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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for July 28, 2023


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


We start with local news…

ACA Charter Denied (CDH)

The long-awaited final vote by the Maury County School Board on whether to allow the organization of an American Classical Academy charter school resulted in a denial on Thursday.

The proposal to bring an ACA school to Maury County has been a polarizing process, which has generated differing opinions about whether the school would provide an educational, as well as financial benefit. The application was previously denied in April, but was granted a 60-day appeal that would have expired at the end of July.

The vote was initially taken last week during a special called meeting, but was unable to garner the six votes needed either in favor or opposing the application. The lack of votes was due to two board members not being present, therefore another special called meeting was scheduled Thursday to meet the 60-day deadline. Had no vote been taken, the application would have been approved by default.

"This has been something that is a divisive issue across our state, across our nation, and here we were basically 11 strangers from different ways of thinking to pull this together and determine what is best for the students of Maury County," school board chair Michael Fulbright said.

"Each of us have different views of what that is, but I have no doubt there are 11 people up here ... and a room full of people who only want the best for the children of Maury County. Even though we have different ways of looking at it, different expectations of what that looks like, we can at least walk out of here knowing we all share that goal as caring, concerned citizens of Maury County."

Fulbright, who has been openly in favor of establishing the charter school, initially motioned to approve the application during the Thursday meeting, but was unable to garner enough votes in support. The motion was then made to deny the application, which resulted in a narrow 6-5 vote.

American Classical Education, the umbrella company overseeing the charter school, can now appeal its application to the state, who could approve or deny it.

ACE board member Dolores Gresham released a statement about the denial.

"The Maury County School Board sided with special interests instead of local students and families. It denied a high-quality classical public charter school for local families – a school that would bring time-tested instruction including phonics as an option to a community struggling with the continued illiteracy of its students," Gresham said. "More than 7,000 Tennessee families have expressed interest in classical education, and a core of that group includes Maury County parents. In fact, hundreds of Maury County families voiced their desire for a tuition-free public school with a classical curriculum."

Gresham further criticized the board in failing its "duty to students."

"They will continue to be forced to attend zoned schools that might not be the best fit for every child. Their families will not have additional curriculum or instruction options. The students will not have phonics," she said.

Gresham assured that local ACE board members and its families are evaluating all options, including an appeal to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission.

Kennedy Inducted into TPA Hall of Fame (CDH)

The Daily Herald came full circle last week when Sam D. Kennedy was inducted posthumously into the TPA Hall of Fame for his contributions to the newspaper industry, while present day Herald staff also grabbed first place spots for its reporting on the Kennedy family.

The publication won two First Place awards from the Tennessee Press Association last Friday for its coverage of rural farming and land loss in Tennessee, featuring Kennedy's grandson Sam Kennedy, III, and the family's century farm.

Winning article "Maury County century farmer preserves family farmland in fight to sustain rural life in Tennessee,"  took home the first place plaque at the TPA awards luncheon on July 21.

Later that day at a separate TPA awards banquet, the late Kennedy was inducted into the TPA Hall of Fame for his lifelong impact on the newspaper industry, including the fight to obtain open government rules of transparency, or "Sunshine" laws, which stand today.

The late Sam D. Kennedy, born in 1926, served as publisher of The Daily Herald in Columbia, Tennessee from 1965 to 1984 and the Lawrence County Advocate from 1985 until his death in 2018.

He was voted by his peers into the Tennessee Newspaper Hall of Fame and was officially inducted last week.

Over a dozen Kennedy and Finney family members, with a rich history in the newspaper publishing business, gathered at the awards banquet to honor Sam D. Kennedy's impactful contributions to the industry.

Kennedy began his career as a lawyer and a judge in Maury County.

He used his legal experience as valuable background after he took over as publisher of the Columbia Daily Herald after his father-in-law’s (then publisher John Finney) death in 1965. 

He became an outspoken advocate for open government. As Chairman of the Tennessee Press Association’s Government Relations Committee for over 30 years, he helped author and pass state reporter’s shield laws and Sunshine laws (outlining rules for open meetings and records) in the 1970’s. His efforts were commemorated when he was named to the National Open Government Hall of Fame (a joint venture by the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Freedom of Information Coalition) in 2016.

Over the course of his time as President of Kennedy Newspapers, Kennedy published The Daily Herald, the Mount Pleasant Record, the Lawrence County Advocate, the Parsons News Leaders, The Waverly Democrat, and the Buffalo River Review. 

He also served as Maury County Executive from 1992 to 1996. 

Tony Kessler, who served as editor of the Daily Herald under Kennedy in the early 80s and later served as editor of the Nashville Banner, attended the Friday event.

His official comments in support of Kennedy’s nomination said: “He was fair, honest, friendly, and ethical toward everyone and he had a lasting impact on my life”.

Kennedy's daughter Elizabeth Kennedy Blackstone accepted the Newspaper Hall of Fame Award for her father last Friday.

“Transparency in government and the role the press should play in ensuring it were fundamental to my father’s life’s work," Blackstone said.

"In 2016, our old friend and colleague, the now late Bill Williams, Publisher of the Paris Post Intelligencer, was quoted as saying ‘If Tennessee’s battles over freedom of information were folklore, Sam Kennedy would have played the role of the good giant’ and that is what my father was to me — The Good Giant”.

Kennedy was the 61st inductee to the Hall of Fame, marking the third time the honor has come to former Daily Herald publishers, and the third generation of the Finney-Kennedy family to receive the honor. 

Kennedy’s wife of 63 years, the late Betty Finney Kennedy, was the daughter of the 15th inductee John W. Finney, inducted in 1973, and the granddaughter of the 12th inductee, James I. Finney, inducted in 1971. 

The Tennessee Newspaper Hall of Fame was established in 1966 as a joint project of the Tennessee Press Association and the University of Tennessee. The program recognizes and memorializes "extraordinary and clearly outstanding" contributions to newspaper journalism and the newspaper industry. The award is posthumous. For more information, see https://tnpress.com/hall-of-fame/. 

The late Sam D. Kennedy's son Delk Kennedy is owner of WOKM radio in Columbia, while grandson Sam Kennedy, III, operates Kettle Mills century farm in Columbia. The family most recently fought for state protections to the Duck River, which runs through the family farm, to maintain clean water for residents, animals and aquatic life. His daughter Elizabeth Blackstone has served as editor of Kennedy Publishing and editor of The Advocate in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.


Maury Youth Named State Champ (Press Release)

Ethan Foster of Maury County was named state winner in the Tennessee Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Environmental Stewardship contest. The results were announced during the Tennessee Young Farmers Summer Conference held at the Farm Bureau Expo Center in Lebanon, Tenn. The young farmer received this award due to his outstanding environmental stewardship efforts in preservation and best management practices on his farm.

Ethan and his brother run a cow/calf operation on their grandfather’s farm as well as raise hay for the cattle. Ethan also is a part of a stocker calf operation and is a soil conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

 

This award is given in partnership with the University of Tennessee Extension and focuses on highlighting the relationship between the local Extension agent and the young farmer. Special recognition goes to the Foster’s Extension Agent, Darrell Ailshie.


Farm and Fiddle (CDH)

The crisp aroma of Calabrian peppers overtakes the senses on the idyllic 24-acres called The Farm & Fiddle nestled in the hills of Fly, Tennessee in Maury County.

That is, until Samantha Foulks, co-owner of the farm with husband Dan, hands visitors a golden raspberry fresh from the patch. The taste juxtaposes the scent, but in a surprisingly pleasant way ― sweet mixed with savory crispness — just a sampling of the best the farm has to offer.

Up on a hill overlooking the farm, cows and sheep graze. Loud moo-ing draws Dan Foulks' attention.

“That’s my bull, Mini Wheat, right there,” he chuckles, pointing up the hill. “He’s going to start singing before too long.”

Full of vegetables, fruits and flowers, the farm in the Santa Fe area is in full swing and full bloom as the abundance increases during the peak of summer.

Walking through the farm is like taking a step back to a time when farming was all about working with the land, before the art became an industry.

Every nook and cranny of the farm is put to use — flowers, heirloom vegetables, herbs, sheep, cows, ducks, you name it, all living in harmony to create a beautiful bustling ecosystem.

On a hill overlooking the farm, the cows and sheep graze. Loud moo-ing draws Dan Foulks' attention. “That’s my bull, Mini Wheat, right there,” he chuckles, pointing up the hill. “He’s going to start singing before too long.”

At the reins are Samantha and Dan Foulks, a couple from Oklahoma, who made the pilgrimage to Tennessee about eight years ago for the music industry. Samantha began building the Farm & Fiddle straight away upon their arrival, combining Dan's love of music and instrument of choice, the fiddle, with Samantha's love of nature, the farm.

The farm also employs a combination of seasonal workers and interns throughout the growing season.

The Foulks have a heart for sharing their lifestyle with others who want to learn about homesteading and holistic farming.

“I would have died for that opportunity to live out my vision when I was younger,” Samantha said.

Back in Oklahoma, Dan was a middle school orchestra teacher, so it's in his nature to educate, said Georgia Thorpe, one of two seasonal workers on the farm.

“He is like a wealth of knowledge. He will answer anything with the most words, but the best words,” said Thorpe.

Dan doesn’t think of himself that way, though. He merely guides the workers to the information the land is readily providing. 

“Nature is the best teacher if you’re willing to listen,” Dan said.

And listening to nature is what everyone at Farm & Fiddle strives to do.

“We companion plant and interplant every veggie; every flower could help another veggie and flower, whether it’s pollination or pest deterrent,” Samantha said.

The garden area would appear chaotic and unruly to the eye of an outsider, but the locations of each vegetable and plant are intentional. 

For example, basil and tomatoes grow wonderfully together, and by pairing those with a row of Lisianthus, the primary flower at The Farm & Fiddle and Samantha’s personal favorite, the pollinators will flock.

“You can’t walk around barefoot because of the bees,” Samantha warned.

It’s this philosophy of harmonious interplanting, pairing crops that benefit from each other in the same bed, that prompts the holistic title.

More important than the bounty above the ground is tending to the ecosystem underneath. To preserve the soil and microbiology within, Farm & Fiddle is a no-till farm, meaning they plant vegetables without plowing and avoid any sort of pesticides or herbicides. 

Rather, they use the manure from the livestock to fertilize and rely on "good bugs" to police the "bad ones."

“If you create and cultivate the right environment, you start getting a balance of things ... you get good bugs that eat the bad bugs. If you have everything you need, it’ll balance itself out,” said Dan.

The vegetables at the Farm & Fiddle are all Italian and French heirloom varieties, which works well with Samantha’s pasta business.

“We found that our pasta is kind of the center of the wagon wheel, and then everything else we do, the spokes that come off of it, complement the pasta,” Samantha said.

The work is hard, and the lifestyle isn’t suitable for many, but farmers have long been known for their work ethic, reliability and care they take in their work.

The couple said there is nothing more rewarding than toiling all day in the heavy Tennessee heat, then retiring to bask in the fruits of the day’s labor.

“I love every single flower, I love every tomato. And my husband is a fantastic cook, so it’s a whole other level of joy to experience his cooking with all our fresh farm goods,” said Samantha.

The Foulks sell their products at 12 South Farmer’s Market in Nashville on Tuesdays and the Columbia Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. Their pastas and produce can be found on the menus of Yolan and Butcher & Bee in Nashville, including the seasonal "Farm & Fiddle Pappardelle" dish made with tomato sauce, blue crab and corn cream.

For more information, visit http://www.thefarmandfiddle.com.


4th Grade Promotion Rate (MainStreetMaury)

All but a handful of Maury County third graders will be moving on to the fourth grade.

That was the message from Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Ventura, who stated, “Our 4th grade promotion rate is finalized as 97.7% of our third graders have been promoted.”

The Tennessee Department of Education released on July 19 final data about third-grade retention appeals. The window for families to submit an appeal of decisions about their student’s potential retention in third grade closed on June 30.  

The Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act passed in 2021 set forth key academic supports for third-grade students who did not score proficient on the English language arts (ELA) portion of their TCAP assessment, and updated requirements for these students to move to the next grade via multiple pathways for fourth-grade promotion. While some third-grade students may meet certain exceptions outlined in the law, students who scored “approaching” or “below” were able to access academic supports including free summer camp and tutoring in their fourth-grade year, and students who scored “approaching” had an additional opportunity to submit an appeal of a potential retention decision.  

Since the appeals window opened on May 30, the department received 10,572 appeal forms statewide representing 9,054 unique students. Of these students, 7,812 students received approval on their appeal, and 685 students received a denial of their appeal. Additionally, 557 appeals that were submitted were not applicable.

“Regarding appeals, the district knows that 112 appeals were granted. We do not know how many appeals were submitted by Maury County families in total,” Ventura said.

MCPS received its initial test data on Friday, May 19, in which roughly 63 percent of third graders failed to meet the required score, with 37.5 percent of MCPS third graders scoring “approaching expectations” and 25.9 percent scoring “below expectations.” Students were allowed to retake the TCAP in late May. MCPS indicated in early June that approximately 350 third-graders were signed up for the district’s summer learning camp, known as STARS.


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

Deputy

Sheriff Administrative Clerk

To apply, visit www.maurycounty-tn.gov/jobs.


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 mauryalliance.com/wired for more info. The deadline to apply is July 28th.


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

Randy Eugene Dooley, 62, an employee of Lowe’s and resident of Columbia, died Saturday, June 3, 2023, at NHC Columbia after a brief illness.

 Private family services will be conducted at Rose Hill Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Saturday, July 29, 2023, from 4:00 P.M. - 6:00 P.M. at Southern Tre Steakhouse upstairs in the Magnolia Room.. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors is assisting the family with arrangements. 

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.

Mr. James Thomas “Tommy” Beard, 70, retired employee of Nissan, former employee of Oakes & Nichols, and a lifelong resident of Santa Fe died, Thursday, July 27, 2023, at Maury Regional Medical Center. Funeral services for Mr. Beard are incomplete and will be announced later by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors.


…And now, news from around the state…


Casada Makes Play to Get Charges Dropped (TennesseeLookout)

Former House Speaker Glen Casada wants federal charges against him dismissed before an October trial, claiming lawmakers who did business with a new vendor called Phoenix Solutions received the services they requested.

Federal prosecutors accuse Casada — who no longer serves in the House — of covering up the identity of the vendor, which was secretly run by disgraced former staffer Cade Cothren, and directing House business to him in return for kickbacks. He filed a motion for dismissal this week in U.S. District Court.

Phoenix Solutions, which used a New Mexico mailing address, did nearly $52,000 worth of work for Republican lawmakers, handling their state-funded constituent mail services, in addition to campaign mailers. The vendor also did more than $200,000 worth of work for the House Republican Caucus, but that is not part of the indictment.

“The indictment does not, and cannot, allege that any individual who utilized the services of Phoenix Solutions did not receive exactly what they bargained for – mailers sent to constituents. Nor can the indictment allege that Phoenix Solutions failed to do exactly what it was represented to do – produce mailers for constituent mailings,” says a memo supporting Casada’s motion to dismiss.

It contends the indictment tries to “criminalize” the alleged failure to disclose who owned the vendor, in addition to conflicts of interest, to “impermissibly broaden the scope of both applicable federal criminal law and government prosecutorial authority.”

The filing contends the charges against Casada are inflated, including accusations he was involved directly or aided in a conspiracy to steal federal funds; bribery and kickbacks involving federal funds; honest services wire fraud; the use of a fictitious name to commit fraud; and money laundering. 

The federal indictment claims Casada and former Rep. Robin Smith, a one-time state Republican Party chair who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors, concealed Cothren’s identity as he ran Phoenix Solutions. Otherwise, Cothren, who had left his post as Casada’s chief of staff during a racist and sexist text messaging scandal, wouldn’t have been hired to do the work for Republican lawmakers. Some lawmakers told the Tennessee Lookout they wouldn’t have had Phoenix Solutions do the work if they knew who was involved.

Casada became House speaker in 2019 but resigned seven months after a no-confidence vote by the House Republican Caucus over racist and sexist texts and complaints about his heavy-handed management style. He won one more election to his Williamson County seat but left the House last year and ran an unsuccessful a job as the county’s clerk. 


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

This weekend is all about the arts in Columbia!

Who didn't grow up reading Charles M. Schultz' classic Peanuts characters, especially the misfortunes of good-natured "blockhead" Charlie Brown?

The Maury County Arts Guild, 705 Lion Parkway, will host its second and final run of "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" this weekend, with two performances starting at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, students and military and $10 for children ages 10 and under. Tickets may be purchased at the door or at www.TheMCAG.org.

This weekend will feature another classic musical to check out, this time at the Packard Playhouse in downtown Columbia.

The Packard Playhouse, 614 N. Main St., will host two performances of the Broadway musical "The Music Man," featuring a performance by two-time Tony Award-winning singer Laura Osneses, as well as a talented group of up-and-coming actors, singers and dancers.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and a 3:30 p.m. matinee Saturday.

"The Music Man" follows fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill as he cons his way through the people of River City, Iowa, getting them to purchase musical instruments and uniforms for a boys' band he vows to organize, despite the fact he knows less than nothing about music.

Hill's plans to skip town with the money are thwarted when he meets Marian, a local librarian who transforms his perspective on being an honest and kind man

Ticket prices range from $20-$80 and can be purchased at www.PackardPlayhouse.ticketspice.com.


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