Local News Articles

DWS Student Honored for Taking Part in Tar Wars Contest

April 20, 2015
Bill Conger
DWS Student Honored for Taking Part in Tar Wars Contest

DeKalb West School 4th grader Alex Moreno was honored last week at a meeting of the DeKalb County Health Council for her participation in the Tennessee Tar Wars contest.

“Tar Wars is a tobacco-free education program for fourth- and fifth-grade students. The program is designed to teach kids about the short-term, image-based consequences of tobacco use, the cost associated with using tobacco products, and the advertising techniques used by the tobacco industry to market their products to youth.” DWS Art Teacher Mike Littrell coordinated the project at DeKalb West.

Pictured from left to right are Michael Railling Public Health Department Director, DWS student Alex Moreno, Michal Deaver Public Health Educator, and DWS Art Teacher Mike Littrell

DeKalb Middle School Recommended for Reaccreditation

April 19, 2015
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Middle School Recommended for Reaccreditation

DeKalb Middle School is being recommended for AdvancED reaccreditation.

Members of an external review team visited the school last Thursday and Friday, April 16 & 17 to conduct the evaluation.

"We all have been really impressed with how you have grown through the years. You are doing good work. The External Review Team will recommend to the AdvancED Accreditation Commission that DeKalb Middle School earn the distinction of accreditation by AdvancED for a five year term that expires June 30, 2020," said, Mary Gist, AdvancED Lead Evaluator who addressed members of the administration, faculty, Interim Director Dr. Danielle Collins, school board member Doug Stephens and WJLE at DeKalb Middle School in an exit report meeting Friday afternoon. Along with the recommendation for reaccreditation, the team cited improvement priorities that must be addressed with a plan of action within two years.

The AdvancED external review team, made up of four Middle Tennessee educators, met with sixty four stakeholders in conducting its evaluation of DeKalb Middle School including two administrators, sixteen teachers, nine support staff, twenty nine students, and eight parents.

The school was evaluated in three domains "Teaching and Learning Impact on Student Performance", "Capacity of Leadership to guide and ensure effectiveness in carrying out the strategic direction of the institution", and "Utilization of Resources".

In the domain of "Teaching and Learning Impact", the external review team examined student performance results; instructional quality; learner and family engagement; support services for student learning; curriculum quality and effiacy; and college and career readiness data. In this domain, Gist said the school should focus on using its data more and perhaps changing its grading practices. These were cited as "Improvement Priorities".

"Monitor or adjust curriculum, instruction, assessment. If I had to put that in two words its "Use data". You have a ton of data. Keep looking for ways to use that data to change instruction. If a child makes 72% on a test and that is not good enough, what is your next step with that student after you grade that paper? How are you going to re-teach?. How are you going to assess?. What are you going to do with that data?. Continue to become more involved with that (data) and figure out ways you can use it. Use data to monitor your programs. Are your periods that you use for intervention effective? How do you know? Is your writing lab effective? What is the data? What data do you look at to show the programs are effective? Is your instruction effective? Look at TCAP scores and teacher evaluation data to figure out what you need to improve," said Gist.

"In your student assessment system, look at your grading practices. You need to look at your beliefs and philosophy about how you grade," Gist continued. "How much should testing and homework count?"

"As an opportunity for improvement, look at professional learning. Look at what you're offering for PD (professional development). Know why it is being offered. Is it data driven. If it's worth presenting, it's worth doing. Our suggestion is for your administration to follow through with that," said Gist.

In the domain of "Leadership Capacity" the external review team examined institutional purpose and direction, governance and leadership effectiveness, stakeholder engagement, improvement capacity and results. Using the evaluation process to increase student achievement was cited as an improvement priority. "The team evaluation data is one of the best things the state has done. It gives us specific language to have a conversation between an administrator and teacher to pinpoint exactly what we need to do for improvement. We all have room for growth. That process needs to be used for promoting specific growth tied to student achievement," Gist said.

In the area of "Resource Utilization", the team examined the allocation and use of resources; equity of resource distribution to the need; level and sustainability of resources; long range capital and resource planning effectiveness. "Using resources to support the purpose" was cited as an improvement priority in this domain. " This goes back to money. We all need more money but look at how you're using your resources," said Gist. " Can you use people a little more creatively? Are there things we can do with what we have to support kids and to support learning?"

According to Gist, the Index of Education Quality results for DeKalb Middle School indicate that the institution is performing within acceptable ranges as compared to expected criteria as well as other institutions in the AdvancED Network nationally.

*DeKalb Middle School's overall IEQ score was 212.18 compared to the AdvancED Network Average of 282.79 (All schools in the network nationally evaluated over the last 12 months)

*Teaching and Learning Impact on student performance: DeKalb Middle School IEQ Score:198.81. AE Network Average 274.14

*Capacity of Leadership to guide and ensure effectiveness in carrying out the strategic direction of the institution. DeKalb Middle School IEQ Score: 243.18. AE Network 296.08.

*Resource Utilization: DeKalb Middle School Score: 203.57. AE Network Average 286.32.

A written external report will be prepared and sent to the AdvancED Tennessee Commission for approval and then to the regional office in Atlanta for final action on reaccreditation in June.

Members of the AdvancED External Review Team who visited DeKalb Middle School, in addition to Lead Evaluator Mary Gist were Shannon Bryant, Assistant Principal at Montgomery Central Middle in Clarksville; Dr. Stacy Calton of Freedom Intermediate School with the Franklin Special Schools District; Breckon Pennell, Assistant Principal at Heritage Middle School at Thompson Station. Mary Gist is Director of Middle Schools at Clarksville in the Montgomery County Schools District.

The AdvancED Network was created as a result of a merger of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools with the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Several years ago SACS merged with North Central and created AdvancED which is the K-12 component for accreditation purposes. AdvancED is now a global leader in providing continuous improvement and accreditation services to over 32,000 institutions serving 20 million students worldwide. The regional office is in Atlanta, Georgia. The state office is in Nashville.

DCHS was reaccredited last year. All the other schools in the county were evaluated earlier this year and have also been recommended for reaccreditation.

(PICTURED ABOVE: Randy Jennings, Principal at DeKalb Middle School; Shannon Bryant, Assistant Principal at Montgomery Central Middle in Clarksville; Dr. Stacy Calton of Freedom Intermediate School with Franklin Special Schools; Breckon Pennell, Assistant Principal at Heritage Middle School at Thompson Station; Mary Gist, Director of Middle Schools at Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools; and Amanda Dakas, Assistant Principal at DeKalb Middle School).

Three Involved in Saturday Crash at Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DeKalb Schools to Close for Summer May 27

April 19, 2015
Dwayne Page

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

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

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

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

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

The commissioner granted the request.

Bomb Threats Reported Thursday at Omega Apparel and DCHS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DeKalb Election Commission Reorganizes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4-H’ers Compete at Livestock Judging Contest

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

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

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

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

Photo Captions

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

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

DeKalb County High School FBLA Organization Wins at State Leadership Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community Leaders Honored at Chamber Banquet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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