Green Hill High applies for TSSAA membership

Andy Reed

[email protected]

There are no coaches or teams. The building and athletic facilities are still under construction.

But the future Green Hill High School will have a district and region home for most of its athletic programs when it opens in August, according to a Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association press release sent out Tuesday morning.

The school has requested membership in TSSAA, whose Board of Control will meet at 9 a.m. today at its Hermitage headquarters to vote on that and other matters.

School officials have told TSSAA some 1,200 students in grades 9-12 are expected to enroll at the new school.

TSSAA staff have already penciled the Hawks in District 9-AAA with Wilson County rivals Mt. Juliet, Wilson Central and Lebanon for basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball and soccer; Large Class Section 3 in cross country, track & field, golf and tennis; District 12 in bowling and Region 6-AAA in wrestling.

There was no mention of football in the release.

Since the 2020 football season is the second year of the two-year scheduling cycle, the Hawks aren’t expected to be able to get a full varsity schedule the first year and their eventual football region is unknown as TSSAA will go through another re-classification process next school year for 2021-25.

Cumberland’s Phoenix Ball organizers announce sponsors

The Cumberland University Phoenix Ball organizers announced the sponsors of this year’s event.

The 2019 Phoenix Ball – Moonlight and Magnolias: A Night of Southern Elegance will be June 1 on the Cumberland University campus. The Pavilion Senior Living is the presenting sponsor of the Phoenix Ball.

Additional sponsors for the event include ESA, ICT, Hardaway Construction, Lee Co. as design and construction sponsors and ServPro as entertainment sponsor.

The Phoenix sponsors include Scott and Kirsten Harris and Parks Auction Co., Tennova Healthcare-Lebanon and Wilson Bank & Trust. The pre-ball reception sponsor is Novamet Specialty Products and patrons of the ball include ReMax Exceptional Properties-Eastland, Adam and Lori Tomlinson, CedarStone Bank, Chartwells, city of Lebanon, Home Instead Senior Care, Pat Bryant, ReMax, SE Motorsports, Sodexo, Southern Bank of Tennessee, Stewart Knowles, THW Insurance Services, Tim Leeper and Wilson County Motors.

Additional sponsors include Hunt Brothers Pizza as magnolia sponsor, Compass Auctions and Real Estate and Fleming Homes as auction sponsor, Hurdle Land & Realty and Amber Hurdle Consulting as bourbon and bubbles bar lounge sponsor, Chuck and Kathryn Daley as dessert sponsor, Neil and Susan Kirshner as floral sponsor, Square Market as lavatory sponsor, Beauty Boutique as photo booth sponsor, Wilson County Motors as safe ride home sponsor, Kevin’s Automotive as signature cocktail sponsor, Dr. E. Dwayne Lett as valet parking sponsor, Zaxby’s as late-night sponsor and Eddie and Brandi Lovin as wine sponsor.

The annual Phoenix Ball benefits scholarships for Cumberland University students and has contributed to hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships for students in the past 36 years.

Tickets and additional information about the ball is available at

For more than 177 years, Cumberland University has advanced its long tradition of excellence to rise, endure, prosper and illuminate the world. Recognized as one of the fastest-growing liberal arts universities in Tennessee, Cumberland continues to evolve to meet the needs of a diverse and expanding community while it provides a transformational higher education experience through more than 100 fully accredited academic programs of study in three distinct schools.

Oakley to join Gladeville Middle School staff

Missi Oakley will join the Gladeville Middle School staff to serve as a physical education teacher and head girls basketball coach for the upcoming school year.

Oakley has served as an assistant principal at Wilson Central High School for six years. She said she is excited to step back into a teaching and coaching role.

“Being an assistant principal has allowed me to see many aspects of education. I have been blessed and grown from this experience. I love my Wilson Central High School family and will miss them. However, I have deeply missed the reward of working with students. Outside of my parents and grandparents, the most influential people in my life were teachers and coaches. That is why I have decided to once again pursue what I love to do,” said Oakley.

She said she’s thankful to join Gladeville Middle School and looks forward to becoming a part of the community. 

“I want to thank Mrs. Wilson and the administration at Gladeville Middle School for this opportunity,” Oakley said.

Gladeville Middle School girls basketball tryouts will take place Wednesday and Thursday at West Wilson Middle School. Rising seventh and eighth graders will try out Wednesday from noon until 3 p.m., and rising sixth graders will try out Thursday from 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Athletes must bring a current physical dated April 15 or later to try out.

Questions regarding Gladeville Middle School girls basketball should be directed to Oakley at [email protected]

Wilson County Schools to continue liquor tax suit despite Court ruling

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

After careful review of a recent Tennessee Supreme Court ruling that dealt with lawsuits by counties against cities concerning liquor-by-the-drink taxes, Wilson County attorney Mike Jennings decided to go ahead with the county’s suit against the city of Mt. Juliet.

The local suit is slated for Nov. 14 in Wilson County chancery court and stems from money the county said Mt. Juliet owes the school system from past liquor-by-the-drink taxes.

The issue goes back to 2014 when Wilson County Schools sued Mt. Juliet for a portion of the back-tax revenue to be given to Wilson County Schools.

The state imposed a 15 percent tax on liquor-by-the drink sales. Liquor-by-the-drink is only allowed in cities and counties that approved the issue by referendum. Businesses collect the tax and forward it onto the state comptroller’s office. They then pass half of the tax revenues collected onto the cities, which must also pass a portion onto the local school systems, according to the state legislature.

Cities collected liquor-by-the-drink taxes for more than 30 years, when first passed into law by the state legislature. They have repeatedly kept their portion of the taxes for themselves, not sharing it with the counties. However, those cities operated their own independent school systems.

During the 30-year period, the Tennessee General Assembly amended the liquor-by-the-drink tax a number of times. However, it did not amend the requirements by cities to share with counties.

The recent rulings by the Supreme Court concerned counties without the liquor-by-the-drink option, who sued cities with their own school system. Since Mt. Juliet doesn’t have its own school system, but is served by Wilson County Schools, the county argued the money must be passed on to Wilson County Schools.

Lebanon also doesn’t have its own school system. Instead, the Lebanon Special School District operates with kindergarten through eighth-grade schools within but independent to the city. Students then go to Wilson County Schools for high school.

There is a difference between a city school and a special school district, Jennings said,

“Broadly speaking, a city school system is under the government of the city,” he said. “A special school district, like the Lebanon Special School District, has its own government and taxing authority.”

The issue the county didn’t have liquor-by-the-drink was also part of the ruling in the Supreme Court decisions, handed down by Justice Holly Kirby.

Part of the recent appeal to the Supreme Court was because county residents did not approve liquor by the drink, they were not entitled to the money from the cities with their own school systems.

According to court filings from 2014, Wilson County Schools said it should receive the back funds and would then pay a portion of that money to Lebanon Special School District. The amount paid to both school systems is based on the daily average attendance, as recognized by the Tennessee Board of Education, according to court records.

When the school board sued Mt. Juliet in 2014 for the back taxes, Mt. Juliet cited state court rulings that went back to 1883 that said cities didn’t have to pay the taxes to county schools.

The school board discovered the lack of payments in 2013, court records said. Mt. Juliet paid part of what it owed, nearly $31,000, but still owed the school board nearly $450,000, court records said.

The payment amount was determined by the daily average attendance percentage of tax revenue collected, and the court said Mt. Juliet should pay the amount, from the inception of the liquor-by-the-drink tax until June 30, 2013.

In a filing from 2014, Mt. Juliet attorneys said the county was not eligible to collect a portion of the tax revenues because liquor-by-the-drink statutes were not passed in the county, but rather in the cities. They said the liquor-by-the-drink was not passed in the unincorporated areas of the county. Therefore, the school board was not entitled to a portion of the tax revenue.

Mt. Juliet filed a motion to dismiss in 2015, but it was denied. In the motion, the city offered other lawsuits in the state it considered precedent that found in the defendant’s favor.

A 2018 judgment by Chancellor C.K. Smith denied Mt. Juliet’s motion for summary judgment, and Wilson County Schools was eligible to receive the money.

The amount of unremitted revenue was to be determined in a future evidentiary hearing, the order said.

In October 2018, the Mt. Juliet City Commission voted to offer a settlement of $325,000 to the school board. The school board denied the offer at its November meeting.

City Manager Kenny Martin said the city is currently paying the necessary liquor-by-the-drink tax revenue to the school system.

To read the unanimous opinions in Blount County Board of Education v. City of Maryville, Bradley County School System ex rel. Bradley County Board of Education v. City of Cleveland, Coffee County v. City of Tullahoma, Sullivan County v. City of Bristol, and Washington County School System ex rel. Washington County Board of Education v. City of Johnson City, all authored by Justice Holly Kirby, visit the opinions section at

Mt. Juliet Christian wins Spotlight awards

NASHVILLE – Out of 28 participating high schools and more than 1,200 drama students, Mt. Juliet Christian Academy’s performance of “Guys and Dolls” took home the top honor of outstanding musical last Saturday at the 2019 Spotlight Awards at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

Mike Fernandez, dean of Lipscomb University’s George Shinn College of Entertainment and the Arts, created the Nashville High School Musical Theatre Awards, or Spotlight Awards to recognize excellence in local high school theatre. Presented in partnership with Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the program evaluated musical productions from 28 Tennessee high schools.

With American Idol alum Piper Jones as host in TPAC’s Jackson Hall, the Tony Awards-style ceremony May 11 recognized individual and ensemble talent in 27 categories after students participated in all-day workshops on the Lipscomb campus.

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy also won Spotlight Awards for outstanding choreography and outstanding costume design.

“We are absolutely honored and grateful to have received the Spotlight Award for outstanding musical out of all the amazing high school theater talent in Tennessee,” said Kimberly Overstreet, theatre and choral director at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy. “Participation in the Spotlight Awards has provided my students with many invaluable and wonderful experiences, and to be recognized for all their hard work in ‘Guys and Dolls’ was the highlight of their year.”

Seniors Markie Scott and Kenslea Rose were recognized as part of the 2019 all-star crew, and seniors Mason Tabor and Abigail Wilson were recognized as part of the 2019 all-star cast.

“As a teacher and theater director, I am constantly looking for new ways to challenge my students so they can grow and enhance their skills,” Overstreet said. “This production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ has done just that by challenging this incredible group of students to perform at a higher level than thought possible either onstage or behind the scenes. I am blessed with an amazing cast and crew and am incredibly proud of their dedication to the theater program. It is a pleasure to work with them every day.”

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy’s production of “Guys and Dolls” was nominated in the top five for seven school awards in the categories of outstanding choreography, outstanding ensemble, outstanding costume design, outstanding hair and makeup, outstanding design concept, outstanding technical elements and outstanding musical.

Mt. Juliet Christian theatre students were also nominated for four individual awards, including senior Abe Gibson for outstanding male soloist; senior Mason Tabor for outstanding comedic actor and outstanding lead actor; and senior Abigail Wilson for outstanding lead actress.

Lipscomb University’s George Shinn College of Entertainment and the Arts is the fastest-growing college in the university, with a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees. The mission of the college is to be a Christ-centered, innovative, entrepreneurial arts community committed to rigorous artistic training, creative collaboration and professional growth that seeks to train the next generation of believer artists who seek to uplift, challenge and entertain. For more information, visit

Wilson Central choir closes out year at Carnegie Hall

By Matt Masters

[email protected]

The Wilson Central High School choir held its spring choral concert at the end of April, which marked the final school performance for 10 seniors.

Senior Christina Bailey, who was recognized as most dedicated, shared tears and hugs with her classmates after the performance. Bailey said her four-year commitment to the choir paid off in friendships and priceless memories to carry with her as she prepares for college.

“From day one, Mrs. Morin has been like a mom to me, somebody that I can always talk to, and the choir itself has always been a big dysfunctional family in a way,” Bailey said. “Without them, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to stand here tonight and feel as proud as I do.”

Wilson Central’s director of choral activities Lynn Morin said the group of choral students was especially important to her as they became more like family than simply students.

“Every year we finish our year in a traditional way. We sing traditional songs, and every time it just kind of signifies the end of four years for our kids but the other kids also connect with it because of the beauty of the text, the beauty of the music, and they’re very comfortable with it because they sing it every year,” Morin said. “This year’s senior class, as I said, was extremely special to me. I came into this job and didn’t know a soul moving to this area and these kids were literally my family from day one. They accepted me from day one, and they have stuck with me, and they just have my heart.”

While the school performance marked the end of the year for some, 18 students left on an airplane for a historic performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, where they performed with Grammy-winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was a focus of the chamber choir who has worked for months to prepare and perfect its performance and raise funds to travel for the April 28 performance.

Morin said it was possible because of the support for the arts throughout the community, Wilson County Schools and especially from the community and administration at Wilson Central.

“There are a lot of people here in Wilson County who love the arts, and it’s evident at all of our concerts, and I can just say thank you to those who do support the arts,” Morin said. “Sometimes these kids feel like they’re in the background, but on a night like tonight, they weren’t. They were in the spotlight.”

The Carnegie Hall performance is still almost unbelievable to some of the returning students who are more than aware of the unique opportunity in which they took part.

The buildup to the trip was described as nerve wracking and exciting by some of the students, but the tension soon melted away, said senior Audrey Darnell.

“As soon as he [Eric Whitacre] walked into the room, and we started, there was just this calm over everybody and we focused. As soon as we started to sing it was this unified, pure sound and all my worries were just out the door,” Darnell said. “Really he didn’t dwell on technical things because we had such a long amount of time to learn these pieces and kind of dig into them, and he really just being so knowledgeable about that stuff and expecting us to kind of rise to the occasion, he really just talked about the feeling of the music and the emotion that we wanted to convey and the picture in our minds, and that just delivers the song to another level,” Darnell said.

“For instance,” Junior Aelmira Esmaeilpour said, “one of the pieces is called, ‘I Carry Your Heart,’ and at first when we would sing it, no one was really as into it as much as he was hoping, so he just kind of started explaining things and saying how love should feel and just explaining what love is. That just hit a lot of people really deep and everyone got emotional, I cried when we re-sang it, and you could just tell that he could tell what a big difference it made from the beginning to after he explained everything. I think everyone realized that these songs aren’t just written to be sung, they’re written because they mean something.”

That professionalism and passion is something that stuck out to each performer and inspired some to consider involving music performance even deeper into their lives and plans post-graduation.

“It’s really cool to see someone who wrote the music conduct it, because I would watch him while he was conducting and at the end he would close his eyes, and it was almost like he was visualizing what he was saying with his writing. It’s all directly from him, you’re not getting it second hand or from a director who thinks they know what the composer wanted, you’re getting it from the composer who knows what he wants. It’s like his child almost,” sophomore Avery McClure said. “After this trip and seeing how Eric Whitacer was with his music, how it was like his child and seeing how excited he got when he heard what he wanted to hear, I’m considering going into composing or just joining a professional choir and totally threw my other plans out the window.”

In addition to their Carnegie Hall performance, the students visited many New York City landmarks like Central Park. When asked what the best thing besides the performance was, they all replied, “food,” in unison, Ellen’s Stardust Diner to be specific.

While the performance highlighted their hard work and talents, the students made sure to point out the leadership and support from Morin, someone who they all speak of as if she’s family, someone who’s helped them all become more connected.

“I think it just really highlights the caliber and the experience and the talent and the connections of our director. She’s the one who got us into this, she’s the one who lead us into this event and prepared us and I think that she’s just really helpful and amazing,” Darnell said. “She believed in us,” Esmaeilpour said. “She knew we would do it and she was right. This is why we love her.”

“She didn’t give up on us at all,” said junior Samantha Mored.

For Morin, this trip was an affirmation that she and her students had worked their hardest, never taking the opportunity to perform, whether it be in the walls of Wilson Central or Carnegie Hall for granted.

“Just as I had hoped, the first experience, the first rehearsal, the first time that they all sang together under Eric’s direction, it was just magical,” Morin said. “I knew from that point that everything was going to be fine, and I was specifically proud of their preparation. I worked them very hard, and the expectations were very high, and they completely rose to them. In rehearsal, they reaped the benefits of that. I know they realized that. They never reached for their binders of music not once, and that’s pretty cool. There were kids reaching for their binders from other schools, but my kids were just like, bring it. So I was very proud of them in that regard. I had some beautiful seats in Carnegie Hall right on the first tier, front box seats, and I got to see them come out, and it just made my heart swell that they had this experience, one that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. It may very well be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of them.”

Wright recognized as superintendent of the year

The Mid-Cumberland Region of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents named Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright as its superintendent of the year for 2019.    

The Mid-Cumberland region represents 16 school districts, including Clarksville-Montgomery County, Cheatham County, Dickson County, Franklin Special School District, Houston County, Humphreys County, Lebanon Special School District, Metro-Nashville Public Schools, Murfreesboro City Schools, Rutherford County, Robertson County, Sumner County, Stewart County, the Tennessee School for the Blind, Williamson County Schools, and Wilson County Schools.

Dickson County Director of Schools Danny Weeks said the group selected Wright because of her strong leadership of its organization in the past year.

“Dr. Wright has served as a wonderful mentor to all of the Mid-Cumberland superintendents, especially her service as our legislative contact this year,” Weeks said. “We appreciate her exhaustive efforts, along with her passion for public education.”

As a regional winner, Wright will automatically be one of the nominees for state superintendent of the year, which will be announced in September at the annual Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents Conference.

Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson takes job with state

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson recently accepted a job with the Tennessee Department of Education.

Johnson, who has worked for the county since 2016, will become the director of communications for the department.

“My last day with the district [was] Friday,” she said. “We’ve already begun interviewing candidates, and we hope to have a replacement hired my mid-June at the latest.  I will begin my role as the communications director for the Tennessee Department of Education on May 20.”

She said initially, she was apprehensive about leaving the district. 

“I wasn’t particularly looking to make a move, but after having numerous conversations with the new leadership at TDOE and talking with my fellow communications colleagues throughout the state, I realized that it was just a natural fit,” Johnson said. “Not only is this something that’s needed at the state level, but it’s a role that I’m uniquely equipped for thanks to my previous background and experience.”

Prior to her work with Wilson County Schools, Johnson worked at WSMV News Channel 5 as a reporter and anchor, as the communications director for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and as communications director for the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said, “Jennifer Johnson will be a loss for WCS in many ways. She set the stage for more efficient and effective communication for Wilson County Schools by creating a multimedia platform of communication between the district and our many constituents, parents, students and the general public.

“She created a public awareness on behalf of the district by informing those who needed to know and for those who wanted to know but ready to counter those who were quick to criticize on what they didn’t know or understand.

“I give a great deal of credit to [her] for her work and guidance with administrators and teachers by teaching them how to tell their stories and bringing to light all the great things taking place in their schools. Jennifer was always looking for the good stories and not allowing us to dwell on the negative. We will certainly miss one of our biggest champions.”

State education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said, “Jennifer is coming on board at a time when the leadership of our communications division is more important than ever. The Department’s priority and commitment to authentic engagement and improved transparency with stakeholders will require a seasoned communications professional to lead and execute the strategy, not just for the day-to-day work of the Department of Education but for many new pieces of work we have ahead of us. We’re excited about what her experience brings to the department.”

Johnson’s deputy director of communications will be Lebanon resident Dakota Weatherford, who previously worked as an administrative assistant for Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto. Weatherford is a Mt. Juliet High School graduate.

Mt. Juliet students excel in German

Mt. Juliet High School students Nicole Saul, Albert Hylmar and Addison Reiter were awarded gold medals and special recognition on the presidential honor roll for outstanding performance on the 2019 National German Exam for High School Students.

Saul and Hylmar received the award they scored in the 94th percentile on the level 1 National German Exam sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of German. Reiter received the award after scoring in the 90th percentile on the level 1 National German Exam. 

Nearly 24,900 students participated in the exam this year nationwide. In Tennessee, 173 students competed on the level 1 exam, and 141 students competed on the level 2 exam. The National German Exam, in its 59th year, rewards students through an extensive prize program and provide a means of comparing students in all regions of the United States.

“The outstanding performance of these German students in our national competition brings honor to their school, their district and their German program,” said Susanne Rinner, associate professor of German at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and AATG president. “The AATG salutes their tremendous accomplishment and the great work their teachers do.”

Saul, Hylmar and Reiter are students in Janine Zahuczky’s German class at Mt. Juliet High School. Five other students were awarded certificates in the category of achievement, which signified a score of 50 percent in the nation or higher. Jude DeWald at 70 percent, Avery Clarkston at 61 percent, Rosemary Meads at 57 percent, Savannah Lowery at 55 percent and John Zimmerman at 50 percent outperformed half of the students in the U.S. in reading and listening comprehension. They also demonstrated mastery in identifying main ideas, supporting details and German vocabulary.

In addition, 11 Mt. Juliet High School students were inducted into the National German Honor Society recently. The students were Emily Austin, Collin Clark, DeWald, Brianna Hamilton, Hylmar, Jaxon Latta, Lowery, Matthew Niven, Reiter, Saul and Zimmerman. 

Students also participated in the Tennessee German Competition at Vanderbilt University, promoted German at the Mt. Juliet Elementary School multicultural night, spoke to eighth-grade students at Mt. Juliet High School’s parent night to encourage middle school students to take German. 

Teacher Janine Zahuczky said she was proud of all her students’ efforts to study world languages and broaden their horizons in different cultures.

Founded in 1926, the AATG represents German teachers at all levels of instruction. The AATG is dedicated to the advancement and improvement of the teaching of language, literature and culture of the German-speaking countries.

Wilson school board honors retirees

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

Thirty-seven Wilson County Schools employees who plan to retire were honored with a reception and presentation last Monday night prior to the Wilson County Board of Education meeting.

Among them was Esther Hockett, who worked for the district for 58 years and will retire at the end of the school year as a library media specialist at Mt. Juliet High School.

From 1963-69, Hockett was a teacher and librarian and a guidance counselor at Wilson County High School. At the time, she taught civics, 10th-grade English, health to girls, science, world history and government to seniors.

She said when she retires, she plans to “read, write, complete Bible studies, missionary projects, love and take care of my family, visit loved ones and see more of the world.”

She plans to continue to live in Mt. Juliet. 

Hockett said she decided to retire when she began “receiving answers to prayers. I have been praying to God for several years, and it’s time. Fifty years has seemed just like a very few days on this beautiful journey. Knowing that, I have been truly blessed and loved down through the years.”

She said she “will miss all of our current darling teachers, administrators, staff members and those who are not here, as well. Many of our current teachers are former students. I am so thankful to see them doing an excellent job. It has been a joy to work with each. God truly blesses.”

David Wright retired after 50 years as a bus driver. He was named state bus driver of the Year in 2017. Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said, “When it comes to Lebanon High School, he is always willing to drive.”

Transportation director Jerry Barlow said, “[David Wright’s] blood does run blue.”

David Wright did retire in November due to health conditions, he said.

“I was sick and had to retire,” he said. “I wasn’t ready to give up, but I had to.”

Linda Highers and Patti Smith also plan to retire. Highers said she retired in December and was with the system for 31-and-a-half years.

“I was hired to teach third grade, but then taught kindergarten to third grade,” said Highers, who taught at Watertown Elementary School. “I loved teaching and was a math teacher, as well as an art teacher.”

Smith also taught at Watertown Elementary School and said she has worked for the school system for 30 years. She was hired as a fifth-grade teacher, but then taught third through sixth grades. Smith taught language, reading and social studies.

Janet Spruill and Cindy Willis also plan to retire.

Spruill, who taught at Southside Elementary School, will retire after 41-and-a-half years. She taught first grade and said she will miss teaching.

“I enjoy working with the children,” she said.

Willis, who is a librarian at Lakeview Elementary School, will retire after 29 years with the school system. Twenty of those years were at Lakeview, she said.

“I will miss the kids, but I won’t set my alarm [after she retires],” Willis said. “I will also go at a slower pace.”

Bus driver Charles Lanius plans to retire after 12 years. He said he loved working as a driver.

Math and STEM teacher David Haines plans to retire after 19 years with the school system as 24 years as a teacher. He taught at Mt. Juliet High School.

“I will miss the kids,” he said, echoing many of his fellow retirees.

Others who plan to retire this year are Robert Agee, Tony Batey, Margie Blair, Charles Bowman, Steven Carter, Anita Christian, Cindy Climer, Barbara Coffee, Walter Crawley, Susan Davis, Kelly Eagar, Violet Elliots, Tracy Fialkowski, Samuel Figgins, Kathy Gallager, Cynthia Givens-Harris, Rebecca Ann Laveck, Bridgete Lewis, Barbara Marks, Debra Martin, Robin Morthel, Ann Nored,, Joan Priebel, Donna Robertson, Lorii Sharp, Rick Sink, Linda Gayle Smith, Mary Wheeler and Jerry Williams.

Education Committee hears tax options

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

Wilson County Commissioner Lauren Breeze brought information about educational impact fees to the Wilson County Education Committee meeting Thursday night.

“I talked about educational impact fees at the last meeting,” Breeze said. “This is a summary from the County Powers Relief Act, which we’re not under because we are under a private act for the [adequate facilities tax].”

The County Powers Relief Act said, “a county that levied a development tax or impact fee with a private act under previous law cannot levy a school facilities tax authorized by the act, so long as they are levying and collecting a development tax or impact fee under the authority of the private act.”

Breeze said if Wilson County tried to create an educational impact fee like Williamson County did, “that would take us out under our private act and put us under the County Powers Relief Act, which would restructure how we do [adequate facilities tax] in general.”

She said if the commissioners “wanted to explore the idea of an impact fee, we could increase the [adequate facilities tax]” and designate [the extra tax money] for schools.

“We could use money that way for building improvements and to work on facility improvements that was given to us by schools.”

If the adequate facilities tax was raised from its current level, the extra amount of money would go into the educational fund balance, Breeze said.

Youth Links will no longer be a part of Wilson County Schools, according to Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright.

The program will now be a part of the Tennessee Workforce Development System, she said.

“They’ve consolidated programs,” she said. “If you remember several years ago, they did that with the adult high schools and several other programs. They collapse them around the state in different regions. That’s what we’re seeing right now with Youth Links.”

She asked for approval for other lines of the account. Listed on the sheet was a $66,382 increase, which included $750 for unemployment and $65,632 for other supplies.

The expenditures included $9,000 for clerical; $53,500 for other salaries; $2,879 for Social Security; $94 for state retirement; and $909 for Medicare. The items were reclassified per the grant guidelines by the granting agency, according to the report.

Also included in Wright’s requests was a capital outlay transfer of $400,000 to the school system’s fund balance.

The money will be used for small wares for Gladeville Middle School. That will include pots, pans, utensils and other small items to be used in the kitchen.

Also included was the repainting and refreshing of some school kitchens, to install a card-entry system for school cafeterias, which is part of the Wilson County Schools safety program. A state safety grant was used to buy keyless entries at all of the schools that did not have them, Wright said.

The final project that would be paid for out of the transfer is the renovation of the serving and eating areas at Wilson Central High School. Included in that will be the replacement of aging tables and chairs.

“The serving and eating areas are nearly 20 years old and are in need of these improvements,” Wright said. “Wilson Central is our oldest high school.”

New report outlines teachers’ raises across Tennessee

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

Between 2014-15 and 2017-18, Wilson County teacher salaries increased 6.3 percent, from $44,988 to $46,816, according to a new report from the Office of Research and Education Accountability.

The Lebanon Special School District raised salaries 9.8 percent, from $49,582 to $54,433, according to the report.

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said, “Teacher salaries have been increased in an effort to attract responsible, dedicated and highly qualified employees while retaining employees through longevity to build an experienced staff.”

She said an increase in teacher pay “is our top priority.” She said it’s one way to retain the teachers they have. 

The numbers issued this week by the Office of Research and Education Accountability are average salaries among the school’s instructors.

“We do not work on a pay scale,” Wright said. “We offer a differentiated pay plan that allows teachers to receive yearly increases based on their level of effectiveness without reaching a salary cap. In 2014-15, teachers could receive a yearly increase of up to $750, and by 2017-18, that amount had increased to $900.”

Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson said compensating teachers is vitally important to the district.

“It is absolutely important that we retain the teachers. One way of doing that is by appropriate compensation of teachers,” Benson said. “Even though we rank No. 14 [on the state’s list of highest-paid districts] out of 145 school districts, we don’t pay enough to what they’re worth and what they contribute. One of the reasons we rank so high is our board has a longstanding commitment to appropriately compensating our teachers.”

The report said, “More than $300 million in new, recurring state dollars were appropriated by the General Assembly through the instructional salaries and wages category of the Basic Education Program, the state’s education funding formula, between 2016 and 2018.

The legislative intent for the appropriations was to increase teacher salaries across the state, according to the report.

“Some legislators have expressed concerns that state dollars have had less effect in improving teachers’ salaries than expected, however,” the report said.

The purpose of the report was to address questions raised by former Speaker Beth Harwell, Senate Education Committee chair Delores Gresham and Sen. Brian Kelsey regarding “how much new state funding was used to raise teacher salaries; to what degree districts concurrently increased local funding for teachers or relied on the influx of new state money to provide teacher raises, and how much new state and local funding was used for purposes other than raising teacher salaries such as hiring new teachers; enhancing benefits for teachers already employed; or funding teacher aides, assistants or similar support positions, and whether districts used state funding for teacher salaries for unallowable purposes.”

Districts were most likely to give raises by increasing the district salary schedule, which, in most districts, sets base pay for all teachers at specified education and experience levels, the report said.

“One-time bonuses and across-the-board raises outside of the salary schedule were also used by districts to increase teacher pay,” according to the report. “Because of the variation within and across districts in how they awarded raises in different years and which staff received raises in different years, the survey did not collect data on the number of raises awarded.”

Neither Wilson County nor LSSD offer bonuses to their teachers. Wilson County’s increases are performance driven, Wright said. The LSSD increases are based on years of experience and degrees and the percentage raise on an annual basis, Benson said.

The BEP formula allocates staff positions based on a ratio of enrolled students. For example, for every 25 fourth-grade students, the formula allocates one classroom teacher position. More students will result in more positions. More positions, generated by more students, results in a larger funding allocation, the report said.

The Office of Research and Education Accountability’s fall 2018 survey reported awarding salary increases to teachers for three consecutive years in 2016, 2017 and 2018, which resulted in a 6-percent increase in average classroom salaries statewide.

Wilson County Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said teachers have received an increase every year since his employment in 1993, according to Wright. Last year, the Wilson County Board of Education asked for a 12.5-percent increase, but the Wilson County Commission voted it down because of the tax increase that would have been needed to fund it.

LSSD has increased its salaries, as well.

“Steve Jones, our board chair, has been on the LSSD board since 1988,” Benson said. “Our teachers have had a raise every single year he’s been on the board. When I was assistant director and did our budget, it was ingrained in me to give raises. That’s what we look at first, to give the employees and teachers a raise.”

Districts used increased state salary funding to add instructional positions, in addition to provide pay raises, as allowed by the state statutes concerning the BEP, the report said. “The share of new state salary funding spent on adding instructional staff versus increasing salaries for staff already employed could not be determined.

“Total local revenue budgeted for school districts increased at about the same rate as BEP state revenue, but salary expenditures – whether for new hires or raises – could not be linked back to their revenue source, either state or local,” the report said.

The Tennessee Department of Education found for the past three years, all districts have complied with a 2016 state law that requires districts to maintain their budgeted level of local funding for salaries and wages from the prior year, and to not use increases in state BEP instructional salaries and wages funding to offset local expenditures in the categories.

‘The majority of districts reported giving a raise to teachers for three consecutive years, from 2016 through 2018,” according to the report. “In each of the three years, from 2016 through 2018, 88 districts reported giving a raise to teachers, representing 68 percent of the 140 districts surveyed. In 2015, when the state did not provide new state instructional salaries funding, 68 districts reported giving raises to teachers. Following the first year of additional state funding in 2016, the number of districts that reported giving raises increased to 98.

“In the two years following increased state funding for instructional salaries, 2017 and 2018, the number of districts that reported giving raises held steady, at around 96 districts. One district reported giving no raises over the four-year period,” the report said.

The percentage of raises for both Wilson County and LSSD for the upcoming school year will be known during the respective budget processes this year.

Districts reported their teacher raises in a fall 2018 survey conducted by the Office of Research and Education Accountability. A total of 103 districts or 74 percent responded. Districts that did not respond to the survey may have also given raises. The Office of Research and Education Accountability’s survey asked districts about raises they gave to instructional employees, most of which were classroom teachers, but it also included other licensed school staff such as principals and guidance counselors.

Both LSSD and Wilson County responded to the survey. In fact, Hall had many discussions and clarifications with the Office of Research and Education Accountability last fall, Wright said.

Between 2015 and 2018, Tennessee’s average classroom salary increased 6.2 percent, or about $2,979, from $47,979 to $50,958. The growth made Tennessee the third fastest-growing state in the Southeast for instructional teacher salaries, behind North Carolina and Georgia.

State Rep. Clark Boyd guided a bill designed to improve transparency in the state’s education system through the state House, and it also passed the Senate.

The measure – which was part of Gov. Bill Lee’s legislative package this year – requires local education agencies to report to the Department of Education how additional funds are used each year a Local Education Agency receives increased funding from the state for salaries and wages.

“Our teachers work tirelessly to solidify the academic foundations of Tennessee’s current and future leaders,” said Boyd, R-Lebanon. “We must ensure they are receiving the salaries and pay increases they have earned. I am proud to have carried this bill, which will increase transparency on the subject of teacher pay.”

House Bill 946 ensures taxpayer funding allocated to schools is used responsibly and to support educators, according to Boyd.

The bill went to Lee’s desk to be signed into law.

Local legislators vote for ESAs

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

The Tennessee Senate on Wednesday followed the House and approved a modified Education Savings Accounts bill, also referred to as vouchers.

The Tennessee Education Savings Account Act went to the governor’s desk to likely be signed into law. It would give parents in two of the state’s highest-population districts up to $7,300 a year for private-school tuition and expenses.

While the Wilson County Board of Education and the Wilson County Commission passed resolutions against school vouchers, the Wilson County legislative delegation voted for the measure.

“When the notice came in from our local officials that they were against the ESA bill, I had to agree, Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, said in an email. “The ESA bill had some flaws. It was unclear what effect it would have on Wilson County and the school districts in our county. I was concerned, as well, and was very appreciative of their input.

“Once this bill was amended, and it was clear that no public school would lose any funding for three years, it would not affect Wilson County or Wilson County schools, and in some of the worst-performing schools in the state, this bill will finally give parents some real choices about where they believe their children have the best opportunity to get a quality education. Once this was established, in my mind, this vote for me was clear.”

“We have a great public education system in Wilson County but not in every county. Public schools are a choice for parents, but it is not their only choice. My vote was to help these students where public schools have failed them.”

Pody said the resolutions he received weighed “heavy in my decisions until it no longer affected Wilson County. At that point, helping those students in failing schools across our state was paramount. Whenever possible, it is best to let each local school board, city and county commission handle their own business. I believe the state should stay out of their business and just focus on state issues like this one.”

Pody also said, “Some folks had a concern that this program may be expanded in the future. Right now, the goal is to give an opportunity to less than 2 percent of our students who are in failing schools a real chance of a better education. If in a few of years data-based evidence, if these students are not preforming better, a future General Assembly should shut this down. If, however, this program does have solid evidence that it is working and these students are doing better, I hope we all would agree it should be expanded.”

Rep Clark Boyd, R-Lebanon, also voted to approve the bill, he said in an email.

He said he voted on it because it did not include Wilson County or Wilson County Schools.

“It was specifically directed at the failing schools of Memphis and Nashville,” Boyd said. “We have and continue to try to find ways to help those failing schools and, thus far, have seen little-to-no improvement.

“I’m willing to try something new and think outside the box if it gives the kids trapped in those failing schools a chance at a better education and future. As far as the schools and teachers in Wilson County, they are doing an incredible job, and I will continue to advocate for them and to make sure that they have the funding and resources they need to do their job.”

Boyd said the bill only affects Davidson and Shelby counties, “where the majority of the state’s failing schools are located.

“Initially many of us had some concerns with the ESA proposal due to some potential issues educators voiced at that time. I made it clear that I could not support the legislation unless we first addressed the valid concerns that I and my public-school partners had. Ultimately, our concerns were addressed during the amendment process correcting all of the issues that many of us had identified.

“Initially, there were some concerns that the bill would negatively impact the funding of public education. This concern was addressed by the fact that we are now making the largest ever investment in public education in Tennessee’s history. This budget increased K-12 funding to $6.5 billion, an increase of nearly $200 million from last year. Seventy-one million dollars of this is specifically for teacher pay raises, and a separate $40 million is for school resource officers.  

Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, also said in an email ESAs are “the same as a Pell Grant. Most don’t oppose Pell Grant, which allows the money to follow the student as do ESAs. The final bill is not unlike the legislation that has failed in the past. The bill only applies to failing schools in two counties, and there is an income verification to apply for the ESA. 

“The money for the program is outside of the BEP funds the program is [$25 million] of extra money that would not have otherwise been used for education. Any school that loses a child to an ESA is kept whole, meaning that they still receive full BEP funding just as of the child still attended the school.”

In Tennessee, nearly 70,000 grandparents are raising their grandchildren, Lynn said.

“Thankfully, most of these children attend really good schools, but some do attend failing schools. The adverse childhood experiences [ACES] suffered by these children, which led to placement with their grandparents is compounded by their failing school due to where they live. This bill provides 3,500 children in Shelby and Davidson County with a way to break the cycle and build hope.”

Wilson County Commissioner Lauren Breeze took issue with Lynn’s comments that compared ESAs to a Pell Grant.

“Pell Grants do not take money away from other students, but ESAs do,” Breeze said in an email. “Pell Grants are awarded to anyone who qualifies, and if a student chooses to use the grant at a private college, money is not taken away from a public college. ESAs are funded with dollars that could be used on public education. The new Tennessee law not only allocates state BEP dollars to ESAs, it also allocates local tax dollars to fund the program, removing both funding streams from local school districts.”

Breeze, who is on the legislative and education committees of the Tennessee County Commissioner’s Association, explained the bill and how it would affect Wilson County and LSSD schools, if expanded to all school districts.

“While the new educational savings account bill doesn’t directly affect Wilson County, the door has been opened to ESAs in the state,” she said. “Additionally, the dollars that are being used for ESAs could have provided additional funding through the BEP for our students here in Wilson County Schools.

“A recipient of an educational savings account will receive both the state and local portion of BEP that is allocated to that student. Currently, the state portion is approximately 70 percent, meaning that local tax dollars are used for the remaining 30 percent. For the first three years, the BEP dollars that are given to ESA recipients will be given back to local school districts by the state. These dollars can only be spent on school improvements. 

Breeze said after three years, “the reimbursement from the state will stop, and the school district will lose the dollars from the state for that student and have to use local dollars to fund the ESA accounts for students in the local district. So, not only will the school district lose funding from the state, the local government will have to find additional dollars to pay for ESAs plus provide additional funding to local school districts to make up for the lost state and local funding to keep school district funding at status quo levels.

“If Wilson County, at some point, has to offer ESAs, local government would have to pay $3,393 per year per student – this number is for WCS, if a student goes to LSSD, the county would have to pay $3,932 per student – on top of funding the district itself.

“If the county had 1,000 ESA students, we would have to come up with an additional $3.393 million annually, in addition to our current local portion of the BEP, plus any additional money needed to pay for additional students as the county grows.”

When a child graduates, if there’s money left in their ESA, the money can be used for post-secondary education, Breeze said.

“This means that local tax dollars will start funding college educations for ESA students,” Breeze said. “If a student decides to return to public education, moves out of state or if the ESA is closed for another reason, the funds in the ESA will be returned to the state BEP fund. This includes local tax dollars that are contributed. So, local tax dollars will be used to fund the BEP instead of returning to local school districts.”

Mt. Juliet High School holds safety seminar prior to prom

By Cedric Dent Jr.

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

On Thursday evening with prom night just a few days away, Mt. Juliet High School gathered mothers, teenage girls and even a few fathers for a personal safety seminar with Barb Jordan, a former All-American athlete and USA softball player and coach who currently coaches women and young girls on how to stay alert and hedge against predators in their own communities.

The prom often coincides with other major events downtown but none as large, rowdy and raucous as the festivities of the NFL’s 2019 Draft, so the school brought an Olympic athlete to teach girls, as well as parents, how to be safe.

Jordan packed the better part of two hours with various and sundry tactics to avoid dangerous or disadvantageous situations, as well as how to fend off danger when those situations prove unavoidable. The first half of the talk was just that, a talk to the parents and daughters at Mt. Juliet High School in the school cafeteria with a screen on the wall behind her for a PowerPoint presentation. The second half, however, was a hands-on application of many of the tools she discussed in the first half, pushing and encouraging participants through activities designed to get them used to what it feels like to protect themselves in precarious circumstances.

Both students and parents laughed a lot throughout the activities just as Jordan said they would when she first started. But before the fun began, she led with honesty and seriousness. Jordan started the seminar with an explanation as to why she was giving one and her reason was, more or less, her life story.

“I grew up in Southern California” since age 5; I had two brothers, two sisters,” she said. “I had a real nice life, went to California Northridge. I played softball; I was a three-time All-American.

Jordan also played for three national championship teams before playing eight years for Team USA. Afterward, she became a college coach and was subsequently an assistant coach for Team USA.

Jordan’s accolades, which greatly outnumber those she actually mentioned, naturally lead one to wonder why an Olympic athlete and coach might end up with a career in public speaking at 53. She attributed it to what happened when she was a senior in college.

“My older sister met a guy who had a great job who, 30 years ago, was making $60,000 at the age of 30 years old. He drove a really nice SUV, personalized license plate, walked through my parents’ door, gave my dad the finest wine and cheeses, and my parents said, ‘Wow, this guy is something.’ And he had all the right answers.”

She explained how her sister, Bev’s, boyfriend inveigled his way into their family, attended church and communion with them and ultimately the family Thanksgiving dinner as Jordan’s eventual brother-in-law.

“Four days later, he took my sister to an isolated road and shot her four times in the head for her life insurance policy – brutal,” she said.

This, Jordan explained, led her to what she does now under the brand she named for her sister, BeV, which stands for “Be Vigilant.” Her message from the start was predators don’t always look like predators, but there are nuanced warning signs one can notice if one is vigilant. As such, she is currently a vigilance coach for women everywhere, and she broke down many of the primal instincts with which most human beings, as the most domesticated animal of all, have dispensed as socially awkward, extraneous or superfluous.

The instincts she trained people to access are primal and natural but often ignored, and when she highlighted them, it was easy to surmise they’re commonly ignored in favor of social graces and political correctness because, in some cases, they verge on controversial insinuations. She advised women to take note of and avoid isolated areas, avoid people who seem like predators, be ruthlessly protective of one’s personal space when it’s invaded, have a go-to strategy for defense and escape in any scenario and access the power of numbers whenever possible. To be protective of personal space, she gave the women and girls permission to be rude when someone gets too close, and she walked them through a series of measures that could be taken in various situations when this might happen.

Rudeness is, perhaps, the least controversial disregard for social graces she recommended to keep oneself from harm’s way. When she explained what to do when someone seems like a predator, though, it invoked the commonly criticized practices of racial profiling in which police indulge across the country because the obvious question becomes what makes one seem like a predator? While not everyone agrees, though, Jordan nipped it in the bud early by breaking down people’s mental images of what a predator looks like. Instead, she focused on the suspicious behaviors of those with predatory intentions.

Jordan, who lives in Tennessee, also mentioned familiar places when she talked about the isolated areas women should avoid.

“Try to keep your gas tank a quarter of a tank full or more,” she said, “because it gets less than a quarter of a tank…you don’t get to choose the gas station that you go to. That’s a problem. That’s a problem in some neighborhoods. I was in Antioch the other day; that was a problem for me. That was my fault.”

The event was co-sponsored by Mt. Juliet Travel, Kiwanis Club of Mt. Juliet and Dreams and Wishes of Tennessee. Principal Leigh Anne Rainey said she and Mt. Juliet Travel’s Cassy Thompson wanted to make sure Mt. Juliet students were empowered to be vigilant about the dangers that might present themselves one day. She reassured parents, though, the school is as secure as can be.

“We don’t ever take anything for granted or take anything lightly,” Rainey said.

She went on to mention the facility was equipped with 175 cameras, and her own phone had a direct interface with the surveillance system.

“And if there’s anything that parents need to know, you all know I email you all out, and I message you all out immediately, so y’all should get information quickly if ever something goes down.”

Wilson Central choir closes out year with songs, tears

By Matt Masters

[email protected]

The Wilson Central High School choir held its spring choral concert last Tuesday night, which marked the final performance for 10 seniors.

Senior Christina Bailey, who was recognized as most dedicated, shared tears and hugs with her classmates after the performance. Bailey said her four-year commitment to the choir paid off in friendships and priceless memories to carry with her as she prepares for college.

“From day one, Mrs. Morin has been like a mom to me, somebody that I can always talk to, and the choir itself has always been a big dysfunctional family in a way,” Bailey said. “Without them, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to stand here tonight and feel as proud as I do.”

Wilson Central’s director of choral activities Lynn Morin said the group of choral students was especially important to her as they became more like family than simply students.

“Every year we finish our year in a traditional way. We sing traditional songs, and every time it just kind of signifies the end of four years for our kids but the other kids also connect with it because of the beauty of the text, the beauty of the music, and they’re very comfortable with it because they sing it every year,” Morin said. “This year’s senior class, as I said, was extremely special to me. I came into this job and didn’t know a soul moving to this area and these kids were literally my family from day one. They accepted me from day one, and they have stuck with me, and they just have my heart.”

While it’s over for some, the most significant moment still lies in wait for 18 students who will board a plane early Thursday morning for a historic performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, where they will perform with Grammy-winning composer and conductor Eric Whitacre.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was a focus of the chamber choir who has worked for months to prepare and perfect its performance and raise funds to travel for the Sunday performance.

Morin said it was all possible because of the support for the arts throughout the community, Wilson County Schools and especially from the community and administration at Wilson Central.

“There are a lot of people here in Wilson County who love the arts, and it’s evident at all of our concerts, and I can just say thank you to those who do support the arts,” Morin said. “Sometimes these kids feel like they’re in the background, but on a night like tonight, they weren’t. They were in the spotlight.”

Prom raises safety concerns

By Matt Masters

[email protected]

Hundreds of Mt. Juliet High School students packed the front lawn of the school Friday to watch a gruesome mock crash that shut down Golden Bear Parkway with the hopes to show them the sad realities that can result from distracted or impaired driving.

Mt. Juliet police Capt. Tyler Chandler said the annual event is meant to get the attention of students and hopefully bring a little awareness to dangers on the roadway.

“A lot of students are going to be driving to downtown Nashville, and what we just want to impress is driving safely. This demonstration [Friday] gives them a good, visible image of what could happen if they were driving unsafe. So if they’re texting, if they’re driving while impaired, stuff like this, this crash that we see today can easily happen,” Chandler said.

“We’ve received a lot of feedback from students and parents and teachers and, of course, the administration here at the school just thanking us every year for doing it. They reach out to us every year wanting us to come out and do this, and we make sure to always make it happen. Really, it’s something that generates conversation amongst the students, teachers and parents, and hopefully with that, they’ll keep it in the backs of their heads that, ‘hey, I need to drive safe. If I don’t, something bad might happen.’ What we want is to keep people safe on our roadways. We don’t want them to end up in a crash.”

Along with Mt. Juliet police, first responders from the Wilson Emergency Management Agency and Mt. Juliet firefighters took part in the demonstration, which ended with a Vanderbilt Medical Center LifeFlight helicopter that landed in front of the school. Hamblen’s Wrecker Service provided the two cars used in the mock crash.

Health science teacher Kim Brown helped to outfit students from her EMS class with bleeding lacerations, protruding ribs, burns and more as they played the roles of injured and dead students in the mock crash. Chocolate syrup, corn syrup, makeup kits and Q-tips were some of the tools used to bring realism to a scenario she hoped would be both eye opening and educational.

“Students will research wounds, and they have talked about it and then make them, and when it comes to the actual mock crash, I give them two das to prep for it,” Brown said.

“It’s been a really fun experience, and hopefully it helps out everyone to see the dangers of drinking and driving or distracted driving on prom night, because it’s supposed to be a fun night, but everyone needs to be safe at the same time,” said senior Bailey Wheeler. She helped apply wounds to her fellow students like junior Joshua Hoover whose face was donned with road rash, a laceration and a left eye that hung from its socket.

While the preparation and application of the fake wounds is fun for the students involved, for some people, especially the occasional parent who stopped by for the demonstration, the scene could be a bit jarring.

One of those parents was Todd White, whose daughter, Maggie White, is a junior. Maggie White played one of the dead students in the demonstration. Her father said that it was his first time to see a demonstration like this, but he hoped it helped get the message across, especially as his daughter will be one of the students who makes her way to Nashville on Saturday night.

“It’s actually kind of creepy to be honest with you. My wife was kind of scared to see it, because she’s going to be put in a body bag,” Todd White said. “We try and talk about drinking and driving, to never be on your phone, texting and driving and the radio is a big thing for me, to not have it blaring too loud.”

Mt. Juliet High School’s prom will take place Saturday night at the Music City Center. It was a decision principal Leigh Anne Rainey said was based on the desire from both parents and students to have the prom in a more unique and special location than at the school.

This weekend also marks the arrival of historic numbers of people for the NFL Draft, which has congested streets, hotels and parking lots throughout the greater Nashville area.

Both Rainey and the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, which provides school resource officers for the school, took all of it into account.

“We have hired SRO officers each year for the safety of our students,” Rainey said. “The Music City Center does a wonderful job of also providing security and a secure location for our students. There are normally concerts and other activities downtown during the MJHS prom, but the draft has caused us to use more consideration and helping to provide transportation and parking options with the help of our PTSO that we have not ever done in the past.  Transportation and parking has never been addressed in the past, and this will be our fourth year to hold prom at MCC.”

Wilson County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Moore said while the additional SROs will help with safety, both students and parents should exercise responsible planning and caution while traveling to and from prom.

“Since Nashville will have many things going on that night, we urge all parents and students to make themselves aware of the high volume of people who will be in the city. Allow for ample time to arrive to the prom, don’t be distracted while driving and do not get behind the wheel if you are under the influence,” Moore said. “One of the biggest concerns with any prom that we have is the number of accidents that happen while drinking and driving on prom night. We want to wish all of the students a safe and memorable night, but we urge everyone to be responsible while doing so.”

Mt. Juliet High School students demonstrate cultures at festival

Mt. Juliet High School’s German Club, Japanese Culture Club and Chinese class members volunteered to staff booths March 28 at Mt. Juliet Elementary School’s bi-annual Multicultural Festival.

Mt. Juliet students taught German, Chinese, Japanese, and Hungarian to elementary students and provided interactive hands-on activities.

Students were able to experience native Hungarian animal exhibits, calligraphy writing in Japanese katakana, fan folding, German storytelling, origami and traditional German candy.

The high school students were also able to showcase different Japanese foods and drinks and teach younger students how to play traditional German games.

Students could also attempt to lift prizes off of the Chinese booth using chopsticks and saw how Hungarian embroidery was created. 

Two high school students decided to become world language teachers due to the event.

Planners approve Goddard School

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The final master development site plan for Goddard School, a child-care facility, was on the Mt. Juliet Planning Commission’s consent agenda, which is usually voted on as a group of plans, but city planner Chuck Turner had questions about sidewalks near the school.

“This is just an observation,” Turner told Joe Haddix with Civil Site Design Group during Thursday’s meeting. “Around the parking lot, there is a sidewalk near the school. There’s not really a sidewalk on the other side of the parking spaces. My concern is when a mom or dad drops off their child, that they could easily access a sidewalk, rather than walking through the parking lot to get to school.”

Turner said there would be a chance of a child getting injured by walking across the parking lot.

“It’s a busy place, especially around drop-off time and pick-up time,” Turner said. “I was just wondering that as a safety issue, it would be advisable to have a sidewalk on the far side of the parking lot for children and parents to walk down to get to the school.”

Erin Witt with Goddard School, a corporate organization that uses franchisees to run the schools, said all of their sites are designed the same way, without a sidewalk on the far side of the parking lot.

“Typically, what our franchisee will do is have the staff park at the back of the parking lot,” she said. “So those parking spaces in front of the school are open. We see that pick-up and drop-off lasts about 10 minutes, depending if they have one or multiple children. Those spaces can turn over 10 to 12 times an hour.

“It’s a pretty well-oiled machine with those spaces along [the front of the school]. I look at every site that we put out and I am extremely confident that those spaces will be adequate for that purpose.”

None of Goddard’s schools have a sidewalk along the back of the parking lot, “unless it’s something that the town requires,” she said. “In my opinion it just creates another place for kids to want to go to play, rather than go to mom and dad’s car. I would question putting one in.”

Goddard School serves children from 6 weeks old to 6 years old. Witt said the school considers itself an educational childcare facility. The Mt. Juliet location will be at 535 Pleasant Grove Road.

“We have an educational board of advisors that puts out educational curriculum for us to use for all of the classrooms,” Witt said. “[Goddard School] just opened our 500th facility nationwide. We’re in 28 states now.”

The commission unanimously approved the consent agenda.

City planners also approved a site plan for a new Taco Bell, which will soon be a free-standing building to the east of its current split building with Kentucky Fried Chicken. It is at 11001 Lebanon Road.

The final master development plan for a new restaurant, Schlotzksy’s Austin, was also approved. It will be at 30 Old Pleasant Grove Road, behind Cheddars and Firestone. There will also be a localized mural on the side of the building.

The commission also approved recommendations to the Mt. Juliet City Commission for the annexation and a plan of services for the Odum property at 285 Central Pike; annexation and plan of services for the Cranford property at 490 S. Rutland Road; and annexation and plan of services for the Hess property at 546 S. Rutland Road.

School board discusses calendar

By Angie Mayes

Special to The Democrat

In a five-hour workshop and meeting last Monday night, the Wilson County Board of Education touched on a number of things that will affect the county’s schools.

Among them was the calendar policy. During a previous discussion of the calendar, emails were sent to parents, a public meeting took place and a calendar for the upcoming school year was decided upon and recommended by Director of Schools Donna Wright and approved by the board.

The main objection point among parents was a fall break split from two consecutive weeks to two weeks a month apart.

During Monday’s meeting, the board discussed a calendar committee and who would be on it.

Board member Chad Karl wanted to add wording to the policy that said the director of schools would receive and take into account opinions of school staff, students, parents and school-related organizations.

“Basically, that is a committee,” said board member Wayne McNeese. “Why not just leave it alone like it is?”

Board chair Larry Tomlinson echoed McNeese’s question.

“Does that constitute a committee?” he asked.

Deputy Director of Policy and Student Services Lauren Bush said, “I think it gives the director of schools the freedom to obtain that feedback as he or she sees most fit. It could be through surveys of school employees. It could be through suggestions or requests for comment. It gives the director of schools the ability and the authority to do so in a way that makes the most sense for our district.”

McNeese disagreed with Bush.

“I think we need to have a formal committee, consisting of parents and teachers and really listen to them,” McNeese said. “I don’t mean that we have to go with what they say, but we need to have an open hearing. I’m still in favor of a calendar committee.”

Board member Kimberly McGee said she wanted to hear what the other board members thought because, “We need to come to some resolution on this.”

Tomlinson said he thought there should be a committee, and it should consist of at least some board members, “because we’re the ones who are elected by our constituents to serve in the position we serve in. We are the ones who are getting paid to hold this position. Evidentially, this is a tough decision and is a problem for some in our community. They’re not happy with it. We’re the ones who need to be making that decision, not someone else.”

Tomlinson said if there is to be a committee, it should consist of school board members, the director of schools and “maybe one person on staff.”

Board member Linda Armistead said the issue of a committee revolves around the two-week fall break, which, until next year, was consecutive. For the next two school calendars, which the school board and state officials previously approved, the breaks would be separated.

“I’d rather focus on what we have to do to provide the students with what we’re supposed to be doing, which is educating them, and less on vacation time,” Armistead said.

Karl said if a committee is the way to proceed, then he would support it. The director would need to gather the information in different ways, including from parents, teachers and school groups. If going to parent-teacher organization meetings is the way to communicate to the public, then he said that would be the best way to go.

“It gives you flexibility, and that’s what policy should do,” he said. “Policy should be flexible and give direction, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Wright asked for a definition of what constitutes a committee. She said during the recent calendar decision, only three people showed up at a public hearing regarding the calendar.

“I think when you mentioned before about three people showing up for that meeting, I think the reason that is, is we had this survey done [about what parents and teachers wanted to do], which we basically threw in the trash,” McNeese said to Wright. “People didn’t trust us. Why should they come to that meeting?”

Wright said the number of respondents to the survey based on the number of potential respondents was “not overwhelming.” She said the survey was a way to gather information, not a vote on the issue.

McNeese made a motion to table the issue until next month.

Board member Mike Gwaltney asked what the main issue was.

“Is it the two-week break?” he asked.

McNeese and Gwaltney began to disagree.

“Yes. Why not?” McNeese asked. “If it’s broke, we fix it. This is not broke.”

Gwaltney said, “I’ve been there, and I know what happens with those two weeks. I think it’s up to us to decide what the calendar should be. If [the director] doesn’t know and gets input from people, what I feel like needs to be done, who better to make the decision.

“We’ve got people out there in the community who think they’re experts in schools because they attended high school.”

Karl, who made the original motion, withdrew his motion due to lack of a second from the board.

A motion made by McNeese to pull the calendar item off the agenda for April passed 6-1. Karl, McGee, Tomlinson, Gwaltney, Bill Robinson and McNeese voted to defer the item, and Armistead voted to keep it on the agenda.

Ninth-annual Honor Band shows off skills

By Matt Masters

[email protected]

The Wilson County Band Director’s Association presented the ninth-annual Wilson County Honor Band concert April 4 at Lebanon High School.

Middle and high school students from across the county came together to perform with guest conductors Atticus Hensley and Stephen Rhodes.

Hensley is the band director for both East Middle School and West Middle School in Tullahoma, while Rhodes recently retired from Lipscomb University, where he served as professor of music and director of instrumental studies for 40 years.

Each honor band featured more than 100 student musicians in music programs at Carroll-Oakland School, Lebanon High School, Mt. Juliet Christian Academy, Mt. Juliet High School, Mt. Juliet Middle School, Southside School, Walter J. Baird Middle School, Watertown High School, Watertown Middle School, West Wilson Middle School, Wilson Central High School and Winfree Bryant Middle School.

Lebanon High School band director Ben Channell said the Honor Band is a great opportunity for student musicians to get a different perspective and philosophy to perform with each guest conductor.

“They only met for the first time as a group this morning at 8:30 a.m., so this is cool,” Channell said. “For the high school students, especially, it’s really cool for them to get that direction from a college guy [Rhodes.] It’s completely different from us high school people, so it’s just that different perspective, and obviously there’s high-quality teaching that’s going on in both groups.”

The performance was originally scheduled for February but was rescheduled after historic rainfall and flooding struck the county.