Motion filed in city’s liquor tax lawsuit

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

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

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

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

When the school board sued Mt. Juliet in 2014 for the back taxes, Mt. Juliet cited state court rulings that went back to 1883 that said cities didn’t have to pay the taxes to county schools. Mt. Juliet attorneys argued the school board had no authority to sue the city, but the Wilson County Commission, which is the governing body in the county, could sue for the funds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lakeview Elementary School January students of the month

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

Wilson Central Wildcat Theatre to present ‘Mamma Mia’

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The show takes place within a two-day period.

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

Maguire continued Leonard’s thoughts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mt. Juliet orchestra director wins award

Staff Reports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Bryant Adler with Alcoa Intermediate School.

• Kathryn Affainie with Granbery Elementary School in Brentwood.

• Josephine Cappelletti with Coulter Grove Intermediate School in Maryville.

• Benjamin Easley with Nolensville High School.

• Carole Smith Grooms with Freedom Middle School in Franklin.

• John Hazlett with McGavock High School in Nashville.

• Michael Holland with Nolensville High School. 

• Trey Jacobs with Nashville School of the Arts.

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

• Robbin Johnston with Clarksville High School.

• Spencer Nesvick with Houston Middle School in Germantown.

• Denise Rives with Barksdale Elementary School in Clarksville.

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

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

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

• Anna Laura Williams with Siegel Middle School in Murfreesboro.

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

• Frank Zimmerer with Antioch High School.

• Ben Zolkower with Hillwood High School in Nashville. 

The 2019 Music Teachers of Excellence national award recipients include: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Ashleigh Spatz with Burgess-Peterson Academy in Atlanta.

• Brianne Turgeon with Springdale Park Elementary School in Atlanta.

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

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

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abe Gibson plays Sky Masterson.

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

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

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

Christian Link plays Nathan Detroit.

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

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

Schools director receives positive assessment from board

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

School board wants to replace TNReady test with ACT Aspire

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

School board OKs resolution to oppose voucher program

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

School board discusses how it follows policies

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McNeese said he agreed with part of that.

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

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

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

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

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

McNeese agreed.

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

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

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

Friendship Christian School basketball homecoming court

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

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

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

Wright tells Education Committee about state mentorship program

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

There was no business to vote on at Thursday’s Wilson County Education Committee meeting, so chair Commissioner Annette Stafford asked Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright to give the committee an update.

Wright discussed a number of items at the meeting, but one of the highlights was that Wilson County has 100 percent participation in a state mentoring program.

“With Tennessee Promise, Tennessee Achieve, it’s always been something for students to access. Many of them are first-time college and having to be able to navigate [the scholarship process],” Wright said. “About three years ago, the governor’s office launched a program to get mentors for students. They could go through all the things they needed to go to as far as college.

“In Tennessee, if you go through the resources they have and make a 21 or better on the ACT, you can more or less go to college. Two years or four years [is] essentially free in the state. Many districts around the state are struggling to get mentors. But we’re one of 21 school districts out of 140 high schools that has met 100 percent goal. We have someone for every student that’s going through the process of Tennessee Achieve, so that’s good.”

She also mentioned state testing, which is the end-of-course testing for high, is winding down for the first semester.

“There’s not been any of the historical glitches that have been newsworthy,” she said. “It doesn’t happen in the fall, because it’s limited to high school testing. It’s going to be interesting when everybody goes online in the spring, elementary, middle and high, and East Tennessee goes online an hour earlier, so we’ll see.”

She said Bethany Wilson was named the new principal for Gladeville Middle School that will open next fall.

“We had a panel interview and went through multiple rounds,” Wright said. “She’ll start on Jan. 3. Dr. Donna Shaffer is the principal at Watertown Elementary, and Angie Pulley is going to be the assistant principal there.”

Flyers that went out to the public for the sales tax referendum, was a $70,000 project that was split 50-50 between the county and the school.

“There was a reimbursement of $50,000 that came back,” she said. “It was split 35-15.”

The majority went back to the county, county finance director Aaron Maynard said. “That’s because [Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto] was able to make “a deal for assistance for funding from [Eastern Middle Tennessee Association of Realtors.]”

Wright said, “We entered into it willingly, because the benefit would have been to the school district. Unfortunately, it didn’t play out as we were hoping, [the referendum failed by] 2,200 votes. I’ve heard many people say if they had known about it earlier…they would have thought about it differently. We’ve heard that over and over.”

She also said the semester is “winding down for the holiday, and I’ve already been informed by one middle school boy not to let it snow during Christmas [break], because that is a wasted day. He was saying it’s got to snow while we’re in school, so we can get out.”

Wilson, Lebanon schools receive new state report card

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Wilson County Schools and Lebanon Special School District received a new, redesigned state report card for 2017-18 from the Tennessee Department of Education this week.

The new report card was developed in the past year with educators, parents and community organizations and includes a number of new features based on the feedback, including school ratings, a Spanish translation of the site and additional new data about the performance of different student groups.

The school information was broken down by achievement, growth, chronically out of school, proficiency in English language, ready to graduate and graduation rate.

Scores were given to different group and subgroups, such as race, economically disadvantaged, English as a second language students and those with disabilities. The scores were rated 1-4, and four is the highest score.

The new report card is intended to help families better understand school performance and support student success. The updated design of the report card and information included in the tool, including the new rating system, is based on input the department received as it developed a plan to transition to the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and has several components unique to Tennessee.

This is not the first time the department has published a report card, but this is the first time the report card provides schools with ratings on up to six indicators designated in Tennessee Succeeds, the state’s ESSA plan. These indicators capture different aspects of school performance and include academic achievement, academic growth, chronic absenteeism, progress on English language proficiency and graduation rate. The report card also includes a new measure called the Ready Graduate indicator that looks for students’ readiness for college and career to let families know how well students are prepared for life after graduation.

Ratings are based either on how well the school did overall or how much it improved over the last year; the school receives the higher of the two. The report was also translated into Spanish.

Wilson County

Wilson County’s 20 elementary, middle and high schools were among those on the report card.

“I’m pleased by the performance our district, but we will use this data to identify any areas that need to be worked on,” said Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright. “Ultimately, a quality education is about more than a score, but any information we receive helps us to become better.”

Elementary Schools

Carroll-Oakland School’s overall scores were a 1.7 in achievement, 1.9 in growth, while it scored a 3.1 on chronically out of school and 3 in proficiency in English language.

Gladeville Elementary School’s scores were a 2.8 in achievement, 0.5 in growth, 3.3 in chronically out of school and no score in proficiency in English language.

Lakeview Elementary School’s overall scores were a 3.2 in achievement, a 1.3 in growth, while it scored a 2.7 on chronically out of school and no score in proficiency in English language.

Mt. Juliet Elementary School’s overall scores were a 3.6 in achievement, a 0.5 in growth, while it scored a 3.9 on chronically out of school and a 4 in proficiency in English language.

Rutland Elementary School’s overall scores were a 3.7 in achievement, a 1.7 in growth, while it scored a 2.9 on chronically out of school and a 2.6 in proficiency in English language.

Southside School’s overall scores were a 2.6 in achievement, a 1.7 in growth, while it scored a 2 on chronically out of school and no score in proficiency in English language.

Stoner Creek Elementary School’s overall scores were a 3.5 in achievement, a 3.8 in growth, while it scored a 3.2 on chronically out of school and a 4 proficiency in English language.

Tuckers Crossroads School’s overall scores were a 1.4 in achievement, a 0.4 in growth, while it scored a 2.1 on chronically out of school and no score in proficiency in English language.

Watertown Elementary School’s overall scores were a 2.8 in achievement, a 2.5 in growth, while it scored a 1.1 on chronically out of school and no score in proficiency in English language.

West Elementary School’s overall scores were a 3.3 in achievement, a 3.6 in growth, while it scored a 2.5 on chronically out of school and a 4 in proficiency in English language.

W.A. Wright Elementary School’s overall scores were a 3.1 in achievement, a 3.6 in growth, while it scored a 2.5 on chronically out of school and a 4 in proficiency in English language.

Elzie D. Patton Elementary School’s overall scores were a 3.7 in achievement, a 3.7 in growth, while it scored a 3.8 on chronically out of school and a 4 in proficiency in English language.

Middle Schools

Mt. Juliet Middle School’s overall scores were a 3.2 in achievement, a 0 in growth, while it scored a 2.4 on chronically out of school and a 0 in proficiency in English language.
Watertown Middle School’s overall scores were a 1.8 in achievement, a 2.3 in growth, while it scored a 1.6 on chronically out of school and no score in proficiency in English language.

West Wilson Middle School’s overall scores were a 3.5 in achievement and growth, while it scored a 2.6 on chronically out of school and 0 in proficiency in English language.

High Schools

Lebanon High School’s scores were a 1 in achievement, 3.5 in growth, 3.8 in chronically out of school and a 1 in proficiency in English language. It also received a 2.2 in ready to graduate and a 2.2 in graduation rate.

Mt. Juliet High School scored a 3.2 in achievement, 4 in growth, 2.1 in chronically out of school and no score in proficiency in English language. It also received a 3.6 in ready to graduate and a 3.9 in graduation rate.

Watertown High School scored a 2.6 in achievement, 3.9 in growth, 2.1 in chronically out of school and no score in proficiency in English language. It also received a 3 in ready to graduate and a 4 in graduation rate.

Wilson Central High School scored a 1.6 in achievement, 3.2 in growth, 2 in chronically out of school and a 1.8 in proficiency in English language. It also received a 3.6 in ready to graduate and graduation rate.

Lebanon Special School District

Lebanon Special School District’s six schools were also counted.

“Our administrators, teachers and students across the system work so hard. 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,” said Lebanon Special School District Director of Schools Scott Benson earlier this year. “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.”
Benson said the achievement area was the success rate of English language arts, math and science combined. LSSD officials tallied the numbers and discovered with a 51.9 rating, it had the highest achievement rate from any district in the counties that surround Wilson County.

Elementary Schools

Byers Dowdy Elementary School’s overall scores were a 3 in achievement, a 3.8 in growth, while it scored a 2.8 on chronically out of school and a 3.9 in proficiency in English language.
Coles Ferry Elementary School’s overall scores were a 2.4 in achievement, a 1.8 in growth, while it scored a 2.9 on chronically out of school and a 3 in proficiency in English language.
Sam Houston Elementary School’s overall scores were a 3.6 in achievement, a 2.3 in growth, while scoring a 2.7 on chronically out of school and a 4 in proficiency in English language.
Castle Heights Elementary School’s overall scores were a 3.3 in achievement, a 1.4 in growth, while scoring a 2.3 on chronically out of school and a 4 in proficiency in English language.

Middle Schools

Walter J. Baird Middle School’s overall scores were a 3.8 in achievement, a 3.7 in growth, while scoring a 2 on chronically out of school and a 1 in proficiency in English Language.

Winfree Bryant Middle School’s overall scores were a 2.3 in achievement, a 1.8 in growth, while scoring a 2 on chronically out of school and a 1 in proficiency in English Language.

To view the full report, visit

Cook’s Cantata expects to be traditionally nontraditional

Staff Reports

Just because a Christmas cantata is traditional doesn’t mean there isn’t room outside the gift box for a little creativity. 

Cook’s United Methodist Church choir members plan to color outside the lines Sunday and put a little extra bit of themselves into the 9:30 a.m. Christmas chorale service.

This will be a world premiere, as the lyrics for five of the six songs in the cantata are written entirely by Cook’s choir members with music added by choir director Rick DeJonge. The Cook’s choir will expand for the event, swelling to 28 voices, which will be backed by a 15-piece orchestra.

“I love writing music, but I’m not as strong lyrically,” said DeJong, who has had songs recorded by Willie Nelson and Liza Minelli, which demonstrates quite a range of his own. “This was a chance to get others in the choir involved. We were able to tap into some hidden talent.”

A phenomenon was witnessed by some of the amateur songwriters, as some songs seemed to write themselves without the need for a cocktail napkin on which so many songs were written in Music City.

“I’d never tried to write a song before despite having a long background in music,” said Ed Watson, a former Top Gun fighter pilot and retired CEO of the Barbershop Harmony Society. 

Watson’s writing topic was Joseph, and he wasn’t sure what to say at first. 

“I woke up at about 5 a.m. one morning and wrote my piece in about 30 minutes,” said Watson.

Sally Swaney and Sandy Wright also admitted they had the writing process go much faster than anticipated when first given their assignment.   

Wright also has a strong barbershop harmony background but found a home in the Cooks choir after moving from Pennsylvania.

“My topic was the shepherds, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about them,” Wright said. “It turned out to be much easier once I imagined their point of view, how scared they must have been by the star. It then went pretty quickly.”

Swaney also woke up one morning and wrote most of her assignment about the star, but then reached out for a little help.

“I called my sister, Susan, in Michigan, and she helped me polish some parts,” Swaney said. “She probably should get some writing credit.”

Maybe divine inspiration doesn’t require a napkin but sometimes needs a sister.

Erin Cervenansky has the most experience writing songs, as she loves mixing lyrics and music. She had a more measured approach to writing her topic, which was “waiting for a savior.”

“The chorus came to me pretty quickly,” Cervenansky said. “For the story portion of the lyric, I looked in the Bible for the prophesies for inspiration.”

Joyce Gaines had a centerpiece topic with Mary in “The Handmaid of the Lord.”

“Writing the lyrics challenged me to think about Mary’s story from the perspective of a young teenage girl,” said Gaines. “She thought she knew what her future would look like, then her world got rocked by the angel. The story in the song is the same, but perhaps it’s told in a different tone.”

The Cook’s choir includes DeJonge’s talent and originality. He writes the music for Disney World’s Thanksgiving parades each year. He was conductor of the Wilson County Honor Band last year and the Rutherford County Honor Band this year. 

The Cook’s Cantata is open to all Wilson County residents and will be held in the friendship hall at the church at 7919 Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet.

There are also provisions underway to simulcast the event on the web and in Cook’s newly renovated sanctuary in the event of an overflow crowd. 

Orchestra director ranked among top 50 nationally

Staff Reports

School Band and Orchestra magazine recently presented its annual list of 50 directors who make a difference for the past two decades, and Mt. Juliet High School’s Sherie Grossman was selected to represent Tennessee this year. 

The list is designed to focus a spotlight on one outstanding music educator from each state. Honored directors were nominated by students, colleagues, band parents, administrators, friends and sometimes even the spouse of a director who’s witnessed their ongoing dedication on a regular basis. This year, the magazine pored more than 880 nominations before it arrived at its final 50. 

Once the selections were made, each director was asked reflect back on their career and answer a host of questions. The following is what Grossman had to say about her 16 years of teaching.   

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

“I have had many proud moments, from former student successes to the current student playing a passage for the first time correctly,” Grossman said. “But something that makes me very proud is the startup and success of the orchestra program at Mt. Juliet High School. It is the only orchestra program in Wilson County, and I’m amazed at the students’ progress.”

How do you hope to make a difference in your students’ lives?

“I try hard to open as many doors of opportunity to my students by encouraging them to audition for outside music groups, take lessons and bring in guests to work with them,” Grossman said. “I want them to be inspired and instructed by more than just me and to have unique experiences in their music careers. I also want them to have high expectations and reach further than they think they can.”

What’s the most important lesson that you try to teach your students?

“I try to instill a love for music and a feeling of camaraderie within my students,” Grossman said. “I know they all won’t be professional musicians in the future, but I hope they will be consumers of music, appreciating all genres. I also teach them that this is the one and only time their particular group of people will ever get to create art together. Every group is unique, and we all need to appreciate that uniqueness.”

To see the full list of educators who made this year’s list, visit

Schools debates student transfers

By Matt Masters

The Wilson County Board of Education debated changes to student transfers within the system and heard from three middle school students who had some issues with how teachers are treated and represented in the district at its Monday night meeting.

The board approved on final reading a policy regarding student transfers within the school system, something Zone 1 board member Wayne McNeese spoke out against. He said the policy change took away an option previously open to parents of Wilson County students who are also school employees.

The policy previously allowed students of teachers and school administrators to attend whatever school the parents wanted, but was changed to say the students of teachers and administrators should stay in the feeding pattern of the schools where the parent works.

The policy also shortened the application period from Feb. 1 through March 31 to Feb. 1-28 for the next school year. The change was reportedly made to get students information and classes in order by March for the next school year. School principals, who felt the timeline for transfers should be shortened to get students prepared for the upcoming school year, brought up and supported the change.

The changes passed 4-3. Board members Bill Robinson and Tom Sottek voted against the policy, along with with McNeese.

Three Mt. Juliet Middle School students also spoke to the board about concerns regarding teachers’ salaries and unpopular changes to fall break.

“As many may know, teachers in Wilson County don’t receive the proper salary they work hard for and deserve in this district. Teachers are underpaid, ignored and underappreciated,” said Mark Habashi said as he spoke to the board, along with fellow eighth graders Kaitlyn Davenport and Madison Lachowicz.

“Teachers, especially in Wilson County, work their absolute tails off every single day to make sure that students like us receive a proper education. Time and time again, teachers’ needs have been ignored by the school board and central office. Statistics show that Wilson County teachers are better off in Williamson County, Rutherford County and Davidson County where they make a higher salary than they do here,” Habashi said.

In an email with The Lebanon Democrat, Habashi said he and the other students’ motivation to speak at the board meeting and have further correspondence with board members was to make sure their teachers’ concerns and needs were heard and understood.

“We started by wanting to make changes to our school then learned about the bigger issues in the district, and we wanted to see if we could make a difference in our community. Teacher pay, unions and fall break were all issues brought up by teachers and parents several times, which made us take notice and address those issues to the school board,” Habashi said.

While the board was impressed by the group and commended their willingness to speak, they were not exactly supportive of the assertion teachers weren’t treated well or were underappreciated, something in which Habashi said the group was disappointed.
“We were hoping for more of an open and positive reaction from the school board. Most of there reactions more or so encouraged us to do ever more to make sure teachers’ needs are fulfilled,” Habashi said.    

Phil Wilson with the Bridge Fellowship church asked the board for a two-year extension for the continued use of Watertown Middle School for church functions, which the board approved.

Director of Schools Donna Wright detailed a few issues with testing. She said Wilson Central High School students whose ACT tests were nullified last month were given another chance to take the test Dec. 4.

Wright said students in need of meal assistance are eligible for backpacks with food. The board discussed ideas of how to serve less-fortunate students without bringing unwanted attention to them.

Wright also said the district is in talks with a local church that may donate a traveling food bus and traveling classroom, which could be operational in May.

Wright said the district plans to hold a site visit of 40-50 superintendents to see how Wilson County Schools operates in July.

Wright also announced that Wilson County Schools was one of 20 districts that met its goal for TN Achievement.

Mickey Hall, deputy director of schools, said construction on the new Gladeville Middle School and Green Hill High School were both coming along well. He said the district is currently hiring staff for Gladeville Middle School.

The board unanimously approved a bid on school buses by Mid South Bus Sales. It also approved a bid for digital transformation of good and services awarded to Dell Technologies by a 6-0 vote, with McNeese abstaining. A mini bid was awarded to CDW Government LLC for wireless technology.

The board unanimously passed a voluntary early retirement incentive, along with the final reading of personal, professional and bereavement leave, which featured no changes to last year’s policy.

The board also unanimously passed a policy on district water testing, which said all district facilities built before Jan. 1, 1998 will have their drinking water tested every two years.

Students from Stoner Creek Elementary School also treated the board to a presentation of Christmas songs.

Cook to participate in Governor’s Academy for School Leadership

Staff Reports

NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Haslam announced the participants selected for the 2019 Governor’s Academy for School Leadership, a one-year fellowship program to cultivate and develop future school leaders across Tennessee and improve school effectiveness and student performance.

Rachel Cook, assistant principal at West Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, is among the participants.

It marks the fourth year of the academy, a unique partnership between the state, Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and local school districts, to provide an opportunity for exceptional assistant principals to increase their leadership skills.

“The success of our students and our schools starts at the top, so it’s critical to identify and build future school leaders ready to guide our students and teachers to greatness in the classroom,” Haslam said. “We’ve made record investments in K-12 education, raised our standards, and increased accountability, and, while our students and teachers are rising to the challenge, we must have strong principals to support them and continue the momentum.”

The performance of Tennessee’s students in math and reading remains among the fastest improving in the nation, and they have demonstrated historic gains in science, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly known as the Nation’s Report Card. Additionally, for the fifth year in a row, Tennessee had a record high school graduation rate – 89.1 percent in the 2017-18 school year.

A total of 29 participants from the first three cohorts were promoted to principal. The academy’s goal is for all participants to be promoted to principal within three years of completion. The program has impacted 32 partnering school districts that represent all regions of the state. 

Each assistant principal selected for the 2019 GASL class will be paired with an experienced principal mentor, attend monthly group training sessions and a week-long summer institute at Vanderbilt and will intern three days a month at his or her mentor’s school. Upon completion of the academy, participants will be expected to pursue placement as a school principal in their districts or regions.

Participants were nominated by their district’s director of schools and selected through an application and interview process conducted by representatives from Haslam’s office, the Tennessee Department of Education and Vanderbilt University.

Mt. Juliet student among region’s top high school chemistry students to earn awards at MTSU tournament

Staff Reports

MURFREESBORO – Many of the brightest young minds in chemistry from high schools across the region participated in the recent Middle Tennessee State University Department of Chemistry Scholarship Tournament.

MTSU chemistry officials revived the tournament, which was last held in 2015, and conducted once again in the science building.

The event was an effort to recognize nearly 30 outstanding chemistry students from Rutherford and surrounding counties and get them to consider MTSU as their college choice. Participants included seniors who had completed a year of chemistry and qualified juniors.

Incentives included special awards – scholarships to attend MTSU and cash – to the top three finishers from the about 90-minute exam “based on general chemistry that a high school student would have covered,” said professor Norma Dunlap, who oversaw the running of the event.

College of basic and applied sciences dean Bud Fischer presented scholarships and checks to first-place Faith Viers ($2,000 scholarship and $500) with Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro, runner-up Callie Hall ($1,500 scholarship and $300) with Central Magnet and third-place Daniel Bergman ($1,000/$100) with Mt. Juliet High School.

The students toured the 250,000-square-foot Science Building, including research labs, that opened in 2014 and learned about the program from current students Myranda Uselton, 2015 tournament winner; Kayley Stallings, 2015 participant; Avraz Anwar; and Daniela Taylor.

The visiting students observed research posters that were presented by MTSU students at regional and national meetings. The chemistry department provided gifts for the students and their teachers.

“Our intention is to make this a yearly event,” Dunlap said.

MTSU has more than 300 combined undergraduate and graduate programs.

New principals named at Wilson County schools

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright tapped two new principals and one assistant principal Tuesday at two different schools.

Bethany Wilson, assistant principal at West Wilson Middle School, was named principal at Gladeville Middle School when it opens next fall. 

Also, Donna Shaffer removed the interim from her principal’s title at Watertown Elementary School, according to Wright. Angela Pulley, a longtime teacher and administrator, replaced Shaffer as assistant principal.

Wilson has worked for the district for more than eight years. She was hired in 2010 as an English teacher for Wilson Central High School. In 2015, Wilson was named assistant principal at West Wilson Middle School.

Prior to coming to Wilson County, Wilson served as an English teacher for Franklin Road Academy and Metro Nashville Public Schools. 

As a 2017 graduate of the Governor’s Academy of School Leadership, Wilson will be an asset to Gladeville Middle School, Wright said. 

“It is a great honor to be selected to serve as the first principal of Gladeville Middle School,” Wilson said. “I am excited for the opportunity to work alongside teachers, parents and students to establish a learning environment where students are our focus, and academic excellence is our main pursuit.”

Wilson will start her new position Jan. 3, and a search will begin for her replacement at West Wilson Middle School.

Wright described Shaffer as a seasoned educator with more than two decades of experience as a teacher and administrator in the Lebanon Special School District.

Wilson County Schools hired Shaffer as assistant principal at Watertown Elementary School, and she served in that capacity until Sept. 25, when she was named interim principal due to former principal Anita Christian’s unexpected retirement. Shaffer was previously assistant principal at Castle Heights Elementary School, a position she held for several years.

“I’m honored that Dr. Wright has entrusted me with guiding the direction of Watertown Elementary.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these students over the past four months, and I look forward to working with the dedicated staff to continue providing a strong educational foundation for them in the years to come.”

Pulley has worked for the district since July 2008, when she was hired to be a teacher at Southside School. In 2017, Pulley was promoted to assistant principal at Southside. Prior to her work in Wilson County Schools, Pulley was a prekindergarten teacher.

Mt. Juliet High School students soar in choir

Staff Reports

The Middle Tennessee Vocal Association played host to the All-Mid-State and All Freshmen Honors Choir event Nov. 12-13 at Christ Church in Nashville, and several Mt. Juliet High School students took part in the event.

Mt. Juliet High School students auditioned Oct. 19-21, along with about 1,600 students. The top-scoring students earned their way into the honor choirs. Out of the 420 Mid-State Choir students selected, Mt. Juliet High School had 30 participants. Out of the 160 Freshmen Honor Choir students, Mt. Juliet High School had 22 freshmen participate.

Students rehearsed and performed with clinicians from the University of Memphis, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee Tech University, Chattanooga Boys Choir and Austin Peay State University. The students not only had a great experience, but they also made themselves scholarship eligible for several colleges and universities.

Mid-State Choir members from Mt. Juliet High School included Margaret Adkins, Rachael Baldwin, Madison Burnette, Madison Campbell, Anthony Cash, Logan Casto, Bryton Cole, Landon Collins, Hunter DaBell, Noah Dillon, Delaney Eaves, Macey Fee, Sam Ford, Caitlin Garrett, Kyle Hacker, Tatum Hazel, Takiah Ledo, Avery Leggett, Celeste Maas, Nikko Manipis, Ella Mercer, Neville Riley, Matt Porter, Evan Reavis, Macy Ruggiero, Gracie Shaddox, Molly Smith, Addie Stafford, Alexia Stotsenburg and Brad Thompson.

Freshmen Honor Choir members from Mt. Juliet High School included Lindsey Armstrong, Ally Barnett, Alexis Bumbalough, Jarrett Buskirk, Isabelle Cosby, Halli DaBell, Olivia Ellis, Hailey Hraba, Avery Johnson, Rachel Joyce, Kassi Pape, Cadence Perry, Halle Pollei, Taylor Powell, Ava Rainey, Tess Raney, Jordan Rehm, K’Miyah Smith, Karissa Szarek, Kayla Taylor, Abby Taylor and Sydney Welch.

Wilson Central High School students’ ACT tests nullified

By Matt Masters

The parents of 391 students at Wilson Central High School received letters recently that said the students’ ACT scores were nullified after they took the test in October.

Wilson Central principal Travis Mayfield sent the letter to parents to explain and apologize for the issue. He said the issue was due to several factors that stemmed from an Oct. 2 ACT security breach.

Due to the security breach, ACT officials rescheduled the test for Oct. 16, which fell during Wilson Central’s fall break. The students’ were scheduled to retake the test Oct. 30, but the test wasn’t returned in exchange for tests with the new test date, something ACT officials require for security reasons, which all resulted in the students taking the wrong tests.

Mayfield said students who took the ACT with accommodations were not affected and would receive their scores.

Students will have an opportunity to take or make up the ACT on Dec. 4 at Wilson Central.

It is not clear whether the rescheduled test will have any negative impact on students who plan to apply for college and meet deadlines to turn in applications. Wilson County Schools public information officer Jennifer Johnson said students’ college applications shouldn’t be impacted by the testing delay.