhouse, the architect and builder, and Gordon County should feel herself honored to number him among her citizens.

“He has contributed lavishly time, labor, and money to the upbuilding and welfare of the community.

“Seldom has anyone built so many things that are also beautiful, so many things that will endure and give grace and dignity to their surroundings.

“Few have utilized and given value and character to the crude materials of nature —the rugged stones of the mountains — as he has done.

“In the years to come, strangers will marvel at the ingenuity and taste and skill displayed in the erection … of this substantial … edifice to the glory of Almighty God, and wonder whose thoughts are thus preserved in stone.”

Gordon County Young Farmers raise money for Connor Luke Hayes

The Gordon County Young Farmers is set to host a Cow Patty Bingo Benefit for Connor Luke Hayes, a Sonoraville Elementary School student diagnosed with Neuroblastoma and End Stage Renal Disease earlier this year, on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 4 p.m. at Sonoraville High School.

“We decided to do the fundraiser because his parents, Chad and Brandi Hayes, are educators and have been very active with Sonoraville and the community, and I thought it was only fair that we show them that same support,” said GCYF advisor Annemarie Carr. “As a parent, I was touched by what they’re going through.”

Tickets for the benefit are $50 and can be purchased from GCYF members. Twenty percent of all ticket sales, or up to $5,000 if all tickets are sold, will be awarded to the player who wins the bingo game. All other proceeds will go directly to the Hayes family.

For those unfamiliar with Cow Patty Bingo, the rules are simple. A cow will be led onto a grid area and allowed to roam free until a cow patty lands inside a grid or until 5:30 p.m., whichever occurs first. The holder associated with the lucky grid will be declared the winner. Carr said if the patty lands in a square determined as “unsold,” all winning proceeds will be given to the Hayes family.

“Young Farmers isn’t going to keep any of the money raised,” Carr said. “If the patty lands on a plot that isn’t associated with a ticket, they get 100 percent of the money.”

Businesses willing to offer their location as a pick-up site for tickets should contact Carr at 770-519-3619, as should anyone outside of the Young Farmers who would like to help sell tickets.

Players and ticket holders do not need to be present on the day of the event to win. It will be recorded by the Sonoraville High School media department and aired on Facebook. No more than 50 spectators may attend the live event due to health regulations.

“We are currently in the hospital for Connor’s stem cell transplant, which puts us even closer to beating Neuroblastoma. We will be here for 30 days, but we come to God today and every day with a thankful heart,” said Brandi Hayes. “God reminds us daily that we are not going into this battle alone. He sends many to stand in the gap for us. Our struggle is your struggle, and we cannot thank you enough. This is what believers do for one another.”

For more information about the benefit, visit the Gordon County Young Farmers Facebook page.

Secretary of state's office says 14th District Democratic Party candidate cannot be replaced on ballot

The Secretary of State’s office said Monday that the window is closed for the Democratic Party to replace Kevin Van Ausdal as their candidate for the 14th Congressional District.

“The law is clear,” Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said on Monday. “Mr. Van Ausdal can withdraw his candidacy or remain on the ballot. He cannot be replaced.”

Fuchs cited Ga. code 21-2-134-(c) “any vacancy which occurs in any party nomination filled by a primary and which is created by reason of the withdrawal of a candidate less than 60 days prior to the date of the election shall not be filled.”

If that holds true, Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene will be the sole U.S. House of Representatives candidate on the ballot for the district which covers much of Northwest Georgia, including Gordon County.

Van Ausdal announced Friday he is withdrawing race, but as of noon Monday he had not officially filed paperwork to do so.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Van Ausdal decided to drop his candidacy after the terms of a pending divorce forced him to vacate his home in Catoosa County. He decided to move in with family in Indiana.

The Democratic Party of Georgia placed hopes that moving out of state would disqualify Van Ausdal from running for the post. In that instance, there is provision to allow the party to replace that candidate.

That decision would be made by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, after the formal paperwork is filed. Van Ausdal had not filed the formal paperwork as of noon Monday.

If allowed, the party is poised to put in another candidate, Rome City Commissioner Wendy Davis said. She is a member of the Democratic National Committee and serves on the executive committee of the Democratic Party of Georgia.

Their hopes, Davis said, lay in the possibility that the secretary of state would have to disqualify Van Ausdal since he leaving the state.

Another question for the congressional seat, which will soon be vacated by Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, is what will happen after Graves follows through with his announcement that he will retire early.

Graves announced last Friday that he would resign in October. The AJC reported that Gov. Brian Kemp’s office has stated he will issue a writ within 10 days to set up a vote.


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