School district boundaries shuffled on north side

Washington County’s plan to redistrict the northern part of the county will involve several changes, including new bus routes.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County School District will be seeing changes in the northern part of the county.

The Washington County Board of Education unanimously voted to approve a redistricting plan for the north side of the county map. Board member and planning committee chairman Phillip McLain said the plan was constructed to relieve the high occupancy at Ridgeview Elementary, recruit enrollment at the future Boones Creek School and increase enrollment at Sulphur Springs Elementary and Gray Elementary.

“The adjustments that are recommended have to do with bus routes. The first thing I want to tell you is as the bus routes change, where those students ride a bus to changes. If they still want to go to that school, they have to become car riders. The way this process works, it’ll actually take seven years to completely work through the total rezoning.

The rezoning will effect the northern zones in the county.

“They may not all ride the bus to the new school. Mom and dad may take them to RidgeView. We’ll allow that to happen for seven years. As those children move on, (future students in those same zones) will be at the new school from that particular bus route.”

The plan includes moving 75 students from Ridgeview to Gray, 70 students from Ridgeview to Sulphur Springs and 44 from Ridgeview to Boones Creek. Meanwhile, 32 students will be moved from Gray to Boones Creek and 18 from Sulphur Springs to Boones Creek.

Board member Mary Beth Dellinger said she felt the shuffling still won’t put enough students in the new Boones Creek School. Meanwhile, board member Chad Fleenor said he felt part of the map near Bugaboo Springs should be in the Boones Creek School district.

“I’m just saying the bus is going to go right by there. To me, they ought to be going to Boones Creek. The hold up is that we’re afraid they’re going to Boone verses Crockett. I just think that’s not a very good idea. I’d like to see that amended to grab that, myself.”

Director of Schools Bill Flanary said as of now, Daniel Boone High School is at about 95 percent capacity. Crockett, he said, could use some added students. BOE Chairman Keith Ervin said he opposed changing the boundary of that area.

“Chad, I understand what you’re saying, but I can’t support Crockett kids, and Jonesborough verses Boones Creek, Boone,” Ervin said. “We’ve had these lines the same for 40 years.”

Board members said a future town hall meeting will be scheduled to allow parents and citizens to voice their opinions about the redistricting plan.

Holiday Soups and Songs event to raise funds for Yarn Exchange

From STAFF REPORTS

It’s dinner and a show.

The Yarn Exchange presents its annual fundraiser at the McKinney Center to kick-off the holiday season on Monday, Nov. 26 at 6 p.m.. The event will include hand-crafted ceramic bowls, appetizers, an all-you-can-eat soup  buffet, salad, dessert, and drinks followed by a sing-along with stories by the Yarn Exchange Radio Show players and the Jonesborough Novelty Band. Proceeds benefit the Mary B. Martin Programs for the Arts at the McKinney Center.

Tickets are $25. For more information call (423)753-1010 or purchase tickets, go to www.jonesborough.com/tickets.

Jackson Theatre moves forward with sprinkler system

Stage Door remains closed while work on the complex continues.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

The Jackson Theater project moved a small step closer to completion during a called Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting on Oct. 26,  as members approved the low bid for the three-building sprinkler system.

As the entire project is three phases, the sprinkler system will be installed in three phases, as well. The overall cost of the system, bid out by East Tennessee Sprinkler, was $76,981. 

Phase One of the project, currently underway, is the renovation of the “Stage Door” building, which will connect to both the Jackson Theater and the Jonesborough Repertory Theater.

Phase Two is the Jackson Theater building and Phase Three the JRT building.

The sprinkler systems for each building will be installed during each phase.

During the called meeting,  Alderman Terry Countermine made a motion to approve the low sprinkler system bid and to authorize the Mayor to sign all the relevant documents. Alderman Adam Dickson seconded the motion and all members approved.

While the sprinkler system bid was approved, the BMA Agenda Presentation stated that, “East Tennessee Sprinkler (now) must develop shop drawings that represent the details of the installation for all three buildings.

“These drawings need to be reviewed and approved by the architect, and then sent to Nashville to be reviewed and approved by the State Fire Marshall’s office.”

Town Administrator Bob Browning said that a fire-protection plan was necessary because, “When you interconnect the buildings, then we have to have a fire-protection plan for all three buildings and all that has to be coordinated. So we had to go in and do a design for all three.”

Following the BMA meeting, Browning expanded on the scope of the entire project.

“The project itself becomes three phases by default. We’re working on the Stage Door now. The Stage Door, once we finish that, can become operable again because it can be used for the JRT while the Jackson Theater is being renovated.

“Those three buildings are all going to be interconnected. The bathrooms, for example, concessions, waiting area and the box office will be in the building that we call the Stage Door building, in between the Jackson Theater and the JRT.

“So where you used to go in, where we’re renovating the Stage Door now, that’s going to be internally connected to the Jackson Theater. So you walk in and get your ticket and the concessions, and you can go into the lobby of the Jackson Theater.”

The Town Administrator added that once work on the Stage Door is complete, the Jackson Theater phase will begin, while the JRT remains open. Once the Jackson Theater renovations are completed and the building is open for business, the JRT will be out of commission during the third phase.

When the entire project is completed, all three buildings will be connected, with two stages allowing any sort of production, as the Stage Door serves both theaters.

While work on phase one is currently underway, Browning said the work crews have run into obstacles that have added time to the project.

“One of the things that’s happened in the Stage Door building is that we ended up, once we took everything out of the walls and off the walls, we found out that we’ve got a bunch of stuff to do.

“We thought it was the best building and it ended up being one of the worst. One of the reasons this project has taken so long is that it’s expanded into a three-building complex.”

Since work crews had been able to access the Jackson Theater before starting on the design, there have been no surprises and added work to the job. That was not the case with the Stage Door building, as it was open for business and therefore inaccessible before plans were made.

Browning mentioned some of the renovations that are planned for the three building complex;

• Restrooms on the first and second floor to accommodate guests in either the main seating area or the balcony seats of the Jackson Theater or the JRT.

• At the JRT, a raised roof as well as increased structural support on the second floor to accommodate a green room or even an area for a live band when performances demand it.

• The Jackson Theater building will be extended 30 feet in the back of the structure, which will increase the stage to a depth of 40 feet, which Browning said was “an important component if you’re going to be doing a big production.

• Underneath the Jackson Theater stage will be a mechanical room, dressing rooms and a green room, which will connect to the stages of both theaters.

• The JRT entrance is going to extend about 12 feet out towards Main Street. According to Browning, “When you went through the Stage Door building, you got your ticket and went out the side door, then went down the alleyway. (Now) you’re going to be able to go all the way through and into the vestibule without going outside.”

While there have been some delays in the project, Browning feels that the worst is behind them, and that the project has great potential.

“On the Stage Door (phase), we feel like we’ve passed the hurdles there … When it’s done, there’s not going to be anything like it. Barter (Theater) has two stages but they’re across the street from each other. It’s going to be awesome.”

Sports complex planning starts over

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Washington County’s athletic complex project is back to the drawing board, leaving the county’s Commerce, Industry and Agriculture Committee to navigate future plans for the site’s facilities.

The CIA Committee met on Thursday, Nov. 1 to discuss what plans could come to fruition on the 37-acre site on Boones Creek Road, adjacent to the new Boones Creek K-8 School. Now that Johnson City has declined a partnership with the county to build a tournament-minded sports complex, committee members said they’re ready to focus on the needs of the school system and the community.

“What I want us to talk about is what is best for the schools, community and taxpayers and is there a better way to do this that doesn’t cost the taxpayers an arm and a leg and we get the fields for the children?”, said Commissioner Phil Carriger, the CIA Committee’s Chairman. “I think right now that’s the goal, the children and the schools.”

Commissioner Kent Harris added that he felt the complex should include what the current Boones Creek Elementary and Boones Creek Middle School sites have, which is a football field, a baseball field and a softball field.

Clarence Mabe, who was the co-chairman of the former athletic facilities task force and a former Washington County Board of Education member, attended the meeting, saying the school system had under-built its athletic facilities in the past, leaving some schools without needed fields. This could serve as a way to correct those problems, he said.

He also said potential tournament use at the fields could bring in money for the county. Commissioner Jodi Jones, however, questioned if there would be enough people in the county, now that the city is out, who have a need for tournament facilities.

“I understand the rationale of building them for the school, absolutely. I know middle school sports really depend on those fields,” Jones said. “The question I’m raising is for tournaments, if there’s enough capacity for that.”

Jones also suggested the committee consider a walking trail to cover the perimeter of the future athletic facilities. She said she felt this could work around the hills on the property, which city officials cited as an obstacle for a sports complex on the site.

Mabe and Jones also said they felt a tennis court would be a good addition to the county.

“When you look at tennis courts at Science Hill for example,” Jones said, “they are packed and they have a great youth tennis program.”

“Boone is the only school in the conference that doesn’t have tennis,” Mabe added. “Crockett is the only school in the conference that doesn’t have tennis. Why don’t they have tennis? They don’t have a facility. If you put it here, you have one for both, plus they could have (tennis as part of the) physical education program.”

The committee agreed to invite the project’s architect, Tom Weems, to the next CIA meeting to discuss the above suggestions along with other potential plans and costs. That meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 29 at 9 a.m. in the Historic Courthouse in Jonesborough, located at 100 E Main St., Jonesborough.

Worldwide ‘Tellebration’ coming to Jonesborough

From STAFF REPORTS

Storytellers and listeners will come together on Sunday, Nov.18, to celebrate a worldwide event known as Tellabration, a production of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild. 

The show begins at 2 p.m. at the McKinney Arts Center, at the corner of East Main Street and Franklin Avenue, with doors opening at 1:30 for seating.

The event will be abuzz with “Stories, Songs and Spoons” featuring global sensation Abby The Spoon Lady with her “one man band,” Chris Rodrigues. 

Joining Abby will be nationally acclaimed storyteller, Barbara McBride Smith, and Jonesborough Storytellers Guild members, Betty Ann Polaha and Dr. Bruce Montgomery. 

Tellabration hosts will be Jimmy Neil Smith, founder of the National Storytelling Festival and the International Storytelling Center along with David Joe Miller, professional storyteller and founder of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild.

In 1988, Stamford, Connecticut storyteller, J.G. “Paw Paw” Pinkerton created Tellabration with the vision that storytellers and story listeners across the globe would come together on the same day at the same time to tell and listen to wonderful stories.  Today Tellabration events are held all over the world during the third weekend in November.  Events encompass six continents, nine countries and forty United States. Over 300 audiences, worldwide, gather together to hear stories.  Tellabration operates under the umbrella of the National Storytelling Network based in Kansas City, Missouri.

Barbara McBride Smith is a retired librarian and seminary professor who was able to weave the role of professional storyteller into her career.  She is a veteran of the National Storytelling Festival stages, former board member of the National Storytelling Association, member of the National Storytelling Circle of Excellence and recipient of the John Henry Faulk award for outstanding contributions to storytelling.  Barbara recently made Jonesborough her home when she moved here in October.

Betty Ann Polaha and Dr. Bruce Montgomery are popular performing members of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild.  Betty Ann has been named Outstanding Storytelling Performer at East Tennessee State University and travels the country telling stories at a variety of events.  Dr. Montgomery is a professor of communications at Milligan College where he has created a strong emphasis on the storytelling arts over the past couple of decades.   

The Jonesborough Storytellers Guild, created by David Joe Miller in 1994, is the oldest performing storytelling guild in the nation and continues to offer weekly storytelling shows in downtown Jonesborough at 7 p.m. every Tuesday night at the International Storytelling Center’s Mary Martin Storytelling Theatre.   Proceeds from this year’s Tellabration will go to benefit The Storytelling Resource Place located in the old Slemmons house in Jonesborough’s Mill Spring Park.  Dr. Pamela Miller will be on hand at the event to answer questions and provide information on this new storytelling resource venture.

For more information you should contact David Joe Miller at davidjoetells@yahoo.com.

Are funds available for the Jonesborough School?

BOE Chairman Keith Ervin considers the new school information, as Bill Flanary looks on.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Washington County’s Board of Education and County Commission met Monday afternoon to hopefully arrive at answers regarding school projects. But it seems the meeting circled around more questions than answers — the big question being how much money is currently available for the Jonesborough K-8 School project?

To get to the answer, Mitch Meredith, school board member and the county’s financial director/budget advisor, gave a rundown of the financial plan for the current Boones Creek K-8 School project.

Meredith told the group that the Boones Creek project set at $28.6 million, with $8.9 million dollars already being put toward the cost, still leaving $19.6 to be funded in cash. To pay the amount, Meredith said some of the pennies from the 2016 tax increase set aside for the Jonesborough Project are being utilized to pay for the Boones Creek project. He also said $8.3 million is still left unpaid on the Boones Creek project.

“You’ve got to have cash before you do the project,” Meredith said. “You have to have some cash somewhere — either sitting in pennies that you’ve collected for another project that you haven’t let yet — but you have to have the funding available to let the contract. That’s going to leave us another $8.3 million we have to fund from somewhere. Where we’re funding that from, quite honestly, is from some of the general government pennies some of the general government pennies that are coming in and we’re funding it with pennies from Jonesborough.”

Meredith said the more the county funds a project with cash, the less it costs the Washington County taxpayers. But for some, the utilization of the Jonesborough project pennies for the Boones Creek project raised concern for the future of the Jonesborough school, which is yet to see a design plan approved by the county commission.

Commissioner Danny Edens said he came to the joint meeting with one question: how much money is available, if any, for the Jonesborough project without borrowing. Meredith said currently, there were $0. Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said the Jonesborough project will be borrowed at close to 100 percent of the full cost for the school.

And that cost of the school project was a concern from Street as well; the architect asked Grandy if $20,750,000 was an accurate budget figure. In his recent school design plans for the Jonesborough project, that figure was used as the maximum amount available, which was the case in the “Scheme 6” design plan that the BOE approved at its Oct. 2 board meeting.

“I’m not exactly sure where we got this number, but when we started working on the design trying to develop a budget for the Jonesborough project, we got a number of $20,750,000. We used (that figure) as a limit or a budget boundary. But what I’m hearing tonight, that’s not an accurate number. That doesn’t seem to be a valid number.”

Meredith said currently, that was the case.

Meanwhile, Grandy said that the county’s 2016 tax increase, which included pennies set aside for both school projects, was designed “for a new Boones Creek School and a renovation of $9.9 million for Jonesborough.” He said that plan, as far as the tax increase was concerned, had never changed.

After having approved a “Scheme 6” design plan with a $17,560,00 price tag, BOE members called for action from the commission in regards to the school project. Board member Todd Ganger mentioned that if there is even more of a delay on the project, the roof at Jonesborough Elementary School would have to be replaced soon, followed by a roof replacement at Jonesborough Middle School.

“When (Scheme 6) gets presented, we need to know as a board we can’t do that,” Ganger said. “If it’s the HEW Committee, the budget, the full commission, whoever does that, if it’s not going to happen, we need to know. What I’m saying is, the board has done something. Now, we need you all to do something as far as, “You can’t do this. This is the amount of money you’ve got,” or, “You’ve got no money. You better start renovating what you can at $1 million a roof.’

“We’re in the time now that we have got to start putting roofs on these schools if they’re not going to be replaced. That’s kind of where we’re at with that. We’ve got to start doing some stuff.”

Edens, who also serves as the county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee chairman, said the Scheme 6 plan will be discussed at the committee’s next meeting on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 1 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Jonesborough. The next BOE meeting will be held on Thursday, Nov. 8, where the board is slated to discuss rescinding two previous design plans, Scheme 2 and Scheme 4. That meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington County Department of Education’s central office.

County Mayor embraces joint effort with Sullivan County

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

It’s not unusual for Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy to team up with the Washington County Commission. But it is unusual that the commission and Grandy meet with Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable and the Sullivan County Commission —  that is, until last week.

On Thursday, Oct. 18, the two county mayors and commissions met at the Tri-Cities Airport for a joint work session. Grandy told the Herald & Tribune that the meeting was held to focus on “regional cooperation” and to show the community that the two counties are ready to see what can be accomplished together.

“We’re looking at opportunities to create regional cooperation between Washington County and Sullivan County and the entire region,” Grandy said. “We have some issues of concern. Our workforce is a shared resource across all of our communities. So we’re looking for ways to improve that and make it better.”

Grandy noted that the Aerospace Park in Blountville was a project built on regional interest after Johnson City, Bristol, Kingsport, Washington County and Sullivan County came together financially on the upcoming 160-acre industrial park. Through combined efforts as seen on the Aerospace Park, Grandy said he’s hoping the two groups can focus on bettering the region through areas such as economic development. And that work starts with a committee.

Grandy said the meeting was also held to show people that Venable and Grandy are serious about the cooperation and thus have started the planning process in forming a committee or task force made up of Washington and Sullivan County Commissioners and others throughout the Northeast Tennessee Region.

“I met with Mayor Venable this morning for really quite a long time to work specifically on (the committee). We’re in the process now of making recommendations, not only just with commissioners, but I think we’re going to include some strategic people across the counties that might add some value,” Grandy said. “The intent will be within the next few days or so to announce that task force or committee or whatever they want to call themselves to begin to work on some next steps. That’s the key, to keep this thing moving.”

Grandy said that the two mayors have come up with some initiatives they’d like to see come to fruition, but that it will the committee’s work that will track the course for the two groups.

But what does this mean for Washington County?

Grandy said for Washington County and its citizens, it’s all about getting better along with the region. And that includes aiding the declining growth throughout Northeast Tennessee.

“When the water in the harbor rises, all the boats rise,” Grandy said. “So if one county is doing well, the rest of us are going to be better because of it. So what does it mean for Washington County? We in this whole Northeast Tennessee Region (are) in a declining growth area. We feel like, working together, we can reverse that.”

If each entity within the Northeast Tennessee Region’s fate is tied together, Grandy said he feels embracing the joint work will help to better the region, namely Washington County.

“We believe that we’re going to be better together than we would be separately,” Grandy said. “If you look at Middle Tennessee and that cluster of counties around Davidson County in Nashville, all of those counties are prosperous right now. And it’s because they work together. We have (worked together as a region in the past), but we just want to be more intentional about it. We think we can.”

Commission talks about wireless internet

The first tower site is expected to cover the pictured area of Washington County.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

BrightRidge’s initiative to provide wireless internet for folks in rural areas was discussed by the Washington County Commission at its monthly meeting on Monday, Oct. 22.

BrightRidge Chief Broadband Officer Stacy Evans presented the broadband initiative plan to offer wireless internet to customers in Jonesbrough and Washington County, which will include placing three tower sites throughout the county for phase one of the plan.

“Our board has been great about seeing that this is not just about the high-density, populated urban areas,” Evans said, “but also the rural areas.”

BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said the company wanted to offer services to help its current customers, local economic development and local schools. Part of that plan includes offering internet access to students.

Internet will be available to Washington County’s 14 schools, but Evans said through the initiative, the company plans to reach students in rural areas who currently don’t have internet access at home. Commissioner Kent Harris, who at last month’s meeting requested that BrightRidge hold the presentation for the commission, said that a lack of internet access for students is an issue in his district.

“A lot of people I know have no internet service,” Harris said. “I live in Limestone which is a very rural area. The only internet you can get now is through a satellite and it’s limited on speed, how much time you can buy. There’s no unlimited options you can have. The children can’t even do their homework. They have to go into town. A lot of them go to McDonald’s I think to use their internet just to do their homework.”

Evans said after an ongoing study is completed, Washington County residents will be able to put in their address and see during which phase BrightRidge will bring wireless services to their area.

Commissioner Suzy Williams asked how much such services would cost BrightRidge’s customers. Evans said that is yet to be announced.

“We’ve got those (costs) established, but we have not released those publicly,” Evans said. “We will very soon. We have looked at what the competition is providing in terms of services and we want to be very competitive with pricing but we also want to provide a superior product with the speed. When you see this, you’ll find that our price is in line with what you’re paying.”

In addition to learning more about the broadband initiative, the commission moved to dissolve the athletic facilities task force in a unanimous vote.

The task force, which was created to bring a recommendation to the commission on the county’s upcoming sports complex on Boones Creek Road, held its final meeting last month when Johnson City opted out of the joint athletic facility venture. That decision led commissioners to discuss dissolving the task force at last month’s meeting. The commission also decided that all business related to the complex should go through the county’s Commerce, Industry and Agriculture Committee.

Commissioner Phil Carrier, the CIA Committee chairman, said that during the CIA’s Oct. 3 meeting, the group voted to view the results from the athletic complex’s previous studies at the upcoming November meeting.

The CIA Committee, along with the county’s other committees, will meet on Thursday, Nov. 1. For times and locations, go to http://www.washingtoncountytn.org/events.

Charlie Moore wants to bring back glory days

Charlie Moore

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

The word “quit” may not be a part of Jonesborough alderman candidate Charlie Moore’s vocabulary.

“My wife recently said to me, ‘You told me being married to you was going to be an adventure. You weren’t kidding, were you?” Moore said with a grin.

Moore, who is known for providing an ongoing stream of jokes and funny stories, has already served the town as alderman — both in from 1994 to 1996 and then from 2000 to 2002 — and was defeated in the 2016 Jonesborough mayor’s race where he competed against then-incumbent Kelly Wolfe.

But as this election approached, he know it was time to run again — this time for one of the two aldermen seats now open. Moore will be competing against Virginia Causey and Stephen Callahan.

“I wanted to get back on the board,” he explained his decision. “I loved, absolutely loved, being part of the decision-making process for the town.

“The town has grown so much. We’ve got so many new people in town. But they came to Jonesborough, from what they told me, because of its hometown feel.”

That, Moore said, is what he is convinced he can bring to the table.

Born in Johnson City and having spent much of his childhood in Jonesborough, Moore believes his commitment to the town is as deep as his roots.

“The fact that I live in my great-grandma’s house (on Woodrow Avenue)  I think that says a lot,” Moore said. “I’ve had my chances to sell and to move but I don’t want to.”

His memories of town are, in fact, what drives Moore today. One particular story the candidate likes to tell is of a Jonesborough Days festival when he was about 9 or 10 years old.

“I’m pretty sure Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins were there,” he recalled. “Behind the Courthouse was  greased pole with a $50 bill on top and anybody that could climb it could get the $50.

“I did not get to the top.” 

But he also remembers great music, a vibrant town atmospher and a collection of old-time politicians from Bill Brock and Howard Baker to Jimmy Quillen.

“Since then there has never been, in my opinion, another Jonesborough Days like it,” Moore said. “It was a good celebration. I miss it. I want it to come back.”

And he has plans to make that happen.

“I have a good, good gut feeling people would love to see it back to what it was,” Moore said. “I think it would bring people into Jonesborough. If they come into town, they are going to spend money. (We need) to be good to the vendors. Bring them in with open arms. Let them set up for free (during festivals.)”

Moore said he understands that things cost money, but he also believes the town has ignored the importance of festivals like Jonesborough Days for too long.

The core of the problem, he said, is the lack of communication between the town and the vendors, and even its citizens.

“There are people in town who think the only place they need to put money is the two blocks of Main Street,” he said.  “Jonesborough is bigger than two blocks of Main Street. It goes out farther.”

The town needs more sidewalks, he stresses. The walking trail is a great start, but there needs to be more.

“People want to get out,” Moore said. “And not everybody wants to go out on the walking trail.”

As for shop owners throughout Jonesborough, Moore is counting on more teamwork between Town Hall and retailers to make the difference.

“I have been told there is very little communication between town hall and store owners,” he said. “And there doesn’t seem to be a lot of positive communication between the store owners and town hall.”

He also doesn’t believe the current Jonesborough Area Merchants and Service Association is helping the situation.

“I’ve been told, for want of a better word, that it’s a joke,” Moore said, adding that such comments are just part of the negative feedback he has heard from merchants. By making sure to include these merchants in decisions — even taking the time to ask their ideas and suggestions — Moore in confident he and the others on the town’s BMA can help Jonesborough continue to grow.

And it is destined to grow, he added.

“There is 10 to one people moving into Jonesborough as are to Johnson City. But they are asking for more things in Jonesborough,” Moore said. “There are asking for a nice restaurant. They’re asking for longer hours in the stores downtown. These are what the people are telling me.”

They want that hometown feel, he said.  And he is committed to achieving it.

Stephen Callahan promises solid ideas

Stephen Callahan

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

With his business in its fifth year, Tennessee Hills Distillery owner Stephen Callahan believes its success has prepared him for a run for a seat on the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman.

“If you really want to chalk something up for me as a candidate, we’re not only the number one business in Jonesborough right now, we’re also the number one business in the Tri-Cities and we’re ranked 17th in the whole state right now. In two years. So I know how to run a business,” Callahan said.

“I know how to run a business and I know how to balance a budget. I’m a highly connected guy. I know all the people in the right positions that can get things done down here. Unlike a lot of people that are not out in the public eye, this is what I do. This isn’t ‘I’m going to go run and hope to get on the board.’ This is business and numbers and networking and making things happen, projects to success. That’s what I do.”

Using the Jackson Theater as an example, Callahan said the theater renovation would be beneficial to him personally as a business owner, but asked whether the town had a business plan for it, who would run the theater and how to make money from it.

“Whether you want to admit it or not, a town has to be run like a business.”

He added that the town’s infrastructure was a key issue and believes that “we have all these people moving into town. Basically, whether they’re in city limits or not, they’re still driving through our town, using our roads, using our sewer system, using our water system and who’s paying for it? We are.”

Callahan’s campaign flyer stated that a priority for Jonesborough would be to “Maintain and improve infrastructure as our town grows.”

While Callahan said he wants to attract new businesses and create jobs, he “doesn’t want to turn Jonesborough into another Gatlinburg.”

“I want to invite and setup a system that actually promotes viable businesses that will be here and be able to maintain a presence in downtown,” Callahan said. “Don’t just come and go. We need good restaurants, good businesses like the theater that’s going to open up because a rising tide floats all ships. And just because I’m an alcohol businessman doesn’t mean I’m going to be pushing alcohol downtown.”

Callahan also believes his experience as a younger business owner would be positive.

“I love the town. Young people need to start taking responsibility for their community and I’m taking responsibility for my community. I’m not going to come in and rewrite history or rewrite anything,” he said. “But right now, why not have a younger person come in and understand the needs? Somebody the younger generation can come and talk to. I’m a fresh face. I’m not politically connected to any one group here in town. I’m kind of my own man. Out of all the candidates, I have the most business background.”

Callahan added that he had no agenda and that his Jonesborough upbringing was important.

“Right now, I don’t have anything to prove, other than I want to see the town in a better position than it was in yesterday. It’s my hometown. I grew up here on the outskirts of town, went to David Crockett High School. My family and friends live here, and I don’t ever plan on moving.

“My business is here, and since I’ve had a business here in town, I’ve been getting to know people, and people in this town are prideful as heck, and I’m one of them.”

Virginia Causey’s ‘heart is with the town’

Virginia Causey

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

After working for the Town of Jonesborough for almost 40 years, Virginia Causey was emotional when she retired from her post as executive assistant two years ago. But little did she know she’d be appointed to the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen — and that she’d later be running for the spot in the Nov. 6 election.

Now she’s ready to continue helping make decisions for the place and the people that hold her heart.

“To be honest with you, my heart is with the town because I was there for so long,” Causey said. “I loved the employees and I felt like, even though the board members are really good to the employees, they needed a good advocate for employees (on the BMA).”

Her vow to watch out for the town’s employees paid off later this year when the BMA opted to increase the life insurance amount for all town employees by $45,000. The BMA member said she was especially glad to see the motion pass following the recent passing of two town employees.

“I’m glad I (joined the BMA), “ Causey said, “because we upped their life insurance right after I became a board member to $45,000 each.”

Causey said she felt she is an advocate for employees, but that she could be the same for taxpayers as well. And to do that, she said she wants to continue working to understand the ins and outs of agenda items, in which she has some experience.

“I just feel like I can be an asset for the employees as well as the citizens,” Causey said. “I do try to be careful of my decisions. If there’s something on the agenda, I go back and talk to Bob and the supervisor or whoever’s involved to make sure that I understand before we go into the meeting.

“When I was working for the town, I helped type everything up and get the packets ready for the Board of Mayor and Alderman meetings. I would go to all of the board meetings and I would make my own little notes of what was going on. So really when I stepped into the position, it wasn’t like a new kid on the block coming in. It was someone that actually knew a lot of the background.”

Part of that background includes understanding Jonesborough’s current and upcoming projects; Causey said she wants to see the Jackson Theatre renovation, the upcoming parking garage and the park behind the Senior Center to completion.

“We need to continue those (projects),” Causey said. “The garage is something that has been needed for quite a while. The Jackson Theatre is where I had my first date with my husband many years ago, so it’s special. I’m anxious for it to get back as a theatre.”

But for now, Causey is concentrating on the election, during which the BMA member said you won’t hear a negative comment from her on either of her BMA running mates, Stephen Callahan and Charlie Moore.

“I think Stephen will be great if he gets it because he’s young. He’s a good business man,” Causey said. “He can bring a lot to the table. Charlie’s been on the board before. He knows what board packets consist of. I will never be negative on either one of them. I’ve had some people ask me who I think will be good and I say, ‘No, I’m not doing that.’”

Throughout her work Causey said she aims to listen to her heart and live her life by the “golden rule,” which was a guiding force for her growing up and throughout her time at town hall.

“I feel like and I’ve always stood under a motto that my mother taught me many, many years ago,” Causey said, “that you treat people the way you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes. That’s what I always did when I worked (in town hall). I got the brunt of a lot of customers who were upset and it just made a big difference.

“That’s what I want to see go forward in Jonesborough. I don’t want it to be negative. I don’t like that negative stuff. I want Jonesborough to prosper and be good. As I say, I just love the town. And I love doing what I’m doing.”

Charlie Moore wants to bring back glory days

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

The word “quit” may not be a part of Jonesborough alderman candidate Charlie Moore’s vocabulary.

“My wife recently said to me, ‘You told me being married to you was going to be an adventure. You weren’t kidding, were you?” Moore said with a grin.

Moore, who is known for providing an ongoing stream of jokes and funny stories, has already served the town as

alderman — both in from 1994 to 1996 and then from 2000 to 2002 — and was defeated in the 2016 Jonesborough mayor’s race where he competed against then-incumbent Kelly Wolfe.

But as this election approached, he know it was time to run again — this time for one of the two aldermen seats now open. Moore will be competing against Virginia Causey and Stephen Callahan.

“I wanted to get back on the board,” he explained his decision. “I loved, absolutely loved, being part of the decision-making process for the town.

“The town has grown so much. We’ve got so many new people in town. But they came to Jonesborough, from what they told me, because of its hometown feel.”

That, Moore said, is what he is convinced he can bring to the table.

Born in Johnson City and having spent much of his childhood in Jonesborough, Moore believes his commitment to the town is as deep as his roots.

“The fact that I live in my great-grandma’s house (on Woodrow Avenue)  I think that says a lot,” Moore said. “I’ve had my chances to sell and to move but I don’t want to.”

His memories of town are, in fact, what drives Moore today. One particular story the candidate likes to tell is of a Jonesborough Days festival when he was about 9 or 10 years old.

“I’m pretty sure Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins were there,” he recalled. “Behind the Courthouse was  greased pole with a $50 bill on top and anybody that could climb it could get the $50.

“I did not get to the top.” 

But he also remembers great music, a vibrant town atmospher and a collection of old-time politicians from Bill Brock and Howard Baker to Jimmy Quillen.

“Since then there has never been, in my opinion, another Jonesborough Days like it,” Moore said. “It was a good celebration. I miss it. I want it to come back.”

And he has plans to make that happen.

“I have a good, good gut feeling people would love to see it back to what it was,” Moore said. “I think it would bring people into Jonesborough. If they come into town, they are going to spend money. (We need) to be good to the vendors. Bring them in with open arms. Let them set up for free (during festivals.)”

Moore said he understands that things cost money, but he also believes the town has ignored the importance of festivals like Jonesborough Days for too long.

The core of the problem, he said, is the lack of communication between the town and the vendors, and even its citizens.

“There are people in town who think the only place they need to put money is the two blocks of Main Street,” he said.  “Jonesborough is bigger than two blocks of Main Street. It goes out farther.”

The town needs more sidewalks, he stresses. The walking trail is a great start, but there needs to be more.

“People want to get out,” Moore said. “And not everybody wants to go out on the walking trail.”

As for shop owners throughout Jonesborough, Moore is counting on more teamwork between Town Hall and retailers to make the difference.

“I have been told there is very little communication between town hall and store owners,” he said. “And there doesn’t seem to be a lot of positive communication between the store owners and town hall.”

He also doesn’t believe the current Jonesborough Area Merchants and Service Association is helping the situation.

“I’ve been told, for want of a better word, that it’s a joke,” Moore said, adding that such comments are just part of the negative feedback he has heard from merchants. By making sure to include these merchants in decisions — even taking the time to ask their ideas and suggestions — Moore in confident he and the others on the town’s BMA can help Jonesborough continue to grow.

And it is destined to grow, he added.

“There is 10 to one people moving into Jonesborough as are to Johnson City. But they are asking for more things in Jonesborough,” Moore said. “There are asking for a nice restaurant. They’re asking for longer hours in the stores downtown. These are what the people are telling me.”

They want that hometown feel, he said.  And he is committed to achieving it.

Flanary prepares for work as director of schools

Dr. Bill Flanary sits quietly as the board applauds his nomination.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Bill Flanary first crossed the Washington County line 36 years ago when he moved here from Nashville to teach at David Crockett High School. Now, he’s sitting in the big chair in the big office as the Director of Schools of Washington County.

It’s not completely official yet with the Washington County Board of Education voting to enter contract negotiations with Flanary and the BOE chairman earlier this month. But Flanary seems rather comfortable in the new position and, as always, in the county he’s called home since he first became the agriculture teacher at Crockett.

“I had two job offers; one in Bath County, Kentucky, the other in Jonesborough, Tennessee,” Flanary recalled. “I picked Jonesborough because I didn’t want to fool with getting a Kentucky driver’s license. I threw a suit case in my pick up truck and drove up here on a Tuesday and started work on a Thursday. That was 36 years ago.”

After teaching at Crockett, he became the vocational director and later moved into a role as the assistant superintendent and high school supervisor until May of 2018 when the board moved to place Flanary as the Interim Director of Schools. But if you were to ask Flanary what made him want to become a director of schools, he’d ponder — as he did in his interview with the Herald & Tribune — on if it was more of a want or a calling to the position.

“I don’t know that it’s a want,” Flanary said. “The best job I ever had was teaching. I still miss it. Teaching is the best job there is and teaching agriculture is the best job there is in teaching. Sometimes I think I was crazy to ever leave the classroom. I don’t know that you want this job. It’s just something you feel like you’ve prepared to do, your career arc is pointed in this direction. When the opportunity presents itself to lead, to help people and to assist on this scale, you feel like you need to take the chance.

“I don’t want to go later in life and say, ‘I should have tried that’ and turned it down. I don’t want to live with regret. So far it’s been good.”

But the plans for his future don’t center around just sitting at the helm of the table with BOE members on Thursday nights; Flanary’s got big plans for the Washington County School System — and that first plan centers around literacy.

“Going back to my full-time teaching days, it struck me, ninth graders coming to me there at Crockett who couldn’t read or write,” Flanary said. “I’m sure that happens in high schools all across this country and maybe all around the world. How do you get to the ninth grade and you can’t read or write? How does that happen? The time that I have as director, I want to address that. I want to focus on Pre-K through third grade literacy.”

To up literacy in the county school system, Flanary said he’s been doing his homework on the matter, reading up on ways to improve literacy in young students and listening and picking the brains of elementary education administrators.

“The research has changed I’m finding,” Flanary said. “We used to say that if a kid is reading anything, if they were just reading the back of a cereal box, that’s enough. It’s just not. They need to be reading for understanding. That’s been the missing piece of literacy for so long.

How can teachers support that? There was a question that was asked of me that I can’t get out of my mind: who is doing most of the thinking in the classroom? If it’s the teacher, we’re doing something wrong. Kids need to be doing most of the thinking in the classroom. We don’t need to be doing so much teaching as we do asking the right questions. This is the approach I want to take.”

It’s not just Pre-K through third graders he’s considering in his goals, however; Flanary added that he also wants to concentrate on making the Washington County School system a “job generator.”

For Flanary, that means offering options for all students after high school and showing younger students what career options they have in the future.

“It is true that when I started, we used to say, ‘A college education isn’t for everybody.’ I haven’t said that in years,” Flanary said. “If you have any opportunity or aptitude for a post secondary experience, you need to go. If it’s a four-year school, if it’s Ivy League, if it’s a one-semester certificate program at TCAT (Tennessee College for Applied Technology), whatever’s right for you. We need to support those kids and whatever is next in their lives.

“It’s not just for high school. If you ask a typical seventh grader what they want to do for a living — doctor, lawyer, actor. Why? That’s our fault. That’s all they know. We need to show them what you can do for a living and make a good living right here in the Tri-Cities. We need to have a better relationship with business and industry. I want to foster that. I want businesses to know they have a seat at the table with Washington County Schools.”

Flanary also added that he wants to work on organization within the highest tier of the school system, which includes streamlining responsibilities within his office.

As if managing the school system weren’t enough, a director also works closely with his or her nine bosses on the school board as well as the county commission through committee meetings, workshops and requests and presentations to the commission. Though it could be seen as a daunting part of the role, Flanary said it’s an easy part of the job.

“I work for the board of education,” Flanary said. “I will work with the county commission because they’re the funding body. We have got to have that. We run on cash. But I will never forget who I work for and who signs my paycheck — and who I am contracted to.

“Mayor Grandy and I have fostered a very good relationship early on. A lot of (the commissioners) I have known for three plus decades. I work for the board of education. I take my cues from them. That’s an easy part of this job.”

Next on Flanary’s plate will be organizing the upcoming Boones Creek School which is slated to be open in August of 2019. Flanary said furniture, bus routes, hiring administrators and teachers for the school, and considering redistricting are all on the to do list for the school. Not to mention the Jonesborough School project discussion, which will continue in a joint meeting with school and county officials later this month.

“I’m not discouraged (by the Jonesborough School project holdups). This board and this commission will come to an agreement,” Flanary said. “It was a really good move (to chose the latest design plan). Like the mayor said, it’s a good starting place. It gets the conversation moving again. We’re not at a stalemate now.

“I’m encouraged by what’s happened so far and I look forward to seeing what happens even in the next few days. We’re going to bring something out of the ground at Jonesborough like we did in Boones Creek.”

Until then, there’s still work to be done. And for Flanary, that work serves as fuel to keep going, no matter what comes across his new desk in his new digs.

“One attractive thing about it is you never get bored. Every day is different. And I’ve got a great staff. I want to emphasize that. There’s not a better system-wide staff in the state of Tennessee I don’t believe,” Flanary said. “You walk into this school system that has great people already in place. It’s been satisfying to work with these folks.

“I never saw myself working 12 -14 hour days, but I find myself looking at the clock and it’s 7 p.m. and you haven’t even eaten lunch,” Flanary said. “You still feel, energized. I’m not sure if energized is the right word, but you have energy about you. You’re not exhausted or bored. You just want to get on to the next thing.”

The Black Lillies to bring songs, stories to town

The Black Lillies are excited to return to their roots with a sound that has become all their own. (Photo by Saul Young)

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

There might not be a song for every story, but there is a story to every song. And the Knoxville-based Americana rock band, The Black Lillies, plan to bring both to kick off this year’s Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough.

The band will take the stage in Jonesborough on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. before the three-day festival begins in Tennessee’s oldest town.

International Storytelling Center President Kiran Singh Sirah said the event isn’t just to build excitement, though that’s part of the plan.

He said the band’s focus on stories and love for Northeast Tennessee made The Black Lillies the perfect fit to celebrate the beginning of storytelling.

“We’ve always tried to emphasize that music is a form of storytelling, especially here in this region,” Sirah said. “A lot of their material is inspired from personal stories from their life. And they’ve got international recognition but they’re also local so it was a perfect kind of match. We’re really pleased to be able to bring them this year.”

For the four-member band, the show serves as a sort of extension of a hometown show, while also helping start the tour to promote their album “Stranger To Me”, which was released Friday, Sept. 28.

“A gig like Jonesborough is great for keeping your connection to home,” Cruz Contreras, the band’s lead singer said. “It’s a great reminder for us because we’ve spent our lives making music in East Tennessee. Jonesborough, Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol — this southern Appalachian region has been a big influence and part of our lives. We’re lucky to make music here.”

The band has played throughout Knoxville through the group’s almost 10 years of existence while also playing at some of the country’s largest stages such as the Grand Ole Opry and at music festivals such as Bonaroo and MerleFest. But its also seen its share of changes in recent years.

After the exit of three band members throughout the years and a string of substitute band members to follow, Bowman Townsend (drummer/songwriter), Sam Quinn (bass guitarist/vocalist), and Dustin Shaefer (lead guitarist/songwriter) joined forces with Contreras to round out the group. Nowadays, Contreras said, The Black Lillies is more of a rock band than ever before, while never completely abandoning the folk side of the band’s sound.

“It’s a rock band,” Contreras said. “I grew up playing bluegrass and country music and that’s certainly one element I bring to the table, but the other guys are all coming from different schools of thought. “Early on in the transition, someone would be like, ‘What kind of music do you play?’ And I’d say, ‘Rock ’n roll.” But in the back of my mind, we were still this and still that.

“Now I feel very comfortable telling people (the band plays rock) now. Even the new renditions of old songs, they’re delivered with the new robust sound we’ve got. We’ve got this thing ready for big stages.”

But the band’s stop in Jonesborough isn’t just another set of old and new Black Lillies songs; Contreras said he felt the Storytelling Festival gig is one that embodies what the band shoots for in its songwriting. And that all centers around a story.

“It’s great because we’re storytellers and songwriters also,” Contreras said. “To be a part of an event like that that has a great reputation is a good way to start off this tour as we get ready to travel the country and tell our story. “You have the storytelling aspect of what we do. I’d imagine that was a part in someone’s choice of having us there.”

As for those who put together the festival in Jonesborough, the storytelling capital of the world, having a folk rock band take the stage is yet another way to support storytelling in different styles and mediums.

“(Music in storytelling) has kind of been an interwoven thing,” Sirah said.

“Culturally we tell our stories through the oral tradition, but we also tell our stories through music and through song and we tell our stories though dance. There are many different ways we tell our stories. Interweaving that into the festivals, it’s important to do that.”

Sirah added that while festival goers can catch numerous storytellers such as Josh Goforth and Sheila Kay Adams, who oftentimes weave stories and songs together, the festival will also offer stories at the Oak Hill School house behind the visitors center for younger guests. The festival will also bring back the Swapping Ground, which serves as an area for folks to try their hand at telling their own stories.

“(The Swapping Ground) is really beautiful because it’s a very intimate space,” Sirah said. “More and more we see an excitement and this draw to not just listen to story, but engage and learn how to tell your own story. Whether you’re a member of the clergy and you delivering sermons or collecting stories from your families background … it doesn’t really matter. It’s all about how we learn to tell these stories in a meaningful way.”

At its heart, Sirah added that from the concert kick off to the stories shared under those enormous white tents throughout town, the Storytelling Festival honors stories in all forms that bring people together.

“The festival is the flagship for storytelling,” Sirah said. “That connects us to our humanity. And our humanity connects us to things like suffering and joy, the yearning to love and to be loved. You can feel a sense of belonging, a connection and a sense of purpose. What storytelling does, it does exactly that.

“It helps us to connect to these real human values and concepts that connect us across boundaries and the idea that we can share common ground.”

Tickets for The Black Lillies — as well as Festival weekend passes and other special ticketed events — can be purchased online at www.storytellingcenter.net, by phone, or on the Festival grounds.

For more information or to make reservations, call ISC at (800)952-8392, ext. 222.

Local author holds book launch

Anne G’Fellers Mason with her new book.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

Most 12-year-olds have some idea what they want to be when they grow up. Most often, those ideas eventually become fiction when real life gets in the way.

However, for Anne G’Fellers Mason, that dream she had as a 12-year-old became reality this past Monday at the Corner Cup on Main Street.

Mason held a book launch and signing at the coffee shop to announce the release of her first novel, “The Summer Between.”

“It’s a contemporary young adult fiction and that means anybody over the age of 13 will hopefully enjoy. It’s a coming-of-age story about the time in life when high school is over and what comes next, where do you go from here?

“For the lead character, his name is Brendon; it’s the summer between finishing high school and starting college. He has all these expectations about what that summer’s supposed to be but life doesn’t always go to plan.”

While this is Mason’s first book to be released, she has experience in playwriting at her job at the Heritage Alliance. She has written, for example, “With These Hands” and “Spot on the Hill.”

Mason recently recounted her first experience with writing novels.

“I wrote my first book when I was 12, and it’s still a work in progress. I started with books and then playwriting actually came up later. I got into theater more; that’s when I started writing plays.

“I started theater when I was in middle school. I took a class and loved it and stayed with it all the way through college. Then I got a master of fine arts in playwriting. I like acting, but I like the writing part more.”

Her first attempt at writing, when she was 12, was a fantasy fiction story involving dragons. She said she hopes to release that novel in the next year.

Mason added that “The Summer Between” was written in the summer months of 2009, but finding a publisher took a bit of time.

“I wanted to (publish books) since I was young. But you have to grow up. And I sent some stuff out and got the rejection letters like you do. You get your no’s and then I got lucky when I got with Mountain Gap Books. They were looking for young adult, local, Appalachian-based authors.”

Some of the ideas incorporated in the novel came from her own life.

“Some of the ideas come from my own experiences and things I went through in life and others are completely 100 percent fiction. But there’s a little piece of me in this book.

“I like creating worlds in whatever form they come.”

Mason dedicated the book to her mother and acknowledged how supportive her mother has been. She added that she was lucky to have a job and community that supports artistic endeavors.

The novel is available online at Amazon in both paperback and e-book formats, as well as Barnes & Noble, the Jonesborough Visitor’s Center and some copies will be available to check out at the Washington County Library.

More information is available at www.annegfellersmasonauthor.com.

Johnson City opts out of sports complex, county questions task force

Fifteen commissioners took their seats, along with new the new county mayor, where they discussed the athletic facilities complex in Boones Creek.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

It’s official; Johnson City no longer wants to play ball with Washington County on a sports complex. And in turn, the Washington County Commission changed the way in which recommendations related to the complex will be brought to the commission floor.

Last week, Johnson City Commissioner Todd Fowler emailed members of the athletic facilities task force to inform the joint group that city officials were opting out of entering a partnership on the athletic facilities complex slated to be built on Boones Creek Road, saying “a majority of commissioners did not want to spend money at the Boones Creek site.”

Clarence Mabe

“I think now it will be a great opportunity to develop something that will be good for the students,” Clarence Mabe, the task force co-chairman, said about the future of the site at the last task force’s meeting. “I think it will be good for the teachers, the coaches and the community. I think we’ll have something very special. Let’s just go forward.”

In light of the city’s decision, the county commission opted to have its Commerce, Industry and Agriculture Committee make recommendations to Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy on any future decisions related to the sports complex. That motion, made by Commissioner Danny Edens, passed with a 11-4 vote from the 15-member commission. Commissioners Bryan Davenport, Larry England, Jodi Jones and Mike Ford were opposed.

The commission initially considered dissolving the athletic facilities task force when Commissioner Kent mentioned the task force.

“This board wanted that committee?,” Commissioner Kent Harris asked. “So this board can do away with that committee?”

Kent Harris

“I would just personally like to dissolve that committee. When I read in the paper $11 million for a sports complex — where did we get the money to pay that? That’s really shocking. I had no idea it was that high. The tax payers can’t afford that.”

The task force, made up of county and city officials, was originally formed as a joint group to make one recommendation regarding the sports complex, Commission Chairman Greg Matherly said. But now that the city portion of the group dropped off, the sports complex plan, and potentially the task force, could take on a different look.

“The specific function of that committee was to work with Johnson City to develop a plan for Johnson City and Washington County to move forward in that,” Matherly said. “I think, moving forward, that committee’s really done what it’s going to do. You’re probably going to be looking at something a whole lot different than what that committee was designed to do.”

During the task force’s Tuesday, Sept. 19 meeting, the group came away with a unanimous recommendation that Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy consider who should be on the task force going forward.

However, at the commission’s Monday, Sept. 24 meeting, Edens said he felt a task force was not necessary and that school officials or any other involved parties could attend CIA meetings to discuss the project.

Commissioner Jodi Jones, who is a member of the county’s CIA Committee, asked why commissioners wanted to make a decision on the task force during the first meeting for the new commission. She also said she’d like more time before having to come to a decision regarding the sports complex.

“I have a hard time imagining that a week from tonight that I would be feeling any more ready to make moves on budgeting and grading those fields (at the CIA meeting). But I would be welcoming to people to come in and talk to me.”

Commissioners named to the CIA Committee are Larry England, Phil Carriger, Jodi Jones, Robbie Tester and Kent Harris.

The county’s CIA and other committee meetings are typically held the first Thursday of each month. However, the next set of committee meetings will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 3. A complete list of committee information is available at http://www.washingtoncountytn.org/events.

County receives student growth scores

Scores show strengths in literacy & numeracy, problems with science.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The results are in and Washington County School District has now received its 2017-2018 Tennessee Value-Added Assessment Scores.

TVAAS serves as a measurement tool for student growth for each school and school district in the state. The results are not based on how students performed on state mandated tests each year, but rather how far a student has grown academically. But due to a rather complicated formula, how the results turn out is a bit of a gamble from year to year, according to Washington County Interim Director of Schools Bill Flanary.

“With value-added, I could take math teachers from both high schools, have them calculate it and I promise you the state would come up with something different,” Flanary said. “Talk to any superintendent, supervisor or any principal and, when the scores come out, you kind of hold your breath. If it’s great, you accept it. If it’s not, you just keep working.

“We don’t expect anything. We just hope for good scores because the calculation is so difficult to make.”

This year’s calculations left the Washington County School District with a four for its overall composite score. Flanary told the Herald & Tribune that he’s proud of the work put in to receive a high ranking and he attributes that to teachers and principals.

“I’ve been watching scores from my former position for a long time,” Flanary said. “We have been a leader across the region among the county systems for a decade. It’s because of our technique of teaching what we’re supposed to teach and not just what we want to teach.”

While the method has proven successful in most categories, the county is lacking in one category across the board.

A five is the highest score possible with a one being the lowest for TVAAS results. Throughout the TVAAS composite categories, the county received a five in literacy, numeracy, literacy and numeracy combined, and in social studies. However, the county received a one in science.

Of the 14 school TVAAS results recorded (Jonesborough Elementary and Boones Creek Elementary scores were not available), eight schools received a one, three schools received a three, two schools received a four and one school, Ridgeview Elementary School, received a five in the science category.

Flanary cited new science standards as a main factor in low science scores.

“The state is just about to finish two years of revamping science standards,” Flanary said. “Anytime they do that, you’re going to be behind the curve a little bit. I think everybody state-wide is taking a hit on science. I was in a meeting with the commissioner and she mentioned that science has been tumultuous, that and social studies. We look for greater scores this year.”

The interim director also said school and classroom observations of Washington County’s schools are of more importance than scores. And in turn, Flanary said, a job well done will improve the county’s scores.

“I think the evaluation of what we can observe is more important than the scores,” Flanary said. “We use a team evaluation system and as long as we know that they’re doing what they need to be doing everyday and principals are providing curriculum leadership and instructional leadership, that’s all (that’s needed).”

As for the areas in which Washington County is exceeding, Flanary said instructional coaches are a main component of that success.

“A lot of it has to do with our instructional coaches,” Flanary said. “They do what the principals would like to do if the principals had the time. They provide real instructional leadership, They’re the ones that go to the various curriculum meetings over the summer and throughout the school year to really get the details of the new standards and standard updates. They help these teachers understand them, they help the teachers pick them apart, put them to work in the classroom — that’s a lot of it.”

Though Flanary said what these schools do on a daily basis is a better measurement tool than the state’s report on student growth, he also said the figures provide a standard and an understanding of where Washington County is in “the ball game” of student scores.

“We’re competitive people. Just like at a ball game, we like to know what the score is,” Flanary said. “Even though we may know that it’s only a number and it’s only a fraction of a fraction of what we actually do, it’s a standard. It’s nice to have a five or four in growth because it just looks good. It’s great to be able to say you’re a level 5 or level 4 school and it gives us something to work on when we don’t get those high levels.”

The 2017-2018 TVAAS scores for each district and school in Tennessee are available for viewing at https://www.tn.gov/education/data/tvaas.html.

BOE looks at cutting academic coaches

Chad Fleenor made a set of motions during the school board meeting regarding instructional coaches and additional teaching positions.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

It was Chad Fleenor’s first meeting as a Washington County Board of Education member Thursday night, but that didn’t keep him from making a pair of motions regarding Washington County classrooms during the board’s roundtable discussion.

Fleenor, who is one of three new board members, made a motion to add seven teaching positions to the school system in order to address what he considers to be overcrowded classrooms in Washington County. The motion involved taking $500,000 from the school system’s fund balance reserves in order to fund the positions. The motion failed in a 3-6 vote with Fleenor, Annette Buchanan and David Hammond in favor and Phillip McLain, Todd Ganger, Mitch Meredith, Jason Day, Mary Beth Dellinger and Keith Ervin in opposition of the motion.

“We talked about class sizes. I’m concerned because they’re big,” Fleenor said. “We’re holding teachers accountable for their testing scores. If you put more people in there, to me, that’s more demand on them.”

The school system is within state requirements, which sets the classroom student limit at 25 students for grades K-3, 30 students for grades 4-6 and 35 students for grades 7-12, as listed in the board’s policy on class sizes. However, it’s still been a concern for board members.

Ervin, who was unanimously elected as board chairman at the meeting, said the previous board asked Interim Director of Schools Bill Flanary to see what he could do about reducing class sizes, specifically in K-3. After Fleenor’s motion, Flanary said a solution to that problem would most likely be a costly one.

“I talked to a teacher today who has 24 kids in her first grade class and it about broke my heart. But the solution costs $75,000,” Flanary said. “I want the smallest class sizes we can afford.”

Before making his final motion to add positions, Fleenor made a different motion — which was later withdrawn — to reduce the system’s number of instructional coaches from 11 to seven.

“I don’t see anything we can do to fix (classroom sizes),” Fleenor said. “The only thing is we haven’t had academic coaches before. I hate it because I know they do a lot for the administrators. I know there has been some real value. I know some people I’ve talked to really love their coaches.”

Academic coaches are designed to provide teachers with guidance and training to improve their classroom instruction and engagement. Five of the county’s 11 academic coaches are federally funded. However, Flanary told the board that, should that number be cut down, those people would be unemployed — and it’s no guarantee that they could be put back into a classroom.

“If this motion passes, these people are not going to have a job,” Flanary said. “They are unemployed. I will work like a dog to get them somewhere, somehow. But they are unemployed. I can’t guarantee all these people have the right certifications (to be placed as a teacher for the overcrowded classrooms). I would have to create positions.”

Ervin and Flanary both suggested changing the board’s policy on class sizes to better reflect the wishes of the BOE. Board members also suggested allowing Flanary to reduce class sizes without a motion from the nine-member board.

Meanwhile, Ganger felt that asking the director to add those reduced instructional coaches back into the system didn’t allow the director to do his job.

“We are an exemplary school. We’re a level five school. We’re doing something right,” Ganger said. “So why does this board want to now handcuff the director, making him do something that’s maybe not in the best interest of the school system right now? I don’t believe in saying, ‘We’ve got five people unemployed now. Find them a job.’ I’m a believer in letting the people do their jobs, whether it’s the director, principals, teachers, whoever. Let them do their jobs.

“If you make a motion to eliminate positions, you are handcuffing the director of schools in doing something right then and there. I’m sorry, but you are.”

Dellinger, who made a motion during a budget meeting to reduce last year’s 12 instructional coaches down to four, said she would like to see a change in how the county utilizes the coaches, saying that six would suffice. Meanwhile, Hammond said he felt it was a board member’s duty to try to address concerns, even if it means adjusting the budget.

“Board members are responsible for the budget at the end of the day,” Hammond said. “No one wants to eliminate positions. No one. Dr. Flanary said he could not find the funds. So if we have overcrowding in classrooms, who suffers? The teachers, the students. So how do we correct that if the funds aren’t there? We, as responsible elected officials, take (instructional coaches) away.”

Flanary said that should any instructional coaches be cut, he suspected they would find a position in another school system and that Washington County would lose them. Ganger said he felt losing teachers and administrators, even outside of potentially cutting positions, was not a teacher or principal problem, but a board of education problem.

“There’s a reason we’re losing a lot of teachers and principals,” Ganger said. “The problem is not with our teachers, principals or anything like that. The problem is the board of education. And we have got to fix that and let the people do their jobs.”

Next up for the board of education will be a called meeting scheduled with the new Washington County Board of Commissioners for Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 5 p.m. at the Washington County Department of Education, located at 405 W College Street, Jonesborough. That meeting will be held to discuss the Jonesborough School project.

City officials still unsure on county sports complex

Clarence Mabe and James Ellis talk over the two presented facility complex plans.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Two options were presented last week for the athletic facilities complex slated to be built on Boones Creek Road, but the athletic facilities task force didn’t come to a decision on either plan.

The task force, comprised of both Washington County and Johnson City officials, opted to hold off on a design plan decision until all members of the task force could weigh in.

The first option includes four 300-foot baseball fields. The second option includes four 300-foot fields with Astroturf and one softball field. Ed O’Hara, the CHA Design/Construction Solutions sports market leader for the project, said the second option would cost $11.3 million. The county has $3 million earmarked for the athletic facilities complex, meaning the city would put about $8 million towards the athletic facility complex.

One concern cited at the meeting was the absence of soccer, track and football facilities in both plans. Director of Parks and Recreation for the Town of Jonesborough Rachel Conger asked about any potential plans for a football or soccer field.

“I know there’s not a whole lot of programming for soccer and football, but further down the road, if you’re going to need facilities for that, what’s the plan for that?” Conger said. “You just hate to eliminate the possibility of programming outside of baseball and softball at the school, especially a brand-new school.”

Washington County Commissioner Bryan Davenport explained that the county has one football team, one boys soccer team and one girls soccer team at the middle school level to filter into Daniel Boone High School and David Crockett High School. Clarence Mabe, who is a former Washington County Board of Education member, said a football field, track and lights for those fields were estimated at $3 million and “shoots the whole budget.” He also said the county currently has a few soccer and football fields at Jonesborough Middle School and in Boones Creek that aren’t being utilized.

“If we’re not using it,” Mabe said, “do we want to spend $3 million for it?”

It wasn’t a lack of fields that served as a concern for some city officials.

Johnson City is still considering buying the Wilson property that sets adjacent to the city’s athletic facilities at Winged Deer Park. For some, the possibility of eventually placing ballfields on that property is a holdup where the county sports complex is concerned.

“If the city of Johnson City is going to invest millions of dollars — to have to try to work around scheduling conflicts is not something I would recommend. But that’s just me,” James Ellis, the Johnson City Parks and Recreation director said. “I’ve got reservations when it’s the Wilson property verses this property.”

Ellis said having space for adult league play was the city’s main issue. He expressed concern in getting the city’s softball teams on the future fields on Boones Creek Road starting at 6 p.m. when the county would also be using those fields for county school practices and ball games. Davenport reminded the city that summer use would be no issue where the two were concerned and that the school teams finish up their season near the beginning of May.

Jonathan Kinnick, who is a Johnson City Board of Education member and the city’s parks and recreation advisory board chairman, however, said he felt the Wilson property’s location was key from the city’s park and recreation perspective.

“If we get money from the city to build fields, it makes more sense to have them right here at Winged Deer. Our first priority has always been for our citizens. It’s a win-win if we can make that work, if we’re also bringing in bigger tournaments. Is it going to pay for itself? No. Will it help? Yes. Having all of that complex together makes for a pretty big complex. All the maintenance is in one place, it cuts down on cost verses having to have separate people and equipment there.”

However, Johnson City Commissioner Todd Fowler said he felt the county sports complex offered an answer to the city’s facility woes now, rather than down the road.

“This meets our citizens’ needs next year for what we need field-wise to start right now,” Fowler said. “In 10 years, it may not. But right now, more fields would expand us out. We get to play here and we don’t have cancellations (due to the Astroturf fields).”

Fowler asked what the complex would look like without the city’s partnership. Mabe and Davenport said it would mirror the complex at Ridgeview and that there would certainly be no Astroturf.

“We’ll drop back and do the best we can,” Mabe said on the possibility of the city backing out of the partnership. “Like I said from the start, if it fits, we wear it. If it doesn’t, we don’t.”

“The way I look at it is, this is obviously not 100 percent of what everybody wants,” Davenport said. “But if you get 90 percent of what you want for 60 percent less money, that’s a wise move for us to do. If we had unlimited funds, we’d do something different.”

Director decision hangs in the balance

 

Bill Flanary has served as the interim director of schools for the past four months.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

It’s been nearly four months since Washington County’s Director of Schools stepped down from her post. Could the naming of a new director be on the horizon for the county school system?

Board member Keith Ervin, who is the newly elected chairman of the nine-member board, addressed the subject at the school board’s Thursday, Sept. 6, meeting, asking if the board wanted to make a move on a director’s contract. He mentioned that part of the hold up has been due to the state law that does not allow a school board to enter, change or negotiate a superintendent’s contract 45 days before an election and 30 days following.

“We can’t do anything with director’s contract 30 days after an election,” Ervin said. “That’s passed. Then, we have to advertise (that the contract will be discussed) for 15 days before we can do anything with a contract.”

The school system’s director of secondary education, Bill Flanary, has served as the interim director of schools for the past four months, receiving high praise from multiple board members at public meetings. However, that temporary position could become permanent, should board members choose to name Flanary to the post.

But before considering scheduling a meeting to negotiate any contract, board member Todd Ganger mentioned conducting a director search.

Ganger’s motion to enlist the Tennessee School Board Association to do the search failed in a 3-6 vote with Ganger, Mitch Meredith and Jason Day voting in favor and David Hammond, Mary Beth Dellinger, Ervin, Chad Fleenor, Annette Buchanan and Phillip McLain in opposition of the motion.

The board previously voted down Ganger’s motion to use TSBA to conduct a search for the next director of schools during the board’s June meeting. Ganger explained that because the previous director resigned within 24 months of becoming the director, TSBA will offer Washington County a free director search.

To that, Meredith, a newly elected board member, said he felt the board owed it to constituents to consider all options by conducting a search.

“One of the things I wasn’t interested in doing was going through a search process,” Meredith said. “I have the utmost respect for Dr. Flanary, but if we have a free search, I gotta second it.

“I think this group has the fiduciary responsibility to these people, no disrespect, to have the best director we can have in that position. And hopefully that’s (Flanary). But how do you know that if you don’t look?”

When asked if Flanary would throw his name in the running if a search is conducted, the interim director said he wouldn’t after already being considered for the job during the county’s last search for a director.

“I won’t participate in a search,” Flanary said. “I already did that.”

The board didn’t officially decide on a date to consider any contract negotiations, but Tennessee Code Annotated 49-2-203 (14) (A) also states that a temporary director’s position should not extend “beyond sixty 60 days following the general school board election.”

By state statute, the board will also have to announce that the director’s contract will be discussed 15 days ahead of any meeting date that involves the contract. The item must also be the first listed on the agenda.