Local News Articles

Board of Education to Conduct Annual Performance Evaluation of Director

January 15, 2016
Dwayne Page
Director of Schools Patrick Cripps

Six months after taking over as Director of Schools, Patrick Cripps is expected to be evaluated on his performance by the Board of Education before the end of the month.

A date and time for the work session to conduct an evaluation has not yet been set.

According to Cripps' contract with the Board, the evaluation of the Director shall occur no later than January 31 each calendar year during the term of the contract. The board shall review with the Director his performance, progress toward established goals, and the working relationships between the Director and Board, the staff, students, and community at large; and any other matters relative to the employment of the Director.

In accordance with state law, the school board is required to develop and implement an evaluation plan to be used annually for the director of schools. Last year, board members used a four page evaluation form to rate former Director Mark Willoughby (1-5) in each of 60 areas from eight categories including on his relationship with the Board, the Community, Staff and Personnel, Educational Leadership, Business and Finance, Personal Qualities, Strategic Planning Skills, and Tennessee Specific questions. It's not known yet if the board will use the same form to evaluate Cripps.

Under last year's evaluation plan a rating of "1" meant the Director's performance was "Consistently Below Expectations". A "5" rating signified that the director "Met All Expectations". A rating with an asterisk (*) symbol meant he "Exceeded Expectations" (and a score of 6 was used on the overall report).

Other ratings were:
"2"-Meets Few Expectations
"3"-Meets Some Expectations
"4"-Meets Most Expectations

Last year each board member scored the Director in all areas from the categories on the form. The scores were then averaged to arrive at the grand total score.

School board members last year held one-on-one evaluation meetings with the Director.

Following the meetings, each board member scored the Director using the evaluation form. The forms were then sent to officials of the Tennessee School Boards Association where the scores were tabulated and averaged.

Board member Jerry Wayne Johnson said Thursday night during the monthly school board meeting that he intended to evaluate Director Cripps on "things we (school board) wanted him to do when he became director".

By a unanimous vote of 7-0, the Board of Education met in special session Thursday night, July 16 and named Cripps the next Director of Schools. Cripps accepted the board's offer of a two year employment contract and took over as Director immediately but the final agreement wasn't ready to sign until August 17.

Under Board policy, the School Board is also to conduct a self evaluation each year. The Board did not do that last year. "We didn't do a board self evaluation last year because five members of the board hadn't been on here long enough to be evaluated or to evaluate themselves" said Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III.

Those five members of the board referred to by Evins were elected in August 2014 and took office in September that year.

Teachers and Other School System Employees to Get State Funded Bonus

January 15, 2016
Dwayne Page
Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III

DeKalb County teachers and non-certified staff are getting a pay raise in the form of a 2% bonus thanks to an allocation of $276,000 in state funding to the school system.

The Board of Education Thursday night adopted a budget amendment to fund the bonuses, which will amount to $700 for every teacher or certified staff member and $250 per person for non-certified personnel. No local tax dollars are being used to fund it. The vote was 6-1 in favor. Board member Jerry Wayne Johnson voted no.

Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III said under this plan everyone in the school system would get more money "Every penny that came in from the state has gone into this (bonus plan). There is no extra money to go into any other category. We're not going to do that. Instead of a straight pay raise, we're giving a bonus. If we were to put this in the form of a pay raise and next year our ADM (Average Daily Student Membership) were to go down and the state were to decide that we should get less money we would have to take a pay cut," said Evins.

Governor Bill Haslam promised almost $100 million for teacher pay in his annual State of the State address last January, and the legislature approved additional spending of just under $98 million in April as part of the state’s 2015-16 budget. The additional funding was billed as giving teachers a 4 percent teacher pay raise, although its impact would vary from district to district.

The State Board of Education last summer approved a new salary schedule intended to raise the minimum annual pay for Tennessee teachers by just under $1,000, but did not translate into an across-the-board 4 percent pay raise for all Tennessee teachers.

Officials with the board and the state Department of Education emphasized that the additional $98 million in state funds allocated for teacher salaries in this year's state budget was to provide districts with additional funding for teacher compensation. However, local districts have discretion over exactly how that money is spent on teacher compensation.

In other business, Director of Schools Patrick Cripps announced in his monthly personnel report that Mary Mathis has been hired as a custodian at DeKalb West School and Heather Shehane, a teacher at Smithville Elementary School, has been granted a leave of absence as requested.

Election Commission Issues Four More Petitions

January 14, 2016
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Election Commission has issued petitions to four more persons this week for offices on the August ballot.

The latest to pick up qualifying papers are Jason Ray-Liberty Alderman for a four year position; Barry Mabe-School Board 5th District; Josh Miller-Smithville Alderman; and J.D. Bratten- Liberty Alderman for one year position.

Five petitions were issued last Friday including the following:

Kate Miller—School Board 4th District; W.J. (Dub) Evins—School Board 5th District; Doug Stephens—School Board 6th district; Shawn Jacobs—Smithville Aldermen; and Eddie Dwayne Blair—Liberty Alderman for a four year position.

Persons may qualify for School Board in the 4th, 5th, and 6th district, three aldermen positions in Smithville, a mayor and two aldermen in Dowelltown, four aldermen seats in Liberty and for State Representative in the 40th and 46th districts.

The qualifying deadline is NOON April 7.

The Biggest Loser Community Challenge

January 14, 2016

An exciting, national wellness initiative is launching across the country on February 15th and our community is invited to join the MOVEment! Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital’s annual Weight Loss Challenge is partnering with the Smithville-DeKalb Chamber of Commerce to bring you the Biggest Loser Community Challenge. NBC and The Biggest Loser are launching The Biggest Loser Community Challenge for 2016. Teams of four are invited to join this eight-week, online health & wellness community challenge. The challenge is for people of all fitness levels and is designed to get the community moving, eating better and having fun!

You can sign up for the Biggest Loser Challenge online through January 31st, or sign-up at the event kick-off on Tuesday, January 26th at the DeKalb Community Complex Building anytime from 5pm to 7pm. Weigh-ins are optional, but will give you additional opportunities for cash and prizes. Although the Biggest Loser Challenge focuses on healthy changes, good eating habits, and getting fit, NBC is awarding 10,000 prizes at random for participating in the challenge, not for losing weight, while Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital will be providing a local cash prize for the DeKalb County team that loses the highest weight loss percentage overall. So, whether you just want to get healthier or lose those extra pounds, there are great prize opportunities for everyone.

“We are proud to partner with NBC, the Biggest Loser, and our local Chamber of Commerce for this healthy community-wide event,” said Shan Burklow – Director of Marketing for Saint Thomas DeKalb and Stones River Hospitals, “After three years of hosting the Weight Loss Challenge, we are looking forward to continuing our mission of a healthier DeKalb as we work with our local Chamber of Commerce to add additional prizes to recognize the team that loses the most weight together. This is a fun and healthy way to get active and fit for 2016, and we encourage anyone to start a team and join the challenge. Be sure to weigh-in at the DeKalb County Complex anytime January 26 through January 31st to be eligible for the weight loss portion of this event.”

“Businesses are encouraged to register teams of employees to represent their company in the challenge, along with anyone in the community that would like to start a team,” said Suzanne Williams – Executive Director of the Smithville-DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, “For only $100 for a team of four ($25 per person), this exciting wellness opportunity is an affordable and fun way to kick start the new year for all of us looking to get fit and have a healthier year. Anyone with questions is welcome to call the Chamber anytime. We are here to help.”

Past contestants of The Biggest Loser will guide teams through eight weekly challenges. Challengers will also receive weekly motivation and nutrition tips from trainer, Dolvett Quince. Participants will earn points for each minute of activity they engage in, as well as additional points for completing weekly tasks and logging additional challenge activities designed to improve nutrition and overall wellness. Each participant will have access to their own private wellness account and mobile app, where they will journal challenge activities, access weekly health guidance and keep their eye on friends and competitors on live leaderboards.

Prize drawings will be made each week, with over 10,000 prizes to be won across the country!
More information, online registration and key dates can be found online at www.BiggestLoserCommunity.com

Healthy People. Healthy Companies. Healthy Communities!

Farm Service Agency County Committee Elections Held

January 13, 2016
Donny Green
Steve Officer

Donny Green, County Executive Director of the DeKalb/Cannon County Farm Service Agency, says the DeKalb/Cannon FSA County Committee met in regular session on Tuesday, December 8, 2015 to canvass and tabulate the ballots received in the 2015 Local Administrative Area (LAA) # 1 (DeKalb County) and LAA # 5 (Cannon County) County Committee Elections.

In the DeKalb County LAA # 1 election, Steve Officer was elected to serve as Committee Member. Randall West was elected as 1st Alternate Committeeperson and Bert Driver was elected as 2nd Alternate Committeeperson. In the Cannon County LAA # 5 election, Bob Melton was elected to serve as Committee Member, and Martin Daniel was elected to serve as 1st Alternate. All elected members began their terms on January 1, 2016.

The DeKalb/Cannon FSA County Committee met on January 12, 2016 to conduct its Organizational Meeting. The Committee selected Jack Campbell as the Chairperson, and Javin Fann as the Vice-Chairperson for 2016. R.V. Billings, Jr, Bob Melton, and Steve Officer serve as members of the Committee. The Committee meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 8:30 a.m. at the DeKalb/Cannon County USDA Service Center located at 647 Bright Hill Rd.

Green says that the DeKalb/Cannon FSA County Committee and office staff wishes to express their appreciation to voters in LAA’s # 1 and # 5 who participated in the elections by voting and returning their ballots. "The local County Committees are a very important part of Farm Service Agency's program delivery and administrative processes," added Green.

For more information about FSA's County Committees or other program inquiries, call 597-8225 (extension 2) or come by the DeKalb/Cannon County Farm Service Agency office at 647 Bright Hill Street in Smithville. You can also visit the agency’s web site at: www.fsa.usda.gov.

Two Smithville Police Officers Receive Commendations

January 13, 2016
Dwayne Page
Mayor Jimmy Poss, Police Chief Mark Collins, Sergeant Brad Tatrow, and Alderman-Police Commissioner Jason Murphy
Mayor Jimmy Poss, Police Chief Mark Collins, Officer Joey Myers, and Alderman-Police Commissioner Jason Murphy

Two members of the Smithville Police Department have been commended for "Outstanding Service" in the line of duty.

Sergeant Brad Tatrow and Officer Joey Myers were recognized by Chief Mark Collins during a meeting of police department staff Tuesday evening at city hall. Mayor Jimmy Poss and Alderman and Police Commissioner Jason Murphy were also there for the occasion.

Sergeant Tatrow was commended for taking time to talk to a man he arrested. A conversation which caused the man to change his life. Officer Myers received a commendation for making motel accommodations for a homeless man.

Sergeant Tatrow's commendation reads " On behalf of the Smithville Police Department, I would like to commend you for making a difference in someone's life by taking the time to have a conversation with him.

On December 29, 2014 you arrested a man and while processing his paperwork you took the time to talk with him about the decisions he was making in his life. Because of that conversation his life has been changed forever and for the better.

You went above and beyond your duties to help a member of this community and gave him hope for his future. These are the qualities that this and other police departments around the country are looking for.

Thank you and congratulations on a job well done".

Officer Myers' commendation reads " On behalf of the Smithville Police Department, I would like to commend you for your compassion and understanding that you have shown to your fellow man.

On December 16, 2015 you came into contact with a homeless person at Wal-mart trying to find a warm and dry place until housing was available for him after the first of the year. After trying to locate accommodations for him and not being able to do so because of the late hour of the night, you rented this man a room for a week at a local motel.

You went above and beyond your duties to help a member of this community and gave him hope. These are the qualities that this and other police departments around the country are looking for.

Thank you and congratulations for a job well done"

The commendations to both officers were signed by Chief Collins, Mayor Poss, and Police Commissioner Murphy.

Deputy Injured In Wreck During Pursuit

January 12, 2016
Dwayne Page
Deputy Injured In Wreck During Pursuit
Deputy Joseph Carroll Injured in Crash
Joseph Wayne Judd

A deputy of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department lost control of his patrol car and crashed early Tuesday morning during a pursuit of another vehicle on Highway 56 north near Hurricane Bridge.

The accident occurred at around 2:00 a.m.

Officer Joseph Carroll was taken by DeKalb EMS to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital where he was treated for bruises and abrasions and then released. Carroll was in pursuit of a suspicious vehicle seen leaving the area of Lakeside Resort when his patrol car went out of control on a curve and struck a guardrail and tree.

After the crash, the Tennessee Highway Patrol arrested 33 year old Joseph Wayne Judd of Doyle, the driver of a pickup truck which had also been observed at Lakeside. Judd was found with 7.7 grams of methamphetamine.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that the story began around 1:41 a.m. as Central Dispatch received a call from someone at Lakeside Resort complaining that trespassers had driven into the area. "They asked us to come and check it out and two deputies from the Sheriff's Department, Officers Carroll and Stephen Barrett responded to the call, said Sheriff Ray.

"As the deputies entered one of the parking lots at Lakeside, they saw a vehicle stop and then proceed to approach them. When the vehicle passed them, Officer Carroll turned around to initiate a traffic stop as Officer Barrett drove down further to check on another vehicle he had spotted. After the vehicle Officer Barrett was checking on began to speed away, he (Barrett) radioed for help from Officer Carroll. Deputy Carroll gave up on trying to stop the automobile he was following and turned around to render assistance to Officer Barrett. Officer Carroll spotted the fleeing automobile and gave chase. The pursuit continued out of Lakeside Resort and north on Highway 56 (Cookeville Highway) until Officer Carroll wrecked. The fleeing automobile did not stop," said Sheriff Ray.

Meanwhile as Deputy Barrett stopped at the crash site to tend to Officer Carroll, a pickup truck approached the deputies, believed to have been the other vehicle seen earlier at Lakeside that Officer Carroll had first tried to pull over. The officers flagged down the truck and found the driver to be Judd. While the crash was under investigation, officers detected a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside Judd's vehicle. A search of his truck revealed about 7.7 grams of a substance believed to be meth. It was packaged in three separate baggies. Judd also had a set of digital scales to weigh the narcotics and a metal tube used to inject the drugs.

Sergeant Dewain Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, who investigated the deputy's accident, filed charges against Judd for driving while in possession of methamphetamine, possession of a schedule II drug for resale (meth), and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Judd's bond is $30,500 and he will be in court on January 28.

The investigation continues and authorities hope to find the driver of the other vehicle who left the area after the crash involving Officer Carroll.

Chimney Fire Causes Damage to Alexandria Home

January 12, 2016
Dwayne Page
Chimney Fire Causes Damage to Alexandria Home (Photo provided by Edward Brooks)

A chimney fire caused some damage to a home in Alexandria Tuesday morning.

Members of the Alexandria Volunteer Fire Department were dispatched to the home of David Cole at 216 Church Street at 8:20 a.m.

According to Fire Department Captain Edward Brooks, the Cole family called for help after spotting smoke in the living room.

Firefighters quickly responded and contained the fire to the chimney and living room area. The fire also burned through some siding into the attic.

No one was injured.

Members of the Liberty and Temperance Hall Stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded to back up Alexandria firefighters under the automatic aid agreement between the County and Town of Alexandria.

An Alexandria couple, Steven and Diana Blair came to the scene in support of the fire departments offering rehab services including re-hydration and nourishment to firefighters .

DeKalb EMS was there as well.

DeKalb Native and Nurse Seeks Living Kidney Donor

January 12, 2016
Dwayne Page
 Donna Kaye Ritter

After spending years helping others as a nurse, Donna Kaye Ritter doesn't enjoy asking for help. But the 43-year-old DeKalb County native is in need of a new kidney and is seeking a match from a living donor for an eventual transplant.

Ritter, daughter of Berle and Mamie Billings of Smithville, suffered damage to both kidneys as a result of high blood pressure while she was pregnant with her only child, Corwin, who is now 10 years old. Donna, her husband Paul, and Corwin reside in Murfreesboro.

"The kidney issue mostly started when I was pregnant with Corwin. The blood pressure went out of control and because of it being so high, it damaged the kidneys causing them not to work properly. Shortly after Corwin was born I discovered that I still had about 30% of my kidney function remaining. I dealt with that for a long time. Now I've gone down to 19% and after you get to 19% that's when the doctor's start talking transplant or dialysis and how we're going to deal with it in the future. I decided if I could avoid dialysis at all I would rather go for the transplant. So I have started reaching out to people to see if I could possibly find a match before I get to the point where it's a drastic need. If I can find my own donor, a living donor who is compatible with me, the process of getting a kidney could be much faster than just being on a list and waiting because that could take a long time. Dialysis is also very hard on the body and the family," said Ritter.

Because of her condition, Donna gave up her nursing career before Corwin was born. "Due to the pregnancy, my blood pressure medicine wasn't working that well and I was basically on bed rest from about the time I was six weeks pregnant until he was born. I haven't worked since my pregnancy and have been seeing doctors regularly to monitor my health," Ritter continued.

This is not Ritter’s' first bout with health issues. She was diagnosed with Lupus as a child. "I was 11 years old and in the sixth grade. The high blood pressure was part of the Lupus. I've been on blood pressure medicine since sixth grade because of it. Lupus is a lifelong condition. It’s an auto-immune disease which means my immune system attacks my own body, it cannot tell the difference between my normal cells and a possible virus or infection. For this reason I have been on medication to control it since I was 11" she said.

Ritter encourages everyone to consider becoming an organ donor. "Kidneys are the number 1 needed organ for transplantation. If you feel like you want to help, even if you are not a match for me, you may be a match for someone else. It is a gift of life. It would be so much appreciated."

For more information visit Vanderbilt Transplant at http://www.vanderbilthealth.com/transplant/ or if you would like to contact Ritter send an email to caffeinebuzzdsgn@bellsouth.net or dkpepperpuppy@msn.com and be sure to include "transplant" in the subject line.

Donna Ritter is a 1990 graduate of DeKalb County High School. She later earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Nursing and a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology at MTSU. Her husband Paul is a Graphic Designer.

City Officials Commend Police Chief

January 11, 2016
Dwayne Page
Police Chief Mark Collins (photo from October)

Smithville Chief of Police Mark Collins seems to be off to a good start.

During a meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen last week, Chief Collins was commended for his efforts in making police more visible in the city especially around school zones and for reducing overtime within the department.

Collins was named to the position November 2 and took over on November 23.

"I enjoy seeing a lot of the extra patrols in the school zones," said Alderman Josh Miller.

"I think that's important. There's a lot of people and a lot of activity around those schools at that time and the more we're there the more visible we are and people are aware of it. We sure don't want any accidents or anything to happen. We don't want them to happen to anybody but we sure don't want them to happen to a school bus or those kids. That's important," said Chief Collins.

"I've had a lot of good comments about the police being out and working," Mayor Jimmy Poss said.

"I've had comments about that too. You (police) are more visible lately it seems," added Alderman Gayla Hendrix.

"We plan on continuing that too", said Chief Collins.

Alderman Shawn Jacobs asked Chief Collins about how he was dealing with overtime in the department. "I know we've had a lot of overtime in the department in years past and I know because the way officers are scheduled some of that is necessary. But how is that going right now? Are you being able to control the amount of overtime? Is that something we need to address as far as personnel?

"In the future I'm going to propose to the council a plan that I have come up with how I would love to see the department staffed and manned. I know we're in the middle of a budget that we've got in place now and I don't want to do anything to disrupt that but I have got a plan and program I would like to see. It would require a new officer and with that I could staff and put people where I need them most which would definitely cut down on overtime. I believe the overtime has gone down in the last month or so. I do try to keep a better watch on that. I know overtime is going to happen at times. Its inevitable. We've got court and other things that are going to happen. But I don't like to use overtime when we don't have to. We need to save it for a rainy day. With the new schedule I would like to see in the future, it would eliminate that because there would always be an extra person on shift in case someone calls in sick or something happens," said Chief Collins.

Meanwhile, Chief Collins said the department has received a new police car and assault rifles that had been ordered before his arrival as Chief. "The transition into the new job has gone well. The assault rifles that you guys (city officials) ordered are here. We're in the process of getting those handed out to the officers. I have handed them out already to the supervisors. We've got to get some training. I want to make sure everyone has training before I issue those. We're in the process of getting that set up. We should have it done this month. We should have them (assault rifles) all in the cars with all the guys (officers) soon. I think there are only two officers that have not had AR training in the past so we're in pretty good shape there. And the new patrol car is here. We had the lights put on (last Wednesday). It is now an official patrol car," he said.

In November the aldermen voted to accept a bid from King's Firearms and More Law Enforcement Division in Columbia to purchase thirteen fully stocked semi-automatic Smith & Wesson assault rifles for the police department. The total cost is $18,223.


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