School board OKs several items

Board also recognizes retirees during its monthly meeting

The Wilson County Board of Education discussed and passed several line items and recognized retirees from Wilson County Schools at its meeting Monday night.

The board announced 37 retirees from the school system, including Mel Brown, who retired as Mt. Juliet High School principal after 45 years; Linda Gay, who retired as a Mt. Juliet Elementary School kindergarten teacher after 41 years; and Marilyn Hemontolor, who retired as a Southside School eighth-grade teacher after 46 years. Each retiree present received a plaque to commemorate their years of service.

“To all of you ladies and gentleman, we thank you for your service,” said board chair Larry Tomlinson. “For all the dedicated years, we appreciate it. To do what you’ve done, it doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright read potential line items, which were voted on by the board. The items included changes to the schools suspension, expulsion and placement policy and a change in the amount of time before meeting requests to appear before the board can be filed.

The board approved a change to the suspension and expulsion guidelines to include students who initiate a physical attack on an individual student on school property or at a school activity, including to and from school or a school activity.

Also, in response to a large amount of concern regarding threats made following recent school shootings in other parts of the country, the suspension and expulsion guidelines were further expanded to include students who make a threat, including a false report, to use a bomb, dynamite or any other deadly explosive or destructive device, including chemical weapons, on school property or at a school-sponsored event.

The board also made a change to the amount of time needed for a request to appear before the board. The amendment changed the amount of time needed from one week before the meeting to 10 working days before the meeting. The change was made to give the board time to post and advertise the appearance on the agenda.

Several other recommendations from the director were approved, including:

• Tenure was granted to James Wilson, deputy director schools, and Travis Mayfield, principal at Wilson Central High School. This was approved unanimously.

• A line was added in the attendance policy that said, “All Wilson County Schools will implement a three-tier system to improve student and school attendance.” This was approved by a vote of 5-1. Board member Wayne McNeese voted against it, and board member Tom Sottek was absent when the vote was taken.

• The alternative school programs policy was changed to say parents of students assigned to an alternative school will provide their child’s transportation. A section was also added said, “If the student returns to Wilson County Schools, he or she will be required to complete the assigned SHDA discipline. If a student has served the assigned discipline partially or in totality in an alternative setting in another public school, the director of schools or a designee will review the placement for Wilson County Schools.” This was approved, along with the attendance policy.

• The board awarded the contract for Fleet Fuel Management Services to Tri Star Energy. This was approved unanimously. It also unanimously voted to award a contract for copy paper to American Paper and Twine.

• Two mowers that mainly sit idle at Lebanon High School were declared surplus and will be traded in toward the purchase of a new mower. The board approved this unanimously.

• A budget amendment was made to cover the full slate of bus drivers the school system had for the spring, as well as attendance bonuses for drivers. This was approved unanimously. The board also unanimously approved a budget amendment to cover supplies and equipment for the summer for the cafeterias.

• A memo was approved to send to the city of Lebanon that asks for a waiver of all fees associated with the sewer line connection for the new Gladeville Middle School project, the Harding Drive Project and the school system’s portion of the project for the turning lane extension on Hartmann Drive in front of Lebanon High School. The school system accepted this in lieu of $471,259 due from mixed drink taxes collected by the city prior to September 2013. The board approved this by a vote of 6-1. McNeese voted against it.

•  The central cafeteria fund budget and lunch prices for the upcoming year were passed unanimously. There were no new items in the budget and no change in prices for lunch items.

• The extended school program fund budget for the upcoming year was passed by a vote of 5-2. McNeese and board member Bill Robinson voted against it.

• The school federal projects fund budget for the upcoming year was approved by a vote of 6-1. McNeese voted against it.

• The school system’s Learning Center handbook and rates were changed to reflect the changes approved in the recent special called meeting. The change reflects the new weekly rates, which are $195 for children up to 36 months and $185 for children 37-60 months. The sibling discount is $20. The board approved this by a vote of 5-2. McNeese and Robinson voted against it.

The board will meet for a work session June 28 at 5 p.m., and its next regularly scheduled meeting will be July 2 at 6 p.m. at the central office on Harding Drive in Lebanon.

By Jacob Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Mt. Juliet pitcher awaits call from MLB

Andy Reed • Mt. Juliet News/File
Mt. Juliet’s Ethan Smith pitches at Lebanon on May 1.

Monday could be a big night for recent Mt. Juliet High-graduate Ethan Smith.

The hard-throwing right-handed pitcher could have a big decision to make if projections come true that the Vanderbilt-signee will be picked in the first two rounds of the Major League Baseball Draft.

“We don’t know exactly where, (but) we heard he’s projected in the top two rounds,” Mt. Juliet coach Mark Purvis said of Smith, who topped out at 95 mph and was regularly at 90-93 this past season as he went 8-0 with an 0.90 earned-run average and 80 strikeouts in around 50 innings.

Smith signed with the Commodores in November, but an early call from an MLB team, and a correspondingly high signing bonus, could sway him from West End. Smith was in Atlanta for a pre-draft workout involving multiple teams Thursday, Purvis said.

The first two rounds of the draft are scheduled for Monday beginning at 6 p.m. CDT. Rounds 3-10 will be Tuesday starting at noon. Rounds 11-40 will be Wednesday beginning at 11 a.m.

Purvis said Smith is healthy now after a late-season biceps strain sustained when he caught his spikes during a May 1 start at Lebanon’s Brent Foster Field. Purvis said Smith didn’t look right during a District 9-AAA tournament game against Station Camp and pulled him after around 60 pitches as the Golden Bears had a big lead.

But after the Bears won the district championship, Smith couldn’t make an expected start in the May 14 Region 5-AAA opener against Rossview, which shut out top-ranked Mt. Juliet and eventually won the state championship.

“He would have been okay if we had gotten to Friday (May 18 sectional),” Purvis said. “He just couldn’t go Monday.”

If Smith is taken in the first two rounds, he would likely be the highest-drafted player out of a Wilson County high school. Wilson Central Hall of Famer James Adkins was taken in the 13th round out of high school by the Philadelphia Phillies but went to play for the University of Tennessee, from where he was take in the supplemental first round by the Los Angeles Dodgers following his junior season and signed.

By Andy Reed

areed@lebanondemocrat.com

School board plans vote to add bus drivers, buses

Angie Mayes • Mt. Juliet News
Wilson County school board member Linda Armistead (center) speaks during Thursday night’s Wilson County Board of Education meeting. Armistead is flanked by board member Tom Sottek and Director of Schools Donna Wright.

The Wilson County Board of Education agreed a vote was in order to add bus drivers and new bus routes Thursday night at a work session.

According to Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall, transportation director Jerry Parlow requested 10 new drivers and routes for the upcoming school year. Turnover is a problem among bus drivers, not just in Wilson County, and Hall said in addition to filling the spots of those who have left, an additional 10 drivers are wanted.

Board chair Larry Tomlinson said he is concerned with the amount of time the students are on buses.

“In my area, there are kids who get on the bus at [5:40 a.m.],” Tomlinson told his fellow board members.

Board member Bill Robinson was also concerned with the amount of time students were on the buses.

“I’ve heard that some students are on the buses for one-and-a-half hours,” he said.

If the time students are on buses is lessened – ideally an hour or less – then more buses, drivers and routes will be needed, Hall said.

“We’re always training people to drive buses,” Hall said.

The school board will vote Monday on whether it will move money from the board’s general fund to a line item to hire more drivers and buses.

The age of school bus drivers may soon change, Hall said. The state raised the minimum age to 25 after a fatal crash in Chattanooga in 2016. However, Congress is discussing whether to lower the age to 19 because of a nationwide shortage of school bus drivers.

With the addition of drivers comes the purchase of new buses and new potential legislation about seat belts. Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended lap-and-shoulder belts on vehicles that weigh less than 10,000 pounds. But it will be up to each state to decide to require seat belts on vehicles weight more than 10,000 pounds.

In addition, if buses are ordered with seat belts in them, no more than two students will be able to sit in a seat, which would reduce the capacity of each bus. That would require more buses, as well, Hall said.

The board also discussed keeping student meal prices the same for the upcoming school year. The prices are $2 for lunch and $1.50 for breakfast and would remain those amounts if approved by the board.

Despite its designation as “the second richest county in the state,” according to Tomlinson, the school system still has more than 400 homeless students.

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said the school system helps provide food and families get housing.

“We had one family who was living in a tent,” she said.

Tomlinson said when he tells people Wilson County Schools has more than 400 homeless students, “their jaws drop. But we do provide services for people who don’t always have access.”

Because the school system doesn’t have the required number of disadvantaged students, it isn’t eligible for the summer feeding program. The school system works with area churches and other organizations to help provide meals for students in need. The meals help feed students when they are at home, said Anne Barger with the district’s child nutrition program.

The school system is also bracing for its largest kindergarten class in history, Wright said. There are currently 1,093 kindergarteners enrolled. Others will enroll in the summer, and those who move to the area will enroll when they move to Wilson County, Wright said.

Wright said she constantly monitors building permits to help the school system keep a grip on the number of potential students who could enter the school system in coming years.

“They’re selling the homes before they break ground,” she said of the growth within Wilson County.

Students who are 5 years old by Aug. 15 can enter the next kindergarten class. The only exception would be younger students who move to the district and were enrolled in kindergarten in another district may enter kindergarten in Wilson County.

Board voted on these and other matters Monday at 6 p.m. at the central office at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon. A full recap of the meeting will appear in next week’s Mt. Juliet News.

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Nationally recognized summer STEM camp upcoming at Friendship Christian School

Camp Invention, a nationally recognized nonprofit summer enrichment camp program, will be at Friendship Christian School the week of June 11.

A program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Camp Invention challenges children in kindergarten through sixth grade to find their “inner inventor” by learning the process of innovation. Using hands-on activities, Camp Invention promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning, builds resourcefulness and problem-solving skills and encourages entrepreneurship in a fun and engaging environment.

Each year, the program features a new curriculum inspired by some of the nation’s most brilliant minds – the NIHF Inductees. This year’s Fast Forward curriculum features several video challenges from the inductees to encourage children to be confident in their ideas and explore their ability to innovate.

The hands-on modules include:

• Optibot: Campers will launch into the future with their own Optibot – a small self-driving robot that senses changes in light.

• Robotic Pet Vet: Throughout this module, campers nurse their robotic puppy back to health and design and build dog parks as they hammer out ideas for the best park attraction.

• Mod My Mini Mansion: Campers will dream up and design their own futuristic smart home filled with gadgets, LEDs, technology and innovations.

• Stick To It: Campers will invent something new every day as they explore what it is like to be a physicist, engineer and entrepreneur.

Young innovators will invent, make and craft solutions to real-world challenges by building their own prototypes and discovering that anything is possible.

All local Camp Invention programs are facilitated and taught by certified educators who live and teach in the community. Camp Invention serves more than 140,000 students each year and partners with nearly 1,700 schools and districts across the U.S. Program sponsors include the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Duck Tape brand duct tape.

For more information, visit campinvention.org.

Staff Reports

Ex-Wilson Central band director sentenced on child porn charge

Martin McFarlane

Martin Drew McFarlane, former co-director of the Tullahoma High School band and former Wilson Central High School band director, was sentenced to five years in prison followed by five years of supervised release on child pornography charges Thursday in federal court in Chattanooga.

Jennifer Johnson, Wilson County Schools spokesperson, said McFarlane started working for the district in 2008 as a band teacher between Southside Elementary School and Wilson Central. She said he resigned from Wilson Central in 2015 to take the Tullahoma band director position.

His originally slated March sentencing date was postponed to allow McFarlane, while free on bond, time to complete a 16-week therapy program that began Jan. 29 and ended May 21.

McFarlane’s attorney, assistant federal defender Myrlene R. Marsa, filed the March motion to postpone, Marsa said McFarlane’s counseling would provide insight when imposing a sentence “sufficient but not greater than necessary for the case.”

Prosecutor assistant U.S. attorney James Brooks did not object to McFarlane’s request to postpone McFarlane’s sentencing. However, the prosecutor did object to his attorney’s motion for a variance that would allow McFarlane to seek a sentence below the recommended guideline range. McFarlane’s attorney asked the court to impose a term of five years, “which would amount to a 60-month downward variance from the low-end of the recommended guideline range.”

Marsa’s motion argued McFarlane’s treatment for addiction to child pornography during mitigation. The government conceded the point but considered the case aggravated by McFarlane’s role as a teacher of children and his failure as an addict to remove himself from the presence of children before his arrest.

The charge against McFarlane carried a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20, along with a fine of up to $250,000 and a mandatory term of five years of supervised release.

Despite the government’s objection, U.S. District Judge Harry S. Mattice Jr. handed down the five-year sentence and waived the fine.

Following the five years in prison, McFarlane will be subject to another five years of supervised release. The conditions of the release include continued mental health treatment, participation in a drug or alcohol abuse testing and treatment program, participation in DNA collection and compliance with sex offender laws. Additionally, McFarlane will be prohibited from owning a firearm.

McFarlane was indicted Aug. 22, 2017, by a federal grand jury on one count of transportation of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. Following an FBI and Tullahoma police search of McFarlane’s Tullahoma home, the indictments were handed down May 11, 2017.

McFarlane struck a plea bargain with prosecutors, and he entered a guilty plea Dec. 14 to one count of transportation of child pornography before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher H. Steger in federal court in Chattanooga. By agreeing to the deal, the possession of child pornography charge was dropped, and McFarlane avoided trial.

In addition to federal charges, McFarlane also faced misdemeanor drug charges from Tullahoma police after marijuana was found during the search of his home.

Local police charged him with manufacture, sale and delivery of a schedule VI drug and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. He entered a guilty plea to those charges in Coffee County general sessions court and was given a suspended sentence of 11 months, 29 days and a $250 fine, court costs and Coffee County probation.

McFarlane, a 2004 Tullahoma High School graduate, was hired as the co-director of the band program in 2015. McFarlane resigned from his position at the high school a day after his arrest on drug charges.

By Kelly Lapczynski

The Tullahoma News

35th anniversary of Phoenix Ball deemed muy caliente

Kaitlyn Hungerford • Mt. Juliet News
The 35th anniversary of the Phoenix Ball black-tie gala fundraiser for Cumberland University attracted about 450 university supporters Saturday night.

The 35th anniversary of the Phoenix Ball transformed the Dallas Floyd Gymnasium into Havana Nights and lived up to its reputation in recent years as one hot event.

The annual black-tie gala Saturday night to raise money for Cumberland University featured various rum drinks, cigars for the crowd, a Cuban-inspired menu and ended with about 450 patrons dancing the night away to past-and-present top hits from the 12 South Band.

The evening started with the traditional pre-event cocktail party as guests arrived to find photo opportunities with both Cumberland photographer Al Ashworth and local media. Inside Memorial Hall, guests were treated to an open bar filled with rum drinks galore, as well as other traditional cocktails and Cuban-inspired heavy hors d’oeuvres.

A new addition to Saturday night’s Phoenix Ball, guests were given armbands sponsored by Parks Realty that changed colors to alert them to various transitions – from the start of dinner to the end of auctions – throughout the evening.

As guests gathered in the gym to start the main event, they found banana-leaf place settings and tropical fruit centerpieces with a large Havana lit sign above the stage. Cumberland president Paul Stumb and his wife, Crissy, welcomed guests prior to remarks from Phoenix Ball committee chairs Chris and Lauren Smith.

Wilson Bank & Trust president John McDearman led the invocation before guests dined on a five-course Cuban-inspired meal of shrimp asopao and grits, tiny white-bean soup, cucumber chili salad, Cuban vaca frita – shredded steak over black beans and rice served with plantains – and, of course, rum cake for dessert.

As guests dined, auctioneer Ray Hubner led the live auction that featured a live painting that encompassed the Phoenix Ball by artist Talon Bell; a New Year’s Eve private party for 100 guests at Venue 142 in Lebanon; a gold-and-diamond pendant necklace with a 72-carat Madeira Citrine centerpiece created by Shawn Smith, owner of the Jewelers; and a Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 shotgun.

Following closing remarks from the Stumbs, guests hit the dance floor, jammed to tunes from the 12 South Band and enjoyed late-night snacks courtesy of Zaxby’s.

By Jared Felkins

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

Schools tackle enrollment increases

Wilson County Schools add nearly 500 students since last year

Wilson County Schools and the Lebanon Special School District added several students during the past school year as district leaders prepare for future growth.

Wilson County Schools, which added 515 students last summer, finished the school year with 18,489 students, according to Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall.

The district had just more than 18,000 students at the start of the school year.

The growth comes as the district builds a new middle school in Gladeville and looks to secure funds for a new high school in Mt. Juliet, which is planned on North Green Hill Road on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School.

The Wilson County Commission approved $1.55 million last year for Wilson County Schools to conduct design services for the potential new high school in Mt. Juliet. The design authorization does not signify the groups’ commitment to spend $110 million for a new high school, which is the estimated cost.

Hall said the Gladeville middle 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, and would resemble the new high schools except on a smaller scale.

Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson said the district’s enrollment settled around 3,830 students throughout the school year after it added about 95 students last summer.

The district bought 57 acres of land at the corner of Coles Ferry Pike and Hartmann Drive for $1.3 million in 2015 to secure land for a future school and tapped Thompson-Steed LLC last month as the construction management agency to oversee the project.

Benson said construction could start in about two years but would be determined by the district’s enrollment growth.

“It could be two years, or if enrollment increases at a faster rate, it could be sooner or later,” Benson said.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Parents upset with attendance policy

Wilson County Board of Education plans to address changes at its Monday meeting

Some Wilson County parents are upset about proposed changes to the Wilson County Board of Education’s attendance policy, because the changes weren’t yet finalized in Thursday’s work session.

The updated policies, which were voted on in a first reading at Monday’s school board meeting, are an attempt to align the school system’s policies with recently passed state laws, according to Wilson County Schools communications director Jennifer Johnson.

“There’s not a change in the policy,” said Johnson. “The state has passed some laws that go into effect July 1. Every school district has or will incorporate this three-tier system. The Tennessee School Board Association put it together two days ago. We may go with that one or modify it. If we don’t go with theirs, we will pass something similar.”
According to the Tennessee School Board Association, Wilson County Schools is not a subscriber to its policies, so the local board can modify it.

Wilson County Schools attendance director Stan Moss said he received the Tennessee School Board Association’s three-tier attendance guidelines two days ago and planned to meet with Director of Schools Donna Wright on Monday before the board meeting to finalize its language for Wilson County Schools.

“It’s not like we’re trying to hide anything,” Moss said. “And it’s not just with our schools. This is happening with every school in Tennessee. What we’re trying to do is adhere to the state law and make it best for the students in Wilson County.”

The entire attendance policy, which was issued in 2004 and revised last year, said all children must attend school on days when school is in session. It also said parents or guardians who don’t adhere to this policy can be charged with a misdemeanor.

The proposed attendance policy changes remain the same as in the past, but adds all schools must use the three-tier policy as required by state law Gov. Bill Haslam signed two weeks ago that will go into effect July 1.

Moss outlined what the three tiers could look like when the policy is presented to the board Monday night, but he cautioned any or all of the information could change.

According to Moss, if a student reaches tier one, it would likely be due to three unexcused absences. A parent would be required to meet with the student’s school to review the situation and develop an attendance contract with a review date.

Moss said at tier two, which would likely be after five unexcused absences or if a parent is in violation of the school attendance contract, alternative actions such as counseling or community-based services for the parent could be considered and implemented. He said this could be due to potential alcohol or drug abuse, homelessness or any number of other unknown issues.

According to Moss, when a student reaches tier three or seven to 10 unexcused absences, it would likely be time to ask whether everything possible was done. He said a decision would likely be made as to whether to move forward with a petition for court or consider any other available options.

“What we are trying to do is encompass them with the resources we have within the schools, as well as in the community,” Moss said. “We wouldn’t do the truancy unless it’s absolutely necessary. We want these students to be with these great teachers we have. My job is to help people.”

Moss said programs like a federal 504 Plan or a chronic illness agreement – in cases where a student has a documented sickness or mental or physical health disability that causes the student to miss a significant number of days – would not apply, because it would serve as the necessary agreement between the school and parent.

Due to the lack of initial information released during Thursday’s school board work session, many parents were upset and took their frustration to the Parents of Wilson County Schools TN Facebook page.

The comments ranged from nurses who send students home without penalty to the child, to posts about a child who has a medical situation and may miss more than the allotted number of absences.
Parents of Wilson County TN Schools’ site administrator, Kristi Dunn, replied to the comments, referring to the policy as given to the school board members. She had not seen the proposed three-tier system.

“I think the biggest thing that bothers the parents is the vague language in the policy and the fact that the three-tier system has not been established or revealed to the public yet,” she said. “No one knows what that means or looks like or would be. It is concerning that we are having a first reading without the possibility of knowing what the three-tier system is.”

The board met Monday at 6 p.m. at the central office at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon. A full recap of the meeting will appear in next week’s Mt. Juliet News.

By Angie Mayes 

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Racer Hale experiences ups and downs

William Hale, who races out of his grandfather Alan’s Mt. Juliet shop, has struggled this season after last year’s success.

Young Wilson County racer William Hale’s dream season last year has turned into a nightmare so far this year.

“It’s beyond frustration,” says William, who has struggled with mechanical problems through the first half of the season at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway.

“We can’t seem to get the car working right. There’s no worse feeling for a driver than watching other cars pull away from you and not being able to do anything about it. It’s awful.”

William, 17, who races out of his grandfather Alan Hale’s shop in Mt. Juliet, won Rookie of the Year last season in the Speedway’s premier All Pro Late Model division. His Rookie of the Year award put him in the track’s record book alongside such past notable rookie winners as Darrell Waltrip, Sterling Marlin and Bobby Hamilton, all of whom went on to NASCAR stardom.

William also captured the first top-tier victory of his career and was in contention for the division championship until a late-season crash knocked him out of third place in the standings.

Buoyed by last year’s success, William couldn’t wait to take to the track again this season and build on that momentum.

But it hasn’t gone as planned.

“We keep having mechanical problems and can’t get it figured out,” he says. “The car’s not stable. We’re still kinda new in this division and we’re having trouble finding and fixing whatever’s wrong.”

William is a rising senior at McGavock High where he got permission to attend to take advantage of special mechanics classes. He works full-time at Home Depot in Hermitage.

Holding a full-time job in addition to working on his race car and investing most of his weekends in travel and racing seems a heavy load for a 17-year-old, but William shrugs it off.

“I don’t mind hard work,” he says. “My grandfather has always gone out of his way to help me race, and I want to do my share.”

“He’s a great kid and I enjoy working with him,” says Alan, a mechanic for some of the area’s top drivers in the 1980s. “He’s always been fascinated by cars and racing, and he has a talent for it. He’s very focused and a fast learner.”

William started going to races at the Fairgrounds when he was three, tagging after his grandfather’s heels in the garage area.

“I grew up watching those guys race and dreaming about being just like them someday,” he says.

Although he was disappointed at not winning the championship last season, William was optimistic about his title prospects this year. Now, barring a major turnaround, his championship chances are dismal.

The struggles have also thrown a wrench in his plans to branch out and race on some other tracks this year.

“We’ve about used up our travel budget working on the car,” William says. “We plan to run the winter race in Pensacola, and that’s it. Right now our focus is on trying to get back on track at the Fairgrounds.”

Having experienced the highs of last season makes it more difficult to cope with the lows of this year.

“All we can do is deal with it and keep working,” William says. “It’s frustrating to work so hard and not have better results to show for it. But that’s always been part of this sport. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you.”

By Larry Woody 

Correspondent

MJ’s Shea returns to the top

Bear senior repeats as state pole vault champ

Angie Mayes • Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet’s Cole Shea on his way to a repeat state pole vault championship.

MURFREESBORO — Championships come in different packages. They can come as a complete surprise or they are totally expected.

Mt. Juliet’s Cole Shea experienced the former last year and survived the expectations Thursday morning when the senior repeated as state pole vault champion at Middle Tennessee State’s Dean Hayes Stadium.

Mt. Juliet Christian juniors Darius Hylick and Logan Collier came close Friday in the Division II-A meet. Hylick finished second in the shot put with a throw of 48-7. Collier was third in the long jump with a leap of 20-10.

After winning the championship last season, Shea came into this week as the favorite after posting the highest vault among the state qualifiers in the sectional meet.

“I was extremely nervous today,” Shea admitted while on his way home Thursday evening. “Last year, I didn’t expect it, (but) because (Bearden’s) Jacob Swoboda (now a Duke freshman) was hurt, I ended up winning.

“It’s definitely more stressful when you’re the favorite going into it. But it’s equally as satisfying both ways.”

Shea, whose father Greg bought a used pole vault pit and donated it to the school two years ago, said he’s only been vaulting two years and trains with Axis Athletics’ Brandon Grass at Franklin Road Academy, where Grass also serves as coach.

“I just knew if I did my own thing and didn’t let anything come over my head, I’d be okay,” Shea said after posting a vault of 15-0. “And if I did … lose, it wouldn’t be because of anything getting in my head.”

Lebanon’s Nathan Shields was fifth with a 14-0. Shea also competed in the long jump and was eighth with a leap of 22-1.5.

Shea is headed to Georgia Tech on a track-and-field scholarship and plans to become an aerospace engineer.

“I’m really excited for that,” Shea said.

Shea wasn’t the only Mt. Juliet pole vaulter. Kennedy Cavin was sixth in the girls’ meet with a 9-6.  Julia Karsten was seventh in the girls’ 800 meters with a time of 2:21.17. The girls 4-by-800 relay team was eighth in 9:55.44.

It was also a busy day for Wilson Central. Sophomore Zoe Vlk was third in the girls’ discus with a 137-2 and the shot put with a 40-10.

“(She) will be a state champion in the future,” her coach, Jonathan Booher, said in a Tweet.

Kolin Miller, one day after signing a T&F scholarship with East Tennessee State, was fourth in boys’ discus with a 157-6 and eight in the shot put with a 46-4.

On the boys’ side, the 4-by-400 relay team of K.J. Laribo, Justin Smith, Grant Pody and Baylor Franklin was seventh in a school-record 3:26.52. Franklin was fifth in the 800 meters in 1:56.16. Franklin, headed to Ole Miss on a track scholarship, will graduate with five Wilson Central records – the 400, 800, 1,600, 4-by-400 and 4-by-800.

By Andy Reed

areed@lebanondemocrat.com

Suspect caught after crashing stolen police cruiser

Mark Bellew • All Hands Fire Photos
Deputies lead a suspect who was captured after he stole a police cruiser last Wednesday at Wilson Central High School and crashed it.

Wilson County sheriff’s deputies arrested a suspect after he stole a police cruiser last Wednesday morning at Wilson Central High School and crashed it.

According to Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson, a baseball coach at Wilson Central saw what he believed to be a man with a gun who came out of the woods near the baseball field.

Two of the school’s school resource officer responded and briefly detained the suspect before he escaped and managed to steal one of their police cruisers. Wilson County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Moore said he did all of this while handcuffed. He told the officers he had hidden a gun and drugs nearby, and while they searched, he squeezed himself into the front seat and stole the car.
The suspect left the school, crashed the vehicle at the end of Kimberly Drive off Stewart’s Ferry Pike in Gladeville, and was caught for the second time.

Johnson said because it’s exam week, there were only about 200 students at the school at the time of the incident, and none of them were in danger. However, both Wilson Central and Gladeville Elementary School were placed on soft lockdown.

According to Moore, the suspect was identified as Paul Edward Eden, 40.

“It’s a suspect we’ve been looking for several days here in Wilson County,” said Moore. “He is wanted on charges out of Trousdale County, and Trousdale County sent a [be-on-the-lookout notification] to us for this subject, who is known to frequent Wilson County.”

Moore said Eden is a convicted felon with extensive drug history who made threats in the past that he would not go back to jail, and police would have to kill him.

By Jacob Smith 

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Wilson County Schools offers program for young adults

Photo courtesy of Lisa Dickson
A past participant takes part in Wilson County Schools’ YouthLinks program, which helps young adults 18-24 years old find career opportunities.

A lesser-known program in Wilson County Schools exists specifically to assist young adults to find a career path.

The program, YouthLinks, has been a part of the school system for 18 years and has reached thousands of students in that time. The program is the result of a partnership between the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development and Wilson County Schools. It’s funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

It began as a during-school program that only operated in the summer. YouthLinks was created when the decision was made it should be a year-round program.

It also originally served students 14-21 years old, and now it reaches students 18-24 years old.

“About two years ago, they decided that they felt like our funds would be better used once they graduated high school,” said program director Lisa Dickson. “So, what they did was took our funds and kind of moved them, so when a young person graduates from high school, we can pick them up and carry them forward.”

What the program offers to young adults is to get them put on some kind of career path, whether that means attending a college or trade school or simply getting work experience in a field in which they’re interested.

“Everyone who enrolls in our program, they want them to leave with something better,” said Dickson. “If you come to us, we want you to get some kind of certification or if you want to get an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree.”

Dickson said a big part of the program is to help the young people achieve meaningful, career-related employment that leads to economic self-sufficiency.

“They want it to be something that they can grow with career-wise,” said Dickson. “You can go out here and you can go to a fast-food place, but is that something you can do for the rest of your life, or is that something that you want to do for the rest of your life? So we try to get them into things that are driven by the business industry.”

To qualify for the program, a young adult has to meet certain guidelines.

“Basically, they have to have some sort of barrier,” said Dickson. “Now that barrier could be they don’t have transportation, they have asthma, they are in foster care. Maybe they have a hearing difficulty. You have to have a barrier. If they have taken the ACT multiple times but can’t advance or meet the minimum requirements of a university, we can take them on that. So, it’s really open on the barriers.”

Once someone is in the program, the employees will help with a variety of things, including filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, getting into school and helping out with some things financially.

“They may call and say, ‘my tires are bald,’ and we help them with those kind of support services,” said Dickson. “There are a lot of things that we can do in our program, but we can’t pay speeding tickets or fines or any kind of criminal activity.”

Dickson and her team has worked with thousands of students over the years, including Brooke Coleman, a former Tennessee College of Applied Technology student and work-based learning student who currently works as a supervisor at System Integrations in Lebanon.

“They helped be get into Tennessee College of Applied Technology, they took care of my books,” said Coleman. “They were kind of like the family I needed through the whole thing. I ended up leaving, and I really needed a job, and they actually didn’t give up on me. They got me into a work experience program, which was kind of like an internship, but they were paying me to go to work at System Integrations for three to four months, which I got hired on there from it. So, they helped me find that opportunity to find where I’m working at today.”

For people considering the program, Coleman said it provided some needed guidance for her following high school.

“They guided me through it to where I wasn’t alone and just trying to figure it out on my own, and, you know, they just helped me get to where I needed to go pretty quickly, so I could be on my feet and take care of myself without anybody helping me,” said Coleman.

Dickson said the workers with the program develop a personal relationship with everyone in the program. She still keeps in touch with a lot of the previous participants in the program.

“We really do care about what they do, where they go, their families, their kids,” said Dickson. “I mean, we’re in some of their weddings. We’re doing a wedding for one of ours in September who said, ‘will you come and help us?’ So, we’re helping her in her wedding. One of our case managers is actually the matron of honor in her wedding.”

For more information about the program, contact the YouthLinks staff at 615-444-3282.

By Jacob Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

New principals named at Southside, West Wilson Middle schools

Wendell Marlowe

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright announced Friday that West Wilson Middle School principal Wendell Marlowe will be the new principal at Southside School and Wilson Central High School assistant principal Kevin Dawson will take Marlowe’s place as principal at West Wilson Middle School.

Marlowe has worked for the district for nearly 40 years. He was hired in 1978 as a math teacher at the former Mt. Juliet Junior High School. After he taught and coached for eight years, Marlowe was named assistant principal and later principal at Lakeview Elementary School, where he remained for 16 years. He transferred and became principal at West Wilson Middle School in 2007.

In addition to his experience in Wilson County Schools, Marlowe also served 22 years as a Wilson County commissioner.

“With his extensive experience in both the elementary and middle school settings, Mr. Marlowe will be an asset to Southside Elementary [School],” Wright said.

Marlowe will begin his new position on July 1st.

Kevin Dawson

Dawson has worked for the district since June 2012, when he was hired to be a teacher at Mt. Juliet Middle School. In 2014, he was named an assistant principal at Wilson Central High School. During his tenure as assistant principal, he was selected to be a fellow in the 2016 Governor’s Academy for School Leadership.

Prior to working for Wilson County Schools, Dawson worked as a teacher, coach and athletic director in Tennessee for 10 years.

Both Marlowe and Dawson will begin their new positions July 1.

Staff Reports

Principals named at several schools

Stoner Creek, Mt. Juliet Middle, Southside, West Wilson get new leaders

Amanda Smith

Wilson County Schools recently announced new principals at Stoner Creek Elementary School and Mt. Juliet Middle School.

Both principals come from Stoner Creek Elementary School, as assistant principal Amanda Smith will become principal, and principal Michael Hickman will take over the same position at Mt. Juliet Middle School.

Smith has worked for the district since 2017 when she was hired as assistant principal at Stoner Creek. Smith worked as a teacher and instructional coach for Lebanon Special School District for more than 15 years prior to joining Wilson County Schools.

Smith will begin her new position July 1.

Michael Hickman

Hickman has worked for the district since 2017, when he was hired to be the principal at Stoner Creek. Hickman worked as a teacher for Rutherford County from 1996, until he was named the principal of Buchanan Elementary School in 2009 prior to joining Wilson County Schools.

Under his leadership, Buchanan Elementary School was ranked among the top 5 percent in the state for progress. Three years later, the school was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School for gap closure.

Hickman will also begin his new position July 1.

Staff Reports

Schools OKs Learning Center rate hike

Wilson County Board of Education  approves $60 increase for teachers with children

The Wilson County Board of Education voted to increase Learning Center rates at a special-called meeting last Wednesday night.

The board reached an impasse on the issue earlier this month after the district recommended to increase the Learning Center rates $60 per week per child starting July 1. At Wednesday night’s meeting, they approved the $60 increase after much discussion.

The new weekly rates for children up to 36 months will be $195, and $185 for children 37-60 months. The sibling discount will be $20.

Board member Wayne McNeese suggested using money from the general fund to fund the program for the 2018-2019 school year, although board attorney Mike Jennings, who was called to address the issue, said he couldn’t confirm the legality of the proposal.

McNeese argued because the program operated during school hours, not before or after, they should be able to legally fund it with money from the general fund.

“I can’t answer that question,” said Jennings. “If someone had brought this question to me a week ago, I could have researched it. But I don’t know the answer.”

Board member Bill Robinson agreed with McNeese’s proposal, and the two got as far as a motion and a second before the proposal was voted down 2-4. Robinson and McNeese were the only two to vote for the idea, with board member Gwynne Queener absent.

“To me, this whole issue, you know you look at our whole budget, you base it off revenue and expenditure,” said Robinson. “Ever since we started talking about this program, we’re saying this is a loss. You know, we’re losing this amount of money. To me, it all depends on your priorities. I’m in this business for our employees. I’m in this building for our children. It all comes down to priorities.”

When McNeese’s proposal was voted down, one teacher in the audience yelled at the board to stop making excuses, and a security officer escorted the teacher out of the building.

Director of Schools Donna Wright made her recommendation to the board based on a survey passed around to teachers. Wright’s recommendation was to raise the rate to $60 a week and keep all Learning Center sites open. The alternative option was to raise rates to $30 a week, but shut down four of the Learning Centers, including Carroll Oakland School and W.A. Wright, Mt. Juliet and Lakeview elementary schools.

McNeese said despite his insistence, he would not vote for a rate increase. If the alternative were to shut the program down, he would vote yes.

“I don’t have to like it, but I have to vote for it,” said McNeese.

Board member Johnie Payton said the issue was one of the hardest with which she ever had to deal.

“I visited at least eight schools the past two days, and this is the only thing that since I have been on the board in two years that has kept me awake and woke me up,” said Payton. “I’m 68-years-old, and I don’t like to wake up in my bed in the middle of the night. I talked to teachers who are out there, and I would hate to see people lose their jobs. I am willing to pay at least for two, and principals let me know if there’s someone who cannot pay, and I will pay, because I cannot get to sleep, and I’m 68 years old.”

The proposal to raise the rate passed by a 5-1 vote. Robinson was the only board member to vote against it.

By Jac0b Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Wildcats win Region 5-AAA

CLARKSVILLE — Wilson Central won its second Region 5-AAA championship Tuesday night with a 4-2 win at Rossview.

Central jumped to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning before Rossview, which will travel to Ravenwood on Friday, scored twice in the bottom half.

Both teams turned double plays in the early innings. Third baseman Ethan Shelton started three double plays for the Wildcats and was a general vacuum cleaner in the hot corner.

Connor Sullivan’s two-run double put Central ahead 3-2 in the top of the third inning. The Wildcats added a run in the fourth for what turned out to be the final score. Shelton and Blaine Mabry had the other RBIs.

The defense continued to go to work as the game ended with a diving catch by center-fielder Cole Fergusson.

Rossview, which stranded a bases-loaded opportunity in the sixth, also flashed the leather as center-fielder Christian Scott took away at least three hits.

Matthew Jenkinson pitched the first three innings, allowing both runs (one earned) on four htis. Jared Smith fired the final four frames and was awarded the win after giving up three hits. Despite the often spectacular defense, the pair had to work around four errors. Neither Rossview run came with an RBI.

Central finished with eight hits, including two each by Jenkinson and Aaron Hubbell. Both doubled, as did Sullivan and Gabe Jennings.

The Wildcats’ two other trips to the sectional were in 2015 when Central suffered a heartbreaking 5-4 loss at Ravenwood in 11 innings and in ’05 when Franklin beat the ‘Cats 14-2 at WCHS as current Baltimore Oriole catcher Caleb Joseph hit a three-run homer.

By Andy Reed

areed@lebanondemocrat.com

Bruins block Wildcats’ path to state

George Page • Mt. Juliet News
Wilson Central’s Hayden Baker (above) is tagged out by Brentwood catcher Kaden Dreier on Matthew Jeninson’s single to right field in the third inning of a scoreless game. Baker tried to score from second base but was cut down on a relay throw.

GLADEVILLE — With two dominant pitchers on the mound, Friday’s sectional came down to who could execute in the field.

Defending state champion Brentwood used the bunt game to get two runs across against Aaron Hubbell in a 2-0 win.

Hubbell’s strikeout count reached 12 in six innings-plus. But Brentwood loaded the bases on three singles, the latter two of the bunt variety, before Kaden Dreier drew a walk to force in the game’s first run in the top of the fifth.

Brentwood added an insurance score in the sixth when Hubbell threw wide of first base on another bunt.

Central had opportunities against Caleb Pearson. Hayden Baker’s infield single was the Wildcats’ first hit to lead off the third inning. Following two strikeouts and a wild pitch, Matthew Jenkinson lined a single to right field. Coach Anthony Ford waved Baker around third, but Brentwood executed the relay to cut the runner down at home plate.

The Wildcats also had multiple runners on base in the later innings but failed to dent the plate as they ended a 24-13 season.

Brentwood will bring a 26-8 record to the state tournament next week at either Murfreesboro Oakland or Siegel as the Bruins look to repeat as champions.

A pregame downpour prompted a 51-minute delay to start the contest. A lighter shower came during the middle innings but the game was uninterrupted.

Though the Wildcats’ bid to reach the state tournament fell short by one win for the third time in their 17-year history, there will be more baseball at WCHS this week as the Division II-AA tournament will be held here.

By Andy Reed

areed@lebanondemocrat.com

MJ’s Shea goes for repeat in state pole vault

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Representing Wilson Central in this week’s state track meet will be (from far left) Zoe Vlk in girls’ discus and Colin Miller in the boys’ discus and shot put.

For the first time in recent memory, Wilson County will not have a baseball or softball team in the Spring Fling, but there will be plenty of local representation at the track and tennis venues.

Mt. Juliet senior Cole Shea is favored to repeat as state pole vault champion after posting the best sectional vault among the state qualifiers.

Also, three Watertown tennis players, coming from a community which didn’t have a court until the new high school opened in 2014, will compete in the state meet at Adams Tennis Complex at Old Fort Park.

The Tigerette girls’ doubles team of sophomore Kassidy Parisher and junior Tawny Ashworth will take on L&N STEM freshman Abbey Lee and senior Armani Hall at 9 a.m. while Purple Tiger senior Brian Putnam will battle Merrol Hyde eighth-grader Grant Koch in boys’ singles. Both will be played during Tuesday’s 9 a.m. session.

The winners will return for the 2 p.m. semifinals. The championship rounds will be at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Meanwhile across town at Middle Tennessee State, Watertown will be busy in the Small class track and field at Dean Hayes Stadium. In the 9 a.m. session, Alhinya Pinkston will compete in the girls’ shot put while Rayquan Verge runs in the boys’ triple jump. Junior Abby Groce will compete in the girls’ triple jump at 11.

Two Watertown girls’ relay teams — the 4-by-200 and 4-by-100 teams — will be in action during the 3 p.m. running events.

Shea will go for a repeat in the 9 a.m. session Thursday in the Large school class. Lebanon’s Nathan Shields, who had the seventh-best vault coming out of sectionals, will be one of Shea’s challengers.

Lebanon’s Tay Crawford will compete in the boys’ triple jump while Wilson Central’s Kolin Miller, who plans to sign with East Tennessee State on Wednesday, will compete in the boys’ discus to wrap up the 9 a.m. session.

At 11 a.m., Wilson Central’s Zoe Vlk will compete in the girls’ discus, followed by Shea in the boys’ long jump, Central’s Miller in the shot put and Mt. Juliet’s Kennedy Cavin in the girls’ pole vault at noon.

In the 3 p.m., running events session, Mt. Juliet’s girls will run the 4-by-800 relay. Wilson Central’s Baylor Franklin will run the 1,600-meter run and, after a rest, the 800 meters. Mt. Juliet’s Julia Karsten will run the girls’ 800. Lebanon’s Aiden Britt will run the boys’ 3,200 meters before Central’s boys compete in the 4-by-400 relay.

Division II will take over Friday with Mt. Juliet Christian junior Darius Hylick competing in the day’s first boys’ event, the shot put, during the 9 a.m. session. His teammate, Logan Collier, will compete in the long jump during the 10:30 session. Friendship Christian’s Emily Jones will compete in the girls’ 100 high hurdles during the 3 p.m. session.

By Andy Reed

areed@lebanondemocrat.com

Top Wilson County students honored at luncheon

Jacob Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Wilson County high school valedictorians and salutatorians received recognition from state Rep. Susan Lynn and Wilson Bank & Trust president John McDearman on Thursday at Five Oaks Golf & Country Club.

Wilson County high school valedictorians and salutatorians gathered at Five Oaks Golf & Country Club on Thursday for a luncheon to celebrate their academic accomplishments.

The annual luncheon, sponsored by Wilson Bank & Trust, included Wilson Bank & Trust president John McDearman, state Rep. Susan Lynn, Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright, local principals and Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty.

Students honored included Wilson Central valedictorian Virtag Patel and salutatorian Alexander Harper, Lebanon valedictorian Danielle Redmond and salutatorian William McRae, Mt. Juliet valedictorian Amanda Nolan and salutatorian Benjamin Giacobbi, Watertown valedictorian Juliana Upchruch and salutatorian Carl Reeves IV, Tennessee Virtual Online School valedictorian Cassandra Shade and salutatorian TJ Hysell, McClain Christian valedictorian Will Gipson and salutatorian Jansen Carver, Heritage Christian valedictorian Faith Bambas and salutatorian Mark Ward, Friendship Christian valedictorian Anna Gallaher and salutatorian Caleb Ross and Mt. Juliet Christian valedictorian Caroline Hibbett and salutatorian Alex Pittman.

By Jacob Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Kenny Martin: Teachers deserve few words of thanks

Kenny Martin
City Manager
Mt. Juliet

wanted to take a moment to thank all of our wonderful teachers for yet another great year and the wonderful work they do. Many times, we don’t say thank you enough to our wonderful teachers or we wait until after the end of the school year to do so.

Be it teaching at home, in a daycare or in the school system, our teachers do a wonderful job of teaching children. Teaching children can, at times, go without much notice or fan fair. However, I felt compelled to say thank you for all the hard work performed by teachers.

Teaching children is a calling that requires lots of love, heartache, patience and understanding. Teachers become close to and attached to the children they teach. They know when the children are happy, and they know when the children are sad.

They also carry the burden and heartache of the children who are hurting. These are the children who may not have slept the night before because of domestic situations in the home, the children who didn’t have breakfast before coming to school because of monetary reasons or the child who doesn’t live in a household filled with love and happiness.

For the most part, children appear the same on the outside. They appear to be happy, healthy children. When in reality, many are hurting on the inside and just begging for help. Unfortunately, many children aren’t sure who to turn to for help. But, luckily, we have great teachers who take on the huge responsibility of guiding not only happy children, but those suffering, as well. Teachers get to know their children well beyond names, addresses and telephone numbers. They get to know every little thing about the children they teach.

In this day and time, teaching is a harder profession than it ever has been, which is why I am so thankful to our teachers. I can’t imagine how hard your jobs are, but please know you are appreciated immensely.

To my friends and neighbors, please help me in thanking and honoring our wonderful teachers and school staff. Please know we honor and appreciate the wonderful work you do and respect you for everything you do.

Kenny Martin is city manager in Mt. Juliet.