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New Vendor to Develop and Administer 2016-17 Student Assessments

July 6, 2016
 Candice McQueen

Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced today that the department intends to award Questar, a national leader in large-scale assessment, a contract to develop and administer Tennessee’s annual state assessments for the 2016-17 school year.

In addition, McQueen announced that Tennessee will phase in online administration over multiple years to ensure state, district, and vendor technology readiness. For the upcoming school year, the state assessment for grades 3–8 will be administered via paper and pencil. However, the department will work closely with Questar to provide an online option for high school End of Course exams if both schools and the testing platform demonstrate early proof of successful online administration. Even if schools demonstrate readiness for online administration, districts will still have the option to choose paper and pencil assessments for their high school students.

Questar will develop and administer the 2016-17 assessments as part of the state’s Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP). Similar to the design of the 2015-16 assessments, next year’s tests will continue to feature multiple types of questions that measure the depth of our state academic standards, specifically students’ problem solving and critical thinking skills. The department also plans to reduce and streamline state tests and will communicate additional specifics in the comings weeks.

“Students, teachers, and parents deserve a better testing experience in Tennessee, and we believe today’s announcement is another step in the right direction,” Commissioner McQueen said. “We are excited to move forward in partnership with Tennessee teachers, schools, and districts to measure student learning in a meaningful way and reset the conversation around assessment. Educators across the state have shared how having an assessment aligned to what students are learning every day has improved their instruction. It’s also critical that we continue to look for ways to streamline and reduce testing in our state.”

Questar currently develops and administers large-scale annual assessments for other states, including Indiana, Missouri, Mississippi, and New York. Questar has partnered with Indiana on End of Course exams for 14 years and with Missouri for five years. The department issued the official letter of intent to Questar today. Pursuant to state contract procedures, after a minimum seven-day period, the contract will be finalized and fully executed.

During the vendor selection process, the department surveyed industry leaders in large-scale assessments, vetting vendors that have successfully developed and administered large-scale assessments across the country. After researching multiple vendors, the department determined that Questar has a proven track record of excellence in statewide testing, administering large-scale assessments via paper and online, and developing a high quality test quickly, which makes it particularly well suited for Tennessee at this crucial time. This past school year, Questar administered the New York grade 3–8 assessments to more than 1.3 million students. In 2015, Questar also developed the Mississippi annual assessment on a timeline similar to Tennessee’s.

“Questar has recent experience developing a large-scale test thoughtfully and urgently,” Commissioner McQueen said. “We believe it is the right partner to collaborate with as we continue to develop assessments that are meaningful and measure what our students truly know and understand.”

Questar was also recently named as the state’s vendor for an optional second-grade assessment. This assessment will replace the state’s previously administered optional K–2 (SAT-10) assessment.

More information about next year's test will be available after the department finalizes the remaining details with Questar. After the contract is executed, the department will share final details about the structure for next year’s state assessments, including administration time and dates.

Following that, the department will work with Questar to refine and finalize the assessment blueprints, which outline the number of questions devoted to various groups of standards. Those will be released later this summer. Additional resources, including sample test questions and resources that will help educators, parents, and students to become more familiar with the assessment, will be available this fall.

Trustee Reports 2015 County Property Tax Collections at Almost 97%

July 6, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Trustee Sean Driver

As of last Monday, the DeKalb County Trustee’s Office had collected 96.46% of the $8.5 million in 2015 county property taxes to be collected for the year. That includes property, residential commercial, personal, and public utility taxes.

“We are at 96.46% collected for 2015 taxes and that is out of $8.5 million to collect. We’re a little over $300,000 still to be collected but close to 97% in June is very good for the county. Some of you always ask about the year before and where we’re at is 95.94% on this day in 2015. We gained from more assessment money coming in during 2015 plus the tax rate increase,” said Trustee Sean Driver in addressing the county commission Monday, June 27.

The county’s tax base for 2015 expanded to $8,578,328, an increase of $835,000 over the previous year’s tax base of $7.7 million dollars.

Inmate Charged with Vandalism

July 6, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Michael Brandon Redmon
Christopher Allen Summers
Joshua Lynn McCowan
Brandon Thomas Bates
Kevin Michael Kijanski

A prisoner at the DeKalb County Jail has been charged with two counts of vandalism for trying to disable surveillance cameras inside the cells.

31 year old Michael Brandon Redmon of Holcomb Road, McMinnville is under a $5,000 bond and he will be in court on July 21. In the first incident on Friday, July 1 at 9:50 p.m. Redmon was observed by video surveillance climbing on a sink and door inside his jail cell and then hitting the camera with his fist causing damage to the camera. In the second case, Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Sunday, July 3 at around 5:55 p.m. Redmon was observed in the jail’s day use area cell hitting another camera with a broom causing damage to that camera.

27 year old Christopher Allen Summers of Dale Ridge Road, Dowelltown is charged with driving under the influence. He was further cited for violation of implied consent, leaving the scene of an accident, and driving on a suspended license. His bond is $1,500 and he will make a court appearance on July 21. Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, June 29 a deputy was called to a private property hit and run accident on Lower Helton Road involving a white Chevrolet Impala. While enroute, the officer spotted the car traveling south on Dale Ridge Road. The deputy turned around and caught up with the car which had he found setting on Dale Ridge Road. The cars amber parking lights were on and Summers was sitting in the driver side seat. According to the officer, Summers’ eyes were bloodshot. He was unsteady on his feet and his speech was slurred. Summers also was very belligerent and he refused to submit to field sobriety tasks.

31 year old Joshua Lynn McCowan of Miller Road, Smithville is charged with theft of property under $500. His bond is $2,500 and his court date is July 21. Sheriff Ray said that on May 10, McCowan allegedly took a blank check belonging to a woman on Potts Camp Road. McCowan then allegedly passed the check in the amount of $250.

25 year old Brandon Thomas Bates of Hannah Branch Road, Liberty is charged with criminal impersonation. His bond is $3,500 and his court date is July 14. Sheriff Ray said that on Sunday, July 3 a deputy responded to Redmon Road to locate a missing juvenile. Upon arrival, the officer spoke to Bates who identified himself as Dustin Warner and said he owned the property at 202 Redmon Road. But the deputy, who knows Warner, was aware that Bates was lying to him.

22 year old Kevin Michael Kijanski of Oak Drive, Dowelltown is charged with driving under the influence. His bond is $1,500 and his court date is July 14. Sheriff Ray said that on Sunday, July 3 a deputy received a call about a man who was passed out in the driver seat of a vehicle behind DeKalb Market on Highway 70 west. Upon arrival, the officer observed a jeep parked behind the store with its head lights on. Kijanski was also at the vehicle. He had a strong odor of alcohol on his person. Kijanski submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. His eyes were bloodshot and he was unsteady on his feet. Kijanski admitted to having consumed alcohol earlier in the evening.

Summer Edition of Reeling in the Years Saturday Night

July 5, 2016
Shawn and D.S.

The Summer edition of Reeling in the Years with D.S. and Shawn is coming up Saturday, July 9 from 6-10 p.m. on WJLE.

“The period between the late 1960s to the early 80s was a very creative time musically with hits ranging from soft pop, to rock to southern rock,” the two former WJLE announcers said. “Our show reflects that diversity and really is a musical history lesson.

The show will also include hits that were popular during the second week of July for various years throughout the 70s and 80s along with the
Number 1 song that week in 1976

Again, Reeling in the Years airs Saturday night, July 9 from 6-10 on WJLE FM.

County Switches Health Care Provider for Jail Inmates

July 5, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray

In an effort to reduce overall costs to the county of providing inmate healthcare, the DeKalb County Commission has approved a one year contract with another company, Advanced Correctional Healthcare.

The agreement will take effect August 29.

A 60 day notice of termination has been given to the current provider, Southern Health Partners.

Although the new company’s services are more expensive, $204,000 per year compared to $175,000 for Southern Health Partners, Sheriff Patrick Ray believes the county will save money in the long run by having healthcare practitioners at the jail more often which could prevent taking inmates on unnecessary trips to the emergency room of the hospital for more costly treatment. “In the plan we’re on now we have a nurse who is there at the jail 32 hours a week. We have a doctor or a nurse practitioner from Southern Health Partners who comes in every other week or is on call as needed”.

“The proposal by the new healthcare company, Advanced Correctional Healthcare provides a doctor to us every week and we’ll have a nurse there for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. It gives us more healthcare coverage for inmates so we don’t have to take them to the emergency room all the time when the nurse is not there. We’re hoping this will cut down on some of our ER trips because a nurse will be there more often to view the inmates and determine what the next step will be,” the Sheriff said.

According to Sheriff Ray, when no doctor or nurse is on site and a prisoner gets sick, the protocol now is that a call is made to a nurse for a decision on whether to carry the inmate to the emergency room of the hospital. “The way our health care system is now , if an inmate gets sick after hours after the nurse has already left, we have to call the nurse. The nurse then has to call the doctor, and the doctor will make a determination what to do and call the nurse back, and then the nurse will call us. With this new program through Advanced Correctional Healthcare, our correctional officers will make the call and talk directly with the doctor and he will tell us what to do,” he said.

Advanced Correctional Healthcare will also be active in trying a negotiate a better deal for the county on medical services to inmates who have to be hospitalized or treated elsewhere. “In this plan is a bill reduction for the county. If we have to send an inmate to a hospital other than our local hospital then the company will take those bills and try to get a reduced rate. We’re hoping for a Medicare rate on those instead of full price,” he said.

“They have also agreed to take some bills left over from the prior healthcare company (Southern Health Partners) probably $100,000 worth of bills and get a reduced rate. We had one inmate that was airlifted out and we have a bill of $44,000 for the air helicopter that took him there (hospital) and also a bill for his three day stay at an outside hospital. They have agreed to try and get those costs reduced down,” said Sheriff Ray.

Advanced Correctional Healthcare also offers group pricing on office supplies and products that other entities of county government could share in to save money. “This healthcare company offers a program of group pricing on some things that the whole county can take advantage of. It can be anything from copy paper to ink pens and office furniture, etc. and we can also order mats, blankets, wash cloths, and other things at a reduced rate. We’re hoping with this that we can save an additional amount of money,” Sheriff Ray said.

The company will further reimburse the county if the jail does not house an average of 85 inmates per day. “We told them we averaged housing 85 inmates per day. In reality we’re at 70 to 75 inmates per day unless we have a court date coming up or something like that. They have agreed to refund money to the county if we do not have 85 prisoners per day so anything left over at the end of the month, if the average is below 85 inmates then they will reimburse us money back,” said Sheriff Ray.

The County Commission’s Emergency Services and Budget Committees recommended making the switch to Advanced Correctional Healthcare and the new contract was approved during the regular monthly meeting of the County Commission on Monday, June 27.

Funding for the new contract has been included in the proposed 2016-17 budget to be acted upon by the County Commission on Monday, July 25.

Tryouts Scheduled for DCHS Golf Team

July 5, 2016
DCHS Golf Coach John Pryor

The DeKalb County High School Golf Team will be having tryouts on Monday, July 11, at the Smithville Golf Course at 1:00 p.m. Anyone interested in
trying out is welcome to come. The golf team will also be hosting the DCHS Golf Team Fund Raiser 4-Person Scramble at Riverwatch Golf Course on
Saturday, July 23, at 12:00 p.m. The entry fee for the tournament is $400 per team, or $100 per person. For that fee, a portion will go to Riverwatch for the greens fee, a portion for prize money, and a portion will go to benefit the DCHS Golf Team.

If you are interested in playing in the tournament or sponsoring a hole, contact John Pryor at 615-464-5756. Also, if you are interested in trying
out for the team but will be unable to play on the July 11 date, you may contact Coach Pryor about setting up an alternate try out date and time at
the aforementioned phone number.

"Tony Poss of Smithville Golf Course and Joe Reilly of Riverwatch have been very helpful to me in setting up these events, and I want to thank
them for their assistance," said Coach Pryor

Blood Donors Needed Today in Smithville

July 5, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Blood Donors Needed Today in Smithville

The American Red Cross has issued an emergency call for blood and platelets, urging all eligible donors to give now to replenish an extremely low summer blood supply.

The bloodmobile will be in Smithville today (Tuesday, July 5) at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at 201 South College Street from 1:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.

Blood donations have fallen short of hospital needs for the past few months, resulting in about 39,000 fewer donations than what’s needed, as well as a significant draw down of the overall Red Cross blood supply. In addition, the Independence Day holiday may have caused many regular donors to postpone donations due to vacation plans. A recent Red Cross poll revealed that more than 75 percent of donors surveyed indicated vacation plans this summer, many of them occurring the weeks before and after July 4.

“Right now, blood products are being distributed to hospitals faster than donations are coming in, which is why we are making this emergency request for donations,” said Tiffany Taylor, external communications manager of the Red Cross Tennessee Valley Blood Services Region. “Donations are urgently needed now to meet the needs of hospital patients in the coming days and weeks. If you’ve thought about giving blood and helping to save lives, now is the time to do it. It’s the blood donations on the shelves that help save lives when an emergency occurs.”

How to Help
To schedule an appointment to donate, use the free Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). The Red Cross is extending hours at many donation sites to allow for more donors to make an appointment to give. Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass online health history questionnaire are encouraged to avoid longer wait times. Donors with all blood types are needed.

Those unable to give can still help by encouraging others to give through a SleevesUp virtual blood drive at redcrossblood.org/sleevesup, giving of their time through volunteerism or making a financial donation to support Red Cross humanitarian work across the country and around the world.

Who Blood Donations Help
Every two seconds in the United States blood and platelets are needed to respond to patient emergencies, including accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant procedures, and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease. The Red Cross must collect approximately 14,000 blood and platelet donations every day for patients at about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide.

Because of generous donors, the Red Cross is able to provide blood products to patients like 10-year-old Rebecca Gardner who has benefitted from blood transfusions as part of her treatment for Rhabdomyosarcoma. Blood and platelet transfusions have helped in giving Rebecca energy to attend school often, be involved with her Girl Scout troop and to participate in gymnastics, all while undergoing weekly chemotherapy.
“A blood donation is one of the greatest gifts you can give, and it doesn’t cost a thing. It’s wonderful to see how one blood donation can help save up to three lives, and how it helps kids with cancer, like Rebecca.”

About the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

Tennessee Sales Tax Holiday July 29-31

July 4, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Tennessee Sales Tax Holiday July 29-31

Before you start your back to school shopping, mark July 29-31 on your calendar.

That's this year's tax-free weekend in Tennessee, where shoppers won't have to pay sales tax on clothing, school and art supplies that cost $100 or less per item and computers that cost $1,500 or less.

During these three days Tennessee shoppers can save nearly 10 percent on certain purchases.

“I want to encourage Tennessee families to take advantage of the Sales Tax Holiday because it was created with them in mind,” Gov. Bill Haslam said. “The weekend provides savings for families, especially as students are starting the new school year, and the holiday can provide relief on clothing, school and art supplies and computer purchases.”

The holiday begins Friday, July 29 at 12:01 a.m. and ends Sunday, July 31 at 11:59 p.m. During the designated three-day weekend, consumers will not pay state or local sales tax on clothing with a price of $100 or less per item, school and art supplies with a price of $100 or less per item, and computers with a price of $1,500 or less.

Please visit the Sales Tax Holiday Web site at www.tntaxholiday.com to learn more about the items exempt from sales tax.

Examples of exempt items include:

•Clothing: Shirts, dresses, pants, coats, gloves and mittens, hats and caps, hosiery, neckties, belts, sneakers, shoes, uniforms whether athletic or non-athletic and scarves

•School Supplies: Binders, book bags, calculators, tape, chalk, crayons, erasers, folders, glue, pens, pencils, lunch boxes, notebooks, paper, rulers and scissors

•Art Supplies: Clay and glazes; acrylic, tempera and oil paints; paintbrushes for artwork; sketch and drawing pads; and watercolors

•Computers: Central processing unit (CPU), along with various other components including monitor, keyboard, mouse, cables to connect components and preloaded software (Note: While the CPU may be purchased separately, other items must be part of a bundled computer package in order to be eligible.) iPads and other tablet computers are eligible for tax exemption, while smart phones and video game consoles are not.

Police Find Woman with Gun and Drugs at Health Department

July 4, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police found drugs and a gun on a woman while answering a possible domestic call at the health department on Thursday, June 23.

35 year old Maranda Michelle Murphy is charged with simple possession of schedule III and IV drugs and methamphetamine. Her bond is $4,500 and she will be in court on July 21.

Police were called to the DeKalb County Health Department in reference to a possible domestic. Upon arrival an officer spoke with Murphy and found her to be evasive with him concerning her identity and she appeared to be trying to hide her purse. For the officer’s safety she was told to face him and when she turned he spotted in her purse the handle of what he knew to be a gun. The officer recovered the weapon and then cleared and secured it. After obtaining consent to search her vehicle, he found 2 baggies containing a crystallized substance weighing approximately 3 grams believed to be methamphetamine and some pills believed to be xanax and hydrocodone. Murphy had no prescription for the drugs.

31 year old Stephanie Sue Summers was cited for shoplifting at the Dollar General Store on Thursday, June 16. Summers was observed by store employees placing items in her purse. Her court date is July 14.

45 year old Johnny Darrell Murphy was arrested on Monday, June 20 for assault. Murphy allegedly punched the victim on the left side of the face leaving physical evidence of an open wound. After an investigation, police took Murphy into custody. His bond is $1,500 and his court date is July 14.

27 year old Jessica Hope Elkins was arrested on Thursday, June 23 for theft and simple possession of schedule II, IV & V drugs. Police were informed of a theft which had occurred earlier in the day and upon arrival at Elkins residence they found in Elkins’ purse medication that was taken from the victim. Elkins’ bond is $9,500.

57 year old David Anthony Watkins was arrested on Saturday, June 25 for public intoxication. Police responded to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital due to a belligerent patient. Upon Watkins’ release from the hospital, police tried several times to contact his family to pick him up but could not find anyone willing to do so. Due to his level of intoxication, Watkins was arrested and taken into custody. His bond is $1,000.
27 year old Mindy D. Reed was cited for shoplifting at the Dollar General Store on Tuesday, June 28. Store employees said they saw Reed putting items in her purse. Upon exiting the store, Reed was stopped and a search of her purse revealed unpaid for store property. Her court date is July 14.

Police cited two people for drug offenses on Tuesday, June 28. 44 year old Marina G. Cornett was cited for simple possession of a schedule VI drug and 54 year old Jackie Mark Mullican was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia. While conducting a probation search at Mullican's residence, a small baggie of approximately 5 grams of a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana was found on the couch where Cornett was sitting. Three burnt spoons with residue and a hypodermic needle were found in Mullican's bathroom. Both will appear in court on July 21.

Voter Registration Deadline is Tuesday, July 5 for August Elections (VIEW SAMPLE BALLOT HERE)

July 3, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Voter Registration Deadline is Tuesday, July 5 for August Elections

If you want to vote in the August 4 elections the last day to register with the local election commission is Tuesday (July 5).

“If you are not registered but want to participate in the August 4 elections, then Tuesday (July 5) is the last day you can register in person at the election office,” said Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections. “Our office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.”

“Tuesday’s voter registration deadline also applies to those who wish to register as property owners in the City of Smithville,” he added.

Five elections are set for August 4---the DeKalb County General Election, the Tennessee Republican and Democratic Primaries, and city elections in Smithville, Liberty and Dowelltown.

(CLICK LINK BELOW TO VIEW SAMPLE BALLOT)

DekalbTN-PG6-InfinityNewspaper.pdf (37.26 KB)

“With elections on the mind of voters, it is also a good time to make sure your address is up to date,” said Stanley. “So many times voters move since the last time they voted and they fail to notify our office, which can cause a delay when they come to the polls. If you are not sure your voting address is current, call our office and we’ll be glad to check for you. Or you can check the address on your voter card. If that address is not where you currently live, you need to update it long before election day or before you participate in early voting.”

Early voting begins July 15 and runs through July 30. Early voting will be conducted on the first floor of the DeKalb County Courthouse. Hours are Mondays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. until Noon.

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