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Ellijay, GA
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by Whitney Crouch

The Gilmer County Board of Education unanimously approved a contract to hire Jason Kouns as the official school system superintendent during a meeting Thursday, Jan. 9
Kouns had served as the interim superintendent since Sept. 12, 2013, and his new contract is for an 18-month period. 
At press deadline, the contract document was being finalized with the school system’s attorney and was not yet available for review. 
In regards to his appointment, Kouns told the Times-Courier, “I am extremely pleased and honored that the Gilmer County Board of Education has taken this time to publicly 
support my placement as the permanent superintendent with a unanimous vote on Thursday evening. This sentiment now affords our system the opportunity to proactively plan and ensures that a long term vision can begin in earnest. The children, faculty, staff and community deserve this type of commitment as we pursue additional growth opportunities for our school facilities. 
“Although appointed by the BOE as the instructional and operational leader, this system is a collaborative success based on the contributions of many. Each piece (is) as necessary as the next and none more important than the other. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by such talent, and I look forward to the future accomplishments our system will achieve.”

Oakland property 
Last week, the board also determined that it would not accept the Oakland Academy Charter School’s proposal to purchase the Oakland Elementary School building and property for $304,750. 
The facility has been used for storage since the Cartecay community elementary school was closed due to budget constraints in 2011. 
Citing data from the county’s tax assessor’s website, director of operations Erick Hofstetter explained that the property was valued at $2.136 million. 
James Waters, who maintained his role as board chairman after a vote last week, observed, “If you took the square footage of the building and just figured it at $150 a foot — and that’s lowball for today’s prices — you’re looking at a $6 million cost.” 
When discussing other options for the building, Kouns observed that several people have verbally expressed ideas of potential uses for the facility, but the charter school group was the first to submit an actual written proposal. 
Hofstetter noted that some groups such as Dalton State College and Mountain Education Charter High School had looked at the property but decided it was too far out of town to meet their needs. Other potential opportunities that have stalled include developing the property into a Georgia Public Safety Commission training center or creating a emergency operations center and police substation for Gilmer County.
There are currently no plans to set a price for the property or to seek the help of a realtor to dispose of it. 
“At this point we are not interested in releasing that property at the offer that was made,” Kouns stated. “We will certainly entertain all options that are turned in to us physically and in a concrete manner. Again the facility is not actually listed as a facility that is for sale.” 

New meeting schedule
New meeting dates and times were also approved for the board of education. 
Regular meetings generally will be held the third Thursday of each month with work sessions held the preceding Monday. All meetings will take place at 5:30 p.m., at the school system’s central office building located at 134 Industrial Boulevard in Ellijay. 
The February meeting dates are an exception to the third Thursday schedule because of a school holiday scheduled for Feb. 17 – 21. For that month, the work session will be held Monday, Feb. 10, followed by a regular meeting Thursday, Feb. 13. 

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