Local News Articles

DCHS Girls Soccer Team Seeks to Keep Assistant Coach

August 17, 2014
by: 
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
by: 
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 county complex. 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
by: 
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.

Transferred:
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

Resignations/Retirement
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
by: 
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
by: 
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.

Abstinence Based Education to be Offered in School System (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

August 14, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County School System is partnering with the Cookeville Pregnancy Center to offer an "abstinence based" education course to Middle and High School students this year.

The Board of Education gave its blessing during Thursday night's regular monthly meeting at the request of DeeAnna Reynolds, School Health Coordinator. "We're required by law according to our (teen pregnancy) rate to require family planning," said Reynolds.

The program will be taught for two days, in 45 minute sessions, to middle school aged students at both DeKalb West School and DeKalb Middle School through guidance and to high school students at DCHS through the wellness classes.

Lisa Reeves, Abstinence Education Coordinator for the Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic, said state law requires school systems to offer such a program if the county's teen pregnancy rate exceeds a certain level. "According to the Centers for Disease Control, the pregnancy rate in DeKalb County for the 15-17 age group is 35.3 per 1,000 females. Under state law, if your rate is over 19.5 you are required to have some type of abstinence education to try and address that number," she said.

Though the subject matter is sensitive, Reeves, who will be the instructor of the course, said every effort will be made to present the material at age appropriate levels. "I have been teaching abstinence education through the Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic now for just over four years. The way I approach this material is that I talk to children just the way that I would if their parents were in the room. I always strive to do everything that I can to be above reproach. We do not allow a student in our classroom without a permission slip and that is state law. I am a mom too and I don't want anybody talking to my kid about such a sensitive topic unless I have given that permission," she said.

"Our program (Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic) has been in effect for over ten years in Putnam County but we're also in White County and Overton County. We're a pregnancy clinic. We see girls who are teenagers coming to our clinic on a regular basis in a situation they didn't want to be in. What we have found is the only way we can be preventative is to try to go into the schools and talk to students about the choices that they are making before they find themselves in that situation. We go in and talk about and help them understand not only the risks that are associated with Teen Pregnancy but the risks that are associated with sexually transmitted diseases and the emotional consequences. We also talk to them about healthy relationships and boundaries to make in their lives," said Reeves.

In a letter to be sent to parents, Reeves writes "This letter is to inform you that the Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic's Abstinence Education Program has been invited to come to your student's class this semester."

"The Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic believes that saving sex until a committed, marriage relationship is the best way to protect against the emotional and physical consequences that can result from premarital sexual activity. The high rates of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and emotional consequences can only be stopped by teens understanding the importance of abstinence and making wise choices for their future."

"This program will be taught for two days in your student's class. At the end of those days, students are encouraged to take the provided material home and share it with their parents or guardians. We understand that the subject matter that will be discussed is sensitive and we make every effort to present the matter at age-appropriate levels."

"Our curriculum, is called "Think On Point". I have also been certified by the National Abstinence Education Association," concluded Reeves in her letter.

Girl Scout Troop Preparing Food Boxes for Needy Seniors

August 14, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Girl Scout Troop Preparing Food Boxes for Needy Seniors
Carly Vance, Leah Davis, and Hannah Willingham

Members of the 5th Grade Junior Girl Scout Troop 2103 have been busy this week preparing food boxes to be delivered to thirty five low income senior citizen households in this area.

The Troop, including members Carly Vance, Leah Davis, and Hannah Willingham, have been working toward the Girl Scout Bronze award by collecting non-perishable food items at local food drives and assisting in packaging the food baskets. The Smithville Senior Center, a partner with the Girl Scout Troop, will now work with UCDD and UCHRA to coordinate the delivery of the food to those Senior Citizens in need.

Troop members and leaders wish to thank Smithville Food Lion, Prichard's Foods in Alexandria, Bert Driver Nursery, and the Smithville Church of Christ and Upper Helton Baptist Church for their support during the food drives. Also thanks to Wal-Mart in Smithville for making a donation of $150 in store credit to purchase non-perishable food items to add to the food boxes. Other anonymous donations were also received.

According to the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (April 2013), Tennessee ranked second in the nation in senior hunger or food insecurity. The Upper Cumberland Area Agency on Aging and Disability located in Cookeville has made this issue a top priority.

Thank you for your support in our effort to end hunger for Senior Citizens in DeKalb County.

(TOP PHOTO: left to right- members of Junior Girl Scout Troop 2103 Carly Vance, Hannah Willingham and Leah Davis)

(BOTTOM PHOTO: Carly Vance, Leah Davis, and Hannah Willingham)

Boats Destroyed in Fire At Edgar Evins State Park Marina

August 13, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Boats Destroyed in Fire At Edgar Evins State Park Marina
Firefighters pump water from the lake to battle the boat fires at Marina

A house boat, pontoon, and the fuel island were destroyed by fire Wednesday at Edgar Evins State Park Marina.

The fire began as the houseboat was being refueled. Several people on board were quickly evacuated. Some had minor smoke inhalation. The blaze spread to an unoccupied pontoon boat that was tied to the dock. Employees of the park and marina fought to contain the blaze while county firefighters were enroute. The gas pumps were turned off and the remainder of the marina was unaffected.

Assistant County Fire Chief David Agee told WJLE that firefighters received a call of a gas pump explosion at the marina shortly after noon. Upon arrival, they found the two boats on fire along with the fuel island.

According to Assistant Chief Agee, a party of eight who had the houseboat rented from the marina had just returned to the dock when the incident occurred. As the group was still on board, a marina employee began refueling the boat. After stepping away from the pumps for a moment, the marina worker told Agee he heard a pop and then saw a small blaze followed by an explosion. Everyone on board the houseboat was evacuated and except for minor smoke inhalation by some, no one was seriously injured. No one had to be transported to the hospital. All the group's personal belongings on board the boat were lost in the fire.

Members of the Temperance Hall, Cookeville Highway, and Main Stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded. Firefighters also deployed their boat to help battle the blaze along with an equipment truck. Members of the TWRA, Corps of Engineers, Edgar Evins State Park and Marina employees, and DeKalb EMS were also on the scene.

DeKalb School System Awarded New LEAPS Grant for After-School Program

August 13, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Michelle Burklow

The DeKalb County School System recently received approval for a $200,000 grant from the Lottery for Education Afterschool Program (Leaps Grant) to provide students at Smithville Elementary and Northside Elementary Schools with academic enrichment opportunities and support services. The goal of the program is to help students meet state and local standards in the core content areas of Language Arts, Math, and Science.

As a way of creating more fun and excitement for children as they learn through the program, Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-K through 6th grade said the school system will be unlocking mysteries through the Junior Detective Academies. "We decided to go with a detective type theme and focus the entire year around mystery. Unlocking mysteries. Trying to make it inviting for kids to want to stay after school for two hours every day. We're calling it our Junior Detective Academies," said Burklow.

This grant follows an earlier one approved for the school system three years ago. "This was our second submission for the LEAPS grant. It's a competitive grant that school systems and private entities can apply for. We got the grant three years ago. We saw a great deal of success with our grant at SES and NES. After the three year cycle we had to totally re-submit a different grant with a different focus," said Burklow.

The academic academies will utilize a cross curricular theme based approach (Spy Camp). Students will participate in Language Arts, math, and science enrichment activities based on Tennessee Common Core and Science standards to accelerate achievement. The club names are: Unlocking the Mysteries of STEM, Junior Detective, Math Madness, Imagination Destination, Get Your Game On, and MILK (Morning Intensive Language Klass). Four of these themes will change each nine weeks to offer a variety and continued enthusiasm as the year progresses, MILK and Get Your Game On will be offered throughout the year.

Students will participate in activities to improve health and wellness through structured physical education and a daily nutritious snack will be served. "We have special things we must do in order to meet the overall focus of the goal (grant). We had to include healthy lifestyles, healthy snacks, and exercise. We're partnering with the School Nutrition program to provide a healthy snack and we're focusing on exercise throughout the school year. We're calling that "Get Your Game On". Every nine weeks we're changing up and focusing on a different activity, whatever sport might be in season (tennis, basketball, soccer, etc). We're going to focus on playing those types of games and learning the history behind those games. We're also going to be doing some yoga. We did yoga this last year. We tried it at Northside during summer school and the kids loved it so we're incorporating yoga this year," said Burklow.

The Spy Camp Kick-Off will begin the Junior Detective Academy. The goal for the students participating in this academy is "Read like a detective and write like a reporter." This club will explore numerous ways to solve a mystery or case while paying close attention to details and context clues. The sheriff or his designee will meet with students to discuss the significance of paying close consideration to facts and looking for specific clues. Teachers will create lessons around mystery chapter books and or novels for a book club. In order to prepare students for College and Career Readiness, a focus around informational text and the writing process will be implemented into these activities. The students will have an opportunity to write and illustrate a non-fiction book for the school's library and for other students to enjoy in the future. An author and illustrator will be invited to share their ideas at a parent's night. This night will be designed so the students can showcase their book for parents as well as the author and illustrator. High school students interested in becoming teachers will have the opportunity to design age appropriate activities to implement with younger students during the academy.

During the second nine weeks, the STEM Academy will begin as students "Unlock the Mysteries of STEM". Students will participate in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math activities. Teachers will design lessons for the Science component of this academy that will include microscope use, crime solving, forensic investigation and a variety of other science skills. Technology lessons will be incorporated throughout the academy, but a focus will be on computer skills and iPad use as well as interactive boards. Investigative research and writing will also play a role in this academy. Tennessee Tech University's Millard Oakley STEM Center has agreed to transport their mobile Science Lab to both of the after school sites. The students will be exposed to cutting edge technology that is housed in this lab. The students' skills will be expanded with robotics, Kinect and bridge design and building during the Engineering phase of the STEM Academy. Teachers will incorporate hands on engineering experiences and how engineering is in everyday life. Under the guidance of the Science Club sponsor, volunteer high school students will research and develop age appropriate STEM projects to implement with the younger students during this academy. To support the LEAPS theme, a local nurse practitioner will talk to students about the tools she uses to investigate illness and how she uses clues to make a diagnoses. She will also show the relationship between how important math and science are to her field.

The third nine weeks will be "Math Madness". Since the college basketball tournament is held in March, a real life activity will be incorporated into the after school program. Math Madness is a spin-off of March Madness. Like March Madness, students will work on a mastery and advancing math skills to win the big game called standardizing testing. Teachers will use basketball statistics from player cards, biographies, and NCAA Tournament brackets to form meaningful lessons. Math skills will be incorporated into basketball along with other sports related activities. In order to bridge math and reading, teachers will use sports themed books, such as biographies of athletes, to encourage reading and going back into the text to gain specific information for writing. The students will research and write about an athlete or history of a specific sport that will be displayed in the "Sports Hall of Fame" for parents to attend.

"Destination Imagination Simulation" will be the focus of the fourth academy. The purpose is to inspire and equip students to be innovative and future leaders. This academy will focus on STEM, Improvisational, Visual Arts, Service Learning and Early Learning. Each challenge is open-ended and enables student teams to learn and experience the creative process from imagination to innovation. Students have fun and gain confidence in their ability to solve any challenge. In working to solve the Challenges, teams learn 21st century skills (creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, citizenship and courage) to build on their unique strengths. The goal for the first year is to attend the Academic Tournament as spectators but the ambition is to compete the next year. After attending the Academic Tournament, students will share their projects based on the tournament guidelines with community members and parents in attendance at the parent night.

Afternoon bus transportation will be provided for students participating in the after school learning activities.

Partnering with the program are the 4-H Extension Office, Coordinated School Health, the School Nutrition Program, the Sheriff's Department, Girl Scout Troop 343, Tennessee Scholars, Family Medical Center, the FCCLA Club, the DCHS Science Club, Tennessee Tech University's Millard Oakley STEM Center, and the Board of Education.

Trial Date Set In Teacher Lawsuit Against School Board and Director

August 12, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Bradley Hendrix

A federal court trial date has been set in an employment discrimination lawsuit brought against the DeKalb County Board of Education and Director of Schools Mark Willoughby by teacher and county commissioner Bradley Hendrix.

In an initial case management order filed Monday August 4th, the trial is set for Tuesday, October 20, 2015 before U.S. District Judge Kevin H. Sharp and is expected to last approximately three days. A final pre-trial conference is scheduled for Monday, October 5, 2015

Attorneys for Hendrix filed the lawsuit Thursday, May 29 in U.S. District Court in Nashville. He is represented by the Hendersonville law firm of Andy L. Allman and Associates.

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.

In an answer filed July 17, the attorney for Willoughby and the school board, John D, Schwalb, PLLC of Franklin denies Hendrix's allegations.

According to the initial case management order, the Plaintiff's Theory of the Case is as follows:

"In the spring of 2010, Plaintiff (Hendrix), a teacher at Smithville Elementary School, began campaigning for the office of DeKalb County Commissioner of the 3rd district. He was elected by vote of the people on the 2nd day of August 2010."

"In an early 2011 meeting of the county commissioners, Plaintiff (Hendrix) voted against a land purchase and construction of a school in the county. After this vote, Plaintiff (Hendrix) was subjected to harassment by the principal of Smithville Elementary, who was his supervisor, and by Mark Willoughby, Director of DeKalb County Schools. He had job responsibilities removed from his work load and was disciplined. His actions and movements were scrutinized more heavily than other teachers and he received more discipline for alleged infractions that other teachers were not disciplined for, though they engaged in the same behavior. In April 2013 Plaintiff (Hendrix) was not selected for a DeKalb County schools job position he applied for even though he was as qualified or more qualified than the candidate who was hired."

"Therefore, Plaintiff (Hendrix) avers that since his vote against the purchase of land and construction of a school he was subjected to a continuous and ongoing pattern of harassment in retaliation for same."

The Defendant's Theory is as follows:

"Mark Willoughby is the Director of Schools for the DeKalb County Board of Education. In his capacity as the Director he is charged with essentially all personnel matters with the exception of the granting of tenure. Those duties include the appointment and assignment of both certified and classified staff. The Central Office of the Board of Education is largely consistent with the structure of a corporation in the sense that Willoughby would be the equivalent of the President and Chief Operating Officer and the various supervisors would be the equivalent of persons at the Vice President level. Each supervisor is in effect a department head answerable to the Director of Schools."

"When the former supervisor of attendance announced his retirement the position was posted and the Plaintiff (Hendrix) along with Joey Reeder applied for the position. The position requires certain endorsements or qualification. Mr. Reeder possessed the necessary endorsement for the position and was chosen for the position."

"While Plaintiff (Hendrix) claims that he voted against certain funding for the school system's capital improvements his decision to do so was a right he had as a county commissioner. However, his vote was not the reason that he was not appointed to the position of Supervisor of Attendance. Supervisors of Attendance, Instruction, Federal Programs, Special Education and the like are all within positions for which the Director of Schools may consider "goal" loyalty or administration loyalty in determining whom to appoint to a particular position. This is, to the extent that Plaintiff (Hendrix)'s view of the school system conflicted with the Director of School's view or vision of the school system, the Director was free to consider such and take it into account in making the appointment. Regardless, Willoughby appointed the individual whom he believed was the most qualified for the position."

"Defendants (Willoughby and School Board) deny that they in anyway illegally discriminated against the Plaintiff (Hendrix) for the exercise of his first amendment rights and further deny that any exercise of his voting power as a member of a public body does not protect him from discrimination under state of federal law if the Defendants (Willoughby and School Board) are ultimately found to have discriminated against him."

The parties shall filed a joint mediation report on or before February 16, 2015 and all dispositive motions are to be filed on or before May 18, 2015.

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WJLE Radio

2606 McMinnville Hwy
Smithville, TN 37166

Phone: 615 597-4265
FAX: 615 597-6025
Email: wjle@dtccom.net

Local News

6:30 A.M.
7:30 A.M.
8:55 A.M.
12:00 NOON
4:00 P.M.
9:45 P.M.

DTC Communications

Fiddlers Jamboree