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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for July 20, 2023

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

MCPS short on vote to approve charter school (CDH)

The Maury County School Board was unable to finalize its decision on whether to approve or deny the ongoing debate about whether to allow the establishment of an American Classical Academy charter school in Maury County.

The item, which was discussed as part of a special called meeting Tuesday, will now reappear on another agenda for another special called meeting next Tuesday, July 25. The board called an additional meeting due to the board not being able to generate enough votes to approve or deny the proposal, each of which requires six votes.

Two board members, District 7 Board Member Will Sims and District 10 Board Member Wayne Lindsey, were also not present to cast their votes. Both previously denied the charter's application when the item was last considered in April, when it failed by a narrow 6-5 vote.

If the board cannot reach a decision by next week, the item will approve by default July 30, 60 days following the application's May 30 resubmittal.

The ACA is overseen by umbrella company American Classical Education (ACE), which is looking to open additional charter schools in other Middle Tennessee counties, such as Williamson, Rutherford and Montgomery and Madison County in West Tennessee. Most recently, the charter was approved in Rutherford County in April, while the Clarksville-Montgomery School System voted to disapprove.

The ACE also made headlines in September of last year after withdrawing its application to open a charter school in Hillsdale.

Tuesday's meeting began with 20 minutes of public debate, with citizens in favor or against the proposal each allowed 10 minutes to plead their case.

The opposing side argued multiple potential issues the charter school poses if approved, including its potential effect on local taxpayers while not officially being part of the Maury County School system. There were also concerns regarding the school's values regarding inclusivity, and that the school would only be welcome to a select number of children.

There were also issues regarding the organization itself, which is not operated via a nonprofit, but the ACE educational management organization (EMO.)

"The EMO is not a nonprofit, and so I'd kind of like to know where the money is going," Jackie Lightfoot Marshall, one concerned citizen, said. "The history curriculum, which I've read over, is just wrong. It's whitewashing and doesn't cover all of history."

Former Vice Mayor Christa Martin, who also opposes the charter, addressed how the school could affect taxpayers, and that there are important questions still lingering to be answered

"The people of Maury County who are paying for Maury County schools, the taxpayers, deserve answers," Martin said. "How will we build and operate a school for 'some' students, and where will the school be built? How many buses will you have to buy and drivers you will have to hire to drive students from all across this big county to get to wherever this school is being built?"

For those in favor, they saw it as an opportunity to not only address the needs of children with special needs, such as autism, and provide the kind of care unavailable to some families currently.

"No one is saying the charter school is the right thing for every family, but charter schools offer something we all can agree on, and that's choice," Maury County Commissioner Gabe Howard said.

"The idea to introduce a new school to our education landscape is not a decision to be taken lightly. However, it's important to remember that the approval of this charter school does not in any way signify relinquishing of control. The Maury County School Board retains the power to oversee the operation of this charter school, and if necessary revoke its charter. Therefore, the risk is minimal, while the potential benefits are significant."

In the end, school board chairman Michael Fulbright noted that despite the differing views from citizens, as well as members of the board, they all share the common goal of simply wanting the best for the community's children.

"I believe every person in here, in their heart wants the best for the children and families of Maury County," Fulbright said. "We can talk about our differences and our divisions, but we are united in that belief. Undoubtedly, we all have different views on how that can be accomplished."

Once discussion returned to board members, the difference of opinion and which side to support was as divided as the citizen comments.

For some, like District 11 Board Member Jackson Carter, approving the proposed charter would be beneficial for a number of reasons. For example, the county would retain authority over the charter, rather than it becoming the responsibility of the state pending a denial.

"If we turn this down tonight, ACE has every right to appeal to the state, and I'm led to believe that they probably will," Carter said. "When that happens, there will be a hearing in Maury County ... and we will have to state objective reasons for our denial, and it can't be ideological. It has to be based in objective reasons."

Those who opposed, like District 3 Board Member Jamila Brown, argued that the charter would be a burden on the taxpayers not benefiting from its services.

"As an elected official, our job is to be there for our community, our students, the parents and teachers, and we have heard from numerous people in this community that they do not want this charter school," Brown said. "It's our job to listen to our community ... and if it goes to the state, then so what? That's how I look at it, and if it goes to the state it's going to open a can of worms that some of you all don't want to be opened."

A vote to approve was initially motioned by Carter and seconded by District 8 Board Member Austin Hooper, which resulted in a majority 5-4 vote. However, according to stipulations of the application, the vote would require six votes either in favor or denial to become official. Unable to reach a definitive conclusion, the only other option was to hold another special called meeting.

"Obviously, I didn't make it any secret that I want this thing approved, but I also don't want to play political games to make it happen," Fulbright said. "It's the right thing to do for Will, for Mr. Lindsey and everybody in the county."

The school board will revisit the ACA charter school proposal starting at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 25.

Jason Aldean music video pulled from CMT (Tennessean)

CMT has removed a music video for Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town” – filmed in downtown Columbia in front of the courthouse – from its rotation altogether following backlash that the song’s message and the backdrop have racist undertones connected with historical events that took place in the city.

The music video channel had no comment regarding their decision.

On July 14, Aldean promoted his video release via the following statement:

"When u grow up in a small town, it's that unspoken rule of 'we all have each other's backs and we look out for each other.' It feels like somewhere along the way, that sense of community and respect has gotten lost. Deep down, we are all ready to get back to that. I hope my new music video helps y'all know that u are not alone in feeling that way. Go check it out!"

Online critics perceived the song's lyrical content to invoke pro-gun violence and lynching sentiments.

After CMT removed the video, Aldean posted on social media the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

"In the past 24 hours, I have been accused of releasing a pro-lynching song (a song that has been out since May) and was subject to the comparison that I (direct quote) was not too pleased with the nationwide BLM protests. These references are not only meritless but dangerous. There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it- and there isn't a single video clip that isn't real news footage -- and while I can try and respect others to have their own interpretation of a song with music -- this one goes too far."

"As so many pointed out, I was present at Route 91 -- where so many lost their lives -- and our community recently suffered another heartbreaking tragedy. NO ONE, including me, wants to continue to see senseless headlines or families ripped apart."

"Try That In A Small Town, for me, refers to the feeling of a community that I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief. Because they were our neighbors, and that was above any differences. My political views have never been something I've hidden from, and I know that a lot of us in this Country don't agree on how we get back to a sense of normalcy where we go at least a day without a headline that keeps us up at night. But the desire for it to -- that's what this song is about."

Columbia mayor Chaz Molder made a statement in support of Aldean’s right to free speech in his lyrics, but hoped for a different type of message from future music videos.

“Like many small towns across America, Columbia, Tennessee is focused on bringing people together. I hadn’t listened to the song prior to today, but I’ve now seen the video. I respect the artist’s freedom of his own lyrics and the fans who support him, but I’m hopeful that the next music video that uses our historic downtown as a backdrop will seek a more positive message,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Maybe Eric (Church) or Luke (Bryan/Combs) or Carrie (Underwood) or Dolly (Parton) will be next to record a video in our small town; and they can highlight peace, love and all the things that are great about Columbia, Tennessee.”

Related to the video itself, TackleBox, the production company for Aldean's video, said the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee -- where the video was shot -- is, alongside being the site of a lynching and race riot seven decades ago, a popular filming location outside of Nashville and cited several music videos and films that have been filmed there. They include the Lifetime Original movie "Steppin' into the Holiday" with Mario Lopez and Jana Kramer, a music video from Runaway June "We Were Rich" a Paramount holiday film "A Nashville Country Christmas" with Tanya Tucker -- as well the Hannah Montana film.

The company said Aldean did not pick the location.

The 27-time country music chart-topper and Academy of Country Music Artist of the Decade for the 2010s is currently on the road for his Highway Desperado Tour through November 2023.

Nashville ranks among best cities to launch a career (Tennessean)

Nashville ranked as one of the top places to start a career, according to consumer financial services company Bankrate.

Coming in at number five, Nashville topped the charts that boasted multiple Southern cities.

"Cities that have traditionally been popular postgraduate destinations are becoming less attractive for young professionals jumpstarting their careers. Five of the 10 best cities to start a job are in the South, including Austin, Raleigh, Nashville, Dallas and Atlanta," reported Bankrate.

As one of the top areas in the U.S. for people — especially Millennials and Gen Z — to launch their careers in 2023, Nashville edged out cities like Seattle and Dallas.

How did Nashville rank?

Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin area ranked number five based on rent prices in relation to affordability, the employment picture and quality of life.

The ranking revealed a pattern of young people searching for entry-level opportunities choosing to move to Southern cities over places like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Red flag law debate continues with special session one month away (MS Nashville)

With a month remaining until a planned Aug. 21 start to a public safety special session, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee continues to meet with constituents, legislators and interest groups about the laws that should and shouldn’t be proposed.

Families of Nashville Covenant School students have started two nonprofits as they look to push for school safety changes after a shooting that killed three students and three staff members on March 27.

One of those nonprofits is the Covenant Families Action Fund, which will aim to push for legislative change to ensure safer schools in the future.

“The families of The Covenant School have a wide range of political views but are united in their faith and shared desire to protect their children and all children in Tennessee from experiencing anything like what happened in March 2023,” the groups said in a joint statement. “The two nonprofits are both dedicated to working with anyone who will respect all political and ideological viewpoints while taking meaningful steps to protect children.

“Both Covenant Families for Brighter Tomorrows and the Covenant Families Action Fund appreciate the decision by Governor Bill Lee to convene a special session of the state legislature in August to respond to overwhelming calls for action on gun violence prevention.”

One of the most controversial parts of the special session call will be whether Lee goes forward with a red flag law, which he called a temporary mental health order of protection when he first proposed it this spring.

Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, recently told reporters he wants leadership to meet with the National Rifle Association before the special session and that he won’t support legislation that uses the word “firearm,” according to WKRN.

A Vanderbilt poll showed that 72% of Tennessee voters approve of Lee’s proposed law and 82% approve of an executive order he placed to strengthen background checks before gun purchases.

A poll from Co/efficient, however, said that 84% of voters believe a dangerous individual should be removed from a community rather than taking their guns and that support for red flag laws drops 21% when voters are informed those laws leaves threatening individuals free to harm others.

Lee met with the Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition on Monday, stating its opposition to any red flag law.

“Governor Lee personally listened to our concerns about the August Special Session of the Tennessee General Assembly,” the group said in a statement. “We do continue to have grave concerns about public safety during the special session due to previously reported threats and planning by Marxists. We appreciate the fact that Governor Lee listened to our concerns.”

City of Fairview seeking Nature Fest exhibitors

The City of Fairview is busy preparing for the 2023 Fairview Nature Fest – and they need the community’s participation.

Fairview Nature Fest, which began as Community Day in the Park back in the 1980s, transitioned from the Fairview Ball Park to Bowie Nature Park in the 1990s. Along with the change in venue, the festival focus shifted to Fairview history and nature-related exhibits.

The one constant that has kept Nature Fest thriving is the community participation each year. That is why the city, who recently took over the coordination of the annual festival from the now defunct Fairview Chamber, is calling on community members to join the Nature Fest fun.

Richard Ross, community relations coordinator for the city, is seeking exhibitors that can take festival goers back in time such as a beekeeper, blacksmith, butter maker, quilter, wood carver, lye soap maker, candle dipper, broom maker or chair caning and weaver.

Ross said, “Anyone that makes items on site are all still needed for this year’s Nature Fest!”

Fairview Nature Fest is schedule for Saturday, September 23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Bowie Nature Park in Fairview.

Ross encouraged, “Bring the whole family and enjoy music, history of the park, kids activities, arts and crafts vendors, exhibitors, plein air art by the Fairview Arts Council, inflatables, food and more!”

For more information on becoming a Nature Fest exhibitor or vendor, you can email Richard Ross at

Maury Regional NICU welcomes back special visitors

In October of 2006, the first baby was admitted to the newly opened neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Maury Regional Medical Center. Almost 17 years later, that baby — now a high schooler — and his family have an even greater connection with the hospital where he spent his first few weeks.

On July 4, parents Bryan and Bridget Zaidan and older brother Jordan took baby Laikyn home from Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) for the first time.

Laikyn was born June 26, five weeks premature, and she spent several days in the care of the specialists in the NICU. While a stay in the NICU can be difficult for any baby’s parents, the Zaidans had good reason to believe Laikyn was in excellent hands.

Jordan was born on Oct. 9, 2006, at MRMC two months premature. He was the first baby ever admitted to the NICU at MRMC, which officially opened on Oct. 16, 2006.

The care Jordan received in the NICU gave the Zaidans confidence Laikyn would have the same experience — especially considering she was under the care of the same physician, Donna Whitney, MD, a specialist in neonatology on the Maury Regional medical staff.

“It definitely feels like déjà vu,” Bryan said. “It obviously worked out well the first time, and we had full faith this time would be the same. It’s convenient, confident care here. For us, it was relieving that we knew what was coming, and we had a level of confidence that we knew she was getting good care.”

Being able to hold Laikyn in the NICU was a fulfilling moment for Jordan, who turns 17 this year and is a rising junior at Spring Hill High School.

“It was exciting — she kept giving me a side-eye and funny looks,” he said. “It does give me some pride that she was born here.”

It also was a special moment for Dr. Whitney, who’s seen the NICU at MRMC grow drastically since she cared for Jordan way back in 2006.

“It’s always very rewarding to see patients that have graduated and been in our care doing well in the world,” Dr. Whitney said. “It really is an honor to serve our patients in this community. That was our goal in having the NICU here, so that patients can be cared for closer to home.

The NICU at MRMC is a Level II neonatal intensive care unit with providers certified in many clinical specialties, including neonatology physicians and neonatal nurse practitioners provided by Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Specialized care is provided to newborns with a wide variety of health conditions, such as prematurity, respiratory problems and infections.

In the 17 years since opening the unit, the specialists in the NICU at MRMC have operated with a dedication to providing the best and most compassionate care possible. That didn’t go unnoticed by the Zaidans.

“Dr. Whitney and all of the nurses in the NICU were all so amazing,” Bridget said. “Just knowing that every day [Laikyn] was very well taken care of and that they had answers to any questions I had made me feel better as a new mother, and we appreciate everything they did for her.”

MRMC has been recognized with a “BEST for Babies” award from the Tennessee Hospital Association four consecutive years. It also earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Perinatal Care Certification.

The fourth floor of the medical center is entirely dedicated to childbirth and gynecological care, offering spacious suites where mothers can experience labor, delivery and recovery in comfort and privacy. The MRMC Mother/Baby Unit also practices couplet care, allowing babies to room-in with their mothers to enhance the early bonding experience.

For more information about the NICU and other childbirth services offered at MRMC, visit


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