Local News Articles

Jim Sherwood Attends Space Camp

August 19, 2014
Dwayne Page
Jim Sherwood Reaches New Heights at Space Camp
Crew Von Tiesenhausen – Commander’s Cup winners

Jim Sherwood of Smithville recently attended SPACE CAMP at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, home of SPACE CAMP and NASA's official Visitor Information Center for Marshall Space Flight Center. The weeklong educational program promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), while training students and adults with hands-on activities and missions based on team work, leadership and decision-making. Jim successfully completed the requirements and earned an Engineering college credit from the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

Jim was part of the Advanced Space Academy Program, which is specifically designed for high school trainees who have a particular interest in aerospace. He spent the week training with a team that flew a simulated Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Once aboard the ISS, the crew participated in experiments and successfully completed an extra-vehicular activity (EVA), or space walk.

Jim and crew returned to earth in time to hear retired Space Shuttle astronaut Col. Bob Springer speak at their graduation! Throughout the week, points were awarded for individual and team challenges in scientific knowledge, athletics, leadership and teamwork. Jim's team was elated when the announcement came at graduation that they had won the Commander's Cup, the award presented to the team with the highest score for the week.

SPACE CAMP crew trainers who lead each 16-member team must have at least a year of college, and the majority of staff are college graduates.

SPACE CAMP operates year-round in Huntsville, Alabama, and uses astronaut training techniques to engage trainees in real-world applications of STEM subjects. Students sleep in quarters designed to resemble the ISS and train in simulators like those used by NASA. More than 600,000 trainees have graduated from SPACE CAMP since its opening in Huntsville in 1982, including STS-131 astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger.
Last year, children and teacher from all 50 states and 58 international locations attended SPACE CAMP. Jim attended during International Week. He met high school students from all over the United States and had team members from England, Belgium and Mexico.

Interested in training like an astronaut? Visit www.spacecamp.com or call 1-800-63 SPACE.

Man Charged in Multiple Thefts of Rebar from Nursery

August 18, 2014
Dwayne Page
James Dallas McMillen, Jr.
Orry Joseph Savage
Paul Cox Herron, Jr.
David Royden Drennan
James Grady Warner, Jr.

A Smithville man has been charged with stealing rebar from Pirtles Nursery on five occasions and selling it at a local recycling business.

66 year James Dallas McMillen, Jr. of Bright Hill Road, Smithville is charged with theft of property under $500, theft over $500, and three counts of theft over $1,000. His bond totals $19,500 and he will be in court August 28.

According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, McMillen is accused of stealing rebar from Pirtles Nursery in the following amounts and on these dates: 360 pounds (in one incident) and 1,140 pounds (in a second incident) on Wednesday, August 13; 880 pounds (in one incident) and 1,380 pounds (in a second incident) on Thursday, August 14; and 1,100 pounds on Friday, August 15.

Orry Joseph Savage of Jefferson Road, Smithville is charged with being a fugitive from justice. His bond is $50,000. Sheriff Ray said that on Monday, August 11 Savage was arrested on charges from Russell County, Kentucky for theft by deception-include cold checks $10,000 and persistent felony offender.

67 year old Paul Cox Herron, Jr. is charged with a second offense of driving under the influence. He was further issued a citation for driving on roadways laned for traffic. His bond is $3,000 and he will be in court on September 11. Sheriff Ray said that on Tuesday, August 12 a deputy spotted a gray Honda Accord leave its lane of travel, crossing the white line onto the shoulder of the roadway. The officer stopped the vehicle and spoke with the driver, Herron and found him to have a strong odor of alcohol coming from his person. His speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot. Herron allegedly admitted to drinking four beers. He submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks and was placed under arrest.

49 year old David Royden Drennan of Sparta Highway, Smithville is charged with violation of the sex offender law for not registering as required and for not reporting that he had changed jobs. His bond is $5,000 and he will be in court August 21. Sheriff Ray said Drennan was supposed to have registered as a sex offender no later than July 6 but that as of August 12, he still had not done so. The TBI called the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and requested a warrant be taken out against Drennan for failure to report as required by the sexual offender registry.

50 year old James Grady Warner, Jr. of Lonnie Cantrell Road, Smithville is charged with aggravated assault. His bond is $15,000 and he will be in court August 28. Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, August 15 Warner allegedly assaulted his wife by grabbing her by the throat and he threw her on the ground, resulting in a knot on the back of her head. He also allegedly hit her in the face which resulted in a knot on her forehead. Physical markings could be seen on the woman's throat area where Warner had tried to strangle her. A minor child was in the home at the time and witnessed the assault. When placed under arrest, Warner became very angry and told his wife "I will be back and you will pay for this".

48 year old Douglas Ray Ferrell of Dale Ridge Road, Dowelltown is charged with public intoxication. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court August 28. Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, August 15 a deputy was dispatched to Dale Ridge Road for a possible domestic. Upon arrival, the officer found Ferrell in the road yelling. Other deputies had responded to the same address three times that day to deal with Ferrell. He had gone to his neighbor's house where he harassed and annoyed them asking for rides to go get more beer. Ferrell had a strong odor of alcohol on him and he was unsteady on his feet. For his safety and that of the public, Ferrell was arrested and brought to the jail for booking.

Enrollment Up in School System from Last August

August 18, 2014
Dwayne Page
Joey Reeder

Enrollment in the DeKalb County School System is up by fifty four students over last year at this time.

Total enrollment, as of Monday, August 18, was 3,034 compared to 2,980 last year on the third Monday of the school year, according to Joey Reeder, Attendance Supervisor.

"We're up by fifty four students county wide from where we were a year ago. Of course, this is an ever changing number and it will be changing daily from now until probably after Labor Day. Usually it's the Monday after Labor Day before you get numbers firmed up about who has moved in and moved out," Reeder said in an interview with WJLE.

DeKalb County High School (grades 9-12) has 844 students, an increase of twenty two students over one year ago.
DCHS Enrollment breaks down as follows:
Ninth graders:237
Tenth graders: 228
Eleventh graders: 179
Twelfth graders: 198

Enrollment at DeKalb Middle School ( grades 6-8) is 549, down by twenty four students from last August.
DMS Enrollment breaks down as follows:
Sixth graders: 170
Seventh graders: 182
Eighth graders: 197

Northside Elementary School's enrollment (grades 2-5) is 632, up by forty two students from last year at this time.
NE Enrollment breaks down as follows:
Second graders: 78
Third graders: 192
Fourth graders:182
Fifth graders: 181

Smithville Elementary School (Pre-K through 2nd grade) has 610 students, a decrease of four students from a year ago.
SES Enrollment breaks down as follows:
Pre-Kindergarten (4 year olds): 77
Pre-Kindergarten (3 year olds) 5
Kindergarten: 174
First graders: 216
Second graders: 138

Enrollment at DeKalb West School (Pre-K through 8th grade) is exactly the same as a year ago at 397 students.
DWS Enrollment breaks down as follows:
Pre-Kindergarten (4 year olds): 20
Kindergarten: 40
First graders: 27
Second graders: 49
Third graders:48
Fourth graders:42
Fifth graders:45
Sixth graders:43
Seventh graders:43
Eighth graders:40

Reeder explained that the big jump at Northside Elementary School is because a new second grade class has been added there.

Although there is no overcrowding at the elementary level, Reeder said the second grade is coming pretty close. Currently there are eleven second grade classes at Smithville Elementary and Northside Elementary combined with a total of 220 students or twenty per class. Reeder said there could be a drop off of second grade students if families move away due to the closing of Berry Nursery. "We are right at our peak with the second grade (Northside and Smithville Elementary). We're waiting to see if anybody leaves. One thing that has us concerned is with the closing of Berry Nursery, we really don't have any idea what that is going to do to our numbers. We don't know if a lot of those families are going to relocate or stay here. That's several families and quite a few kids so we really don't know yet how that will affect our numbers. We're almost to the point where we need an additional second grade teacher but if you hire a teacher and you have ten second graders move away than you're way under," Reeder told WJLE.

Meanwhile a portable classroom facility has been moved from DeKalb West School to DCHS to create space there for a math and special education class where teachers previously didn't have a room to themselves. The portable houses two classrooms. "The big problem at the high school is that we don't have enough classrooms for all the teachers we have. There are a lot of teachers that have to use other people's classrooms on their planning period. That's not ideal but they work through it," said Reeder.

Reeder encourages students to be in school on time every day when classes are in session. "According to Tennessee state law, once you miss five unexcused days in a school year you are considered truant. Juvenile Court Judge Bratten Cook, II has been a big friend to education. He realizes the importance of education and he wants all our students in school. He has been a big help," said Reeder.

"We have a website www.dekalbschools.net with an attendance page that answers your questions about truancy and getting your driver's license or if you lose those license because of absences or lack of academic progress, what you have to do in order to get those driver's licenses back. Our website is really informative. You can find out a lot there about all of our programs. I encourage people to use that. A lot of times people want to pick up the phone and call the school to ask questions. Now you can go straight to that website and more than likely get your questions answered," said Reeder.

Meanwhile, local businesses are urged to help promote the school system's "READ 20 INITIATIVE" by displaying signs at their establishments. "Anybody with a business interested in putting a sign in front of their business may call 597-4084 and we'll get you a sign," said Reeder.

Lady Tigers Sweep on Pre-Season Play Day

August 18, 2014
Dwayne Page
Lady Tigers Champs!
DCHS Lady Tiger Soccer Team

The Lady Tigers opened their season on Saturday with a bang. 21 seconds into the Annual DeKalb County Preseason Play day, “Bang”, Hailey Bass drives a shot into the back post of the goal off of a well-played assist from Jerica Braswell. Just like that, the season begins, and the Lady
Tigers are up 1-0 on the Cannon County Lionettes. Like clockwork, the execution of the Lady Tiger midfield composed of Taylor Spare, Brooke Roller, Haley Summers, Kamien Sparks, and Jerica Braswell would find forward Hailey Bass in front of the goal again in the 6th and 7th minutes. With three goals in the first 7 minutes, Hailey Bass completed the “hat trick”, and the Lady Tigers went on to win 5-0 over Cannon County on goals by Jerica Braswell and Angeles Soto.

The DeKalb County Preseason Play day consisted of four teams; Cannon County, Watertown, White County, and the home squad DeKalb County. Each team played four 40 min. matches in a round robin format. Then a second match was played between the bottom two teams and then the top two teams.

In their second match, the Lady Tigers faced White County. The Lady Warriors jumped out to an early lead off of a well hit shot by White County’s Autumn Ferree. However this goal would be the only one the Lady Tigers would give up on the day. With hard work, the home team won their second match 3-1 on goals scored by Alexis Nokes (14th minute), Haley Summers (29th minute), and Angeles Soto (36th minute).

The third match would be against the new upstart team of Watertown, and would prove to be a good opportunity for the Lady Tigers to work on formation and get good experience for some young players. The DeKalb squad would win 8-0 on goals by Jerica Braswell, Lydia Trail, Jessica Billings, Angeles Soto (2), and three by freshman Jhoany Gaspar.

The final match of the day would have DeKalb County facing White County again. The Lady Tigers continued to flex their goal scoring muscles finishing with a 4-0 victory, and wrapping up a very successful preseason undefeated. Goals were scored by Jerica Braswell (8th minute), Hailey Bass (9th minute), Angeles Soto (28th minute), and Jerica Braswell (38th minute).

Overall, the DeKalb Soccer Program showed strength in several areas. With the strong defense of Jackie Overbey, Morgan Odom, Hannah James, and captain Savannah Driver, the Lady Tigers only conceded 1 goal on the day. Both goalkeepers, Katie Hall and Jessica Billings, showed strong performances throughout the play day. The midfield pressed hard on their opponents putting pressure on defenses, setting up scoring chances, and even scoring a few goals of their own. Finally, with a score line of 20 goals scored in the equivalent of two full matches, the forwards played excellently.

The Lady Tigers are looking forward to their upcoming match Tuesday 6:30 at home against Mt. Juliet Christian.

School System Reports Twenty Three Incidents of Bullying Last Year

August 17, 2014
Dwayne Page
Joey Reeder

Twenty three incidents of bullying were reported in the DeKalb County School System during the 2013-14 year. Eleven of those cases were confirmed according to Attendance Supervisor Joey Reeder.

In compliance with state law and board policy, Reeder updated the DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night on bullying statistics in the school system. " From last year's data we had twenty three reports from people who said they had been bullied. After an investigation only eleven of those were considered to be bullying. We had four bullying cases that involved sex or gender based discrimination. We had one bullying case that involved the use of electronic technology," he said.

Reeder gave credit to school administrators and staff for identifying and reporting cases of bullying. "We have a bullying/harassment policy in compliance with state law. Teachers and school counselors have had information on prevention and strategies to address bullying and harassment when it happens. Our administrators have done a real good job of training on bullying. They did a real good job last year of deciphering what is and is not bullying," said Reeder.

Under the school board's policy, Bullying/Intimidation/Harassment is defined as "An act that substantially interferes with a student's educational benefits, opportunities, or performance, and the act has the effect of:

*Physically harming a student or damaging a student's property;
*Knowingly placing a student or students in reasonable fear of physical harm to the student or damage to the student's property:
*Causing emotional distress to a student or students; or
*Creating a hostile educational environment.

Bullying, intimidation, or harassment may also be unwelcome conduct based on a protected class (race, nationality, origin, color, gender, age, disability, religion) that is severe, pervasive, or persistent and creates a hostile environment.

Cyber-bullying is defined as a form of bullying undertaken through the use of electronic devices. Electronic devices include, but are not limited to, telephones. cellular phones or other wireless telecommunication devices, text messaging, emails, social networking sites, instant messaging, videos, web sites, or fake profiles.

Hazing is defined as an intentional or reckless act by a student or group of students that is directed against any other students that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of the students or that induces or coerces a student to endanger his/her mental or physical health or safety. Coaches and other employees of the school district shall not encourage, permit, condone or tolerate hazing activities.

Hazing does not include customary athletic events or similar contests or competitions and is limited to those actions taken and situations created in connection with initiation into or affiliation with any organization".

Complaints and Investigations:
"Alleged victims of offenses shall report these incidents immediately to a teacher, counselor or building administrator. All school employees are required to report alleged violations of this policy to the principal/designee. All other members of the school community, including students, parents, volunteers, and visitors are encouraged to report any act that may be a violation of this policy.

While reports may be made anonymously, an individual's need for confidentiality must be balanced with obligations to cooperate with police investigations or legal proceedings, to provide due process to the accused, to conduct a thorough investigation or to take necessary actions to resolve a complaint, and the identity of parties and witnesses may be disclosed in appropriate circumstances to individuals with a need to know.

The principal/designee at each school shall be responsible for investigating and resolving complaints and is responsible for determining whether an alleged act constitutes a violation of this policy, and such act shall be held to violate this policy when it meets one of the following conditions:

*It places the student in reasonable fear of harm for the student's person or property;
*It has a substantially detrimental effect on the student's physical or mental health;
*It has the effect of substantially interfering with the student's academic performance; or
*It has the effect of substantially interfering with the student's ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.

Upon the determination of a violation, the principal/designee shall conduct a prompt, thorough, and complete investigation of each alleged incident. Within the parameters of the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a written report on the investigation will be delivered to the parents of the complainant, parents of the accused students and to the Director of Schools.

Response and Prevention:
School administrators shall consider the nature and circumstances of the incident, the age of the violator, the degree of harm, previous incidences or patterns of behavior, or any other factors, as appropriate to properly respond to each situation.

A substantiated charge against an employee shall result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. A substantiated charge against a student may result in corrective or disciplinary action up to and including suspension.

An employee disciplined for violation of this policy may appeal the decision by contacting the Compliance Officer. Any student disciplined for violation of this policy may appeal the decision in accordance with disciplinary policies and procedures."

DCHS Girls Soccer Team Seeks to Keep Assistant Coach

August 17, 2014
Dwayne Page
Brooke Roller

A member of the DCHS girls soccer team addressed the Board of Education Thursday night asking that long time unpaid assistant coach Rhonda Merriman be kept as a paid assistant.

Brooke Roller, a DCHS senior and member of the soccer team, delivered a brief prepared statement in support of Merriman. "From our understanding it has been approved for us to have a paid assistant coach. Rhonda Merriman has been our unpaid assistant coach for about the last six years. Now that we have been approved to have an assistant coach, we have chosen Ms. Rhonda. We have been informed that it cannot be allowed for her to take that position. It has been said that she is not fit to work with kids. She is a guidance counselor at DCHS and also a youth pastor at her church and has coached soccer for many years. I have had a rough few months and without her help I could have made some really bad decisions. She isn't just a coach to many of us on the team. We love having her on the field with us. We are all very close to her. We also understand that perhaps it is the configuring of how to pay her because she is paid differently than most teachers. We have personally hired a lawyer to do that math for the board. In addition to that our current head coach, Dylan Kleparek has researched and discovered that multiple other high schools in the state of Tennessee have assistant coaches who are not teachers at the school just like Ms. Rhonda. Also for us girls we have things that we can't handle with Coach K. because he is a male and we are females so it makes it a lot easier for us having Ms. Rhonda around. I just feel our team would benefit very much by having her because she is a wonderful person," said Roller.

The new school budget includes funding for additional coaching supplements including two DCHS assistant soccer coaches (one for the girls team and one for the boys team) totaling $5,570.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby, who has the sole authority to hire personnel in the school system, has apparently not yet named an assistant coach but refutes any notion that Merriman is unfit to be around kids. "Ms. Rhonda is an excellent person. She is outstanding. If she were not fit, she wouldn't be at the high school. She is an excellent person. I just want to make that point. But I have not named her as an assistant coach," said Willoughby.

Merriman is a member of the support staff at DeKalb County High School.

Newly Elected County Officials to be Sworn In August 25

August 15, 2014
Dwayne Page
The swearing in of Tim Stribling as Smithville Alderman in 2012. Stribling will be sworn in as County Mayor on August 25

All newly elected county public officials including county commissioners, constables, and school board members will be sworn into office in a special ceremony on Monday, August 25 at 5:00 p.m. in the downstairs courtroom of the courthouse. The terms of office for all newly elected officials begin September 1.

The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen-elect will be sworn into office on a different date and time to be announced later.

(Photo shown above is the swearing in of Tim Stribling as Smithville Alderman in 2012. Stribling will be sworn in as County Mayor on August 25)

School Board Honors the Late Educator John Isabell; Willoughby Names Personnel

August 15, 2014
Dwayne Page
John Isabell

The DeKalb County Teacher of the Year Award has been named in honor of the late John Isabell.

The Board of Education Thursday night voted to name the award for Isabell at the suggestion of Second District member Charles Robinson.

Isabell, a long time educator and former President of the DeKalb County Education Association, passed away a few weeks ago after suffering from cancer. "Last month Mr. John Isabell lost his battle with cancer. He was a teacher at DeKalb County High School. He also taught at the Middle School. He loved teaching. He loved his students. He served many years as the President of the DeKalb County Education Association. He attended our meetings and our workshops as the President of this organization and he provided to the board opinions and ideas on how to move forward. He also gave an educator's viewpoint. I would like to make a motion that we name the Teacher of the Year Award for DeKalb County, the John Isabell Award," said Robinson.

The motion was unanimously approved by the board.

The DeKalb County Teacher of the Year Award is presented annually in May to one of the five teachers of the year from each school in the county.

Meanwhile, in his monthly report on personnel, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby said the following persons have been employed since the July School Board meeting:

Jessica Antoniak, teacher at DeKalb West School
Cassandra Binkley, teacher at DeKalb Middle School
Chelsa Burch, teacher at DCHS
Shanae Cantrell, teacher at Northside Elementary School
Cindy Childers, substitute nurse
Katherine Collins, educational assistant at Smithville Elementary School
Andrew Cook, teacher at DCHS
Shara Cowan, bus driver
Tiffany Cowart, teacher at Smithville Elementary School
Karla Crabtree, teacher at DCHS
Mike Eaton, maintenance
Melba Farmer, teacher at Smithville Elementary School
Kenneth Gordon, educational assistant at Smithville Elementary School
Chelsea Grissom, teacher at Smithville Elementary School
Kristen Hankal, teacher at Northside Elementary School
Cecila Jenkins, teacher at DeKalb Middle School
Nathalie Kintz, psychologist, County-wide
Rebecca Miller, teacher at DCHS
Marti Maxwell, teacher at DCHS
Eden Nokes, educational assistant at Smithville Elementary School
Macy Nokes, teacher at Smithville Elementary School
Gayla Parker, teacher at Smithville Elementary School
Kelly Pyburn, teacher at DeKalb West School
Jennifer Roller, educational assistant at Smithville Elementary School
Corine Seifert, bus driver
Jennifer Shores, psychologist, County-wide
Tara Smith, speech/language pathologist, County-wide
Peggy Sutton, substitute cook
Jessica Styer, teacher at Smithville Elementary School
Ellen Warden, librarian at DeKalb Middle School
Evann Wilson, speech/language teacher, County-wide

Substitutes: Joyce Alexander, Guylene Atnip, Avery Brown, Carolyn Caldwell, Laura Carter, Dana Clark, Jennifer Chapman, Brenda Colwell, Julie Cook, Kristin Cook, Shelly Cross, Donna Davis, Linda Dean, Sue Driver, Suzanne Dunn, Wayne Fuson, Sherrie Giles, Bobbie Hale, Vicki Haggard, Bobbie Hale, Charlene Hallum, Jimmy Hendrixson, Betty Hickey, Ester Holder, Linda Luna, Gail Kirksey, Sharon Moffett, Stephen Moore, Olivia Norton, Angela Osment, Paul Parker, Pat Parkerson, Angelia Pedigo, Jessica Rackley, Judy Redmon, Joyce Robertson, Virginia Rose, Bob Smith, Michelle Snipes, Kim Taylor, Jan Thomas, Luanna Tollett, Jenny Trapp, Vickey Vickers, Wanda Vickers, Melissa Wallace, and Kim Young.

Lorie Isabell, transferred from Smithville Elementary to Northside Elementary
Holly Espinosa, DeKalb Middle School Special Education
Bethany Davis, transferred to Gifted DCHS and DeKalb Middle School, 142 Federal Funding to 141 General Purpose funding
Debra Cunningham, transferred from Smithville Elementary to DCHS, 142 Federal Funding to 141 General Purpose funding
Lisa Craig, transferred from DeKalb Middle School Library to DCHS Library
Karen Pelham, transferred from DeKalb Middle School to DeKalb West School
Lesa Hayes, transferred from DeKalb West School to DeKalb Middle School
Amee Cantrell, transferred from DCHS to DeKalb Middle School CDC
Debra Poteete, transferred from DeKalb West to Northside Elementary
Chanson Boman, from part-time to full time computer tech
Julie Fitts, from substitute bus driver to full time
Sydney Gremmels, from substitute teacher to full time CDC at Smithville Elementary
Danny Washer, from substitute bus driver to full time
Maggie Coyle, part time SLP, 142 Federal Funding to 141 General Purpose Funding
Jennifer Hearndon, funding source from 142 Federal funds to 141 General Purpose funds

Ronda Northcutt, educational assistant at Smithville Elementary School

New School Board Likely to Decide Whether to Outsource Custodial Work (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

August 15, 2014
Dwayne Page

It appears a final decision on whether to outsource the school system's custodial work to GCA Services Group will be left with the new Board of Education.

While the issue was not on Thursday night's regular monthly meeting agenda, representatives of GCA were given an opportunity to address the school board hoping to answer questions about their services and to ease concerns about their hiring practices.

GCA officials are seeking to contract with the DeKalb County School system to provide custodial services for $400,000 for the first year with annual renewal options for at least up to four additional years, a move that is intended to save the district money. All current custodial staff working for the school system, recommended by the principals would be hired by GCA. All chemicals, equipment, and consumables would also be provided by GCA for maintaining the buildings year round. But as WJLE first reported Monday, at least one school board member, W.J. (Dub) Evins, III has doubts about the cost savings to the school system in the long run by contracting with GCA. "The financial savings is something I have not been able to justify. If it costs us $400,000, it will also cost GCA the same, unless they cut wages or positions. That is simple math," he said.

During Thursday night's meeting, Evins questioned Darren Kreakie, Human Resource Manager for GCA about the costs. " The contract amount is $400,000. That's what our salaries and benefits end up costing us. What I'm having trouble understanding is if it's costing us $400,000 why is it not costing you $400,000?"

"We can save you money while giving your employees the exact same wage rate and similar benefits to what they're getting and vacation benefits.The reason we can do that is because we save money elsewhere," said Kreakie.

"We save our customers anywhere between twelve and twenty five percent depending upon the amount that they spend. We can do it (provide services) a lot less and a lot cheaper because we have national buying power."

"The highest workman's comp in our system is probably our custodians. We take that over from you and that's a hidden benefit you don't see. So when we take over that workman's comp we put them on our program and you don't get to see that. We also have a lot of different efficiencies that we can do with supplies, techniques, and training that will save us money and save us time," he said.

"A lot of times what we save is in the benefits. Where you have to go out and buy a policy for "X" amount of people, we have 30,000 people so we can get a benefit package for a lot less because we have more users in that. That's where a lot of our savings come is in the benefit program," continued Kreakie

On the issue of hiring, there are several reported cases in recent months and years where GCA employees have been found to be alleged sex and drug offenders, as WJLE reported Monday. However, Kreakie insists the company conducts thorough background checks on its new workers. "A lot of people are concerned about background checks. Our policies match with DeKalb County's (School System). After we put our employees through a rigorous screening background check with us and once they pass then they have to go to the State of Tennessee and get fingerprinted through the school district. At that point the school district would receive the results from that fingerprint and then Mr. (Mark) Willoughby would look at the results and make a decision on whether he wants that person within the school district or not and we would adhere to that. We do that in many different locations throughout the state of Tennessee. Our job is to make sure our employees are safely taken care of. Go home safe and come back to work. We make sure we keep a clean school for our students to learn and our educators to teach." He added that GCA maintains about a 90% retention rate among employees.

"What we like to do is take care of our employees. That's our number one asset and it will still be our number one asset if we are given the opportunity to take DeKalb County as well. We're willing to offer all current employees a position as long as they get a recommendation and pass a rigorous background screening check through GCA," he said.

Evins said he wanted to see the contract to learn what custodial services would and would not be provided. "I haven't seen a contract. I had talked to Mr. (Josh) Helton (GCA Senior Regional Manager). He emailed and asked me if there is something I specifically needed. I told him I knew there are clauses in certain contracts that state, in this case, what custodial services will not be done. I never heard back from anyone," said Evins.

"Our contracts come with specs with what we will do and won't do. What they (custodians) are doing now, they will do with us. If there is a late night football game, basketball game that's all included in that price. There is no extra money. That is what they're going to be doing. The principal is still the CEO of that school but instead of the principal having to deal with the employees, he will have a central person, an account manager that he or she can go deal with if there is a problem and they will go fix it so the principals can go back to what they're doing, taking care of the kids and their faculty and staff," said Kreakie.

GCA officials said they would make available copies of their proposal and specs with Evins and all other members of the school board.

Four School Board Members Awarded for Years of Service

August 14, 2014
Dwayne Page
Mark Willoughby, John David Foutch, Johnny Lattimore, Charles Robinson, Kenny Rhody, Jordan Wilkins

Four school board members who will be leaving office come September 1 attended their last board of education meeting Thursday night.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby presented each of them a School Bell Award in appreciation for their service and cited some school system achievements made during their years on the board. Willoughby also presented a School Bell Award to Jordan Wilkins, a recent DCHS graduate, for serving this past year as the high school's non-voting student representative on the school board.

First district member John David Foutch did not seek re-election. Foutch was first appointed to the school board by the county commission in 2005 to finish out the term of Darrell Gill who resigned because he and his family had moved to another district. Foutch was elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2010, He is completing nine years on the school board. Foutch will be succeeded by DeKalb West School Principal Danny Parkerson, who will have to resign his position with the school system when he becomes a member of the Board of Education.

Second district member Charles Robinson is completing twelve years on the school board, having first been elected in 2002 and then re-elected in 2006 and 2010. He will be succeeded by Jerry Wayne Johnson, who served on the school board from 1992 to 1998.

Third district member Kenny Rhody is also completing his third term on the school board. Rhody succeeded his father Billy Rhody who served the third district on the board for several years until his death. Kenny Rhody was elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006 and 2010. He is being succeeded by Jim Beshearse.

Seventh District member Johnny Lattimore is wrapping up his third term. He was first elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006 and 2010. He will be succeeded by Shaun Tubbs.

Other members of the school board are Billy Miller in the fourth district, W.J. (Dub) Evins, III in the fifth district, and Doug Stephens in the sixth district. Miller was re-elected unopposed last week. The terms of Evins and Stephens expire in 2016. Each term is for four years.


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