Local News Articles

Farm Service Agency County Committee Elections Begin

November 5, 2009

Donny Green, County Executive Director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency in DeKalb County announced that the 2009 FSA county committee elections start today as ballots are being mailed to eligible voters. Dec. 7, 2009, is the deadline for eligible voters to return ballots to their local FSA offices.

"The FSA county committee system is unique among government agencies, because it allows producers to make important decisions concerning the local administration of federal farm programs," said Green. "I urge all eligible farmers and ranchers, especially minorities and women, to get involved and make a real difference in their communities by voting in this year's elections."

Committee members apply their knowledge and judgment to make decisions on disaster and conservation payments, establishment of allotments and yields, producer appeals, employing FSA county executive directors and other local issues. FSA committees operate within official regulations designed to carry out federal laws.

To be an eligible voter, farmers and ranchers must participate or cooperate in FSA programs. A person who is not of legal voting age, but supervises and conducts the farming operations of an entire farm, can also vote. Agricultural producers in each county submitted candidate names during the nomination period held last summer.

Eligible voters who do not receive ballots in the coming week can obtain ballots at their local USDA Service Center. Dec. 7, 2009, is the last day for voters to submit ballots in person to local USDA Service Centers. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than Dec. 7th. Newly elected committee members and alternates take office Jan. 1, 2010.

Close to 8,000 FSA county committee members meet monthly at more than 2,300 FSA offices nationwide. Each committee consists of three to five members who serve three-year terms. Approximately one-third of county committee seats are up for election annually.

For more information about FSA county committees and FSA programs, visit: http://www.fsa.usda.gov.

Holiday shoppers should remember tips when buying gift cards

November 5, 2009
Dwayne Page

Gift cards are handy presents – especially for people who seem to have at least one of everything. During the winter shopping season, a gift card can be ideal.

But for all the conveniences of gift cards, they often come with fine print that can make them less than perfect. Here’s how consumers can keep that gift card policies from dumping snow on their gift-giving this winter:

1.Check expiration dates and fees. In the state of Tennessee, expiration dates, fees and other terms must be clearly disclosed at the time of purchase. The expiration date and fee must be legibly printed on the gift card.

2. Ask about restrictions. Some card issuers deduct a monthly fee from the card or apply inactivity fees, if a card has not been used for a period of time. These fees will reduce the value of the card. Some gift cards do not allow cash refunds for a remaining balance on a card. You will have to either forfeit the balance or buy additional items.

3.Know what it will cost. Major shopping mall operators charge fees for gift cards. Gift cards issued by banks and credit card companies often expire and tend to add fees. Fees – including activation fees, transaction fees, maintenance fees and inactivity fees – can lessen a card’s value.

4.Ask what to do if the card is stolen. Always keep a receipt. Since gift cards are not usually registered to an individual purchaser, they can be easily stolen. Some stores urge customers to access their website and register cards in case they’re stolen.

5.Check on purchase exemptions. Ask if the card may be used at both a store’s physical location and the store’s website. Also ask if the card may be used at other locations, not just the specific store where the card was purchased.

6.Get as much information as possible for the card’s recipient. Ask for a toll-free phone number, in case there are problems with the gift card. Ask if a website that provides gift card details is available.

Consumer Affairs (1-800-342-8385 or www.tn.gov/consumer/) is part of the Department of Commerce and Insurance, which works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee. www.tn.gov/commerce.

Tennessee Senators Vote to Extend Federal Unemployment Benefits

November 5, 2009
Dwayne Page

U.S. Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander Wednesday voted to extend federal unemployment benefits. The Senate passed the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009, by a vote of 98 to 0.

"I supported this legislation – which is paid for and doesn't add one penny to the federal deficit – to help Tennessee families and small businesses struggling to make ends meet in a tough economy. I've visited 60 counties and held more than 30 town hall meetings throughout our state this year, and I know communities large and small are hurting due to high unemployment. I hope this bill will provide those out of work with some additional reassurance as they try to get back on their feet. I know the ‘net loss carry back' provisions in the bill will mean the difference between survival and not for a number of Tennessee businesses," Corker said.

Alexander adds "This legislation provides up to 20 additional weeks of unemployment benefits for Tennesseans at a time when Tennessee's unemployment rate has been at its highest levels in more than a quarter century. This bill also extends and expands the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers, which will continue to provide a much-needed boost to the housing market and the economy."

The bill will extend federal jobless benefits by 14 weeks for unemployed workers in all 50 states, and in states where the unemployment rate is above 8.5 percent, including Tennessee, unemployed workers would be eligible for an additional six weeks of federal benefits. The bill also permits businesses to write off losses suffered during the recession against profits made over the past five years (known as net loss carry back) and receive a tax refund.

State Issues Report Card on DeKalb County School System

November 4, 2009
Dwayne Page
Mark Willoughby

The 2009 Report Card on the DeKalb County School System from the Tennessee Department of Education reveals that three of the five schools are in "Good Standing" for No Child Left Behind AYP (Average Yearly Progress) status and have met the necessary benchmarks, but two schools, Northside Elementary and Smithville Elementary are listed as "Target Schools"

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby says the reason Northside Elementary is a "Target School" is because "one of the sub-groups did not make the gains we would have hoped they would have made. We're trying to develop strategies to help those children. Smithville Elementary is also a "Target School" but that's simply because they are a feeder school to Northside Elementary. A "Target School" is one that has not met the benchmarks in certain areas. Northside did not make the benchmark in the sub-group of special education with Reading and Language Arts. There is a certain time limit to turn that around. From "Target" you can go to "School Improvement 1" then to "School Improvement 2". But after so long, (if you don't show improvement), the state can come in and take over. But we're going to be doing a lot of different things to make sure that never happens."

Willoughby says overall he is pleased with the gains the school system has made and expressed his appreciation to all school staff and students. "Thanks to all of our employees for working hard. Thanks to our students for doing an outstanding job. Again, the areas we need to improve in, we're working on those, and in areas where we have scored really well, we're still going to work to make those even better.

This year’s report card demonstrates fundamental changes to the calculations of Value Added and Achievement scores. The method of calculating scores and the scale used to determine letter grades have been revised to allow for a transition to the new standards and assessments required by the Tennessee Diploma Project.

“Because we have been on an aggressive path of improvement with the Tennessee Diploma Project, it was necessary to utilize this transition year to change our calculation methods and more accurately demonstrate student progress in an effort to pursue higher standards,” Education Commissioner Timothy Webb said.

Two major changes have been implemented for calculation of scores on the Report Card. First, the baseline year for comparing student achievement has been reset using 2009 test scores. Second, a new grade scale will be used. The scale used to determine all grades A through F has been dramatically revised, meaning scores considered to be an “A” proficient in years past may now be a “B” or “C”.

“Part of student success means setting the stage,” said Dr. Connie Smith, Assistant Commissioner of Accountability, Teaching and Learning. “With the Tennessee Diploma Project and recalibrating the Report Card, we’re setting the stage for our students to be more competitive and better prepared for career or college after high school.”

In 2007, the Tennessee Department of Education launched the Tennessee Diploma Project. The more rigorous curriculum and graduation requirements the TDP call for become effective this year. For more information on the TDP visit: http://www.tn.gov/tdp

To access Report Card data, please visit http://tn.gov/education/reportcard/index.shtml.

The following is a summary of the DeKalb County School System Report Card for 2009 from the Tennessee Department of Education:

K-8 Non-Academic Indicators:
The school system average attendance for K-8 for 2009 was 95.4%, higher than 94.8% in 2008 and above the state goal of 93%

The promotion rate for 2009 was 99.7%, better than 98.8% in 2008 and above the state goal of 97%

9-12th grade Non-Academic Indicators:
The attendance rate for grades 9-12 was 94.8% in 2009, higher than 93.3% in 2008 and better than the state's attendance goal of 93%

The graduation rate for DeKalb County High School is 91.3% in 2009, higher than 83.4% in 2008, and above the state graduation goal of 90%

The 2009 event dropout rate is 1%, down from 2.8% in 2008 and significantly below the state goal of 5%.

2009 Academic Achievement Grades for grades 3-8 are as follows:
Social Studies-B

2009 Value Added Academic Growth Grades for 3-8 are as follows:
Social Studies-C

For 2009, DeKalb County earned an "A" in 5th and 8th grade writing, the same as 2008 with scores this year of 4.3 in 5th grade writing and 4.4 in 8th grade writing. The eleventh grade writing score improved from a "B" in 2008 (3.9 score) to an "A" (4.0 score) in 2009.

DeKalb County High School improved on three year average ACT scores from 2008 to 2009 but fell slightly behind the state three year average.

The ACT results in grades 9-12 for 2009 (individual year) show that the composite score was 20.8, up from 19.8 last year; 21.2 in English, up from 20.3 in 2008, 19.1 in Math, up from 18.2 last year, 21.2 in Reading, up from 20.0; and 21.0 in Science/Reasoning, up from 20.0 last year. The 2009 state three year averages are 20.6 composite, 20.7 in English, 19.8 in Math, 21.0 in Reading, and 20.4 in Science/Reasoning.

The state set a predicted score of the high school Gateway and End of Course test which compare the school progress with the progress of students across the state.

Math Algebra I: NDD (Not detectably different)
Science Biology: Above Average
English II: NDD
English I: NDD
US History: NDD

The following are the results from each elementary school included in the report card:

DeKalb West:
2009 Grades K-8 Non-Academic Indicators
Attendance Rate- 95.4%, up from 93.7% in 2008. (State Goal- 93%)
Promotion Rate- 100%, up from 98.6% in 2008 (State Goal 97%)

Academic Achievement Grades:
DeKalb West: Math- A (Score 58), State (Score 50)- B
Reading/Language-A (Score 55), State (Score 50)-B
Social Studies-A (Score 57), State (Score 50)-B
Science-A (Score 57), State (Score 50)-B

Academic Growth (Value Added)
DeKalb West:
Social Studies-A

Writing 5th Grade-A
Writing 8th Grade-A

Northside Elementary:
2009 Grades K-8 Non-Academic Indicators
Attendance Rate- 96%, up from 95.7% in 2008. (State Goal- 93%)
Promotion Rate- 100%, same as 2008 (State Goal 97%)

Academic Achievement Grades:
Northside Elementary:
Math- B (Score 50), State (Score 50)- B
Reading/Language-C (Score 48), State (Score 50)-B
Social Studies-B (Score 52), State (Score 50)-B
Science-B (Score 53), State (Score 50)-B

Academic Growth (Value Added)
Northside Elementary:
Social Studies-A
Writing 5th Grade-A

DeKalb Middle:
2009 Grades K-8 Non-Academic Indicators
Attendance Rate- 95.5%, up from 94.8% in 2008. (State Goal- 93%)
Promotion Rate- 100%, same as 2008 (State Goal 97%)

Academic Achievement Grades:
DeKalb Middle:
Math- B (Score 50), State (Score 50)- B
Reading/Language-B (Score 50), State (Score 50)-B
Social Studies-C (Score 49), State (Score 50)-B
Science-A (Score 56), State (Score 50)-B

Academic Growth (Value Added)
DeKalb Middle:
Social Studies-F
Writing 8th Grade-A

Smithville Elementary:
Grades K-8 Non Academic Indicators
Attendance Rate 94.8%, down from 95.2% (State Goal-93%)
Promotion Rate 98.8%, up from 97.4% (State Goal-97%)

DeKalb County Foster Children's Fund Seeks Support

November 4, 2009
Dwayne Page

With the holiday season fast approaching, the Department of Children's Services is planning a visit from Santa for DeKalb County children in foster care.

Friends of DeKalb County Foster Children urge you to remember that not all children this Christmas will take part in a celebration with their own families. Children who have lived in an abusive or neglectful home will be sharing Christmas with their foster family, and for many, this means with strangers. Often these children wonder if Santa Clause has their new address, or whether or not he will bring them any gifts this year.

While the department is able to provide for everyday needs of children in state custody, there are not enough funds available to purchase Christmas gifts and for other special occasions such as birthdays and graduations. For this reason, foster care Christmas depends on the generosity of the general public.

Annette Greek, Treasurer for the DeKalb County Foster Children's Fund, says your support is needed for the 40 children from DeKalb County now in foster care. If you or your organization would be willing to help these children by providing a monetary donation, please make checks payable to "DeKalb County Foster Children Fund" and mail to: DeKalb County Foster Children Fund, Attention: Annette Greek, 400 West Public Square, Smithville, Tennessee 37166.

Greek says she will be glad to accept your cash donation at F.Z. Webb & Sons Gifts.

Greek says since the ages of these foster children vary, a cash donation is preferable to gifts.

DCHS Principal Kathy Hendrix Explains Tennessee Diploma Project

November 3, 2009
Dwayne Page

The Tennessee Department of Education has implemented the Tennessee Diploma Project (TDP), a broad overhaul of standards and curriculum designed to challenge students and better prepare them for college and the workforce.

Students, who began high school this fall, will begin a new path with increased graduation requirements, a focus on the skills needed for college and the workforce in an ever expanding global economy, and new assessments.

Gateway Exams in high school will be replaced by end-of-course exams that truly test the mastery of expectations leading to college- and work-readiness. The overall assessment system includes the ACT's College and Readiness Test, Explore (given in the 8th grade) and the PLAN College Readiness Test given in the 10th grade.

DCHS Principal Kathy Hendrix says the changes will initially affect DeKalb County ninth grade students. "The state has made several changes with the incoming Freshman Class. Various business and community leaders all over the state were asked by state leaders, what skills do graduates need? These are some of the things they mentioned: stronger math and science skills. Students need to be able to work critically toward a focused solution. They need to be able to apply their knowledge. They need to have stronger communication skills, both verbal and written. They need to be able to work in teams to solve real problems. They need to be able to think, apply, and use what they know and they need to have a strong work ethic. That means they need to be there regularly and they need to be there on time. So our tests and our graduation requirements had to be adjusted to meet these needs. So starting with this year's ninth grade students, there's going to be one diploma, one path. We won't have a dual or technical path anymore. Our tenth through twelfth grade students are still on the old policy. They still have the same requirements. They have to pass the Algebra, the Biology, and English X Gateway courses. They have to pass those tests. The state has also changed the standards to meet these needs that they have determined that we have and they have developed new assessments to go along with them. In the future, there's going to be ten End of Course Tests. Right now we have five End of Course Tests. That's Biology, Algebra I, English X, English IX, and U.S. History."

"Our Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) will still be determined by Algebra, Biology, and English X but the ninth grade students don't have to pass those tests. All five of those tests will count 20% of their final grade, just like they do now for the next two, and maybe three years. Thereafter, those End of Course Tests are going to count for 25% of their grade. So they're going to have to know the material in order to pass the class because they have to pass the class to graduate. All juniors right now have to take the ACT. They will be taking that in the spring. The scores they make on their ACT are going to determine some of the classes they will be placed in."

"Concerning some of the changes, right now, the sophomores through seniors are still under this old policy. They need three credits in Math but it's going to four. Starting with the ninth graders and everyone below, they'll need Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry and then they'll need a higher math. That's where that ACT score comes into effect. They're going to have three choices there. One of them is called a bridge course. Any student who makes below a 19 on their Math score on the ACT will be placed in the bridge course. For those who have a 19 or above on the Math part of the ACT, they'll have two choices. If they excel in math and they know they want to go into something Math related after they leave high school, we have the STEM courses for them, which is Advanced Math, Calculus, Pre-Calculus, those courses. We will also have a Finite Math Course for the middle group or those who are good in math but who are not wanting the advanced math courses, like Calculus and Pre-Calculus."

"This spring, they're supposed to pilot an Algebra II End of Course Test and then add the English III, Geometry, Chemistry, and a Physics End of Course, if the money allows. I know in the past we were supposed to add Algebra II and Geometry but we never did get that but right now they're saying that Algebra II is going to be piloted this spring."

"They have added a half credit of Physical Science, which can be counted if you're in marching band, for example. There's a few things that can count for that. They have also added a half a credit for Personal Finance, which we have already incorporated into our schedule. We've already got a lot of students who are taking that."

"All students are supposed to have two Foreign Language credits and a Fine Arts credit. That is the only thing that can be waived for students not going to a university. They have to use that to expand on their elective focus. Every student must have an elective focus. It could be in Math and Science, a career in technical, or education. There's a lot of different areas where they can have a focus."

Meanwhile, Hendrix says many students at DCHS are taking advantage of before and after school programs to catch up on work. "We're well into our second nine week session of school. During the fall break we had a week of intercession and over seventy students took advantage of this. They got caught up on things they were behind in. I was really proud of the number of students who turned out for that. We still have some students who are behind in some areas and they have some needs. They need to take advantage of the before and after school programs that we have available to them because the end of the semester will be here before we know it and we want everyone to pass the classes they are enrolled in. They need to stay caught up with their classes so they can graduate on time. Any parent can call the Guidance Office and sign up their son or daughter for help."

Wisconsin Fugitive from Justice Arrested by Sheriff's Department

November 2, 2009
Dwayne Page
Richard John Ceska

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department arrested a Wisconsin man last week on a fugitive from justice charge.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 41 year old Richard John Ceska of First Street Apartments, Waterford Wisconsin was arrested on Monday, October 26th for being a fugitive from justice. Ceska was wanted for substantial battery, domestic abuse, and disorderly conduct out of Wisconsin. Ceska is being housed without bond. He appeared in General Sessions Court Thursday where he signed his waiver of extradition back to Wisconsin.

48 year old Kenneth Clayton Odom of Hamilton Drive, Murfreesboro was arrested Wednesday, October 28th for possession of drug paraphernalia after deputies stopped to assist a stranded motorist where Odom was present. The officers found a hypodermic needle in the back pocket of Odom's jeans. Bond for Odom was set at $1,000 and he will appear in court on November 19th.

On Friday, October 30th deputies spotted 25 year old Andrew Dillon of Hurricane Ridge Road, Smithville running a stop sign at the intersection of Highway 70 East and Smith Road. After stopping Dillon, the officer checked Dillon's driver's license and discovered it was suspended for a failure to satisfy a citation in Putnam County. Dillon was charged with driving on a suspended license and his bond was set $1,000. His court date was set for November 4th.

36 year old Matthew D. Stevenson of Old Road Lebanon was stopped for a traffic violation at the intersection of Highway 70 West and Toad Road on Sunday, November 1st. Deputies smelled an odor of alcohol on Stevenson's person. He submitted to field sobriety tasks which he failed. A check of Stevenson's license revealed that they were suspended. Officers also found a loaded .45 caliber semi-automatic gun between the front seats of Stevenson's car. Stevenson was charged with a third offense of driving under the influence, an eighth offense of driving on a revoked driver's license, and possession of a loaded handgun while intoxicated. Bond for Stevenson was set at $17,500 and he will appear in court on November 19th.

Meanwhile, Smithville Police have charged Wayne Vanderpool, a Third District Constable, with disorderly conduct. According to Chief Richard Jennings, Officer Travis Bryant responded to a two vehicle traffic accident on Highway 70 on Saturday, October 31st involving Brenda Vanderpool and Jamie Lynn Gandzer.

During the investigation of the accident, Officer Bryant secured a handgun from the Vanderpool vehicle in order to check the serial number.

Chief Jennings says according to Officer Bryant, Wayne Vanderpool walked up and demanded that the officer give back the weapon.

Officer Bryant reportedly instructed Vanderpool to get out of the lane of traffic or he would risk being arrested. Police allege that Vanderpool replied, "go ahead and take me to jail."

Chief Jennings says Officer Bryant refused to return the weapon because he feared for his own personal safety. Vanderpool was not arrested at the scene but police later obtained a warrant charging him with disorderly conduct. His bond is $1,000.

Police are remaining silent about some details of the incident pending further investigation.

County Firefighters Summoned to Smoke Filled Home

November 2, 2009
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department was called to the home of Darlene Jones at 141 Carter Drive around 12:40 a.m. Monday morning.

County Fire Chief Donny Green says Jones had left a pot of beans cooking on the stove when she went to bed and it overheated. Jones was awakened later by a smoke alarm. Finding her home filled with smoke, she called 911.

Members of the Main Station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, Short Mountain Highway Station, and Blue Springs Station responded along with DeKalb EMS.

Chief Green says firefighters removed the pot of beans from the stove and ventilated the house. There was no actual fire damage and no one was injured.

The house is a rent home, belonging to Betty Sandlin.

Man Airlifted after Saturday night Truck Wreck

November 2, 2009
Dwayne Page

A Smithville man was airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga Saturday night after a two vehicle accident on New Home Road.

Trooper Darrell Knowles of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Greg Mayo was traveling north on New Home Road when the Ford pickup truck he was driving went over the center line and sideswiped a southbound Ford truck, driven by Douglas Barnes.

According to Trooper Knowles, Mayo told him he looked down for an instant making a call on his cell phone when the accident occurred.

Barnes' truck went off the road into a ditch and then struck a fence. Barnes apparently swerved to try to avoid the collision but was unsuccessful.

Mayo was taken by DeKalb EMS to the parking lot of DeKalb Middle School where he was airlifted by a helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger Hospital.

Barnes and a passenger of his truck were not injured.

Members of the Main Station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department along with the Sheriff's Department were also on the scene.

The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department reportedly set up the landing zone for the helicopter.

DCHS Tigers at Greenbrier for First Round of TSSAA Football Playoffs

October 31, 2009
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Tigers will meet the Greenbrier Bobcats in the first round of the TSSAA football play-offs Friday night, November 6th.

The Tigers, a fifth seed, will have to travel as they take on the 4th seeded Bobcats at Greenbrier. Both teams finished 6-4 during the regular season. The winner of the game will advance in the state play-offs to meet either Maplewood or Scott County on November 13th.

Maplewood, who finished the regular season at 6-4, is a number one seed. Scott County, who has a 4-6 record, is an eighth seed.

Meanwhile, Livingston Academy, a number three seed at 7-3, will host Stone Memorial, a sixth seed at 3-7. The winner of that game will advance to meet the winner of Whites Creek, a number seven seed at 7-3, and the second seeded White House Blue Devils who had a regular season record of 6-4


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