Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Honors Union County Schools

Education, Featured Stories, Panthers Corner
Georgia Agriculture

Blairsville, Ga – Representative from the Georgia Department of Agriculture presented Union County Board of Education with the Georgia Grown System of Distinction Award.

Misty Freeman served as Georgia’s Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black’s spokesperson to congratulate Union County School’s (UCS) Nutrition Program Director Courtney Waller on her efforts to provide students with locally sourced meals.

It’s the third year that the Georgia Agricultural Department awarded school systems for using local produce and meat to teach students about healthy eating. Each year three schools receive the award.

“The Commissioner says ‘just watch, just watch through the year and let’s see what’s going on. Let’s see what’s being done out there,” explained Freeman, when determining criteria for the award. She didn’t attend the middle school day, where the entire school went to the Georgia Agricultural Center and ate an entirely Georgia grown meal.

Georgia Agriculture

Georgia Grown System of Distinction is only given to three schools in the state.

“It was the most amazing event,” said Freeman, “It met all of the national school requirement, which is another whole bucket of worms. In that and really just watching what they do, caring about purchasing local, caring about purchasing local, supporting agriculture, which is our number one employer in the entire state, she demonstrated excellence so far in school efforts.”

Waller and UCS have prepared students to care about Georgia agriculture and eating habits through their efforts.

Next, Frank Riley of the RC&D Council accepted his Partner in Education award and thanked the school for the honor.

Riley’s contributions made events like middle school day and in turn the Georgia Grown System of Distinction Award possible, for UCS. He’s also worked with the hoop houses, drone programs, purchased equipment with his resources to help assist farmers and students in the community.

RC&D council Frank Riley

Frank Riley received a Partner in Education award from the Board of Education.

“Thank y’all, said Riley, “I appreciate the opportunity to accept the award. You don’t see many programs like this working with the school, employees, FFA, any kind of groups around the state that want to do something in the community with Ag, river, and fire. It has just been fantastic.”

Rayfield presents school security and safety update


BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – During the Union County Board of Education (BOE) work session Tuesday, Feb. 20, Dr. Fred Rayfield, superintendent for Union County Schools, delivered an update on school security and safety procedures in the wake of the recent school shooting in Florida.

Rayfield stated there are three non-negotiable duties for which all employees of Union County Schools are responsible: teach students, protect students and act ethically and professionally.

The superintendent clarified that all security and safety plans and protocols for Union County Schools have been approved by the state and Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), and Union County has been used as a model for other north Georgia school systems to follow.

Dr. Fred Rayfield, superintendent of Union County Schools, updates the Board of Education on school safety and security policies and measures Tuesday, Feb. 20.

“Every aspect is reviewed annually,” Rayfield said of the school system’s security and safety policies. “Safety enhancements and additions are an ongoing priority.”

Currently, according to Rayfield, Union County Schools employ three school resource officers (SROs) from the Union County Sheriff’s Office as well as two security officers and one security guard who mans the guard shack at Union County High School.

Additionally, other system-wide safety features include a required picture ID for all school system employees, security cameras inside and outside of facilities, security cameras on buses, thorough visitor sign-in processes, secure “buzz-through” main entry points at facilities, 24/7 monitoring of electronic threats and messages on social media and other online outlets, and on-site panic buttons.

Rayfield explained the school system has spent over $715,000 over the last five years on these and other safety enhancements for schools, which averages to $271 a student spent for safety and security measures.

“I can assure you,” Rayfield told the audience at the meeting, “that there are some things in place here that make me feel very good about where we’re at with security and that we’re making progress toward getting better … I believe that we do everything that we can to protect kids no matter what the situation, and I applaud the (BOE) for appropriating the resources over the last three to five years .”

Following Rayfield’s presentation, BOE member Janna Akins stated, “I think it’s hard to fathom that we’ve got kindergartners that we should be concerned about in these kind of situations, but that’s just the times that we live in now. This information was very helpful, and I appreciate the board and the school system’s approach of not just having a reactionary plan but an ongoing plan to make (safety) a priority.”

Also during the work session, Courtney Waller, school nutrition program director, presented a slight revision to the school system’s wellness policy. Waller explained the policy, according to federal mandates, must be reassessed every three years

According to Waller, the revision would change the wording from “all food and beverages made available on campus during the school day shall be consistent with the minimum requirements of federal law” to “all food and beverages available for purchase …”

Later, in the regular meeting, as the board was about to approve the revision, Rayfield explained this proposed revision must remain tabled for 30 days before final approval can be made to change the policy.

In the regular meeting, Superintendent Rayfield awarded two presentations with the first being an art student recognition awarded to second-grader Emma Taylor. Taylor’s design was selected for use on the Union County School System Christmas card in 2017. “Thank you for a beautiful piece of artwork,” Rayfield told Taylor.

Next, Rayfield presented representatives from Union General Hospital – Lewis Kelley, chief executive officer, Michael Gay, chief operating officer, and Leslie Daniel, administrative liason – with a Partner in Education award.

“They do a tremendous amount of work throughout the school system to provide lots of services for our students and employees,” Rayfield said of the hospital’s partnership with Union County Schools, “and we’re just absolutely excited to recognize Union General Hospital as our community partner for this month.”

In other business, the BOE unanimously approved, as submitted, all principals’ quarterly reports, the monthly financial reports, fiscal year 2018 budget amendments, and personnel recommendations.



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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping. - Dedicated to serve the needs of the community. Provide a source of real news-Dependable Information-Central to the growth and success of our Communities. Strive to encourage, uplift, warn, entertain, & enlighten our readers/viewers- Honest-Reliable-Informative.

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