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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for April 21, 2023


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


We start with local news…

Charter School May Come to Maury (CDH)

Following controversies late last year, American Classical Academy is again taking steps to organize charter schools in Middle Tennessee, including locations in Maury, Madison, Rutherford, Montgomery and Robertson counties.

The Maury County Board of Education will soon hear details about the charter school’s proposal — dubbed Maury American Classical Academy — at a special-called meeting on April 25. According to the ACA charter school application, the date for the school board to make a final decision is May 2.

The charter’s governing body, American Classical Education affiliated with Hillsdale College, submitted in February an application to five school boards across Middle Tennessee, after previously withdrawing applications from the Jackson-Madison County School System and Clarksville and Murfreesboro school systems in September.

The charter would form a K-5 school in Maury County, with intentions to expand grade levels each year, evolving into a K-12 school. 

If approved by the school board, the charter school would aim to reach an enrollment of 340 students across grades K-5, starting out, according to the 500-page application, obtained through an open records request by The Daily Herald.

On Monday, school board member Laura Nutt of Spring Hill, District 5, who serves on a five-member committee charged by Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Ventura to review the charter application, spoke before the Maury County Commission, explaining the application review process.

She also shared her perspective that allowing for charter schools represents parents' rights.

"I've heard a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about what charter schools are and why we are looking at possibly approving one," Nutt said. "This isn't about if we should have charter schools, the state has already allotted that. This is about if the specific charter school qualifies."

Nutt cited the General Assembly's passage of legislation that allows charter schools to be state funded, through Tennessee Investment through Student Achievement, or TISA, the new state funding formula for school districts. Also in 2019, the General Assembly created the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission under Lee's tutelage.

"Charter schools are public schools. They are funded by public dollars and held to the same academic standards as other public schools in Tennessee," Nutt said. "There is a myth that charter schools are taking away money from public schools, but this is not true. The fact is charter schools are public schools. In Tennessee, the funding follows the students.

"What this allows for is a parent to choose to send their child to a charter school. This is fundamentally about parents' rights."

Charter schools serve all students with no tuition fee, including students with special needs and disabilities with no selective admission requirements, which is addressed in the ACA application in Maury County.

"What we are looking at, as far as the school board, is if the specific charter that gave us an application qualifies and meets those standards," Nutt said.

Nutt vowed that the committee would do due diligence to ensure that the proposed charter meets the criteria required by state law.

"We [should] always remember that government is established to ensure the rights of the citizens and not to mandate and tell parents what they can and cannot do. As government officials, remember what our role is," Nutt said.

Ahead of Laura Nutt's comments, county commissioner Brandon Nutt, District 5, pulled from the agenda a resolution stating that the commission supports the charter school, explaining that he didn't want the resolution's intent to be misperceived.

The school board's first discussion about the charter application submission will be Tuesday.

Gov. Bill Lee’s support of school choice was exemplified in his voucher program implemented to address failing test scores among the bottom 5% of low-performing school districts in Tennessee, only including Shelby County Schools in the greater Memphis area and Metro Nashville Public Schools in Davidson County.

Lee also linked himself to Hillsdale College in his State of the State address in February, alluding to a partnership with the college to bring at least 50 charter schools to Tennessee. However, he later distanced himself from ties to the college last summer when college president Larry Arnn said at a Franklin, Tennessee event that "teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country,” drawing much bipartisan and public ire.

The application states that ACA would support mastery of Tennessee’s state standards through systematic phonics instruction, Singapore math, a focus on American history, civics, government, use of the Socratic Method and the study of Latin beginning in the sixth grade, for example, as well as a focus on the arts and athletics.

The charter operator is considering the areas of North Columbia, Hampshire, or the heart of Columbia on James Campbell Parkway, as possible areas to build the proposed charter school, according to the application.

ACA representatives build a case in the application that a charter school would aid in student population growth in Maury County as more families move to Maury County, the fastest-growing county in Tennessee coupled with rising home prices, fast-paced manufacturing growth and incoming capital investments.

Middle Tennessee houses nine of the fastest-growing cities in the state.

In the past, many school boards and constituents across the state have fought against the organization of charter schools, including most recently Jackson-Madison County Schools, in favor of preserving state and federal funds for public school systems.

Public School Partners, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that supports public schools, estimates that the ACA charters across five counties, if approved, would draw more than $17 million from public school district funding in its first year.

Superintendent Ventura said the district could stand to lose public school dollars — state, federal and local —because student-teacher ratios most likely will not balance out the loss of the cost.

The per pupil expenditure in Maury County is $9,744, according to the 2021-2022 recent state report card, which is approximately the amount that would follow a student to a charter school if approved. The first wave of students at the proposed MACA would equal 320 pupils.

"For example, if all of the students [leaving] were in the same classroom, I wouldn't have to hire a teacher, so I would break even, but that's not likely," she said.

"... so Maury County Public Schools loses. The funding is the trickiest part.

Ventura also said proper oversight of charter schools is an issue that's being debated.

"There are a lot of unknowns but whenever you are taking money away from locally-run public schools, whether state, federal or local tax dollars, it's risky because, charters, although they have to adhere to state testing, they [get waivers such as for class size and enrollment procedures are different]," Ventura said.

Ventura said she is most concerned about children receiving the best and most rigorous education possible in alignment with state standards, no matter the school building.

"Tax dollars are following the child, but it is not run by any elected officials. It is run by a private board. Some school boards feel that they are losing local control," Ventura said.

"There are people in the state of Tennessee, who are very concerned that local decisions will not be honored by nonprofit charter schools."

Ventura, who does not get a vote in the matter, said she is not against school choice.

"School choice is inherent in the American Dream," Ventura said. "We are in an unfortunate position now because we have the perfect storm of growth and low academic achievement. But who am I to say 'no' to choice and competition?"

MCPS currently scores below the state average in reading (30.1% proficient or above) and math (31.8% proficient or above).

"I love that we have a vibrant homeschool community and private school community. I partner with them," Ventura said.

"Every single child should have the right of the education they need."

Nutt also said she welcomes competition.

"It can help us be better," she told the Herald after the Monday commission meeting.


Maury Regional Gets Stroke Certification (Press Release)

Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Advanced Primary Stroke Center Certification by demonstrating continuous compliance with its performance standards.

The Gold Seal is a symbol of quality that reflects a health care organization’s commitment to providing safe and quality patient care.

“We take our commitment to provide state-of-the-art health care to our community very seriously, especially for emergency conditions such as strokes. We’re excited to earn recertification as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission,” said Maury Regional Health CEO Martin Chaney, MD. “I’m proud of our physicians, nurses and hospital staff for the outstanding job they do providing our stroke patients with exceptional, compassionate care.”

The certification recognizes health care organizations that provide clinical programs across the continuum of care for strokes. The certification evaluates how organizations use clinical outcomes and performance measures to identify opportunities to improve care, as well as to educate and prepare patients and their caregivers for discharge.

 

MRMC underwent a rigorous, unannounced onsite review in April. During the visit, a team of Joint Commission reviewers evaluated compliance with related certification standards including program management and delivering and facilitating clinical care. Joint Commission standards are developed in consultation with health care experts and providers, measurement experts and patients. The reviewers also conducted onsite observations and interviews.

“Advanced Primary Stroke Center Certification recognizes health care organizations committed to fostering continuous improvement in patient safety and quality of care,” said Deborah Ryan, MS, RN, interim executive vice president, accreditation and certification operations with The Joint Commission. “We commend Maury Regional Health for using certification to reduce variation in its clinical processes and to strengthen its program structure and management framework for stroke patients.”

Maury Regional Medical Center’s medical staff includes specialists in emergency medicine, neurologists, neurohospitalists and a neurosurgeon who provide stroke services including treatment and follow-up care, spinal injury or disease treatment, and brain injury or disease treatment. The medical center also utilizes technology to enhance its providers’ ability to treat stroke patients.

Stroke rehabilitation services at MRMC include occupational, physical and speech therapy. Patients and their family, friends and caregivers also have access to a Stroke Support Group that meets at the medical center on the fourth Thursday of each month. For more information, visit MauryRegional.com/classes-and-events.

To learn more about stroke services offered at MRMC, visit MauryRegional.com/stroke-services.

For more information about The Joint Commission, visit JointCommission.org.


Columbia State Announces Commencement Speakers (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College is pleased to announce that Jaeden Kennedy, Makayla Ogilvie and Annaleisa Matzirakis will deliver the commencement addresses to the graduating class during the spring 2023 commencement ceremonies that will take place May 6 at 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

 

For the first ceremony, Jaeden Kennedy and Annaleisa Matzirakis will deliver the commencement address. 

 

A Franklin resident, Matzirakis is graduating from Columbia State as a dual enrollment student with an Associate of Science degree in biology. She has served as president and vice president of the Student Government Association as well as the vice president of service for Phi Theta Kappa. She is the recipient of the National Hispanic Scholar Merit Award and has also been named to the All-USA Community and Junior College Academic Team. Next, Matzirakis plans to attend Auburn University on a full ride scholarship and as part of the Honors College to major in applied biotechnology. She hopes to eventually work in pharmaceutical and experimental research for drug discovery.

A Chapel Hill resident, Kennedy is graduating from Columbia State with an Associate of Science degree in business administration. He has served as president of the Student Government Association and as the chair for the Student Government President’s Council for the Tennessee Board of Regents. He has also served in Phi Theta Kappa and Sigma Kappa Delta honor societies as an officer. Next he plans to attend Lipscomb University to major in business entrepreneurship. Kennedy is also the owner of Jaeden Kennedy Films, a production company that specializes in creating high-quality videos for churches and non-profit organizations to communicate their message effectively through visual storytelling.

For the second ceremony, Makayla Ogilvie will deliver the commencement address. A Columbia resident, she hails from a long line of Columbia State alum, being the fourth member of her immediate family to graduate from the college. Ogilvie is graduating from Columbia State with an Associate of Applied Science degree in nursing. During her time at Columbia State, she has been part of the Student Nurses’ Association as well as submitted poetry to the college publication, “Perceptions.” As a future registered nurse, she dreams of helping provide care and resources to underprivileged communities. 

The commencement ceremony will take place in the Webster Athletic Center on the Columbia Campus. 

The commencement ceremony will be streamed live for remote viewing. The ceremony can be found atwww.ColumbiaState.edu/Graduation. 

For those attending in person, guests should plan to arrive early as seating is limited. The earliest guests may arrive is 8 a.m. for the first ceremony and 10:45 a.m. for the second ceremony. Overflow seating will be available in the Ledbetter Auditorium in the Frank G. Clement building. The Webster Athletic Center and the Frank G. Clement Building are on the Columbia Campus, located at 1665 Hampshire Pike.


Theft (MauryCountySource)

Maury County Deputies are searching for an alleged thief. On April 16, 2023, an individual entered a property on Rock Springs Road and stole several items.

The individual was seen on camera carrying the items to the front of the property and loading them into what appears to be a mid to early 1990’s red Chevrolet single cab pickup truck.

The truck then leaves heading south on Rock Springs road toward Sowell Mill Pike.

It is believed the same individual returned on Monday the 17th and stole a 16 foot dove tail trailer. The trailer had white wheels on it and diamond tread on the dove tail.

If you have any information, you are asked to contact Detective Steve Kindler at the Maury County Sheriff’s Department (931)375-8694 or (931)388-5151 or skindler@maurycounty-tn.gov with any information.


Kid’s Place Opens New Location (MainStreetMaury)

Local officials gathered last Wednesday to recognize April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month with a proclamation held in front of the Columbia courthouse.

The proclamation followed the relocation of child advocacy center Kid’s Place from Maury Hills Church to 800 Hatcher Lane in Columbia.

The center, which opened in 1999, also serves Giles, Lawrence and Wayne Counties. The first physical location in Maury County opened in 2011. Charlsi Legendre, executive director of Kid’s Place, said an increase of service led the non-profit to seek standalone space.

“We knew we needed to provide more privacy than what we had,” Legendre said of the new location, which has been open and operating since March. “To have a better presence and gain the support we need is really important,” she said, while adding that the majority of clients are in Maury County.

A Kid’s Place serves children and families when there are allegations of severe child abuse, specifically child sexual abuse. Forensic interviewers gather details from the child and record the interviews, which Legendre said is to ensure that the child doesn’t have to retell the history. Advocates are also assigned to walk with caregivers through every step of the process, while therapists work one-on-one with the child to minimize the symptoms of trauma.

“Our goal is to reduce or eliminate those trauma symptoms so that the abusive situation no longer defines the child,” Legendre said.

The center also has a community awareness program in place, which provides information about body safety to kids at local schools.

“If we teach them how to keep themselves safe and out of harmful situations, then we produce safer children,” Legendre said.

Staff members at Kid’s Place, which includes mental health counselors and professionals, also train adults on the signs and symptoms of abuse and what to look for.

Legendre said the center works with CPS (Child Protection Services), local law enforcement officers and the District Attorney, forming a child protective investigation team.

A fundraising event for Kid’s Place will be held April 28 at the UAW Hall in Spring Hill. To learn more about the event, those interested can visit kpcac.org.


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

William Lee “Jack” Barron, 88, retired educator and a resident of Columbia, died Saturday, April 15, 2023 at his son’s residence in Manchester. 

 A celebration of life service will be held at a later date at First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Columbia. Burial at Polk Memorial Gardens.  Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.


…And now, news from around the state…

State Legislator Resigns (Tennessean)

As lawmakers filed into the House chamber after a lunch break on Thursday, the desk of former Rep. Scotty Campbell sat empty, the characteristic lawmaker name plate missing from its front.

Campbell, R-Mountain City, resigned from the General Assembly in a sudden move Thursday, less than two hours after he told The Tennessean he had no plans to step down from a Republican caucus leadership position over a harassment policy violation.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, confirmed Thursday afternoon Campbell had issued a letter of resignation after an ethics subcommittee last month found Campbell had violated a workplace discrimination and harassment policy.

"Discrimination and harassment in any form will not be tolerated," the subcommittee memo states.

According to the memo, its findings were addressed to Sexton on March 29. The Tennessean has requested further comment from Sexton's office on when he was made aware of Campbell's violation and whether Sexton pursued any internal sanctions against Campbell before the memo was publicized.

Initially, there were no public repercussions for Campbell, the Republican Caucus vice chair, in the three weeks since the subcommittee issued their findings.

The memo was first reported by NewsChannel5, which reported at least one legislative intern complained of alleged sexually harassing communications from Campbell.

As the story broke inside the House chamber on Thursday right before lawmakers took a lunch break, Campbell sat at his desk with his head down.

He later declined to comment on the accusations that led to the ethics complaint and said he did not "at this point" have plans to resign.

"I have no comment in accordance with the General Assembly's policy," Campbell said.

Campbell never returned to the House chamber after walking out.


TN Senators Back Trump Bid (TheNewsTN)

U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty are backing former President Donald Trump's bid to return to the White House.

The two Tennessee Republicans made their endorsements after Trump visited Nashville for a national GOP donor retreat. Both have previously been allies of Trump, with Hagerty serving in his administration as ambassador to Japan before running for Senate with Trump's backing.

Other Republican candidates are beginning to emerge, with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley running and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott launching an exploratory committee.

U.S. Rep. John Rose, a Cookeville Republican who now represents East Nashville, and Kingsport GOP Rep. Diana Harshbarger also announced their support for Trump over the weekend.

Last month, Trump was indicted by a New York grand jury on fraud charges related to his alleged hush money payment to an adult film actress. Multiple other investigations related to both his businesses and time in government are ongoing.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

There are many things that signal spring and summer is finally here, and for some it's the opening of the Woodland Park disc golf course.

Visit the Rotary Shelter at Woodland Park, 821 W. 9th St., starting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, where there will be a BagTag event to kick off the day's festivities. Activities will include tournaments, putting challenges and more.

Following the BagTag event will be the grand ro-opening starting at 1 p.m.

The event will include a raffle and silent auction, the chance to "throw with a pro," disc sales, BBQ, kettle corn and a whole lot more disc golf-related activities.

Don't miss your chance to experience Columbia's newest musical theater's debut production this weekend, because it'll be your last.

Packard Playhouse will present its second and final weekend of its production of the Broadway classic, "Annie The Musical," with performances running Friday through Sunday. Showtimes will be at 7 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and a 3 p.m. matinee Sunday.

Tickets are available at www.PackardPlayhouse.com.


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