JASPER, Ga. – The Pickens County Board of Education has released an official press release regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Georgia and a possible connection with a teacher having eaten at the Waffle House with a reported case.
While they assure the public that the teacher is showing no signs of the virus, they have taken precautionary measures for the teacher to self-quarantine for the near future. The teacher in question worked at Harmony Elementary School.
They also repeat that there are no current signs or reported cases of the virus in Pickens County Schools.
The following is their full release:
(Photo provided by Pickens County Sheriff’s Office)
JASPER, Ga. – According to the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, a Pickens County teacher is in custody today, January 31, 2020, for crimes relating to enticing children for indecent purposes.
At this time, the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has passed along a Release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as it relates to the arrest of a Pickens County Junior High School teacher:
A Pickens County Junior High school teacher has been arrested on four counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes. The teacher is Gilbert Suarez IV, 38 of Cartersville, Georgia. Suarez surrendered himself to the Pickens County Detention Center on Friday, January 31, 2020. The Pickens County School Board placed Suarez on administrative leave at the beginning of the investigation.
On Saturday, January 25, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Cleveland Office was requested by the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office to assist with an investigation into a Pickens County Junior High schoolteacher soliciting inappropriate photographs from female students. During the investigation, three different females were identified as being approached by the teacher, all were under the age of 15. Fortunately, the incident was reported before any photographs were provided.
Upon completion of this investigation, the case will be provided to the Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
JASPER, Ga. – The Pickens County Board of Education has called three meetings in less than 48 hours of each other regarding the subject of the Superintendent position.
This morning, at 8:59 a.m., the notice came from the Pickens County Board of Education for an Emergency Special Called meeting an hour later at 10:00 a.m. to discuss the Superintendent position. This coming after last night’s meeting that was called just over 24 hours earlier. Less than an hour after this morning’s meeting finished, another meeting has been called for tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m., giving slightly less than 24-hours notice.
Today, at 10 a.m., the Emergency Special Meeting was held to accept the resignation of Pickens County Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson. The meeting was called to order and the agenda amended to delete an executive session and approval of executive session minutes, moving straight to the discussion as the superintendent resigned.
Board Attorney Phil Landrum III said, “Mr. Chairman, at your direction, and at the board’s direction, I have prepared a settlement agreement between the superintendent and the board. I presented that to all parties last night. It is my understanding that the Superintendent is tendering his resignation subject to the conditions upon the terms of that agreement.”
The vote came immediately after this at 3-2 to accept his resignation. Joeta Youngblood, Donna Enis, and Tucker Green voted for accepting the resignation. Steve Smith and Sue Finley voted against accepting his resignation.
Right before the meeting adjourned two comments were made. Sue Finley stated, “I am heartbroken. Dr. Wilson has done a fantastic job leading this county. He has turned around a lot of the issues that we had when he came in. He is one of the kindest men I know. He is one of the smartest men I know. When teachers demonstrate weaknesses that need to be corrected, they are brought into their administrator’s office. Their weaknesses are outlined and explained. And they are given a plan to remediate those weaknesses. They are rarely summarily dismissed. I believe that Dr. Wilson should have been afforded this courtesy and he was not. I completely disagree with this decision to release him. I believe that this is at least one backward step for our county. And I am so sorry, Dr. Wilson. I am very embarrassed that our county is going to be portrayed this way and that you’ve been treated this way. But, unfortunately, I am part of the minority.”
Additionally, Steve Smith commented saying, “I totally agree, this is the most egregious act I have ever witnessed on a board. And for it to come out of nowhere is shocking. I was as shocked yesterday, uh, I absolutely do not support the release of Dr. Wilson and I absolutely think our board has taken a ten-year step backwards. I think our school system has suffered because of this decision. I admire you Dr. Wilson.”
While few citizens were on hand for the meeting, some who were present spoke privately with Dr. Wilson. One citizen was overheard asking why the meeting was called as an emergency. Another was heard saying this subject should have been handled after the new year.
Landrum did say in the meeting that he had presented the settlement the night before this meeting was called 61 minutes before it was held. Finley was also discussing the topic with citizens saying that the board has gone through four superintendents in six years.
Dr. Wilson declined to comment at the moment, instead saying that he would offer a written statement later.
Additionally, the meeting was closed without any interim or stand-in appointed. Some would speculate that the notice sent out at 11:04 a.m. today, calling for a new meeting at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, is to address the issue as Wilson’s signatures are no longer valid on any board documents, agreements, checks, or other legal actions.
FYN can confirm that yesterday’s meeting delivered an ultimatum of “resign or be terminated.” The meeting, called to order at 3:00 p.m., held over two hours of executive session in which Dr. Wilson spent the majority of the time excluded from, but then later included in the final part of the executive session.
Further on that topic, it is FYN’s understanding that the settlement agreement is likely to have been different from the termination clauses specifically in the amount of money involved. However, FYN is attempting to confirm this as we submit an Open Records Request for the settlement agreement.
Stay with FYN as new details become available in this story and we await comment from Dr. Wilson and look to tomorrow’s last-minute meeting as the board deals with the situation mere days before Christmas.
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.
JASPER, Ga. – Piedmont Mountainside Hospital has recently revealed details on a new scholarship in honor of one of their own.
Judy Shaw passed away in July of 2019, a wife and mother of two, Shaw worked for Piedmont Mountainside. According to her obituary, “Judy spent her life caring for others. As a nurse at Pickens General Hospital and then Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, as well as a hospice nurse for Hospice Compassus, she was one of those nurses who saw need and met it, saw pain and relieved it, who gave care and concern far beyond her job description.”
The Judy Shaw Scholarship Fund will provide support to students enrolled in nursing programs. However, the new scholarship is in early stages of development according to Senior Communications Specialist Stacy Fentress.
“Judy exemplified nursing in so many ways and truly spent her life caring for others,” said Jamie Quinn, Past-President and Scholarship Chairman for Piedmont Mountainside’s Auxiliary. “Having a scholarship in her honor that will contribute to the education of future nurses is a fitting tribute.”
“Judy will forever be remembered as a kind, compassionate and gentle nurse who had a true love for people,” said Denise Ray, CEO of Piedmont Mountainside. “She was routinely recognized for going above and beyond in her work and for doing all she could to help her patients and their families.”
Specific details such as whether the scholarship will be available to students in nursing school statewide or limited to local students, and details about the type of help the scholarship will provide to students will definitely be an important part of the discussion coming to the development process.
FYN received a release today from the Pickens County School Board involving an incident at the high school. FetchYourNews.com will update when more information becomes available. See release below:
Jasper, Georgia – An incident transpired at Pickens High School today and we want to make sure you
have accurate information and dispel any rumors you may hear about the incident.
At approximately 11:25 a.m., two male students were involved in a verbal exchange, at which time one of
the students allegedly pulled a knife and charged toward the other student. No injuries were reported.
Immediate action was taken by our administration and school resource officers. The student who pulled the
knife was taken into custody and charges are pending. The incident is still under investigation.
We want to assure the community that we will always take these situations seriously. We must all work
together as a community of students, parents and school personnel to keep our campuses safe. Our
number one goal is to provide a safe and secure environment for all students and staff, and we will
continue to remain vigilant in our efforts.
JASPER, Ga. – The Pickens County Board of Education wishes to inform citizens of the procedures for Inclement Weather and Early Dismissal. The following is an official release from the BOE concerning parents and students.
INCLEMENT WEATHER AND EARLY DISMISSAL PROCEDURES
Do you know how your child is getting home?
Jasper, Georgia – Now that it seems we have definitely entered into winter, the Pickens County School
District wants to make sure you are aware of how we will proceed in case of inclement weather. Our
number one priority is to make sure our students and staff are safe.
EARLY RELEASE / DISMISSAL
At the beginning of every school year, each parent completes a form where a choice is made regarding what
your child will do in case school is released early. Should school ever be released early, your child will go
home based on your selection on the form. Following this procedure allows us to account for all students
and make sure they are safe, which is the most important part of what we do.
If you need to make changes, those need to be handled before inclement weather takes place. This can be
done by sending in a note to the school along with your child’s name, whether your child will be a car rider or
bus rider (include their bus number), your signature, and a telephone number. We have specific protocols
and procedures we follow because it is extremely difficult for our school office staff to handle large volumes
of calls and notify teachers with last minute changes. Also, we ask that you not email teachers with changes
in how your child should be transported for early release. There is no way to guarantee a message is
HOW YOU WILL BE NOTIFIED
In the case of early release, start time delays, or school closings, the school district will utilize the Infinite
Campus Messenger service to notify parents and guardians. The Messenger service sends phone calls,
emails, and notifications to your Infinite Campus account. It is critical that you notify central registration or
the school if your phone number changes.
If there is a need for a delayed start time, we will make that call as early as possible, and hopefully no later
than 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. Weather is unpredictable, so there may be an occasion that the call comes a little
For school closings, you can also tune in to Atlanta news stations, district and school Facebook pages, and
local news media – Know Pickens, Pickens Progress, and Fetch Your News.
Again, our first priority is the safety and well-being of our students and staff. We want everyone to arrive
safely to their destination. Also of great concern to the district is the number of inexperienced high school
drivers who are new to driving in inclement weather.
Make certain that you take care of updating telephone numbers and transportation directions before a
weather event occurs.
ELLIJAY, Ga – The Appalachian Judicial Circuit’s District Attorney, Alison Sosebee, began her campaign today in Fannin Middle School and Gilmer High School with presentations for students about the rising trend of vaping in all forms.
Speaking to the students she shared some of the responses that authorities have begun included harsher penalties for vape devices in general, not to mention the felonies possible with controlled substances. Using drugs in the vape devices like the popular Juul brand devices is only a part of growing concerns as authorities and administrations fear for students who expect non-nicotine flavored water vapor in devices they may find friends with when in reality these devices could contain anything from Heroin to Synthetic Marijuana.
Sosebee also invited Georgia Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Dustin Hamby to speak about the Bureau’s involvement. Hamby noted that almost 90% of his cases tied to drug usage in some way. He goes on to note that he’s had three murders in his career directly related to drug usage.
Sosebee recalled the story of a case she and Hamby shared about a guy who had taken drugs with a close friend. Under the influence, he grew greatly agitated at his friend and violently murdered him without full realization. He spoke further about how little it takes to blow up into major consequences in situations like vaping unknown substances.
Sosebee also noted that they are finding that many students and users of vape devices believe them safer than regular cigarettes. She noted that not only is there zero research to support his claim, but there is also no research or regulations on vaping devices right now. No one can tell you everything that is in Vape Juice, nor if people at smoke shops are adding extra ingredients. She called the students this generations guinea pigs for testing if vaping as they would be the cases that doctors study thirty years from now to determine the actual effects that Vaping can have in both short-term and long-term effects.
Only the first day, Sosebee is expected to travel to Fannin High, Pickens High, and Pickens Middle schools in the next two weeks along with possibly adding Gilmer Middle as well.
Jasper, Ga – As reports continue on the rising trend by high schoolers across North Georgia using Vape devices, Pickens County Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson has officially released a statement regarding it.
Calling for help from parents and guardians, Dr. Wilson reminds them that using or sharing a vaping device is a violation of the Code of Conduct and could lead to criminal charges now as five students have been physically harmed by the devices this year alone. Two of these students have been hospitalized from their use.
With the rising popularity across North Georgia, this larger issue has reached through neighboring Gilmer and Fannin counties as well.
Wilson spends much of his statement informing citizens about the devices and what they look like, comparing them to ink pens, flash drives, and even a computer mouse. The devices operate by vaporizing a liquid solution for the user to inhale.
While these device’s websites and packaging say they are intended for use with nicotine and flavoring solutions, the real danger comes in this rise of using other drugs and solutions in the devices, Wilson states that students have been utilizing THC oil (marijuana) in the devices causing a higher concentration than other forms of ingestions or inhalation.
The issue worsens as other drugs besides THC is used. Wilson quoted a CNN report in his statement saying, “Water-soluble synthetics are easily converted into liquid substances. It makes it nearly impossible to tell what is inside someone’s vape. It could be nicotine, marijuana concentrate, or fruit-flavored nicotine-free ‘e-liquid,’ popular among kids. Or worst of all, it could be a deadly concoction of chemicals, known as synthetic drugs.”
Wilson goes on to note that a student may not even know what they are inhaling until it is far too late. He adds that in these vapes, students could be inhaling “meth, kratom, LSD, or other illegal chemicals.”
Wilson invites citizens to be a part of the Monday, September 24, day of events involving the Office of the Sheriff, the District Attorney, and Pickens School district as they hold assemblies for students in Pickens High School and Pickens Junior High School. There will also be a meeting for parents involving an informational meeting and the ‘Chat with the Superintendent’ at Pickens High School at 6 p.m.
Read the full statement here:
JASPER, Ga. – Despite a heavy increase in social media traffic about Pickens County High School, Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson has confirmed with FYN as of 11:15 a.m. today, November 9, that no incidents or viable threats of such have occurred on school grounds.
A press release from the School System assured citizens that what was called a threat by some was investigated and the school is responding in spite of an investigation clearing the threat. Wilson stated that last night, the Pickens County School System became aware of potential threats on the high school. The press release stated, “After discussing last night’s investigation with the Sheriff, we have determined that the social media threat is not credible.”
Despite the investigation, the two entities have agreed to increase the Sheriff’s presence on school grounds throughout today and tonight to be safe. When FYN inquired further about the issue, Wilson said there was never a threat against the school itself, but instead was two students saying things and “posturing” against each other when friends and classmates became involved. As the two students became threatening each other, the issue blew up over social media including at least Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.
Not even considered a bullying incident, Wilson said, “They have just had some history with each other. They’ve not gotten along.”
As the Sheriff’s office investigated the viability of these threats and mentions of weapons, Wilson said they found the students did not have access to such and have since cleared the threat. Though Wilson said there has not been disciplinary action at this time, he did say the school is remaining on the increased security today and is taking threats involving the schools seriously.
Read the school’s press release as follows:
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.
JASPER, Ga. – District Attorney Alison Sosebee offered her presentation to parents that she has been showing to students this week. As a part of the chat with the superintendent program on September 24, Sosebee and Pickens Sheriff Donnie Craig joined in to inform parents about the vaping trend and the school’s responses.
Going through the same presentation as the one she offers the students, the only alterations came when Sheriff Craig added the Drug Task Forces formal response and when Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson offered the school systems official reply. Following along the same lines of thought, students and parents should begin expecting full repercussions on possession, use, and sharing of vaping devices as drug paraphernalia when viable instead of being treated like possessing cigarettes.
Sosebee also released information about those who came into contact with a substance that hospitalized five in a warrant on A1 Smoke Shop. The substance, identified as “Panaca,” a synthetic cannabinoid substance that is labeled as a “Schedule I Drug.” Sosebee compared this to Methamphetamine, a “Schedule II Drug.” She went on to note that this identifies synthetic marijuana, like that found in the smoke shop, is comparatively worse than Meth.
Wilson noted that the students have also been told that the consequences of vaping in school is increasing, and additional information from Sheriff Craig noted that criminal charges of this caliber could still involve 15 years in prison in the case of Schedule I Drugs.
As seen in the video, much of the night was spent attempting to inform parents and citizens about the issue, it was noted that the school system is taking a hard stance against the trend. Continuing to point to the fact that some may or may not know what is in the vape devices they use, authorities point to the commonality of hard drugs found across the nation in these devices as reasoning to utilize the full consequences made available in both the school’s code of conduct and criminal law to dissuade students from using these devices.
Ellijay, Ga. – An incident report from the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office confirmed reports of a student “blacking out” and suffering seizures after inhaling a substance from a SMOK Vape device.
The male student was hospitalized from the incident and later released. The incident, however, did prompt officials to call in K-9 units to search for other drugs. Authorities found two additional SMOK Vapes with one testing positive for containing marijuana. While the
original vape has been tested, no official response is available identifying the substance in the original device.
However, according to the incident report, it was reported that the student was told by a fellow classmate that “there was a vape in the boy’s restroom and he should go smoke some of it.”
With the investigation in Gilmer CID’s (Criminal Investigations Division) hands, no names of the students nor additional information is available.
However, FYN spoke with Gilmer County Charter School Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs who confirmed the incident is part of a larger problem facing the schools today. She told FYN that last year, the school system confiscated eight vape devices over the course of the entire year. This year, they have already collected 25 devices since the beginning of school a few weeks ago.
Each instance results in disciplinary action for the student as it is a violation of the code of conduct, according to Downs, but as the rise in using other substances in the devices continues, the charges against students get far more serious as they deal with controlled substances.
Downs went on to say that she has spoken with other Superintendents to see if Gilmer is alone in the rise of vape usage. Though she declined to name which counties she had spoken with, she did confirm that Gilmer was not alone.
Confirming the rise in popularity of these devices in several counties, the Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee made a press release stating, “Within the last week, several teens in Pickens, Gilmer and Fannin counties have experienced medical emergencies as a result of “vaping,” by use of electronic cigarettes. These medical emergencies necessitated treatment by both EMS and treatment at hospitals.”
Many of the vape devices found being used are very small handheld devices easily concealed within one’s palm or bag, like a purse or book bag, or even in one’s pocket as several designs become thinner and shorter. Downs confirmed they have found Juul brand vapes and last weeks incident report confirmed the males vape was a SMOK brand. Sosebee notes, “Some e-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some look like USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items.”
As the use of vapes themselves are intended to be used with nicotine for adult smokers, the rising concern is the ability to swap out the common “juice” for homemade cocktails or drugs. Downs confirmed that reports have been made of students crushing Adderall and other things to make the “juice.”
According to Juul’s website, “These alternatives contain nicotine, which has not been shown to cause cancer but can create dependency. We believe that these alternatives are not appropriate for people who do not already smoke.”
Sosebee also commented on other substances that have been found in the devices saying, “The liquid that is inhaled, known commonly as “vape juice,” can contain any number of substances: it can contain flavoring; it can contain nicotine; it can also contain drugs and illegal substances such as THC oil, fentanyl and LSD. Of great concern, the user may or may not know what they are inhaling, what their reaction will be to the substances, what they are exposing others to and may erroneously believe that they are simply inhaling “harmless water vapor.” There is nothing harmless about what is occurring.”
Downs went on to say that some parents may have purchased vapes for their kids not knowing that they are swapping out the contents. The feeling was echoed by Sosebee as she called for parents to “be aware of the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes.”
With concerns rising from parents, administration, and law enforcement alike, investigations are continuing as programs and events are attempting to educate the community about the devices and their popularity.
Downs said the Gilmer Administration is stepping up efforts in educating and building awareness in their staff about what to look for and also to educate our parents in the community saying, “I feel like there is a real lack of knowledge and lack of understanding among our community in relation to this… This has blown up overnight to the point that I feel like its almost epidemic.”
DALTON, Ga. – The Dalton Police Department is on scene at Dalton High School where shots have been fired.
Dalton Police report that no student was injured by the shooting and all students are out of harm’s way. They also report the subject, a teacher, has been taken into custody.
The subject had barricaded themselves into a classroom earlier today before firing a weapon. Local police and Georgia State Patrol responded to the initial call. Concerning those reports that have come about a student injured during the evacuation, the Dalton Police were adamant that no student was injured by the shooting.
Police are also asking parents to NOT go to Dalton High School as they say, “The area inside the school has been evacuated and there are no students believed to be in the school at this time.”
The evacuated students have been taken to the Northwest Georgia Trade Center where police report parents should go for their children.
Gainesville Students to Attend Air Force and Naval Academies
GAINESVILLE, Ga.—Two students from northeast Georgia have been offered admission to a U.S. military academy. Cameron Sturdivant will join the class of 2022 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and Chase Nufer will attend the U.S. Naval Academy.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) nominated these students to the military academies because of their integrity and track record of accomplishment in the community.
“I couldn’t be prouder of Cameron and Chase, who have dedicated themselves to servant leadership roles early in life. I look forward to their success in Colorado Springs and Annapolis as they reflect the strong character of northeast Georgia,” said Collins.
Sturdivant is the son of Ms. Chere Rucker. He attends Gainesville High School and is following in the footsteps of his brother, Mr. Donovan Moss, who is currently a senior at the Air Force Academy.
Nufer, son of Mr. Peter & Ms. Heidi Nufer, is the captain of the baseball team at Forsyth Central High School and a member of the National Honor Society.
In Georgia, the average family spends over $100 on school supplies. This can be a hassle for middle class parents and it becomes a burden for poor families. School supplies are not at the top of many families budgets when it can be a struggle to keep food on the table.
Although lower than the national average of 14.7%, Pickens County still sees 29,469 people (11.6% of population) in its borders living below the poverty line. It’s easy to see why many families in our community aren’t able to afford supplies.
Jasper Merchants Association has stepped in this year with the Back-To-School Supply Drive. The drive allows citizens to donate backpacks and supplies to JMA in hopes that every child will have what they need for the school year.
If you would like more information about the drive you may visit their website.
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com
According to information received earlier tonight, October 7th 2016, bond has been set for Daniel Culbreth in the amount of $25,000. Culbreth is currently trying to make bond as of 10pm Friday night according to Pickens County Sheriff’s office. Bond Conditions are as follows: (See Below)
Mr. Daniel Culbreth, a math teacher at Pickens High School, was arrested on Thursday night (October 6, 2016) for Computer Exploitation of Children and Sexual Assault by Persons with Supervisory Authority. Culbreth, also a PCHS running back coach was arrested for DUI of alcohol in 2015. (see arrest/booking report below).
The arrest came during an investigation into inappropriate communications with a student. Led by Detective Steven Holmes of the Pickens Sheriff’s Office, who also serves as an agent for the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, detectives began following up on a tip that Mr. Culbreth had been using the popular teen social media app Snapchat to communicate with female students.
According to the information received by detectives, the content of some of his communication was highly inappropriate. After receiving and verifying this information, Pickens Sheriff’s Office Detectives executed a search warrant on Mr. Culbreth’s Snapchat account and found this information to be true.