WCEA files lawsuit against county BOE

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Board of Education is preparing to face a lawsuit.

Washington County Attorney Tom Seeley informed the school board of a lawsuit filed by the Washington County Education Association on behalf of former Washington County School teacher Stacia Howard.

Howard’s contract was not renewed after five years of teaching drama at Gray Elementary. Howard addressed the board in June following the nonrenewable along with a parent and a former student in favor of reinstating Howard.

At the Oct. 5 meeting, Seeley told the board that the lawsuit refers to comments made during executive session and that he believes the information was leaked from a board member.

“It appears that information was breached from the allegations that were made,” Seeley said. “It also references comments made by the attorney, which was me, in executive session. It also references a comment in the open board meeting. It’s not clear from the complaint whether that’s from the executive session or the open board meeting. So that is a concern.”

When asked what the board could do about a possible breach in executive session, Seeley told the board that a board member can be excluded from executive session if he or she is believed to have breached information. He also said a litigation committee could be set up to where access to executive session information is limited.

Johnson City lawyer Earl Booze with Tennessee Municipal League will be representing the school board in the case. Seeley said Booze will be meeting with the board on the lawsuit in the near future.

WCEA also issued a complaint regarding the distribution of Professional Educators of Tennessee fliers.

At last month’s meeting, the board discussed Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton’s distribution of the PET fliers in the school system. Seeley said at the September meeting that Halliburton followed Tennessee Code Annotated 49-5-606 (4) in regards to distribution.

The county attorney suggested that the board request to delay until they make a decision on possibly hiring an attorney who would act as the board’s exclusive lawyer. The board has discussed hiring a lawyer separate from the county attorney. No decision was made on an attorney at the meeting.

Chuckey Depot holds ribbon cutting

By JOHN KIENER

Associate Editor

jkiener@heraldandtribune.com

The ribbon cutting for the dedication of the Chuckey Depot and W. C. Rowe Park took place in a 45-minute ceremony Monday on-site at 110 South Second Ave.  While the dedication had an official program, the gathering had the atmosphere of a family reunion.

More than 200 people gathered to hear speakers from the Babb family who donated the depot, while friends and relatives of W. C. Rowe remembered his contributions to Jonesborough and Washington County. Town Mayor Kelly Wolfe set the stage for the event when he said, “This depot served a very important role in the community it served.  W. C. Rowe personified the spirit of the community.”  He hailed the cooperative spirit that made both the park and depot a reality.

Town Operations Manager Craig Ford said the depot was his first major project.  The town staff with the assistance of inmates from the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City and the Carter County Work Camp both took apart and, six years later, reassembled the depot. Ford told of two major obstacles in the process: the original inmates were not the ones that reassembled the depot.  In addition, the depot now standing in Jonesborough is on the opposite side of the tracks as it was situated in Chuckey.

Former County Mayor George Jaynes said of Rowe, “We were real close. His work for Jonesborough was unbelievable. There were not many issues (in county government) in which he was not involved.” Jaynes served as county executive or county mayor from 1986 until 2010 during which time Rowe was elected to four terms as a county commissioner beginning in 1990 and continuing with his re-election in 2002.

Present at the ceremony was W. C.’s daughter, Jill Garcia, who thanked the audience for remembering her father. “He loved the town so much,” she said. “He never met a stranger.”  Garcia brought with her a statement from her brother William C. Rowe, Jr., now a professor in Astana, Kazakhstan.  Garcia drove to the ceremony from St. Augustine, Florida where the city experienced flooding from recent hurricanes.  In his statement, William wrote, “My father loved to talk to anyone about anything for any length of time. He knew most of the people in Washington County. We, all of you who were involved (with the park), thank-you”

Elaine Rowe said “I cannot express our appreciation enough.  This would have been the one time in his life that he was silent.”  She told of the couple’s courtship, and then told the audience, “This is beautiful.  You have revived the memories of a loving man.”

A portion of the program distributed at the Ribbon Cutting talked about the future of the park.  The text read, “With increased use of W.C. Rowe Park, including the walkway and visitors at Chuckey Depot, we anticipate the need for public restrooms, outdoor seating, and additional storage space for museum artifacts. The property to the west of the Depot is a potential location for expanding the park in order to meet these needs.”

Contributions made by the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society and Museum were outlined by Jimmy Rhein, chairman of the Chuckey Depot Committee and a member of the group. He said, “What a day for Jonesborough. What a day for the region.”  Rhein pointed to the X450 caboose on the premises that was restored by members of the WVRHSM.  In a tribute to W. C. Rowe, he talked about how he had served with him on the Town’s Planning Commission before Rowe was elected a county commissioner.

A compelling and historical presentation was given by Travis McIntosh, a member of the Depot’s donor family.  Currently serving as a Lt. Colonel in the United States Army, the West Point graduate recounted working at the depot while a youngster.  The depot, which was in the family for 70 years, was used as a storage place for fertilizer and other materials sold at the family’s hardware store nearby.

“Dinner in the Diner” in the 1980s was part of the family’s efforts to keep the depot in repair before being told it must be removed from the railroad right-of-way to make room for double tracking by the Norfolk Southern Railroad. Lifting 50 pound bags of fertilizer at the site during his youth, McIntosh also learned that blacks were separated from whites in society.  He said he came to realize that the separation of the races was wrong.

“It feels great to be in East Tennessee,” said McIntosh, who pilots a Blackhawk helicopter in the Army. He mentioned that he graduated from David Crockett High School and said growing up in this area he enjoyed “a culture of kindness and patriotism.” He said to the crowd, “Thank-you.  You all have made a dream become a reality.”

Bill Babb, another relative, remembered driving the fertilizer truck at the depot. A graduate of East Tennessee State University, he said “I would never have dreamed that the depot would look like this today.”

A number of depot donor family members were present at the ceremony and they were acknowledged in the Ribbon-Cutting Program.  The group members said that they were pleased that the depot still carries the “Chuckey” station name.

President Mike Tilley said the Watauga Valley Historical Railroad Society would maintain the following schedule on opening the depot during Jonesborough Days: on Thursday, Friday and Saturday – noon until 7 p.m. and on Sunday noon until 5 p.m.  The regular schedule of volunteer assistance by the group will by on Wednesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

JCPB emerges from meeting as ‘BrightRidge’

From STAFF REPORTS

With a new business structure installed earlier this year, the Johnson City Energy Authority Board of Directors formally adopted a new name and brand identity at a called meeting Tuesday.

Now known as BrightRidge, the electric utility serves 78,000 customers in Washington, Sullivan, Carter and Greene counties, and continues as a public, not-for-profit entity with leadership appointed by three local governments.

“This day is a long time coming, as the board and staff have spent the past couple of years educating political, business and community leaders on the need for a more independent business unit that can quickly adapt to an evolving market place,” Board Chair Dr. B.J. King said Tuesday. “I have had the opportunity to work with a number of boards and organizations, and I can say, none have worked as hard as this organization to get ready for this day.”

Founded in 1945 by Johnson City’s purchase of a territory from the Tennessee Valley Authority, the utility serves today as a key public power provider focused on providing affordable, reliable electricity. But new opportunities and challenges await, CEO Jeff Dykes said, as the utility weighs the potential launch of solar, broadband fiber and other services.

“We live in a rapidly changing market place where solar, battery storage and other alternative forms of energy are viable on an individual, industrial and residential scale,” Dykes said. “As these technologies take off, it will be up to public power providers to ensure affordable, efficient service is available to all our customers, not just those who can afford the initial and ongoing costs of these emerging technologies.”

While long known as JCPB, Dykes said it has equally long been understood that JCPB needed rebranding to better reflect the geographic scope of the customer base and position the utility for anticipated future growth.

“There are a few things we really need to stress,” Dykes said. “First of all, we remain your local public power provider and this change really impacts very little on a day-to-day basis. All individual account numbers, our physical address, and our phone number will all remain the same. Likewise, we will continue to be Johnson City and Washington County’s largest taxpayer.”

BrightRidge is now a distinct political subdivision of the state, and will continue to purchase wholesale power from TVA as it has for 72 years. BrightRidge also continues as one of TVA’s largest local power companies.

County receives student growth scores

Washington County’s K-8 schools received fives in four categories in average scores. In science, the K-8s earned a three.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Department of Education has something to celebrate.

Eight of Washington County’s 12 schools scored a five in its overall composite scores — the highest number possible for Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System data, which measures student growth throughout the state.

The Washington County School District also earned a five as its district-wide, overall-composite score.

“I believe it’s been since around 2012 that we’ve had a level five in growth,” Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said. “This is not something that happens on a regular basis for Washington County. This is landmark. It’s significant. We’re really proud of that.”

TVAAS was designed to measure student growth in education, whether a student was proficient on the state assessment or not. But Halliburton explained that the scores also help to measure the impact a school district, schools and teachers have on a student’s academic progress.

“Growth scores are very tricky, but really they’re an excellent measure of the future, in my opinion,” she said. “You can take a cohort of students and if they continue along that trajectory of growth, then years down the road we should have some really good ACT scores — we can become even better.”

Boones Creek Middle, Grandview, Gray, Jonesborough Middle, Lamar, Ridgeview, Sulphur Springs and West View schools all received fives in their overall composite scores. South Central and Fall Branch both received fours in their overall composite scores.

Halliburton told the Herald & Tribune that she felt new technology and an increase classroom rigor contributed to the increase in student growth. The director also felt that attention to the details of student data is a key component to adding to student growth.

“When you look at student achievement, you look at the big picture and peel back to the details,” Halliburton explained. “You have to really analyze the data and put your arms around the data. Try to determine what the data’s telling you. Then you just have to build your dialogue around that. You peel it down to a specific grade level and then you peel it down to the teacher.”

K-8 TVAAS scores in Washington County showed a lower score in science than any other category.

Throughout literacy, numeracy, literacy and numeracy combined, and science categories, a lower score in science was the trend for the county’s K-8 schools. When asked how the district plans to up those scores, Halliburton cited the literacy and numeracy efficiency as a vehicle to better science scores.

“It’s not that we’re not concerned about (science), but if you’re a stellar reader, and you are a stellar mathematician, then we can develop your skills in social studies and science,” Halliburton said. “If you’re a comprehensive reader, there’s not much you can put in front of a student that he or she can’t figure out.”

Halliburton also said science will take more of a front seat when it comes to reading content throughout K-8 schools.

“We are utilizing more reading opportunities in content areas like science. If we use more non-fiction literature in our reading lessons, if it’s geared towards science and social studies, we could see a great improvement in that,” she said. “You still have to do hands-on science experiments,, but you can also use that reading and literacy block of time each day to also do some reading in those areas.”

Though the district’s high schools saw growth in numeracy and literacy and numeracy, the director said there is “work to be done.”

As for the high school level, Washington County’s Daniel Boone High School received a one on its overall composite score and David Crockett scored a two overall. To fix the low science, literacy and literacy and numeracy combined scores, the district is looking to zoom in on exactly what each student needs in order to better their skills.

“We’ve got to identify these specific skills sets, no matter what grade you’re in, no matter what assessment you’re taking,” Halliburton said. “Whether it’s TN Ready, end of course, pre-ACT test — we’ve got to look at that and be prescriptive with you as a student.”

In addition to TVAAS scores, Halliburton said she is also looking at other data to better student outcomes; the director has her eyes on other factors like time lost from not staying on task and being on time.

“Time on task is something we’ve stressed this year — students having their homework ready, completing assignments on time, getting to their locker in a timely manner. If you’re five minutes late for every class, that’s 25 minutes of instruction you’ve lost as a student. If your parents bring you to a K-8 every day and they’re 10 minutes late, that’s 50 minutes of instruction lost. You can’t get it back.”

Teacher attendance from the 2015 to 2016 school year is another data set Halliburton examined. She said she felt those numbers also have an effect on student outcomes.

“I’m waiting to see if our attendance data looks better for 2016 to 2017. That could have played a factor in this,” she said. “We value our substitutes, but no substitute teacher takes the place of that teacher who has a built-in relationship with that student. There’s some quality instruction that’s lost when their regular teacher does not report in a given school day.”

Now, the district is preparing to get to work on those areas that need improvement and to always prepare for the future.

“We’ll have some slim years where growth may not be all fives, but at the same time, you constantly have to look at you data. And when you get good news, you cannot rest on your laurels,” Halliburton said. “The message I want to send out to teachers is how much I value and appreciate them for all that they’ve done, but to also not lose that sense of urgency. That sense of urgency is so important.

“It is not a time to coast. It’s never a time to coast in public education. We’ve got a lot to prove.”

Board member challenges flier distribution

Washington County Board of Education member Mary Beth Dellinger discusses fliers at the Sept. 7 school board meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

A motion regarding fliers that were distributed to teachers in the school system was tabled at the Washington County Board of Education meeting on Thursday night, but discussion of the matter took over the meeting on Sept. 7 at the central office.

Board member Mary Beth Dellinger made the motion to send a memorandum to all Washington County teachers stating the board and its director do not endorse or encourage the educators’ decision to join or not join a teacher’s association. This came after Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton okayed Professional Educators of Tennessee fliers to be distributed throughout the school system.

Board members David Hammond, Dellinger, Annette Buchanan, Phillip McLain and Keith Ervin voted to table the memorandum in order to send it to the policy committee. Board members Clarence Mabe, Mike Masters, Todd Ganger and Jack Leonard were opposed.

“Teachers were confused about this and felt like it showed favoritism and made them feel uncomfortable. There were ones that confronted me that didn’t even want to join a union,” Dellinger said. “It felt like Mrs. Halliburton was pushing a union on them. I’d like to make it clear we’re not going to encourage or not encourage it.”

During the meeting,Washington County Attorney Tom Seeley referred to Tennessee Code Anontated 49-5-606 (4), which requires the director of schools to allow distribution of such fliers.

“The code section that Mrs. Dellinger is referring to says if a professional association requests that fliers be distributed to the teachers, (Halliburton) must distribute those fliers,” Seeley said. “Mrs. Halliburton was following the law when she distributed those fliers as she was requested by that organization.”

Seeley also said that both the Chattanooga attorney, Scott Bennett, and the Tennessee School Boards Association deputy executive director, Randall Bennett, who Dellinger contacted in regards to the distribution of the fliers were in agreement that the director was required to follow the code.

Seeley also gave his recommendation in regards to the memorandum.

“If we send out a memorandum, we have to be very careful to say exactly what’s in the statute about not inhibiting their ability,” Seeley said. “I’m afraid it does not follow the statute. It is problematic.

“I would advise the board that we need to follow the law. If we need to discuss again the best and most effective way to distribute fliers so we’re fair to everyone, then that’s something that can be discussed in a committee. But again, what Mrs. Halliburton did — and Randal Bennett confirmed this — was exactly what the law required.”

After the discussion, Hammond proposed entering a discussion with Scott Bennett about the services he could offer the school board. Scott Bennett is the school board attorney for Bradley County, White County, DeKalb County, Hamilton County, Jefferson County, Polk County, Unicoi County and Fayetteville City.Hammond said the attorney’s role would be in addition to the role of Seeley’s and that it would remove Seeley from a “conflict of interest accusation.”

“I’m talking about having (an attorney) we can call on certain issues right away,” Hammond said, and just enter that conversation and relationship.”

Hammond, Dellinger, Buchanan, McLain and Ervin voted in favor of the motion. Mabe, Masters, Ganger and Leonard were opposed.

The next school board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 5 at the Washington County Department of Education Central Office at 405 W College St., Jonesborough.

BMA votes to repair historic cabin’s roof

By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

At their Monday night meeting, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a resolution to commit funds to re-roof the Christopher Taylor House, which is located on W. Main Street.

The historic log house, which belongs to the town, was built in the 1770s and, according to the resolution, represents one of the few remaining examples of saddle-notch log house construction in Tennessee. However, a failing roof is putting the structure at risk.

Before the resolution was approved, Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe addressed the Board, encouraging them to consider the benefits the Christopher Taylor House brings to Jonesborough and asking them to look favorably on the proposal.

“That cabin attracts an inordinate amount of attention,” Wolfe said. “It amazes me how fascinated people are with that cabin.”

The house is named for Christopher Taylor, the Revolutionary War officer who lived in the two-story log home with his wife and 10 children. Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of United States, also lived in the house for a short time as a boarder.

“This is an asset that we’ve got that’s been somewhat neglected,” he said, urging the Board to look at the house’s potential.

“When I got started on the Board, one of the big things was the state of repairs for the old Jonesborough cemetery, and it was pretty bad,” Wolfe said. “Downed trees that hadn’t been moved in years, headstones that had fallen over and broken. A major state of disrepair.”

The Board and other groups worked together to revitalize the cemetery, he said.

“We got together with other interested groups and made that an attraction,” Wolfe said, “and honest-to-goodness, there are cemetery tours, there are plays that are based on the headstones now. There are dinners. I’ve been to them.”

Now it’s time for the cabin, Wolfe said.

The re-roofing job is estimated to cost just over $18,000, but a Daughters of the American Revolution grant program for historic structures may help cover some of the costs. The grant program funds repairs of up to $10,000, but works on a 50% match basis, so 50% of funds must be in place before the grant application. 

The resolution approves the use of $7,000 out of unobligated reserve funds to be used to repair the roof, which will act as the matching funds for the grant application. If the grant application is successful, the project would receive an additional $7,000, and with $5000 already set aside for the roof repairs, the funds would be in place to complete the project.

“This is something we can accomplish,” Wolfe said.

From old to new: renovations underway at former downtown post office

Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe goes over the plans for the old post office building.

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

Jonesborough’s old post office building may be getting a new lease on life, literally.

The building, located at 111 W. Main St. and purchased by Jonesborough mayor and developer Kelly Wolfe, is currently undergoing renovation and should reopen by early 2018 as apartment lofts and a new downtown restaurant.

“We purchased the building late last year,” Wolfe said. “And we’ve been taking our time contemplating the best possible use for it, both in terms of a return on the investment and what’s best needed for the town.”

Wolfe secured the 8,000-square-foot building, erected in 1959, for $350,000, recognizing, he said, that the venture would require sizable work to reach the potential he imagined.

“When you take on a project like this, there are all kinds of complicating factors that really make it tough to make it as profitable versus a new construction,” Wolfe admitted. “Anybody who approaches these old buildings downtown to make them sustainable has to give a whole lot of thought to make it successful.”

Still, Jonesborough’s growing downtown, with new streetscapes, greenspaces and the proposed Jackson Theatre project, made his decisions  a little easier to make.

First are the downtown apartment lofts.

Plans for the building’s second floor include two two-bedroom apartments and two one-bedroom apartments. Views from  the front will be the historic Chester Inn and the International Storytelling Center. The back, with balcony, will look out over Little Limestone Creek.

“Folks look at living in downtown Jonesborough as not quite living in an urban environment, but it’s urban enough to invite a younger crowd and those who like the idea of walking a couple of blocks for a cup of coffee,” Wolfe said.

Rates to lease one of these new loft apartments are tentatively set at the $600 to $650 for the one-bedroom units up to $1,500 for the largest two-bedroom unit.

Wolfe also stressed that materials have been chosen to ensure better soundproofing  capabilities for floors and walls in the loft apartments.

The second part of the project will be the main floor restaurant, which will feature outdoor seating at the back, a bar and a main dining area that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“We’ve talked with a couple of different prospective tenants about their interest in opening a much needed restaurant downtown,” Wolfe said. “And I think we’ve settled on working with one individual in particular.

“He is one of the most successful food truck operators in the entire region really anxious to come to Jonesbough and set up a home base”

Though negotiations are ongoing, “We couldn’t be more excited.”

Main Street gets ready for cheese, wine stroll

From STAFF REPORTS

Jonesborough will kick off its second “Strolling on Main” event on Saturday, Sept. 9 from 5 to 8 p.m. for Strolling on Main.

Participants will have a chance to sample more than 20 varieties of cheese and cheese-infused bites throughout downtown and enjoy wine selections, offered at various locations for an additional fee.

Local artists will also be displaying and selling their various works up and down Main Street. Strolling musicians will provide entertainment along the route.

The Plaza of the International Storytelling Center will feature a wine and beer garden where selections will be for sale by the glass.

Dona Lewis, JAMSA representative stated,  “We are excited to host this event again where people can casually explore the shops and view artwork by talented regional artists while also sampling cheese and wine. Everyone that attended said it was one of their favorite events of the year.”

Admission is $15 for Cheese Tastings and $25 for Cheese and Wine Tastings. Ages 12 and under may enjoy cheese tastings for $10.

A limited number of tickets are available; visit www.strollingonmain.com  for more information and to purchase tickets. You can also call the Visitors Center at 423-753-1010 to purchase tickets. This event is sponsored by the Jonesborough Area Merchants and Services Association.

Jonesborough to become home for Haunted Half Marathon

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

The famous Haunted Half Marathon, which has been a part of the Kingsport event roster for the past eight years, is moving to Jonesborough.

“This is going to be an event for the whole family,” said Mayor Kelly Wolfe at the Aug. 16 announcement held on the downtown courthouse steps. “Just like you go to the Turkey Trot and everyone dresses up and has a great time, come to Jonesborough this Halloween and be a part of this Halloween race,”

As part of the town’s recent partnership with We Run Events, the Haunted Half Marathon will run througout historic downtown Jonesborough on Oct. 28, covering 13.1 miles of track. There will also be the opportuity for 2- and 3-person relays to cover shorter distances.

“We’re actually going to have about 1,000 participants,” Wolfe said. “We’re super excited about this new event right here in Jonesborough.”

The new event will also be part of a much older Jonesborough Halloween activity: Halloween Haunts & Happenings.

According to Main Street Director Melinda Copp, the town was already looking to expand Haunts & Happenings as the event has continue to grow every year.

The route through Jonesborough has already been mapped out for the Haunted Half.

When Hank Brown, with We Run Events, approached Copp with the idea of moving to Jonesborough, she was delighted,

No less, delighted was Brown.

“We’ve been looking for a new home for the Haunted Half and in the process, explored lots of options.” Brown said. “Tennessee’s oldest town seemed like a perfect fit with its rich history and tradition, especially around Halloween.”

Town officials are promising that this collaboration between Jonesborough’s Annual Halloween Haunts & Happenings and the Haunted Half Marathon will create a one-of-a-kind Halloween experience.

Halloween Haunts & Happenings is a free annual event and has been a tradition for nearly 40 years. It features trick-or-treating along Main Street as well as games and prizes, a costume contest, haunted house, ghost stories, kid’s crafts and face painting.

The Haunted Half and Halloween Haunts & Happenings twill both take place on Saturday, Oct. 28. Visit www.jbohalloween.com for the most recent updates about the event.

County officials talk school facilities study, safety measures

School officials and future students broke ground on the newest Washington County School in July of 2017, but safety features for the school and other future schools are on the minds of those on the county commission and the school board.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Plans for the Washington County School District’s “Washington Way” facilities plan have been the talk of the county for a while — but talk of a different kind of plan to aid the projects are now being discussed by the Washington County Board of Education and the Washington County Commission.

Commissioner Tom Krieger proposed that the school district hire an outside source to conduct a school facilities study in order to assess population shifts, zoning considerations and other school district factors to gain comprehensive information for future facility projects.

Krieger also suggested that the study include analysis and suggestions regarding upcoming projects such as the academic magnet school and a career and technical facility as well as technology needs and existing school facility evaluations.

“We feel the need to move this ahead because we’re already starting to build that new school (Boones Creek School),” Krieger said at the county commission’s health education and welfare committee meeting on Thursday, Aug. 3. “We should be making plans in the system before we do any more brick and mortar.”

The Director of Schools, Kimber Halliburton said she felt a school facility study such as this would give the school district a sort of map of the best areas in which to build a school.

“It really told (Maury County) where not to build schools,” Halliburton explained. “Although they are a growing, growing community — I mean, they’re busting at the seams — there are pockets there that were just not enough of a population to warrant building a school.”

The director also expressed her thoughts on how she felt the study could save tax-payer dollars in the long run.

“Sometimes you don’t see (the amount of money saved) on a spreadsheet. For instance, they could say, ‘don’t build a school here’ when we might very well build a school there if we don’t have such a study,” Halliburton said. “We don’t know what’s going to come out of this. It could be a recommendation to merge two schools into one.

“I hesitate to say that, but I guess my point is that you don’t know what might come out of this that could really save us a significant amount of dollars.”

Zoning would be another focus in such a study. For Halliburton, who acknowledged how quickly the new Boones Creek School construction project seemed to be coming along, zoning is an area in which she, and the community, would like some insight.

“The sooner I get someone to start taking a look at zoning lines for that new school, the better. I’m getting a lot of comments from that Shadden neighborhood. A significant amount of residents from that neighborhood have approached me and said, ‘We’re not zoned for this new Boones Creek School and we’re right behind it.’ I think that’s something I want whoever this individual is to take a look at so that we can start informing parents who is actually going to be at Boones Creek. That’s not the whole purpose of this but that’s part of the piece.”

Meanwhile, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge had concerns for the existing schools and maintaining those facilities through the future.

“You all have heard me say this: from my perspective, Washington County is out of the school-building business for at least a generation as soon as these two projects are finished, which means our entire focus needs to shift to our existing facilities we have and what it’s going to take to maintain them at the optimal level of functionality and long-term use,” Eldridge said. “I would hope that’s something that could come from this study.”

The most important piece of the facilities study discussion, however, focused on school safety and security features that could also be included in such a study.

“I’m the chairman of first district homeland security,” Eldridge said. “Unfortunately, from time to time, I have to go to Nashville and receive briefings on what the threats are.

“And that just keeps the hair on the back of my neck standing up. It makes me think about school security a lot because our schools are particularly vulnerable—and I’m not just talking about just Washington County—I’m talking about schools in general. They are soft targets.

“I would like for this study to really evaluate where we are in regard to assessing the threats and understanding the vulnerability of our facilities and our students are to the threats that are changing. That needs to be a part of what we’re doing here.”

The school district’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said the current plans for the Boones Creek School include all the safety features obtained by current Washington County Schools such as door locks, a buzz-in front entrance and a security camera system. Halliburton said a nearly bullet-proof type of glass will be used at Boones Creek.

Eldridge said he felt a separate look at safety features for the new Boones Creek School would need to be done apart from the school facility study. He also said he felt a school safety study would help provide feedback for the district’s current security measures.

“Maybe looking at this is a really good idea,” Eldridge said, “because that would give us an indication by looking at what has been designed and planned for Boones Creek. It’s going to give us a really good idea regarding the effectiveness of what’s already been done in all the other schools.”

The proposal will be discussed again with projected school facility study costs at next month’s HEW committee meeting on Sept. 7 at 1 p.m. in the historic courthouse in Jonesborough.

BMA reverses fluoride decision in 4-0 vote

The BMA met on Monday night to overturn their decision regarding the town’s water.

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously Monday night to reject its previously agreed upon plans to discontinue the use of fluoride in the town’s drinking water.

“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 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.”

Now, he said, with the board poised to approve the next step in a journey begun in February, Vest asked the board to reverse its course.

“I ask that we deny the authorization of the letter (to let customers know of the move to discontinue fluoride) and continue a treatment process we’ve known for most of our lives,” Vest said.

The motion was quickly seconded by Alderman David Sell, followed by a quick yes vote from both Terry Countermine and Jerome Fitzgerald.

Monday’s vote was a complete change of opinion for three of the town’s four aldermen, who voted in the Feb. 13 BMA meeting to no longer add fluoride to the town’s drinking water. Countermine was, at that time, the lone dissenting vote.

Since that time, however, and with a planned summer implementation of the “no fluoride” policy tentatively set for July, advocates on both sides of the aisle continued to pepper the board with what they considered key points.

Arguments revolved around issues of the importance of fluoride to prevent tooth decay verses its possible

dangers and the possible impact on lower income families in the region.

Local health professionals soon joined together with a goal of somehow reversing the February votes and Letters to the Editor poured into the Herald & Tribune from young and old.

Monday night, it seemed the flood of information had its impact.

“I’ve been wrestling with this for a long time, and I’ve talked to a lot of people,” Alderman Sell said before Monday night’s vote. “I’ve talked to people on the science part of it and the non-science part of it.

“It’s still probably going to be up for debate down the road. And its the toughest decision I’ve had to make.”

However, he said, “We haven’t seen any hard scientific evidence (of dangers) yet that may lead us into reversing (tonight’s decision)”

Vest said that in addition to new EPA and Mayo Clinic reports, it was the one-on-one discussions that really made the difference.

“I’ve had some really good constructive conversations with people I trust and respect,” Vest said. “Bob (Browning) did a good job in providing us information on both sides of the issue. And it was easy to find yourself going back and forth.”

Still, in the end, he said he felt a change of course was necessary, even if it wasn’t necessarily easy. “It’s hard no to get prideful, but sometimes prideful is not the best thing,” Vest said.

Mayor Kelly Wolfe said the Aug. 14 decision showed the strength of Jonesborough board and its aldermen.

“This is an issue we’ve talked about for over a year and a half,” Wolfe said. “I’m very proud of each and every member of this board. This is an issue that is debated the highest levels nationally.

“This is an issue with paid advocates on both sides making very, very strong claims.

“This is an issue that probably won’t be settled in our lifetime, realistically, yet our board has done an excellent job in being very fair, very deliberative, I think very open minded in this process … These folks weren’t afraid to look at this issue.”

Countermine, who had long supported continuing the fluoridation of Jonesborough water said he was pleasantly surprised and proud.

Some people think that changing your mind is bad,” Countermine said. “But if you learn something new, changing your mind can be a good thing.”

Telford man wanted for questioning found deceased

Curtis Lee Cloyd of Telford, who was wanted for questioning in regards to his wife, Lisa Maria Cloyd’s disappearance, was found deceased at 147 Miller Drive on Thursday, Aug. 10.

Curtis Lee Cloyd

According to the Washington County Sherriff’s Office, Curtis Cloyd died from an “apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound” after he ran from the local law enforcement into the house and barricaded the door. Cloyd was armed with a handgun and had two outstanding arrest warrants for felony reckless endangerment and unlawful possession of a weapon before he fled from the police on Sunday night.

The WCSO SWAT team and members of the Johnson City Police Department responded on Thursday and attempted to convince Cloyd to come out of the residence. According to the release issued by the WCSO, “SWAT members utilized a police robot equipped with a two-way radio to enter the house in order to attempt to talk with him which was unsuccessful. Officers then deployed pepper spray into the home in an attempt to force Cloyd outside, which was unsuccessful.” Once the team made it into the house, Cloyd has succumbed to the gunshot wound.

Lisa Maria Cloyd

Lisa Maria Cloyd was reported missing by her son on Thursday Aug. 3 after no one had heard for the 53-year-old woman since July 20. Her son said the lack of contact was very out of character for his mother. The Telford woman is 120 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. Anyone with any information regarding Lisa Maria Cloyd is asked to call WCSO at (423)788-1414.

Husband sought in connection with missing Telford woman

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office continues to search for a Telford woman who was reported missing by her son on Thursday Aug. 3.

Lisa Maria Cloyd, 53, 120 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes, has been missing since July 20 and has not been in contact with her family. Her lack of communication is considered unusual and out of character for her according to her family.

Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal told the Herald & Tribune that his department is also looking for Lisa Maria Cloyd’s husband, Curtis Cloyd, 50, who fled from his mother’s house on Miller Road when approached by police.

“We wanted to talk to him to see if he knew anything, where she might be or anything like that. He didn’t want to and as a result, when we got to his mom’s house, he had the gun,” Graybeal said. “No one was hurt. At first it was just a couple (of officers) that went to talk to him. Then he ran out the back door and through the woods. Due to what happened there in the residence, we charged him with reckless endangerment. So we’re trying to find him on that charge.

“We’d still like to see what he knows about his wife and this young man’s momma.”

Curtis Cloyd, 149 Slate Hill Road, Telford, was last seen with a handgun. Graybeal said area police have been notified of the search for the white male who lives at 149 Slate Hill Road in Telford. Graybeal also said Curtis Cloyd has been incarcerated at least six times.

“As far as we know, when he left he was armed. And he does not like law enforcement. He’s told us that before,” Graybeal said. “We sent a message that night to all the agencies around telling them because you just don’t know what frame of mind somebody’s in when they see a cop and they just take off. We wanted all the agencies to know that the last time we came across him did have a handgun with him.”

The department is also hoping to gather more information on Lisa Maria Cloyd’s whereabouts, as well as her condition.

“That’s what we’ve been working on finding out (if she’s okay). We’ve checked with everyone —hospitals and everyone we can check with. Nobody has her anywhere” Graybeal said. “We put her in the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) trying to help her son figure out what happened to his mom.

“Whenever someone files a missing persons report and tells us that their whole schedule has changed, and they haven’t heard from them and they usually do, it’s concerning to us and the family also.”

Any person with any information regarding Lisa Maria or Curtis Cloyd’s whereabouts is asked to call (423)788-1414 or a local law enforcement agency. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office has also asked the public to not approach Curtis Cloyd if seen.

Haslam sparks talk on farmers’ future

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Tennessee’s governor stood under a colossal “Washington Farmers” sign on Depot Street Friday morning. Though he was surrounded by local farmers ready to hear what Governor Bill Haslam came to Washington Farmers Co-op to talk about, the Knoxville native told the group he was there to here from the farming community itself.

“If you came to hear a speech, you’re in the wrong place. When you tell people you’re the governor, people either think you know nothing or they think you know everything. The truth is you know a little bit about a lot of different things but you don’t know as much as you’d like about hardly anything,” Haslam said. “Agriculture is still incredibly important to our state. I say it all the time, but these are the people who are providing jobs in rural areas. State wide we’re doing pretty good. Right now the state has the lowest unemployment rate in the history of the state. But there are pockets where that isn’t true and it’s primarily in our rural areas. Agriculture plays a big role in that.”

Haslam spoke on two of the state’s newest movements such as the broadband initiative to provide internet and phone services to rural areas and

the IMPROVE Act, which is an increase on gasoline and diesel taxes designed to fund improvements on Tennessee’s highways and bridges.

The most important topic, however, involved ways to generate interest in agriculture.

Haslam cited the state’s discontinuation of the estate tax after a farm’s owner is deceased as an initiative to aid the declining number of farmers.

“Three years ago we did do away with the estate tax which means when you die your farm’s not subject to a death tax,” Haslam explained. “One of the things we were seeing were farms weren’t going from one generation to another because the whole family’s asset was in that farm. When they died and passed it on, they owed money and some of the time had to sell that farm in order to pay the tax.”

According to the the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the average age of farmers has continued to increase throughout the last 30 years. For Dustin Pearson, a local stocker operator from Gray who was in attendance during Haslam’s co-op visit, the continued loss of farmland doesn’t help the agriculture business.

“If you look at the land prices in East Tennessee, and especially the Tri-Cities area, it’s $15,000 to $25,000 an acre. We don’t have the acreage of land any more. It’s being cut up into subdivisions. I asked a builder once, ‘You’re taking all this land for houses?’ and he said, ‘well people need a place to live.’ I said, ‘Yea, but if they don’t have food to eat, it’s not going to matter.’”

The USDA census data found that from 2007 to 2012, there was a 20-percent drop in the total number of beginning farmers in the U.S. But Pearson, who was a younger member of Friday’s crowd and is a member of state agricultural boards, is part of the farming population that is trying to continue his line of work.

“I’m out there being vocal as a younger person. I enjoy being in agriculture. I love what I do so I try to be an advocate for it,” Pearson said. “This is to make it known. We are so far removed. They like to say the top of the industries in Tennessee are agriculture-based as far as dollars brought back into the state. But then again, they don’t do nothing to address the aging farmers and who’s going to fill their shoes.

“I grew up in it. But I grew up in it in the same sense that I’ve got brothers and cousins that didn’t want no part in it because of the work it took. I was the only one left. I loved it so much—I’m still staying in it.”

Now Pearson is looking at future generations and what could be ahead for his sons and the path they choose—which might not include agriculture.

“Now with two boys of my own—they’re with me all the time on the farm—they aren’t going to have much choice until their 18 whether they’re going to farm or not,” Pearson said. “Right now I wouldn’t tell you that I want them to go into it because you can work a whole lot easier and make a whole lot more money.”

That’s not to say that the farming profession is one to be taken lightly. For folks like Pearson and many other standing in the parking lot of the co-op, the work ethic and various job titles involved in agriculture prepares you for various kinds of work, no matter the field. 

“That’s a feather in your cap at these job interviews,” Pearson said, “because not only do you have a work ethic, but you’ve been exposed to a lot of different mechanical issues—financial issues.’

“We’re weathermen. We’re bankers. We’re mechanics. We’ve got to be able to do everything.”

Haslam continued his tour through East Tennessee on Friday, stopping in at The Grainger County Tomato Festival and at Jake’s Big Red Barn produce in Rutledge, Tennessee.

Food truck serves up authenticity

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

If you’ve driven down 11-E within the past few months, chances are you’ve seen a bright red food truck sitting at the edge of Ace Hardware’s parking lot. You might not know it while speeding past the mobile business, but upon walking up to this recent addition to Jonesborough’s lunch-time options, patrons have the options of numerous, authentic Mexican foods and an owner who is willing to share his story.

The food truck, El Lagunero, belongs to Eduardo and Claudia Rojas who are originally from Mexico. After changing his original career plans, Eduardo said he sought the United States for work and has been here for the last 32 years.

“When I was younger I did something very different. I started (to be) an engineer in Mexico,” Eduardo said. “I almost finished. I lacked one year to finish. So I wanted to try to come to the United States and that’s what I did. I said, ‘I’m just going to go and try to come back.’ I came here and started working. I see a lot of difference here than in my place. So I stayed and I’ve been here for a long while.”

Since then, Eduardo said, he has remodeled houses before his back injury and he’s also worked on the river and various farms. He even worked for a company that built cell phone towers and took him throughout the United States. But now he says he is ready for the kind of work involved with operating a food truck.

“I worked to build cell towers in other states. But now I’m tired of being everywhere around. I said, ‘Okay, that’s enough.’ I go for three weeks, one month, and come back and stay two or three days and go back again. I said ‘I’m tired’. So I started working on my own business,” Eduardo said. “It’s a lot of different. It’s almost 360 degrees around to work on a farm to work in a kitchen.”

Now, the Rojas are ready to share their native foods with the people of East Tennessee. The menu lists foods like tacos with  corn tortillas, steak quesadillas, crunchy tostadas, tortas (a Mexican sandwich) and hot tamales (which are available on Thursdays and Sundays). Though it may not be hard to find a burrito or taco at other Mexican restaurants around town, Eduardo explained to the Herald & Tribune that he is offering a more authentic take on Mexican foods.

“The sauce, my wife makes it like we make it at the house,” Eduardo said. “It’s a lot of difference. We make hot tamales like they made it in Mexico. Everything is that way.”

Not only is the food a representation of The Rojas’ homeland, but their native city, Torreón (in the state of Coahuila in Mexico), is also honored through the name of their food truck, El Lagunero.

“A long time ago it just meant ‘a big lake’ that’s what they call ‘la laguna’ there in Mexico. And the people there call it ‘Lagunero’. It used to be like a lake. Now it’s too dry. It’s like a desert but they still call it Laguna Laguerno.

“(The truck) is something that people come and see and say, ‘Oh we saw the ‘Lagunero’ and we were thinking you were from Coahuila’ and I say, ‘Yes, you are right.’ Because it’s from all the people in Lagunero.”

For Eduardo and his wife, El Lagunero is about representing where they come from, which is a place they are able to visit for vacation thanks to the flexibility of running your own food truck.

But Eduardo said that for him, the business is about sharing real Mexican food all while doing the kind of work that he enjoys most.“I like to work. And I like the way I’m going to be working in here. It makes me happy when people come and say when they leave, ‘the food was great.’ I like to let people eat something we make in Mexico,” Eduardo said, “something that’s a different style. Because most of the restaurants here is a Tex Mex. It’s a little different. And here, it’s like it would taste in Mexico. People come and they say, ‘Oh this food tastes good!’ And they come back. It makes me feel good. I can do something different.”

Candidate Bill Lee hits campaign trail on tractor

Bill Lee arrives at Bob Evans in his tractor.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The weekday morning traffic on Boones Creek Road on Thursday morning was nothing out of the ordinary — until the Tennessee gubernatorial candidate, Bill Lee, came trucking through the bike lane on a large red tractor.

Bill Lee hops down from his tractor to meet with town officials as part of his gubernatorial campaign run.

Lee was headed for Bob Evans restaurant for his first stop of the day on his tractor that he uses on his farm back in Williamson County, Tennessee. Lee’s tractor tour will take him from Mountain City to Memphis, but Lee isn’t just stopping in various hangouts for biscuits, grits and gravy; the farmer and business owner is ready to introduce himself and talk about agriculture.

“We’re a rural state with big cities,” Lee said. “We have a foundation of small towns and rural communities that matter to every Tennessean, whether you live in a rural community or urban Nashville. And we have some deep issues in rural Tennessee. I believe we’ll lose a way of life and we’ll lose it forever if we don’t decisively act in policy around opioids, skilled workforce, high-quality access to education and high-quality access to health care through technology and innovation.

“I’m deeply passionate in seeing those challenges met and preserving a way of life that I grew up with and has been a foundation for me and, I believe a lot of Tennesseans believe deeply about—thus the tractor from Mountain City to Memphis.”

Lee announced his plans to run for governor in April and then traveled throughout Tennessee’s 95 counties for 95 days (but this time in an RV) to hear from Tennesseans about the challenges and concerns of the state.

But before Lee decided to travel the Volunteer State, he went through a time in his life that he says inspired his current work; Lee’s first wife died from a horseback riding accident on his family farm, leaving him with their four children and a life that he said at the time felt seemingly hopeless.

Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe (left) and Bill Lee (right) spend time talking with other patrons at Bob Evans.

“I share that because while it was tragic, it was actually really transformational for me. God’s a redeemer and he used that experience in my life to change me forever and to change perspective forever,” Lee explained. “I came out of that season of life realizing that I’m not guaranteed tomorrow and there aren’t very many things that matter for real in my life and those that do, I want to be involved in. So I got involved.”

From there his work with non-profit organizations, such as the YMCA where he met a young inner-city boy, would inspire his interest in public education. Lee has also publicly spoken out in favor of school vouchers that would allow students who are zoned for a school within the bottom five percent in the state to attend private schools.

“I decided to start driving into the projects and start picking him up every week. I still do that today,” Lee said. “That relationship introduced me to the power of a good public education and the constructive nature of a bad one—the difference in a kid’s life based on his education.

“I moved him from one school to another and had a whole different experience. That kid’s life is changed in a big part because of the education he is getting now as opposed to where he was.

“I got really interested. I still am. That led me to some public policy and sort of led my appetite for that.”

Lee told the group of area mayors and commissioners about his work with a former convict and how a look into the public safety spectrum also inspired his motivation to run for governor.

“That relationship still continues weekly and opened my eyes up to corrections, law enforcement and issues around public safety,” Lee explained. “I got on the governor’s task force for recidivism and sentencing reform, which really means that I sat on a committee for a year and watched policy be made. In my view, it was going to change thousands of people’s lives if it was done right. That’s really where I started thinking, ‘Gosh, this public service is life changing work.’ If there’s vision, strategy and there’s passion, then lives can be changed.”

His work also brought Lee to see the common ground a young student, a former criminal and a business man all shared — a dream.

“People want a good job, they want a good school for their kid and they want a safe neighborhood. Those three things constitute different people’s version of the American dream,” he said. “My ex-con, he doesn’t want to live like me. My inner city boy, his version of the American dream is not to live like me, but it is to have a good job and a good school for his kid and to be in a safe neighborhood. Whether you live in rural Unicoi or urban Memphis, that’s what you’ve got to have access to. That would be my focus as a governor.”

Now that Lee has officially launched his campaign and is traveling the state on a tractor, he said he has invited hope back into his life and is ready to focus on keeping that hope and opportunity for the Volunteer State and those in it.

“I have a great deal of hope for this state. Not just to maintain, but to actually lead the nation,” he said. “Can you imagine Tennessee instead of being in the bottom half of educational outcomes if we were a top 10 state in educational outcomes? It would be a life changer. You talk about changing the lives of millions of people— that would change the lives of millions of people and their futures. Same with public safety issues and economic issues. So I have a lot of hope.

“At Lee Company, we say, ‘Hope is not a strategy. It fuels a strategy.’ So we’re developing a strategy.”

West View goes beyond supplies

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Soon enough the aisles of your local stores will be covered with pencils, composition notebooks and erasers—but at West View Elementary School, volunteers are already filling school counselor Clarinda Whitson’s classroom with all the school supplies they can muster for each of their students.

The school is aiming to equip each and every student with all their school supplies, and with a student poverty rate at 75 percent, the school sent a letter into the community to announce the Aug. 4 Back to School Bash and to request donations for everything from glue sticks and crayons to pencils and highlighters. But the school is hoping to provide more than just educational supplies; Whitson and the West View Vols are making sure these kids come to school with the essentials as well.

Wanda Corby (left) and Brenda Corby (right) bring donations to West View, courtesy of Limestone Family Eye Center. These community members loved picking out supplies for West View students.

“What I’m noticing is those first couple days of school. There was a huge difference in how the children from lower income families were dressed as opposed to the kids from an average or medium income family,” Whitson said. “They still had on the shoes the school bought them last year or at Christmas time. They had the same backpacks. They didn’t have haircuts. So those were things in the past years that we’ve been able to provide. But it would take the first week or so to get all those things to the students.

“I want my kids to walk in and them not be able to tell the difference. Just so those kids feel better about themselves. So they don’t feel like they stick out.”

Since the beginning of last year’s Back to School Bash, the goal has been to provide every student with the supplies, but it’s also been to help build student self-esteem.

West View Assistant Principal Adam Graham stands ready to assist with donations.

“You could tell a difference in the confidence in these kids because they weren’t having to go ask the teachers, ‘Can I go to Mrs. Whitson and get a new backpack?’ They came in that first day with that new stuff,” Whitson said. “They weren’t the ones that didn’t have the notebooks that the teacher asked for. And they weren’t having to go ask for it—they had it already.”

Whitson said the carnival-style event — which will feature inflatables, games and free food — will give students the chance to “win” their school supplies through the different games at the bash, all

while having fun.

She also said it gives the students who might not need as much assistance to still play games and enjoy the event. It will also give parents a chance to casually meet their child’s teacher before the school’s open house. Meanwhile, kids will be able to get their school supplies while families have the opportunity to take home any soap or shampoo they might need that will also be available at the event.

For West View Head Principal Patton Gamble, what’s most memorable from last year’s inaugural event were the parent volunteers who offered free haircuts to students.

“Last year, one of the things that stuck out in my mind was one of our parents and a colleague, they cut hair from the start to beyond the end time,” Whitson said. “I think she’s going to have more than just a couple this year, but that was a big deal.”

Those services don’t just end at the bash; Gamble also said folks at West View, like Whitson, try to watch out for these needs from the start of school and beyond.

“Mrs. Whitson will take 10 or 12 kids on a bus up to Crockett to their cosmetology department to have haircuts. It really changes the kids’ self esteem. For those parents, it gets expensive if you’ve got five kids, yourself and a spouse. That’s seven haircuts,” Gamble said. “That’s something Mrs. Whitson has an eye for, seeing when a pair of tennis shoes are worn out or a kid’s backpack is falling apart. She sees it and not everybody’s looking.

“The kids, they may think that others are looking at them. Whether they are or not, if that perception is there, that effects how you react. Mrs. Whitson does a great job taking care of those kids as quietly and unassuming as possible so the kids don’t get added attention.”

The school also houses a food pantry for students who need those extra nutrients they might not be receiving elsewhere. There’s a supply of socks, shoes, pants and other clothes waiting in the wings for any kids who might need such items. The school even provides food bags throughout the year and food boxes full of kid-friendly, readily available food for students to take home with them over the weekend.

“We have a food pantry that we are constantly using,” Whitson said. “Most of my teachers will say every morning, ‘Who got their breakfast this morning? Who went to the cafeteria?’ And we have granola bars and boxes of cereal the kids can snack on because several of our kids don’t go home and eat. It’s just what they eat at school.”

West View Principal Patton Gamble shows the Herald & Tribune the school’s food pantry for students.

“It’s all encompassing. The community is great to take care of the whole child and family,” Whitson said. “It’s not just an 8-3, Monday through Friday school year thing. It’s any time of the day, any day of the year. If there’s a need, we can find a way to get it.”

While items such as composition notebooks, pronged folders, scissors, expo markers and index cards are all on the list of donations needed for the Back To School Bash at West View, there’s one item Whitson says is usually the toughest to acquire.

“Backpacks. Backpacks are probably the hardest to get in because they are more expensive,” Whitson said. “But that’s really what we need, just a variety of size and age-appropriate backpacks because we’re kindergarten through eighth grade so that’s a big difference.”

Those at West View, like Whitson and Gamble, however, also want to offer these services in a careful way that is conducive to each family.

“(Hand outs) are not what we want and that’s not what the majority of our families want either,” Whitson explained. “There’s a lot of pride in people here. There’s a lot of minimum wage families and it just doesn’t make ends meet. But lots of these families cannot fathom the thought of asking for help. So that’s where it kind of comes into it being offered for everyone and it’s not just a ‘come pick up your stuff and be on your way.’ This is a family fun event.”

At West View, Gamble said they don’t just want to reach out to students; one of the many projects the West View Vols are involved in are community service projects that teach students to reach out and help those around them.

“We try to remind kids it’s not all about them. Each grade level has projects to work with different community organizations so that they can look beyond themselves and look beyond their school and know that there is a lot out there,” Gamble explained. “It might be to the animal shelter—they’ll take food and go and visit. It might be to the Crumley House to go sing and to go reach out as well. It gives them experiences that give them a chance to give back too.”

If you were to ask Whitson how an event like the Back to School Bash is able to happen, she’d most likely chalk it up to a supportive community. But if you ask her why an event like this is needed, she’d say it’s because of the idea of family.

“I guess it does come back to our school and our community is a family,” Whitson said. “And we want to continue that feel and that tradition of ‘You’re a West View Vol the rest of your life. If you ever need anything, you can go right back to that school and we’re going to help you in some form or fashion.’ Once you leave there, you still have a home I guess, no matter where you are. Our community just helps them and we support that idea of family.

That’s what she hopes to get across in the work that she and everyone at West View does throughout the year.

“I want them to know you might go into high school, you might transfer and go to another school, but if you ever need anything, you can come back to West View. You can call the school and we’re going to find a way to help you—because we are your family. No matter where you go or where you end up, we’re kind of the backbone.”

The Back to School Bash will be on Friday Aug. 4 at the school from 4 to 7 p.m. Donations are welcome by Wednesday, Aug. 2 and can be dropped off at West View Elementary School (2847 Old State Route 34, Limestone, Tennessee). For more information call (423)753-1175.

Williams wins commission seat

 

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

“I think you need a woman,” Suzy Williams, the newest member of the Washington County Commission, said to the board of 23 all-male commissioners in attendance at the July 24 commission meeting just before she won the seat.

Williams was in the running for a spot in the fourth district left vacant by Katie Baker whose departure was announced at the June commission meeting. The other candidates were

Josh Culbert, Jodi Jones and Tracy Teal all of Johnson City.

To win, the candidate had to receive 13 votes. If none of the candidates received 13 votes in a round, the candidate with the least amount of votes drops off and another round of voting begins. After five rounds of voting, and after Culbert was eliminated in the fourth round and Jones in the third, Williams topped with 15 votes while Teal earned eight.

“I was asked to fill this position and I am more than glad to do it,” Williams said. “I will not look at this as a stepping stone for future opportunities in the political arena in the area, but I would be more than glad to research and make wise decisions with you all.”

Among Williams’ 40-plus years of community work, she has been a part of the Johnson City Board of Education, Mountain States Health Alliance, the Children’s Advocacy Center for the sexually abused and Niswonger Children’s Hospital.

Commissioner Tom Krieger nominated Culbert, Commissioner Larry England nominated Jones and Commissioner Lee Chase nominated Teal.

Commissioner Richard Johnson, who also serves the fourth district and was added to the commission in February, nominated Williams during the meeting.

“I’d like to point out that she’s resided in Washington County, I believe, longer than any of the other candidates and has lived in the fourth district for 40 plus years,” Johnson said of Williams. “She knows the people of the fourth district.”

Before Commissioner Baker vacated her seat, Johnson filled a spot left by Commissioner David Tomita who departed from the commission to focus on his new role as the Mayor of Johnson City.

Baker nominated Jones during that meeting to join her as a commissioner of the fourth district.

Williams is now the sole woman on the board of commissioners.

More academic coaches to be hired in county

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Board of Education is changing the way in which it will spend its future differentiated pay funds.

The school board passed the motion to use differentiated pay to add five academic coaches to the school system in a 5-4 vote during the board’s regularly scheduled July 6 meeting. Board members Annette Buchanan, Marybeth Dellinger, Keith Ervin and Phillip McLain voted against the proposal.

Differentiated pay is designed to help pay teachers who work in hard-to-staff subject areas such as higher level math classes. Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton defined it simply as “extra pay for extra work” at the June 15 budget meeting, but recently, the state made a few changes in how the funds are to be used in the school system—and those changes make it a bit more complex.

The Tennessee State Board of Education’s differentiated pay plan policy says “The primary purpose of differentiated pay is to support educator effectiveness and improve teacher recruitment and retention.” Now that teacher development is more of the focus for the state, the Washington County Department of Education’s Director of Federal Programs, Ellis Holcombe, came with a proposal to add academic coaches to the school system with the funding dollars that he said are historically used for summer and after-school educational services.

“The thing that effected us the most was that we had had a plan for four years that had been ‘more pay for more work’ and had been primarily used for summer school and for tutoring,” Holcombe said. “We had to change direction because the real focus for the state is teacher leadership and giving teachers the chance to expand their abilities in these leadership roles.”

Before next year’s budget was finalized, Halliburton attempted to add four more academic coaches to the budget. Due to budget cuts, Halliburton received two of those.

Academic coaches are designed to improve teacher performance and time management, goal setting and test preparation skills. Holcombe, who said he was charted with the responsibility of finding the money to add such coaches, called Lamar School Head Principal Shannon Gray to talk to the board about the difference she believes these additional coaches could make.

“We don’t really have a mentoring program anymore,” Gray said. “That would allow us a coach within our school that’s going to want to do well for our school, will show growth for our school, will act as a mentor for our new teachers and as support for our administrators to help.”

However, the 24 staffing position cuts made in next year’s budget were also part of the conversation—and a concern for school board member Phillip McLain in light of the newly added academic coaches.

“I understand all the benefits that have been described in this. What I truly struggle with is the budget process we went through,” McLain said. “The director identified so many positions that were going to be eliminated. And now all of the sudden, we have the money to do all this. That’s what I struggle with.”

Halliburton cited the decline in student enrollment in Washington County Schools as a driving force for those teaching and instructional-aide positon cuts; the school system lost 155 students between the last two school years which also reduced this year’s basic education program funding by $560,000.

“We’ve lost nearly 800 kids in the past eight years. We didn’t have a need for as many adults to serve given that our enrollment is down,” Halliburton said. “It’s a waste of tax-payer money to over-employ.”

This isn’t the first time the differentiated pay plan was mentioned at a BOE meeting; at the board’s June 15 meeting, McLain asked if the differentiated pay plan would be reexamined after the audit report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 showed salary increases without board approval.

Washington County’s differentiated pay plan for 2016 to 2017 requires a description of the hard-to-staff school subject or placement, education and experience, additional instructional roles and or responsibilities and the estimated cost of salary expenditures. Following the audit review with accounting firm Blackburn, Childers and Steagall, Leonard told the Herald & Tribune that the board might also take another look at the school system’s differentiated pay plan in the future. The state website on differentiated pay plans also encourages Tennessee school districts to reflect on the year’s plans accordingly.

The Herald & Tribune has made a public records request to obtain details of the salary increases from the audit report.

Battle continues as town moves toward discontinuation

Mary Anne Snyder-Sowers, daughter of an area dentist, discusses the CDC’s recommendations in regard to fluoride.

By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

Emotions ran high at a public debate regarding water fluoridation in Jonesborough on Thursday, July 6.

About 20 citizens of Jonesborough and surrounding areas attended the hour-long meeting, which began at 6:30 p.m. at the Jonesborough Senior Center, to debate the decision to no longer add fluoride to the Jonesborough water supply.

In February, the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 3-1 to discontinue fluoride additives in the water, but that decision has been met with opposition from members of the community, some of which are calling for another vote or a reversal of the decision.

Allen Burleson, a local dentist, has even started an online petition, along with other local medical professionals, aimed at keeping fluoridated water.

In response to such opposition, Ron Myers and other residents who support the BMA’s decision organized a  public debate to encourage more discourse on the topic, urging residents on both sides of the issue to attend.

“I think it was very productive,” Myers, a retired industrial engineer, said. “I think we got both sides of the issue discussed very well.”

Ron Myers makes a point against fluoride at Thursday’s public meeting.

The debate, which became tense at times, focused on the pros and cons of fluoridated water in the community. Several fluoridation supporters discussed the health benefits, citing the importance of fluoride in helping to prevent cavities, which supporters said is especially important in poverty-stricken areas where dental care may not be feasible for residents.

Mary Anne Snyder-Sowers, a strong supporter of water fluoridation and the daughter of an area dentist, expressed disbelief at the BMA’s decision.

“The CDC considers the reduction of tooth decay from fluoridation to be one of the top public health achievements of the twentieth century,” Snyder-Sowers said. “I don’t understand why when something is working… why do we want to break it?”

Local dentist Lon Reed agreed, saying he believed it was “wrong-headed” to remove properly adjusted fluoride from the water.

“I think you’re going to hurt children,” Reed said, “and you’re going to hurt adults.”

Reed said he attended a meeting before the vote with the purpose of addressing the BMA and was disappointed that he wasn’t allowed to speak due to not arriving in time to sign up.

“I sat through the whole meeting and the mayor denied me the floor,” Reed said. “I’m very disappointed in that because they allowed people outside the community… to take the floor and spend an inordinate amount of time.”

Another attendee admitted to a change of heart after attending the same meeting about water fluoridation last year.

“I almost had an attitude that we should take fluoride out of the water, and I was totally impressed that every single medical person who stood up and spoke about keeping fluoride in the water was passionate… and was very concerned about the children in this area,” Ed Wolff, a retired pastor, said. “When I left I had a totally different attitude.”

Those opposing water fluoridation, and who approve of the board’s decision to remove fluoride, focused their arguments on the rights of the individual, pointing out that residents should get to choose what medications they ingest.

“To me when you start force-medicating the water supply, and you don’t have a choice whether you are medicated or not. To me that’s un-American,” Myers said. “That’s like a third-world dictatorship.”

Myers and others opposing fluoridation also voiced concern over ingesting or bathing in fluoridated water due to health reasons.

“I’m really concerned about the material they choose to fluoridate the water with… which has a bunch of contaminants in it that shouldn’t be in there, like arsenic,” Myers said, “which is a known human carcinogen.”

Myers has spent about 15 years researching the topic of water fluoridation. He became interested in the subject when his wife was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid. Myers said his research suggests an underactive thyroid may be attributed to fluoridated water.

In addition, Myers said the argument for keeping fluoride in the water supply to help prevent cavities doesn’t address the real issue.

“Instead of focusing on the water…. why not address the real cause of the problem,” he said, “which is too much sugar consumption?”

Myers, who grew up in Jonesborough, is currently a resident of Johnson City, and he hopes to address the issue of water contaminants and fluoridation in Johnson City after the fluoride issue in Jonesborough is settled.