Local News Articles

Three Involved in Saturday Crash at Liberty

April 19, 2015
Dwayne Page
County rescue, fire, and ems personnel working to help Cynthia Sanderson from her Dodge Nitro
Ford pickup driven by Mary Crook
Three Involved in Saturday Crash at Liberty

Three people were involved in a two vehicle crash Saturday at the intersection of Highway's 70 & 96 at Liberty.

Central dispatch received the call at 11:15 a.m.

Trooper Troy Withers of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that 69 year old Cynthia Sanderson of Auburntown was west on Highway 70 attempting to turn south on Highway 96 in a Dodge Nitro when she crossed the path of a 1995 Ford pickup, driven by 81 year old Mary Crook of Liberty who was east on Highway 70. Upon impact, Sanderson's vehicle overturned on its side.

Extrication services were deployed to help Sanderson from her vehicle. She was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital. Crook and her granddaughter, a passenger were not hurt.

Members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department's Extrication Team and Liberty Station responded along with the Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad, DeKalb EMS, DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, and Alexandria Police Department.

Trooper Withers was assisted by Lieutenant Joe Agee of the Tennessee Highway Patrol

DeKalb Schools to Close for Summer May 27

April 19, 2015
Dwayne Page

The last day of school before the summer break is now Wednesday, May 27. That will be an abbreviated day and report cards will be sent home.

One day will have to be made up because the school system lost too many days due to weather during the winter. Four days would have been required to be made up but the state granted a waiver for three of them.

Friday, May 22 will be an administrative day for teachers. Schools will be closed on Monday, May 25 for Memorial Day but will be open on a regular schedule Tuesday, May 26. That date had originally been set as the last day of school. The last day of school now is Wednesday, May 27.

In a letter to the Tennessee Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen on March 16, former Director of Schools Mark Willoughby wrote, "Pursuant to TCA (state law), the DeKalb County School System is requesting a waiver of three instructional days. In response to Governor Bill Haslam's declaration of a Level II/III State of Emergency, we request this waiver due to our schools being closed for ice, snow, and a water main that froze and burst at DeKalb County High School."

"Our system has 13 snow days built into our calendar, three of which were used as Stockpile/Professional development days where RTI meetings occurred around individual student learning. As of today, we have been closed 14 days due to ice and snow. We plan to have a make-up on May 27 adding to our original school calendar," Willoughby wrote.

The commissioner granted the request.

Bomb Threats Reported Thursday at Omega Apparel and DCHS

April 17, 2015
Dwayne Page
Law enforcement agents and canines trained in the detection of explosives were summoned to Omega Apparel Thursday(Photo by Smithville Police)
Putnam County Sheriff's department brings canine to Omega Apparel (Photo by Smithville Police)
Evacuated Employees of Omega Apparel gather at Smithville 1st Baptist Church Life Enrichment Center
Smithville Police & Fire Departments and DeKalb EMS block all streets leading to Omega Apparel
Smithville Fire Department blocks street leading to Omega Apparel Thursday
DeKalb EMS blocks street leading to Omega Apparel Thursday

Local law enforcement agencies were called out twice Thursday after Omega Apparel and DeKalb County High School were made the targets of bomb threats.

The first call came in just before one p.m. and employees at the local industry were evacuated as a precaution. The threat directed at the high school came later in the day.

Law enforcement agents and canines trained in the detection of explosives were brought in from other counties to conduct the searches but nothing was found. No one was injured.

The investigation has resulted in a juvenile being taken into custody regarding the incident at DCHS. The youth was picked up Friday, April 17 by Lieutenant Matt Holmes, Detective Brandon Donnell and K-9 Officer James Cornelius of the Smithville Police Department

In a prepared statement concerning the Omega Apparel incident, Smithville Police Captain Steven Leffew said "On Thursday, April 16 at approximately 12:56 p.m. the Smithville Police and Fire Departments were dispatched to Omega Apparel in reference to a bomb threat. Upon arrival we confirmed a threat stating there were several explosive devices that were in or around the building. The factory was immediately evacuated. Explosive device technicians from the Putnam County Sheriff's Department, Lebanon Emergency Services Unit and the Tennessee Bomb and Arson Squad responded to the scene. Explosive device trained canines were utilized to clear and secure two factories (Omega Apparel)".

"Detective Brandon Donnell is leading this investigation and through prompt and diligent efforts, he has developed a suspect. The case remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to please call the Smithville Police Department or Crime Stoppers at 615-464-6046."

"I would like to extend my appreciation to the Putnam County Sheriff's department, Lebanon Emergency Services Unit, the Tennessee Bomb Arson Squad, Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker, members of the Smithville fire department and DeKalb EMS. Special thanks to the Smithville First Baptist Church for graciously hosting the employees while the factories were being cleared and secured," said Captain Leffew.

"Officers assisting on the scene were Captain Leffew, Sergeant Brad Tatrow, Detective Brandon Donnell, and Officers Andy Snow and James Cornelius," the statement concluded.

Meanwhile the following is a separate but joint statement from Captain Leffew, Emergency Management Agency Director Charlie Parker, and officials of the DeKalb County School System concerning the incident at DCHS.

"Late in the day on Thursday, April 16, the administration of DeKalb County High School received information of a concerning nature. After assessing the information they received, the school system contacted local law enforcement at which point trained outside agencies were contacted and explosive device trained canine units were utilized to search and clear buildings and grounds. At this point school officials and law enforcement deemed the DCHS campus a safe environment".

"We would like to remind all citizens of DeKalb County that the safety of our students is our utmost concern and we will continue to be proactive in ensuring all students remain safe. If those responsible for this alleged threat are located they will be prosecuted for their actions".

"The DeKalb County School System would like to thank Captain Steven Leffew and the Smithville City Police Department, Sheriff Patrick Ray, SRO Kenneth Whitehead, Emergency Management Director Charlie Parker and other outside agencies for their timely response and assistance in ensuring the safety of the students in DeKalb County," the statement concluded.

DeKalb Election Commission Reorganizes

April 17, 2015
Dwayne Page
Jim Dean, Barbara Vanatta, Walteen Parker (seated) Richard Hearon Puckett, and Harry Lasser

The DeKalb County Election Commission has chosen its officers for the next two years.

The commission met in regular monthly session Thursday afternoon at the courthouse to reorganize and to conduct other business.

Walteen Parker was named to her fourth term as chairman of the commission. Harry Lasser was re-elected as the secretary.

In other business, the commission voted 5-0 to reappoint Dennis Stanley as administrator of elections for the next two years.

The DeKalb County Election Commission members include Republicans Walteen Parker, Barbara Vanatta, and Jim Dean. Democratic members are Richard Hearon Puckett and Harry Lasser.

Dr. Danielle Collins Named Interim Director of Schools (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

April 16, 2015
Dwayne Page
School Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III congratulates Dr. Danielle Collins, named Interim Director of Schools by the Board of Education.
Dr. Danielle Collins meets with School Board for the First Time as Interim Director

Dr. Danielle Judkins Collins has been selected by the Board of Education to become the interim Director of Schools.

During a special called meeting Thursday night, the Board voted 5-2 naming Dr. Collins to succeed Mark Willoughby until a new director is under contract. Dr. Collins, who has served as Federal Programs Supervisor for the school system since February 2008 will keep that position while also serving as interim director. In addition to her regular pay, Dr. Collins will receive a $2,000 per month supplement for her new assignment.

Board members Jerry Wayne Johnson and Danny Parkerson voted against Dr. Collins being named interim director. Both Johnson and Parkerson told WJLE after the meeting that they were not opposed to Dr. Collins personally but felt that no one should be named interim director who might apply when the board conduct's its search for a new director because it could give that person an unfair advantage over other applicants.

Dr. Collins told WJLE after the meeting that while she is happy to serve on an interim basis, she is undecided on whether to apply for the position long term.


While the board members have not yet adopted a process for conducting a director search, board policy gives them the option of allowing an interim to be a candidate. "An interim director of schools appointed during the time of a search shall not become a candidate unless the Board expressly permits such inclusion in the selection procedures. A board member may not apply for or in any other way be considered for the position of director of schools," the board policy states.


The policy goes on to say that the Board must develop a procedure for selecting a new director before it begins the search. "Prior to conducting a search to fill the position, the Board shall initially develop the following:

* A job description
* A timeline
* A process for accepting and reviewing applications
* Selection procedures

Prior to becoming Federal Programs Supervisor, Dr. Collins was a 4th grade classroom teacher at Northside Elementary School from August 2000 to February 2008.

Dr. Collins graduated from MTSU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education K-8 in December 1999. She earned a Master of Arts Education degree in Instructional Leadership from Tennessee Tech University in May 2002. In August 2003, Dr. Collins earned her Ed.S degree in Instructional Leadership from Tennessee Tech. She obtained an Ed. D Education degree in Administration and Supervision from Tennessee State University in May 2007.

Among her many professional accomplishments, Dr. Collins has served as an Adjunct Professor at Tennessee Tech since January 2013.

Meanwhile, during the regular meeting which followed the special meeting Thursday night, a director of school's monthly personnel report was given by Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III.

Those employed since last month are Alyssa Conger, Speech Pathologist and Roy Merriman, Bus Driver. John Ethan Hale was named a substitute. LeVaughnda Midgett, a teacher at Smithville Elementary School, was granted a leave as requested and Jimmy Poss was transferred from a substitute to full time bus driver.

4-H’ers Compete at Livestock Judging Contest

April 16, 2015
By: Leigh Fuson, 4-H Agent
Wyatt Martin, John Puckett, Kayla Bek, and Caitlyn Lawrence
John Puckett

DeKalb County 4-H members recently traveled to the Tennessee Livestock Center in Murfreesboro to compete in the Central Region 4-H Livestock Judging competition. Participants included Kayla Belk, Caitlyn Lawrence, Wyatt Martin, and John Puckett. There was tough competition with around 350 competitors from surrounding counties. Caitlyn placed 21st overall and the team placed 20th.

Livestock judging allows young people to develop decision-making skills related to the evaluation of meat animals. They also learn more about the livestock industry. So, how do you “judge” livestock animals exactly? 4-H members learn how to assess the conformation, or body structure, and muscle of different breeds of beef cattle, sheep, goats, and swine in order to know which animals would be best in a breeding program or would make the most profit in a market situation. They also learn how to read and use performance data and genetic information to assist in the selection of breeding livestock. Eight total classes of animals are judged at the contest. 9th-12th grade 4-H members must also be able to explain verbally why they placed the class the way they did as an added challenge.

DeKalb County was well represented at this very competitive event. If you are interested in learning more about livestock judging, or any other 4-H event, please call 615-597-4945 or email lfuson2@utk.edu.

Photo Captions

TOP PHOTO: Livestock Team: DeKalb County 4-H members competed at the Central Region Livestock Judging Contest: Wyatt Martin, John
Puckett, Kayla Bek, and Caitlyn Lawrence

BOTTOM PHOTO: John Puckett studies a market goat class at the Central Region 4-H Livestock Judging Contest.

DeKalb County High School FBLA Organization Wins at State Leadership Conference

April 16, 2015
Noah Parsley
Mrs. Marilyn Roberts (Adviser) and Hannah James
from Left to right: Nicole Atkins, Kamien Sparks, Heather Scott, Anna Malone, Hailey Walker, Keely McKay

Twenty-nine members of the DeKalb County High School, Future Business Leaders of America organization attended the Tennessee State Leadership Conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee this week. The following members made finals in their event: Julia Little (Public Speaking II), Hannah James (Public Speaking II), Kara Kanipe and Aspen Flarity (Social Media Campaign), and Chloe White and Azya McKoy (Digital Design and Promotion). In addition the following students placed in the top 5 in their event:

•Nicole Atkins, 2nd Place Securities and Investments
•Anna Malone, Keely McKay, and Hailey Walker, 3rd place Chapter Community Service Project.
•Noah Parsley, 3rd Place Future Business Leader
•Heather Scott, 4th Place, Local Chapter Annual Business Report
•Kamien Sparks, 5th Place, Chapter Electronic Scrapbook

Four of these students qualified to compete at the National Leadership Conference in Chicago, Illinois this summer. Nicole Atkins, Anna Malone, Keely McKay, and Hailey Walker will be competing against top students in the nation.
Hannah James, a junior at DCHS was elected to serve as the Tennessee Future Business Leaders of America State Secretary 2015-2016. She will be attending Institute for Leaders to be trained in her office. She will also be attending the National Leadership Conference as a voting delegate for Tennessee.

The Chapter placed 1st in the Books for Tennessee Literacy for collecting 2,790 books. The chapter received the Gold Seal of Merit Award and the Club 50 membership Award for having over 50 members. We received recognition for our donation to March of Dimes, and our donation to all FBLA scholarships.

TOP: Noah Parsley
MIDDLE: Mrs. Marilyn Roberts (Adviser) and Hannah James
BOTTOM: from Left to right: Nicole Atkins, Kamien Sparks, Heather Scott, Anna Malone, Hailey Walker, Keely McKay

Community Leaders Honored at Chamber Banquet

April 16, 2015
Dwayne Page & Jen Sherwood
Jeff Cantrell and Jen Sherwood (Photo provided by Jen Sherwood)
Shannon Atkins (LD Class of 2014 president), Faye and Jack Underhill, Legacy Leader winners, and Jen Sherwood, Leadership DeKalb director) (Photo provided by Jen Sherwood)

The winners of the annual Leadership DeKalb Alumni awards were honored Tuesday night during the Chamber of Commerce Banquet at the DeKalb County Complex.

Jeff Cantrell received the Community Leader of the Year Award and Faye and Jack Underhill were presented the Legacy Leader Award.

The Community Leader of the Year award goes to someone who most emulates the definition of community trustee and servant-leader in his or her recent service to DeKalb County. Nominees are considered who have made a significant and positive impact on the county, specifically during 2014 and in a capacity beyond their professional commitments. The 2014 award was presented to Jeff Cantrell.

"For several years, Jeff has been the backbone of the Farmers’ Market," said Leadership DeKalb Director Jen Sherwood. " Not only has he worked tirelessly to produce and present his own beautiful vegetables, he has been the go-to guy to make the Farmers’ Market a huge summer success. For over 20 years Jeff has been growing and selling vegetables, with at least the last 10 years at the Farmers Market. He has been instrumental in the growth the FM has seen in recent years, as the county complex was built and the adjacent FM permanent structure was built 3 years ago. The Farmers Market has become a focal point of community partnerships with programming offered by the Justin Potter library, Off the Beaten Path artists, healthy eating workshops and fresh produce cooking demonstrations. Community pride is flourishing and lake visitors flock to this one-of-a-kind, grassroots, family-friendly Saturday morning fun event from April until the last tomatoes and gourds of fall. Jeff is an active member of Whorton Springs Baptist Church. His wife is Deborah Cantrell, works at DTC Communications and is a Leadership DeKalb alum. They have 2 beautiful daughters, ages 19 and 21, roommates and college students at Tennessee Tech. Thank you, Jeff, for being at the helm and for sharing your passion and expertise in growing the Farmers Market over the past several years," added Sherwood.

The Legacy Award goes to someone who most emulates the definition of community trustee and servant-leader in his or her continued service to DeKalb County. The recipient has made a significant and positive impact on DeKalb County over a considerable period of time and in multiple or lasting ways. This year's award went to Faye and Jack Underhill. "The Underhill's have been an instrumental part of one of DeKalb County’s finest traditions: the DeKalb County Fair, “The Grandpa Fair of the South.” Both Jack and Faye have been a part of the fair for decades. They have served in various positions on the fair board, but that is not where you will most likely find Jack and Faye," said Sherwood. "Their work does not start opening day or end when the trucks and carnival rides move out. They spend many days at the fairgrounds getting everything spruced up for the event. You will find them mowing, cleaning up a building, or anything else that needs to be done. The fair is a huge event for DeKalb County. Many people come back “home” to visit with family and friends during the week of the fair. It is a type of homecoming. What’s vacation for some is when they are hard at work. Jack and Faye’s dedication to this event is immeasurable. Our deepest thanks to the Underhills for their years of service to the Alexandria community, DeKalb County and our wonderful fair," Sherwood said.

Meanwhile, Tomomi McDowell McWhirter was presented the Chamber Extra Miler Award which recognizes individuals in the community who have gone the extra mile to make a difference. She has regularly provided music entertainment at Chamber functions

The banquet speaker was Becky Magura, WCTE TV President/CEO.

(Pictured: Photo #1 - Jeff Cantrell, Community Leader of 2014, and Jen Sherwood, Leadership DeKalb director and Photo #2 – Shannon Atkins (LD Class of 2014 president), Faye and Jack Underhill, Legacy Leader winners, and Jen Sherwood, Leadership DeKalb director)

Sycamore Baptist Breaks Ground for Expansion

April 15, 2015
Shan Burklow
The congregation of Sycamore Baptist Church
Pastor Richard Williams of Sycamore Baptist Church stands with his fellow deacons
Kennedi Clark of Sycamore Baptist Church shows off a paper bead necklace she made using recycled bulletins.
Haley Reynolds holds a handful of paper beads made by the kids and women of Sycamore Baptist Church using recycled bulletins

The congregation of Sycamore Baptist Church, along with family and friends, attended a ground-breaking ceremony to commemorate the start of their upcoming expansion. The future addition will include a new fellowship building including a new kitchen. The picturesque country church was established in 1871, and has some member's families going back for several generations.

"Our church has been working very hard to raise money for this much needed addition," said member Jean France, "We have had church dinners for the public, yard sales, bake sales, and the ladies and children of our church have even made necklaces to sell. A church cookbook is our next adventure. We are small, but determined."

The paper bead necklaces that the kids lovingly call "Prayer Chains" are made from the churches recycled bulletins and prayer lists. The beautiful paper beads are strung into one-of-a-kind necklaces that can be purchased for a donation. "Pictures of these necklaces received a great deal of attention when posted to social media recently," said another member, "We appreciate everyone that has reached out to ask how they can get one. We have set up a link on our Sycamore Baptist Church facebook page to make it easy for people to request a necklace made especially for them. This has given the adults and children so much joy to actively participate in making a difference in the growth of our little church."

When asked for thoughts on the expansion, Pastor Richard Williams smiled, "I am particularly proud of all that our members have done to help with this vision for growth. They have worked hard, and prayed even harder, to make it happen. God has blessed us and I am happy to see God providing through the help and faith of the congregation."

The small rural 'church on the hill' is located right off Highway 53 between Liberty and Woodbury near the Gassaway Community.


Photo 1: The congregation of Sycamore Baptist Church proudly attend a ground-breaking ceremony to celebrate the upcoming expansion of their church, founded in 1871.

Photo 3: Pastor Richard Williams of Sycamore Baptist Church stands with his fellow deacons as they break ground for an upcoming addition. (from left to right) Danny Haley, Andy Burklow, Jim Jones, Gerald Petro, Pastor Richard Williams, Joe Bryson, Ken Vickers, and Jimmy Ramsey.

Photo 4: Kennedi Clark of Sycamore Baptist Church shows off a paper bead necklace she made using recycled bulletins. The donations from the jewelry will be used towards the upcoming expansion.

Photo 5: Haley Reynolds holds a handful of paper beads made by the kids and women of Sycamore Baptist Church using recycled bulletins. The beads are strung into necklaces with 100% of all donations supporting their upcoming addition.

Attorneys Seek Delay in Trial of Lawsuit Against School Board and Director

April 15, 2015
Dwayne Page
Bradley Hendrix (Older Photo)

Attorneys for both sides in a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Board of Education and Director of Schools are seeking an extension in the discovery deadline and to delay the trial of the case.

In a motion filed April 10, attorneys for Bradley Hendrix and the Board and Director are asking that the trial date be moved from October 20 to on or after December 10 and that the discovery deadline be extended from April 17 to July 7. Andy L. Allman of Allman and Associates of Hendersonville is representing Hendrix while John D. Schwalb of Franklin is the attorney for the Board and Director Mark Willoughby.

The attorneys say they need more time to prepare for the case. A judge has not yet ruled on the motion.

The Motion to Extend the Discovery Deadline and Continue the Trial is as follows:

"Now come the parties and hereby request that the current discovery deadline of April 17, 2015 be extended ninety days to July 7,2015 to provide additional time to finalize written discovery and depose Plaintiff (Hendrix) and Defendant's witnesses. While the parties have diligently participated in discovery they have been unable to set a schedule for depositions but have identified dates in May and June for that purpose. This extension of time gives rise to the parties' request for a continuance of the trial, currently set for October 20, 2015."

"The Parties propose the following deadlines: all written discovery and non-expert depositions shall be completed by July 7, 2015. All discovery-related motions shall be filed by the close of business on July 21, 2015. Dispositive motions shall be due by August 7, 2015 and responses due by August 28, 2015, and any optional reply due by September 11, 2015"

"For the foregoing reasons, the parties respectfully request that the Court grant their motion to extend the discovery and dispositive motion deadlines and continue a trial to a date on or after December 10, 2015."

Hendrix, a physical education teacher at Smithville Elementary School and a third district county commissioner, filed the lawsuit on May 29, 2014 in federal court

In the lawsuit, Hendrix alleges that he has been "subjected to a continuous and ongoing pattern of harassment and retaliation for his votes as a county commissioner on matters pertaining to the school system", particularly his vote against purchasing land to build a new high school. According to the lawsuit, "On or about March 2011, the issue of the land purchase and school construction came before the county commission for approval. Hendrix voted against the measure. From that point on, Hendrix was subjected to harassment and retaliation by Mr. Willoughby in his employment".

Hendrix is suing the Board of Education and Director of Schools, both jointly and severally, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. He also wants a jury to try the case.


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