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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for July 24, 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 Vote Postponed (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 last week, will now reappear on another agenda for another special called meeting starting at 5 p.m. Thursday, July 27. 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 this 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.

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. 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 relinquishment 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 5 p.m. Thursday, July 27.

Local Leaders Comment on Aldean Controversy (CDH)

Some Columbia leaders and elected officials are defending Jason Aldean's new song "Try That in a Small Town," while it has met criticism by some such as Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder, who "hopes" for a more positive message using Columbia as a backdrop.

CMT pulled the video, which was filmed in front of the historic Maury County courthouse.

Although some have criticized the song and video on a national level, saying it has racist undertones, locally elected leaders such as the county mayor and district attorney maintain they support the "small town" message conveyed in the song. 

Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder commented on the song on social media, stating, "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.

"Like many small towns in America, Columbia, Tennessee is focused on bringing people together ... Maybe Eric or Luke or Carrie or Dolly will be the next to record a video in our small town; and they can highlight peace, love and all things that are great about Columbia, Tennessee."

Kaliente Glenn, vice president of the Maury County NAACP chapter, gave a statement in response to the video.

"Music, freedom of speech and expression go hand in hand. I do hope that anytime our beautiful city of Columbia is represented on a national platform, it shows our small town southern hospitality, unity and why we continue to grow stronger together as one. That's the small town I believe in," Glenn said.

Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt and District Attorney Brent Cooper argue the video depicts small town residents banding together instead of inciting violence as some have claimed.

“I've spent over 20 years seeking justice in that building behind Mr. Aldean," Cooper said. "I'm proud to say that, in those 20-plus years, the justice sought there has always been sought based on facts and law and not race. Every small town has a past that has dark periods, but I'm proud to say that this small town has changed and grown and is one to be proud of. That's one reason people from all over the country are flocking here.

"As District Attorney for the 'small town' where this video was filmed, I support the message of this song. I support the location of the video shoot. Lawlessness and violence are not welcome here. That's not a controversial message. It's sad that some won't let go of the past.”

Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt backed Cooper on social media.

"My office is in the Courthouse in downtown Columbia," Butt said on her mayoral Facebook page. "I plan to keep it there when the new Judicial Center is built. Since I have been in office we have hosted several wonderful events there, and it has been the focal point of many good, wholesome community events and even a great Christmas movie last year."

The video, focusing on the courthouse, is interspersed with news footage depicting violent crimes committed in larger cities like New York, Chicago or Atlanta during the pandemic and during protests after the killing of George Floyd.

Upon its release last week, the video's subject matter and filming location, sparked controversy with some questioning whether the message could be considered racist or containing racial undertones.

Aldean released a statement pushing back against the criticisms regarding the intent of the video.

Montee Sneed, chairman of the Columbia Main Street Association, said he's honored Columbia is the location for the video, calling the courthouse square, the county's "front porch" where people like to spend time, tour and take photos.

"Jason Aldean lives close by and honored us by recording his video on our Courthouse Square. It is a video about small town values and strikes a chord with almost everyone with which I visit," Sneed said. 

He explained the square continues to attract visitors to Columbia because of its small town character, especially highlighted during the pandemic when the county "stayed free" with open businesses, a county fair and no mask mandate.

"It's more of a rural versus urban message," he said. "During the pandemic, people would walk around and say, 'It's wonderful to be free.' We stayed free during COVID. People from Nashville, Franklin and Huntsville would come down and visit our downtown. That's what put us on the map beyond a 60-mile radius. The video was not about race."

Michael Fulbright, longtime resident and chairman of the Maury County School Board, explained his first reaction to the video.

"When I first heard it, I didn't see anything racist or hate related," he said. "I looked at it as pride in our community for all people. Everybody in a small town bands together."

Ultium Cells Recruitment Strategy (Press Release)

Ultium Cells, GM and LG’s joint venture EV battery manufacturing company, revealed its talent acquisition strategy for operating its 2.8 million square foot plant. Needing a total employee count of 1,700 people when fully staffed, Ultium Cells will emphasize building long-term relationships with rural and often economically disadvantaged communities to the south, east and west of its factory.

For communities like Centerville, Mt. Pleasant, Summertown and Lewisburg, where nearby economic and career opportunities have been scarce, the relatively short commute is a welcome development. According to 2022 data from the Economic Innovation Group, the Ultium Cells facility is within a 45-minute drive of seven “At Risk” zip codes and under 1-hour from two “Distressed” zip codes. “Fortunately, Tennessee has been proactive in developing the educational infrastructure and talent Ultium Cells needs to operate,” said Plant Director Chris Desautels. Citing the expansion of vocational and community college access, Desautels believes Ultium Cells can help spread the opportunity of Tennessee’s thriving EV economy to economically disadvantaged parts of the state. “We hope to employ team members wherever they are in their educational journey,” Desautels said, before referencing the company’s tuition reimbursement program that allows employees “to pursue their education while working at the plant.”

To make the strategy work, Ultium Cells has been taking an in-person approach to talent acquisition, reaching out to local Chambers of Commerce, attending community events, volunteering with local organizations, and hosting multiple job fairs. “It’s definitely more challenging to generate interest organically,” Desautels says, “but we want to be a community partner as well as an economic driver, and that requires building long-term relationships with our neighbors.” Interested job seekers can find career openings at the company’s website,

Ultium Cells is a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution that will mass-produce Ultium battery cells to advance the push for a zero-emissions, all-electric future. Ultium Cells will provide battery cell capacity to support GM's North American electric vehicle assembly capacity of more than 1 million units by mid-decade, while supporting GM plans to supply other automotive companies and other industries including rail, aerospace, heavy trucking and marine customers. For more information about Ultium Cells, please visit

Mt. Pleasant Fishing Team Takes Third (Press Release)

A team from Mt. Pleasant Middle School, made up of Tristan

Stewart and DJ Johnson III, finished third in this

past weekend's junior bass fishing national championship

at Lake Hartwell in South Carolina.

123 teams competed at the championships from 32 states.

Johnson III and Stewart represented the Mt. Pleasant Jr. Bass


The Mt. Pleasant team led after day one of the two day

championship catching fish that weighed 11 pounds and one ounce.

The teams had a limit of three fish to catch each day. 

For their third place finish, the team took home $500 in scholarship


Wired Mastermind Group Accepting Applications (Press Release)

The WIRED Mastermind Group is now accepting applications to participate. The WIRED Mastermind Group was launched in 2021 by Maury Alliance and the Spring Hill chamber for local Entrepreneurs and CEOs.

This exclusive group is limited to 10 local Entrepreneurs and CEOs who are selected through an application process. The purpose of the group is to foster growth and development through the sharing of experiences, lessons-learned, and game-changing moments. This environment will allow each participant to showcase their expertise while also developing additional skill sets showcased by the other participants.

If you are ready to connect with like-minded individuals locally and are looking for growth opportunities by learning in a peer-to-peer environment and contributing to the growth of other businesses, then this is an opportunity you will want to take advantage of! Visit for more info. The deadline to apply is July 28th.

CSCC Announces Coghlan Scholarship (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.

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


July 24 6 – 7 p.m. Virtual

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

Mrs. Mary Jane Galloway Moody, 80, retired employee of Travelers Insurance Company and resident of Houston, Texas died Sunday, February 12, 2023 following a brief illness.  A graveside service for Mrs. Moody will be conducted Saturday, July 29, at 10:00 a.m. at Polk Memorial Gardens to lay her to rest beside her husband. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

…And now, news from around the state…

Expelled Reps Rake in Money (Tennessean)

More than 70,000 people donated to Tennessee Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson this spring, with the freshman Democrats raising nearly $2 million in a matter of days following their expulsions from the House of Representatives.

Legislative Republicans expelled the duo after they briefly mounted a gun control protest on the House floor just a few days after the deadly shooting at the Covenant School. The expulsion proceedings sparked widespread backlash against the GOP supermajority and elevated the profiles of the two men to national levels — including an invitation to the White House.

Lawmakers are banned from fundraising during legislative sessions, so the April 6 expulsions offered the two a rare window to bring in funds at the height of national interest.

The two raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars within a matter of days. Jones, who was reinstated to his seat by Nashville officials on April 10, reported nearly $959,000 flooded in from a number of small donors in the few days he was out of office.

Pearson, who was reinstated by Shelby County officials on April 13, reported bringing in more than $866,000 during his time away from the legislature.

Both men face special elections to keep their seats on Aug. 3.

Election Donations Coming In (Tennessean)

As the 2024 presidential primaries continue to heat up, top political donors in Tennessee are making their picks. 

Here’s a sampling of who’s backing who in the 2024 presidential primaries, according to each candidates’ latest financial disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.

∎ President Joe Biden: Former Gov. Phil Bredesen and his wife, Andrea Conte, have both donated to the president’s reelection campaign, as have former U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, Nashville developer Mark Deutschmann, and Nashville attorney Charles Robert Bone and his wife, Sacha. Paul Neely, former publisher of the Chattanooga Times, has also donated. 

∎ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: DeSantis is backed by Betty McKee, of McKee Foods, as well as Memphis real estate developer Bayard Boyle, Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine, and Joe and Jessi Baker, creators of Ole Smoky Moonshine and Yee-Haw Brewing Co. Chris Walker, who previously served as a top adviser to Gov. Bill Lee, has donated to DeSantis, as has state Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Gino Bulso, R-Brentwood.

∎ Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley: Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter and wife Leigh Ann have each maxed out their contributions to Haley. Knoxville investor Robert Goodfriend has also donated $5,000 so far this year to the Haley campaign.

∎ South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott: Former Gov. Bill Haslam has signed on as national co-chair of Scott’s campaign — and several members of the Haslam family are backing Scott. The former governor, along with Jim Haslam, founder of the Pilot Corporation, James A. Haslam III, Annie Haslam Colquitt, Susan Haslam, Natalie Haslam, and Cristen Haslam have all contributed to the Scott campaign. 

Scott has also received donations from several members of the Ingram family: Martha Ingram, CEO of Ingram Industries, Nashville SC owner John Ingram, and Hank Ingram, CEO of Brown Water Spirits.

State Rep. Jake McCalmon, R-Franklin, has donated to the Scott campaign.

∎ Former President Donald Trump: Nashville auto magnate Lee Beaman backs the former Trump, as does Andrew Puzder, former CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee's and Carl's Jr., and his wife Deanna. Allan Jones, CEO of Cleveland-based company CreditCorp and wife Janie Jones are also in the Trump camp.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Humanities Tennessee announced the initial lineup of award-winning, bestselling authors who will headline the 35th Annual Southern Festival of Books, taking place in person at Bicentennial Mall, the Tennessee State Museum, and Tennessee State Library Oct. 21-22, 2023.

The time-honored annual event will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 21, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, October 22, for panel sessions, discussions, and readings from a wide variety of genres including fiction and nonfiction, young adult literature, poetry, science fiction, and mystery.  Featured festival books will be available for purchase and can be signed by authors throughout the weekend. Parnassus Books is the festival bookseller.

The festival weekend will feature appearances from approximately 150 authors, offering attendees the opportunity to connect with their favorite writers through a series of live events, panels, book signings and more. The 2023 roster includes Jefferson Cowie, Timothy Egan, Tracy Kidder, Chrissy Metz, Drew Gilpin Faust, Ben Fountain, Mark Greaney, Gary Gulman, Megan Miranda, Ann Patchett, Mararet Renkl, Etaf Rum and Lee Smith, among others.

Visit for more information.


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