Man of the year: Kiwanis Club honors Pat Wolfe

Above, Pat Wolfe shows off his award Saturday night. Wolfe was the recipient of Kiwanian of the Year Award presented at the Kiwanis “Dining & Dancing for Kids” event at the McKinney Center.


H&T Correspondent

Pat Wolfe is no stranger to a good deed, but not all good deeds go unnoticed. After years of service to his community, his company and his country, Pat Wolfe’s name will forever mark a legacy of recognizing exceptional service acts.

The Pat Wolfe Service award was officially established and presented during the Kiwanis “Dining and Dancing for Kids” charity event hosted at the Mckinney Center Saturday, Nov. 9. This award was given to one of Kiwanis’ most prominent and influential members, Pat Wolfe, who has been involved in the club for 22 years.

Pat Wolfe, left, receives the award from his son, Kelly Wolfe.

Pat Wolfe’s son, Kelly Wolfe, had the pleasure of presenting his father with this prestigious award, explaining how he had truly embodied what the club envisions to be an authentic representation of what the club is and stands for.      

“Tonight, the Kiwanis club of Jonesborough is establishing a service award,” Kelly Wolfe said. “They have decided that in the spirit of kicking off this award that they want to establish it in the name of one of their members who has made an outstanding contribution. We’re going to think about the kind of person who would win the Kiwanis of the Year award and establish the Pat Wolfe Service Award.”

From growing up in a rural environment that valued helping people, to going on and serving his country as a second lieutenant in the Vietnam War, Pat Wolfe has never stopped striving to serve in every stage of his life, his son said. This ambition continued as he became a very active member in the Kiwanis Club of

Flying high: Jonesborough native takes to the skies

Left to right, DPE Dave Thompson, Luke Larkins, and CFI Tom DuVoisin celebrate Larkins’ first flying certificate.


Staff Writer

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Luke Larkins spends most of his time in the clouds piloting planes. But even when his feet are on the ground, the 20-year-old pilot from Jonesborough is dreaming of the next time he’ll be thousands of feet in the air doing what he loves most.

“It’s like defying the laws of physics really,” Larkins said. “I mean, if you look at our bodies, we’re not meant to fly. We’re not. But when you go up there and defy that, you see what a bird sees and you see what a pilot sees, it’s just one of those out-of-body experiences. You just can’t stop doing it. Once I went up flying that one time, I have been hooked ever since.”

Larkins, who got his pilot’s license two weeks ago, spent a year at Middle Tennessee State University and is now studying aviation mechanics at Northeast State while working on his certifications through Morristown Flying Service. The road to getting his certification hasn’t been an easy one, though. Larkins said he spent many nights studying for his written test and working to eventually take on the wide open skies after months of preparation.

He also said what surprised him the most about becoming a pilot was how much pilots have to know about the weather.

The views, Larkins said, are the best part of being a pilot.

“When I first started, I thought it was just going to be flying. But the weather is a huge factor,” Larkins said. “We actually have charts where we have to calculate the weight and balance of the plane that way we make sure that it’s inside the center of gravity. There’s a reason they call us in-field weathermen. We have to know the weather as well as the weathermen do. You have to know all the types of clouds and everything because otherwise, if we fly into the wrong cloud, we’re dead.”

For Larkins, the skills needed to become a good pilot aren’t simply learned before taking the pilot’s seat; that’s also done while flying.

“There’s a saying that goes, ‘A competent pilot flies the plane. A good pilot learns as he flies the plane.’ You learn as you go, even now as a private pilot,” Larkins said. “Even though I don’t have an instructor with me, if I go up there and look around, I look at the clouds, I look at ground reference, interstates, stuff like that. I learn as I fly every single day. It’s a never-ending process of learning. You can never be a perfect pilot, only a better pilot.”

Larkins is considering a future in commercial flying like his cousin or joining the Air Force, which is somewhat of a family tradition for the Jonesborough native.

“It just seems right for me to join,” Larkins said. “My family comes from a long line. On my mom’s side, her brother was in the Marines and he met his wife in the Marines as well and then I have a cousin who is joining the Army right now as well. So I’ve always kind of thought about that.”

No matter where he’s flying off to, Larkins said his home will always be in the mountains of East Tennessee. His family made the move from Paris, Texas, a small town about two hours northeast of Dallas, four years ago when Larkins started his junior year at David Crockett High School and his younger brother, Cade, was a freshman.

“I love this area,” he said. “My mom went to Crockett and University High and my dad went to Boone. We’ve had four or five generations here. We always came back here for Christmas, summers, spring break — this was our vacation. I’ve always known this area and I love this area. It always will be my home. Even if that takes me to Dallas or Atlanta to be stationed, this will still be my getaway to come back and see my family no matter what.”

Family has also become more important to Larkins after a year of college in Murfreesboro. Larkins said he’s thankful for the time he spent playing baseball with Cade, who is a football and baseball standout at Crockett, but coming back home has brought the two together in a way they never experienced before.

“After I left for college, I don’t know what it was, but me and him really became as close as could be,” Larkins said. “When I came back here, you could tell he grew up, I grew up and we started realizing we’re brothers. We aren’t enemies. Back when we were little, we always competed against each other. It was always me verses him. Even when we were 12 and 10, I could tell he was better than me at most things. I honestly was jealous of him. Now I’m proud of him as can be.

“He has something I’ll never have on him and that’s sports. He’s always been great at sports. That’s his thing. But now I have something he’ll never have and that’s flying.”

Now Larkins keeps that competitive spirit going in the air by doing challenges with his instructor to improve his flying skills. But the best part about flying, he said, might just be the mountain views from up above.

“There is nothing like flying through the mountains during the fall. There’s a reason why it’s so congested with pilots right now just in this area,” Larkins said. “Right now in East Tennessee, pilots are flying in just to get a glimpse of the Smoky Mountains with the mist and the fog and the peaks of the fall mountains and the trees.

“I try to go up about 9 or 10 a.m. right as the fog’s lifting. If you stay right underneath the fog, you can see the mountains, especially with the sun shining on them. It’s like nothing else, especially when you’re flying over Cherokee Lake, Douglas Lake, Boone or Watauga, having those backgrounds. Once you get up there you don’t want to leave.”

The Jonesborough pilot doesn’t just fly for the views and the thrill of it. Larkins also takes to the sky when he needs to clear his head. And when it comes to those future decisions, those will most likely be made while he’s high in the sky in his favorite place — the pilot’s seat.

“Whenever I’m in doubt or my mind is clouded over something, I literally hop in a plane and go fly around for an hour or two and I land and I’m a completely different person,” he said. “You get time to think. You just monitor your gauge and make sure everything’s okay and just sit there and think for a bit. I’ll be sitting there and looking out the window looking down at Cherokee Lake and flying over the mountains just thinking to myself about what I’m going to do with my life in the next couple of years. That’s where I’ve made some of my biggest decisions is in a plane. It’s something else.”

New school approved: county commission agrees to partner with town

Above is the conceptual site plan for the proposed Jonesborough school that the Town of Jonesborough initially presented when they unveiled the plan. The school will sit on 40 acres within town limits.


Staff Writer

It had been a long three years for the students, parents and community members awaiting a decision regarding the Jonesborough School project. It was also a long night when, just before 11 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 28, the Washington County Commission passed a resolution approving a construction project for a new Jonesborough K-8 School.

The commission voted 10-4-1 to approve a lease-purchase arrangement and inter-local agreement with the Town of Jonesborough to build a new school with athletic facilities off of North Cherokee Road. Commissioners Phil Carriger, Mike Ford, Steve Light and Robbie Tester were opposed. Commissioner Jim Wheeler, who is also the town’s attorney, recused himself from the vote.

“We have a dire need in Jonesborough right now,” Commissioner Danny Edens said regarding the school vote. “I personally feel like we’re lucky we don’t have a lawsuit over the issues in this school building we’re talking about. We have the opportunity to do something. We have the opportunity to do the right thing for the children of Jonesborough.”

The four agreements with the town include an inter-local agreement between the county, the town and the Washington County Board of Education; a lease-to-own deal for the school building; a lease for the athletic and recreation facilities; and a purchase-option agreement.

The decision to approve the plan came after five hours worth of discussion — and a slew of amendments.

The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen held a meeting at 4 p.m. on Monday where it unanimously passed amendments to the inter-local agreement, building lease and facilities lease, which the county also passed, with a few changes.

The biggest change was related to the project’s total cost. At the county’s called Oct. 17 meeting, the attorney representing the county, Culver Schmid, said the county had a project cap at $32 million. At the Oct. 28 meeting, Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest suggested the county consider changing the amount to $32,750,000 to cover construction costs with interest. That amendment passed with a 9-5-1 vote.

The conversation didn’t just involve the town, the county and the county school system, though.

Before the school vote, the commission also passed a resolution allowing the county mayor to investigate and negotiate with the City of Johnson City and the Local Education Agency “to identify terms that would resolve dispute over the interpretation of the Jonesborough Proposal.”

Because the school project would be financed by the town, which, unlike the county, is not required by law to share education project funds with city school systems within the same county, the plan does not include shelling out funds to the Johnson City School System.

Another proposal was also suggested at the meeting.

Commissioner Phil Carriger said he felt he had found a way to save the taxpayers at least $12 million. Carriger said he was told Johnson City could borrow the $32 million for the Jonesborough School at a 2.5 to 2.65 percent interest rate. He also said Johnson City’s city manager emailed him with a proposal to borrow the money for the Jonesborough School with the city “acting as a financial conduit only,” Carriger said. The proposal, the commissioner said, would eliminate a facilities lease payment with the town.

“That got me to thinking, ‘is there a way to pay the taxpayers some money?’ We’re all taxpayers here,” Carriger said. “I think this is something — because of the size of the money — we need to take a look at, pause and think about. We have an obligation to see if there’s a better deal out there for the taxpayers.”

Edens and Commissioner Kent Harris questioned the savings Carriger mentioned. Meanwhile, commissioners Freddie Malone, Larry England, Jodi Jones and Suzy Williams voiced interest in Carriger’s suggestion.

However, Malone said he felt they had a “bird in hand” with the town’s school proposal. He also asked if the town would be willing to give the county a 30-to-45-day evaluation period to consider the suggestion.

“I want the best of both worlds. So I’m intrigued,” Malone said. “I am grateful for (the town) having brought us to this point. But if there is an opportunity to save $12 million, I don’t want to turn a blind eye to that either. I would hate to walk away tonight and not approve what we are so close to accomplishing, but with the understanding that we are at least going to evaluate this (proposal) with the City of Johnson City.”

Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest said more than half of the money for the facilities lease will go towards maintenance of the recreational and athletic facilities. The town also agreed to take on maintenance of the Jonesborough School grounds, along with the athletic facilities, and Boones Creek School’s athletic facilities and school grounds, as amended in the inter-local agreement.

As for delaying the bond issuance for 30 days, Vest said that was out of the question.

“There’s no way we get this rate we have right now (if there is a delay). It could go up, it could go down,” Vest said. “Yeah, roll the dice. But you’ve rolling the dice for three years. It’s time for eight or nine of you to say let’s get this thing done. It’s time to make something happen.”

Editor meets founder of Herald & Tribune at ‘Spot on the Hill’

Herald & Tribune founder M.S. Mahoney, comes back to share his memories in “A Spot on the Hill”. (Photo by John Kiener)


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I finally got to meet Dr. M. S. Mahoney, co-founder of the Herald & Tribune, at “A Spot On The Hill” on Saturday afternoon, Oct.19.  With Mahoney was his wife Margaret.  I recognized her as one of the ladies pictured in the 1912 Homecoming pictured by Jonesborough’s Old Mill Spring.

I had visited the Old Cemetery at the top of East Main Street before. However, my memory flashed a scene of brambles and overgrown weeds nearly overtaking a mixture of grave stones scattered over an area that offers an amazing view of Tennessee’s oldest town.

What I found Saturday was a neatly groomed place of solitude now occupied by the souls of many of the town’s most famous residents. With deference to the Reverend William Cate, first minister of the First Baptist Church in Jonesborough, I write of souls using a definition that says they represent the disembodied spirit of a dead human being.

Reverend Cate stood just a few feet from me as he pointed out the large, brick home next to the cemetery where he helped found the Holston Baptist Female Institute. Margaret Mahoney said, “I can remember when educating women was a radical idea.”  The minister was also there when a new church was built and opened in the 1850s.

Anne G-Fellers Mason, acting director of the Heritage Alliance, prompted my soulful response when after being urged to visit the cemetery, signed her invitation “The Spirits look forward to sharing with you.”

Saturday, I met the spirits.

The ghosts I met on an overcast, somewhat chilly day promising rain were real. However, they also had actor’s names that 21st Century residents of Jonesborough will recognize as living persons with talents that took the nearly 50 people viewing the scene with me to another time.

Mason played Lucinda Broyles whose family founded the community of Broylesville in the 1780s. They also operated the old Broylesville Inn and a Mercantile Establishment.  The Inn burned a few years ago but the rest of the community has become a Historic District.

At the “Spot,” also known as College or Rocky Hill, Gordon Edwards was cast as the program’s Funeral Director. For those who miss attending one of the five performances of “A Spot On the Hill,” Edwards provides residents and visitors tours of the cemetery. For additional details about the tours, telephone (423) 753-9580 or go to

“Oliver” Ross played by Taylor Santucci and “Harriet” Ross played by Kail Papas were actually unnamed children of Oliver and Harriet Ross. Their father was a postmaster and Methodist minister. Their mother was the sister of Confederate General Alfred Eugene Jackson and for a time the family lived in the middle section of Sister’s Row. The two actors began a game of “heads and tails” using a coin for the answer “yes or no” concerning the outcome of a series of the old town’s historical events.

“I wanted the Herald & Tribune to be different,” Dr. Matthew Sevier Mahoney played by Stephen Goodman said. Now celebrating its 150 years of existence in Jonesborough, Dr. Mahoney and Dr. C. Wheeler in August 1869 stated the paper’s purpose was to be “Republican in  politics but sufficiently independent to condemn wrong and expose fraud by whomsoever committed…” 

Cost of a subscription of what was said to be the largest weekly publication in East Tennessee was $2 yearly. The paper’s promotion of education was emphasized.  Readers would benefit from national news and reports of worldwide events provided by stories transmitted by telegraph. 

In her presentation, Margaret Mahoney (1832-1919) played by Katy Rosolowski wanted her audience to know, “I had influence.” Her friend Mary Dosser Reeves (1849-1931) was portrayed by Jules Corriere. She was the daughter of James and Caroline Dosser.

Dosser built a three-story building across from the Washington County Courthouse and formed a partnership with a man named McEwen in which men and women’s apparel were sold.

Mrs. Mahoney said the 1912 Homecoming “was lovely.”  She regretted that her husband, born in1832, died in 1883, did not see the new century. She was proud of the part he played in the establishment of the Herald & Tribune.

The most dramatic presentation of the day was by Stefanie Murphy as a cholera casualty.  There were at least 15 members of the African American community who died during the cholera epidemic of 1873.  The names of the deceased are known but not where they are buried. College Hill Cemetery was not founded by the Colored Peoples Cemetery Society until the 1890s.

For many years, there has been talk of a mass grave in the cemetery. In the epidemic, at least 35 people died in a Jonesborough community of 100 persons. Many people fled town. The African American minister, physician and teacher Hezekiah B. Hankal stayed and provided health care to everyone, both black and white. He was credited for saving a number of lives. I was handed a front page copy of the Herald & Tribune, Volume V, No. 3 dated Thursday, October 9, 1873 containing a front page article on Cholera and Yellow Fever with a sub-heading titled “EDITORS APPEAL” during this segment of the outdoor, hour-long play.

J. W. Patterson (1854-1895) played by Kyle Mason made it clear that the railroad was not responsible for the cholera epidemic.  He explained that “Physicians and medicines were transported for free” by the railroad.  He recalled that the railroad had arrived in Jonesborough when he was three years old with a train that could travel 15 miles per hour. “Townspeople were terrified of the train,” Patterson said but “I was not.

“My mother saw me watching the trains and asked if I could get a job on the railroad.  I lived in Bristol, got married and had three children.  I worked on the railroad for 23 years but died early when an engine jumped the tracks and I was killed instantly.”

A long-time teacher and daughter of a former town mayor, Alice Slemons (1850-1939) played by Allison Shapiro, lived in the Slemons House in Mill Spring Park.  She sold the land to the town that would become Town Hall in the 1930s. Her home is now the Storytelling Resource Place.

Slemons said she “loved to teach. You would not believe what they expected of teachers. We were to keep the temperature at the school at 70 degrees. School provided the foundation of character with its purpose to prepare themselves for usefulness.”

Mike Keeler played the Reverend Cate, mentioned previously: (born in 1807 – died in 1860).  He believed in revivals and said he had converted 500 persons to the Baptist faith. His effort in bringing religion to Jonesborough residents continues today.

I returned to my car parked at the First Baptist Church parking lot at 201 E. Main Street.

Anne Mason wrote “A Spot on the Hill” using a number of references from articles published in the Herald & Tribune in her research. She was co-director along with Gordon Edwards of the performance.  Preshow music was arranged by Stephen Goodman.

There are two more shows Saturday, Oct 26. The 6:30 is sold out, but there is space at the 2 p.m. matinee that takes place inside the Jonesborough/Washington County History Museum.

The complete cast of spirits reminded the audience as the performance concluded:   

CHOLERA VICTIM (Stefanie) Death’s a funny thing, a humbling thing, and a certain thing.  So a lesson to you, our visitors.  When you come to your spot on the top of the hill, and gave all you could so that others can live, then you must sit, with the things you did and did not do, and find your peace at last.

The CHORUS replied:

There’s a spot on the hill; Where you look down below;

At the town that bustles; And the town that flows;

And the town that does nothing but grow, grow, GROW.

And you see what you gave; And all that you did;

The sacrifice you made; For your spot on the hill.

Back to school: Oak Hill program celebrates 20 years

Jean Smith, Katy Rosolowski and Phyllis Davlin (middle) share memories. (Photos by Lisa Whaley)



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Memories came a-calling at Oak Hill School in Jonesborough Sunday, as the historic one-room schoolhouse celebrated 20 years of its heritage education program with a reception and open house.

“My aunt that raised me taught school here,” said Jim Brant, as he looked around the bright green interior of the school that he attended with his aunt as a small boy. “I was born in ‘33 and it was before I started school so probably 1937 I’m thinking.

“They had a rod through there and they had a curtain. And the lower grades sat on one side and the higher grades sat on the other side.”

“I just run around,” he added with a grin.

Oak Hill School still stands today.

The school was built in 1886 and was originally located in the Knob Creek area of Johnson City. It was a part of the Washington County School System until the 1950s, educating students in first through eighth grades.

The building was moved to Jonesborough in the 1990s to save the school and is now the largest artifact in the collection of the Jonesborough & Washington County History Museum. It’s also become an invaluable historical resource for local schools.

“Our main goal is preserving this history and saving this building for future generations,” explained Anne G’Fellers Mason, acting director for the Heritage Alliance, the organization that oversees the school. “It was such an important part of Knob Creek, that community history and, of course, the history of one-room schoolhouses.”

The heritage education program that was being celebrated on that day, Oct. 13, is an important part of the school’s legacy, according to Mason.

“We really wanted intentionally to have that experiential learning piece and atmosphere,” Mason said.

Jill Sauceman, who was also at the celebration, was the author given the responsibility all those years ago of coming up with the curriculum for the program.

“I always say this is my baby because it actually took nine months from the first word to the last word on the page,” Sauceman said.

One of the challenges, she remembers, was deciding on a time period for the program.

“It just so happened while I was working on it, Ruth Broyles came in with a box full of literature and manuals from Washington County School System,” Sauceman recalled. “Some of them were well over 100 years old.

“I went through it and found a manual for 1892….It had everything I needed for 1892 for Washington County Schools”

That decided it, she said. And to this day, when students walk into the school, they walk into a 1892 classroom, from curriculum to clothing to appropriate behaviors.

“To think it’s still going,” Sauceman said, shaking her head. “It’s just amazing.”

Jean Smith, too, has felt the rapid passage of time. Twenty years ago, she was the University School teacher leading the first class through the program. Today, she volunteers at the school.

“This is something that fits right down my alley,” Smith said. “First of all, I’m a retired teacher and I’m a retired fourth grade teacher. And so the social studies content was always my favorite subject…

“It was a perfect living history experience for them.”

Of course, for many of Sunday’s visitors, like Brant, this event was more of a chance to step back into their own classroom histories.

Katy Rosolowski was on hand to give her mother, Phyllis Davlin, a look into the past, if not a Washington County past.

“I loved this,” Davlin said. “It brought back memories.”

According to Rosolowski, the one-room schoolhouse reminded her mother of visiting schools with her father.

“My sweet mama grew up in rural central Illinois in a little tiny town,” she explained. “My grandad, her father, was a teacher and became superintendent of schools. He would go visit all the one-room school houses. This would have been in the mid to late ‘30s.

“Sometimes mom, who was the only girl in the family, would get to go with him on a Saturday with a little box camera, because grandad would take pictures of the school house and sometimes the teacher. That is her connection.”

For Cassandra Mabe, the visit was an opportunity to remember her mother, as well as her own ties to the old school.

“My mother was Agnes Pritchett,” Mabe said. “She taught here from 1946-1947, the year I was born. She walked to school every day.”

As the teacher, Mabe said, her mother would make lunch for the children each school day.

“And she said some of the children were so poor they came barefoot to school.”

Of course for Brant, the historic school is still all about being a little 4-year-old boy, romping around his aunt’s classroom and being charged with the task of bringing in the water for all the thirsty school children..

“I’d go to the spring house with some of the older boys,” Brant recalled, then paused.

“That spring house is still there,” he said.

Langston reborn: Town alderman continues work with city landmark

Adam Dickson, the Langston Centre supervisor and a Jonesborough alderman, is excited to help lead the former Johnson City African-American High School on to a new purpose and future.


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“It is important that all aspects of the community are engaged,” said Adam Dickson, Langston Center supervisor, as he prepares for the dedication of the remodeled school building in Johnson City that served as the African-American high school for Washington County during a period of racial segregation from 1893 until 1965.

The old school will soon be a cultural arts center.

Members of the community will be invited to celebrate the centre’s opening on Sunday, Nov. 17, from 2 to 5 p.m. Dickson envisions people walking from what is now the Princeton Free Will Baptist Church (formerly Thankful Baptist) at 104 Water Street to the Langston Centre location just off the Watauga/Unaka exit from Interstate 26. The walk will commemorate the journey students took in November 1893 when classes first began at the school.

Dr. Hezekiah B. Hankal (1816-1875), the African-American minister, physician and teacher for whom the Washington County Health Department Building is named, was instrumental in the establishment of Langston. Living relatives of Dr. Hankal are being invited to attend the dedication.

Dickson, who serves on the JonesboroughBoard of Mayor and Aldermen, was appointed to his supervisor’s post in July of this year. A 1996 graduate of David Crockett High School, he received a master’s degree in public administration at East Tennessee State University in 2004. He will be one of a four-person team tasked to provide programming at the Langston Center.

After use of the building as a school was discontinued in 1965, the facility saw service as the school maintenance facility for Johnson City Schools. In recent years the non-profit Langston Education & Arts Development (LEAD) and the City of Johnson City entered into a collaborative effort by way of a public-private partnership to transform Langston into a new community-based, multicultural arts and education center.

The result has been a renovation project totaling approximately $2.3 million. In addition, the City of Johnson City has received a STEAM educational grant at the rate of $103,000 for each of five years that will support educational programming for children in grades three through eight. 

STEAM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in five specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Rather than teach the five disciplines as separate and distinct subjects, STEAM integrates them into a cohesive learning paradigm based on real-world applications. The grant will provide funding for an educational supervisor and three teachers at the school.

Adam Dickson is ready to get to work on the center.

“The opening of the Langston Centre is important today because of the national climate,” Dickson said. “It will emphasize inclusion and show people an approach to building community and respect for others. We want it to be the city’s multi-cultural hub. Once we begin programming, there will be activities for all ages.”

Heading a list of excited individuals anxious for the centre to open is Michael Young, the chairman of LEAD which includes a number of Langston alumni. He says the group has been meeting for four years working to celebrate the opening of the facility. Renovations to the building have been underway since 2018. 

In 1965, Young was the last graduate of the high school.

A variety of fundraising efforts by the LEAD organization have taken place, including an evening banquet featuring Storyteller Shelia Arnold at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough in February of this year that netted $10,000. LEAD pledged a campaign goal of $500,000 to ensure the building’s original design could be implemented.

The centre’s first floor will include three classrooms and a media center. Podcasts from the media center are anticipated in the future as well as video recordings recalling alumni experiences at the school.

Dickson hopes that video recollections will include historical accounts of places like Johnson City’s Roan Hill where a number of African-American families had houses. The families lived in an area where Pine Oaks Golf Course in now located. He also thinks there should be remembrances of the efforts of Washington County Commissioner Mary Alexander, now deceased.  She was an early leader in the effort to preserve Langston High School.

The second floor at the Langston Centre contains a large multi-purpose room (the school’s former gymnasium) that will have a stage. It is large enough for community events and can be configured for both programs and banquet arrangements. The finished Langston Centre will be fully heated and air conditioned. 

Randy Trivette, Johnson City’s director of facilities management, said CRC Construction Services is nearly finished with work on the building. The city’s public works department is scheduled to perform the facility’s grading, sidewalk construction, parking lot paving, curbing and landscaping.    

Still in process are the collection of artifacts from the school such as band uniforms, yearbooks, photographs and trophies, some of which are currently stored at the Carver Recreation Center in Johnson City. They will be arranged and displayed in cases on the first floor. 

Volunteers will be needed once the Langston Centre is open. Individuals who have artifacts or are interested in volunteering at the Centre can contact Dickson at (423) 676-5547.

It’s all about family: South Central celebrates 80 years

J.W. McKinney, principal at South Central, stands beside his photo and one of his dad, who also served as principal at the Washington County school in the ‘70s. This school and its community are family, McKinney says.


Staff Writer

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Most birthday parties include cake, activities and family and friends. And South Central Elementary School’s 80th birthday party will be no different.

The school has scheduled a birthday celebration for Thursday, Oct. 3, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the school and will include nostalgic South Central Fall Festival games, a dunk tank, inflatables, birthday cake and barbecue with fixings. A bluegrass band, which is sponsored by Above and Beyond Quality Structures, will also be performing.

South Central School has been a staple in the community for 80 years.

“You gotta have a party when a big birthday like that comes up,” said J.W. McKinney, the head principal at South Central Elementary School. “I mean, it’s important, just like the 50th birthday. I remember the 50th birthday as a kid and it was a big deal. Eighty is a big deal and I think 100 is a big deal. It’s important just to have those milestones for a school and a community.”

The school was built in 1939 when three small community schools — Mt. Carmel, Enon, Liberty and Philadelphia — consolidated into South Central Elementary School. Since then, a second portion was finished in 1998 and, most recently, the school was re-roofed over the summer, which also inspired the newly painted blue and white walls throughout the halls.

But come time for the celebration, the focus won’t be on the building — it’ll be on the people who make up the South Central community.

“The community is the school, the school is the community,” McKinney said. “We play baseball and softball on the ruritan’s fields. We partner with the ruritan and they have their craft fair in our building, things like that. We all kind of have to work together. It’s 30 minutes to Johnson City; it’s 25 minutes to Greeneville. We’re kind of out here on our own a little bit. So without that community atmosphere, we don’t get the things done we need to get done for any of us.”

It’s about history, but it’s also about family ties.

When asked why it’s important to look back on South Central’s history, McKinney said he felt the celebration and the rich tradition is mostly about family for the South Central Wildcats.

“For me, it’s less about history and more about family,” McKinney said. “It’s a generational family school. You’re probably looking at fifth-generation students at this point.”

South Central has preserved its history throughout the years with plaques and this old gym floor cut out that proudly keeps watch over the Wildcat gym.

To honor those family connections, the event will also include a memory walk with hundreds of photos and yearbooks throughout the years for South Central Wildcats, both former and current, to browse through for familiar faces.

“They can go back and see their grandparents and their great-grandparents were part of the same school they’re at,” McKinney said. “One of our teachers was homecoming queen here once upon a time. And we were able to go back and find her aunt that was the homecoming queen before her.”

Having a family connection to South Central is something the head principal understands completely. But instead of looking through boxes of photos and yearbooks so old some of the photo captions were handwritten, McKinney only needs to look up to remember his deep South Central roots.

McKinney’s father, also named John Wesley McKinney, was the head principal of the school in the ‘70s. So when McKinney came to South Central as the principal last year, after serving as principal at Grandview, Ridgeview, and Boones Creek, he felt he had returned home.

“It’s already on the wall,” McKinney said, looking at the photo hanging in the doorway of his office. “One of the folks here took a picture of me from last year when I was added to the rural principal academy and found a picture of dad in the yearbook and put it in the same frame. It was very special.”

It’s those family ties that not only bridge generation gaps, but also brings the entire community together. And South Central, McKinney said, is a community that offers a closeness that can be hard to obtain in larger schools.

“When I was at Ridgeview and we were pushing 850 (students), it was hard to know every kid and really get to know them,” McKinney said. “I might know their names, but to really have that connection is super hard. I think we get to a point where schools are too big for the principal to be able to take a personal approach and really know the kid and the family. If I need to do a home visit or talk to somebody, I can do that here.”

McKinney said he’s hoping that small but mighty community joins the school in celebrating the anniversary milestone — and that South Central Wildcats of all generations feel that same connection McKinney feels each time he looks at that picture in his office.

“South Central is a family school,” he said. “The tradition here is imbedded in the parents because they were here. You’re kind of honoring your family by going back and looking at the school’s history.”

County votes to move ahead on school plan — with caution



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In a meeting that could have easily been dubbed “urgency vs. caution,” the Washington County Commission voted to approve a resolution in support of the proposed Jonesborough school plan, but also added a workshop into the mix to give commissioners the opportunity to go over the details of the plan more thoroughly.

“If we do this correctly, and we position ourselves to successfully defend it, we’ll save the taxpayers a lot of money,” Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy told the board after the vote. “If we blow our way through this and we get some of this wrong or we miss something, it could possibly cost the taxpayer a significant amount of money.”

The workshop will be held sometime prior to Oct. 17 and will involve county and Jonesborough attorneys, as well as additional counsel. It will be announced five days prior to the workshop and after final leasing documents are complete.

Jonesborough’s school plan includes constructing and then leasing to the county a new K-8 school building, as well as athletic facilities to be located on a 48-acre tract on North Cherokee Street in Jonesborough.

The building payment for the county would be $2,362,000 a year, which the county’s finance director, Mitch Meredith, has said is “a doable plan.” At the end of that lease, the school board would own the building. The athletic facilities, however would continue to be maintained and owned by the town.

This plan, according to Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest, is under some urgency to make it viable.

“From the beginning, it has been our singular goal to keep this proposal as clean and clear as possible so it could move through the approval process,” Vest said. “I apologize to anybody who thinks we moved too fast. We think it is definitely necessary.

“The future is uncertain. You never know how things can change.”

Commissioner Jim Wheeler, who recused himself from the vote to act in his role as Jonesborough town attorney, suggested an Oct. 15 deadline to be able to lock in and take advantage of favorable interest rates.

But commissioners were hesitant to lock into too quick a deadline. Commissioner Freddie Malone amended the motion to give Commission Chairman Greg Matherly the authority to call a special meeting of the board before Oct. 17 to consider the specifics of the 20-year lease agreement between the county and the town. He added the two days to provide officials with a little cushion.

The motion passed by a 13-0 vote with Wheeler abstaining because of his role as town attorney. Commissioner Steve Light was absent from the meeting.

The vote was met with applause from a packed courtroom, many of whom spoke during the public comment part of the meeting in support of the school.

“We’ve come a long way,” said Kerrie Aistrop, longtime Jonesborough school advocate. “We went magnet school to we’re not going to get anything to now we have this plan.

“I know there are some challenges ahead. I just want to say thank you for actually looking into this.”

Passing the torch: Alliance’s Montanti set to retire

Deborah Montanti stands on the upper porch of one of her favorite buildings in town, The Chester Inn on Main Street.



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On that first day, 17 years ago, when Deborah Montanti stepped through the doors of the Duncan House ready for her new position as Heritage Alliance education director, she still remembers how quiet the rooms were, empty of staff already chasing down the business of the town.

This week, as Montanti prepares for her last day as the Alliance’s executive director, those same rooms are anything but silent.

Like the town she has worked to preserve, the walls within which she has labored are now overflowing with the stories she has fought so hard to save.

“This is not a job you can easily walk away from,” Montanti admitted, looking around at what will soon be her old office in the Duncan House. “And I am sure there will be days where I am sitting on my front porch going ‘what did I do?’”

But she is also sure of one other thing.

“It’s the right time,” Montanti said. “And I know the Heritage Alliance is going to be well cared for.”

Montanti first came to the Heritage Alliance in 2002. At that time, she was already living in Jonesborough and working as director of Rocky Mount Historic Site in Piney Flats. She was thinking about lightening her workload to be able to spend more time with her family when she heard about the job opening.

“The thing that attracted me the most to the Heritage Alliance was Oak Hill School,” Montanti recalled. “It was that program that I wanted to be part of. That’s why when I heard that job was open, I kind of jumped at it.”

Montanti was met that first day with a welcome note and a stack of materials to read, including two History of Washington County books, Paul Fink’s book on Jonesborough and the “Architectural History of Jonesborough.”

“I read as much as I could read in one setting and then I went out and started walking around and talking to people,” Montanti said. “And I quickly discovered — and this lasted for many months — that trying to find my way around this little town was really hard work, because nobody knows the addresses of anyone.”

Instead, she said, there was lots of “It’s by the Haws house or go up to the this-and-that or the other thing house.”

Just navigating and trying to learn the history of Jonesborough’s houses would keep her busy for months.

“I spent a lot of time with old walking tour brochures, just walking the streets of Jonesborough,” Montanti recalled, laughing. “Steve Cook called me Jonesborough’s least expensive street walker.”

It was during those walks that Jonesborough began to weave its magic.

“I was already magically in love with Oak Hill School,” Montanti said. “I don’t remember how long it was, but it was sometime during that first year, when it happened.

“I came into town really early one morning, and walked around and ended up back here sitting on the porch, just watching the sun come over and thinking, ‘This is a job? How lucky am I that this is where I work.’ ”

Not long after, Montanti found herself stepping in to replace Randy Sanders as the Heritage Alliance’s executive director.

While her title changed, her commitment had not. And, for the next 15 years, Montanti would help bring in a new era for the Heritage Alliance, expanding its role and broadening its impact.

Throughout her work, Montanti has found many favorite places throughout town, but two, she said, stand out.

“The Chester Inn and the Warner Institute,” she said. “The Warner Institute speaks to me in so many ways, but I hear the footsteps of every student who ever dreamed of a better life in that building. The story of the Warner Institute gives me cold chills today.

“The Chester Inn wraps me in a feather bed and makes me feel at home. It’s a weary traveler coming off the road and finding warmth and comfort and companionship.”

One of her brightest moments as executive director, in fact, has been the opening of the Chester Inn to the public. But it is the people with whom she has worked that have given her the greatest sense of accomplishment.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what am I most proud,” Montanti said. “In all honesty, Anne Mason, Joe Spiker and Jacob Simpson, even though Jacob had to leave us. Anne and Joe, they have both grown so much and it’s been just such an honor to watch them grow in their careers and to watch them fall in love with this town the way I have to fall in love and honor the work.”

They were also the ones who have given her the freedom to retire.

“It’s been something I’ve been thinking of doing for maybe a year now,” Montanti admitted. “I went out on medical leave, and while I was out, it became really clear that Anne was ready.”

As she recovered from the knee surgery that prompted the medical leave, she said she was watching closely.

“When it became so apparent that Anne was really ready, I just felt this huge weight lift off my shoulders. I just knew this is the right time. This is the perfect time.”

“Anne will be named acting director upon my leaving,” Montanti continued. “And there will be a search conducted. There is a procedure that they have to go through. It will be advertised. And I am hoping Anne applies and that she gets it.”

Of course, retirement from the Heritage Alliance doesn’t mean Montanti is leaving the town. It continues to work its spell, and she doesn’t see that as ever changing.

“Jonesborough has its ups and down like any small town,” Montanti said, looking back. “And the organization has had its ups and down. And I’ve fallen in and out of love so many times, like we all do in any long-term relationship.

“It still remains one of the most privileged things I have ever been able to do, to serve this town, to serve these buildings. To be the voice of these buildings. To be able to honor the stories and the lives of the people who have come before. This is just a magical place.”

Montanti pauses for a moment and looks out the window.

“Bob Browning calls it ‘Brigadoon’ and we’ve all kind of thought that that was funny.  But he’s not wrong,” she said. “He’s not wrong.”

As for the future?

“I’m looking forward to falling in love with Jonesborough all over again.”

Ruritan plans ‘Touch-A-Truck’ event


Telford Ruritan plans on showing off a bit of their history while honoring first responders at their upcoming October event.


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The Telford Ruritan is offering the community the chance to meet local first responders at its first “Touch-A-Truck” event.

The ruritan will host the event on Saturday, Oct. 12, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will give adults and kids of all ages the opportunity to look inside fire trucks, police vehicles, ambulances and more all while in the presence of first responders and emergency personnel.

“Kids love to come and see these things,” ruritan member Dan Westbrook said. “Parents have to bring them so we kind of meet all ages and get to introduce them to the ruritan and the building with this function.”

The ruritan will also welcome visitors to the building that used to be the Telford School building long before it was the location of the now defunct Washington County Canning College. Now the club is hoping to make the building more of a community space all while honoring first responders.

“We are looking for functions now to reintroduce the ruritan and the building to the telford community and indeed have it as a community center for kids,” Westbrook said. “It’s a place to have various events. We want to re-purpose the building. This is just one way we thought we would do this.”

Ruritan members also hope the event will introduce the community to first responders in a positive way.

“It is so important (bringing first responders and the community together). Typically the average citizen doesn’t meet a fire personnel or a paramedic or a sheriff’s officer unless it’s under dire circumstances,” Westbrook said. “But they are members of our communities and in many instances they are our neighbors. You see them in the parades and they throw out candies to the kids, so there should be a good relationship and no fear of law enforcement and a sense of cooperation. The best way to establish that is meeting them one-on-one.”

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Jonesborough eyes 5-cent tax adjustment



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Jonesborough Board of Mayor & Aldermen are considering a 5-cent property tax increase to offset a shortfall resulting from 2019’s Washington County tax reappraisal.

The BMA voted at the Thursday morning called meeting to consider readjusting the town’s property tax rate, which last year was 1.305 and this year was set by the state at $1.1328, to accommodate the change.

“We can’t take a financial loss because of reappraisal,” Mayor Chuck Vest told the board. “Our burden is to fix it, so we will fix it.”

At issue is the current challenges going on in Washington County from property owners who believe the 2019 property appraisals were much too high. A Washington County appeal assessment committee has been given the authority to hold hearings and make adjustments, according to Browning. Hearings are held in 15 minute intervals.

“They listen to what you say and they tell you within 45 days or so of their decision,” explained Alderman Virginia Causey, who was one of the Washington County property owners to challenge her assessment this year.

The problem arises because the tax rate — based on that new assessment on Washington County property — comes out in early June, while challenges are accepted to September, Browning said. That means the tax revenue number town staff have to work with in establishing the budget can change remarkably as properties are reassessed.

“I’m sure nobody appeals for their property tax to go up,” Browning pointed out.

According to Town Recorder Abby Miller, revenue was down $23,000 as of Friday and reassessments were still going on.

In anticipation of making the tax rate adjustment, the board approved the $1.13 rate, with plans to make the change to $1.20 at the next BMA meeting, set for Sept. 9. Current law requires the town to advertise the change for 10 days prior to the meeting.

Vest stressed that while some may call the plan an increase, it’s simply the town working to meet the needs of its citizens.

“The state with this rate. . .. and then when you go through a reappraisal process, you can come out in the negative,” Vest said. “And it’s really left us, the municipalities, to find that balance.

“We can’t provide less services for our growing population, so to make our town whole we probably need to be in the $1.20,” he said.

Vest believes the town is still maintaining a good balance by pairing a lean budget with appropriate needs provided.

“In my eyes, the rate is going down and the property tax the town receives will be the same,” he said, citing last year’s rate of $1.31.

In other business, the town voted to maintain most other town rates but to increase the garbage collection establishment rate by $10, from a $40 one-time fee to $50. The garbage pickup rate would remain the same.

O’ brethren where art thou? County road sees spelling change

A challenge of similar names is causing confusion in the county.


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The confusion between Brethren Church Drive and the incorrectly spelled Brethern Church Road has plagued the community for decades. Now the Washington County Commission hopes it has officially taken the first step to decrease the problem.

At the Monday, Aug. 26, meeting, the Washington County Commission voted to correct the spelling of “Brethern,” but to keep “Road” instead of “Valley” (as suggested in the original resolution.) The resolution passed in 14-0 vote with Chairman Greg Matherly abstaining.

“I know this has been an ongoing discussion on this for several years,” said Matherly, who is also the county’s 911 director.

The road names have been confusing more people than just those driving through Jonesborough over the years. Washington County Emergency Communications District’s geographical information system coordinator, Lesley Music, told the commission there have been numerous misdirected emergency vehicles because of the confusion between the road names.

“We just keep having calls and we need to fix it,” Musick said. “Getting the location right the first time is the most important thing a dispatcher can do. We can dispatch a call in 30 seconds, but if we send them in the wrong direction, 30 seconds doesn’t matter. It may take 10, 20 or 30 minutes to correct that situation. If it’s your loved one that’s hurt or in distress or has a prowler at their door, who are you going to blame if we don’t get there in time because we sent them to the wrong location? We don’t take this lightly.”

Musick said multiple residents have called 911 and misspelled the road name, sending first responders to the wrong end of the county. She said in one instance, it took about 20 minutes for first responders to arrive, which is roughly how long it takes to get to the other road.

Musick wasn’t the only one who came to the commission with concerns; Freddie Jones, a Brethern Church Road resident, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting in hopes of keeping the current road name. He also said the confusion has left him with lost drivers on his property.

“Traffic started coming through on my road and I got to stopping people and asking them what’s the problem. They said, ‘the GPS said this is a shortcut,’” Jones said. “I just don’t think it’s right that we have to change our road where Brethern Church Road was established in 1853. It’s been that ever since.”

Musick said the community was adamant about keeping the road name during a February community meeting on the subject. She also said that’s when the suggestion to change the name to Brethren Church Valley came up.

Musick also said the two roads are in Jonesborough and only two homes on Brethern Church Road are in the Gray community. The two roads are also both home to similarly named churches; Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren was built around 1898 on Brethern Church Road while Pleasant View Church of the Brethren was built in 1878 on Brethren Church Drive.

Matherly said he felt correcting the spelling of the road in the northern half of the county along with changing the block ranges, which would be up to the Washington County Communications District, is the best solution to help alleviate the confusion.

“I think it’s critical that you do both of them,” Matherly said. “If you just go out and change the block range, then you still have the problem with Brethern Church Road being misspelled and you have two spellings of Brethren. I don’t feel like that’s sufficient for 911 to just change the block ranges. With 911 we can’t change the spelling of Brethren Church Road, so we really gotta have a partnership here and work together.”

Commissioners also said they hoped to see the block range changed. Currently Brethern Church Road goes from 100 to 869 while Brethren Church Drive goes from 100 to 385, Musick said. Making Brethern Church Road a four-digit block range rather than a three-digit range could help, officials said.

“We decided (we wanted to) correct the spelling of the road name, change the block ranges to four-digit numbers and re-address the road,” Musick said, thinking back to the community meeting. “There are many duplications of road names in the county, but this one just keeps on coming up.”

New School? Town’s school plan creates new questions

The audience applauds the new school proposal.

Update: On Thursday, Aug. 22, the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman passed a resolution in support of the Town of Jonesborough’s proposal to build and lease a new Jonesborough K-8 school to Washington County and any association preliminary documents involved. The Washington County Board of Education will hold a called meeting on Thursday, Aug. 29, at 5 p.m. to discuss the Jonesborough School building proposal.


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It’s been more than two years of looking over plans for the Jonesborough School project. But after Thursday’s joint meeting between the Washington County Commission, the Washington County Board of Education and the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen — when town officials presented a design plan for the project — it’s clear there are now even more pieces in the Jonesborough School project puzzle.

The plans for a potential Jonesborough School was unveiled by the town.

During the joint meeting at the McKinney Center, Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest proposed a plan for a “joint community school and recreation center” that would include a new Jonesborough School with recreation facilities on a 48-acre site on North Cherokee Street in Jonesborough.

“There are so many kids that need this,” Vest said. “We’ve done a lot of leg work to get us to this point. There’s no reason our three boards can’t come through and expedite this, approve this and get it going in short order.”

The plan calls for a $2,362,000 annual lease payment from the county over 20 years. At the end of that lease, the school board would own the building. Jim Wheeler, who is the town attorney and a county commissioner, said $2,637,000 would be available in the capital fund to make those annual payments, leaving $275,000 in the capital improvements fund to be used for other needs.

Mayor Chuck Vest unveils the proposal.

“We talked about thinking outside the box and getting creative (at the county’s previous budget meetings),” Wheeler said. “It kept coming to my mind that we needed to do something else other than just doing renovations to the school. I wasn’t the only one.”

So how would the plan work?

In the proposal, the county would lease the grounds for the recreational facilities —which include a baseball field, a softball field, two youth soccer fields, a track, soccer field and football field and a walking trail — from the town.

The town would secure the property, the financing, the selection of the architect and engineer and final approval of the final cost and design of the school.

As for the school board, it would operate and maintain the school building upon completion. The proposal also calls for them to sell the front of the Jonesborough Elementary property as well as the Midway property to a “tax paying individual or entity” after the new school is built. The money from the sale of those properties would then go to the county to “reimburse” the county capital improvements fund.

How does the school board and county commission feel about the town’s Jonesborough School proposal?

BOE Chairman Keith Ervin said he’s in favor of the plan, but there’s a lot to still be worked out.

“I’ve got mixed emotions about it,” Ervin said. “I feel like the board needs to be the one that’s designing the school and (choosing) the architect and everything. I just feel like we’ve been left out. It’s just taken a lot of decisions out of the board’s hand.”

As for the commission, Chairman Greg Matherly praised the town’s proposal saying he looked forward to seeing if a request for the plan comes to the commission from the BOE. Until then, he’s hoping to get more clarity on how the BOE and community feels about what many officials have called a “hopeful” plan.

“I told (the community) to bring a plan,” Matherly said, thinking back to the July commission meeting. “And that’s what they did. I’m encouraged. I really am.”

The proposed site, which sets on North Cherokee Street just past Thompson Meadow Lane behind the justice center in Jonesborough, is owned by Curtis Lynn. Town Administrator Bob Browning said the 48-acre tract is in a location that would get the school off of Highway 11-E, would be large enough for the school and recreational facilities — which also include an additional baseball and softball fields — and could also create growth in Jonesborough.

“The idea that you create a new school in a location that generates additional growth is certainly a factor,” Browning said. “When you improve access to the school, then you’re also improving access to inlets and areas with vacant property that could be developed. That was certainly a consideration that the county used in making a determination on locating the Boones Creek School where they did.”

This isn’t the first time the town has come up with a plan and a possible new location for the Jonesborough School; in 2015 plans for a community school on Boones Creek Road, which Browning said connects to the recently proposed Lynn property, was presented when the county and school board were still considering a renovation project for Jonesborough Elementary and Jonesborough Middle and a new K-8 school for Boones Creek.

“For quite a while we have been concerned about the Jonesborough School and whether a new one was going to get built or whether it was going to remain on the existing property,” Browning recalled. “We have supported any kind of consideration of moving the Jonesborough School off of that site because of the major congestion created every day the school is open in its existing location.”

Ervin said the school board plans to have a called meeting to discuss the proposal in the next week or so. Meanwhile, the Jonesborough BMA will meet on Thursday, Aug. 22 at 8 a.m. in the Town Hall board room to discuss the proposal.

“(The meeting will) give our BMA an opportunity to take a formal position in offering this opportunity to the county and the school board,” Browning said. “Individually, they have received updates on what we’re doing, but it becomes an opportunity for them to take a look at it and take a formal position for the Town of Jonesborough.”

Keeping to it: Group steps in to beautify school

Above, Ben Marshall (left) takes a break while Joseph Harless (right) continues the work on the school.


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When you drive by Jonesborough Elementary School, you might notice it’s recently been “beautified” by a team of hard working community members, parents and teachers.

The folks at WoodmenLife, a not-for-profit insurance company, chose Jonesborough Elementary as the location of its community beautification project. WoodmenLife Recruiting Sales Manager James Gilbert and three sales representatives — along with some hardworking volunteers — have since been putting the effort in to improve the entrance of the school by removing the overgrown trees and shrubs growing out front and improving the overall look of the building.

From left to right, Ben Marshall, James Gilbert, Scott Hyatt, Joseph Harless made up the WoodmenLife crew that worked to “beautify” the entrance of Jonesborough Elementary.

“We love taking care of the community,” Gilbert said. “(WoodmenLife) does this all over the United States. They gave us $500 bucks (to make improvements to the school) and it’s going to look good when we finish up. We just enjoy doing it because we just don’t advertise. We build relationships. That’s where we get our business.”

Gilbert, along with Joseph Harless, Scott Hyatt and Ben Marshall, were joined by Jim Lang, who plans to bring a Girl Scout Troop back to the school when the bushes are ready to be planted out front, and Jonesborough Elementary School art teacher Jan Allen who used her planning period to help clean up the front entrance.

“I got an email this morning from Jan Allen,” Principal Matt Combs said, “and she says, ‘I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt today so I can get out there and help those guys on my planning period.’ I said, That’s fine. You go right ahead.’ When I told (the teachers) what the plans were, it was, ‘wow’ all across the room. I think there’s been some excitement leading up to today.”

WoodmenLife chose Jonesborough Elementary as its beautification project due to the recent stirrings in the news and continued discussions about the future of a Jonesborough School project that has yet to reach a conclusion.

“I said ‘that’s the one I’ve been hearing a lot on the news.’,” Gilbert said. “I was actually sitting in Cootie Browns and someone behind me at the table was furious that this school was not getting any help but they’re building a new (school in Boones Creek). So I made the final decision.”

For Gilbert, these sort of projects are about getting his crew out in the community. And for Combs, it’s important because the people in the building deserve it.

“We have a great school,” Combs said. “We have a great faculty, we have awesome kids. The teachers come in this building come in here and they work really hard every day to give the best education possible to the kids we serve. The building is a building. It’s not the school. Could we use new walls? Yeah. Could we use windows in our building? Absolutely. But are we still going to come in here and give our students the best education we possibly can? Yes.”

Long before the beautification project began, Combs said teachers have continued to put work into keeping the building looking its best and plan to keep it up.

“Our teachers take pride in this building even though it is outdated,” Combs said. “Walk through and look at the classrooms. Look at the work they’ve put in on their own time this past summer painting walls, painting countertops, painting cabinets — the money they’ve spent to make this building look good and they do it because our kids deserve it.”

Combs said they also do it because they realize that even with yet another meeting set for Thursday to discuss the Jonesborough School project — this time with the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen — the current round building will still be home for students, teachers and staff until further notice.

“If they say ‘yes’ (to a plan for the school) on Thursday night, it’s going to be a minimum two or three years (before something is done). This is our building,” Combs said. “This is our school for the next two years, three years, 10 years, 20 years — however long they decide they want to be in it.

“Regardless of whether they say we’re getting a new school or whether they say we’re not, we’re going to take care of this building as long as we possible can, as long as it’s ours to take care of.”

Until something is decided, flowers will be planted, a fresh coat of orange paint will be placed on the paw prints leading to the front doors — and the people inside those doors will still be doing their best.

“If they put tents out there in front of the building and said, ‘this is where you’re going to have your classes,’ that’s fine.” Combs said. “We’d go out there and do what we need to do. And we’ll still do the good job that we always do.”

Crockett heating repair declared an ‘emergency’

Todd Ganger, Chad Fleenor and Jason Day discuss the boiler at Crockett.


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Replacing the heating system at David Crockett High School has now become an “emergency” for the Washington County Board of Education.

The board opted to take no more than $200,000 from its fund balance to replace the boiler at Crockett at the board’s monthly meeting held on Thursday, Aug. 1. Flanary said the Purchasing Act of 1957, which the county operates under, requires that public bids have to be let out though public advertisements and “that didn’t happen.”

“There is a very good possibility that if it had to go back all the way through the bid process, it would be way way into cold weather before this thing’s back on,” Flanary said to the board. “We think it qualifies as an emergency. (The schools’ finance director, Brad Hale) says we will probably get written up anyway because there’s so much money involved. But we’ve got to heat Crockett. If the school decides to close for three or four days because they decide it’s too cold, with 1,100 students a day and that funding loss, $200,000 all the sudden isn’t that much money.”

Because the boiler replacement will also be a part of Energy Savings Group’s savings package for the school board to consider, board member Chad Fleenor suggested the school board postpone the boiler conversation until the board’s meeting to discuss the ESG proposal. Fleenor’s motion to postpone failed in a 3-5 vote with Fleenor, Jason Day and Annette Buchanan in favor and Todd Ganger, Mitch Meredith, David Hammond, Mary Beth Dellinger and Keith Ervin in opposition.

“The reason I (want to) postpone it is I want Washington County government to pay for it instead of our fund balance, which is dwindling,” Fleenor said. “It’s ironic we talked about cost-cutting measures tonight on one hand and now we’re pulling $200,000 out of our fund balance. I just thought it’d be better if it came out of the capital money.”

However, the school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said the school system won’t get the invoice for the project until the job’s complete, at which time the ESG proposal could be approved by the school board and the county commission.

The county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee also approved the school system’s request for a cooling tower at Jonesborough Elementary School for $225,000 and for HVAC controls at Jonesborough Middle School for $63,229 at the committee’s Aug. 1 meeting. Should the commission approve those requests at its meeting this month, board members said those Jonesborough School requests and the boiler replacement cost could nearly balance each other out.

In addition to cost concerns, board members also said they were concerned about calling the boiler replacement an “emergency.”

“The only thing I worry about is it’s an emergency because we did it wrong,” Day said. “It’s not an emergency because it’s an emergency … we did the bid process wrong. We made that mistake. Is someone going to come back and say, ‘That really wasn’t an emergency, you just didn’t handle it right.’?”

Other board members felt it was still a necessary step in order to replace the boiler.

“That’s better than closing school because we don’t have heat for the kids,” Ganger said. “You can approve it tonight and regardless of what happens Thursday (at the ESG meeting), it’s not going to effect anything. You approve ESG and it’s in the scope of work anyway. We have to do it. It’s an emergency thing. We have got to get this fixed.”

The board will meet on Thursday, Aug. 8, to discuss the ESG proposal and the lease of driver’s education cars for the system. That meeting will be held at 5 p.m. at the central office located at  405 W College St., Jonesborough.

Boones Creek School celebrates opening

Left to right, school board members David Hammond, Mitch Meredith, Mary Beth Dellinger, Annette Buchanan, Chad Fleenor and former member Mary Lo Silvers cut the ribbon. Note: Boones Creek Principal Jordan Hughes squeezes in to take part.


Staff Writer

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The time had come. Parents, community members, teachers, and students of the Boones Creek community finally got the chance to walk through the doors of the brand new Boones Creek School on Saturday.

The Boones Creek K-8 School opened with a ribbon-cutting celebration and tour through the new building off of Highland Church Road. As folks weaved in and out of the brand-new library and 1,100-student gym with a giant paw print in the center of the hardwood, it was clear it was more than just a celebration of a new school year for the community. It was a celebration of new memories to be made.

“I know that this school is going to be a source of great pride for this community and the school will serve all of our students. We will be a family-centered school that creates that Boones Creek family that will last for years,” Principal Jordan Hughes said. “The building is a gorgeous building. I would go so far as to say it’s the prettiest school in East Tennessee.”

The over 1,300 square-foot school has a current student population of about 800 students — all housed in one building. In Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary’s opinion, that sets the school apart — not only as the county’s largest school — but as one of the largest in the area. (So large in fact, he gifted Hughes with her own skate board to get across the large school in record time.)

“Just south of here is Tennessee’s seventh largest high school and that’s Science Hill High School. It’s about 180,000 square feet over several buildings,” Flanary said. “The building behind me is over 130,000 square feet under one roof. It will be Washington County’s single largest school — bigger than Daniel Boone, bigger than David Crockett.”

The ribbon cutting also offered a chance to look back on the planning process for the Boones Creek School.

The school board started its planning process for the county system in 2012 and thus the combining of Boones Creek Elementary and Middle School was placed as the top priority. Then after over a year of searching for the site, the board of education decided on the Highland Church property with construction beginning for the school in the summer of 2017.

Principal Jordan Hughes shows off her skateboard courtesy of Director of Schools Bill Flanary.

“I was asked several times as I walked up to this building if I thought I’d ever see this day,” Tony Street, the school project’s architect said at the ribbon cutting. “I told them when I got up this morning, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or run. It has been quite a journey. It’s quite an honor to be here this morning.”

Just miles from where American historical figure Daniel Boone carved his name in a tree telling of his infamous slaying of a bear, or a “bar”, the new school will honor Boones Creek history as well.

“We should take care not to forget our beautiful history — Boones Creek High School, Boones Creek Middle School, Boones Creek Elementary School,” Hughes said. “Boones Creek has roots and we today are going to replant those roots here. We don’t want to forget where we came from. We want to embrace our history as we look toward the future.”

Replanting that history is now becoming a reality to families, community members and also those teachers who made the move from the old school to the new.

For eighth grade English and language arts teacher Katy Hancock, the reality of the school had finally set in during the ribbon cutting — and so has the opportunity for her students.

“I felt like the closer we got to the end of last year, the more excited everyone was as we were packing boxes and getting everything together,” Hancock said standing outside of her new classroom. “I’m most excited about being all in the same building as preK-8. I think it will create a lot of opportunities for our older kids to connect with a younger generation and be mentors.”

Though a brand new building and updated learning environment stood before the community on Saturday, it was clear the facility wasn’t the entire focus; for so many donning their red and black “Bar” t-shirts outside of the new school, the celebration was about the community and those who would be coming together in the newly constructed building.

“It is a state-of-the-art facility. It’s energy efficient, it’s safe, it’s collaboratively focused … you name it we have it,” Hughes said. “However, it’s not the building that makes the school. It’s the people that make the building. The teachers, using the best instructional practices and insuring that students learn, building relationships, challenging them to reach their full potential. It is Mrs. Brenda in the cafeteria cooking the food, serving your children daily with a smile on her face and love in her heart. It’s the ladies at the front office ready to help you in any way.

“It’s the students, the heartbeat of the school, the reason for our existence. It is them. They are the reason that this building is here and why we give our best every day. They’re the reason we strive for success and perfection. They’re our future.”

‘Safety over ballfields’: Parents’ frustration over Jonesborough school spills out during new athletic facility discussion

Kerrie Aistrop and Jamie Freeman display the difference between outside spaces for the new Boones Creek School and Jonesborough Elementary to the Washington County Commission.


Staff Writer

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Update: A joint meeting to discuss a “Jonesborough School building proposal” between the county commission, the Washington County Board of Education and the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen has been scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 15, at 6 p.m. at the McKinney Center located at 103 Franklin Ave., Jonesborough.

The poster-sized photos depicting the difference between the future Boones Creek School’s outdoor space and that of Jonesborough Elementary’s seemed huge as parent Kerrie Aistrop and local teacher Jamie Freeman held them in front of commissioners.

But somehow, those images and their impact only grew larger as commissioners considered the county athletic facility project versus the student needs in Jonesborough.

“Is it too much to ask that you say, ‘Okay, let’s get our priorities straight — children’s safety first and then let’s build those ballfields,’? Aistrop asked the commission. “I don’t think that’s a very unfair thing to ask.”

The Jonesborough School project, which last saw a “Scheme 6” design plan voted down by the county commission in May, came to the forefront during Monday’s meeting when commissioners considered phase one of the county’s sports facility project behind the new Boones Creek School. Phase one of the project for no more than $800,000 was approved in a 9-5 vote, with Steve Light, Kent Harris, Jerome Fitzgerald, Danny Edens and Mike Ford voting against (Robbie Tester abstained from the vote).

To parents and community members at the meeting, it was less about the dirt being used for the athletic project and more about putting funds towards upgrading Jonesborough Elementary and Middle Schools.

“If we have the money to open this brand new (Boones Creek) school and build ballfields, how can we possibly not have $800,000 that could remove the asbestos? Let’s spend the money to put in a fire system. I’m asking you all to prioritize the absolute needs in this county before we go and get extras,” Aistrop said.

“Think about the decisions that us Jonesborough parents are going through seeing this great school being built and this great idea of ballfields … But this is what we have,” she said as she tapped on the Jonesborough Elementary School photo. “And y’all are going to vote for $800,000 and then a $3 to $5 million sports complex down the road when we can’t even do anything to fix this.”

Aistrop and another parent, Josh Ledford, spoke at the meeting after parents received a letter that day saying the water in the cafeteria at Jonesborough Middle School had too much lead in its water supply according to state standards.

The news of the excess amount of lead in the cafeteria’s water, in addition to the commission’s decision to vote on the next step in the athletic facility project, were enough to bring Ledford back to the podium after two years of grid lock and a project standstill in regards to the elementary and middle schools in Jonesborough.

“I’m glad, genuinely, honest-to-God glad that the kids at Boones Creek are getting this school because those kids deserve it,” Ledford said. “I want my money that I pay for my taxes to go to our local government and straight to our kids. But when I see on one hand that my kid doesn’t have safe drinking water in the lunchroom and then there’s a meeting for a $5 million ball field, it hurts me. I grew up behind that middle school. I’ve lived here my whole life. I’m proud of this community. I’m glad to be a part of it and I want my children to be proud of it too. My kids can’t be proud of what they have.”

The budget for the athletic facilities project is $3.2 million. The Jonesborough School was originally set to be a renovation project for $10 million, and eventually had a $20,750,000 budget for a Jonesborough K-8 School renovation and addition project at the current elementary school site and the creation of a academic magnet at the middle school site. However, county officials maintained those dollars were not allocated and is no longer budgeted for a Jonesborough School project.

As for the future of the Jonesborough School project, Chairman Greg Matherly resulted back to that former plan to use $10 million for a Jonesborough renovation.

After coming down from the chairman’s bench in the courtroom to the commission floor, Matherly requested the school system “bring the plans” for that next step.

“Even up until the last few months, the last few (financial) proposals we had, (county financial director Mitch Meredith) told us we had $10 million to spend there at Jonesborough,” Matherly said. “Let’s get the plan together and bring it to this county commission. Let’s bring it to Jonesborough if that’s what we want to do. I’m for it, 100 percent. Let’s put the plan together. We’re just waiting for it.

“If it requires a tax increase to build a new school, this commission needs to consider that. It will take the support of the parents to do that. It will take support of the teachers, (the director of schools) Dr. Flanary. It will take so much support. But I think it’s very important.”

In consideration of the athletic facility project, commissioners expressed concern in approving the next step in the sports project while a solution has yet to be found for the schools in Jonesborough.

“When we can’t put the necessities out there for them, I don’t think we’re at the point where we can build four fields,” Ford said. “I just don’t feel like we’re there.”

As for Washington County’s other schools, Danny Edens said he felt those other schools also had athletic facility needs.

“We’ve got other county schools, not just Jonesborough,” Edens said. “South Central School, they bus their kids to a ruritan building too play baseball and softball. Jonesborough, among with all their other problems, they bus their kids to Persimmon Ridge to play softball, baseball and soccer. And they have to work their practices and their games around a whole entire age group of little leaguers because they have to share the field.

“So they don’t just have the drinking water problems and the asbestos problems and the mold problems and the roaches that are crawling out of the wall problems — because I’ve seen them. They’ve got other issues with their ball fields because they don’t have ball fields.

“And we’ve got a brand new school sitting out there for Boones Creek.”

Market to launch new cookbook

Pat Sheets shows off the new “Grow & Cook Book,” a community effort by Jonesborough.



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“This is what a whole community can do,” said Pat Sheets, proudly holding up the new Jonesborough Locally Grown cookbook to be released Saturday.

Jonesborough Locally Grown is the umbrella organization for the Jonesborough Farmers Market and year-round Boone Street Market.

Shoppers visit the Farmers Market.

Sheets is sitting in Boones Street Market surrounded by fresh, local produce as well as shelves, baskets and bins filled with locally prepared food products. The book, titled “Grow & Cook Book, ” features these products and more in the 200-plus recipes found within its covers.

“This book reflects what happens when you come to the Farmers Market,” explained Sheets, who is considered by many to be the genius behind the cookbook.

But Sheets is quick to discount her importance. The recipes, the stories, the photographs, the designs and more, she said, are all the contributions of an amazing group of 70-plus local volunteers who were determined to bring this project to a successful conclusion.

“Honestly, a whole community did this,” she stressed. “Everybody was in on it. They wanted to do it. They were willing. They volunteered their time.

“I had proofreaders, people that spent a lot of time. All I did was collect the stuff.”

Other key collaborators that brought the project to completion include graphic designer Lise Cutshaw and several financial supporters: individual donors, the Pick TN program of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and Interstate Graphics for printing.   

The idea for the cookbook began to form about four years ago when market supporters met to brainstorm.

“It was in the summer of 2015,” Sheets said. “I was on the board at the time, and it was like what kind of fun events can we do?

“It seemed like an obvious given. You got food. So how do you cook it?”

A cookbook project may have seemed an obvious one, but that didn’t mean it was easy. Sheets and fellow volunteers spent more than 36 months gatherings recipes from local farmers, chefs and a community of cooks in Jonesborough and surrounding areas.

Sheets also thought it was important to introduce readers to the farmers who were necessary in providing the ingredients. Their stories are at the front of the new cookbook.

“These are the farmers. This is what makes it possible,” Sheets said. “They had to be first in the story because they are what it’s all about.”

Chapters throughout the book are organized to mimic Farmers Market schedules. In the chapter “Spring Harvest,” for example, cooks can find recipes featuring early greens like Brussel sprouts and kale. In “Summer Harvest,” you can find ideas for beans, beets and turnips.

The full-color, spiral-bound book also includes a chapter on preserving the harvest with instructions on drying herbs, pickling, fermenting, making jellies and jams, canning, freezing and making broth at home.

There are even yellow-highlighted sections that provide guidance on how to plant the crops or cultivate bees.

“That’s the ‘grow’ part of the ‘Grow & Cook Book.’” Sheets said with a happy smile.

“I wanted our book to be extra special, because that’s how I see the market and all our farmer friends,” she added.

Such a special book deserves a special launch, Sheets believes. So this Saturday, July 20, at the downtown Jonesborough Farmers Market,  the new “Grow and Cook Books” will be available for purchase – for the first time – and samples will be on hand at the Saturday market to showcase a few of the recipes that can be found in the cookbook. Then, on Tuesday, July 23, from 6 to 8 p.m., the public is also invited to sample recipes at a reception honoring the cookbook contributors at Boone Street Market, 101 Boone Street.

From then on, the cookbooks will also be available for purchase at Boone Street Market, the Jonesborough Visitor’s Center, the International Storytelling Center, the Makers Market and Mauk’s of Jonesborough. Cookbooks cost $25 and all proceeds go to support Jonesborough Locally Grown.

Three-day festival ends with spectacular show

Jonesborough’s festival culminated in fireworks downtown. (photo by Cameo Waters)


H&T Correspondent

Hundreds turn out to celebrate the 49th Annual of Jonesborough Days on Saturday, July 6.

The festival began July 4 and ended Saturday starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. Each day had a main event.

Thursday’s big event was the was the Fourth of July parade that began at 10 a.m., Friday’s was a low country boil at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday’s was a firework display at 10 p.m.

The parade is a part of the annual festival that is a highly anticipated event by attendees. It traveled down the middle of Main Street and had 60 different floats.

According to Melinda Copp, Jonesborough’s events coordinator and owner of Makers Market, the event had a great turn out. She said that the low country shrimp boil also went well.

“We sold over 250 tickets to the boil,” Copp said.

The shrimp boil took place at the International Storytelling Center, and attendees enjoyed entertainment by the Ozone Rangers as they ate. 

Copp said they were hoping for an equally great turn out for Saturday’s events, but they had a slow start due to rain that morning.   

The rain stopped around 11:30 a.m. and people began arriving in larger and larger groups. 

On Saturday, there were more than 80 craftsmen booths set up on both sides of main street. The first booths were the “I Made It Market” where items were made and sold by young artists and were open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The first booth belonged to Josh and Christopher Tomko. Josh sold coasters and other items that he painted. Christopher built things like magazine racks, towel bars and birdhouses from pallet wood.

The Tomkos are originally from Jonesborough but now live in West Jefferson North Carolina. They came back for a visit and to participate in the festival. Though they no longer live in Jonesborough, they said that the town is still very important to them.

Christopher said that when he was thinking of what to make for the festival, the idea to make things out of pallet wood just came to him.

“It’s great because the material is inexpensive and since it’s wood it’s recyclable,” Christopher said.

Josh said that doing the booth was really fun and that the thing he hoped for most was that people enjoyed his art.

“It’s a great way for the kids to make crafts and helps them learn about business and how it works,” said Allison Tomko, Josh and Christopher’s mother.

The booth directly beside the Tomkos belonged to Ella and Lily Thompson. The name of their booth was Sister’s Soap and Scripture.

The idea to sell homemade soaps came from Ella. She also thought of putting a slip of paper with a Bible verse on it in the bag with the soap.

Each bar of soap was in a different shape and scent. There was rose, orange, vanilla, and peppermint sold for a dollar each.

They also had homemade jewelry for sale.

“It helps kids learn about business in a fun way,” Ella said.

Ella and Lily’s father, Ben Thompson, said that he was really proud of his daughters’ accomplishments.

“They always want to make people smile,” said Thompson. “They are truly a light to the world, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Two booths down from the sisters was John Chapman, a young artist whose work has been published eight times on the celebrity art website. His work was also on display at the General Morgan Inn in Greeneville in July of last year.

John was a little shy, but clearly proud of the unique cards, bookmarks, and other items that he hand painted.

“We were on a trip to Nashville when we saw a boy John’s age at a booth selling his art, and he thought it would be fun to sell his work too,” said John’s father.

In front of the “I Made It Market” on the corner of East Main Street and Fox Street there was a children’s train. It ran from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Children could ride the train for free. It went down the middle of town, to the end of Main Street and back.

Tory Street, who is from Jonesborough, brought her two children to the festival.

Street has been attending Jonesborough Days for the last 15 to 20 years and does her best to attend at least one day of the festival each year.

“It’s so much fun. It’s great for the town because it brings people in and they will like what they experience and come back,” said Street.

Her 5-year-old Daughter Sawyer and 2-year-old son Bo were yelling with excitement while riding the train and impatiently waited in line to be able to ride again. 

“The train ride was the thing the kids anticipated the most,” Street said.

Street said that going to Jonesborough Days is a family tradition especially the parade that took place Thursday.

Street was also interested in seeing what the vendors had to offer.

The vendors sold a variety of items. Some sold homemade jewelry, decorations, and other items that can be used around the house. There was even a booth set up where people could get a caricature done.

Paws in Blue, who had a fundraiser on June 15, had a booth and gave out pamphlets and cards detailing what their origination is and does. Loki and his handler Dustin Fleming, from the Jonesborough Police Department, were there to greet people.

Jonesborough Presbyterian Church had a booth set up to the side of the church selling jewelry donated by the congregation. There was more being sold inside the church.

The booth was maned by Kathy Scheu, Ida Shurr, and Shurr’s granddaughter, Sydney Sheehan.

Sheehan was visiting from Colorado. She loved being apart of the churches annual fundraiser and seeing all the people.

Both Shurr and Scheu said that Sheehan was their best salesman and that people just loved talking to her.

“Jonesborough Days is the ideal time to hold the fundraiser because so many people come out to be a part of the fun,” said Scheu.

The money raised by the fundraiser goes to several local charities.

“We raised $1,000 last year and hope to get the same, but if we don’t reach our goal, we are still grateful for whatever we’re blessed with,” said Shurr.

The shop owners in Downtown Jonesborough also got involved in the festivities by having sales.

Marty Glasgow who owns Noelle in downtown was one of them.

She had marked down several of her spring and summer items.

“Jonesborough Days is always great,” said Glasgow.

“It’s wonderful to see so many people come to town and all the things that the craftsmen sale.”

As the day progressed, more people could be seen walking down Main Street and crowding vender booths.

Dan and Becky Reece, along with their granddaughter Daisy, were visiting family. They heard about the festival and thought it would be fun to attend.

“We live in Raleigh, North Carolina, but we’re originally from Jonesborough,” said Dan. “We went to Jonesborough Days years ago and enjoyed it.”

Other visitors had the same idea to come out and see what the festival had to offer, but staid for the food.

Jessica and Adam Byrd from Unicoi wanted to walk around, see what vendors were selling, listen to the music, and to enjoy the fries at the food stands set up along side one of the side streets along Main Street.

Aside from the multiple food options, from Philly cheese steak, Polish sausage, blooming onion, and crazy fries, visitors had the opportunity to enjoy some Moon Pies by participating in the Moon Pie Eating Contest.

The contest was set up in front of the courthouse and started at 2 p.m. Sign ups began at 1:30 pm. The contest had eight participants for three categories.

The first category was for those eight and younger, the second was for nine to fifteen, and the last for sixteen and up.

The winner of the contest was decided by who could eat and keep down the most Moon Pies within three minutes and was given a free t-shirt and a year’s worth of Moon Pies.

Throughout the day people could sit and enjoy live music performance in front of the Internal Story Center. Such as Harlen Country Grass, Blue Railroad, Teller in Residence

In ISC, Bluebirds and Larry and Gayleen Kelley.

One of the main music events of the day began at 5:30 p.m. with a mixed tape ‘80s party lead by DJ Robbie Britton. Those that had on the best 80s ensemble was picked from the crowd and won the costume contest.

The main music event for Saturday began at 7:30. It was a live performance by the Breakfast Club, the top ‘80s tribute band in the country.

According to Copp they have been providing live ‘80s pop since 1993 and are most recognized ‘80s tribute band in the US.

There were several other events for visitors to enjoy throughout the day. Such as the Beer Garden where people could enjoy locally brewed beer, tour of the Chester Inn and photo taken in historical fashion, town tour, and the presentation of Mamma Mia! by the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre.

The morning rain shower caused some of the days events to be cancel, such as the Old Jonesborough Cemetery Tour. It was canceled because mud made the tour a little too perilous.

The children’s events, which were set up at Discovery Park behind the Storytelling Center, were also affected by the rain.

The McKinney Center, who came up with the idea of the “I Made it Market,” had a kids crafts and hands-on-learning booth set up.

The Heritage Alliance had a version of an early 1900s classroom set up with quill pen writing lessons from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. They also had several toys from that era that that allow children to play with.

According to Joe Spiker, head docent of the Chester Inn Museum, who was helping with the school and demonstrating how the toys worked said that there had not been a lot of children come through due to rain, but that he expected more to show up as the day progressed.

The American Heritage Girls/ Trail Life USA had a booth set up beside McKinney Center. Pamphlets and cards were available for the boys or girls who would like to become a part of the Christian based organization. 

The day’s events ended with a spectacular fireworks display set off in the Washington County Library’s parking lot.

Books on wheels: Bus keeps summer reading rolling

Washington County’s new “library bus” can be seen in Thursday’s Jonesborough Days parade.


Staff Writer

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It’s not unusual for the Washington County School System to cycle out a few buses each year. But it is unusual when one of those buses is transformed into a library — that is, until now.

The school system recently morphed a big yellow school bus into a rolling library complete with wooden book shelves filled with thousands of books waiting for eager hands to turn the pages. This new bus wasn’t just the brain child of Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary and the school system’s special project manager, Jarrod Adams; they leave the credit to Zephaniah Wells, the Eagle Scout who first brought the idea to the school system.

Hundreds of books donated by the Washington County Library await students.

“We have been chewing on (the library bus idea) for five years,” Flanary said. “What really put it over the top was we had a meeting one day with a home-schooled student that’s trying to get his Eagle Scout badge. He came up with the idea and he didn’t know we had been talking about it. I thought, ‘This is a sign. We’ve got to get after this.’”

Wells said in addition to earning his badge, he wanted to work on a project that focused on bringing opportunities for reading to students.

“My mom told me about the bookmobile in her hometown and suggested that I could try and put one together for my Eagle Scout project,” Wells said. “I chose this project so that I could share my love of reading with the community by addressing problems like illiteracy, summer learning loss and a lack of transportation.”

Throughout the summer, students in the county school system’s summer program have seen the big blue bus roll up to the elementary schools to offer a chance to browse through the books donated by the Washington County library.

“The plan was to bring this out during the summer to communities where maybe they don’t have access to the public library,” Adams explained. “We’ve got the public library in Jonesborough, one in Johnson City and one in Gray. Other than that, we don’t have access to books for our kids. We take it out to West View and Fall Branch and those kids have an opportunity during the summer to read books and take them home that are more on their level.

Lynn Archer, Jarrod Adams and Tony Roberts smile with the finished library bus project.

“When you’ve got a second or third grade kid, to be able to get on a bus and find a book he’s interested in and take it home, I think that promotes the reading we’re looking for from our students.”

Learning through reading isn’t the only education the bus has provided; once the transportation department checked on the mechanics and removed the seats to make room for the book shelves, it was up to David Crockett High School’s auto body, art, and woodworking students to do much of the work.

“The teachers led (the project) in that they would help give ideas and suggestions, but the kids are the ones who really built it all, which is just really cool to see,” Adams said. “We had the auto body kids paint part of the hood and they painted the roof of it. The auto mechanic teacher and his group checked out some of the mechanical issues on it, the art teacher had all that work that her kids did to design it, the librarian at Crockett had some ideas for us on how to do the books — it was a full-court press and we got a lot of people involved to do it.”

For many Crockett students, it’s more than a library on wheels — it serves as a source of pride and offers the feeling of a job well done.

“I’d say half of the kids at Crockett had something to do with it, the design, the build,” Flanary said. “I remember walking in to check on it one day at Crockett and this student said he’d show it to me. He walked me through step by step what they had done. This is a 16-year-old in auto body, not an honor student, but he was so proud of the work they’d done. He was so tuned in to what they were doing. The students in took a lot of pride in it. I think it’s just pride and satisfaction in seeing a big project that is so unique get out there.”

To show off that work, Flanary said the book bus will be featured in the Jonesborough Days parade set for Thursday.

“I really wanted it in the parade to showcase what the students can do as much as the bus itself,” Flanary said. “(We want to show) what the school system is capable of doing in-house. We are proud of it.”

Now that summer school has wrapped, the school system is already thinking of ways to use the bus during the school year and incorporate curriculum standards in an exciting way.

“We’ve had talks about using it as a traveling library for social studies so that if it goes out to Gray for a week or two, they can get sections of the library that are focused on a specific content standards,” Adams said. “The kids and teachers can come out and use the library as another resource to help work with their kids on content. We’ve involved instructional coaches on that concept as well as the librarians. That’s in its infancy, but that’s what we’re going to do with it this school year.”

Adams said they are also considering using the bus, or potentially another cycled-out bus, as a traveling bus to showcase the Career Technical Education options the high schools offer.

“Some of the people at the high school are floating the idea of a CTE traveling bus and putting stations on there to show kids what it’d be like to work on a small engine or maybe build a small wooden object, whatever they would design,” Adams said. “They could travel around and these middle school kids would get an idea of the type of programs we offer at the high school level.”