Stories & Strings for Dreams to benefit Empower Me

Music stars are set to hit the stage June 15 at the Capitol Theatre for the Stories & Strings for Dreams event to benefit Empower Me. 

The evening of music will feature a songwriter’s round and a concert. It will also include hors d’oeuvres, cash bar and silent auction.

“We are so excited to have these amazing musicians showcase their talents for all of us to enjoy. We are grateful to each of these artists who are helping us raise funds for our programs to enhance the lives of our individuals with disabilities,” said Empower Me executive director Michelle Hill.

The event emcee will be LuLu Roman, who is best known as the most-requested woman cast member on the long running hit television show, “Hee Haw.” With a career that has spanned more than 40 years, Roman is also known for her accomplished and celebrated songwriting, singing and sense of humor around the the world.

The songwriter’s round will include Kayley Hill and Lebanon’s own Kason Lester. Hill participated in season 15 of NBC’s “The Voice.” She is currently working on recording her debut EP, and recently released her new single, “Just Thought You Should Know.” Her sound was compared to Jewel, Dolly Parton and Patty Griffin, while she incorporates her own fresh take on country music.

Lester was born and raised in Lebanon. Taking a little bit of country and a little bit of rock n’ roll, as a singer-songwriter, Lester combines Southern roots with rock vibes to create his own unique sound. Lester made the top 40 on American Idol this year and continues to perform across the country.

After the songwriter’s round ends, a concert will take place, featuring Ricky Cook and Linda Davis.    

Born and raised in Oakdale, Cook was a sought-after American saddlebred champion horse trainer before he pursued his musical career. Cook started writing songs at 7 years old thanks to the encouragement and advice of his songwriter grandmother. Other lifelong influences like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn inspired him to work toward success. Cook’s first single, “Thanks A Lot Loretta,” from the debut CD of the same title, paid homage to his mentor and broke into the country chart. His second release is currently climbing the charts on country radio. 

Best known for her hit “Does He Love You” with country superstar Reba McEntire, which earned her a Grammy for best vocal collaboration, Davis is well known as a song stylist around Music City. Through the year, the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame member has played to sold-out crowds with the likes of Garth Brooks, George Strait, McEntire, and Kenny Rogers just to name a few. In 2016, Davis and her family, including husband Lang Scott, and daughters, Hillary Scott, of Lady Antebellum, and Rylee Scott, released the critically acclaimed, two-time Grammy winning album, Hillary Scott and the Scott Family – Love Remains.

Tickets are $25 for general admission and $50 for reserved-table seating. Some sponsorship opportunities are also still available. Visit storiesandstringsfordreams.eventbrite.com to buy tickets and support Empower Me. 

Empower Me has served more than 10,000 children and young adults with disabilities over the past 21 years. The individuals have various disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, cancer, ADHD, Bipolar disorder, blindness, deafness, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder from physical or sexual abuse. Empower Me offers them a summer camp and other year-round opportunities to enjoy their lives in a supportive and loving environment. For more information about Empower Me, visit empowermecenter.com. 

Roadwork heats up in Wilson County

Staff Reports

Several new or ongoing Tennessee Department of Transportation road projects could cause drivers some delays in the coming days and weeks throughout Wilson County.

Lanes will be closed on Interstate 840 from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. from north of the Rutherford County line to east of Stewarts Ferry Pike to allow workers to repair bridge decks. There will also be lane closures nightly from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. to allow workers to clean bridge decks, repair them and apply epoxy in the same area of I-840.

State Route 141 widening work continues daily from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. from south of Spring Creek to north of Lovers Lane. Temporary lane closures will take place, but one lane will remain open in each direction.

Bridge repair will continue on Baddour Parkway over Sinking Creek in Lebanon. Baddour Parkway was reduced to one 10-foot lane in each direction at the bridge and will remain that way until the work is completed sometime in the fall.

Resurfacing on State Route 24 from U.S. 70 to the Smith County line will continue daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. There will be temporary lane closures in both directions to allow for paving. One lane will remain open.

Bridge repair on the Interstate 40 eastbound overpass at Sparta Pike will continue after an oversized tractor-trailer hit the bridge and damaged it recently. Permitted loads will detour onto South Hartmann Drive and Maddox-Simpson Parkway at exit 236 on I-40 eastbound until further notice. A detour sign is in place.

Paving daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on U.S. 231 from Market Street to near Forrest Ave. in Lebanon will cause temporary lane closures in both directions. One lane will remain open.

Paving daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. will cause temporary lane closures in both directions on State Route 141 from east of Stokes Street to Sugar Flat Road. One lane will remain open.

Widening on I-40 from State Route 109 to I-840 will continue daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. There will be alternating lanes closed on I-40 in both directions between mile markers 232-237 for pavement markings and construction sign installation.

Widening work will continue on State Route 109 daily from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Rolling roadblocks will be used for rock blasting and excavation. Traffic will also be reduced to one lane in both directions at the intersection of State Route 109 and Callis Road to allow workers to put in a turn lane and crossover.

State Route 10 will be reduced to one lane daily from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. to allow workers to install a gas line from Vesta Road to Flat Woods Road.

TDOT officials said drivers are encouraged to use caution and obey reduced speed limits in all TDOT work zones, regardless of lane closure activity. Most work will be weather dependent and subject to change due to inclement weather.

Wilson County’s unemployment rate hits record low

NASHVILLE – Wilson County’s unemployment rate for April dropped to a new record low, according to data released Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Wilson County’s rate of 2.2 percent, which was 0.5 percent lower compared to March’s revised rate, rose one spot to fifth lowest in the state behind Williamson, Davidson, Rutherford and Cheatham counties, respectively.

Wilson County’s rate in April represented 1,640 unemployed workers compared to a 75,560-person workforce and did not include those who did not file with the labor department or no longer receive benefits. Compared to the same time last year, the jobless rate was a 0.2-percent decrease.

Lebanon’s rate for April decreased 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent compared to March and decreased 0.3 percent compared to a year ago. The city’s rate represented 400 unemployed workers, compared to a 15,860-person labor force.

Mt. Juliet’s rate for April was 2.3 percent, a 0.5-percent decrease compared to March’s revised rate. It was a 0.1-percent decrease compared to a year ago. The rate represented 450 unemployed workers compared to an 19,630-person labor force.

Unemployment rates for 94 of Tennessee’s 95 counties decreased in April. The unemployment rate in Maury County remained unchanged for the month.

Ninety-four counties had rates lower than 5 percent, and one county’s rate was higher than 5 percent.

Unemployment in Williamson County dipped below 2 percent in April. The county’s current rate of 1.9 percent marked a 0.5 percent drop from the previous month.

Davidson County’s unemployment rate hit a record low during April; it dropped by 0.5 percent and landed at 2 percent. Rutherford County followed at 2.1 percent, while Cheatham, Wilson, Moore and Sumner counties each recorded a rate of 2.2 percent in April.

Along with Davidson County, Wilson, Sumner, Smith and Hickman counties marked record-low unemployment. Rutherford County tied its all-time low rate.

“County unemployment rates continue to be extraordinarily positive,” said TDLWD Commissioner Jeff McCord. “Across our state we are now seeing unemployment rates at or below 5 percent become the norm.”

Clay County had the state’s highest rate in April at 5.6 percent, which was a 0.4 percent decrease from the previous month. Hancock and Rhea counties had the next highest rates at 4.9 percent. Those rates represented a 0.9 percent drop for Hancock County and the rate was 0.8 percent lower in Rhea County when compared to the previous month.

The April rate for the Nashville-Murfreesboro metropolitan area, which includes Wilson County, decreased 0.5 percent from March to land at 2.1 percent and was 0.3 percent lower than a year ago. The rate represented 23,040 unemployed workers compared to a nearly 1.1-million-person labor force.

Statewide, unemployment remained at Tennessee’s historic low of 3.2 percent. It was the third consecutive month the rate was at the record level.

County unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted, while the state and national rates use the seasonal adjustment to eliminate outside influences on the statistics.

Wilson County honors its oldest veteran

By Matt Masters

[email protected]

Wilson County’s oldest veteran, Max Anderson, a retired World War II U.S. Navy pilot, celebrated his 100th birthday on Memorial Day in Mt. Juliet with a police and motorcycle club escort Monday afternoon down Mt. Juliet Road.

State Sen. Mark Pody, state Rep. Susan Lynn, Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash and Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty awarded Anderson with several proclamations and gifts.

All three mayors proclaimed May 27 as Max Anderson Day across Wilson County as a crowd of more than 100 people gathered for the event at the Mt. Juliet train station. The event coincided with the close of the “Honoring Our American Flag” display, a display of dozens of American flags, which was organized by the local Exchange Club and American Legion.

Lynn presented Anderson with an American flag and Tennessee flag, both of which flew above the state capitol and hand-delivered a birthday certificate on behalf of Gov. Bill Lee.

“Thank you all for coming out to my birthday,” Anderson said. “On this occasion, we are here to give thanks to those who gave our lives so that our country might see freedom again, and as an airplane pilot flying over the countryside, I’ve looked down to so many pretty things – Niagara Falls half froze up, Yosemite, San Francisco – so many places that Lord you have put here for us. Now, I thank every one of you for the greetings on my birthday, and I thank the Lord for 100 years living on Earth, this beautiful planet.”

The ceremony ended as Anderson cut an American flag birthday cake and a long line of grateful people awaited their turn to meet, congratulate and thank Anderson.

Young racer Chase injured in crash

By Larry Woody

Correspondent

Talented young Mt. Juliet racer Chase Johnson is temporarily sidelined with a broken kneecap suffered in a hard crash at Huntsville (Ala.) Speedway last week, but says he “can’t wait” to get back in a race car.

“Wrecks are going to eventually happen,” says the 13-year-old seventh-grader at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy who last year was crowned the youngest champion in the 60-year history of Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway.

“It was scary, and at first I thought I’d broken my leg,” says Chase, whose left knee is in a protective brace. “But I’ll be OK.”

“It shook me up,” says Chase’s father Andy, also a former Fairgrounds Speedway track champion.

“I was watching from the top of the truck when it happened,” Andy says. “I jumped down and ran over, and when I got there, Chase was yelling, ‘My leg! My leg!’ I thought it was broke.”

Chase was removed from his demolished car and taken by ambulance to a Huntsville hospital. Initial X-rays didn’t reveal the fracture, but after returning home, another hospital visit showed a broken knee cap.

Chase is expected to wear the brace for two-to-three weeks, and doctors predict a complete recovery.

As soon as he is able, Chase plans to get back in a race car.

“I can’t wait,” he says.

“He tried to drive a few practice laps in our Supertruck last Sunday at the Fairgrounds,” his father says, “but he wasn’t able to work the clutch with the brace on his knee.”

During his long racing career, Andy suffered only one injury.

“Back in the late 1990’s I broke my hand in wreck,” he says. “I don’t remember much about it, but it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t even put a cast on it.”

Seeing their son injured – and knowing it could have been much worse — was an emotional moment for Andy and Chase’s step-mom Allison.

“It really tore her up,” Andy says. “And I admit it tore me up too. It was a hard hit and looked pretty bad.”

Chase was battling another car for position when they collided, and Chase was spun head-on into the retaining wall.

“It happened so fast that I didn’t realize what was happening,” Chase says. “The other car came down on me, and the next thing I knew I was in the wall. I knew right off that my leg was hurt. It was pretty painful, and I thought it was broke.”

The Huntsville race was the first of the season for Chase, after two scheduled events at the Fairgrounds were rained out. The Nashville track finally ran its first points races of the season last Sunday.

Chase hopes to be back behind the wheel in time for Fairground Speedway’s next feature in a couple of weeks, but missing a race puts him in a deep hole in terms of competing for another championship. The two rainouts has reduced an already-short schedule, leaving less chances for a rally.

But although Chase’s title hopes suffered a blow, and even though his car was virtually totaled, his father says that’s OK.

“There’ll be lots of other races, and we have more race cars,” he says. “But we have only one son. We lost a car, but we have Chase, and that’s all that matters.”

Larry Woody is The Democrat’s motorsports writer. Email him at [email protected]

Tennessee state parks to hold National Trails Day hikes

NASHVILLE – Tennessee state parks will celebrate National Trails Day on June 1 with free guided hikes at all 56 state parks.

At Cedars of Lebanon State Park, a National Trails Day hike will take place June 1 from 2:30-4 p.m. at the newly acquired Sadie Ford Heritage Farm to seek what the new property has to offer. The hike will be open to all ages, but it is not an ADA accessible trail or good for strollers. No dogs will be allowed on the hike. Parking is limited, and participants are asked to carpool as much as possible. Participants will meet at the Sadie Ford Heritage Farm and Art Center. Cedars of Lebanon State Park is at 328 Cedar Forest Road in Lebanon. For more information, call 615-443-2769 or email park ranger Shauna Bridgers at [email protected]

Cedars of Lebanon will also feature a beautification event June 1 from 9 a.m. until noon at the Nature Center. Participants are asked to wear appropriate clothing and footwear and bring water. Tennessee Promise hours will be honored for students. For more information, call 615-443-2769 or email park ranger Bill Loewer at [email protected]

A cleanup hike will be June 1 from 8-11 a.m. at Long Hunter State Park. Participants will meet in the Volunteer Trail parking lot at 1600 Bakers Grove Road in Hermitage. The group will hike about two miles on the Volunteer Trail to clean up trash along the trail that has floated in from Percy Priest Lake. Trash bags, litter-getters and gloves will be provided. It’s possible hikers will be off trail among the grass and trees, so they should dress appropriately. Participants should also bring water, snacks, bug spray and sunscreen. Sign up at tnspateparks.com/parks/events/long-hunter. For more information, call 615-885-2422 or email park ranger Jeffrey Sweeney at [email protected]

This will be the third of the state parks’ signature hikes this year, following First Day Hikes in January and Spring Hikes in March. Thus far, 4,787 park visitors have participated in the hikes.

“This is an opportunity for people to feel connected to nature and to learn about a Tennessee state park at the same time with the guidance of a park ranger,” said Anne Marshall, acting deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. “Whether you’re interested in a park’s history, seeing incredible views or taking a challenging trek, our parks give everyone that feeling that you can’t get anywhere else.”

The American Hiking Society designates the first Saturday in June as National Trails Day as a day of public events aimed at advocacy and trail service. Last year, 108,947 people participated in 1,203 events across 50 states.

Tennessee state parks will offer a variety of ranger-led hikes, night hikes, history hikes, nature hikes or trail cleanup hikes. With more than 1,000 miles of trails, ranging from easy paved trails to rugged backcountry trails to scenic waterways, the state parks have something for everyone. 

For more information about the hikes, visit tnstateparks.com/about/special-events/national-trails-day-hikes.

PHOEBE Connections holds scholarship banquet

PHOEBE Connections held its annual scholarship banquet May 14 at First Baptist Church in Lebanon.

PHOEBE Connections is a nonprofit widows’ support group that raises money annually for children of widows in Wilson County. This year, the group awarded 13 scholarships worth $2,000 each. Former PHOEBE scholarship recipient Matthew Baines, of Lebanon, gave an inspiring keynote presentation.

Veronica Mixon, who will attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Tawny Ashworth, who will attend the University of Tennessee; Samantha Austin, who will attend Tennessee Tech University; Sabrina Austin who will attend Rhodes College; Jillian Austin, who will attend Rhodes College; Lee Gannaway, who will attend Cumberland University; Jourdin Parks-Bell, who will attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Damon Smith, who will attend the University of Tennessee; Cori Johnson, who will attend Cumberland University; Benjamin Yates, who will attend Lee University; Alexander Ayers, who will attend Cumberland University, Destiny Barnes, who will attend Cumberland University; and Zachary Scott, who will attend Tennessee Tech University, each received scholarships.

Since 2016, the group has awarded $51,000 in scholarships.

Wilson Central choir closes out year at Carnegie Hall

By Matt Masters

[email protected]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roadwork heats up throughout Wilson County

Several new or ongoing Tennessee Department of Transportation road projects could cause drivers some delays in the coming days and weeks throughout Wilson County.

Lanes will be closed on Interstate 840 from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. from north of the Rutherford County line to east of Stewarts Ferry Pike to allow workers to repair bridge decks. There will also be lane closures nightly from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. to allow workers to clean bridge decks, repair them and apply epoxy in the same area of I-840.

State Route 141 widening work continues daily from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. from south of Spring Creek to north of Lovers Lane. Temporary lane closures will take place, but one lane will remain open in each direction.

Bridge repair will continue on Baddour Parkway over Sinking Creek in Lebanon. Baddour Parkway was reduced to one 10-foot lane in each direction at the bridge and will remain that way until the work is completed sometime in the fall.

Resurfacing on State Route 26 from U.S. 70 to the Smith County line will continue daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. There will be temporary lane closures in both directions to allow for paving. One lane will remain open.

Bridge repair on the Interstate 40 eastbound overpass at Sparta Pike will continue after an oversized tractor-trailer hit the bridge and damaged it recently. Permitted loads will detour onto South Hartmann Drive and Maddox-Simpson Parkway at exit 236 on I-40 eastbound until further notice. A detour sign is in place.

Paving daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on U.S. 231 from Market Street to near Forrest Ave. in Lebanon will cause temporary lane closures in both directions. One lane will remain open.

Paving daily from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. will cause temporary lane closures in both directions on State Route 141 from east of Stokes Street to Sugar Flat Road. One lane will remain open.

Widening work will continue on State Route 109 daily from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Rolling roadblocks will be used for rock blasting and excavation. Traffic will also be reduced to one lane in both directions at the intersection of State Route 109 and Callis Road to allow workers to put in a turn lane and crossover.

State Route 10 will be reduced to one lane daily from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. to allow workers to install a gas line from Vesta Road to Flat Woods Road.

TDOT officials said drivers are encouraged to use caution and obey reduced speed limits in all TDOT work zones, regardless of lane closure activity. Most work will be weather dependent and subject to change due to inclement weather.

State gas price average drops 5 cents in May

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s state average gas price was $2.57 per gallon Monday for regular unleaded, which was 3 cents less than the average a week ago and 3 cents less than a month ago.

The national gas price average Monday was $2.86, 3 cents less than last week’s average, 4 cents less than one month ago and remained flat compared to the same time last year.

“For the first time in three months, gas prices are declining slowly but steadily across the country,” said Stephanie Milani, Tennessee public affairs director for AAA.

Sadie Ford Heritage Farm unveiled at Cedars of Lebanon State Park

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials cut the ribbon Saturday on the 73.3-acre Sadie Ford Heritage Farm and Art Center as a naturally and culturally significant addition to Cedars of Lebanon State Park.

The property is will be restored and incorporated into the state park as a complex of cedar glades and barrens ecosystems interspersed with woodlands, reflecting the state of the land prior to European settlement.

“We are excited to bring this site under the umbrella of Tennessee State Parks,” said Anne Marshall, acting deputy commissioner of TDEC. “It will encompass natural beauty, historical significance and will be a center for public programming that should attract many visitors. We believe Tennesseans will love having this gem be part of Cedars of Lebanon.”

The core of the property is about 8 acres that include a home, barn and outbuildings that will be set aside as a historic district. The site is opposite the entrance to the state park. The 1920s bungalow-style house was built for local schoolteachers, Delta and Sadie Ford, who lived there with their children until the mid-1940s. Museum displays will describe aspects of the area’s history.

Tennessee State Parks acquired the property in the fall. The tract corners existing state-owned land to the west and north, as well as adjacent land east of U.S. 231. Within the adjoining tracts are Cedars of Lebanon State Park, Cedars of Lebanon State Natural Area and Vesta Cedar Glade State Natural Area, all part of the 10,000-acre Cedars of Lebanon State Forest.

The property offers recreational significance, as well as the cornerstone for access to the western portion of Cedars of Lebanon State Forest and more opportunities for park visitors, including a multi-use hiking-biking trail. The homestead and WPA-era museum will be a center for educational events for families, students and history buffs regarding rural life in the 1920s and 1930s.

Former Wilson County Mayor Bob Dedman dies

Lifelong Lebanon resident and former Wilson County Mayor Robert Dedman died Thursday at home. He was 85.

Dedman served as Wilson County mayor for 12 years, from 1998 until he retired and current Mayor Randall Hutto became mayor in 2012. Before he was sworn in as mayor, Dedman served on the Lebanon City Council and as property assessor for three terms.

Dedman’s accomplishments are many, and those in the community remember him fondly.

“When I think of Bob Dedman, I think of a true champion and leader, whether it be in sports, politics or in life. He was always someone who listened to the people and wasn’t afraid to stand up for what was right. My thoughts and prayers are with his family,” former Wilson County Property Assessor Jack Pratt said.

Before Dedman was a politician, he was an athlete. He played on several championship football teams, including for Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Kentucky. When Dedman played for Lebanon High School from 1951-53, the Blue Devils football team was undefeated.

“Mayor Dedman was a great statesman in my mind in that he never lost an election. He really ran the county with ease. He got things done, not only as property assessor but also as county mayor for 12 years. He was a great man and a great mentor for me when I first thought about becoming a mayor,” said Hutto.

Statton Bone, who met Dedman at Lebanon High School in 1952, said he always made time for everyone. Dedman graduated from Lebanon in 1953.

“He did many, many good things for Lebanon and Wilson County over the years. He served in several different areas. He was very supportive of the Nashville Superspeedway back in its day and the development along I-840. He was a good public servant,” Bone said.

Dedman began his political career in 1972. He served as Lebanon’s first purchasing agent, worked for the secretary of state in 1978 and was then elected to the Lebanon City Council. During his time on the council, Pratt said he was influential to bring ward districts to Lebanon. He served as Senate sergeant-at-arms for the 100th Tennessee General Assembly.

“Bob was a great man. He was awfully good to me. I served as ag director when he was the county mayor. He was a good guy, a good leader. The county lost a good man. My sympathy goes out to his family,” Larry Tomlinson said.

Funeral services for Dedman were Monday at 1 p.m. at Sellars Funeral Home in Lebanon. Visitation was Sunday from 4-8 p.m. and Monday from 11 a.m. until the service at the funeral home. 

Community Calendar and The People’s Agenda

POLICY: Items for the Community Calendar may be submitted via email at [email protected], in person at The Democrat’s office at 402 N. Cumberland St., by mail at The Lebanon Democrat, 402 N. Cumberland St., Lebanon, TN 37087 or via fax at 615-444-0899. Items must be received by 4 p.m. for the next day’s edition. The calendar is a free listing of nonprofit events, community club and government meetings. The Democrat reserves the right to reject or edit material. Notices run on an as space is available basis and cannot be taken over the phone. Include a name and phone number in case of questions.

May 15

Wilson County Hiring Event

9 a.m.

A Wilson County hiring event will be Wednesday, May 15 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Wilson County Civic League at 321 E. Market St. in Lebanon. Employers will include FedEx, American Wonder Porcelain, 202 Census Bureau, Walmart in Mt. Juliet, Leviton, Nissan, Demos’ Restaurant, LSI Landscape Services, O’Reilly Distribution Center, Bojangles, National Guard, Geodis, Ceva Logistics, Abacus Staffing, Crown Services, Under Armour and Cameron Search and Staffing. For more information, contact Sarah Buckles at [email protected] or 615-494-4278.

Mt. Juliet Chamber Connect Luncheon

11:15 a.m.

The Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce’s chamber connect luncheon will be Wednesday, May 15 from 11:15 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at Rutland Place. The guest speaker will be Pastor Jacob Armstrong with Providence Church. Save a seat at mjchamber.org.

Lebanon Senior Citizens Center Health Fair

12:30 p.m.

The Lebanon Senior Citizens Center will hold a health fair Wednesday, May 15 from 12:30-2 p.m. at the center. More than 30 vendors will be featured.

May 16

Kindergarten Night at W.A. Wright Elementary School

4 p.m.

Kindergarten Night will be Thursday, May 16 from 4-6:30 p.m. at W.A. Wright Elementary School. The event 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.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5015 meeting

6 p.m.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5015 in Lebanon will meet Thursday, May 16 at 6 p.m. and the third Thursday of each month in the Veterans Building at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center. Any veteran who has been awarded a campaign medal or combat medal for any hostility is eligible for membership, verified by the veterans’ DD 214 Form. Presently, Post 5015 is having success in rebuilding its post and becoming active in district and local events. It is not a Lebanon post, but a countywide post. To learn more, contact Post Commander John Marshall at [email protected]; Senior Vice Commander Ken Kackley at [email protected] or Junior Vice Commander Harold W. Weist at [email protected]

Fiddlers Grove Model Train Club

7 p.m.

The Fiddlers Grove Model Train Club will meet Thursday, May 16 and each third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. in the Fiddlers Grove Train Museum at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon. This is an all-scale model railroad club. During the meeting, everyone will share their knowledge and introduce the hobby to folks new to the interest. The Train Museum has an extensive O-gauge layout and a small HO-scale layout with plans to expand the HO track. The club is open to anyone interested in model train railroads. For more information, contact Ron Selliers at [email protected]

Celebrate Recovery

7 p.m.

Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered 12-step recovery support group for overcoming hurts, hang-ups and habits, meets each Thursday from 7-9:30 p.m. at Fairview Church at 1660 Leeville Pike in Lebanon. For more information, call ministry leader Tony Jones at 615-972-6151.

May 17

Tennessee State University National Alumni Association Mid-South Regional Conference

8 a.m.

The Tennessee State University National Alumni Association Mid-South Regional Conference will be Friday, May 17 and Saturday, May 18 at Pickett-Rucker United Methodist Church at 633 Glover St. in Lebanon and at the Wilson County Schools central office at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon. For more information, call Virgleen Seay at 615-598-6937.

May 18

Think Green, Think Clean Challenge

8 a.m.

The 11th-annual Think Green, Think Clean Youth Litter Challenge will be Saturday, May 18 with teams to clean up at their schools at 8 a.m., and a celebration from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center at 945 E. Baddour Pkwy. in Lebanon. The celebration will feature door prizes, games, food and the presentation of prize money to winning schools.

Ali’s Rae of Hope 5K Walk and Run

8 a.m.

Ali’s Rae of Hope 5K Walk and Run will be Saturday, May 18 at 8 a.m. at the Mill at 300 N. Maple St. in Lebanon. Check-in starts are 7 a.m. Early registration is $25 before May 11, and late registration will be $35. Participants are encouraged to dress as their favorite fairytale character. To register, visit runsignup.com/Race/TN/Lebanon/AlisRaeofHope5k. To learn more about the mission, visit alisraeofhope.org or facebook.com/aliraes5k or call 615-881-2509.

Antique Tractor, Antique Truck and Gas Engine Show

8 a.m.

Wilson County Antique Power Association will hold its 28th-annual Antique Tractor, Antique Truck and Gas Engine Show on Saturday, May 18 at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center at 945 E. Baddour Pkwy. in Lebanon. Gates will open at 8 a.m. Admission is free; however, a donation will be accepted. There will be no fee charged for exhibitors. For more information, call 615-444-6944 or 615-449-5002.

Special Needs Vacation Bible School

9 a.m.

Yee Haw, a special needs vacation Bible school, will be Saturday, May 18 from 9 a.m. until noon at the Journey Church at 212A Leeville Pike in Lebanon for 3 year olds through fifth graders. Registration and more information is available at the Journey Church’s children’s ministry Facebook page under announcements. The registration deadline is May 17. Email [email protected] for more information. 

Lebanon Cumberland Presbyterian Church Barbecue Fundraiser

9 a.m.

Lebanon Cumberland Presbyterian Church will hold its annual barbecue fundraiser Saturday, May 18 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the church at 522 Castle Heights Ave. at the corner of Leeville Pike in Lebanon. Whole smoked butts will be $40, and pulled pork will be $8 per pound. To place pre-orders, call 615-444-7453, and leave a message if no one answers.

Dream Riders Benefit Motorcycle Ride

9:45 a.m.

The third-annual Dream Riders Benefit Motorcycle Ride will be Saturday, May 18 at 9:45 a.m. at Blue Moon Barbecue at 711 Park Ave. in Lebanon. The police-escorted 30-mile ride will be $20 per driver and $5 per rider, and all proceeds will benefit Empower Me. Live music will be featured when riders return. Online registration is available at empowermecenter.com, or for more information or to register, contact Beth Goolesby at 615-202-5388 or [email protected]

Free Groceries Giveaway

3 p.m.

A free groceries giveaway will be Saturday, May 18 at 3 p.m. in the parking lot of Life Church at 3688 State Route 109, across the street from Dollar General, in Lebanon. It will be open to everyone, and the groceries will be given away as long as they last. Visit lifechurchfamily.com for more information.

Good Wheel Cruisers Saturday Night Cruise-In

4:30 p.m.

The Good Wheel Cruisers will hold its Saturday night cruise-in Saturday, May 18 from 4:30-9:30 p.m. and each Saturday evening through Oct. 20 at the Lebanon Outlet Mall in the marketplace area at 1 Outlet Village Drive in Lebanon. A 50-50 raffle will be featured. For more information, visit facebook.com/groups/552023871629171.

Daddy-Daughter Princess Ball

5:30 p.m.

The Daddy-Daughter Princess Ball, sponsored by Chick-fil-A in Lebanon, will be Saturday, May 18 from 5:30-8 p.m. at the Mill in Lebanon.

Centerstage Theatre Co. presents “Our Town”

7:30 p.m.

Centerstage Theatre Co. will present “Our Town,” on Saturday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 19 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Winfree Bryant Middle School in the auditorium. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $13 for students and seniors. Tickets may be purchased at Iddy and Oscar’s on the Lebanon Square, at brownpapertickets.com or at the door.

May 19

The Fessenden House Raise the Roof

2 p.m.

One of Lebanon’s smallest museums, the Fessenden House, which dates to 1852, needs a new roof. The History Associates of Wilson County and the Margaret Gaston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will hold an open house May 19 from 2-5 p.m. and ask for $20 donations per person to raise a roof for the structure at 236 W. Main St. between Cox’s Gifts and Sun Trust Bank. The $20 admission fee is tax deductible and will include a one-year membership to Friends of the Fessenden House. Children 12 and younger will be admitted for free. Refreshments will be provided. Checks should be made History Associates of Wilson County. For more information, call Judy Sullivan at 615-484-0770.

The People’s Agenda

POLICY: Items for the Government Calendar may be submitted via email at [email protected], in person at The Democrat’s office at 402 N. Cumberland St., by mail at The Lebanon Democrat, 402 N. Cumberland St., Lebanon, TN 37087 or via fax at 615-444-0899. Items must be received by 4 p.m. for the next day’s edition. The calendar is a free listing of government meetings and government-related events. The Democrat reserves the right to reject or edit material. Notices run on an as space is available basis and cannot be taken over the phone. Include a name and phone number in case of questions.

May 16

Wilson County Ag Management Committee meeting

5 p.m.

The Wilson County Ag Management Committee will meet Thursday, May 16 at 5 p.m. in the Gentry Building at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon.

Wilson County Health and Welfare Committee meeting

6 p.m.

The Wilson County Health and Welfare Committee will meet Thursday, May 16 at 6 p.m. in commission chambers at the Wilson County Courthouse.

May 20

Wilson County Commission meeting

7 p.m.

The Wilson County Commission will meet Monday, May 20 at 7 p.m. in commission chambers at the Wilson County Courthouse.

May 21

Wilson County Development and Tourism Committee meeting

5:30 p.m.

The Wilson County Development and Tourism Committee will meet Tuesday, May 21 at 5:30 p.m. in commission chambers at the Wilson County Courthouse.

May 30

Wilson County Board of Education work session

5 p.m.

The Wilson County Board of Education will meet in a work session Thursday, May 30 at 5 p.m. at the Wilson County Schools central office at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon.

June 3

Wilson County Board of Education meeting

6 p.m.

The Wilson County Board of Education will meet Monday, June 3 at 6 p.m. at the Wilson County Schools central office at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon.

– Staff Reports

Antique tractor, antique truck, gas engine show upcoming

Wilson County Antique Power Association will hold its 28th-annual Antique Tractor, Truck and Gas Engine Show on Saturday at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center at 945 E. Baddour Pkwy. in Lebanon.                                         

Gates will open at 8 a.m.

The entrance to the show will be at the Fiddlers Grove entrance, which is about a quarter mile east of the main entrance between the main entrance and Peyton Road.

The show will feature exhibits of antique tractors, gas engines, antique trucks, farm implements, corn meal grinding and blacksmithing. Many activities for all ages are scheduled throughout the day. Children’s activities will include a needle in the haystack contest and a kiddie tractor pull for 8-12 year olds. There will also be a parade of power, which will allow owners to parade their equipment through the Fiddlers Grove area. A skillet-throw contest will be held for the ladies. 

The Wilson County Antique Power Association was organized in 1991 and is a nonprofit organization. The primary function is to promote the collection, restoration, improvement and display of antique agriculture equipment. Anyone with those interests is welcome to join the club.

Admission is free; however, a donation will be accepted. There will be no fee charged for exhibitors.

For more information about the show, call 615-444-6944 or 615-449-5002. 

Top Wilson student-athletes honored

By Matt Masters

[email protected]

The Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce Sports Council Division held the best all-around student athlete awards luncheon Friday afternoon at Cumberland University’s Baird Chapel, where two students each received a $1,500 scholarship to the school of their choice.

Athletes represented a myriad of high school sports, all who were nominated by their athletic directors, coaches or principals based on not only their athletic abilities and achievements, but also their outstanding academic records.

Wilson Central High School student Mia Catherine Yin Harris and Friendship Christian School student Daniel Lucas were both selected for the scholarships.

Other honorees included Cameron Burton, who also represented Friendship Christian School; Jasmine Fuqua and Ryan Brown, who represented Lebanon High School; Samantha Clark and Logan Collier, who represented Mt. Juliet Christian Academy; Isabella Agee and Michael Ruttlen, who represented Mt. Juliet High School; Abby Groce and Brandon Allison, who represented Watertown High School; and Barrett Streeter, who represented Wilson Central High School.

Former University of Tennessee coach, defensive coordinator and radio host Doug Mathews was the guest speaker. He spoke about not giving up, teamwork and working hard.

“Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t do something,” Mathews said.

New Leash on Life sells land to continue expansion

Thanks to a recent land sale on State Route 109, New Leash on Life looks to use the proceeds can be used to improve and expand the programs provided for the community to help pets and their owners.

Capital Real Estate Services owner DeAnna Dodd and broker Claude Maynard handled the sale of the property on State Route 109.

“One of the reasons New Leash on Life chose to work with Capital Realty is because they have a give back goal as a part of their business model,” said New Leash on Life executive director Angela Chapman. “True to their mission with the land sale, Capital Real Estate gave our program expansion dream a head start by donating $4,500 to our programs.”

The first phase of the expansion was the Joy Clinic, a low-cost spay and neuter clinic, which was made possible by Joy Bishop and an equipment grant from the ASPCA. 

The spay and neuter program currently fixes more than 3,000 dogs and cats annually.

Chapman said the next phase of the expansion will be to add indoor and outdoor runs for the dogs and a visiting area for potential adopters to spend time with available dogs. The build phase would be behind the current shelter, along with an enrichment space for the dogs.

“Once that phase is done, we can look at reworking the current shelter space to better accommodate the needs of animals in our care,” Chapman said. “The land sale is a great start toward this expansion, and with continued community support, we look forward to making this dream a reality.”

Wilson County recognizes May as ALS Awareness Month

By Matt Masters

[email protected]

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto signed a proclamation last Wednesday that designated May as ALS Awareness Month in Wilson County.

Several citizens, community leaders and family members who were affected by ALS, including Bryan Galentine and Ashley Vickers, joined Hutto at a ceremonial proclamation signing at the Wilson County Courthouse.

The proclamation calls for county residents to help raise awareness about ALS, raise funds for research and reach out to those suffering. Blue is the ALS awareness color, and residents are encouraged to wear blue throughout the month to show their support.

“If we don’t recognize it, and if we don’t continue to raise funds to defeat it, then we’re going backwards. So that is our motive here today, to do this and to get other people involved. I had a chance to be a part of the ice bucket challenge back during the summer [to help the Vickers family raise money for ALS awareness], and we want to do more of these things to kind of help support and to also raise funds to find a cure for this disease,” said Hutto, before he ended the event with a group prayer.

ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and affects at least 16,000 people in the United States at any time, with about 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year, according to the ALS Association. More information about ALS, its symptoms and research for a cure may be found at alsa.org.

The Big Payback weathers rain to support local nonprofits

By Matt Masters

[email protected]

The third-annual Big Payback took over the Lebanon square Thursday to raise money for various nonprofit organizations who work to assist the citizens of Wilson County.

Jenni Moscardelli with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee said despite the short but strong rainstorm that popped up during the middle of the event, the community really showed up to support nonprofits in Lebanon and all of Wilson County.

“We have 40 organizations within the county participating in the Big Payback today, and this year we have 24 organizations on the square participating in a poster contest, minute to win it games, and also we’re giving away additional pop-up prizes for the organization that raises the most money during the rally and then the organization that has the most online donors during that time frame, so it’s a way for the local organizations to get together, to have more opportunities for social media content and to celebrate the Big Payback together as a community,” Moscardelli said. “The reception has been fantastic. We’ve got more organizations on the square than we have ever before. The community has really come out to participate, to play the games, to eat the food and to visit with the nonprofits.”

One of the participants was Heather Sadler whose husband, Geoff Sadler, died last year of esophageal cancer. The local nonprofit Sherry’s Run helped Sadler and her family through their loss, and now she’s giving back.

“We had a Sherry’s Run team for him last year called Geoff’s Jedis, and they just supported us the whole time through his battle. They actually paid our utility bill for 14 months, even after he passed away,” Sadler said. “I have a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, so we have devoted to give back what they have given to us. So my 4-year-old Sophie wanted to do a lemonade stand or as she calls it, a ‘lemon stand,’ and we built it, and Sherry’s Run invited us out here to the Big Payback, and we’re going to do her lemonade stand throughout the county, so if anyone wants us to come to sell lemonade, we’d be glad to,” Sadler said. “This community has supported us 110 percent. I can’t even tell you. You know, I’m a 38-year-old widow, and I couldn’t do it without my village, and Lebanon and Wilson County is my village.”

Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce president Melanie Minter said the partnership with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee was crucial to help Wilson County’s nonprofits connect with the citizens who need them most.

“Our chamber decided to gather all of the nonprofits that wanted to come out on the square and celebrate the Big Payback, so this just gives our community and opportunity to come out and enjoy the nonprofits in Wilson County and to decide where they want to give their money,” Minter said. “The chamber and our board rally stands behind bringing people together as a community, so this just shows that 24 of the nonprofits that are local within Wilson County wanted to get together and spread the love and the knowledge of what they do.”

The Big Payback is a community-wide online giving day designed to give the public the opportunity to pay back the nonprofits that make communities better places.

During the Fifth Third Bank’s Big Reveal on Friday in Nashville, the preliminary final amount totaled just more than $4.1 million from 28,458 gifts. The total included funds raised and prize totals. In its six-year history, the Big Payback has helped hundreds and hundreds of area nonprofits raise about $16.6 million in cumulative donations. The event’s previous one-year record total was 2018 at $3,163,463.

A record 964 Middle Tennessee nonprofits – including schools and religious institutions – from 35 counties signed up to participate in this year’s the Big Payback, an initiative of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

“Not since the flood of 2010 has Middle Tennessee come together to make so many good things happen,” said Ellen Lehman, president of the Community Foundation. “And isn’t it funny that it all happened in the hours of May 2 – virtually the same day as our flood rains kept coming years ago.”

“The fact is, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to our nonprofits serving Middle Tennessee. We at the Community Foundation are honored to play a part in this vital and critical work. If you live here, you should give here.”

New report outlines teachers’ raises across Tennessee

By Angie Mayes

Mt. Juliet News Correspondent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LSSD has increased its salaries, as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lantern Lane Farm welcomes crowd

By Matt Masters

[email protected]

Lantern Lane Farm, which provides counseling services to both children and adults, held its largest annual fundraiser to date April 25.

More than 100 guests packed the Tuckers Gap Event Center to raise money for counseling services that have helped people in Wilson County since 2004.

Ralph Cook and his wife, Joni Cook, started Lantern Lane Farm in 2004 in Mt. Juliet after Cook chose to face his own personal challenges through therapy. Cook, a music educator who was active in his church, returned to school where he earned a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Trevecca Nazarene University.

The Cooks created Lantern Lane Farm, which became a nonprofit in 2008, with the goal to provide a safe, non-judgmental space for all of their patients with a focus on Christ-like care, while it uses the unique human-animal connection to facilitate healing and openness through the care of horses on the farm.

Cook said the community support was overwhelming and humbling, but he’s looking to an even brighter and stronger future with continued growth and expansion, which will include a continued effort to provide counseling services to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.

“Thinking back over the 15 years of how we started with just the four of us and now being able to see this number of people here who believe in what we do, it’s so exciting,” Cook said. “We never thought that we would be here today. I think it has grown beyond what we could have ever imagined, and that’s because this is what God wanted for this community.”

In addition to dinner provided by Papa Turney’s Old Fashioned Barbecue, live music and a silent auction were featured during the fundraiser.

Leadership Wilson alumni hear about current projects

By Jared Felkins

[email protected]

About 300 Leadership Wilson alumni who represented each class since the first in 1994 turned out last Wednesday to hear about the current class’ projects, honor a Lebanon engineer and generally catch up with classmates to support the nonprofit organization during the group’s annual luncheon at Tuckers Gap Event Center in Lebanon.

Leadership Wilson serves to identify, train and motivate individual citizens in community leadership. Leadership Wilson is a nonprofit community leadership organization that serves the community and educates leaders in Wilson County. Each year, about 30 participants from the business, education, civic, religious and government communities of Wilson County are provided a comprehensive leadership training opportunity through experiential learning, daylong seminars, group discussions, field trips and retreats, which creates a forum to exchange ideas and discuss areas of interest. Each class presents the opportunity to understand and analyze a particularly important segment of the county, including government, health care and social services, agriculture, business and industry, public safety, education and quality of life.

At the luncheon, Leadership Wilson director emeritus Lucy Lee presented the commitment to leadership award to Rob Porter, an engineer and founding member of Civil Site Design.

“This person is still active in the community,” Lee said. “This person is still active in Leadership Wilson.

“He’s been here for 40 years, and let me just drop some names of things he’s been involved in building – Opryland Hotel, Providence in Mt. Juliet and there’s this little stadium where a lot of stuff is going on this weekend called Nissan Stadium…Opry Mills and the Five Oaks community in Lebanon – just a few small projects.”

Porter, a member of Leadership Wilson’s class of 2002, has served on the Mt. Juliet Little League board of directors, Leadership Wilson board of directors, a past president of the Mt. Juliet Breakfast Rotary Club, was a Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce chairman’s award recipient, a Wilson County Community Foundation board member, United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland board of directors member, Wilson County Joint Economic and Community Development Board member and a member of the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.

Members of the class of 2019 then showcased their projects either underway or in the works.

The team of Heather Schreader, Scott Walters, Britney Wilkerson, Emily Gannon, Becky Smith and Ryan Morris discussed the iGuardian project. The iGuardian program is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and presents programs within schools about the dangers of internet and social media use among children. An iGuardian event sponsored by Leadership Wilson will be Aug. 13 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Lebanon High School.

The team of Ryan Bennett, Ben Collier, Richard Felts, Sheridan Henson, Cale Mitchell and Clint Teasley presented a project on adult recreation. The group organized the revitalization and fundraising for Hobbs Field in Lebanon to be used for recreation adult-league softball. The group created a nonprofit organization and also raised funds for Empower Me and the Wilson County Senior Citizens Action Network.

The WilCo Sparks of Kindness team was made up of David Block, Diana Cavender, Karen Moore, Bonnie Ryan, Lanee Young and Betty Williams. The group solicited the help of Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash, Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty and Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings to proclaim May 8 as Kindness Day in Wilson County. Throughout the day, the group will stuff busses at Don Fox Community Park in Lebanon and the Providence Kroger in Mt. Juliet to collect food for Wilson County Schools and Lebanon Special School District’s backpack programs. Through May 7, donations may be dropped off at CedarStone Bank and Wilson Bank & Trust’s main office in Lebanon and North Mt. Juliet Road office in Mt. Juliet. The group also had Be Kind license plates made that are for sale for $20 each to further raise funds for the backpack programs.

The Pick TN team was made up of Brianna Burden, Phillip Lacy, Julie Miller Wilson, Tom Walsh, Jay Morris and Kyle Heckman. Pick TN offers free guitar lessons for children, and free guitars for those who stick with the program with eight or more lessons.

The Music and Memories team consisted of Shea Hutsenpiller, Myro Kuzmyn, Scott McCrae, Christine New and Jennifer Hamblen. The team created the Music and Memories concert for senior citizens, which was Tuesday at Tuckers Gap Event Center in Lebanon. The event attracted about 200 senior citizens and raised about $18,500 for the Wilson County SCAN program. The money will allow SCAN to double the number of seniors it serves throughout Wilson County.

More information about each project is included in a video that accompanies this story at lebanondemocrat.com and at The Democrat’s YouTube channel.