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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for August 15, 2023

All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.

We start with local news…

Spring Hill Fire (MauryCountySource)

Spring Hill Fire Department responded to a structure fire over the weekend.

It happened on Friday shortly after 11pm in the Wilkerson Place subdivision.

Fire crews arrived and found the second story front balcony of a residence on fire. The homeowners were able to exit safely.

The fire was quickly extinguish before it reached the attic.

CSCC Gets Metallica Scholarship (Press Release)

The band Metallica has a foundation called All Within My Hands, which continues its multimillion-dollar investment in critical workforce programs at community colleges nationwide. Among the schools, Columbia State Community College was selected from a competitive pool of applicants to receive $100,000 to transform the futures of students in the community.


“The Metallica Scholars Initiative is so important to us because we are seeing results,” said Lars Ulrich of Metallica. “Five years in, with the help of community colleges across the country, we are helping people fill these essential jobs which require skills and training. We are so proud and grateful that we can facilitate this program.”

The Metallica Scholars Initiative (MSI) was launched in 2019 by Metallica’s foundation, All Within My Hands (AWMH), in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The workforce initiative marks its fifth year with an ambitious expansion into new curricula. MSI now directly supports 42 community colleges across 33 states, and by the end of this year, it will have helped over 6,000 students pursuing careers in the trades. To date, Metallica and AWMH have invested over $6MM in the American workforce.

“We are so excited and grateful to be part of the latest cohort in the Metallica Scholars Initiative family,” said Patrick McElhiney, Columbia State development officer and director of grants. “Students in the programs we included in our application are not eligible for the same financial aid options that are available to more traditional programs. This funding will provide opportunities for these students to enter into meaningful and well-paying career fields, which otherwise may not be possible.”

Reaffirming a commitment to career and technical education at the local level, each new school brings incredible opportunities to a thriving and growing community.

“The Metallica Scholars Initiative is a strong and cooperative assemblage of the nation’s best community colleges, creating a supportive climate for participants to communicate directly and share best practices,” said  Peter Delgrosso, AWMH Executive Director. “As a result, our Metallica Scholars leave the program well-trained and confident. Ultimately, the impact is felt locally and nationally as Metallica Scholars enter the workforce and fill in-demand technical positions.”

The 11 newly added colleges are joining a roster of veteran schools invited to continue in the program. Each year, the returning colleges play an integral part in helping guide the success of the new schools. Columbia State is the first community college in Tennessee to receive this grant.

“We are happy to continue to partner with Metallica’s All Within My Hands Foundation to support the vital career and technical education work of the nation’s community colleges,” said Walter G. Bumphus, American Association of Community College’s president and CEO. “Colleges across the country provide pathways to well-paying jobs through programs, services and training that lead to in-demand skills, certificates and degrees for students. These programs are responsive to the needs of local businesses and provide a pipeline of qualified workers to local industry. Partners like Metallica that continue to provide support for community colleges help us to showcase the importance of investing in the transformative power of community college education.”

What began with ten colleges and mostly manufacturing programs has developed into a diverse offering of workforce opportunities for students interested in gaining the skills and training necessary to find meaningful and well-paying careers in fields and positions. Columbia State will use these grant funds for scholarships for dual enrollment students in the engineering systems technology and emergency medical technician programs, as well as for students in the pre-apprentice lineworker academy.

As the voice of the nation’s community colleges, the American Association of Community Colleges leads, advocates, and advances the nation’s community colleges.  Uniquely American, community colleges deliver educational and economic opportunities for more than 10 million diverse students annually. Dedicated to access and success for all students, AACC’s member colleges provide an on-ramp to degree attainment, skilled careers, and family-supporting wages. Located in Washington, DC, AACC advocates for these not-for-profit, public-serving institutions to ensure they have the resources and support to increase economic mobility for all.

All Within My Hands was established in 2017 by Metallica to invest in the people and places that have supported the band. It also allows Metallica’s fans to engage in philanthropy and volunteerism. The Foundation is dedicated to creating sustainable communities through workforce education, the fight against hunger, and other critical local services. All expenses of the Foundation are covered by the band, the board, and a few special friends so that 100% of donations go to the organizations it supports. AWMH is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

City Approves Splash Pad (CDH)

The city is planning to bring a new community splash pad to one of its most-visited parks in the near future via a grant with Blue Cross.

The Blue Cross Healthy Places grant request would be for $850,000 to construct a splash pad at Fairview Park, Parks and Recreation Director Mack Reagan said.

"This is a strategic planning goal, and would have 16 features that will meet what the city council has set forth, would match up with pretty much any community our size," Reagan said. "It's a really nice program, and it's always a good chance for this highly-competitive grant, which is only given out five or six times a year."

The city's contribution was budgeted last year for the splash pad design, with $350,000 additional dollars this year, Reagan added.

"With the increase in the popularity of splash pads, we thought [this grant] would be a good way to assist and gain moneys outside of our taxpayer funding," Reagan said. "This will have a 40-year life span, and while this seems like a lot of money, when you figure year after year it kind of 'puts everything more at ease,' I guess you could say."

Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder said the grant would certainly enhance the project, while also saving the city a lot of money when it comes to expenditures.

"We have an obligation and also an expectation that the project we put in is one that everybody can be proud of. With [Reagan] leading the charge in that regard, I'm certain that will happen," Molder said. "It sounds like, if nothing else, that this grant will help us advance the project as a whole."

The grant application was brought before Columbia City Council as a resolution during the board's Aug. 10 regular meeting, which received unanimous approval by vote.

At the conclusion of the meeting, council member DaVeena Hardison asked when and how the public would be notified about the project's construction. Reagan said there will be a public input meeting "probably in two weeks" at the Dr. Christa Martin Community Center located at the park.

2% 3rd Grade Retention (CDH)

Approximately 20 students will repeat third grade in Maury County Public Schools, following a mad rush to get students up to speed in literacy, following a state mandated retention law that went into effect this summer.

Over the summer, almost 500 third graders, or half of the third grade student body, went through a vetting process to determine whether they would advance to fourth grade or be retained.

After rigorous intervention measures during MCPS summer school, also known as STAR, which stands for Super Thinkers And Readers initiative, approximately 97.7% of third graders were promoted, while 2% were retained out of just less than 1,000 students.

"It is slightly above our typical retention, which is somewhere between 1-1.5% in a grade band," Ventura said.

However, the high rate of promotions despite the rate of underperforming third grade students is a relief, Ventura said.

"I think it's a testament to the hard work put into our summer learning program, STAR. They were smart and focused about addressing literacy deficits in third grade, which contributed to the pass rate," she said.

Approximately 50% of Maury County third grade students retook a literacy portion of TCAP in June for a chance to gain a higher score for advancement, while third graders still struggling had yet another chance to improve by attending a summer program capped by an end-of-summer test.

Students must have shown adequate growth by the end of the summer, scoring at least 5 percentage points higher on a post-summer school test than their baseline score, counting as either their initial TCAP English language arts score or their retake score.

Statewide, of the 26,239 third graders who retook the TCAP literacy test, 12.77%, or 3,350 students, scored proficient, moving to fourth grade with no additional steps. Meanwhile, just over 11,000 third graders avoided retention through appeals and other summer retakes.

Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, who supported the new legislation, or the 2021 Tennessee Literacy Success Act, said he believes the law, or intervention, did what is was designed to do — help kids reach proficiency.

"The bill had very positive outcomes for the kids," Cepicky said. "It was the greatest number of movement from the below category to the approaching category that we have seen in the last 12 years. Now, there are less kids multiple grades behind than we've had also in that time period.

"We are seeing a 40% literacy rate for third graders ― the first time we have hit that number in 17 years."

Those still struggling will receive a fourth grade tutor.

Third graders underwent a rigorous summer reading intervention program to try to get students up to grade level across the state, which ended with yet another literacy test in which students must have achieved five points higher than their early summer retesting.

"Less than 1% of third graders struggling were retained, and 80% of those were by parent request," Cepicky said.

Amid the options for advancement, MCPS hosted its largest summer program ever, drawing 1,400 students trying to boost their literacy skills across all grade levels.

Despite a majority of underperforming students, third grade TCAP scores for the 2022-23 school year released early in May showed a 3% increase in literacy compared to the school year before. Ventura said she was encouraged, although the district will continue to work to improve.

The literacy proficiency range during the 2021-22 school year was 33% in third grade, according to Ventura.

The same year, the State Report Card shows that just 30.1% of all Maury County students in grades 3-5 achieved ELA proficiency or exceeded proficiency.

Third grade retention exemptions in 2023 applied to some students, including English language learners, students with disabilities and those who had been previously retained.

AAHSMC Hosts Smithsonian Exhibition (Press Release)

The African American Heritage Society of Maury County is excited to have been one of six organizations statewide selected to host the Smithsonian exhibit, “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America.” The exhibit is a part of Museum on Main Street program, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and Humanities Tennessee. Voices and Votes is based on a major exhibition currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History called American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith.

This traveling exhibit, presents a visual and interactive history of democracy. Across generations, visitors will see diverse and inspiring Americans who faced challenges and were determined to have their voices heard. Our democracy demands action, reaction, vision, and revision…every one in every community is part of this ever-evolving story. “While the Smithsonian exhibit will focus on the national stories of democracy in America, a companion exhibit, Voices of Maury County, developed by the Society will focus on some of the citizens who fought for democracy in this county,” said Jo Ann McClellan, the Society’s president

“Since the Society does not, yet, have a museum space, we are very excited to host this exhibit at the Maury County Public Library,” said McClellan. The exhibit will open August 19 and close on October 1, 2023. This will be free and open to the public.

About the African American Heritage Society of Maury County

Founded in 2012, the African American Heritage Society of Maury County is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. It is a membership-based organization and is open to anyone interested in learning about the history of African Americans in Maury County.

Learn more about the African American Heritage Society of Maury County by visiting

CMYC Applications Coming (MauryCountySource)

Columbia Mayor’s Youth Council (CMYC) applications for the 2023-24 school year are now open. The CMYC is open to all high school students located within Maury County, public, private, and home-schooled. The 2023-24 term will begin in September 2023 and conclude in May 2024.

Mayor Chaz Molder stated, “The Mayor's Youth Council has quicky established itself as one of the more important initiatives we have at City Hall. Not only does it bring youth inside our buildings to learn about important city issues, but I've seen it first-hand plant a seed in these students of love and pride for their community. I look forward to welcoming the upcoming class and would encourage all high school students to apply for what promises to be our best year yet!”

The CMYC’s goal is to foster leadership and community involvement among Columbia’s diverse high-school population and to encourage students to become further interested in local government. The CMYC is composed of Maury County high school students who value academic excellence, community involvement, and leadership. Selected students will have an opportunity to actively participate in various activities and programs, including team building, working with the Mayor and other City officials, addressing issues affecting youth and the community, leading and volunteering in community projects, and learning about City departments and local businesses.

The CMYC members will be selected based on an application process that is made available to all Maury County high school students. The application process will close on August 25th. Applicants will be notified of acceptance by September 1st. CMYC meetings will be held monthly, in addition to community and volunteer projects.

CMYC applications can be found at

9/11 Memorial (Press Release)

Join the City of Columbia and Columbia Fire and Rescue as they conduct their annual 9/11 Memorial Ceremony. Located at Firefighters Park at 1000 S. Garden Street at 8:00am on Monday September 11th, local leaders will honor the brave men and women of emergency services. The public is invited to attend.

Maury County Fair (MauryCountySource)

The Maury County Fair will return on Thursday, August 31st and run until Monday, September 4th, 2023.

All the family fun and entertainment you love will soon be back!

This year, the fair festivities begins with a Rodeo, taking place on Thursday of Fair Week. Several other popular events will be happening like the junk car jump and run and the Saturday motocross races.

In addition to the back arena fun, all your favorite animal shows and exhibitor competitions are back this year too! The kids zone will see a variety of live, exotic animals and science shows that will amaze kids of every age.

For more on the fair and updates, visit

Address: Maury County Fair & Exposition

1018 Maury County Park Dr. Columbia, TN 38401

And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

Mr. Boyd “Jay” Stewart, 79, Veteran and retired MODOT Employee, died Saturday, August 12, 2023. Funeral services for Mr. Stewart will be conducted Thursday at 12:00 P.M. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 10:00 A.M. until service time at the church. Burial will be held at Middle Tennessee State Veteran’s Cemetery at Pegram. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

…And now, news from around the state…

Tennessee’s Fortune 500 Companies (Tennessean)

What do FedEx, Dollar General, International Paper and Eastman Chemical have in common?

They're all headquartered in Tennessee, and they're all named as Fortune 500 companies this year, according to the business magazine's latest ranking.

In 2013, there were nine Fortune 500 headquartered in Tennessee. There have been at least 10 on the list every year since then. The 2023 list of Tennessee companies that made the cut is as follows:

FedEx was No. 41 with $93.5 billion in revenue

HCA Healthcare was No. 66 with $60.2 billion in revenue

Dollar General was No. 108 with $37.8 billion in revenue

International Paper was No. 184 with $21.2 billion in revenue

Delek US Holdings was No. 198 with $20.2 billion in revenue

AutoZone was No. 258 with $16.3 billion in revenue

Tractor Supply was No. 298 with $14.2 billion in revenue

Community Health Systems was No. 337 with $12.2 billion in revenue

Unum Group was No. 347 with $11.9 billion in revenue

Eastman Chemical was No. 377 with $10.6 billion in revenue

Among these, only two companies improved their rankings from 2022 to 2023: Delek US Holdings (moved 148 spots) and Tractor Supply (moved three spots). The rest of the companies in Tennessee's ten moved down the list at least two spots, with Community Health Systems sinking the most (33 spots).

FedEx, Tennessee's biggest Fortune 500, dropped to 41 this year from 39 last year. The company is up on the list from No. 63 in 2013. They are headquartered in Memphis.

Memphis is also home to International Paper and AutoZone. Middle Tennessee-based companies on the list include HCA Healthcare (Nashville), Delek US Holdings (Brentwood), Tractor Supply (Brentwood), Dollar General (Goodlettsville) and Community Health Systems (Franklin).

In East Tennessee, Unum Group is headquartered in Chattanooga while Eastman Chemicals is headquartered in Kingsport.

None of the companies on Tennessee's list of Fortune 500 companies have female CEO's, but two Tennessee companies on the Fortune 1,000 list do: Cracker Barrell (No. 858) and Brookdale Senior Living (No. 913).

Gas Prices (MainStreetMaury)

After rising for three consecutive weeks, the state gas price average has moved slightly lower. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.43 which is 34 cents more expensive than one month ago but seven cents less than one year ago.  

“Gas prices moved slightly lower across Tennessee last week, which is a nice break from the recent trends we’ve seen. Gas prices previously rose 37 cents in a three-week period,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for The Auto Club Group. “While this is a welcome change, it’s uncertain how long this downward trend will last. Last week, gasoline futures rebounded to levels similar to what we were seeing earlier this month. For this week, drivers should continue to expect fluctuations in pump pricing and know that there is a possibility that gas prices may begin to move higher given the recent changes we’ve seen in the market.” 

Quick Facts

80% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.50 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $3.22 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.74 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is now the 4th least expensive market in the nation 

Kindergarten Immunizations Down (TheNewsTN)

Last school year, more Tennessee families sent their children to kindergarten unvaccinated with a religious exemption than had in recent memory. 

Kindergarteners are required to receive a series of shots by the time they enter a public school, per requirements from the Tennessee Department of Health.  

The Tennessee Department of Health has published its Kindergarten Immunization Compliance Assessment Report annually since at least 2013, according to spokesperson Dean Flener. 

Statewide trends show a sizable decrease in kindergarten vaccinations in the past two school years. In the 2020-21 school year, the state reported that 72 of Tennessee’s 95 counties met the 95 percent fully immunized threshold. The next year, that had decreased to 43 counties. In 2022-23, only 26 counties met the 95 percent threshold.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Maury County Animal Services currently has a ton of young and adult cats available for adoption.

If you are thinking about adding to your family, now would be a great time to meet all of their available felines!

All ages, coat patterns and personalities are available.

The shelter also needs more cat volunteers and volunteers in general. Visit their Facebook Page if you would like more information on how to become a volunteer.

To see all of the adoptable pets on Petfinder, visit

To donate to Friends of MCAS or to volunteer, visit

The Shelter is located at 1233 Mapleash Avenue

Maury County Animal Services is open 7 days a week from 12pm till 5pm for adoptions, no appointment necessary.


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