Local News Articles

All DeKalb Students to be Offered Free Lunches with Start of School

July 21, 2015
Dwayne Page
Amy Lattimore, School Nutrition Supervisor

All students in the DeKalb County School System, regardless of income, will have access to free lunches when school begins in August under a federal program the Board of Education has decided to join. But the current rate of students participating in the lunch program has to increase by at least five percent to keep the school's nutrition program from losing money.

During the regular monthly meeting in May, the school board voted to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Community Eligibility Program and offer free lunches starting this fall on a trial basis. If the program is not self supporting, the school board can opt out.

CEP is a universal meal plan under the National School Lunch Program that permits eligible districts and schools to provide meal service to all students at no charge. DeKalb County schools are already offering free breakfasts under the Universal Breakfast Program.

According to Amy Lattimore, School Nutrition Supervisor, rather than collecting and processing individual applications for federal free and reduced priced lunches under the National School Lunch Program, schools would serve all meals at no cost under CEP.

The school system would then be reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of students identified as eligible for free meals, one that relies on information from other programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

"We are in the National School Lunch Program and we are currently reimbursed for school meals across three categories: paid, free, and reduced. How that works is a "free" child comes through the lunch line and they don't give us any money. The state gives us $3.06 . A "reduced" child comes through the lunch line and they give us 40 cents while the state gives us $2.66. A paying student comes through the lunch line and they give us $1.50 or $1.75 depending on their age range and the state gives us 36 cents. So we're always getting the student payments and the reimbursement combined. That's how we fund our program. With CEP we don't get reimbursed across three categories. They do away with the categories and its through a formula that we would get reimbursed," said Lattimore.

The school system's nutrition program also receives income from a la carte sales, teacher meals, and visitor meals and that would continue under CEP.

While the school system would get a greater reimbursement of funds under CEP, it would no longer receive income from students who are currently paying for their lunches resulting in the nutrition program actually losing money overall unless more students take advantage. Currently school nutrition is self supporting in DeKalb County.

"With CEP we will actually receive more reimbursement but we would no longer receive any student payments. If we serve the same amount of kids with CEP we would lose money. For CEP to work in DeKalb County, participation has to go up. That's how we would make it work. Currently we have about 67% of our students eating lunch with us every day. About 44% are eating breakfast. When we started Universal breakfast we had a 3% increase in participation. We should see a higher increase for lunch but participation has to come up by at least 5% to stay where we are now (self supporting). That's in a perfect world where our a la carte sales stay the same. Our teacher meals stay the same and our visitor meals stay the same. If we don't we'll lose money," said Lattimore.

Should the free lunch program fail to be self supporting, the school board would have to move funds from the general purpose budget to the nutrition program to cover the costs, which could be as much as $3,000 per month. However, the school board could chose to opt out of CEP at any time and stop offering universal free lunches.

If free lunches were stopped under CEP during the midst of the school year, Lattimore said it could create hassles for parents and staff with having to again begin processing free and reduced priced applications so late in the year. "Kids must apply for a free and reduced application or they are directly certified through the state. If we do CEP at the beginning of the year they are not sending in those applications. If we have to stop CEP in mid year because we're losing money, we'll have to get in all those applications in mid year. It'll be a hassle for parents and staff," she said.

Danny Parkerson, First District School Board member, made a motion to start the free lunch program saying it would save families money. Fourth District member Kate Miller offered a second to the motion. All board members voted in favor.

Sex Offender Gets Four Year Sentence

July 21, 2015
Dwayne Page
Timmy Eugene Bowman
Anthony Lynn Colwell
Terry Ray Barnes
Christopher Sam White
Nathaniel Dylan Tippens

A convicted sex offender accused of making inappropriate comments to three teenage girls at the Smithville Municipal Swimming Pool last summer was in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday, July 20.

Judge Gary McKenzie presided.

43 year old Timmy Eugene Bowman of Smithville pled guilty to violation of the sex offender registry and received a four year sentence to serve as a range III offender at 45% before parole eligibility. The term is to run consecutive to a sentence he is currently serving in White County. Bowman was given jail credit of 224 days served.

Bowman was originally charged with three counts of solicitation of a minor along with violation of the sex offender registry.

According to Smithville Police, officers were dispatched to the Smithville Municipal Swimming Pool in response to a complaint about a man making obscene sexual remarks to three juvenile girls. A computer check revealed that Bowman is a convicted sex offender and is not to be in the presence of children. He is on the sex offender registry.

Police said Bowman allegedly made sexual comments to three girls, a 14 year old, 13 year old, and 16 year old on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 and to the same 13 year old girl on Friday, June 13 while at the pool. Bowman also allegedly asked one of the girls if she would like to see the inside of his vehicle.

44 year old Anthony Lynn Colwell pled guilty to aggravated burglary and received a TDOC sentence of eleven years at 45% before parole eligibility. The term is to run concurrently with a Warren County case against him. He was given two days of jail credit. Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on July 8, 2014 Colwell allegedly broke into a residence on Man Hill Road and took several pieces of jewelry. Colwell then pawned the items at a DeKalb County jewelry store and a pawn shop in Warren County. The case was investigated by a sheriff's department detective.

26 year old Terry Ray Barnes pled guilty by criminal information to attempted initiation of meth and received a five year sentence. He was fined $2,000. The term is to run concurrently with a Warren County case against him. He was given 255 days of jail credit. A co-defendant in the case, 32 year old Christopher Sam White pled guilty last month to initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine and is facing a nine year sentence but he will be furloughed to a treatment facility. If he completes the program, White will be placed on probation. He was fined $2,000 and must make restitution of $35 to Walmart.

Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, November 7, 2014 a sheriff's department deputy received a call from a resident on Jefferson Road that two men had been seen in a barn and that an odd smell was coming from there. Upon arrival, the officer spoke with a woman, apparently the owner of the barn, who said she had seen the two men and that the odor coming from the barn was making her sick. The officer asked for and received permission to search the barn and there he found the two men, Barnes and White sleeping. He also found a meth lab consisting of five plastic funnels, a Coleman cook top stove, Coleman butane fuel, digital scales, Coleman fuel, plastic tubing, a Pyrex dish, large Mason jar, 50 coffee filters, Crystal Drano, lithium batteries, ph test strips, and an electric pill grinder, a metal plate containing a white powdery substance, and a bottle containing four ounces of muriatic acid. Barnes and White were awakened and placed under arrest. A computer check revealed White had been convicted earlier that year in a separate meth case.

23 year old Nathaniel Dylan Tippens pled guilty to six counts of auto burglary and one count of theft over $500. He received two years in each auto burglary case to run concurrently with each other but consecutive to the theft case for which he received one year. His total TDOC sentence is three years and he must make restitution to the victims totaling $759.75

Sheriff Ray said that Tippens allegedly broke into and stole items from two vehicles on Midway Road and four automobiles on Redman Road on Monday, November 24, 2014. Items taken in all the thefts combined include a JVC stereo, two TomTom GPS units, a Cobra radar detector, a bone handled knife and a brown sheath, a black air compressor, prescription eyeglasses, a class ring, a multi-colored handbag, an mp3 player, and a total of twenty dollars in change. The total value of the stolen goods amounts to $790. The cases were investigated by criminal detectives of the Sheriff's Department.

In the other case, Sheriff Ray said on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 Tippens allegedly stole a 1997 white Ford Aspire from a residence on Redman Road and took it to a local recycling business with the intent to sell the vehicle. The attendant informed Tippens that the business could not purchase the automobile because it was reported stolen. Before leaving, Tippens told the attendant to report that the vehicle had been found. The case was investigated by a sheriff's department detective.

39 year old Joey Williams pled guilty to simple possession of a schedule VI drug (marijuana) and received a sentence of eleven months and twenty nine days suspended to supervised probation. He was fined $250. Williams may seek unsupervised probation after six months if all fines and costs are paid.

DCHS Baseball Standout Verbally Commits to Ole Miss

July 21, 2015
Dwayne Page
DCHS Baseball Pitcher Steven Jennings
Steven Jennings pitching for Team Nike, Middle Tennessee's most elite 16U travel baseball club

Steven Jennings, a rising Junior could become the first DCHS Tiger ever to play collegiate baseball in the Southeastern Conference.

This outstanding pitcher and short stop for the DCHS program has already earned an SEC offer from Ole Miss and has given a verbal commitment to play for the Rebels after his high school career is completed.

Jennings said his goal to one day play SEC baseball took a huge step forward this summer when coaches for Ole Miss took notice of him as a member of Team Nike, Middle Tennessee's most elite 16U travel baseball club, made up of seventeen of the finest young baseball players from across the state.

"My dream has always been to play SEC baseball and Ole Miss is a school I really like. I've always kept up with Ole Miss baseball. I started playing summer ball this summer and my coach told me that Ole Miss (coaches) had come to watch and that I needed to call them. I called a couple of times and started talking to them and they said we would really like to get you down here to Oxford for a visit. So I went down there. They showed me everything. They actually gave me an offer. That was on Saturday. When I got home I talked to my parents about it for a couple of days and then on Tuesday I called Coach (Mike) Bianco and told him that I wanted to come to Ole Miss and be an Ole Miss Rebel," said Jennings in an interview with WJLE Tuesday.

"Early in the summer Ole Miss was one of the schools that started looking at him (Steven). They started following us around watching him play, mainly watching him pitch but also his playing short (stop) and as a hitter too. Late in the summer they decided they were ready to make him an offer. We set up a visit, made a trip to Oxford, and spent a Saturday down there going through all the baseball stuff, met with academic people, and toured the campus. Then we got back and a few days later he decided that's where he wants to go," said Randy Jennings, Steven's father.

"Mainly I think they like his arm. That's what drew him to them (Ole Miss). The first time they saw him pitch he was throwing 87, 88 (mph) and by the end of the summer he was sitting at 89 and 90 (mph) pretty much with every fast ball. That's what they really like. They like the power arm. I think that's mainly what it is but they left the door open a little bit for the possibility of him playing in the field also," said Randy Jennings.

In the meantime, Steven, who is also a talented quarterback, said he plans to continue playing high school football and baseball his junior and senior years at DCHS and for the travel baseball club during the summers.

"You can't sign an official scholarship until you are a senior. A verbal commitment is one in which they (Ole Miss) have offered a scholarship and he (Steven) has accepted it. You are basically honoring your word until I think it's November of his senior year when he can officially sign" said Randy Jennings.

Steven also had an offer from MTSU and a scheduled visit to Vanderbilt before opting for Ole Miss.

Kaylee Shannon Cantrell Crowned Fairest of the Fair

July 20, 2015
Dwayne Page
Kaylee Shannon Cantrell is the 2015 Fairest of the Fair
Taneah Brooke Cantrell (3rd Runner-up), Chloe White (1st Runner-up),  Kaylee Shannon Cantrell (Fairest of the Fair), Carlee White (2nd Runner-up), and Shauna Faith Taylor (4th Runner-up)
Fairest of the Fair Miss Congeniality Kaylee Shannon Cantrell and Miss Photogenic Chloe White
Fairest of the Fair Kaylee Shannon Cantrell

19 year old Kaylee Shannon Cantrell is the 2015 Fairest of the Fair

Cantrell, daughter of Shannon and Tonya Cantrell of Smithville won the crown Monday evening during the annual pageant held on opening night of the DeKalb County Fair in Alexandria. She was also named Miss Congeniality

Nine contestants competed for the title.

The new queen succeeds last year's winner, 19 year old Lauren Ashley Medlin, daughter of Greg and Teresa Medlin of Smithville.

17 year old Chloe White of Smithville was named first runner-up and Miss Photogenic. She is the daughter of Lou White and the late Stephen White.

Chloe's 17 year old sister Carlee White of Smithville was second runner-up. She is also the daughter of Lou White and the late Stephen White.

Third runner-up went to 18 year old Taneah Brooke Cantrell of Smithville. She is the daughter of Scott and Tammy Cantrell.

Shauna Faith Taylor was fourth runner-up. She is the 18 year old daughter of Ken and Cindy Taylor of Smithville.

Other participants were 17 year old Aspen Nicole Flarity, daughter of Doyle and Cindy Flarity of Smithville; 18 year old Emily Kay Robinson, daughter of Buddie and Donna Robinson of Smithville; 18 year old Taylor Brooke Ellis, daughter of Tonya and Donnie Ellis of Alexandria; and 20 year old MaKayla Shea Funk, daughter of Amie Funk of Dowelltown.

Tonight at the Fair:

Tuesday, July 21: Little Mr. and Miss Pageant for contestants ages 4-6 at 6:00 p.m. at the Lions Club Pavilion followed by a Comedy Hypnotist Show; Corn hole Contest at 7:00 p.m. at the Grandstand; Go-Cart Racing at 6:00 p.m. at the T.C. McMillen Arena and (2- $500 cash drawings) at 9:30 p.m.

Memory Lane Stage Events:
Tuesday Night July 21
6:30-7:00 pm—Reily Kelly
7:00-7:45 pm—Smithville Sugar Squares & DeKalb Dancing Delights
7:45-8:45 pm---Donnie Barthelemy

Rides on the Midway will be provided by the Family Attractions Amusement Company. Unlimited rides will be available $16.00 on Tuesday night; $14.00 on Wednesday and $18.00 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Admission to the fair is $4.00 per person. Children age four and younger will be admitted free! Gates open at 4:30 p.m. through Friday and at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. The exhibit building is open from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. through Friday and Saturday from 4:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Parking is Free!

For more information, call 529-FAIR or visit on-line at www.dekalbcountyfairtn.com.

Addison Grace Oakley Wins Junior Fair Princess Pageant

July 20, 2015
Dwayne Page
Addison Grace Oakley Wins Junior Fair Princess Pageant
Hannah Walker(3rd runner-up) Tyra Grace Graham (1st runner-up), Addison Grace Oakley (Junior Fair Princess), Destiny Danielle Franklin (2nd runner-up); and Abigail Hope Taylor (4th runner-up)
Junior Fair Princess Addison Grace Oakley
Miss Congeniality Joni Leigh Robinson and Miss Photogenic Addison Grace Oakley

The 2015 Junior Fair Princess of the DeKalb County Fair is 14 year old Addison Grace Oakley, the daughter of Clark and Lisa Oakley of Liberty.

Oakley, who was also named Miss Photogenic, was among eighteen young ladies ages 13-16 who competed for the crown on the opening night of the DeKalb County Fair Monday evening. She succeeds the 2014 Junior Fair Princess, 15 year old Caitlin Leigh Tyree, the daughter of Josh and Carrie Tyree of Liberty.

The first runner-up was Tyra Grace Graham, the 16 year old daughter of Kyle and Doris Graham of Smithville.

Second runner-up was Destiny Danielle Franklin, the 16 year old daughter of Charlie and Jennifer Ware of Smithville.

Hannah Walker was third runner-up. She is the 16 year old daughter of Scott and Misty Walker of Smithville

The fourth runner-up was Abigail Hope Taylor, the 14 year old daughter of Ken and Cindy Taylor of Smithville.

The title of Miss Congeniality went to 14 year old Joni Leigh Robinson, daughter of Buddie and Donna Robinson of Smithville.

Rounding out the top ten were 13 year old Shelby Maylee Sprague, the daughter of Johnna and Jimmy Sprague of Smithville; 13 year old Madison Faith Mick, the daughter of Chris and Greta Mick of Smithville; 14 year old Tesla Tapp, the daughter of Latisha Tapp and Jimmy Stephens of Smithville; 14 year old Shaunta Rose Koegler, the daughter of Brian and Leticia Koegler of Smithville; and 14 year old Sarah Anne Colwell, the daughter of Trent and Christie Colwell of Smithville.

Other participants were 13 year old Alaysia Chalet Christian, daughter of Lonnie Eaton and Wendy Stepp of Alexandria; 13 year old Kacie Denise Malone, the daughter of Sam and Nancy Malone of Brush Creek; 13 year old Carrie Maxwell, the daughter of Amanda and Rob Bernhardt and Tony and Ashley Maxwell of McMinnville; 13 year old Julia Grace Curtis, the daughter of Bruce and Amy Curtis of Smithville; 13 year old Caitlin Milligan, the daughter of Josh and Cyndi Milligan of Smithville; 13 year old Mariah Shea Mofield, the daughter of David Mofield and Teresa Mofield of Alexandria; and 14 year old Shelby Elizabeth Clayborn, the daughter of Brian Clayborn and Holly Clayborn of Liberty.

Smithville Man Arrested and Loses his Vehicle After Being Found with Pills

July 20, 2015
Dwayne Page
Jerry "Bugg" Goff
Dillon Ray Mullican
Johnathon Kyle McCormick
 Jarrett Manning
Rhonda Joy Goff
Jesus Arellano Vega

A Smithville man was arrested Friday and his vehicle seized after he was found with Dilaudid and Oxycodone.

37 year old Jerry "Bugg" Goff of East Main Street, Smithville is charged with one count each of schedule II drug possession for resale (Dilaudid and Oxycodone). His bond is $50,000 and he will make a court appearance on August 27.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Friday, July 17 a Sheriff's department detective and deputy went to Eastside Inn and spoke with Goff, who was sitting in a white Durango. The detective conducted a probation search of Goff and found in his left cargo pocket a gold metal container which held 48 pills believed to be Dilaudid. In his right cargo pocket was a silver metal container with 19 pills thought to be Oxycodone. Goff did not have a prescription for the drugs and he was placed under arrest. Goff's Durango was also seized because it is believed to have been used to transport illegal narcotics for resale.

20 year old Dillon Ray Mullican of Walnut Street, McMinnville is charged with disorderly conduct. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court August 27. Sheriff Ray said that on Tuesday, July 14 a deputy was dispatched to Highway 70 east and Evins Mill Road after receiving a call of two persons fighting in the roadway. When he got there, the officer found Mullican walking on Evins Mill Road. As the deputy began talking to him, Mullican kept cursing and refusing to cooperate. As the cursing grew louder, the officer asked Mullican several times to calm down. When he refused, Mullican was arrested for disorderly conduct and brought to the jail for booking.

32 year old Johnathon Kyle McCormick of South College Street, Smithville and 31 year old Jarrett Manning of Ferrell Road, Smithville are each charged with theft of property over $10,000. Bond for each is $5,000 and they will be in court July 23. The men were arrested on Friday, July 17. Sheriff Ray said that McCormick and Manning took several pieces of jewelry without the owner's consent from February 1 through March 7 in the Seven Springs Community. The jewelry was valued at $21,355 . The case was investigated by a Sheriff's department detective.

30 year old Rhonda Joy Goff of Highway 70 east, Smithville is charged with introduction of drugs into a penal institution. Her bond is $10,000 and she will be in court August 27. Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, July 17 Goff turned herself in at the jail to serve weekends on another offense. When asked by a detective about any contraband on her person, Goff admitted to having drugs in her body cavity. Goff produced a blue balloon which contained four and a half Suboxone pills and turned it over to a female correctional officer.

Jesus Arellano Vega of Murfreesboro is charged with driving under the influence. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court September 24. He was further issued citations for driving on a suspended license, violation of the financial responsibility law, driving on roadways laned for travel, and violation of the implied consent law. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, July 18 a deputy stopped a silver car for crossing the white emergency line multiple times. While speaking with Vega, the officer detected a strong odor of alcohol on him. His eyes were watery and bloodshot and his speech was slurred. Vega tried to perform field sobriety tasks but had difficulty understanding and following instructions. He admitted to having consumed several beers after work. He refused to submit to a blood test. Vega was placed under arrest.

Jordan Wilkins Repeats as Winner of DeKalb Fair 5K (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

July 19, 2015
Dwayne Page
Matt Boss Presents Jordan Wilkins Award for Winning DeKalb Fair 5K
Matt Boss Presents Conner Vance Award for Winning DeKalb Fair Fun Run

Jordan Wilkins of Smithville, for the second year in a row, has won the DeKalb County Fair 5K and Fun Run.

Wilkins was the overall winner of the race, which was held on West Main Street in Alexandria Saturday evening. He ran the course in 24 minutes and 15 seconds.

Carly Vance of Smithville took second place in the race at 26:41 and Kelly Pyburn of Alexandria came in third place at 27:01.

Fun Run winners were:

1st place: Conner Vance at 5:34
2nd place: Jordon Agee at 9:20

Funds raised from the race benefit the Paislee's Foundation whose mission is to reach out to families dealing with stillbirth and infant loss up to three years of age

Man Arrested After High Speed Chase

July 19, 2015

A high speed chase which began in Watertown ended in DeKalb County early Saturday morning as spike strips were used to stop the driver of a vehicle trying to elude authorities.

According to reports, the pursuit started when Watertown police tried to stop a man, believed to be driving under the influence of alcohol.

The chase continued east on Interstate 40 at speeds of up to 100 miles-per-hour, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

The driver turned off I-40 onto Highway 56 at Silver Point toward DeKalb County but did not stop until he crashed near Hurricane Bridge after running over the spike strips.

He reportedly suffered only minor injuries. His name has not been released.

County Commission to Consider Passage of Budget (VIEW ENTIRE BUDGET HERE)

July 18, 2015
Dwayne Page
County Commission to Consider Passage of Budget and Property Tax Levy

The county commission will consider passage of the proposed 2015-16 budget and tax levy during its next regular monthly meeting on Monday, July 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the courthouse. A public hearing will be held prior to the meeting at 5:30 p.m. Meanwhile the commission will have an all-committees meeting to review the budget again on Thursday, July 23 at 6:00 p.m.


DeKalb-16 Budget WITH 16 CENTS 7-7-15.pdf (229.82 KB)

The new budget totals $40,936,094 with a proposed property tax increase of sixteen cents from $1.62 to $1.78 per $100 of assessed value.

One cent of the tax rate generates $44,328 in local money with a 7% delinquency rate figured into the equation.

The proposed tax rate is broken down as follows:
County General: 94 cents
Highway/Public Works: 4 cents
General Capital Projects: 11 cents
Debt Service: 12 cents
General Purpose Schools: 57 cents.

The solid waste fund, under this budget as in recent years, would not receive any property tax money but would continue to be supported by revenues derived from payment-in-lieu of taxes, local option sales tax, hotel-motel tax, state revenue sharing-TVA funds, alcoholic beverage tax, bank excise tax, and the state and wholesale beer tax.

Capital projects fund expenses for the year total $373,670 including:
*"Motor Vehicles" Ambulance- $95,000
*"Other Equipment"$12,500
*"Motor Vehicles" Patrol Cars-$82,500
*"Other Equipment"- Fire department (repairs to fire trucks) $33,670
**"Other Construction"- Striping $15,000
*"Building Construction" Omega Building $40,000
**Building Construction"(seed money for Four Seasons Fire Station) $25,000
*"Solid Waste Equipment" Skidsteer/Backhoe $70,000 (landfill)

The county commission will also consider adopting a resolution making appropriations of $146,681 to the following non-profit organizations:

Upper Cumberland Development District- $2,000
Tennessee Division of Forestry-$1,500
DeKalb County Rescue Squad- $16,821
Plateau Mental Health-$7,180
Families First-$750
Senior Citizens Program-$25,839
DeKalb Soil Conservation District-$33,166
DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce-$17,500
Imagination Library- $7,200
Genesis House- $1,500
Veterans Honor Guard-$2,000
Upper Cumberland Child Advocacy Center- $1,780
DeKalb County Fair- $1,500
WCTE-TV- $5,000
Prospect Incorporated-$12,500
Upper Cumberland Human Resources-$1,200
UCHRA Assessment-Homemaker Aide, etc-$9,245

Patrick Cripps Named Director of Schools

July 16, 2015
Dwayne Page
Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III Congratulates New Director of Schools Patrick Cripps
Patrick Cripps signs two year employment contract as Director of Schools

After serving three years as Principal of DeKalb County High School, Patrick Cripps is getting a new assignment.

By a unanimous vote of 7-0, the Board of Education met in special session Thursday night and named Cripps the next Director of Schools. Cripps has accepted the board's offer of a two year employment contract at a base salary of $85,000 per year. Cripps signed an initial 30 day contract Thursday night which is valid immediately until the board finalizes the deal. After the board and Cripps settle on all the contract terms at a July 30 workshop the board plans to vote on the final agreement at its next regular monthly meeting on Thursday, August 6 after it's been reviewed by legal counsel.

"I'm really excited. I was really blessed and honored as Principal of DCHS and I am really excited to be Director of Schools. It's kind of surreal. It's hard to imagine that this opportunity has come to be at this time but I am very grateful and look forward to serving DeKalb County," Cripps told WJLE after the meeting.

His first priority as Director will be to fill vacant positions including his own at the high school. " First off we have to get people in place. With me leaving my position that leaves two (vacant) principals (DCHS and Northside). Immediately I have to start looking at applications, setting up interviews, and getting those positions filled," Cripps said.

Cripps received a BS degree from Tennessee Tech University in the fall of 1995 with a major in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. In the fall of 1999, Cripps earned an MA in Educational Psychology and Counselor Education at Tennessee Tech. During the summer of 2004, Cripps received his Ed.S degree in Instructional Leadership at Tennessee Tech.

He has served as Principal at DCHS since 2012. Cripps began his education career in DeKalb County as a Safe Schools Counselor in 1997. Two years later, Cripps was named a School Counselor at DCHS. In 2005, he moved up to becoming an Assistant Principal at DCHS, a position he held until being named Principal.

Cripps becomes only the fourth director of schools in DeKalb County since the state law changed in 1998 requiring school superintendents to be appointed by local boards of education instead of being popularly elected. The first appointed director locally was Aubrey Turner, Jr. who served from 1998-2002, followed by Jim McCormick from 2002-2006, and Mark Willoughby from 2006-2015. Dr. Danielle Collins was named as interim director in April after the departure of Willoughby and is completing three months in the position. She will continue to serve as Federal Programs Supervisor for the School System.

Seven persons had submitted applications or resumes to become the next director. The board narrowed the number to three finalists but one of them dropped out later leaving only two candidates, Cripps and Supervisor of Special Education Gina Arnold who both interviewed with the board Tuesday night.

During Thursday night's special meeting, the board members conducted the vote as recommended by legal counsel of the Tennessee School Boards Association first using paper ballots to make their choices. After the votes were counted Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III announced that all seven board members had voted for Cripps. A roll call then followed with all members confirming their votes for Cripps.

Chairman Evins congratulated Cripps on the appointment and Arnold for being a candidate. "Ms. Arnold, it has been a tough decision. I've heard so many comments on your interview the other night. It could have gone either way. I appreciate what you continue to do here. I congratulate you on your efforts and thank you very much," said Chairman Evins.

Board member Jerry Wayne Johnson praised Dr. Collins for the job she did filling in as director on an interim basis. "I want to thank Dr. Collins for what she has done. She worked hard on the budget. She stepped in and filled some big shoes and she has done a wonderful job. I want to let her know I appreciate it. Thank you very much," said Johnson.

"I think everybody can say the same," added Chairman Evins.

"Since the appointment of our new director, I would like to thank the board members for what they do for our system. We will continue our mission to ensure education in DeKalb County moves forward. I would also like to thank the board members for entrusting me with the responsibility as Interim Director for the last few months. The employees of our school system have been remarkable during this transition period. It has been a privilege to work with our board, news media, Mayor Stribling and County Commissioners and I look forward to working with each in the future," said Dr. Collins in a prepared statement Friday morning.


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