Dismissed tenured teacher to make argument at BOE meeting


Staff Writer


The Washington County Board of Education will again be seeing the former Gray Elementary School teacher Jennifer Collins who was dismissed for insubordination and unprofessional conduct back in November during their upcoming April meeting.

Collins appealed the decision to the school board after juvenile court judge Randy Kennedy acted as the impartial hearing officer selected by the board and issued a recommendation to dismiss the tenured teacher following a two-day hearing of 24 exhibits including student and parent complaints of kissing and rubbing male students’ foreheads.

Now Collins and her attorney will have the chance to make an argument as to why the termination decision should be revised or reversed. Tennessee Code Annotated 49-5-512 states the board may sustain the decision, send the record back if additional evidence is necessary, revise the penalty or reverse the decision.

School board member Mike Masters asked if the board would have to vote on this again if the decision is appealed. The Tennessee code also says that after the board has made it’s decision,  either party can appeal it to the chancery court in the school system’s county within 30 days of the decision.

“This is how the statutory appeals process is set up for the dismissal of a tenured teacher,” Seeley said, “and we’re following that to a tee.”

In discussing what is to come during the April meeting, Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton also spoke on her decision regarding the tenured teacher.

“I will say that the director’s recommendation is termination in the best interest of student safety,” Halliburton said. “And we do have a sitting juvenile court judge as an impartial hearing officer so I will be asking this board to sustain this decision and that is termination.”

The board previously voted to dismiss Collins in a 5-4 vote in November after both verbal and written warnings from the school’s principal stating that Collins was to restrain from physical contact with students. An October 28 letter to Collins also said male students came forward and expressed anxiety and discomfort in the unwanted physical contact.

The next school board meeting will be held April 6 at 6:30 at the central office at 405 W College Street in Jonesborough.

Jonesborough Senior Center to change hours





Beginning April 4, Jonesborough’s Senior Center will be expanding its hours.

“We’re really just responding to what our members are asking for,” said Senior Center Director Mary Sanger of the new schedule.

The center is currently open to members from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. The new hours as of April 4 will extend Tuesday and Thursday hours until 8 p.m.

“Since our membership starts at age 50, there are a lot of members who are still working,” Sanger explained.

And these members, as well as others, have been hoping for some later evening opportunities.

This will be quite a change from the old center, but it’s one Sanger sees as a normal progression as the center works to meet the needs of local seniors.

“The old center was open until 4 p.m. and that certainly was not late enough (for the new center)” she said. The decision was reached to establish an 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. schedule and now, one year after its opening, the center is ready to expand again.

“We’ve decided do two nights a week as a starting point,” Sanger said. “You have to start somewhere. And we’re going to see what the response is.”

Members are the most excited right now about having more opportunity to use the state-of-the-art fitness center and its senior-friendly equipment. “A lot of the interest has come from people who are want to work out,” Sanger agreed.

“On Tuesdays and Thursdays, members will be able to come use the fitness center just like now.”

They will also be able to enjoy the billiards room, as well as any other rooms or amenities available at the

Reading improvements could start with special programs

XDan Eldridge photo


Staff Writer


Talk of the town may be Washington County’s proposed new Boones Creek and Jonesborough schools, but at the Health Education and Welfare Committee meeting on March 2, the focus was on the learning going on inside currently existing Washington County Schools — specifically reading proficiency.

Washington County Director of Schools, Kimber Halliburton, recently reported to the HEW committee and the school board that reading proficiency in Washington County for grades K-3 is at 55 percent—a number Halliburton said she aims to increase to 75 percent.

This sparked the committee’s conversation about programs from organizations like Niswonger Foundation that could lend a hand with this goal. Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said Niswonger has been expanding into other counties and is an option. He also said Coalition for Kids, which currently serves the Johnson City School System, is initiating services in Washington County.

“Coalition has been remarkably affective in improving the reading levels of the kids that come into their after-school program. The numbers speak for themselves,” Eldridge said. “They are very, very interested in expanding that program into the county schools.”

Eldridge also said that such programs could be costly, but that resources are making themselves available and would pay for the majority of the cost outside of what is available through the county’s school-funding budget. But the gains as a result of these programs could be what Washington County needs to achieve a 75 percent reading-proficiency goal.

“I think that the opportunity for some significant improvement in student outcomes is going to be very real,” Eldridge said. “And it’s going to be based on some historical successes that they (Coalition for Kids) have had with the very same program they have in Johnson City.

“We’ve got several very specific opportunities lined up that I think over the next year and a half will be able to come together and be able to make a real difference in this number.”

Eldridge told the HEW committee he’d also like to see commissioners identify specific areas that could be impacted, like technology—an area the commission recently funded through the audio enhancement systems set to be installed in all K-5 classrooms excluding the round portion of Jonesborough Elementary School. During the commission’s Feb. 27 meeting, a Washington County student showed the commission how the enhancements, which are meant to help elementary-age students who could have hearing loss due to illness or allergies, work. The technology is used to improve a student’s ability to hear instructions, thus improving reading scores.

The teachers present during the audio enhancement presentation at the commission meeting also mentioned an renewed student-interest in reading due to the use of the microphone.

For county commissioner and HEW committee chairwoman Katie Baker, identifying the specific focus to improve the rate is of importance. During the BOE and HEW joint meeting, Halliburton presented a comparison of every elementary school in the district and their scores in each school subject. This brought about an interest from the commission in specifying which areas—and possibly which schools—need the most aid.

“We saw it from two different angles the other night,” Baker explained. “We saw school-specific performance. Are there schools in the system that need more resources to improve their scores or are we looking towards specific subjects like English language arts where we need to infuse resources?

“And it may be a little bit of both.”

In order to know what area to aid first, Eldridge said he felt the commission, with help from the school system, needed to concentrate on data.

“I think we need to become much more data-driven. It’s obvious that the school system has the ability to collect data,” Eldridge explained.

“If we could ever figure out among ourselves, working in collaboration with the school system, how to use that data and actually provide real indicators of progress as a result of these investments, I think that’s how we ultimately get to where the school system wants to be—where a lot of us want to be.”

Report card ignites quest to reach goals



Staff Writer


“We must be obsessed with data,” Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said during her presentation at the joint board of education and health education and welfare committee meeting. “If we’re ever going to move the needle and be the No. 1 ranked school district in the northeast region, we have to constantly look at the data and constantly decide what strategies we will implement to improve that data. Data shows us what we’re strong in. It shows us what we’re weak in.”

The strengths and weakness presented by Halliburton during the Feb. 22 meeting from the state report card for Washington County Schools took over the first half of the meeting, starting with elementary TCAP reports.

Washington County was at 69.1 percent for math according to 2015-2016 TCAP scores—the last year of data available due to the testing mishap last spring. Meanwhile, 55 percent of K-8 students are reading on grade level by third grade. Halliburton said the school system has enacted a goal of increasing this number by a minimum of 2 percent.

“We’ve got to focus our attention on the technologies the teachers need to do this,” Halliburton said, “and then the subscriptions once we have the technology in place that will better equip our teachers to do this. We have talented teachers that can do this.”

A portion of this plan to incorporate more technology into Washington County Schools is already in motion; audio enhancement for all K-5 classrooms—excluding the round portion of Jonesborough Elementary School—will be installed over spring break, Halliburton said.

“Hopefully we’ll start seeing gains from the technology that we have in place,” school board member Todd Ganger said during the meeting. “These kids are wanting to learn, so hopefully we’ll see those gains and it will be a trickle down effect.”

Halliburton’s goals didn’t stop at elementary education however; Washington County’s Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System is used to track the academic progress of students in a district.

However, TVAAS does not include grades 4-8 due to testing errors. Washington County was at level 5 for math for the 2015-2016 school year. Level 5 indicates that a district is exceeding expected growth. However, the school system was at level 1 for literacy which indicates that the district is making less than the expected growth.

Meanwhile, graduation rates for Washington county are at 90.2 percent which is four percent lower than that of Sullivan County. Halliburton said she aims to increase the graduation rate to 94 percent.

To do this, Halliburton intends to continue incorporating Asbury Optional High School, Midway school and the Tennessee Virtual Academy as an option in order to up the percentage of high school graduates in Washington County.

She also said the virtual academy has grown from five students to 12 since her time here. Changing the name from Washington County Virtual Academy to Tennessee Virtual Academy has also helped up enrollment, Halliburton said.

“I think the way that you increase your graduation goal is you have as many alternative programs out there as you possibly can,” Halliburton said. “I’ve shared with you all that my brother was a high school drop out. If he had had a program like Asbury, Midway, or maybe even an online program he may have earned a high school diploma. Those kids are pretty dear to my heart.”

To reach these academic goals, the director of schools also spoke on accountability for all members of the county from parents to Halliburton herself.

“It’s accountability for all. It’s accountability for parents, it’s accountability for the superintendent, it’s accountability for teachers,” Halliburton said.

“It’s hard for commissioners to stand up there and say, ‘We’re going to hold parents accountable.’ But that’s exactly what they need to do. It’s hard for school board members as elected officials to say, ‘We’re going to hold teachers accountable,” but that’s exactly what you’re going to need to do. For us to be number one, that’s what we must do.”

New commissioner takes his seat

commissioner johnson


Staff Writer


There’s a new Washington County Commissioner in town, but his journey getting there wasn’t a simple one.

The commission voted Richard Johnson as their newest member after a three rounds of voting. Johnson is a retired 1st Judicial District Chancellor from Johnson City. The commissioner was up against East Tennessee State University Department of Family Medicine Associate Professor Jodi Jones, former Washington County Commissioner Phil McPeak, Johnson City Cardinals General Manager Tyler Parsons.

County attorney Tom Seeley said the nominee must receive 13 of the 23 votes. The 24th seat was left vacant spot left by David Tomita who is now the mayor of Johnson City. Seeley also said that if none of the nominees reach 13 votes in around, the nominee with the least amount of votes is casted out and voting goes into another round.

With 11 votes for Johnson in the first round, eight for Parsons, three for Phil McPeak and one for Jones, Jones was eliminated. Then, Johnson gained 12 votes, Parsons had 9 and McPeak had one. In the next round, Johnson reached 15. Johnson will serve with Commissioner Katie Baker for the fourth district.

New commissioner keeps it local as he takes on county role



Staff Writer


At the Washington County Commission’s January meeting, Phil Carriger cast his first vote as the newest county commissioner on a resolution to aid the clean water issue many have been facing in the county. For Carriger, it’s these local government issues that put his new role with the commission in perspective.

“It’s hard to believe in this day and time that we’ve got folks in Washington County that don’t have clean water,” Carriger said. “It puts things in perspective. You see all these crazy issues up in D.C. where they’re spending billions of dollars. It really comes back down to earth when you’re local and people are in need of clean drinking water.”

Carriger stepped in to fill a spot left vacant by Joe Wise who is now part of the Johnson City Commission. But the new county commissioner isn’t new to local government; Carriger was on the Johnson City Commission for four years. He also ran for a Tennessee House of Representatives spot for District 7 back in 2014.

“When I was on the city commission, I think I got a good idea of how government works,” Carriger said. “And having been in the business world for 45 plus years, there’s a different pace and a different way business is conducted. I got a good understanding as to why government work takes a little bit longer and is a much slower pace than the business world. It gave me a good idea of the relationship between government, business and the voters.”

Carriger is a retired banker who started People’s Bank and was a Bank of Tennessee board member. He has also served on the East Tennessee State University Research Foundation board of directors and the Johnson City Power Board board of directors. And he considers his combined experiences the right recipe to understand business, government and the people.

“One thing I’m proud of it that I served as president or chairman of the board for a lot of nonprofits,” Carriger said. “I think that has helped me also to get a good understanding of some of the needs in our community. I think having served as the past chairman of the Chamber of Commerce has gotten me a good understanding of the business. I’ve got a pretty good background when it comes to knowing people and knowing some of the issues.”

After experiencing the business and government sides of the professional world, Carriger is now ready to concentrate on his top priority in his new role. He also said aiming to create jobs and improve educational facilities allows a body like the county commission to invest in the future.

“It’s gotta be jobs. I know education is important—I’m a product of Washington County education and the State of Tennessee education—but it’s gotta be jobs,” Carriger said. “It doesn’t do us a whole lot of good if we educate these young folks and they end up going away for jobs. We’ve got to have some good paying jobs here.”

Apart from keeping well-educated adults in the Washington County area, Carriger also said he is interested in the other part of local government—the people.

“I’m always amazed; I talked to some folks in the city and they don’t realize they can vote on county issues,” Carriger said. “They have a county commissioner. They have some say in county government. It’s just amazing to me that they pay county taxes, but they don’t realize they have a say in county government. County government affects them.

“People don’t realize you have a lot more control over local government than you do D.C. You think about it, you’ve got a lot more influence with local government than you do with what goes on in Washington D.C.”

Throughout his time as a banker and local government office-holder, Carriger also considers the time he’s spent with the people of Washington County an integral piece to the puzzle of his career.

“You get to meet some folks that have a lot of influence over politics and then you get to meet some who have very little or no influence on politics,” Carriger said.

“It’s always good to be able to help those folks that feel like they don’t have a voice.”

Gentle giant loves to give back

DSC_3738 2another

Upon arriving at Rhonnie Miller’s farmhouse set on the rolling pastureland of Keefauver Road, guests are met with a gorgeous southern-style, wrap-around porch—and the world’s tallest breed of dog peering through the screen door.

“We were eating at Main Street back in the fall and it was nice out. And you know how close the seating is to the road?” Miller said, watching Henry, her 1-year-old Irish wolfhound sprawl out on the painted porch floor. “They got a fire call and the fire engine comes down Main Street, full sirens, lights, everything on. And he was laid out like this and literally picked his head up, said, ‘Okay,’ and put it back down.

“They’re gonna have to get a bigger bowl at Main Street,” Miller added, still watching Henry, who has his own Instagram account under the name “Wolfhound Henry”, during the wolfhound’s Herald & Tribune photoshoot. “He just kind of looks at it.”

The story is a testament to Henry’s laid-back nature as he stretches his lengthy legs out in front of the photographer who is aiming to capture Henry’s true height in a photo. This easy-going attitude was just part of what made Miller choose her long-legged best friend, a decision the potter and Jonesborough resident didn’t take lightly.DSC_3924

She carefully decided she wanted to house another wolfhound after owning two when her teenage sons were much younger and toddling around with two wolfhound puppies at their sides. She had lost one of the dogs to osteosarcoma, a cancer that is found in the cells that form bones and is common in Irish wolfhounds and the other to a freak accident with a pig’s ear—which she now advises every pet owner to steer clear of offering to his or her dog. Years later, she decided to hunt down her perfect wolfhound. But little did she know how much healing he would do in other’s lives as well as her own.

“We were planning to go back to get him when he was 10 weeks old and I got pneumonia and mono. I got put in the hospital for four days,” Miller recalled. “The breeder actually kept him an extra week. Then my husband went up and got him for me and brought him back. Truly, he helped me get better.

“On his AKC papers, he’s Henry the Healer instead of some fancy froufrou name. So I then knew I wanted to kind of give back with him.”

Now Henry is 7 feet long and his love for people is even bigger than he is. Henry is known for enjoying a stroll in downtoDSC_3928wn Jonesborough alongside his family, but now he is an officially licensed therapy dog ready to make folks in nursing homes and hospitals smile on even their darkest days.

“He’s not just meant to stay in the house,” Miller said. “It’s amazing to see the people, especially the ones at Brookdale at the memory care side. Instead of laying there, they light up when he goes.”

Henry may have a new job, but he still has an affinity for frolicking through cow pastures, trips to the beach, strolling along cobblestone streets, and galloping alongside farm trucks like the one that came crunching through the Miller’s gravel path leading up to their cattle behind their house.

Aside from living up to a wolfhound’s unofficial title of a gentle giant and serving as a therapy dog, Miller said that Henry can read people. He’s also been known to read how Miller herself is feeling. Miller said he can gauge the way in which he should behave, depending on who he’s around.

“We were at the beach this summer and he was rompin’ and playing and running like wild early one morning and there wasn’t hardly anyone on the beach,” Miller explained while watching Henry gallop through her spacious yard. “He and I had gone down to watch the sunrise and this couple brings out a set of twins just in their diapers. They’re probably 18 months old, just trying to run, barely walking good. They come waddling up to him and he immediately went from, ‘I’m having fun’ and just laid down. He lays down and those two toddlers climbed all over him. They were sticking their fingers in his eyes, his mouth, his nose. The parents were taking pictures and were amazed.

“That’s just one example. He just knows. He changes when we get to the nursing home and we’re around older people like my grandmother and then he’ll turn around and rough house with people he knows he can and be a total goofball. And he is goofy as all get out. And a klutz.”

Miller has always been a dog-lover and already owned what she thought was her favorite dog. But Henry not only helped her get better and has served as her four-legged best friend—he’s also been the dog that’s taken up the most room in her house and her heart.

“You know how you say you get the one dog in your life? I thought I already had that dog,” Miller explained. “She was a great rescue dog from a shelter when I was 16. Fabulous dog. I had to put her to sleep when she was like 17. And I thought I’d had my dog. But he’s got Kate topped.”

However, Wolfhound Henry isn’t just a well-known, beloved family dog who is the perfect companion for a spring-like Thursday afternoon on the farm. Miller believes her gentle giant is meant to make her smile, but to also be a light for the people with which he comes in contact.

“I’ve had other dogs in my life. I’ve had every animal from lizards to horses. And he was just different,” Miller said. “And I thought, not to sound crazy, but this is the dog’s purpose. He’s here to do something. So if I can help other people and he can, then that’s what it’s all about.”

— Marina Waters

Board works to balance school costs


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


Staff Writer


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



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


Kristie Payne (left) and Lauren Summar (right)


Staff Writer


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


Staff Writer


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



Staff Writer


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


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.


Committee continue to debate school calendar


Staff Writer


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


Staff Writer


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




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


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


Staff Writer


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


Staff Writer


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’


Hillary Lambert


Staff Writer


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

County mayor eyes school construction for 2017



Staff Writer


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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