Local News Articles

School Board Upholds Teacher Suspension For Neglect of Duty and Insubordination and Increases the Penalty

April 14, 2012
Dwayne Page
Bradley Hendrix (Older Photo)

A physical education teacher at Smithville Elementary School, who has already served a one day suspension without pay for "neglect of duty" and "insubordination", has been suspended for two additional days by the Board of Education.

During a special meeting Friday night, the board voted 5 to 0 to sustain the one day suspension of Bradley Hendrix which was imposed by Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and later upheld on appeal by Hearing Officer Robert G. Wheeler, Jr. But taking the position that the one day suspension was not enough, the board then voted 4 to 1 to suspend Hendrix for two more days without pay, making his total suspension three days.

Hendrix has twenty days to appeal the board's decision to the Chancery Court.

The board left the decision on when the suspension should become effective to Director of Schools Mark Willoughby, who later said he would place Hendrix on suspension Monday and Tuesday, April 16 & 17.

Director Willoughby suspended Hendrix for one day several weeks ago for "neglect of duty" and "insubordination" after Hendrix left early from a student field trip in Murfreesboro last December without getting the permission of his supervisor, Principal Dr. Bill Tanner. Hendrix appealed Willoughby's decision and Wheeler, the hearing officer took up the matter on February 27. A month later Wheeler issued a written report on his "Finding of Facts and Conclusions of Law" upholding Director Willoughby's suspension. Hendrix then filed an appeal with the Board of Education, which was the reason for Friday night's special meeting.

The trip for which Hendrix was suspended occurred on December 9, 2011 when the elementary school rewarded certain pre-k through second graders for their efforts in a fundraising project by arranging a field trip to Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Murfreesboro. There were approximately five or six employees/chaperones on the trip that consisted of a teacher, an assistant, and a bookkeeper from Smithville Elementary. Taking the students on this trip was considered a work day, not a personal day for those teachers who accompanied the students. Mr. Hendrix left early from Chuck E. Cheese to return to DeKalb County for a middle school basketball game in which his daughter was playing. He had not ridden the bus to Murfreesboro and was leaving early in his own car to attend the game. In his report, hearing officer Wheeler wrote that "he (Hendrix) did not specifically ask permission of the assistant principal nor Principal Dr. Tanner to go to Murfreesboro by himself or to leave early".

According to Wheeler's report, "When Dr. Tanner later spoke to Hendrix about leaving the field trip early, Hendrix apologized for doing so. It was Dr. Tanner's opinion that Hendrix put those other teachers in jeopardy that day by leaving without permission."

Dr. Tanner had testified that, in addition to the Murfreesboro field trip incident, there had been other previous occasions when Hendrix would leave school duties early without permission. In his report, Wheeler wrote that " He (Tanner) had testified that on several previous occasions, Hendrix would come to him and ask for permission to leave early for various reasons, some of which pertained to his ailing father, and some of which was due to Hendrix building or remodeling a house. It came to the point that Dr. Tanner instructed Hendrix to come and ask him directly if he needed to leave, that he was not simply to leave word with a secretary or a bookkeeper when he was going to leave during the workday. Dr. Tanner further explained that there had been a problem with people complaining about Hendrix being seen about town during the workday when Tanner did not know Hendrix was away from school."

Wheeler also wrote that an additional issue arose in that Hendrix made an oral request to be allowed to take one-half of a sick day for having left the field trip early, in case he was out of personal days. The problem with that request, according to Wheeler, "is that Hendrix was not sick that day. Thus, the evidence of "cutting corners" with rules and mandates is emphasized".

During Friday night's hearing, Knoxville attorney Chris McCarty, saying he represents Director Willoughby and the board's interests, asked the school board to sustain the suspension of Hendrix. "Two years before this happened (Murfreesboro Field Trip) Mr. Tanner went over with Mr. Hendrix orally about leaving the campus (saying) a teacher will not leave the campus unless it is with the principal's direct permission. This was not based on just one event. This was based on a repeated failure of Mr. Hendrix to follow these rules. That's why Mr. Tanner had the original meeting with him two years ago which Mr. Hendrix admits to. When Mr. Hendrix was brought in and asked about it (Murfreesboro Field Trip), it was also found out that he didn't even take half of a personal day. He asked if he could take a sick day. He cuts corners on trying to take a sick day when he admits that he wasn't sick and he cut the corners repeatedly by trying to leave campus and leaving campus without permission. This is not one incident. This is the straw that broke the camel's back. For that reason we are asking that the board sustain the decision of Mr. Willoughby," said McCarty.

Hendrix, who appeared before the school board without his attorney Friday night, admitted that he should have sought permission before leaving early from the field trip. However, Hendrix added that in his twelve years as a school teacher, he has never before been suspended and that he is the only teacher to ever have been suspended by Director Willoughby. Hendrix indicated that he has been treated differently than other teachers who have done similar things and that his troubles with Willoughby began after he was elected to the county commission.

Hendrix was among those county commissioners who helped defeat a proposed school budget offered by Willoughby and the school board last summer along with a proposal for the purchase of land for a new high school. But, according to Wheeler's report, Willoughby denied this being the real motive for his suspension of Hendrix. According to Wheeler, " Mr Willoughby testified that even though Mr. Hendrix is a county commissioner and had voted against the school's budget and for a land purchase that was proposed for a new high school, he, Mr. Willoughby, did not base his one-day suspension on Mr. Hendrix's position; but rather, on the facts that Mr. Hendrix ignored a prior directive, and that Mr. Willoughby felt that it was neglectful of Mr. Hendrix' duty to leave the activity early".

Before the vote Friday night, Seventh District School Board member Johnny Lattimore said he felt Director Willoughby's one day suspension was justified, but not enough. "Its my opinion that Mr. Hendrix still doesn't believe that what he done was a severe offense. The suspension was, in my opinion, to get his attention that you don't need to do things like this anymore. It wasn't, in my opinion, about the money. It was to get his attention that this can't go on. You can't continue like this. Its time to take an about face, turn around, and start following the rules. I don't think a one day suspension is sufficient in my opinion. I think he needs something else to get his attention that you will follow the rules. I have employees, Mr. Evins has employees, and if you don't follow the rules, you don't keep your job very long. I think its to his benefit, as well as the school system, that his attention be gotten right now. My opinion is that I would recommend a greater suspension than one day," said Lattimore.

First District member John David Foutch agreed with Lattimore and called for three day suspension of Hendrix. "I don't think the suspension is stiff enough. You (Hendrix) have been cautioned time and again and you've ignored those cautions. If I had an employee who had done me that way, I would have warned him and warned him and then I would have suspended him. The next time I would have fired him. You are to directly report to that gentleman (Dr. Tanner) and you did not report to him. You should have reported to that gentleman. You knew that and he had cautioned you about that time and again. That was your responsibility to that gentleman and your responsibility to our children and to your children. The only thing that keeps me from recommending that this board fire you is because your child is over there (elementary school) and I believe you, as a parent, love your child enough that you would not purposely have put your child in any kind of danger. I don't believe that's a question at all. But I do believe that you have abused the system and it's just as this man (McCarty) said. This is a straw that broke the camel's back. You don't stand any more leniency than our students do in our school system. Whenever they misbehave a three day suspension is what they get a lot of the time. I would recommend that you get that three day suspension because I don't believe that you stand above our students. I believe you should be setting an example for those students. Sir, if you can't do that, then you don't need to be part of this school system. I think you need to take this as a very serious warning and a serious matter. You have a great responsibility upon you where our children are concerned. They are the most precious that we have and you need to take that seriously. Your leaving the school system and leaving those children there is not a very good thing at all and I think its something that really has to be looked at very closely. I hope this never has to come up before this board again," said Foutch.

Hendrix, in response to Foutch, insisted that he does take his teaching job seriously and that he is concerned about the children. "I've been teaching here for twelve years. I got my first write up when I became a county commissioner five days later," said Hendrix.

Board Chairman Charles Robinson interjected: "We're not going to go that way with that rebuttal"

Hendrix: "I take teaching very seriously. I take taking care of the kids very seriously. There's not one write up that I signed about me leaving school. He (Dr. Tanner) talked to me one time about leaving school. I made a mistake by not telling my principal that I was leaving to go see my daughter play basketball. The other times that I left school was for a family crisis. All I ever wanted to get from this school system is the same chances that the other teachers around me are getting. You can ask any parent. If their child does not feel safe in my gym or in my presence, I'll quit today. But I guarantee you that you can ask any parent that I've had. I've had Mr. (Dub) Evins' kids. Have you (Evins) ever felt that they were not safe in my presence?"

Dub Evins: "My daughter was intimidated by you if you want to know the answer to that"

Hendrix: "I didn't ask about intimidation, I said safe"

Evins: "She considers that safe"

Hendrix:"She knew nothing was going to happen to her I guarantee you that. What about your son?"

Evins:"I haven't talked much about it to my son. He don't mention those things. I'm talking about my daughter and I told you how she felt."

Hendrix: "I asked you did she feel safe?"

Evins: "What kind of safe? She felt intimidated to be in your gym."

Hendrix: "Some kids do"

Evins: "She was scared of you. She was afraid of you"

Hendrix:"A lot of kids are afraid"

Evins: "If she's afraid of you then she didn't feel safe"

Hendrix: "I was afraid of a lot of teachers when I was growing up"

During Friday night's hearing, the school board by law had the option to sustain the decision of Willoughby and the hearing officer Wheeler, "send the record back if additional evidence is necessary, revise the penalty, or reverse the decision. Before any findings and decision are sustained or punishment inflicted, a majority of the membership of the board shall concur in sustaining the charges and decision".

Board members voting for upholding the one-day suspension of Hendrix were First District member John David Foutch, Second District member and Board Chairman Charles Robinson, Fifth District Member W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, Sixth District member Doug Stephens, and Seventh District member Johnny Lattimore.

Board members Kenny Rhody and Billy Miller were unable to attend Friday night's meeting.

All members voted to increase the suspension by an additional two days to a total of three days, except for Stephens, who voted "no".

The following is the "Finding of Facts and Conclusions of Law" by Robert G. Wheeler, Jr, Hearing Officer in the case of the DeKalb County School System versus Bradley Hendrix

"This cause came on to be heard on the 27th of February, 2012 at the central office of the DeKalb County Board of Education. After the transcript of the hearing was presented to the Hearing Officer, and after a brief illness, these Finding of Fact and Conclusions of Law are submitted."

"Bradley Hendrix is an elementary P.E. Teacher at Smithville Elementary School and has been for 12 years."

"On December 9, 2011, the school rewarded certain pre-k through second graders for their efforts in a fundraising project by arranging a field trip to Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Murfreesboro. There were approximately 5 or 6 employee/chaperones on a trip that consisted of a teacher, an assistant, and a bookkeeper from Smithville Elementary School. Taking the students on this trip was considered a work day, not a personal day for those teachers who accompanied the students."

"Mr. Hendrix left early from Chuck E. Cheese to return to DeKalb County for a middle school basketball game in which his daughter was playing. He had not ridden the bus to Murfreesboro and was leaving early in his own car to attend the game. He did not specifically ask permission of Ms. (Karen) Knowles, the assistant Principal at Smithville Elementary, nor of Dr. Bill Tanner, the Principal at Smithville Elementary, to go to Murfreesboro by himself or to leave early. Ms. Knowles states unequivocally that Mr. Hendrix did not ask her permission to leave the field trip early. Ms. Knowles testified that the only person who would have been able to give him permission to leave the field trip early would have been Dr. Tanner, the school's Principal. Ms. Knowles did find out from the school's bookkeeper prior to the trip that Mr. Hendrix would be leaving early."

"Dr. Billy Tanner has been the Principal at Smithville Elementary School for seven years. He testified that on several previous occasions Mr. Hendrix would come to him and ask permission to leave early for various reasons, some of which pertained to his ailing father, and some of which was due to Mr. Hendrix building or remodeling a house. It came to the point that Dr. Tanner instructed Mr. Hendrix to come and ask him directly if he needed to leave; that he was not to simply leave word with a secretary or a bookkeeper when he was going to leave during the workday. Dr. Tanner reduced that directive to writing. That written directive was effective from at least the school year 2010-2011. Dr. Tanner further explained that there had been a problem with people complaining about Mr. Hendrix being seen about town during the workday when Dr. Tanner did not know that he was away from school.. Dr. Tanner is of the opinion that there was no misunderstanding with Mr. Hendrix about having to ask for Dr. Tanner's permission to leave school or an assignment early. Dr. Tanner testified that nothing was said to him by Mr. Hendrix about leaving the Chuck E. Cheese field trip early, and Dr. Tanner did not give him permission to do so. Mr. Hendrix did not fill out the appropriate paper work to take a half-day personal leave prior to the field trip in question, and he did not take half of a personal day until Dr. Tanner asked him to do so. Dr. Tanner came to learn that Mr. Hendrix told the bookkeeper that he would be leaving the field trip early. Dr. Tanner, however, did not know of Mr. Hendix' plan to leave early until after the event."

"When Dr. Tanner did speak to Mr. Hendrix about leaving the field trip early, Mr. Hendrix apologized for doing so. Ms. Knowles did not discuss with Dr. Tanner the information that she had that Mr. Hendrix would be driving separately to the field trip. Had he known Mr. Hendrix was going to leave early and that he was not going to be riding the bus with the rest of the chaperones, Dr. Tanner would have sent someone else. It was Dr. Tanner's opinion that Mr. Hendrix put those other teachers in jeopardy that day by leaving without permission. If I had known that he was going to be leaving, I would have sent someone else to cover for him. But I did not know that, I did not know that he wasn't going to ride the bus either."

"Mark Willoughby is the director of schools for DeKalb County. He has been in education for thirty three years. He is in his sixth year as the Director of Schools for DeKalb County. He has known Bradley Hendrix for that period of time. Mr. Willoughby, pursuant to the Tennessee Code, is the person who suspended Mr. Hendrix for one day due to leaving the field trip early, thinking it was an example of neglect of duty and insubordination. In making the decision to suspend Mr. Hendrix for one day, Mr. Willoughby accepted the recommendation of the building Principal, Dr. Tanner. Mr. Willloughby did consider what Dr. Tanner had told him in the past that resulted in Dr Tanner's written directive that Mr. Hendrix was not to leave the school without direct permission from the Principal. Mr. Willoughby testified that in a meeting with Mr. Hendrix and his counsel, Mr. Hendrix said he made a mistake and that he should have asked Dr. Tanner for permission to leave the field trip early. Mr. Willoughby was also at the middle school basketball game that Mr. Hendrix attended. He did contact Dr. Tanner because he knew of the prior admonition to Mr. Hendrix to seek permission of the school's principal before leaving his school duties. Mr. Willoughby testified that even though Mr. Hendrix is a county commissioner and had voted against the school's budget and for a land purchase that was proposed for the new high school, he, Mr. Willoughby, did not base his one-day suspension on Mr. Hendrix's position; but rather, on the facts that Mr. Hendrix ignored a prior directive, and that Mr. Willoughby felt it was neglectful of Mr. Hendrix' duty to leave the activity early."

"Mr. Hendrix testified that he has taught in the DeKalb County School System for twelve years. He has a physical education and wellness degree, a Master's degree in administration, and an EDS in administration. Mr. Hendrix testified that he started to mention to Dr. Tanner that he would leave early on the aforementioned field trip but that as Dr. Tanner passed through the area where Mr. Hendrix was speaking to the bookkeeper, Dr. Tanner told him that he would have to talk to him later. Mr. Hendrix admitted that he never returned to discuss or ask Dr. Tanner's permission to leave the field trip early. He stayed at the field trip until approximately 11:35 a.m., and after attending the basketball game at DeKalb Middle School he dropped by his house on the way back to Smithville Elementary. He returned to the school at approximately 1:20 to 1:25 p.m. He was there when the bus returned and helped unload the students.

The following response was submitted to the following questions:

Q. And since you didn't-and since you have admitted, you know, that you were wrong that you didn't go back to talk to him- but after he talked to you, did you voluntarily take half a personal day.

A. Yes, I did. I had one question for him when I took that personal day is that could I take a sick day instead? Because I didn't know if I had enough personal days. I thought I might be out of personal days.

Mr. Hendrix admitted that Dr. Tanner did go over the contents of Exhibit C (concerning leaving school early) with him personally. That session preceded the field trip to Murfreesboro. He admitted that he never asked Dr. Tanner's nor Ms. Knowles' permission to leave the field trip early. When asked about the request to take a sick day, the question was-

Q. So why would you think that you could geta sick day for time when you are not sick?

A. Well it just covers me. I mean....
Q. But it's not technically correct, is it?
A. Technically, no.

Mr. Hendrix responded in the negative when asked if anybody that was on duty covered for him on the field trip.

Conclusions of law

The Director of Schools, Mark Willoughby, suspended Mr. Hendrix pursuant to the two of the five causes for suspension or dismissal of a tenured teacher in Tennessee as they appear in T.C.A. 49-5-501. The two causes at issue here are neglect of duty and insubordination. They are defined in the statutes as follows:

(8). "Neglect of Duty" means gross or repeated failure to perform duties and responsibilities that reasonably can be expected of one in such capacity or continued unexcused or unnecessary absence from duty

(7) "Insubordination" may consist of:

(A) Refusal or continued failure to obey the school laws of this state, to comply with the rules and regulations of the board or to carry out specific assignments made by the board, the director of schools or the principal, each acting within its own jurisdiction, when the rules, regulations and assignments are reasonable and not discriminatory;

(B) Failure to participate in an in-service training program as set up by the local board of education and approved by the state board of education;

(C). Treason, or any effort to sabotage or overthrow the government of the United States; or

(D). Refusal by the teacher to disclose to the board whether or not the teacher is, or has been, a member of the communist or any other party that advocates the overthrow of the government;

While it is obvious that sub-paragraphs (B), (C), and (D) immediately above are inapplicable to this case, this Hearing Officer is of the opinion that the directive from the principal, Dr. Tanner, to Mr. Hendrix regarding leaving school only with Dr. Tanner's direct permission was specific, reasonable, and non- discriminatory. It is also the opinion of the hearing officer that leaving word with office personnel that he would be leaving early from the field trip did not meet the requirements of the directive that had been presented to Mr. Hendrix and that he acknowledged by his signature. The directive was developed because of previous issues that arose as a result of Mr. Hendrix being away from school. Failure to meet the directive yet again does constitute neglect of duty and insubordination as defined above.

An additional issue arose in this matter that has not gone unnoticed- Mr. Hendrix's oral request to be allowed to take one-half of a sick day for having left the field trip early, in case he was out of personal days. The problem with that request is that Mr. Hendrix was not sick that day. Thus, the evidence of "cutting corners" with rules and mandates is emphasized.

This Hearing Officer is of the opinion that under all the facts and circumstances of this case the one-day suspension is reasonable and justified.

It is therefore, ORDERED that the decision of the Director of Schools to suspend Mr. Hendrix for one day is sustained.

T.C.A. 49-5-512 states, in pertinent part as follows:

(c) (1) If the affected teacher desires to appeal from a decision rendered in whole or in part in favor of the school system, the teacher shall first exhaust the administrative remedy of appealing the decision to the board of education within ten working days of the hearing officer's delivery of the written findings of fact, conclusions, and decision to the affected employee.

(2) Upon written notice of appeal, the director of schools shall prepare a copy of the proceedings, transcript, documentary and other evidence presented and transmit the copy to the board within twenty working days of receipt of notice of appeal

(3). The board shall hear the appeal on the record and no new evidence shall be introduced. The affected employee may appear in person or by counsel and argue why the decision should be modified or reversed. The board may sustain the decision, send the record back if additional evidence is necessary, revise the penalty or reverse the decision. Before any findings and decision are sustained or punishment inflicted, a majority of the membership of the board shall concur in sustaining the charges and decision. The board shall render its decision on the appeal within ten working days after the conclusion of the hearing.

Parents Urged to Make Sure Children's Immunizations Are Up To Date

April 13, 2012
Dwayne Page

Next year's kindergarten students and those who will be entering the seventh grade must have their immunizations up to date or their parents risk those children not being enrolled in school this fall.

Dee Anna Reynolds, School Health Coordinator, and Director of Schools Mark Willoughby addressed the issue during Thursday night's school board meeting. "Our nurses checked records for students in the sixth grade who will be going into the seventh grade next year. Parents of students who are currently not compliant in the sixth grade should have received a letter prior to spring break giving them the opportunity to get those immunizations current and up to date. Our nurses will check again before school is out for summer break. We'll send home those letters a second time if we need to and then on the first day, registration day Coordinated School Health and our school nurses will be there checking those records one final time," said Reynolds

Director of Schools Willoughby said incoming kindergarten students must also meet state immunization requirements. "Basically the state of Tennessee says that in the seventh grade year, you don't start school unless your immunizations are up to date. For the past two years, we have actually been letting students come (to school) and to work with them on trying to get those immunizations up to date in a time frame. This year we're doing more homework up front in notifying those parents. They've already gotten one notification before spring break and they're getting another notification before they go home (for the summer). We're going to follow the state guidelines and for seventh graders and kindergarten students, if they come to school to register and they do not have their immunizations up to date, we're going to ask them at that time to go get their immunizations," said Willoughby.

Reynolds added "more of our issues were with seventh grade and that's why I addressed it more. Just to let parents know, there are two shots that we're checking for, because all other shots should be current anyway up until sixth grade, and that is the Tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster ("Tdap") and then there's a second dose of Varivax which is chicken pox. The only way they would be allowed back in school without that second dose of Varivax is if they do have a doctor's documentation of having had the chicken pox. So that's the two we're looking for and checking for in our sixth graders who will be seventh graders next year," said Reynolds.

Titans Caravan Coming to Smithville Elementary School

April 13, 2012
Dwayne Page
Titans Caravan Coming to Smithville Elementary School May 8

The Tennessee Titans Caravan is coming to Smithville Elementary School on Tuesday morning, May 8.

For 13 years the Titans, in partnership with Titans Radio, have made stops across Tennessee and into Kentucky and Alabama to communicate with fans at public stops and schools. The Caravan is scheduled for April 30-May 11, and it will include 50 stops (26 public, 24 schools).

SES Principal Dr. Bill Tanner made the announcement during Thursday night's school board meeting. "On May 8, we've got the Tennessee Titans Caravan coming to visit and put on an educational program. They'll be there at 8:30 a.m. and I'd like to invite everybody to come and be a part of that. They have a distinct schedule that they have sent me, minute by minute of what they're going to be doing. It'll last about forty five minutes to an hour. Some of the players, their mascots, and maybe some of the cheerleaders will come," said Tanner

Meanwhile, Dr. Tanner mentioned other activities taking place at the school. "We've got a lot of stuff going on at Smithville Elementary. We've got spelling bees going on. One fun day toward the end of the year. We've got field trips planned. Next week we've got kindergarten testing on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and then on Thursday we've got an open house for the parents of the children who will be in kindergarten. Next year they (parents) can come in from 3:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. to visit with the teachers, me, and some of the other people who work at Smithville Elementary. Friday of next week we have pre-registration for the children who will be in kindergarten next year. April 26, 27, & 30 and maybe May 1 we're going to be testing our second grade. The second grade is not required to take the TCAP test but we want to see where our children stand so we take a Stanford Achievement Test and they can use that information when they go to Northside Elementary School," he said.

Final Approval Expected for FEMA Grant to Fund Tornado Safe Rooms at DeKalb West School

April 13, 2012
Dwayne Page
Mark Willoughby

The school system is one step closer to final approval of a FEMA grant to fund a classroom addition at DeKalb West School, including eight tornado "safe rooms"

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby announced Thursday night during the school board meeting that the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency has approved grant funds of more than $1.5 million for the project, pending final approval by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Willoughby said he learned of TEMA's approval in a letter to him from David Brown of Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris Architects of Mount Juliet. "The application has been approved for more than $1.5 million dollars. They are working on review comments from TEMA and will send the revised application to them tomorrow (Friday). The approval letter from TEMA should come right after we submit the application. The application then goes to FEMA in Atlanta for final approval. It will take several months for the money to become available. After final approval one of the next steps is that we're going to have a contract to hire Kaatz, Binkley who has done this work and Lashlee-Rich and once we get the hard numbers we will have to vote to do this (project) and see if we can include the kitchen and cafeteria (renovation/expansion) at the west school (using local funds). We're going to need to do that (cafeteria/kitchen work) sooner or later but doing that at this time would be much cheaper than leaving it and then coming back (to do the cafeteria/kitchen work later). You'd have all the equipment there and could do everything at one time a lot cheaper than you could rebid and everything," said Willoughby.

The design for a proposed 15,000 square foot addition to DeKalb West School was unveiled in February during a school board workshop meeting. A $1.8 million FEMA grant application was filed on behalf of the school system, which is to fund most of the project with the rest, about $600,000 to be paid for locally.

The new construction is designed to be built in the front of the existing school.

David Brown of Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris Architects of Mount Juliet updated Director of Schools Willloughby and members of the Board of Education on the project during that February workshop. Brown said the plan includes eight "safe rooms"to relieve overcrowding and to shelter students, school staff, and the general public in times of severe weather.

Twenty three million dollars is available to eligible applicants under the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant program. During a special called meeting in December, the Board of Education voted to pay KBJM Architects, Inc. a total of $7,500 to prepare a design for the project and to pay Lashlee-Rich, Inc. of Humbolt $7,500 to prepare cost estimates and for the grant writing.

Under this FEMA grant program, the federal government pays 75% of the cost, if approved. The state pays 12.5% leaving the local share at 12.5%. Any further costs related to construction not covered by the FEMA grant, including furnishing classrooms, would be funded locally. "We are proposing the addition in the front of the school," said Brown. We have eight classrooms, restrooms, a new secure entrance, an office, clinic, conference room, guidance and teacher work area all in that corridor. A janitors closet would be in the room where the generator will go. That is the addition we are proposing to meet these federal standards," said Brown.

According to Brown, the proposed new addition would not only provide more classroom space and better shelter in the event of storms, but it would make the school more secure. "We're designing this for (to withstand) a 250 mile per hour wind with debris and projectiles going that fast. So all of that construction is going to be beefed up to meet those standards. Obviously constructing a building that way is much more expensive than just your run of the mill construction. That's why the grant is there. There's no way anybody could afford to do this just on their own initiative. The grant is crucial to this," said Brown.

Once approved for the grant, Brown said the school system has up to three years to spend the funds.

Although a new larger DWS cafeteria and kitchen does not qualify under the FEMA grant as school officials had hoped, the architects have included in the design an expansion of the existing dining area. "I'm showing about a 30% increase in the cafeteria space. This will increase the core of this campus up to about 600 students," said Brown.

DeKalb West School, which opened in 1974, was built for 320 students. The current enrollment is 445 plus faculty and staff. To relieve overcrowding, a portable with two classrooms is currently located on the campus. In times of storms, officials say the general public would be welcome to take shelter with students and school staff in the safe rooms, which could accommodate up to one thousand individuals.

School Board Honors Teachers and Support Staff

April 12, 2012
Dwayne Page

The Board of Education Thursday night adopted resolutions of appreciation paying tribute to teachers and support staff.

The resolution on teachers states that "Whereas, teachers spend countless hours of their time and energy preparing materials, grading papers and projects, studying about issues in education, consulting with administration, parents, students, and fellow educators; and

Whereas, teachers nurture students and encourage them to be excited about learning so they can enhance their lives and become good citizens; and

Whereas, teachers create a safe and inviting place for the students to grow and learn while participating in daily activities; and

Whereas, great teachers transfer their passion for learning onto their students; and

Whereas, effective teachers give positive and constructive advice, praise accomplishments, and adjust their teaching styles as needed to meet the individual needs of students.

Now, therefore, be it resolved that the DeKalb County Board of Education recognizes the numerous contributions that our teachers make each day by establishing May 8, 2012 as Teacher Appreciation Day in all DeKalb County Schools; and

Be it further resolved that the board expresses appreciation and thanks to teachers in our school system and encourages each school and community to recognize them on this day for their contribution to the success of our school system and its students."

The resolution on Support Staff states that " Whereas, the administrative and instructional support staff in the DeKalb County School System are dependable and responsible members of our system, and should feel valued and appreciated. Our teachers and administrators depend upon the support staff members to prepare learning materials, operate the office, and carry out business functions of the school. They are responsible for tutoring, counseling, advising, and guiding students throughout the school year; and

Whereas, the administrative and instructional support staff are an outstanding group of dedicated school employees who are valuable to the success of our school system; and

Whereas, our support staff is made up of individuals who have shown a commitment to our schools and the students they serve; and

Whereas, our administrative and instructional support staff bring into our schools a pleasant personality, willingness to help others, a calm demeanor and common sense; and

Now, therefore be it resolved that the DeKalb County Board of Education hereby establishes April 19, 2012 as Administrative and Instructional Support Staff Appreciation Day; and

Be it further resolved that the board expresses appreciation and thanks to all the administrative and instructional support staff in our school system and encourages each school to recognize and join in the celebration of these individuals on that day for the role they place in the success of our school system."

In other business, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby gave his monthly update on personnel to the board.

Rebecca Baugh and Judy Redmon, both teachers at Northside Elementary School have retired.

Those granted a leave of absence are Tanya Howard, teacher at Smithville Elementary School; Kenneth Wayne Taylor, custodian at Smithville Elementary School; and Billy Golden, maintenance worker.

Those employed since the last meeting are Fred Searcy, part-time grounds keeper; Jason Myers, substitute bus driver; Ashby Cripps, substitute school nurse; Marcie Taylor, Robbie Joan Frazier, Rena Willoughby, Vickey Vickers, Glenda Hall, Holley Reffue, and Christina Dawson as substitute teachers.

The board gave permission for the Junior and Senior Classes to have the prom off campus at the Embassy Convention Center in Murfreesboro on April 27. The prom begins at 8:00 p.m. and ends at 11:30 p.m.

Permission was granted for the DCHS Boys Basketball Team to stay overnight at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga campus for summer basketball camp. The camp will be from June 11-13. Basketball players, managers, and coaches will be attending.

The DeKalb County Lady Tiger Basketball Team was granted permission to go on an overnight trip to Maryville College to play nine games at a summer camp for high school teams. The camp dates are June 11 & 12.

The DCHS Tigers and Lady Tigers Basketball Teams were granted permission to host a team camp June 6-8. The camp will be held at DCHS and DeKalb Middle School.

Members of the Health Occupations Students of America Club were given permission to attend the HOSA State Conference in Nashville April 16-18 at the Opryland Hotel. Eight students will be competing.

The DCHS Boys Soccer Team was given permission to add Justin Nokes as a volunteer assistant coach.

Permission was given for the DCHS Basketball teams to compete in a Holiday Basketball Tournament at Windemere Prep in Orlando, Florida December 27-29.

Man Dies After Falling off a Bluff on his Farm

April 12, 2012
Dwayne Page

A 60 year old man died Thursday afternoon after he fell some twenty feet off a bluff at his farm on the Johnson Town Road/Ferrell Road near the Cannon County line.

Dead is Myron Dale Tidwell

According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Tidwell and a woman were marking boundary lines on the farm, when Tidwell slipped off a steep bluff, falling some twenty feet. He landed in a creek bed, suffering a head injury.

Central dispatch received the call at 12:58 p.m.

Members of the Sheriff's Departments, EMS, and Rescue Squads from both DeKalb and Cannon County responded along with first responders and DeKalb Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Coordinator Charlie Parker. An Air Evac ambulance landed at the Short Mountain Elementary School and staff aboard the helicopter came to the scene to assist. EMS and rescue workers placed Tidwell in a stokes basket and used ropes to help them climb back up the steep terrain with Tidwell to the top of the hill.

Tidwell was taken by ground ambulance to DeKalb Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A resident of Chattanooga, Tidwell reportedly had only recently purchased the farm.

Reps. Pody and Weaver Vote To Repeal Death Tax, Cut Food Tax

April 12, 2012
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver
State Representative Mark Pody

The pocketbooks of all Tennesseans are getting help from the Legislature with the passage of two major tax cuts.

The House of Representatives today overwhelmingly approved the repeal of the death tax and the reduction of the food tax on two separate votes. Both bills have long been a major priority for many Members of the House Republican Caucus who believe the bills will help taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned money and place Tennessee on better economic footing.

“This is a landmark moment for Tennesseans,” stated House Speaker Beth Harwell (R—Nashville). “We believe, when government revenues are higher, that money doesn’t belong to the State but to taxpayers and should be returned to them immediately. Our Republican Majority was placed here to balance the budget, cut wasteful spending, and lower taxes. Today we carried through on that promise.”

House Bill 3760, the death tax repeal, phases out the death tax over the next four years, to a complete repeal by 2016. House Bill 3761, the food tax cut, lowers the sales tax rate on food from the current 5.5% to 5.25%, the steepest reduction in years.

Representative Linda Elam (R—Mount Juliet) stated, “I am proud to help pass these tax cuts. The Governor asked to work with us on lowering the food tax and this is the product of that hard work. The repeal of the death tax will help our job creators and the food tax cut will benefit every Tennessean.”

“I know how much the death tax hurts our family farms,” added Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R—Lancaster). “The repeal of the death tax will benefit those of us who are committed to protecting the unique farming heritage of Tennessee. Additionally, the food tax cut is a move consistent with my principles to reduce wasteful government spending and return that money to the people.”

“Today is an exciting day. We looked at the numbers, rolled our sleeves up, and worked with Governor Haslam to come up with two bills that will really benefit all Tennesseans. The repeal of the death tax is especially noteworthy because it will help convince the job creators in our State to remain here and help grow our economy. This doesn’t benefit one group; it benefits any Tennessean who is concerned about job growth,” concluded Representative Mark Pody (R—Lebanon).

The bills are now sent to the Senate for action which is expected to come in the next week.

DeKalb Countians Urged to Support the Make-A-Wish Foundation

April 12, 2012
Dwayne Page
Beth Torres

DeKalb Countians are urged to join in helping make dreams come true for children with life threatening illnesses.

Since 1980, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has given hope, strength and joy to children with life-threatening medical conditions through its wish-granting work. The Foundation's mission reflects the life-changing impact that a Make-A-Wish experience has on children, families, referral sources, donors, sponsors, and entire communities.

Beth Torres, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish for Middle Tennessee, told WJLE Wednesday that the foundation is looking to serve families here in DeKalb County. "The Make-A--Wish Foundation offers wishes to children who are facing life threatening illness between the ages of two and a half to eighteen. We know there are kids here (in DeKalb County) who are facing a life threatening illness and we want to make sure they get their wish. In order to make that happen we need to know the kids are here and then find volunteers who are willing to help make that happen," said Torres.

"We are looking at kids who are facing a life threatening illness. It will, for most of them, be temporary. They'll go through chemo, radiation, and some extended treatment. Most of our children survive. But we want every child who has to face this illness and their families to know that we're here for them," said Torres.

According to Torres, the Make-A- Wish Foundation began thirty two years ago. "In 1980 there was a child in Arizona named Chris, and his lifelong dream was to be a police officer. When he got sick a group of local community people got together and said they were going to make this happen for him. They got him out, got him a little uniform, put him in a police car, and he got to spend the day being a police officer. What we found was that when he was back in the hospital getting his treatment, it was that experience that gave him hope, strength, and joy. We're looking for the child's heartfelt wish and as long as its something we can make happen, we will make it happen. Some of our kids want to go on shopping sprees, so we make that happen. Going to Disney is a huge Make-A-Wish project. Kids love to go to Disney. We've got kids who want to travel or meet celebrities or attend events. We make all of those happen. We want them (parents) to know we're here for their kids and we want to know if there are kids out here with a life threatening illness that we can help, " said Torres.

"We'll take referrals for any child ages two and a half to eighteen. We don't care what their race, religion, or income is. We're here for all the kids," she said.

"All of our support comes from Middle Tennessee," said Torres. We work in thirty eight counties. The money comes from those counties and stays in those counties. We look for corporations who want to sponsor a wish as well as individuals and foundations. It doesn't matter how big or small a donation is, it makes a huge difference in a child's life," she said.

The easiest way to find out more about Make-A Wish is to visit the foundation's website www.middletennessee.wish.org. "All of the referral papers are on there along with all of our contact information at the office. You're certainly welcome to contact us and ask any questions. DeKalb County is part of the responsibility of Middle Tennessee's Chapter, which is the chapter that I work for and we serve all of the thirty eight counties in the middle of the state. We're definitely looking for local contacts, people who are passionate about working with kids. So that's what we're here to do. Hospital (referrals) are probably the easiest for us. We have social workers and doctors who will refer children but we also work through private organizations and individual families who refer their children," said Torres.

DCHS Graduation Set for May 18

April 10, 2012
Dwayne Page
Adam James
Heather Vidal
Victoria Tatrow

A total of 177 students make up the Class of 2012 at DeKalb County High School and the seniors will receive their diplomas during graduation exercises Friday, May 18th at 7:00 p.m. on the high school football field.


The program will feature remarks by the Valedictorian, Adam James and Class President Victoria Tatrow.

The prestigious White Rose and Citizenship Awards will also be presented by DCHS Principal Kathy Hendrix to three outstanding members of the class. Diplomas will be presented to each graduate by Director of Schools Mark Willoughby. The DCHS Chorus will perform.

Meanwhile the DCHS Senior Awards Day program will be Thursday, May 17 at 8:30 a.m. at the gym. Scholarship awards will be presented.

During the graduation exercises, the honor students will be recognized including the 2012 Valedictorian Adam James and the Salutatorian Heather Vidal.

Students among the top twenty five senior academic ranking from numbers one to twenty five are as follows:
Adam James, Heather Vidal, Whitney England, Laura Martinez, Briana Vidal, Hailey Perry, Heather Hughes, Jessica Garrison, Jonathan Edwards, Erin Colwell, Jessica Ball, Alex Meadows, Victoria Tatrow, Riley Young, Lela Ambrose, Katie Merriman, Laura Pafford, Abigail Hendrix, Allison Little, Mason Merriman, Talisa Cantrell, Elizabeth Sanders, Brooke Hutchings, Sydney Robinson, and Joseph Angaran

Students earning "Highest Distinction" with a grade point average of 3.8 to 4.0 are:
Adam James, Valedictorian 4.0; Heather Vidal, Salutatorian 4.0, Jessica D. Ball 4.0, Erin L. Colwell 4.0, Jonathan D. Edwards 4.0, Whitney N. England 4.0, Jessica B. Garrison 4.0, Heather M. Hughes 4.0, Laura E. Martinez 4.0, Hailey D. Perry 4.0, Victoria D. Tatrow 4.0, Briana Vidal 4.0, Christopher R. Young 4.0, Lela E. Ambrose, Joseph L. Angaran, Talisa M. Cantrell, Taylor M. Cantrell, Morgan S. Garrett, Abigail Hendrix, Nicholaus T. Henry, Morgan B. Hutchings, Allison Little, Alexandria Meadows, Katie L. Merriman, Mason B. Merriman, Jacob A. Odom, Laura S. Pafford, Sydney Robinson, Elizabeth Sanders, Krystal T. White, and Austin T. Willmore

Students earning "High Distinction" with a grade point average of 3.6 to 3.79 include Chelsea L. Cantrell, Megan L. Cantrell, Yesenia L Cintron, Alicia D. Crook, Jamie Florence, James D. Freeney, Tiffini Hendrixson, Johnna G. Hensley, Sarah L. Jones, David S. Phillips, Kidman D. Puckett, Lindsay B. Snyder, Erik Z. Thompson, and Alyssa A. Young.

Those earning "Distinction" with a grade point average of 3.2 to 3.59 include Christian J. Atnip, Michael W. Caldwell, Tiffany D. Cantrell, Tiffany A. Celestino, Emily B Dawson, Jasmine M. Dimas, Katy J. England, John B. Foster, Quinton R. Harbaugh, Allyson R. Judkins, Danielle L. Knowles, Mary F. Knowles, Monserrat Leon, Xing (Tammy) Q. Li, Renny A. Mason, Preston S. Melton, Lorrie M. Merriman, Kalli A. Mitchell, Samanvi R. Munagala, Tevin M. Owens, Bradley C. Pack, Stephanie C. Rackley, Johnna R. Roller, Kayla D. Self, Laura A. Sullivan, and Ashlee M. Whitehead

Members of the DCHS Class of 2012 are as follows:

Alexander J. Ader, William A. Ader, Lela Ambrose, Joseph Angaran, Jordan Arnold, Christian Atnip, Andrew Atnip, Justin Avera

Terry Bain, Jessica Ball, Thomas Beltz, Macie Bouldin, Micheal Braswell, Dustin Brown, Jennifer Butler,

Michael Caldwell, Chelsea Cantrell, Megan Cantrell, Talisa Cantrell, Taylor Cantrell, Tiffany Cantrell, Austin Carlson, Juan Carrillo, Tiffany Celestino, Yesenia Cintron, Erin Colwell, Jakob Craven, Alex Cripps, Jackson Cripps, Alicia Crook, Chelsea Crutcher, Adam Cubbins,

Tanner Davis, Emily Dawson, Jasmine Dimas, Rebecca Duffield,

Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Elliott, Katy England, Whitney England, Gage Estes,

Jeremie Ferdelman, Zacharias Ferrell, Jamie Florence, Brady Foster, Dylan Freeney, Caleb Furnival,

Benjamin Gard, Sloane Garrett, Jessica Garrison, Jordan Gash, Zachary Goldstein, Katelyn Goodwin, Clayton Gott, Joseph Gray, Hannah Green, Lucas Griffin, Jonathan Griffin,

Steven Haas, Kara Hackett, Quintin Harbaugh, Todd Hasty, John Hayes, Abigail Hendrix, Tiffini Hendrixson, Nicholaus Henry, Johnna Hensley, Taylor Hensley, Jessie Herman, Savannah Hershman, Heather Hughes, Hunter Humphrey, Brooke Hutchings,

Adam James, Jessie James, Kaitlin Jennings, Matthew Johnson, Garrett Johnson, Ian Johnson, Kenneth Johnson, Sarah Jones, Heather Jones, Stephanie Jones, Allyson Judkins

Alexander Keith, Clay Kilgore, Danielle Knowles, Mary Knowles, Tabitha Knowles,

Jeremy Landsem, Steven Lawrence, Amanda Laxton, Monserrat Leon, Tammy Li, Allison Little, Aurora Little, Sarah Lomas, Erika Lucio,

Zachery Malone, Laura Martinez, Renny Mason, Wesley Mason, Andrew McCoy, Cheyenne McDaniel, Alexandria Meadows, Preston Melton, Corey Merriman, Katie Merriman, Lorrie Merriman, Mason Merriman, Kalli Mitchell, Terry Mollinet, Justin Moore, Samanvi Munagala, Alex Murphy,

Raul Narvaez, Teddy Nelson, Dustin Netherton,

Jacob Odom, Tevin Owens,

Bradley Pack, Christopher Pack, Laura Pafford, Tiffany Pease, Ashley Pedigo, Hailey Perry, David Perry, Trey Petty, Sebastian Phillips, Westly Poss, Christopher Powell, Kayla Presley, Kidman Puckett,

Stephanie Rackley, Brenda Ramirez, Dylan Reagan, Deshon Reeder, Blake Reffue, Cora Beth Rhody, Louis Richards, Collene Riley, Martin Riley, Gabrielle Ritchie, Yazmin Rivera, Sydney Robinson, Johnna Roller, Makenzie Roller,

Elizabeth Sanders, Kayla Self, Justin Skinner, Brooke Snyder, William Sowell, Corey Spare, Daniel Stanley, Mark Stanley, Russell Storey, Laura Sullivan,

Billy Tate, Victoria Tatrow, Ashley Taylor, Zachary Taylor, Destiny Thomas, Zachary Thompson, Billy Tiner,

Nicholas Underhill, Jonathan Upton,

Gabriella Vanatta, Briana Vidal, Heather Vidal,

Brian Waggoner, Tia Ward, Krystal White, Ashlee Whitehead, Jacob Williams, Breanna Williams, Austin Willmore,

Alyssa Young and Riley Young.

DCHS Conducts Annual Lock Down Exercise

April 10, 2012
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County High School conducted its annual lock down exercise Tuesday morning.

Principal Kathy Hendrix said the school is required to have the drill at least once a year to practice what to do in the event of an intruder in the building. Local and area law enforcement officials are also usually called upon during the drill to bring their drug dogs to do a pass through around the lockers and in the parking lot. "We are required to do a lock down so usually when we decide to do the lock down we have the drug dogs come out. Just like fire drills and tornado drills, we have to practice a lock down for if there were an intruder in the building. During the drill, all students are to remain in classrooms. The doors to the classrooms are locked and no one is allowed out of the classrooms unless we come for them with a pass code. That's when we usually have the drug dogs to come out and go through the parking lot and around the locker area (inside the school)," said Hendrix.

"We do this every year," she said. " This is just a way of securing the campus. We do it as a deterrent to students bringing drugs to school. That is the reason we do it. We did have them go through the parking lot. One of our staff members went with each of the people (officers) going through. I went through the locker area with them. I was with them all during that time. The students were locked in the classrooms. They (students) were not around the dogs. It was secure," said Hendrix.

Members of the Smithville Police Department along with White County, Cannon County, and Putnam County law enforcement agencies were at the school with their K-9 units (drug dogs) for this unannounced visit, but according to Principal Hendrix, no illegal substances were found . "There was nothing unusual. Everything turned out great and we got it finished in one block. So I thought everything went well," said Principal Hendrix.


Follow Us


News Feed

WJLE Radio

2606 McMinnville Hwy
Smithville, TN 37166

Phone: 615 597-4265
FAX: 615 597-6025
Email: wjle@dtccom.net

Local News

6:30 A.M.
7:30 A.M.
8:55 A.M.
12:00 NOON
4:00 P.M.
9:45 P.M.

DTC Communications

Fiddlers Jamboree