Board works to balance school costs

DSC_7215

Kimber Halliburton reports news fro around the community at the Feb. 2 school board meeting.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The plans for the new Boones Creek School have become more of a reality—but that’s not to say Washington County is ready to break ground just yet.

Architect Tony Street and Tommy Burleson from Burleson Construction presented new design options for the Boones Creek K-8 to the Washington County Board of Education on Feb. 2. A motion to approve the 80 percent design phase for the Boones Creek school and for Street to start working on the 40 percent design phase for Jonesborough K-8 was passed unanimously by the school board. However, cutbacks were also discussed in an effort to lower the overall cost for the Boones Creek school.

Burleson and Street said they are $1.9 million over the amount currently set aside by the Washington County Commission; but they came equipped with areas from which the project’s cost could be lessened.

The construction cutback options range from replacing the metal roof with what Street referred to as a low-slope roof, replacing only the metal roof on the cafeteria and auxiliary gym with a low-slope roof, deleting the auxiliary gym or deleting classrooms.

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge took part in the meeting and provided the board with the figures approved for the school projects by the county commission. The numbers were also recently presented again at the commission’s Jan. 23 meeting. Eldridge reported that $26.8 million is the proposed cost for the Boones Creek school. He also reminded the board of the cap on the funds allocated for each school project.

“We’re using all of the money (allocated for the project),” Eldridge said. “There is no more money available from the tax increase. As a matter of fact, what we have done is we have managed to put about 15 pounds of flour in a 10 pound sack. This is one of those rare opportunities where the taxpayers are going to get more than what they expected they would get because instead of doing a new K-8 and two remodels, there will be two new K-8s and an academic magnet. This is a win for the students and for the school system. This is a win for the taxpayers.”

However, school board member Keith Ervin said he felt the cost for the Boones Creek School might not be comparable to the cost of existing schools like Ridgeview and Grandview.

“To build Ridgeview and Grandview we spent—just rough figures—$28,000 a child at a 700-kid school,” Ervin said. “We’re fixing to spend for an 1100-kid school less than $22,000 a child.”

Eldridge mentioned the total costs for Ridgeview and Grandview also included sport facilities while the cost for the new Boones Creek School cost currently does not include the amount of the proposed sports complex. The complex was not figured into Street and Burleson’s presentation and is estimated at approximately $5 million.

Eldridge said by the end of the project the new Boones Creek School will cost over $30 million, but he also mentioned that once the partial design work for the two schools are approved—an 80 percent design phase for Boones Creek and a start on the 40 percent design phase for Jonesborough—it would be possible to consider moving funds between the two projects if necessary.

“By the time you get to the 40 percent design stage on the Jonesborough project, you’re going to know if you have any additional budget flexibility that could be allocated to this project before you have to make a decision to permanently delete anything,” Eldridge said. “What it may allow you to find out is some of these add alternates can actually be added back in to the contract because of the ability to move some money.”

The board also unanimously passed the motion to approve the 2017-2018 school calendar. After voting down the original calendar option presented to the board during the Jan. 5 meeting, the calendar committee met twice to create a new option for teachers to consider, in addition to the original. The calendar most recently drafted by the committee won out. The calendar has an Aug. 7 start date and a six-day fall break.

Boone student to become Roan Scholar

XMcClellandConner_2757b

From STAFF REPORTS

A Daniel Boone High School senior is among the list of eight students who have been named the newest members of the Roan Scholars Leadership Program at East Tennessee State University.

Connor McClelland of Boone will become part of the Roan Scholars Class of 2021 and will receive a scholarship that includes both a financial award and four years of customized experiences and opportunities, including international travel and study abroad, internships, workshops and seminars, alumni and community leader interaction, and other unique programs, all of which are focused on equipping students for leadership excellence and making a positive impact. In return, Roan Scholars are expected to seek and serve in leadership roles, and, after college, to continue leading and making a significant impact both in their chosen professions and in their communities.

“The Roan looks for young men and women with the capacity, desire and drive to become exceptional leaders – individuals who take initiative to identify, learn about, and address needs in their communities and mobilize others to join them in those efforts,” said Roan director Scott Jeffress. “Members of this newest Roan class embody those qualities and we are confident that for many years to come they will positively impact ETSU, this region and the world. “

“This incoming class of Roan Scholars has already made a tangible positive impact on their schools and communities,” scholarship founder Louis H. Gump said. “They exemplify the character and leadership talent we want to attract. We look forward to working with them and our other Scholars to enhance their skills so that they can have additional positive influence on ETSU, our area and the places where they will live.”

McClelland will join fellow scholars Katie Barlowe of A.C. Reynolds High School in Asheville; Tiffany Cook of Cherokee High School in Rogersville; Larissa Copley of Grainger High School in Rutledge; Cierra Linka of South Greene High School in Greeneville; Austin Ramsey of Sullivan Central High School in Blountville; Iris Rubi Estrada Romero of Avery County High School in Newland, N.C.; and Adam Rosenbalm of Tri-Cities Christian High School in Blountville as they add their numbers to the 22 returning Roan Scholars on campus this fall.,

This year’s class of Roan Scholars was selected from a pool of nearly 100 outstanding students nominated by more than 60 high schools in 27 eligible counties throughout our region, including, for the first time, Buncombe County, North Carolina.  Five of the eight students are the first from their high schools to be selected for the Roan program.

A student’s potential for leadership excellence and lifelong impact is the distinguishing factor in his or her selection as a Roan Scholar by the Roan Steering Committee. The Roan, which is funded primarily by private donations, was established in 1997 by Louis H. Gump to attract the region’s most promising young leaders and develop each student’s unique leadership potential.

The Roan Program now has 50 alumni serving throughout the region and the world in education, government, business, medicine, non-profit work, the military and other fields.

Gump added, “Our sincere gratitude goes to all participating high schools, our Roan Staff, and the community members who make the Roan Scholars Leadership Program such a vital part of our Region.”

Here are a few more details about the members of the Roan Class of 2021:

• “I would love to be a United States senator,” said Connor McClelland, a senior at Daniel Boone High School, when asked who he would choose to be for a day. “I have a great interest in legislative politics, because even though they are often underappreciated, they are the most influential part of the American system.” McClelland has already had a taste of politics through his participation in Tennessee American Legion Boys State last summer.  He served as lieutenant governor and, more recently, assumed the responsibilities of acting governor. He is also Student Council president and an Eagle Scout. For his Eagle Scout project, he spent five months surveying, plotting and mapping the 200-year-old cemetery of the Fall Branch United Methodist Church. McClelland has “terrific interpersonal skills” and is a “high-energy person with a strong, uplifting personality,” according to Regina Cox, McClelland’s high school counselor. “I would go so far as to say he will be a political force in his lifetime.”

• During her freshman year at A.C. Reynolds High School, Katie Barlowe developed a new awareness of the plight of hunger in her community. Moved by that need, Barlowe founded the annual MANNA Student Food Drive, which raises money and food for a local food bank. Barlowe also sought to support her fellow students by founding and leading a chapter of Campus Life ministry at her high school, and she brought attention to the issue of sex trafficking by starting a chapter of the North Carolina-based “Youth 4 Abolition” organization in Asheville. Barlowe’s school counselor, Laura McCreary, said, “In every facet of life, Katie shows up as a leader; (she) naturally discerns the needs of her community, views the gaps in resources as a challenge and feels called to use her skills to meet the needs.”

Tiffany Cook, a senior at Cherokee High School, has a unique perspective on education in Tennessee. She currently serves as the only student member of the Tennessee State Board of Education and is also a student member of the Hawkins County Board of Education. Cook played a significant role in Cherokee’s designation as a Safe Sport School by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, an award that recognizes secondary schools that take “crucial steps to keep their athletes free from injuries.” Only nine secondary schools in Tennessee currently hold this designation. According to Tommie Loudy, one of Cook’s advisors, her “dedication, perseverance and ability to overcome challenges and communicate effectively with school leaders” were critical to the initiative. “I feel certain,” Loudy added, “that without her leadership, Cherokee High School would never have been designated a Safe Sport School.”

• A senior at Grainger High School, Larissa Copley is well-known among her classmates as a class officer and vice president of Beta Club. Each week, though, she also serves fellow students in a way that is largely unseen: she helps school staff pack and distribute items confidentially to students in need. She has packed thousands of items, from food to soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. “My work for the Students in Need program would have to be my most impactful community contribution,” she said. Copley hopes to extend this service work by starting a clothing closet at her high school for students in need before she graduates. Dr. Amanda Johnson, a school counselor, also notes Copley’s service to students through tutoring: “Larissa is oftentimes called upon by the Counseling Department to help tutor and has never turned down a student that she could help.” Copley, according to Johnson, “epitomizes ‘servant leadership.’”

• “The desire to influence change is what motivates me,” states Cierra Linka, a senior at South Greene High School. Linka has participated in numerous high school activities, including Students Against Destructive Decisions, Future Farmers of America, the “Move 2 Stand” anti-bullying initiative and Greene County Youth Leadership. Linka has balanced this high level of involvement with working two jobs to provide for her needs and to save for a school trip to Europe to learn about the Holocaust. She is “one of the most natural leaders I have ever had the privilege of working with in our program,” states Karen Hartman, who has grown to know Linka through the Tusculum College Upward Bound Program. “She is going to change the world.”

• It is the rare high school senior who can already claim the title of serial entrepreneur – but that is the case for Austin Ramsey, a student at Sullivan Central High School. As a middle school student, Ramsey created a business focused on providing DJ services.  He then went on to create a computer consulting business, and, most recently, started a business venture providing dronography services. “From working with computer clients each day to working with seniors at the nursing home, I cherish these moments as I gain insight about their past and improve their future,” he said. Ramsey is also the youth leader of the National 4-H GIS Leadership Team and has competed and spoken at state and regional GIS conferences. In 2016, the Sullivan County Local Emergency Planning Committee awarded Ramsey the Community Impact Appreciation Award for his use of technical skills to benefit emergency planning in the county. “Austin has remained genuine and sincere, constantly striving to do his best and finding opportunities that can impact others,” said Brittany Jones, his school counselor. “Austin will be a driving force for whichever company he ends up working with.”

Iris Rubi Estrada Romero has directed her efforts at Avery County High School toward a specific goal: to get more Latino students involved in clubs and school activities. Estrada herself is the first and only Latino member of her high school’s Student Government Association and the first Latino president of the school’s National Honor Society. To reach and encourage her fellow Latino students, Estrada believed that she also had to reach their families. To that end, she has spoken at a parents’ meeting about the importance of school involvement, made personal phone calls to the homes of rising freshmen about freshman orientation day, and volunteered to participate in a college information session for the Latino community. “I get an amazing feeling when I know that I helped someone; the joy I find through service cannot be found anywhere else,” said Estrada. Libby Gragg, her college and career counselor, noted that Estrada has brought about change at her school – and in herself. “By senior year, Rubi has evolved into a humanitarian, a leader, an innovator and a motivator of the student body,” said Gragg.

• “Be genuine with everyone and show love in all situations.” That’s what Adam Rosenbalm, a senior at Tri-Cities Christian School, said he strives for every day in his numerous leadership roles, including serving as president of his school’s Honor Society, senior class president and captain of both the varsity men’s basketball and soccer teams. Rosenbalm identifies his work on several mission trips to Belize as one of the most impactful activities he has participated in during high school. “The opportunity to provide a fundamental need to a group of people left a huge impact in myself as well as this community,” he said. Cindy Beal, Rosenbalm’s guidance counselor, said that he “has the respect of his teammates, peers in class, faculty and staff.” She added, “He has an exemplary character, compassion, a desire to help others who may be struggling, is an encourager and leads with action.”

For more information about the Program, contact the Roan office at 423-439-7677 or RoanScholars@etsu.edu or visit the Roan website at www.RoanScholars.org.

Teacher duo wins QUEST grant

XQuest2teachers

Kristie Payne (left) and Lauren Summar (right)

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Two Fall Branch School teachers reached for the stars when they applied their “Learning Through This Galaxy and Beyond” project for a Quality Educational Support for Tomorrow grant— and they were rewarded with funds to purchase Samsung Galaxy tablets for their students.

Kristie Payne and Lauren Summar are two of six Washington County teachers to receive part of the $17,927 QUEST grant. The grant offers funds for educational projects and items the school system might not have readily available. Now the two will use their $3,063.98 reward to buy the devices for their first and second grade classes.

“It enables us—especially because we’re in a smaller community—to branch out and have our students be able to do things that normally our budget and funding doesn’t allow,” Payne said.

“That means every student (in their classes) now will have that type of technology,” Summar explained. “We have a computer lab upstairs, but nothing but this for the classroom.”

Payne said the combination of classroom Smart Boards and the new tablets now allows each student to work on an assignment along with the class, but at their own pace thanks to the new devices.

“They (the tablets) are very friendly to this age group,” Payne explained. “We can put students on there at their own level and let them read. Or if they need some assistance, we can give them ear buds to let them hear it read and it highlights the word. This allows us to have hands-on science experiments for them.”

The tablets aren’t just a learning tool as far as the curriculum goes; Payne and Summar are also hoping these devices will help their students learn how to function in an ever-changing technological world.

“Technology is where it’s at,” Payne said. “And it changes so rapidly. I want to instill in our children here that they’re going to have to adapt—this is what their world is.”

However, Payne and Summar also consider non-technological work imperative in teaching their students.

“Do I still believe they should be able to play a board game or do a real science experiment or read a real book? Yes, because that’s more important than anything. But in the world they’re growing up in now, everything is a type of device,” Payne said. “Now, Lauren and I have our own philosophy on how long this happens; it’s not like we just turn them loose. There is an allotted amount of time because we still want them to have the ability to become socialized children and not always be swiping.”

Though this is the first group grant Payne and Summar have won, Payne has won part of the QUEST grant in previous years which she said enables her to build upon her past projects.

“We learn something new each time,” Payne said. “And we can’t thank the QUEST grant enough because I know that’s area businesses and they put the faith in us to do this. And I don’t know that we could ever repay them.”

More than receiving the funds to purchase these tablets, these two teachers are also dedicated to offering their students the opportunity to reach for their dreams—which could take them to the next galaxy.

“We want our children to excel just like any other school,” Payne said. “We want to expand them to where if they want to be an astronaut or an engineer, we want to give them that—make them learn. And that’s half our battle. If we can get them to want to come here and want to do these things, it makes our job so much easier and it helps us make them successful.”

Halliburton aims for academic growth in 2017

XKimber Halliburton

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The new Boones Creek and Jonesborough schools have popped up during almost every conversation with the Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton. But when she sat down to talk to the Herald & Tribune about her goals for 2017, construction wasn’t the only thing on her mind.

Halliburton recently had three main goals from her Washington Way plan approved by the Health Education and Welfare Committee; she got the go-ahead on purchasing the McCoy property for the Jonesborough School, design work for the Jonesborough School and turning the existing middle school into a lottery magnet school, and a delay on roof updates at both of the current Jonesborough schools in order to reallocate funding for audio enhancements in grades K-5. But for her, her first goal is setting groundwork for students—and that starts with reading.

With Halliburton’s plan all K-5 classrooms (excluding the round, open classrooms) would be equipped with audio. The younger the student is, the more likely he or she is to have temporary hearing loss Halliburton said. She also said that because a student phonetically learns to read in K-2, audio is important in terms of helping students become proficient readers.

“If you can’t read by third grade, you have a whole lot of catching up to do and you’re more likely to be a dropout,” the director of schools explained. “And that’s just not acceptable for us in Washington County. That’s why I think you begin with the audio as soon as you possibly can. If you don’t master those phonics, you don’t become a proficient reader. That’s why we’re starting there and building up.”

Graduation rates were also high on Halliburton’s list of new year priorities; the Washington County graduation rate for the previous year was 90.2 percent, which is four percent lower than Sullivan County. Though Halliburton said Washington County’s graduation is great compared to the state percentage, she also said she thinks the school system can do better.

The graduation rate could be aided in Washington County with the implementation of Halliburton’s CTE school goal as part of the Washington Way. The director of schools said the Tennessee Virtual Academy, which is a totally online program, has added five students since Thanksgiving.

Graduation rates aren’t at 100 percent just because of educational gaps; Halliburton discussed with the Herald & Tribune what growing up through the school system in this technological world is like for today’s students.

“I don’t know that I’d wanna go back to high school today. The reason it’s so tough being in high school or even middle school is social media,” Halliburton said. “Back when I grew up, there were no computers. You found out in lunch or that first period on Monday that you were excluded from a party. Today growing up, you find out in the moment that there’s a party going on. You find out instantly that there’s a party going on and you weren’t included. Not only that, but you can relive that over and over again because the pictures don’t disappear.”

“That (online academy) could save a life if you’ve got a kid struggling with some depression. It’s really just about the students. What’s going to benefit them the most and help them really get an advanced step in going to college and being career ready.”

In addition to growing graduation rates, math scores and eventually working on vocational sites, Halliburton is also aiming to continue professional development for teachers, principals, central office staff, board members and even the director of schools herself. Through organizations like Belmont University, Halliburton is hoping to incorporate a new vision into the school system’s organizational approach.

“When I arrived here and I saw the vision and the mission statement hanging in the board room, I just asked ‘how did that come about?’” Halliburton said. “What I was told was the directors here, they crafted the vision and mission statement. Well, what I want Belmont to work with the board and I on are our beliefs as a group. Because the leadership of this district is in the school board and in the director of schools and it trickles down. Those belief systems, out of that, he’ll work with this on what are our beliefs on teaching and learning. We’ll craft those and then from there we’ll come up with a vision and mission statement and he’ll tell us how to vet that to the community.”

Though the director of schools discusses new schools, vocational options and professional development topics numerous times throughout her work, she said it’s the student for which she is considering these updates that keep her work and the heart of what she does in balance.

“I would not be happy in this job if we were just talking facilitaties and construction and getting more money if I didn’t have that personal connect with students,” Halliburton said. “The best way for me to remind myself of what I’m all about is to get into the schools. And I think Central Office people, any supervisors that are housed over here, myself—we have to keep getting into schools as a reminder. I think that’s why it’s good for the children to come perform in front of the board. We all need that reminder. To start the meeting that way, it’s like, ‘okay what we vote on today will have a direct impact on our boys and girls. If you think about it, our students are our customers.

“The heart of it is, it’s their future.”

Women stand united in Saturday march

DSC_2519

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

As Main Street opened back up following the Women’s March in front of the courthouse in Jonesborough, a big blue truck rolled through the historic district with the sound of President Donald Trump’s words filling the sidewalk: “This is your country,” the radio proclaimed.

Those words echoed a belief that more than 500 women and men who were in attendance at the Tri-Cities Women’s March on Saturday, Jan. 21, came together to support.

But the president’s words were also a rallying cry that partially sparked the movement, beginning as a march on Washington D.C. during the weekend of President Trump’s inauguration.

The movement has spread to over 600 countries and even touched down in Tennessee’s oldest town where pink hats, along with female-positive and anti-Trump slogans, were displayed throughout the street.

For Jonesborough resident Jenny DeWeese, it was also the perfect opportunity to educate her daughters.

“I want them to know that they have a voice and that they have a right to have equal rights also,” DeWeese said, looking at her three young daughters. “That they can be what they want to be.”

“They just talked about Martin Luther King Jr. in school so I’m also trying to teach them to do this in a peaceful way just like he did,” DeWeese said. “She (one of her daughters) related to it at school. She said, ‘He walked down the road and sang songs?’ And I said, ‘Yeah that’s all it is. You just go and stand in a peaceful way and show that we’re not going to be quiet. We have a voice also.’ ”

For many of the women at Saturday’s march, taking their beliefs to the streets wasn’t always a first inclination; for East Tennessee State University student Rana Elgazzar, it took time to grow into someone who became involved in events like the Women’s March.

“In the recent climate I felt more of an imperative to be more vocal and be more involved,” Elgazzar said. “Previously I think I kept more to myself and even when I saw problems, I had a more difficult time taking a stand or standing up. So now I feel motivated as a student so I’m very involved on campus and I hope I can continue that sort of work as I graduate. And be a voice for young people like myself.”

Elgazzar was born in Egypt and was granted her American citizenship in 2014. But she didn’t just come to downtown Jonesborough in support of women; she also came in support of the diversity she is grateful to have experienced in the United States.

“I became a U.S. citizen a few years ago and to me one of the biggest privileges is that I do get to live among people who are different from myself. So I want to maintain that privilege for all people that I’ve experienced. That’s really been a gift to me.”

The event wasn’t just for women; men also showed up in support for the women involved in the movement. Women’s March participant William White stood beside Washington County Commissioner Katie Baker as she described her admiration for Hillary Clinton, who lost the recent election. Considering both Baker and Clinton, White described his reason for attending the event.

“I totally support everything they stand for,” William White said. “Her tagline is the future is female. And I don’t have a problem with that.”

For Baker, her hope for the event was to encourage women as well as support them as the lone woman holding a spot on the county commission.

“I serve in an elected office among 24 men,” Baker said. “I hope (today) brings more women into elected office. I hope it generates interest in young women, in retired women, in mothers in becoming more active in the community in whatever way they feel is appropriate for them.

Running for office is not for everyone, but I think today’s event provided lists of the opportunities and resources for women to jump into based on their preference.”

People in support of this kind of women empowerment shuffled down the sidewalk snapping pictures of one another’s signs while Elgazzar stood in a headscarf alongside a plethora of people filling the courthouse steps—she also stood in downtown Jonesborough as a testament to her identity.

“So I am also Muslim, so I think for me a lot of growing up was becoming comfortable in my identity and not feeling like one part of my identity was disjoint from being American,” Elgazzar explained. “I think that through the years in college as I’ve learned more about myself, I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin and it had a lot do with finding supportive environments where I can be authentic in who I am.

“I feel more empowered, actually.”

Town icon settles into retirement

XSteveCook

Steve Cook

By Bonnie Bailey

H&T Correspondent

If you’ve visited the historic Jonesborough square in the last couple of months, you may have noticed something’s missing. Jonesborough Art Glass Gallery, which had been a staple of the square for 37 years, closed up shop in mid-November.

“It felt like the right time,” Steve Cook, owner of Jonesborough Art Glass Gallery, said. “[My wife and I] are both still healthy enough to do kayaking and some hiking and things like that, so we thought if we are going to do it, we had better do it while we can.”

The couple plan to spend their first year without the gallery traveling and enjoying more free time.

“There are a lot of things we hope to do,” Cook said. “We’re not totally retired, but we can be selective with how busy we want to be as opposed to the day to day umbrella of retail that’s over your head every minute when you own a store.”

Of his time spent on the Jonesborough square, Cook said he hasn’t regretted one second, and he appreciates the support he, his wife and his business have received over the last 37 years.

“We watched this town grow up,” Cook said, “and we kind of grew up with it. It’s been fun. It’s been rewarding. It’s been very exciting at times just due to the projects you get to do. Everybody who walks in the door is a potential neat project.”

And despite the store’s closing, the Cooks look forward to doing more glasswork and meeting more people with ‘neat projects’.

“Our studio has always been at home anyway,” said Cook, who has been building stained glass for 41 years. “We can meet the clients at their job sites or they can come to us by appointment. We have every intention of continuing to build pretty glasswork for whoever needs it.”

Cook, who has always been very active in the Jonesborough community, also plans to continue his involvement with Music on the Square, which he created in 1999 to help re-invigorate the square and bring people into the downtown area after hours.

“We didn’t want it to look like our sidewalks rolled up at 5 p.m.,” Cook said. “At least not every day. I knew some musicians, being a musician myself, and I said, ‘Come on down and play.’”

We couldn’t pay the musicians at first, Cook said, but we worked into that later on, once the event got its footing and secured sponsors.

“We are always looking for sponsors,” Cook said, “and that will be an ongoing thing.”

The weekly music festival, which is free and open to the public, is held every Friday evening starting in May and it runs through the summer, ending in September. The festival showcases a variety of entertainment, from bands to performance artists to poets and storytellers.

“The town fathers didn’t think much of closing the street every Friday,” Cook said, “and originally, they told us we couldn’t. But they got so many calls… they decided to let us.”

And it did bring people into town, he said.

“Everything just kind of fell into place for it be a good event,” Cook said. “This will be our 19th season coming up.”

As far as the question of what will replace Jonesborough Art Glass Gallery, the building that housed the gallery, located at 101 East Main Street, has already been rented by another artist.

Renovations will begin soon, Cook said, and we can look forward to “a very promising art entity coming in there.”

For information on glasswork, you can contact Steve Cook at (423) 753-5401 or by email at jboart@comcast.net. For more information on Music on the Square, you can call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or visit the Music on the Square website at musiconthesquare.net.

XSteveCookRetired

Committee continue to debate school calendar

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

When it comes to the Washington County School calendar for 2017-2018, right now there are two options.

First there’s the version that was emailed to the school system’s teachers but was voted down by five of the nine Washington County Board of Education members during the Jan. 5 school board meeting. When the calendar that contains an August 1 start date and a six-day fall break wasn’t approved, David Hammond suggested a calendar containing a later school-start date be created as another option.

“We have a lot of teenagers that work to provide their own school supplies and even help their families out financially,” Hammond said. “We have several people that usually take a vacation the first week of August due to their company shutdown. I think we could find a happy medium. I don’t think it’s going to be a start date of Aug. 14 like some parents would like. I’m just trying to find some common ground here.”

Then there’s also the option created at the Jan. 12 calendar committee meeting in response to the board’s request; The new version includes an Aug. 7 start date and a four-day fall break. Both versions list May 23 as the last day of school. However, neither version of the calendar is official just yet.

At the calendar committee meeting was Mary Beth Dellinger, Todd Ganger, LaDawn Hudgins, Leisa Lusk, Valerie Moore, William Flanary and Karla Kyte.

The Washington County Education Association sent the original calendar version to teachers via email. Hudgins said most teachers were concerned with holiday breaks such as fall break and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Lusk said she got about a 50 percent response from teachers and most of them were in approval of the calendar. Kyte said giving these teachers another option would go along with requests from the school board and from teachers.

“It would go along with what these ladies (from WCEA) have said,” Kyte said. “You either start early and have a fall break or you don’t have a full-week fall break.”

The committee also had certain state-mandated requirements to keep in mind; schools are required to have 150 instructional days prior to state testing and around 90 instructional days per semester for block schedules. In addition to inservice days, parent teacher conferences, and fall, winter and spring breaks, the committee had much to discuss while creating the second calendar option.

If days needed for a later start date were simply tacked onto the end of the school year on May 23, graduation would have to be moved. Therefore, the committee opted to find other school days within the calendar in order to keep the May 19 graduation date on both calendars.

This second version also contains a four-day fall break which includes an in-service day on Friday October 6—the first day of the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough. At the calendar committee meeting, board member Todd Ganger was concerned attendance would drop during the two-day school week following fall break.

The two versions of the calendar will be sent out and voted upon by Washington County School teachers before any final decisions are made.

A calendar committee meeting will be held on Thursday Jan. 19 at 4:30 p.m. at the central office on 405 West College Street in Jonesborough. The Board of Education will also vote on the calendar again during the Thursday Feb. 2 meeting.

BOE debates test impact on local county teachers

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

State tests may have made headlines during the state-wide malfunction, but the effects were still lingering when Washington County’s Board of Education passed the resolution to the testing mishap.

The resolution proposed by school board member Annette Buchanan at the latest BOE meeting on Thursday, Jan. 5, keeps recent TNReady test results from being a factor in teacher evaluations. Buchanan said the resolution would only be instated for one year to see if the test will be issue-free this spring.

Chairman of the board Jack Leonard mentioned that the resolution does not legally bind Washington County. Nashville and Knoxville have both accepted this resolution while many boards throughout Tennessee have not.

“I do have teachers who are concerned with the new testing,” Leonard said. “I was a testing coordinator last year in the school. You should have seen the stress involved with taking this test online. It took away from instruction because teachers were so concerned about this. I just think that we need to go through a testing cycle to have it as a learning process.”

Teachers aren’t the only parties the board considered while discussing the resolution; Board member Todd Ganger said he feels this resolution might send the wrong message to the funding body. Meanwhile, Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton was concerned about the community.

“My concern is just the message of accountability,” Halliburton said. “I’m very concerned about the message this would send our community, not just our commissioners. I’m concerned about parents who might be transferring here. Surrounding counties have not brought this resolution forward. Shopping parents might not take us as seriously as they would other counties if they read this in the paper.”

Board member Mary Beth Dellinger came equipped with quotes from Nashville and Knoxville board members who were quoted saying that teachers shouldn’t be held accountable until the state can make sure testing is reliable.

However, Halliburton said principals are still being evaluated according to testing scores. Ganger said a “no” vote for the resolution didn’t mean he didn’t support teachers. He also asked the board to consider the director’s wishes.

“I just ask this board just to support the director. The director opposes us doing this,” Ganger said. “I also feel like if we just let it play out, legislation is going to take care of itself. It may work out that way and then we’ve not put ourselves in a divisive position.”

All board members voted in favor of the resolution minus Ganger and Clarence Mabe.

It was also decided that Daniel Boone High School will hold its graduation at the East Tennessee State University mini-dome for the graduating class of 2017. David Crockett High School students held a vote with the majority in favor of keeping graduation at Crockett.

Halliburton reported her results from the Health Education and Welfare meeting at the Historic Courthouse earlier that day. The committee passed all three of her requests from the BOE. These were the purchase of the McCoy land for the site of the new  Jonesborough school, $500,000 for the design work of both the new Jonesborough K-8 school and renovation of Jonesborough Middle, and a reallocation of funds to install audio enhancements in K-5 classrooms.

The director also introduced a new school lunch application that has been sent home to Washington County School parents. Schools could provide free breakfast and lunch for all students should the grants be secured. Halliburton said she is looking for 100 percent return on the applications.

“It could be very meaningful for many of our schools out there in terms of federal dollars,” Halliburton said. “It’s a service that is provided for families that are struggling whether it’s a permanent struggle or a temporary struggle. We just want all of our families to take advantage of that. With that, we might be able to do some very creative things for our students in some specific schools.”

Senior Center snags another grant

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

Jonesborough Senior Center will soon be nearly $25,000 richer, thanks to a grant recently awarded from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

According to information presented to the Jonesborough Board of Mayor & Aldermen Monday night, the senior center was selected for the one-time grant award from among nearly 125 applications.

Of the funds — $24,469 total —  $8,216 will go to sound equipment for the center; $11,253 will go toward an acoustical tile system for the large arts and crafts room; and $5,000 will be used as a revolving story fund.

Town Administrator Bob Browning said the grant is funded at 100 percent and requires no match.

“We applied at the first of December,” Browning said. “They only gave us two weeks.”

Yet the purpose of the grant seemed tailor-made for Tennessee’s oldest town, he said. “They sort of wanted to have a story-base to it, which is right up our alley.”

At issue for the center was being better able to ensure all members could be able to clearly hear, understand and take part in the numerous ongoing activities.

Grant funds also fit well with the center’s plan to develop a sustainable way to collect, perform and publish local stories of seniors, especially veterans, Browning said.

The good news is just one more achievement for a center that closed its first year with a growing membership, ongoing and various accolades and awards.

“We’re having trouble keeping up with them,” Browning said.

Student blood drive pays off

image2-2

Left to right: David Crockett teacher Hollie Backberg, Ashlea Reaves, DCHS student Ashley Crews, and DCHS teacher Cheri Wolfe

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

David Crockett High School senior Ashlea Reaves teamed up with Marsh Regional Blood Center to help raise scholarship money and collect blood donations for the blood center.

During the drive on Thursday, Jan. 5, at Jonesborough’s local Food City, Reaves registered 34 people and received 25 units of blood for Marsh. Because she reached 25 units, she has been entered in a scholarship drawing along with the other students who coordinated their own Holiday Hero Blood Drive event.

“I owe a huge thank you to Marsh for giving me this opportunity, Food City for allowing the blood drive to be there and everyone that came out and donated,” Reaves said. “I think it was a huge success and it reached many people in the community. I also had so much support throughout the process of getting the drive together, and I’m so thankful for that.”

These Holiday Hero Blood Drives were designed to aid both Marsh and local high school students. If a student can rally 25 units of blood, he or she is put in a drawing for $500. At 50 units, the student automatically gets a $500 scholarship to help pay for a college education. The community also played a role in Reaves’ event.

“We just wanted to thank the Jonesborough community for coming out and helping Ashlea and Marsh,” the blood center’s marketing and recruitment coordinator Maci Andrews said. “There were people who stood outside the bus in the cold and waited to give because the bus was so full.”

Reaves is interested in neonatal nursing. So the blood drive was also an opportunity to combine her interest with working for the donations and scholarship aid with her career goal in mind.

“I enjoyed the fact that people in the community are still willing to help others out, and this is such a great way to do so,” Reaves said. “Seeing everyone come together for such a good cause just made me that much more eager to get into the medical field myself.”

Three men rob Chuckey Roadrunner

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Sheriff’s office is investigating the robbery of the Roadrunner Market at 2602 Highway 107 in Chuckey, Tennessee.

Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal said three men entered the building on Jan. 4 at 11:59 p.m. with ski masks and two handguns. The men demanded the clerk open the safe, but after he was unable to do so, the men escaped with an undetermined amount of cash from the register as well as nine cases of Budlight and 60 cartons of Newport cigarettes.

Graybeal said his team hasn’t had to deal with an occurrence like this in a while.

“It’s been a long time. Our guys do a lot of extra patrols on closed businesses and open businesses,” Graybeal said. “This just happened. I don’t think we’ve had one at the Roadrunner on 107 in I couldn’t tell you how long it’s been.”

A K-9 unit was also called to the scene and an investigation is still underway. The sheriff also said location was a factor.

“The thing about that situation there—if you know anything about 107—once they leave that lot, it’s dark,” Graybeal said. “There’s roads everywhere. But our guys responded good, we called our detective bureau out and they pulled up all the videos.”

Anyone with any information about the suspects or the robbery should contact the Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division at 423-788-1414.

Teacher receives assistance in quest to ‘engage minds’

xquest2

Hillary Lambert

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

County mayor eyes school construction for 2017

xdaneldridge

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xboonescreek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


xelectiongroup

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

This year, it got a little crazier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fitzgerald was the big winner with 1,308 votes.

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

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

Wolfe said it was time to look ahead.

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

Tomita gets ready for new year, new role

xtomita

David Tomita

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jonesborough named as a safest town

Jonesborough may be known as Tennessee’s Oldest Town, but it is also known as one of Tennessee’s Safest Towns. According to Value Penguin’s rankings based on a variety of crime metrics sourced from the FBI across 90 Tennessee cities with a population over 5,000, Jonesborough ranks as the sixth safest small town in Tennessee and overall, the ninth safest town in the state.

Shop with a Cop: Jonesborough gets ready for annual event

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

This time of year, most people shop with family and friends. But for some local boys and girls, they’re going to be shopping with a police officer or a firefighter in Tennessee’s oldest town.

Tonight, Jonesborough’s annual Shop with a Cop event will provide 73 children from around the area with a chance to receive gifts and get to know local police officers as well.

However, these kids’ families will also experience a bit of this holiday cheer. Not only are the children given already donated gifts as well as toys bought with a $150 gift card from Walmart the night of the event, but the child’s siblings are given gifts as well.

The Shop with a Cop event also provides gifts for parents to put under the tree for kids to open on Christmas.

“Some of these folks are going through a tough time,” Jonesborough’s Shop with a Cop event coordinator Sgt. Jamie Aistrop said. “And we want to make sure they have a positive holiday experience and make sure they have some gifts to open on Christmas morning regardless. That warms our hearts.”

The police and fire departments aren’t the only ones helping with the event; from wrapping gifts to providing a meal for the kids, local businesses and individuals such as the members of the Jonesborough Senior Center have sacrificed their time and money to help with the event.

“The Jonesborough community in general is just very giving,” Aistrop said. “Anytime, they’re always ready to rally around and help.”

This giving Christmas spirit doesn’t stop with the donors and volunteers, though. Aistrop said many of the kids chosen by their schools’ teachers and guidance counselors use their Walmart gift card for their family rather than for gifts for themselves.

“It really humbles you to see how appreciative these kids are and the things that they buy,” Aistrop said, “and how selfless they all are. You’d think they’d all just wanna go buy $150 worth of toys, but a lot of these are going in to buy presents for their brothers and sisters and parents and spending more of their money on their families than they do themselves.”

Though the Shop with a Cop event has provided families in the Jonesborough area with toys and other gifts for eight years now, local law enforcers take this chance to do more than just sneak a gift under the tree like old Saint Nick. Aistrop said they hope to promote positivity towards police officers to these young kids.

“Police and fire aren’t always dealing with everybody in a positive light,” Aistrop said. “Generally, when either one of us are called, there’s a problem. So it’s a really good opportunity to spend time with them in a positive manner and show them that all interaction with police and fire doesn’t have to be negative.”

In return, these officers are left with a gift from these children—but it doesn’t come in a box or a bag.

“It’s just as good for us if not better for us than it is for the kids, “ Aistrop said. “It’s a good break. It’s a great opportunity for us.”

“Just seeing the look on their faces when we escort them to Walmart, actually getting to sit down, talk to them and interact with the kids—it’d be hard for me to narrow it down to a favorite part.”

In Aistrop’s experience, overall, both kids and officers are doing more than just exchanging gifts—they’re building relationships.

“We made some really good relationships over the years with these families and these children,” Aistrop said. “There’s several that we still talk to and have moved on and don’t need the assistance anymore, but we still keep in contact with them. Once we meet these kids and spend that evening with them, that carries on for years. We make lifelong friends with them and that’s kind of the point. They remember it, we definitely remember it, and it helps us down the road in future situations.”

Major sponsors for the Shop with a Cop event include:

Walmart

Kiwanis of Jonesborough

Foster Signs

Pizza Plus

Clark Family Tours

Shirt Tail Designs

Jonesborough Civitans

And many other area businesses, churches, and residents.

Pizza party donations were provided by:

Walgreens

Ingles

Food City

Jonesboro Pizza Parlor

Rocky’s Pizza

Pizza Hut

Pizza Plus

Luke’s Pizza

Papa John’s

Keeping watch over the sheep

Jonesborough is famous for its yarns — the town’s storytellers are world-renowned — but Deborah Burger, owner of The Yarn Asylum, doesn’t trade in stories. Her yarns are spun from sheep. And her latest project, handmade ornaments created with mixed media, come in the shape of sheep as well.

Local teacher wins QUEST computers

The QUEST foundation provides grants for educators within the Washington County School System. This year a portion of the $17, 927 grant went to Tammy King who teaches third grade science and social studies at Jonesborough Elementary School.