County set to receive health grant


Staff Writer

The Washington County Health Department presented their 2017 initiatives to the Health Education and Welfare committee—including a grant that could help Washington County implement a project to promote physical activity.

The committee approved the motion to move forward with the $10,000 Rural Access to Health and Healthy Active Built Environments grant opportunity. Each of Tennessee’s 89 counties will receive the grant which is designed to improve health outcomes by enhancing access to physical activity through bicycle, pedestrian, greenway and park plans.

At the committee’s Feb. 2 meeting, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge suggested splitting the money into mini-grants for ball fields throughout the county, but Washington County Health Department director Christen Minnick said the suggestion was discouraged.

The plan is supposed to be decided upon by Feb. 28 and put into action by June 30 of this year. However, Minnick said the funds can carry over into the next fiscal year. Minnick also presented the health department’s micro-clinic program that was approved by the committee to be sent to the county attorney for review.

The Tennessee Department of Health’s 16-week, micro-clinic program designed to promote health within the community includes classes with topics such as healthy eating, physical activity, spiritual health and how to quit smoking. Minnick said the classes are also hands-on with activities such as going to the grocery store to pick healthy items. The program is free and open to all ages within the community.

“This actually started in a county in Kentucky and it was very successful there,” Minnick said. “They’ve seen a lot of health improvement in their county with that. That’s why BlueCross BlueShield in Tennessee sort of adopted this model as well and they’re trying to push it out through the health departments.”

Health wasn’t the only topic discussed at the committee’s meeting; Director of Secondary Education for Washington County William Flanary presented an ACT testing event for Washington County. A motion was approved to transfer $8,000 from the previously appropriated Washington County Cannery fund to this initiative.

Washington County and Johnson City are required to issue the ACT college readiness test to at least 200 students, so $8,000 would more than meet that number. Flanary said the test is free to any student. He also said any student that gets a platinum, gold or silver level will get to go to a pizza party.

“That’s going to get the county and the city students tested,” Eldridge said. “To get the program kicked off and get our students on the road to earning this credential, this is a really big deal for us.”

Sweet syrup returns to Tipton-Haynes




Associate Editor

Maple syrup making with a pancake breakfast is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 18, sponsored by the Tipton–Haynes Historical Association. The event is scheduled from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. on the Tipton-Haynes Historic Site at 2620 South Roan Street in Johnson City.

Visitors will be able to help gather sap flowing from trees on the property and then can watch it being boiled down to sweet maple syrup. The syrup will be cooked down all day.  Breakfast is $1 extra.

Fifteen area school groups and aftercare organizations visited the site for a day of educational instruction and fun in 2016. The Summers Past History Program celebrated its 32nd year with more than 30 campers attending three sessions.

The site also hosted several outside sponsored events conducted by the Watauga Historical Association, Daughters of the American Revolution and the Tipton Family Association of America.

The historic site consists of 47 acres and includes 11 buildings, a cemetery, museum, education center, prehistoric cave and a wooded area.

Half of the funds used to support the site come from financing provided by the State of Tennessee.

Activities planned for 2017 at Tipton Haynes include a Civil War Encampment on March 18-19; Springtime in Haynesville on May 6 -7; the Summers Past History Program from June 12 through June 30; a Sorghum Festival on September 16; Stories from the Pumpkin Patch on October 14; and Visions of Christmas: 1862 on December 2.

The Civil War Encampment includes preparations for a battle plus the battle performed by reenactors.  Events in the life of Confederate Senator Landon Carter Haynes and a tour of his home will be featured during Springtime in Haynesville.

The Summer Past History Program for individuals six through 15 years of age is divided into three week learning sessions. 

The first week is Native American History, the second week is Revolutionary War History and the third week is about Civil War History. 

Sessions run from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Monday through Friday.  There are fees for those participating in the programs.

Visitors will watch mules turning the mill to make sorghum during the Sorghum Making Festival. 

The process of cooking the juices and other step by step processes in making sorghum will be shown.  The Stories from the Pumpkin Patch features an evening event with fun crafts and storytelling.  Participants can also roast a hot dog over an open fire for a dollar extra as they listen to Spooky Stories.

The Visions of Christmas: 1862 is a rendition of life at the Haynes family during the Civil War. 

The day illustrates occurrences in preparation for Christmas and Landon Carter Haynes’ birthday.  Holiday treats will be cooked on the open hearth at a cabin on the property. 

Reservations for tours of the property are suggested on this date.

Admission to the Tipton-Haynes Historic Site is free for members of the association. 

Otherwise, adult admission is $5 per adult, $2.50 for children 12 and under and free for infants less than three years of age. 

Fees for joining the Tipton-Haynes Historical Association are $20 for students; $25 for individuals and $35 for families.

Additional information about these events or membership can be obtained by contacting Tipton-Haynes at 423-926-3631. 

Nurse position to undergo a change at Jonesborough Senior Center



Nursing care at the Jonesborough Senior Center is about to expand.

Currently, the center offers a rotating visiting nurse every Tuesday between the hours of 9 to 11 a.m. for blood pressure checks, blood sugar checks and other basic services.

But thanks to an agreement between Mountain States Health Alliance and the town, which was approved by the Board of Mayor and Alderman at its January meeting, that visiting nurse is soon to become more of a part of the Senior Center team.

“It has been a worthy service,” said Senior Center Director Mary Sanger of the current Wellness Clinic program. “It’s just time to move to the next level.”

That level will be to offer the services of one nurse  provided by MSHA through its “Faith Community Nurse Program,” eight hours a week to offer a more consistent level of care and a greater knowledge for the center’s senior members.

”This person will be more like a staff member,” Sanger said. “They will be able to build more of a rapport with the patients.”

In addition, she said, a regular nurse will be more likely to spot health changes and help seniors address them more quickly and more effectively.

According to Town Administrator Bob Browning, the arrangement seems like the perfect solution as the center moves to expand its Wellness Clinic offerings.

As part of the program, MSHA will incur half the expense for the new nurse and will advertise for the position, Sanger said. The center director will also be able to play a part in the interviewing process, so as to ensure a better fit for the center’s new nurse.

All of this fits well with the Senior Center’s wellness focus — a key component from the moment the doors opened in 2015.

With an expansion of the nurse’s role and presence at the center, Sanger said “our members can develop comfort level. They can get to know the nurse and the nurse can get to know them,”

And that, she believes, will continue to enhance the health and well-being of all of their members.

Boone student works outside the box for big scholarship win



Staff Writer

Just a few months ago, Daniel Boone High School senior Connor Wilson informed Duke University—his dream school—that he wouldn’t be interviewing for their college program.

Now, he’s ready to continue chasing the premed dream he’s had since he was a kid.

Wilson has been awarded a QuestBridge Scholarship worth over $200,000. The scholarship is designed as a way for lower-income students in rural areas to attend the nation’s top schools. QuestBridge is partnered with schools like Yale, Princeton, Vanderbilt, Dartmouth and Columbia University to allow students who are academically eligible to pursue their college dreams though they might not have the funds to do so otherwise.

Wilson will be attending Colby College in Waterville, Maine in the fall of 2017. Though it’s not the school he always pictured for himself, it’s a dream come true for the Boone student.

“I’ve always known I wanted to go somewhere big, go somewhere I feel like I’d have the best chance at,” Wilson said. “My sister was always super focused on her education and she always wanted to go big. I was like, ‘I really wanna go somewhere that I’m extremely proud of.’ When I looked at QuestBridge, all the schools were somewhere I was like, ‘I could see myself going here.’ It’s what I wanted since I was a kid.”

Wilson said he concentrated on his academics and community service to land a spot at an elite school. Activities like academic clubs, the soccer team and outside community service have kept Wilson busy. And his former AP chemistry and physics teacher Mike Taylor said Wilson’s well-roundedness also played a large role in his college search.

“I don’t want to say he was a model student because those aren’t really as well-rounded as he,” Taylor said. “And I know that the colleges and the QuestBridge people would rather see someone who is more well-rounded than someone who is so focused on studies; they don’t do anything else around the world. He is so involved that for him to do what he did in my class is wonderful.”

Before Wilson involved himself in his community, his mother Sarah recalled the moment she felt her son was meant for something big.

“I saw something at a very young age,” Wilson’s mother said. “I told him to go hang up his jacket. He couldn’t have reached that jacket. There’s no way he could have reached to hang his jacket up, but I just wasn’t thinking. Next thing I know, I hear this noise … He had gotten into his daddy’s tool box and he had gotten a hook and somehow had put this through a door where the key is. He figured out how to be able to make this concoction so he could hang up his jacket. He was a problem solver. And of course I totally knew it was my fault. I told this child to do this and he totally ruined the door, but he just saw things outside of the box.”

Now the high school senior hopes to solve some of the world’s problems; Wilson plans to double-major in neuroscience and Spanish. Pediatric neurosurgery is his main goal, but he has known since his grandfather was diagnosed with leukemia that he wanted to pursue a future in the medical field.

“I want to do research. That’s one of the reasons I decided to go into neuro,” Wilson explained. “You can’t really research a whole lot on the heart because we’ve got the heart pretty figured out, but we know hardly anything about the brain. There’s so much more that we can do to figure that out. I’d like to do research because impacting one life is huge; impacting thousands or millions of lives through research is a totally different scale. I’d love to be able to contribute.”

Along with his academic goals, the incoming college freshman also wants to aid those without proper medical care.

“I went actually on a mission trip in Nicaragua so I saw the health disparity there,” Wilson said. “These people, they live on matted dirt. So I definitely want to do something to use medicine. Go and help people outside of the country—those are future goals.”

In order to consider his future in such a large frame of mine, Wilson said he felt he had to think bigger than most high school students.

“Most people around this area, they don’t really go out and push the boundaries of what you can do educationally or even athletically,” Wilson said. “They kind of go for the norm. Coach Taylor for me was the teacher that was like, ‘Hey, you don’t have to be normal’. He was the guy that was like, ‘You can do better things than most people do.’”

When asked what he would tell other students aiming to attend an elite college, Wilson relayed similar advice to what he received from Taylor.

“You can do it is the main thing,” Wilson explained. “It’s totally possible. Don’t let people really tell you that ‘Yeah you can shoot, but you’ll probably just go to some other lower place.’ You can do it. It’s possible. All you have to do is put in the effort if you want it bad enough.”

He may be heading 18 hours from Northeast Tennessee to Colby College, but his mother, who is a fourth-grade teacher at Ridgeview Elementary School said she is proud her son is a product of Washington County schools. And now more than ever, she believes she was right all those years ago when she saw a big future for her son.

“(A small future) That’s not what he was made for. And to get a scholarship, period is awesome. But to get it based on merit and academics, as a teacher, I was so extremely proud,” Wilson’s mother said. “But I also expected it from him. I expected it. He wasn’t made—I’ve told him since he was little, he’s like David in the Bible. You weren’t made for small things. You’re not capable of small things. Go big or go home.”

Player of the week

macie 1-25

Congratulations to Daniel Boone High School’s Macie Culbertson on earning the spot as this week’s player of the week. Macie has led the Lady Trailblazers to their the top of the Big Seven Conference list. Look for next week’s winner in the following edition of the Herald & Tribune.

County Commission locks down school projects


Staff Writer

Part of the Washington Way dream has been made official.

The Washington County Commission passed three top priorities from the Board of Education’s Washington Way plan Monday night. The resolutions amending the budget for 2016-2017 included a purchase agreement for the 15-acre site of a new Jonesborough K-8 school, the initial design and engineering of the new Jonesborough school, and the project management fee for the new Boones Creek K-8 project.

The proposed cost for the new Boones Creek school is around $26.8 million while the Jonesborough and academic magnet school are estimated at $20.8 million. And as talk of a sports complex as part of the Washington Way school projects was weighed, Chairman Greg Matherly brought the 40-percent tax increase that was levied in Washington County last year onto the table.

“I supported  that 40-cent vote and I told my constituents that’s what we were gonna have,” Matherly said. “I made a commitment to them. And I’m gonna hold you accountable for every commitment I make. And this commission I hope holds every one of us accountable for this money. I voted for the schools and I still have a list of what I voted for—what we all voted for. And that’s what I’m gonna make sure happens.”

When that 40-cent increase was voted upon, 14 cents was set aside for the Boones Creek school while five cents was set aside for the Jonesborough school. Commissioner Bryan Davenport thought back on the tax increase as well, but spoke in favor of putting a financial cap on the projects.

“I voted for the same things (as Matherly),” Davenport said. “We need to make a commitment, but I think it’s okay to adjust the plan as long as we’re not exceeding what we said we were going to spend.”

The commission also discussed who would operate the sports complex—the schools or a body like parks and recreation? Davenport spoke on the possibility of coming together with the complex.

“I also think this (sports complex) is a great opportunity. How many times have we heard the word ‘collaboration?’” Davenport asked. “This is another way of doing it with the county and city. The two governments come in together and work something out that will be beneficial to everyone. Boones Creek deserves to have a new school and they deserve to have that kind of complex. I think this is a good way of doing that.”

Among talk of pennies and ball fields, Commissioner Todd Hensley offered a perspective on the commission’s decisions in past and present meetings regarding school projects.

“Something that also changed between the time the original plan was put together that all came before us and we all voted on was we got a new director of schools,” Hensley said. “So all we’ve done here is adjust our mechanism of funding to meet the vision that she and her board has. We’re not changing the dollars and we’re not giving up anything. In fact we’re gaining a third school, a magnet school.”

State Library & Archives steps in after the fire


When Sarah Jo Myrick and her husband Robert evacuated their Gatlinburg home ahead of the fast-approaching wildfire in late November, they were rightly more concerned about their safety than their possessions.

“We didn’t take anything with us,” Sarah Jo Myrick said. “We just got out of the house.”

When they returned to their home of almost 47 years, almost nothing was salvageable.

The couple had kept their important documents stored in a fireproof cabinet, but the cabinet was broken when it fell from an upper floor to a lower one as fire spread through the house. The Myricks are in the process of rebuilding and replacing what they lost in the fire, with some assistance from the Tennessee State Library and Archives and other agencies that keep copies of records.

The Myricks were one of several families victimized by the Gatlinburg fire who asked the Library and Archives to help them find copies of their marriage certificates.

“We’re very thankful to the Library and Archives for providing copies of those records for us,” Sarah Jo Myrick said.

While the Gatlinburg fire was an unusual and tragic situation, the Library and Archives provides replacements for vital records to citizens on an almost daily basis.

“Most Tennesseans don’t realize that the Library and Archives can provide them with copies of older birth certificates, marriage certificates and, in the case of deceased loved ones, death certificates,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “These records are kept by other agencies until they are at least 50 years old, then the records are transferred to us. When fire or other tragedies strike, people often need copies of those types of records in order to get on with their lives. Providing those records is a service we offer that people don’t know they need until they really need it.”

The Library and Archives stores preservation copies of records for the local courthouses in Tennessee’s 95 counties. If records in the county archives are damaged or destroyed, they can be replaced with those copies. The Library and Archives was able to provide invaluable help, for example, after the Van Buren County Archives burned two years ago this month, destroying the property deed records for the entire county.

“Sometimes people think of the Library and Archives primarily as a place to go if you’re conducting historical research of some sort,” State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill said. “And that is certainly an important role that the Library and Archives plays. However, we also provide these vital records that people need in their everyday lives. That’s what we really want people to understand – that we’re here to serve all Tennesseans, not just those with specialized interests.”

Teacher taps gardening to win grant


Staff Writer

South Central Elementary School’s kindergarten teacher Jill Leonard may be purchasing Chromebooks with the Quality Educational Support for Tomorrow grant she was awarded, but she’s also implementing one of the world’s oldest and most well-known practices—gardening.

Leonard is one of six teachers in Washington County to receive part of the $17,927 QUEST grant. The grant offers funds for educational projects and items the school system might not have readily available. Now Leonard will use her $2,776.60 to buy five Chromebooks and  landscaping materials for her “Learning by Growing in Our Kinder-‘garden’” project.

“For many years I have had the idea to secure funding for a gardening project,” Leonard said. “I love to do gardening projects with my students and wanted to help them learn on a larger scale than just planting in containers inside the class.”

Leonard said the Chromebooks will be used to explore kid-friendly websites and apps in order for the students to design their gardening project. However, for Leonard and her students, the project also has a larger importance.

“This project is important because it can offer students in a high poverty school the opportunity for learning about material that can help them in their future,” Leonard explained.

“By learning more about gardening and plant life cycles they can understand this information as a future career endeavor and they can also use the information to help provide food for their families by growing gardens at home.”

Not only does Leonard hope the project has a positive effect on her students, but she also wants to grow her project into the community just like the seeds that will soon be planted at South Central Elementary School.

“Students are always so excited when we work on the plant life cycle and the more opportunities that I can provide for them to use all their senses within the lessons, the more knowledge and understanding they will have the opportunity to gain,” Leonard said.

“My hope is that we can partner with DCHS Ag Department and other interested gardeners or business partners to grow this into a community outreach program and expand this for an opportunity for other classes to use this garden space as a learning tool too.”

Once the kindergarten teacher realized her planting provisions were secured, the celebration began for her—and her students.

“I was actually pumping my arms and cheering in my classroom alone! Then I went into the hall to find someone to celebrate with,” Leonard said. “The day I left school for the awarding, I told my students where I was going. They began to jump and cheer when I told them we had won some money to make a garden outside in our science space.”

“Then I told them how much we won and they were all saying ‘Oh my gosh!’ and hugging each other. It was great and I wish now that I had videoed them. It was priceless!”

County discusses water woes


Staff Writer

It may be a new year, but the Commercial, Industrial and Agricultural Committee is still discussing the water projects that would aid homes with no or contaminated water on four roads in Washington County.

During the Jan. 5 meeting, county commissioner and CIA Committee chairman Todd Hensley made a motion to bring the project to the full commission in order to request funding. Hensley said the projects could serve between 12 and 14 families. He also said many of the families had no water this summer or only had contaminated water.

To aid the project, Hensley is looking to the funds from the recent tax increase.

“Right now, we’ve raised everybody’s taxes 40 cents and so far, we’ve not done much,” Hensley said. “That’s not entirely our fault, but the perception is that we’re sitting here on this cash fund that’s not going anywhere.”

The commission had tabled the discussion for a survey that is still being conducted to see if the areas qualify for low-to-moderate income grant money.

However, commissioner Mitch Meredith was concerned with precedence which he said had been mentioned during their last discussion on the topic.

“If we proceed in those specific projects, we set a precedent that is going to be very tough for future commissions,” Meredith said. “If your goal is to earmark money, I think you could approve whatever that number is for projects to be determined.”

The committee also discussed reimbursement; if they go forward with the project before the survey is finished, they could be reimbursed should grant money become available from the conducted survey.

With the amendment to request the option of reimbursement should grant money be offered for the project, the resolution will go to the budget committee for a recommendation before seeing the full commission.

Firefighters eye adding new positions in county


Staff Writer

Public Safety officials are hoping to add new positions in Washington County.

During the Public Safety Committee meeting on Thursday Jan. 5, Fall Branch Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jim Dawson said information about possibly adding full-time firefighting positions in Washington County will soon be forthcoming.

The positions are something county commissioner Pat Wolfe said is a need for the county—and has been for years.

“We’ve always needed people during the daytime at these fire stations. Those volunteers just fill so many spots,” Wolfe said. “It’s something that like I said, has been looked at I know firsthand since ’98. And it all boils down as much as anything to money. Also, we’ve never had a real good suggestion as to who’s gonna be in charge.”

However, EMS could play a part in these new roles; Dawson also said during the meeting that EMS could possibly be involved in administering the new positions as well as placing some of their personnel into the new positions.

“To have two (full-time firefighters) there (at each fire station) that you know are going to be there if you have a fire you can call and get a truck there on the move—it’s got a lot of possibilities if EMS can help out,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe also said the discussion is only in the preliminary stages, but that the conversation which will also concern funding the positions will continue.

“You’re not just talking about a salary; you’d be talking about benefits also,” Wolfe said. “It’s going to be a pretty big load of hay as far as trying to fund it, but at least it’s a starting point that we’re going to be looking at.”

The main concern among public safety officials is staffing during the day time. Though volunteer firefighters aid the community, Assistant Chief at Sulphur Springs Volunteer Fire Department Bruce Brocklebank expressed his concern for protecting the area while volunteers aren’t available.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle, but we need to get our communities protected especially during the daytime,” Brocklebank said. “That’s going to be the thing, is during the daytime when 90 percent of our volunteer members who receive nothing are at work.”

Though more information will be coming, the public safety committee also discussed adding a full-time cook position at the Washington County Detention Center. County commissioner and detention center head cook Mike Ford said they made over 62,000 meals last month. The motion was passed.

Little Library on the corner


Lisa Barnett


Staff Writer

On Emma Grace Drive a tiny bird house-like structure bearing a Tennessee three-star emblem resides, proudly awaiting a kid with a thirst for reading to come get his or her fill.

Lisa Barnett was once one of those eager children, ready for her next adventure waiting inside the pages of a book. And now, Barnett is giving that opportunity to kids and folks of all ages through the Little Free Library sitting watch in her yard.

“I have loved books since I was little. I have always loved books and there were times when I didn’t necessarily have access to books,” Barnett recalled. “When I saw my first Little Free Library in Glencoe Village,  North Carolina I knew then—and that was two years ago—I knew then that I wanted one. And I knew I could put one in my yard.

“It’s just something I felt drawn to have.”

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization designed to offer free books to the community. The creator originally built the first one to look like an old school house in honor of his mother who was a teacher and also loved books. They’ve spread across the country, but the idea remains the same—“take a book, leave a book” in order to encourage folks of all ages to take whatever book they like and to leave one as well.

But Barnett’s library, which was constructed by her husband as a Christmas gift, was built on more than just the Little Free Library’s original intent; the Little Free Library is a labor of love.

“It’s just a love of books and a love of having something to read,” Barnett said when explaining her reason for wanting a Little Free Library. “I think that’s important. Things like that are going by the wayside—cursive writing and you know…I just think a physical book in your hands means something. You can look at an iPad, you can look at a telephone, a computer screen, but to me, just having a physical book in my hand always meant something. I’m sure there are still people out there that enjoy that.”

Though the Little Free Library centers around books, this particular structure’s creator built the library with the community in mind.

“The focus is on kids with this. In the summertime, they may be walking around the neighborhood, they see it, they pick out a book. Nothing would make me happier,” Barnett said, laughing. “I felt like this is something I can do for my community, something I can do to get people talking, to get people meeting—give somebody something to read.”

Offering a resource from which kids can discover new favorites and classic tales isn’t all Barnett wants to give her community. To this Emma Grace Drive resident, a book is the perfect device to take its reader to places far beyond the Washington County limits.

“It’s just an escape. A book is an escape. You read it and you’re there. I used to get encyclopedias off the shelf and read them,” Barnett said, laughing at the memory.

“You can read a book and suddenly you’re wherever that book’s taking place. That’s what’s wonderful—it encourages imagination.”

The hope for Barnett’s Little Free Library is to offer adventures, but also to provide opportunities that differ from much of today’s technological world.

“They need something,” Barnett said with a sigh. “There’s too much social media and electronics, and I sound like an old woman by saying that, but there’s too much technology. They’re just bombarded by sounds and screens and maybe something like this, something different—I can see like a 5-year-old who learns there’s a little library in the neighborhood saying, ‘Mommy, will you take me? I want to get a book.’ That would just thrill me that it would encourage something different. Or that they could say to their friends, ‘Hey I went to the Little Free Library’ or ‘Have you been to the Little Free Library?’ It might encourage them to read a little bit more.”

Kids aren’t the only ones encouraged to enjoy the Little Free Library; Barnett said she has seen parents catch a glimpse of an old book they once read as a kid and immediately go right back to that feeling of reading it for the first time.

“It may be something that you’ve read before like a classic when you were a kid,” Barnett explained. “We’ve had moms walk by here with their strollers say, ‘Ah I read that when I was little!’ And you might want to read it again.”

The red, white and blue, house-shaped home for short stories and chapter books alike — standing at the edge of Barnett’s yard — doesn’t just symbolize a love of reading and the memories associated with books and stories; Barnett also wanted to honor her beloved state of Tennessee with the tri-star symbol she carefully painted on the front.

Barnett said she was inspired to paint the symbol on the Little Free Library after seeing the help so many Tennesseans offered to Gatlinburg after the town’s wildfire devastation. After she painted it, Barnett even sent information and a photo of her little library to the Tennessee Governor’s office who tweeted a picture of it on the Read to be Ready twitter page.

The heart of Barnett’s project, however, dates back further than a time when her home state made her proud; after discovering her love for books and doing all she could to get her hands on those printed pages as a kid, Barnett’s passion for reading never burnt out. Instead, this project might have reignited her love for books—and her life.

“I’m just partial to the printed word. If I get books from Amazon, I get the printed books. It just comes from being a child of my generation,” Barnett recalled. “We had books and I always worked in the library when I was in elementary school and middle school. I was drawn to books. Why I never pursued a career in that, I do not know.”

After a moment of thinking about the career tied to reading she could have pursued, Barnett looked ahead with hope for the future: “My second life may be starting.”

Teacher receives assistance in quest to ‘engage minds’


Hillary Lambert


Staff Writer

Technology has changed the way educators teach their students. And now Ridgeview Elementary school teacher Hillary Lambert will be able to equip her kindergarten class with some changes as well.

Lambert is one of six teachers in Washington County to receive part of the $17, 927 QUEST grant. The grant offers funds for educational projects and items the school system might not have readily available.

After applying, Lambert was awarded $3, 242.10 for her project “Engaging Minds in Room 139” which involves hands-on learning tools such as iPads.

“Everything is going to technology,” Lambert said. “It’s a time that they’re growing up with the technology. That’s why I don’t like to give them worksheets because they’re not engaging. That’s why I wanted hands-on activities because they’re little and they get a sense of play while they’re learning.”

iPads with learning apps for kids such as Tiggly help teach students anything from words to shapes and will soon be implemented in the Ridgeview Elementary classroom. For Lambert, these new devices, however, are just another way to keep up with the world’s technological changes. This is a change that she’s seen first-hand as a teacher and also as a student who enjoyed a television and other technology that has been surpassed by today’s items like an iPad.

“I grew up in Washington County,” Lambert said. “They called that the 21st century classroom and that was the ‘it’ classroom that you wanted to be in and it’s just funny to see that. It’s crazy to see.”

Apart from keeping up with today’s technology, Lambert also thinks these iPads will keep students more engaged than some traditional methods.

“They grow up with it and they’re used to it,” Lambert explained. “So letting them have it in the classroom and experience it everyday— they just love it and they’re so engaged when they use it.”

However, these lesson plans won’t be centered around what these iPads offer; rather, the features on these devices will complement what Lambert plans to teach her students throughout the year.

“They have all different programs within them that I can align with what I’m teaching,” Lambert said. “As soon as I get my money and get all my stuff, they can get right to work.”

Before working on her application for the grant, Lambert said she was inspired by her realization that an upgrade was needed in her classroom.

“I have four computers in my classroom,” Lambert said. “Two of them randomly turn off so that was another reason why I really wanted to apply for it because my kids will be working on them and then the next thing you know, they have a random blue screen. So I was thinking they needed some reliable technology that they can use.”

Not only will her class receive these devices, but for Lambert, they are also receiving an opportunity they might not have received without the grant.

“I would never have been able to pay for it out of my own pocket,” Lambert said. “So it’s awesome that I got that.

Student organizes blood drive to give back


Staff Writer

A college student looking for a way to add to her scholarship fund and a blood center that needs donations are coming together to aid both initiatives.

David Crockett High School senior Ashlea Reaves is one of the five students teaming up with Marsh Regional Blood Center for the Holiday Hero Blood Drive. The drive will be held at Jonesborough’s local Food City and could result in scholarship money for Reaves if enough blood is donated.

If Reaves can rally 25 units of blood, she will be put in a drawing for $500. If she can get 50 units, she will automatically get a $500 scholarship to help her pay for her college education.

However, the money wasn’t Reaves’ only incentive; her interest in entering the medical field is coupled by a desire to also help her community.

“I always thought it was great knowing that one unit of blood could save three lives,” Reaves explained. “After I heard that, I was like, ‘Okay, we need to get this out into the community because the more units of blood we have, the more lives we could save.’ So I thought if we made it more of a community event, then everyone in the community would know about it and want to come out and help as well as the students.”

Reaves is also the vice president of the Health Occupations Students of America at Crockett. She has been a member of the club for the past four years and has assisted in numerous blood drives with HOSA. Reaves teacher and HOSA sponsor at Crockett Cheri Wolfe said Ashlea’s assistance in the club’s blood drives is just proof of her character.

“Ashlea is just incredible. She’s very talented, she’s quite the leader of HOSA this year,” Wolfe said. “She’s put forth a lot of effort and it shows. We’re really excited to see her pursue what will hopefully be a very successful career.”

Reaves has known for a while that she wanted a career in medicine. As soon as she realized what she specifically wanted to do, she decided the pace at which she wanted to achieve that dream.

“Ever since I was very little I always wanted to do something in the medical field,” she said. “And the older I got, the more interested I got into the different categories you could branch off into. I love working with children so I really like the idea of neonatal. I really want to graduate early so I can get into my career and start early.”

Human Relations Coordinator for Jonesborough’s Food City Tim Wisecarver said Reaves’ college education is something she has already started and only further proves her motivation. Reeves also works at the Food City in Jonesborough—and she’s a worker that Wisecarver was more than willing to assist.

“She’s actually enrolled right now in Tusculum,” Wisecarver said. “She’s able to graduate early, but she’s taking Tusculum classes her senior year. That kind of just shows how motivated she is really to go forward and get her degree. She’s volunteered for events for us as well. So when she came to me and asked me about it I told her we’d do whatever we can to try to promote it because I just think it’d be a great thing especially if she can get some money for her school from it.”

Reaves isn’t the only one depending on these donations; Marsh Regional Blood Center’s donor operations manager Ray Bell said this time of year is especially crucial for the blood center.

“Winter time, schools are out—this is supposed to be the worst time for blood centers,” Bell said. “Typically blood centers are going, ‘The sky’s falling! We need donations. We need blood!’ We always need donations. If you have a family member that’s in the hospital and they may be going into surgery and you hear over the loudspeaker, ‘There’s an urgent need for blood,’ that’s not very comforting to hear. So we want to try to stay ahead of the game.”

Though some may think high school students and blood centers don’t typically work together, Bell said high schoolers are a monumental help throughout the year.

“When you’re doing these blood drives, a lot of people don’t realize how much the high school students in this region provide to the hospitals,” Bell explained. “It’s about 18 to 20 percent of the blood that these hospitals use are from high school students. A lot of times (students) get a bad rap—whether it be to get out of class or get a free t-shirt, or they maybe start doing something good for the community, but we’re really appreciative of it and we wanna try and give back to them as well because our whole mantra is ‘give here, help here.’”

Because high school students are such a help to Marsh, Bell said the organization decided to start these scholarship fundraisers to receive donations during slow periods, but to also give back to those that help them throughout the year.

“It’s the right thing to do is to give back to them,” Bell said. “That’s what it boils down to. We work with them and try to make it a good day. We try to build that lifelong donor with these kids.”

For Wisecarver, the opportunity to help both Marsh and Reaves was one he couldn’t pass up.

“It’s two-fold. Anytime you do a blood drive, you’re giving someone an opportunity—someone that’s going to need blood for a transfusion…” Wisecarver said. “We see a lot of kids that work for us and Ashlea’s one of the most motivated ones that’s ever came through Food City. So we just want to try to help her all we could.”

If you’d like to donate, the drive will be on Jan 5 from 2 to 6 p.m. at Food City in Jonesborough. A free t-shirt and snack will be provided with each donation.

County mayor eyes school construction for 2017



Staff Writer

The year of 2016 was one of planning for the new Boones Creek K-8 School. And now, 2017 is slated to be the year of breaking ground at the upcoming school’s site.

And that’s something Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge says must remain a priority in order for the school to open in August of 2019.

“Based on what (the school board’s) architect has given as a timeline, there are a lot of decisions that are going to have to be made in the next three months to keep this project on schedule,” Eldridge said. “If we don’t get this stuff out of the way in the next two or three months, it’s certainly going to be in jeopardy.”

So far the county commission has established a fund set aside for the new school while the school board has discussed the location at length and most recently at the last Board of Education meeting on Dec. 8, the new school’s layout. Eldridge said for the new school’s plan to run smoothly, both the county commission and the school board will need to align both groups’ concerns.

“It is so important there is good communication and collaboration during this process,” Eldridge said. “The county commission knows how much money it has to spend. The school board knows what they want in the way of a facility. There has to be a very deliberate effort made to align those two priorities. I’m disappointed that there hasn’t been more interest in making sure that those two things are aligned from the beginning. If we’re not careful, that’s going to end up being the stumbling block in the next few months.”

Finding common ground wasn’t the only concern from 2016 that will affect the new year; one of the biggest discussions the county commission faced was the tax increase. The tax hike was levied in order to fund the new Boones Creek School as part of the Washington Way plan. Eldridge said it was a decision the commissioners weren’t anxious to make. However, Eldridge is most concerned with seeing tax payers’ investments pay off through the new school.

“It is important that they see a return on that investment. And that’s what is it—it is an investment,” Eldridge said. “We raised taxes to invest in the school system. They need to see a return on that investment, not just in the form of new bricks and mortar, but even more importantly, they need to see a return on that investment in the form of improved student achievements and outcomes, career readiness, college readiness as a result of the Washington Way vision that’s been cast.”

Though the new school will be at the forefront of both the county commission and the school board’s priorities, Eldridge also has other topics he is looking forward to working on in 2017.

Eldridge said establishing a long range, general fund budget plan will help manage expenses from year to year. The financial plan will involve studying how current expenses will affect finances down the road.

“That’s not something that I would say is common in county government in Tennessee, but having that long range plan is invaluable as a management tool,” Eldridge explained. “When you project that into the future budgets, it’s amazing how you see the compounding effect of these recurring expenditures that are being approved. This is just a very important tool that we have to incorporate.”

But with all the talk of budgeting and planning, somehow the conversation with any Washington County school board member, county commissioner, or county official always circles back around to the new Boones Creek School.

“I’m optimistic that we’re gonna get this (the plan for the school) headed in the right direction. I think that long term, it’s gonna make a huge difference in Washington County,” Eldridge said. “Not just in the school system, but for everybody.”

Top Stories of 2016:Washington County brings in Kimber Halliburton

Kimber Halliburton stepped into her new role on July 1.

Kimber Halliburton stepped into her new role on July 1.

The new year is approaching, but for Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton, everything has been new.

Halliburton, the first ever female Washington County Director of Schools, took over July 1, 2016, after Ron Dykes’ retirement. And after serving as a principal in Nashville, Halliburton headed for East Tennessee with some changes in mind.

The words “Washington Way” are nearly synonymous with the new director of schools; Washington Way is the proposed constructional and instructional plan for Washington County schools and involves a range of priorities from new schools to new technology.

The original plan included a new Boones Creek K-8 school, a new Jonesborough K-8 School, and those schools’ previous locations to become the site for a magnet school. Halliburton also wanted to add a vocational site for students opting out of the college route after high school.

Though her plan has seen some revisions thus far, the Washington Way is still at the forefront of Washington County Board of Education meetings and discussions.

As of late, the BOE has been concentrating on deciding the layout of the new Boones Creek K-8 School while they also have decided to simultaneously make Jonesborough Middle School into a magnet school.

Building changes aren’t the only innovation Halliburton came ready to ignite in Washington County; Halliburton has also been an advocate for technology in the school system.

Halliburton was the principal of Waverly-Belmont which is one of two technology demonstration schools in the Nashville area. Clearly, this appreciation for technology has not been lost in the move.

From promoting the use of social media such as Twitter profiles for herself as well as school board members to aiming for a one-to-one ratio for students and technological devices, Halliburton has been clear about her intentions to equip Washington County schools with technological improvements—which should be a familiar aspect in the new year of 2017.

At the McKinney Center: Teacher restores magic in young art



“The librarian said it wasn’t art,” Chasidy Hathorn read as she pointed to the words painted on the mixed medium piece hanging on the wall of her historic home.

Hathorn, a former school teacher and now an art teacher at the McKinney Center, said “I had to retire from public school teaching because it got to the point that I couldn’t help those kids anymore. There were so many rules and so much red tape. When I got home I felt like I was crushing children’s dreams, and I wasn’t going to do that anymore. That is why I do what I do, and this painting is a reminder of that.”

As Hathorn continued up the stairs, her fingers traced the woodgrain of each picture frame surrounding the unique pieces on her wall. “When I began my journey at the McKinney Center, I found that the kids were so brilliant and fun!” she said. “It revived in me a child-like view of art.”

The McKinney Center continues to grow as an arts and humanities mecca where creativity and expression come to life.

Now in 2017, the McKinney Center will continue to incorporate classes of all kinds including the one Hathorn will teach.

From brilliantly bright, acrylic-gold speckling works of her own to creatively crafted canvas pieces by students filling her collection, it’s evident the inspiration each brings to her heart.

“Sometimes we get so caught up in details of a still life or trying to make our paintings into photographs, but these kids were just having fun and they loved it,” Hathorn said.

“I want to help them to continue that and not lose it. Let’s not take that away from them. Let them be creative, color outside those lines.”

Every time Hathorn passed a piece on her wall she smiled with each glance. These pieces of art, she believes, are sharing their story.

“And who are we to say what kids do. We are going to have a curriculum and a guide but at the same time I want them to have fun, paint their emotions, paint what they see, not what we see.”

A Mississippian at heart and a well-known artist in the region, Hathorn found a home at the McKinney Center back in 2014.

“When we first moved here I was trying to find my way,” she said. “I was almost afraid to get involved, to get settled. I finally began to explore, and I found the McKinney Center. They made me feel like home.”

While Hathorn worked on a piece inspired by her grandfather, she gently glided her brush over the words “empty chair” while she described days of the past spent with him.

She routinely took a step back while looking at the canvas, then leaned over to dip her brush into the gold paint sitting on the antique British table in the middle of her studio.

In the spring, Hathorn’s journey at the Mckinney will continue, with her teaching children’s fine arts, fine art construction and homeschool art classes. It will entail everything from mixed media collage to clay hand building, knife pallet painting, upcycling and even a bit about historic artists.

“I want them to leave confident with their talent and to know that each child is unique and special.” Hathorn said, “I don’t want them to look at each other’s works and say, ‘my work isn’t as good as so and so’s.’

“I want them to see all of their works as a masterpiece.

“I want them to leave feeling like true artists, like they are creative. I want them to make friends and I want them to leave with a sense of appreciation for art.

“Because every single one will leave as little Picassos.”

If you are interested in taking Chasidy’s class or another class at the McKinney Center email McKinney Center Director, Theresa Hammons at: or call 423-753-0562.

Top Stories of 2016: Commission, board push ahead for new school projects


The new Boones Creek K-8 school might not break ground until the spring of the new year, but that didn’t stop the project from being a top story of 2016.

After deciding to begin what was originally part of the Washington County Director of Schools, Kimber Halliburton’s vision for the Washington Way plan of constructing two new K-8 schools and repurposing the old buildings, the new Boones Creek K-8 school got the go ahead.

The board agreed to build the new school while simultaneously making Jonesborough Middle School into a magnet school. But when it came to construction of the new Boones Creek School, however, the work had just begun.

Funding was a major player in the plan to construct this new school, but after the county commission approved a 40-cent tax increase to fund the school, it was up to the Board of Education to tackle the next obstacle—location.

From a possible location on Carroll Creek Road to a site closer to Highway 36, location for the new school was at the center of discussion throughout the year. Eventually, the board held a final vote in August that named the 56-acre site on Boones Creek Road and Highland Church Road the new official site for the school.

After funding had been set and the location had been decided, the BOE then voted on a project manager in a unanimous vote for Tom Burleson of Burleson Construction.

However, the layout wasn’t quickly approved for the project. Discussion on the size of the school and the possibility of cutting back on the number of classrooms and adding them back on at a later date took front and center at the BOE’s last meeting of the year.

If classrooms are to be added at a later date, an additional  40 percent would be added onto the cost.

The board also discussed cutting either a softball field, a baseball field, or the auxiliary gym from the new Boones Creek K-8 school layout.

During the Dec. 8 meeting, board member Keith Ervin mentioned that David Crockett High School didn’t have an auxiliary gym in relation to the new school’s plan which includes an auxiliary gym for K-8 students. But mention of high school athletic facilitates didn’t end at the board meeting.

Just a day before, Crockett’s head football coach Jeremy Bosken resigned, citing inadequate facilities among other reasons. Bosken is headed to Cleveland, Tennessee where he will act as offensive coordinator and where he will be closer to his mother and his brother who is the wrestling coach at Cleveland High School.
But proximity wasn’t his only reason for leaving; the athletic facilities at Crockett were a main component.

“It’s kinda been a controversial topic,” Bosken told the Herald & Tribune. “I’m glad it is, I really am. It was just something that I felt like kinda came to fruition over the past couple years.

“I felt like the best way to help these kids right now is to leave. And what I mean by that is, we’ve been trying to get air conditioning in the locker room and it hasn’t come. We’ve been trying to make improvements in the weight room and it’s been very little…and trying to get an auxiliary gym built…and when we’re pushing for these things, we’re not doing it to win more games.”

Though the BOE’s meetings have mostly revolved around the plans for the new Boones Creek School, board member Todd Ganger spoke to the Herald & Tribune in light of Bosken’s resignation.

Ganger said high school athletic facilities are a subject the board will need to assess.

“Granted, there is a huge need at Crockett for an auxiliary gym,” Ganger said. “And it’s been brought up and talked about—to add an auxiliary gym to a new school, it is an issue the board will have to look at. Is there a true need there? That’s just one of those things that the board, once we can get down to the nitty gritty to be at the new school or not to be at the new school, it’s something you have to really look at and focus at.”

Top Stories of 2016: Local election mirrors heat of national battle


Election time in Jonesborough has always been a period of excitement and discussion.

This year, it got a little crazier.

Up for election in the 2016 Jonesborough Board Mayor and Aldermen race were incumbent Kelly Wolfe and challenger Charlie Moore for mayor; and incumbents Terry Countermine and Adam Dickson, as well as challenger Jerome Fitzgerald for two aldermen seats.

Both Moore and Fitzgerald had served in various town capacities in the past: Moore as an alderman for one term and Fitzgerald, a well-known local resident who served on the board for 16 years and wanted to return.

What started out as a fairly respectful confrontation at the Herald & Tribune-hosted public forum in October quickly escalated into what some may have considered an all-out brawl.

Name calling, attack ads, billboards, phone calls, anonymous fliers and more, mostly targeting Wolfe, flew fast and furious.

“I don’t like anybody using the term ‘negative’ if it’s factual,” Moore told the Herald & Tribune, stressing at the time that he was not responsible for much of the campaign material that was produced by former Unicoi Co. Sheriff Kent Harris and his newly created political action committee titled “Citizens for Better Government of Washington County”.

Still, he said, that didn’t mean he didn’t agree with it.

Wolfe, on the other hand,  said he was trying to keep the campaign positive, but couldn’t resist countering his opponent’s claims.

“It has certainly not been an enjoyable election as it pertains to the ugly and sometimes crazy attacks of Mr. Moore and his supporters have seen fit to make on both me and the town,” Wolfe said prior to election day.

In the end, the voters had the final word, putting Wolfe back in office for another two years with 1,275 votes to Moore’s 1,043.

Countermine and Fitzgerald carried the aldermen election, causing Dickson to bid farewell to the board, at least for the time being.

Fitzgerald was the big winner with 1,308 votes.

Countermine came in second with 1,134 of the votes in this three-man race for two aldermen spots.

Incumbent Adam Dickson came in at 26 votes shy of reelection with 1,108 votes.

Wolfe said it was time to look ahead.

“To dwell on this too much would not be productive,” he said. “And I think people largely rendered their verdict.”

Tomita gets ready for new year, new role


David Tomita


Staff Writer

A new year, new role and a new office are just around the corner for Washington County commissioner David Tomita — who is stepping down from his county commission role to assume his new position as the mayor of Johnson City.

During 2016’s last Washington County Commission meeting on Monday, Dec. 19, Tomita officially announced his resignation from the commission in light of his new mayoral role in Johnson City.

“He’s an asset. He’s done a great job,” Greg Matherly, chairman of the Washington County Commission said. “I kind of expected it myself. He was already the vice mayor and with his abilities and as good of a job as he’d done down here, I had no doubt that he would make an excellent mayor for the city of Johnson City.

“If I was up there on that commission, I would have voted for him to be mayor.”

Tomita has simultaneously served as a county commissioner and a Johnson City commissioner, but, his newest role as mayor left him with a decision to make.

“It was a hard decision because I really enjoyed my service on the county commission,” Tomita said. “And I did think that my being on both of them provided a pretty good bridge. Knowing the unintended consequences of what the other body is doing is helpful. It’s easier when you understand what’s going on. So I’m glad I did what I did. I never for a minute thought that there was conflict of interest.

“It would be difficult to serve as city mayor and on the county commission. There’d always be the undertones of preferential treatment and I didn’t want to do that.”

Johnson City will gain Tomita and Joe Wise, who back in May announced his resignation from the county commission if he were to gain a spot on the city commission. Though Matherly said he will miss the two commissioners, opportunity lies ahead for the county commission.

“Those two guys have filled a big role and we’re gonna miss them,” Matherly said. “But there again, you’re going to have them on the city commission which is somebody we know and they know us and they know what’s going on in the county too. Both have high level (of knowledge) of the county government and what’s going on.”

The understanding these two commissioners have is something Wise also thinks will benefit both commissions.

“I believe it helps that two members of the city commission have direct and recent experience serving on the county commission because clearly Johnson City and Washington County’s futures are inextricably linked,” Wise said. “As city commissioners, understanding the kinds of challenges and underlying issues that the county can encounter will help us be more sympathetic or more sensitive to opportunities where we can partner effectively for a mutually beneficial outcome.”

Tomita said knowing those on both the county and city commissions has helped him in the past and will help him in the future.

“It’s easier to not like people you don’t know and I think for many years the city was sort of this nameless, faceless entity,” Tomita said. “And the county was this nameless, faceless entity. It’s harder to do harmful things to people that you know and like so hopefully we can work together better. We’ve come a long way and we’ve got a long way left to go. I suspect we’ll get there.”

With 2017 just ahead, a similar aspiration was in mind for Matherly and Tomita—the chance to work together again.

“He’s been an excellent commissioner for us and we’re gonna miss him,” Matherly said. “But I think too, with him in the role as mayor, I think he’s gonna bring an understanding of county government as well as city government. I think that’s gonna be a plus for him and a plus for us.

He’s somebody we can talk to. I’m glad he’s in that role.”