The Pickens County Board of Education named Dr. Rick Townsend as the new Superintendent of Pickens County Schools on Wednesday. The approval was made with a split 3-2 vote.
Townsend’s contract becomes effective April 27. The board also unanimously accepted the resignation of interim Superintendent Charles Webb, effective April 30.
“Dr. Townsend brings a wide array of educational experiences which is of great importance to the Board,” Tucker Green, Chairman of the Pickens County Board of Education stated. “Dr. Townsend’s experience at multiple levels, coupled with his proven track record of improving schools and school districts, was appealing to the Board. The Board also believes that Dr. Townsend is uniquely capable to provide clear leadership from the district level to the school level.”
Additionally, he wants to support school leaders in providing the deserved recognition for the Pickens High graduating class of 2020. Townsend expressed his appreciation to the entire staff for the excellent job they continue to do in educating children and providing for families during this uncertain time.
Read previous story here.
Townsend shared that he is looking forward to working closely with staff and being an integral part of the community that he and his family will call home. With Townsend beginning his work on Monday, his immediate goals are to facilitate a strong finish to the current school year and begin planning for the start of the 2020-21 school year.
“We need to continue supporting our core beliefs that all children can learn, that all stakeholders are accountable for student learning, and that we will continue to strive for continuous improvement in student achievement,” said Townsend.
“It is the expectation of the Board that academics and student achievement will be a top priority in the district, and under Dr. Townsend’s leadership and in collaboration with district and school leaders, we believe student achievement will begin to soar in Pickens County,” Chairman Green
Townsend resigned as the Chief Executive Officer of the Golden Isles College and Career Academy in Brunswick, where he has been since 2010. He began is career as a teacher and coach in 1991 at Winder-Barrow Middle School. He has served as assistant principal at Jefferson High School from 1997 to 2002 and principal of Banks County Upper Elementary School from 2002 to 2005. He was then named principal of E.T. Booth Middle School in Cherokee County. He then served as principal, Assistant Superintendent and Acting Superintendent in Appling County schools prior to serving at the Golden Isles College and Career Academy.
A Lithonia native, he and wife Carolyn have been married for 29 years. She is a kindergarten teacher and they have three children, Haley, Emily, and Molly. Townsend is a graduate of Reinhardt College, the University of Georgia, and the University of West Georgia, where he earned his doctorate of education in school improvement.
On-line and distance learning is going well for Pickens County and schools are even finding ways to encourage school spirit, despite the sudden closure of schools.
“We’re more than pleased,” said Destini Shope, Director of Communication and Public Engagement, said.
Most of the “kinks” were very early in the process and most were because so many people were trying to access the internet, causing delays and some connectivity issues. Some issues were at the opposite end of the spectrum– parents didn’t have internet.
“ETC provided access around the country, which has been a huge help,” said Shope, saying that parents have been able to go to the free locations, downloading the work and bringing it home.
Getting it done
Shope said the schools director of technology, Patrick Shea, estimated that about 80-percent, or 3,440 of the 4,300 students are doing their work virtually while the remaining 20-percent, or 860, have opted for hard copy packets.
“Teachers are monitoring the work the students are doing online,” she said.
Shope said Pickens Junior High School showed data indicating that 95.04-percent of their seventh-grade students and 95.77-percent of their eighth-grade students are submitting work.
The remaining 20-percent of students are using the packets, provided by schools on a weekly basis, said Shope.
Tate Elementary makes packets up by grade, placing the work in plastic bags so parents can “grab and go,” said Shope.
The packets have their plus-sides, too, said Shope. It’s easier for parents to manage, especially when children have to go to a sitter.
“We are more than pleased,” said Shope. “They’ve made the transition seamless.”
She said the junior high school has set a goal for themselves to make it to 100-percent.
Both Harmony Elementary and the junior high school are holding virtual spirit days, to keep up school spirit. Instead of traditional “in-school” spirit days that feature “80’s day,” “camouflage day,” or “tie-dye day,” they are doing “what are you reading?” and “life-skills day” where students can post a new life-skill they are learning.
“They are trying to keep the kids engaged and keep the school spirit alive,” said Shope.
Some teachers and principals are recording announcements and greetings to send out to the parents or students so a connection to the typical school day remains.
For students who have an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, that includes speech, occupational, and speech therapy, the system is using a combination of tele-therapy and online learning with materials that are facilitated by phone conferencing, emails and privacy-compliant digital platforms.
Shope said she is interested to see how this changes education in the long term.
“Not only for our kids, ,but kids across the United States,” she said. “Some school districts already had digital platforms established for inclement weather, but we’ve had to work this out quickly and make adjustments, but this will be a springboard for years to come so learning can continue during inclement weather.”
While she is a school employee, Shope said the mother in her was a “bit nervous” about how distance learning would go, but so far her son, a high school student, is doing well.
“He enjoys it, he gets up, get his work done, then goes to work,” she said.
She said that although the Coronvirus and its impact is “sad,” it’s shown how resilient people are.
“It has allowed us to realize we are capable of doing this. Parents are capable and kids are capable. Kudos to students, parents, and teachers who are forging ahead and making the best of this situation.”
Jasper, GA – Pickens County schools and worksites will begin “hard lock-outs” effective Wednesday, according to Destini Shope, Public Information Officer and Community Engagement Director. This action is in response to two cases of COVID-19 being reported by the Public Health Department in Pickens County this past weekend. Although neither case is believed to be a school system employee, increased precautions are being taken to protect faculty and staff.
According the the Georgia Department of Health, 25 people have died from COVID-19 statewide and 772 have tested positive. Nationwide, there have been 400 deaths and 33,404 cases, according to the Center for Disease Control.
One confirmed case in the county was a part-time employee at Mountain Education Charter School, which works with the school system to help students at risk of dropping out to graduate.
According to officials, school doors will be locked, similar to other county offices, and the public will be prevented from entering school buildings except in extraordinary cases.
School employees will continue working from home, as most have been doing since schools were closed on March 16, when students switched from direct instruction to online learning as planned and conducted by their teachers. Telephone inquiries will be transferred to voice mail for administrators and staff, who will check messages during the normal school day.
Only those faculty and staff members with urgent needs will be allowed to enter the buildings, and restricted access and social distancing (six feet apart) are expected. Meetings and professional development will continue to be conducted via telecom or video conferences.
Impact on the lunch program
Lunchroom workers and bus drivers delivering meals to children 18 years and younger will continue working in kitchen areas and at the bus garage during limited times two days per week. Meals will now be delivered by bus drivers on Mondays and Thursdays, with two or three days of non-perishable breakfasts and lunches being provided on these two days at the same locations as previously announced. Currently, bus drivers are delivering mid-day meals to more than 500 students per day.
“All hands on deck.”
No employee is required to report to work if they have concerns about their health. In fact, those age 60 and older and those with compromised immune systems are strongly encouraged to work only from home. Any employee feeling sick is expected to stay at home, and if necessary, contact their local health provider.
Although no employee will lose pay or benefits during this time, Interim School Superintendent Dr. Charles Webb said that the past few weeks have been “all-hands-on-deck,” and he is thankful for the attitude of school system employees to “deliver the goods,” whether it is online instruction or meals or other services.
“However, we are entering a more dangerous and susceptible period with the Coronavirus now documented in our community,” said Webb. “In order to further protect school system employees, we are implementing the necessary contingency plans previously prepared by our principals and staff.”
Praise and gratitude for the community
“This community has some of the most creative, flexible, dedicated and loyal school employees with which I have ever worked,” said Webb. “Their spirit and cooperation during these uncertain times say a lot about how much they care about the boys and girls in this community. We are truly blessed, and we need to take care of them.”
Webb added how much he and the board of education appreciate the community groups and businesses which have helped during the past few weeks.
“A good example is how ETC stepped forward immediately to help provide ‘hot spots’ throughout the county for students who did not have internet access,” he remarked. “There are many, many of our employees and citizens working behind the scenes to make things possible.”
Webb added that school leaders especially appreciate the help and support from public health officials, hospitals and health care facilities, civic clubs, county government and cities in sharing information and resources.
“Everyone is working together,” he said. “Our high school just recently provided local first responders with a supply of masks and other health items originally acquired for health- related classes, and this week our nurses are transferring our storage of thermometers and other items for front-line health care providers to use. I am seeing that kind of cooperation among all groups throughout the community.”
Webb said that he did not know when traditional school would return.
“Nobody knows at this time,” he said, “but until that time, we especially want to help those in need and continue supporting our students, as well as protecting their teachers and other school employees.”
PICKENS COUNTY, Ga – In a press release from Pickens County Schools, the system confirmed that is would be closed starting Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 27.
A meeting will be held on March 26 to determine whether additional closure days are needed.
As long as schools are closed, all extra-curricular activities are canceled. We will update our families when more information is available. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
At this time, there are no known CORVID-19 cases within the school district.
Local schools are preparing for COVID-19 amid concerns, fears, and close calls. The spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, is making waves in the school systems. Schools in Fulton County are closed due to a confirmed case and while there are no confirmed cases, at least two districts have situations warranting a closer look with a couple of staff members and a student in quarantine.
While there are no confirmed cases in Pickens, Murray, Whitfield, and Gordon counties, local schools found they weren’t totally immune to the threat. There have been some close calls and situations that have some schools taking notice.
Murray County has a teacher, whose parents have COVID-19, and a student in quarantine, sparking concerns about how school systems will handle the illness.
Pickens County Schools had a brush as a paraprofessional ate at the same Waffle House in Canton as an employee who had the virus. The paraprofessional isn’t showing symptoms but is “self-quarantined” for the incubation period.
Most local schools have a contingency plan, but one district, Dalton Public Schools, is already developing online curriculum should the schools decide to close.
Pat Holloway, Chief of Staff for Dalton Public Schools, said there are no cases or quarantines involving staff or students in their district, but they are developing curriculumn for students to access via their devices if needed. The system has about 7,800 students with third grade through 12th grade each having their own devices, either laptops or I-pads.
Other area schools, including DPS, are following guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control to reduce the chance of the virus coming into their schools. The Georgia Department of Health has resources available, including guidelines on how to disinfect surfaces.
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Center for Disease Control reported there were 23 confirmed cases in Georgia.For a complete listing by state, click here.
The virus spread from the Wuhan in China and has 938 confirmed cases in the United States and 29 deaths. A confirmed case in Fulton County schools led to the closure, according to the Georgia Department of Education, but they are not recommending closures for other schools. To read the GADOE statement, click here.
COVID-19 is spread person-to-person and symptoms are flu-like or the common cold.
The CDC recommends:
Stop handshaking – use other non-contact methods of greeting.
Clean hands at the door and schedule regular hand washing reminders by email.
Create habits and reminders to avoid touching their faces and cover coughs and sneezes.
Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, tables, desks, and handrails regularly Increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning.
For other tips, visit here.
The Georgia Department of Health recommends:
Washing hands regularly
Get flu shot
Cover coughs and sneezes
Stay home if symptoms appear until they resolve
A notice from Pickens County Schools states:
Our school district is committed to keeping our community informed about issues relating to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). There are no cases of COVID-19 at any Pickens County school. You are probably aware of yesterday’s news report that an employee of the Canton Waffle House has tested positive for COVID-19. On March 1st, a 4th grade paraprofessional at Harmony Elementary School ate at this Waffle House. The paraprofessional is not showing any signs of the virus, and we do not know if the infected employee was in the building at the same time as the paraprofessional. We thought it prudent for the paraprofessional to self-quarantine for the remaining days of the incubation period, and we thought it important to share this information with you. Our school district remains in close contact with local, district, and state health officials and is monitoring this situation very closely. We will continue to follow the authorities’ recommendations on how to proceed and will keep you informed if there are developments that impact our schools. Again, there are no reported cases of COVID-19 at Harmony Elementary or in any Pickens County school.
Pickens County BOE discussed precautions at their recent board meeting.
A mother expressed her concern for her children’s safety and frustration at what she considers a lack of communication from the Pickens County School system after two separate incidents involving her sons, including a recent choking incident.
Kayla Worley said, in the latest incident, she was notified in early January by the Victim’s Advocate Liason with the District Attorney’s Office about preparing her nine-year-old son for his upcoming court appearance.
The court appearance stems from a Dec. 5 incident where a 13-year-old Jasper Middle School student allegedly choked her son on the afternoon school bus. But Worley had no idea about the incident until the District Attorney’s office contacted her in January.
According to reports:
The students were on the bus after school when the middle school student started playing with the nine-year-old.
According to Maj. June Blackwell, of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, the bus video shows the middle school student choke the younger one “for a few seconds” before stopping, then choking him a second time.
According to the police report, another student can be heard on the bus yelling “Stop before you kill him.” Other students could be heard trying to convince the older student to stop.
The middle school student then releases the victim, who is seen gasping for air. The report was made on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, almost a week after the incident.
The older student was charged with battery and will go to court at a later date.
Left in the dark
“I had no idea,” Worley said.
Worley said she then contacted the Jasper Police Department, who referred her to the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.
From there, she was put in touch with School Resource Officer John Croft.
“I spoke the the SRO who apologized. He works at the middle school and thought the elementary school would call me.”
But they didn’t.
Another incident was noted in the police report that happened on Monday, Dec. 9, when the 13-year-old punched the 9-year-old in the groin. When asked about this incident, Worley said she was never told about it.
Blackwell said the incident couldn’t not be confirmed.
Tony Young, assistant superintendent for Pickens County Schools, said he could not speak specifically on Worley’s case because it is still under investigation, but did say that parents should be notified when their child is involved in an incident on the bus.
“We have protocols to try to prevent anyone from falling through the cracks,” he said.
Young said they urge parents and students to notify their school administrators of incidents occurring at school or on the bus.
“When we are made aware of it, a report is made and we can discipline if needed,” he said. The 13-year-old has been indefinitely suspended from the bus, according to the police report.
Children’s safety questioned: not the first, or second time
But Worley disputes this, saying this isn’t the first time the school has failed to tell her about her son being involved in incidents at school.
“He is a sensitive child, but never said anything that made me think I needed to get involved. Several times, he has talked to Mr. (Dale) Spencer about kids bothering him,” she said.
Dale Spencer is the assistant principal at Tate Elementary.
“Mr. Spencer ended up moving the kids who were bothering him away from him, but I was never notified,” she said.
The incident echoes an incident in March 2019, when a registered sex offender was able to enter Tate Elementary School and was apprehended after going into the restroom. Four students came into the restroom. One of those four students was Worley’s youngest son, who is seven.
Worley said the school system notified parents about the incident, but it was later that night before the principal called to tell her that her son was one of the children who entered the restroom.
“They interviewed the students, without parents, without police, alone and determined nothing happened,” she said.
Bruce Lee Daniel, 57, of Dawsonville, was arrested in the incident.
Worley said she wants to send her children to school without worrying that something will happen.
“Parents shouldn’t have to worry about their children’s safety at school,” she said. “I am seriously concerned about their safety.”
If she had her way, her sons would transfer from Tate Elementary to Harmony Elementary School, but her request was denied.
“My request was denied because I did not make this request between May and August,” she said, adding that she would provide transportation for them if the school would approve the transfer.
Worley said she was told she could make the request again in May for the following school year, but her nine-year-old would be transferring to the middle school then.
She said that while she has talked to Young on several occasions, answers are not forthcoming.
“The only definitive response I get is I’m sorry and it should not have happened and my kids are safe,” she said. “I don’t believe them.”
Fetch Your News has made an open records request to obtain the video footage of the incident. Check back for more details.
PICKENS COUNTY, Ga – Pickens County School Resource Officers (SRO) searched a student’s vehicle on Thursday, Jan. 9, after receiving a credible report from a Pickens County High School (PCHS) teacher, and found a BB gun inside the car.
Pickens County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) have released the following details.
SRO actively investigated the possibility of a student allegedly making threats to kill another student throughout the day. While this investigation was underway, a teacher overheard students stating that the same student involved in the other incident had a gun at the school.
The gun turned out to be a BB gun, but it was very realistic in appearance. The image attached is of the gun. In addition, ammunition for another handgun was found, but the weapon that it belonged to was not in the vehicle.
Following the investigation, the student was charged with Disorderly Conduct.
In 2019 alone, there were over 40 active shooter incidents that occurred in schools throughout the United States. PCSO has promised that any time they receive information related to threats or weapons with school, they will always take that threat seriously and investigate every incident.
This isn’t the first time in the 2019-2020 school year that PCHS has received school shooting threats. A student issued threats over social media in fall of 2019.
Image courtesy of PCSO.
PICKENS COUNTY, GA – On Thursday, Oct. 17, Pickens County School (PCS) Administrators learned that a Pickens High School Student threatened to a school shooting on social media.
The threat was a photograph posted to Instagram and featured students in a classroom with two software-simulated handguns pointed at them. The photographer is holding the virtual guns and commented on the image, ” finna get my kd up.”
The “kd” refers to kill/ death ratio and is commonly found in games that involve shooting other players or killing computer-generated characters to progress. It represents kills divided by deaths, so if a player has 1o kills and 5 deaths, their K/D ratio is 2.
School Resource Officers (SRO) immediately began an investigation into the event, and the 16-year-old student is being charged with terroristic threats as a juvenile.
Sheriff Donnie Craig stated, “A lot of kids may think that they are using social media to be funny and causing no harm, but we will have zero tolerance for threats being made against our students.”
Pickens County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that they are very proud of the students for immediately bringing this to the attention of law enforcement to ensure that everyone remains safe.
This is the second instance of threatened gun violence by a PCS student within a week. The first instance occurred off school property, and the student posted that those who signed a petition against transgender bathrooms would make good target practice. This individual has already been charged for his social media posts.
It’s not known at this time if Thursday, Oct. 17’s shooting threat is connected to the transgender bathroom issue that has riled the community since last week.
Photo courtesy of Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.
Another busy month has passed for Pickens County with lots in store for the Summer. On May 22nd voters across the county went to the polls to vote on a variety of elections and ballot questions. The overall voter turnout of registered voters was 25.56 percent with a total of 5,101 votes cast. One local race (District One Commissioner) resulted in a runoff election that will take place on July 24th. Early voting for the runoff will be weekdays July 2-20 (excluding the July 4th holiday) at the Board of Elections. Additionally, the Chamber of Commerce helped to orchestrate a successful partnership for the BRAG (Bicycle Ride Across Georgia) that passed through town in early June. This event brought an increase of customers shopping at local establishments.
During the month of May, the Pickens Animal Shelter brought in 110 animals, and 94 animals went out through various forms of adoption. Animal Control responded to 29 cases. The Department of Planning and Development issued 43 new building permits. The Water Department installed six new meters. The 911 Operations Center received 1,865 total calls, 726 were medical responses and fire related. The Recreation Department pool is now open, and several camps are ongoing throughout the Summer. To keep up to date on PCRD activities follow them on Facebook and Twitter and check out their website: pickrec.com. The Road Department is preparing to begin tar and graveling several roads across the county. They are also continuing to perform routine road maintenance. Subcontractor crews through LMIG (Local Maintenance Improvement Grant) and SPLOST (Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax) funding are currently paving county-maintained roads within Hunters Ridge. After the crews resurface those roads, they will begin paving the remainder of the 62 roads set to be paved through LMIG. Pickens County government departments continue to stay busy working hard for the citizens of Pickens County. The Pickens County Board of Commissioners continues to do a great job of leading these efforts. As work progresses, and projects continue, I will do my best to keep you informed of these developments.
Until the next time, stay safe, and shop local!
By: Tucker Green – Pickens County Board of Education Post Three
Jasper, Georgia — All after-school activities and extracurricular activities planned for today, December 10,
2018, will be held as scheduled.
Information will be posted on the Pickens County School District website at www.pickenscountyschools.org,
social media sites, and sent to local media.
PICKENS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT PRESS RELEASE – 11/09/18
After discussing last night’s investigation with the Sheriff, we have determined
that the social media threat is not credible. However, in an abundance of caution,
there will be an increased security presence on the High School campus
tomorrow. We would like to thank the Sheriff and his staff for their vigilance in
addressing this matter.
Information will be posted on the Pickens County School District website at
www.pickenscountyschools.org, the Infinite Campus parent portal, district social media
sites, and sent to local media.
Martha Segers ǀ Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent ǀ Pickens County Board of Education
firstname.lastname@example.org ǀ (706) 253-1700, ext. 418
JASPER, Ga. – Pickens County Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson announced in a press release on the school system’s website Saturday, Jan. 20, three scheduled make-up dates in February for missed school days as a result of recent winter weather.
We are very concerned with the academic time our students have missed during this very difficult winter. Our 2017-2018 school calendar includes three weather make-up days during Winter Break in February.
After much consideration, we have made the decision to make up three of of the 12 days our students have missed. The make-up dates are as follows:
- Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018
- Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018
- Friday, Feb. 23, 2018
If we continue to miss school days for inclement weather or other unforeseen circumstances, we will have to consider the option to make up days during our 2018 Spring Break.
As always, our first priority is the safety and best interest of our students.
According to the Pickens County Schools website, the Pickens County Schools 2018 spring break mentioned in Wilson’s statement occurs Monday, April 2, through Friday, April 6.
Continue to follow FetchYourNews throughout the winter for the latest weather coverage and school, business and office closings.
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