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Local News Articles

Board Adopts School Calendars for Next Two Years (VIEW SCHOOL CALENDARS HERE)

March 11, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education formally adopted the school calendars for both the 2016-2017 and the 2017-18 years Thursday night during the regular monthly meeting held at DCHS.

This is the first time the board has ever approved school calendars for two years in a row.

The major difference between the calendars for the next two years is that fall break will be for two weeks during the 2016-17 school year but for only one week during the 2017-18 year.

(CLICK LINKS BELOW TO VIEW ACTUAL SCHOOL CALENDARS FOR NEXT TWO YEARS)

2016-17 SCHOOL CALENDAR.pdf (352.21 KB)

2017-18 SCHOOL CALENDAR.pdf (347.45 KB)

"In the meeting the calendar committee had we felt we're getting such a late start on the calendar that this year probably wasn't a good year to go back from two weeks to one week (for fall break). Most people there (committee) knew of no educational benefit of having a two week break since we don't have the intercession anymore. We lost those funds. Parents at the meeting seemed to think that childcare for two weeks was really a hardship on parents so the committee felt like we should go with two weeks of fall break this year and the following year go to one week and see how it works," said Attendance Supervisor Joey Reeder.

Under the new 2016-17 calendar, registration for all students will be Wednesday, August 3.

Thursday, August 4 will be an administrative day for teachers only

The first full day of school for all students will be Friday, August 5

A system wide in-service day will be Friday, July 29

All teachers will report to their individual schools on Monday and Tuesday August 1 & 2

Students will not attend on Monday, Labor Day, September 5.

Schools will be closed for the fall break October 10-21

Students will be off for the Thanksgiving holiday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, November 23, 24, & 25 and for the Christmas break December 22 through January 3. Wednesday, December 21 will be the last day students attend before Christmas break and that will be an abbreviated school day. Wednesday, January 4 will be a stockpile day for teachers. Students will return after the holidays on Thursday, January 5.

Schools will be closed for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 16; for President's Day, Monday, February 20; and Good Friday, April 14.

Spring break will be April 20-24.

Students will not attend on Thursday, May 25. That will be an administrative day and all teachers must attend. The last day of school will be Friday, May 26 and report cards will be sent home.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held on Tuesday, October 25 and Tuesday, March 14 at DeKalb County High School from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will also be held from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Thursday, October 27 and Thursday, March 16 at DeKalb Middle School, Northside Elementary, Smithville Elementary, and DeKalb West School.

Report cards will be sent home from all schools on Tuesday, October 25; Tuesday, January 10; Tuesday March 14; and Friday, May 26.

In other business, Director of Schools Patrick Cripps gave his monthly report on personnel.

Michael Agee has been hired as a mechanic to replace Tony Trapp and Tenille Rowland has resigned as an educational assistant at Northside Elementary School.

Ready for Kindergarten Classes Starting Soon

March 10, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page

Is your child Ready for Kindergarten?

The DeKalb County School System is offering a series of classes for parents and caregivers to learn about age-appropriate targets and tools to use at home to ensure children begin kindergarten prepared.

Through the READY! for Kindergarten early learning program:

•Parents and caregivers are better equipped to help babies and young children develop strong brain connections that determine how they will think, learn and grow.

•Children enter kindergarten prepared and eager for school.

•The achievement gap is dramatically reduced by helping children start and stay at grade level.

•Children experience social-emotional well-being because they keep pace with their peers

The READY! for Kindergarten curriculum is designed around 26 Age Level Targets or measurable skills, that a typical 5-year-old needs to be familiar with by the time he or she starts kindergarten. Parents learn how to guide their child toward the targets that are attainable for their child's level of development.

Class participants receive an early learning tool kit for each class they attend containing age-appropriate learning materials for them to use with their child at home. Tools include such things as floor puzzles, colorful wooden shapes, blocks, magnetic letters and numbers, and audio CDs.

The classes are free for parents of Pre-K children from birth to age five. Space is limited so sign up today. By attending one class every fall, winter, and spring you will receive:

FREE TOYS to make learning fun
FREE TRAINING on how children learn and grow
FREE CHILDCARE for children 36 months or older while you attend classes. Parents with children under 12 months old are allowed to bring their child to class.

The schedule of classes is as follows:
Two and Three Year old Children:
Smithville Elementary School ONLY
Class #1 : Thursday, March 17
Class #2: Tuesday, April 26
Class #3: Tuesday, May 17
All classes start at 5:30 p.m.

Three and Four Year old Children:
Smithville Elementary School
Class #1 : Thursday, March 17
Class #2: Tuesday, April 26
Class #3: Tuesday, May 17
All classes start at 5:30 p.m.

Three and Four Year old Children:
DeKalb West School
Class #1 : Tuesday, March 15
Class #2: Thursday, April 21
Class #3: Thursday, May 26
All classes start at 5:30 p.m.

Three and Four Year old Children:
DeKalb Board of Education Central Office 3rd Floor
Class #1: Thursday, March 24
Class#2: Thursday, April 21
Class#3:Tuesday, May 10
All classes start at 8:30 a.m. (NO CHILD CARE AVAILABLE)

Four and Five Year Old Children:
Smithville Elementary School
Class #1 : Thursday, March 17
Class #2: Tuesday, April 26
Class #3: Tuesday, May 17
All classes start at 5:30 p.m.

Four and Five Year Old Children:
DeKalb West School
Class #1 : Tuesday, March 15
Class #2: Thursday, April 21
Class #3: Thursday, May 26
All classes start at 5:30 p.m.

Four and Five Year Old Children:
DeKalb Board of Education Central Office 3rd Floor
Class #1: Thursday, March 24
Class#2: Thursday, April 21
Class#3:Tuesday, May 10
All classes start at 8:30 a.m.
(NO CHILD CARE AVAILABLE)

Sign up by calling the DeKalb County Board of Education at 615-597-4084, 615-215-2100, or 615-215-2105.

County Clerk's Office to be Closed Thursday, March 17 for Training

March 10, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss

The DeKalb County Clerk's Office will be closed on Thursday, March 17 for training regarding new procedures required by the state for renewal of business licenses.

According to County Clerk James L. (Jimmy) Poss the Tennessee Department of Revenue changed the procedure of renewing most business license in 2014 requiring individuals to complete online transactions themselves. The transition created multiple questions from customers and Clerks of Municipalities and Counties. Prior to implementing these changes and up until now the Department of Revenue has lacked formal classroom training and expectations for Clerks of Municipalities and Counties. Earlier this year Revenue announced two separate training dates, one for Clerks of Municipalities and another for County Clerks. The Department of Revenue has indicated the importance of our attendance and participation on these dates as no other training will be offered. To become more knowledgeable and familiar with Revenue’s expectations our staff we will be attending this training. Seeking to better serve our customers with business license issues our office will be closed Thursday March 17, 2016," said Poss.

Man Escapes Injury in Car Crash at Bridge

March 10, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Man Escapes Injury in Car Crash at Bridge

Smithville Police investigated a one car crash Wednesday night on Broad Street underneath the College Street (Veteran's Memorial) bridge.

Richard Nokes was driving west in a Chevy Camaro when he lost control and crashed into a guardrail at a bridge support. Nokes was not seriously injured and did not have to be transported to the hospital by EMS.

In addition to Smithville Police and DeKalb EMS members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department were also on the scene.

TDOT to Hold Ribbon Cutting for Sligo Bridge Project in DeKalb County

March 9, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
TDOT to Hold Ribbon Cutting for Sligo Bridge Project in DeKalb County

Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer will join state and local officials to celebrate the official completion of the Sligo Bridge project in DeKalb County on Friday, March 11.

The event will take place in the paved parking lot near the west end of the bridge.

In addition to TDOT Commissioner Schroer, State Senator Mae Beavers, State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, DeKalb County Mayor Tim Stribling, and Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss will be present for the ribbon cutting at 2:30 p.m.

County Firefighters Graduate from Academy

March 9, 2016
Pictured from L to R: front: Justin Bass, Robert Sartin, Jonathon Morris, middle: Asst. Chief/Training Officer David Agee, Dallas Hulling, Andrew Cox, Friday Shinabery; back: Caleb Haggard, Gage Brown, Aaron Haggard.

Nine members of the DeKalb County Fire Department graduated from the Tennessee Fire Service and Codes Enforcement Training Academy's Live Burn class Saturday and Sunday, March 5 & 6.

Assistant Chief/Training Officer David Agee says this 16-hour course requires students to demonstrate skills needed to extinguish a passenger vehicle fire attack, exterior Class A fire attack, interior structure fire attack, and ground cover fire attack. "We are extremely proud of these recent graduates. Today, our department stands better prepared to respond to emergencies because of the high standards for training we set for our firefighters," said Asst. Chief Agee.

Pictured from L to R: front: Justin Bass, Robert Sartin, Jonathon Morris, middle: Asst. Chief/Training Officer David Agee, Dallas Hulling, Andrew Cox, Friday Shinabery; back: Caleb Haggard, Gage Brown, Aaron Haggard.

Party Leaders Concerned About Theft of Political Signs

March 9, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jordan Wilkins
Mingy Bryant

Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much but when it comes to the theft of political signs they are on the same page. It must be stopped.

In a joint statement issued to the local media the chairpersons of both parties, Democrat Jordan Wilkins and Republican Mingy Bryant are asking that the thefts stop and for the prosecution of those caught taking the signs.

Wilkins told WJLE that the large "Hillary Clinton" and "Donald Trump" signs are being stolen along with others.

“We, Jordan Wilkins, Chairperson of the DeKalb County Democratic Party, and Mingy Bryant, Chairperson of the DeKalb County Republican Party, ask that people who are stealing candidates’ signs stop doing so. It is not only a great expense to the candidates and their campaigns, it is a violation of federal law. Anyone removing publicly displayed campaign materials will be prosecuted," the statement said.

Any information regarding the removal and destruction of candidates’ signs, should be reported to the Smithville Police Department, Alexandria Police Department, DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, or the Tennessee Highway Patrol office.

Orlando Denied Parole (VIEW VIDEOS HERE)

March 8, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Christopher Nicholas Orlando
Josh Murphy
Ricky and Melissa Murphy (uncle and aunt of Josh Murphy) and District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway speak at Orlando Parole Hearing Tuesday

43 year old Christopher Nicholas Orlando has heard from members of the Tennessee Board of Parole and the news for him isn't good. He will have to spend at least two more years in prison.

Orlando is serving a 35 year prison sentence for facilitation of first degree murder in the death of 20 year old Joshua Murphy. He is incarcerated at the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, Tennessee. A previous conviction against Orlando for possession of cocaine ran consecutively with the murder case and expired in 2009. Orlando's sentence in the murder case is due to expire in 2040. He has served a total of 13 years and 3 months.

During a parole hearing Tuesday morning, March 8 three members of the board, Tim Gobble, Zane Duncan, and Roberta Nevil Kustoff voted by video conference to deny parole for Orlando due to the seriousness of the offense and to reconsider the case in March, 2018. Three affirmative votes of the seven member parole board were all that was required to make the decision final in this case.

Orlando appeared by video conference from the prison where he is incarcerated. The three parole board members were at other locations. And District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway and the victim's uncle and aunt Ricky and Melissa Murphy were at the Cookeville office of Probation and Parole where they spoke in opposition to Orlando's release.

Murphy was shot and killed in a secluded area in the Laurel Hill Community at the end of Old Eagle Creek Road on Sunday, September 15, 2002. His body was discovered three days later. Officials said Orlando and a co-defendant, Melvin Turnbill suspected Murphy of stealing methamphetamine. Orlando was tried and convicted of the crime by a DeKalb County Criminal Court Jury in April, 2004.

Turnbill entered a guilty plea to facilitation to first-degree murder in September, 2003 and was given a 25-year sentence. Turnbill was granted parole in March 2015 after serving more than twelve years but he has run afoul of the law again and may be headed back to prison. Turnbill is currently incarcerated in Putnam County on burglary and DUI charges.

Orlando said he was sorry for the death of Murphy during the parole hearing Tuesday and for the first time took responsibility for being the triggerman in the shooting. In the last parole hearing three years ago Orlando blamed Turnbill for actually committing the murder. "I take full responsibility for my actions sir. I was involved and it was a very tragic thing that happened and there's not a day that goes by that I don't regret what happened. I feel truly upset for the pain I've caused the family. I feel terribly about what I've done. If I had not been on the drugs I was on then no way would I have been involved in anything like that. I can't blame it solely on the drugs. I was a grown man. I made poor decisions and something tragic happened. I am sorry for what I did and the family that I hurt," said Orlando.

"I'm not the same man I was when I did this terrible thing," Orlando continued."I have been in prison a few years now. I believe I have grown. I've seen what I've done wrong. I know what it will take for me to be a productive and law abiding citizen. I would like the chance to be with my daughter. She was just a young girl when I got locked up. I would also like to be a part of my granddaughter's life and the rest of my family. If the parole board does give me this chance I can promise and guarantee that the lifestyle I had before, I will never repeat it again. It is something I'm ashamed and embarrassed of and I'm hurt for what I did. I have found church. I'm Catholic and I've been attending a lot of services. I will have strong family support and job opportunities," said Orlando.

Murphy's uncle and aunt, Ricky and Melissa Murphy gave an emotional plea for Orlando to be denied parole."I just feel like Mr. Orlando has not spent enough time for the crime he done," said Ricky Murphy. " I don't get to see my nephew at Christmas no more or on his birthdays. I just miss him so bad," he said.

"He was took from us. We don't get to be with him at Christmas or holidays. All I have left is a picture on the wall of a little boy that we don't have anymore," said Melissa Murphy. It was over drugs. All over drugs. And it wasn't worth killing a human over. Josh was deeply loved and cared about. It's not right. It's not fair to Josh's family. I know he (Orlando) says he is living right with God but when he gets out is he still going to live right for God or is it just jail talk? You don't kill an innocent person over drugs. I don't think Chris should get out because he could go back to his old ways just like Turnbill," she said.

District Attorney Dunaway told the parole board members that his office stands against Orlando's release from prison." My office stands in opposition because this is a very serious offense. It is a very violent offense. We have a large interest in keeping violent offenders such as Mr. Orlando off the street and in prison. Only fourteen years of a 35 year sentence has been served. He was sentenced as a range II multiple offender at the time of his conviction. So we're not dealing with a first offender here. We're dealing with a history of problems on Mr. Orlando's part. I would ask the board to consider the seriousness of this offense and the public safety considerations. I am personally concerned about the public safety considering his violent past and also the deterrent effect. I think fourteen years of a 35 year sentence is not sufficient to deter like conduct," said D.A. Dunaway.

"Mr. Orlando's history enhancement factors were considered at his sentence and those included his criminal history," D.A. Dunaway continued. "He was a felon already. Exceptional cruelty was involved in this case as Mr. Orlando stated. He took the firearm from his co-defendant (Turnbill) and discharged multiple rounds from a twelve gauge shotgun into the face, chest, and leg area of Mr. Murphy that took his life. The record also reflects that they left the body in this remote area for several days. The autopsy report reflects that the body was in a state of decomposition. So not only did they kill Mr. Murphy but they left him in this wooded area to be found several days later. During this murder they used a firearm and most telling, Mr. Orlando committed this heinous act while he was on probation on a felony charge for sale and delivery of methamphetamine. His history is extensive and one of violence as well as extensive drug activity. The record reflects that the motivation for this crime was the theft of their drugs (methamphetamine). They planned it (shooting) ahead of time. They bought shotgun shells. They went and retrieved a shotgun. All of this was well thought out and well planned and was intentional. They took him (Murphy) to a remote area, shot him and left him for dead literally. I'm glad that Mr. Orlando admits his full involvement today. I think he testified truthfully today. He was the shooter. But it's interesting as I review the file, he gave no less than four statements to TBI investigators (previously) that did not admit his guilt but those statements progressed to a state where he blamed Mr. Turnbill for their actions," said D.A. Dunaway.

At the conclusion of the hearing Parole Board member Gobble said while Orlando had made progress he could not vote to parole him now."There is no question that this is a terrible crime. I do believe you're making some progress. I believe in rehabilitation. I do believe people can change. I see that you had a good program participation and you have a good disciplinary record so I think those are indications and evidence that you are making effort. However I'm not ready to parole you today. I don't think you're quite there. I think with your violent past at this point there is a potential risk to public safety and I'm not exactly comfortable with voting to parole you due to the seriousness of the offense. My vote is to decline you and to review your case again in two years. But I am pleased with what I am seeing in your record. You are working to better yourself. Your behavior has improved and you are working to address drug addictions. But you are convicted of a very serious offense," said Gobble.

Parole Board members Duncan and Kustoff concurred with Gobble in voting to decline parole and to review the case again in March, 2018

UCHRA Sale of Lakeside Resort to be Finalized Next Week

March 8, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
UCHRA Sale of Lakeside Resort to be Finalized Next Week

Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch, a non-profit organization based in New York which operates a residential facility for youth will be taking control of Lakeside Resort next week.

The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency has sold the financially troubled resort, which is located off Cookeville Highway on Center Hill Lake.

According to Luke Collins, Executive Director of UCHRA, the transfer will become official with the signing of all documents on Tuesday, March 15 now that the UCHRA has received an assignment of lease from the Real Estate Committee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the finalization of the sale of Lakeside.

"Timothy Hill Ranch has purchased the assets of the property and the rights to lease the property. The Army Corps of Engineers has approved for them to take over our lease of the property and for them to be renters of the property. The contract has been signed. The money exchange will take place on March 15," Lakeside Manager Bob Sotis told WJLE.

Under terms of the sale, Timothy Hill Ranch will put forward a $600,000 purchase, $50,000 deposit and $100,000 in services over 10 years ($10,000 per year). Those services would include staff retreats, annual meetings, employee training and other events.

UCHRA will pay off its USDA Rural Development loan debt of $1,285,550 relating to Lakeside Resort by applying the $600,000 from Timothy Hill and borrowing from Bank of Putnam County $685,550.35 to be repaid in 4 years.

While UCHRA will still be in debt it will no longer lose as much money as it has in recent years because of Lakeside according Sotis."We have negotiated with USDA Rural Development. There will be a balance of $685,000 that UCHRA will still owe against what they had borrowed twenty years ago but when you're losing $200,000 a year for the last twenty years it really doesn't do us any good to hold on. It would be better to hand it to somebody else. And they (Timothy Hill) are a non-profit so it's really one non-profit helping another," said Sotis.

Based in Long Island New York, Timothy Hill Ranch serves children and men from ages 10-24 who have been abused, neglected and/or are in crisis. Referrals come from the court system and private agencies.

According to Sotis, Timothy Hill plans to continue operating the facility as a resort while serving youth. "Lakeside needs a vision and it's a great vision that Timothy Hill is going to have. Timothy Hill are good Christian people and it will be a real blessing to DeKalb County. They will operate the resort as it is. They will do almost no changes on plan of action business plans for the first year but I believe in the years to follow you will have more Christian retreats, parental retreats and that kind of thing. Their marketing department will push toward helping families and marriages and things like that. That's what they concentrate on. They're pretty big. They've been doing this for 40 years. They are also looking to put $3 million in the property in the next five years with a new dock, possibly a beach, and other renovations," he said.

Guest cottages and apartments are maintained on the property including thirteen cabins or houses, four condominiums, along with the lakeside lodge, featuring 26 units. The resort also has a dock and a swimming pool.

According to Sotis the ten current employees of Lakeside will be permitted to remain on staff.

Aldermen Vote Extra Week of Vacation for City Employees with 20 Years of Service

March 7, 2016
by: 
Dwayne Page
Smithville Mayor and Aldermen

Smithville employees who have worked for the city twenty years or more will get a total of four weeks of paid vacation.

The aldermen last month, at the suggestion of Alderman Josh Miller, voted to amend the city's personnel policy on first reading to provide for the extra vacation time. The aldermen approved the policy amendment on second and final reading Monday night.

Currently city employees with ten years get a total of three weeks of paid vacation.

City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson said five employees would benefit immediately from this action.

Under the ordinance, the employee handbook pertaining to annual leave (vacation) accrual for years of service is amended to read as follows:

Years of Service: 0-3 years
Vacation Days Per Year: 5 days per year (one week)

Years of Service: 4-9
Vacation Days Per Year: 10 days per year (two weeks)

Years of Service: 10-20
Vacation Days Per Year: 15 days per year (three weeks)

Years of Service: 20+
Vacation Days Per Year: 20 days per year (four weeks)

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