Local News Articles

Weaver Bill Would Allow Teachers to Bring Guns to School; Local Officials Express Reservations

January 19, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mark Willoughby addressing Mark Pody and Terri Lynn Weaver

Several state lawmakers, including Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, are proposing measures to help keep Tennessee schools safer in the wake of last month's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Representative Weaver has filed legislation that would let teachers with handgun carry permits bring their guns to school, with the permission of the local school system. The bill also would require teachers to go through special training, and it would allow them to load their guns only with "frangible bullets," ammunition designed to break apart to minimize the risk of ricocheting.

(PLAY VIDEO BELOW OF TERRI LYNN WEAVER AND MARK PODY ON SCHOOL SECURITY LEGISLATION)

"Its not meant to arm all teachers in this legislation," said Representative Weaver. " There has to be a lot of parameters that take place in order for that teacher, who already has a gun conceal permit. We have to tweak it and work with our local police and sheriff's department but we've got to do something because this problem is not going to diminish. This is going to grow. We have got to have safety for our children," said Weaver.

But during an open meeting Friday morning with Weaver and State Representative Mark Pody, several local officials expressed concerns about teachers carrying guns at school. " I am for carrying permits but there's a lot of persons with carrying permits I don't think ought to be armed," said Director of Schools Mark Willoughby. "No I don't think teachers ought to be armed. If there was some place in the school where there was a gun safe for a revolver and lets say you had two or three people who were trained, who had gone through training and you had an emergency situation, then maybe you could have those two or three other people in the building who could have access (to a gun) that might be a good thing. When I was a Middle School Principal, in the right situation I would have loved to have had access to a revolver. Thank goodness I never needed it. But I would not like to have 70 people with revolvers in the school," said Director Willoughby.

"I don't know how you would pick them (teachers to carry guns)," said County Mayor Mike Foster. " I don't know how much training they would need to have," he added.

Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said he is concerned that teachers with guns might lack sufficient training to handle an emergency situation. "When they talk about eight hours (teacher gun training), a police officer now must have a minimum of ten weeks (training) and he's not ready to go then, he's just getting started," said Chief Caplinger. Eight hours training, 40 hours training is not enough. That would be like me getting an eight hour class to fly a jet airplane. I don't think any of you would want to get in there with me. There's a time when that gun can be drawn and a time when it can't. When that weapon is drawn and shot at the wrong time you've got a liability issue there. I think it needs to be people who are specifically trained for that job," said Chief Caplinger

"There are some teachers who don't want to and should not have a gun," said Representative Weaver. " I totally respect that. But for those who want to, I think its something we need to at least discuss. Basically I look at it as an inner-swat team in the school who would remain concealed and no one knows who they are. But we would have to talk about what those parameters are to make that person qualified to do that," she said.

Director Willoughby said he would prefer more school resource officers. Currently DeKalb County has one SRO at DCHS who is employed by the Sheriff's Department. "Safety is our number one priority. School Resource officers, I think would be a good thing to have in schools. The cost of that is going to be tremendous. Again, I don't have all the details but I think the citizens of Tennessee would much rather see money spent on child safety and security rather than something like vouchers," he said.

Willoughby suggested that state lawmakers, instead of reducing the sales tax on food, use the percentage of the tax they are planning to cut, and earmark that for school security measures. "I hear talk of reducing the sales tax on food and I think that's good but since security and child safety is going to be such a big deal this year, instead of that coming off the sales tax, it could just go toward school safety such as school resource officers," said Willoughby.

But County Mayor Foster said the cost of adding more School Resource Officers would further strain already tight county budgets if local governments were asked to go it alone.

"What's the cost for an SRO here,"? asked Representative Pody

"Its in the sheriff's department's budget but I would say if you talk about salaries, benefits, and a vehicle, probably around $55,000 (per SRO) and we have five schools", said Foster. He also questioned how effective adding more SRO's would be in the event of a major event. "The thing that concerns me about an in-school officer, first thing is a quarter of a million to $300,000. If it works, I'd be for it. But if you read about some of the ones (schools) who had them (officers), they were the first ones killed. I don't know the solution but I'm not sure in-school officers are the solution. If you've got just one officer in the school, and if I go in and want to hurt somebody, that's the first person I'm going to kill," said Foster

Representative Pody said state lawmakers should give local school districts options in addressing security concerns and not mandate a one size fits all approach. "There's a big difference in school safety from Memphis to Mountain City and we've got to cover the whole state so I believe that if we can give the locals their option of what's going to be best for their situation and their school district, that should be what the state should do. We want to give each school district as wide of a range of options so they can pick what's best for them. The less the state gets into it, I think the better it is. We need to let the locals decide how to do it. The last thing we want to do is put in some unfunded mandates. We don't want to tell every school system what they have to do and then they have to find a way to pay for it. We would rather let them have the options and let them figure out what they need to do to best secure their kids and to protect them," said Pody.

Smithville Alderman Shawn Jacobs Announces Intentions to Seek Re-Election

January 18, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Shawn Jacobs

Shawn Jacobs, the "dean," or longest-serving member of the Smithville City Council, signaled his intent to run for re-election Friday by picking up a qualifying petition at the DeKalb County Election Commission.

Jacobs, who is also Police and Fire Commissioner is concluding his second term, having been first elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2011. He has championed such issues as more open government by having regular reports from department heads at council meetings, more certified operators at the Water Treatment Plant, sidewalk and street maintenance, and improvements at the Smithville City Pool and Golf Club. As Police and Fire Commissioner, Jacobs has pushed for more and specialized training and equipping of both departments, including the city's new Crime-Stoppers program and additional methamphetamine-certified investigators in the Police Department and new generation bullet-proof vests for all officers. In the Fire Department, Jacobs helped secure the city's new ladder truck and was instrumental in the hiring of Smithville's first full-time Fire Chief. These improvements, as well as many others were all accomplished without a tax increase.

Jacobs also serves on the Smithville Planning Commission, the Smithville Municipal Airport Committee, and is Vice-Chairman of Smithville Crime-Stoppers. He's a graduate of DeKalb County High School and has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Mass Communication from Middle Tennessee State University. He's also done graduate work in sociology and education.

County Commission to be Asked to Extend Hours for Beer Sales

January 17, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page

First the city, now the county.

Saying they desire a "level playing field", several store owners, licensed to sell packaged beer at their establishments in the county came before the DeKalb County Beer Board Thursday night to find out how they can be afforded the same opportunity as city stores to extend their hours for selling beer.

(PLAY VIDEO BELOW OF THURSDAY NIGHT'S COUNTY BEER BOARD MEETING)

The meeting was called, apparently for the purpose of allowing store owners to speak on this issue. No other business was discussed, other than approval of the minutes from the last meeting.

County Beer Board Chairman Edward Frazier opened the meeting and immediately read a passage from state law which states that the county commission has the sole authority in establishing hours for beer sales of county licensees. "The beer board is not authorized to establish distance, rules, or to extend the hours for the sale of beer. This authority may be exercised only by a resolution of the county legislative body," said Frazier.

"Why are we here?", asked first district beer board member Jim Stagi.

"Because interested people would like to know what they have to do," said Frazier. "They've already got a license and they'd like to get extended (hours for selling beer)"

"That's not our responsibility," said Stagi. "They need to talk to their county commissioners. I got a call at twelve o'clock this afternoon saying I have a meeting. Nobody knows what its about. I come here and find out its about 24-7 (beer sales). None of us knew what it was about," he added.

Frazier took questions and comments from the store owners present at the meeting.

"I would just say we should all be on the same playing field. They (city businesses) are now selling beer on Sundays and after hours," said local businessman Jewel Redman.

"Jewel, I understand your point, but you're talking to the wrong board," said Stagi.

Stagi later pointed out that if the county commission should vote to extend the hours for beer sales, store owners who already have a beer license would not need to come back to the beer board for approval of extended hours. "If the county commission decides to change that to a 24-7 situation, this beer board would not (have to) approve or disapprove of it, because it would automatically be okay for everybody who already has a beer license. It won't even come in front of us," said Stagi.

Beer Board members informed the store owners that they would have to see County Mayor Mike Foster about getting this issue placed on the agenda for the next county commission meeting Monday night, January 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the courthouse.

Currently, stores in the county with a beer license are prohibited from making beer sales from midnight to 6:00 a.m. week nights and no beer sales are permitted on Sundays.

The City of Smithville last month changed the city's beer regulations to allow 24-7 beer sales for stores with an off premises permit and on-premises permits are now allowed for eligible restaurants who wish to serve beer with meals.

DeKalb Election Commission Planning for Smithville Municipal Election

January 17, 2013
Dennis Stanley

While City of Smithville officials have announced intentions to try and move its election date from June to August, the DeKalb County Election Commission said this week it will proceed until further notice with its plans to conduct the election June 18.

“The city’s charter specifies when the town’s elections are held and until the charter is changed, we have no choice but to follow that, and consequently, follow general law regarding time frames for certain election procedures,” said Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections.

In a workshop last weekend, the Smithville Board and Mayor and Aldermen discussed a plan to ask the state legislature to approve a charter change which would move the election from the third Thursday in June to the first Thursday in August and change the current terms of city officials so that all city elections would coincide with county elections in even-numbered years. City officials believe the move would draw more voters to the polls while saving money at the same time. The board is expected to take up the issue at its’ February 3 regular meeting.

“City officials have been in contact with us regarding this potential change, but we have informed them we will proceed with all the time frames regarding a June election,” Stanley said. “We can’t anticipate what the legislature might or might not do, and we have to follow the current charter and current state law.”

Stanley said petitions for alderman can now be picked up at the election commission office on the first floor of the courthouse. The qualifying deadline is Noon, March 21st.

Stanley said any petitions issued now will be for the June 18 election. If the city is successful in timely getting the charter changed and moving the election to August, candidates who picked up a petition for the June election may have to obtain a new petition with the new election date.

“The best advice for any potential candidate is to stay in touch with the election commission office,” Stanley said. “We’ll explain the process and the obligations of the candidates. We will also certainly make them aware that a potential change is possible. But for now, we are proceeding under all the time frames relating to a June election.”

DCHS & FCCLA to Collect Shoes for SOLES4SOULS

January 17, 2013

Soles4Souls, the international shoe charity is ramping up efforts to help individuals in need. And DeKalb County High School is getting on board to help the shoeless. Individuals can help by donating some of the 700 MILLION pairs of shoes thrown away by Americans each year.

By recycling your gently worn shoes with the charity, the discarded footwear will be given a second chance at life. By being redistributed through the charity's international and domestic partners, millions of children and adults could receive their first pair of shoes.

DCHS has been challenged by Cannon County High School to collect more shoes for the Soles 4 Souls organization than Cannon by February 5th. Final count and winners will be announced at the DCHS away game in Cannon County on February 5th. Shoes can be dropped off by any elementary school student at SES and the high school by any DCHS student. Shoes can also be dropped off at the DeKalb Community Bank in Smithville and many local churches. Please contact DCHS for additional drop off locations.

Soles4Souls has distributed more than 19 million pairs of shoes around the world with the help of partners like DeKalb County High School FCCLA. With 1 in every 4 adults in the world living in extreme poverty, basic necessities like shoes are simply unavailable. In developing nations like Haiti, Honduras, and Tanzania, walking is the main form of transportation, and shoes can protect a person's feet from cuts and infections. Also, children in other parts of the world cannot attend school without a pair of shoes.

"We have always been proud to say we do our part to keep footwear out of landfills, and hopefully put them on the feet of someone in need," said Buddy Teaster, CEO of Soles4Souls. "Please join DeKalb County High School & FCCLA in this initiative to collect gently worn footwear, and possibly improve the quality of someone's daily life," he said.

For more information on how to get involved and donate, visit www.giveshoes.org.

Mistrial Declared in Boating Under the Influence Trial

January 17, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jeffrey Leigh Sloan at the time of his arrest

A mistrial was declared Wednesday evening after a day long jury trial of 54 year old Jeffrey Leigh Sloan of Sparta charged with the misdemeanor offense of boating under the influence.

After deliberating for two hours, the jury of ten women and two men informed Judge Leon Burns, Jr. that they could not reach a unanimous decision on a verdict. The trial, covered only by WJLE was held in DeKalb County Criminal court.

Had he been found guilty, Sloan could have received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days and fined from $250 to $2,500. Sloan might also have lost his boating privileges. No word yet on whether the case will be re-tried.

Sloan was arrested on the night of October 7, 2011 by TWRA officers Nick Luper and Mike Beaty who testified they were on Center Hill Lake in the Hurricane Recreation area helping search for a missing person when they heard loud music coming from as far as two miles away. When they went to investigate they found that the music was coming from a 1989 Sea Ray cabin cruiser, operated by Sloan. His wife, Tammy Sloan was also on board. The boat was near Hurricane bridge. Officers said they pulled up to the boat and talked with Sloan. While conducting a safety inspection of Sloan's boat, Officer Luper testified that he could smell an odor of alcohol on Sloan, that his face was red, that his eyes were watery, and that he showed signs of impairment. Sloan told the officers that he had three mixed drinks at the Hurricane Marina restaurant on the lake, one when he arrived around 5:30 p.m., another during dinner around 7:00 p.m. and one just before he left the restaurant around 9:00 p.m. Sloan said he had also taken the medication adderall that day for a physical condition he suffers from.

Sloan submitted to field sobriety tasks on board the boat including the palm pat and finger to nose tests. Sloan was also asked to recite the ABC's and to perform a backward count from 89 to 65. After performing poorly on some of the tasks, according to the TWRA officers, Sloan was escorted to shore where he submitted to other sobriety tasks including the walk and turn and one leg stand tests. He was then placed under arrest. Sloan refused to submit to a blood alcohol test. Officers made a video recording showing Sloan conducting the sobriety tasks and that was shown to the jury during the trial.

Sloan's wife Tammy testified that while her husband had consumed up to three mixed drinks the night of his arrest, he was not impaired. However, she said Sloan does suffer from some physical ailments. She said Sloan is blind in one eye which affects his depth perception and balance. Mrs. Sloan said she doesn't even allow him to climb a ladder, fearing he will miss a step and fall. Mrs. Sloan testified that she would not have let him operate the boat that night if he had been intoxicated.

In her closing arguments to the jury, Sloan's attorney Cindy Howell Morgan said the officers drew the wrong conclusions about Sloan in this case. "People make mistakes. People use judgment and sometimes its subjective judgment. I'm not saying that he (Officer Luper) didn't have cause for concern or that he shouldn't have given these field sobriety tests. I'm saying that he (officer) makes mistakes. We're all human," said Morgan.

She also challenged the credibility of the field sobriety tasks. "You heard him (Officer Luper) testify that he is aware of the research from the California Research Institute that says in the best of situations, when they're doing their testing that these tests they do is approximately 68% accurate. Thirty two percent inaccurate. Yet, they want to come in here and say that based upon these tests we will find this man guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And then we look at the tests. What tests did they give him? How good did he do? If he makes one error, is that to say that he failed the test? We're all human. We all make mistakes especially when we're in the spotlight where we're being stopped by an officer, being questioned and interrogated and made to sit on a boat and do these somewhat impossible tasks," she said.

Morgan argued that while Sloan may not have been perfect in performing the field sobriety tasks, he was not impaired and that the video proves it. "We all saw that video. We didn't see him fumbling with any registration. We didn't see him unsteady on his feet. He is on a boat which is constantly in motion and what we see is a person standing there perfectly steady, having a conversation with TWRA officers. A coherent conversation," she said. "Examine the facts. Examine the physical conditions that Mr. Sloan has and the conditions of being out there on that boat. Was he perfect? No. Can any of you say that under the same circumstances that you would have been perfect? And if you're not perfect, does that say that you're under the influence? I submit if you take all these things into consideration that you're going to find that there is reasonable doubt in this case," said Morgan.

Assistant District Attorney General Greg Strong, who prosecuted the case, said the state had proven that Sloan was drinking prior to his arrest and that he was impaired. "He took his adderall. He drank three whiskey drinks at the bar and then he got in his boat. Please don't underestimate the seriousness of boating under the influence. Its just as dangerous as driving under the influence," he said.

Strong also responded to the defense's challenge of the sobriety tasks. "The whole argument by the defense from the beginning to the end is that these tests are designed to set somebody up for failure. That's all that's been on trial here today. If these tests were set up for failure, would officer Luper not have arrested hundreds of people, rather than only 19 (since he has been an officer with the TWRA)?. He told you that's the same ones (tests) he gives all the time, every time. He (Luper) said 'I give those same tests and then I make a determination as to whether I should proceed further to the shore for more (field sobriety) tasks.' If these tests were designed for failure, we wouldn't have a jail big enough in the summer to put people in because that's when most people are on the lake and that's when he (Officer Luper) patrols the lake. It was the totality of the circumstances that led him (Officer Luper) to the conclusion that this defendant (Sloan) was guilty of boating under the influence," he said.

Strong further argued that Sloan knew he was impaired which is why he did not submit to a blood alcohol test. "People refuse blood alcohol tests for a reason and that reason is because they know they will show up (in the tests) impaired. That's why he (Sloan) didn't take that test. That's why he refused it. Because he had drugs (adderall) in his system. Whether they be legal drugs or not, they probably shouldn't have been mixed with alcohol. And he had three whiskey drinks in a short time at a bar over at Hurricane Marina Restaurant. He knew that's what that test would show. It would show that we was impaired. When you add all those things up, his complexion, the odor of alcohol, and those field sobriety tasks, coupled with the fact that he refused a blood alcohol test, I submit to you that he is guilty of boating under the influence" said Strong.

DeKalb County Quadriplegic Man Surprised with Educational Grant on National Television

January 15, 2013
Kyle Thomas (Right) - Photo by Business Wire

An Alexandria man, who was left paralyzed by a tragic car accident two years ago in DeKalb County, was surprised with a full tuition-paid, four-year grant to Colorado Technical University on the nationally televised Ricki Lake Show Monday.

The grant, presented to 20-year-old Kyle Thomas, will help him pursue his dream of earning a college degree. The grant was announced as part of the show's "Hidden Heroes" series led by cosmetic dentist and TV personality Dr. Bill Dorfman.

In October 2010, as a recent high school graduate, Thomas was nearly killed in a one car crash on Highway 70 near the stock barn in Alexandria. The Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that night that Thomas was driving a 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier when he lost control and wrecked. The car flipped over on it's top and Thomas, who was partially ejected and pinned underneath the vehicle, had to be extricated. Thomas was removed from the car and taken by ground ambulance to the Lebanon airport where he was airlifted to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville.

His resulting injuries left him without use of his arms and legs, but it was Thomas' can-do attitude during his recovery that got the attention of Dr. Dorfman. "When I first met Kyle he told me that he wants to help people. I believe he will," said Dr. Dorfman, who brought together community residents - or "hidden heroes" - to help Thomas and his family.

The community support led by writer and producer John Loyd Miller has included renovations to make the Thomas' home accessible - and now includes the CTU grant. "When we heard about Kyle's journey and the tremendous efforts he has made to rebuild his life, we felt we could support him by assisting him with his college education," said Jack Koehn, CTU acting president and chief operating officer.

Thomas plans to use the CTU grant to earn his bachelor's degree through Colorado Technical University's award-winning virtual campus, which offers flexibility in taking classes online, from anywhere and anytime.

He began attending classes online in January 2013."Our team of advisors and faculty members are committed to helping Kyle achieve his dream of higher education and surrounding him with the support he needs to help him be successful in the degree program of his choosing," Koehn said.

"As a Colorado Technical University online student, Kyle will also be able to use our trademarked personalized learning system, called My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.), which will allow him to study and learn in ways that work best for him."

"I am so grateful to Dr. Dorfman and to CTU for their support and giving me hope to continue my education and help others," said Thomas, who now has limited use of his arms and serves as a motivational speaker for other young adults. "I won't ever give up. I'm going to take on the challenge of earning my college degree just as I took on the challenge of recovering from my accident."

Changes Sought In City Charter Including Four Year Terms for Mayor and Aldermen

January 15, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Tim Stribling, Jason Judd Murphy, and Jimmy Poss
Danny Washer, Gayla Hendrix, and Shawn Jacobs
Mayor and Aldermen (Older Photo)

The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen are considering making changes to the city charter including having the terms of office go from two to four years and holding regular meetings only once per month.

Mayor Jimmy Poss and Aldermen Jason Murphy, Tim Stribling, Shawn Jacobs, Gayla Hendrix, Danny Washer, and Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson met in a workshop at city hall Saturday morning to review the charter and to suggest changes. No action could be taken since it was neither a regular or special meeting.

Under consideration is a measure to change the charter so that city elections could be held every two years, on the first Thursday in August to coincide with the county general election and state primaries. Terms of office for the mayor and aldermen would go from two to four years. Aldermen say the city could save money by not having to hold an election every year. By having the city election to run with the county general elections in August, it would most likely draw more city voters to the polls, according to the aldermen. City elections are currently held on the third Tuesday in June and the mayor and aldermen races are the only offices on the ballot.

The terms of office for the mayor and aldermen are staggered. For example, three aldermen are to be elected this year (2013) and a mayor and two aldermen are to be elected next year (2014). Currently the terms of office are for two years. The office holders are elected on the third Tuesday in June and their terms of office begin on July 1.

Under consideration is a measure to extend the terms of the three aldermen up for election this year by two months until after an election in August. The three aldermen elected this year would then serve for a three year term until after an election in August 2016. From then on three aldermen would be elected to serve four year terms. The terms would most likely begin on September 1.

Next year under the proposal, the terms of the mayor and two aldermen up for election in 2014 would be extended by two months until after an election in August. Those elected would serve for four years.

The aldermen are also considering changing regular city council meetings from twice to once per month and to have special meetings as needed. Under the proposal, the mayor and aldermen would meet on the first Monday night of the month, as they do now, but the time would change to 6:00 p.m. instead of 7:00 p.m. If the meeting date should fall on a holiday, the mayor and aldermen would meet on the following Monday night. The second regular meeting night of each month, now on the third Monday night, would no longer be held. Special meetings could be called by either the mayor or any two aldermen, giving at least 48 hours notice.

The aldermen also propose to make the charter more concise and less confusing and to drop language outdated or obsolete.

City officials are to review the proposed changes with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) before taking action. A proposed resolution with the changes will then be presented to the aldermen for approval. In order for the charter to be changed it must be approved a second time by a vote of not less than two-thirds of the entire membership of the board after the resolution is approved by the General Assembly.

City officials plan to check this week with State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver and Mark Pody to make sure its not too late to get the resolution submitted to the legislature for approval this year.

School Board Conducts Annual Evaluation of Itself and Director Mark Willoughby

January 15, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
School Board and Director Mark Willoughby

The DeKalb County Board of Education conducted an annual performance evaluation of the Director of Schools and a School Board self evaluation Monday night at the Board of Education Building.

The evaluations are performed annually in January in accordance with board policy and Director Mark Willoughby's contract. The board has used the same basic instruments for making the evaluations and itself for several years.

Willoughby's contract states that the evaluation of the Director shall occur no later than January 31 each calendar year during the term of the contract. The board will review the Director's performance, progress toward established goals, and the working relationship between the two parties.

During the workshop at 6:00 p.m. Monday night, the school board members evaluated Director Willoughby on his relationship with the board, community relationships, staff and personnel relationships, educational leadership, business and finance, and strategic planning skills. Board members were to make a check mark on the four page evaluation form in each of 52 areas, if they thought expectations had been met. Spaces were also provided on the form for board members to write comments.

Fourth district member Billy Miller said he found some of the questions difficult on which to render a judgment, because he doesn't have first hand knowledge on all matters such as Willoughby's relationships with staff and personnel.

Board members were said to have found that overall Willoughby met board expectations on most, if not all areas in the evaluation.

Willoughby's current contract with the board is scheduled to expire June 30th, 2014. He has served as Director of Schools since July 1st, 2006.

In the self evaluation during a special meeting Monday night at 7:00 p.m., each board member was asked to rate the board's performance on a scale from one to six in team building, decision making, governance, school improvement, community, planning, communications, motivation, influence, and policy. A score of "one" is the lowest and a score of "6" is the highest. They were to rate themselves on how much is being done now in each of 46 areas and how important those issues are to them.

Board Chairman Johnny Lattimore said he felt like the board should do more long range planning.

Second district member Charles Robinson said the board should commit itself to once again becoming a "Board of Distinction" with the state. "I think we've got a pretty good school board compared to some of the other ones that you run into throughout the state. I would like to set as a goal that this board become a "Board of Distinction". I think it sends a message to the community that we want to be better than just a regular board. I think the community would like to see that. But it takes a little effort among board members. I would like to see more of the board members attend workshops when it comes to learning about being a school board member," said Robinson.

The DeKalb County Board of Education first completed the necessary steps to become a "Board of Distinction" in 2008.

The award, presented by the Tennessee School Boards Association, recognizes outstanding performance by school boards as a whole.

Tennessee school boards that seek this designation must meet specified requirements in four key areas: planning, policy, promotion and board development. Board of Distinction status is for two years, after which time the board may reapply for continued status.

(Pictured above: School board members Charles Robinson, W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, Kenny Rhody, John David Foutch, Chairman Johnny Lattimore, Billy Miller, Doug Stephens, and Director Mark Willoughby)

DeKalb School Buses Pass State Inspection

January 15, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jimmy Sprague, Darryl Winningham, Orlando Guzman
Darryl Winningham, Orlando Guzman, Jimmy Sprague

DeKalb County School buses have passed state inspection.

State Trooper Darryl Winningham, inspector for this district, told WJLE Monday that he has completed his weeklong evaluation of the thirty three buses in the fleet along with the seven substitute buses and all passed inspection. "We do annual inspections on all buses but we also do spot checks through the year if we have a reason. Every bus we've run through has passed inspection. Right now we're at 100% here. We work to ensure that everything is properly working on a bus before it gets back on the highway. I go from (checking) the tires all the way to the top of the buses. I check belts, fluid levels, brake pads, brake drums, brake lines, air lines, etc. Everything is checked on those buses for safety from the lights inside to the seats being secured in them. We check windshield wiper blades, the horn. We check every alarm and buzzer for all doors and emergency exits. Here at the (school bus garage) where we do all the inspections, the (local) crew is outstanding to work with. They go above and beyond to make sure that every bus is safe for every child. If there's a bulb out (on a bus) they replace it right away. They fix every single thing on it before it moves. We haven't had any (buses) out of service. Of course, they have a maintenance schedule here and they really stay on top of the buses. The drivers here are very aware of what they have to do in reporting if there are any issues with their buses and its obvious that they do report and have them (buses) repaired daily or as needed, if there is a deficiency on their buses. I've been here for seven days and every day the drivers come in and out and if there is an issue they address each issue daily and that's why these buses stay in as good a shape as they are in right now. The drivers have a lot to do with the success of an annual inspection. I would like to ask the people of DeKalb County to be aware of the buses on the highways and to pay attention to the children on the roadways in the morning and evenings while they're going back and forth to work. Its up to us to ensure that all these children get to school safely and get home safely," said Winningham.

Jimmy Sprague, Transportation Supervisor for the School System, gives credit to the mechanics and drivers for keeping the buses in good condition. "This inspection reflects the job that my mechanics do out here on the floor. It reflects the job that my drivers do by keeping a check on their buses and reporting any deficiencies to us. We can repair them right then and right there and put the bus back in service and get these children home and to get them to school safely. I can't emphasize enough how much pride and professionalism my mechanics take to their job. It reflects in Mr. Winningham's inspection. He has inspected the forty buses that we have. There are thirty three buses on routes and the seven remaining are sub buses. Everything checked out wonderfully," said Sprague.

(Pictured above: School Transportation Supervisor Jimmy Sprague, THP Trooper State Bus Inspector Darryl Winningham, and Mechanic Orlando Guzman)

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