L4GA grant brings literacy to all local children

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BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) awarded Union County School System (UCS) $3.2 million over five years to advance literacy efforts.


Assistant Superintendent Dr. Paula Davenport was instrumental in UCS receiving the L4GA grant.

As a recipient of the Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading in Georgia (L4GA) grant, UCS will focus on creating plans for children from birth to 12th grade. Additionally, the school will partner with the community to effectively reach all local children.

UCS was at the top of the list to receive the grant, according to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Paula Davenport.

GaDOE considers “the poverty level of a community, the percentage of students reading below grade level, the recent rate of growth in the number of students reading above grade level, and whether a school is identified for support from the Department of Education’s School Improvement team.”

From a GaDOE release on the program:

“Introduced in 2016, L4GA is a unique approach to improving literacy that pairs community-driven action with research-proven instruction. In its first round, funded by a federal Striving Readers grant of $61.5 million, 38 school districts partnered with early learning and care providers as well as community organizations to implement community efforts and improve classroom instruction. By working together, schools, early learning providers and caretakers, and community leaders are moving the needle on literacy – in 2019, third-grade students showed significant gains in English Language Arts and grade-level reading.”

UCS has developed a slogan for the program “literacy is for everyone” or “LIFE” for short. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Davenport explained the school will develop tailored programs to meet each child’s interest from digital books to picture books and graphic novels.

“Whatever it takes to get a child to read,” she added.

Davenport also spoke about how literacy is more than just reading; it’s drawing, listening, and writing. Each area of focus will help children gain a holistic understanding and appreciation of literacy.

The public library, daycare programs, families, and businesses will play an essential role in granting greater access to materials. For instance, parents will be encouraged to read bedtime stories to their children.

With the first planning meeting this week, the initial implementation of the L4GA program will probably be adaptable due to COVID-19. The first year might become more digital to protect the health of everyone involved.

UCS students have scored highly in literacy in the past, but low in writing. Davenport hopes the holistic approach of the L4GA program will lead to an improvement in writing scores as well. Typically, the school uses Milestone test scores to judge students’ abilities, but currently, the most recent data is from 2018-2019. Georgia canceled the Milestone tests for 2019-2020 and could do the same in 2020-2021 because of COVID-19.

L4GA brings together the entire community to support the whole child.

Teams from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State University will be collecting data from L4GA districts to document positive practices and gauge the overall​ impact of the L4GA Project.

A total of 23 schools received the grant for 2019. The award total was $22,101,554.

L4GA 2019 Grantees: Burke County Schools, Butts County Schools, Charlton County Schools, Clayton County Schools, Cook County Schools, Elbert County Schools, GaDOE State Schools, Glascock County Schools, Grady County Schools, Haralson County Schools, Lanier County Schools, Liberty County Schools, Newton County Schools, Paulding County Schools, Pike County Schools, Pulaski County Schools, Rockdale County Schools, Terrell County Schools, Toombs County Schools, Treutlen County Schools, Troup County Schools, Union County Schools, Vidalia City Schools​.

“School districts selected for the first round of L4GA funding made great strides in student literacy learning,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “I’m eager to see the progress made by our new grant recipients in the coming years. Making sure students are reading on grade-level remains mission-critical, top-priority work for the Georgia Department of Education, and we continue to seek all possible opportunities to support that work at the school and district level.”​







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UCS awarded $3 million grant for college and career academy

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college and career academy

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Union County Schools (UCS) was one of three districts in the state to receive the College and Career Academy (CCA) grant for $3 million. The school will establish the first multi-state CCA in Georgia.

UCS has several similar program initiatives with its Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) efforts, but the grant money will allow them to expand their offerings. Students will also have opportunities for dual enrollment through some of the CTAE programs.

CTAE Director Josh Davis explained why UCS decided to apply, “After researching the grant process last summer and discussing with our stakeholders, we realized we already had many of the CCA best practices in place. We decided to write the grant and go through the grant process, and all of our business, community, and post-secondary partners played a big role.”

It’s a reimbursable facility grant, and the school will move forward with the College and Career Academy with the board of education’s guidance. The grant was appropriated through the Georgia legislature and gives a school system five years to spend the allotted funds.  The first year will focus on planning and strategy to identify the best path forward.

CTAE Director Josh Davis spearheaded the CCA grant process.

As for the area of focus, Davis added, “Initially, we will utilize our current program offerings including automotive technologies, computer programming, construction, cybersecurity, engineering, entrepreneurship, nursing, sports medicine, and welding. We will develop new programs if needed as local workforce needs change and resources are available.”

The skilled training provided by a CCA allows students to seek out specific high demand, high wage jobs available within the region, which will enhance their employment opportunities. It’s a win-win for students and regional employers.

“We’ve had wonderful support from our business community. They’re hungry for employees,” explained Superintendent John Hill. “They’re a lot of employers that need employees in their high skilled, high wage jobs…Now some go to college, but a bulk goes to technical school and receives some really good training, and a lot of it, we can do in-house here.”

Chairman Hunter spoke with Technical College System Project Manager Frank Pinson over the phone.

Current Union County business partners include Advanced Digital Cable, Bank OZK, Chick-fil-A, Corrugated Replacements Inc., Lamin-X, Nelson Tractor, Panel Built, Pat’s Hallmark, The Saw Mill Place, Union General Hospital, Union County Chamber of Commerce, Union County Economic Development Authority, United Community Bank Inc., and WJRB Radio. Community partners from neighboring counties and North Carolina include Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, Brasstown Valley Resort, Moog Industries Inc, and Snap-On. North Georgia Technical College, the University of North Georgia, and Young Harris College are the post-secondary education partners.

Technical College System of Georgia Project Manager Frank Pinson called into the July Board of Education meeting to congratulate UCS and expressed his enthusiasm for the school’s initial idea.

“You’re going to establish Georgia’s first multi-district model that extends across state lines…we had the privilege way back in March of coming up and visiting with them. John and Josh took us over to neighboring counties that you’ll be partnering with. We just couldn’t be more excited about Union County and everything that you’re going to be able to accomplish up there,” Pinson expressed.

“We’re equally excited about this. I can’t wait. Once we get this going, you’ll be able to take a tour of our facilities again and see what we’ve done with the good taxpayer monies that we’ve been able to secure from you guys,” said Chairman Tony Hunter.

Evans and Appling County were the other two school systems to receive the CCA grant.


Feature image from Georgia Career Academies Facebook.




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Scoring Points: With football pushed back, what happens to basketball?

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As of now, according to the Georgia High School Association and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, basketball and all other fall sports besides football are set to begin at their originally planned times.

The North Carolina and Georgia High School football seasons were both pushed back two weeks after both organizations decided it would be best to give the players and coaches more time to prepare for the upcoming season, since there will be new rules and regulations that the novel Coronavirus has caused. Both organizations have decided not to move any other start dates for other fall sports, which could cause some problems for local area small schools.

I remember going to school in North Carolina, if the football team went deep into the playoffs, then those kids on the football team had to miss out on the opening part of the basketball season. We were luck to field enough players to have a basketball team while football was still going on, seeing as how at small schools most athletes play more than one sport and there are not a lot of kids to choose from.

Now, with football being pushed back 2 weeks, it is not going to matter if your schools football team makes it deep into the playoffs or not, odds are your basketball players that are playing football are going to miss out on a good chunk of the start of basketball season.

I would assume that the NCHSAA and the GHSA will both fix this scheduling conflict eventually, it is just a problem that I wanted to bring to light. With small schools like Andrews and Hayesville, most of your best basketball players are going to be playing football and in turn will miss out on the beginning of basketball season, which will hurt the schools chance to compete in their basketball playoffs.

I would venture to say that the powers at be will fix this to the best of their abilities, I just thought it was an issue that should not be brushed under the rug.




Check out more of Jake West’s Scoring Points by reading last week’s article: Football for NC and GA pushed back. Also remember, in sports, points are scored by both sides, so send in your opinions on sports to info@fetchyournews.com and see them in our next Sunday Edition.

Optimists show signs of care for Gilmer Graduates

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EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s 2020 graduates have had more than a few setbacks in their senior year due to COVID-19, from missing half a semester, one quarter of their entire  senior year, to cancellations of their graduation and prom before rescheduling.

Many school districts in Georgia are trying their best to provide a little extra recognition for their graduates this year due to quarantining practices shutting down the entire state’s school system.

Gilmer is no different as the Board has rescheduled both prom and graduation in addition to providing a digital graduation this Friday. But the community of the county still didn’t think this was enough to make up for months of separation and a lack of closure to the grade school lives.

The Gilmer County Optimist Club pushed forward with a new project this week, and if you’ve driven down Industrial Blvd. this week, you’ve seen the roadside parade of handmade signs that the club has donated and erected to honor these students.

Also recognized at this weeks BOE meeting, the project is getting great appreciation from both the school board and community driving past with honks of appreciation as the project was completed.

Honoring GHS Class of 2020!

Posted by Gilmer County Optimist Club on Sunday, May 17, 2020

The project lead, Lisa Salman, who is also Tourism Director for the Gilmer Chamber, said the idea came together through watching other counties and districts through social media and listening to our own community.

All in the span of about two weeks, Salman pitched the idea to Superintendent Shanna Downs and received approval from the city for a sign permit, then gathered volunteers and donations to buy the materials and hand craft the signs you see on the road. Early Saturday morning, May 16, 2020, volunteers gathered before noon to put up the completed signs. This is the original planned week of graduation.

Graduates each have their own sign recognizing their work and efforts. Salman said that she knew the school was doing things, but said their was meaning in people doing something by hand for the extra recognition. Different volunteers have painted and created different signs, so not all the signs are the same either.

This project is not completed however. Maintenance continues through the week as heavy winds and passing cars have seen a few signs blow down. Salman said they are continue during the week to repair and maintain the project through graduation day.

When asked about the importance of projects like this, Salman said, “We’re friends of youth. Children are so important and I want them to be recognized… I want to make sure they are recognized and t hey could see their name as people drive by and honk.”

The project went up this week to the surprise of all the students as Salman said they spoke with Downs and the City privately to keep this as a Graduation week surprise for the students.

The project saw donations from 35 people and time from 7 volunteers to complete the designs, construction, and finally completion of putting the signs up on the road.


(Photo and video provided by th Gilmer County Optimist Club.)

Have your Child Create a Card for the Elderly

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