Local News Articles

Leigh Fuson Joins DeKalb Extension Office Staff

January 27, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Leigh Fuson

The DeKalb County Extension Office has a new agent.

In an interview with WJLE on Tuesday, January 27, Leigh Fuson said she has joined the staff as a 4-H Extension Agent and will be working with Director and County Extension Agent Michael Barry and Dr. April Martin, Extension Family Consumer Science Agent.

Fuson, who is originally from White County, married Zach Fuson of Smithville four years ago and the couple resides here. She is a graduate of Tennessee Tech with a degree in agriculture education and comes to this new position after having worked with the 4-H program in Putnam County for three years.

According to Fuson, her new 4-H assignment will allow both Barry and Martin to devote more time to other programs they are already involved in. "I am a 4-H Extension agent. That's the only thing I'll be working with. Michael and April will still be doing a little of the 4-H work but this way they can focus on the adult programming with agriculture and the family consumer sciences," she said.

Fuson's position is primarily being funded through Tennessee State University with a portion being financially supported by the county. "It is TSU funded. When you hear about the extension office, it is usually UT Extension. UT partners with TSU. They are both land grant universities in our state and they both have extension programs. We got funding here for an extra TSU funded position," said Fuson.

Excited about starting her new job, Fuson said she hopes to expand programs and services for 4-H students. " I hope to get some more programming going in the county. Since they do the adult work too, Michael and April haven't had as much time to do some of the judging teams and the competitive events so I hope to be able to start a horse judging team, a livestock judging, poultry, etc. I really like doing my animal projects," she said.

"When you think about 4-H you think about the traditional things with livestock, farming, bread baking and all that but there is really a lot more to it. There's a lot of science programming, leadership, and citizenship. They have really focused on the STEM activities and I'll be doing some of that in the schools to help match up the standards with the schools. I'm just hoping to revamp some of the programming here in the county and get some more things going," Fuson continued.

Fuson encourages anyone to contact the Extension Office to offer an idea or suggestion. " You may call the office at 615-597-4945. My email address is lfuson2@utk.edu. I have also started a facebook page and we have a UT Extension website. You can google us there too. If there is anything specific programming wise that a student is interested in that we don't have here, talk to me and we'll see if we can get it going. The first thing coming up will be horse judging. I'm going to try to get a team together for that. It's time for the Chick Chain if anyone is interested in getting chickens. Everything in 4-H is fourth through twelfth grade and I look forward to going out into the schools. I'm excited to meet everybody," said Fuson.

School Board Begins Evaluation of Director

January 26, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby Addresses School Board
Board members W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, Shaun Tubbs, Jerry Wayne Johnson, and Jim Beshearse
Board member Doug Stephens, Secretary Jamie Vickers, and Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III
Board member Danny Parkerson

The School Board began its annual performance evaluation of Director of Schools Mark Willoughby in a workshop Monday night.

Board members are using a four page evaluation form to rate Director Willoughby 1-5 in each of 60 areas on his relationship with the Board, the Community, Staff and Personnel, Educational Leadership, Business and Finance, Personal Qualities, Strategic Planning Skills, and Tennessee Specific questions. A rating of "1" means his performance is "Consistently Below Expectations". A "5" rating signifies that Willoughby "Meets All Expectations". A rating with an asterisk (*) symbol means he "Exceeds Expectations".

Other ratings the board members may give are:
"2"-Meets Few Expectations
"3"-Meets Some Expectations
"4"-Meets Most Expectations

Monday night's workshop was cordial between the parties and although board members posed a few questions to Director Willoughby, they decided to reserve most of the evaluation process for individual meetings with him on a one to one basis during the remainder of the week.

Once the evaluation is completed, each board member will score Willoughby in all of the 60 areas on the form. The process has to be completed this week.

Willoughby's contract states that the evaluation of the Director shall occur annually and no later than January 31 each calendar year.

All board members were present during Monday night's workshop except for Kate Miller, who was unable to attend.

For five of the seven school board members, who have been in office less than five months, this is their first evaluation of this Director of Schools.

Willoughby's current contract with the board is scheduled to expire June 30th, 2017. He has served as Director of Schools since July 1st, 2006.

STEMmobile brings hands-on lab to DWS

January 26, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Students Learn How to Produce Circuits at STEMmobile (Photo by Bill Conger)
DWS Students preparing for project at the STEMmobile (Photo by Bill Conger)
Students conducting experiment at the STEMmobile (Photo by Bill Conger)

Students at DeKalb West School last week got a firsthand experience in conducting science experiments inside a mobile learning laboratory, called the STEMmobile.

Housed in a 53-foot tractor-trailer with self-contained power, the STEMmobile has its own heating and cooling system, a satellite uplink for Internet connectivity and workstations to accommodate about 24 students at a time. The classroom on wheels is stocked with equipment from the Oakley STEM Center and Tennessee Tech University and includes equipment and supplies for activities at each grade level.

With carpet lined walls, bright lights, and industrial grade metal drawers, the STEMmobile is also equipped with stainless steel countertops under flat screen TVs for students to conduct their experiments, bringing technology to the doorsteps of the school.

The science lessons, based on Tennessee science standards developed by the Upper Cumberland Rural STEM Initiative, range from heart rate and simple circuits, to building lighted doorbells and more. "The second grade came out and we used magnets to demonstrate attractions to the poles and fields. The third grade was involved in wind movement power and energy. The fourth grade used chemical solutions and how they reacted. With the fifth grade, they pumped up their heart rate to encourage health and energy. The sixth grade did circuits from a simple to a schematic circuit building a door bell and the seventh grade did simple machines going all the way from a wedge to building a fulcrum," said 6th grade DWS teacher Tammy Payne in an interview with WJLE Sunday. Eighth graders also worked on science projects in the STEMmobile.

DWS Principal Sabrina Farler said the school was pleased to have the STEMmobile back for the second year in a row. "We had the opportunity last week, January 20-23 and on Sunday, January 25 to have students come and experiment with a lot of things. We partnered with our science teachers in each grade and they were sent an email with links to videos and power points on standards that would be taught in class. Its material that is brought to them (students) as hands-on. Material that they would have had to learn in the classroom by reading it. This way they get to do the hands-on activities with it. They've worked on some math, science, and technology and the kids have been so excited. We focused on our third through eighth grade this year. Last year it was for K-8. Each grade, as they have moved up have had the opportunity to do two different experiments in the STEMmobile and we hope we have this opportunity again in the future," Farler told WJLE.

The STEMmobile trailer and its first year of operations were funded through a grant from the state legislature, the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network (TSIN) and Tennessee Technical University. The mobile lab made stops at 20 school districts in the Upper Cumberland region during the 2013-14 school year.

Monterey Woman Tries to Steal Cart Load of Walmart Merchandise

January 26, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Tasha Marie Cooke
Jeri Nicole Beckham

A Monterey woman was arrested for theft after trying to steal a shopping cart full of merchandise from Walmart in Smithville Tuesday, January 20

30 year old Tasha Marie Cooke is under a $5,000 bond and she will be in court February 12.

According to Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger, police were dispatched to Walmart in reference to a shoplifter. Upon arrival, the officer spoke with an employee who said that Cooke had loaded a shopping cart full of various merchandise and went out the front doors and into the parking lot. After being confronted, Cooke allegedly admitted that she was stealing the items for her friends. Items in the cart included flashlights, purses, and other merchandise with a total value of $1,742.

Meanwhile 35 year old Jeri Nicole Beckham is charged with eighteen counts of forgery. Her bond is $85,000. According to Chief Caplinger, Beckham allegedly wrote checks to herself from a family member's checkbook, forging the victim's name on the checks, and then cashing them. All eighteen checks were written in October in amounts ranging from $75 to $350 in a total amount of $3,600.

In other recent cases,

18 year old Roberto Valerio was cited for shoplifting. A Walmart employee reported to police that a man was in the sporting goods department of the store using a knife to cut open packages. The officer confronted the man, Valerio, who was found trying to empty a box containing a speaker and other equipment. He had a knife in his pocket. Valerio was accused of trying to steal $127 worth of items from Walmart.

27 year old Leslie Lawrence is charged with domestic violence. Her bond is $2,500. Chief Caplinger said police responded to a domestic violence call at a residence on Foster Road. Upon arrival the officer spoke with a man who said that Lawrence had kicked him in the face and had ripped the phone cord off the wall trying to keep him from calling for help. At the time of the arrest, Lawrence was found to be intoxicated.

31 year old Johnny Devault is charged with aggravated assault and violation of bond conditions arising from a domestic assault. His bond totals $5,000. Chief Caplinger said police were called to a Miller Road apartment on a domestic disturbance call. Upon arrival the officer heard "shouting" coming from the apartment. When he entered the residence, the officer learned that Devault and a woman had gotten into an argument that became physical. The victim's left eye was swollen from the assault. A witness said that Devault had smacked the woman in the face several times. He was determined to have been the primary aggressor.

24 year old Jonathan Hummel is charged with inhalants. His bond is $2,500. Chief Caplinger said police were dispatched to Walmart in reference to a trespasser. The responding officer learned that the trespasser was Hummel and that he had previously been cited that day for huffing compressed air/computer cleaner. The officer found Hummel in an automobile in the parking lot allegedly committing the same offense (huffing). His speech was slurred and he appeared to be intoxicated. He was arrested and charged in the case.

20 year old Jackson Cripps is charged with evading arrest. Chief Caplinger said an officer spotted two trucks drag racing traveling west on Broad Street at speeds of over 90 miles per hour. The officer activated his blue lights and siren. He was joined in the pursuit by another city officer and a county deputy. Cripps, the driver in one of the vehicles, pulled over on Snow Hill. He was placed under arrest. Officers terminated the pursuit on the other truck after obtaining a license tag number. The driver, who was later determined to be 19 year old Ethan Byford, has also been charged with evading arrest.

31 year old Jason Stembridge has citations against him for shoplifting, simple possession of schedule VI and II drugs, and possession of drug paraphernalia. He will be in court on January 29. Chief Caplinger said police were dispatched to the Dollar General Store in reference to a shoplifter. Upon arrival the officer spoke with the store manager who had spotted Stembridge with items inside his coat sleeve. The officer confronted Stembridge who was found with items from the store on his person along with a silver coated pill container and a plastic bag with a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana. Stembridge also had a blue pill crusher in his pocket containing a straw and pills thought to be hydrocodone.

19 year old Hayle Hunt is charged with domestic assault. Her bond is $2,500. Chief Caplinger said an officer was dispatched to a residence on Braswell Lane on a domestic complaint. Upon arrival the officer learned that Hunt and her husband had gotten into an argument. The victim, who had red marks on his face, claimed that Hunt hit him. He also said that Hunt had rammed her truck into his truck. She was placed under arrest.

41 year old Gregory Wayne Cripps is charged with a second offense of driving under the influence and driving on a revoked license. His bond is $4,000 bond and he will be on court February 12. Chief Caplinger said that on Tuesday, January 6 an officer spotted Cripps driving a Nissan Altima on West Bryant Street. He stopped in the wrong lane at a stop sign. He then proceeded onto South Mountain Street , crossed the center line several items, and almost hit oncoming automobiles. The vehicle turned onto Miller Road and into the parking lot of the former popcorn factory. The officer made a traffic stop there and approached the driver, Cripps. His speech was slurred and he was unsteady on his feet. Cripps submitted to and performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. The officer learned that Cripps license was also revoked for a prior DUI. He was placed under arrest.

26 year old Jessica Renee Scruggs is cited for theft of merchandise. She will be in court on February 12. Chief Caplinger said that on Thursday, January 15 an officer was called to Walmart in reference to a shoplifter. Upon arrival the officer spoke with a store employee who saw Scruggs conceal several items in her purse and jacket. Scruggs was confronted and allegedly admitted to the theft.

29 year old Lacey Nicole Hamilton is cited for theft of merchandise. She will be in court February 15. Chief Caplinger said police were called to Walmart concerning a shoplifter. A store employee reported to the responding officer that Hamilton was observed trying to conceal several items of clothing in her purse.

18 year old McKinley Turner is cited for shoplifting. Chief Caplinger said Turner allegedly opened packages at Walmart and tried to conceal the contents on her person. When confronted she allegedly admitted to the theft. Her court date is February 12.

59 year old Debroah Jose is charged with domestic assault. Her bond is $1,500 and she will be in court February 12. Chief Caplinger said that on Saturday, January 17 at a residence on Odom Street Jose allegedly assaulted her ex-daughter in law by hitting her in the head leaving a red swollen place. Jose was determined to have been the primary aggressor and was arrested.

DWS 8th Graders Selected for National Achievement Test

January 26, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
DWS Principal Sabrina Farler

DeKalb West School eighth graders have been selected to represent schools across the nation by participating in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The assessment will be given on Tuesday, January 27.

"Fourth, eighth, and eleventh grades can be selected. It's a national achievement test with which students are compared nationally. Our eighth grade at DeKalb West School was selected and we will be taking that test," said DWS Principal Sabrina Farler in an interview with WJLE Sunday. " They are either to be taking a math, reading, or a science test. They have a group that comes in called the "NAEP" crew and they actually assess our students and they will be compared nationally. I think this same group was selected as fourth graders. It's a way of tracking our students to see the progress they are making and the great improvement we are making in Tennessee and across the nation in reading, science, and math," said Principal Farler.

First administered in 1969, NAEP is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what students know and can do in various subject areas. It is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, within the U.S. Department of Education. NAEP is different from state assessments because it provides a common measure of student achievement across the country. The results of NAEP are released as The Nation's Report Card, which provides information about student achievement to educators, parents, policymakers, and the public.

DWS eighth graders have been selected to take a mathematics, reading, or science assessment. In addition to answering questions in one of these subjects, students will be asked questions about themselves and their educational experiences, such as the amount of reading they do and the types of classes they take. These questions provide contextual information for the assessment, as well as information that may be related to students' learning.

About 90 minutes are required for most students to participate in the assessment. The results are completely confidential and the information provided will be used for statistical purposes only. The child's grades will not be affected. While NAEP is voluntary, student participation is desired to provide an accurate measure of student achievement that will inform improvements in education.

Participating students are asked to get plenty of rest the night before the assessment.

"We know that DeKalb West School's students will help us show what our nation's students know and can do," said DWS Principal Farler.

Bridge Repairs to be Made at Hickman

January 26, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Bridge Repairs to be Made at Hickman
TDOT has posted signs on area state highways alerting truckers and other motorists to the construction

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has announced that repairs will begin soon on the State Route 264 bridge over Hickman Creek just three miles north of the DeKalb County Line in the Hickman Community of Smith County.

Bids were opened on the project October 17, 2014.

The contractor for the project is Jamison Construction, LLC of McEwen, TN with a bid of $415,740.30. The completion time for the project is on or before September 30, 2015.

The project will entail repairing the bridge deck and replacing parapet railing.

TDOT has posted signs on area state highways alerting truckers and other motorists to the construction

Woman Ejected in Saturday Night Crash

January 26, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
THP Trooper Troy Withers

A 41 year old woman was ejected in a one auto crash Saturday night on Antioch Road (Highway 288).

Lisa Dillon was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

Trooper Troy Withers of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, who investigated the accident, told WJLE that Dillon may have suffered a broken hip and other injuries.

Dillon was a passenger of a 2002 Chevy Tahoe, driven by 34 year old Mark D. Young of Smithville. According to Trooper Withers, Young went off the right side of the road as he topped a hill and then overcorrected. The Tahoe went out of control, hit a ditch, and became airborne, before crashing into a tree.

Young received minor injuries.

Charges are pending in the case.

DeKalb School System Names Teachers of the Year

January 24, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page & Lisa Cripps
Tanya Howard, a kindergarten teacher at Smithville Elementary School
 Jennifer Griffith a third grade math, science, and social studies teacher at Northside Elementary School
Lori Pryor a third grade self-contained teacher at DeKalb West School
 Tad Webb a seventh grade math teacher at DeKalb Middle School
Sonja House a ninth grade English/10th-12th grade Theatre Arts teacher at DeKalb County High School.

The DeKalb County School System has announced its "Teachers of the Year" at the building level of the five schools in the county.

This year's honoree are Tanya Howard, a kindergarten teacher at Smithville Elementary School; Jennifer Griffith a third grade math, science, and social studies teacher at Northside Elementary School; Lori Pryor a third grade self-contained teacher at DeKalb West School; Tad Webb a seventh grade math teacher at DeKalb Middle School; Sonja House a ninth grade English/10th-12th grade Theatre Arts teacher at DeKalb County High School.

Lisa Cripps, Supervisor of Instruction for 7th through 12th grades said "Again this year, we're going to participate in the Teacher of the Year program, which begins on the school level, moves to the system level, the regional level, and finally to the state level," she said.

Competition for system-wide Teacher of the Year continued through February, and will be announced at the Teacher of the Year Banquet in the spring. There will be three teachers chosen by a committee to compete at the regional level in March, and if selected they will represent DeKalb County at the state level competition.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year Program is designed to promote recognition, respect and appreciation for teachers; to stimulate interest in teaching as a career; and to encourage public involvement in education.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year represents Tennessee at the National Teacher of the Year competition.

Teachers of the Year are selected competitively through five cycles: Building, System, Field Service Core Center Region, Grand Division and State; and from three categories (levels of teaching); Grades Pre K-4, 5-8, 9-12.

Teachers selected at each cycle receive local recognition and awards underwritten by local sources. State recognition/awards include a banquet honoring the nine State Teacher of the Year finalists and certificates of appreciation from the Governor. In addition, the State Finalists and the State Teacher of the Year receive cash awards.

Winners Announced in DeKalb 4-H Public Speaking Contest

January 24, 2015
by: 
Leigh Fuson, 4-H Agent
4th Grade 4-H Speech Participants: Cooper Brown,  Raven Savage, Darrah Ramsey 3rd place, Jake Christian 2nd place, and Katie Patterson 1st place.  Not Pictured: Dixie Hill
5th Grade 4-H Speech Participants: Brandon Sobotka  2nd and Maeloree King 1st. 6th Grade 4-H Speech                                                   Participants: Megan Price 2nd place and Lily Martin 1st  place.
Sr. High: Wyatt Martin, 10th grade, and Lydia Trail, 12th grade won in the Sr. High level 4-H speech contest.

What are your greatest fears? For most Americans, public speaking is towards the top of that list. However, this is a skill that is important no matter what career field you are in. For DeKalb County 4-H members, this fear is quickly fading.

On January 22, the county public speaking contest was held at the Community Complex. In 4th grade, Katie Patterson was 1st place, Jake Christian 2nd, and Darrah Ramsey 3rd. Other 4th grade participants included Dixie Hill, Raven Savage, and Cooper Brown. In 5th grade, Maeloree Kirby placed 1st and Brandon Sobotka was 2nd. Placing 1st from 6th grade was Lily Martin, and Megan Price was 2nd. The top two in each grade will advance to the sub-regional contest which will be held on January 27th at the White County Middle School. Wyatt Martin, 10th grade, and Lydia Trail, 12th grade, won in the senior high division and will compete in February at the regional contest in Murfreesboro. All contestants received cash awards for their hard work at the county level.

Congratulations to all these contestants and all DeKalb County 4-H’ers who gave a speech this school year! To learn more about 4-H activities, please contact the DeKalb County Extension Office at 615-597-4549.

Photo Caption:
4th Grade 4-H Speech Participants: Cooper Brown, Raven Savage, Darrah Ramsey 3rd place, Jake Christian 2nd place, and Katie Patterson 1st place. Not Pictured: Dixie Hill

5th Grade 4-H Speech Participants: Brandon Sobotka 2nd and Maeloree King 1st. 6th Grade 4-H Speech Participants: Megan Price 2nd place and Lily Martin 1st place.

Sr. High: Wyatt Martin, 10th grade, and Lydia Trail, 12th grade won in the Sr. High level 4-H speech contest.

Scruggs Gets Two Years Probation in Meth Case

January 23, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jeremy Scruggs

A 37 year old man indicted in a meth case in 2013 was sentenced in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Wednesday.

Jeremy Scruggs entered a "Best Interest" plea to promotion of methamphetamine and received a two year sentence suspended to probation. He was fined $2,000 and his name will be on the methamphetamine registry. He was given jail credit of 113 days. The first year of his probation will be supervised. Scruggs will be on unsupervised probation the last year of his sentence.

Meanwhile 23 year old Latasha Cantrell pled guilty to theft under $500 and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days to serve 75% of the term before release eligibility. The sentence is to run concurrently with a violation of probation against her. She was given jail credit of 139 days.

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