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General news and features

Updated: substitute charged over gun at school

Updated information from Pickens Sheriff press release 


Substitute Teacher Charged After Bringing A Handgun To School

Pickens County Georgia, May 16, 2018: Earlier today, at approximately 10:00 am, our office was notified of an incident involving a substitute teacher that had a handgun in her purse at Harmony Elementary School. As we were notified, the Substitute had already been relieved from her classroom and sent home by school officials.

During the investigation, it was determined that several students in the First-grade class, that Ms. Julie Gungl was teaching, had observed the pistol and brought it to her attention. She then notified school administration. The handgun was a 9mm Springfield and according to Ms. Gungl, it was unloaded at the time. She stated that she forgot the weapon was in her purse upon entering the school.

After completing the investigation, detectives have charged Ms. Gungl with Possession of a Weapon within a School Safety Zone. Due to the fact that Ms. Gungl had a Georgia Concealed Weapons Permit, this charge is a misdemeanor. Throughout the investigation, Ms. Gungl has remained very cooperative and turned herself into the Pickens Sheriff’s Office Adult Detention Center.

She has been released after posting bail that was set at $1,000.



substitute teacher with gun

Book in photo from jail



Previous press release

Press Release from Pickens County Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson - 

     May 16, 2018  - Today at Harmony Elementary School, a female substitute teacher brought a handgun to school in her purse. The purse was open, and the handgun was observed by several students while in the purse. The handgun was never removed from the purse. The substitute teacher informed the staff at that school of the handgun. She was relieved of her duties and sent home. She is a substitute teacher employed by a contracted service company and will not be allowed back in our school system. The District immediately notified the Pickens County Sheriff, and he is conducting an investigation. The District would once again like to thank the Pickens County Sheriff and his staff for their continued cooperation and support. 


Miller building on the auction block

miller building

Mark Miller’s building on the corner of Main and Church streets and its remaining contents are in a bankruptcy auction online.

       The building at 1 South Main Street, housing the law offices of Mark Miller since the mid 1990s, will likely change hands in a bankruptcy auction later this month. The online auction opened May 14  and will end  May 24 at 10 a.m.

Miller was a well-known attorney before his guilty plea on numerous financial fraud and theft charges involving his clients in July of 2017. Part of the sentencing/plea deal involved hefty amounts of restitution to his victims.

      See full story in this week's print or onilne editions

4th grader alerts bus driver to man lying beside road

“I think she was his guardian angel,” says driver

girl hero2

Family photo

Hill City Elementary’s Alexis Peacock is credited for spotting an elderly man on the ground and alerting a bus driver.



Wednesday, May 2nd started like any other school day for fourth grader Alexis Peacock, who got on the bus to head to Hill City Elementary - but when she saw a man lying on the ground on the side of the road she knew she had to say something. 

“She came up to me and told me there was a man on the ground face down,” said Connie Essary, driver of bus #38. “The kids are trained not to come when we are loading or unloading, but she came up anyway. On buses, you’re higher and see things other people can’t, and she saw him. I’m a firm believer in guardian angels, and I think she was his guardian angel.” 

Moore raises the bar, wins state pole vault

2018 PHS Track Olivia Moore PV Championship at State

     Olivia Moore clears the bar at 13’ 7” to bring home the 4A Gold medal in the event at last week’s 4A State Track & Field Meet at Berry College in Rome.    

      PHS Senior Olivia Moore was some kind of wonderful at the 4A State Track & Field Meet at Berry College’s Vallhalla Stadium this past week as the standout athlete launched herself over 13’ 7”in the Pole Vault competition to beat long time nemesis Alex Potts of Woodward Academy (12’0”). Moore brought home yet another PHS state championship in the event following Tyler Craig (2013) and Kyle Tidwell (2017) who also stood atop the #1 position on the state podium in the Pole Vault event. Moore also placed 4th in the 100M Hurdles (15.59) to bring home some more state medal hardware. Moore’s prowess in track & field has led her deservingly to an athletic scholarship at Georgia Tech for the coming year.

Economic growth emerges as top issue at candidate forum

candidate forum school board

photo/Dan Pool

School board incumbent Byron Long’s response draws a laugh from challenger Tucker Green during the forum last week. Early voting is underway now.

        At the candidate forum hosted by the Pickens Progress Thursday, seven candidates from the three contested local races responded to questions from moderators and members of the public. 

If public officials and candidates’ family members are taken out of the count, attendance was disappointing as there were only a handful of people from the public present.   

Across the board, candidates expressed their love for the Jasper and Pickens County and desire for the community to be the best it can be. There were many overlapping platforms from candidates, who were all cordial during the forum.

         See full story in this week's print or online editions.