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GED Test to get Significant Revision in 2014

April 22, 2012

The Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development’s Adult Education Division is preparing for major changes to the General Educational Development (GED®) test to take effect in 2014.

“We encourage eligible Tennesseans who have not earned their GED to do so now,” said Commissioner Karla Davis. “Beginning January 1, 2014, the GED test will cost more, must be taken on a computer, and will contain significant content changes.”

The GED test is undergoing its biggest overhaul since the credentialing test began in 1942. The revised test will measure knowledge and core skills that more closely reflect Common Core State Standards, which is the body of information young people are expected to learn in school and need for success in college and the workforce.

Standards go up for the test to remain a valid option to identify skills demanded by employers and postsecondary schools. The 2014 test will be more rigorous in general and requires higher level math proficiency. As before, the new GED test covers subject areas – writing, reading, science, social studies, and math.

“The quality of the labor force is one of the most important factors that employers look at when they think about locating in a state, specifically, the education of the people who make up the labor force and their ability to deliver on the job,” said Marva Doremus, Labor and Workforce Development Administrator for Adult Education. “An educated workforce is critical to our future as a state. The only way we can grow Tennessee’s economy is with the right workers. Last year, 56.6% of those issued a GED credential in Tennessee were between the ages of 17 and 25. These individuals have 50 years to be in the workforce. We need to move them forward into postsecondary or other job training programs.”

Commissioner Davis added, “New jobs are not being created for those without a high school education. Unemployment rates are inversely related to the level of education a person has achieved. The more education a person has, the less likely he is to be unemployed. The same is true of income – the income differences between a person who does not have a high school diploma or GED and a person who does are striking.”

Other important points:

· People who have not passed all parts of the current GED test before the end of the current GED test series, i.e., by December 31, 2013, will have to start over when the 2014 edition begins.

· Presently the fee for taking the GED averages $65. When the GED test becomes computer-based in 2014, the fee will be a minimum of $120.

Last year 12,047 Tennesseans earned GEDs. Tennessee still has 900,000 to one million adults without a high school diploma. Almost 29,000 students dropped out of high school in 2011.

To help existing GED Test Centers transition from the old paper-based testing format to computer-based testing, Tennessee is offering three pilot programs for people to take the current GED test before the launch of the new 2014 series. Test Centers at UT-Martin, Tennessee State University, and Walters State Community College are taking part in the pilot program. The fee to take the test at one of the pilot centers is $120.

For further information on obtaining a GED, contact the GED Office in the Adult Education Division of the Department of Labor & Workforce Development, (615) 741-7054, or e-mail Susan.Doughty@tn.gov.

County Fire Chief Renews Request for New Pumper at Midway Station

April 20, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
County Fire Chief Donny Green
1975 model truck at Austin Bottom station
1992 model Rescue Truck

The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department is in need of a new pumper according to County Fire Chief Donny Green.

Green addressed the county commission during an all committees meeting Thursday night at the courthouse, renewing a request he made last summer with the county budget committee

Chief Green, last year, asked that $180,000 be budgeted to purchase a new fire pumper to replace the Midway engine which is a 1979 model. By doing this, Green said "we can take the 1975 model truck out of service at the Austin Bottom station and place the 1979 Midway truck at Austin Bottom. This station (Austin Bottom), he said has a low call volume and the 1979 truck should be adequate to "hold them over for a few more years". Green said the county is looking at major expenses if it continues to keep the 1975 truck at the Austin Bottom Station.

Green's funding request last summer was not included in the budget this year but he was told that the issue could be revisited later. "At the beginning of the last budget year we had talked about how we were up on our replacement schedule to get a truck out at Midway. At that time I was asked to wait until after the first of the year to look at revenues to see where we were at. To give you an update, the truck that we have at Austin Bottom is the last of the 1975 model trucks that we built years ago. We got it in under the radar last year on the pump test when ISO was here. We actually got it pump tested and we got credit for it but at the same time when we were doing that in March last year we were talking about replacing a truck and he (ISO official) was considering that. The pump test is coming up again in June this year and I am pretty confident that we can't stretch that truck, the one that's over there (Austin Bottom). The goal was to move the one from Midway over there (Austin Bottom) and replace the one at Midway. They (Midway) are one of the original four stations that were built when this thing (fire department) all started in 1975 and they (Midway) still haven't ever got a (new) truck. All of the other original stations have had them, except for the Cookeville Highway station," said Chief Green.

After the Midway Station gets a new fire truck, Chief Green said the county should begin making plans to replace the truck at the Cookeville Highway Station. "I think they (Cookeville Highway) are next after Midway. I've done some checking and (Assistant Chief) Jeff (Williams) has done some checking about some demos. We have bought a couple of demos in the past. That usually saves us about $15,000 to $20,000 off a new price of a chassis. I found some (demos) but the last ones we bought, one for Johnson's Chapel and one for Keltonburg, we paid like $164,000 for those. The demos we're finding right now are in the $180,000 to $185,000 range. All that's got to do with this emissions change. A new one is about $210,000. The two demos we found, one was $185,000 and the other was $183,000. That's just something for you to consider," he said.

Chief Green urged the county commission to follow a regular replacement schedule on fire department vehicles, or risk several of them having to be replaced at once. "If we're not careful, we're going to wind up with a bunch of trucks all the same age again. We've been fortunate to get in on some of these grants over the years. If we can keep this rolling to where we can get those updated we won't get behind. That one (Midway) and Cookeville Highway, I would like to see us, out of respect for the original stations, to get them a new truck out there (Cookeville Highway) maybe next year or where you think it will fit into the budget cycle. It (Cookeville Highway truck) is definitely one that needs to be replaced after we get this one at Midway replaced. We bought a used truck from Brentwood a few years ago. We found it on Gov Deals. Its going to last us but it probably won't last as long there at Cookeville Highway as it would last at one of the less busy stations. That one out there is pretty busy. It's a 1987 model and Brentwood retired it a few years ago. It would probably do fine at one of the outlying stations," said Chief Green.

As far as Chief Green's request for funding of a fire truck at Midway this year, County Mayor Mike Foster said Thursday night "I'll get with you and we'll look and see what's in capital projects".

Meanwhile, Chief Green updated the county commission Thursday night on a new brush truck the fire department will be getting thanks to a grant. "We did get our grant for the brush truck to replace that 1975 brush truck that we have out at the main station. It will be coming in probably in late August. It is an F 550 4X4 with a little brush truck package to get off the road and around in some of these lake places. It's going to have a big enough pump that we can actually get around to some of these fill sites at the lake and actually fill our pumpers. We've got a 500 gallon per minute pump on it. We were going to have to replace that (old brush truck) but that grant helped us with our rotation a little bit so maybe we can stay on track in getting these replaced. I don't want us getting in as bad a shape as we were last time and have six or seven bad trucks that are on their last leg all at once. Right now we can move these older trucks outs to the outlying stations that don't have the call volume and make them last a few more years," said Chief Green.

The department also recently purchased a pre-owned rescue vehicle. "We carried some money over last year," said Chief Green. " We were looking for a used equipment truck but didn't find one by the last budget cycle last year. We carried it over this year and we found one in New Jersey. It's a 1992 model. It sounds like an old truck but it had 11,000 original miles on it. It looks like a show parade truck. It was kept in and they washed it every time they went out. We've got it in out there now. Its twenty years old but I see us getting ten more years of service out of it at least. We're using it for our rescue truck because its in better shape than the rescue truck we were using so we moved those tools over to our equipment truck which carries all of our support type stuff. It goes to every structure fire," he said.

Capitol Hill Week

April 20, 2012
State Senator Mae Beavers

As the Tennessee Legislature prepared to enter the final week of the 107th General Assembly, state senators acted on a wide variety of important bills, including a measure calling for drug testing for welfare applicants, a bill to curb domestic violence and two resolutions giving citizens the opportunity to vote on how the state’s appellate judges are selected. State Senators also voted to ensure the transferability of dual credit courses for high school students when they enroll in college and to prevent K-12 schools from discriminating against a student based on a religious viewpoint.

Meanwhile members of the Senate Finance Committee worked tirelessly to find common ground on the budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year that will begin on July 1. The remainder of the 2012 legislative session will be predominantly focused on bills which have a fiscal impact on the state’s budget. Tennessee is constitutionally bound to balance the budget. The Finance Committees in the House and the Senate reviewed legislation this week calling for additional appropriations to the financial package under consideration as lawmakers set priorities for inclusion in the budget.

Among key financial bills still awaiting final action in conjunction with passage of the budget is Senate Bill 3763, co-sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), to reduce the state portion of the sales tax on grocery food from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent, with the goal of lowering it to 5.0 percent in three years. Beavers was the prime sponsor of the first legislation passed to reduce the sales tax on food. Similarly, Senate Bill 3762, co-sponsored by Senator Beavers, will be considered which would take the first step in a four-year process to phase out the state’s inheritance tax, also called the “death tax.” The tax cut bills, which have been a priority of Republican lawmakers for many years, are included in Governor Bill Haslam’s budget proposal.

Drug Test / Welfare Recipients – In major action this week, the Senate Finance Committee voted 8 to 3 in favor of legislation which calls for drug testing for welfare applicants. The bill would apply to testing for illegal use of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamine and opiates such as morphine, with the possibility that other drugs could be added later by rules set forth under the bill. Senate Bill 2580, sponsored by Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville), applies to adult recipients of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.

Under the federal Welfare Reform Act passed in 1996, states were authorized to conduct drug testing for TANF recipients. The bill does not affect aid provided to children under the program.

The implementation would occur in phases over a two-year period under the bill, with status reports regarding the matter being sent to the General Health and Welfare Committees in the legislature on a quarterly basis. It calls for the Department of Human Services to develop appropriate screening techniques and processes to establish reasonable cause that an applicant for TANF is using a drug illegally. The applicant could then be required to undergo a urine-based drug test to be conducted by a drug testing agency. If the applicant tests positive, the drug test would have to be verified by a confirmation test before TANF benefits could be denied. No drug for which an applicant has a current valid prescription could be used as a basis for denial of benefits.

The drug testing plan would also include a referral process for any applicant who tests positive to be referred to an appropriate treatment resource for drug abuse. If the applicant is otherwise eligible during the treatment period, he or she can receive TANF benefits during the treatment period for up to six months. If the applicant refuses treatment, he or she would be disqualified. After six months of disqualification, the applicant can reapply, but upon testing positive again he or she would become ineligible for one year.

Curbing Domestic Violence -- Legislation which strengthens penalties for domestic violence overcame a major hurdle this week with passage by the Senate Finance Committee. The "Repeat Domestic Violence Offender" bill, which came to Finance Committee members from the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Mae Beavers, prescribes mandatory jail time and enhanced fines for repeat offenders.

Tennessee is ranked fifth in the nation for women murdered by men as a result of domestic violence.

Senate Bill 2251 provides at least 30 days in jail and a fine ranging from $350 to $3,500 for those convicted of a second offense for domestic violence when bodily injury occurs. Upon third or a subsequent conviction, the mandatory jail time would increase to 90 days and a fine ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. In counting prior convictions, the bill provides for a ten-year look back provision similar to the one used in the state’s drunk driving law.

The bill is part of a public safety package presented to the legislature by Governor Bill Haslam. It was recommended by a Public Safety Subcabinet Working Group composed of more than 10 government agencies which held meetings with over 300 leaders in law enforcement.

Dual Credit Courses – A bill to ensure students will receive college credit for dual credit courses that they complete successfully in high school was approved by the Senate Finance Committee. Dual credit is a type of college credit by assessment that occurs when a high school student passes a course that has been created in collaboration with a higher education institution. The student then takes a test to prove their proficiency.

Senate Bill 2809 would require public postsecondary institutions to accept for credit any dual credit course developed by another public postsecondary institution in collaboration with a high school if the student passes the course and a college proficiency test. The legislation specifies credit would only be provided when the student enrolls in college.

Religious Expression in Public Schools – Action on the Senate floor this week included final approval of Senate Bill 3632 that would prevent a Local Education Agency (LEA) from discriminating against a student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject. The legislation requires an LEA to treat a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint the same as they would treat a voluntary expression of a secular viewpoint.

The bill would also allow students to organize a student prayer group, religious clubs or other religious gathering to the same extent that other non-curricular groups organize. Those religious groups would be given the same access to school facilities for assembly and the same opportunities to advertise such meetings as given to other non-curricula groups. In addition, the bill would allow a student to express religious beliefs in homework, artwork and other school-related assignments free from discrimination.

“The student would not be penalized or rewarded based on the religious content of the student’s work,” Roberts added.

Finally, the measure requires an LEA to adopt a policy that includes the establishment of a limited public forum for student speakers at any school event at which a student is to publicly speak and a policy regarding voluntary student expression, among other provisions. The provisions of the legislation would begin in the 2013-2014 school year.

Issues in Brief

Change in method to select state’s Attorney General -- Legislation sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) that would allow Tennessee’s Governor to appoint the State Attorney General was approved by the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday and was read on the first and second of three readings before the full State Senate this week. Senate Joint Resolution 693 would amend the state’s Constitution to allow the Governor to appoint the Attorney General for a six-year term subject to legislative confirmation. Tennessee is the only state in the nation that allows the State Supreme Court to select the attorney general. Other states either call for popular election or the Attorney General is selected by either the popularly elected Governor or the state legislature.

Unemployment Insurance Reform – Legislation that would give job creators some much-needed certainly for unemployment rules advanced this week through the Senate Finance Committee. The bill revises certain provisions such as misconduct rules by individuals seeking unemployment benefits. Moreover, Senate bill 3658, sponsored by Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), specifies that "making a reasonable effort to secure work" means a claimant must provide detailed information regarding contact with at least three employers per week or must access services at a career center created by the Department.

Unemployment Insurance / Seasonal Workers – Similarly, Senate Finance Committee members approved Senate Bill 3657, sponsored by Senator Johnson, which establishes qualifications and criteria for determining benefit amounts paid to seasonal employees. The bill allows an employer to qualify as a "seasonal employer" for purposes of unemployment insurance benefits, and establishes the benefits an employee of a seasonal
worker will receive beginning in 2016.

Synthetic Drugs -- Senate Bill 3018 which defines synthetic drugs in a manner in which unscrupulous manufacturers cannot skirt the law to avoid prosecution is one step closer to passage after Finance Committee members voted to approve it. The bill, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), defines synthetic drugs to capture any analogues, which are chemical compounds having a similar structure to the banned drug. This legislation creates a new Class D felony offense for a person to knowingly manufacture, deliver, dispense or sell a controlled substance analogue. The proposal elevates penalties upon a second or subsequent violation to a Class C felony. If the violation involves the delivery, dispensing or sale of a controlled substance analogue to a minor, the offender will be punished one classification higher than the punishment for delivering, dispensing or selling to an adult. The bill also creates a new Class A misdemeanor offense for a person knowingly to possess or casually exchange under a gram of a controlled substance analogue.

A Look at the Tennessee Legislature

April 20, 2012
by: 
Terri Lynn Weaver
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

Greetings! Lots of laws coming through the chute this past week as we near the last two weeks of the 107th General Assembly. Tennessee is ranked by the U.S. Census Bureau as number two in the nation in Violent Crime and number five in the nation in men killing women! Ninety-eight House members supported stricter punishments for domestic violence with passage of HB2389. HB3517 clarifies and confirms that the unborn child is also a victim of an assaultive offense or a homicide. Life begins at conception; therefore, when a pregnant woman who lives in the fifth-ranking state of men killing women is assaulted, this bill brings respect both to the mother and the unborn child.

After amendments were made to help ease the burden of the fiscal note to our local government due to longer jail time, County Commissioners and the Sheriff’s Association all came to agreement. With per diem for local jails housing state prisoners being increased from $35 to $37 per day, the increase of $4 million more will be going to local government annually. Administration has allocated $750,000 to go through TBI to local governments to pay for meth clean-up. Previously, this expense has been covered by local governments; this bill will cost an average of $4,941 per county. Crime is costly--not only in dollars, but in the lives it takes, and the ones left scarred.

HB3671 passed the House Thursday as many members rose to comment, myself included, how stricter procedures and incentives for the unemployed are needed to keep “job seekers” honest, and employers from paying bad actors, who rely on the check in the mail (paid by small business owners) instead of pursuing a job.

From HB3175 making it a felony to create and sell bath salts, to leveling the playing field for all businesses in HB2372, to giving Tennessee teachers first choice in HB3760--it matters who governs, and I am proud to serve with my colleagues as we work tirelessly to make Tennessee a better place to live and raise a family.

The 38th Annual Tennessee Prayer Breakfast--WOW! Governor Bill Haslam interviewed Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales, after Mr. Vischer shared his testimony.

Mr. Vischer’s comment of, “Hold on to God with white knuckles and let go of your five-year plan to fully trust in Him,” made a huge impact on me. That whole morning blessed many members and was a great way to start off our busy week. Thank you to the many folks who with Citizens’ Committee put this large event into motion. To God alone be the glory for the great things He has done!

Love seeing all the school children come to the Capitol this week, and seeing you on the plaza having lunch on these beautiful sunny spring days; that keeps me charged as well! Thank you, folks of the fortieth; it truly is an honor to serve you.

TCAP Testing Begins April 26

April 19, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Michelle Burklow

Students in grades 2-8 will be taking the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Achievement Test starting Thursday, April 26th.

Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-K to 6th grade said TCAP testing is conducted each spring. The Achievement Test is a timed, multiple choice assessment that measures skills in Reading/ Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. Student results are reported to parents, teachers, and administrators later in the year. "This year, we have added an additional test. The state of Tennessee is going to be paying for second grade tests so we have decided that we are going to test our second graders so when I speak of TCAP tests for this testing school year, I'm also referring to second grade. They will be joining us in that activity for the week," said Burklow.

"TCAP achievement test is a multiple choice test that provides a measure of knowledge and application skills in core academic areas. The results of these tests will provide information about the student's progress and it will give us a starting point at the beginning of next year as to where we need to focus our attention for that student and individualize learning for that child. The TCAP test is mandated for grades 3 through 8. Again, we're going to test our second grade. We have a testing window of six days. We have four days that the state says we have to test and two for make up days. Beginning April 26, we will be testing Reading/Language Arts; April 27 is our Mathematics day; April 30 is Science; and May 1 is Social Studies so those are the four days that the state has set as the window for us. Each school has flexibility in setting the time that best suits their school schedule. So we're asking parents to please make sure your children show up to school each morning on time. If you would like them to eat breakfast in the cafeteria, get them there just a little earlier because that seems to be a really busy week for eating breakfast in the schools. Try to work out as much as you can after school activities such as dentist appointments. Make sure you're children are in school to test," said Burklow.

Under state law, local school boards are required to develop a policy by which student scores on the achievement tests comprise a certain percentage of the student's final grade for the spring semester in the subjects of Math, Reading/Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies. Last Thursday night, the board established 15% as the benchmark for students in grades 3 to 8. The 25% benchmark for End of Course tests at DCHS will remain the same, according to Burklow. "Something new this year is that the State of Tennessee is requiring each LEA (local system) to set a percentage of what the TCAP will count as part of the student's test grade. Last week at the school board meeting, the board adopted to count the TCAP for grades 3 through 8, fifteen percent of their final grade. They're going to send us a test score for each individual sub-test and that will count fifteen percent of the student's final grade in grades 3 through 8. That does not change the high school. The high school, the End of Course testing is still going to be 25%. There is a difference between the two. State law set the 25% for the high school. Elementary has a little flexibility," she said.

End of Course testing at the high school will begin May 1, according to Burklow. "We are going from TCAP tests right at the elementary schools into End of Course testing at the high school. We will begin May 1. Our last day for TCAP, will be our first day for End of Course and on May 1 we will be testing Algebra I; May 2, English X; May 3, Biology; and May 4 will be a makeup day for those three tests. The next week, starting May 8 we will be testing English IX and XI; May 9 will be Algebra II and US History; and May 10 will be the makeup tests for those four tests. Once again we'll send these tests off, they will be scored. We get quick scores and these will count 25% of a student's final grade for the high school," she said.

Meanwhile proctors are still needed to assist teachers during the testing. "We are still looking for proctors. We are asking for proctors, just community volunteers that will be willing to go into a classroom and be an additional set of eyes for the classroom teacher while we are testing. This is just a security measure that the state is implementing. Every proctor has to be trained in test security and we've got that set up for different times. No matter what school you attend for the training, you can go to any school to proctor. Our last training for the TCAP for grades 3 to 8, we're training this Thursday, April 19 at 9:00 a.m. We will probably set a few more, depending on how many proctors we get trained this week. If we need to train additional folks early next week, we will be doing that. The high school is April 25 for their training," said Burklow.

Partners in American Modus Pitch Their Vision for Lakeside Resort To UCHRA

April 18, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Bob Pierce and Jim Himelrick of American Modus, LLC
Bob Pierce  and Jim Himelrick Address UCHRA Policy Council

The partners in American Modus laid out their vision for Lakeside Resort in a power point presentation Wednesday during a UCHRA policy council meeting in Cookeville.

Ideas to make the resort more family oriented, presented by Jim Himelrick and Bob Pierce, include Disney style landscaping to give it a much more attractive look; adding more cabins and recreational amenities like lake inflatables, play areas, and a splash pool; and sprucing up the lodging facilities with new flat screen TV's, carpeting, and other cosmetic upgrades.

Himelrick and Pierce are proposing to enter into a management contract with UCHRA for $5,000 per month for eight months as they work toward acquiring their own land lease on the property with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and assuming all UCHRA loan obligations on the resort by January 1st, 2013.

After hearing the proposal and discussing other issues with Himelrick and Pierce, the policy council authorized the UCHRA Lakeside Committee to negotiate a contract with them, subject to final approval by the full UCHRA board of directors. In the meantime, a service contract is to be executed by the UCHRA executive director and attorney, pending approval of a final contract, so Himelrick and Pierce can start up operations there. The policy council added that if for any reason American Modus cannot fulfill its contractual obligations, a clause should be included in the final agreement to allow UCHRA to terminate the deal.

In his presentation, Himelrick told the policy council that the objectives of American Modus are to negotiate the extension and renewal of the current Army Corps of Engineers land lease, assume all obligations of UCHRA on the existing loan from USDA, and develop a first class resort and recreational, educational area for the eighteen counties of the Upper Cumberland region.

On or before January 1st, 2013, American Modus proposes to close on the acquisition of the Army Corps of Engineers lease and the improvements located on the 139 acres that are the subject of the Corps lease. The purchase price for these assets will be the remaining principal balance of the two loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as of closing or December 31, 2012, whichever occurs earlier. Conditions that must be met prior to closing will include the approval of the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Until January 1, 2013, American Modus proposes to manage the project so as to maximize cash flow and provide for debt service on the U.S. Department of Agriculture loans on the project.

Himelrick said immediate cash flow must be achieved and until closing, American Modus proposes to manage the project. Once all the necessary structures have been put in place and closing has occurred, American Modus will proceed to develop the entire 139 acres of leased land in the most appropriate means as approved by the Corps of Engineers. "No plan has yet been developed because its not known what the community will embrace and what the Corps will allow us to do," said Himelrick.

The 2012 objective is to restore the property to the 2010 level of cash flow, increase bookings through extensive marketing and high level of service, and carefully manage expenses and maintain the property at a high level.

The 2013 objectives are to make property improvements, upgrade landscaping, make unit interior improvements to lodging facilities such as adding flat screen TV's, carpeting, and other cosmetic upgrades. Increase amenities and family activities, add lake inflatables and cabins, pool amenities, etc.

American Modus Partners, LLC,. is a Brentwood based company which was organized in 2010. Himelrick and Pierce were part of the Investors Equity Holdings group that put $1.5 million worth of improvements into Nashville Shores before its sale in 2011.

U.S. Dept of Education Representatives Visit Local 21st Century Learning Centers

April 18, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
TN and U.S. Dept of Education Officials Visit  21st Century Learning Centers

DeKalb Middle and West Schools have become known for their exemplary 21st Century Learning Center programs and representatives of the Tennessee and U.S. Departments of Education, who have heard about them, paid a visit here Tuesday to see for themselves.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and local educators greeted Stephanie Kitchell and Lisa Shimmell, both of the U.S. Department of Education, and Kim Dabney of the State Department who made brief stops at both DeKalb Middle and DeKalb West School.

In 2008, DeKalb County was among several school systems across the state who received grant funds in the 21st Century Community Learning Center program. Each grantee was funded for three years with the opportunity for a two year extension if the program demonstrated adequate student progress. DeKalb County was granted a two year extension in 2011.

These programs seek to raise achievement of low-income students and students at underperforming schools through enrichment programs operated outside the school day.

Grantees can reinforce student achievement in a variety of ways such as character education, arts education, remedial help, academic enrichment, expanded library hours and technology instruction. Program effectiveness must be based on strong scientific research.

"The 21st Century Grant is where we are able to incorporate many of our day to day activities along with the extra activities into our after school program," said Director of Schools Willoughby. "Dr. Carol Hendrix wrote this grant and she is the person who oversees it along with the site coordinators. We have a real good working relationship because we provide after school transportation. That's one of the things that's made this a real success, because we have so many children that would not be able to participate if we did not have the after school transportation. Our children are getting exposed to so many other things, such as the arts that they would not if we didn't have these programs. So this 21st Century program is extremely important to the education of our children in DeKalb County Schools and in becoming a well rounded good citizen. I want to thank the people who make this happen locally, statewide, and nationally. Its been a big success in DeKalb County," said Willoughby

(Pictured left to right: Kim Dabney, TN. Dept of Education; Mike Lewis, DeKalb Middle School Teacher and 21st Century Learning Center Site Coordinator, Stephanie Kitchell and Lisa Shimmell of the U.S. Dept of Education, and Director of Schools Mark Willoughby)

Local Authors to Appear for Book Signing

April 17, 2012
Judy Fuson and Ria Baker

The newest addition to Arcadia Publishing's popular Images of America series is DeKalb County from local authors Judy Fuson and Ria Baker. The book, now available in book stores, boasts more than 200 vintage images and memories of days gone by.

Both Fuson and Baker will be available for a book signing at F.Z. Webb and Sons Gifts downtown Smithville on Friday, April 20 from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

The book includes several photographs that have never before been published. The authors tried to include every community in the county in the book, and highlight families from all over. Many old houses are pictured, some that no longer stand and some that are more than 100 years old and still in use.

DeKalb County has a vast and interesting history spanning from Confederate general John Hunt Morgan's raids on the North during the Civil War to the building of Center Hill Dam, which formed a beautiful lake that brings thousands of tourists to the county each year. The lake, encompassing 18,220 acres, displaced thousands of the earliest settlers' descendants along the Caney Fork River.

The state legislature established DeKalb County from parts of surrounding counties in 1837. The county was named after Revolutionary War general Johann DeKalb, while the county seat of Smithville was named after state senator Samuel Granville Smith; neither man was from the county.

Authors Judy Fuson and Ria Baker are lifelong residents of DeKalb County, and many of their ancestors were early settlers of the county. Baker has been compiling historical photographs and information about her hometown of Alexandria for years, and she currently serves as the town's mayor. Fuson taught in the county school system for 30 years, was yearbook advisor for 14 years, and is now retired.

The book is available at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com.

Arcadia Publishing is the leading publisher of local and regional history in the United States. The mission is to make history accessible and meaningful through the publication of books on the heritage of America's people and places. Have we done a book on your town? Visit www.arcadiapublishing.com.

City Adopts Budget Amendment Authorizing Funds for Purchase of Ladder Truck

April 17, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Aldermen Monday night adopted a budget amendment ordinance on first reading appropriating the funding for the purchase of a ladder truck for the city fire department.

Two weeks ago, the aldermen voted 5-0 to seek bids for a new or demonstration ladder truck, but in an opinion by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service, the process should not begin to buy the truck until the funding is authorized.

During Monday night's meeting, Mayor Taft Hendrixson presented an ordinance "amending this year's budget by appropriating $750,000 in capital outlay funds for the Volunteer Fire Department for the purpose of advertising for an aerial ladder truck." The ordinance was adopted on a four to nothing vote. Alderman Gayla Hendrix was absent.

Second and final reading will follow a public hearing during a special meeting on Tuesday, April 24 at 7:00 p.m. at city hall.

In making the motion to seek bids earlier this month, Alderman Shawn Jacobs said " I make the following motion. That the city immediately advertise for bids for a new or demonstration ladder truck meeting the specifications enumerated by Chief Charlie Parker and that said ladder truck be paid for under a lease purchase plan or financial arrangement as determined by this board as the plan most beneficial to the city. Since the city has more than the anticipated cost of the ladder truck in its financial reserves, this should result in no tax increase," said Alderman Jacobs.

Mayor Hendrixson said he saw no reason to pay interest under a lease purchase plan when the city has sufficient reserve funds to make the purchase. He pointed out though that an appropriation of $750,000 would take a big chunk out of the city's capital reserve funds, about 20%.

City Hires Public Relations Group To Rally Citizen Opposition to Proposed DUD Water Treatment Plant

April 16, 2012
by: 
Dwayne Page
Darden Copeland of Calvert Street Group

The Smithville Aldermen Monday night voted to hire a Nashville public relations company, the Calvert Street Group, to better educate the public, from the city's perspective, on the impact of a plan by the DeKalb Utility District to build its own water treatment plant.

During Monday night's city council meeting, the mayor and aldermen were told by the city's utility engineer, J.R. Wauford, that if the DUD builds its own water plant and stops purchasing water from the city, it could mean rate increases of ten to twenty five percent for Smithville customers and up to fifty percent rate hikes for customers of the DeKalb Utility District. (SEE NEXT STORY BELOW FOR MORE DETAILS)

Wauford and Mayor Taft Hendrixson proposed hiring the Calvert Street Group to get the city's message out to the public. The cost to the city will be $5,000 per month on a month to month basis.

The Calvert Street Group specializes in managing corporate campaigns. The group navigates clients through the political processes where business, public relations, and public policy intersect. Whether it is grassroots advocacy, land-use and development, or non-partisan electoral campaigns, Calvert Street Group manages the politics designed to shape the outcome.

Darden Copeland of Calvert Street Group addressed the mayor and aldermen Monday night, saying that his firm will launch an aggressive grassroots public awareness campaign, a program that will educate the broader public within the DUD service area, and mobilize broad local opposition, . "Since 2003, I have worked personally in probably over forty small towns across Tennessee running political campaigns but also doing a fair amount of public education, land use, public relations, and education campaigns. We work in tandem with citizen groups in communities trying to educate them on whatever the policy issue may be. We've literally worked from Memphis up to Bristol and everywhere in between on such issues as charter schools, rock quarries, landfills, the fairgrounds and race track in Nashville, and convention center issues. We come in and meet with community members, try and understand the issues, educate the community on what is at stake here, and then organize a coalition of folks to take action. If everybody is happy with DUD's proposal then we won't get any traction. But I think once you educate the public, I think they will see how this really will affect not only Smithville but DeKalb County and the other counties and I think those folks will then try to take action to affect the outcome. We gather information and enable people to make their voices heard," said Copeland.

In his written proposal, Copeland explains that in order to construct a winning campaign on this issue, Calvert Street Group recommends three major components for success:

1. Educate the Public- We will sound the alarm.

2. Mobilize Opponents-. We will build a coalition of opponents and engage them to carry the fight on our behalf.

3. Apply Pressure- Once we create our database of opponents and likely opponents, we will encourage their participation in upcoming meetings of the DUD and DeKalb County Commission meetings. We will also start a letter writing campaign to state and local officials who oversee the process.

In his proposal, Copeland recommends the following activities, in order of importance:

Newspaper and radio advertisements-Get the word out quickly

Media Relations- Get the evening news on Channels 2, 4, 5, & 17 to tell the story as well as the local media and reporters with the Tennessean

Coalition Building- Form a citizen group to broaden opposition

Direct Mail- to households within the utility districts

Home District Pressure-. Apply public pressure to DUD members

Website- publish all the facts and include an on-line petition drive

Database- build a database of known opponents, polls and letters of support.

Phone ID Program- A LIVE identification call to all DUD service area residents to identify opponents, ask them for their email address, and give them instructions on how to get involved, as well as ask them to attend public hearings and voice their support in various ways.

Letter Campaign- Encourage persons to write letters to DUD members, and others

The Calvert Street Group's proposal is for work to be done on behalf of the city from the start of the engagement through withdrawal of the plan for the DUD Treatment Plant project, or until acknowledgement that the project will not succeed. The group will serve on a month-to-month basis until the project is deemed "dead" or until either party terminates the relationship.

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