10 Wilson County schools named Reward schools

By Jared Felkins

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

The state Department of Education named 10 local schools, seven in Wilson County Schools and three Lebanon Special School District schools, as Reward schools, which is the highest honor given annually to individual schools.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced Friday the 2018 Reward and Priority schools, which are two key designations under Tennessee’s school accountability system. It was the first year Tennessee implemented its new school accountability model, which was developed with educators and stakeholders across the state and which looks at multiple measures of success.

Wilson County schools named Reward schools were Mt. Juliet High School, Watertown High School, West Wilson Middle School, Elzie D. Patton Elementary School, Stoner Creek Elementary School, West Elementary School and W.A. Wright Elementary School. No Wilson County schools were named priority schools.

“By any standard, the start of this school year has been exceptional,” said Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright. “Last month, we learned that the district has now achieved a Level 5 status for the academic growth of our students. Nine of our schools – almost half – received the highest ranking possible. Today, we’ve learned that seven of our schools have also achieved Reward School status. I can’t say enough about the hard work and dedication that’s been exerted by our students, teachers and administrators.”

For the second year in a row, the Lebanon Special School District earned exemplary status, which indicated the district exceeded state growth expectations in all indicators. Half of Lebanon schools achieved Reward status. Byars Dowdy Elementary School, Sam Houston Elementary School and Walter J. Baird Middle School were named Reward schools. No Lebanon schools were named Priority schools.

“Our administrators, teachers and students across the system work so hard,” said Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson. “It is a major accomplishment to have half of the schools in the system recognized by the Tennessee Department of Education as Reward schools and for the system overall to be classified as exemplary for the second year in a row. We were celebrating our Level 5 status when the additional accolades were announced. I am extremely proud of everyone involved. We will continue to focus on areas of improvement and, at the same time, celebrate success with our students and teachers.”

Reward schools improved overall student academic achievement and student growth for all students and for student groups, and they are identified annually. In 2018, 318 schools in 85 school districts – about 20 percent of schools in the state – earned Reward status.

Priority schools are identified at least every three years, and they are schools most in need of support and improvement. Priority schools fall into the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state test scores in the past three years and have low graduation rates. Following legislation passed last spring, 2017-18 TNReady data was not used to identify Priority schools. The 2018 Priority list included 82 schools across eight districts, and these schools will be eligible for additional funding and will be supported by the department, in coordination with their districts, to develop a plan to improve.

“In this first year with our new system, it is incredibly encouraging to see more than 300 of our schools are earning Reward status for how they are supporting our students’ academic achievement and growth,” McQueen said. “At the same time, we see a number of places where we need to improve. Our new school improvement model takes a student-focused, evidence-based approach to tailor interventions for our Priority schools, and we will be working closely with these schools and their districts over the coming year to improve academic outcomes and strengthen whole-child services that support student success.”

Tennessee’s new school accountability system was developed through a 16-month process of gathering feedback and hearing input from students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members. Tennessee has designated Reward and Priority schools since 2012, but this was the first year with an updated methodology as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. As part of federal requirements, the plan was submitted to and approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

The new accountability framework is based on principles that all schools can be successful and all Tennessee students must be served well. It includes a variety of measures, including chronic absenteeism and discipline, ACT performance, and TNReady scores, to make a determination. All schools are rated both on how they serve the full student population and how they are specifically serving student groups that have historically been underserved: students with disabilities, English learners, economically disadvantaged students, and black, Hispanic, and Native American students. This fall, the department will publish more information about how all schools perform on these measures as part of a new school dashboard that will be posted online to offer additional information to parents, educators, elected officials, and community leaders.

As part of Tennessee’s new accountability plan, all Priority schools will move into an evidence-based school improvement model, ranging from district-led plans to intervention by the state’s Achievement School District. To better support Tennessee’s lowest performing schools, the state has invested $20 million into school improvement over the last two years. This funding is specifically devoted for Priority schools.

County’s graduation rate dips slightly

By Jared Felkins

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

Wilson County Schools’ graduation rate for 2018 dipped slightly from the previous year’s rate, and one high school had a slight increase in graduation rate.

Overall among Wilson County’s four high schools, the 2018 graduation rate was 95.6 percent, which fell 0.6 percent from the previous year when it was 96.2 percent. Out of 1,553 seniors, 1,484 graduated in 2018, compared to 1,553 seniors and 1,512 graduates in 2017.

“In tracking district graduation rates, we have consistently scored above the 95 percent graduation rate each year as set by the [Tennessee Department of Education],” said Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright. “ As Wilson County Schools continues to grow, we are committed to ensuring students, parents, teachers and administrators work together so our students can reap the benefits of an excellent education. We also commend each of our high schools for their diligence and commitment to every student in making sure they stay on track to graduate on time and have a postsecondary plan once they graduate high school.”

Lebanon High School was the only high school in Wilson County that had an increase in graduation rate in 2018 compared to 2017. Lebanon’s graduation rate rose 0.3 percent to 93.2 percent, compared to 92.9 percent in 2017. Out of 459 seniors, 428 graduated in 2018, compared to 449 seniors and 417 graduates in 2017.

Mt. Juliet High School’s graduation rate fell 0.4 percent to 98 percent in 2018 compared to 2017. Out of 502 seniors, 492 graduated in 2018, compared to 507 seniors and 499 graduates in 2017.

After it celebrated one of the highest graduation rates in the state and the highest in Wilson County in 2017, Watertown High School’s graduation rate had the most significant decrease in 2018, compared to the previous year. Watertown’s graduation rate fell 1.9 percent to 97.3 percent, compared to 99.2 percent in 2017. Out of 113 seniors, 110 graduated in 2018, compared to 118 seniors and 117 in 2017.

Wilson Central High School’s graduation rate fell 1.2 percent to 94.9 percent in 2018 compared to 96.1 in 2017. Out of 469 seniors, 445 graduated in 2018, compared to 486 seniors and 467 graduates in 2017.

State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said the 2017-18 high school graduation rate held steady at 89.1 percent, which is the highest graduation rate on record for Tennessee. This year, more than 56 percent of districts with high schools statewide saw their graduation rates improve when compared to last year’s rates.

“Our schools and districts should be proud that once again we have hit our state’s highest graduation rate on record while still holding our students to high expectations,” McQueen said. “By continuing to raise the expectations, we are signaling that Tennessee students are leaving high school with the knowledge and skills to be successful in college and the workforce. This graduation rate is a testament to the work being done by teachers and students in schools across the state.”

Under the Haslam administration, Tennessee set high expectations for both students and educators, and students have made significant gains as a result. As part of the work, the state transitioned to a more rigorous calculation for graduation rates in 2011, and even under the new criteria, rates have continued to rise.

Additionally, the state raised the bar for graduation expectations when the state Board of Education included participation in the ACT or SAT as a graduation requirement for Tennessee students. This year’s results are the first to reflect the change in accountability.

For 2018, the most notable gains and overall achievements in the state were:

• 9 districts improved their graduation rates by 5 percent or more. The districts with the most significant gains were Union City at 9.4 percent, Richard City at 8.7 percent, Van Buren County at 8.4 percent, Sequatchie County at 7.6 percent and Bledsoe County at 6.5 percent.

• 44 districts – more than one-third of the districts in the state with high schools –had graduation rates at or above 95 percent, an increase from last year.

• 106 districts – nearly 81 percent of the districts in the state – had graduation rates at or higher than 90 percent, an increase from 98 districts last year. Richard City, Oneida Special School District, Alcoa City and Morgan County all had graduation rates at or higher than 99 percent.

• 22 schools across 15 districts had graduation rates of 100 percent.

Community grieves loss of teen who drowned

By Jared Felkins

Keon Dotson

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

WATERTOWN – A tight-knit community continued Monday to mourn the loss of a 17-year-old boy who drowned Saturday while swimming at Old Hickory Lake.

Wilson Emergency Management Agency divers found the body of Elijah Keon Dotson, of Watertown, on Saturday evening after about a three-hour underwater search at Cedar Creek Boat Ramp in Mt. Juliet. 

Dotson was a senior at Watertown High School. He previously played football and was a member of the track and field team. According to Watertown High School principal Jeff Luttrell, counselors were made available Monday to students who needed support. 

“We are so saddened as a school and community at the loss of our student, Keon Dotson,” Luttrell said. “He possessed a powerful smile and a personality that drew people to want to know him. We will take every step possible to ensure we assist our students as they grieve the loss of a friend and classmate.”

A community prayer service was held Sunday evening in the library at Watertown Middle School, organized by the Bridge’s parents of teens life group and the church’s youth group. All community members and students were invited to participate. 

According to social media posts, students and faculty wore red Monday to school in honor of Dotson. According to a tweet by a member of the football team, the Purple Tigers dedicated their season to Dotson, and the student section plans to have a “red out” during Friday night’s game against Westmoreland. 

Wilson County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Moore said the incident on Old Hickory Lake happened Saturday at about 2:30 p.m., and divers found the Dotson’s body at about 6 p.m. He said Dotson tried to swim to a buoy beyond the swim area, and there was a change in water depth where he went under and was unable to surface. 

Wilson County sheriff’s boat patrol and Wilson Emergency Management Agency water rescue crews searched for Dotson on Saturday afternoon in Mt. Juliet. 

WEMA director Joey Cooper said divers were called to the boat ramp to search for the teen. Moore said it’s believed no foul play was involved. 

Cedar Creek Boat Ramp is at 9264 Saundersville Road in Mt. Juliet. Old Hickory Lake is part of the Cumberland River.

Ten local schools named Reward schools

By Jared Felkins

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

The state Department of Education named 10 local schools, seven in Wilson County Schools and three Lebanon Special School District schools, as Reward schools, which is the highest honor given annually to individual schools.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced Friday the 2018 Reward and Priority schools, which are two key designations under Tennessee’s school accountability system. It was the first year Tennessee implemented its new school accountability model, which was developed with educators and stakeholders across the state and which looks at multiple measures of success.  

Wilson County schools named Reward schools were Mt. Juliet High School, Watertown High School, West Wilson Middle School, Elzie D. Patton Elementary School, Stoner Creek Elementary School, West Elementary School and W.A. Wright Elementary School. No Wilson County schools were named priority schools. 

“By any standard, the start of this school year has been exceptional,” said Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright. “Last month, we learned that the district has now achieved a Level 5 status for the academic growth of our students. Nine of our schools – almost half – received the highest ranking possible. Today, we’ve learned that seven of our schools have also achieved Reward School status. I can’t say enough about the hard work and dedication that’s been exerted by our students, teachers and administrators.”

For the second year in a row, the Lebanon Special School District earned exemplary status, which indicated the district exceeded state growth expectations in all indicators. Half of Lebanon schools achieved Reward status. Byars Dowdy Elementary School, Sam Houston Elementary School and Walter J. Baird Middle School were named Reward schools. No Lebanon schools were named Priority schools.

“Our administrators, teachers and students across the system work so hard,” said Lebanon Director of Schools Scott Benson. “It is a major accomplishment to have half of the schools in the system recognized by the Tennessee Department of Education as Reward schools and for the system overall to be classified as exemplary for the second year in a row. We were celebrating our Level 5 status when the additional accolades were announced. I am extremely proud of everyone involved. We will continue to focus on areas of improvement and, at the same time, celebrate success with our students and teachers.” 

Reward schools improved overall student academic achievement and student growth for all students and for student groups, and they are identified annually. In 2018, 318 schools in 85 school districts – about 20 percent of schools in the state – earned Reward status.  

Priority schools are identified at least every three years, and they are schools most in need of support and improvement. Priority schools fall into the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state test scores in the past three years and have low graduation rates. Following legislation passed last spring, 2017-18 TNReady data was not used to identify Priority schools. The 2018 Priority list included 82 schools across eight districts, and these schools will be eligible for additional funding and will be supported by the department, in coordination with their districts, to develop a plan to improve.  

“In this first year with our new system, it is incredibly encouraging to see more than 300 of our schools are earning Reward status for how they are supporting our students’ academic achievement and growth,” McQueen said. “At the same time, we see a number of places where we need to improve. Our new school improvement model takes a student-focused, evidence-based approach to tailor interventions for our Priority schools, and we will be working closely with these schools and their districts over the coming year to improve academic outcomes and strengthen whole-child services that support student success.”    

Tennessee’s new school accountability system was developed through a 16-month process of gathering feedback and hearing input from students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members. Tennessee has designated Reward and Priority schools since 2012, but this was the first year with an updated methodology as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. As part of federal requirements, the plan was submitted to and approved by the U.S. Department of Education.  

The new accountability framework is based on principles that all schools can be successful and all Tennessee students must be served well. It includes a variety of measures, including chronic absenteeism and discipline, ACT performance, and TNReady scores, to make a determination. All schools are rated both on how they serve the full student population and how they are specifically serving student groups that have historically been underserved: students with disabilities, English learners, economically disadvantaged students, and black, Hispanic, and Native American students. This fall, the department will publish more information about how all schools perform on these measures as part of a new school dashboard that will be posted online to offer additional information to parents, educators, elected officials, and community leaders.  

As part of Tennessee’s new accountability plan, all Priority schools will move into an evidence-based school improvement model, ranging from district-led plans to intervention by the state’s Achievement School District. To better support Tennessee’s lowest performing schools, the state has invested $20 million into school improvement over the last two years. This funding is specifically devoted for Priority schools.  

Schools appoints committee to name new high school

Staff Reports

With construction underway on Wilson County’s fifth high school, it’s time to start thinking about a name for the new school.  

In conjunction with school board policy, Director of Schools Donna Wright appointed 12 people to the naming committee, including a combination of school board members, community leaders, parents and a recent graduate, who once served as a student board member.  

The committee members are Zone 1 board member Wayne McNeese, Zone 2 board member Linda Armistead, Lakeview Elementary School principal Tracy Burge, W.A. Wright Elementary School principal Bryan Adams, community member Tommy Hibbitt, former Wilson County Commissioner Terry Muncher, former Commissioner Becky Siever, Mt. Juliet planning director Jennifer Stewart, Parents of Wilson County Schools Facebook group administrator Angela Butler, Mt. Juliet High School Parent-Teacher Organization president Julie Ruesewald, community volunteer Britt Linville and Wilson County High School alumnus Preston George. 

School board policy requires all schools be named for:

• the area or community in which the school is located.

• a street, or bordering street, where the school is located.

• a local leader who has made an outstanding contribution to education.

Wilson County Schools officials also seek input from the community. Anyone who has an idea about a potential name for the school may submit it to the school district’s Facebook page on a post to solicit ideas or email ideas to the district via Let’s Talk at wcschools.com.

City approves new high school measures

By Angie Mayes

Angie Mayes • Mt. Juliet News
Melba Checote-Eads with the Trail of Tears commemorative event and Valeria Braun with Grace Methodist Churc, hold the city’s proclamation regarding the Trail of Tears commemorative walk.

Special to the Democrat

Green Hill High School, the planned newest high school in Wilson County, is one step closer to construction, thanks to two votes by the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners last Monday night.

The school will be on about 1.84 acres in Mt. Juliet. For Mt. Juliet to provide services to the school, the land first had to annexed into the city. The measure went without input from citizens and was approved unanimously.

Next, commissioners voted to provide a plan of services for the school. The plan of services includes police and fire protection, as well as road and other infrastructure services to the property. That item, also without pubic comment, was approved unanimously.

Grant money from the Metropolitan Planning Organization for alternative transportation projects such as bike paths and sidewalks was awarded to the city. The MPO is a multi-county organization that manages local transportation requests and recommends money to be given to communities by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

The grant was for $811,812. The city will add an additional $202,953 to the mix for the more than $1 million project. The entire widening project will begin at the Mt. Juliet Road Interstate 40 eastbound onramp and will extend to Parkwood Drive to create two new lanes that will go northbound over I-40. The grant is specifically for bike lanes and sidewalks.

Another grant for the Mt. Juliet Intelligent Transportation System will give the city about $2.3 million with no city match required. The project is designed to allow traffic signals along the Mt. Juliet Road corridor from Central Pike to City Hall to be synchronized to allow travelers to make it through all of the lights without stopping, Mayor Ed Hagerty said.

A grant to extend the Lebanon Road sidewalks project from North Mt. Juliet Road to Park Glen Drive was also approved. This is the second part of the project. The grant, for $140,000 with a $35,000 match from the city, will pay for a sidewalk along one side of Park Glen Drive to connect with an existing sidewalk in Park Glen subdivision. Pedestrian traffic signals the length of the project will also be incorporated.

The commissioners also approved the International Residential Code, the International Fire Code and the International Building Code updates to include in their various building codes. The measure will take effect Jan. 1. 

“That will give the businesses and developers who have questions time to contact us,” Hagerty said. 

The code affects all structures whose plans have not yet been approved. Those current structures and those on commissioner-approved building plans and plats will not be affected.

The commissioners also delayed approval of a list of grants to nonprofits that affect Mt. Juliet residents. Hagerty said he wanted to hear from four new applicants about what they do and what their plans for the money would be. The measure will be discussed at the commission’s Sept. 24 meeting.

Members of the city’s ethics committee were approved. Darryl Blankenship, Harry Jester, Rick Rodriguez, Sam English and Matt Smith were named to the commission. The mayor and commissioners each nominated a person for the commission.

Hagerty also read a proclamation about the Trail of Tears Memorial Day, which is in conjunction with the 15th annual Commemorative “Trail of Tears” Walk on Sept. 15 at Grace United Methodist Church at 3085 Mt. Juliet Road in Mt. Juliet.

The Commemorative “Trail of Tears” Walk recognizes the hardships suffered by the five civilized tribes who were removed from the Southeast, including the Cherokee, Muscogee or Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole.

They were the tribes of the Southeast who were forced to remove to Oklahoma Indian Territory after the passage of the Indian Removal Act 1830. The forced Indian removal became known as the “Trail of Tears.” 

Also announced at the meeting was the 37th-annual Pow-Wow, which will take place Sept. 22-23 at Mundy Park in Mt. Juliet.

Foreign exchange students learn American values

By Tonia Cunningham

Zoe Boizaod

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The transition from childhood into adulthood can be difficult for most, but for students in the American Field Service intercultural program, it can be a culture shock.

The organization held a meeting last weekend at Cedars of Lebanon State Park, organized by American Field Service public relations officer Barbara Willis and chair Becky Haywood. The purpose of the meeting was for students to learn more about AFS and American values.

American Field Service Intercultural Program is an exchange program for young people 15-18 years old. The program promotes world peace and understanding. Many of the students in the program are from foreign countries. They stay with host families in the United States while they attend school. 

“As far as culture shock goes, the family who I stay with does not eat together,” said Zoe Boizaod, an exchange student from France. My family in France eats together. In addition, teachers at Mt. Juliet High School where I attend try to learn about the students. Educators in France do not do that.” 

The program started with ambulance drivers in 1947. Young men could not be drafted for World War II if they had a disability. At that time, there were 52 young people in the program. 

“Since that time, the program has progressed into an event where American students can study aboard,” said Haywood.

The program’s success has since opened up many opportunities financially. Students can currently apply for scholarships. Those financial awards include National Security Language Initiative and Youth Exchange Study. The deadline for NSLI is Oct. 30 and Dec. 1 for YES.

Anyone who would like to become a part of the action can do so, and more volunteers are needed. To volunteer, fill out an application at afsusa.org-volunteer-withafs.

Wilson County Schools report successes in wake of growth

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

The Wilson County Board of Education held its September work session and meeting Thursday where they reported record numbers for achievements in English, mathematics and science.

Director of Schools Donna Wright said the district as a whole ranked Level 5, the highest-ranking possible, in the recent TN Ready assessement, a feat that has never happened in the past. 

Wright presented information and a slideshow that reported 76 percent of schools were at Level 3 or higher with 43 percent of schools at Level 5. 

In science, Wilson County ranked in the top 10 for science achievement and improvement. In English-language arts, Wilson County exceeded the state achievement average with third through fifth grades ranked in the top 10 for achievement, and in math, Wilson County exceeded the state achievement average. 

Wright praised the district’s teachers, administrators and staff for their efforts to continue to improve education for all students.

“We are all making steady gains, and it’s all taking place in the classroom,” Wright said. “Our kids are definitely benefiting.”

Wright also said about one third of the schools in the district will be recognized as reward schools Sept. 21. She said the schools hit goals based on both achievement and growth, with more details to be provided about the recognition in the coming days.

Providence United Methodist Church recently donated $10,000 to Wilson County Schools, with $500 going to each school to address delinquent lunch accounts, which ensures students who are not able to pay for lunch are still able to eat.

Wright said Angel McCloud, an attorney with expertise in special education, was hired as deputy director of special education, a new position created and included in the current budget to ensure the system properly handles special education challenges. 

Wright said in October, candidates would be interviewed for positions at the new Gladeville Middle School, which is scheduled to open in 2019.

Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall gave a presentation to the board to show projections of the increase in students with rezoning suggestions for middle schools to accommodate the influx of students. Hall said it was only suggestions based on student population growth and that he will give updates to the board throughout the year to keep everyone up to date with growth.

Hall also said construction continues at the new Gladeville Middle School, which is currently getting a new roof, and it will open in 2019.

Ben Baker with CareHere, a Nashville-based employee health care provider, gave an annual report on the state of Wilson County School employees’ health. Baker said Wilson County Schools showed the greatest amount of savings of any school district that works with CareHere. He said using Wilson County Schools as a model of how to get the best out of health care for employees and reported strong numbers of employees doing preventative screenings. CareHere has worked with Wilson County Schools for 10 years.

County attorney Mike Jennings gave his report and called a 10-minute recess to speak in private with the board to discuss pending litigation. No action was taken as Jennings was only giving information to the board in the closed meeting. Jennings pointed out while he is able to have discussions about litigations in private with the board, any actions or votes must be made in public.

Recommendations from Wright to have surplus cubicles given to Wilson County government passed unanimously. 

Approval of a the school facilities use procedures, along with another line item, was delayed until October’s meeting to give board members more time to research the issue. The facilities use procedures refer to the discussion to require at least one school system employee present when a non-school group uses a facility.

The board unanimously approved to retain Melissa Lynn as a member of the Wilson County Education Association Sick Bank and approved the fixed asset missing inventory list.

The board also unanimously approved naming the Mt. Juliet Middle School football field after NASA astronaut and former student Barry E. Wilmore, along with approving the textbook adoption committee recommendations for new science textbooks. 

A motion for Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris to submit an application to the Tennessee School Boards Association Convention School of the Year Awards for the central office was passed unanimously.

The first reading of the attendance during postsecondary school visits board policy was passed unanimously. The policy allows for college visits and tours to be counted as excused absences.

Upon final reading, approval of a board policy for personal, professional and bereavement leave and a policy for sick leave was passed unanimously.

The board voted to re-elect Larry Tomlinson as board chair with a 5-1 vote and to elect Linda Armistead as vice-chair with a 5-1 vote. Board member Wayne McNeese was the no vote on both.

The board also voted to re-nominate Bill Robinson as the Tennessee School Board Association – Tennessee Legislative Network member and Linda Armistead as the Federal Relations Network member both with a 6-1 vote with both Robinson and Armistead abstaining from their respective votes.

Board members Kimberly McGee and Tom Sottek were both elected and voted in as the two sick leave bank committee members, which passed 5-2.

McNeese, Sottek and Chad Karl were all nominated by Larry Tomlinson to serve as ethics committee members where they all were voted in to the role with a 5-2 vote.

Wright recognized all Wilson County principals with plaques to commemorate their Level 5 rankings.

The board recognized new student-school board members who represented their schools with a progress report on activities and happenings at the high schools.

Third graders from Elzie D. Patton performed space-themed songs for the school board, complete with aliens and astronauts.

Committee to determine new school name

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said she plans to name a committee at the next school board meeting to be in charge of naming the new high school.

Wright also said a school mascot and colors would be determined as soon as possible, as they are important to the design element of the school, but the name would come first.

Wright said the committee would make all the decisions based on existing of Wilson County Schools’ policies.

According to board policy, schools will be named either for the area or community in which the school is located, after the street the school is on or a street that borders the school site or after a well-known street in the community. Schools may also be named after local leaders who have made an outstanding contribution to the field of education.

The school has received a lot of attention from early discussions of the project, with the public’s focus currently set on the future name and mascot. One popular suggestion on social media is to name the school Barry E. Wilmore High School in honor of NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore, a Mt. Juliet native and graduate of Mt. Juliet High School. Mascot ideas have ranged from Gladiators, Knights, Longhunters and Spartans to animals of all kinds such as Grizzlies, Eagles, Hornets, Goats, Gators, Brown Recluses, Bison, Ducks, Coyotes, Cougars, Bobcats, Hawks, Honey Badgers and even Hedgehogs or Platypuses. There are also suggestions for more mythical creatures such as Gorgons, Nimbys, Flaming Hearts and Griffins to be the new mascot.

Education and government officials broke ground on the new high school Wednesday, which is currently referred to as Green Hill High School due to where it will be built. The site for the school is near the intersection of Lebanon Road and North Greenhill Road in the Green Hill community and is set to open in August 2020.

The school board will meet Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. at the central office at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon.

Haslam announces TNReady engagement process, listening tour

Staff Reports

NASHVILLE –Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday a multi-phase plan, highlighted by a statewide listening tour, to improve delivery of the state’s elementary and secondary assessments known as TNReady.

Haslam said the goals of the engagement plan and tour are to:

• engage in an open conversation about assessment and ways to improve administration.

• gather feedback that can inform a smooth delivery of state assessments this school year and beyond, including feedback on the selection of the state’s next assessment partner to be chosen later this school year.

• discuss how to better provide schools, educators, parents and students with meaningful and timely results from assessments.

• distinguish assessment content from delivery in an effort to focus on the value assessments can provide.

“Tennessee’s unprecedented improvement in education is the result of high academic standards and an assessment that measures knowledge of those standards,” Haslam said. “Without aligned assessments, we don’t know where our students stand and where we need to improve. We finally have a test that is aligned to Tennessee’s strong academic standards, and I don’t want recent assessment delivery issues to cause us to lose sight of why we have these tests in the first place. Delivering the test without disruption is essential and we must get it right. I am confident this listening tour and process will inform the critical work ahead of us.”

The listening tour will consist of six stops throughout the state and provide an opportunity for educators, school technology and assessment coordinators and school district administrators to share information about recent challenges related to the online delivery of state assessments.

Each meeting will encourage feedback on how the state can continue to improve its assessment; a discussion of steps made to-date to improve test administration in 2018-19; and a conversation on ways to improve test delivery through the oversight and selection of the state’s next assessment partner, which will happen later in the school year. Haslam and Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen will attend each leg of the tour.

Haslam has tapped former longtime educator and former executive director of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents Wayne Miller to facilitate the listening tour meetings and outcomes.

“As someone who has spent his entire career in public education, I know when difficult issues arise it often takes more listening than talking to resolve them and move forward in partnership and collaboration,” Miller said. “I am excited about the process the governor has put forward and honored to facilitate conversations with educators throughout the state. We are all in this together.”

To assist with the listening tour, Haslam convened an educator advisory team to guide the feedback sessions with Miller. Advisory team members will participate in each meeting, gather information and feedback and develop a set of principles and recommendations for consideration by the governor as well as the next administration. The three-member advisory team includes:

• Cicely Woodard, 2018 Tennessee Teacher of the Year and a math teacher at Freedom Middle School in Franklin Special School District.

• Derek Voiles, 2017 Teacher of the Year and an English as a Second Language teacher at Lincoln Heights Middle School in Hamblen County School District.

• Mike Winstead, current Tennessee Superintendent of the Year and Maryville director of schools.

“Tennessee educators are committed to improving educational outcomes for our students, and assessments are an important and necessary component for us to meet that commitment,” Woodard said. “I am appreciative of the governor’s recognition of the need to continue to get feedback, and I look forward to working with the governor and educators to improve assessment delivery.”

The listening tour will begin Friday in Knoxville and be followed by stops planned for Hamilton County, Shelby County, Williamson County, Greene County and Gibson County. Specific locations and times weren’t finalized.

Following the listening tour, the next phases of the process will include implementation of feedback from the listening tour, refining the requirements of the state’s next assessment partner, provide on-the-ground oversight of the fall test administration and development of opportunities for feedback from educators and stakeholders.

Groundbreaking set for new high school

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

The groundbreaking will be Wednesday for a new high school in Mt. Juliet, collectively known as Green Hill High School, although the school has yet to be officially named.

The groundbreaking will be at 4 p.m. near the intersection of Lebanon Road and Greenhill Road. Signs will be posted at the intersection to direct the public where the event will take place.

The new high school was a contentious topic among the public who has been divided on the location, pricing and need, although many of those opposed to the school maintain they are not anti-school. The Wilson County Commission was also split on the new school, mainly regarding how to fund its construction.

The commission voted 18-6 to take out $107 million in bonds to pay for the school after supporters and opposition packed commission chambers and flowed into the hallways for hours. The commission also voted to put a ½-cent sales tax referendum on the Nov. 6 general election ballot as a potential funding source.

Commissioners Bobby Franklin, Jerry McFarland, Dan Walker, John Gentry, Terry Ashe and Frank Bush voted against the bonds. Commissioners Becky Siever, Adam Bannach, Chad Barnard, Kenny Reich, Terry Scruggs, Sara Patton, Sonja Robinson, Jeff Joines, Mike Justice, Diane Weathers, Gary Keith, Terry Muncher, William Glover, Annette Stafford, Wendell Marlowe, Sue Vanatta, Joy Bishop and Jim Embrton voted for them. Commissioner Cindy Brown was absent.

The Wilson County school board unanimously approved the decision Aug. 13 to send the funding request of $107 million for the school to the commission.

While the topic of the school has captivated and irritated people for months, there is little doubt the school isn’t needed as Wilson County continues to experience unprecedented growth, especially in schools.

The new high school will accommodate 2,000 students when it opens. More detailed information, including heat maps, property studies and impact studies, may be found at wcschools.com/page/1478.

Wilson County teachers won’t get extra raise

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Wilson County teachers won’t get an additional raise this year, following the Wilson County Commission’s vote Aug. 20 to strike it down.

Commissioner Jeff Joines made the motion and argument to give teachers additional pay. The measure was to take $1.5 million from the general fund to give teachers an additional 2-percent raise.

County finance director Aaron Maynard said if the money was taken out of the budget, after the commission voted to take $1 million out of the general fund and $500,000 from the special-funded school tax, it would cause the county to “be in the red” in terms of finances.

Commissioners who voted to take the $1.5 million out for teachers were Becky Siever, Terry Scruggs, Sonja Robinson, Joines, Annette Stafford and Wendell Marlowe. Commissioners who voted against it were Bobby Franklin, Chad Barnard, Jerry McFarland, Kenny Reich, Frank Bush, Sara Patton, Dan Walker, John Gentry, Terry Ashe, Mike Justice, Diane Weathers, Gary Keith, Terry Muncher, William Glover, Sue Vanatta, Joy Bishop and Jim Emberton. Commissioner Adam Bannach abstained from voting.

The Wilson County Schools’ budget also approved by the commission Monday includes a 2-percent raise in the form of performance pay. The performance pay is typically based on principal evaluations and state testing results, but since state testing was hold harmless last year due to complications, test scores didn’t count against teachers. About 83 percent of teachers are eligible to receive pay increases based on last year’s performance.

The additional 2 percent mentioned Monday was an across-the-board pay increase for teachers, according to Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto.

Wilson County Schools received $1.9 million in growth money from the county, but used those funds for other purposes such as hiring more teachers and staff, among other things.

Hutto said the school system received the $1.9 million, $4.5 million in Basic Education Program funds and $650,000 in sales tax revenue. Hutto said the district could use that money for raises.

Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson said the growth fund money is usually used to hire teachers to keep the student-teacher ratio at a reasonable number. She added the BEP and sales tax revenues got into the general operating budget for the school system.

“We have used that growth money for teacher raises in the past, but we have to be sure we’re getting those funds,” Johnson said. “The time we used those dollars was a one-time

bonus.”

Joines said Tuesday he thinks the $1.5 million would come out of the wrong fund.

“I made a motion to give 2-percent teachers a raise,” he said. “We’re really behind in raises. I hope that when new commission comes on board they find a way to really fund a substantial teacher raise. The teachers need it. We asked our teachers to make sure kids have a good education. The teachers go above and beyond. They’re holding up their end of the deal, and it’s time. I hope we can find a way in the future to make that happen.”

Maynard said the projected growth fund included about $5 million this year, which comes from added property tax revenues due to the county’s growth. He said since 2016, anytime growth is more than 3.5 percent, county employees automatically get a 1.5-percent raise and an additional .5 percent goes into the insurance fund for a 2-percent pay increase. The raises will be funded by about $750,000 from the growth fund. But that doesn’t apply to teachers.

Maynard also said other proposed plans for the growth fund this year included $1.9 million to Wilson County Schools, which was already included in the district’s proposed budget, $373,000 to Lebanon Special School District, about $300,000 to the Road Department, $107,000 to the Solid Waste Department and $510,000 to debt services. That left about $1.1 million remaining, but Maynard said county departments submitted about $2 million in needs.

The Wilson County Education Committee previously approved an additional 4-percent raise for classroom teachers at a July 23 joint meeting with the Budget Committee. That amount, it said at the time, could be funded without a tax increase.

Budget Committee chair Mike Justice said when all the needs were met that could be funded Monday night, there was about $42,000 left. He said he couldn’t see a way to fund a teacher pay increase without a tax increase of some sort.

“There wasn’t any growth money [left],” Justice previously said. “We gave the school system their growth money. It’s growth money. We didn’t take any growth away from the schools. They are getting all that growth.

“There were other departments that had needs, and we divided the remaining growth money among those other departments that submitted needs.”

Justice said the way Wilson County Schools included its growth funds in its proposed budget was odd, but it was approved, regardless.

“It’s kind of weird that they did that this year,” Justice said. “We had to kind of break it down in the budget meeting and pull it out to approve them separately, but the schools got all of their growth money.”

A proposal also surfaced recently to fund the teacher pay raises from the county’s general fund, but Justice said it wouldn’t work as a long-term solution.

“You could give them a one-time pay increase, but there’s not enough there to sustain it,” he said.

Based on the nearly $50 million currently budgeted for teacher salaries in Wilson County Schools’ proposed budget, an additional nearly $2 million in reoccurring funds would be needed to give teachers a 4-percent raise.

The 4-percent raise approved by the Education Committee in July was a far cry from the 12.5-percent pay increase proposed by Wilson County Board of Education member Tom Sottek and approved by the school board in May.

According to Maynard, nearly $9.4 million in reoccurring funds would be needed to fund a 12.5-percent pay increase for teachers.

Maynard said if it were funded solely through a property tax increase, it would add 23 cents to the 2.5189 total tax rate. A homeowner with a home valued at $200,000 in Wilson County currently pays $1,260 in property taxes, and the 12.5-percent raise would mean a $115 increase, according to Maynard.

According to the state Department of Education, the most recent figures available for the 2016-2017 school year showed the state average at $50,099. Wilson County’s average teacher pay came in at $48,049 and ranked 55th in the state, according to the most recent figures.

Sottek said he arrived at 12.5 percent mainly because the average $6,000 annual increase in teacher pay would increase the overall average to just more than $54,000, which is nearly $4,000 above the state average and would move Wilson County to 15th in the state just ahead of Lebanon Special School District, according to the most recent figures. Sottek said it would make Wilson County Schools significantly more competitive among neighboring school systems.

Since 2010, the Wilson County Commission has only increased property taxes once to fund a salary raise for teachers. It happened in 2016 when the commission approved an 8.1-cent property tax increase to generate $2.6 million annually. The money funded and continues to fund a pay increase of $1,000 annually for teachers with less than five years with the district, $2,000 increase for teachers with between six to nine years with the district and a $3,000 increase for teachers with 10 or more years with the district. A state Department of Education report showed teacher pay in 2015-2016 was $45,624 and $48,049 in 2016-2017, a $2,425 increase on average.

County votes to build new high school

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The Wilson County Commissioners voted Aug. 20 for the county to take out $107 million in bonds to pay for the construction of the new Green Hill High School in Mt. Juliet.

The vote was 18-6 to take out the bonds. Commissioners Bobby Franklin, Jerry McFarland, Dan Walker, John Gentry, Terry Ashe and Frank Bush voted against the measure. Commissioners Becky Siever, Adam Bannach, Chad Barnard, Kenny Reich, Terry Scruggs, Sara Patton, Sonja Robinson, Jeff Joines, Mike Justice, Diane Weathers, Gary Keith, Terry Muncher, William Glover, Annette Stafford, Wendell Marlowe, Sue Vanatta, Joy Bishop and Jim Embrton voted for it. Commissioner Cindy Brown was absent.

“I’m wondering if we’ve had the opportunity to look at other funding methods,” said Bishop. “Could we put it to a referendum in November, because if we pass this now, [the funding] could be pushed on the back burner. I would like to see other funding methods with that so we wouldn’t have to take so much out and do creative financing. I don’t want anyone to tell me I’m not for the school, but I want to look at other ways to fund it.”

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said the funding boiled down to two options, to take $1 million out of the General Fund and $500,000 out of the special school tax fund or increase the adequate facilities tax from $1,000 to $4,000. That is money paid by builders when permits are taken out to build homes.

Earlier in the meeting, the commission voted 12-12 to raise the adequate facilities tax. The motion failed for lack of a majority.

“We said those are the two options that you had,” Hutto said. “We don’t want to raise the property tax or wheel tax. If you want to build the school, then this is how we will do it. If you don’t want to vote for it, vote ‘no.’ But the funding is not going to change next month or six months down the road.”

Finance director Aaron Maynard said the only other option was to increase the sales tax ½ cent to the state maximum of 9.75 percent.

“Increasing the sales tax is the only other way,” Maynard said. “That would be done on a special referendum in November.”

“I think the people would support that,” Bishop said. “I think the school system would support that. I’m for the schools, and I don’t want anyone to tell me I’m not for the schools, but I don’t necessarily want to do it this way.”

Hutto said the money that would be taken out of the General Fund and special schools tax fund will not hurt the county coffers. That is what Maynard and financial consultant Ashley McAnulty with Stephens Financial, the group who sells the bonds for the county, told the commission at a budget workshop in July.

Justice told the commissioners Maynard has said without “burdening the taxpayers, we can fund the school. If you delay this, you might want to add 3-5 percent. The bids will fail, and we’ll have to go out to bid again. If you think it’s going to be the same as the bid is now, I’ve got some property I want to sell you. It’s not going to happen. Right now, your finance director is telling you that you can build this school with the surplus you have now.“

Bush said the county already funded Lebanon High School, and Green Hill High School will put it further in debt.

Maynard said to help with that problem, the commission should impose a 5-cent property tax hike.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” he said. “If you want a $100 million high school, then perhaps you need to generate funds to pay for it – not by fancy financing that’s going to put off paying for the principal in the future. What’s going to happen six months down the road when we need another school? We’re not going to be able to do it, because we have excessive principal payments we have deferred.”

After that discussion ended in the vote to approve the school funding by bonds, the commission voted to put the sales tax increase on a referendum during the Nov. 6 election.

If passed, the money raised by the sales tax increase cannot be moved into the fund to pay for the school funding for one year. After that, the money, if allocated for the school fund, can be used to pay for the bond.

Wilson Central debuts video production trailer

By Angie Mayes

Special to the Democrat

Wilson Central High School sports information department students debuted their new 24-foot media trailer recently that will allow the department to film sports and other events, edit footage and prepare it for broadcast while in the field.

“This is a culmination of a lot of hard work and some dreams coming true,” said Wilson Central teacher and sports information department adviser Jay “Doc” Holladay.

The students decked out the trailer with tables, monitors and storage areas.

“The kids raised the money for some it, and they put blood, sweat and tears into it, literally,” Holladay said. “It’s something that will benefit the sports department here and benefit Wilson County and the school system, really.”

He said the trailer will go to sporting events and “any event that might need some type of exposure. We can videotape it; we can save it and give them an SD card or stream it live, whatever they want.”

Senior Dakota Russ, who was instrumental in the department getting the trailer, said he was in Holladay’s class his freshman year, and Holladay mentioned the need for such a unit for the press box.

“I came in a few days later and said, ‘I want to do this. I don’t know what it is, but I want to do that,’” Russ said.

He said the first away game the crew went on consisted of five members. There are currently about 30 members of the team.

“I’m honored that I got to be a part of the whole journey,” Russ said.

Senior Jordynne Loy said she was “really happy on the inside,” as she looked at the trailer. “We’ve come a long way since my sophomore year. My senior year, this is a big deal.”

Former student Daniel Bradley shared how the trailer came to fruition.

“A few years ago, Cleveland High School came to town for a football game,” said Bradley, who noted the video team not only brought a trailer with them, but also multiple pieces of video equipment. “Doc and I went to Waffle House after the game and talked about being out-funded and out-produced. I almost teared up when I saw this.

He said Holladay is “one of those people you want to work with. He gives people chances to fail, learn and grow from that. This is all good stuff for him, and he earned it.”

Another former student, Christian Kaposy, said he started on the crew as a freshman. He said a broadcast camp with the National Federation of State High School Associations changed everything.

“I went to a broadcast camp in Atlanta,” Kaposy said. “I came back and said, ‘I know you have your own program, but if we start something with NHFS, then we can have something big. This will be the fourth year of NHFS, and you can see what they’ve done with it. It’s been a pretty big move they’ve made.”

Mt. Juliet student donates school supplies to New Orleans children

By Matt Masters

mmasters@lebanondemocrat.com

For nearly three years, 12-year-old Madison Young, of Mt. Juliet, has collected school supplies to donate to children in the foster system in her hometown of New Orleans.

During the summer, the Mt. Juliet Middle School student collected more than $400 in donations for supplies through work at her family business, saving up birthday and Christmas money and collecting donations from friends and businesses in both Mt. Juliet and New Orleans.

Young’s grandmother, Anne Dandry, who is an advocate for Court Appointed Special Advocates in New Orleans, helps Young to get the supplies into the hands of those most in need.

“I had gone with [my grandmother] to see some of the kids, and you’d see how little they had in their house. Some houses you’d go in, there wouldn’t be cabinets. They wouldn’t have a lot of toys. So, I first started out just bringing them some of my toys or clothes I didn’t wear anymore, shoes, stuff life that,” Young said. “Then I started doing the money, because I saw that they took donations for school supplies, so I started raising money.”

Young has bought and collected pencils, notebooks, erasers, folders, glue sticks and other supplies that she knows children need on a daily basis. Her efforts are not as well known in Wilson County, but she hopes to change that and wants to branch out to different organizations and gather larger amounts of donations.

Her generosity was commended in New Orleans, and Young is excited and happy to be able to help those less fortunate than herself.

“It’s such a good feeling to know that I’m doing something that helps people and can be so inspiring for other people,” Young said.

Close wins in school board races allow for 2 newcomers

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

The Wilson County Board of Education featured close races and two new Wilson County school board members voted into office Aug. 2 in the Wilson County General Election.

In the Lebanon Special School District, Steve Jones ran unopposed for an at-large seat on the board.

In the Wilson County school board races, four spots were on the ballot, and all were contested.

In a close race in Wilson County Zone 7, Chad Karl narrowly defeated James “Rusty” Keith. Karl had 1,600 votes, while Keith had 1,597 and incumbent Gwynne Queener had 1,140.

Karl said, the race was “very close. Like anything you do local, you have no idea. We felt we were a little behind in early voting, and we started looking at polling numbers. We knew it would be close, and as we heard stuff roll in, we knew it would be close, one way or another.”

Karl, who lost to Larry Inman by 24 votes in 2016, said, “I know what it’s like to sit on the other side of the campaign and say, ‘what if.’ I was on the campaign trail with Rusty. He is a great guy. In fact, we were talking today about how we still have to represent the [person who lost.] He and I have a good relationship. “

The Wilson County Election Commission still has to count provisional ballots and certify the election next week, and that will ultimately determine the winner of the election.

“With three votes difference and the provisional ballots still to be counted, I don’t feel like it’s completely done,” Karl said. “It’s not a huge margin and could go either way.”

Still, he said the two would continue to talk about the issues.
“Whatever happens, we said we’d talk,” he said. “When you’ve knocked on that many doors, you have a good knowledge of what you’ve heard.”

In Zone 6, a close race featured newcomer Kimberly McGee defeat incumbent Johnnie Payton, 2,023 to 1,988.

McGee said she was “shocked that she won.”

“It was very close, and I’m excited to represent my constituents in Zone 6. I am honored to represent the people in Zone 6,” she said. “I want to learn as much as I can, listen to the community and represent their needs and wants to the best of my ability.”

In Zone 2, incumbent Bill Robinson took the seat with 2,039 votes, and defeated both David Burks, who had 673 votes, and Matthew Mock, who finished with 566 votes.

Incumbent Linda Armistead soundly won her race in Zone 4 with 2,782, votes. She defeated Maurisa Pasick, who got 874 votes.

Kimberly McGee

Mt. Juliet planners give OK for new high school

Plans still have to be approved by city commissioners, county before the project gets green light

 

The Mt. Juliet Planning Commission voted to send a positive recommendation to the Mt. Juliet City Commission regarding a proposed new high school on Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet at its meeting Thursday night.

The commission previously deferred discussion on the development at the request of the developer.

The proposed Green Hill High School – the name listed on the commission’s agenda – on Lebanon Road near where it intersects with North Greenhill Road, takes up about 1.84 acres.

The development was presented to the commission in four parts, the plan of services, the annexation of the property, the land use plan amendment and the site plan.
The first three sections of the proposition received a unanimous recommendation from the commission, but planners were split on the site plan. It ended up with a positive recommendation on a 5-4 vote.

Last year, the Wilson County Commission approved $1.5 million for Wilson County Schools to conduct design services for a potential new high school in Mt. Juliet, which was the center of skepticism from some commissioners.

The design authorization does not signify the county commission’s commitment to spend $110 million for a new high school, which is the estimated cost.

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright and Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall explained to commissioners and to Wilson County if a new school was not built, the only high school in Wilson County that would not exceed its maximum occupancy would be Watertown High School.

The proposed Green Hill High School will go before the Mt. Juliet City Commission with a positive recommendation at a future meeting.

According to Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson, Green Hill High School is currently a placeholder name for the school and is not necessarily the official name of the new high school if it’s ultimately approved.

 

By Jacob Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Teen out of hospital after deadly bites

Mt. Juliet High School football player bit by tick, brown-recluse spider

 

Mason Greenwood

A Mt. Juliet teen is out of the hospital and back on the football field after a rare run-in with some deadly pests sidelined him earlier this week. 

Mason Greenwood, 17, a senior on the Mt. Juliet High School football team, had to go to Monroe Caroll Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt after he was bitten by a tick and a brown-recluse spider.

“The brown recluse can actually have a painless bite, so I don’t know when that happened,” said Greenwood. “The tick bite could have happened up to 21 days ago, so, really bad timing with both of them happening at the same time.”

Greenwood said he had a headache one day after practice, followed by a fever and chills. He went to a doctor after the symptoms persisted for a few days, and the doctor found a brown recluse bite.

“I got antibiotics for the brown-recluse bite, and I got worse and ended up in the ER,” said Greenwood.

The reason the antibiotics didn’t work is because the symptoms weren’t caused by the brown-recluse bite, but a tick bite Greenwood didn’t even know he’d gotten.

While Greenwood was in the hospital, the Mt. Juliet High School football team sent out a tweet asking for prayers for their teammate.

“No matter what color uniform you wear, or what kind of field you play on, we need your prayers for one of ours,” said the tweet. “Mason Greenwood, an upcoming senior for us, is at Vandy Children’s Hospital, and he’s struggling right now. It’s a combo of a brown recluse bite and tick-borne illness. Please pray for him and family.”

The tweet received more than 1,000 likes, 371 retweets and 62 replies wishing Greenwood prayers for a speedy recovery. Greenwood left the hospital Wednesday, and even showed up to football practice Thursday.

“He showed up in a very limited role, but the fact that he was on campus was great,” said Mt. Juliet football coach Trey Perry. “It just reminds you, not only of the connection that sports brings you to others, but also the power of prayer.”

Greenwood said the road to recovery has just begun, and it’s already been a difficult one. When he arrived at the hospital, doctors found his kidneys weren’t functioning correctly, and he had pretty severe inflammation in his heart.

“I was dangerously close to a heart attack at one point,” said Greenwood. “So, that was pretty scary.”

On June 22, Greenwood will go back in for an MRI, where he will start to get a feel for how long the recovery will take.

“If there’s scarring on my heart, this sounds crazy but, I’m going to be out for six months,” said Greenwood. “That’s worst case scenario, though. It could be two months, it could be three months, one month; I don’t know yet.”

Greenwood, of course, hopes the recovery is as short as possible.

“My hope is a month at the longest,” said Greenwood. “I really want to get back to playing. I can’t imagine not playing football.”

By Jacob Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Coming soon: A new youth football league

Bobby Reynolds • The Lebanon Democxrat
Wilson Central football coach Brad Dedman (left) and Wilson County Wildcats head Greg Taylor shake on an agreement for the new youth football league to play on the WCHS field this fall.

A new youth football program will enter the Wilson County scene this fall.

The Wilson County Wildcats will join the Lebanon Blue Devils and Mt. Juliet Bears in the Tennessee Youth Football League.

The league, for ages 5-12, will play at Wilson Central High School, with Friendship Christian’s Pirtle Field as a backup, according to organizer Greg Taylor, who said the purpose of the league is not to take away from the other leagues, but to make them better.

“Our objective is to make Wilson County a better football area,” said Taylor, a former Mt. Juliet running back/defensive back (he ran for 150 yards in the first half against Gallatin as a senior) who played on the Golden Bears’ first playoff team, the 1987 squad which reached the state quarterfinals. He also cited Rutherford County’s area dominance in high school football, crediting its youth programs.

“Rutherford County has really good youth football programs, and a lot of them, maybe seven or eight,” Taylor said. “This would give us three.

“It’s not about taking away from Lebanon, taking away from Mt. Juliet. It’s about making football in Wilson County better. The competition is going to help everyone else better.”

It will also open more opportunities for players and cheerleaders. Taylor said his league will have 150 players and 50 cheerleaders. Signups are available online at wilcowildcats.com and on Facebook at wilsoncountywildcats. Taylor urges interested parents to sign their kid(s) as soon as possible. Cost is $199 per participant.

“Once we get close to the 150 mark, we will begin to shut down,” said Taylor, adding players will receive a new helmet (value $150) to keep at the end of the season along with game pants with pads inserted and jersey. Cheerleaders will also receive uniforms and other apparel.

“Compared to other leagues, we’re trying to bring more value to what parents getting for the money,” Taylor said. “Our ultimate goal is not to have any money at the end of the season. We want to spend every dollar on the kids.”

After graduating from MJHS in 1988, he played for legendary Middle Tennessee State coach Boots Donnelly. After college, he lived in West Nashville for more than a decade and headed the Bellevue Steelers from 2004-07. It was there he introduced current Tennessee Vol linebacker Daniel Bituli to football at age 10.

“I talked Daniel Bituli into playing football,” Taylor said of the future Nashville Christian star who was born in Nigeria and had played soccer in his early years.

Taylor, whose son and nephew played for Friendship in recent years, said just because his program plays at Wilson Central and is called the Wildcats, it is not associated with that school.

“We are not a feeder program for Wilson Central,” Taylor said. “We are a Wilson County program. We have kids zoned for Lebanon High School, zoned for Wilson Central, zoned for Mt. Juliet, and we have kids who go to Friendship.”

Taylor said the quality of the county’s high school facilities, including Central’s and Friendship’s have drawn interest from the TYFL.

“We could possibly have (host) a state championship in Wilson County,” Taylor said. “We have enough fields to do that, and we’ve been asked already.”

Taylor said former Mt. Juliet and Vanderbilt star Tim Bryant and former Titans receiver Chris Sanders will hold a football camp called “Going Dee” from 9 a.m.-noon June 30 at Wilson Central. The camp is open to everybody, Taylor said, adding two to three current players from Tennessee and Vanderbilt are expected to appear.

By Andy Reed

areed@lebanondemocrat.com

Baseball camps to continue throughout June

Katie Arnold • Cumberland University
Cumberland head coach Woody Hunt instructs campers this week during a fundamentals camp for 6-9 year olds at Cumberland.

Cumberland baseball camps continue through June with fundamental camp, hitting and pitching camp and advanced fundamental camp all scheduled at Ernest L. Stockton Field-Woody Hunt Stadium.

Head coach Woody Hunt welcomed more than 70 6-9-year-old campers this week for the first week of fundamental camp. Campers 10-13 years old will take part next week in fundamental camp, which places players in age-appropriate groups where instruction is provided in all aspects of the game, including hitting, fielding and base running.

Campers work in drill stations to improve techniques covered by the coaching staff in the morning and are placed in baseball situations and scrimmages to participate in a game-type atmosphere in the afternoon.

Hitting and pitching camp will take place June 18-20 with hitting camp for 6-12 year olds in the mornings and pitching camp for 8-14 year olds in the afternoons.

Advanced fundamental camp is set for June 25-28 for 14-18 year olds and is recommended for high school players looking to continue their career in college. A high level of focus and attention to detail are required, as baseball concepts and drill work become much more concentrated. Coaches stress the mental and physical aspects of the game and what it takes to become a well-rounded collegiate baseball player.

More information on the camps, as well as signup forms, may be found at cumberlandcamps.com.

Staff Reports