Wildcats sweep Macon County in opener

MT. JULIET — Wilson Central teed off its seasons Tuesday with a pair of wins over visiting Macon County at Pine Creek Golf Course.

The Wildcats won 322-344 while the Lady Wildcats prevailed 159-172.

Trey Melvin shot 74 to lead the Wildcats while Andrew Lena and Mason Adcock each carded 82s and Connor Smith 84. Ty Baker’s notched a 91.

Meryl Castle shot 78 and Kristen Fredericks 81 for the Lady Wildcats. Hannah Roberts notched a 92.

Staff Reports

Wilson Central wins at Windtree

MT. JULIET — Wilson Central’s boys won by one stroke and the girls by 20 in a nine-hole tri-match with Portland and host Mt. Juliet on Thursday at Windtree.

Ty Baker fired a 41, Connor Smith and Mason Adcock 42 each and Parker Bruen 45 for a total of 170 for the Wildcats. Alec Harper’s 52 and Eston Parson’s 58 missed the cut.

Molly Castle fired a 45 and Sarah Castle 47 for a total of 92 for the Lady Wildcats. Kate Castle’s 59 and Grace Bingham’s 66 missed the cut.

Staff Reports

Bucs edge Bears in final seconds

George Page • Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet quarterback Cody Glass (left) rolls out to the right and looks for a receiver.

MT. JULIET — Beech scored a touchdown and two-point conversion with 33 seconds to play to leapfrog past Mt. Juliet 15-14 in the third-annual Bears-vs.-Bucs Jamboree.

Lawson Rich’s 34-yard touchdown broke a 7-7 tie for the Golden Bears.

Quarterback Cody Glass scored on a keeper to give Mt. Juliet a 7-0 lead.

“We were very fortunate to get into so many situations with our JV two quarters and our varsity two quarters,” Mt. Juliet coach Trey Perry said. “I was really pleased with the way our work went with a good football team in Beech.”

The Bears will open their regular season at 7 p.m. Friday at home against Glencliff.

Staff Reports

Proposed school docs unveiled

Wilson County Schools officials make documents public on new high school

Wilson County Schools made documents regarding a proposed new high school in Mt. Juliet accessible on its website.

Last month, the Wilson County Budget Committee took no action on the district’s needs assessment list, which included a proposed $110 million new high school in Mt. Juliet on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School.

Wilson County finance director Aaron Maynard said it would cost an addition 12-18 cents on the property tax rate to fund a new high school in Mt. Juliet, dependent upon how the debt payment is structured.

Wilson County Schools Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said the district decided to centralize and make the documents available due to the number of requests for information on separate aspects of the project.

The documents include 10 site-selection documents, including a property survey and score sheets for other proposed sites, four public utility documents and high school enrollment numbers since the 2006-2007 school year.

The site selection documents include a civil engineering letter, phase one study, property survey, items considered during the site selection process, geotech report, state hydrologic determination, letter referencing a slave cemetery on the property – which isn’t a part of the project, heat map of current Wilson County high school students, architectural design and layout of the potential high school and score sheets for all proposed sites.

The district’s design team includes representatives from Civil Site Design Group and Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris Architects, who examine the pros and cons of all potential high school sites.

The North Green Hills site scored an 84 out a possible 100 on a KBJM site study, 16 points higher than the next highest ranked site of 64 acres on Benders Ferry Road. Other potential sites included 65 acres at West Division Street near Devonshire Drive; 90 acres on South Mt. Juliet Road; 284 acres on Double Log Cabin Road; and 78 acres at State Route 109 and Highway 70.

Public utility documents include Mt. Juliet sewer, electric and utilities availability.

The heat map shows the location of all Wilson County high school students.

Hall said if the doors to the new high school opened tomorrow, it would have 1,507 students – all from the county’s northwest corner population. He said based on current population and rezoning for the school, Mt. Juliet’s enrollment would drop to 1,363 students, while enrollment would fall to 1,253 at Wilson Central, 1,762 at Lebanon and 523 at Watertown.

As of Aug. 11, Mt. Juliet High School has 2,205 students, followed by Wilson Central with 1,948, Lebanon with 1,937 and Watertown with 528, according to the documents. Hall noted since the 2007-2008 school year, Watertown led the county’s high schools in percentage enrollment growth, followed by Mt. Juliet, Lebanon and Wilson Central.

Since that school year, Mt. Juliet added about 440 students, followed by Lebanon with about 370, Wilson Central with about 340 and Watertown with about 140.

Mt. Juliet and Wilson Central currently have more than 525 students in their freshman class.

The Wilson County Commission will discuss the county’s budget, which includes the Wilson County Schools budget and potentially the new high school funding, Monday at the Wilson County Courthouse. A public hearing on the budget will be at 6 p.m. prior to the 7 p.m. regular meeting.

By Xavier Smith


MJCA spikes HCA in opener

MT. JULIET — Mt. Juliet Christian opened its season Monday with a 25-7, 25-8 win over Hendersonville Christian.

Felicity Keen led the Lady Saints with 12 service points.

MJCA will next travel to White House to take on Christian Community at 6 p.m. next Tuesday.

Staff Reports

MJCA routs Glencliff 35-0

NASHVILLE — Glencliff will open the season next week at Mt. Juliet. Friday night, the Colts were overwhelmed by Mt. Juliet Christian 35-0 in two quarters of the Metro Jamboree at Hillwood.

Running back Darius Hylick scored a pair of short touchdown runs. Wide receiver Logan Collier caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Alex Pitman and, playing cornerback, returned an interception 50 yards for a score. Backup running back Jacob Hall capped the scoring with a short run.

“Got some good work in,” Mt. Juliet Christian coach Dan Davis said. “It was a good night, and getting ready for Week 1.”

Mt. Juliet Christian will travel to Franklin to take on Grace Christian at 7 p.m. Friday.

Staff Reports

Committee OKs school budget

Wilson County district’s needs assessment also discussed

The Wilson County Budget Committee approved the Wilson County Schools 2017-2018 budget last Tuesday and discussed the district’s needs assessment list without taking any action.

The committee approved the $141-million budget after the Wilson County school board approved the budget Monday night during a special called meeting. Wilson County Schools deputy director Mickey Hall said most expenses in the budget were relative to new staff, the opening of Springdale Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, teacher pay, infrastructure and more.

Commissioner Wendell Marlowe initiated conversation about the needs assessment list before the meeting adjourned, implying the issue was too urgent to delay discussion.

Items on the list included funding for bus driver pay raises, a digital transformation plan, a new high school in Mt. Juliet, a summer roofing program and a 4 percent raise for teachers.

The biggest financial need is for the new high school in Mt. Juliet on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School, estimated at $110 million.

Wilson County Finance director Aaron Maynard said it would cost 12-18 cents on the tax rate to fund the Mt. Juliet high school, dependent upon how the debt payment is structured. Maynard also reiterated his statements following last year’s tax increase, noting the county would be strapped for funds for future school construction projects until 2025, based on projections, noting any project would likely require a tax increase. 

“I just know that we’re going to have to have a place for these kids and just turning a blind eye to the building program is just – I think it’s a fool way to run a business. You’re going to have to have a place to put the students, and if you wait, it’s going to cost more,” Marlowe said.

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto rejected Marlowe’s “blind eye” remark and said the county has financed several building projects in recent years, including a new middle school in Gladeville and several renovation projects.

“I don’t know that we’ve turned a blind eye to our building program. We, finally, don’t have any portables. I think we’ve worked hard,” Hutto said. “I think everybody knows we’re just trying to balance it right now. It’s a tough call.”

“I just know when we built Lebanon High School, we went around and around and around for about two years. Before we spend $110 million, I’d like to see us go around at least once,” committee chairman Mike Justice said.

Wilson County Schools director Donna Wright noted the district has about 515 more students than when schools closed in May, noting six additional students joined Mt. Juliet last Tuesday.

“We’re going to hit some diminish in returns at Mt. Juliet High School at a certain point. What will happen is the courses that make it very unique – especially when you look at advanced placement and honors courses – you’re going to have to hit those core requirements at the expense of those other sections. You’re going to have to move west to east. But, the thing is we have two other high schools that are popping [2,000 students],” Wright said.

“At the current rate we’re going now, a year from now, you’re looking at Mt. Juliet having close to 2,500 kids. They’re above 2,200 right now. Lebanon and Wilson Central are both knocking on that 2,000 door. Watertown is growing every day. We don’t have room around those schools to put anymore portables,” Wilson County school board chairman Larry Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson said the board would “step up and meet that challenge” if construction of a new high school is delayed.

“We don’t have any other choice. If we don’t have a school, then when we go to rezoning, it’s going to come from the west toward the east, then we’re going to have some real serious issues when we think about what we have to do with them then,” Tomlinson said.

The group also lightly discussed other options for funding school building projects aside from property taxes. Tomlinson and Justice agreed it would take several meetings between the groups to determine a suitable, feasible plan.

Maynard said the current school administration and commission could be in their situation due to former members of each body.

“There’s not been a year that I’ve been here that we have not had schools under construction, three, four or five renovations – there’s not been a single year,” said Maynard, who highlighted Justice’s comments about time spent debating Lebanon High and other projects.

“I don’t know how many years that fight went on. That was before I got here. But, we spent so much time fighting over building schools – or the then-administration and commission – spent so much time fighting over schools that we didn’t actually build any. Now, we’re playing catch up for the fact that, historically, people sat on their hands and didn’t want to raise property taxes and we didn’t get the schools built when we needed,” Maynard said.

By Xavier Smith


600-plus more students added

Mt. Juliet High School currently has more than 2,200 students enrolled

More than 600 students have joined the  Lebanon city and Wilson County schools districts to start the year, with numbers expected to grow.

Wilson County Schools director Donna Wright said last Tuesday’s numbers showed 515 more students joined the district from the final day of school in May. The district has eclipsed 18,000 students with the additions.

Wilson County school board chairman Larry Tomlinson said Mt. Juliet High School boasts more than 2,200 students, while Lebanon and Wilson Central high schools are approaching 2,000 students each.

The district added about 750 students on the first day of the 2016-2017 school year, with 440 of those additional students in the district’s high schools.

Lebanon Special School District superintendent Scott Benson said the district had 3,824 students at Tuesday’s end, up 94 students from May. The district has added more than 150 students from the same point last year.

Benson said the district got off to a “terrific start” Tuesday, while Wright and other Wilson County Schools leaders expressed similar sentiments. The county experienced issues at Wilson Central on opening day when it was believed the school ran out of food during lunch periods.

Principal Travis Mayfield addressed the rumors Tuesday and said the school did not run out of food just certain items.

“We had a much greater number of students who ate in the cafeteria [Tuesday] than previous years. I have heard that some students didn’t get to eat and for that I’m sorry. I wouldn’t want my own kid not to eat, and therefore I don’t want that to happen to yours either,” said Mayfield, who said lunch lines in most lunch periods were full due to delays associated with the first day, such as students not knowing their lunch number.

“Also, the cafeteria manager has prepared for a greater number of students for today and the rest of the month,” he said.

Wilson County Schools transportation director Jerry Partlow said he was “relatively pleased” with the start of the school year. Partlow said the district has utilized drivers from specialty routes, such as the Nashville School for the Blind and Genesis Learning Centers, since their routes don’t begin until next week. 

Partlow said there were also drivers in training, but the district still has a shortage of drivers. The district has about 130 drivers to cover more than 200 routes, and Partlow said he would like to add 12-15 drivers.

“We just ask people to be patient with us,” Partlow said.

By Xavier Smith


Police aim to increase safety, awareness in first week of school

In an effort to keep children safe while heading to and from school this week, Mt. Juliet police will provide extra attention in school zones to raise awareness that school is back in session.

Officers have been assigned designated school zones before and after school for the first week, and they will focus on reduced speed limits in school zones, school bus stop-arm, texting while driving, seat belt and child passenger safety laws.

“The safety of children is our main priority,” said Chief James Hambrick. “Our officers will be focused on motorists who disregard laws that have been designed to protect children in school zones.”

Police officials encourage parents to visit their child’s school website to become familiar with the traffic plans for drop-off and pick-up at each school. Wilson County School’s website is wcschools.com.

To ensure school zones are safe this school year, Mt. Juliet Police officials offer the following suggestions:

• Allow for plenty of time in getting to school in the morning. As traffic volumes and congestion on the roadways increase, so does the length of time it takes to travel to a destination. Allowing more time by leaving earlier will help reduces stress, increases awareness and improve driving. Obey the posted speed limit signs and directional signs. This includes marked curbs. These signs and curb markings assist in the traffic flow into and out of the schools and assist in the safety of the students who walk and bike to school. One misplaced car can disrupt the traffic flow and the safety of students.

• Be patient. Impatience may lead to aggressive driving, rude or unwarranted behavior, pedestrian and bicycle collisions, and it creates traffic gridlock. Remember, everyone has the same goal in mind: to get children safely to and from school. Also remember, the habits exhibited in one’s driving and demeanor are typically passed on to children when they start driving.

• If driving children to school, have them ready to leave the car, with all of their belongings, when the car comes to a stop at the school. Backups and delays are caused when children have to get their backpacks and other items from the trunk or back seat of a car. Explore other alternatives such as carpool, ride-sharing, walking, or biking to school.

• Watch and obey the school crossing guards.  Crossing guards are provided to assist with school traffic and the safe crossing of students across the surrounding streets near each elementary school. Be on the lookout, be prepared to stop, and be prepared to follow their directions so children can get to and from school safely.

• Stopping for a school bus law: On two-lane roads, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop. On multi-lane roads that are paved across, vehicles traveling in each lane in both directions must stop. On a divided highway with unpaved space or any median or physical barrier, vehicles behind the bus in each lane must stop, while vehicles traveling in the opposite direction may proceed with caution.

Staff Reports

School board approves budget

Decision comes following talks about increase in pay for substitute teachers

The Wilson County school board approved its 2017-2018 fiscal year budget Monday after some conversation on an increase in funds for substitute teachers. 

The board approved the $141-million budget on a 6-1 vote. Wayne McNeese casted the lone vote against the budget after he questioned the increase to fund substitute teachers.

“We started contracting our subs out. Looks like to me that last year we spent $689,000. This year, we got budgeted $900,000. That’s a heck of a difference in something that’s supposed to be a wash,” McNeese said.

The group tapped Education Service Solutions last year to handle the district’s substitute teacher procedures. Former deputy director Mary Ann Sparks said the move was necessary for the district to meet the need to free up a person in the human resources department, among other things.

Deputy director Mickey Hall said the move would not “adversely” effect the district’s budget or require the district to ask for any more money from the county commission if the number of needed substitutes was similar to previous years. 

Hall said the cost increase is due to the additional number of teachers in the district and the company’s requirement of maintaining a 95 percent rate for substitutes.

Hall said most expenses in the budget were relative to new staff, the opening of Springdale Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, teacher pay, infrastructure and more.

The Wilson County Budget Committee will discuss the budget and needs assessment list Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the Wilson County Courthouse. Last week, budget committee chairman Mike Justice said he preferred to wait to discuss the district’s needs assessment list until after Monday’s school board meeting.

The Wilson County Education Committee tasked the budget committee earlier this month to examine the district’s needs assessment list and create a plan that would implement as many items on the list as possible without a property tax increase for citizens, if possible.

Items on the list included funding for bus driver pay raises, a digital transformation plan, a new high school in Mt. Juliet, a summer roofing program and a 4 percent raise for teachers.

The biggest financial need is for the new high school in Mt. Juliet on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School, estimated at $110 million.

A 4-percent salary raise for county teachers also appeared on the needs list, which would cost about $3.2 million, along with a recommendation from Wilson County Schools transportation director Jerry Partlow, who suggested a $2 raise for bus drivers, at about $708,000, which includes benefits, in an attempt to combat the district’s bus driver shortage.

A three-year digital transformation plan is also included in the needs assessment. The plan totals $15 million, and Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said the district’s last textbook adoption for math cost around $2 million alone.

By Xavier Smith


State representatives encourage local residents to shop during sales tax holiday

With the beginning of a new school year Aug. 1 in Wilson County, state Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Old Hickory, and state Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, encouraged families to shop during the state’s annual sales tax holiday to save on items such as clothing, school and art supplies, as well as computers.

“Our annual sales tax holiday is another way we are helping the industrious men and women of our community to meet their family’s needs and also save more of their hard-earned money,” said Lynn. “This event also supports our local businesses and sparks the economy right here in Wilson County.”

The state’s annual tax-free weekend is set for July 28-30. The Tennessee General Assembly established the holiday in 2006 and was held every year since. Tax-free purchases include clothing valued at $100 or less, school supplies $100 or less and computers priced at $1,500 or less.

“I have worked very closely with state Rep. Lynn and Rep. Pody during their time as a member of the Tennessee General Assembly to lower taxes for our hardworking Tennesseans,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville. “We encourage the citizens of our state to utilize this holiday weekend to make purchases that will not only prepare their children to go back to school but also save them money.”

In the last several years, the Republican-led House reduced state tax rates by several hundred million dollars, including cuts to the tax on groceries, reducing taxes on Tennessee’s manufacturers to promote economic growth, reductions to the Hall Tax that disproportionally affects seniors living on a fixed income, as well as repealing the state gift tax and death tax. During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers also fought to decrease the amount of property tax owed by veterans, the disabled and the elderly.

“The cost of school supplies can truly restrict a family’s budget,” Pody said. “It is my hope that this opportunity will give our families a little more financial flexibility moving forward.”

For more information about the state’s tax-free holiday, visit tn.gov/revenue/article/sales-tax-holiday.

Lynn serves as a member of the House Consumer and Human Committee, Finance Ways and Means Committee, Fiscal Review Committee, and she serves as chairman of the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee. She represents House District 57, which includes part of Wilson County.

Pody serves as vice chairman of the House Consumer and Human Resources Committee. He is also a member of the House Consumer and Human Resources Subcommittee and House Insurance and Banking Committee. He represents House District 46, which includes all of Cannon and part of Wilson and DeKalb counties.

Staff Reports

County schools amends lunch charge policy

Wilson County Schools amended its school lunch policy for the upcoming school year, which will not allow students to charge school lunches without a parent or guardian’s permission.

The district will implement a written opt-in requirement for lunch charges for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The opt-in sign off option will be found in the district’s student handbook and will need to be returned to the school.

The amount of charges allowed for kindergarten through eighth-grade students is $10. Once the student reaches the limit, an alternate meal – a sunbutter sandwich and white milk for lunch – will be given. 

There are no changes for high school students, who currently aren’t allowed to charge for meals.

The Wilson County school board discussed the policy change during last month’s work session.

“I’ll give you an example. Last month, we had a father contact us who was upset because he had just found out his son was allowing other students to use his card and run up some charges. He was upset with us,” Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said during the meeting. “We’re not letting kids go hungry, but we also have to watch and make sure there’s no abuse.”

“What we also found out is some kids were spending the money before they got to school, so they didn’t have money when they got there, and parents would call about where their money is,” said Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall, who added some parents opt to not let their children charge for meals.

“If you’ve seen anything in the news, there’s been some debate and conversation on things that have happened around the country on what they call lunch shaming. I will say that I have experienced that in times past, but I have not had that issue here,” said Wright, who said she’s experienced less than five instances relative to lunch charges since 2014.

“If a kid forgets money one day or something like that, we’re not going to penalize them. That’s covered in here. But if it’s an everyday event, the food service staff, along with [school officials], will talk to the parents. We also have a lot of churches and PTO groups that will put money on accounts for those kids that need it,” Hall said.

The district also sends out automated calls every Friday when account balances fall between $5 and 1 cent. The automated calls are made daily for accounts with a negative balance.

Any parent of a student who gets close to the charge limit will receive a notification via email as long as the email address is provided in Skyward.

Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson said the district had about $1,000 in unpaid school lunch debt last year.

By Xavier Smith


County teachers prep for solar eclipse

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Southside Elementary School teacher Jessica Roper participates in a solar eclipse exercise Thursday led by Leesa Hubbard, special education teacher. Hubbard, space enthusiast, led this week’s district training for teachers for possible solar eclipse exercises and lessons.

Wilson County educators prepared for next month’s solar eclipse this week as they received additional lessons on space and eclipses.

Leesa Hubbard, special education teacher and space enthusiast, led the two training sessions aimed at creating lessons, activities and plans for students for the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. Hubbard said it was important to prepare teachers for this rare occurrence.

“The solar eclipse happens because of the moon, and the moon is our nearest neighbor. It’s the only place that humans have ever personally visited. To me, it’s much more important than studying black holes, because they’re not going to experience that. This they are,” Hubbard said.

The last total solar eclipse happened in the U.S. in 1991 in Hawaii. Hubbard said the last total solar eclipse able to be seen in the Nashville area happened in 1478.

Teachers from all concentrations, including art and music, attended the training, which Hubbard said is critical to next month’s experience for students.

“We’re trying to go a lot further than just science because in the high schools, they may not have a science class this semester,” Hubbard said.

The district bought 19,000 sets of glasses for students and teachers. Hubbard said part of the training includes safety beyond glasses, such as limiting time outside prior to and after the total eclipse, expected to last two minutes and 37 seconds.

Hubbard said teachers seemed excited about next month’s event.

“I think a lot of them have had some ‘ah-ha’ moments, where they finally understood some things themselves for the first time. For me, as an educator, it’s exciting when I see my colleagues get excited for something,” she said.

Jennifer Johnson, Wilson County Schools’ spokesperson, said students are allowed three unexcused absences at parents’ discretion and one could be used Aug. 21.

“Unfortunately, we know that not all parents have the luxury of taking a day off from work for something like an eclipse, and we’d hate it for those students to sit home and miss the event altogether,” Johnson said.

Johnson said Discovery Ed has worked with the district to come up with interactive and virtual learning opportunities for the weeks leading up to the eclipse.

The district has also reached out to the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, the Adventure Science Center and the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center for potential events.

NASA ambassador Theo Wellington addressed the solar eclipse with the Wilson County Commission earlier this year and discussed the solar eclipse.

Wellington said half of the U.S. population is within a one day’s drive to the total solar eclipse path, which means areas along the path, such as Wilson County, will experience an influx of visitors.

Wellington said the total eclipse path is important, because it’s the path in which a total eclipse is visible. Other areas will only experience a partial eclipse, which doesn’t bring darkness.

By Xavier Smith


County schools unveils renovations, break ground

Xavier Smith • Lebanon Democrat
Visitors, teachers and Wilson County Schools personnel tour Gladeville Middle School on Monday during the school’s ribbon cutting and open house. The school, along with Tuckers Crossroads School, welcomed guests to view renovations following a groundbreaking ceremony for a future Gladeville middle school earlier in the day.

Parents, students, teachers and other visitors got their first look Monday at two of four major Wilson County Schools renovation projects as the district held open house and ribbon cutting ceremonies at Gladeville Elementary School and Tuckers Crossroads School.

Gladeville Elementary School received a six-classroom addition in back of the school, along with renovations to the school’s gym and main foyer.

“I can remember when I first came, I walked into this building and there were people here who had attended school as a child and they were grandparents. They wanted to make sure I knew how significant this school was and continues to be to this community,” said Donna Wright, Wilson County Schools director.

Wright also highlighted the importance of preserving the history of the school for community members.

“Everyone that lived and grew up in Gladeville knew about ‘the tree.’ There was also grieving when the tree had to come down. I can’t think of anything better than to have that piece that still symbolizes it and says, ‘1833 Gladeville School,’” she said. “It’s more than just an addition. It’s a transformation, testimony and a moment in history that will continue the quality of what takes place in this building and the love and support this community provides for this school.”

Tuckers Crossroads renovations included a two-story wing addition, which covered seven classrooms, two computer labs, a science lab and renovated gym.

Wilson County school board chairman Larry Tomlinson, native to the area, discussed the school’s importance.

“There’s just a lot of history and tradition in this community and this school has been a focal point of this community for many, many years. I’ll be 71 on Aug. 8. I can remember when we lived in the Centerville community that people in that community always talked about what was going on at Tuckers Crossroads. It’s always been important,” Tomlinson said.

The district kicked off the day with a groundbreaking ceremony for a future Gladeville middle school, located at 8275 Stewarts Ferry Pike.

Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said the school would house sixth- through eighth-grade students with a capacity of about 1,500. He said the school would be a combination of several schools, but would resemble the new high schools, but on a smaller scale. 

The school will be built to alleviate overcrowding at Mt. Juliet and West Wilson middle schools, which had 1,606 and 1,245 students, respectively, at the end of the last school year.

By Xavier Smith


Wilson Central’s young band preps for season

Kaitlin Vantrease • Mt. Juliet News
Members of Wilson Central’s marching band take part in band camp. About a third of the 140-member band is comprised of freshmen members.

Members of Wilson Central’s 140-member band got a taste of what high school band will be like last week as they endured practice for nine hours every day.

Directed by Stacy Jernigan and Carter Noblin, this year’s band is composed of one-third freshmen. Half of the band has never marched before. The directors and band members both are excited for the season, and are preparing all of the many new marchers for August 18.

“We’re really excited to see the group grow as they get more experience,” said Jernigan, who has been the band director at Wilson Central for 13 years.

She said she expects a lot of energy and excitement for the band this year, and with the large number of young members, there will be a big focus on growth.

“It’ll be mostly about bringing them along and helping them learn what high school band is all about,” said Jernigan.

The camp will go on for nine days, and as of Wednesday, they were in the middle of their first week of practice. Extra instructors come to work with each section so each one will get more attention and assistance. The directors are hoping that the camp will lay a good groundwork for the rest of the year.

The halftime shows that the band will be working on feature exciting music, some of which people might not know and some that people will be familiar. The color guard will provide visual interest with different colors and equipment. The shows should typically have a modern feel.

“We’re doing a show this fall about Man vs. Intelligence and some of the things it helps with and some of the challenges as well,” said Jernigan.

The band will compete in four or five marching competitions throughout the rest of the year, and they will host numerous concerts at the school for the community. They participate in a District Concert Assessment, which is their big event for the spring.

The band has been invited to play at the TMEA state concert festival in April, and they are planning a trip to Atlanta to play at another festival in one of the parks there.

“It’ll be an exciting year. Fall is probably our busiest time but, honestly, a lot more goes on the rest of the year that people probably don’t know about, and it really doesn’t slow down much at all,” said Jernigan.

The Wilson Central band has been very successful in the past and won numerous awards in marching band competitions. The color guard and the percussion section have also won their class at many competitions.

Jernigan said the highlight for them was winning the Tennessee Band Masters Association Sweepstakes award last year. It is only given to about 30 middle school and high school bands in the state. It requires the band program to be well-rounded and achieve high scores in marching and concert performance.

“We got the award last year and we’re getting it again this year. We’re trying to develop a tradition of being a really well-known, well-rounded program in the state,” said Jernigan.

By Kaitlin Vantrease


Mt. Juliet marching band seeks different sound

Jacob Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Members of the Mt. Juliet High School marching band participate in the yearly band camp. The band is working on its upcoming show called the X-Factor.

Each of the four high school marching bands in Wilson County has a theme for the upcoming semester.

Lebanon’s theme is Outlaw, a contemporary western theme, Watertown’s is Tie-Dyed, a “hippie music” theme. Mt. Juliet’s theme for this year is the X-Factor, which promises to be a wholly unique experience.

“Our show is going to be all about words that have ‘ex’ as a prefix,” said band director Tony Cox. “Words like ‘exhale’ and ‘explosion’ and ‘extreme.’ We’re going to have some pretty neat sound effects and things going on through our synthesizer keyboards to kind of enhance that.”

The marching band has spent the last week working on pieces for its upcoming performances and competitions at the program’s yearly band camp. From 7:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. every day, the band works on their formations and music for the upcoming semester.

With a bigger band than they’ve had in years past and a large group of first-year students, Cox is excited about the possibilities for the upcoming performances, as well as the future. 

“We have a little bit over 100 kids in the band this year,” said Cox. “A big part of our process this week is just kind of taking it slow and making sure that everyone understands and hopefully teach it to them from the very beginning.”

The Mt. Juliet High School marching band will perform at halftime during the football games, as well as at different competitions and parades throughout the school year.

For more information and a schedule of when the band will perform, visit mjbandofgold.com.

By Jacob Smith


Lawsuits filed against Wilson County Schools

Wilson County Schools is the subject of two lawsuits, although one was voluntarily dismissed this week.
Attorney Michael Braun filed the lawsuits on behalf of two siblings at Rutland Elementary School in Mt. Juliet and a Tuckers Crossroads School student due to denial into the district’s Kids Club, a childcare service offered to district parents.
Braun filed a dismissal this week of the lawsuit regarding the Rutland Elementary siblings, which stated they were denied enrollment to Kids Club for reasons associated with their disability, which included toilet training, sensitive hearing, risk to run away and more.
The active lawsuit states an autistic Tuckers Crossroads student was denied enrollment into Kids Club because she is not fully toilet trained due to her autism. The lawsuit claims Wilson County discriminated against the student and violated Title II of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, which states public entities must make services, programs or activities accessible to individuals with disabilities.
However, public entities are not required to take any action that would “result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of a service, program, or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens.”
Jennifer Johnson, Wilson County Schools spokesperson, said the district currently has disabled students enrolled in Kids Club and does not discriminate.
The district’s Kids Club policy states, “Kids Club cannot provide service to children who require one-on-one supervision or assistance on a routine basis.”
“This policy would apply to anything that might require individualized supervision,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the policy is needed for cost and affordability for parents.
“Contrary to the statement that has been made repeatedly in this lawsuit, Kids Club does not receive any federal funding. As a matter of fact, there’s no local or state funding either,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Kids Club parents pay a weekly fee for enrolled children and the money generated by the fees pay for the program’s operating costs.
“If we were to start hiring teachers to provide individualized care, the operating costs would go up exponentially, rates would have to be increased for all parents and, eventually, the program would no longer be financially self-sustaining,” she said.
Johnson said the policy was added in wake of a 2012 complaint against Wilson County Schools at the direction of the Office of Civil Rights.
In 2012, the Office of Civil Rights found the district’s denial of an autistic child into the Kids Club program did not comply with federal law. Consequently, the district entered into a resolution agreement with the Office of Civil Rights, which allowed the office to monitor the implementation of changes to the district’s policy and procedures relative to Kids Club.
“Not only have they seen our policy, but they had to sign off on it and give their approval before it was ever added,” Johnson said.

By Xavier Smith


Doors open at new Springdale Elementary

Photo courtesy of Facebook
Wilson County school board members and honored guests join Director of Schools Donna Wright (right) in cutting the ribbon on Springdale Elementary School on Sunday. The ribbon cutting ceremony was followed by an open house.

Future students, parents get first look at new school

Future students, parents and community members received their first look at Wilson County’s latest school Sunday during an open house at Springdale Elementary School.

Former Stoner Creek Elementary School principal Christine Miller will lead Springdale at 5675 Central Pike in Mt. Juliet.

Miller has worked for the district since 1999, when she was hired as a sixth-grade science teacher at Watertown Elementary School. In 2009, Miller was promoted to assistant principal at West Wilson Middle School, where she spent four years before she was named principal at Stoner Creek Elementary School.

The Wilson County school board approved the school’s name and mascot – the Panthers – last year after it received information from Wilson County Commissioner Diane Weathers about the historical significance of Springdale as it relates to the area.

The school will pull students from Elzie Patton and Stoner Creek elementary schools. The district rezoning plan will move more than 500 students who attended Stoner Creek and Elzie Patton to Springdale.

Miller thanked district and county leaders Sunday for their work in bringing the idea of Springdale to fruition. Wilson County Director of School Donna Wright said the school is needed to alleviate crowding at the two schools.

The next school in the district’s building plan is a middle school in Gladeville.

The Wilson County Commission approved the issuance of bonds in December for the middle school at 8275 Stewarts Ferry Pike.

Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said the school, similar in appearance to newer county high schools, would house sixth- through eighth-grade students with a capacity of about 1,500.

By Xavier Smith


Schools budget talks begin

Education committee approves two resolutions

The Wilson County Education Committee approved two resolutions Thursday regarding the Wilson County Schools’ proposed 2017-2018 budget and needs assessment list.

The first resolution would keep the tax rate for the general purpose school fund the same as last year, which would require Wilson County Schools to utilize growth money, estimated to be around $1.4 million, and other estimated revenues to cover increases in the proposed budget.

Mickey Hall, Wilson County Schools deputy director, said increases in the budget were due to new staff, the opening of Springdale Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, teacher pay, infrastructure and more. 

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Wilson County Commissioner Chad Barnard makes remarks during Thursday’s Wilson County Education Committee meeting regarding the county’s growing population. Barnard said the county would have to create a plan sooner or later to address the growth’s strain on Wilson County Schools.

The second resolution would forward the district’s needs assessment list to the Wilson County Budget Committee in hopes of creating a plan that would implement as many items on the list as possible without a property tax increase for citizens.

Items on the list included funding for bus driver pay raises, a digital transformation plan, a new high school in Mt. Juliet, a summer roofing program and four percent raise for teachers.

The biggest financial need is for the new high school in Mt. Juliet on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School, estimated at $110 million.

“Right now, based on the bids we’re hearing out on the market are roughly $200 (per square feet) in pure construction costs,” said Hall, who said early plans call for a 395,000-square-foot school, mirroring Lebanon High School.

Hall noted Collierville built its latest school, which fits 2,000 students, for about the same price after it underestimated its cost. He also noted the price would likely increase in future years.

Hall said enrollment numbers two weeks ago showed Mt. Juliet High School with about 2,200 students, Lebanon High School with about 1,960 students and Wilson Central with about 1,950 students.

“If you approve [the new high school] in the month of August, Mt. Juliet High School will be 2,500-2,600 students before it opens. The other two schools will be over 2,000 very easily,” Hall said.

“We got all these houses coming in here. What are we going to do? We need to come together as a group and figure it out,” said Commissioner Chad Barnard, who said a recent incident while working on a home opened his eyes to the magnitude of growth facing the county.

“He sends in the bill – he lives in California. I said, ‘You live in California?’ He said he came to Wilson County and bought four houses to rent for investments. He came here one time a few years ago to Nashville to visit friends and said he saw the area growing,” Barnard said. “What are we going to do? We can’t keep raising property taxes.”

A four percent salary raise for county teachers also appeared on the needs list, which would cost about $3.2 million, along with a recommendation from Wilson County Schools transportation director Jerry Partlow, who suggested a $2 raise for bus drivers, approximately $708,000, which includes benefits, in an attempt to combat the district’s bus driver shortage.

A three-year digital transformation plan is also included in the needs assessment. The plan totals $15 million and Wilson County Schools Director Donna Wright noted the district’s last textbook adoption for math cost around $2 million.

Shea, Elrod make sports writers’ all-state team

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet state champion pole vaulter Greg Shea

Two Wilson County track standouts were named Tuesday to the Tennessee Sports Writers’ All-State track team.

Mt. Juliet High School’s Cole Shea was named to the Class AAA pole vault squad, and Wilson Central’s John Elrod made the Class AAA 1,600-meter team. It was the first time either athlete was named to the All-State team.

Shea, a junior at Mt. Juliet High School, became a state champion by winning the varsity pole vault competition during the TSSAA Spring Fling at Middle Tennessee State University’s Dean A. Hayes Stadium.

Shea’s vault of 14-6 was 6 inches better than Brentwood freshman Jeff Kinder.

“Cole Shea trains hard and was part of both the pole vault and 4-by-1 relay at state,” said Mt. Juliet High School track and field coach Al Bohannon at the time. “His 14-6 was his personal best at just the right time. His prior best was set at the New Balance Championship during indoor season. Greg Shea and Brandon Grass do an excellent job with Cole in only his second year of pole vaulting.”

Greg Shea, Cole Shea’s father, helped buy pole vault equipment for the school.

Senior captain John Elrod finished third in the 1,600 with a time of 4:22.56 at the TSSAA Spring Fling at Middle Tennessee State University’s Dean A. Hayes Stadium. Elrod also finished eighth in the 800 with a time of 2:00.30.

A Tennessee Scholar, Elrod will run for the Tennessee Vols next year.

Central has built a reputation, especially in the distance events, while not having a track which meets TSSAA standards, having to go to other schools for training sessions. Elrod joined three other seniors who didn’t run on a new track currently under construction around the Central football field.

Staff Reports