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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for April 27, 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 Voted Down (CDH)

The Maury County Public School board voted down the establishment of an American Classical Academy charter school in Maury County on Tuesday at a special-called meeting due to academic and operational "deficiencies" in the application.

The board voted, 5-6, disapproving the charter school that would seek to enroll 320 children in a K-5 school, free of tuition, but drawing from state public school funds.

The five board members, who voted in favor of the charter school application include Kristen Shull, Laura Nutt, Steve McGee, Jackson Carter, and board chairman Michael Fulbright, who made the motion to approve the charter. The six board members, who voted against the application are Jamila Brown, Will Sims, Bettye Kinser, Marlina Ervin, Austin Hooper and Wayne Lindsey.

However, the fate of the charter school is not finished in Maury County.

ACA has the opportunity to revise the deficiencies and submit an amended application based on feedback from the review committee and the board within 30 days for another review. The review committee would have 60 days to review the amended application, which would again be reviewed in June and July.

Nutt and Lindsey served on the 11-member review committee — comprised of principals, assistant principals, two school board members, community members and superintendent Lisa Ventura — who evaluated the 500-plus page charter school application over the past several months.

Ventura reviewed the scoring rubric before the board, following an hour-long public comments segment, explaining that due to the significant deficiencies in the application, the committee recommends disapproval of the ACA charter school.

"I want to remind school board members of just a few things. First thing is whether the people in this room define a charter school as a public school or not, is not what I am here to debate. However, the rubric that is used to score the charter school application ― the review team is put together and obligated to use that rubric. We do not go beyond that rubric in the recommendations," Ventura said.

"At no time in this application does the review team look at the cost of the school, that is your job."

During public comments, locally elected leaders Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, and Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt, whose comments were shared by a letter read aloud by a constituent, expressed support of the charter school, favoring parent choice and giving students more opportunities to achieve.

Cepicky said because the school district will receive $17 million more funds next fiscal year due to the new TISA funding (replacing the former Basic Education Program state formula), now could be the time to embrace a charter.

"I've studied this charter school issue in Shelby and Davidson and across Tennessee and seen great many success stories," Cepicky said, reaching 11% higher scores than the public district. "We should be deciding whether a charter school provides opportunities for students."

"High school teachers that I talk to explain that students coming up from middle school are two or three grade levels behind. ... Their opportunities are next to nothing. Our state corrections department uses the third grade literacy scores to determine how many beds we need in our prisons."

Twelve constituents spoke, six for and six against the charter school. Proponents explained their support in giving parents the right to choose the education best for their children, while offering an alternative to MCPS's record of underperformance, scoring just over 30% in reading and math proficiency among students in grades 3-8.

Those in opposition, including some parents and current and past educators, cited the significant loss of public education dollars MCPS could face. The per pupil expenditure in Maury County is $9,744, according to the 2021-2022 state report card, which is approximately the amount of state, county and federal funding that could follow up to 320 students if the charter were approved, potentially funneling over $3.1 million into the charter.

Constituent Diane Davis, who is against the charter school, questioned its feasibility and funding.

"It is not OK to give this priority funding when we need to fund teacher salaries, learning disabilities and applications that support our students, transportation, and basic items in the school budget," Davis said. "Where will the school system cut the budget to afford a charter school?"

Davis asked whether more tax increases would be proposed each year to make up the cost. She also pointed out that MCPS closes schools in minority neighborhoods, while opening and funding new ones in other parts of the county.

"We are closing schools in minority neighborhoods, yet we continue to fully fund Unit schools that exist with private school level enrollment. Yet, we did not have the money to repair McDowell. How do we now have money to funnel to a public charter school?"

Opponents also raised concerns over the lack of transportation, including no buses provided during the school's first year, which would eliminate many underserved families from choosing to attend the charter school. Upholding a diverse student population also became an area of concern, raising questions about how the school would choose a location in the county to draw from all populations of students.

The committee's main analysis of the application determined that the ACA application did not fully meet state academic standards, according to Ventura, who summarized the results of a 37-page state-devised scoring rubric.

Among three qualifying categories of academic, operational and financial feasibility, ratings were scored as "meets or exceeds standards," "partially meets standard" or "does not meet standard."

The review committee gave ACA a score of "does not meet standards" in multiple categories related to academic standards, citing concerns that the charter has not yet completed an alignment of state academic standards or laid out specific ways the school would serve students with disabilities.

Other concerns included lack of transportation and not yet securing vendors for school lunch or janitorial staff.

The committee report showed concerns related to implementing the state's Response to Intervention (RTI2) framework that provides academic interventions to struggling students.

The committee also wrote that ACA's grading scale does not match state board policy.

Ending the application, the board notes that it's concerned that Aamerican Classical Education, which formed a year ago, does not have any operational charter schools at this time.

American Classical Academy, a branch of American Classical Education affiliated with Hillsdale College, submitted a 500-page application to five school districts across Middle Tennessee in Jackson, Maury, Montgomery, Robertson and Rutherford.

On Monday, Robertson County schools disapproved the charter application, while on Tuesday, Clarksville-Montgomery School System also disapproved the charter. However, the Rutherford County Board of Education approved the charter school on Tuesday evening.

Murfreesboro, Clarksville and Jackson, previously denied ACE charter applications in July. However, the school reemerged late last year, filing an application across the five counties.

American Classical Education K-12 curriculum was developed through the work of Hillsdale College and with contributions from Hillsdale's member schools, according to its education website.

According to ACA applications, curriculum 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.

Tri-Star Bank, Mt. Pleasant (WKOM Audio 1:38)

Yesterday, Tri-Star Bank of Mt. Pleasant opened their doors with a ribbon cutting yesterday. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the grand opening and spoke to Michael Franks, President of TriStar Bank.

Autism Behavior Clinic Spring Hill (CDH)

Of the many needs being addressed through various Spring Hill proposals, one currently making its way through the planning process hopes to provide necessary services for children with special needs.

The Municipal Planning Commission is currently reviewing site plans for a new Autism Behavior Clinic, which would be located off NASDAQ Street. Plans for the center was first introduced in March but were deferred at the request of applicant SEC Inc. due to a need for updates to the overall plan and presentation.

An updated site plan was presented this week during the planning commission's Monday work session meeting. The proposed medical office will be approximately 5,433 square feet in size and 16 feet tall, with portions of the facade reaching 20 feet.

Though the current site plans would require additional updates, such as fencing around a proposed play area, landscaping details and various building materials to be used, Associate Planner Jake McQueen recommends the planning commission approve the request, as long as the applicant meets the deadline for any additional changes.

"Staff would recommend approval of the request, and like always staff has provided all of the items to be revised prior to the revision No. 2 deadline on May 1," McQueen said.

Since Monday's meeting was only a work session, no votes were taken. The item will go before a vote during the planning commission's May 8 regular meeting.

Governor Signs Duck River Bill (CDH)

After a long community battle since last fall, Gov. Bill Lee put his final stamp of approval Wednesday on legislation that will expand the Duck River's Class II Pastoral River designation from Maury County to the Hickman County line.

Efforts to ensure the bill's passage included over 2,000 Maury County constituents writing letters to the House Natural Resources Committee and over 100 constituents attending legislative meetings in Nashville several times to speak in favor of the bill. The push culminated last month when the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee approved House Bill 0447 that will extend river protections.

Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, led the charge as sponsor of the bill in the House, while Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, sponsored the companion bill in the Senate and Rep. Kip Capley, R-Summertown, also supported the bill.

Cepicky advocated to keep drinking water uncontaminated and for the river to be used for recreational use as one of the most biodiverse rivers in the world.

"I have never seen such widespread support from constituents on a bill," Cepicky said.

Preservationists, business leaders, local farmers, elected leaders and constituents from Maury County band together in support of protecting the river, leading to the bipartisan support of the legislation.

Seventh generation farmer Sam Kennedy, III, whose farm adjoins the Duck River, attended committee meetings and spent weeks speaking with legislators along with Columbia broker Dan McEwen and other landowners.

Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, a member of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, even visited the Duck River in Maury County ahead of the bill's passage, spending hours along the banks.

As a result of the groundswell of community support and interest in preserving the Duck River, grassroots group Save the Duck formed, now in the process of becoming a 501(c)3.

Preservationist and advocate Gale Moore, a Columbia resident who will serve on the Save the Duck board, said that she is pleased and relieved that the bill passed.

"I am grateful for the bipartisan support in the passage of the bill. Many residents spent days attending the legislative meetings, with the final meeting drawing over 200 supporters, which made a difference," she said.

"However, the battle is not over."

Moore refers to three pending permit applications submitted to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation by Louisiana-based Trinity Business Group last summer, seeking to develop a solid waste landfills and processing site on over 1,300 acres at the former Monsanto property in Columbia, just miles from the Duck River.

The proposal would include a tire processing facility, energy compost processing, energy recovery, metal salvage and wood waste processing from construction.

The pending permits were the catalyst for constituents to take action last fall to protect the river's natural resources such as fresh water for drinking and recreation as well as preserving aquatic life. The Duck River is one of the most biodiverse rivers in the world, containing an array of rare species of fish.

Moore helped to organize a community meeting in October to raise awareness about the landfill proposal. The meeting drew dozens of constituents, leaders from TDEC and locally-elected officials.

Maury leaders and supporters of Save the Duck believe that the new legislation will thwart landfill development. But as an added measure, the Maury County Commission voted late last year to approve a state statute, dubbed The Jackson Law, that would prohibit the formation of landfills without the approval of local city councils and county commissions.

In addition, the newly appointed Maury-Marshall Solid Waste Regional Planning Board also voted earlier this month to deny Trinity Business Group's development of landfill operations at the old Monsanto property during a meeting at Henry Horton State Park located in Chapel Hill.

"We hopped yet another hurdle yesterday, thanks in part to your emails, presentations, letters, postcards, hand-outs in mailboxes, recorded calls, video downloads, and presence at the meeting," Moore wrote to supporters after the waste board's April 10 vote.

"Thank you all for letting the board know the will of the people."

During the legislative session, Trinity Business Group legal counsel alluded to launching a lawsuit if the landfill development was blocked.

In the meantime, Trinity Business Group's three original permits are still labeled as "pending" on the TDEC website.

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

Freda Maureen Gilbert Stoltz Dozier, 88, homemaker, died Monday, April 24, 2023 at her residence in Columbia. 

 Funeral services will be conducted Thursday at 2:30 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home. 

Mrs. Bettye Jean Worley Malugin, 90, Key Punch Operator for CPS in Franklin, died Wednesday, April 26,2023 at Magnolia Healthcare. A graveside service for Mrs. Malugin will be conducted Tuesday at 2:00 P.M. at Pleasant Mount Cemetery. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements

…And now, news from around the state…

Titans Stadium Approved (Tennessean)

Nashville cemented a historic $2.1 billion agreement to build a new, enclosed stadium for the Tennessee Titans on largely underdeveloped Metro land along the east bank of the Cumberland River.

The deal is the largest in Nashville's history and includes at least $1.26 billion in public funding, making it the largest public subsidy for a stadium in U.S. history.

Nashville's council signed off on the agreement with a 26-12 final vote early Wednesday morning after an impassioned five-hour public hearing in which nearly 70% of speakers opposed the deal. A motion to reconsider the vote was determined out of order by a majority of council members after considerable confusion over parliamentary rules.

The council also approved a resolution 26-8 with three abstentions creating the Nashville Needs Impact Fund, which the team has agreed to contribute $48 million to over the duration of the lease. The fund can be used to support Metro departments and non-government entities in efforts to support public education, public transit, affordable housing, cultural and artistic promotion, historic preservation, environmental sustainability, gender equity in youth sports and diversity, equity and inclusion. It can also be used to support professional women's sports infrastructure, marketing and recruitment.

Council member Angie Henderson, who voted against the deal and abstained from voting on the resolution, said she did not appreciate how the fund has been "used as some tool in the community for people to feel that they are somehow a part of or beneficiaries of this stadium when it's just token gestures."

"We should be ashamed of ourselves," Henderson said.

The idea of building a new, enclosed Titans stadium in lieu of renovating Nissan Stadium has polarized Nashville politicians and residents alike since it was first floated to the public in February 2022.

At-large Council member Zulfat Suara said she understood the complaints of those who spoke in opposition to the bill, but she voted in favor because she prefers tourists to bear the tax burden of stadium construction and upkeep (through sales, ticket and hotel taxes) instead of Davidson County taxpayers.

The new 60,000-seat, 1.7 million-square-foot stadium will be perched on 15 acres of Metro-owned land near the interstate, bracketed by 20 acres of stadium campus called the "Stadium Village," according to deal documents. A public park that could serve as a tailgate alternative on game days is planned to stretch from the facility to the riverbank. The new plans have 5,000 fewer parking spots than Nissan Stadium currently offers.

The council advanced the deal to its final reading in a 25-11 vote last week with a handful of changes supported by Cooper's administration and the team, rejecting several other changes that sought to insulate the council's future decision-making power on stadium matters in the case of state intervention. About two dozen council members appeared to vote in line with a list of preferred amendment outcomes provided to members by lobbyists supporting the deal.

The new stadium's multi-billion dollar price tag will be split by the city, the state and the team.

The Titans will contribute $840 million in private financing, including roughly $200 million in NFL loans and yet-to-be estimated revenue from personal seat license sales. Recent PSL revenue average for new stadiums has topped $500 million, according to a market analysis from a consulting firm hired by Metro.

The state of Tennessee will contribute $500 million in bonds alongside $760 million in revenue bonds from Nashville's Sports Authority. Those bonds will be paid using diverted sales tax in and around the stadium as well as a 1% hotel tax increase that could bring in upwards of $10 million each year. Leftover revenue from diverted sales and ticket taxes and ticket fees from non-NFL events — estimated to approach $3 billion over the duration of the 30-year lease — will be devoted to early bond repayment and ongoing stadium maintenance and upgrades.

An estimated $120 million will be funneled to Nashville's general fund over three decades from a 3% ticket fee, a diluted version of an earlier council-driven change that would have upped the fee 1% annually until it reached 10%. Those fees will not apply to CMA events, ACM events, the Grammy Awards, WWE special events, college events and high school sporting events.

Any maintenance or upgrades not covered by the aforementioned revenue sources will fall to the Titans.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Columbia Police Department welcomed nine new officers on April 21, 2023.

Assistant City Manager/City Recorder, Thad Jablonski, swore in the new officers during a ceremony hosted at the police department.

These new officers have begun in-house training and will be attending the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy (T.L.E.T.A.) later this year.

Please join the Columbia Police Department in welcoming their newest additions:

Ofc. Jayson Cefali, Ofc. Robert Fredrick, Ofc. Nicholas Ivanoff, Ofc. Timothy Leath, Ofc. Robert McKeon, Ofc. Robert Schutt, Ofc. Joshua Seltz, Ofc. Phil Sholeen, and Ofc. Seth White


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