Local News Articles

A Look at the Tennessee Legislature

April 2, 2011
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

The following is a legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver:

Tennessee Celebrates One Year Anniversary of Key Education Victory

On Tuesday, Tennessee marked a key anniversary in the State’s efforts to comprehensively reform education. One year ago, leaders in the General Assembly and throughout the government learned Tennessee would be awarded the coveted funds associated with “Race to the Top” –- a federal program designed to increase competitiveness and ingenuity in education.

Tennessee was one of only two States to be awarded the funds. Lawmakers convened for an extraordinary session to craft “First to the Top,” legislation to ensure Tennessee has the foundation and framework in place to secure these funds. By placing first, Tennessee is given millions of dollars to increase student achievement and encourage teacher excellence.

The reforms in education are part of a larger focus by the General Assembly to make Tennessee the number one State in the South for high quality jobs. Education reforms that raise standards and ensure each student is taught by an excellent teacher are a long-term solution to building a better-equipped and diverse workforce in Tennessee.

In a meeting that marked the anniversary, the Governor discussed the improvements Tennessee has made in the last year. Key stakeholders in winning and executing Tennessee’s First to the Top plan participated in the discussion by taking stock of the great progress Tennessee has made and recognizing the work yet to be done for the children of Tennessee.

“Race to the Top has made Tennessee the focal point of education reform in the nation, and I am thankful to those who worked so hard for this incredible opportunity,” the Governor said. “After a year we are in a position to bring real reform to our schools, and I am very encouraged about where we are and where we are going.”

Currently, we are working through several education reform initiatives. The Legislature passed tenure reform last week and soon plans to take up measures for charter school reform and equal access legislation for all educators. The bills will all prioritize student achievement as the top focus in the State’s education system.

House Begins Work on Common Sense
Voter Photo ID Plan

On Thursday, the House took a major first step towards enacting a common sense reform that was a cornerstone pledge to voters last fall. HB 7 passed the State & Local Subcommittee and is expected win approval from the full Committee next week.

The legislation simply requires a voter to present qualified photo identification before voting. Voters without proper identification shall be allowed to cast provisional ballots. Most Members of the General Assembly highlighted this legislation as a top priority and believe the bill instills integrity in our electoral process.

The sponsor of the legislation remarked, “Last year, we told Tennesseans we will take steps to ensure validity and integrity are part of our voting system. This legislation provides a simple check and balance at the ballot box to make sure every Tennessean’s vote will count. This is a common sense reform citizens have asked for time and time again. I am proud our Majority is working hard to live up to the pledges we make to voters.”

Legislature Makes Major Move to Fix Legal Loophole with Common Sense Reform

In the mid-week, the House Judiciary Committee passed the “Exclusionary Rule Reform Act” which will close off a technicality from being abused by some of Tennessee’s most violent criminals.

The Chairman of the Committee sponsored the legislation after advocating for the legal fix over the last few years. News reports have highlighted an alarming trend of criminals using the exclusionary rule to get evidence gathered against them thrown out of court. This legislation merely codifies a good faith exception to the rule which provides judges an avenue to keep the evidence when a minor, technical mistake was made in the course of the investigation.

The Chairman stated, “I have worked hard over the last few years to clarify this particular area of the law so court cases will be able to proceed. There is no excuse for a harmless and minor glitch, which has no bearing on a criminal investigation and case, to be the reason a violent criminal escapes prosecution. This common sense fix will ensure the integrity of our judicial system and let victims of crime know their attackers will be brought to justice.”

The legislation will soon go to the full House of Representatives for a vote on final passage.

Representative Terri Lynn Weaver Releases Statement on HB 1085

(NASHVILLE, March 31, 2010) – The House State and Local Subcommittee yesterday passed a major initiative sponsored by Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R—Lancaster) that will help the State track student enrollment and chart the cost of illegal immigration for taxpayers.

HB 1085 simply requires persons enrolling children for the first time in public schools to submit the student's social security number, a visa as issued by the United States, or certain birth certificates. Additionally, it requires schools to submit certain enrollment information to the Department of Education for inclusion in the department's annual report.
Rep. Weaver released the following statement about the bill’s movement:

“I’m encouraged by the action taken by the subcommittee. I believe this is a strong first step towards ensuring our valuable resources are only being used for Tennessee citizens.

“Our General Assembly is committed to strong oversight of the use of taxpayer dollars, especially when it comes to education. We pledged to safeguard our State’s fiscal resources and this bill is consistent with that philosophy. As we work towards overall education reform, we must be confident that every dollar is being spent wisely.”
In Brief…

-In the House Finance Subcommittee, legislation known as the “Empowering Educators with Equal Access” reform was passed through to the full Committee. The House Speaker ensured passage of the much-needed reform by casting the decisive vote in the Subcommittee.

-Late on Wednesday, legislation to stem the tide of illegal immigration in the State was passed in the House State & Local Subcommittee. The three pieces of legislation make up a comprehensive plan for greater enforcement and stronger guidelines on illegal immigration. The sponsor stated, “By taking a comprehensive approach that targets three distinct areas of the law, we can bring the reform demanded by so many of our citizens. I believe this plan will place Tennessee at the forefront of State efforts to combat illegal immigration and provide a blueprint for other States to follow.”

-The First Lady of Tennessee sat down with parents and guardians at Algood Elementary School in Putnam County on Monday. She invited parents of school-age children to participate in the roundtable discussion as part of her effort to learn how the state can encourage parental and community engagement. During the visit, the First Lady learned about the Algood school’s unique plan to improve parent and family participation, having adopted the Putnam County Schools Family Engagement Plan. “Education is a shared responsibility by the schools, parents, and communities, and I’m very impressed with the school system’s family engagement plan,” said the First Lady. “It recognizes that parents and guardians are a vital part of a child’s learning, and creates a comfortable environment for parents and teachers to work together.”

-The House will soon vote on a measure to protect teachers from being disciplined for pointing out weaknesses in scientific research. The legislation encourages critical-thinking skills in the classroom and merely requires public schools to “create an environment” in which teachers “respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.

Kindergarten Pre-Registration Set for April 29th

April 1, 2011
Dwayne Page

Smithville Elementary School and DeKalb West School will have Kindergarten pre-registration for the 2011-12 school year on Friday, April 29th from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

A child must be five years of age by September 30th, 2011 to be eligible to enter Kindergarten for the 2011-12 school year.

Please bring your child's birth certificate (must be original and not the mother's copy), immunization record, social security card, and proof of residency (this may be a utility bill, rent, etc.)

Smithville Elementary Kindergarten teachers will be giving a pre-kindergarten screening on April 29th. It is necessary that you bring your child with you to pre-registration.

Smithville Elementary School will also have an open house for students attending Kindergarten in the fall on Thursday, April 28th from 3:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. Parents and students are invited to tour the school and meet the kindergarten teachers on this day.

Governor Haslam Proclaims April as Tennessee Safe Digging Month

April 1, 2011
Dwayne Page

Governor Bill Haslam has issued a proclamation announcing April as Tennessee Safe Digging Month. The proclamation reminds Tennessee homeowners and professional excavators to call 811 before starting any outdoor digging project.

April marks the start of spring digging season, so Middle Tennessee Natural Gas Utility District, Tennessee 811 and Governor Haslam are encouraging homeowners to call 811 before they dig to prevent injuries, property damage and inconvenient outages. A utility line is damaged by digging once every three minutes nationwide, and one-third of these incidents are caused by failure of the professional excavator or homeowner to call 811 before beginning their digging project.

When calling 811, homeowners and professional excavators are connected to Tennessee 811, which notifies the appropriate utility of the intent to dig. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags or spray paint. Once lines have been accurately marked, digging can begin around the marked lines.

”We join the governor in strongly encouraging individuals and companies to call 811 before they begin digging,” said Kathy Quartermaine, Damage Prevention & Education Manager at Tennessee 811. “By having underground lines marked, homeowners are making an important decision that can help keep them and their communities safe and connected.”

Striking a single line can cause injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages. Every digging project, no matter how large or small, necessitates a call to 811. Installing a mailbox, putting in a fence, building a deck and laying a patio are all examples of digging projects that need a call to 811 before starting. There is no charge for the phone call or locating the utilities.

Visit www.call811.com or www.tennessee811.com for more information about 811 and the call-before-you-dig process.

Webb, Wiggins Named DCHS Basketball MVP's- Judkins, Whitehead Receive MVC Awards

March 31, 2011
Dwayne Page
DCHS Basketball MVP and MVC Winners
DCHS Tiger Basketball Player Award Winners
DCHS Lady Tiger Basketball Award Winners
DCHS Basketball Cheerleader Award Winners
Lynda Hansard (left), Hart Harrison (right)

Seniors Martha Webb and Destry Wiggins were named the 2011 DCHS basketball Most Valuable Players Thursday night at the annual team banquet, while Juniors Allison Judkins and Ashlee Whitehead were each selected as Most Valuable Cheerleaders. The awards were presented by Chad Kirby of Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. The MVP and MVC awards are named in memory Chad's grandfather, Allen D. Hooper.

Webb, who scored over 1,200 points in her career at DCHS, also received the best offensive player award and she was recognized for being named to the second team all-district.

In addition to winning the MVP honor, Wiggins also took home awards for best ball handler, smartest player, hustle, best offensive player, and best athlete. He was further recognized for being named to the first team all-district and the district's all defensive team.

The season for the DeKalb County Tigers ended with a loss to the Cannon County Lions in the semi-finals of the Region 4-AA Tournament at White County High School in Sparta. The Tigers concluded the 2010-11 campaign with an over-all record of 23-9.

The DeKalb County Lady Tigers wrapped up their season losing to Cannon County in the opening game of the District 8 AA basketball tournament at Sparta. The Lady Tigers finished with an over-all record of 14-14.

Other individual cheerleading awards included:

Most Spirit: Kelsey Hale

Most Improved: Katie Agee

Best Jumps: Jasmine Dimas

Best Dance: Christian Atnip

Best Stunts: Kaylee Cantrell

STAR Award (Spirit, Team, Attitude, Respect): Erin Cantrell-Pryor

Tiger Mascot: Chase Cantrell

Other Lady Tiger basketball awards were as follows:

MVP, Best offensive player, 2nd team all-district: Martha Webb

Tiger Award: Mercedes Luna

Best Practice: Lauren Adcock

Best Attitude, Best Defensive Player: Alex Meadows

Best Sixth Man: Brooke Hutchings

Best Rebounder: Lydia Foutch

Most Improved: Chelsea Lewis

Best Newcomer, All district Freshman Team: Danielle Tyson

For the Tigers,

MVP, Best Ball Handler, Smartest Player, Hustle Award, Best Offensive Player, Best Athlete, 1st team all-district, All district defensive team: Destry Wiggins

Best Defensive Player, Best Attitude, All district honorable mention: Tyler Kent

Best Practice Player: Randy Hansard

Most Improved, Best Foul Shooter, All district honorable mention: Dylan Roller

Best Passer: Will Molander

Best Sixth Man: Braxton Atnip

Best Rebounder, All district defensive team, 3rd team all- district: Sonni Young

All district honorable mention: Cody Puckett

Meanwhile, the late Price Harrison, a long time supporter of DeKalb County athletics, was named the Tiger basketball Fan of the Year. His daughter Hart Harrison received the award . Mr. Harrison died in January.

The annual DCHS basketball banquet was held at the Smithville First Baptist Church Life Enrichment Center.

TOP PHOTO : MVP Basketball Players and Cheerleaders: left to right- Destry Wiggins, Martha Webb (MVP) Allison Judkins, Ashlee Whitehead (MVC). Awards presented by Shelia and Chad Kirby of Love-Cantrell Funeral Home

SECOND PHOTO FROM TOP: DCHS Tiger Basketball Player Award Winners: Front Row- Chase Cantrell (Tiger Mascot), Dylan Roller, Will Molander, Destry Wiggins, and Tyler Kent; Back Row- Randy Hansard, Braxton Atnip, and Sonni Young

THIRD PHOTO FROM TOP :DCHS Lady Tiger Basketball Award Winners: left to right- Danielle Tyson, Chelsea Lewis, Brooke Hutchings, Alex Meadows, Martha Webb, Lydia Foutch, Mercedes Luna, and Lauren Adcock

FOURTH PHOTO FROM TOP :DCHS Basketball Cheerleader Award Winners: left to right-Kaylee Cantrell, Christian Atnip, Allison Judkins, Ashlee Whitehead, Erin Cantrell-Pryor, Kelsey Hale, and Katie Agee

BOTTOM PHOTO: The late Price Harrison named the recipient of the DCHS Basketball Fan of the Year Award: Harrison's daughter, Hart Harrison (right) accepts the award from Lynda Hansard (left)

DeKalb Jobless Rate Inches Up to 10.3% in February

March 31, 2011
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate inched up slightly to 10.3% in February, an increase from 10.2% in January according to new numbers released Thursday by the state. The local jobless rate for February a year ago was at 10.9%.

DeKalb County's Labor Force in February was at 10,030. A total of 9,000 were employed and 1,030 were unemployed

Among the fourteen counties of the Upper Cumberland, DeKalb County recorded the third lowest jobless rate for the month of February. Here's how the counties rank from highest to lowest in the Upper Cumberland:

Pickett County- 18%
Van Buren- 13.7%
White- 12.3%
Macon- 11.4%
DeKalb 10.3%
Putnam- 9.3%

Tennessee's unemployment rate for February was 9.6 percent, up 0.2 from the revised January rate of 9.4 percent. The national unemployment rate for February 2011 was 8.9 percent, 0.1 percentage point lower than the January rate.
County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for February 2011 show that the rate decreased in 57 counties, increased in 26 counties and remained the same in 12 counties.

Lincoln County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 6.6 percent, down from the January rate of 6.7 percent. Scott County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 22.7 percent, down from 23.2 percent in the previous month, followed by Pickett County at 18.0 percent, down from the January rate of 18.4 percent.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 7.6 percent, up from 7.5 percent in January. Hamilton County was 8.6 percent, down from 8.7 percent the previous month. Davidson County was 8.7 percent, up from 8.6 percent in January, and Shelby County was 10.5 percent, up from 10.4 percent in January.

Dr. Steve Morse to Speak at Chamber Banquet

March 31, 2011
Dr. Steve Morse

The 2011 Chamber Annual Membership Dinner and Awards Banquet is set for Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church Annex. “We are excited to again host this enjoyable and informative event. This year, we are celebrating our 48th year as a Chamber. We invite you to share in this fun-filled night of dining, entertainment, and the latest updates from the Chamber including the introduction of our new Board members and 2011 Officers,” says Chamber Executive Director Suzanne Williams.

The special evening begins at 5:30 PM with a “Silent Auction”; the dinner and program start at 6:00 PM. Dinner music will be performed by Tomomi McDowell. Thea Tippin will sing the National Anthem as Boy Scout Troop #347 present the flags. Other entertainment for the evening will be by singer, Ron Noonan.

The meal consists of roast beef brisket with gravy, green beans, red-roasted creamed potatoes, fresh baked yeast rolls, and a choice of strawberry cake with cream frosting or chocolate butter cream cake. The Leadership DeKalb Class of 2011 will serve the meal.

Leadership DeKalb Alumni will announce their nominees and winners of their “Legacy” and “Community Leader of the Year” awards.

The keynote speaker for the evening will be Dr. Steve Morse, economist and director of the Tourism Institute at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. He is a professor in the Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in economics of the hotel, restaurant and tourism industries, and hospitality pricing strategies. Dr. Morse is a leading economist that tracks economic trends in all 95 counties in Tennessee, the Southeast, and U.S. economies. He has been quoted as an expert in tourism’s role in economic development in leading news sources such as USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. Dr. Morse will present about the past, present and future economic development and the impact of tourism on the Smithville – DeKalb County economy.

Corporate Sponsors for this event are Caney Fork Electric, DeKalb Community Bank, DeKalb Community Hospital, DTC Communications / DTC Wireless, Liberty State Bank, Middle Tennessee Natural Gas, and WalMart.

Please contact the Chamber office at 597-4163 for more information, to donate a silent auction item, door prize, or to become a Corporate Sponsor. Banquet tickets prices are $20 per person and can be purchased by calling the Chamber or from the Chamber Board of Directors.

Benefit for Terry Cowart

March 30, 2011
Dwayne Page
Terry Cowart

A benefit chili supper and auction will be held for Terry Cowart on Friday, April 1st at 6:00 p.m. at the Smithville Church of God at 801 West Broad Street.

Cowart is a full time dispatcher for the DeKalb County Dispatch 911 Center. He has been employed there for almost five years. He recently had open heart surgery and will be out of work for almost three months. This fundraiser is being held to help meet his medical and other expenses during his leave while he is recuperating.

Everyone is invited to attend. If you cannot attend but would be interested in making a donation, please contact any dispatcher or 911 Director Brad Mullinax. Phone 215-3000.

DeKalb County Making Change to Continuous Five Year Reappraisal Cycle

March 30, 2011
Dwayne Page
Timothy Fud Banks

For the last several years, DeKalb County has been on a general six year reappraisal cycle for updating and equalizing property values for property tax purposes. But that will change to a five year cycle as of July 1st under action taken by the county commission Monday night.

Assessor of Property Timothy Fud Banks made the request saying that by going to a five year reappraisal cycle, the county would no longer need to undergo a current value update every three years. "I'd like to move our reappraisals from a six year to a five year appraisal. That would cut out the CVU on the third year. That will save the county some money. We have to pay for the cards and everything. To pass it, the board (county commission) will have to vote on it to go to a five year, instead of a six year reappraisal. We've been in the six year reappraisal for probably over thirty years now. Instead of reviewing a fifth of the county like we've been doing every year, we'll be reviewing a fourth of the county. We have to get it done before the reappraisal comes up the next year. We'll have more parcels to review every year now (by going to five years) but we'll get done a year earlier. During the second and the fourth year they (state) will see how off we are (on appraisals) and if the percentage comes up at less than 90%, they will adjust the personal property that you pay on it to make up for what comes in. That would adjust what the county takes in," said Banks.

County Mayor Mike Foster added "part of the reason for this (change to five years) is because of what happened two years ago, when they did a current value update. They (state) said that the land was bringing more than what it was appraised at by about 20%. So they came in and we had to go through reappraisal and juggle tax rates and all that. Now the economy has changed so while they upgraded it two years ago to that higher 20% bracket, this year we're taking a fall and will have to go back. What we think right now is that the overall appraisal is being lowered by $18 million in housing and land. Some land (appraisals) actually went up but most of it went down. This (changing to five years) would stabilize it to where we wouldn't have the current value updates in the middle of it. We would just have a reappraisal every five years. That way we wouldn't be involved in the reappraisal every six years and then have the current value update every third year," said Foster.

The six year cycle consists of five years of comprehensive on-site review of every parcel of property in the county, followed by revaluation of all property in the sixth year. During each of those first five years, approximately 20% of the parcels in the county are inspected for changes to the land or buildings that would influence the value of the property. Quarterly progress reports are provided to the State of Tennessee's Division of Property Assessments, whose personnel also periodically monitor the progress and results of the on-site review process.

After the first three years (the mid point of the cycle), an in-depth statistical analysis is performed comparing sales prices to appraisals. If the county's overall level of appraisal has fallen to below 90% of fair market value, property values are updated county-wide by what is known as a Current Value Update or CVU. In addition, even if the level of overall appraisal has not fallen below the 90% threshold, any subclass of properties (residential, farm, commercial, etc.) that is found to be more than 10% below the county's overall ratio must have its values raised to reflect that overall county level.

In the sixth and final year of the cycle, a thorough analysis of the current real estate market is used to establish new land and building values. The changes in values are then applied to each property in the county and those property owners whose values have either increased or decreased as a result are notified as to the new appraisal of their properties. Also during this sixth year, the complete plan of reappraisal for the next six year period has to be developed and submitted for approval. The cycle then begins all over again.

Under the continuous five year cycle, an on-site review of each real property would occur over a four year period followed by revaluation of all such property in the year following completion of the review period.

County Commission to Make Decision on School Land Purchase Next Month

March 29, 2011
Dwayne Page
Property on Allen Ferry Road

The DeKalb County Board of Education has until April 27th to let the property owners know whether it will be able to purchase fifty two acres on Allen Ferry Road for the future home of a new school but it can't make the transaction without the blessing of the county commission

Monday night, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby along with architect David Brown and Engineer Jim Harrison addressed the county commission on the suitability of the site now that core drilling has been conducted.

Willoughby, on behalf of the board of education, asked that the land be purchased for the development of a school in the future, whether it be a high school, elementary, or middle school. "Right now, we are just wanting to purchase land for future building needs whether its going to be a high school, middle school, elementary school, or whatever. I have asked them (architect and engineer) to look at this particular site and evaluate it. Also in doing this, I have asked them to figure out the most productive way that we can use this site. These guys have produced where everything would set on the drawings."

David Brown of KBJM Architects, Inc. of Mount Juliet brought with him a drawing of the site with a generic footprint of a 1200 student high school facility. Brown stressed that the drawing was done only to depict the size of campus the property could accommodate and does not represent any design specific to DeKalb County. "I'm on the architectural end of things. My standpoint was given the shape of the plot, could we actually physically locate everything that you would want to locate out there? As Mark (Willoughby) mentioned, who knows at this point if it would be a middle school or high school, but a high school campus is the most complex, largest thing you could build so we looked at the available area and said, can we put those things out there and arrange them in the way they need to be arranged successfully on the land that we're looking at? A high school campus has a lot more than just a school. It has the stadium, practice fields, soccer fields, baseball, softball, tennis courts, field house and whatever anticipated might be asked of us. We wanted to answer could we actually fit those things or not (on this property)? We've been able to arrange them in such a way that makes sense. We were able to do this without getting into the extreme grades (of the property) that are in the back. We were able to do all this within the property that can be easily graded. In addition to the architectural standpoint of just laying out the spaces and uses, Jim (Harrison) looked at utilities, grading, drainage, and environmental impacts. We had a geotechnical engineer go out and dig holes and evaluate the soils and basically we found what we expected to find. We do a lot of work in this area of the state and it was really no different than we're accustomed to seeing," said Brown.

In his remarks to the commission, Harrison said engineering studies found approximately 44 acres of the property to be suitable for building a school. "What we did was look at grading, utilities, water, sewer, and gas. We also looked at the roadway out along the frontage where you'd want to position drives and things that are geometrically needed for the site to work. In general, we have a rise here (on the property) that we're taking down. That material is taken down and brought to the front where the school would be built. In the studies we did recently, we had several comparison sites where we had looked at comparable sites just to look at how much grading was typically required on this size of tract and it was in the lower third from that standpoint. We looked at the utilities from the sewer standpoint. We would have to run a pump station and a course main up to connect onto the gravity sewer which is on the front of the existing high school. We met with the utilities regarding that as well as the water line. The water line has adequate pressure and flow. We've actually got a backup system from two different tanks so that helps give some redundancy and makes sure we've got a good, safe flow to protect ourselves during a fire event without any improvements to the infrastructure that are off site in that situation. Anytime you have a site like this you start looking at those unusual things. You've always got storm drainage out in the parking lot, paving on the site, and standard stuff but there are some key things that we look at including the grading and utility issues. The bottom line with our evaluation is that you have a site that lays flat enough to develop in a good fashion for the sports fields and parking in the back and the building in the front. You have a site that has enough fall. Its not too flat. It has enough fall to provide the proper drainage away from those facilities and key structures. Our evaluation is that you have adequate room at a reasonable cost, being in the lower third of those other typical sites that we've looked at. We feel like this is a very good site for a high school or some other sort of school use," said Harrison.

Harrison also addressed the issue of drainage. "The soils are pretty common for the area so what you typically do in that type of area is you build some trenches in and let it drain out properly. One of the problems with the soil out there right now is its wet and soggy but not a lot of grading has been done. Basically there's just an old trail that's been running through there. It grades to the north. When the development were to occur it would tend to drain to the north. There's a little piece of it that drains to the south but there's enough fall to get good positive drainage so you can get the water out. We actually extensively talked with a geo-technical engineer about how well that would work. We can handle that in a pretty easy fashion. In simple terms its called drying out the soils. It won't have any adverse affect (on adjoining landowners). There's a little portion of this property that drains in a way that we'll have to re-direct it. We'll make sure there's not any increase of water running off of our site onto the adjacent property. We'll also have a retention pond on the property. Obviously when you're done, there will be a lot of asphalt where you didn't have asphalt before. So as that water drains off it needs to pond up a little bit before it releases," said Harrison.

County Mayor Mike Foster and several county commissioners posed questions to both the architect and engineer about the property including second district member Jack Barton, who shared his concerns about the useable price per acre of this site."What this body would really like to see is all of your figures brought down to a useable price per acre. If your dirt work is "x" amount and the unuseable acres is this (certain) amount, then is the (useable price per acre) at eight thousand dollars an acre, nine thousand dollars an acre, or is it more accurately fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen thousand dollars an acre? It would be good to know what your true cost is before you build and then you could say are there other options? It's the fiduciary obligation of this board to explore all those (options)," said Barton.

In response to questions, Harrison said "We had a number of sites that we looked at in Watertown (for a new school) and every one of those sites had unusable land on it. In fact the site that they ultimately chose had probably about 20% of the land area on that site that was not useable for different reasons. We compared those useable versus non useable areas and then we compared the costs that could change to that evaluation that we did there and under the costs that could change we came up with $2.1 million on this site (Smithville) and the average we had for the sites we looked at in Watertown was $2.7 million. That's a comparison cost that we use which includes grading, utilities, water and sewer. It's the average of the total extraordinary cost items that we found on each site. There were five sites (in Watertown) and that $2.7 million was the average," said Harrison.

According to Harrison excavation will include some 230,000 cubic yards of grading on the site at a cost of $8.00 per cubic yard and a sewage pumping station will have to be installed. "We actually have sewer costs at $49,000 and for the pump station at $125,000. That's for the on-site pump station and to carry it out to the sanitary sewer manhole in front of the existing high school," said Harrison.

In January, the school board voted unanimously to enter into a contract to buy this property, subject to approval by the county commission and a favorable site assessment study by the engineers.

The site, which is located near the existing DCHS/DeKalb Middle School campuses, belongs to Mark and Karen Adams, Melvin and LeeAnn Crips, and Billy Crips. The purchase price is $374,000.

Under terms of the contract, the school system has a 90 day "due diligence" period to have an engineering firm conduct core drilling, inspections of the title to the property, the environment condition of the land, and other site assessments to determine whether the property is satisfactory for it's intended purposes. That has now been completed.

If within the 90 day period, the property is found to be unsuitable, the school system may notify the sellers, who would then be required to return the $10,000 earnest money put down by the school system.

The school board has the money to purchase the property from its allocation of state BEP funds, but the county commission must agree to allow the board to spend the money by approving a budget amendment.

During Monday night's meeting, County Mayor Mike Foster asked the architect and engineer to provide the county commission with more information on the site studies in time for a workshop on April 14th. The commission will then be prepared to make a final decision on the purchase by the next regular meeting on April 18th.

SCORE Cites DCHS for Reform Efforts in Improving Graduation Rate

March 29, 2011
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County High School has been singled out for special recognition by a grassroots group focused on improving Tennessee's schools.

The education reform group State Collaborative on Reforming Education, formed by former U.S. Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, released its annual report last Thursday and cited DCHS for its "Promising Practices" of innovative reform efforts in raising the graduation rate from 67% in 2003 to 91% in 2009.

The SCORE report, which has grades for every county in the state, addressed how DCHS made the turnaround.

The following account appears in the SCORE report:

In 2003, DeKalb County's lone high school was reporting a disappointing 67% graduation rate and was placed on the state's "targeted assistance school" list, a distinction reserved for schools that are failing to meet minimum benchmarks in achievement and graduation, according to the report.

To make matters worse, the school's record keeping had fallen into disarray, which meant that in addition to subpar academic performance, it had lost track of students who were being counted as dropouts.

"As a faculty and staff, we saw that we were in trouble," said DeKalb County High School principal Kathy Hendrix, herself a graduate of DCHS who rose through the ranks (she taught for 20 years to become principal right around the time that the state identified the school as problematic. "We knew we were in a hole and had to get ourselves out of it."

Tired of underperforming, DCHS launched a focused turnaround effort that has paid dividends and cut the dropout rate. The fix, a combination of common-sense strategies and aggressive interventions that address DCHS's unique problems, but that any school or school system can emulate. But it wasn't easy.

The rural setting of the 850-student DCHS, in a county whose economy is dominated by relatively low-wage manufacturing jobs, has posed special problems for motivating students, as many were dropping out to earn money or saw limited post-graduation opportunity.

To address these issues, DCHS's turnaround included earning a grant to help institute distance learning classes at the school while expanding course offerings generally. The school now also offers dual enrollment courses that allow students to earn both college and high school credits for certain course work, giving college-bound seniors a leg up.

In addition to offering more rigorous courses, the school took a thorough inventory of its less successful students, began formal processes for communicating with parents about their child's performance and attendance, and cleaned up record-keeping data so that the school could identify-early and accurately- the students who were at risk for dropping out or failing.

Administrators and teachers now call parents of students who have received incomplete or failing grades to ensure that their children begin before and or after-school remediation.

Teresa Johnson, who graduated from the school in 1979 and whose son is a DCHS senior this year, said the school's communication with parents has been helpful. "I'm a single mom and I do it all, so I want them to call me with anything that happens," she said.

Other programs include an adult high school offering flexible hours for students who have dropped out to work or raise a family and intercessions during summer and fall breaks for students to bridge whatever gaps may exist in their coursework.

The results over the last seven years have been striking. The graduation rate increased to 91% in 2009, and the average ACT score rose from 19.4 in 2003 to 20.8 as of 2009. Perhaps most notably, DCHS fell off the state's target list in 2009 and was recognized on the Tennessee Department of Education's 2009 "Celebration List" for attaining good standing for the first time.

"A lot of this is ownership," Hendrix said. "It's our high school. We all know each other. A lot of us grew up here. And so we wanted to get our high school back where it needed to be".

"To be economically competitive and increase job growth, Tennessee must improve its public education system," said SCORE Chairman Frist. "This annual report gives a comprehensive look at education reform in Tennessee, highlights innovative successes across the state, and gives clear recommendations and direction for improvement in public K-12 education. Tremendous progress has been made in the Volunteer State in the last year. But this report clearly shows that important work remains to ensure that every Tennessee child graduates high school prepared for college or the workforce."

The report includes a Year In Review, outlining the significant progress that Tennessee made in education in 2010, and highlights four "Promising Practices" of innovative reform efforts in different regions of the state.

In addition, the report outlines four priorities that SCORE believes will be crucial to continued progress in 2011. These priorities include:

Sustained policy leadership in education reform from state leaders, including legislators, educators, and business and community leaders. These leaders must ensure that recent reforms are successfully implemented and push forward with other reforms, especially those related to more directly connecting the state's new teacher evaluations system to hiring, tenure, and compensation decisions.

A comprehensive strategy for improving the pipeline of district and school leaders through the launching of a statewide initiative to create a network of high quality school leadership programs. These programs would recruit, train, and support highly effective school leaders.

A relentless focus on instructional quality by ensuring that there is an effective teacher at the front of every classroom. This requires connecting the state's new teacher evaluation system to high-quality feedback and professional development opportunities, and by creating and expanding mentoring programs for new and low-performing teachers.

Increasing the capacity of the Tennessee Department of Education by aggressively recruiting high-quality staff to the Department, and strengthening the Department's regional offices so they can support individual local districts in implementing reforms

"These four priorities are crucial to maintaining the historic momentum in education that Tennessee has experienced," said Senator Frist. "They are based in the belief that successful implementation, and not just policy change, is critical to seeing real improvement in student achievement."

The full report can be viewed here: http://www.tnscore.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Score-2010-Annual-Repo...

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with state and local governments to encourage sound policy decisions in public education and advance innovative reform on a statewide basis.


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