Fetching Features: a look at former Superintendent Mark Henson

Community, Lifestyle

Have you ever had a goal that you wished to achieve? Something became a driving force in your life as it took a point of focus. It may have been that you wanted to become something, maybe a firefighter, an astronaut, or a soldier. You strove to follow that dream, to grow closer to that goal. The achievement was your motivation.

For some, at least.

Many people will recall the nearly 30 years Mark Henson spent as the Superintendent of Fannin County Schools teaching and influencing the kids of Fannin County. Many may think of this as a life well spent. Henson himself would agree, but it was not always so.

Growing up among a family of educators, Henson knew the life well before he even graduated high school. It was part of the reason he struggled so hard against it. While it may seem like 30 years in the career isn’t the best evasion strategy, Henson says it came down to logic as to why he finally gave in.

After high school graduation, he took his goal of avoidance instead of achievement to heart. “If you go back and look at my high school annual, my ambition was to do anything but teach school because everybody in my family at that time, were teachers,” says Henson as he explains attending the University of Georgia shortly before moving back to Blue ridge to work for the Blue Ridge Telephone Company.

Spending about a year at the job after college didn’t work out. Henson doesn’t speak much on the topic as he says his father knew someone working for Canada Dry in Athens. With a job opening available and good pay to entice him, Henson made the switch to working for the soda company.

Moving to Athens, Henson became an RC/Canada Dry Salesperson over the surrounding five counties in Athens. A hard job that required many hours, Henson said he’d be at work at 6 a.m. and got back home at 8:30 p.m. Though well-paying, the job fell flat for Henson as he came to terms with the long hours and little time for himself. With two years under his belt at the company, he began thinking about Blue Ridge again and his options. As he says, “Teaching didn’t look so bad then.”

Despite the years in opposition, the effort spent running away from the ‘family business,’ Henson began thinking ahead at the rest of his life. Already considering retirement at the time, it was this that ultimately turned his attention back to teaching. It wasn’t family, it wasn’t friends, but rather, it was logic that drew him to the career his life’s ambition avoided.

“I made pretty good money, there just wasn’t any retirement,” says Henson about his time at Canada Dry. As he looked harder at teaching and began seriously considering the career path, he says, “When you look at teachers, you’re never going to get rich being a teacher, but there’s a lot of benefits like retirement and health insurance that these other jobs just didn’t have.” He also notes he proved what he wanted as he retired at 54-years-old.

After much thought, it began with a call to his father, Frank Henson. He told his father he wanted to come home and pursue teaching. Though his father told him to come home and stay with them again, Henson says it was the money he had saved from his position at Canada Dry that allowed him to attend school for a year before being hired as a para-pro, a paraprofessional educator. It was a very busy time in his life as Henson states, “I would go up there and work until 11:30, and then I would work 12 to 4 at what used to be the A&P in McCaysville. I went to school at night…”

The next few years proved to be hectic as he graduated and started teaching professionally “with a job I wasn’t even certified for.” It was January of 1989 and the new school superintendent had been elected in November and as he took office in January he left a gap in the school. To fill the Assistant Principal position the, then, Superintendent had left, they promoted the teacher of the career skills class. With the vacancy in the classroom, Henson was appointed to step in to teach the class. Half a year was spent teaching a career path and skill class to 9th graders in what Henson refers to as a “foreign world.”

The first full-time teaching position he holds was perhaps the one he was least qualified for. Henson noted his nervousness taking the state-funded program. The previous teacher had gone to the University of Georgia to receive training to fill the position. Talking with the previous teacher about the class, Henson shared his reservations about the lack of training and certification. Receiving note cards and guidance on how to handle it helped, but only so far.

Henson recalled looking at the cards and seeing tips like, “Talk about work ethic for 20 minutes.” He was stuck in a position without a firm foundation. He spent the next semester “winging it” and juggling the class with student placement in businesses. Struggling through the day to day at the time, he now looks back and says, “Apparently, I did pretty good at it.”

The interesting part was that the promotions that led him into this position similarly mirrored Henson’s own path to Superintendent one day. An omen easily looked over at the time, but glaringly obvious in hindsight. Though he wouldn’t take the direct path from Teaching to Assistant Principal to Superintendent, they did set the milestones that he would hit on his way.

He also saw plenty of doubt on his way, too. He never looked at the Superintendent position as a goal, but even maintaining a teaching position seemed bleak as he was called into the office one day and told his career class position was no longer being funded.

Thinking he was losing his job, he began considering other opportunities as well as missed options, he had just turned down a position in Cartersville where Stacy, his wife, was teaching. Worrying for no reason, Henson says he was racing through these thoughts until they finally told him they were moving him to Morganton Elementary.

Taking up a Math and Social Studies teaching at Morganton Elementary, Henson found more familiar territory in these subjects. Yet, having gotten used to the career skills, he says he still felt like he was starting over again. The years proved later to be quite fortuitous as Henson says he still has people to this day stop him and talk about their time learning from him as students. Relating back to his own school years, he admits he wasn’t the best student and he made his own bad decisions.

From situations in band and class alike, he notes that he worked hard, usually sitting in first and second chair as he played the trombone, but he still found plenty of things to get into as he, by his own confession, “made the drum major’s lives and stuff miserable.” Enjoying every opportunity he could get to goof off, it became a trend throughout his school career.

Yet, in teaching, he brought those experiences and understanding to the kids as he tailored his classes each year. He shared one story of a girl that stopped him to speak for a while. Eventually, she asked, “You don’t remember me, do you?”

Admitting that he didn’t, she replied, “Well, you really helped me a lot. I was ADD and you would let me sit at your desk.” He says she went on talking about the way he changed her life.

It seems almost common now to associate teachers with stories like these, changing people’s lives, yet, it’s not often you may think a student causing trouble would become that kind of teacher.

The effort returned in a major way as Henson was elected Teach of the Year at Morganton Elementary in only his second year. The award was a testament to his efforts and success, but also evidence of how much he had changed in his life.

“You get out of school and you work a couple of real hard jobs, you see there might be more to life than goofing off. That got me redirected and helped me get through college and get my teaching degree,” says Henson.

It was more than just awards, though. Morganton Elementary created several relationships for Henson that followed him throughout his career and his life. spending four years at Morganton made it the longest position at the point, but it led to so much more. It led to three more years of teaching at East Fannin Elementary before receiving a promotion to Assistant Principal at West Fannin Middle School.

Moving from a position as a teacher to Assistant Principal isn’t just a promotion, it is a major change into school administration. No longer dealing with individual classes of students, Henson says it becomes far more political as you get pressed between teachers and parents. You walk a tightrope as you want to support your teachers in what they do, and you want to listen to concerned parents and find that middle ground. “You have got to kind of be a buffer between them… You’re always walking a tightrope,” he said.

He served as Assistant Principal to Principal David Crawford who served as Assistant Principal to his father, Frank Henson. Mentoring him in administration, he says David was a “laid back guy” that would still “let you have it” some days. It set him on a steep learning curve. Despite the jokes and stories, he led Henson on a quick path to his own education. In a sort of ‘sink or swim’ mentality, Henson said he was given a lot more authority than he expected, but he enjoyed the job.

How much he enjoyed it was a different point. Though Henson says he has never had a job in education he hated, he did say that his year as Assistant Principal was his “least-favorite job.” Though stressing he has enjoyed his entire career, he noted that the stress and shock of transitioning from Teaching to the Administration as a more big picture job factors into the thought.

Even that wasn’t meant to last long as he moved from Assistant Principal to Principal after just one year.

Nearing the end of his first, and only, year as Assistant Principal, he was called into the office again. This time it was the school systems office as his Superintendent at the time, Morgan Arp, wanted to speak with him. As he tells the story, “He said, ‘I’m looking at restructuring the system a little bit on principals and administrators. I’m not saying this is gonna happen, but if I made you Principal at East Fannin, would that be okay?’

I said, ‘Sure, I’ve been there and I know the people fine.’

He said, ‘What about West Fannin?’

I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve been there a year, I can deal with that.’

He said, ‘What about Blue Ridge Elementary?’

I said, ‘Well, that’s the school I know the least. I’m sure if you put me in there, I could. But the other two make me feel a little more comfortable.’

So the next day I got a call, and I was principal for Blue Ridge Elementary.”

Though comical, Henson said it actually worked out great as he met two of his best colleagues there. Cynthia Panter later became an Associate Superintendent and Karen Walton later became his Assistant Superintendent. Both were teachers he met at Blue Ridge Elementary.

“Blue Ridge was really where I made a lot of later career relationships,” says Henson.

His time as Principal was also a lot easier for him as he says after the year at West Fannin he knew what he was doing and had more confidence in the position. Having ‘matured’ into the job, he says the Principal position has more latitude in decisions. Having a great staff at both schools made the job easier, but the transition was simpler also because he felt he was always second-guessing himself as an assistant principal. His maturity also gave him new outlooks on the choices and decisions made.

“I think a good administrator serves as a shield between the public and teachers who need someone in there to mediate,” he says. Molding things into a larger plan for the schools and taking views from all those who take a stake in their education, “Everybody wants what’s best for the child.”

Surrounding himself with assistant principals and administrators that were detail oriented to allow him to deal with people and focus on the ‘big picture,’ two of his favorite parts of his career as he says.

After three years at Blue Ridge Elementary, the Curriculum Director at the county office resigned. Applying on a fluke instinct, he later got a call saying he got the position. He joined the staff as K-6 Director of Curriculum alongside Sandra Mercier as 7-12 Director of Curriculum.

However, his time in the office saw much more work as he spent time covering as Transportation Director and other fill-in duties. It wasn’t until 2003 when Sandra Mercier took the office of Superintendent, according to Henson, that she named him as Assistant Superintendent and really began his time in the Superintendent position.

He had never thought about going for the position, applying, or even thinking of it. Henson said he did want to be a Principal, but the county offices were beyond his aspirations.

Largely different from transitioning from Teacher to Administrator, the transition into the Superintendent position was far easier says Henson. You’re already dealing with a lot of the same things on a single school scale, but moving to the Superintendent position crosses schools and districts. He did not there is a lot more PR involved, but nothing to the extreme change as he experienced his first year in administration.

Becoming Superintendent in 2007, he says he focused on opening the school system up and growing more transparent than it already was. Sharing information and speaking straight about his feelings allowed a certain connection with people. It seems, in truth, that he never quite outgrew some of the goofiness of his childhood as he recalls joking with colleagues and staff.

Henson says he wanted to have a good time in the office despite everything they dealt with. He pushed the staff, but they also played pranks on each other and shared moments like a school secretary embarrassing her daughter with a funny picture.

Noting one particular instance, Stacy recalls a story with finance running checks in the office. With one office member in particular who would always try to jump scare people running the check machine. Henson quickly opened the door and threw a handful of gummy bears at her. Unfortunately, a few were sucked into the machine and ruined the check run. It wasn’t a good day considering, yet the staff laughed about it and shared in the comedy.

A necessary part of the job is what Henson calls it. The lightheartedness was key to maintaining his staff. “If you stay serious a hundred percent of the time, it’s going to kill you,” he says.

The position wasn’t just laughter and jokes though, tough times came plenty enough. Not all of them were the expected issues that you might expect. Aside from the general politics that face schools daily in these times, Henson even dealt with death threats in his position. Having let people go and dealt with others careers, he admits he had that one employee’s spouse threated his life after a firing.

As he speaks about some of the hardest moments like this, it’s hard to find out how harrowing the event really was. Henson says now that it’s not a big deal, it wasn’t the only threat he had. His wife speaks a little more plainly as she confesses some days, she couldn’t tell if it was worth it for him to be the Superintendent. Yet, even she says in hindsight that she is proud of the honesty, integrity, and openness that permeated his ten years.

Additionally, dealing with things like the shootings and issues that have plagued schools in the last decade, he adds, “It’s a more stressful job than when I started 30 years ago. It’s much more stressful. There are so many things that the state expects, that locals expect, that parents expect… I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like in another 30 years.”

Henson agreed that schools have lost a lot of the innocence they used to have within the teachers and staff. As these people continue to rack their brains on following the mission to educate and keep kids safe, they take a lot of the stress off the kids as they are at school. He said, “I don’t know if it’s spelled out, but I think if you’re a good teacher, you feel that inherently.”

It also branched over into policies, with increased focus on testing and numbers, Henson said the position got a lot more into the realm of politics as you deal with the state legislature and handling the constant changes that came from the state adds another item to juggle.

As a superintendent, you don’t need state tests, as Henson says, to tell you how well a teacher teaches. “I can sit in a class for five minutes and tell you if a teacher can teach.”

In the face of everything, Henson said he wouldn’t burn any bridges about returning to education, but he’s enjoying his retirement.

Henson has already reached the “what’s next” point in his career as he retired last year. One year into retirement, he says he is just as busy as ever with his position on the Board of Tax Assessors and putting a daughter through college at the University of Georgia. On top of maintaining his own projects, he says he’s focusing on being a parent and husband and making up for time lost in his position as Superintendent.

Once he hit ten years in the office, Henson said he felt like he had done what he wanted, it was time to hand it over to someone else for their impressions and interpretations. Though retiring from his career, he didn’t fade into obscurity. With Stan Helton asking him to sit on the Board of Tax Assessors and others still seeking advice and counsel, he simply transitioned once more.

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Drug Task Force Officer Arrested

News

Jasper, Ga. – The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has arrested and released reports for warrants and booking for one Charles Daniel Hamrick.

According to the Arrest Warrant, Hamrick is accused of using his position as a peace officer to convince a person to send nude and semi-nude photos to him. The offense violates his oath as a public officer.

The warrant alleges that Hamrick convinced a lady that she was a confidential informant for him and that she could have potential criminal charges brought against her. He then allegedly told her that he had destroyed her confidential informant file in return for the photos.

Having been arrested and booked on the charges, Hamrick has since paid a $1,000 bond and been released. As the official charge states Violation of Oath by Public Officer, it is charged as “a violation of the Oath taken by Hamrick as a Deputy with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the Deputy Commander of the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force…”

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FYNTV.com Georgia State House Representative District 8 Debate

Community, Election, Election 2018, FYNTV, Politics, State & National

 

 

Georgia State House Representative District 8 Debate with the Incumbent Matt Gurtler vs. Candidate Mickey Cummings.

Join us on Good Morning from the Office every weekday starting at 8AM! We will be featuring Fetch Your News FYNTV.com TV personality BKP and his political opinion, and anything goes!

Have a question, comment, or want to be on the show? Call or text 706-889-9700.

 

Collins Bill to Honor Fallen Marine Sent to President’s Desk

Press Release, State & National

COLLINS BILL TO HONOR FALLEN CLERMONT MARINE SENT TO PRESIDENT’S DESK

WASHINGTON—The Senate last night voted unanimously to pass H.R. 3821, legislation to rename Georgia’s Clermont Post Office in honor of Zack T. Addington. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) introduced the bill this September, and it passed the House in November.

“Lance Corporal Zack Addington represents the selfless courage that’s cultivated in northeast Georgia, and I’m excited to see this bill leave Congress and head to the president’s desk for his signature,” said Collins.

Collins also honored Addington when he spoke about the bill on the House floor.

Background:

Known to his neighbors as Zack, Addington joined the United States Marine Corps in 1967. A native of Clermont, he became a rifleman in the 3rd Marine Division of the Fleet Marine Force and deployed to Vietnam that year. Addington was promoted to Lance Corporal and served his country honorably until he was killed in action in May 1968.

That June, Addington received the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon in recognition of his service there.

Wright signs with Army

UCHS Football

Union County High School is losing a great athlete, but Army-West Point is welcoming him with open arms.  Senior quarterback Cole Wright signed with Army last week in a ceremony held with friends, family, coaches and faculty.  The four-year letterman threw for 1,938 yards last year, completing 136-of-247 passing attempts with 19 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions.

After signing his letter of intent, TeamFYNSports sat down with Wright to discuss his career at UC and his future as a D1 commit.

 

TeamFYNSports:  What are some of your accomplishments?

“I have maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school and I was named 7-AAA Offensive POY in 2016 and 1st team All-Region in 2017. I was All-State honorable mention in 2016 and 2017. I reached 7000 total yards and 70+ TD’s in two years at QB

TeamFYNSports:  How long have you played football?

“ I have played since I was five years old.”

TeamFYNSports:  Who have you tried to model your game after?

“I have always loved Tom Brady and his winning mentality and competitiveness. Obviously I’m a different style QB, but I try to imitate his leadership ability and drive.”

TeamFYNSports:  What’s your biggest highlight of playing football so far?

“Senior Night would definitely be the highlight of my career. After the game I looked across at my best friends who I’ve grown up playing football with and realized these guys were my brothers for life. It’s a great feeling knowing you’ve created bonds that could never be broken.”

TeamFYNSports:  What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how has that made you the person you are today?

“My biggest problem was worrying about negativity from outside of my circle. There will always be people saying, “You’ll never make it” and to that I say we’ll see. Once I focused on the game I loved and blocked all of the negativity I started to play better. This helped me grow not only as a football player but a person as well.”

TeamFYNSports:  What’s a typical day for you training wise?

“I’ve been on a new West Point workout schedule for the last month and it’s intense. I’m also running track for speed and stamina. I’m working on gaining some weight before I leave, so I’m consuming a large amount of calories per day.”

TeamFYNSports:  How have you trained? What have you done differently that has separated you from other quarterbacks?

“I started Speed and Agility freshman year and didn’t miss a day in two years. Joe Mancuso and I would go and throw and I’d learn as much as I could from him. I’m a very coachable guy so I would take little tips and advice from every camp and then try to execute them when I got back home.”

TeamFYNSports:  How big of a influence did your parents or coach have on you to continue your playing career at West Point versus any other school?

“My dad was probably my biggest influence. No one in my family has ever had this opportunity to attend an Academy. My dad and I are all about leadership and history; when we toured the campus we both fell in love with the place. West Point offers the combination of a high level education, a chance to play D1 football, and leadership training that can’t be matched at any other school.”

TeamFYNSports:  What other schools have offered you?

“No other schools have offered. Kennesaw State, Furman, GA Tech, and Georgia Southern were interested but after I committed they went cold.”

TeamFYNSports:  What are your plans once you get to college? What are you going to major in? What position(s) do you plan on playing?

“Once I get to West Point I will begin my tough journey to become the greatest version of myself. I know it will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life but I will stay mentality strong and prove the doubters wrong. I plan on majoring in aerospace engineering but I am not completely locked on that specific one. I am on the board as a Wide Receiver right now, but I will remain open for whatever position I am needed.”

TeamFYNSports would like to wish Wright the best of luck as he closes one chapter and opens another, with a bright future ahead of him.

Panthers Wrestling: Tritt making history

Union County High School

Isaac Tritt made history last week.  With his 4th-place finish at the AAA Sectional wrestling tournament last weekend, Tritt became first person in Union County history to ever advance beyond Area competition.  He now has an opportunity to be the first Union County High School student to place at the state tournament.

Tritt started playing soccer when he was only four years old.  In the 7th grade, he began wrestling.  By his freshman year, he decided to dedicate 100% of his attention to the mat; and as a junior, his commitment is paying off.

 

Tritt wrestled in the 138-lb class his freshman year, before moving up to the 145-lb class last year.  The 7-lb weight gain has given him more strength in the clinch without sacrificing speed in scrambles or shots from outside.

TeamFYNSports asked Tritt how he’s handling the reality that he’s making history, and he said, “It feels great knowing I was able to pave the road to state. The hard work was definitely worth it.”

Tritt said the sport of wrestling has taught him more than just how to throw or pin someone – it’s built character.

“When life gets hard you just have to keep pushing forward, this is something the coaches have instilled in this program,”  Tritt told TeamFYNSports in a recent interview.

He said that he’s looking to push the pace of each match at the state tournament, and he is looking to dominate his opponents.  Recognizing that the Panthers wrestle in one of the toughest regions/areas in the state of Georgia, Tritt may see some familiar faces as he advances through the tournament this weekend.

TeamFYNSports would like to congratulate the Union County wrestling program and we wish Isaac Tritt all the best this weekend.

 

After 10-0 start, Panthers season comes to disappointing end

Union County High School

The Panthers tipped off against North Hall @ 4:30 in the region tournament. The Panthers were looking to secure a playoff spot which a win would do. A loss would be the Panthers would not make the playoffs.

Both teams got off to a slow Q1 as the Panthers led 8-7 after Q1. Baggett led UC scorers with 3 in the first quarter.

The first half was one of the lowest scoring half’s UC had seen all season as they trailed 17-13. The Panthers were led by Drake with 4.

The Panthers grabbed a lead late in Q3 but couldn’t keep it as they trailed 31-30 at the end of the quarter. The Panthers were led by Baggett with 10.

Can. Colwell fouled out with a little over 4:00 left to play in Q4. The Panthers fell to the Trojans 50-42. UC was led by Baggett and Drake whom both had 15.

The Panthers fall to 16-9. The Panthers season is now over. This is only the second team in school history to ever start 10-0. Both teams that started 10-0 lost to Murphy in the 11th game and neither made the playoffs.

Sophomores Drake and Allison were both selected to the 7-AAA all region team which is voted on by the coaches. Cra. Colwell and Baggett were honorable mentions.

Drake led the Panthers with 13.0 points per game followed by Allison with 12.1. Drake did this despite missing 4 games with a knee injury.

Craw. Colwell and Drake both averaged 6 rebounds a game. Followed by Allison with 4.5.

Can. Colwell led the Panthers with assists per game averaging 2.8, followed by Allison with 2.4.

Drake also led the Panthers in steals per game with 2.9 followed by Allison with 2.4

Drake averaged 1.0 block per game followed by Waller with .5.

Panthers celebrate senior night, fall to Tigers/Lady Tigers

Union County High School

The Lady Panthers tipped off at 7 following senior night at 6. The Lady Panthers had 2 seniors, Bailey Daniel and Grace Wischmeyer. Wischmeyer was limited to playing time this season due to a knee injury.

The Lady Panthers faced off against the Lady Tigers from Dawson County. The Lady Panthers fell to the Lady Tigers earlier in the season 54-42. The Lady Panthers looked to secure a spot in the playoffs with a win.

Mccarter led UC with 4 of the 9 points scored in the first quarter. The Lady Panthers trailed 11-9 after Q1.

The Lady Tigers used a 12-4 run to open Q2 to extend the halftime lead 32-21. Ade. Dockrey led the Lady Panthers with 4 points. The Lady Tigers also used a 9-1 run the close Q2.

The Lady Panthers fell behind majorly in the first half due to poor free throw shooting. The Lady Panthers shot only 35% from the line 6-17.

The Lady Tigers separates themselves over the course of Q3 with a score of 54-31. Hill led Lady Panthers scorers with 4.

The Lady Panthers fell 70-38 to the Lady Tigers. Sticker led the Lady Tigers with 25. Mccarter led the Lady Panthers with 8.

The Lady Panthers finish the 15-9 in the regular season. The Lady Panthers next game will be Wednesday Feb 7th, at East Hall facing off against Dawson in the first game of the region tournament.

The Panthers followed tipping off at 8:30.

The Panthers had several seniors, twins, Candler and Crawford Colwell, RJ Banton, Cole Davis, Timothy Patrick, and Patrick Baggett.

Cra. Colwell was only 6 points away from hitting his 1000th point. The Panthers trailed early 13-9 at the end of Q1 as they were led by Baggett who had 4.

The Panthers trailed 31-34 at the half. UC was led by Allison who has 3. Cra. Colwell with 1:38 left to play in Q2.

The Tigers used a 8-0 run to open Q3 as they led 45-34. DC was led by Reed with 5 and The Panthers were led by Davis with 4.

The Panthers would fall to the Tigers for the second time this season 59-47. The Panthers fall to 16-8. UC wad led by Baggett with 17. The Panthers will play @ East Hall Feb. 6th, I. The opening round of the region tournament. The Panthers will play North Hall.

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