Local News Articles

Congressman Diane Black Visits DeKalb County

November 26, 2013
Dwayne Page
Mike Corley, Congressman Diane Black, Jim Hodges of MTUD

The only true fix to the Affordable Health Care Act is to repeal it and replace it with smarter market based reforms. That from Congressman Diane Black, who was in Smithville Monday.

While Obama administration officials say they expect to meet the President's goal of having the troubled website HealthCare.gov working for the "vast majority" of users by November 30, Congressman Black told WJLE Monday that she is still pushing for an alternative.

Congressman Black is co-sponsoring a bill called the American Health Care Reform Act, which would repeal Obamacare and then focus on reducing health care costs and increasing access by allowing Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines. "The bill is from our Republican Study Committee that would look at using market based patient centered principles in reforming health care. The bill would actually repeal the entire Obamacare (Affordable Health Care Act). The reason for this is that we believe we can do the kinds of things that need to be done like pre-existing conditions and helping to take care of people who truly cannot afford or don't have access to insurance. We can do that in a lot more efficient way where the individual actually has more choice and is patient centered for them and market based," said Congressman Black.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Congressman Black, would also put in place common-sense medical malpractice reform that would limit lawsuit abuse in the health industry and help lower costs associated with doctor and hospital visits.

"Our plan would protect individuals with pre-existing conditions by bolstering state-based high-risk pools and extending existing guaranteed availability protections under HIPAA. We expand access to health savings accounts and level the playing field for families and individuals by giving them the same tax deductions for health care costs that businesses and employers enjoy," she said.

"Obamacare is failing to live up to even its most basic expectations and is creating havoc on our health care system and exposing Tennesseans and Americans across the country to dropped coverage, reduced access and dramatic premium increases. This cannot sustain itself and must be stopped. There is not a day that goes by in my office that we don't hear a new story about either someone losing their healthcare because their employer said I'm just not going to do this anymore and I'd rather pay a fine, or their rates going up. This is what we're hearing a lot of. They're getting rates in the mail from their insurance companies. Some of those rates are going up by 200%. We also hear from people who are losing their jobs where companies want to stay under their fifty employees so rather than have fifty or fifty five employees, they are making employees either part time and in some cases employees are losing their jobs. So a lot of negative impact has come with this health care bill (Obamacare). We believe this can be done (healthcare reform) and these problems and situations we have could be solved without the government taking over one sixth of the economy," said Congressman Black.

During her visit to Smithville Monday, Congressman Black stopped by Middle Tennessee Natural Gas. "I wanted to come and talk about what happens here in the utility district. The amount of folks who are served here is remarkable and to make sure that as an official on the federal side I am doing whatever I can do to help make sure they can serve their customers in an efficient way," she said

Congressman Black also paid a visit to DeKalb Community Hospital and DTC Communications.

During a brief interview with WJLE, Congressman Black said exploring how to make the tax code simpler and more fair for families is another issue she is seeking to address in legislation called the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act. This legislation consolidates four existing education provisions — the Hope Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the tuition deduction — into a single, modernized and strengthened AOTC.

"We would like to be able to take a 1986 out of date tax code and bring it up to date by having something fairer, flat, and simpler where we bring down the rate so that money can go back into the economy. That's another thing we are concerned about is the economy and the amount of jobs. When people have money in their pockets they spend that money and when they spend that money, it creates more jobs and it helps to grow revenue so that we can get out of this situation with our debt and deficit spending. That all kind of flows together. If you do the tax reform, more jobs are created, there's more money in people's pockets, and it raises their quality of life and at the same time it helps to raise revenues so we can grow our way out of this debt and deficit spending.

As outlined in the legislation, the new AOTC, which would be permanent and partially refundable, would:

•Provide a 100-percent tax credit for the first $2,000 of eligible higher education expenses and a 25-percent tax credit for the next $2,000 of such expenses (for a maximum credit of $2,500).

•The first $1,500 of the credit would be refundable, meaning that families could receive the benefit regardless of whether they have Federal income tax liability.

•The credit could be used to offset expenses for tuition, fees and course materials.

•The credit would be available for up to four years of post-secondary education at qualifying four-year universities, community colleges, and trade and vocational schools.

•The credit would begin to phase out for families with income between $86,000 and $126,000 (half those amounts for single individuals), ensuring that the credit provides the greatest benefit and value to low- and middle-income families.

"Streamlining the number of education provisions and retooling those that are most effective has another benefit, too – it allows us to simplify the code and reduce some of the confusion that exists today. As a result, students can spend less time figuring out how to finance the cost of a higher education and more time developing the skills they need to succeed in a knowledge-based economy. It ought to be easier for any family to plan, save and invest in education. Our bipartisan bill makes common-sense reforms to make the tax code simpler and fairer when it comes to helping Americans afford the cost of a college education," she said.

Congressman Black said she is also concerned about an agreement between Iran and several world leaders including the United States that seeks to limit Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lighter economic sanctions. "I'm very concerned about it. I haven't gotten into all the details but I'm very concerned that there would be a deal made that doesn't seem to be a good deal for the United States or even the world where we have Iran that is enriching this fuel for nuclear energy. They (Iran) keep talking about how they want to use this (nuclear) for energy. They're sitting on the biggest pile of natural gas of any country in the world so why are they doing nuclear? They have not abided by the resolutions that were set up by the United Nations. We know they have broken their promises there. What makes us think they're going to keep their promises now when they have broken their promises before? If we release those sanctions then there is no leverage. It seems like we're giving up a lot and getting really nothing for it," she said.

The fact that Israel, the United States' strongest ally in the region, is opposed to this agreement is also cause for concern , according to Congressman Black. "I have had the opportunity to visit Israel and meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What they have shown us behind closed doors is classified but what they know is very concerning so at this point we don't need to release those sanctions and allow Iran to move forward with their nuclear development," said Congressman Black.

(PICTURED ABOVE: MTUD Vice President of Human Resources and General Counsel Mike Corley, Congressman Diane Black, and MTUD Executive Vice President and CEO Jim Hodges)

Davidson Allegedly Admits Stealing Farm Equipment

November 25, 2013
Dwayne Page
Steven Dale Davidson
Victor Locklear
Sharon Sue Rust
Curtis Lee Rust

A Smithville man has been charged with theft for allegedly stealing farm equipment and selling most of it at a local recycling center.

28 year old Steven Dale Davidson of Antioch Road, Smithville is charged with theft of property over $1,000. His bond is $10,000 and he will be in court on December 12.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Tuesday November 5, Davidson allegedly took several items from property on Jones Mill Road including an Allis Chalmers dozer winch, a three point hitch bush hog, a three point hitch pickup disk, a two bottom plow, a three point hitch pond scoop, logging forks from a fork lift, and two-three point hitch cultivators. Davidson allegedly admitted to taking these items. Most of them were sold to a local recycling center but Davidson said he sold the bush hog to a family member for thirty dollars. The case was investigated by a detective of the Sheriff's Department.

Meanwhile, 49 year old Victor Locklear of Toad Road, Dowelltown is charged with possession of schedule III and IV drugs for resale, possession of drugs in a drug free zone, and possession of a prohibited weapon. He was also issued a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond totals $40,000 and he will be in court on December 19.

Sheriff Ray said that on Monday, November 18 a deputy went to the office of the Department of Children's Services on Walker Drive to serve a Wilson County warrant on Locklear. While there, the officer conducted a search of Locklear and found a white container with fifteen pills believed to be Hydrocodone and six blue pills thought to be Clonazepam. He also found a cut straw believed to have been used for illegal drug activity. The straw contained a white powdery substance. Found In Locklear's pants pocket were a pair of brass knuckles. The drug free zone charge was filed against Locklear because the Department of Children Service's office where Locklear was found with the drugs is within one thousand feet of the Smithville Elementary School property, which is a drug free zone. Locklear was arrested and brought to the jail for booking.

51 year Gregory Herman Wessels and 45 year old Christine Anne Fekete both of Franklin are cited on drug charges. Wessels is cited for possession of drug paraphernalia and Fekete is cited for simple possession. Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, November 20 a deputy was dispatched on a call and he made contact with these individuals on Highway 70 east. After obtaining consent to search, the officer found a marijuana pipe in a back pack that belonged to Wessels. He also found a small amount of marijuana in Fekete's possession. Both Wessels and Fekete will be in court on December 12.

58 year old Curtis Lee Rust and 61 year old Sharon Sue Rust of Dearman Street, Smithville are charged with domestic assault for allegedly attacking their son-in-law. Sharon Rust is also charged with being a fugitive from Justice in Broward County Florida where she is wanted for possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia. Bond for Curtis Rust is $2,500. Her bond is $152,500. Both will be in court on December 12. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, November 23 Curtis Rust allegedly assaulted his son-in-law at a residence on Sparta Highway by tackling and taking him to the ground, not letting him get up. Sharon Rust also allegedly assaulted the man by punching him in the face with her fist, leaving his eye black and swollen. Both Curtis and Sharon Rust were arrested and brought to the jail for booking.

An officer did a background check through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and discovered that Sharon Rust is wanted on active warrants in Broward County, Florida for possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia. Florida authorities plan to seek extradition of Sharon Rust.

Hall Charged with Three Counts of Forgery

November 25, 2013
Dwayne Page
Andrew Tyler Hall

A 27 year old man was arrested on three counts of forgery last week.

Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said Andrew Tyler Hall is under a $15,000 bond and he will be in General Sessions Court on December 12.

The investigation began on August 21 when Corporal Travis Bryant took reports from a local bank concerning checks being forged on an account holder who resided in another county. Video surveillance showed Hall passing checks on the victim's account July 29, August 9, and August 13. After confirming the checks were forged, police took warrants for Hall's arrest. On Thursday, November 21, Detective Matt Holmes saw Hall on the Smithville public square. He asked Hall to meet him at the Police Department. After arriving there, Hall was read his rights and placed under arrest.

In other cases, 31 year old Jessica French Hale was cited for shoplifting on Tuesday, November 12. K-9 Officer James Cornelius was dispatched to the Dollar General Store where he was informed that someone had taken items from the business without paying for them and then had driven away. A description was given of the vehicle in which the shoplifter had left. Officer Cornelius later located the suspect, Hale and the items taken from the store were recovered.

Officer Matt Farmer cited 29 year old Randall Jake Hines for shoplifting at Ace Hardware on Saturday, November 16. Hines was spotted by an employee putting an item belonging to the store under his shirt and walking out without paying for it. The stolen item was returned to the store. Hines will be in court on December 12.

Captain Steven Leffew was dispatched to Wal-Mart in reference to a shoplifter on Saturday, November 16. A store employee saw 47 year old Peggy L .Jordan put items in her purse. After speaking with Jordan, Captain Leffew recovered the unpaid for items. Jordan was cited to appear in court on December 12.

Officer Will Judkins cited 38 year old Stephanie Ann Pierce for shoplifting at the Dollar General Store on Monday, November 18. Pierce was found with several items from the store inside of her clothing that she had not paid for.

25 year old Steven Cuevas was arrested for domestic assault on Wednesday, November 20. Officer Will Judkins responded to a domestic and upon arrival he spoke with the victim. According to police, it appeared that the victim was trying to get her belongings and leave when Cuevas pushed her and hit her in the face. The victim's left eye appeared to be swollen and red. Bond for Cuevas is $2,500 and he will be in court December 12.

Election Commission Issues Seven Petitions Friday

November 22, 2013
Dwayne Page
Dennis Stanley

Friday was the first day persons could pick up qualifying petitions to run for public offices next year and seven potential candidates wasted no time.

Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections reports that Michael Clayborn for County Clerk, Jeffrey McMillen for Register of Deeds, James L. Poss for County Clerk, James Sprague for Road Supervisor, Katherine Pack for Circuit Court Clerk, Bratten H. Cook II for General Sessions Judge, and Jonathan Low for Constable in the Second District were all issued petitions on Friday, November 22.

All but Low plan to be candidates in the May 6, 2014 DeKalb County Democratic Primary.

Low, a resident of Hillview Heights in Dowelltown, will be an Independent candidate to fill the remaining two years of the vacant constable seat in the second district. His name will appear on the DeKalb County General Election ballot in August.

Clayborn, who not only picked up but has already completed and returned his petition to the election commission office, will be seeking his fourth term as County Clerk. Poss, a resident of Bright Hill Road, will challenge Clayborn in the primary.

McMillen, who was first elected Register of Deeds in 1986, will be seeking his eighth term.

Pack will be looking to win a fourth term as Circuit Court Clerk.

Cook is hoping to secure a third eight year term as General Sessions Judge.

Sprague, a resident of Holmes Creek Road, is running for the Democratic Nomination for Road Supervisor, a seat that has been held by Republican Kenny Edge since 1990. Edge is not seeking another term.

The qualifying deadline is NOON February 20, 2014

The DeKalb County Democratic Primary, to be held May 6, establishes the qualifying deadline for Republican and Independent candidates. Republicans and Independents must qualify by the same time as Democrats, noon February 20.

The DeKalb County Republican Party is expected to certify its nominees for county offices by Caucus.

Both parties will have primaries to nominate candidates for judicial offices in the 13th district, which includes DeKalb County.

Democratic and Republican nominees for all local and district offices along with Independent candidates will appear on the DeKalb County General Election ballot in August.

Offices up for election in 2014 include County Mayor, Circuit Court Clerk, County Clerk, Register of Deeds, Trustee, Road Supervisor, Sheriff, General Sessions Judge, and all fourteen county commissioners and possibly unfilled constable seats. All terms are for four years except the General Sessions Judgeship, which is an eight year term.

In the 13th Judicial District, two criminal court judges, two circuit court judges, a chancellor, district attorney general, and district public defender are also to be elected, each to serve an eight year term.

DeKalb County School board seats in the first, second, third, fourth, and seventh districts will be filled in the 2014 August County General Election. Terms are four years. School board candidates are non-partisan, which means they run neither as Republicans or Democrats. The qualifying date for school board candidates is not until April, 2014. Qualifying petitions are not yet available for school board positions.

"Individuals may be announced candidates and may begin soliciting campaign funds at any time before the election. However, before a candidate raises or spends money, the candidate needs to file an “Appointment of Political Treasurer” with the Election Commission," said Stanley. "This form is available at http://www.tennessee.gov/tref/forms/ss-1120.pdf or can be obtained at our office. You can print it out online and bring it to us. We must have the original, so a fax or email will not work.”

”You may file the Appointment of Political Treasurer at any time, but it must be filed before you raise or spend money,” Stanley continued. “The Registry of Election Finance has said that “incidental” expenses while you are thinking about running do not count. There are different regulations for judicial candidates, so please ask us before soliciting campaign funds.”

Once a candidate files an Appointment of Treasurer form, the candidate is required to file periodic disclosure reports. The reports are to be filed quarterly during the election year and semi-annually in either the year(s) before or after. Additionally, a report is due 10 days before any election. The report dates can be found at http://www.tennessee.gov/tref/cand/cand_filing.htm or you can obtain a copy at the local election office.

“The State Registry of Election Financial (615-741-7959) or http://www.tennessee.gov/tref/contact.htm has jurisdiction over election financial issues,” Stanley said. “The DeKalb County Election Commission merely files the reports and makes them available to the public. The state office can answer any question you have about financial reports or requirements.”

More information about the petition process, including additional deadlines for Road Superintendent and Sheriff candidates, can be obtained at the election commission office on the first floor of the DeKalb County Courthouse or by logging on to www.dekalbelections.com.

The DeKalb County Election Commission Office is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Eighth Grader Nominated for Harris Award

November 22, 2013
Dwayne Page
Ethan Martin

8th grader Ethan Martin is the D.W.S. Junior Beta nominee for the John W. Harris award. His nomination has been submitted to the National Jr. Beta Club for consideration. Only twenty-five students across the nation are selected for the Beta Club’s top trophy. Martin, the son of Dewayne and Stacy Martin, has been in Junior Beta since his 5th grade year. His brother, Zack Martin, won the Harris award when he was at DWS.

The Harris award is given to students who exemplify the qualities of leadership and service. Ethan has maintained Honor Roll grades while staying busy with sports, academic fairs, and community events.

He has volunteered for the DeKalb County Fair where he helps prepare the grounds for the annual event. The last years he has also worked the entrance gates almost every night for a few hours. Martin shows his creative side as well with the Christian puppet ministry at his church that travels to other congregations to entertain children and adults. “This is something I think is very fun to do, and I feel it is a good way to express and share my Christian beliefs,” Martin said.

Martin also helps organize and monitor activities for the kids at Vacation Bible School. He lends a hand packing food bags for those who need a little extra help with charitable causes like the DWS Backpack program. Previously, Martin has helped with the City of Alexandria’s annual Halloween celebration, dressing up and handing out candy or walking the streets to greet the kids.

“This year was especially fun and a little hard,” he admits. “I was a wolf and had to walk on small crutches humped over all night, but the reactions from the crowd were worth it.”

Martin recently initiated a project to benefit a variety of charities, and he is leading other Beta members in accomplishing the task. Boxes have been set up in churches to collect items each month to send to the Nashville Rescue Mission or other worthy organizations.

“I always try to volunteer my services when they are needed, while keeping my grades up to a high average,” Martin said in an essay he wrote for the Harris award.

The National Beta Club office will announce the winners of the Harris award later this year.

(UPDATED) State AG Finds Local Democratic Party Private Act Unconstitutional

November 21, 2013
Dwayne Page
State Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr.

A sixty four year old private act governing the manner in which members of the DeKalb County Democratic Party's Executive Committee are selected has been deemed unconstitutional by the Tennessee Attorney General.

AG Robert E. Cooper, Jr. issued a written opinion Tuesday at the request of State Representative David A. Shepard of Nashville on behalf of local party leaders who wanted an opinion as to the "enforceability" of the Act as originally adopted in 1949 and amended in 1972 by the Tennessee General Assembly.

Cooper's opinion basically finds that the legislature can't constitutionally place burdensome restrictions on political parties in how they may organize.



In his opinion, the attorney general wrote that "the statute constitutionally burdens the associated rights of the Tennessee Democratic Party and its members in DeKalb County and therefore is unenforceable".

The DeKalb County Democratic Executive Committee was established under Private Acts of 1949, Chapter 771 and was subsequently amended in 1972. The Act calls for forty members to be elected from nineteen different precincts according to the population at those times. Several of the old precincts in the statute no longer exist and attempts by local party leaders to determine the old boundaries proved unsuccessful. It has been several years since anyone ran for the executive committee in DeKalb County on the primary election ballot, something the Private Act requires every two years, and the Act does not provide for reapportionment in redrawing the precincts.

Instead of electing members to the executive committee, as the Private Act calls for, the party sought an answer as to whether members could be appointed under the Tennessee Democratic Party Rules. Without a compelling state interest, Cooper's opinion basically finds that the party may determine for itself how to organize, a right protected by the U.S. Constitution.

In seeking the AG opinion on the enforceability of the Act, local party leaders posed the question as to whether the DeKalb County Democratic Party could cease following provisions of the seemingly antiquated private act, which remains the law for DeKalb County, and hold a reorganization convention pursuant to Tennessee Democratic Party rules, organizing every two years under the general statutory law for the purpose of conducting business

Local party leaders, through State Representative Shepard, requested an expeditious opinion from the Attorney General on October 21. The AG opinion was issued Tuesday, November 19

Not knowing when the AG opinion would come down and facing a November 22 deadline in calling a Primary for May 6, 2014, party leaders held a reorganization convention last Saturday, November 16 at the courthouse . The local party organized under Tennessee Democratic Party rules and selected members to the newly organized DeKalb County Democratic Executive Committee, naming one person from each of the seven districts in the county to serve. But in an effort to ensure that the party leadership was legally constituted in the event the AG were to uphold the Private Act in his opinion, another vote was taken to follow rules provided for under the act, calling on the last known duly elected members of the executive committee in attendance to caucus and appoint others at the convention to fill vacancies on the committee. After the appointments were made, the committee then voted to name the same seven members chosen earlier in the meeting under state party rules to become the official DeKalb County Democratic Executive Committee for the next two years. Those members include Judy Slager, Frank Buck, Faye Fuqua, David McDowell, James Hale, Flint Gilley, and Tommy Webb.

In his opinion, Attorney General Cooper wrote that "A political party's determination of the boundaries of its own association, and of the structure which best allows it to pursue its political goals, is protected by the United States Constitution". He cited a California case in which the U.S. Supreme Court found unconstitutional several California statutes restricting the organization and composition of political party committees. The high court ruled that the restrictions limited a political party's discretion in how to organize itself, conduct its affairs, and select its leaders and that because these were constitutionally protected associational rights, the state of California's restrictions could only be upheld if they served a compelling state interest. In that case, the court ruled California had not shown a compelling interest.

Under the DeKalb County Act, the State Attorney General opined that "the General Assembly directed that the DeKalb County Democratic Executive Committee have forty members elected in the Democratic Primary from a list of precincts, some of which apparently no longer exist. Members must be elected to two-year terms. The Act thus sets the size of a single county executive party committee, the method by which its members must be elected, and the terms they must serve. The Act clearly imposes restrictions limiting the Tennessee Democratic Party's discretion in how to organize itself, conduct its own affairs, and select its leaders in DeKalb County. This Office is unable to identify any compelling State interest "necessary to the integrity of the electoral process" that these restrictions serve. For this reason, the Act unconstitutionally burdens the associational rights of the Tennessee Democratic Party and its members in DeKalb County and is unenforceable," wrote AG Cooper.

The State Attorney General's opinion does not change a law already on the books, therefore legislation may be filed seeking to abolish the private act for DeKalb County once the General Assembly convenes early next year.

DCHS Softball standout Danielle Tyson Signs with Trevecca

November 21, 2013
Dwayne Page
DCHS Softball standout Danielle Tyson Signs with Trevecca

Surrounded by her parents, coaches, and fellow players, DCHS Softball standout Danielle Tyson signed Wednesday with Trevecca Nazarene University to play softball after she graduates here.

Trevecca is a private Christian liberal arts college located in Nashville.

"I chose Trevecca because I felt like it was where the Lord was calling me to go," said Tyson. " It is a great school. I loved the players when I went there to camp this past summer. I just really liked the atmosphere and the campus. Those are the major factors why I chose Trevecca," she said.

DCHS Tigerette Coach Danny Bond said Tyson has been an asset to his program and has helped put them in contention for district and regional championships in recent years. "Dani Tyson came in four years ago having moved in here. She tried out for the team and we found that she had a lot of talent. She has refined her skills through the years and has led us in many categories each and every year. Last year she led the team in about seven categories, including batting average and stolen bases. She has developed into a good overall player. Dani can do a lot of different things. She can play the outfield or infield, which she has done here. She pitches for us and has turned from being a dominant batter from the right side to the left side with the drag and slap. She has great speed and I think that will be one of her biggest assets in college along with her size and raw talent. She will do well at Trevecca. Dani has been a big plus for our program here at DCHS the last three years. We've been in the hunt for the district championship and regional tournaments each year that she has been here. I see great success for her and Trevecca with her being on the team," said Coach Bond.

Tyson's mother, Fran gives much of the credit for Dani's abilities to her high school coaches. "We appreciate very much the coaching staff at DCHS. I think that is such a crucial part of developing Danielle into the player she is now. They have worked hard with her and been patient with her and pushed her. I think that produced the ability for her to go on to the next level and play so we just appreciate all the coaches who were involved here," said Tyson.

Danielle was joined at the signing at DCHS Wednesday by her parents, her coaches, and fellow players.

(Pictured above: Standing left to right- Emily Robinson, Shauna Taylor, Lauren Colwell, Tyra Graham, Chelsey Brannon, Hannah Walker, Loren Cripps, Dani Meadows, and Katie Hall. Seated left to right: Melissa Ruch, Danny Bond, Jeffrey L. Tyson, Danielle Tyson, Fran Tyson, Linus Martin, and Danny Fish.)

DeKalb West School Construction Proceeding on Schedule

November 20, 2013
Dwayne Page
Block walls going up on new DWS addition
Tornado Safe Rooms Under Construction at DWS
Construction proceeding on schedule
Mark Willoughby with Construction Superintendent Joseph Muscarnero
DWS Principal Danny Parkerson (center) Mark Willoughby and Joseph Muscarnero

Construction of the new addition at DeKalb West School is progressing on schedule.

David Brown of Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris Architects, Inc. of Mount Juliet addressed the school board Tuesday night with an update on the project. "In the classroom addition which is our storm shelter the foundations are complete. The slab is complete. The block is going up. Most of it is to bearing height already. Most of the door frames are in place. The roofing is underway as well. You have about five more weeks of roofing the existing building. The next big thing that will happen on the classroom addition is that they will place the concrete planks that are the roof of that. That will happen in about three or four weeks. The school has turned over the music room, which will become a part of the new kitchen. We have a lot of electrical work to do to relocate your existing electrical. They are wanting to do that over the Christmas holiday. They will do some exploration and if that looks good they will make that transition then but if they run into something unexpected or unforeseen they will wait until after the semester is over," said Brown.

J Cumby Construction of Cookeville is the General Contractor for the project.

Joseph Muscarnero, Superintendent for J. Cumby Construction, spoke with WJLE Wednesday morning about the progress of the work. "The weather has been cooperating. So far conditions have been perfect for construction. Right now we are completing the structural walls to set the roof planks and to complete the exterior of the structure. Then we will proceed with the interior finishes, mechanical and electrical. The FEMA standards pretty much set what construction we do on the exterior of the building in order to provide the safe shelter for the children," said Muscarnero.

"You can see a lot has happened in a really short time," said Director of Schools Mark Willoughby during a visit to the construction site Wednesday morning. "It will be used in storm situations but we'll have a plan where the community can come and use this facility also in tornado weather. We'll have a system in place where we will be able to open this building up so that people in this area can come and have a safe place in the event of a tornado," he added.

The "Tornado Safe Rooms" are being funded mostly by FEMA grant funds but also with local dollars. The addition, being built in the front of the school, will have eight classrooms, restrooms, a new secure entrance, an office, clinic, conference room, and a guidance and teacher work area. A kitchen/cafeteria renovation in the existing building and a re-roofing of the school is also part of the overall project.

Construction is expected to be completed by late June or early July.

Smithville Police Department to Host Cops for Kids Christmas Party

November 20, 2013
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Police Department would like to announce that they will be hosting their 2nd Annual Cops for Kids Christmas Party. The event is held to provide relief around the Holidays for any family that may be going through a difficult time due to illness, loss of income or other circumstances. The goal of the event is to help lessen the stress on families and provide them with a fun evening of food, fellowship, gifts for their children and, of course, a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. This event is by invitation only, and anyone wishing to attend must fill out an application. Applications may be picked up at the Smithville Police Department or can be printed online at www.wjle.com.

Cops for Kids.pdf (66.17 KB)

Applications must be turned in no later than Friday, December 6, 2013. They may be returned to the Smithville Police Department or mailed to SPD, Attn: Cops for Kids, 104 East Main Street, Smithville, TN 37166.

Anyone who would like to donate gifts may do so by bringing a new, unwrapped gift to the Smithville Police Department, Cash Express at 126 East Bryant Street in Smithville or the Dollar General Stores in Smithville and Dowelltown or you may give your donation directly to a City police officer. Deadline for donations is December 10, 2013.

For more information regarding applications, donations or general information, please contact Beth Adcock at 615-597-8210 extension 1.

School Board Opposes State Plan to Tie Teacher Licenses to TVAAS Results

November 20, 2013
Dwayne Page

Educators in the audience applauded after the DeKalb County Board of Education Tuesday night approved a resolution opposing a state-proposed policy under which a teacher could lose his or her teaching license based on results of the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System (TVAAS)

Board member Charles Robinson, who raised the issue during the regular monthly meeting, said he thought the local school board ought to take a stand against this and adopt the resolution.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby said TVAAS was never intended to be used as a punishment to teachers. "The straw that broke the camel's back was when the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education said they wanted to take the license away from a teacher because of a test score. We would love to have every teacher in our system and the State of Tennessee to score five on Value Added (TVAAS) and a five on Achievement. That would be wonderful. This was set up years ago and Dr. William L. Sanders, who did the research, has told the state that this was never meant to be used the way it's being used. It was intended to be used to help educators improve on their teaching skills, on the strategies that they use, but it is now being used to take away a teacher's license if it goes forward. This has passed but they have postponed it for a year," he said.

Willoughby said it's also unfair to hold teachers to different evaluation standards with their licenses at stake. "Statistics say forty four percent of educators in Tennessee do not teach a tested subject so it's not going to be equal for everybody. If fifty six percent teach a tested subject and forty four percent don't then everybody is not on the same playing field. We also have students who are "more needy" than others and those students cannot make the Achievement and Growth the same as other students and to take a teacher's license away because of that is not acceptable to me nor to a lot of other people," said Willoughby.

The Resolution is as follows:

"Whereas, a professional license is a qualification-based threshold for a profession and is not a measure of effectiveness of said professional; and

Whereas, in the four state-approved evaluation models TVAAS only counts thirty- five percent of a teacher's effectiveness rating; and

Whereas, state law for teacher evaluation will be superseded by State Board of Education rules; and

Whereas, the state legislature has indicated that classroom observations should be the largest percentage of any teacher evaluation; and

Whereas, Tennessee has changed its curricular standards multiple times in a short period of time; and

Whereas, the predicting of student growth is more difficult to benchmark when standards are changed so often; and

Whereas, teacher TVAAS scores can vary with little clarification of cause and there is no validated improvement plan for teachers from the Tennessee Department of Education; and

Whereas, a teacher with a high TVAAS score can also have low proficiency ratings; and

Whereas, a teacher with a low TVAAS score can also have high proficiency ratings; and

Whereas, forty-four percent of DeKalb County teachers have individual TVAAS scores by which they are rated indicating that not all teachers are evaluated equally; and

Whereas, the National Research Council and the National Academy have indicated that value-added assessment is not stable enough for use in high-stakes evaluation and "20 years of TVAAS HAS TOLD US ALMOST NOTHING" by Andy Spears, October 7, 2012 (http://TNEDREPORT.COM/?PAGE? ID-HD-2); and

Whereas, there is a lack of research indicating Common Core standards are age appropriate at all grade levels; and

Whereas, teacher effectiveness is going to be determined from the results of tests that are yet to be created; and

Whereas, baseline tests in primary grades are formatted differently, lack time requirements, and are overly dependent on student test-taking skills;

Therefore, Be It Resolved that the DeKalb County Board of Education urges the General Assembly and the State Board of Education to oppose any proposal whereby a teaching license is issued, renewed, or denied based on results of the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS)".


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