Local News Articles

Smithville Resident Appointed to Tennessee Social Studies Standards Recommendation Committee

October 17, 2016
William Freddy Curtis

William Freddy Curtis, a resident of Smithville, has been appointed to the Tennessee Social Studies Standards Recommendation Committee by Tennessee House of Representatives Speaker Beth Harwell. After his appointment, Curtis was named Vice Chairman by the committee.

Curtis is a 31 year veteran of Cannon County Schools and teaches US Government, Sociology, and Advanced Placement US Government & Politics at Cannon County High School in Woodbury.

The following article by Committee Chairman Mr. Jason Roach and Mr. Curtis describes the responsibility of the committee and asks for the public’s input regarding changes in Tennessee’s Social Studies Standards.

How often do citizens speak up only to be patronized or, let’s face it, outright ignored by those who represent them? We can proudly report that Tennesseans spoke and Legislative Plaza listened. Not only did your representatives listen, but they implemented a ground-breaking process to fix a problem that irked many Tennesseans across our state.

During the 2014-2015 school year, the State Board of Education implemented a set of social studies standards that were designed to increase the academic rigor in social studies classrooms across the state. There were some concerns that many Tennesseans had with the content of the standards as well as how developmentally appropriate they were for Tennessee students. In 2016, after hearing many share their concerns, the state government designed a process to review the standards and to create a version that better reflects Tennessee values.

A team of professional educators was selected from all across the state to review and edit the standards. This “educator advisory team” has worked relentlessly to represent the core values of Tennesseans while also understanding the need to address a variety of historically relevant topics throughout the social studies curriculum. We have seen this team in action. They are a phenomenal group of social studies teachers and leaders that have worked to revise the social studies standards according to the needs of our students. As of now, they have wrapped up their first round of edits of the social studies standards.

The Social Studies Recommendation Committee is made up of many qualified professionals, from a district leader of Nashville Metro schools to a professor of history at Tennessee State University. Our committee will review the changes that are given to us, discuss further changes, and send the standards back to the educator advisory team to be addressed again. Once we conclude that the standards are ready, we will make a final recommendation to the State Board of Education for approval.

The need for continued feedback from Tennesseans is both necessary and desired throughout this process. The Tennessee State Board of Education has designed a program where any Tennessee citizen can comment on the standards that have been proposed. The public comment portion of this process was opened last year in order to obtain feedback about the standards before we began our work. We have looked at all 60,000 comments. Our committee values the input of our fellow Tennesseans. If you missed the first opportunity, you have until October 28th to review and leave feedback on the revised set of standards at https://apps.tn.gov/tcas/ .

The voices of all Tennesseans matter in this process. As we move forward with this process, we ask that you partner with us to create a set of social studies standards that we can ensure will benefit the students who sit in every public school classroom in the state of Tennessee.

Mr. Jason Roach is a principal and former social studies teacher from Hawkins County and chairs the Tennessee Standards Recommendation Committee. Mr. William Freddy Curtis is a former principal and currently a social studies teacher in Cannon County and serves as vice-chair of the Committee.

4-H Members Complete Poultry Project

October 17, 2016
Leigh Fuson, 4-H Extension Agent
DeKalb County 4-H Chick-Chain participants at the 2016 Show and Sale
Colby Barnes and Cooper Brown were awarded Grand and Reserve Champion with their Rhode Island Red hens.
Clayton Crook and Marissa Clark won Grand and Reserve Champions in the Barred Rock breed.

DeKalb County members recently finished the Chick-Chain poultry project with the annual show and sale which was held at the Farmers Market. Each participant received 15 Rhode Island Red or Barred Rock chicks in April and raised them throughout the spring and summer. These 4-H’ers are learning responsibility, hard work, patience, and much more all while having fun by raising chickens.

On September 15th, 28 4-H’ers completed the project by bringing 3 chickens back to the 4-H Poultry Show and Sale. The pullets, or young hens, are carefully judged on maturity, egg laying ability, and overall health. A Grand Champion and Reserve Champion is each breed was selected along with other awards. The Grand Champion Rhode Island Red went to Colby Barnes and the Reserve Champion was awarded to Cooper Brown, both 6th graders at DMS. The Grand Champion Barred Rock went to Clayton Crook, 9th grader at DCHS, while Reserve Champion went to Marissa Clark, 7th grader at DeKalb West School.

After awards were handed out, it was time for the auction! The money raised goes back to the 4-H members to refund their original deposit on the chicks. They also received additional prize money. A special thank you goes out to all the bidders, buyers, sponsors, and volunteers who came out to support the 4-H poultry project this year. We had a record amount of money raised this year!

4-H members who completed the project should feel proud of all their hard work and accomplishments! If you are interested in the Chick Chain project, or any other 4-H program, please call 615-597-4945. 4-H is a proud part of UT and TSU Extension. UT/TSU Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment through the cooperation of county, state, and federal governments.

Group DeKalb County 4-H Chick-Chain participants at the 2016 Show and Sale

Rhode Island Champs Colby Barnes and Cooper Brown were awarded Grand and Reserve Champion with their Rhode Island Red hens.

Barred Rock Champs Clayton Summers and Marissa Clark won Grand and Reserve Champions in the Barred Rock breed.

DeKalb Pee Wee Tigers Win Youth Conference Super Bowl

October 17, 2016
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Pee Wee Tigers Win Youth Conference Super Bowl

The DeKalb County Pee Wee Tigers won the First Ever Middle Tennessee Youth Football Conference Super Bowl Saturday at York Institute. They avenged their only loss of the season by beating Fentress County 6 to O. The Peewees won 9 straight games after their season opening loss to Fentress.

DeKalb Prevention Coalition to Sponsor "Prescription Drug Take Back Event" Saturday

October 16, 2016
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Prevention Coalition encourages all DeKalb County residents to join the effort to reduce the risk of prescription drug abuse by participating in a Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Saturday, October 22. This event will be held at the Smithville City Hall from 10:00am to 2:00pm.

The DeKalb County Prevention Coalition urges DeKalb County residents to come out to this event and drop off any unwanted, old, extra, unneeded, or expired prescription pills for safe disposal. This is confidential and no names or information will be collected.

DPC will also have a limited amount of lock boxes to give out.

Remember too that a “Community Wellness Walk” will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Take a short downtown walk to Justin Potter Library. A Healthy DeKalb Information Session will also be held at Justin Potter Library at 11:00 a.m. Light refreshments will be provided.

Be sure to take the following steps to remove prescription drugs from your home or office in preparation for this Drug Take Back Event.

•Check for unused prescriptions in medicine cabinets, bathroom, closets, bedside tables and kitchen drawers, under the sink, and in closets, purses, handbags, and containers.

•Remove all labeling and packaging on bottles and containers before disposing to ensure the protection of your privacy and personal information.

Keep in mind: the majority of Tennessee’s Take-Back Boxes are in locations that are accessible seven days a week, 24 hours a day. While there is special focus on take-back events each year in April and October, most boxes are located in law enforcement buildings (Smithville City Hall) and offices, where they are available for safe disposal anytime you need them.

Statewide ACT Senior Retake is Saturday, October 22

October 16, 2016
Dwayne Page

The statewide ACT Senior Retake will be Saturday, October 22 for students who met the September 16 registration deadline.

The retake provides every eligible high school senior, meaning any public school student who took the ACT as a junior, the ability to retake the ACT free of charge, regardless of socioeconomic status.

With more Tennessee students than ever before taking the ACT, Tennessee public high school students this year held steady at a 19.4 average score, whereas nationally scores declined as more students participated. For each subject area, scores of Tennessee public school students either increased slightly or remained constant, with no score declining. Nearly 1,300 more Tennessee public school students became eligible for the HOPE scholarship in 2016 by achieving composite scores of 21 or higher. Additionally, Tennessee improved its national standing in 2016 among the 18 states that require students to take the ACT, climbing to seventh in the nation when looking at the average composite of both public and private school students. In 2015, Tennessee ranked eighth among the then-13 states that required the college readiness assessment.

“Our Districts ACT score was up from a composite of 17.7 to an 18.1 this year with Science and Reading being our highest scoring tested areas and math being our lowest,” said Lisa Cripps, Supervisor of Instruction for grades 7-12 in DeKalb County.

“We are continuing to help our students become better prepared for the ACT and College by the addition of an online ACT prep class and utilizing a state ACT readiness pilot. We have great hopes that our senior class will increase their scores by taking part in this ACT retake opportunity. I want to thank the DCHS Senior parents and high school counselor Lori Myrick for their efforts in getting our students registered for their first ever ACT retake opportunity,” added Cripps.

Tennessee’s historical ACT data indicate that students who retake the ACT typically increase their composite score by one to three points. This increase in ACT scores could translate into thousands more students meeting the composite score requirement of a 21 for the HOPE scholarship and avoiding remediation courses once they enter a postsecondary institution. Increasing the percentage of students who graduate high school with improved ACT composite and benchmark scores will allow for more students to start their next phase in life on the pathways necessary for success.

"Allowing students an additional opportunity to show what they know by retaking the ACT can expand the possibilities for our students’ futures,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said. “Our strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds, lays out a firm goal, that the average ACT score in Tennessee will be a 21 by 2020, indicating that our students are graduating high school ready for college and career.”

All eligible students will have the option of retaking the ACT on the national test date of Saturday, Oct. 22. The registration deadline for this national test date was Friday, Sept. 16.

The recommendation to allow for a retake of the ACT or SAT for all students came as a result of the first convening of the Assessment Task Force in 2015. The task force developed a set of principles and recommendations, housed in a task force report, to guide the work of the state, districts, and schools.

This then led to the Tennessee Student Assessment Transparency Act of 2016, sponsored by Senator Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, and Representative Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, in which the General Assembly approved for each student who took a postsecondary readiness assessment—like the ACT—as a high school junior the opportunity to retake it as a senior free of cost.

Saint Thomas Health Appoints Andy Wachtel Regional CEO

October 15, 2016
Andy Wachtel

Andy Wachtel, FACHE, has been named Chief Executive Officer of Saint Thomas DeKalb, Highlands and Stones River hospitals. Saint Thomas Health is a member of Ascension, the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system.

Wachtel begins his new role on October 10, 2016. He most recently served as CEO of Alliance Health located in Ponca City, Oklahoma, where he was responsible for 140-bed Alliance Health Ponca City hospital and 53-bed Alliance Health Blackwell hospital. These two hospitals blended their management teams in May 2014. Earlier he was Chief Operating Officer at Deaconess Hospital, Oklahoma City.

Wachtel received his master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center in Oklahoma City and graduated from Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma, with a degree in Business Administration. He and his wife, Pam, have been married for 33 years and have two daughters, Jennifer and Mandy.

“Our regional hospitals and the communities they serve are vitally important to us,” said Karen Springer, President and CEO of Saint Thomas Health. “We are concerned with maintaining and expanding local access to healthcare for the people of Cannon, DeKalb and White Counties and continuing to improve and enhance the quality of that care. We took great care in selecting the new leader for these hospitals.”

“We’re pleased to have someone of Andy’s experience and skill joining the leadership team of Saint Thomas Health and Ascension,” said Gordon Ferguson, President of Saint Thomas Regional Hospitals/President & CEO of Saint Thomas Rutherford. “He is uniquely qualified to lead these three hospitals, and is looking forward to becoming active in the communities they serve.”

Large Number of First Time Voters Expected in November Election

October 14, 2016
Dennis Stanley

A large number of first-time voters are expected to cast their ballot in the November Tennessee General Election.

The DeKalb County Election Commission office reported recently that 850 new registrations have been logged since January 1, with 387 of those since the August election.

“One in eight active voters registered for the first time this year or had their registration reactivated after they had been purged for lack of participation for a number of years,” said DeKalb County’s Administrator of Elections, Dennis Stanley. “That is a large number for a county this size and is an obvious reflection in the interest in this year’s presidential race.”

The registration deadline has passed and a recent count showed DeKalb County with 10,195 active voters. “There’s over 1,000 more voters who are labeled ‘inactive’ who could still show up and vote,” Stanley said.

A breakdown of the ‘active’ registrations show there are over 500 more females registered to vote than males and the largest age group is those between the ages of 36-65 at 5,153 voters.

Meanwhile, early voting begins Wednesday and local officials are expecting a heavy turnout during both early voting and election day.

“We have received numerous calls from people asking when Early Voting begins, so we expect to be busy during that early period and that’s a good thing,” Stanley said. “Early voting is so convenient and voters should take advantage of that opportunity.”

Early voting will be held October 19 through November 3. Hours are: Mondays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Wednesdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Thursdays 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Fridays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Saturdays 9 a.m. to Noon.

“The local election commission always tries to set various times to accommodate the different segments of the population,” Stanley said. “They try to make it as easy as possible for a voter to find time to cast their ballot.”

Election Day is November 8 and polls open in DeKalb County at 8 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m.

Free State Sponsored Medicare Help Can Save Older Tennesseans Hundreds of Dollars

October 14, 2016

Starting October 15 and continuing through December 7, 2016, Tennessee’s 1.3 million Medicare beneficiaries will have the opportunity to review their current Medicare plan, including drug coverage, and determine which plan is best for them. Needs and plans change from year to year, and the Medicare system can often be difficult to understand and navigate. But Open Enrollment is something no beneficiary should avoid or ignore.

Medicare beneficiaries in Tennessee do not have to navigate this complicated system alone. A state program provides more than 300 counselors to help guide Tennesseans through the Medicare Open Enrollment process. The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (or TN SHIP for short) is free to all of Tennessee’s Medicare beneficiaries. TN SHIP counselors can review a beneficiary’s current Medicare plan and determine the best fit for that individual. The TN SHIP program neither sells, nor endorses, specific plans; it provides free and objective counseling on Medicare plans and solutions. Last year the TN SHIP program saved Tennesseans an average of $2,245 on their annual prescription drug cost.

The Commission on Aging and Disability encourages all Tennessee Medicare beneficiaries to review their Medicare plan annually for the following reasons:

 Formulary changes – Your plan may be making changes to how and if your medications are covered.
 Premium changes – There may be changes in the amount you pay for your plan premium.
 New plans – Each year, new plans are introduced that may offer benefits that better fit your situation.
 Savings – Switching to another plan may save you money.
 Coverage Gap Information – Comparing plans will help you identify when or if you will end up in the Part D coverage gap period.

If a beneficiary has questions or needs help reviewing their plan, that person should call TN SHIP at 1-877-801-0044.

DeKalb County Awarded $500,000 CDBG Grant

October 14, 2016
Dwayne Page
DeKalb County Awarded $500,000 CDBG Grant

DeKalb County has been awarded a $500,000 Community Development Block grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

The purpose of the grant is to help fund extension of water lines to a portion of the county in need. The county applied for the grant on behalf of
the DeKalb Utility District which will actually be providing the service. The DUD will also be allocating a $120,000 grant match to help fund the

The formal grant presentation was made Wednesday, October 12 at the State Capitol to DUD Board member Jimmy Womack and DUD Manager Jon Foutch by Governor Bill Haslam, State Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver and Mark Pody, and Ted Townsend, Chief Operating Officer for the Department of Economic and Community Development. Amanda Mainord of Grassroots Planning & Consulting, the grant administrator for the project, and Buddy Koonce of Goodwin, Mills, Cawood, the DUD's utility engineer were also on hand for the presentation.

The project is to serve 40 or more households including at least 140 residents on Tramel Branch, Oakley Road, Carter Lane, Old Givens Hollow, and the Alexandria to Dismal Road. "This grant will be used for people in these areas who have to haul water or who have bad wells. It will provide much needed water services and a better way of life for them," Foutch told WJLE.

Although funding is now available, Foutch cautions residents in the area to be patient in that the actual work won't begin until probably the middle
part of 2017.

Foutch said he would like to thank all those who helped make this grant possible including the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community
Development; Governor Bill Haslam; State Representaives Terri Lynn Weaver and Mark Pody; the DeKalb Utility District Board of Commissioners; Buddy Koonce, the DUD's utility engineer; County Mayor Tim Stribling; the DeKalb County Commission, and Amanda Mainord of Grassroots Planning and Consulting, the grant writer.

PICTURED ABOVE: Ted Townsend, Chief Operating Officer for the Department of Economic and Community Development; Buddy Koonce of Goodwin, Mills, Cawood, the DUD's utility engineer; State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver; Amanda Mainord of Grassroots Planning & Consulting; DUD Board member Jimmy Womack; DUD manager Jon Foutch; State Representative Mark Pody; and Governor Bill Haslam.

DeKalb County High School Graduation Rate Exceeds State Average Under More Rigorous Criteria

October 13, 2016
Dwayne Page

The high school graduation rate in DeKalb County increased by almost two percentage points to 97.58% for the 2015-16 year and it exceeded the state graduation rate by nine percentage points

The Tennessee Department of Education this week released the state and district graduation rates, some of which hit new highs under more rigorous criteria.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said the state graduation rate of 88.5 percent is the highest on record since the state changed to a more rigorous calculation of graduation rates in 2011.

The latest statewide graduation rate was up nearly a full percentage point since last year and overall has increased three percentage points since the state implemented the more rigorous calculations.

This year, nearly 60 percent of districts saw their graduation rates increase or stay the same when compared to last year’s rates.

“Our high school staff works extremely hard to keep our students on a successful path toward high school graduation. At the Central Office level, April Odom, works very hard also to keep us updated on student success. We want to thank our community, parents, teachers, and students for the hard work put forth to make this awesome graduation rate. It truly shows, working together, we can make such a positive difference,” said Lisa Cripps, Supervisor of Instruction for grades 7-12 in the DeKalb County School System.

The DeKalb County graduation rate for 2014-15 was at 95.8%

“Our schools and districts should be proud of the work they have done to support students on their journeys to and beyond high school graduation,” McQueen said. “High school graduation is a critical step in allowing students to embark on their chosen paths in life. However, as more Tennessee students are earning their diplomas, we must ensure that they are all leaving with the knowledge and skills to be successful in college and the workforce.”

Over the past few years, Tennessee has been raising expectations for both students and educators, and the state has seen significant gains as a result. These outcomes, including increases in graduation rates, are a testament to the work being done in schools across the state. The most notable gains and overall achievements are:

•12 districts improved their graduation rates by five percentage points or more. The districts with the most significant gains were Alvin C. York (18.1 percent), Tullahoma City (11.6 percent), Trenton Special School District (11.1 percent), and Grundy County (10 percent).

•95 districts—over 70 percent of the districts in the state—have graduation rates at or above 90 percent, up from 81 districts last year. Fentress County, Alcoa City, South Carroll Special School District, Milan Special School District, Meigs County, and Crockett County all had graduation rates at or above 99 percent.

•76 districts—roughly 60 percent of districts in the state—had graduation rates at or above 90 percent for both 2014-15 and 2015-16.

More information, such as graduation rates for individual subgroups, will be available on the State Report Card, which will be released later this fall.


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