Local News Articles

Hearing in Murder Case Ends in Courtroom Outburst

March 26, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Anthony (Tony) Tyrone Crews Being Escorted Out of Courthouse Thursday
Clay Andrew Bain
Ashley Bain

An outburst in General Sessions Court this morning (Thursday) has landed one man in trouble with the law.

23 year old Clay Andrew Bain of Lakeview Drive, Smithville is charged with disrupting a meeting or procession and two counts of assault. His bond is $4,500 and he will be in court on April 9.

The incident occurred at the end of a preliminary hearing in the second degree murder case against 42 year old Anthony (Tony) Tyrone Crews, who is charged in the fatal stabbing of 28 year old Ashley Bain in February. Clay Bain is the victim's brother.

After Judge Bratten Cook, II ordered the case bound to the grand jury, Bain stood up and walked toward the door as if to exit the courtroom. When Judge Cook asked him to return to his seat, Bain walked past where Crews was seated and took a swing at him with his fist, hitting Crews in the head. A deputy standing beside Crews, Sergeant Brian Williams, suffered an injury to his left hand as Bain was trying to get to Crews. After being hit, Crews, who was handcuffed, stood up and turned toward Bain but he was quickly grabbed by officers and taken out of the courtroom. Bain was also escorted out of the courtroom. During the outburst, others in the courtroom, believed to be members of the Bain family began shouting and yelling obscenities at Crews.

The assault charges against Bain are for his attack on both Crews and Sergeant Williams. According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, one of the warrants alleges that Bain assaulted Crews by hitting him in the head while the DeKalb County General Sessions Court was in session. The other warrant alleges that Bain assaulted Sergeant Williams by attempting to gain access so that he could assault Crews. Sergeant Williams' left hand received an injury from Bain's actions. The disrupt warrant alleges that Bain did disrupt the DeKalb County General Sessions Court by making verbal threats and physically assaulting Anthony Tyrone Crews.

Following the hearing, Judge Cook increased Crew's bond to $2 million dollars. At the time of his arrest, Crews' bond was set at $250,000 but Judge Cook increased it to $1 million during Crews' first court appearance on February 12.

Assistant District Attorney General Greg Strong called two persons to testify during Thursday's hearing and they were questioned by both Strong and Assistant Public Defender Allison Rasbury West , who is representing Crews.

Amy Tucker, a clerk at Village Market Marathon on North Congress Boulevard, testified that Crews was a regular customer and bought beer there on the day that Bain was killed. " He was a pretty steady customer. He came in usually two or three times a day every day and bought beer," she said.

During his testimony, TBI Special Agent and Criminal Investigator Lance Walker said surveillance video from Village Market showed Crews making a beer purchase around 1:00 p.m. on the day of the murder and an empty beer bottle and a bloody knife, believed to have been the murder weapon were found later that afternoon inside a Village Market bag at the crime scene. "We had heard that he had gone to Village Market and we retrieved a receipt (from the store) that matched up with beer sales of Mr. Crews purchasing 2-24 ounce Bud Ices and a Steel Reserve with a time stamp on the receipt at 1 p.m. The store video showed him making the purchase. When we got to the scene back in the bedroom where Ms Bain's body was found, there was a plastic bag consistent with the bags that Village Market uses and in the bag was an empty Steel Reserve bottle and next to the bottle in the bag was a knife that had been bent from the force used upon it covered in reddish brown stains. There was also blonde hair appearing to belong to the victim on that knife. The knife was recovered and sent for testing," Walker testified.

Agent Walker said that he was notified of the stabbing at around 2:00 p.m. that day and arrived on the scene at around 3:30 p.m. He described what he observed . " I arrived on the scene after I received the call. We set up a perimeter for the crime scene. Mr. Crews (who was on the scene) was transported to be interviewed by another agent. I conducted a crime scene investigation. The first thing we noticed that the front door was ajar. The frame was off the door. We went through the house and saw reddish brown stains which we assumed to be blood throughout the house leading back to the back left bedroom. And then we encountered Ms. Bain's body. She was found on the left side of the bed, near the foot of the bed close to the wall. The manner of death (according to the autopsy) was multiple stab wounds. They could confidently say that there were at least fifteen (stab wounds). They could not establish the estimated time of death," testified Agent Walker.

" Mr. Crews (who was at the scene) was disheveled. He was repeating himself over and over again. He appeared to be incoherent and he had a strong odor of alcohol on him. My understanding was that he and Ms. Bain were in a relationship and he stayed at the house at times throughout the week off and on. His clothing had what appeared to be blood. His long sleeved shirt, pants, and shoes all had reddish brown stains on them. His hands had what appeared to be dried blood. His clothing was sent to the lab for testing," said Walker

"Samples of blood were taken from designated areas and sent to the crime lab for analysis including from the floor of the hallway, bedroom, dining/kitchen area, and a number of other items such as the knife and Bain's wallet, which was found between two trash bags filled with trash (one on top of the other) in the kitchen. The wallet had about $1,400 in it. We also found more money (another $1,600 or $1,700) that appeared to come from the same source in the bedroom," Walker testified.

As for the broken front door, Agent Walker said Crews had reported to the Sheriff's Department in January that it had been damaged in an attempted break-in. "The Sheriff's Office let me know that a report had been filed on January 26 for a supposed break-in. I think Crews filed the report that somebody had broke the door. I re-secured it before I left. It seemed secure," Agent Walker testified.

After listening to the testimony, Judge Cook said he found probable cause to bind the case against Crews to the Grand Jury, which convenes again next month and to increase his bond to $2 million. Following the hearing, Crews was transported back to a facility in another county where he is being held.

Three Smithville Police Officers Receive Commendations for Outstanding Service

March 26, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
(PICTURED: STANDING- Captain Steven Leffew, Sergeant Travis Bryant, Officer Andy Snow, and Officer James Cornelius. SEATED: Mayor Jimmy Poss and Alderman/Police Commissioner Jason Murphy)

Three members of the Smithville Police Department have been commended for "Outstanding Service" in the line of duty.

Officers James Cornelius and Andy Snow along with Sergeant Travis Bryant were recognized by Captain Steven Leffew, Officer in Charge, during a meeting of police department staff Wednesday afternoon at city hall. Mayor Jimmy Poss and Alderman and Police Commissioner Jason Murphy were also there for the occasion.

Both Officers Cornelius and Snow were commended for their response to a fire at City Walk Apartments on East Bryant Street in January 2012 where they entered the burning building in search of anyone who might need help getting out. Sergeant Bryant's commendation was for his professionalism as the department's evidence custodian in keeping files in order and properly secured.

While separate commendation certificates were presented to Officers Cornelius and Snow, they both read the same as follows:

"On behalf of the City of Smithville Police Department, I would like to commend you for your recent efforts in your capacity as a Smithville Police Officer."

"On January 14, 2012, the Smithville Police Department and the Smithville Fire Department responded to 911 calls of a fully engulfed fire at an apartment complex. Officer James Cornelius and Officer Andy Snow were the first to arrive on the scene and with reports there could still be residents inside and without hesitation they entered the complex in search of anyone who may need help."

"It's initiatives like this that will distinguish Smithville Police Officers as friends and protectors and will take our police department to a higher level of excellence. You have served with distinction and you are a credit to the Smithville Police Department."

"Officer Cornelius and Officer Snow, for your outstanding service you are hereby formally recognized and commended with a copy of this commendation becoming a part of your permanent personnel file. Congratulations and keep up the good work."

The commendation to Sergeant Bryant states as follows:

"On behalf of the City of Smithville Police Department, I would like to commend you for your recent efforts in your capacity as a Smithville Police Officer and Evidence Custodian. Speaking from experience, I (Captain Leffew) know how demanding proper evidence management can be. Recently I conducted a random and unannounced inspection of the evidence/property room. Random case numbers were selected and all pieces of evidence were found to be both secure and in its proper location. Evidence files and property were also found to be in order. I found that all security measures were being maintained."

"Your determination and efforts in the continued performance of your duties exemplify your outstanding work ethic. The integrity you have shown as evidence custodian enables the citizens of Smithville and your fellow coworkers to know that the Smithville Police Department is continuously striving for quality service."

'Sergeant Bryant, for your outstanding service you are hereby formally recognized and commended with a copy of this commendation becoming a part of your permanent personnel file".

"Thank you for your service and congratulations on a job well done".

The commendations to all three officers were signed by Captain Leffew, Mayor Poss, and Police Commissioner Murphy.

(PICTURED: STANDING- Captain Steven Leffew, Sergeant Travis Bryant, Officer Andy Snow, and Officer James Cornelius. SEATED: Mayor Jimmy Poss and Alderman/Police Commissioner Jason Murphy)

Six of Seven City Positions up for Election in Alexandria

March 25, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mayor Tony Tarpley and City Attorney Vester Parsley
Aldermen Bennett Armstrong and David Cripps looking over city documents
Aldermen Pat Jackson and John Suggs

Alexandria voters will have a chance to elect a mayor and as many as five aldermen in the town's election on September 3.

Qualifying petitions are now available from the DeKalb County Election Commission. The deadline to get in the race is noon on June 18.

In this year's Alexandria election, three aldermen are to be elected, each to serve a four year term. Meanwhile, a mayor and two other aldermen are to be elected to fill vacancies or the remaining two years of unexpired terms.

The sitting members are Mayor Tony Tarpley and Aldermen Pat Jackson, David Cripps, John Suggs, and Bennett Armstrong. All are serving as appointees except for Jackson, who was elected in 2013 and still has two years remaining in his term.

Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections, addressed the Mayor and Aldermen about this year's election procedure during their regular monthly meeting Tuesday night. "Your charter states that you elect three aldermen at one time. Two years later you elect three aldermen and a mayor. In 2013 a mayor was elected and resigned later. Pat Jackson was elected aldermen. Two (Alderman) vacancies were filled by the board. According to your city charter, any vacancy filled is until the next municipal election. Your next election is September. What is on the ballot for September will automatically be the three aldermen seats in the regular four year cycle and now two vacancies and the mayor's spot. You are electing six of your seven people come September. Two of those aldermen seats (and mayor) will be for two years because you're filling vacancies," said Stanley.

Candidates will have to let the election commission know if they are seeking a two year or four year position. According to the State (Election) Office, it's a simple procedure. The ballot and the petitions that are being picked up will identify four year terms and two year terms. When someone picks up a petition, I'll have to ask which seat are you running for, the four year or two year seat?. When it's placed on the ballot, it will be described so you'll know who is a candidate for what," Stanley said.

Stanley advised city officials to send his office a letter calling for the September 3 election by May 28. "Although your city charter calls for the election and it's our job to carry out that election, we would like to have a letter from the mayor on behalf of the board asking the election commission to conduct this election come September 3 and we would like to have that letter before May 28 because by law we have to do the first legal advertisement for you before May 28."

If the election is uncontested, the city could choose to use paper ballots instead of the more expensive election machine voting process. "For small towns like you who have your own stand alone city election, if there is no opposition, you can use paper ballots on election day. If there is opposition we have to use the machine. But you have to make the request when you call the election," said Stanley.

4-H Horse Judging Team Places Third at Regional Contest

March 25, 2015
by: 
By: Leigh Fuson, 4-H Agent
The DeKalb County 4-H Horse Judging team at the regional contest: Cooper Brown, Colton Kirby, Lily Martin, Raiden Griffin, Maeloree Kirby, Macey Cox, and Kayla Belk
Third Place: DeKalb County 4-H Horse Judging Jr. team wins 3rd place at the regional contest: Maeloree Kirby, Cooper Brown, Macey Cox,  and Colton Kirby. Not pictured: Raiden Griffin

The DeKalb County 4-H Horse Judging team recently traveled to Murfreesboro for the Central Region contest held at MTSU. Contestants included Kayla Belk, 9th grade, and Lily Martin, 6th grade, who competed as individuals. In the Junior division for 4th & 5th grades, Cooper Brown, Macey Cox, Raiden Griffin, Colton Kirby, and Maeloree Kirby placed 3rd overall. This was everyone’s first time to participate in horse judging.

During this event, youth put their decision making skills and horse knowledge to the test. Contestants watched five performance classes, including western pleasure, hunter under saddle, reining, and walking horses. The horses in each class were ranked 1-4 based on specific criteria needed for that discipline of riding. Three halter, or conformation, classes were also judged. These horses were judged on muscling, structure, and balance.

After ranking the horses, the 4-H’ers’ decision was compared to that of the official judge, and a score was awarded. Senior high members in 9th-12th grade have another portion to the contest: oral reasons. 4-H’ers must verbally defend why they placed a class as they did. This step requires youth to think under pressure and develops public speaking and communication skills.

DeKalb County was very well represented at this regional contest! Each 4-H member should feel proud of their accomplishments. To learn more about horse judging, or any 4-H activity, please contact the DeKalb County Extension Office at 615-597-4945.

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Photo Captions:

Group:The DeKalb County 4-H Horse Judging team at the regional contest: Cooper Brown, Colton Kirby, Lily Martin, Raiden Griffin, Maeloree Kirby, Macey Cox, and Kayla Belk

Third Place: DeKalb County 4-H Horse Judging Jr. team wins 3rd place at the regional contest: Maeloree Kirby, Cooper Brown, Macey Cox, and Colton Kirby. Not pictured: Raiden Griffin

Smithville Elementary School Recommended for Reaccreditation

March 25, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Smithville Elementary School Recommended for Reaccreditation

Members of an AdvancED External Review Team visited Smithville Elementary School this week and liked what they saw. During an exit report meeting Tuesday afternoon, Lead Evaluator Karen Garner announced to the administration and faculty that the school will be recommended for reaccreditation.

If the AdvancED Accreditation Commission concurs with the recommendation, Smithville Elementary School will earn the distinction of accreditation by AdvancED for a five year term that expires June 30, 2019. "We will be composing this report over the next couple of weeks and then it goes to Nashville. We hope this report will help guide your future," said Garner.

The AdvancED external review team, made up of five Middle Tennessee educators, met with several stakeholders in conducting its evaluation of Smithville Elementary School including the Director of Schools, parents, support staff, teachers, students, a school board member, and others.

According to Garner, SES scored higher than the national average in better than 90% of the areas surveyed. But the school needs a computer teacher and more technology, and those areas will be noted as "Improvement Priorities" that must be addressed within the next two years.

"We looked at your standards and each indicator and each of us rated each indicator. We put them into the computer to come out with a team average to use. On this list it gives us the indicator's average score from across the country. I would say 90% or better of your numbers are higher than the national average and that is something to say congratulations to you. We think your scores are very good. When you beat the national average consistently that is just a good job you're doing," said Garner.

"We observed close to 30 classrooms and the numbers there are excellent except in one area, technology. That is nothing to be ashamed of. They do not give us the national averages for this but I can guarantee you that every school I've done since this instrument came out, technology was the lowest score. You're lacking technological equipment in your classrooms. You're lacking a computer teacher in your school. We're not going to worry about that low score in technology right now but we are going to say that's one of the things we would like to see improved. We cannot say hire a new teacher or anything that relates to money. We have to say things like research ways that you can obtain a computer teacher," she said.

On a scale of 1-4, Smithville Elementary School had an average score of 3 or higher in all areas except technology. "This is a 1-4 rating. I'll give you the average. The first is called "Equitable Learning Environments" in which each child has an equal opportunity. Your average on that one was 3.16. The second one was "High Expectation Environments". You had a 3.4 on that one. On "Supportive Learning Environments" you had a 3.59. That's an excellent score. And on the "Active Learning Environments" you had a 3.23. On "Progress Monitoring and Feedback" you had a 3.13 and "Well Managed Learning Environment" you had a 3.41. "Technology" was 1.67. That was your only score under a 3", said Garner.

The External Review Team identified three areas as "Opportunities for Improvement" including "Mentoring", "Professional Development for everyone", and "Range of Media" or the need for computers for each teacher.

Among the "Powerful Practices" identified was "Communication". " You do a great job communicating with your parents in so many different media that they can't miss it. You have it out there," said Garner.

Smithville Elementary School Principal Julie Vincent commended her staff for their dedication. "I think you would be hard pressed in any school that you go to, to find a finer group of teachers than here at Smithville Elementary. I'm extremely proud of the work they do on a day in and day out basis. They are phenomenal. Good job," she said.

Members of the AdvancED External Review Team at SES were Lead Evaluator Karen Garner, retired teacher from Rutherford County; Michelle Burke, an educator at Seigel High School in Murfreesboro; Juanita Climer, a retired teacher from Rutherford County; Rita McDonald, a retired teacher from Giles County; and Carol Hawkins, a teacher from Rutherford County.

A written external report will be prepared and sent to the AdvancED Tennessee Commission for approval and then to the regional office in Atlanta for final action on reaccreditation in June.

(PICTURED: Assistant SES Principal Karen Knowles, Lead Evaluator Karen Garner, retired teacher from Rutherford County; Michelle Burke, an educator at Seigel High School in Murfreesboro; Juanita Climer, a retired teacher from Rutherford County; Rita McDonald, a retired teacher from Giles County; and Carol Hawkins, a teacher from Rutherford County, Second District School Board member Jerry Wayne Johnson; and SES Principal Julie Vincent)

Mayor Fires Police Chief, Hearing Requested

March 24, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mayor Jimmy Poss
Randy Caplinger

Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss has fired Police Chief Randy Caplinger and cites eight reasons for the termination.

In a letter to Caplinger dated March 19, Mayor Poss wrote that "Your actions and performance has had a negative impact on the Smithville Police Department since I was first elected Mayor in 2012 and can no longer be tolerated. I have lost confidence in your ability to lead the Smithville Police Department in a positive direction. As a result, your employment as Smithville Police Chief is being terminated immediately".

Caplinger's attorney Sarah Cripps has answered the Mayor's letter with one of her own requesting a hearing. "Chief Caplinger categorically denies all allegations contained in your March 19 correspondence and respectfully requests that he be afforded a full and fair due process hearing before the three-person board or commission and, in the event of an adverse ruling against him, before a plenary session of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen."

(READ ATTORNEY SARAH CRIPPS' ENTIRE LETTER TO MAYOR POSS BY CLICKING PDF LINK BELOW)

1687_001.pdf (171.68 KB)

Cripps contends that Chief Caplinger is not an "at will" employee as city officials claim; that he can only be terminated for "just cause"; and that he shall only be removed by the mayor with the approval of at least two thirds (not less than four members) majority vote of the council present and voting upon the removal according to the Smithville City Charter.

(VIEW VIDEO BELOW OF SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING HELD ON TUESDAY, MARCH 17)

The mayor placed Chief Caplinger on suspension without pay pending termination on Friday, March 13 and his decision to terminate Caplinger was expected after Cripps announced last Tuesday during a special meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen that the chief would not resign or accept a severance package.

Reasons for the termination cited by the mayor include the following:

*Lack of leadership and loss of morale by your officers
The Mayor claims a majority of the police officers have expressed disappointment in the direction of the department.

*Inability to work with other law enforcement agencies
Poss said other law enforcement agencies have complained about Caplinger’s inability to work effectively with them whether it be on investigations or on on-going cases.

*Violation of Smithville Personnel Policies Section X (A) (1), which deals primarily with verbal harassment. Reportedly, Caplinger is accused of verbally intimidating his officers.

*Violation of Smithville Personnel Policies Section IX (I) (Misuse of City Property)
It is alleged Caplinger used City Hall to teach gun permit classes without paying the required rental deposit for the facility.

*Violation of Smithville Personnel Policies Section IV (M) (Outside Employment)
The mayor claims Caplinger continues to be on the payroll of a private company (Smithport Cabinetry) and has an office at that company, a violation of city policy unless approved

*Excessive Absenteeism
The mayor alleges there were twenty seven “unaccounted for work days” during the first 10 months of 2014 and data from the E-911 office showed there were “62 work days without going ‘out of service and 10 days without going ‘in service. Also, a two month video audit of city hall from January and February 2015 showed that Mr. Caplinger was at city hall less than 20 hours a week on average.

*Misuse of the Confidential Drug Fund Debit Card
Poss also alleges Caplinger used a Drug Fund debit card to make personal purchases on two occasions but goes on to say both times the city was reimbursed and the chief claimed use of the card was “by mistake.”

*Non-Use of the two U.S. Military Surplus issued Humvees
The mayor says in his letter to Caplinger that “Since my term in office I have repeatedly asked you to put these two vehicles in service and to this date nothing has come of my requests.”

"I have been approached by a majority of your police officers since I was first elected about the lack of leadership in their department and I feel that your extreme absenteeism and lack of effort to better your department has resulted in low morale under your leadership. Your officers have expressed to me numerous times that they feel the department would be better under new leadership," wrote Mayor Poss in his letter to Caplinger.

The mayor goes on to say in his letter that, "As a result of these above mentioned issues and many more not listed here I have lost confidence in your ability to lead the Smithville Police Department in a positive direction. As a result, your employment as Smithville Police Chief is being terminated immediately".

"Pursuant to the Smithville Personnel Policy Section IX (K) you have the right to a termination hearing if you feel you have been terminated illegally or unethically by submitting in writing a request for a hearing to the Mayor within seven business days of this notice. I, Mayor Poss, will have five business days to decide if your request should go before the full Board of Aldermen at the next Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting for a hearing unless a special called meeting is scheduled," Mayor Poss' letter concluded.

In her response to the Mayor, Cripps pointed out that Chief Caplinger has never been reprimanded or disciplined for any reason during his employment with the city. "Chief Caplinger's counsel have conducted an exhaustive review of his personnel file tendered to us by City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson on the afternoon of Monday, March 23. Significantly, the personnel file of Chief Caplinger is replete with certificates of commendation issued to him during his thirty year tenure with the State of Tennessee as a law enforcement officer with the Tennessee Department of Revenue and subsequently with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. It is noteworthy that a thorough and exhaustive review of Chief Caplinger's personnel file reveals that from May 3, 2010 until Chief Caplinger's summary suspension without pay on March 13, 2015, he has never been the subject of any disciplinary action instituted by the City of Smithville and has never been issued any written reprimands by any officials with the City of Smithville."

City Attorney Vester Parsley has recommended that Mayor Poss grant Chief Caplinger a hearing.

Dowelltown Man Sentenced for Getting Marijuana In Mail

March 24, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
(Picture- Smithville Police K-9 Officer James Cornelius, K-9 Leo, Detective Jeremy Taylor, Sheriff Patrick Ray)
John Harris

A 74 year old Dowelltown man who obtained a package through the mail at the Liberty Post Office last August containing fourteen pounds of pot appeared in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday.

John Harris of Cathcart Road Dowelltown, charged with possession of a schedule VI drug, received judicial diversion probation for a period of two years and was fined $2,000. His probation will be unsupervised. Judge David Patterson presided.

According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, the investigation was conducted by Detectives of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and United States Postal Service Inspectors.

In a prepared statement at the time of Harris' arrest, Sheriff Ray said "Sheriff’s Department Drug Detective Jeremy Taylor went to the Liberty Post Office on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 and met with an Inspector from the US Postal Service. Based upon US Postal Service profiles and information that was obtained by a US Postal Service Inspector about a sealed package that had been delivered to the Liberty Post Office, Detective Taylor summoned Smithville Police Department K-9 Officer James Cornelius and his K-9 Leo to the scene. Leo alerted to Officer Cornelius that an illegal substance was in the sealed targeted package".

"After the alert from the K-9 that an illegal substance was present in the package, Officers waited for someone to come and pick up the target package from the post office. After a short wait, Harris came and picked up the package. Officers then witnessed Harris attempt to take the package and place it in his personal vehicle. Officer’s then raided Harris and seized the targeted package. Harris gave permission for Officers to look inside of the package and found were approximately 14 pounds of Marijuana in 18 individual bags".

According to Sheriff Ray, “this marijuana is not the kind we regularly see here. These bags of marijuana were packaged in Ziploc bags and then were vacuumed packed. This was to hide the distinct smell that marijuana gives off. The bags weighed anywhere from 10 ounces to just over a pound. Written on each of the bags were different strains of marijuana. Purple Diesel, Blue Dream and Buddha Cheese were just a few of the strains listed. Street value for the marijuana is anywhere from $375 to $454 an ounce or $5,712.00 to $7,264 a pound.”

Detective Taylor seized cash from Harris and also his 2009 Dodge Avenger car.

(Picture- Smithville Police K-9 Officer James Cornelius, K-9 Leo, Detective Jeremy Taylor, Sheriff Patrick Ray)

Board Funds DCHS School Nurse Position

March 24, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Director Mark Willoughby and four members of school board (Older Photo)

The Board of Education has found the funds to keep a full time nurse at DCHS through the end of this school year.

During Monday night's special meeting, the Board voted to transfer $12,242 from another budgetary line item in the general purpose school budget in order to fund this full time nurse through the remainder of 2014-15 year.

School officials had hoped to avoid having to come up with local funds after taking action in November to use money from the special education general purpose budget for the position.

On November 20, the Board voted to add a full time nurse at DCHS to meet the nursing needs of a student who had enrolled there earlier in the school year. Funds for the position were appropriated from the Special Education General Purpose Budget. While the nurse, Wade Ferrell served this particular student, he was also available to attend to other DCHS students with medical issues. But under terms of the arrangement, should this student move away, transfer out of the school system, or no longer need this nursing care on the advice of a physician, the school system would no longer be able to fund this nurse from Special Education.

The student and his family have now relocated to another state.

In addition to Ferrell, the school system employs four other nurses, Chandra Adcock, Kim Turner, Christie Driver, and Joanie Williams. All are registered nurses. Prior to adding a full time school nurse at DCHS, each school had its own nurse except for DeKalb Middle School and DeKalb County High School which had to share a nurse. According to Director Mark Willoughby, the state provides funding for one school nurse per three thousand students. Any other nurses must be funded locally.

Because of the growing student population and children with chronic conditions including diabetes, Dee Anna Reynolds, Coordinated School Health Coordinator said during the September school board meeting that another nurse is needed. Three parents, Darlene Evans, Ashley Bryant, and Glenda Davis, who all have children with diabetes also addressed the board that month asking the members to find the funds to hire another school nurse to help meet the medical needs of their children and others in the school system.

Since this year's general purpose school budget does not provide funding for a new school nurse position for the entire year, Director Willoughby said in September that he would assign a substitute nurse at the high school to meet the needs until the board could reach a resolution on how to fund a full time position. The substitute nurse, Ferrell, has been working there since.

Funding for this position is only through the end of this school year. The school board will have to revisit the issue when formulating a budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

DMS Educator to Visit Russia to Teach American Folklore (Fiddlers Jamboree)

March 24, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Anita Puckett

A DeKalb Middle School educator is one of four teachers from across the United States who will be visiting Russia this summer to teach American folklore to students there. Her presentations will be about the Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree and Crafts Festival.

Anita Puckett will be making the trip as part of the Russian/American Educators Exchange Program.

American Friends of Russian Folklore invited middle and high school teachers to apply for the program in which participants travel to rural Russia to collect Russian folklore by filming holiday celebrations, recording local singers, interviewing villagers about traditional lore, and photographing local handicrafts.

In an interview with WJLE Thursday, Puckett said she is looking forward to the trip and is excited to have been selected. "Some of the people of the Tennessee Council of Social Studies Teachers sent the information and encouraged me to check into it. I talked with my husband about it and then applied. In order to be chosen, you (applicants) have to share with them the demographics of your location based on the U.S. Census and how I could bring an influence from another country to a small area. They don't notify you until 60 days prior to the trip. I recently received my congratulations letter letting me know I was selected," she said.

Puckett will take a flight to New York and then fly from there to Moscow. Upon her arrival in Russia, Puckett will travel to the Smolensk province, Sevsk district where she will be residing from May 21 through June 3 during the Pentecost/Trinity Week Expedition. An expedition leader will accompany Puckett and the other teachers during their Russian visit.

Participants schedule their visits during one of three folklore expeditions. All three expeditions, Easter, Pentecost/Trinity Week, and Dormition Day traditions and first day of school traditions are timed to coincide with important holidays of the Russian traditional calendar.

During her stay, Puckett will experience Russian village life first hand, living in a village house and eating the local food. She will also visit Russian rural schools, where she will make five- 45 minute presentations through translators on American folklore and meet with Russian teachers to discuss matters of mutual professional interest. Puckett has chosen the Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival as the subject of her presentations and she plans to share with the Russian students photographs along with audio recordings and DVD video highlights from the annual festival. "There is so much to talk about I knew I would have a great lesson plan because there is so many areas of folklore with the mandolin, banjo, fiddle, harmonica and more that these students may have never encountered and then there's the clogging, square dancing and crafts. There will be time for questions and answers to give them an opportunity to ask about our culture".

While she is making this journey from DeKalb County alone, Puckett is seeking support from the community as she collects mementos to take with her to share with the Russian people. "I'm trying to get as many people involved in this as I can because I want it to be a "community" event and not just a "me" event. I went to Suzanne Williams of the Chamber of Commerce and collected everything I could from her. I've contacted Jack Barton of the Fiddlers Jamboree about trying to locate any memorabilia. I have contacted the local girl scouts and they will be making scarves for me to present to the Russian teachers and other people who will be my hosts. Even some of my students have volunteered to make some scarves. I hope to bring back some pictures of the Russian ladies wearing their scarves that I can give to those girl scouts and students. I have also asked local crafter David Sharp to make ten Santa Clause ornaments. He's making me a good deal and I'm going to present those to the teachers that allow me to teach in their classroom because that's an authentic craft that they can keep and utilize every year as they teach," she said.

While in Russia, Puckett will have to adhere to the customs and culture, which is somewhat different from this country, particularly in the treatment of women. " I will have to wear a head dressing when I go to any orthodox churches and cemeteries. Clothing worn by women must be very modest and has to be longer than the knee. Over there women do have to cater to the men. The men must lead in all conversations. They sit at the table while the women must sit elsewhere."

"Here in the United States, most men cater to women. They try to help them. That is just the polite thing to do with the values and morals we have been brought up with. But over there the women pretty much have to fend for themselves. For my physical, I had to basically prove that I could walk a mile in under thirty minutes. I'll have to carry all of my luggage up and down any stairs. I'll also have to use pit toilets with no seats while I'm there," Puckett said.

"Although I don't smoke, women smokers must smoke in private. Public smoking is considered inappropriate for women. Alcohol especially vodka is deeply engrained in Russian life. I don't drink alcohol and we will not be forced to drink but must be prepared to be invited to drink repeatedly throughout the day. Those who wish to avoid alcohol are advised to consult with staff to find multiple ways to politely decline instead of using the same way to refuse to drink every time."

"The cuisine is very different there but they have lots of fruits and vegetables including potatoes, beets, cabbage, carrots, onions, apples, berries, and mushrooms, along with eggs and dairy products from neighborhood hens and cows. Meals are supplemented by breads, grains, meats, pastas, and poultry, so I'll have a large array of foods," said Puckett.

"On the website where this is hosted, I read a story of a lady who had been to Russia and found no running water at the place where she stayed. Fourteen days with no running water. Every three or four days she was able to go to the BANYA which is a local shower there. But the men were allowed to shower first. Many times by the time the women got to shower there was no more warm water. That would be a culture shock."

After she returns, Puckett will share with others curriculum materials from her trip, incorporating some elements of the Russian folklore she collects. "While I'm there, my responsibility is to interview Russian musicians and record some of their music. I will also be taking pictures and collecting art pieces and interviewing the artists as well. I have to create a Russian folklore unit or lesson so that when I bring this back to the United States, those who are funding my trip will utilize this for anyone who wants to have a good quality Russian folklore lesson to teach in their classroom. I will already have had it formulated for them including pictures, videos, etc.," she said.

Most of the trip is being funded by the sponsors but Puckett said she must bear part of the expense. "If anyone would like to make some donations, I would be so appreciative of this because everything is coming out of my pocket. I must fly myself to New York and pay for my visa. But from there, they (sponsors of the trip) are covering everything," she concluded.

School Board May Buyout Director Willoughby's Contract (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

March 23, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby may have to step down sooner than he had planned.

One week after Willoughby announced his retirement, effective June 30th, the Board of Education held a special called meeting Monday night for the purpose of "discussing the Director's Contract". At least some members of the board apparently are interested in cutting ties with Willoughby as soon as possible and offering him a buyout through June 30th. The cost of a buyout to the school system would be approximately $28,000 according to Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III.

Director Willoughby sent an electronic notice to members of the Board of Education last Monday, March 16 announcing his retirement as of June 30th, one hundred seven days in advance. But once notice is given, is the board obligated to him in any way beyond 30 days under the contract?

During the special meeting Monday night, the board voted to defer action until another special meeting on April 6 to provide enough time to obtain a legal opinion from an attorney on the meaning of a section of Willoughby's contract regarding "Contract Termination" referred to as "Unilateral Termination by the Director". That section states that "The Director may terminate this contract at any time, at his sole discretion, by giving the BOARD 30 days written notice of his resignation. In the event of such termination, the DIRECTOR shall have no right or entitlement to any severance pay and shall be entitled to the salary and benefits unpaid through the effective date of resignation or retirement".

"It's the opinion of many and as I look at it I see it myself, it (notice) doesn't coincide with the "Unilateral Termination by the Director" and all I would suggest is that we postpone this until the Monday after Spring Break, Monday April 6 so we can get an attorney to look at this and make sure we are doing the right thing by the four corners of this contract. If the attorney out of Hamilton County who deals with these contracts says it's okay to go ahead and pay the Director then we can pay the Director and go about our business and be done with it. I want to make sure we're in compliance with this contract," said Chairman Evins.

If the board does vote to buyout Director Willoughby's contract, they would have to find the money and then name someone to serve as interim director until a new director is under contract. "We need to talk to members of the county commission and county mayor and if they say it's good to go maybe we can pull this money out of the sinking fund (local option sales tax fund) and not affect our budget. That will give us an opportunity to find an interim director. I know we can go a few days without one but we can't go for very long," Chairman Evins said.

All members voted to defer action until a special meeting on April 6 at 7:00 p.m. except Jerry Wayne Johnson and Jim Beshearse, who passed.

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