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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for August 1, 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 Issue (Tennessee Lookout)

For the second time this year, Madison and Maury counties school boards said no to American Classical Education, dealing a minor blow to the Hillsdale College-affilated charter schools.

American Classical applied to open charters in five Tennessee counties this year, following its denials in three last year. Only the Rutherford County School Board approved the charter school.

School boards in Montgomery and Robertson counties also voted against approving the schools, but American Classical chose only to appeal the local denials in Madison and Maury counties.

This now allows the charter chain to make another appeal, this time to the Tennessee Charter Commission, a nine-member board appointed by Gov. Bill Lee. The board has no elected members, an issue some Republicans and Democrats in the State Legislature have criticized as a way to subvert local control.

Lee is a strong advocate for charter schools, including the Hillsdale-affiliated school. The governor has attended multiple events with Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn, who last year made headlines when he said, “teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges,” while on stage at an event with Lee.

In Madison County, the school board voted 6-1 against American Classical, as school system leaders rallied the community against the charter school based on concerns with its curriculum and financial implications for the district’s budget.

In Maury County, the vote was more divided, with the board denying the charter by a 6-5 vote.

Many of those in favor of the school called on the Maury board to approve it to maintain local control, fearing the state charter commission would overturn the local decision no matter what.

The pro-American Classical advocates argued it was better for the school board to remain in control by approving the school instead of allowing the charter commission to approve and potentially run it.

Marlina Ervin, a Maury County School board member, said the losing-control argument didn’t matter, because even if the board decided to close the school in the future, they could appeal to the state then.

“If we approve them and they are not the performers that we hope, then we are going to go through the exact same thing to get rid of them,” said Ervin during a school board meeting on July 27. “We are ultimately at the state’s mercy either way.”

The Maury County denial dragged on for over a week after an absence of two members left the board deadlocked at a meeting in mid-July. The board voted 5-4 to approve the charter but needed six votes for any decision.

Board chair Michael Fulbright, who voted in favor of the American Classical school, rescheduled the meeting so the two absent board members could attend.

Fulbright’s decision angered many American Classical supporters because the school would automatically go through if the board didn’t vote to explicitly deny the charter by July 28.

“I could have played politics here, but I won’t,” Fulbright said during the meeting.

Following both denials, Chris Burger of Rotunda Public Affairs and American Classical board member Dolores Gresham issued press releases decrying the decisions.

In Madison County, the release said they would file an appeal to the charter commission, but were still evaluating their options in Maury County.

“We stand with the hundreds of Maury County families that have voiced their desire for a tuition-free public school option with a classical curriculum,” Gresham said in the release.

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

Zion Hires New AD (MainStreetMaury)

Kelly Bratton has resigned as athletics director at Zion Christian Academy, a position he accepted last July, to return to the business sector.

“I’m going into sales with a company in Columbia,” said Bratton, who prior to joining the staff at Zion had served as a loan officer at a bank in Giles County.

With both his children involved in sports at Richland, Bratton said the move will allow him to see them compete more often.

“I got out of college coaching for that reason,” he said. “I wanted to be able to be there, be a dad and be able to see them play.”

Bratton spent 10 years coaching baseball collegiately – three at Columbia State and seven at Martin Methodist – before stepping into an athletic admissions director position at Martin Methodist. He resigned that position in 2019.

Rick Jarvis, Zion’s head of school, said boys basketball coach Sam Martin will assume AD duties with Bratton’s departure.

“I had already hired him, in preparation for the school year, as assistant athletics director, in order to make sure we were ready,” Jarvis said. “I suspected Kelly was looking to move back into the private world and get out of school athletics. Sam was already coming on fulltime, so it sped the clock up just a little bit when Kelly decided to leave.

“He’s obviously a little younger, but this gives him an opportunity to grow into the role, and certainly he’s excited about the opportunity to lead. Sam is someone that, for a younger guy, is a mature follower of Christ already. He’s got a passion for working with student-athletes, to see the athletic program grow and improve. He’s high-energy. He wants to get involved and help all the programs get better, get athletes trained up beyond basketball. He just has a hunger and energy to lead an athletic program. This is ultimately part of one of his career goals, and I’m excited we get to explore that together with him at Zion.”

The Zion Christian coaching staff experienced a bit of movement ahead of Bratton’s arrival last summer, as Martin was hired during his one year as well as the school’s current baseball and volleyball coaches. 

“I think Zion is on their way up, for sure,” Bratton said. “There’s a great coaching staff in place, some good athletes coming. Hopefully the school is going to grow and expand here in the next couple of years. I feel like it’s in good shape and everything will keep going smooth for Zion.”

Another position filled under Bratton was recently vacated, as Westin Ford resigned as girls basketball coach after one season to accept a similar role at Mt. Pleasant.

“We’ve got an internal working plan that has not yet been finalized,” Jarvis said. “We’re talking to a candidate that’s outside the school currently that’s a possibility, but we have a backup internal plan should the outside candidate not come take over the girls basketball program. I suspect that will be finalized in the next week or two.”

Bratton acknowledged his departure – his final day will be Monday, two days before classes for the 2023-24 school year begin – comes at a less-than-ideal time.

“A former player of mine approached me about doing this. He actually approached me in the fall, but I told him I couldn’t do that, it was way too soon. I couldn’t do that to Zion,” Bratton said.

“They came back with a good offer, and I think for my family it’s the best thing to do.

“The timing’s awful. That’s what I told Rick when I told him. I know the timing’s not good, but for an athletics director, I don’t know that the timing’s ever good.”

Fire Department Recruiting (MauryCountySource)

Maury County Fire Department is accepting applications for their fall recruit class.

The department provides fire and rescue services to 618 square miles in Maury County, Tennessee. In addition, the team offers public fire education, CPR certification classes, and smoke detector installations to the citizens of Maury County.

No previous experience is required to join the annual recruit class. MCFD training program helps you obtain the skills, certifications, and state-level requirements to become a support member or firefighter.

Visit and fill out an application today!

Sheriff’s Department Positions (MauryCountySource)

Looking for a new career in law enforcement? Maury County Sheriff’s Department announced on July 26 that they are hiring for multiple positions.

Current open positions include:

Communication Dispatcher

Correctional Officer


Sheriff Administrative Clerk

To apply, visit

Legislative Lunch (Press Release)

Join Maury Alliance for a Legislative Lunch featuring Congressman Andy Ogles for a stimulating discussion around the current issues facing our business community and nation. This exclusive event offers the opportunity for you to engage with one of our federal representatives and gain valuable insights into current legislative matters. You may submit questions in advance by emailing them to

The event will take place on August 15th from 11:30-1:00pm at Puckett’s in downtown Columbia located at 15 Public Square. The cost is $25 for Maury Alliance Members and $30 for non-members.

CMYC Applications Coming (MauryCountySource)

The Columbia Mayor’s Youth Council consists of Maury County high school students selected by a panel who will have the opportunity to serve as a council member until graduation if they choose. Applications for the 2023-24 Columbia Mayor’s Youth Council Class will go live on August 1st.

Through the Mayor’s Youth Council, students in Columbia will grow to become the next leaders of our city, and their participation will create a foundation for expanding our population of informed high-school students.

In addition, a council of student representatives will create an ideal avenue for local politicians to interact and learn from their constituents.

Applications for the 2023-24 Columbia Mayor’s Youth Council Class will go live on August 1st.

Learn more at

Tennessee Reconnect (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College will host virtual and in-person Tennessee Reconnect information sessions during the months of July and August.


Tennessee Reconnect is a last-dollar scholarship that provides free tuition for adults to attend a community college. The initiative is designed to help adults enter college to gain new skills, advance in the workplace and fulfill lifelong dreams of completing a degree or credential.


“We are thankful to be able to provide the local community with easy access to information about Tennessee Reconnect by hosting information sessions,” said Joni Allison, Columbia State coordinator of Adult Student Services. “Tennessee Reconnect provides a wonderful opportunity for eligible adults to retool their skills and attend Columbia State tuition-free.”


To be eligible for Tennessee Reconnect, students must meet the following requirements:

Haven’t earned an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Have been a Tennessee resident for at least one year.

Complete the Free Application For Federal Student Aid and be determined as an independent student.

Be admitted to Columbia State and enroll in a degree or certificate program.

Must attend at least part-time (6 credit hours).


To view the full list of steps to apply, or to sign up for an information session, please visit


August 3 2 – 3 p.m. Virtual

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

Mr. Samuel Thomas Wrather, Sr., 91, retired Electrician for Union Carbide and resident of Columbia, died Sunday, July 30, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center. Funeral services for Mr. Wrather will be conducted Wednesday at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Rock Springs Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Tuesday from 4:00 P.M.  – 7:00 P.M. with a Masonic service following at the funeral home.

…And now, news from around the state…

Autonomous Cars Coming to Nashville (

Self-driving taxi company Cruise is bringing its cars to Nashville.

CEO Kyle Vogt said last week that the GM subsidiary had tapped Nashville as one of its first expansion markets beyond San Francisco. The company has also expanded to Austin, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix and Miami.

Vogt said driverless Cruise autonomous vehicles will be seen on Nashville streets “in a few months.”

As part of its expansion to Nashville and other markets, Vogt said, the company has had to adjust for “unusual things like pedicabs, pedal taverns, and even donkeys.”

According to TechCrunch, Cruise typically enters a new market with test vehicles featuring a human operator. Later, the test vehicles lose the human operator and are available first to Cruise employees and then a larger group of users. As it awaits permitting in California, Cruise still does not charge for rides in San Francisco.

Incidents involving Cruise and other self-driving car startups are “skyrocketing” in San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Ford tested its own self-driving car startup in Nashville last year before shutting down its Argo effort.

Gas Prices (MainStreetMaury)

Gas prices are continuing to rise across the state, jumping 21 cents, on average, over last week. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.38 which is 29 cents more expensive than one month ago but 41 cents less than one year ago.  

The biggest factor behind the recent surge in gas prices is the price of crude oil, which has risen 15% over the past five weeks. Record-breaking heat has also caused a reduction in fuel output at Gulf Coast refineries, adding additional upward pressure on pump prices. 

“After gas prices rose significantly over much of last week, our state gas price average has actually remained the same since Saturday,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Even with a momentary stall in our state gas price average, drivers can still likely expect fluctuations at the pump through this week. If crude oil prices hold steady, it’s likely that the significant daily gains in gas prices could be behind us. However, if crude prices continue to rise, pump prices would likely follow suit.”

Quick Facts

14% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.25 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $3.17 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.69 for regular unleaded

Tennessee fell to the 4th least expensive market in the nation

BNA Ownership in Courts (Tennessean)

Three Tennessee judges heard a litany of complaints and acrimony among Nashville leaders, the airport, the FAA and the state, via their attorneys, in an emergency court hearing Friday.

At issue is whether Nashville's mayor or top state leaders have majority control of the Metro Nashville Airport Authority that oversees business at Nashville International and John C. Tune airports. Gov. Bill Lee signed a law on May 19 giving himself, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, six of the eight board appointments.

Metro Nashville sued for a temporary injunction on June 30 to stop the July 1 seating of state appointees, arguing the county's power was being unconstitutionally stripped. In protest, Cooper refused to appoint the two seats allocated to him under the new rule. Five vacated airport board members have met in the mayor's office and are seeking to be reinstated as the true governing officers with the help of a Metro-funded attorney.

"The state is so eager to target Nashville that it draws boxes around Nashville. But the Tennessee Constitution says you can't do that," Assistant Metro Attorney Melissa Roberge told the three-judge panel. "Because this act specifically regulates Metro Nashville, it violates the local legislation clause. What would end the tension is a decision on the likelihood of success of the merits."

The panel deciding which board will prevail includes Scott County Criminal Court Judge Zack Walden, Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Anne C. Martin and 29th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Mark Hayes. They said they will set a schedule next week to quickly resolve the issue in the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts.

During the Friday hearing, the judges questioned the three parties on how to resolve the dispute as tactfully as possible.

"How do we consider the harm of ping-ponging boards?," Walden asked the attorneys. "If we were to grant the injunction, a third board would be reconstituted within weeks."

State attorneys told the judges that the airport authority is independent of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County and, therefore, is subject to being an "instrumentality" of the state.

Metro Nashville Airport Authority attorney George Cate assailed the "dramatically, emphatically wrong" Federal Aviation Administration officials who wrote letters and spoke publicly against the state's actions, even pledging their loyalty to Metro and the vacated board members.

"There was no need for the FAA to intervene because it would be up to this court to decide," Cate said. "In any event, the FAA did not ground its recognition in any kind of legal authority. The FAA doesn’t have the authority to override or negate state law."

In April, FAA Office of Airport Compliance and Management Analysis Director Kevin C. Willis wrote a letter and spoke to Metro Council about FAA concerns that the board shakeup would threaten federal grants and airport ratings. Cate said there have been no disruptions to federal grants, and three payments have been dispersed to MNAA since the state board members were seated.

In June, FAA Associate Administrator of Airports Shannetta R. Griffin wrote another letter of concern about the change and promised to recognize the board appointed by Cooper, despite state law.

Roberge, Metro's attorney, told the judges that county leaders expected airport officials to reject state law because of the letters from Griffin and Willis.

"We did not have a reasonable expectation that the word of the FAA would be disregarded," Roberge said, responding to why Metro waited two weeks after starting the lawsuit to file an emergency action. "The point of this injunction is to avoid irreparable harm."

FAA officials referred The Tennessean to the letter from Griffin when asked for comment on the hearing.

"The FAA takes no position regarding the validity of the legislation or on the issues presented inthe litigation," Griffin wrote. "To avoid this uncertainty, please be advised that the FAA will continue to recognize the existing Board until such time as the Chancery Court rules on the issue."

The new board has held three meetings, and it includes two members originally appointed by Cooper — longtime local businessmen Jimmy Granbery and Bobby Joslin. The new appointees are Nashville high-rise developer Tony Giarratana; Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter; Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin and Masami Tyson, a global business attorney at Womble Bond Dickinson's Nashville office.

State attorney Timothy Simonds argued that another disruption to business would be unfair.

"If you grant the injunction, you would be disrupting the status quo by putting a board in that’s no longer legally in existence," Simonds said. "The act was intended in part to recognize the flagship status of BNA and to ensure the continued success, growth and development of that kind of airport. It's our position that because it's acting in its governmental capacity, Metro doesn't have standing to pursue an equal-protection claim in this instance. There are no fundamental rights being infringed here."

Airport officials are tired of being a political football, Cate said, before asking the panel to deny the injunction request.

"The airport authority is run day-to-day by President Doug Kreulen and a group of executive staff with all the expertise to conduct major operations," Cate said. "All these dedicated staff want to do is run the airport. They want to get through this and run the airport. The authority maintained the position it was staying neutral, and it takes no position on Metro's constitutional challenge."

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Tennessee International Independent Film Festival is back, bringing the best of the best in filmmaking to Middle Tennessee. From August 1st through the 6th, cinephiles, industry professionals, and local community members alike will gather at the Historic Franklin Theatre to celebrate the art of cinema and discover the captivating stories of over 85 films.

Hosted by TIIFF (Tennessee International Independent Film Festival), this six-day extravaganza promises an unforgettable experience filled with films, educational panels, a silent auction, an award ceremony, and sensational after parties. With an impressive lineup of renowned filmmakers, industry experts, and special guests, the TIIFF Film Festival guarantees to be an event that film enthusiasts won’t want to miss.

Leading the festivities as MCs are talented individuals who have left their mark in the film industry. They may include; Raul Torres, a Mexican-American actor/producer with an impressive resume that includes films like “Wonderstruck” and TV shows such as “Billions” and “The Blacklist”, Nashville local Christin Baker, an Emmy-nominated writer, Raindance awarded director, PGA and Television Academy Member, who is also the CEO and co-founder of Tello Films. Brent McClure, Co-Director of the “Jesus Revolution” will also be hosting one of the day’s festivities.

In addition to the captivating film screenings, the festival offers a series of educational panels designed to inspire and educate aspiring filmmakers and industry professionals. These panels will cover topics such as acting with the camera, the latest information from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), essential skills for directors, light and sound technicians, music sync licensing, and exploring the female gaze in cinema. These engaging discussions will provide invaluable insights into the world of filmmaking and offer a platform for networking and knowledge sharing.

For more information about the Tennessee International Independent Film Festival, including the complete schedule, festival passes, and updates, please visit the official website at


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