Firefighting preacher answers the call

Oakland Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Telford caught fire on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Steve Hartley has been a recent visiting preacher at Oakland Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Telford. Hartley is also a volunteer firefighter for the Limestone Volunteer Fire Department. But never did he imagine he would be filling both of those roles at the same place and time.

Steve Hartley had no idea the church he preached at Sunday would become the scene of a fire he was called to on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Jan. 10 just after 6 p.m., the church was ravaged by a fire that claimed the majority of the building. Hartley arrived on the scene with the Limestone VFD to see the church at which he had recently preached surrounded by flames.

“When you see something like that, whether its a church or a house, it kind of gives you a sick feeling in your stomach,” Hartley said. “But knowing that it was a church and me being a preacher — my heart went out to the congregation.”

Limestone’s Fire Chief Steve Archer said the fire was an accident that sparked from the church’s breaker box. Jonesborough, Sulphur Springs, Greeneville and Nolichuckey firefighters were also on the scene to fight the fire. No one was injured.

The Herald & Tribune sat down with Hartley a few days after the fire — and after he preached the following Sunday in the only building on the property that was salvaged, the fellowship hall.

“You had asked me a question: ‘What was it like to stand there and preach Sunday and have to fight a fire on the next Sunday?’ I studied on that for a couple days and I remembered there was one point where I went back in the church to fight the fire,” Hartley explained. “All I could do was sit down on the stage and just think about the devastation and the hurt this congregation was going to be going through.

“We had a lesson out of Daniel that says that faith that is not tested is withered. I told them this is God’s test for them to rebuild and to come back even stronger — and to be a light to the community.”

Hartley made entry into the building that night to fight the fire, but he was also able to be there for the congregation he had gathered with just days before..

“I’m glad I was able to be there. I was able to take a break from the fire fighting part of it and go over to the congregation that was there and have prayer with them,” Hartley said. “In a way, I hope I comforted them by them seeing me there and caring enough to come over and comfort them even while we were still putting the hot spots out.”

Though the historical church suffered a great deal of damage, the fellowship hall currently serves as the meeting place for the congregation. Hartley said, though the circumstances weren’t ideal, the service on Sunday after the fire felt like the group hadn’t stepped foot from their typical Sunday meeting place.

“It was just as if we were in the church, just as I preached on,” Hartley said. “In 1 Corinthians 3:9 it says that we are God’s building. I told them it didn’t matter where we met or how we met, but as long as we were together that we could have church.”

Hartley wasn’t alone in that feeling; Wayne Ruppert is a full-time attendee of the church and is in charge of lining up a pastor to preach each Sunday.

“I stood up and told them, ‘There’s only one way to describe the sermon that we had today and that was ‘hallelujah,’ Ruppert said. “He reached the hearts of all of us on Sunday.”

Though the church is still grappling with the damage, church members are looking to carry on as what they consider is truly “a church.”

“The church building it just that, a building,” Ruppert said. “The church is made up of a congregation and the church is in our hearts. And that congregation at the Oakland Church is full of spirit, full of life and we will continue on, whatever it takes.

“With God’s love and support, in the near future, we should be back on the hill. Just pray for us. Just ask everybody to pray for us.”

As for Hartley, he doesn’t accept his role as a firefighter, paramedic or part-time preacher as something he himself is able to complete; that, he said, is just another of God’s blessings in his life.

“Anytime I get to share what God’s done for me or pray for somebody, it’s a humbling experience,” Hartley said. “But to be able to help the church, preach with them, pray with them and work as a volunteer fireman — I’m blessed to be able to do that.”

Town hall meeting set for Jonesborough School discussion

Jonesborough Middle School will be the site for the town hall meeting on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. for the community to weigh in on the impending Jonesborough K-8 school decision.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

If you thought all the pieces of the upcoming Jonesborough K-8 project puzzle were on the table, it might be time to invest in a bigger table.

The Washington County Board of Education has opted for a town hall meeting at Jonesborough Middle School to allow the community to ask questions and voice opinions to board members and county commissioners in regards to the future design plans for the Jonesborough K-8 construction project.

The meeting is currently scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 25, at 6 p.m. at Jonesborough Middle School located at 308 Forest Drive, Jonesborough.

Board member David Hammond, who made the motion at the board’s Jan. 4 meeting, said the main goal of the upcoming town hall meeting is to hear from the community and to bring everyone together.

“The last few weeks, I feel like there’s been an air in the community where it’s the board against the commission and the commission against the board and the parents against the board or commission,” Hammond said. “I think this is a way for everyone to sit down and discuss it in an informal setting — not be lectured to or talked down to — but for everyone to just come and realize we’re all working for the same goal.”

The decision for the community meeting came after the board chose “scheme two,” a design plan that is $5,652,000 over the project’s budget and involves tearing down the round portion of Jonesborough Elementary School and renovating other existing parts of the school. The Washington County Commission’s Health Education and Welfare Committee then voted the plan down just hours before the Washington County Board of Education met on Jan. 4.

There was another previous option, dubbed “scheme three”, which involved renovating and adding onto the current Jonesborough Middle School building. This plan comes in at $31,000 under the $17,560,000 budget approved by the county commission.

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge, who was present for the committee’s decision to deny the motion for scheme two, said from the county commission’s perspective, the Jonesborough Middle School site is the most plausible option for the project.

“(Scheme three) is viable from the one perspective that the county commission has a say in and that’s the budget,” Eldridge said. “Scheme three is within budget. Scheme two is 30 percent over budget.”

County officials are also considering the option to delay the project to allow cash to accumulate in the capital projects fund. However, increased interest rates and construction costs remain a concern for the board in delaying the project. Street also said at the board’s December meeting that if the project decision was postponed for even three months, the school opening would be pushed back one year to 2021.

Hammond also weighed the conditions at Jonesborough Elementary School as a factor in the option to wait on the project.

“Jonesborough Elementary is going to be in need of a new roof soon. The HVAC system or the chiller system could go at any time. If we wait, we could be in a position where we’ll have to put a million or so dollars in the school while we’re waiting,” Hammond said. “That’s money I would like to see go towards the new Jonesborough School.”

Hammond said in his mind, no option is off the table just yet. Until the board comes to a decision, Hammond wants to keep the community involved.

“This is a community school. This community’s going to be here long after my time is up on the board and long after the county mayor and the commissioners serve their terms,” Hammond said. “They (the community) are the ones left to deal with what we do. That’s why I want the community involved.”

For the county mayor, his concern remains in the timeliness of the town hall meeting and expectations that it could bring to the community.

“One thing that concerns me is that if the school board is wanting to get public input, they’re really late in this process,” Eldridge said. “Bringing the parents in and asking them for their input at this point — I just caution everyone to understand that there is no more money. I’m concerned about the county school board setting expectations with these parents that something more can be done when in reality there is no money to pay for it.”

Top Stories of 2017

In this first week of 2018, the Herald & Tribune would like to take a moment to look back to the top  stories of 2017 – a collection of stories with the greatest impact on our community, many of which promise to continue into this new year. From coach controversy and school disputes to decisions on fluoride treatment and plans for downtown development, 2017 showed us once again that the size of the town has little bearing on the quantity of the news. Below are a few breakdowns of just a few of those stories.

Coach controversy spills off of field

Gerald Sensabaugh landed the Crockett football job in January of 2017.

When Coach Gerald Sensabaugh stepped onto the David Crockett High School football field in the fall of 2017, it was hard to determine who was the happiest: students thrilled to have a true NFL hero at the coaching helm or Coach Sensabaugh, who expressed his determination to make a difference in the lives of each kid he encountered on his team.

“I wanna come to Crockett and bring a winning tradition to Crockett,” Sensabaugh told the Herald & Tribune in an interview at the beginning of the season. “I wanna win as many games as possible. I can’t promise anything, but I can tell you — I’m gonna give it my all. We can do big things here.”

But by early October, the scene had undergone a drastic change. With Crockett’s annual Musket Bowl contest against rival Daniel Boone on the horizon, Sensabaugh announced via social media that his team’s practice had been canceled by the school system.

Director of Washington County Schools Kimber Halliburton said the decision to cancel the Pioneers’ practice came after Sensabaugh practiced an injured player, and referred to unprofessional behavior by the coach, as well as his accusations against employees involved in the athletic program.

Next came the somewhat startling announcement that Sensabaugh  has been put on administrative leave for practicing said player, verbal attacks and profanity. Athletic Director Josh Kite was also put on administrative leave after a claim from Sensabaugh that Kite offered him prescription drugs.

The storm had only just begun. Parents on both sides of the controversy joined the mix, with Sensabaugh’s supporters demanding his immediate reinstatement via protests, rallies and Facebook.

As of press time, the coach remains on administrative leave, and is currently said to be looking at a run for the position of  Sullivan County Mayor.

Off the field, the coach controversy also helped bring into focus frustration with details in the county’s decision for a new Joneborough School. Now united, they stormed the board. And brought about the next top story for 2017;

‘Tear down the round’ cry escalates

Discussions about what to do with Jonesborough’s Elementary School has by no means been limited to 2017. Nearly as soon as talk emerged about the need for a new Boones Creek school, similar calls for a new Jonesborough School began to surface.

As the Washington County School Board and County Commission moved into 2017, however, the course seemed to be set. Jonesborough would not have to wait nearly as long for their new school as originally anticipated, but it would be a new school/renovation hybrid designed to save on costs. As part of that renovation, the elementary school round portion would be retained. And a new magnet school would go into a renovated middle school

As with earlier Jonesborough school discussions, there at first appeared to be little input from the community. Then, amid the Coach Sensabaugh protests, a call to “tear down the round” emerged.

The retention of what many protesters saw as an outdated, inferior product for Jonesborough that could save the county money — against a backdrop of a brand-new Boones Creek School which had broken ground miles down the road – struck some residents as another example of unfair treatment.

The protests continued to rise and, in a surprise 11th hour decision, the board voted to ‘tear down the round’ and make whatever concessions necessary to make that possible.

Still ahead is the question of whether the county – arbiter of the funds – will concur, what will happen to the proposed magnet school and whether current protesters will be appeased.

Fluoride is out, then it’s back in again

The BMA spent time throughout the year discussing fluoride.

The Town of Jonesborough’s decision in early 2017 to discontinue the addition of fluoride to its drinking water took many by surprise.

The vote — unanimous except for one lone holdout, Alderman Terry Countermine – issued a new course for a town which had provided fluoride in its water for nearly 20 years.

The decision came after months of public hearings and discussions, as well as an informal residential vote which came in with about 50 percent for and 50 percent against the addition of fluoride.

Plans were set for implementation of the town’s new directive in the coming summer. And the issue was considered closed – at least for the time being.

But a group of committed local healthcare professionals, including the town’s own Dr. Bill Kennedy and Alderman Countermine, could not let the issue lie. They began meeting to discuss a strategy. And they began to continue to voice their concerns,

In the end, swayed by the arguments, the board reversed its decision with a unanimous vote, this time in favor of keeping the fluoride,.

“Since this issue was brought before the board, I’ve struggled to have many of my questions about our water treatment process answered,” Aldermen Chuck Vest —  who voted in February against fluoride’s use in town water — told the board at the Aug. 14, 2017 meeting.

“I’ve tried to keep an open mind,” he continued. “So recently a reputable study from the Mayo Clinic was released  and I’ve had more conversations with professionals I respect and trust.”

Chuckey Depot tops town improvements for 2017

There is no doubt about it. Jonesborough is a railway kind of town. From those early stories of the Immortal Thirty, that collection of men in Jonesborough’s history who persevered to bring the railroad through their growing town, this community has been one that is used to marching to the tune of a train whistle.

That’s why it seemed so fitting to area historians and train aficionados alike that the Chuckey train depot would come to settle in Jonesborough as the new Chuckey Depot Museum.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Oct., 2, 2017 at its new location at 110 South Second Avenue in what has be christened W.C. Rowe Park. The park is named after Rowe, life-long resident of Jonesborough and the area known for his contributions to the Town of Jonesborough.

The ribbon cutting was the conclusion of a five-year project. Built on the railroad’s right of way in Chuckey, the depot was threatened with demolition and, due to railroad policy, the building could not stay in its original location. 

Now, thanks to work by the town, the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society, the museum provides ample opportunity for visitors to step back to a golden age of railroad and get a firsthand view of what it was like to wait for a train and travel afar.

The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society also partnered in the project, providing the restoration of a red caboose which sits adjacent to the depot in addition to numerous artifacts and photos.

For more information about the Depot, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423)753-1010. 

Commission puts hold on county school ‘game plan’

Commissioner Tom Krieger first suggested a school facilities study be conducted in the Washington County School System.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Commission discussed a proposal for a school facilities study, or “game plan” as Commissioner Tom Krieger has called it, to be conducted for the Washington County School system. However, the commission majority voted in opposition of the study.

Krieger, who is also the Health, Education and Welfare Committee chairman, made the motion for the commission to approve a demographic, enrollment, strategic planning and school facilities study with a cap of $60,000, which was to be paid for by the county.

Of the 22 commissioners in attendance, 10 voted against the proposal. Thirteen votes of approval were necessary to pass the motion. Twelve commissioners voted in favor.

“I don’t really think we know sometimes what we’re doing. I’m not disparaging the commission. I’m not disparaging the board of education,” Commissioner Paul Stanton, who is also part of the HEW committee, said. “Right now, we find ourselves in the debate of renovations, tear downs, new facilities. We see letters to the editor — the same kind of back and forth … I think we need a fixed, focused, objective.”

“I think it’s high time we had this kind of study done.”

In the proposal, Jesse Register, the director of the Center for the Improvement of Educational Systems at Belmont University, was to conduct a study on items such as facility conditions, capacity, student enrollment and zoning.

The proposal stated the study results were to be presented to the school board and in turn would result in a 10-year plan the school board and in turn would result in a 10-year plan with “recommendations for renovation, modernization, replacement and new construction needs” for the Washington County School District.

Commissioner Pat Wolfe commented on a misconception he felt members of the community had gathered from news of the proposed study; after the HEW committee discussed the plan at previous meetings, communities were concerned the study could result in the closing of some Washington County Schools.

“The main thing is this is not a study to recommend closing schools,” Wolfe said. “This is a study to study what’s happening in education and give us some direction.”

Other commissioners were concerned this was a request that didn’t come from the Washington County Board of Education. Director of Schools for Washington County Kimber Halliburton confirmed at the commission meeting that the school board had discussed and voted on the study.

However, school board member Phillip McLain addressed the commission from the audience with the school system’s other projects in mind.

“There’s a lot of issues on the table that came from our last plan that hadn’t been finished. My second thought is that this is a lot of money to spend right now,” McLain said. “We’re in the middle of construction, we’ve got other capital project things that need to be funded and I think this process could wait a year or two — till we’ve got some other things behind us that we’re already working on.”

McLain also said he remembered former commissioner and HEW chairwoman Katie Baker telling Krieger in a joint meeting with the school board that the request for the study “should be coming from the school board to us, not from us to them.”

At the commission meeting, Krieger also mentioned a former study conducted by planning and design-engineering consultant Kimley-Horn for the county before the design plan for the new Boones Creek School was decided. Commissioner Mitch Meredith cited the previous study’s miscalculations as a reason he felt the county should invest in the Belmont study.

“If you look at the population of the school growth trends, (the study) was off by almost 20 percent,” Meredith said. “Instead of seeing a growth in school enrollment, we’ve seen a significant drop off. So I think using an outdated demographic study to make decisions on spending millions of taxpayer dollars would be the wrong approach.”

Commissioner Suzy Williams, who is also a member of the HEW committee, pointed out that Register’s work came without a cost to the county. The fee, which was not to exceed $60,000, was to come from contracted professionals who would help complete specific portions of the study.

However, the time line of the county’s current capital projects was an aspect to consider for Commissioner Bryan Davenport..

“I understand that we need updated information. But we are in the middle of a capital project. I think we need to finish that,” Davenport said. “We don’t need to make decisions off of old data that may change. But, from what I’m hearing from the school board, at this time, they have a full plate. I don’t know how quickly they could look at this information, this study, and start making decisions going forward.

“We’re not in the situation, I don’t believe, of going forward and spending millions of more dollars. Before we do that, we need to study that. I’m just not sure now is the time for that study.”

School board votes to ‘tear down the round’

The Washington County School Board voted to ‘tear down the round’ at the current Jonesborough Elementary School in the plans for the upcoming Jonesborough School.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The board of education officially decided on a design plan for the upcoming Jonesborough K-8, but that didn’t keep them from once again going in circles — and this time, against the clock.

Board member Mary Beth Dellinger made a motion for the board to adopt a plan which includes tearing down the round portion of the current Jonesborough Elementary building, renovating the existing rectangular portions and adding new construction to the school as well.

In a 5-4 vote, board members Dellinger, Annette Buchanan, Phillip McLain, Keith Ervin and David Hammond voted in favor of the “scheme two” plan. Board members Mike Masters, Todd Ganger, Clarence Mabe and Jack Leonard were opposed.

“I’ve talked to parents at Jonesborough and I make a motion to send scheme two to the county commission and appeal to their sense of fairness,” Dellinger said. “It might come back to us, but at least that’s what (Jonesborough parents) want.”

Before the decision was made, board member Keith Ervin’s motion to table a decision for the future school was voted down 5-4 in order for the nine-member board to discuss their options — and to see how much time they had left.

Because of the possibility of facing increased interest and construction rates, time was of the essence to finally come to a decision after months of looking over multiple design plans, according to the board.

“I don’t want to wait. I want to get things going as fast as we can because of the threat of increased interest rates and an increase in construction costs that we could be facing,” Hammond said about the Jonesborough school project. “But again, I want to do it right.”

Time wasn’t the only concern; architect Tony Street said the grand total for the plan would be $23,773,780. The Washington County Commission allocated $20,750,000 for a Jonesborough School project as well as an academic magnet — the latter was not part of the design plan chosen by the majority of the school board.

In order for the plan to become a reality for the K-8, the commission will have to rescind its previously approved plan for two renovation and construction projects rather than just one before the commission votes on scheme two.

The design options weren’t as simple as a plan with or without the round portion of the elementary school, however. Street presented a final option at the Dec. 7 meeting that involved renovating and adding onto Jonesborough Middle School rather than Jonesborough Elementary.

That plan, “scheme three”, included enlarging the current classrooms and the cafeteria, building a new entrance and renovating the gymnasium and locker rooms. The total for the plan was $31,000 under budget, the only design plan not over the amount allotted for the project.

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said at the board’s finance meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 6 that he felt scheme three was a good way to leave the round, 1970s open-classroom portion of the elementary school in the past.

“Here’s the issue — and I’m sure you all share the exact same concern; we’ve got a scenario at Jonesborough Elementary that, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why it’s been allowed to exist for 45 years,” Eldridge said. “I mean there is no doubt in my mind that is impacting the educational achievement of those kids. And if for no other reason than to deal with that issue and to put that behind us once and for all, I think this (scheme three) is a good way forward.”

At the finance meeting, Eldridge also said the county did not have a scenario to be able to fund scheme two.

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But for board members such as Dellinger, who has been an advocate for ‘tearing down the round’ at recent meetings, renovating and adding onto the middle school doesn’t provide equity for the Jonesborough School as compared to the Boones Creek School currently under construction on Boones Creek Road.

“I just don’t think the two buildings are equitable. I just don’t,” Dellinger said. “Boones Creek seems to be where all the focus is and this one is just an afterthought. I just can’t get very excited about it to think, the first one was going to be a redo of the round building and this one is going to be a redo of a 75-year-old building. I don’t know, I just don’t think either one are that acceptable.

“I thought 10 years ago whoever designed Grandview and Ridgeview did a good job of making them equal. And this is not equal. This is sad, a sad attempt.”

After the board bounced ideas around such as combining Asbury and Midway schools and selling the schools’ current properties, Chairman Jack Leonard voiced his concern regarding the project’s budget — and the funding body that would have to approve the plan.

“We were given a budget and was told that was all the money we were going to have,” Leonard said. “We don’t make money. We don’t tax. They raised 40 cents tax — I don’t think the county commission’s going to go back and raise the taxes again. We can’t approve something without being able to pay for it.

“We have to be prepared for push back if we’re going to move forward with this. They’re the ones who are going to have to pay for it.”

Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton, who has been an advocate for the academic magnet, said she would do her best to convince the commission to delay the magnet. She also called for support in facing the commission’s committees with the board’s design plan decision.

“I need school board members at committee meetings to help me, to support me,” Halliburton said. “It’s easy to bring these things up and rally the troops, but they ask some difficult questions — and I can answer those questions — but it just appears like I have no one behind me.

“If this is important to this board, show up at committee meetings and be ready to answer their tough questions. I have board members that have never been to a committee meeting, but they’ll rally the parents. I just need support.”

Scheme two will have to go through the county commission’s monthly health education and welfare committee and the budget committee meetings in January before it can be voted on by the full commission.

Dollar Tree coming to Jonesborough

The site on Highway 11-E in Jonesborough is soon to be the home of a Dollar Tree store.

By LINDSEY KING

H&T Correspondent

A new Dollar Tree store is under construction on the Jonesborough section of Highway 11E.

Dollar Tree specializes in discount goods, with the slogan “Everything’s $1!”

The store will be located on 11E, also known as West Jackson Boulevard, between Creasy Road and West Hills Drive.

Construction crews have recently broken ground, but according to Jonesborough’s Town Administrator Bob Browning, Dollar Tree began showing interest in opening a store in Jonesborough about six months ago.

“They put together a site plan that went to our planning commission,” Browning said.

The site plan included information needed for the store’s utility installation and for compliance with other building ordinances, like the lighting ordinance that aims to minimize glare.

Browning also stated that the location was probably chosen because of its convenience.

“Jonesborough is centrally located in the county and has access in a lot of different directions,” Browning said. “A lot of the county and state roads radiate out of Jonesborough. It’s a really good location for serving residents in the county. I think that’s one of the things that some of the retailers look at, as to who their normal clientele is and the demographic for their clientele.”

The new Dollar Tree will be located about a half-mile away from Family Dollar in Jonesborough. In July 2015, Dollar Tree, Inc., announced that it had acquired Family Dollar Stores, Inc., a move which put the company in charge of more than 13,000 stores in 48 states and five Canadian provinces.

No opening date for Dollar Tree’s Jonesborough store was provided.

Jonesborough Middle could be future site of new school

The current Jonesborough Middle School building could be the site of the future Jonesborough k-8 school.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Board of Education has another Jonesborough School design option to consider before a final decision is made.

The school’s architect, Tony Street, presented a third design plan that, instead of taking place at the current Jonesborough Elementary School site, would be constructed at the current Jonesborough Middle School building.

At the board’s finance meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 6, Street said the plan, “scheme three”, would involve renovations and new additions to the middle school building. He also said the plan is $31,000 under the Washington County Commission’s allotted $17,560,000 available.

The plan involves enlarging the current classrooms and the cafeteria. Street also said they would be renovating the existing gymnasium in the school.

“I’m happy, glad, relieved to say we did finally find a concept that fits within the dollars available,” Street said.

Street said the plans currently do not include include any athletic fields. The plan also does not include an academic magnet school in Washington County, which was part of the original project approved by the county commission.

Street designed scheme three after presenting two other design plans that involved the current Jonesborough Elementary School building. One design plan involved add-ons and renovations to the round portion of the school while the other option involved add-ons and tearing down the round portion.

There was no decision made regarding the plans. The finance meeting report will be addressed at the school board’s regularly scheduled meeting at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 7 at the Washington County Department of Education’s central office at 405 W College St., Jonesborough.

Look for more on the board’s Jonesborough School decision in next week’s Herald & Tribune.

Fender Benders: Crockett body shop aims for real-life experience

Right to left, Drake Campbell, Trevor Cox and, in the background, Johnny Loyd work on the automobile parts.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

When you walk into the collision repair class at David Crockett High School, students are meticulously sanding fenders and spraying a final coat of paint on their finished products.

By the looks and sounds of the room, you might think you’ve walked into a real, working body shop. And that’s exactly what Rick Freeman — with the help of his friends at Olde Jonesborough Body Shop — is aiming for.

DCHS teacher Rick Freeman describes the process his students will practice until they finish their fender.

“I try to make it as real in here as I can. This industry’s wide open. Why? It’s hard work. It’s kind of dirty work,” Freeman said. “The auto body industry has a lot of different limbs on the tree, meaning you can go into the office, you could be an adjuster, you could own your own business. The sky’s the limit. Car’s have got to be fixed. And you know how many’s on the road.”

Freeman teamed up with Nikki Carson who operates the Olde Jonesborough Body Shop and has donated brand new fenders and paint to offer collision repair students a hands-on experience. Carson has brought auto-body materials to David Crockett, her alma mater, for the past five weeks. But she also brings her body shop knowledge (which she’s accumulated through her childhood and now into adulthood), along with the motivation to better her chances of improving the industry and providing an opportunity for over 80 high school students to learn about the trade.

“I love the industry so much, however, we’re having a shortage of techs,” Carson said. “I feel like there’s not enough focus on the technical programs in the high schools or at the community colleges. The only way to really combat that, I felt like, was to get in here and work with them. They don’t get enough money or resources for what they need. This is so far behind in the times and they don’t have the money to do it. They’re getting just a touch of it and then there’s nothing after this to get them there.”

Freeman had been contacting local body shops and paint suppliers to see if he could get supplies to better teach his students about the industry, which was a mission he started following his professional development training through the school system. He had gathered any local used fenders he could find for the class to work on.

Now, Carson said the classes are using a more updated and environment-friendly alternative, water-based paint, rather than oil-based paint.

Freeman also said local shops like Paint & Lacquer Supply in Johnson City have helped out in addition to Olde Jonesborough Body Shop. Carson said A & E Frame & Body in Johnson City and Blue Ridge Color Company in Blountville have also been a big help to local collision repair programs at places like Crockett and Northeast State Community College.

With those materials, Carson has shown Freeman’s classes everything from how to get a dent out of a fender to how to begin the paint process. She even said she is planning to add an estimating class to teach students how to correctly tear down a car, label and identify the parts, and read and write an estimate.

But she didn’t come alone; Carson has also brought Olde Jonesborough Body Shop paint shop manager Jonathan Lefevers to show the Crockett students what his job entails.

Jonathan Lefevers (left) and Nikki Carson (right) go over questions after a session with David Crockett students.

“The biggest thing is, I didn’t have a body shop class when I was in high school,” Lefevers said. “I started painting when I was 16 but I had to go to a friend’s house whose dad did it and I did it on the side. It wasn’t really the right way to learn how to do it, so whenever me and Nikki started talking about coming down here, I was really excited to be a part of it because I wish I had someone that would come in and say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna work with you. We’re going to show you how to do this the right way.’”

Though teaching students the logistics of the auto-body industry is at the top of Carson and Lefevers’ lists, changing the way in which others perceive their line of work is also of importance.

“It’s important to let them see if it’s something they want to do, they have the ability to do it,” Lefevers said. “Everybody thinks they need to work on computers or they need to be a lawyer or a doctor, this that and the other. That’s great and we need all those things, but in this country, we need tradesman too. We need people to do air-conditioning. We need plumbers, electricians, auto body men because nobody wants to do that anymore. We have such a hard time trying to find people to actually work because no one’s going into this business.”

Carson said she was committed to changing the stigma around working in the industry, but she also said being a woman who runs and operates a body shop, has added to the way in which she is sometimes perceived.

“As a woman, I run a body shop. People are amazed at that sometimes. I help take cars apart, I prep cars, I do whatever it takes to run it,” Carson said. “There is such a stigma on our business that we must be ignorant and uneducated. We can’t possibly be smart enough to run a business if we work on cars and get our hands dirty. If nothing else, I want to work on changing the look of anyone who’s in the technical field — a plumber, mechanic, auto body tech, anything. We need to change that stigma that’s on that.”

For Lefevers, he not only had to seek his own education when it came to gaining experience in the auto body paint process, but part of the reason he left his hometown stemmed from that very same stigma around physical work.

Body shop students meticulously work on sanding a fender before they start the pain process.

“I grew up in southeast Kentucky and the only industry in my town was coal mines,” Lefevers said. “The reason I left is because my mom said she didn’t want me to work in the coal mines. Well that’s kinda how the whole country is kinda going: ‘I don’t want my kid to work with their hands. They need to go do something else.’ But that’s why we try to come in here and get passion started because you can make a good living doing this.”

Carson and Lefevers said that while the number of body shop technicians seems to have dwindled, the demand for those jobs have skyrocketed. Though they’re partially hoping their work with Crockett students will add to their pool of potential future hires, they, along with Freeman — who started his career with an apprenticeship at Griffith Motors followed by 25 years of work at Cox Oldsmobile — are also wanting to show students what it really takes to do this job.

“Sometimes (those working in the industry) don’t show where the rubber meets the road. And I’m the guy who wants to show you the real world and what it is,” Freeman said. “It’s not easy. Sometimes they’ll work in the shop and they’ll find out it’s not what they want to do. But it take a lot of people to make the world go around. It’s rewarding. It’s artwork. You’ve gotta love it and you’ll be alright. You’ve gotta follow your heart in whatever you’re doing.”

Each student will get to walk out of the class with their freshly painted fender at the end of the semester, but Freeman, Lefevers and Carson are also hoping they leave the class with a bit more knowledge and a more positive outlook on the auto-body industry.

“I just wish that people could understand that there’s nothing wrong with working with your hands. That’s the main reason I want to get down here. I want to give these kids something I didn’t have: a kind of positive experience so they can say, ‘He’s doing really well and he seems to be happy. Maybe I could do that.’” I think there’s this false sense of happiness where you have to have a big house and a big car. It’s not true.

“The self-fulfillment of knowing you took something and did it with your hands is way more important than what you drive.”

BOE hires own attorney to represent in complaint

 

Attorney Scott Bennett presents his services at a recent school board meeting. Bennett was hired to represent the school board in an upcoming legal matter on Nov. 9.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Board of Education has recently spent a lot of time talking about potentially hiring an attorney, and at the board’s regularly scheduled Nov. 9 meeting, one attorney was voted to represent the BOE on an upcoming legal matter.

Board member David Hammond made the motion to hire Chattanooga-based attorney Scott Bennett to represent the board in a complaint regarding the distribution of Professional Educators of Tennessee fliers within the Washington County School System.

“I’m just throwing the name out there because I think (he’s spoken) with some here on this issue,” Hammond said.

The motion, which passed in a 5-4 vote came after Seeley said he would not be representing the board.

“I think I have made my opinion real clear that this was handled properly,” Seeley said. “There’s action to this board and certain board members that led to this result. I tried to provide this board good representation and will continue to do so on certain matters.”

At the board’s Sept. 7 meeting, when board member Mary Beth Dellinger voiced her concerns regarding the distribution of PET fliers to teachers throughout the school system, Seeley said Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton followed the law (Tennessee Code Annotated 49-5-606 (4)) by distributing the fliers. He suggested the board send the concern to the board’s policy committee to discuss how the issue should be handled.

At the Oct. 5 meeting, Seeley also mentioned a separate upcoming legal matter; a lawsuit was filed by the Washington County Education Association on behalf of Stacia Howard, the Washington County music teacher whose contract was not renewed after last school year. Seeley said the suit references comments made by Seeley during executive session and that  he “believes board members have disclosed information from executive session that assisted in the litigation currently pending against the board”.

Some board members voiced their concerns about hiring another attorney. Seeley said at a previous meeting that the Washington County Commission foots the bill for Seeley and it does not come out of the school board’s budget. The board must use funds from its own budget to pay for other legal representation.

“I do have a problem with spending money that we don’t need to,” school board member Clarence Mabe said at the Nov. 9 meeting. “I think sometimes if it was your money, you wouldn’t do it. I think we need to be a little wiser than that.”

Scott Bennett told the BOE he charges $195 an hour or $4,500 a month. Hammond’s motion opted for the hourly rate.

Having the money to pay for an additional attorney was a concern, but board member Phillip McLain said the school board’s budget contains $13,000 dollars for legal fees which could cover the cost of Bennett’s services.

Halliburton said she might have to hire an attorney to represent her in this matter as well and that fee would also come out of those dollars in the budget. She also said part of that $13,000 will be used in a current ongoing investigation regarding the two David Crockett High School employees who were put on administrative leave back in October.

Board members Annette Buchanan, Mary Beth Dellinger, Keith Ervin, David Hammond and Phillip McLain voted in favor of hiring Bennett to represent the board on the flier complaint. Board members Todd Ganger, Jack Leonard, Clarence Mabe and Mike Masters were opposed.

Leonard voiced his concerns for the board’s financial decision.

“I’ve been in this position for the last two years — that man has been as straight forward as he possibly can and represents us exactly the way we need to be represented. And it doesn’t cost us. We send it to the county commission.

“Now we’re going to take money out of our budget that should be going to the kids or teacher’s salaries or something else. We’re going to be paying for a lawyer that’s in Chattanooga when we have one right here in Jonesborough.”

Candidate focuses on stewardship

Washington County Commissioner Joe Grandy is looking to continue his work as he begins his candidacy for Washington County Mayor.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Last week, Washington County Commissioner Joe Grandy announced his intention to run for Washington County Mayor. But for Grandy, that vision was one he never really pictured until recently.

“I never envisioned what I’m considering today,” Grandy said when he sat down with the Herald & Tribune just days before announcing his candidacy. “One of the things about this community is that it’s blessed myself, my family and our business with a good piece of life.

“When I look at the roles I’ve taken on with boards and organizations and so forth, it’s been a way to give back to the community because it’s given so much to me. So this is an opportunity right now that allows me to pursue that in a different way, but in a larger way.”

Grandy is the president and general manager of Ferguson Enterprises Inc., after working with the company for 40 years. He’s also been a county commissioner since elected in 2010, just after he began voicing his concern for area school facility funding.

Joe Grandy (left) shakes hands with Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable at Grandy’s candidacy announcement.

“(Becoming a commissioner) really had a lot to do with the decisions around the financing of the schools that were started in 2005 and the funding mechanism that was put in place in 2007,” Grandy said. “I felt like that was not a good process and that county government owed it to the constituents paying for that to do a better job putting it together.

“I have to admit that I didn’t exactly understand how bad that plan was until I became a county commissioner. I complained about it to enough people who reminded me when the 2010 election came around, ‘You complained about that a lot, why don’t you just go do something about it?’ I was a little bit shamed into running and so I did.”

Grandy lists cutting down the cost of the commission by doing away with health insurance for county commissioners and reducing the size of the commission from 25 to 15 as an accomplishment since his time with the commission. However, Grandy said he is still dedicated to the focus that first caught his interest — education.

Not only has education been a “passion” for Grandy, but he said he’s been rather involved with the funding process for the county’s capital projects due to his role as the commission’s budget committee chairman.

“I’m intimately involved in the process,” he said. “Good or bad, I certainly have a lot of information surrounding (the school projects). I’m not a contractor anymore, so I don’t claim that skill set, but we are involved in the construction business daily. It’s a part of my life. So it’s interesting and I enjoy working on it.”

School facility projects have been at the forefront for education in the county in recent years, but the commissioner is also hoping the school system can add more career and technical options and technology for students.

Maybe more than technology though, Grandy is also hoping to level the playing field for internet access in the county through the local energy provider, which recently adopted a new name, Brightridge.

“As this new authority has come into being, it allows that organization to explore different business opportunities,” Grandy said. “And of course one of them is this broadband expansion.

“It’s easy for these businesses to hit high-density areas because you’re close together and you make money. But when one farm is a mile away from the next farm, there’s no amount of business model you can put on that where it makes sense financially. The electric companies back in the early part of the 20th century took electricity where people where. And I think we need to do the same thing with the internet.”

Grandy said he’s also hoping to continue his involvement with other needs throughout the county such as the consideration of adding daytime fire personnel to area volunteer fire departments and the county’s water projects.

The commissioner, who has also been the chairman of the county commission’s water task force, said there are still 17,000 Washington County citizens that don’t have access to municipal water.

“We have provided quality drinking water to folks a mile or two outside of Jonesborough that had third-world drinking water conditions before that — people sharing contaminated wells, intermittent depending on the amount of rain,” Grandy said. “I mean, it’s crazy to think that those conditions exist in Washington County today. We need to focus on fixing that.

“It’s not easy because there’s not a financial business model that makes that work. But sometimes where that’s the case, and public safety is involved, maybe that’s a function of government, to help those situations.”

When he first became a part of local government, Grandy said his hope was to create efficiency in government and practice good stewardship for Washington County taxpayers.

Now the county commissioner is also hoping he can build upon his initial goal through the plan to decrease the county’s debt, which was part of Dan Eldridge’s work as county mayor.

“I think that Dan as the mayor has moved county government in a different direction through his term. For the first time in anyone’s memory that I can recall, there’s a long-range plan for Washington County,” Grandy said. “The plan contemplates taking Washington County completely out of debt in 2037. I think that county government is just in a completely different place than it was seven years ago. So to be able to build on the plan that is currently in place is exciting to me.

“I won’t be probably anything like Dan was as mayor, but I think that some of his initiatives make a lot of sense. They really provide me an opportunity to provide a level of stewardship to Washington County following that plan.”

Town pays tribute to all who have served

 

 

The town honored American veterans at the Jonesborough annual event.

By LINDSEY KING

Special to the H&T

The Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center was filled with music and remembrance for the Veterans Day Ceremony on Sunday, Nov. 5, an event organized by the Jonesborough Veterans Affairs Committee.

“Despite our differences, we’re all still Americans,” Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe told the crowd who had gathered to honor veterans at the annual event held at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center. “And we’re able to still be Americans thanks to our veterans.”

At this year’s event, one veteran’s story held particular poignance, thanks to a letter supplied by Marion Light, an organizer of the event for the past 18 years.

“He was family,” Light said, describing Troy Moody, a former prisoner of war and Jonesborough resident. “He was captured in Korea. He arrived in the country in April 1951. He was captured in May 1951, and he was taken to a Chinese POW camp in North Korea. His family did not know he was alive until they released him in ’53. He was there 27 months, and nobody knew he was alive.”

Moody wrote the letter to Light nearly two decades ago at the time of Jonesborough’s first Memorial Day Ceremony, and its contents were unexpected.

“(Moody’s) son didn’t know that his daddy was a POW,” said Light. “He never talked about it much, and I was actually surprised he gave me this.”

The letter itself is direct and only lists dates significant to Moody’s service and imprisonment. It includes no details about his experience during that time.

“He evidently had been tortured somewhat by the Chinese, and it brought back some rough memories, so he just didn’t bring the memories to thought,” Light said.

As in past years’ Veterans Day ceremonies, the town chose to honor veterans like Moody with speakers and music, though Light said the music has always been a favorite.

This year’s event featured performances from the Appalachian Express Chorus and Don Squibb.

The chorus sang “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “What a Wonderful World” and “America the Beautiful” in the classic barbershop style.

During their performance, chorus members asked the veterans in the audience to stand according to their branch and be recognized for their service. Every branch of the military was represented.

Squibb, accompanied by the piano, sang “The White Cliffs of Dover” in his clear and powerful voice. The song was originally recorded in 1942 and was one of the most popular World War II songs.

The ceremony concluded with the Tennessee Highway Patrol Honor Guard and the Daniel Boone High School Marine Junior ROTC Honor Guard retiring the colors and Jim Culp playing “Taps.”

When asked what keeps him motivated to organize the ceremony every year, Light remembers his relatives and friends who were veterans and what their service means to our society.

“This thing didn’t come free,” Light said. “We’ve done a great job to keep this experiment we call democracy in check and still going. Our service people make sure it works, that we at least have the opportunity to make it work, and that’s why we want to do things with the veterans. We want people to understand what these guys paid, what it cost them so it wouldn’t cost us.”

School district achieves exemplary status

 

Washington County was ranked the top county system in the region for English and Math for grades 3-8 according to TNReady scores for on-track and mastered students.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The results are in: Washington County is now home to an exemplary school district.

The school system received this honor after earning an “exemplary” score in achievement, gap closure and final determination from the state.

The Tennessee Department of Education describes an exemplary district as a school system that is “exceeding the growth expectation on average for both all students and each historically underserved student group.”

“Districts that have a final determination of exemplary, what we’re doing is raising the ceiling but also raising the floor. That’s what’s meant by the gap closure,” Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton told the Herald & Tribune. “You could raise all students’ achievement levels. But you could be leaving your subgroups behind. So your average and above average students could be doing very well, but if your subgroups aren’t also climbing, you’re not going to get an exemplary in gap closure.”

The school district also placed third in the Northeast or “first” Tennessee region and third out of the state’s 95 county systems in English and Language Arts for grades 3-8. Washington County also placed first in the region and seventh in county systems in math for grades 3-8.

These rankings are for students who are considered “on-track” or have “mastered” their grade-level content. The county system ranks above city systems such as Greenville, Bristol and Kingsport in ELA and math for this category of students, which Halliburton said should change the perception of a county school district.

“What I would say (to no better time to be a part of Washington County Schools,” Halliburton said. “Our trajectory is upward mobility. We’re making progress and significant progress. We have excellent achievement and excellent growth. So if we continue along that path — and I have every belief that we will given who our teachers are along with our students and our parents — the sky’s the limit for Washington County.”

Halliburton credits Washington County teachers and each department within the school system, from food services to custodians and bus drivers, as a contributing factor to the results.

But more specifically, Halliburton said she believes the system’s focus on increasing classroom rigor and rigorous tasks for each student has helped up the scores, such as the TNReady results and the good news the county received regarding Tennessee Value Added Assessment results.

“It requires a lot of work from our teachers because they have to be very prescriptive and they have to constantly self-reflect on ‘Is this challenging enough for this given student?’ and readjusting it if it’s not,” she said. “The thing about academic rigor that makes it so difficult is that you want it to be challenging to a point that a student feels slight discomfort with it, but could still manage to work through it independently. That’s difficult because where is that saturation point for each student?”

Though the results place the school district above other counties and some city systems in the region, the director said she’s ready to keep Washington County on the upward trend by striving for even better results.

TNReady results showed high scores in English and Language Arts for Washington County on-track and mastered students for grades 3-8.

“This is excellent, but we aren’t totally satisfied with it because that means about 57 percent of our kids we still need to identify — nor should these other two city systems be satisfied,” Halliburton said. “None of us in ELA are at the 50 percent mark. What makes this more challenging is, the better you get, the more the state elevates the expectations. So next year’s expectations are going to be about 4-5 percent higher than this.

“You’ve upped your game and now you have to up your game even more.”

Third through eighth graders aren’t the only students Halliburton is celebrating; for English, Washington County’s high schools are ranked first in the region’s county systems, seventh in county systems throughout Tennessee and 20th in the state overall. In high school math, the district ranked first in the region for county systems, fourth in county systems throughout Tennessee, and 16th in the state overall.

Halliburton said though the county’s high school English scores were good results, she’s hoping to improve literacy growth scores.

“We’ve got work to do because what I’d like for us to be in about five to 10 years from now is ranked in the top five school districts in terms of achievement and growth,” Halliburton said. “How that happens over time is making sure that in our K-8 world, that those kids are reading on grade level so that when they go to high school they are caught up.”

To keep with the upward-moving growth and achievement scores in the county, the director of schools said she wants to encourage parents and guardians to work with youngsters on recognizing letters and sounds associated with each of those — whether that be in the car, with refrigerator magnets in the kitchen, or through labeling items throughout a household.

But at the top of that list is helping students increase his or her attendance.

“The number one way parents can help us is to make sure that their student reports to school every day on time and you minimize the amount that you pull them out early for a doctor’s appointment,” she said. “You can’t predict what the teacher will present that day. What they present on that given day that your child is out of school could be critical.”

Apart from increasing reading scores, and hoping attendance increases, the director’s hope is that a new perception is seen in regards to the county school system.

“Washington County Schools is the best kept secret in this region. It’s the best-kept secret because the reality is much better than the perception. So we’ve got some work to do with changing the culture with this county school system.

“We are not the underdog. We’re a system that people need to take note of. We’re a system that, given these results and the results we are going to be getting in the future, other systems are going to be looking at saying, ‘What are they doing differently?’ That’s already happening.”

Local senior team takes Brain Games

Jonesborough Old Towners supporters jump to their feet when the team’s Brain Games’ win was announced

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

They’ve done it again.

Jonesborough Senior Center’s Old Towners once again took home the top prize in last week’s state Brain Games competition.

And they couldn’t be more excited.

“It was tough. It was tough,” local senior and two-time Brain Game winner Mike Willis kept repeating with excitement after the Old Towners victory had been announced. “I’m in shock.”

Fellow team member Carol Salinas was just as excited. “I didn’t hear the score, so I had no idea what it was,” Salina said delightedly, if a little dazed. “For a little bit, I was hoping during the last double down we had done pretty well.”

Still, she said, she didn’t really expect the win.

Salinas, Willis and Joe Allision beat three other Tennessee senior teams in the 5th Annual Tennessee Senior  Brain Games event, held Thursday, Oct. 19, at the McKinney Center in downtown Jonesborough.

The teams included the Morristown Senior Gamers from East Tennessee, the Lawrence County Aged to Perfection from Middle Tennessee and the Tipton County Know Brainers from West Tennessee.

Jonesborough’s Old Towners were on hand to defend their 2016 Brain Games Championship.

Team members Mike Willis, Joe Allison and Carol Salinas were stunned at their second Brain Games victory.

“This thing gets bigger and bigger every year,” said Jim Shulman, executive director of Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, to the filled auditorium at the McKinney Center.

The game followed the same basic format as last year. Teams would compete in four rounds of questions. Extra points could be earned in the final “double-down” round. There were also a few five-point bonus questions scattered throughout the competition.

Topics ran the gamut from celebrity to science and ornithology.

At the end of the secound round, Jonesborough lagged behind, third in the pack with a score of 51 against Morristown at 41, Tipton at 55 and Lawrence at 56.

By the close of the third round, Jonesborough had moved to second place with 76 points, behind Lawrence County with 84.

“It was very close,” Senior Center Director Mary Sanger said. “Last year they had a 36 lead.” This year, it came down to the difference of one question.

Final score for the 2017 Brain Games was Jonesborough 108, Lawrence County 106, Tipton County 101 and Morristown 85.

“Oh my gosh, I’m beyond thrilled,” Sanger said. “We’ll host it again. Rachel (Conger) and I are already discussing how we can make it bigger.”

Town Administrator Bob Browning was also excited for the center and the town. “This means they’re coming back,” he said with a broad  smile. “They’re even talking about doing a two-night thing next year because it’s so hard for some of the teams to come all that distance.”

For Jonesborough’s Old Towners, however, next year is a long way off. They’re just enjoying basking in the now.

“I really don’t know what to say,” Joe Allison said, still grinning moments after the win. “I’m still in shock. Last year put us on the map, and this year kind of put the stamp on it.”

Crockett football opts to continue season

The David Crockett Pioneers had a tough time on the field last week during the ongoing coach controversy, but are determined to finish out the season on top under new leadership.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

On Monday morning, the David Crockett High School football team had a big decision to make.

They could finish the rest of their season, starting with the county rivalry match up against Daniel Boone this Friday. Or they could opt to put the whirlwind season, following the suspension of their head football coach, to rest.

The Pioneers chose to finish.

Now they’ll do so with Pioneer head baseball coach, and now interim head football coach, Nick Lingerfelt leading the pack.

“I felt like it was my responsibility as a person to step up and say ‘hey, if these kids want to play, I’ll be there.’ And if they decide not to, I’ll support them in that too,” Lingerfelt said at a press conference held at the school on Monday.

“It’s not about me. It’s really not. It’s about these kids. They decided they want to play and they told me today I was going to be the coach. And here I am.”

Lingerfelt was hired in July to take over the baseball program at Crockett. He served as an assistant coach at Dobyns-Bennett for seven years and at his alma mater, Unicoi High School, for eight. He assisted with both the baseball and football programs at those schools.

The decision for Lingerfelt to take on his latest role as Pioneer football’s interim head coach came after head coach Gerald Sensabaugh was put on administrative leave last Tuesday. The letter of reprimand from Crockett head principal Peggy Wright to Sensabaugh lists practicing an injured player, verbal attacks and profanity from the coach as concerns from administration.

After the suspension of their coach, the football team was left divided between students who still wanted to compete in last Friday’s game against Tennessee High and those who opted not to play or attend the game, in support of Sensabaugh. The Pioneers lost 35-13 against the Tennessee High Vikings under the direction of  assistant-coach-turned-interim-head-coach Brandon Qualls.

“It’s been an emotional week,” Lingerfelt said. “We were on fall break last week, and I think the lessons these young men have learned exceed any lesson in a classroom.

“The fact that these kids showed some resiliency and went in there this morning and voted to have a season, that speaks volumes. That speaks volumes for their character. I’m ready to take on this challenge.”

Lingerfelt didn’t confirm who would join his coaching staff for Friday’s game and the remainder of the season, but he did say he would be meeting with former Pioneer head coach Kent Green who resigned from the position in 2012.

“After I got word, I went straight to some of the people that I’ve assembled and I said, ‘Listen, we can’t reinvent the wheel. We’ve got two weeks left in the season and then we’ve got playoffs.’,” Lingerfelt said. “We’re going to get in the playoffs. What happens there, we’ll see.”

As for his roster, Lingerfelt said the student athletes present at Monday’s team meeting exceeded the number he had on his updated roster of 51 kids. He also said if players show up at practice, they’re going to play.

Lingerfelt isn’t the only one stepping into an interim position this week; Crockett head basketball coach John Good is currently serving as the school’s athletic director after Josh Kite was put on administrative leave following allegations from Sensabaugh who said Kite offered him prescription drugs. An investigation on the allegation is pending.

For Good and Lingerfelt who are taking on additional roles at Crockett, both say they are ready to concentrate on allowing the Pioneers a chance to take the field.

“Last week we picked up a kid on his way home from practice and took him to eat,” Lingerfelt said. “I said, ‘What do you think about all this stuff?’ He said, “Coach, I’m 15 years old. I just want to play football.’ And I thought, ’It’s really sad that this young man doesn’t get the opportunity to play a game that he loves.’”

Now that the team is officially back in action, the Pioneers will battle longtime rival Daniel Boone for a Musket Bowl victory on Friday night.

“It’s huge,” Good said. “Kids grow up wanting to be a part of this game. It’s bragging rights within the county.”

This year’s 47th annual Musket Bowl game comes after Boone defeated Crockett 14-10 at the Pioneer’s stadium, but Lingerfelt has confidence in the Pioneer squad.

“We’ve got to play Daniel Boone on the road at the Musket Bowl and we’ve got to be prepared to overcome a lot of adversity,” Lingerfelt said. “We know Daniel Boone’s a good team, but I have no doubt our kids can overcome this and they can win that football game.”

Just by looking at the number of kids on his roster and showing up for team meetings and practices, the interim head coach said it’s clear to him these kids are ready to be out on the field for another Friday night.

“The easiest thing to do would be to fold up tent and quit,” Lingerfelt said. “I don’t see that in these kids. I don’t. I see the drive and the initiative to go forward and I’m excited.”

Crockett will face Boone for the Musket Bowl competition on Friday Oct. 20 at Nathan Hale Stadium in Gray. Kick off is at 7:30 p.m.

Practice canceled amid coach controversy

 

Gerald Sensabaugh landed the job on Jan. 17, 2017

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

 

*UPDATE: David Crockett High School Head Football Coach Gerald Sensabaugh was put on administrative leave on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

Athletic Director Josh Kite was also put on administrative leave on Tuesday, Oct. 10. Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said due to Sensabaugh’s allegations regarding Kite, an investigation will be ongoing.

***

On Monday morning, when David Crockett head football coach Gerald Sensabaugh announced via social media that his team’s practice was canceled by the school system, all of Washington County seemed to want answers.

Director of Washington County School Kimber Halliburton said the decision to cancel the Pioneers’ practice came after Sensabaugh practiced an injured player. She said the player was under a physician’s care and was put on a list by the athletic trainer that indicated he could not practice or play.

Halliburton also said that when confronted about the issue, the coach “responded by intimidating and harassing the trainer and the student in a public format.”

“Given his conduct and him appearing very angry, we made a decision. The principal requested that we not have practice and I honored her request. I allowed her to make that decision,” Halliburton said. “I allow my principals to make decisions about their school and I support them in those decisions because I am not in their school on a daily basis. And I value Peggy Wright as a 33-year veteran of this school district who has been serving students in Washington County for 33 years.”

Sensabaugh told the Herald & Tribune that prior to the teams’ 9 to 11 a.m. practice, which was scheduled on the first week-day of fall break, he didn’t know why his team’s practice was canceled by administrators.

Sensabaugh also said the trainer told the head coach something different.

“He (the trainer) came to me and said, ‘This kid, he’s pretty much good to go. He just needs a little confidence. Maybe you can give him some confidence.’”

The David Crockett Pioneers are currently 5-2 on the season.

“I instructed the player to do some rehab-type drills to give him some confidence in his ankle,” Sensabaugh said. “No full-speed reps. It was more-so jogging and light high knees and a couple cuts. I’ve had sprained ankles in the past and similar things and it’s pretty much what I would do when I had sprained ankles in the NFL. A lot of stuff goes down and the next thing I know, they tell me I practiced a hurt player.”

Sensabaugh said the player performed the drills off to the side and had no physical contact with the team. He also said the player wasn’t dressed out in his helmet or pads.

Both Sensabaugh and Halliburton said that David Crockett High School Head Principal Peggy Wright spoke to Sensabaugh on Friday, Oct. 6 before the team’s match up against Cherokee High School to address her concerns.

After the conversation with Wright, Sensabaugh spoke to the student athlete and athletic trainer.

“Fortunately, the same kid was there. I said, ‘Hey, did I practice you?’ And he was like, ‘No sir.’ I turned around to the trainer said, ‘Hey, why are you reporting I practiced this kid? He just said I didn’t practice him.’ He was just shrugging his shoulders and wouldn’t say anything.”

Halliburton confirmed that one of the team’s assistant coaches has resigned. She also said the trainer felt “bullied” by the head coach.

Halliburton also stated that she and Wright contacted another Crockett assistant football coach to ask if he could lead practice.

“We asked him if he was confident that he could keep the children safe, given the shortage, given what happened with coach Sensabaugh,” Halliburton said. “His response was no, he was not confident he could keep the children safe.

“My number one adjective and the principal’s number one adjective above football is the safety of our student athletes and our children, period.”

Practice for the team was back on schedule for Tuesday, Oct. 10. But Sensabaugh said he was informed by Wright that he was not permitted to coach the team during the practice.

“They’re allowed to practice but I’m not allowed to be there. I’m not even sure which coaches are going to be there,” Sensabaugh said. “Some kids were saying they’re not going to practice and some reports said some kids are going to practice. I don’t know.”

The coach said he supports his players decision, whether some students decide to attend practice or not.

“I mean they’re furious about it. They want to practice. They know they’re good. They’re just taking it away from these kids. They’re taking away the opportunity these kids have.”

Sensabaugh also said he felt the decision to cancel practice has created a divide throughout his team.

“The kids don’t play, there’s no product to sell. Then that is going to be more detrimental to the program, if the kids don’t play,” Sensabaugh said. “If they do play, my fight for change becomes diluted because they still have a product to sell.

“They divided us. Right now I feel like they’re trying to divide my football team. They’re trying to divide the players and the coaches.”

A rally in support of the head football coach for Wednesday, Oct. 11, has been posted throughout social media along with a petition.

The Pioneers will face the Tennessee High Vikings at home on Friday, Oct. 13 for a conference match up. What players will and will not be on the field is yet to be determined.

On these same social media platforms, Sensabaugh recently sounded off on school system-related topics such as bus routes for the new Boones Creek School, inmates working on school grounds and facility updates at Jonesborough Elementary. He titled the first series of posts as “The real problem in Washington County” which tallied over 100 comments.

Now, Sensabaugh said he still supports his social media postings.

“I just want people to support the change. I just really want people to take initiative and do what’s best for our community,” Sensabaugh said.

“The one thing about social media is you get a direct reception of the people. You get all these people who have all these complaints that they brought about and nothing ever gets done. On my platform, everyone can talk together on the same time and express their concerns or past stories.

“You can take it as ‘he say she say’, but these are people’s testimonies. There are people who signed off on their names on this stuff. I just want to be that voice for the people and the kids.”

The Pioneers are scheduled to face a conference game against Tennessee High School at home this Friday, Oct. 13 in Jonesborough.

Soldier surprises ‘little brother’

Peyton Toth (left) and AJ Keys (right) are reunited after nine months of Toth’s deployment.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

When 20-year-old Army Combat Engineer Peyton Toth arrives to his Washington County home, he’s usually met with his 6-year-old neighbor AJ Keys, who stays up as long as he can to see his best friend. But last Thursday — less than 24 hours after Peyton returned home from Iraq — the Army engineer got to surprise his “little brother”.

“Every time I come home, I usually go over there,” Peyton said, standing by the front office of Grandview Elementary School, just moments before he surprised AJ and his class. “I’ll get home late and I’ll either go wake him up or he’s still awake and I’ll put him back to sleep again.

“I’ve just always been close to him. He’s kind of like a little brother to me and I’m an only child. He’s just a very important person to me.”

Peyton left home on Dec. 27, 2016 for Kuwait, followed by Iraq, where the combat engineer worked to clear routes of any improvised explosive devices placed by the enemy. Now that he’s back in the U.S, the David Crockett alumnus expects to be stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina for the next year-and-a-half to two years.

But his mother and father, Debbie and Jeffrey Toth, are just happy to greet their son and share him with their loving neighbor, AJ Keys and his family.

“It was a good joy. It’s just good to see it,” Jeffrey said. “Since he was 5-years-old, his dream has always been to be a soldier in the U.S. Army. He followed his dream and now he’s living it. I’m just glad to see him come back and all in one piece.”

Peyton’s father wasn’t the only one who was happy to see the 20-year-old arrive home; AJ was following along with his class as his teacher read a story, but the moment he realized he was allowed to greet his neighbor and honorary “brother,” the boy went in for the hug he had been missing for nine months.

The solider also took a moment to talk to the class about the most prominent lesson he learned from his time in Iraq, which was put into perspective as Peyton recalled the kids he saw overseas.

“I’ve been in Iraq for the past five months and one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been there is when I was your all’s age, and I was growing up, I took a lot for granted from my parents. It’s shown me a lot,” Peyton said. “If there’s one thing you guys should know, it’s love your parents and don’t take anything for granted. There are kids over there your all’s age, younger and older, they go everyday and they ask just for a bottle of water as we go past. And it’s the most heart-crushing thing I’ve ever seen. It really shows you how much we have here.”

While Peyton and AJ took a moment to catch up, Peyton’s dad said being a soldier’s father has changed his perspective — and that even the words Peyton shared with the class touched his heart.

From left to right, Debra Toth, Peyton Toth, AJ Keys, Sandy Keys and Jeff Toth were all present for the reunion at Grandview Elementary.

“It’s sort of heartwarming that Peyton can take from his experience, to serve his country and see what the other country’s like, and come share with the class what we as Americans all take for granted,” Jeffrey said. “It makes you appreciate things a whole lot differently.”

On that list of things to appreciate, Jeffrey and Peyton both have one particular person placed at the top; Whether Peyton’s stationed in Texas or walking through the streets of Iraq, AJ is sure to be sharing in Jeffrey’s love for the Army soldier — even from afar.

“Besides being brothers in Christ, they’re just like brothers. They’ve always been there for each other,” Jeffrey explained. “AJ has always sent Peyton a live video on his birthday, even when he’s not home, to tell him happy birthday and that he loves him.

“That’s a blessing in itself that he got to have the little fella communicating with him — and thinking that much of my son.”

Dedication station: Chuckey Depot Museum receives new home at W.C. Rowe’s namesake park

The Chuckey Depot now sets at W.C. Rowe Park in Jonesborough.

By JOHN KIENER

The Town of Jonesborough will be holding a ribbon cutting for WC Rowe Park and the Chuckey Depot Museum on Monday, Oct. 2 at 11 a.m. at 110 South Second Avenue.

WC Rowe Park is named in honor of WC Rowe, a life-long resident of Jonesborough and the area, who made great contributions to the Town of Jonesborough. He constantly worked on a positive partnership between the Town of Jonesborough and Washington County, spending countless hours improving the quality of life in Jonesborough and the County.

Former County Executive George Jaynes said this about Rowe, “He was a very excellent person and a fine commissioner. I miss him more than anybody.” He said Rowe helped with a number of county building projects, including the Washington County Justice Center and Detention Facility.

Fellow commissioner Pat Wolfe said his earliest recollection of Rowe were trips with his father to Rowe Poultry. “It was located up the creek from where the depot was.  WC’s father Roy ran the business.”

Wolfe remembered Rowe as a community leader and a talented athlete as well as someone who could talk all the time. “We were in a 16 to 40 age baseball team league.  He would hit at least one home run a game clear out into the cornfield.” He described Rowe as a “good county commissioner” with whom he served three terms. “Rowe had good ideas,” Wolfe said. “He did a good job. I’m glad to see the park named after him.”

For McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons, the ribbon cutting will be the conclusion of a five-year project. The depot’s original home was just down the road in Chuckey and now sits within WC Rowe Park in Jonesborough. Built on the railroad’s right of way in Chuckey, the depot was threatened with demolition. Due to railroad policy, the building could not stay in its original location. 

The depot was privately owned by the Babb family who requested that the building be relocated to Jonesborough.  The Town of Jonesborough was eager to have the structure. Jonesborough discussed the possibility of creating a railroad museum because the Town was instrumental in bringing the railroad into East Tennessee. The Chuckey Depot created a perfect venue for such a museum.  

The depot has come a long way since its renovation.

Hammons is a member of the Chuckey Depot Advisory Board. She said, “One of the exciting things about the depot is that we have artifacts that came out of the depot. We are excited to show them to the public.”

She explained that the job of moving the Depot from Chuckey to Jonesborough was a meticulous task undertaken by the Town of Jonesborough and the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, beginning in August 2011. The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society also partnered in the project, providing the restoration of a red caboose which sits adjacent to the depot in addition to numerous artifacts and photos.   

Watauga Valley, the Town and the Heritage Alliance have been in charge of overseeing the process of developing the museum to interpret the use of the depot when it was in Chuckey, as well as the history of the railroad in Jonesborough.

The project has also been assisted by a museum studies class from Tusculum College.  Intern Alex Rolison has spent many hours assisting the project under the direction of faculty advisor Peter Noll. As many as 20 students from the college have worked by providing their labor, permanent text preparation and cleaning of artifacts for the museum interior.

Parks and Recreation Director Rachel Conger said a great deal of credit for the depot’s dismantling and later reconstruction goes to members of the Carter County Work Camp.  In the process of planning the program, Conger said she hopes a representative of the group will be present and speak at the ribbon cutting ceremony. 

For more information about the ribbon cutting celebrating the contributions of WC Rowe to Jonesborough and the opening of the Chuckey Depot Museum on Monday, Oct. 2 at 11 a.m., call (423)791-3869.

Town celebrates Constitution Week

By JOHN KIENER

Associate Editor

jkiener@heraldandtribune.com

An audience of 150 people plus an uncounted number of bells celebrated a Constitution Week program at Oak Hill School on Sunday. Numerous organizations participated in the event begun in 1955 by the Daughters of the American Revolution.  This year, the 230th Anniversary of the Constitution, the celebration in Jonesborough specially remembered the soldiers who served in the Battle of Wabash, a little known but important conflict in American history.

Special guests at the event were Mrs. Joyce Cole, National leader of the Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge and Nancy Knapke, Museum Docent of the Fort Recovery, Ohio Monument Park. She talked about the effects of the battle in strengthening the United States Military.

Known by several names – St. Clair’s Defeat, Battle of Wabash or The Native American Defeat of the First American Army, out of 1,400 men engaged in the conflict, 918 were killed and 276 wounded.  The casualty list included almost one-half of the entire United States Army.  An account of the battle was given by Joel Dobson from Greensboro, North Carolina,  a veteran of service in Vietnam.

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On Sunday, a roll call of 205 names of individuals from the area who participated in the battle was read by various members of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in East Tennessee. The DAR along with the Town of Jonesborough and the Heritage Alliance were major sponsors of the ceremony. Carol Redmond, Regent of the State of Franklin Chapter NSDAR, said “ Iwas pleased by the participation in the event.”  It is her hope that people who have traced their lineage to participants in the battle will purchase memorial bricks at the Veterans Park in the Visitors Center in Jonesborough.

These ancestors may be eligible for DAR memberships. Present for the ceremony to welcome the assembly was Mayor Kelly Wolfe along with Regent Redmond. The mayor led an invocation using the hymn “Amazing Grace.” The posting of colors was performed by a ROTC color guard from David Crockett High School. Then the DCHS Choir under the direction of Kelly Davenport sang the National Anthem followed by the Pledge of Allegiance to The Flag led by then Washington County Home School Association.

Students from Jonesborough Middle School recited the Preamble to the Constitution. Children of the American Revolution were present, represented by Melodie Daniels and sons, Ivan, Cohen and Gideon. A salute to veterans by the firing of period long-rifles was given by a costumed contingent from the Overmountain Victory Trail Association.

Jules Corriere, from the McKinney Center for the Arts, gave an account of one woman’s survival in the battle in an address titled “The loss and lamentation.” Anne G’Fellers Mason, Special Projects Coordinator at the Heritage Alliance, said the program, “really went well. It is always interesting to share history with people.” She recounted “The Aftermath of Blame and Support” that took place after the battle. Members of the assembly also received “News of the Day” from an edition of the Knoxville Gazette.

The collection of bells to “make a joyful noise” in commemoration of the sacrifices made by veterans included sounds with a modern twist — cell phone bells. Jonesborough resident and member of the John Sevier-Sarah Hawkins Chapter of the NSDAR Doris Durey brought her large Swiss Bell. Teresa Ann James, State of Franklin Registrar, said she recorded church bells and played them during the bell ringing that followed the singing of “My Country Tis’ of Thee.”

James also was in charge of handing out certificates at the event. “It is the DAR’s way of showing appreciation to those who participated,” she said.

The DAR’s celebration of the Constitution resulted in Congress setting aside Sept. 17 through Sept. 23 as Constitution Week.

The resolution adopted by Congress was signed into law on Aug. 2, 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The State of Franklin NSDAR has been based in Jonesborough since 1929.

In addition to the State of Franklin and John Sevier-Sarah Hawkins Chapters other DAR organizations at the event included the Northeast TN Regent’s Council, Ann Robertson, John Carter, Julius Dugger, Kings Mountain, Long Island, Mary Patton, and Nolichucky Chapters NSDAR.

On Sept. 17, 1787, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and 31 other delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The document has established the framework to govern the nation and to protect the rights of its citizens.

After the celebration at Oak Hill School, the assembly was invited to the Historic Visitor’s Center for a short Wreath Laying Ceremony.

Evacuees find refuge in Jonesborough

From left to right, Angela Letterie, Carl Letterie, Marcy Hawley, Marilyn Lampsley, and Rich Lampsley gather on the porch of Hawley’s Jonesborough home.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

When Rich and Marilyn Lapsley of West Palm Beach, Florida and Carl and Angela Letterie of Venice, Florida saw that Hurricane Irma was headed for the Sunshine State, there was no question as to whether or not they would be staying put.

That’s when the four of them got in touch with their old friend and Jonesborough resident Marcy Hawley who just happened to have space to spare in her historic home nestled near downtown.

“The reason we came is because we lived through a category three and it stayed over Palm Beach County for over 12 hours,” Marilyn Lapsley said. “Let me tell you, our house shook. The pressure was unbelievable. You could just feel this pressure and the noise. So I said to Rich, ‘Anything over a two, we’re leaving. I don’t care.’”

The Lapsleys have lived in Florida for nearly 30 years. In that time, they’ve lived through the wrath of Hurricanes Francis, Charlie, Jean and Wilma. Not ready to make Irma their fifth, they left their Florida home last Wednesday to head towards Tennessee — and away from the preparation chaos that was already taking place.

“We gassed up way ahead of time last Monday,” Marilyn Lapsley said. “Then as the hurricane story started coming out that it was going to be a big son of a gun, then people started to run for the gas stations — they found empty tanks.”

As for the Letteries, who have lived in Florida for two and a half years, they might not have experienced numerous hurricanes, but after living through Kansas and Missouri tornadoes, Hurricane Eva in Hawaii and a country-wide lockdown in Korea when the president was assassinated in the early ‘90s, they’re familiar with evacuation plans and riding out a storm.

“If you watch TV over the years, you see these humongous lines of cars trying to get out at the last minute, but I’m thinking, ‘I’m not doing that,’ Carl Letterie said. “We would have left earlier if I could have gotten someone to put the shutters on the windows earlier. I didn’t want to get stuck. As it turned out, we got stuck out anyway. But compared to a lot of people, it was nothing.”

The Floridians said that because of these hurricanes, their towns have built homes with roofs tied into the walls for better security and steel streetlights that lower into the ground in preparation for bad weather. Even with constructional preparedness, the Lapsleys and Letteries explained that the rush for resources will likely continue after the storm passes.

“The next thing that will happen, based on our experience, is after the storm, there’ll be plenty of gas, but there’s no electricity to pump the gas out of the ground,” Rich Lapsley said. “They tried to make it mandatory that every gas station have an auxiliary generator. So some do and some don’t. All the gas stations on the turnpike have auxiliary generators. The mom and pops probably don’t because of the expense.”

When it comes to who stays and who decides to evacuates, the group said they felt that it was just a matter of choices. And unless under a mandatory evacuations as many Floridians were, the choice comes down to your way of thinking, according to the Lapsleys and Letteries.

“I guess you have optimists and pessimists,” Angela Letterie said. “We’re kinda like on the pessimist end I guess. We were out of there just in case. The other ones thought they’d give it a shot.”

“If we pack up and leave and it doesn’t happen, then we just get a vacation,” Carl Letterie added. “But fortunately, we had the resources to be able to do that.”

Marilyn Lapsley explained that their daughter and her children would be staying in their Florida home though the storm and that they prepared the house with shutters and large amounts of water and ice. Meanwhile, the Letteries explained that they cleared their deck and cut large holes in their pool cage in order for the monstrous winds to pass through without taking yet another of their pool cages flying in a Florida storm.

But in all of their experience living through the howling winds, power outages and what Marilyn Lapsley described as “unbelievable atmospheric pressure” associated with hurricanes, and now, evacuating from a tropical storm, the group of friends agreed that it’s important to take your most important documents along with you. But they also said that in the grand scheme, all those “things” didn’t matter so much.

“It’s only stuff. Your house is only stuff. It’s a lot of stuff,” Angela Letterie said, “but your life is more important.

A day in the life: Kimber Halliburton, Director of Schools

 

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

What Kimber Halliburton really wants to do each day is interact with the students. They are her favorite people in Washington County, after all, and she can’t wait to see how their day is going. But she also knows that behind that door to the Washington County Department of Education awaits the work of the director of schools that must be done first.

***

She arrives in her blue and white checkered dress and cowboy boots because today she’ll be visiting her favorite people at the Appalachian Fairground before adding a few school visits to her itinerary.

“This is my fair dress,” Halliburton said, beaming across her oak desk where she answers a few early morning emails before her right-hand woman, executive assistant and close friend Jennifer Moore tells her it’s time to head towards the fairground.

“I bought it probably a couple of months ago. I’ve never worn it. Now, Jenn might tell on me and tell you why my name’s Minnie Pearl – I usually wear my price tags, but I took it off because you were coming,” she admits, laughing. “I’ll wear it a couple of hours if it’s new, but honey, if it’s uncomfortable, (makes a tag-tearing hand motion), I take it off.”

The director of schools goes over the work she faces for the day.

But it’s not time to show off her fair dress just yet because first, like most days, Halliburton’s morning is filled with follow-up phone calls, coffee percolating in the corner of her sunny office and the occasional reminder from Moore to sign fundraiser forms and any and all other paper work awaiting the director of schools.

“It really just depends — there’ll be a week when I don’t get in a school,” Halliburton said. “Then there’ll be one where I’ve gotten into five schools. It just really depends on what’s going on like what I’ve gotten from the state.”

Before she can even finish the coffee in her steel, monogramed cup, Moore has brought the day’s schedule, fundraiser requests that need her signature and reminded Halliburton of three conversations she needs to have with various principals she’ll see throughout the day. But that’s not all that’s on Halliburton’s mind.

Work that never sleeps. (8 a.m.)

Not all paper work is as hopeful as fundraiser permission forms and documents detailing the total number of recent Daniel Boone and David Crockett high school graduates who went on to secondary school. In the midst of all this, the director of schools’ mind is also still on the document that compares the amount of funds available to surrounding city systems in comparison to that of county school systems.

To put the thought at rest, Halliburton picks up her iPhone and scrolls through her twitter feed for a moment.

“Hey, we gotta pick up on our tweeting,” Halliburton says to Moore from the next room. “That’s another thing; I can’t afford to hire a full-time twitter person. That’s basically what (communication managers) handle. And guess who does the social media for this county.”

That difference is a constant thought for Halliburton as it is for many others in the county system. But she’s got at least eight other items on the to do list scribbled on her office white board, at least two planned school visits and three buses full of third graders awaiting her 13 minutes down the road in Gray to worry about.

And it’s already 10 minutes until the field trip festivities begin.

Chimney pranks and feral cats. (9:12 a.m.)

The site of the future Boones Creek School is one of the director’s favorite places to visit on the weekend.

There isn’t music coming out of the speakers of Halliburton’s immaculate SUV (though Moore insists the director loves to blare her music any chance she gets). Instead, the future site of the new Boones Creek School up ahead takes precedence over any song that could be playing on the radio. She’s driven by it probably a thousand times by now, but somehow the site of the red dirt covering the now level hillside stills pulls an excited gasp out of Halliburton. There’s only dirt and a few bulldozers making their way across the pasture, but Halliburton refers to it as “our new school” anyhow.

“My husband and I, on most weekends, we drive out here every Sunday to look at the progress. We drive up and sometimes we get out and walk around actually,” she said.

“There are a ton of feral cats and if there’s a new kitten out there, I go crazy. And Frank will go, ‘No, we’re not taking it home. That cat is wild, now. It’s not just a little kitten.’”

She passes the small white house on the property that’s nearly gone as she prepares to tell the tale of a joke she played on the head of maintenance.

Halliburton had already requested the enormous dormer from the house in hopes of using it as a reading house in the future school’s library. After Phillip Patrick, the head of maintenance, had to use a trailer to haul it, the director decided to add a little fun to it.

“I said to Jenn, ‘Call up Philip Patrick and tell him that Kimber wants the chimney,'” Halliburton recalled. “He was at central office. We were on the road. He said, ‘I’m sitting down in the grass. I’m about to have a heart attack.’”

Halliburton and Moore take a minute to think back on when the two started working together.

The car is filled with laughter. But then Moore is already back to looking over the to-do list, stopping at a mysterious item added by Halliburton. Just like that, Halliburton is back to work, describing the role of instructional coaches and how in-depth meetings or “rounds” between instructional coaches and teachers on teaching strategies could be a possibility for the school system.

Can’t take the country out of the girl (9:29 a.m.)

With phone in hand and twitter at the ready, Halliburton makes her way over to two West View students who got the morning shift of bathing a couple cows near the Appalachian Fair’s farm buildings.

But the director of schools is anything but afraid to approach the cattle. In fact, she said seeing the livestock at the fair reminds her of the time she spent on her family’s farm in Nashville.

“I really do (feel at home with farm animals). My uncle, he had a beef cattle ranch. We had horses and chickens too,” she said. “We had to be up at six in the morning and then shower. That was the rule. You couldn’t come to the breakfast table without a shower.”

After Halliburton’s parents divorced, she’d spend time with her father on the farm and in the city of Nashville where her mother lived. She says she got a bit of the country life with a bit of the city growing up, but that her kids (one an electrical engineer in Nashville, the other a teacher in Metro Nashville and the third a student at the University of Tennessee) consider themselves “city people.” But for Halliburton, country settings suit her just fine.

After she takes a minute to “tweet out” a picture of the students with their cows and jot a few names into her running list of people she’s working hard to remember, it’s off to socialize with just about anyone who passes by. Sometime throughout the day, she even agreed to come back Saturday morning to show a cow at the fair’s cattle competition after talking to 

local farmer for a few minutes.

For the Nashville native, that’s been the most surprising aspect of her director gig; not that she’s showing cattle (that too), but the amount of time around the clock that she dedicates to being a superintendent.

“I knew I would be busy,” she said. “I knew that this job would be pretty time consuming. I just had no idea that, I guess, 80 percent of my waking hours would be spent on this job.”

Between suddenly agreeing to show cows on any given Saturday and attending home Boone and Crockett football games on Friday nights in Washington County, Halliburton gives credit to her family for being able to give so much to her role as director of schools.

“I have a really good marriage. That helps because if I didn’t have an understanding husband…it’s kind of his job too. But that’s how it’s been since I started being a principal,” she said. “It was kind of a family affair for us, my kids included. They’d always come and help teachers with bulletin boards. When I became a principal, we’d go to a ball game or count text books. It’s always kind of been that way.”

Before becoming the director of schools for the county system, Halliburton began her career as a special education teacher and later took the leap of getting her master’s to become a principal. After a year of being an assistant principal in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, Halliburton got the chance to start her own school as head principal at a technology demonstration school.

“I wasn’t necessarily looking to get out of Nashville. I love Nashville. But I love it here. I knew I wanted to go to East Tennessee. I visited here years ago and Frank and I fell in love with the mountains. We just fell in love with East Tennessee.”

Apart from going from serving a district of 90,000 students to one of 9,000, the move was also about timing.

“I thought, ‘You know, it’s the perfect time if I’m ever going to apply to be a superintendent,’” Halliburton said, walking through the fairground during what might have been the quietest part of her morning. “Our youngest had graduated from high school and I thought, ‘I’ve got a great job here in Nashville. I’m just going to apply and see what happens.’ I had nothing to lose. You know, ‘if I don’t get a superintendent job, then that’s not in God’s plan.’”

The director stopped numerous times for photo-ops with various community members.

The director pauses to take her final selfie with a county commissioner she passes on her way back out through the fair gates. Then it’s off for a quick lunch before getting to Halliburton’s favorite part of her job: going to the schools.

Back to high school (1:32 p.m.)

“I turned down a high school job once,” The director of schools said, taking a turn through the parking lot at Boone. “I won’t say I regret it, but Pedro Garcia, my superintendent at the time, talked to me about being a high school principal. My kids were little. I just felt like they wouldn’t even know who I am. I mean, a high school principal gig … ” she said, taking a pause. “I just think about how much fun I would have had as a high school principal.”

Halliburton enters the first school tour of the day at Daniel Boone.

As much fun as she might have had in that role, as director of schools she makes a point to still have time with students, which is especially easy when they gravitate towards her as they did throughout the lunchroom at Boone.

One student took her hand and introduced himself to the director while another young man asked if she thought he still had time to join the Blazer Band. Meanwhile, a young girl stood off to the side, waiting to welcome Halliburton back with a hug and a short update on her senior year.

She specifically requested to meet the student Boone Principal Tim Campbell told her found over $100 on campus and immediately turned over to the office to find the rightful owner.

After a walk through the halls of Daniel Boone, and a bit of time spent in the classroom of one English class’ lively discussion of “The Scarlet Letter,” Halliburton stopped to introduce herself to a new teacher and to take pictures of another’s perfectly decorated classroom before it was on to her next stop, Ridgeview Elementary.

The director talks with the student who found over $100 in cash at Daniel Boone.

But her mind wasn’t on elementary education just yet; her mind was still reeling over the kids she saw at the high school. She spent the drive racking her brain over a way to honor the kid who found the money at the next board meeting. There was also one other student she couldn’t quite stop worrying about.

“I had a hard time getting that kid to talk to me. And usually I can get the loner kids to talk to me. But I think I caught him off guard,” she said, thinking back to a student sitting alone in the lunch room. She even asked the teacher on lunch duty if the student normally had friends to sit with.

“Those kids really need ya. And they’re kids that typically have a harder time fitting in,” she said. “That’s my kind of kid. Everybody loves the popular kids cause they’re easy to talk to and they’re usually personable. But I love talking to the other kids.”

It’s hard to walk through a high school and not think back on your own experience at that age. As Halliburton drove up the hill to Ridgeview, her mind went back to her own time in high school.

“All my friends were popular I would say. I wasn’t an athlete. I wasn’t a cheerleader. I was in student government. I wouldn’t say I was popular.

“I think popularity too, many times, is attributed to money. I probably couldn’t have been a cheerleader if I wanted to — and I’m not telling you a sob story. I don’t know how my parents would have afforded the uniform.”

Around the time a young Kimber Halliburton was making her way through high school, other factors put a bit of a strain on that time period for her as well.

“High school was hard for me. My brother had a really bad drug problem. And so that was a bit embarrassing at times, ya know? He would get arrested,” she said. “He was seven years older than me, but we all went to the same high school. And the teachers would go, ‘Oh, you’re Jeff’s little sister.’”

“One time he was actually in prison and there was a riot. He got shot and was on the news when I was in high school. People knew he was in and out of jail, but it’s not something you want to be reminded of all the time. But he was on the news and the next day at school, people were asking me about it and saying, ‘Oh I saw where your brother got shot,’ being nice, but still, ya know?”

The director doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on the details of her high school days. Instead she

’s decided to put those experiences toward offering education options for high schoolers who might find themselves in the same situation as her brother.

“I really relate to people who have something they’re struggling with like that. I mean we all like to do something excessively. Some people are addicted to working out. That’s more of a healthy addiction, but still it’s an addiction,” she said. “That’s why those Asbury and Midway kids — you’ve gotta have things like that for those kids that wouldn’t necessarily be able to make it at a Crockett or a Boone. It’s too much for them. The social stuff is too much for them.

“It might not be to that degree where you’re incarcerated, but I think everybody has something they carry around.”

Every picture a story (1:45 p.m.)

Ridgeview, one of the newest Washington County Schools, is filled with beautifully painted cafeteria and library murals, and for Halliburton, plenty of opportunities for photo-ops.

Ridgeview is the second school stop through the day with the director.

It’s pretty easy to get a daily dose of a day in the life of Kimber Halliburton if you were to take a look at her twitter account complete with photos of all the people, classrooms, events and places she comes across in a day. As she made her way, still in what Moore called her “Hoe-down” dress, the director took a second to explain the reason she takes so many photos everywhere she goes.

“You know, my dad died when he was 54. I have one picture of me and my father and it’s not even a good one,” she said. “So I’ve driven my kids crazy taking pictures. That’s how you document history. My dad didn’t even own a camera.”

As much as she loves capturing photos, when the director steps foot into any school, it’s clear she’s ready to see the teachers hard at work. But she also really misses the interaction she used to have with students back when she was working in a school.

“I want to get to know more of them. The sad thing is, for me, I got to know a lot of the senior class from last year. And they’ve moved on so I’ve kind of learned that I need to get to know the freshman and sophomores. It’s not that I don’t know them, it’s just that I need to invest more time over a longer period of time,” she explained. “I always tell them, ‘Come up to me at a football game. Come say hi. Come sit with me.’ I mean, I want to get to know them.

Halliburton takes a minute to enjoy the Ridgeview library.

Around the next corner of the elementary school, the director spends time looking at one teachers new chrome books she just received. From there, the director stops in the library to ogle over the LEGO board and to say hi to faculty and staff in a professional development meeting.

By the time she shuts the driver door to her SUV, Halliburton already knows where she’s headed next; she’s ready to show off a new system-wide feature that’s soon to be complete in each school throughout the county.

The reading escape (3:01 p.m.)

Maybe it’s her background in education that helps her perfectly explain exactly what it is she wants someone to understand or maybe it’s the excitement she exudes that could almost rub off on her listener. Either way, as she rolls up to Boones Creek Elementary, the director spent a few moments describing the school system’s new book rooms and what it could mean for teachers and students in a way that would make you want to sit down with a good book right then and there.

Along with the new instructio

nal coaches, who work one-on-one with teachers to better advance their skills, the school system is adding these reading rooms that serve as a reading space where teachers can take his or her classes while also serving as a place to keep any items teachers could share instead of buying more than one at a school.

The director and assistant principal at Boones Creek Elementary, Jordan Hughes, make their way to see the reading room.

After her explanation, Halliburton is bound and determined to see the reading room at Boones Creek Elementary that she had heard so much about.

It’s not all about the room though; improving reading scores has been a goal that Halliburton has kept in the back of her mind since becoming the director.

“You know that prisons are planned (according to) third grade reading scores,” the director said. “It’s sad. If you’re not reading by third grade, that’s like a life sentence for not doing well. Not for everybody — there’s those oddball stories where you hear, ‘my dad only had a fifth grade education and he’s a wealthy tobacco farmer.’ You hear that. But for the most part, if you’re not reading by third grade, it’s really hard to catch you up.”

She’s excited to look through the room and all the potential learning that’s already taking place at the tables and reading corners in the room, but as a kindergarten class that just started school a couple weeks ago passes by, you can really almost see Halliburton’s heart melt at the sight of their smiling faces.

After making one last lap through the round part of the elementary school, Halliburton thanks assistant principal Jordan Hughes and the folks at the front office to head back to her own office where she’ll polish off a few more emails and look over a few more documents.

But the trip back to the office is a little easier when you’ve got a glorious view of the Appalachian Mountains — and when you’re still relatively new to East Tennessee.

“Susan Kiernan (the WCDE Director of Human Resources) says, ‘I love seeing your reaction to mountains because you’re like a little girl’ because I didn’t grow up around these. I’m just not accustomed to it,” Halliburton said, gazing at the vast view from the entrance of the elementary school. “I’m getting more accustomed to them, but the mountains to me are just, ‘wow.’ Jennifer says she’s going to take me to the prettiest view she says is in this region.”

Though Moore is yet to drive her by that spot (which she says is near South Central Elementary), it’s unclear when they’ll find the time because for Halliburton, who stops off to get a  coffee, black, for Moore and a coffee with eight creamers and two Splendas for herself, the day is still young.

When it works out (4:30 p.m.)

The work day is coming to a close for most, but for Halliburton, there’s often still to-do list items to cross off (or leave on the white board for another day.)

“We have days where we’ll have meetings scheduled, but some days, it’s so unpredictable,” Moore explained, sipping her coffee as she headed back into the place the morning began. “You’ll have one thing on your mind that you want to accomplish and then all this other unexpected stuff comes at you.”

After a trip around the fair and three school visits, Halliburton doesn’t miss a beat as she heads back into her office. She says when she gets home to her husband Frank and two cats, Harlow and Ellie May, she’ll still tend to a few emails, so she doesn’t mind taking a minute to sip her coffee — and look back on some highlights from her year so far.

It’s been just over a year since Halliburton first got the job as the director of schools. She’s the first woman to ever do so in Washington County and it’s quite possibly the first time for an outsider as well.

“So I interviewed for the job and I thought the board really liked me. That’s hard to determine and there were a lot of local candidates and some outsiders too,” she recalled. “But as we were driving home, Frank goes, ‘I think you really did a good job on the interview. I think they really liked you. The problem is, these people that interviewed are going to be with them for two more weeks. And you’re going back to Nashville.’”

She took the advice of other friends of hers who are also superintendents and decided to be there in person for the vote that would name the new Washington County director of schools. Knowing maybe two people in the room, Halliburton asked to hold a perfect stranger’s hand and awaited her fate; either she’d have the job or she’d be facing a long drive back to Nashville alone.

“I remember looking around at the walls in the board room and I thought I was going to cry. I’m not a cryer. I don’t cry much, but I got this choke in my throat and I looked around and thought, ‘Okay Lord, I really wanted to be here, but it’s not in your plan.’”

After looking back on getting the job and what all she’s done throughout the year, it’s hard for her to picture her life anywhere but in Washington County which now truly feels like home to her.

Halliburton makes her way through her Jonesborough home.

“It takes a while for a place to feel like home. And I think probably after about three or four months, Frank and I went home to Nashville,” she explained. “He went back first and hecame back one weekend and he goes, ‘it doesn’t feel like home anymore. Nashville doesn’t feel like home anymore.’ and I said, ‘Really?’ About two or  three weekends later, I went home. My son  and daughter were there and I stayed in my bed — but it doesn’t feel like home. It’s really different now. This place is truly home.”

There’s still one aspect of life in Washington County she says is completely different from the big city; for Halliburton, she’s still in awe of the kindness of people in this region.

Halliburton socializes with educators at the Teacher of the Year Banquet. She said the ceremony she implemented last school year was something she was most proud of after her first year as the director of schools.

“Relationships are important. Whether you’re in a big district or a small district or a small district. Ya know? If people like you, then when you have something tough that you have to face with them or maybe even about them, they accept it better because you’ve already got that relationship. You start off positive.”

“I’ve enjoyed it,” she said, thinking back on all the people she’s gotten to know in her time as director. “I love the people here. I’ve never met better people and better kids. The kids are so ‘Yes ma’am,’ ‘no ma’am’. They’re so mannerly. There’s just a different level of respect. They’re just taught that here at home.”

She heads out the door after turning out all the lights in her corner of the central office. It’s about time to hang up her fair dress and cowboy boots until next year’s fair. But she’s got quite a few other events to attend before then, like the first home Crockett football game the next night.

As for the to-do items on her white board and in her phone, she turns to the advice she often gives her own kids when they call with one of life’s many problems:

“I used to say, ‘Oh no, how is this going to happen?’,” she said after a long day of work and some unanswered questions. ‘But I have found out — things have a way of working out.”