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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for July 19, 2023

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

We start with local news…

State museum exhibit features Maury County Rosenwald Schools (MS Maury)

Nearly 5,000 schools for black children were built between 1912-1937 across 15 southern states – including Tennessee – to drive improvement in the education system for Black children that would become the leaders of the Civil Rights movement in the United States.

Of the 354 schools built in the state, 15 of them were in Maury County, and three of those are now featured in an exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum’s most recent exhibit “Building a Bright Future: Black Communities and Rosenwald Schools in Tennessee,” presented in partnership with Fisk University’s John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library.

Rosenwald Schools were named for Sears, Roebuck, and Co.’s president Julius Rosenwald, who partnered with Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute to build the schools across the region.

Partnering with The John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library at Fisk University was essential to developing the exhibit, the state museum said in a statement.

“We knew in order for such an exhibit to be successful, we would need to start by reaching out to and familiarizing ourselves with the previous work done by organizations who had already been preserving and telling the histories of these schools,” said Matthew Gailani, lead curator of the exhibition.

“It truly has been a privilege to work on this exhibit over the past year,” Gailani added. “In particular, the generosity of alumni and community leaders in sharing their histories and memories has been a very humbling experience. We hope that this exhibit will help act as a platform for communities across the state to tell their stories and highlight the importance of Rosenwald Schools not only in Tennessee’s past but to its present and future as well."

Locally, the African American Heritage Society of Maury County has been instrumental in making the exhibit better by the preservation of so much history in the county.

Maury County had the best building program in the state according to historian Jo Ann McClellan’s research. She noted in 1921, Professor O.H. Bernard, Department of Public Instructions, reported in the local newspaper that, “Not only has Maury County one of the largest building programs for its schools in the state, but it unquestionably has the best building scheme in Tennessee… no county in Tennessee has made greater progress in public education than in Maury.”

McClellan, who was a second-generation student of a Rosenwald School, recalled how the community took on the daunting task of educating young students through more than book learning.

“Boys often began the fall and winter school days pumping water and building fires. Girls and boys helped the teacher clean the school and maintain the grounds,” she said. “The teachers emphasized strict standards of personal deportment – attention to their studies, as well as the fun, to children sharing lunches – and the positive life lessons from their parents and teachers.”

McClellan said she hopes visitors will see those attributes in the exhibit and learn more about how Black students learned prior to the Civil Rights movement.

“I hope the visitors will appreciate the community’s desire to educate their children and their belief that education was the true path to freedom,” she said. “The visitors will learn about the history of the Rosenwald Schools and their importance in the education of the students in rural African American communities; and the importance of the Rosenwald-Washington collaboration in the education of African American students for more than 40 years in Maury County.”

Fisk University librarian Arnaud “Arna” Wendell Bontemps acquired the Julius Rosenwald Fund Archives on behalf of the university in 1948. The collection documents the history of the Rosenwald Fund, including the school building program. It is now preserved by the John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library, Special Collections & Archives.

“Our teams at Fisk University John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library and the Forging Future Pathways Forward: Building a Portal to Rosenwald Collections for all at Fisk University project were thrilled to partner and collaborate with Tennessee State Museum,” said DeLisa M. Harris, Director of Library Services at Fisk University. “This exhibit is the first major showcase of the impact and legacy of the Julius Rosenwald Fund Rural School program in Tennessee.”

The Library and Museum teams traveled across the state, making stops in all three Grand Divisions and connecting with many Rosenwald School communities. They met with Rosenwald School alumni and descendants who shared their stories and experiences. The 4,000-square foot exhibit is a culmination of those visits, together with personal alumni and educator accounts, in an effort to highlight 16 of the more than 350 Rosenwald communities in Tennessee. It aims to engage visitors in understanding the history and significance of these schools and the surrounding communities along with current preservation efforts.

“It truly has been a privilege to work on this exhibit over the past year,” said Gailani. “In particular, the generosity of alumni and community leaders in sharing their histories and memories has been a very humbling experience. We hope that this exhibit will help act as a platform for communities across the state to tell their stories and highlight the importance of Rosenwald Schools not only in Tennessee’s past but to its present and future as well."

District-level TCAP scores released (Tennessean)

District-level results for Tennessee's standardized test were released Tuesday, revealing key data as schools continue to work to offset learning loss from the coronavirus pandemic.

The release comes after statewide results posted last month showed gains across all subjects tested — English language arts, math, science and social studies — with scores largely matching or surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Shelby County Schools, Metro Nashville Public Schools and Knox County Schools, the state's three largest districts, all posted gains in proficiency scores across all grades in English language arts and social studies from last year. They also surpassed pre-pandemic proficiency rates in those subjects. All three districts also made gains in math and science proficiency from last year. Math proficiency rates are still lagging behind pre-pandemic rates. Science proficiency rates increased compared to the last two years. However, since science standards changed in 2021, pre-pandemic data is not comparable.

Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program results for the rest of the state's public school districts varied widely.

Tennessee has 141 public school districts, not including those operated by the state board of education or the Achievement School District. The Tennessee Department of Education reported 68 districts saw nearly 40% of students scored as "met expectations" or "exceeded expectations" across all grades and subjects tested. An additional 19 districts reported 50% of students scored in the "met" or "exceeded" categories. The majority of districts also increased overall proficiency rates compared to last school year, while roughly 75% increased those rates compared to the 2019-20 school year.

“These results reflect the dedication and continuous efforts of Tennessee districts and educators to prepare students and make academic gains,” newly appointed Tennessee Education Commissioner Lizzette Reynolds said in a news release from the department of education. “Using this data to make informed decisions and strategic investments in education, Tennessee is well prepared for the work that lies ahead, and we will continue to put kids first.”

Here's a closer look at what the data from the state education department shows.

Maury County Schools

ELA: 29.6%

Up from last year and ahead of pre-pandemic levels

Math: 23.2%

Up from last year and down slightly from pre-pandemic levels.

Science: 34.4%

Up from last year.

Social studies: 34%

Up from last year and ahead of pre-pandemic levels

Williamson County Schools

ELA: 69.8%

Up slightly from last year and ahead of pre-pandemic levels.

Math: 66.4%

Up from last year and below pre-pandemic levels.

Science: 75.9%

Up from last year.

Social studies: 76.1%

Down from last year and ahead of pre-pandemic levels.

Blood Assurance issues call for platelet donors (RELEASE)

Blood Assurance is issuing a critical plea to the public about donating platelets.

As of last week, the nonprofit organization only had 15 platelet units available. Blood Assurance needs 75-100 platelet units on its shelves every day to supply more than 70 hospitals around the region.

“Platelets are unique because of their short shelf life. We need these collections regularly,” said Dr. Liz Culler, chief medical officer for Blood Assurance.

Platelets are an irregular, disc-shaped element in the blood that assists in blood clotting. People with certain blood disorders may not be able to produce healthy platelets on their own. Platelets are needed by patients who experience trauma, bleeding during surgery, patients with aplastic anemia, transplant recipients, patients with leukemia and patients receiving treatment for cancer.

“The need is critical,” said Culler. “Our family members, friends and neighbors battling cancer and other debilitating illnesses may very well require platelet transfusions as part of their treatment. The time to act is now.”

To encourage more people to donate, through Saturday, Blood Assurance is awarding each donor a commemorative beach towel and a chance to win a kayak or paddleboard, and a $100 Bass Pro Shops gift card.

Platelet donors can give every seven days and up to 24 times a year. The process usually takes between 60-90 minutes.

To be eligible to donate, you must be at least 17 years old (16 years old with parental consent), weigh 110 pounds or more and be in good health. Donors are asked to drink plenty of fluids and eat a hearty meal prior to donating.

Donors can visit, call (800) 962-0628 or text BAGIVE to 999777 to schedule an appointment. Walk-ins are also accepted.

Bristol, Urban League announce deal (Tennessean)

Bristol Motor Speedway and the Urban League of Middle Tennessee have signed a community benefits agreement in support of a deal for Bristol to lease and operate the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, according to a news release.

The two entities are advocating for support of the deal, which hasn't been scheduled to go in front of Metro Council for a vote. The benefits agreement is legally binding for a five-year period beginning after revenue bonds are issued for the project by Metro Sports Authority. It is subject to automatic renewal for additional five-year periods not to exceed a total of 30 years.

According to the signed document, either party has the power to terminate the deal at each renewal window.

The signed agreement includes a minimum pay of $18.50 per hour for future local Bristol speedway employees with preference to Davidson County minority business enterprises and diverse business enterprises. The outlined goal will be 30% for such businesses for construction, supply and post-construction of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

“The Urban League of Middle Tennessee is eager to begin working with Bristol Motor Speedway to ensure the entire community is represented as restoration begins at the historic Fairgrounds Speedway,” said Urban League president and CEO Clifton Harris.

According to the release, Bristol Motor Speedway is also entering partnerships with the following organizations:

Glencliff High School and Fall Hamilton Elementary School to invest resources into student success.

Conexión Américas and its Casa Azafrán facility to support the Latino community around the speedway.

Operation Stand Down Tennessee to support military veterans and their families.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee to provide educational access and activities for program participants.

“The Urban League of Middle Tennessee has been critical to the economic empowerment, equality and social justice for African Americans and other underserved communities in the Nashville area,” said Bristol Motor Speedway President Jerry Caldwell. “We are thrilled to be working with Clifton and his team for years to come.”

Enforcement of the terms will fall to a six-person committee comprised of Bristol Motor Speedway and Urban League representatives. The committee will also include residents from neighborhoods adjacent to the project.

Harris likened the possibility of speedway improvements to projects already completed at the Fairgrounds, including the flea market, expo center and GEODIS Park.

“This project represents opportunities for our local workforce to contribute to this major project in our city," Harris said.

Notably, the first community benefits agreement used in Nashville was that between the Nashville Soccer Club ownership group and Stand Up Nashville ahead of the approval of the GEODIS Park construction plan in 2018.

Urban League also recently brokered an agreement with a real estate developer that had previously failed to reach an agreement with Stand Up. The East Nashville apartment redevelopment plan was ultimately approved by Metro Council.

Tennessee suing online liquor stores for shipping to state residents (Tennessean)

The Tennessee Attorney General's Office filed a lawsuit on Friday against six out-of-state liquor distribution companies it said delivered liquor to Tennessee addresses without the appropriate licenses.

The companies are Bottle Buzz, Cask Cartel, The Liquor Bros, My Bev Store, Prime Time Liquor and Wooden Cork, all of which run websites where shoppers can order alcohol for delivery.

According to the lawsuit, there's no license that allows out-of-state companies to ship liquors directly to Tennessee consumers. Doing so is a Class E felony, the lawsuit says.

The specific allegations in the lawsuit are the result of an investigation by undercover agents from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. After staff attorneys sent the companies cease and desist letters, the agents placed orders on their websites to be delivered to a Tennessee address. They received the drinks "untaxed and unauthenticated," a news release states.

In case you were wondering, here are the six drinks the undercover TABC agents ordered for their investigation, per the lawsuit:

A fifth of Evan Williams Peach Whiskey

A fifth of Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon

One dozen 50 ml bottles of Sheep Dog Peanut Butter Whiskey

A fifth of Bird Dog Blackberry Flavored Whiskey

A fifth of Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey

A fifth of Tito's

The plaintiff is seeking an order prohibiting the companies from continuing to ship alcohol directly to customers, civil penalties pursuant to the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act and reimbursement for their investigation.

The AG's office said that this is the first time a Tennessee attorney general has used the 21st Amendment Enforcement Act, a federal law passed in 2000 that gives state attorneys the power to sue anyone believed to be illegally moving alcohol within the state.

The Well looks to expand to Columbia (MS Maury)

The Well Outreach is preparing for another expansion from its current location on Main Street in Spring Hill.

“When we moved into the building on Main Street in Spring Hill, we never thought we would fill it to capacity. When we first moved here, we were serving 200, maybe 250, families a month through our food pantry,” Shelly Sassen, The Well Outreach CEO, said.

During COVID, however, the pantry saw the number of families it served double to more than 500, and last month The Well served 1,005 families. Of those 1,005 families, 65% of them live in Columbia and 77% of the total live in Maury County, Sassen said.

That sparked the idea of finding a space in Columbia to make sure they could serve the community in the most efficient way possible.

“Our goal is to build a second location, which will give this location a little bit of relief and better meet the needs of our guests down there,” she said. “There is poverty everywhere – it’s a matter of how much is seen and the quantity of it. There are people in Williamson County living in poverty, but as we go south we were surprised to see the sheer numbers and also the lack of grocery stores in some of our more rural areas.”

Access to food is just as important as being able to afford it, Sassen said. Which is why The Well is dedicated to finding a building or land in Columbia that can serve even more of Maury County.

“As we spread the word, we’re hoping for new partners now and letting people know we are coming. We need land and buildings while we build a team to get ready to launch,” she said. “We will probably serve 1,000 families the day we open our doors, so we need to raise about $1 million just to build it out.”

Sassen, with the help of Maury County mayor Sheila Butt, applied for a $500,000 grant that would bring a semi-truck trailer with a grocery store inside to Columbia in order to quickly begin meeting the needs of the community.

“If we don’t receive the grant, we may start with a smaller campus to start while we raise funds for the building we need, which we think will be about 10,000 - 15,000 square feet,” Sassen said.

The Well Outreach also serves at-risk students with the JetPack Project, a backpack food program which provides food for children during the weekend. The program, which was started more than 10 years ago, serves over 800 students each week at 25 different schools in southern Williamson County and Maury County. A mobile food pantry is also available for families in need. There are currently 15 mobile food distributions scheduled for the year, with schools being used as the distribution site.

Sassen said the food comes from Second Harvest through a partnership started five years ago.

The mobile food pantry runs from March to November, with two distributions each month.

The food pantry, located at 5306 Main Street in Spring Hill, is open Tuesday to Thursday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The pantry is closed Sunday, Monday and Friday. Each household can visit the pantry twice per month and as often as needed for bread.


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