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Fannin School Board Members Make Legislative Site Visit to Capitol

By Bree Collar, Sentinel Staff Writer

The Fannin County Board of Education
took a legislative site visit to the Capitol
March 3 along with attending a morning
conference to learn of proposed educational
bills affecting schools statewide.
Superintendent of Fannin Schools Dr.
Michael Gwatney, along with the five-member
Board of Education, Assistant Superintendent
Robert Ensley in personnel and
administration, Director of Achievement
Sarah Rigdon and School Board Attorney
Lynn Doss met with representatives of the
Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA)
and Georgia School Superintendents Association
(GSSA) before moving along with
their Capitol visit sitting on the floor of the
House of Representatives as they prepared
to discuss and pass recommended legislation
related to topics including the public
education system.
“The Board knows that to govern effectively,
they must maintain contacts and
foster relationships,” Gwatney said. Besides
spending multiple days during the 2019-
2020 school year visiting local schools to
remain in touch with students, faculty and
staff members, they also know the importance
of remaining in contact with the Georgia
Legislature, he said.
“I believe the trip gives our county an
opportunity to keep key friendships with
senators and representatives,” School Board
Chairman Chad Galloway said.
After hearing from Lobbyists Angela
Palm with GSBA and John Zauner with
GSSA, the Board took note of potential legislation
being proposed this legislative session
that could affect the way schools run
and govern themselves.
Bills discussed included expansion on
voucher bills, scaling back standardized
testing requirements, providing flexibility
to individualized teaching needs, a bill that
would allow homeschoolers to participate
in extra curricular activities as long as they
follow student enrollment requirements,
and even one House Bill identified as 1041
that would require school boards to create
a review committee that must approve all
media center and instructional materials
before they are used in the schools.
A big hurdle currently under contention
between the House and Governor’s office is
the 2021 budget and teacher raises, Zauner
said. A $30 million dollar plus addition in
statewide raises is creating push back when
all other agencies are being asked to cut six
percent.
“Our position has always been teachers
certainly deserve the raise, it’s just that the
state gives a portion of the raise really and
then the local districts come up with other
pieces underneath which are the core benefits
which obviously are not cheap,” he said.
The suggestion was made for local districts
to consider three scenarios when preparing
for next year’s fiscal year. Zauner said
Georgia school districts should consider no
raise, $1,000 and $2,000 potential situations.
After the morning conference, Fannin
board members moved on to the State Capitol
where they sat on the floor of the House
listening to State Representatives on the
23rd day of the Legislative session.
“The thing that intrigued me was being
able to go down on the floor where Speaker
(David) Ralston was helping me see how
they work together which is similar to how
we work together,” School board member
Bobby Bearden said.
They also had a chance to briefly talk
with Georgia Senator Steve Gooch who
represents the 51st district that includes
Fannin County. These opportunities allow
school officials to express their concerns
with legislation being considered that affects
school systems including teaching practices
and students.
“It was great to see those who have served
their local communities now doing it on a
state level and the knowledge they bring,”
School Board member Mike Cole said.
Observing the legislative process helps
Fannin County Board of Education facilitate
a working relationship with elected officials
at a state level. “The interaction also allows
us to share our input and views on how
pending legislation would affect the Fannin
County School System,” School Board member
Terry Bramlett said.

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