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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for August 9, 2023

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

We start with local news…

King’s Daughters Residential Facility (WKOM Audio 3:20)

The King’s Daughters School opened a new residential facility for men on West 9th Street in Columbia yesterday. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the opening and spoke to King’s Daughters Director Shauna Pounders about what the new facility means to the historic school and campus…

CSCC Names Scholarship for Nurses (Press Release)

The Columbia State Community College Foundation recently established a new nursing scholarship endowment in honor of Nancy Coghlan.

Thomas Coghlan created the endowed scholarship in memory and honor of his wife, Nancy Johnson Coghlan. Mrs. Coghlan was born in Hickman County, but raised in Santa Fe and Columbia where she eventually graduated from Central High School. After completing post-secondary training, she worked as a registered nurse for thirty years and was very active in the community.

“We thank Mr. Coghlan for honoring his wife’s memory by helping students that want to become nurses,” said Bethany Lay, Columbia State vice president for advancement and executive director of the Columbia State Foundation. “By so doing, many people in our communities will be helped. Columbia State’s health sciences programs are strong and skilled, caring nurses are needed.”

The scholarship will assist Columbia State students from Maury or Hickman Counties that have been accepted into the nursing program.

The Columbia State Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that supports and partners with the college to positively impact student success and the communities in which it serves.

Kids Back to School (CDH)

At Riverside Elementary School, not only did children experience first-day-of-school jitters and excitement, new principal Breckon Pennell also beamed as she began her new role leading the school on Monday.

As 415 school children in first through fourth grades settled into their new classrooms, Pennell began the school day with the Pledge of Allegiance, positive words of encouragement and a joke: "What do you call the cleaners of the ocean? — A mermaid."

After some chuckles, Pennell assured students, "I love you. I believe in you."

After serving as the Middle School Coordinator for MCPS, Pennell, also a veteran school administrator, said she's glad to be back in the swing, experiencing the buzz of a school building.

"I love it. I love being a part of a culture of a school," she said. "Sharing in that culture and being a part of that team is a good feeling."

As she waved to parents and welcomed children, she said her number one goal is to make students feel welcomed.

"It's important for us to be welcoming, helpful and to make sure everyone feels comfortable, excited and safe," she said. "It's also a time of establishing routines and expectations."

Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Ventura visited Riverside to help welcome parents and students ahead of the 8 a.m. bell.

Giving out hugs and reassurance, Ventura comforted an apprehensive child as he entered the building.

"Don't worry," she said. "We will take care of you ... and I like your dinosaur T-shirt."

Ventura said she is breathing a sigh of relief that all but 21 open teaching positions have been filled and all bus routes are accounted for, equipped with a driver or temporary driver. This time last year, the district had 100 open positions on the first day of school and not enough bus drivers.

Last year, classes were combined to combat a teacher shortage and bus rides were longer for students due to drivers taking on multiple routes.

"It feels great," Ventura said. "I feel much more confident starting this year with the pieces in place compared to last year. We are ready. I am excited about our staff."

Ventura said she is also encouraged after an intense summer tackling third grade retention guidelines, which went into effect per state law, following 2021 legislation by the Tennessee General Assembly.

The district began with 50% of third graders not reaching proficiency on TCAP, which resulted in a mad dash to enroll at-risk third grade students into summer school intervention camp STAR, or Super Thinkers And Readers, to either reach proficiency at the end of the summer, commit to a fourth grade tutor or be retained in some circumstances.

Out of all third graders who endured a rigorous vetting process and summer program, 97.7% of 1,000 third grade students were promoted to fourth grade.

Ventura said her motto for this year is, "Don't look back, push forward."

"We have looked back at the data, and now it's push forward. I am most excited about our new phonics program and new career exploration teachers in middle schools. Those are the two newest additions to our school day that I am looking forward to. Hopefully it will bring us to the next level."

New Doc at MRMC (Press Release)

Maury Regional Medical Group (MRMG) welcomes Dr. Braden Schuster, MD, to the MRMG Interventional Pain Management practice.

 Dr. Schuster received his medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, Indiana. He then completed a residency and fellowship with the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In addition to clinical experience, Dr. Schuster has participated in research related to chronic pain management during his residency.

 MRMG Interventional Pain Management provides care for patients on a referral basis only. Providers within the practice offer solutions to patients suffering from chronic pain by focusing on quality of life for their patients.

 Dr. Schuster joins Dr. John C. Welker, MD, and nurse practitioners Rosemary Davenport, FNP-C, Jack Garrett, ACNP-BC, and Gretchen Nelson, NP. MRMG Interventional Pain Management is open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m and Friday 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. They are located at 1222 Trotwood Avenue, suite 101 in Columbia. For more information, call 931.490.7372 or visit

City Hires Marketing Coordinator (Press Release)

The City of Columbia is pleased to announce that Lexi Dearborn has joined the Tourism & Marketing Department as the marketing coordinator. In this newly-created position, Dearborn will assist in the development and execution of marketing strategies that will help Visit Columbia reach its target audience, build awareness for the destination, and inspire travel to Columbia. She will also help promote the City of Columbia and its twelve departments to help better serve the citizens of Columbia.

Dearborn obtained her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville with a focus in marketing. She brings agency experience in digital marketing that includes social media, graphic design, email communications, blogging and online community engagement.

City Manager Tony Massey stated, “Lexi Dearborn is a beneficial addition to the Tourism & Marketing Department. We are confident she will step expertly into this new role and exceed our expectations.”

As the Marketing Coordinator, Dearborn will assist with a wide variety of marketing initiatives such as digital campaigns, social media, public relations, events & projects, and community awareness.

“We are happy to welcome Lexi to the team,” said Tourism & Marketing Director Kellye Murphy. “She brings relevant experience in marketing and communications, and she is, no doubt, going to be an asset to the city.”

The Marketing Coordinator position is funded through Federal ARP grant funds provided by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development over a five-year period.

King Named CSCC Softball Coach (Press Release)

Samantha King, a Forrest graduate and an NAIA all-America selection at UT-Southern, has been named to succeed Lori Retherford as softball coach at Columbia State Community College.

The announcement was made during a Monday press conference on campus.

“We’re very excited to have Sam as the new head coach for our Lady Chargers program,” C-State athletics director Katie Willingham said. “I’ve been privileged enough to watch Sam throughout her career. When I was at Cleveland State, I was able to see her success when she was at Motlow, and also to see her success when she made that transfer to Martin Methodist/UT-Southern and continue to see her growth in the sport.”

After completing her career at UT-Southern in the spring of 2022 – when she earned NAIA second-team all-American honors – King joined the coaching staff at Columbia State as an assistant under Retherford and under women’s soccer coach Kean Barclay.

This spring, the Lady Chargers finished 5-47 in their final season under Retherford, 2-31 in TCCAA play, and lost 9-0 to Jackson State in the opening round of the conference tournament.

“I want to win some games,” King said regarding her objective as she steps into her new role. “I love winning. I’m a winner. So I want to win some games, but most importantly, I want to get the girls better into the academics, being better as student-athletes.

“I like how I get to start over. The past couple of years haven’t really been the best. So just building a better culture, a new atmosphere and more enjoyable to the girls, that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

King helped Forrest to a Class A state title as a sophomore, with the Lady Rockets placing second in Class A her senior season. She then played two years at Motlow State and three at Martin Methodist/UT-Southern.

All along, though, coaching was the desired next destination.

“I’ve always wanted to be a college coach,” said King, whose association with Willingham through summer softball led to her initial hiring at Columbia State. “Once Lori resigned, I filled out my application and lucked out.

“I’m from here. I love the community, the faculty and staff. There’s so much support here. That’s why I pursued it, because I knew I’d have some backup.”

Though Willingham said the position drew a good bit of interest, King’s “passion” pushed her over the top through the selection process.

“She has an incredible love for the game and the success on the field, that the young ladies will have on the field,” Willingham said. “She has a passion like no other. She did a good job of explaining and preparing us for what her reign would be like as the next head coach and really did impress everyone.

“She’s growing and will continue to grow. We’re looking forward to the goals she has set forth and all she’ll accomplish over the next few years with the program.”

Retherford ends a seven-year stint at the C-State softball helm, having taken over after Johnny Littrell moved into the AD position. The Lawrence County High School graduate previously coached five seasons under Littrell after enjoying an all-conference playing career with the Lady Chargers and earning all-TranSouth Conference honors twice at Martin Methodist.

“She’s been a staple here at Columbia State, having played here and having coached here, a local athlete,” Willingham said. “I think (King) having worked with Lori, Lori was able to guide her and help her become more knowledgeable about the conference … about the game and our system and our leadership in the TCCAA.”

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.

Entrepreneur Boot Camp (Press Release)

Maury Alliance and Cowork Inc. have partnered together to offer a 12-week bootcamp led by PITON Consulting designed for entrepreneurs who are ready to take their business to the next level.

The MuleForce Entrepreneur Bootcamp is a transformative program designed to equip you with the essential tools and skills necessary to propel your business to new heights. During this business development program, PITON Coaching will guide you through a thought-provoking journey that will help you grow your business from infancy to expansion. By the end of this program, you will have the tools you need to become a more efficient and effective business owner with greater levels of impact and influence.

SESSION DATES are August 15th - October 24th Every Tuesday from 9am - 12pm at the Maury Alliance building located at 106 West 6th Street in Columbia. The cost is $300; $150 will be refunded back upon completion of the course

Go to for more info and to apply!

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!

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

James Warren “Jim” Thomas, 89, retired employee of the Department of Justice and resident of Columba, died Sunday, August 6, 2023 at NHC Maury Regional Transitional Care. Funeral services will be conducted Friday at 11:00 A.M. at South Gate Church of Christ. The family will visit with friends Thursday from 3:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M. at the church. Private family burial will be in Morrow cemetery.

Mrs. Betty Ruth Adams Bigsby, 85, retired waitress for Western Sizzlin and resident of Columbia, died Friday, August 4, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center.  A graveside service for Mrs. Bigsby will be conducted Saturday, August 12, 2023 at 11:00 A.M. at Rose Hill Cemetery.

Mr. George Gilbert Brazelton, CLU, 91, retired District Manager for Life Insurance Company of Georgia, died Monday, August 7, 2023 at his residence in Columbia. Funeral services for Mr. Brazelton will be conducted Saturday, August 12, 2023, at 12:00 P.M. at Graymere Church of Christ. Burial will follow in Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 10:00 A.M. until service time at the church.

Dwight Stephen Stofel, 74, resident of Paris, TN, died Sunday, August 6, 2023. Funeral services for Mr. Stofel will be conducted Sunday, August 13, 2023 at 3:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home in Columbia, TN. Burial will follow in Friendship Baptist Church Cemetery in Culleoka, TN. The family will visit with friends from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home.

…And now, news from around the state…

Governor Proclaims Special Session (Press Release)

Yesterday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued the special session proclamation and presented the administration’s legislative and budget priorities that will go before the Tennessee General Assembly during the special session on public safety, convening August 21.  

“As our nation faces evolving public safety threats, Tennessee remains vigilant and is taking continued action to protect communities while preserving the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “In the months leading up to the public safety special session, we have listened to Tennesseans and worked with members of the General Assembly to identify thoughtful, practical measures to strengthen public safety across our state, including steps to support law enforcement, address mental health, prevent violent crime and stop human trafficking. I thank the General Assembly for its continued partnership and look forward to achieving meaningful results for Tennesseans.”  

Gov. Lee will present legislative and budget priorities during the public safety special session to keep Tennessee communities safe, support law enforcement and address mental health, all while preserving constitutional rights. In addition to bringing the following solutions in the administration package, the Governor will continue to work with members of the General Assembly on other legislation specified in the call.  The main seven topics include:

1 Codification of EO 100 and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Report Implementation: Requires reporting of accurate, complete and timely records from court clerks to the TBI within 72-hours and requires electronic submissions of dispositions and expungements to the TBI  

2 TennCare Mental Health Coverage Waiver: Directs TennCare to seek a waiver from the federal government to allow federal matching funds for Medicaid to cover services for mental illness and substance use disorders at institutions of mental diseases  

3 Addressing Mental Health Workforce Challenges: Budget initiatives that prioritize opportunities to grow and retain mental health professionals in the state  

4 Reforms for Mental Health: Expands access to mental health treatment by eliminating certain collaborative practice requirements for Advanced Registered Practice Nurses with psychiatric training  

5 Strengthening the Identification of Individuals Arrested for Felonies: Provides for the collection of DNA at the time of an arrest for all felonies  

6 Human Trafficking Report: Resolution directing TBI to report on the state of human trafficking in Tennessee  

7 Promoting Safe Storage: Eliminates taxes on firearm safes and safety devices, provides free gun locks, expands safe storage training in state-approved safety courses, and creates a public service announcement to promote safe storage  

To date, more than 20,000 Tennesseans have submitted public comments on strengthening public safety, and the form will remain open through the entirety of the special session to ensure that Tennesseans can continue engaging in the conversation.

Judge Denies Block on Teacher Dues Ban (Tennessean)

A new Tennessee law that bans teacher association dues from being voluntarily deducted from paychecks will be allowed to go into effect amid an ongoing lawsuit.

After issuing a temporary stay on the law to consider arguments, a three-judge panel last week declined to issue a temporary injunction on the law.

The Tennessee Education Association, three local teacher associations and two Tennessee teachers sued the state over the law, which prohibits the associations from collecting dues voluntarily from teacher paychecks.

The dues provision was an unexpected inclusion in a General Assembly budget bill aimed at raising the statewide teacher pay rate to a minimum of $50,000 per year by 2027. Gov. Bill Lee vocally supported the provision, which some Democrats saw as a 'poison pill' to the teacher pay raise legislation.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Fireballs of molten comet debris from the Perseids meteor shower will radiate the night's sky, and soon Middle Tennesseans will witness one of the most impressive displays.

The Perseids meteor showers have been streaking past Earth's atmosphere since mid-July, and come Aug. 13, Nashville-area residents will be in peak position to see the showers whizzing by.

“People in the U.S. can reasonably expect to see around 40 Perseids in the hour just before dawn on the peak nights. That’s about one every couple of minutes, which is not bad,” Bill Cooke, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, said in a NASA blog. “However, we are assuming you are out in the country, well away from cities and suburbs.”

The Perseids is often considered the best meteor shower thanks to its volume and the moon's waning crescent creating a dark sky and optimal shower viewing.


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