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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for April 28, 2023


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


We start with local news…

“Our Chance” Opening (CDH)

The Well Outreach food pantry in Spring Hill kicked off its new granted-funded program, Our Chance, last week, which will focus on connecting families with resources and support to break the cycle of poverty.

Spring Hill Mayor Jim Hagaman, Maury County Chamber of Commerce, Spring Hill Chamber and supporters celebrated the new program and newly- converted wing of The Well building with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening of Our Chance.

Two Family Coaches joined the staff at The Well through the Our Chance program, who will walk with families by helping them define and meet their goals to reach financial stability.

"With this initiative, we hope to move families out of poverty and affect change," The Well’s Director, Shelly Sassen said.

"The mission of The Well is to be the hands and feet of Christ and support those in need emotionally, physically and spiritually. We have done a great job physically through offering the gift of food and spiritually by offering Christ's love and companionship, but it's always been difficult on the emotional side because it meant going deeper with people to change trends and get people additional assistance."

The Our Chance program will work with 75 local Maury County families in need to help move them into a position of greater economic and financial stability. To accomplish this, The Well will offer family coaching services, plus connect families to the resources of transportation, housing, childcare, education, and employment.

Partnering with the Martha O’Bryan Center in Nashville, The Well represented Maury County on the grant steering committee, aiding in the seven-county initiative to win one of seven $25 million-dollar TANF grants awarded state-wide.

The Well serving as the Maury County Grant Administrator will partner with the Tennessee Alliance for Economic Mobility team, a public-private partnership of 31 organizations across all seven counties.

"The goal of the Our Chance program is to provide support to families attempting to move through the 'benefits cliff' as they try to improve their jobs and lifestyle," Marielle Lovecchio, director of Tennessee Alliance of Economic Mobility, said.

"Our hope is to support families in transitioning off of public benefits with more peace of mind and be able to connect with places like The Well and talk to a coach, who will help them in achieving their goals and face any barriers to child care, transportation, housing and health."

Local communities are in the best position to help solve complex problems like the cycle of poverty and other issues families might face, Lovecchio said, and places like The Well can provide a safety net for families to promote change.

The Well Program Director Joseph Knapp said The Well strives to connect and give time to every family that walks through the door, but the coaches will be able to give families more individualized attention.

"During conversations, we start to hear their story and start to understand what might be the best way to help and connect them with services," Knapp said. "We also want to help them through the benefits cliff, where sometimes they lose resources when they are doing better [financially such as getting a better job]. We are trying to life families through their struggles."

Spring Hill Mayor Jim Hagaman praised the new program that will help struggling families.

"I love being a representative of Spring Hill and supporting things that are good for our citizens, especially when there is something that serves the underserved," Hagaman said.

The program is made possible through the Tennessee Department of Human Services first phase of the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative, which initiated the grant process.


Universal Screen Opening (WKOM Audio 3:35)

Yesterday, Universal Screen, a new health and drug screening clinic opened in Neapolis. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the ribbon cutting and learned all about the new business…


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.


Local Authors Have Book Signing (MainStreetMaury)

Cousins Kanye and Ryon Conway were only eight years old when they began writing stories as a hobby. When COVID struck, they decided to put their books together to form a trilogy. With support from family and those in the community, the cousins self-published their first book, “Nightman,” which was released last February. Now the 18-year-olds are set to release “Mammon,” the second installment of their three-part science fiction series, with a book signing scheduled this Saturday, April 29 at the Maury County Public Library.

Each book in the series follows a different superhero who hopes to make positive changes in the world around them. Kaliente Conway-Glenn, mother to Kanye and aunt to Ryon, said the cousins were concerned about kids during COVID. Fearing what others their age were getting into, Kanye and Ryon turned to their writing in hopes of inspiring others in a time of negativity.

“I write these books to escape the negativity of this world,” Ryon said. “All entertainment is an escape, but with our books it’s more positive.”

Kanye and Ryon said their characters share many of their own personal traits, having based their experiences loosely on their own. Their first book, “Nightman,” centers around a young man their age going through a crisis.

“He is witty and disconnected from people around him, and I really relate to that,” Ryon said. “I created his personality as a reflection of myself.”

Kanye, having grown up in a one-parent home, leaned on his own upbringing when it came to his creation of the character.

“Kanye understands what it means to be raised in a single parent home. He wants his readers to know that even superheroes have real-life problems,” Conway-Glenn said.

The second book, “Mammon,” which will be released Saturday, centers around a hero from an unexpected place.

“His destiny is destruction, but he is determined to turn it around for the good of the city,” Kanye said.

As for future plans, Kanye, who is set to graduate from Spring Hill High School next month, will work in administration while completing a graphic arts internship. Ryon, who calls Columbia home but currently attends school in Nashville, has been accepted into Belmont University where he will major in motion pictures and film.

“I’m hoping to transform our stories onto screen and make them play out,” he said.

Conway-Glenn, who also acts as the duo’s manager, spoke on how proud she is of her son and nephew.

“When I look at them and what they’ve done, I tell people I would regret not doing this and showing their talent,” she said. “I didn’t have to beg them to do this,” she added. “It’s always been the flip side. Why not give them a chance to be a light for someone?”

The Conways will be signing copies of their new book on Saturday, April 29 from noon-2 p.m. at the Maury County Public Library, where Kanye also volunteers. Their next book, “Magic Elf,” is set for a 2024 or 2025 release date.


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

Tax Relief (Fox.com)

As long as Gov. Lee signs the bill, Tennesseans won't have to pay taxes on groceries from August through October this year.

This would come after the Tennessee General Assembly approved the Tennessee Works act Thursday.

HB 323/SB275, sponsored by Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland), and Rep. Mark Cochran (R-Englewood), features a three-month grocery tax holiday and a paid family leave tax credit for those who want it.

As a whole, the act would cut more than $400 million in taxes for Tennessee residents, says the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

According to the department, families would save more than $100 in taxes if the bill is signed into law. They cite local governments would get back any tax revenues lost during the time.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has not signed the act yet, but has declared his support of the legislation.

Decades of smart fiscal stewardship have enabled Tennessee to maintain a balanced budget while cutting taxes for Tennessee families and businesses. We are proud to continue that legacy this year by putting dollars back in the pockets of Tennesseans and supporting future economic growth across Tennessee, and I thank the General Assembly for its partnership to promote future growth and opportunity for our state.

The law would relieve Tennessee businesses of $150 million. For example, more than 23,000 businesses' excise tax liability would be eliminated. Additionally, at a max of $500,000, the act would remove some business property from franchise tax liability. Moreover, nearly 150,000 Tennessee businesses would not have to file business tax anymore.

The department says the act will help Tennessee achieve more economic growth by ensuring the state embraces single sales factor allocation for franchise and excise tax.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, one of the previously mentioned bill sponsors, calls the act "bold."

In Tennessee we are committed to low taxes, “said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson. “We believe that Tennessee businesses and citizens are in the best position to decide how to spend their own money, and this tax-cut proposal demonstrates that we practice what we preach. This bold plan will provide more growth opportunities for businesses and financial relief for families on every-day expenses. We are proud to be one of the lowest taxed states in the nation, and these tax cuts reinforce our dedication to being a pro-business and pro-family state with low taxes.


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Spring Hill Middle School is presenting “Into the Woods Junior” this weekend.

Be careful what you wish for, as Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s cockeyed fairytale comes to life in this adaptation of their groundbreaking, Tony Award-winning musical. Into the Woods JR. features all of your favorite characters — Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (and his beanstalk) and the Witch — in this lyrically rich retelling of classic Brothers Grimm fables.

The musical centers on a baker and his wife, who wish to have a child; Cinderella, who wishes to attend the King’s festival; and Jack, who wishes his cow would give milk. When the baker and his wife learn that they cannot have a child because of a witch’s curse, the two set off on a journey to break the curse, and wind up changed forever.

Show times are:

April 28 at 6:30pm

April 29 at 1:30pm & 6:30pm

April 30 at 1:30pm

Buy tickets at www.onthestage.tickets.

Spring Hill Middle School is located at 3501 Cleburne Road. 


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