Local News Articles

Children Author Mike Shoulders to Return for DeKalb West Family Literacy Night

February 25, 2018
Bill Conger
Children’s author Mike Shoulders

DeKalb West School will pitch tents for an event, dubbed Camp Read S‘More on March 1. School officials expect the 3rd Annual Family Literacy Night to be successful as the previous ones.

“I believe most people truly value learning, and literacy is at the heart of learning,” Event Coordinator/School Librarian Amanda Mullinax says of the community response. “I am grateful that families are taking the time to work this event into their already busy schedules!”

Doors open at 5 o’clock. Look for possible guest appearances by The Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, Alice, and The Mad Hatter. Activities will include a young illustrator, a local puppeteer, an escape game, visit to Wonderland, a book walk and much more. Children’s author Mike Shoulders will be back by popular demand.

His presentation will be educational and entertaining as he reads, raps and does a few magic tricks. At the heart of what Shoulders does is his desire to encourage families to read together.

“Parents are their child's first and constant teachers,” the retired educator adds. “What they do at home is as valuable as what teachers do in school. Families need to celebrate books and not see them as a challenge. There are three ways to have a comfortable life: inherit a ton of cash, win the lottery, or be an avid reader to grab those best paying jobs later in life.”

WJLE talked with Shoulders about entering the world of writing for children.

WJLE: After a solid career in education, why were you interested in pursuing writing for children?

Shoulders: While I was a fourth grade teacher for 13 years, I read aloud to my students every day. Reading aloud to children is the #1 best way to get them to love books and therefore, read books. Ten years before retirement, I began pursuing a personal goal of publishing a book. It took five years, but led to my second career as a children's author. I still see myself as a teacher as I share the writing process with students as part of my employment.

WJLE: You spent many years teaching others and a few years ago it became your turn to learn again in a different area. What did you have to learn to make yourself a publishable and marketable writer?

Shoulders: The first thing I learned is the average "first sell" by an aspiring author is five years. Sure enough, it took me four years and ten months - very close to five years. I guess I'm a "Solid Average" kinda guy. I learned that selling a manuscript was (approximately) 10% writing and 90% marketing. Anyone interested in selling a book has to know which publishers are buying and selling which kinds of books. A writer has to match a manuscript with an appropriate publishing house.

Any time I got the chance, I attended conferences on writing. I heard many editors say they receive a large percentage of manuscripts that are just not right for what they publish. Aspiring authors must research the marketplace.

One of the best pieces of advice I learned is just because your manuscript was rejected doesn't mean it won't be bought by another publisher. It's important to keep a manuscript in the mail. It's just as much about persistence as it is talent. If one is persistent, talent will develop.

WJLE: How does the writing process work for you?

Shoulders: I'm ashamed to say it, but I have to be in the mood to write. On the occasions I'm not in the mood or am not feeling it, I usually read instead...A LOT ! ! ! I fill my day with reading because writers ARE readers. Writing is solitary. Each writer must find where they write the best. I will often get my favorite Starbucks drink and sit near the river or a creek and write. When I'm writing - and in a groove - I'll usually write for about four hours a day. I have other things that occupy my time. I have to make travel plans to speak at schools and conferences. I have hotel rooms to book. I have questions to be answered. J

WJLE: What's your next project?

Shoulders: I'm trying to sell a book about "The Legend of the Christmas Pickle." It's been rejected multiple times already. The way I look at it is I've narrowed down which company is going to publish it by eliminating several companies. Recently, I sent the manuscript to a *former* editor of mine who is no longer editing for a publishing house. She gave me a piece of valuable information to make my story stronger. I resent it to her and she said she loves it. What she was telling me is the manuscript is salable, but I just have to have faith and be persistent.

Hale Gets Probation for Arson and Credit for Time Served

February 23, 2018
Dwayne Page
Jason Bryan Hale
Jason Bryan Hale gets 4 years probation and credit for time served for arson after setting fire to the home where he lived at 5078 Lower Helton Road near Alexandria in November

A man charged with arson after setting fire to the home where he lived at 5078 Lower Helton Road near Alexandria in November entered a plea by criminal information in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday.

Judge David Patterson presided.

46 year old Jason Bryan Hale received a four year sentence on the arson charge but he has been given jail credit of 107 days served and he will be on supervised probation for the remainder of the term Other charges against him were apparently dismissed including a charge of assaulting an officer and resisting stop, frisk, halt, arrest, or search.

Central dispatch received the call at 5:58 p.m. on November 8, 2017 and paged members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department. The caller alerted 911 that someone was still inside the home and that he refused to leave. It was later reported that the man had gone outside the home and was armed with a shotgun.

Sheriff Patrick Ray and officers of the Sheriff’s Department arrived at the scene and took the man (Hale) into custody. It turns out that Hale had no weapon, but he did hit an officer while being moved to safety prior to his arrest.

The home was destroyed in the blaze. The owner of the residence was Ann Greene.

Sheriff Ray said the arson warrant against Hale alleged that “he did knowingly damage the structure of 5078 Lower Helton Road by setting it on fire. Hale did have the intent to destroy the residence”.

In the warrant for assaulting an officer, Sheriff Ray said “a deputy responded to 5078 Lower Helton Road for a structure fire. Upon arrival he made contact with Hale and while trying to move him to safety Hale intentionally and recklessly struck him in the face with his right hand”.

Sheriff Ray said that in the warrant for resisting stop, frisk, and halt, “ a deputy responded to a structure fire and while on the scene as he was placing Hale under arrest for assault, he actively resisted by pulling his arms and not cooperating with lawful commands to put his hands behind his back. Hale was arrested and brought to the jail for booking,” said Sheriff Ray.

Neither the deputy nor anyone else was injured.

In addition to the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, Sheriff’s Department, and DeKalb EMS, members of the Alexandria Volunteer Fire Department and Alexandria Police Chief Chris Russell were called to provide mutual aid support.

Advanced Master Beef Producer Planned

February 23, 2018
Johnny Barnes
Johnny Barnes

DeKalb, Cannon, and Warren County Extension will once again be offering Advanced Master Beef Producers’ (AMBP) classes for those who participated in the original or advanced classes or for newcomers who wish to participate in the Tennessee Ag Enhancement Program (TAEP) cost-share in the future. This program is also an excellent opportunity for those that wish to learn more about raising beef cattle.

The classes will be held March 13, 15, 20, and 22 and will begin at 6:30 PM each night. The classes on March 13 and 15 will be held at the Centertown Community Center, the March 20 class will be held at the Warren County Livestock Market, and the final class on March 22 will be held at the Warren Farmers Co-op. As a reminder, University of Tennessee Extension provides programs in agriculture and natural resources, 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences, and resource development with University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture and county governments cooperating. UT Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. Topics will include: Reproduction, Genetics, Herd Health, Quality Assurance, Grading, Market Outlook, Forages, and Weed Management.

The topics will be covered by various Extension Specialists and Industry Experts from across the state. The cost of the course will be $75 for those with current Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certification which will include materials and refreshments. If you do not have a current BQA certification, that will be covered during the March 15 class. You can stop by the DeKalb County Extension office at 722 South Congress Blvd., Smithville to register or call Johnny Barnes at 615-597-4945 for more information.

Two Escape Injury in Thursday Crash

February 23, 2018
Dwayne Page
2012 Nissan Altima driven by Catherine Newby

Two women escaped injury in a two vehicle crash Thursday at the intersection of West Broad Street and Anthony Avenue near Walmart.

Captain Steven Leffew of the Smithville Police Department said 74 year old Catherine Newby of Smithville was driving a 2012 Nissan Altima, pulling out onto West Broad from Anthony Avenue, when she crossed the path of a 2011 Jeep, driven by 50 year old Tammy Harris of Murfreesboro who was east on Broad Street. After impact, Newby’s car ran off the highway down an embankment and stopped near a flowing creek.

Harris told police that she tried to stop to avoid the collision but couldn’t due to the wet road conditions. Newby told officers that after the collision she accidentally pressed the accelerator instead of the brake.

Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department and DeKalb EMS were also on the scene. Again, no one was injured.

Smithville Police Department Works to Ease Concerns over Reported School Threats

February 23, 2018
Smithville Police Chief Mark Collins

The Smithville Police Department and Chief Mark Collins would like to extend their gratitude to all of the concerned citizens for the overwhelming amount of phone calls and Facebook posts in regards to the current school situation.

“I was contacted by a representative of the school system in regards to this matter late Thursday afternoon. The Smithville Police Department then took measures to have extra officers at all schools located within the city limits. Myself and the Smithville Police Department take the safety of all students and faculty both on campus and in transit very seriously. We will continue to monitor this situation and provide services as needed,” said Chief Collins.

Victims Injured by Driverless Car Recovering as Case Remains Under Review

February 23, 2018
Dwayne Page
Driverless PT Cruiser runs over Angelia Burke and Knocks down Alecia Burke
Driverless PT Cruiser runs over Angelia Burke and Knocks down Alecia Burke. It also hits  Toyota Camry and Chevy Tahoe
Victims Injured by Driverless Car Recovering as Case Remains Under Review

One of two women struck by a driverless 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser on Valentine’s Day in the parking lot of City Walk Apartments remains hospitalized at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

50 year old Angelia Burke is recovering from serious injuries sustained in the incident. Her daughter, 32 year old Alecia Burke was also hurt.

Smithville Police were summoned to the scene that afternoon due to a report of a fight in progress and injuries to victims struck by an automobile. Members of DeKalb EMS, the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol were dispatched. Medical first responders and the Smithville Elementary School SRO and nurse also responded.

According to Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the PT Cruiser, which belongs to Vicky Alvis, went in motion backward in the parking lot with no one behind the wheel and it struck both Angelia and Alecia Burke, knocking them to the pavement. The vehicle continued moving backward in a circle, striking a parked 2001 Toyota Camry, and then running over Angelia. The PT Cruiser then hit a parked Chevy Tahoe, before coming to a stop. Angelia was pinned underneath.

Bystanders and first responders came to the aid of both women. A jack was initially used to help raise and stabilize the car until Smithville Firefighters arrived to deploy air bags to help lift the car to get Angelia out. She was taken by ground ambulance to Vanderbilt Hospital. Alecia was transported by EMS to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital.

Police have not released details of the alleged incident involving Alvis and the Burkes but the case reportedly remains under review by the District Attorney General’s Office.

Sheriff says Social Media Rumors of School Threats Unfounded

February 23, 2018
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department will have more officers at schools Friday to help ease worries after rumors surfaced on social media Thursday that a student was planning to carry out a threat at the high school.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said the rumors proved to be unfounded.

In a prepared statement, Sheriff Ray explained how the story unfolded.

"Around 6 pm on February 22, 2018 the School Resource Officer at the High School contacted me and advised me he had a concerned parent call him. The parent said their child had overheard a student make a threat to the DeKalb County High School.

I immediately contacted a Detective from my department to investigate the complaint.

Through an investigation, the Detective and School Resource Officer found out a 17 year old DeKalb County High School student made a comment that was interpreted as a threat to the school. Both of them interviewed the student and the student said he did not make the comment. The Detective and School Resource Officer also talked to a teacher who was present at the time the comment was made. The teacher confirmed the student never said anything about harming the school.

The Sheriff’s Department has been working with the Director of Schools, Patrick Cripps, the Principal of DeKalb County High School, Randy Jennings, and school support staff along with the Assistant District Attorney General Stephanie Johnson since the investigation started.

Director of Schools Patrick Cripps is reporting “Last evening we received information concerning a potential threat to DeKalb County High School. Law enforcement was contacted and an investigation has been initiated.

We would like to remind all families of DeKalb County that the safety of our students is our utmost concern and we will continue to be proactive in ensuring all students remain safe.”

Sheriff Ray said “After our investigation started, there were multiple posts going around on social media that were incorrect and causing a panic. As a result, I will have extra Deputies in and out of the schools tomorrow (Friday) and a couple of deputies placed in certain schools along with the School Resource Officers as a safeguard for our students and school faculty.”

Smithville Elementary Recognizes Students of the Month

February 22, 2018
Dwayne Page
Smithville Elementary Recognizes Students of the Month

Smithville Elementary would like to recognize our Students of the Month for February. These students were selected for their outstanding character, academics, and other traits that make them an all-around excellent student. Selected as Students of the Month for February are:

Pre-K: Julien Kleparek

Kindergarten: Addison Love

1st grade: Brandon Garcia

2nd grade: Khloe Grandstaff

DeKalb 4-H Member Attends National Healthy Living Conference

February 22, 2018
Lily Martin

DeKalb County 4-H member, Lily Martin recently represented Tennessee and DeKalb County at the National 4-H Healthy Living Conference.

Tennessee 4-H had 53 individuals in attendance at the summit in Chevy Chase, Maryland February 16 - February 19, 2018. The Healthy Living Summit involves high school students from around the country gathering at the National 4-H Center to assist them in the development of knowledge and skills to address today's issues including nutrition education, physical fitness, wellness, and emotional well-being. Students are trained to create action plans to implement in their communities and teach other youth about what they have learned. The structure of the summit maximizes the amount of hands-on learning experiences and translates that learning to direct outcomes.

Lily is a Freshman at DeKalb County High School. She plans to use what she learned to create an action plan to have a healthier community.

Board to Consider Contract Extension for Director of Schools

February 21, 2018
Dwayne Page
Patrick Cripps

The DeKalb County Board of Education may consider a contract extension for Director of Schools Patrick Cripps when it meets again next month.

Cripps’ contract currently runs through June 30, 2019. He has served as Director since July, 2015.

The original contract was for two years to expire on June 30, 2017 but the Board voted in June, 2016 to extend the contract by two years based on overall high marks given by the Board in a director performance evaluation.

Cripps was recently evaluated again by the Board but the results have not yet been tabulated

Cripps' annual salary is $85,000 paid in twelve equal monthly installments in accordance with the policy.

The next meeting of the DeKalb County Board of Education will be Thursday, March 8 at 7 p.m. at the Ernest Ray Education Center.

The agenda is as follows:

Consider and act on the Director's Contract

Consider and act on approval of the Career and Technical Education 2017-18-Crossville

Consider and act on 2019-2020 school calendar

Consider and act on updating/adopting school board policies on 1st reading.

School updates and committee reports will be given.

A personnel report will also be given by the Director of Schools.

Any other business that may properly come before the Board.

The consent agenda is as follows:

Consider and act on a request for the Prom to be held off campus at "The Capitol Theater" in Lebanon on April 27

Consider and act on a request to submit 21st Century Grant application

Consider and act on an overnight trip request from DCHS Student to attend All-State Honors Chorus April 11-14

Consider and act on Budget Amendment for Soccer

Consider and act on extended bus utilization

Consider and act on Budget Amendment-CSH


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