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

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.

Imagination Dinner celebrates literacy

By Matt Masters

Wilson County Books from Birth held its 13th-annual Imagination Dinner fundraiser Thursday night at the Wilson County Expo Center, and it featured a star-studded room of characters.

Wilson County Books from Birth is the local affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a literacy program that gives new age-appropriate books to children each month to every participating child less than 5 years old.

This year’s dinner featured a record-breaking 52 tables, which attendees bought and then created themes such as Where’s Waldo, the Titanic or the Wild West.

Wilson Books from Birth executive director Peggy Simpson said the growth and continued success of the program is due to the overwhelming support from the community.

“For 13 years, it’s grown,” Simpson said. “We started out over at the East-West Building, and we moved over here the year before last. We have 10 more tables this year, and every year we add more tables. They believe in us, and the school systems particularly put their arms around it, and the community does, too. They believe in Wilson Books from Birth and the Imagination Library, not only in Wilson County.”

Attendees raised money for the program through donations, participation in a silent auction and donations tied to unique challenges for other groups, such as making them do a silly dance in front of the crowd of several hundred attendees.

One of the groups, Leadership Wilson, offered up a unique challenge for everyone in attendance.

“We are challenging everyone in the room to do an act of kindness for someone tomorrow and then video it and put it on the WilCo Sparks of Kindness Facebook page,” said Dorie Mitchell, executive director of Leadership Wilson.

Prizes were also raffled off, and the imagination and detail of the team costumes and table themes were judged. The Carroll Oakland Elementary School team took home the best decorated trophy.

More information about Wilson County Books from Birth and the Imagination Library may be found at

Lynn donates flags to Rutland Elementary School

State Rep. Susan Lynn donated four flags Friday to Rutland Elementary School.

Lynn’s donation included two United States flags and two Tennessee flags. Lynn presented the flags to Rutland Elementary School assistant principal Stephanie Hines after she met with school administrators.

“It was a privilege to visit Rutland Elementary School and donate these special flags to the school,” said Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet. “It’s always great to speak with our teachers and administrators, and I hope these flags will encourage students to get involved in their state and country. They are the leaders of tomorrow.”

Lynn represents House District 57. She is chair of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee and also serves as vice-chair of the Joint Pensions and Insurance Committee. She is a member of the Calendar & Rules Committee, Joint Fiscal Review Committee, Select Committee on Rules, Naming, Designating and Private Acts Committee and Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee.

Friendship drama students to present ‘Oklahoma!’

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Friendship Christian School thespians will present the classic musical, “Oklahoma!,” on April 25-27 at the school.

They will present the “Getting to Know You” version of the musical.

This is the 75th anniversary of the fan-favorite show’s appearance on Broadway, and Friendship director Key McKinney said she is excited to direct the show again.

“’Oklahoma!’ is one of my all-time favorites,” McKinney said. “’Oklahoma!’ has a near-and-dear place in my heart. This is my fifth time involved in ‘Oklahoma!.’ In high school, I was a dancer. Then, when I was a young mother, I played Ado Annie. Later, I got the opportunity to be Laurey, and this is my second time directing the show.”

The show, written by Broadway legends Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II, is based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, “Green Grow the Lilacs.”

The musical is about the lives of people who lived in the Oklahoma! Territory in 1903. As the characters interact with one another, well-known songs are sung.

Among them are “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,’” “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “People Will Say We’re in Love” and “Oklahoma!.”

McKinney said the theme and meaning behind the show is important.

“You’ve got to be hardy,” she said. “You’ve got to be, to get by in this world. I think that is so important for us.”

McKinney said she cannot wait for the audience to experience the show.

“I’m excited for people to come and see what these young people have done and are continuing to do here at Friendship Christian School,” she said.  “We would love for you to come and see ‘Oklahoma!.’”

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and students. They can be purchased at the door at 6 p.m. on show nights. The doors to the theatre will open at 6 p.m., and the show will start at 7 p.m. There will not be a matinee.

Friendship Christian School is at 5400 Coles Ferry Pike in Lebanon. For more information about the show, follow Friendship on Twitter at @FCSCommanders or visit the school’s Facebook page.

Mt. Juliet Christian drama to present ‘Guys and Dolls’

The drama department students and faculty at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy will present the spring musical production of “Guys and Dolls” on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the school.

Mt. Juliet Christian drama teacher Kim Overstreet will direct a cast and crew of 26 high school students that is a musical theater favorite for an audience of all ages.

Set in New York City during the 1950s, “Guys and Dolls” will feature hilarious dialogue, romance, a glorious Frank Loesser musical score and choreography that is dynamic and story driven. The primary theme that runs through the show is the differences between guys and dolls, what they want and their hopes and dreams, as well as their differing views of each other. The guys believe dolls are out to trap them and make them settle down, while the dolls despair the men they love will never change and finally give them the security and love they crave. The theme provides both humor in the relationship between Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide played by sophomore Christian Link and senior Abigail Wilson, respectively, and tension in the relationship between Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown played by senior Abe Gibson and junior Anna Wise, respectively, which is ultimately resolved at the end of the show.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students and will be available at the door. Doors will open Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

The performances will in the gymnasium at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy at 735 N. Mt. Juliet Road.

Congressman John Rose announces art competition

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Sixth District Congressman John Rose announced an art competition Friday morning at Mt. Juliet High School for high school students within his district.

Students are urged to paint, draw or take photos for their entry. One entry will be allowed per student. The deadline for entries is April 22. That is the date the entry must be in Rose’s office. Art department members from Tennessee Tech University and Volunteer State Community College will judge the entries and select a winner. The winning entry will be announced on April 24.

The winning student will receive two tickets on Southwest Airlines and will be honored at an awards banquet, along with the other 434 winning artists from across the country. All winning entries will be displayed for one year in Cannon Hall at the U.S. Capitol, Rose said.

All high school students are encouraged to enter the competition, whether they have taken art classes at their respective schools. To enter, the item must adhere to competition requirements, which include the artwork must be two dimensional, and the artwork must be no larger than 26 inches high and 26 inches wide. The entry must also be no more than 4 inches deep.

Winning entries must be framed, and no framed piece should weight more than 15 pounds. Frames must be made of wood or metal. No plastic “snap on” or metal frames, which can easily come apart, are to be used. All entries, except for oil or acrylic on canvas, must be protected by plexiglass or glass.

Accepted materials for the artwork can be oil, acrylic, watercolor or other paintings; drawings with colored pencil, pencil, ink, marker, pastels or charcoal. The pastels and charcoal drawings must be fixed. Also, they may be two-dimensional collages; prints in the golf of lithographs, silkscreen or block prints; mixed media in which two or more mediums such as pencil, ink or watercolor; computer-generated art; or photographs.

All artwork must be original in concept, design and execution and may not violate U.S. copyright laws. Any image that is copied from an existing photo or image, including painting, graphic or advertisements, that were created by someone other than the student is a violation of the competition rules and will not be accepted.

Each entrant must submit a typed student information and release form, which is available through Rose’s Cookeville or Gallatin offices.  The Cookeville office is at 321 E. Spring St., Suite 301, in Cookeville, and the phone number is 931-854-9430.

The Gallatin office is at 355 N. Belvedere Drive, Suite 308, in Gallatin, and the phone number is 615-206-8204.

Wilson County students celebrate diversity

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Students, teachers, advisers and parents from Wilson County Schools gathered at Mt. Juliet Elementary School on Thursday evening to celebrate the various nations English as a second language students claim as their native land.

From Mexico to Africa, France to Japan, the students demonstrated the culture from the various nations. They showcased art, displayed storyboards, sang, played instruments and featured native foods.

Tracy Thompson with Carroll-Oakland School, Jo Thacker with Springdale Elementary School, Chelsea Howard with West Elementary School, Sarai Lewis with Stoner Creek Elementary School and other teachers brought items to display or helped students showcase their displays.

Mt. Juliet Elementary School students sang songs; Prisha Bangena played her violin; Shweta Arura, Nidhi Gupta and Simran Batra cooked and served food from India; and the Futuro Organization, an all-inclusive professional Hispanic student organization at Cumberland University, showcased the Phoenix, which is a wooden bird student organizations paint for display at events.

“This is our Wilson County Schools’ multi-cultural celebration,” said Mt. Juliet Elementary School English as a second language teacher Tracy Brown. “We open up to our entire county. Schools come to share our great diversity in Wilson County. [Middle Tennessee State University] is planning to be here, elementary schools, artwork projects, games, Cumberland University is coming, [Lebanon High School] HOSA. We’ve invited everyone to come and share their culture, their diversity, and gain knowledge and understanding from everyone.”

Brown has about 20 students in her ESL classes, but there are about 45 overall, she said.

“There are schools who have as few as 10 and those with almost 100,” said Wilson County Schools ESL coordinator Julie Harrison.

What started out as a day event for MJES students has turned into to the night event for everyone to celebrate “our wonderful ethnicities and differences in our schools,” Brown said. “We need to share that and acknowledge that.”

Teacher Glenda McKinney with Tuckers Crossroads School, said her students studied Native Americans and wanted to expand to other countries such as Peru.

“We decided to expand to indigenous people in Spanish-speaking countries,” she said. “I had read them [a Peruvian folktale]. They rewrote some Peruvian folktales.”

Ashlee Hargrove works at Rutland Elementary School and said, “We have students from all different cultures. We have a lot of students from Uzbekistan. We have students from Egypt and students from all over the world. We have students from Madagascar, the Philippines, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. We have a very diverse population at Rutland Elementary [School].”

Wilson County Schools’ prekindergarten registration upcoming

Wilson County Schools will play host to its first day of voluntary prekindergarten registration for the upcoming school year April 2 from 7:30 a.m. until 2:15 p.m. at all Wilson County elementary schools, and two roundups are also planned. 

Parents may go to any of the elementary schools in Wilson County to register. They do not need to register at more than one school. Class placement will take place at the Wilson County Schools voluntary prekindergarten office. Children must be 4 years old on or before Aug. 15 to be considered for voluntary prekindergarten placement.

First priority for enrollment will be given to children who turn 4 years old by Aug. 15 and the family meets federal income poverty guidelines. Second priority for enrollment will be given to children who have an individualized education plan, are in state or foster care, is an English language learner and has a parent deployed in active military duty.

Children who meet the requirements will be placed in prekindergarten classrooms first. Any additional spaces will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis based on the received application date and need. Families will be notified as soon as possible if additional spaces are available.

After April 2, registration packets will be available at the schools and at

Two roundups will be held this year. The first will be April 12 from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. at Charlie Daniels Park in Mt. Juliet. Vision, hearing, speech, language and developmental screenings will be done for any child 3-5 years old. 

The second roundup will be April 24 from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon. Vision, hearing, speech, language and developmental screenings will be done for any child 3-5 years old. 

The round-up events will be free, and any child who has registered or would like to register for the Wilson County voluntary prekindergarten program is encouraged to attend.

For more information, email Anne Barger at or Cindy Johnson at or visit

Deadline nears to register children for kindergarten

Time is running out for parents who have a son or daughter that will be 5 years old on or before Aug. 15 to register for kindergarten in Wilson County Schools. 

The kindergarten registration deadline is March 30 for Wilson County Schools. Parents may begin the process and follow the directions at 

Once an account is set up, visit for the child’s zoned school and use SignUpGenius to schedule an appointment to drop off all the documents needed to register.    

Required documents include:

• two proofs of residency.

• birth certificate.

• Tennessee public school immunization certificate with proof of a physical.

• Social Security card requested.

• custody papers, if applicable.

• Photo identification for the parent or guardian.

Between April 9 and May 16, elementary schools throughout Wilson County will hold events for all incoming kindergarten students called kindergarten nights.  The events will provide an opportunity for parents and students to meet some of the teachers and staff and learn more about what to expect for the upcoming school year.

The kindergarten nights schedule includes:

• April 9 from 4-6 p.m. at West Elementary School.

• April 11 from 5-7 p.m. at Lakeview Elementary School.

• April 15 from 5-7 p.m. at Southside School.

• April 16 from 5-7 p.m. at Gladeville Elementary School.

• April 18 from 5-6:30 .m. at Elzie D. Patton Elementary School.

• April 23 from 6-8 p.m. at Mt. Juliet Elementary School.

• April 25 from 4-6 p.m. at Tuckers Crossroads School.

• April 30 from 4-6:30 p.m. at Springdale Elementary School.

• May 2 from 4-6:30 p.m. at Rutland Elementary School.

• May 7 from 5-7 p.m. at Carroll-Oakland School.

• May 9 from 4-6 p.m. at Watertown Elementary School.

• May 14 from 3:30-6:30 at Stoner Creek Elementary School.

• May 16 from 4-6:30 p.m. at W.A. Wright Elementary School.

If parents have a prekindergarten student currently enrolled in a Wilson County school, school officials will let them know about the procedure to enroll for kindergarten.

Motion filed in city’s liquor tax lawsuit

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Wilson County Schools attorney Mike Jennings told the school board last Monday night he filed a motion to set a hearing regarding the liquor tax money the city of Mt. Juliet owes the school system.

The school board and a court ruling say Mt. Juliet has to pay a portion of the back-tax revenue to Wilson County Schools.

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. Mt. Juliet attorneys argued the school board had no authority to sue the city, but the Wilson County Commission, which is the governing body in the county, could sue for the funds.

The filing paperwork said the city is required by state law to collect 15 percent of all liquor-by-the-drink revenues. The money is supposed to be divided by 50 percent, according to suit paperwork. Fifty percent goes to the city and the other half goes to the schools.

Lebanon also didn’t pay its fair share to Wilson County Schools but eventually agreed to pay the back taxes during a 10-year period, according to court records.

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 Wilson County Schools 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 only in the cities. They said the liquor-by-the-drink were not passed in the unincorporated county areas, 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 defendants’ 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, the Mt. Juliet City Commission voted to offer a $325,000 settlement to the school board. The school board denied the offer at its November meeting.

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

Unless a date is named or an agreement reached before the hearing, the issue will be discussed March 27 at 9 a.m. in Wilson County chancery court.

Lakeview Elementary School January students of the month

The Lakeview Elementary School students of the month for January are (front row, from left) Channing Hagan, Amelia Kozora, Lyla Polk, Braylee Wilson, Grace Hooper, Max Franklin, Sophia Hunter, (middle row, from left) Kamryn Mathews, Victoria Vandevort, Alyssa Sanders, Mallory Helton, Percy Brooks, Kaitlyn Conod, Khiler Allen, Kaylee Hervey, Nolan Bertram, Fisher Clark, Ridge Gillespie, (back row, from left) Colin Housley, Kai Alejo, Grant Nettles, Ava Crabtree, Calyn McGuire, Kyle Johansson, Caroline Clark, Hinsley Wilkerson, Ella Boles, Marron Davidson and Andrew Hayes.

Wilson Central Wildcat Theatre to present ‘Mamma Mia’

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Wilson Central High School Wildcat Theatre will present “Mamma Mia,” March 28-31 in the school auditorium.

The classic show based on hits from the 1970s supergroup Abba will feature a large cast and crew in the show.

Actors Caylin Maguire who plays Tanya; Isabelle Leonard who plays Rosie; Alanna Diserens who is Sophia’s understudy; Sarah Beth Barlow who plays Donna, Azel Eddings who plays Sky; Addison Owens who plays Bill; Tristan Lockamy who plays Harry; and Johan Smith who plays Sam recently talked about the show.

“I just love everybody in it,” said Owens. “I feel connected to the cast. This is my senior show.”

Lockamy said, “Abba is a great band and they have great music. It’s fun to sing their songs on stage with everyone else.”

Leonard said she grew up listening to Abba with her mom.

“I’ve also done musical theatre since my freshman year, so this is kind of natural,” she said.

Maguire said she heard about the band and music through the musical first.

“Then my mom said, ‘Did you know that these are all from a band?” she said. “I was raised by a drama major.”

Lockamy said he’s always been interested in “the old music like Abba and the Beatles. I like [the music in the show] a lot.”

The show takes place within a two-day period.

“Forty-eight hours, and that’s it,” said Maguire. “It’s jam-packed. You’ll smile. You’ll cry.”

Maguire continued Leonard’s thoughts.

“You’ll laugh,” she said. “You’ll dance in your seat.”

Diserens said, “It’s a such an energetic and lively show to put on with everyone, because it has this spirit of this big-story adventure, and it’s like, what’s going to happen next?”

Barlow said she believes the audience members will “be more grateful for their family. It makes them have that love for their friendships. It’s a feel-good kind of show.”

Just because the storyline takes place in Greece, Maguire said, “It’s a show that can take place anywhere.

Maguire said the stage musical is not the same as the movie.

“There are songs in there that were in the movie,” she said. “Some of the stuff is in a different order. It’s not the movie on stage. It’s still the same overall story, but it’s not identical. So, don’t come expecting Meryl Streep.”

Diserens said the stage show, “kind of allows you to see a different side of the characters. Because it’s a play, there’s more insight into the characters, rather than the whole production value. You can really look into these lives.”

Shows March 28-29 will start 7 p.m., and there will be two shows March 30 at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. The matinee will be a sing-along show. The March 31 show will begin at 2:30 p.m. Adult tickets are $15, and student tickets are $10.

Mt. Juliet orchestra director wins award

Staff Reports

NASHVILLE – The Country Music Association Foundation announced Tuesday that Mt. Juliet High School Band of Gold and orchestra director Sherie Grossman received a Music Teacher of Excellence award.

The CMA Foundation, a national music education nonprofit and the philanthropic arm of the Country Music Association, will hold its fourth-annual Music Teachers of Excellence Awards on April 30 in Nashville, and three-time CMA award winner winner Dierks Bentley will serve as host.

The invite-only event will honor Grossman and nine other music educators from districts across Tennessee, 10 from Metro-Nashville Public Schools and 10 from across the United States. Award recipients are selected because of their dedication to bring a high-quality music program to their students and the impact they’ve had on their school community through music.

Grossman applied for the award, which works much like a grant, in December. She described the application process as “extensive.”

“I’m very excited. [Mt. Juliet High School principal] Mrs. [Leigh Anne] Rainey came in to make the announcement, and they had to film the whole thing,” Grossman said. “I was waiting to hear, and when I saw them walk in, I said, ‘yes.’”

Grossman was selected in December as Tennessee’s representative on the School Band and Orchestra magazine’s national list of “50 Directors Who Make a Difference.” The list annually spotlights one outstanding music educator from each state. Honored directors were nominated by students, colleagues, band parents, administrators, friends and sometimes even the spouse of a director who’s witnessed their ongoing dedication on a regular basis. The magazine pored more than 880 nominations before it arrived at its latest final 50.

Grossman also founded and conducts the Cedar Creek Community Band, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year and includes more than 60 musicians who range in age from 15-60 and older.

Grossman received her bachelor’s degree in clarinet performance from the University of California Irvine in 1996 and later a teaching certificate from California State University in Fullerton, California and taught band and orchestra at the middle school level for seven years. During that time, she earned a master’s degree in conducting from Southern Oregon University’s American Band College. She moved to Mt. Juliet in 2005 and currently serves as assistant band director, orchestra director and assistant choir director at Mt. Juliet High School. Grossman is a 20-year veteran educator, and the orchestra program she started at Mt. Juliet has grown to more than 75 students enrolled each year.

To date, the CMA Foundation has invested more than $575,000 to ensure music teachers have the support and funding needed to create a thriving program within their school and community.

“These teachers have gone above and beyond in their classrooms to really bring music to life, and their commitment and determination has not gone unnoticed,” said Bentley. “As a parent, I have seen first-hand the importance of music in my children’s lives and its importance in school programs. Every child deserves the chance to feel the power of music and it’s not possible without supporting these teachers.”

Along with a night of celebration, the CMA Foundation will invest $2,500 into each teacher’s music program to help drive their commitment to high-quality music for all children forward. Additionally, each winner will receive a $2,500 gift to use however they’d like, and past winners used their award earnings for down payments, continuing education, to record their own music and more.

“For my program, I have some needs for some instrument upgrades, as well as some equipment. We want to replace and upgrade some things in our band room,” Grossman said. “For me, I play clarinet, and I want to get some new parts for that. I may travel some, but I will likely spend the money on my children.”

The CMA Foundation created its Music Teachers of Excellence program in 2016 to recognize those who have the greatest impact on their students, using music as a vehicle for change.

“Music education has proven to be an effective and invaluable tool for academic achievement and social development, yet we consistently hear that programs are not properly supported,” said Tiffany Kerns, CMA Foundation executive director. “Each year, when we recognize the tremendous group of music educators through our Music Teachers of Excellence program, it allows us to give back to those who have dedicated their lives to serving our next generation. These educators, who spend countless hours in the classroom, are helping to shape creative, collaborative, future leaders through the power of music.”

Bentley has more than 8.6 billion overall digital streams. He co-wrote 10 of the 13 tracks on his current album The Mountain , including his new single, “Living,” which follows two back-to-back No. 1s, “Woman, Amen” and “Burning Man.” The Mountain earned Bentley the highest debut sales of his career and became his seventh chart-topping album. He has amassed 18 career No. 1s, countless awards and more while also earning 14 Grammy nominations.

In addition to Grossman, the 2019 Music Teachers of Excellence Tennessee award recipients include: 

• Bryant Adler with Alcoa Intermediate School.

• Kathryn Affainie with Granbery Elementary School in Brentwood.

• Josephine Cappelletti with Coulter Grove Intermediate School in Maryville.

• Benjamin Easley with Nolensville High School.

• Carole Smith Grooms with Freedom Middle School in Franklin.

• John Hazlett with McGavock High School in Nashville.

• Michael Holland with Nolensville High School. 

• Trey Jacobs with Nashville School of the Arts.

• Kevin Jankowski with W.H. Oliver Middle School in Nashville.

• Robbin Johnston with Clarksville High School.

• Spencer Nesvick with Houston Middle School in Germantown.

• Denise Rives with Barksdale Elementary School in Clarksville.

• Matthew Taylor with Meigs Academic Magnet Middle School in Nashville.

• Alice Asako Walle with Waverly Belmont Elementary School in Nashville.

• Susan Waters with W.H. Oliver Middle School in Nashville.

• Anna Laura Williams with Siegel Middle School in Murfreesboro.

• Franklin Willis with Andrew Jackson Elementary School in Old Hickory.

• Frank Zimmerer with Antioch High School.

• Ben Zolkower with Hillwood High School in Nashville. 

The 2019 Music Teachers of Excellence national award recipients include: 

• Kevin Brawley with Torrence Creek Elementary School in Huntersville, North Carolina.

• Sheldon Frazier with North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia.

• Robyn Starks Holcomb with Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

• Jeff Horenstein with Meadowdale High School in Lynwood, Washington.

• Theresa Kennedy with Jamestown Middle School in Jamestown, North Carolina.

• Chris Maunu with Arvada West High School in Arvada, Colorado.

• Henry Miller with Sierra Vista Middle School in Irvine, California.

• Amy Rangel with Glendale High School in Glendale, California.

• Ashleigh Spatz with Burgess-Peterson Academy in Atlanta.

• Brianne Turgeon with Springdale Park Elementary School in Atlanta.

Proceeds from CMA Fest, the four-day music festival held annually in Nashville, are used to power the CMA Foundation’s social impact and unique model of giving.  

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy to present ‘Guys and Dolls’

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy theatre will present the Broadway classic musical, “Guys and Dolls,” on April 12-14 at the school at 735 N. Mt. Juliet Road in Mt. Juliet.

The Broadway musical premiered in 1950. It ran for 1,200 performances and won a Tony Award for best musical. There were numerous revivals, and the musical was made into a film in 1955. The film starred Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine.

Kimberly Overstreet, theatre teacher and show director, said, “I picked ‘Guys and Dolls’ because it is an American musical theater classic. It’s a theater favorite for audience members and students.”

She said the play is called the “perfect theater musical, because it works as well today with today’s audiences as it did in 1950 when it premiered on Broadway. [The audience will relate to] the basic theme and the characters. The characters are extremely relatable and it’s good, clean, classic fun.”

Her job as director is to “trust the material and present it faithfully, with the innocence, romanticism and the whole largess that transcends realism,” she said. “Audiences can expect to laugh at the hilarious dialogue, be carried away by the romance, transported by the glorious [Frank] Loesser score and excited by the choreography that is dynamic and character driven.”

There are differences between the musical and the movie, she said, especially with some of the main characters.

Abigail Wilson, who plays Miss Adelaide, said the role “is different than any other role I’ve played. She’s very wild in a sense and likes to have a good time. The characters that I usually play are more refined and laid back.”

Abe Gibson plays Sky Masterson.

“Sky Masterson is a very complex character,” he said, “in the sense that he’s trying to be manipulative and gets what he wants, but at the same time, he finds himself falling in love with Sarah Brown. He has all these complex physical and emotional strains together just eating on him throughout the show.”

He said Masterson has some “amazing solo and ensemble songs” such as “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” and “My Time of Day.”

Anna Wise plays Sister Sarah Brown and said she wanted the role because, “Sarah reminds me of myself. She’s very reserved and has something set in her mind that she doesn’t want to change. I thought it would be cool to dig in deeper to that.”

Christian Link plays Nathan Detroit.

“Nathan and I are eerily similar,” Link said. “He cares a lot for everybody around him. He’s still a little big selfish. He wants to do something that he’s passionate about, but he still loves somebody.”

“Guys and Dolls will run April 12-13 at 7 p.m. and April 14 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for students and will be available at the door.

Schools director receives positive assessment from board

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright’s annual evaluation was presented to Wilson County Board of Education last week at its January meeting.

The school board members were the participants in the evaluation. They heard comments from the principals and assistant principals within the district, per Wright’s suggestion.

There were four surveys within the evaluation and multiple questions within each survey. The total of all answers was 100 percent per question, and each board member represented 14 percent. For each question, respondents were asked to respond as to whether they strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree or did not observe.

The first survey was about mission and vision. That is how Wright “promoted the success of all students by facilitating the development, articulation, implementation and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by the school community,” according to the evaluation.

There were six topics under the heading. The first was “establishes and communicates a clear vision for school improvement.” Seventy-two percent of the board said it strongly agreed, while 14 percent agreed and 14 percent were neutral.

Under the heading “in collaboration with others, uses appropriate data to establish rigorous, concrete goals in the context of student achievement and instructional programs,” 58 percent strongly agreed, while 28 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed.

The next category was “uses research and/or best practices for improving the education program.” Fifty-eight percent voted they strongly agreed, 28 percent agreed and 14 percent were neutral.

The fourth category was “articulates and promotes high expectations for teaching and learning.” In that category, 72 percent strongly agreed, 14 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed.

The next statement they were to respond to was, “aligns and implements the educational programs, plans, actions and resources within the district’s vision and goals.” In that area, 43 percent strongly agreed, 43 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed.

The final category under this survey was “provides leadership for major initiatives and change efforts.” In that category, 58 percent strongly agreed, 28 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed.

The next survey was instructional leadership. That is “to provide all students with the opportunity to attain increasing levels of individual achievement that [prepares] them for success.”

There were eight statements, or categories, under the survey.

The first was “recommends to the board, for its adoption, all courses of study, curriculum guides and major changes in tests and time schedule to be used in the schools.” Forty-three percent strongly agreed and 43 percent agreed with the statement. Fourteen percent disagreed.

The second category, “oversees the timely revision of all curriculum guides and courses of study.” In that category, 43 percent strongly agreed, 43 percent agreed and 14 percent were neutral. The third category, “develops guidelines and direction for monitoring the effectiveness of existing and new programs.” Fifty-seven percent strongly agreed, 29 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed.

The fourth category, “keeps board informed regarding developments in other districts or at state and national levels that would be helpful to the district.” Seventy-two percent agreed while 14 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed. The next statement was, “provides a laser-like focus toward identifying and meeting system-wide goals.” Fifty-seven percent agreed, 29 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed.

The sixth statement was, “recruits employees and trains such personnel as may be necessary for increased student achievement.” Twenty-nine percent strongly agreed, 57 percent agree and 14 percent disagreed.

In the next category, “holds meetings of administrators, teachers and other employees as necessary for the discussion of matters concerned increased student success,” 57 percent strongly agreed, 29 percent agreed and 14 percent were neutral.

The final statement in the survey was, “prepares and recommends short- and long-range plans for board approval.” Forty-three percent strongly agreed, 43 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed.

In the community-public relations” category, which was “[building] effective partnerships with all stakeholders,” there were five categories.

The first was, “promotes community and parental support of the schools. Interprets district programs, services, reports, etc.” Fifty-seven percent strongly agreed, 14 percent agreed, 14 percent disagreed and 14 percent did not observe.”

The next was, “identified available community resources.” Forty-three percent strongly agreed, 43 percent agreed, and 14 percent disagreed. Following that category was, “maintains contact and good relations with the local media.” Seventy-two percent strongly agreed, 14 percent agreed and 14 percent were neutral.

The next statement was, “communicates well with the Board of Education.” Fifty-seven percent strongly agreed, 29 percent agreed and 14 percent strongly disagreed. The final statement was, “ensures that district interests are represented in meetings and activities of city, county and other governmental agencies. Seventy-two percent strongly agreed, 14 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed.

In the financial management” area, which was “to monitor and adjust [the] district budget to ensure solvency and optimum benefit for funding sources,” there were four categories.

The first was, “provides direction to and supervision of school business functions.” Fifty-seven percent said they strongly agreed, 29 percent agreed and 14 percent were neutral. The second statement was, “encourages development and strong implementation of sound business practices and assess those practices to achieve efficiency.” Fifty-seven percent said they strongly agreed, 29 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed.

The third category was, “annually prepares budget for board’s approval, and subsequently presents the approved budget to the appropriate committees and county commission for adoption.” Fifty-seven percent said they strongly agreed, 29 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed.

The final category was, “ensures that funds are spent prudently by providing adequate control and accounting of the district’s financial and physical resources.” Fifty-seven percent said they strongly agreed, 14 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed. Fourteen percent did not observe that action.

The participants were allowed to make comments. They were anonymous.

“This past year have proven our Director of Schools Dr. Donna Wright continues to navigate the growth of our county in experience, protecting the strength and integrity of the system as a whole,” said one board member. “She has proven to be a leader in all facets from the [board of education] to the students.”

A second board member said she “communicates well with some of the board.”

Another comment was, “Dr. Wright is a pleasure to work with. She promptly answers questions and follows up to ensure understanding.”

“Dr. Wright continues to move our school system forward academically by focusing on student learning and positive outcomes,” a fourth board member said. “She provides superior leadership while continuing to meet the needs and challenges of our school district during a time of unprecedented growth.”

“I think Dr. Wright is doing an outstanding job,” another board member said. “She is extremely supportive of our employees, and she truly cares about the people we serve.”

The last comment said, “One of Dr. Wright’s strengths is her vision of success and high expectations to achieve them. Most of the highly motivated administrators and teacher work well with these expectations. After interacting at some statewide, I am even more thankful to have Dr. Wright leading our county and am thankful for the team she has assembled.”

School board wants to replace TNReady test with ACT Aspire

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The Wilson County Board of Education discussed the replacement of the TNReady student assessment with ACT Achieve testing for the next school year Thursday night at its meeting.

Officially known as the Wilson County Board of Education Assessment Act of 2019, the measure, which will still fall under the federal government’s Every Student Succeeds Act, permits local education agencies to administer a locally selected assessment in lieu of the state-designated assessment as long as the locally selected assessment is a nationally recognized assessment approved by the state.

TNReady is the current testing program and is part of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, which is given to students from third through eighth grades. It is designed to assess true student understanding, not just basic memorization and test-taking skills.   

According to Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright, the TNReady tests are designed to assess what students know and what can be done to help them succeed.

“The [TNReady] has been plagued by issues that have resulted in assessment results being inconsistent and invalid,” she said.

In the past four years the TNReady tests were given, the program came under fire because of software problems that often slowed the test results or made them unavailable.

Wright said the American College Testing is a nationally recognized high school assessment approved for use by the state.   

“The ACT provides consistent and valid assessment results that measure true student understanding in furtherance of the goal of the,” she said.

“Utilizing the ACT will provide Wilson County Schools with the ability to compare the growth and achievement high school students from year to year. ACT assessment results will provide invaluable information for Wilson County teachers regarding what can be done to help every student succeed.”

While the ACT is given to high school students as a requirement to get into some colleges, a program that branched off the ACT is the ACT Aspire, which offers a system of “aligned summative assessments that can be implemented at a state, district, or school level,” Wright said.

“ACT Aspire provides classrooms, districts and states aggregate growth statistics to measure how much growth occurred in each growth category.”

Wright said ACT Aspire data could be used as an indicator for program effectiveness. 

“ACT Aspire provides a standards-based system of assessments to monitor progress toward college and career readiness for grades three through early high school,” Wright said.

She said both the ACT Aspire and the ACT measure student development of knowledge and skills in English, mathematics, reading, science and writing for third graders through seniors.   

The TNReady test measures knowledge in English-language arts, math, science and social studies.

“The Wilson County Board of Education is committed to maintaining student achievement and growth at the highest level possible,” Wright said. “The ACT Aspire and the ACT will be appropriate and reliable methods of assessment for students. The Wilson County Board of Education shall administer ACT Aspire and the ACT in lieu of the state-designated assessment for students beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. The assessment results shall fulfill the testing accountability requirements under the [TCAP] and the Every Student Succeeds Act.“

There is a cost to the ACT Aspire test, and board member Wayne McNeese asked how the school system would recoup the cost.

“We’re not the only county to do this,” Wright said. “Two years ago, there were seven systems that did this exact same thing. We would ask, if approved, that the cost that would have been expended on TNReady [be used for the ACT Achieve]. That will be part of the request. It’s just not in the resolution itself.”

McNeese asked if the testing is changed, “can we get away from merit-based pay [for teachers]?”

Wright said, “I don’t see that that will be something teachers will look at what they see in their performance pay. It will still measure teacher effectiveness. I think that’s something the board will have to determine that we want to get out from performance pay and what would be the will of the teachers. Those aren’t bonuses.”

Some teachers opted out of the performance pay. Those teachers said they didn’t want the scores to be used against them. More than 400 nullified their scores.

The measure passed unanimously. The resolution will be submitted to the Wilson County Commission’s Education Committee, which will consider it and potentially present it to the full commission.

“[We want] them to acknowledge that this is the right step,” Wright said.

The commission would then present it to the Wilson County legislative delegation, and Wright hopes they would sponsor it as an act in the Tennessee General Assembly for approval. With changes in state leadership, she said she hopes the ACT and ACT Aspire are still viable options for testing.

“I’m hoping there’s still interest in moving this forward as a private act and allowing Wilson County to be able to step out,” Wright said. “Again, we’re not trying to get out of assessments. We’re just looking at something we see as a better model and will give us much-needed information.  Really, [the ACT and ACT Achieve] are parallel to TNReady testing.”

School board OKs resolution to oppose voucher program

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

A voucher program, which would allow students to use public funds to pay for private school tuition is before the Tennessee General Assembly.

Voucher programs also are known as “opportunity scholarships,” “education savings,” “tax credits” or similar terms. The Wilson County Board of Education voted Thursday night to send a resolution to the General Assembly that opposed the voucher program. The board said it would take money away from public schools.

“Proponents have spent millions to convince the public and lawmakers of their efficiency, yet, more than five decades after introduction, vouchers remain controversial, unproven and unpopular,” said Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright.

“In every legislation since 2010, there’s been a voucher bill. Sometimes multiple bills have been put forth. We’ve been told that there are multiple bills that will be put forward this year. Gov.-elect Bill Lee said he is open to supporting vouchers, as well.”

Several lawmakers support the voucher system, including Lee, a Republican, and newly elected House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Thompson’s Station.

The Constitution of the state of Tennessee requires that the Tennessee General Assembly “provide for the maintenance, support and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools,” and the state has established nationally recognized standards and measures for accountability in public education, according to the resolution

“Vouchers eliminate accountability, by channeling taxes to private schools without the same academic or testing requirements, public budgets or reports on student achievement, open meetings and records law adherence, public accountability requirements in major federal laws, including special education laws,” Wright said. “Vouchers have not been proven effective at improving student achievement or closing the achievement gap, and vouchers leave students behind, including those with the greatest needs, because vouchers channel tax dollars into private schools that are not required to accept all students, nor offer the special services they may need.”

Wright said vouchers would only pay for part of the tuition, not the full amount. That would affect students in need, she said. Unlike public schools, the private schools do not have to offer spots to every student who wants to go to the school, she said.

The school systems are paid by the state for each student in the school system. With the voucher system, students would attend a private school. Therefore, the Wilson County school system would not receive money for the students.

Wright said underfunded public schools are less able to attract and retain teachers, and vouchers give choices to private entities, rather than to parents and students, since the providers decide whether to accept vouchers, how many and which students to admit and potentially arbitrary reasons they might dismiss a student.

Wright said she is concerned about the fact vouchers divert critical funds from public schools to pay private school tuition for a few students, including those who already attend private schools.

“Vouchers are inefficient, compelling taxpayers to support two-school systems, one public and one private, the latter of which is not accountable to all taxpayers supporting it,” she said.

The resolution said the Wilson County Board of Education “opposes any legislation or other similar effort to create a voucher program in Tennessee that would divert money intended for public education to private entities.”

The resolution passed unanimously. A copy of the resolution will be delivered to the governor, each member of the Tennessee General Assembly and Wilson County Commission, as well as the state education commissioner.

School board discusses how it follows policies

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Mt. Juliet parent Kristi Dunn accused the Wilson County Board of Education of not following its policies and procedures at its January meeting Thursday night.

“Per the [Tennessee School Board Association] website, policies are guidelines adopted by the board to chart a course of action,” she said in a prepared statement. “They indicate what the board expects and may include why and how much. School board policies are official and legally binding only when approved in an official meeting of the board and written on the minutes.”

She gave the local school board examples of how she believed the board didn’t follow its own policies.

“On Oct. 23, 2018, we had a special-called board meeting requested by our high school principals to solidify a class ranking system and to adopt a grading system to put us in compliance with the state, according to Monty Wilson per The Lebanon Democrat,” she said. “This was not published on our school website in its usual place per board policy 1.402.

“It has come to my attention and others that the exam exemption policy was stricken from the record at the meeting. It also violated policy 1.402 in which the purpose of all special-called board meetings are to be stated. No longer is the exam exemption policy in the written student agenda, handbook or board policy 4.6 that we can find, or central office staff can find. It doesn’t exist.

“In the past few months, we have also ignored policy 1.8 pertaining to the school calendar. The board is to appoint a calendar committee, policy 3.210 the naming of a school. The board is to vote on the name of a school and did not vote on the name of the new middle school. Policy 1.108 ethics: We have an ethics committee that has yet to meet or name a chair or secretary.”

Concerning the exam exemption policy, Dunn said, “We say we are honoring the exam exemption policy, but with these policies having been ignored and no written record, how are parents to trust the board or the district? It is the job of the board to set policy and enforce policies, and if there is a policy you don’t like, then you vote to change it. You don’t ignore it or just don’t follow it or let others ignore it or not follow it. You have your students and parents sign a contract in the handbook at the beginning of the year that we will abide by your policies you have created. But, yet, you yourself don’t. Shouldn’t we expect the same from you?”

According to the Tennessee School Board Association, “When a policy is violated, the board must insist on consequences for the violator. The board can never turn its head and allow its policy to be violated. Certainly, the board must never violate its own policy. It may change or abolish the policy, but never violate it.”

It continues, “Like the law, it is mandatory, not optional that the school board policy be followed. Also like the law, school board policy does not enforce itself. It is imperative that the school board insist that the policies be followed and failure to follow policy results in consequences.”

Wilson County Schools is a member of the TSBA, according to Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson Currently, 126 of 141 school districts in Tennessee are members of the TSBA.

Board member Wayne McNeese brought up the issue at the end of the meeting.

He said the board has never appointed a school calendar committee to make up the official calendar for the 2019-2020 school year. However, a calendar for that year was presented to and approved by the board. In addition, the board also approved a calendar for the 2020-2021 school year, which McNeese said was against board policy.

“There are several things that we should have done on that policy that we did not,” he said, adding the calendar committee members are recommended by the director. “The first line says that, ‘no later than the end of each school year.’ That means we have to do this every year. We cannot, by board policy, do a two-year, three-year or four-year [calendar] in advance, as we have in the past.”

He said the board, “ought to go by policy or we do not, because we did not follow this policy, as far as a calendar committee. Some of the other things that we should have done in here, I want to make a motion that we abolish our current calendar for the 2019-2020 year, because we did not do it per board policy.”

The motion failed 5-2. Board members Linda Armistead, Chad Karl, Tom Sottek, Bill Robinson and Larry Tomlinson voted against it, and Kimberly McGee and McNeese voted for it.

Sottek said the ethics committee should meet to appoint a chair, vice chair and secretary. After discussion, the board decided to meet Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. before the next board meeting. He asked county attorney Mike Jennings what would constitute an ethics complaint that the board would discuss.

“The ethics committee is for someone who has committed an unethical act,” Jennings said, [such as], accepting a gift that is improper.”

Sottek said he wondered about how to examine the board not following policy.

“I guess I’m confused as the purpose of an ethics committee,” Sottek said, asking about following board policy. “I’m wondering if not following policy is something that we should discuss and then bring before the school board.

Jennings said, “You have no choice. You have to follow board policy. But that’s not typically what [is discussed by the ethics committee]. Typically, you think of something illegal or immoral. A difference of opinion is not something that you’ll discuss. It’s not something you use as a political tool.”

McNeese said he agreed with part of that.

“A difference of opinion has nothing to do with this,” McNeese said. “It’s pretty black and white as far as the calendar committee.”

Director of Schools Donna Wright admitted there was no calendar committee, but she said, “We had input from different [people] and had a public information meeting that was not well attended.”

Board chairman Larry Tomlinson said in the past, people on the calendar committee were asked why there is a committee “when [board members] don’t follow it anyway. I’ve always said, ‘I’m going to vote for the calendar the committee recommended,’ and I’ve always done it.

“If it says in the policy that it needs to be a one-year [policy], then that’s what we need to do. If we need to go back and change some policies, then that’s what we need to do.”

Jennings said as far as policy, “It’s got to be followed, and it’s up to the board members to call that out if the board is not following policy.”

McNeese agreed.

“That is correct, and I think it’s time we follow board policy,” he said. “I don’t mean to bring this before the ethics committee. If somebody stole some money, that’s what the ethics committee is for.”

He said he brought up the fact that the board didn’t follow policy when positions were filled.

“It’s up to the board to create positions,” McNeese said. “There is a financial implication to that.  We did nothing when I brought it up before, and I think it’s time that we abide by board policy or make a motion that we do away with all of these policies and start from scratch – one or the other. We’ve got to abide by board policy.”

Friendship Christian School basketball homecoming court

Friendship Christian School will celebrate basketball homecoming Friday. The ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. prior to the games with Davidson Academy.

The homecoming queen is Bayley West, daughter of Bill Bob and Kimberly West, of Lebanon. The homecoming king is Jake Blair, son of Rick and Kristen Blair, of Mt. Juliet. The senior attendant is Cameron Burton, daughter of Terry and Renee Burton, of Lebanon. The senior escort is Landon Crecelius, son of Stephen and Renee Crecelius, of Lebanon. The junior attendant is Mallory Dean, daughter of Jennifer and Charley Dean, of Lebanon. The junior escort is Jaheim Robinson, son of Adam and Kimberly Tune, of Lebanon.

The sophomore attendant is Khia Nicole Young, daughter of Kera Dye and Jerry Young, of Lebanon. The sophomore escort is Cole Cottrell, son of Renn and Nancy Cottrell, of Lebanon. The freshman attendant is Nishika Shah, daughter of Vick and Mona Shah, of Lebanon. The freshman escort is D.J. Rogers son of Amy Flippin, of Gallatin. Pictured (back row, from left) are Rogers, Robinson, Blair, Crecelius, Cottrell, (front row, from left) Shah, Dean, West, Burton and Young.