Local News Articles

Vacant Assistant Principal Positions Filled at DCHS and SES

August 3, 2015
Dwayne Page
Anita Puckett
Jenny Norris

Director of Schools Patrick Cripps has filled two vacant assistant principal positions.

Cripps told WJLE Sunday that Anita Puckett has been named assistant principal at Smithville Elementary School and Jenny Norris is now an assistant principal at DCHS.

Puckett, a longtime DeKalb Middle School teacher, is succeeding Karen Knowles who was recently chosen to be the new principal at Northside Elementary School upon the retirement of Dr. Gayle Redmon.

Norris, a DCHS teacher, is filling the assistant principal post left vacant by Kathy Bryant, who moved up to principal at DCHS when Patrick Cripps became Director of Schools.

The other principal and assistants remain the same

The administration at each school is as follows:

Smithville Elementary:
Principal- Julie Vincent
Assistant-Anita Puckett

Northside Elementary:
Principal-Karen Knowles
Assistant-Beth Pafford

DeKalb West School:
Principal- Sabrina Farler
Assistant-Joey Agee

DeKalb Middle-School:
Principal- Randy Jennings
Assistant- Amanda Dakas

DeKalb County High School:
Principal: Kathy Bryant
Assistant: David Gash
Assistant: Jenny Norris

Community Answers Call to Pray for Our Schools

August 3, 2015
Dwayne Page
Community Answers the Call to Pray for Our Schools
Donnie Kelly Moderated the Program
Jordan Atnip, Donald Owens, Graden Kirksey, Don Davidson, Josh Bell, Donnie Kelly, Dr. John Carpenter, Isaac Gray, Dan Gulley, and Bill Robertson

Members of the community answered the call to pray for our schools Sunday afternoon during what has become an annual event at the DeKalb County High School gym.

This year's prayer time called " Back 2 School Call 2 Prayer" featured several local ministers offering prayers for each school as well as the students, teachers, transportation staff, and other employees.

"I had some ladies who came to me who were involved years ago just getting together to pray at the entrances of the schools. They told me that we cannot stop doing this. Since the beginning this has developed into a larger prayer gathering. But it all started with some mothers who went to the different schools having prayer, said Donnie Kelly, minister of the First Assembly of God who moderated the program. He spoke with WJLE after the program.

"As ministers and educators as well as community leaders, we need to join together. Even in our prayer times, some of the ministers today presented how important it is that we pray for each of our teachers, principals, children, the schools, so many things. We need that covenant. We need to join together to do everything we can to help our children to be able to achieve the very best," said Kelly

Local ministers participating were Dan Gulley of the Smithville Church of Christ (who prayed for DeKalb County High School), Don Davidson of the Real Life Community Church (who prayed for DeKalb Middle School), Bill Robertson of the Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church (who prayed for Smithville Elementary School), Dr. John Carpenter of the Smithville First United Methodist Church (who prayed for Northside Elementary School), Donald Owens of Dry Creek Baptist Church (who prayed for DeKalb West School), Isaac Gray of the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church (who prayed for School Transportation), Graden Kirksey of the Smithville Church of God (who prayed for Athletics/Band), and Jordan Atnip of the Smithville First Baptist Church (who prayed for the School Resource Officers).

Director of Schools Patrick Cripps also made some remarks at the beginning of the program on plans and projections for the school year.

Back to School Means Student Vaccinations for Some

August 2, 2015
Dwayne Page

Parents working on checklists to get their children ready for the start of school have an important health item to include: required immunizations.

All children enrolling in Tennessee schools for the first time, as well as those going into the seventh grade, must provide an official Tennessee Immunization Certificate before classes start

The certificate must be signed by a qualified healthcare provider or verified by the state’s immunization information system.

All students entering seventh grade are required to have proof they have had two doses of the chickenpox vaccine, or a history of the illness, and a booster shot for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis or whooping cough, commonly known as Tdap, to protect them through their teens. Another required immunization is for measles, mumps and rubella, also known as MMR.

In addition, pediatricians recommend preteens get their first of three doses of a vaccine to help prevent cancers caused by the human papillomavirus, as well as their first dose of meningitis vaccine.

Although HPV and meningitis vaccines are not required for preteens, they are recommended to be given at the same time as the required Tdap booster and any other vaccine a child may need.

Incoming college students in Tennessee public colleges who will reside in campus housing must provide proof of immunization against meningococcal meningitis after age 16.

Medical or religious exemptions may apply for families not wishing to have their children immunized, but proper documentation is required.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, immunizations required for school are available from most healthcare providers across the state, including county health departments. Children younger than 19 may be eligible for free vaccines if they have no insurance, are enrolled in TennCare, have private insurance that does not cover vaccines or are American Indian or Alaska native.

Most insurance plans, including TennCare, fully cover recommended and state-required childhood vaccines, as well as the cost of annual well child examinations through the age of 21. Insured children are encouraged to visit their primary healthcare provider or other provider who can administer vaccines and bill insurance for any services they might need. TDH strongly recommends a visit to the child's primary care provider so the child can have an annual well child physical exam at the same time. Annual wellness visits are important to keep children healthy through all the changes of the pre-teen and teenage years, but many don't get these important preventive health services.

Local health departments have vaccines available for all uninsured children, those whose insurance doesn't cover vaccines, and any child who has difficulty getting in to see a healthcare provider to get a required vaccine. Local health departments can issue immunization certificates and transcribe immunization records for any child if the family isn't able to get a certificate from their healthcare provider for any reason.

The complete list of Tennessee Child Care and School Immunization requirements is available on the TDH website at: http://health.state.tn.us/TWIS/requirements.htm. Questions about school policies on when or how immunization certificates must be provided should be directed to local schools.

First Day of School Education Celebration set for Monday

August 1, 2015
Dwayne Page
First Day of School Education Celebration set for Monday

The Annual First Day of School Education Celebration for DeKalb County will be held on Monday, August 3 starting at 6:00 p.m. downtown around the courthouse square.

The celebration is held on school registration day.

Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-Kindergarten to 6th Grade, said the event is free and all parents and students are urged to attend to help kick off the new school year. "Our goal is to provide an evening of activities, education, and enjoyment for the residents of DeKalb County. We will be having information booths, passing out school supplies, refreshments, and various activities for the students to participate in while promoting education."

"This will also provide a time for our teachers and parents to come together to build a foundation for new and positive relationships, right from day one," said Burklow
"Our First Day of School Celebration is an opportunity for our schools to take a leadership role in re-enforcing and improving relationships among parents, teachers, students, and the community. This is the one day each year when it is both easiest and most important to enlist families as partners in our children's education. This is a great time for us to engage our families and make them feel welcome into our schools."

"So come out and join us. Everything is free that evening. We'll have free school supplies, free food, snacks and lots of community people coming together to make this event possible", said Burklow.

"There are many volunteers, churches, and organizations that come together to make this event possible for our children so they are able to start school with new supplies and a great positive attitude."

If you would like to help with this event please call Michelle Burklow at 615- 597-4084. Volunteers are needed.

This celebration is totally free of charge to those who attend so make plans now to join the fun downtown Smithville on Monday, August 3 from 6:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.

NHC Physical Therapist obtains Specialist in Geriatric Certification

July 31, 2015
Courtney Smith

Licensed Physical Therapist, Courtney Smith, recently obtained the designation of Specialist in Geriatrics Certification. Certification is achieved through successful completion of a standardized online application and examination process. Coordination of the program is provided by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS).

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for Courtney and will greatly benefit our patients,” NHC Smithville Administrator, Clint Hall said. “Courtney is a professional in every sense of the word. She is already an accomplished physical therapist, but she continues to seek education and experiences that help her serve her patients in a better way. Across the United States, there are only a limited number of therapists who have obtained this specialization and we are honored to have her serving our patients at NHC Smithville.”

Specialty Certifications assist the public and health care community in identifying therapists with expertise in a particular field and are devoted to addressing the unique needs of the people with whom they work. This is a special designation that is very competitive and highly coveted.

“Continuous improvement and continuous education are very important to me and our leadership team at NHC Smithville,” Smith said. “I have challenged each of our therapists to pursue development of their professional and leadership skills so we can better meet our patient’s needs. Obtaining this specialty was a challenge, but well worth the effort. Having a sense of personal accomplishment, while also benefiting our patients was my goal all along, and I am grateful for the support from my family, friends, and colleagues.”

Courtney Smith has been a Physical Therapist at NHC Smithville since 2011 and currently serves as the Director of Rehabilitation Services. She obtained her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (UTC) in 2011. She also completed her undergraduate degree from UTC in 2009. Courtney and her husband Matt have one child and reside in Lebanon, TN.

NHC Smithville offers inpatient and outpatient rehabilitative care and accepts Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, workers compensation, managed care, and private funds. The inpatient healthcare center offers skilled nursing and rehabilitation services to adults of all ages on a short-term and continuing care basis. NHC Smithville’s outpatient clinic offers physical, occupational, and speech therapy services. For more information about NHC Smithville, visit www.nhcsmithville.com or call (615) 597-4284.

DeKalb Has its Own Medal of Honor Recipient

July 31, 2015
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County has its own Medal of Honor recipient.

The late Charles P. Cantrell of Smithville was a private in the U.S. Army and fought in the War with Spain.

Born on February 13, 1874, Cantrell was a member of Company F in the 10th U.S. Infantry. Cantrell's Medal of Honor Citation states that he "Gallantly assisted in the rescue of the wounded from in front of the lines and under heavy fire from the enemy." The engagement apparently took place at Santiago, Cuba on July 1, 1898.

The citation was issued on June 22, 1899

Medal of Honor Recipients to Visit DeKalb Middle School

July 31, 2015
Dwayne Page
Leo Thorsness as he appeared while in service
Leo Thorsness
Hal Fritz as he appeared while in service
Hal Fritz
Blackhawk helicopter

DeKalb Middle School will be hosting a visit by two Medal of Honor recipients on Friday, August 7.

Leo Thorsness, a retired colonel in the United States Air Force and Hal Fritz, a retired United States Army Officer will land on campus around 9:00 a.m. in a Blackhawk helicopter and then address students at a school assembly program.

Thorsness and Fritz both received the Medal of Honor for their actions in the Vietnam War.

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. It is generally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.

DeKalb Middle is one of only a handful of mid-state schools receiving Medal of Honor recipients as part of "Nashville Salutes", a three day event focusing on these heroes and what they stand for while preserving their legacy through the Medal of Honor Foundation's Character Development Program, which incorporates the ideals of courage and selfless service into the middle and high school curriculum to build character and promote responsible citizenship.

Tena Davidson, an educator at DeKalb Middle School, told WJLE Thursday that she discovered the program and introduced it to students in her class last year. "When I became the writing instructor for the entire Middle School last year, I searched for material I could use and found the Medal of Honor Character Development material online. It was excellent material that teaches kids to look up to someone who really has courage, integrity, citizenship, patriotism, commitment, and sacrifice. These kinds of things. It was very inspiring for the students to view these Medal of Honor recipient's stories so we began to do this program last year. I then went to a workshop in Nashville and learned that the City of Nashville was going to host 30 of the living Medal of Honor recipients. There are only 79 in the world today. It worked out that 28 are going to be in Nashville on August 6, 7, & 8 and we happened to be chosen as one of five schools where two Medal of Honor recipients are going to be visiting. They will be flying in on a Blackhawk helicopter and landing on the lawn of the school at 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning, August 7," she said.

While the assembly program will be just for students, Davidson said the entire community is encouraged to be on hand to help welcome the arrival of these war heroes to our town. "We are hopefully going to give them a huge greeting. We really want the town to come out and to support this. We welcome anyone to come and bring your flags or wear red, white, and blue. We would love for our veterans to come and welcome these guys who went above and beyond the call of duty for our country. After landing, they will be speaking in a private setting in our gym with just our seventh, eighth, and ninth grade students who participated in this program last year in my writing lab. Our kids and teachers are super excited. We are honored to have these two men come and speak to our students. We are just thrilled about it and hope everybody will come and be there for this momentous occasion in our town," said Davidson.

Colonel Thorsness' Medal of Honor Citation reads:

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. As pilot of an F-105 aircraft, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness was on a surface-to-air missile suppression mission over North Vietnam. Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness and his wingman attacked and silenced a surface-to-air missile site with air-to-ground missiles and then destroyed a second surface-to-air missile site with bombs. In the attack on the second missile site, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness’ wingman was shot down by intensive antiaircraft fire, and the two crewmembers abandoned their aircraft.

Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness circled the descending parachutes to keep the crewmembers in sight and relay their position to the Search and Rescue Center. During this maneuver, a MIG-17 was sighted in the area. Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness immediately initiated an attack and destroyed the MIG. Because his aircraft was low on fuel, he was forced to depart the area in search of a tanker.

Upon being advised that two helicopters were orbiting over the downed crew’s position and that there were hostile MIGs in the area posing a serious threat to the helicopters, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness, despite his low fuel condition, decided to return alone through a hostile environment of surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft defenses to the downed crew’s position. As he approached the area, he spotted four MIG-17 aircraft and immediately initiated an attack on the MIGs, damaging one and driving the others away from the rescue scene. When it became apparent that an aircraft in the area was critically low on fuel and the crew would have to abandon the aircraft unless they could reach a tanker, Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness, although critically short on fuel himself, helped to avert further possible loss of life and a friendly aircraft by recovering at a forward operating base, thus allowing the aircraft in emergency fuel condition to refuel safely.

Lieutenant Colonel Thorsness’ extraordinary heroism, self-sacrifice and personal bravery involving conspicuous risk of life were in the highest traditions of the military service, and have reflected great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force."

Captain Fritz's Medal of Freedom citation reads:

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. (then 1st Lt.) Fritz, Armor, U.S. Army, distinguished himself while serving as a platoon leader with Troop A, near Quần Lợi.

Capt. Fritz was leading his 7-vehicle armored column along Highway 13 to meet and escort a truck convoy when the column suddenly came under intense crossfire from a reinforced enemy company deployed in ambush positions. In the initial attack, Capt. Fritz' vehicle was hit and he was seriously wounded. Realizing that his platoon was completely surrounded, vastly outnumbered, and in danger of being overrun, Capt. Fritz leaped to the top of his burning vehicle and directed the positioning of his remaining vehicles and men. With complete disregard for his wounds and safety, he ran from vehicle to vehicle in complete view of the enemy gunners in order to reposition his men, to improve the defenses, to assist the wounded, to distribute ammunition, to direct fire, and to provide encouragement to his men. When a strong enemy force assaulted the position and attempted to overrun the platoon, Capt. Fritz manned a machine gun and through his exemplary action inspired his men to deliver intense and deadly fire which broke the assault and routed the attackers. Moments later a second enemy force advanced to within 2 meters of the position and threatened to overwhelm the defenders.

Capt. Fritz, armed only with a pistol and bayonet, led a small group of his men in a fierce and daring charge which routed the attackers and inflicted heavy casualties. When a relief force arrived, Capt. Fritz saw that it was not deploying effectively against the enemy positions, and he moved through the heavy enemy fire to direct its deployment against the hostile positions. This deployment forced the enemy to abandon the ambush site and withdraw. Despite his wounds, Capt. Fritz returned to his position, assisted his men, and refused medical attention until all of his wounded comrades had been treated and evacuated. The extraordinary courage and selflessness displayed by Capt. Fritz, at the repeated risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect the greatest credit upon himself, his unit, and the Armed Forces".

DeKalb Jobless Rate Climbs to 7.9% in June

July 30, 2015
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for June was 7.9%, up from 7.1% in May but down from the rate for June, 2014 of 8.3%.

The local labor force for June, 2015 was 7,240. A total of 6,670 were employed and 570 were without work.

DeKalb County's Jobless Rate for June was fourth highest in the fourteen county Upper Cumberland region.

Here's how they rank from highest to lowest:
Clay: 9.9%
Van Buren: 9.1%
DeKalb: 7.9%
White: 6.9%

County unemployment rates for June 2015 show the rates increased in 94 counties and decreased in one county.

Davidson County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate in June at 4.9 percent, up from 4.5 percent in May. Knox County was 5.4 percent in June, up from 4.7 the previous month. The Hamilton County June rate was 6.1 percent, up from 5.5 in May. Shelby County was 7.3 percent in June, up from 6.7 percent the previous month.

Tennessee’s preliminary unemployment rate for June was 5.7 percent, one-tenth of one percentage point lower than the May revised rate of 5.8 percent. The U.S. preliminary rate for June was 5.3 percent, two-tenths of one percentage point lower than the prior month.

The state and national unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted while the county unemployment rates are not. Seasonal adjustment is a statistical technique that eliminates the influences of weather, holidays, the opening and closing of schools, and other recurring seasonal events from economic time series.

Back 2 School-Call 2 Prayer Set for Sunday

July 30, 2015
Dwayne Page
Back 2 School-Call 2 Prayer Set for Sunday
Back 2 School-Call 2 Prayer

An annual prayer for schools observance will be held Sunday, August 2 at the DeKalb County High School gym starting at 2 p.m.

Parents, church leaders, educators, community leaders are invited to attend this special "BACK 2 SCHOOL -CALL 2 PRAYER" gathering. Information and projections related to the new school year will be presented.

The prayer service has become an annual event conducted by local ministers offering prayers for each school as well as the students, teachers, transportation staff, and other employees and school related activities.

This year, instead of a closing prayer, those present will be asked to go to the geographical location of each school and pray. A prayer of blessing and protection will be offered for the students and faculty for the school year .

For more information please call Donnie Kelly 931-260-1763

Woman Indicted for Child Abuse

July 30, 2015
Dwayne Page
Woman Indicted for Child Abuse

A 38 year old woman has been indicted for child abuse after allegedly bruising an 11 year old girl with a belt and hitting her in the face with a shoe in January.

Rachel Sprague will be arraigned in criminal court on August 10.

Smithville Police Detective Brandon Donnell said the child is the daughter of another woman unrelated to Sprague. They were all living at the same location.

According to police, Sprague allegedly whipped the 11 year old girl with a belt and left multiple bruises all over the child's body. She also allegedly took a shoe and struck the child in the face and picked up the girl by the shoulders and threw her to the ground.

"We got a report from the Department of Children Services (DCS) over child abuse allegations. The child told us Rachel would beat her with a belt repeatedly. She had bruising all over her body from the belt. She would take a shoe and smack the juvenile in the face with it. She went so far as to pick the juvenile up and slam her to the floor. This is not Rachel's child. She (Rachel) was living with another woman and this was her (the other woman's) child. DCS removed this child and other children from the home," said Detective Donnell.


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