Local News Articles

Brandi (Fish) Bennett competes in Military Armed Forces Softball Tournament

September 22, 2014
by: 
Danny Fish

Former Tigerette and 8AA Hall of Famer Brandi (Fish) Bennett competes in the Military Armed Forces softball tournament. She was selected to be a part of the United States All Navy Softball Team. In being selected, she is considered to be among the top athletes within the United States Navy. As a member of this team, she will represent the United States Navy in the Armed Forces Softball Championship held in Ft. Sill, OK. During this tournament, she will be competing against the finest athletes from the United States Army, Marines and Air Force, for the gold medal. Upon completion, she was then selected to be on the all-tournament. This team represents the top athletes from the Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Force. The Armed Forces Team will represent the United States in the ASA National World Cup, held in Oklahoma City, OK.

Brandi’s experience has been nothing short of notable throughout her softball career. Brandi was a standout for Danny Bond and the DeKalb County Tigerettes from 1993-1997, and was part of two state championship runs for the Tigerettes. Coach Danny Bond had this say about Brandi, “She had 2 attributes that all players would like to have; she was physically and mentally tough.” After graduating, she continued her softball career at Vol State (97-99) for head coach Johnny Lynn. Coach Lynn stated “Brandi was one of the hardest working young ladies I have ever coached. Her mental and physical toughness was one of Brandi’s strengths that will carry over in anything she decides to do.” She then followed in the footsteps of her brother Danny Fish and headed to Tennessee Wesleyan College (99-01). There she played for TWC Hall of Fame coach Jeff Rice. He remarked, “Brandi was a tireless worker who was always the first to practice and the last to leave. She always put the team's success above her own.” Brandi graduated with a 3.3 GPA and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Exercise Science from TWC located in Athens, TN.

Brandi is currently stationed in Manama in the Kingdom of Bahrain. She has the title of IT1 (Information Systems Technician First Class) (IDW/SW) and she is the Command Commander US Navy Central Command. She is the daughter of Danny & Regina Fish and Myron & Cindy Rhody. Brandi and her husband Anthony Bennett of Baytown, Texas will relocate to Pensacola, Florida in December.

Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County Dedicates New Home

September 21, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Tia Adcock and her children Caven Ponder and Caitlyn Adcock
Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County Dedicates New Home

A dedication ceremony was held Sunday afternoon by members of Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County to commemorate the recent completion of the fifth partner family home at 202 Hayes Street in Smithville.

Tia Adcock and her children Caven Ponder and Caitlyn Adcock are expected to move into the home soon. "I appreciate everything everybody has done for me. It meant a chance to give my kids a home. It means more to me than I could ever tell you," said Tia.

The dedication ceremony included a consecration of the home led by Dr. John Carpenter of the Smithville First United and Bright Hill United Methodist Churches.

Committee and Board members of Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County gathered with the Adcock family and their friends for the dedication.

Larry Green, Local Habitat President thanked all suppliers, donors, and volunteers for their help in the construction of the home.

Habitat is accepting applications from those wishing to become the next partner family in DeKalb County.

Area residents are invited to get information about this program and to learn how to apply during a meeting on Thursday, September 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Smithville First United Methodist Church Christian Fellowship Center, which is located across from Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. Applications must be postmarked by Tuesday, September 30.

Judge Says Foster Must Pay His Own Attorney Fees

September 19, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Circuit Court Judge Amy Hollars
Mike Foster

UCDD will not be paying former County Mayor Mike Foster's attorney fees.

During a brief hearing Friday morning in DeKalb County Circuit Court, Judge Amy Hollars found that UCDD could not legally reimburse Foster for his $61,675 in attorney fees, a cost he incurred following his indictment last September. Judge Hollars based her decision on a Tennessee Supreme Court ruling in an 1870's case "Smith versus Nashville" in which the high court found that a governmental entity "could not appropriate money to defray the cost of an official who had been prosecuted for official misconduct, although he be acquitted."

"I'm bound to follow what appears to me to be the controlling Tennessee precedent from the Tennessee Supreme Court in "Smith versus Nashville". It would be this court's ruling that the UCDD cannot reimburse these attorneys fees," said Judge Hollars.

WJLE was the only media represented at the hearing.

Foster wanted the Upper Cumberland Development District to pay his legal expenses in a federal criminal case which was brought against him stemming from the "Living the Dream" investigation. The charge against Foster was dropped in February. UCDD declined to reimburse Foster and sought a Chancery Court ruling on whether it was legal to do so. On June 18, the UCDD filed a petition for declaratory judgment in Putnam County Chancery Court asking the court to "declare whether it would be legal or illegal for the UCDD to indemnify or reimburse Foster for the fees, costs, and expenses he claims, under Tennessee constitutional, statutory, or common law."

Smithville attorney Hilton Conger, who represented Foster at the hearing Friday, argued that the Alabama Supreme Court, while concurring with the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling in "Smith versus Nashville" also stated in the case of "Birmingham versus Wilkinson" that "the same policy which demands the holding of public offices to strict account in matters of public trust, also demands their protection against groundless assaults upon their integrity in the discharge of public duty".

"This case (Birmingham versus Wilkinson) says there are no hard and fast rules. It's a case by case situation," said Conger during Friday's hearing. "I think that leaves the door open for this court (Judge Hollars) to follow our sister state (Alabama) in which they don't depart from "Smith versus Nashville" but set out another scenario by which courts can order that (payment of attorney fees). There are situations where an entity or in this case the UCDD board has an interest in seeing that their (board) members are not wrongfully maligned," said Conger.

In making her ruling, Judge Hollars also referred to a 1997 Wilson County case in which members of the school board , who were ousted and later reinstated, sought attorney's fees for their defense from the Wilson County Board of Education and were denied by the Chancery Court as well as the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Citing the Tennessee Supreme Court decision in "Smith versus Nashville", the appellate court wrote in the Wilson County case that "Despite our desire to overrule the Chancery Court, we were unable to find a legal or equitable ground upon which to base such a ruling. The history of the case reveals that appellants had done nothing wrong, but were forced to incur substantial attorneys fees nonetheless. Should the Tennessee Supreme Court take this issue up for consideration, we hope they are able to devise a just result."

In 1879, the Tennessee Supreme Court decided the "Smith versus Nashville" case in which the state brought a bill, on the relation of a number of Nashville citizens, accusing the Mayor and Common Council of Nashville, the Mayor, and individual members of the City Council, and other city officials with gross misconduct and with having brought the corporation to the verge of bankruptcy. On June 5, 1869, the Mayor retained an attorney to aid the City Attorney in the defense of the case. The Mayor and the City Council ratified the Mayor's action in September 1869. Thereafter, the attorney filed an action for his fees. The trial court concluded the municipal corporation had no interest in defending the bill and that neither the City Council nor the Mayor had the authority to bind the municipal corporation. Thus, the trial court entered a judgment against the attorney. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and stated: Where a municipal corporation has no interest in the event of a suit, or in the question involved in the case, it would seem clear that it could not assume the defense of the suit, or appropriate its money for the payment of expenses incurred....Most clearly, the corporation could not appropriate money to defray the costs of an official who had been prosecuted for official misconduct, although he be acquitted.

"This is a very harsh ruling (Tennessee Supreme Court) but the rationale is that a municipal corporation does not have a direct interest in the suit and that the board or development district cannot appropriate its money for the payment of these expenses incurred," said Judge Hollars.

"It's especially disturbing in this case (UCDD) because the court has read transcripts, statements, and the indictment in which there is the barest mention of Mr. Foster. When elected county officials and city officials serve on boards like this and they are misled by unscrupulous people who are involved in the day to day running of the entity, the ruling seems all the more harsh. But I think I'm bound to follow what appears to me to be the controlling Tennessee precedent from the Tennessee Supreme Court in "Smith versus Nashville". Therefore, it would be this court's ruling that the UCDD cannot reimburse these attorney fees. It's not a satisfying result but I think that's what the law dictates," Judge Hollars concluded.

Conger told WJLE after the hearing it's too early to say if Foster will appeal Judge Hollars' ruling.

UCDD was represented in this matter by Daniel H. Rader, IV of Cookeville.

The case, which was filed in Putnam County Chancery Court, was to have gone before Chancellor Ronald Thurman but he recused himself. Judge Hollars took the case and heard it in DeKalb County Friday because it was her day to have court here.

Governor Haslam Awards $24.2 Million in Highway Safety Grants

September 19, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer and Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole have announced the Tennessee agencies that received grant awards totaling more than $24.2 million to support highway traffic safety efforts.

The Alexandria and Smithville Police Departments have each been approved for grants. Alexandria will receive a $5,000 High Visibility Enforcement grant for Police Traffic Service and Smithville is to get a $25,000 grant for Smithville Alcohol Enforcement.

The funds support the mission of GHSO to save lives and reduce injuries on Tennessee roadways through leadership, innovation, coordination and program support in partnership with numerous public and private organizations.

“Having safe roads is critical to our mission of making Tennessee a better place to live, work and raise a family,” Haslam said. “These grants will support the efforts of highway safety agencies and advocates to reduce the number of people killed and injured in traffic crashes in Tennessee each year.”

There are multiple elements that contribute to a safe roadway system. Some of those aspects are an accurate traffic safety data collection and analysis system, well-trained and well-equipped law enforcement personnel, and effective emergency medical and trauma systems. A major part of roadway safety is educating motorists about laws and good driving behaviors.

“These grants help fund a variety of enforcement, legal and educational initiatives across the state including speed enforcement, first responder equipment purchases, DUI prosecutors and child passenger safety training,” Schroer said. “These grants will make a difference in the effectiveness of our highway safety partners.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides the funding to GHSO. The grants, totaling 449 for the 2014-2015 funding cycle, were awarded to 386 agencies that successfully applied for funding based on a defined problem and statistical need. Each year, GHSO accepts applications from agencies across the state for available highway safety funds. Applications are reviewed and scored by GHSO and external highway safety advocates. The agencies that meet the criteria for funding received awards.

“Our grantees are the backbone of GHSO,” Director Kendell Poole said. “It takes everyone working together to make a difference. We are dedicated to saving lives across Tennessee and pledge to work with grantees statewide to accomplish our mission.”

For more information about GHSO, visit www.tntrafficsafety.org.

For a complete list and description of each grant, visit http://www.tn.gov/tdot/news/2014/GHSO-FY2015GrantAwards.pdf

Foster Wants UCDD to Pay His Legal Expenses

September 18, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mike Foster

Former County Mayor Mike Foster wants the Upper Cumberland Development District to pay his legal expenses in a federal criminal case which was brought against him last September stemming from the "Living the Dream" investigation. The charge against Foster was dropped in February. But UCDD has not yet reimbursed Foster and wants the Chancery Court to weigh in on whether it is legal to do so.

As a result of being indicted, Foster was required to retain counsel to defend himself and incurred $61,675 in attorney's fees. Foster has requested that the UCDD reimburse him for attorney's fees, costs and expenses incurred in defending the criminal charge against him.

In June the UCDD filed a petition for declaratory judgment in Putnam County Chancery Court asking the court to "declare whether it would be legal or illegal for the UCDD to indemnify or reimburse Foster for the fees, costs, and expenses he claims, under Tennessee constitutional, statutory, or common law."

UCDD also requested that "Foster be made a party to this proceeding as he has an indispensable interest in the outcome of this decision".

WJLE obtained a copy of UCDD's petition for Declaratory Judgment and Foster's response to UCDD's motion for Summary Judgment from the Putnam County Clerk and Masters Office Wednesday.

According to the UCDD's petition, Foster claims that he was indicted exclusively because of his participation in his role as Chairman of the UCDD Board, and not because of anything that he did in his personal and individual capacity. Foster contends that he only read what he was asked to read in a meeting as Chairman and did not otherwise or separately engage in improper conduct personally.

Foster was referring to a UCDD board meeting in 2012 which resulted in a federal indictment charging him with a single count of making false statements involving the use of federal money regarding the Living the Dream project.

The controversy stemmed from Foster's tenure as the chairman of the Upper Cumberland Development District, at the same time that longtime UCDD boss Wendy Askins was allegedly diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars of agency money into that million-dollar Living the Dream facility in rural Putnam County. What was supposed to become a home for needy seniors also became Askins' home.

Federal prosecutors indicted Foster for a moment caught on television cameras where Askins gave him language asking the UCDD board to retroactively approve a bogus set of minutes in an attempt to justify a $300,000 transfer. Foster's attorney, Hal Hardin, argued that Foster should never have been charged with making false statements because the video showed he was being manipulated by Askins and because he had expressed some uncertainty about whether the minutes were really accurate. Faced with a motion to dismiss, federal prosecutors agreed to drop the charge against Foster in February and the federal judge signed the order to make it official.

However, under the "Agreed Order of Dismissal" Foster had agreed that he "shall not authorize, file, or otherwise pursue any alleged claims he may have against the government for failure to prosecute him, for a claim that he is a "prevailing party" or any other claims he may have."

According to the petition, the UCDD has considered but not determined whether it should indemnify or reimburse Foster for the costs incurred. But the UCDD cites an old Tennessee Supreme Court case in which the high court stated that in "Smith versus Nashville" the governmental entity could not appropriate money to defray the cost of an official who had been prosecuted for official misconduct, although he be acquitted.

However, in his response to UCDD's motion for summary judgment filed Friday, September 12, Foster's lawyer Hilton Conger contends that the Alabama Supreme Court, while concurring with the Tennessee Supreme Court ruling in "Smith versus Nashville" also stated in the case of "Birmingham versus Wilkinson" that "the same policy which demands the holding of public offices to strict account in matters of public trust, also demands their protection against groundless assaults upon their integrity in the discharge of public duty".

According to Foster's response, "Mike Foster, along with 31 other County Mayors and Mayors of cities and towns in the Upper Cumberland area, were drafted into service on the boards of governmental agencies because of a statutory scheme devised by the General Assembly, not because of any financial gain or remuneration. If the citizens of the Upper Cumberland are to continue having good, decent representatives who are willing to serve and participate on the Boards of the various Public agencies gratuitously, those representatives must have the confidence that they have the backing of and protection of the Board if they should ever find themselves in the precarious position which Mike Foster finds himself."

UCDD is being represented in this matter by Daniel H. Rader, IV of Cookeville.

The case was to go before Chancellor Ronald Thurman but he has recused himself. Instead, Circuit Court Judge Amy Hollars will hear the case.

Vazquez Celebrates U.S. Citizenship

September 17, 2014
by: 
Shan Burklow
Mila Vazquez holds a patriotic cake
Friends and co-workers gather with Mila Vazquez

Physical Therapy Director Mila Vazquez of DeKalb Community and Stones River Hospitals celebrated with friends and co-workers for her recent acceptance as a United States Citizen.

“It has taken me a total of 10 years to make it through the process of becoming a United States Citizen,” beams Vazquez, “My daughter has been accepted at the same time and we are looking forward to the formal ceremony in Nashville soon. I definitely do not take my responsibility as an American lightly. It took so much for us to get where we are. This means a great deal to me.”

“We are so very happy for Mila and love that she has accomplished so much. She is a wonderful employee, community volunteer, and gives back every chance she gets,” said CEO Sue Conley of DeKalb Community and Stones River Hospital.

Vazquez, formally from the Philippines, came to America on a work visa as a physical therapist. She is excited to move forward as an American citizen and encourages others who may feel overwhelmed by the process of citizenship to simply take each challenge one step at a time.

Pictured: Mila Vazquez holds a patriotic cake celebrating her recent acceptance as a United States Citizen. Vazquez is the Director of Physical Therapy at DeKalb Community and Stones River Hospitals.

Pictured: Friends and co-workers gather with Mila Vazquez to celebrate her accomplishment as being formally named an official citizen of the United States. Vazquez came to the U.S. on a work visa from the Philippines over ten years ago.

Cody Randolph Named New PE Teacher and Coach at DMS

September 17, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Principal Randy Jennings with DMS Boys Basketball Coach Cody Randolph

A new Physical Education Teacher and Boys Basketball Coach has been named at DeKalb Middle School.

Cody Randolph will be taking over from former P.E. teacher and Coach Joey Agee who was recently named as the new Assistant Principal at DeKalb West School.

Principal Randy Jennings made the announcement Tuesday. "We're excited to announce that Cody Randolph is going to be the new Physical Education teacher as well as the Boy's basketball coach at DeKalb Middle School. We know he is going to do a good job. He's going to continue what Coach Agee has done. We're sad to see Coach Agee go but he has moved on to something he had been working toward for a while and we're excited for him but we're glad to have Cody with us and he will continue with the success that we've had and be a good role model for our kids," he said.

"I was born and raised in DeKalb County," said Randolph. I went to DeKalb County High School and played basketball. I am really excited to return to the county and start back in basketball with this good group of kids that I know we have on the team and in the school system. I'm going to try and do my very best," he said.

After graduating from DCHS, Randolph attended MTSU for two years and then completed his degree in physical education at Tennessee Tech. He taught school for half a year at DCHS in 2012 and assisted Coach Lynas Martin with the DCHS boys basketball team. Since then Randolph has worked in construction and for Nashville trucking companies that sell 18 wheeler rigs and parts.

Meanwhile, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby last week updated the school board on personnel moves since the August meeting

Those employed include the following:

Shannon Collins, Special Education Teacher
Teresa Billings, Substitute Cook
Janet Fish, DWS custodian
Julie Fitts, full time school bus driver
Daniel Hooper, Special Education Teacher
Edward Norris, Special Education Teacher
Brenda Pedigo, part time Special Education Teacher
Danny Pirtle, Jr., part time Computer Technician

Suspected Drug Dealer Sentenced

September 16, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Homer Anthony Petty
Sheriff Ray with Detectives and Officers accounting for pills and cash found at home of Homer Petty

A DeKalb County man, found in March with more than $18,000 worth of pills in his possession, entered a plea and was sentenced in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday.

Judge Gary McKenzie presided.

43 year old Homer Anthony Petty of 1588 Banks Pisgah Road pled guilty to possession of a schedule II drug for resale and received a three year sentence, all suspended to probation. He was fined $2,000 and must forfeit all seized property. The term is to run consecutive to his Warren County sentence. Petty was given jail credit for 93 days.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said as part of the department's on-going investigation into the illegal sale of narcotics, drug detectives and other officers went to Petty's home on Friday, March 7 to do a probation visit and search after identifying him as a suspected drug dealer.

During the search, officers and detectives found 445 dilaudid pills in the pocket of a pair of jeans. The pills were packed in nine individual bags. Eight of the bags contained 50 dilaudid pills each. One bag had 45 dilaudid pills.

Petty also produced a pill bottle that contained eighteen morphine 30 milligram pills, five oxycodone 10 milligram pills and twenty three oxycodone 15 milligram pills. Petty had no prescription for the pills.

According to Sheriff Ray, the total street value of the pills is $18,735. While there, officers and detectives also seized $6,968 in cash, scanners, and security cameras which were set up on the premises so that Petty could monitor who was coming into his driveway.

At the time, Petty was already on probation for prior offenses.

Federal Mogul Copper Thief Sentenced in Criminal Court

September 16, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Martin Riley, III

One of three men accused of stealing more than $100,000 worth of copper and brass from Federal Mogul in Smithville over an eight month period last year entered a plea and was sentenced in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday.

Judge Gary McKenzie presided.

48 year old Martin Riley, III received a five year sentence after pleading guilty to theft of property over $10,000. The sentence is to run concurrently with another sentence he is now serving. Riley will be eligible for probation after serving 35% of the sentence as a range II multiple offender. He has been given jail credit since October, 2013. Riley must also make restitution.

The other two men, 57 year old Billy Joe Rigsby and 30 year old Corey Dickens were sentenced in February. Rigsby pled guilty to theft over $60,000 while Dickens entered a plea to theft over $10,000. Rigsby received a ten year sentence to serve at least 30% as a range one offender before parole eligibility. He was given jail credit of almost six months from August 13, 2013 to February 21, 2014. Rigsby also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of delivery of a schedule II drug and received a three year sentence in that case to run concurrently with the theft offense. He received a drug fine of $2,000.

Dickens received a five year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Corrections. He was given jail credit of almost six months from August 1, 2013 to February 21, 2014. Dickens and Rigsby are to make restitution jointly and severally to Federal Mogul in the amount of $109,771.

According to Smithville Police, the thefts occurred multiple times from December 2012 to August 2013 during the middle of the night after the second shift when no one else was at the plant. The intruders went under and over a fence, entered through an unlocked door at the receiving area behind the building, and loaded carts with 50 pound bags of almost pure grain copper, which is used in the manufacture of brake pads at the facility. In some cases, pieces of EDM brass were also stolen.

According to Lieutenant Matt Holmes, the investigation began after police first received a tip and then a formal complaint by an official of Federal Mogul. "We spoke to a representative of Federal Mogul who advised us that they had been suspecting some copper was being stolen. They placed a hidden camera out there. He (Federal Mogul official) provided us with some video. When we watched the video and through investigation, we were able to identify the two subjects on the video as Martin Riley and Billy Joe Rigsby," he said.

"They way they were doing it was after hours they were entering the building, loading up carts while no one else was there, and wheeling the carts out the back door. They would go during the times they (plant) were closed during the middle of the night and take anywhere from 10 to 25 to 30 bags at a time or however many they could get loaded and feasibly get out of there with. They went under the fence and loaded their truck," said Lieutenant Holmes.

After committing the thefts, the men allegedly sold the copper and brass at the Southern Central business in McMinnville. "He (Federal Mogul official) initially didn't know how much copper had been taken but they were working on doing an inventory so we started calling around, trying to locate the copper. We learned the copper had been sold to Southern Central in McMinnville," he said. "They would take the copper and brass to the scrap yard. In some cases, they transferred the copper from the bags they came in to totes to transport it to the scrap yard," said Lieutenant Holmes.

The investigation revealed that Rigsby and Dickens were allegedly partners in the crimes from December, 2012 to March, 2013, until Dickens was arrested on a separate charge. Rigsby then allegedly continued with the thefts from the plant and was allegedly joined by Riley, on at least one occasion, through August 4, 2013.

Riley's warrant stated that on August 4, 2013 at Federal Mogul, Riley was seen on video taking multiple bags of copper from the back door. This activity has been going on from June 1, 2013 to August 4, 2013. An estimated 45 bags of copper has been taken all valued at $18,000.

The case was investigated by Chief Randy Caplinger and Lieutenant Holmes.

In other cases, 31 year old April Anderson pled guilty to theft over $500 and received a one year sentence, suspended to community corrections. The term is to run concurrently with her Grundy County sentence. She is also to make restitution to the victim in the amount of $2,200.

51 year old Robert Jeffery League pled guilty to attempted sale of a schedule I drug and received a six year sentence. He was given jail credit of 242 days and will be on judicial diversion probation. His fine is $2,000.

57 year old Gary E. Woodard pled guilty to a first offense of driving under the influence. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to supervised probation except for 48 hours to serve. He was fined $360 and he will lose his driver's license for a year.

58 year old Johnny Trapp pled guilty to a fourth offense of driving under the influence. He received a two year sentence to serve and he will lose his license per Department of Safety rules. Trapp was fined $3,010 and given jail credit of 188 days.

41 year old Terry Burton pled guilty to reckless driving and received a six month suspended sentence and was fined $50. He will be on unsupervised probation.

Free college! Tennessee Promise deadline set for Seniors to Register

September 16, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Lisa Cripps
Lori Myrick

Imagine being able to go to college free of tuition and mandatory fees!

The State of Tennessee is making it possible for seniors at DeKalb County High School and across the state through Tennessee Promise. The program, proposed by Governor Bill Haslam and approved by the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this year provides two years of tuition-free education. Students may use the scholarship at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology, or other eligible institution offering an associate’s degree program. After graduating from a community college, if students choose to attend a four-year school, the state’s transfer pathways program makes it possible for those students to start as a junior. By getting their first two years free, the cost of a four-year degree would be cut in half.

Interested students must apply for Tennessee Promise on line by no later than November 1 at www.TNPromise.gov.

Tennessee Promise is part of Governor Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative aimed at increasing the number of Tennesseans with a certificate or degree beyond high school. According to the Governor, 55 percent of Tennesseans will need a certificate or degree to get a job in 11 years, while today, only 32 percent of Tennesseans qualify.

"We see this as an awesome opportunity for our graduating class. This can affect 185 students at DCHS. For many students who may not have even had higher education as a goal, we hope this will be their goal now since it's going to be funded," said Lisa Cripps, Supervisor of Instruction for grades 7-12 in the DeKalb County School System in an interview with WJLE Monday.

Tennessee Promise is a last-dollar scholarship, meaning it will cover all costs of tuition and mandatory fees not met by Pell grants, Tennessee Education Lottery (HOPE) Scholarship, and TSAA funds. As part of the program, students will be paired with a partnering organization and a mentor who will support them during the college application process. Students must participate with the partnering organizations to access Tennessee Promise funds.

All Tennessee Promise recipients must meet certain requirements, such as completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), meeting satisfactory academic progress, and completing eight hours of approved community service each semester. Applicants must be a Tennessee resident and a graduate from en eligible Tennessee high school or have completed the Tennessee home school program. Applicants may have obtained a GED or HiSet diploma prior to reaching their 19th birthday and still be eligible for Tennessee Promise. Students are not required to have attained a particular ACT score or GPA to qualify for the program.

To explain Tennessee Promise in more detail, Ann Massa, Regional Coordinator for TN Achieves will be at the high school on Thursday, September 18 at 9:20 a.m. to meet with all seniors. DCHS will also host a Financial Aid/College Planning Night and a Pre-FAFSA workshop on Monday, September 29 at 5:00 p.m. in the DCHS cafeteria. The guest speakers will be Ann Massa and Sam Mullins, Outreach Specialist with the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation."We will be providing support at the high school for students who need help with college applications or FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), or their Tennessee Promise application," Lori Myrick, DCHS Guidance Counselor told WJLE.

Beyond the Tennessee Promise application, students must meet the following deadlines and requirements:

*Apply by November 1. Students must apply for the Tennessee Promise scholarship at www.TNPromise.gov.

*File the FAFSA by February 15. Students must file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by February 15 at www.fafsa.gov. "Realizing that many of them (students) don't have their income taxes filled out (filed) by that time (February 15) they can estimate according to their tax dollars from the year before," said Cripps.

*Attend mandatory meetings by March 1 and May 31. Students are required to attend the first and second mandatory meetings at DCHS.

*Students will need to complete eight hours of approved community service for each semester they receive Tennessee Promise funding, including the summer before they begin college. Students should check with their partnering organization for specific community service deadlines.

*Apply to and register for classes at an eligible program. Before the fall semester begins, students will need to apply to a community college, college of applied technology, or eligible program at a four year institution. Partnering organizations may ask students to apply to an eligible college program by February 15. Scholarship funds will be paid directly to the school once their enrollment is confirmed.

DCHS students in grades 9-12 and their parents are strongly encouraged to attend the Financial Aid/College Planning Night and Pre-FAFSA Workshop on Monday, September 29 at 5:00 p.m. at the high school in order to receive important information concerning college/technical school application, financial aid, and scholarships including the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship. Mullins will also be conducting a Pre-FAFSA Workshop during this event. Students and parents must fill out the FAFSA in January of the student's senior year in order to apply for state and federal financial aid including the lottery scholarship. This workshop is designed to help students and parents prepare for FAFSA filing. "The FAFSA can sometimes be intimidating to students and families who have not filled that out before. If parents and students will attend on September 29, Mr. Mullins will let everyone know every step they need to follow to complete their FAFSA at this workshop. The deadline for completing the FAFSA for Tennessee Promise is February 15 but I want all my students to fill out their FAFSA in January or as close to January 1 as they possibly can. There is a state grant called the Tennessee Student Assistance Award and that is first come, first served for students based on income eligibility so I encourage all my students to fill out their FAFSA if they can as close as possible to January 1," Myrick said.

Students and parents are advised of other important dates:

"On Tuesday, September 30 during first, third, and fifth block, Ms. Walteen Parker has graciously opened up her English 12 classroom. Any student who needs help with a scholarship essay is welcome to come to Ms. Parker's classroom during those times to get some tips on essay writing. It is very important that students have someone proof read their essay," said Myrick.

"On Wednesday, October 1 , Ms. Shelly Painter and I will have a college application workshop in the counseling office. We will have a computer lab in the counseling office as we will the day before in Ms. Parker's classroom, and students are welcome to come there or they may bring their own mobile device or computer to get their college applications done. We will help them with that," Myrick continued.

"Our Parent-Teacher conference night is October 7 from 3-6 p.m., Ms. Painter and I will be in the library at DCHS to help any student who has not completed their college or Tennessee Promise application by that time. Also on October 7, Motlow Community College at their McMinnville campus will have a Tennessee Promise Information Night starting at 5:30 p.m. and any student interested in going to Motlow, if they go to Motlow that night to complete their Tennessee Promise application and their Motlow application, Motlow will waive the student's twenty five dollar enrollment fee" said Myrick.

"All of our community colleges and technical colleges in the state are having a Tennessee Promise information event. They are in the process of getting the events posted on their websites so we encourage students and parents to visit the campus of the college where they are interested in going and attend the Tennessee Promise events that are scheduled," she said.

Again, a Tennessee Promise Scholarship must be used at one of the state community colleges or state technical colleges or Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology. "There are also private community colleges and some four year colleges that have two year programs where Tennessee Promise money can be used. If students choose to participate in Tennessee Promise and go to one of the eligible private community colleges or four year college programs, the entire cost will not be covered. You only get the money for what it would cost to go to one of the state schools. Tennessee Promise is also different from the Lottery Scholarship. The Lottery Scholarship is still in effect. Students who meet eligibility based on GPA and ACT are still eligible for the Lottery Scholarship should they choose to go to a four year college versus a two year college. If students use Tennessee Promise to earn an Associate's Degree, they are still lottery eligible if they meet guidelines once they get to the four year colleges if they want to go on for a Bachelor's Degree," Myrick concluded.

For those interested in being a mentor to Tennessee Promise students, contact Graham Thomas at 615-604-1306 or by email at graham@tnachieves.org. Background checks are required for mentors.

Meanwhile, in support of the Tennessee Promise initiative, Justin Potter Library will commit to the following actions:

1. Starting Sept 25 through Oct. 30, Justin Potter Library will provide computers and quiet space each Thursday from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. for our high school seniors to go online at www.TNPromise.gov to apply for the Tennessee Promise scholarship, for adults to sign up as mentors and or community members for find out more information about this initiative.

2. Dec. 4 through Jan 15, those computers and space can be used Thursdays from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the students' college applications.

3. Starting Jan 22 through Feb 26, TNPromise scholars can complete their eight hours of community service as volunteers at Justin Potter Library on Thursdays between the hours of 3:00 - 5:00 pm.

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