Local News Articles

School Board Conducts Annual Evaluation of Itself and Director Mark Willoughby

January 15, 2013
Dwayne Page
School Board and Director Mark Willoughby

The DeKalb County Board of Education conducted an annual performance evaluation of the Director of Schools and a School Board self evaluation Monday night at the Board of Education Building.

The evaluations are performed annually in January in accordance with board policy and Director Mark Willoughby's contract. The board has used the same basic instruments for making the evaluations and itself for several years.

Willoughby's contract states that the evaluation of the Director shall occur no later than January 31 each calendar year during the term of the contract. The board will review the Director's performance, progress toward established goals, and the working relationship between the two parties.

During the workshop at 6:00 p.m. Monday night, the school board members evaluated Director Willoughby on his relationship with the board, community relationships, staff and personnel relationships, educational leadership, business and finance, and strategic planning skills. Board members were to make a check mark on the four page evaluation form in each of 52 areas, if they thought expectations had been met. Spaces were also provided on the form for board members to write comments.

Fourth district member Billy Miller said he found some of the questions difficult on which to render a judgment, because he doesn't have first hand knowledge on all matters such as Willoughby's relationships with staff and personnel.

Board members were said to have found that overall Willoughby met board expectations on most, if not all areas in the evaluation.

Willoughby's current contract with the board is scheduled to expire June 30th, 2014. He has served as Director of Schools since July 1st, 2006.

In the self evaluation during a special meeting Monday night at 7:00 p.m., each board member was asked to rate the board's performance on a scale from one to six in team building, decision making, governance, school improvement, community, planning, communications, motivation, influence, and policy. A score of "one" is the lowest and a score of "6" is the highest. They were to rate themselves on how much is being done now in each of 46 areas and how important those issues are to them.

Board Chairman Johnny Lattimore said he felt like the board should do more long range planning.

Second district member Charles Robinson said the board should commit itself to once again becoming a "Board of Distinction" with the state. "I think we've got a pretty good school board compared to some of the other ones that you run into throughout the state. I would like to set as a goal that this board become a "Board of Distinction". I think it sends a message to the community that we want to be better than just a regular board. I think the community would like to see that. But it takes a little effort among board members. I would like to see more of the board members attend workshops when it comes to learning about being a school board member," said Robinson.

The DeKalb County Board of Education first completed the necessary steps to become a "Board of Distinction" in 2008.

The award, presented by the Tennessee School Boards Association, recognizes outstanding performance by school boards as a whole.

Tennessee school boards that seek this designation must meet specified requirements in four key areas: planning, policy, promotion and board development. Board of Distinction status is for two years, after which time the board may reapply for continued status.

(Pictured above: School board members Charles Robinson, W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, Kenny Rhody, John David Foutch, Chairman Johnny Lattimore, Billy Miller, Doug Stephens, and Director Mark Willoughby)

DeKalb School Buses Pass State Inspection

January 15, 2013
Dwayne Page
Jimmy Sprague, Darryl Winningham, Orlando Guzman
Darryl Winningham, Orlando Guzman, Jimmy Sprague

DeKalb County School buses have passed state inspection.

State Trooper Darryl Winningham, inspector for this district, told WJLE Monday that he has completed his weeklong evaluation of the thirty three buses in the fleet along with the seven substitute buses and all passed inspection. "We do annual inspections on all buses but we also do spot checks through the year if we have a reason. Every bus we've run through has passed inspection. Right now we're at 100% here. We work to ensure that everything is properly working on a bus before it gets back on the highway. I go from (checking) the tires all the way to the top of the buses. I check belts, fluid levels, brake pads, brake drums, brake lines, air lines, etc. Everything is checked on those buses for safety from the lights inside to the seats being secured in them. We check windshield wiper blades, the horn. We check every alarm and buzzer for all doors and emergency exits. Here at the (school bus garage) where we do all the inspections, the (local) crew is outstanding to work with. They go above and beyond to make sure that every bus is safe for every child. If there's a bulb out (on a bus) they replace it right away. They fix every single thing on it before it moves. We haven't had any (buses) out of service. Of course, they have a maintenance schedule here and they really stay on top of the buses. The drivers here are very aware of what they have to do in reporting if there are any issues with their buses and its obvious that they do report and have them (buses) repaired daily or as needed, if there is a deficiency on their buses. I've been here for seven days and every day the drivers come in and out and if there is an issue they address each issue daily and that's why these buses stay in as good a shape as they are in right now. The drivers have a lot to do with the success of an annual inspection. I would like to ask the people of DeKalb County to be aware of the buses on the highways and to pay attention to the children on the roadways in the morning and evenings while they're going back and forth to work. Its up to us to ensure that all these children get to school safely and get home safely," said Winningham.

Jimmy Sprague, Transportation Supervisor for the School System, gives credit to the mechanics and drivers for keeping the buses in good condition. "This inspection reflects the job that my mechanics do out here on the floor. It reflects the job that my drivers do by keeping a check on their buses and reporting any deficiencies to us. We can repair them right then and right there and put the bus back in service and get these children home and to get them to school safely. I can't emphasize enough how much pride and professionalism my mechanics take to their job. It reflects in Mr. Winningham's inspection. He has inspected the forty buses that we have. There are thirty three buses on routes and the seven remaining are sub buses. Everything checked out wonderfully," said Sprague.

(Pictured above: School Transportation Supervisor Jimmy Sprague, THP Trooper State Bus Inspector Darryl Winningham, and Mechanic Orlando Guzman)

Smithville Police Issue Citations for Shoplifting and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

January 15, 2013
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Police Department has issued citations for shoplifting against three people and for possession of drug paraphernalia against two others in recent days.

Chief Randy Caplinger said that 38 year old Gary Collins was cited for shoplifting at Tractor Supply Company on Sunday, January 6. Collins allegedly concealed items on his body in an attempt to deprive the store of it's property. He will be in court on January 17.

33 year old Tammy Sue Steele was cited for shoplifting at Dollar General Store on Friday, January 11. Steele was observed concealing items in her purse by store employees. She will be in court on January 31.

41 year old Richard B Turner was cited for shoplifting at Save-A-Lot on Saturday, January 12. Turner was observed going into the restroom with items which were later found on his person. He will be in court on January 31.

51 year old Kenny R Herman and 40 year old Wanda Carol Mathis were cited for possession of drug paraphernalia on Monday, January 14. Officers responded to a residence to check out a possible fight in progress. Upon arrival, officers saw Herman and Mathis hiding needles on their persons. Herman will be in court on January 24. Mathis' court date is January 17.

Anyone with information on any criminal activity is asked to please contact the Smithville Police Department at 597-8210 or the Tip Line at 464-6046.

Any information received that would help Smithville Police solve any criminal offense is greatly appreciated. All information is confidential.

Corps Schedules Public Information Meeting on Planned Restrictions near Dams

January 14, 2013
Dwayne Page
Hazardous conditions near dams

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District has scheduled a public meeting Thursday, January 17 to allow the public to respond to the pending implementation plans to tighten restrictions around locks and dams on the Cumberland River and its adjoining tributaries, including Center Hill Dam.

The public information meeting is 6-8 p.m. Thursday at the Upperman High School Auditorium located at 6950 Nashville Highway in Baxter.

Nashville District Commander Lieutenant Colonel Jim DeLapp said the Corps, because of safety issues, will install physical barriers, most likely buoys tied to cables above the water, within 500-700 feet of dam tail waters to prevent boat access to that area. Barriers will also be placed above the dams. The restrictions will be effective on a project by project basis as they are phased in. Fishing from the bank will still be allowed but all forms of water access will be prohibited in the restricted area, including boating, swimming and wading. The restrictions are being put in place to bring the Nashville District into compliance with other U.S. Corps of Engineers properties nationwide.

"We understand the tightened restricted areas in the Nashville District may be unpopular, but it is necessary for the district to enforce a more restrictive policy that complies more effectively with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' ER 1130-2-520, Chapter 10," said Freddie Bell, chief of the Natural Resource Management Branch. "The increased restriction will also provide the highest level of public safety and address physical security issues."

Since 2009, three fatalities, one serious injury and 10 near misses/rescues have occurred in the hazardous waters immediately downstream of dams on the Cumberland River and its adjoining tributaries. Life jacket wear has been ineffective in these areas, since all of the victims who drowned were wearing a life jacket.

The immediate hazardous water areas above and below dams in the Nashville District are best described as industrial areas that pose a high level of risk for the public because of the hydroelectric, spilling, sluicing and lock operations that are often present or begin with little or no notice. Such water releases can change a dry riverbed or calm waters into a life-threatening situation within seconds that can swamp, capsize and trap boats and people in turbulent waters.

"We want the public to understand safety is the Agency's highest priority," said Bell. "The tailwater directly below a dam is a high risk area and fishing in this area is a high risk activity. As we comply with Corps regulations by restricting these areas, we are also keeping the public safe."

DeLapp said the barriers will cost around $2 million for all 10 projects and that they will be phased in beginning in February and running through April.

For more information on "Restricted Areas Around Dams" please go to:


Rep. Mark Pody Named Vice-Chairman of House Consumer & Human Resources Committee

January 14, 2013
State Representative Mark Pody

Representative Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) has been named Vice-Chairman of the influential Consumer and Human Resources Committee for the 108th Tennessee General Assembly. Representative Pody was also appointed to the House Business and Utilities Committee, as well as the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee.

“I am honored to be named Vice-Chairman of the House Consumer and Human Resources Committee,” said Rep. Pody. “As promised when I was first elected, I am committed to making our state government more lean and efficient and this committee will enable me to continue working towards that very goal.”

The House Consumer and Human Resources Committee reviews legislation dealing with consumer protection laws, and all human resource and labor law regulations.

Pody continued, “I am also looking forward to joining my colleagues on the House Business and Utilities Committee and am eager to continue the fight of helping make Tennessee an even better place to live, work, and raise a family."

The Business and Utilities Committee considers bills relating to utilities, communications, and legislation impacting trade. The committee also reviews the rules and regulations for all licensed professionals, businesses, and organizations.

Mark Pody is serving his second term in the Tennessee state legislature. He lives in Lebanon and represents District 46, which includes all of Cannon and a portion of Wilson and DeKalb Counties.

DeKalb Fire Department Reports Fewer Incident Response Calls In 2012

January 14, 2013

The DeKalb County Fire Department has compiled its 2012 Incident Response Summary.

Overall, 2012 fire incident responses in the county were down by 116 calls from 2011. In 2011, the department responded to a total of 446 fire incidents. The department responded to 330 fire incident responses in 2012. This count does not include the 362 rural medical first responder calls that county fire department personnel responded to. One fire death occurred in DeKalb County in 2012.

With DeKalb County's rural population growing at rates higher than the cities' population growth within DeKalb County, the department continues to strive to prevent fires and fire related incidents by using prevention and educational measures. DeKalb County Fire Department's Fire Prevention and Safety Officer, Lt. James Pennington, says that preventing incidents is much more economical than responding to them.

Below provides a breakdown of each type of fire incident response that the department responded to in 2012:

Incident Type:
Structure: 55 (year 2011), 52 (year 2012)

Wildland/Grass/Debris: 49 (2011), 42 (2012)

Auto Wrecks: 128: (2011), 100 (2012)

Vehicle Fires: 25 (2011), 11 (2012)

Landing Zones: 36 (2011), 53 (2012)

Extrication/Entrapment: 22 (2011), 18 (2012)

Hazmat: 0 (2011), 0 (2012)

Alarms: 85 (2011), 37 (2012)

Miscellaneous: 46 (2011), 17 (2012)

TOTAL: 446 (2011), 330 (2012)

Tennessee Tech announces fall 2012 Dean's List

January 13, 2013

Tennessee Tech University is pleased to announce that approximately 3,000 of its more than 11,000 students have met the academic requirements to be included on the fall 2012 Dean's List.

To be included on the list, a student must earn at least a 3.1 grade point average on the 4.0 scale with a full course load.

Governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents, TTU offers more than 40 undergraduate degrees and about 20 graduate programs, including the doctoral degree in engineering, environmental sciences and education.

TTU students from DeKalb County who earned Dean's List honors are:

Emilee B.Anderson, Joseph L. Angaran, Jessica D. Antoniak, Rosemary N. Apple, Michael C. Arms, Christian J. Atnip,

Jessica D. Ball, Wesley M. Blair, Whitney LaRay Brelje, Nicole Clara Burger, Gabrielle B. Byford,

Michael W. Caldwell, Britney M. Campbell, Talisa Marie Cantrell, Stephan Gerhard Charles, Andrew Brent Collier, Tiffany M. Cowart, Casey W. Curtis,

Erica Brooke Dickens, Ethan B. Duke, Tyler A. Dunaway, Ronnie Jamie Dunn,

Whitney N. England,

Macy Celeste Felts, Brittany Autumn Ferguson, Kendra E. Foutch,

Jessica Brooke Garrison,

Kara K. Hackett, John E. Hale, Jessica Lynn Harney, Leland T. Hasty, Abigail E. Hendrix
Zachary Stephen Holden,

Chantal Kiana Leihualani Joaquin-Starrett,

Kayla N. Judkins,

Abigail C. Laprad, Cameron N. Lester, Justin Michael Lewis, Brooklyn A. Looney, Kristen M. Lynch,

Laura E. Martinez, Alexandria B. Meadows, Samuel Max Meketon, Tia R. Menix, Lorrie Michelle Merriman

Shanea M. Nixon, Kayla Ariana Nunley,
Megan A. Osborne,

Brooke E. Pack, Laura S. Pafford, Krysta Lynn Pedigo, Frank Forest Pursell,

Amy Rebecca Ritchie, Lauren Nicole Rogers, Breanna Jo Russell,

Haley Marie Snyder, Caleb Lee Spencer, Kesha M. Staley, Jessie Y. Strickland,

Jonathan Hunter Tramel,

Martha Alan Webb,

Alyssa A. Young, Nikita C. Young, Kara E. Young, and Christopher Riley Young

Sheriff's Department Makes Two Arrests in Rash of Burglaries and Thefts at Dowelltown and Dry Creek Road

January 12, 2013
Dwayne Page
Allen R. Lester, Jr
Ronald Deshon Reeder

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has apparently solved a rash of burglaries and thefts in the Dowelltown and Dry Creek Road area with the arrest of two men Friday.

24 year old Allen R. Lester, Jr. of Church Street, Dowelltown is charged with twelve counts of burglary, three counts of theft property over $500, seven counts of theft under $500, and two counts of theft of property over $1,000. His bond totals $195,000 and he will be in court on January 31.

18 year old Ronald Deshon Reeder of Smith Road, Smithville is charged with three counts of burglary, two counts of theft of property under $500 and one count of theft over $500. Reeder's bond is $16,000 and he will be in court January 31.

Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE Friday that the burglaries and thefts occurred on December 28 and from January 7-10 mostly in Dowelltown but also on Dry Creek Road in the area from New Home Road to the city limits of Smithville. There were nine victims altogether. Lester is accused of breaking into the Dowelltown Post Office, burglarizing automobiles of residents on South Mill Street, North Mill Street, Happy Valley Drive, Corley Street, Dry Creek Road, and the burglary of a shed/guest house on Corley Street, and an outbuilding on Dry Creek Road.

According to Sheriff Ray, Lester was responsible for the actual burglaries and thefts. In the case of the vehicles, he allegedly entered through an unlocked door in most instances and took what he could find, mostly guns and GPS devices, among other belongings. Reeder is charged with Lester in three of the crimes on Dry Creek Road because he rode along with Lester and sat in the vehicle, while Lester was out committing the burglaries and thefts, knowing what Lester was doing. Sheriff Ray said after Lester was identified as a suspect, detectives and officers of the Sheriff's Department raided his home Friday and found most of stolen items.

Sheriff Ray credits his detectives for the long hours they put in on these cases. "I want to thank the detectives. My detectives have worked long and hard all week on this. They stayed up many nights and worked all day trying to spot out some people and do interviews. They've stayed up almost two days the last couple of days doing interviews. I want to commend them on a job well done. We also want to thank the public. We had some people who helped us out on things and we want to thank them for some information. We always want the public to know that we're here to help our citizens in the county. Anytime anyone has any information they are more than welcome to call me at the jail or call the detectives. Our crime tip line 464-6400. You can remain anonymous and leave a tip," said Sheriff Ray.

He also warns residents to keep their car doors locked and to secure valuables like guns and GPS devices in the trunk of your vehicle or in your home. " It's the hunting season but don't leave weapons in your car. Secure them in your home. Keep GPS devices in the trunk and make sure all car doors are locked," said Sheriff Ray.

Lester is charged in each of the following crimes:

Friday, December 28:
Lester allegedly broke into the Dowelltown Post Office and took three money orders; total value at $630 (Burglary and Theft over $500)

Monday, January 7:
Lester allegedly entered a vehicle on Corley Street, Dowelltown and took a Garmin GPS, phone car mount, fifteen Disney DVD movies, car charger, 20 music CDs, and a car safety kit; total value $1,010 (Burglary and Theft over $500)

Monday, January 7:
Lester allegedly entered a vehicle on Corley Street, Dowelltown and took an Ipod, adapter, charger, and a Garmin GPS; total value $540 (Burglary and Theft over $500)

Monday, January 7:
Lester allegedly entered a vehicle on North Mill Street, Dowelltown and took a Stevens over and under 22 caliber 20 gauge shotgun; total value at $400 (Burglary and Theft under $500)

Monday, January 7:
Lester allegedly entered a Jaguar on Corley Street, Dowelltown and took a Tom Tom GPS; total value at $125. (Burglary and Theft under $500)

Monday, January 7:
Lester allegedly entered a Chevy S-10 pickup on Corley Street, Dowelltown and took a Tom Tom GPS; total value at $125. (Burglary and Theft under $500)

Monday, January 7:
Lester allegedly broke into a shed/guest house on Corley Street, Dowelltown and took a 10 inch saw with laser guide; total value at $185. (Burglary and Theft under $500)

Tuesday, January 8:
Lester allegedly entered a vehicle on South Mill Street, Dowelltown and took a Remington rifle with scope, H&R rifle with scope, and a Smith & Wesson 270 rifle with scope; total value at $2,400 (Burglary and Theft over $1,000)

Tuesday, January 8:
Lester allegedly entered a Chevy S-10 pickup on Happy Valley Drive, Dowelltown and took a bottle of blood pressure pills; total value $25 (Burglary and Theft under $500)

Wednesday, January 9:
Lester allegedly entered a vehicle on Dry Creek Road and took clothes, change, a buck knife, hunting pouch, hat, vest, and 270 Winchester shells; total value at $273 (Burglary and Theft under $500) Reeder is charged in this case for allegedly participating in the offense of burglary and theft by going with Lester and having knowledge that a burglary and theft were being committed.

Thursday, January 10:
Lester allegedly entered a vehicle on Dry Creek Road and took a Tom Tom GPS, and seven cell phone chargers; total value at $250 (Burglary and Theft under $500). Reeder is charged in this case for allegedly participating in the offense of burglary and theft by going with Lester and having knowledge that a burglary and theft were being committed.

Thursday, January 10:
Lester allegedly broke into a building on Dry Creek Road and took a Play Station 3, money, a 250 piece cobalt socket set, a Brother sewing machine, and a pack of Pall Mall cigarettes; total value at $1,105 ( Burglary and Theft over $1,000). Reeder is charged in this case for allegedly participating in the offense of burglary and theft by going with Lester and having knowledge that a burglary and theft were being committed.

DeKalb West Project Could Be Ready for March Bid Opening

January 11, 2013
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb West School construction project may be ready for a bid opening in March.

Jim Harrison, engineer for Kaatz, Binkley, Jones, & Morris Architects of Mount Juliet, updated the school board on the project Thursday night. "I'm just here tonight to update you on the progress that we've made on the design. We're proceeding through design. We're really on track for a schedule to get plans to the printer for March 7. That's our target date. We'll have drawings to the fire marshal on March 8. That's all in an effort to get to the March 28 bid opening. We'll have a pre-bid on March 13 but we're continuing at this point through design. Different elements of design are a little further along than others. Our goal is to get this all set up and to anticipate a year long construction period following that bid cycle," said Harrison.

FEMA grant funds of more than $1.5 million have been approved for the "Tornado Safe Room" addition at DeKalb West School. The plan calls for $600,000 in local funding to meet a 12.5% FEMA grant match for building eight tornado "safe rooms" at the school. The proposed addition will be constructed in the front of the school, including eight classrooms, restrooms, a new secure entrance, an office, clinic, conference room, guidance and teacher work area. A cafeteria and kitchen renovation is also included for the school. Local funding is in place for project costs not covered by the grant.

In other business, the board of education voted 3-2 to sign a letter of intent with Energy Architects in Nashville, a strategic solar project development company, to possibly enter into a business arrangement facilitating the financing, design, construction, installation, and maintenance of solar panels on up to six local school buildings.

Jon Sturgeon, spokesman for Energy Architects, pitched the proposal to the school board. "Essentially, what we're doing is a public/private partnership. We are a strategic renewable energies company, primarily focused on solar and energy efficiency projects. All of our background and expertise is in solar deployment and things of that nature," said Sturgeon.

According to Sturgeon, the letter of intent is non-binding and allows the company to pursue looking at this project. "This will allow you to share your electric bills, for us to work in your behalf at no cost to you, to go to each building to do site drawings where the solar panels would fit on the buildings, to submit those into your local utility, to work with your local utility, and then to submit them to TVA for approval of the project. The letter of intent allows us to have time to put this whole project together for you. Once we've done all the analysis, we've got the funding group, and we've got the document before you, then we'll bring something and you'll look at it and decide if you want to do it,"said Sturgeon.

Board members Kenny Rhody, Charles Robinson, and Chairman Johnny Lattimore voted in favor of signing the letter of intent. Billy Miller and Doug Stephens voted no because of concerns over certain wording contained in the letter. Board members W.J. (Dub) Evins, III and John David Foutch were absent.

Through the TVA Green Power Providers Program, DeKalb County Schools would partner with the Tennessee Valley Authority by having solar panels installed at up to six school buildings at no cost to the school system. The money would come from third party investors. The energy produced goes straight to the TVA power grid and TVA would pay the school system a premium for the energy that's produced by the solar panels. "Essentially, we install it, we operate it, we maintain it. Typically, it's a twenty year agreement that we do. At the end of twenty years you own it," said Sturgeon. "The largest system that can be deployed in Tennessee is a 50 kilowatt system. Our model is to build, manage, and operate these systems. We essentially build these systems and work with municipalities and school districts to put them on their roof tops at no cost to the municipality or school district. Our investors pay 100% of the capital to build and maintain these programs. We put together a commercial entity who can take advantage of the tax credits that you can't take advantage of (as a non-profit entity). We have to go out in the investment community and find investors that are interested in a project like this. There's an audience of investors who are interested in embracing clean energy. They also realize that because solar has no moving parts, it's a very stable kind of energy production facility. These tend to be investors who are not really after Wall Street returns. There's no wild returns on this. But there is really good high single digit steady returns for twenty years. That's hard to find nowadays. This isn't the stock market. Its physics, electricity, and TVA paying you for the power production," said Sturgeon. "In this case, we believe you would have six buildings that would qualify so we're probably talking about a million dollars of investment that the investors would put into this," he added.

"TVA will only send the electric credits to the building owner or the person who has a meter. We can't install more solar on your building than that meter is billed each month. A 50 kilowatt system is about two hundred solar panels and that would roughly offset about $1,200 per month in electrical costs. Right now you get a bill from your utilities, Smithville Electric and Middle Tennessee Electric. What would happen, each month you would get a bill that shows the number of kilowatt hours used times ten cents per kilowatt hour and there's your total. In this program, on your bill you'll have a second line and it will say "TVA Green Power Providers", the number of kilowatt hours the solar arrays generated into the grid at nineteen cents per kilowatt hour. So they're going to pay you a premium for the first ten years of almost double retail. Once the system is installed and energized you'll get a thousand dollars from TVA for each of the six buildings but the recurring revenue over and above the cost of the payment for the system, which would be your revenue, would probably work out to be about $58,000 per building or $348,000 in revenue over twenty years," said Sturgeon.

DCHS Principal Patrick Cripps updated the board on upcoming events at the school including a presentation on bullying. "This coming Tuesday, January 15 we'll be doing our practice writing prompt and preparation for the state assessment. Our eleventh graders will be taking that on February 5. On January 17 Camfel productions will be doing a presentation in our school on bullying. They came last year and did a really fine job of that so they're coming back this year. Senior cap and gown pictures will be made January 30 at 8:30 a.m. in our cafeteria. Parents will be able to view the proofs of those pictures on February 2 from 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. and on February 3 from 1:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at the high school cafeteria. Its already getting that time of year when we're getting ready for graduation," said Cripps

Sabrina Farler, Assistant Principal at DeKalb West School, also gave a report. "From DeKalb West School, we just want to remind parents that report cards went home this past Tuesday and we've just now started off our third nine weeks. We're working on safety at the west school. With the upcoming building project, we're encouraging our parents to enter through the cafeteria entrance side door as our main entrance. We are entering and exiting that door. We've installed a doorbell system. A very simple doorbell system that rings in the office and one of our school employees will come and open up the door and let you in," said Farler.

In other business, the school board adopted a resolution of appreciation honoring Food Service Staff.

The resolution is as follows:

"Whereas, Food Service Staff members rise before dawn every day in order to prepare breakfast and lunch for students and faculty; and

Whereas, Food Service Staff members can, by encouraging words and a pleasant attitude, spread joy to students and make every day better for them and increase their chances of learning; and

Whereas, Food Service Staff members support the programs of the school, improve public opinion of the schools and in numerous ways, contribute to the success of the students, staff and school; and

Whereas, Food Service Staff members are appreciated for their work in this county and should be honored for it during a special day just for them; and

Whereas, the Board of Education and Superintendent of DeKalb County Schools view the work of the school Food Service Staff as critically important to the success of the school; and

Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved that this board acknowledges and expresses its appreciation to each school Food Service Staff member in our school district; and

Be It Further Resolved that January 17, 2013 is hereby established as Food Service Staff Appreciation Day in all DeKalb County schools; and

Be It Further Resolved that the board encourages each principal in every school to promote a program of appreciation where students, staff and community are provided an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the Food Service Staff on this day."

Board Looks to Improve School Security

January 11, 2013
Dwayne Page
Mark Willoughby

The DeKalb County School System is reviewing measures to improve security in response to the recent deadly school shooting in Connecticut.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby, during Thursday night's school board meeting, said letters are being sent to parents to reassure them. " It (letter) is talking about the things we are doing in DeKalb County, working with our local police, sheriff's department, and Charlie Parker of the local emergency management," said Willoughby. "The state has called a Safety Summit meeting to be held at the end of January. Mr. Charlie Parker has also asked to have a meeting in the county during January. We will be discussing safety and emergency procedures," he said.

One procedure mentioned in the letter is a practice that has already been in place for some time in the school system which is asking everyone visiting a school to come through the main entrance of the building and report to the office. Visitors are to sign-in, obtain a visitor's badge and proceed to their destination. After they have completed their visit, visitors are to return the visitor's badge to the office.

The school board apparently plans to meet at each of the schools in the coming months and during that time, the members will be taking a closer look at safety measures there. "Mr. (Johnny) Lattimore (school board chairman) has requested that as we go from school to school, to look at the safety aspects of each school and how to make each school a lot safer," said Willougbhy. "David Brown of Kaatz Binkley (architects) will do a survey and give us recommendations of what we might want to do. We have also asked some of our police officers and the sheriff's department to give us some recommendations of what might be good to do in our buildings also. We're being pro-active. I'd like to say we could make guarantees. We can't do that. But schools should be one of the safest places for students to be. We want our students to feel safe. We're going to do our best to take care of them and look out for them," said Willoughby.

For several years, DeKalb County High School has had a resource officer, who is employed by the sheriff's department to help address concerns. No other school in the system has one. School officials have not said publicly whether they would ask the county to fund the hiring of more school resource officers.

In the letter to parents, Willoughby wrote that "as a result of the tragic event that occurred in Connecticut, I wanted to reassure you that we are taking extra security measures to ensure the safety of all the students and staff within the DeKalb County School District. At the beginning of each new school year, DeKalb County Schools has made it a practice to review and update safety plans and procedures involving all individual schools as well as every department (transportation, maintenance, etc) in our system"

I have met with local law enforcement, principals, and supervisors recently to discuss and review our Safety plans. I can tell you we have many security measures in place. Some of those measures are visible to you, other measures are not. Our security measures are flexible, and we adapt our security measures to meet any new needs that arise. We routinely seek the advice of our local city police department, sheriff's department, and our Emergency Management personnel as well as state authorities on how to better safeguard our schools and improve our security measures. Our local police departments continually provide us with immediate and excellent support to keep our schools safe"

"In order to keep all children safe we are asking parents to enter at the main entrance of the building and to report to the office. At this time, you will sign-in, obtain a visitor's badge and proceed to your destination. When you have completed your visit with us, please return your visitor's badge to the office."

"We routinely conduct safety and fire drills in our schools, and we will continue to do so in the future. We also attend safety training sessions to keep current on school safety issues and concerns, and to share ideas on how to better protect our schools."

"As your Superintendent of Schools, I assure you that we are continually evaluating our school safety and security measures to keep our schools safe. During January, I will be attending two meetings relating with the safety of our schools. The first will be a DeKalb County Emergency Management meeting. The purpose of this meeting is for local representatives to engage in emergency planning, training, and overall emergency preparedness. The second meeting will be the School Safety Summit sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Education in order to receive the most recent updates pertaining to school safety," wrote Willoughby


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