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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for May 23, 2023

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

We start with local news…

TCAP Scores In (MainStreetMaury)

School districts across Tennessee were awaiting Friday the expected release of the first batch of TCAP test scores amid concerns over the state’s new third-grade retention law. Officials with the Tennessee Department of Education later stated that districts received the information by approximately 4 p.m. Friday afternoon.

Maury County Public Schools Communications Director Jack Cobb stated that MCPS received its test scores late Friday afternoon. “MCPS is currently looking at retesting 60% of our third graders for possible retention or needs for tutoring next year,” Cobb said via email.

Further study of the data from TDOE revised that number to 63 percent, with 37.5 percent of MCPS third graders scoring “approaching expectations” and 25.9 percent scoring “below expectations.” MCPS scored 27.4 percent of third graders “meet expectations” and just 9.1 percent scored as “exceeds expectations.”

Parents were to be notified this week if their child would need to retake the test or attend a summer reading camp. The state’s testing window runs from now until June 5 and MCPS is supposed to begin its summer program on June 5, Cobb said.

Currently, a state law passed in 2021 will require third graders who score below “met” or “exceeded expectations” on the English/Language Arts portion of TCAP to either repeat the grade or attend a summer reading camp or tutoring program. Lawmakers passed the retention law during a special session aimed at boosting literacy rates after pandemic-related closures.

Based on 2022 test results, around 65 percent of third-grade students statewide failed to score highly enough on TCAP testing to not be affected by the new law.

There are several exceptions to the rule for students with disabilities, students who have previously been retained and students with English as a second language. Students can also take a summer reading bridge camp – where they must have 90% attendance – and maintain a state-funded tutor during fourth grade to advance. Students can also re-take the TCAP test to advance.

Maury Regional EMS Honored (Press Release)

Maury Regional Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team members were recognized May 4 as part of the Children’s Emergency Care Alliance of Tennessee’s 15th annual Star of Life Awards ceremony.

The group was honored alongside the Columbia Fire & Rescue Department for providing lifesaving care to a newborn during a preterm delivery call. They were given the Star of Life Award for Region 6.

“I’m so proud of our team for the lifesaving work they did on this call and the compassion and care they showed after it,” said Michael Dunavant, director of Maury Regional EMS. “Their commitment to the newborn and her family was inspiring. They’re so deserving of the Star of Life Award.”

Kitana Garrett, of Columbia, called 911 on Oct. 5, 2021, when she suddenly went into labor at home at only 25 weeks pregnant. Her newborn daughter, Za’myla Camilla Miracle Garrett, was barely breathing when first responders arrived, led by paramedics Cody Hill and Jamie Roan.

Thanks to their quick response and valiant efforts, Za’myla survived. After four months in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the happy, healthy baby was discharged.

While Za’myla was in the NICU, Roan and Hill, paramedics with Maury Regional EMS, kept up with her status and collected gas money to donate to Kitana and her partner for the drive to the hospital. Roan and Hill also collected enough donations of baby supplies to fill two ambulances that they donated to the family.

Kitana named Roan and Hill Za’myla’s godparents, and they even helped host a first birthday party for Za’myla in October. Their relationship was featured on “Good Morning America” and local news outlets.

“That morning, it was almost like every single star aligned perfectly. We were calm given the situation, we were prepared for what we were about to encounter, and every one of our treatment efforts made a difference,” Hill said. “After we transport a patient, it is pretty rare that we receive any feedback on the patient’s outcome, but we knew for this case we were going to be right by Kitana’s side.”

Along with Roan and Hill, Maury Regional EMS paramedics Chris Bee, Tim Hobbs and Brian Peters, dispatcher Chaz Taylor and Columbia Fire & Rescue firefighters Andrew Kyser, Mason Potts, Chance Bland and Kris Webber were recognized at the awards ceremony.

The Star of Life Awards honor the accomplishments of EMS personnel across the state of Tennessee who show exemplary lifesaving care to adult and pediatric patients. Recipients are selected from each of the eight EMS regions in Tennessee, along with an overall state winner.

The EMS agencies are presented with a stone star award, and each member of the EMS team involved receives a certificate and a Star of Life lapel pin that is worn on their dress uniform. Each survivor also receives a certificate of new life showing their bravery and resiliency to commemorate their recovery journey.

“The star of life award was a career and personal goal of mine, and to receive due to such a special family to us made it even more memorable and meaningful,” Roan said. “I’m so very proud of Za’myla and her parents.”

Maury Regional Health has a dedicated and highly trained staff of paramedics and emergency medical technicians who respond to ambulance calls across Lewis, Maury and Wayne counties and utilize the latest life-saving technology. Regional helicopter services are also used to transfer patients to local emergency rooms, as well as to regional trauma or specialty centers, when necessary.

For more information on Maury Regional EMS, visit

Spring Hill Tourism Exhibit (Press Release)

The Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce its highly anticipated annual extravaganza, Experience Spring Hill, The Event presented by Liberty Federal Credit Union. The family-friendly, free event will take place on Saturday, June 24, 2023, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Summit High School. Featuring over 100 vendors offering a diverse range of products and services, Experience Spring Hill, The Event will showcase the vibrant community of Spring Hill in one convenient location.

The event will also offer a plethora of activities to delight all ages, including a touch-a-truck display, an exhilarating bounce house, an engaging golf simulator, an exciting video gaming area, an immersive virtual reality station, lively dance demonstrations from local studios, appearances by beloved "famous" characters, and a medley of entertaining games with fabulous prizes. Furthermore, the City of Spring Hill's library, parks, police, fire, and administrative services will be present, providing valuable community information on-site.

Rebecca Melton, the Executive Director of the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce, expressed her enthusiasm for the return of the annual eat, shop, and play event. She stated, "Our organization's mission is to positively influence the business culture to create a better Spring Hill, and this event allows us to showcase the many local businesses and organizations that embody our mission.”

Bringing together representatives from the Spring Hill Welcome Center, Visit Franklin, Experience Maury, Visit Columbia, and South Central Tennessee Tourism Association under one roof, a new attraction at the event will be a "Tennessee Travels" exhibit area, featuring the very best in the area's local tourism, attractions, hidden gems and adventures.

"We are thrilled to be the presenting sponsor of Experience Spring Hill, The Event once again this year," said Chris Wagner of Liberty Federal Credit Union in Spring Hill. "Participating in this event allows us to connect with and wholeheartedly support the Spring Hill community in a meaningful and impactful way.”

For further information about the event, please visit the official website at

Connect Columbia (CDH)

The future of how a city will be shaped and developed is determined by many factors, one of them being input from the public on the top priorities.

Connect Columbia, the city's long-term comprehensive plan, is set to receive an update later this year. Adopted in January 2018, the plan serves as a blueprint covering many aspects of future growth and development, such as preserving green space, road and infrastructure projects, capital improvements and regulations to preserve certain character areas.

In February, the city hosted a public forum at Fairview Park, where the public was allowed the opportunity to give its input on what projects it would like to see happen, what decisions it hopes future leaders will make and how they envision Columbia over the next 10-20 years.

A second and final Connect Columbia town hall will be held on Tuesday, May 23rd from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Riverwalk Park, 102 Riverside Drive, with the public invited to share input, as well as learn about the major topics suggested at the first meeting.

"This second one will show people some ideas for changes, since the first one was about gathering general input from people, as well as some further input before we prepare a draft for the planning commission on the new plan," City Planner Kevin McCarthy said.

"People were giving suggestions on parks and greenways, certain amenities they want to see. Some people shared what transportation projects they thought were most important, but the big thing was directing where people want to see growth occur in the city and what the character of that growth should be like."

McCarthy added that this will be the last opportunity for the public to be given an open forum to make suggestions. And it will provide information about what the new plan would suggest prior to it entering the approval phases with the city. While city meetings provide the opportunity for public comment, meetings like Tuesday's town hall are the most direct approach to providing input to city planning staff.

"There will be opportunities for public input [at those meetings], but this will be the last informal, more of a festival-like sort of meeting," McCarthy said.

For more information, contact the city's Planning & Zoning staff by calling (931) 560-1531. To view the current Connect Columbia comprehensive plan at

Columbia Adopts Flag (Press Release)

The City of Columbia is proud to announce the adoption of an official Columbia flag. The winning flag was designed by local resident and business owner Bryson Leach, and was the top vote-getter selected by the community in an online flag design competition completed in April.

In January, City leaders began the process to adopt a flag for Columbia, something Mayor Chaz Molder showed an interest in since his first term in office. It wasn’t until recently when a local high school student contacted the Mayor about the flag that it sparked conversation about a design competition that would turn the flag idea into a reality.

“It is appropriate that the city is adopting an official Columbia flag,” said Columbia Mayor Molder. “It all started with an email from Nathaniel Bliss, an Eagle Scout candidate. I am grateful he initiated the conversation about the need for a Columbia flag. Without his initiative, and the research he put in on the front end, this project would not have happened,” Molder continued. “Columbia deserves to be honored with its own flag. It is a powerful symbol that represents our community and its people, our past, our present, and our future.”

Nathaniel Bliss has followed the flag competition process closely and even helped spread the word with the help of his fellow scouts. "I was inspired to have this flag contest as my Eagle Scout project because of my fascination with Vexillology. I have always found it interesting how a simple piece of fabric can have such powerful symbolism, drawing on the history, culture, and people of city,” commented Bliss. “Another reason I chose this as my project is because it will have a lasting impact on Columbia and will be a part of Columbia's history. I hope the people of our great city are as invested in this as I am. I’m glad I was able to be a part of this moment and I will be excited to see the flag waving above city hall, and wherever people choose to fly it, for the first time!"

City leaders wanted this to be a community-inspired project from design to selection. Citizens were first invited to submit their design ideas and provide a narrative explaining why they chose their particular design. Flag design guidelines were provided from the North American Vexillological Association that emphasized the importance of simple designs with minimal, but meaningful use of colors and symbols. There were 41 qualifying designs submitted, which were reviewed by the Columbia Arts Council. They narrowed the field to three finalists: Bryson Leach, Amanda Byrd and George Vrailas. Then those three designs were shared online and the community was asked to vote for their favorite with Bryson Leach’s design garnering the most votes.

“I am honored that my design was selected as the new city flag,” said Leach. “As a lifelong resident of Columbia, it’s an absolute joy that I’m able to contribute something that will be a lasting legacy and symbol of the true spirit of our citizens and this place we love.”

According to Leach, his flag design was created to symbolize Columbia’s interwoven history, diversity, and leadership, among its citizens and its place in the world. It features a two-toned field of blue over red, representing Columbia’s presidential history while paying homage to the state of Tennessee and its flag. A horizontal wave of blue and red stripes across the middle represents the Duck River, with the weaving of red and blue representing Columbia’s diversity and its place in Civil Rights history (starting in 1946). Finally, a white star in the upper left corner represents Columbia as the county seat and its place in technological, industrial, civic and community leadership.

The public will be invited to attend a flag-raising ceremony in June. The new Columbia flag will be flown at all city facilities.

Digital Advertising Workshop (Press Release)

Join Maury Alliance on Wednesday, May 24th at 8:30 am in their downstairs Conference Room at 106th W. 6th Street, for a Small Business Workshop on Digital Advertising hosted by High Beam Marketing.

During this event you will: 

1.     Learn about the most important trends for 2023.

2.     Get one-on-one help from our seasoned digital advertising experts.

3.     Understand how to evaluate potential agency partners.


Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or just starting out, this workshop is for you! Bring questions related to your digital advertising strategy and High Beam Marketing will point you in the right direction. You will leave this workshop feeling empowered to take the right next steps!


Spaces for this workshop are limited, and Chick-fil-A breakfast will be included, so be sure to register now to secure your spot.

Visit for more information.

AAHSMC Fundraiser (Press Release)

The African American Heritage Society of Maury County announces a fundraising luncheon for the creation of an African American museum and cultural center in Columbia.

The fundraising luncheon is scheduled for Saturday, May 27, 2023, at 11:45am at West 7th Church of Christ, located at 405 West 7th Street in Columbia. Tickets to the luncheon are free, though a $10 donation for the catered lunch is suggested.

Funds raised from this event will help establish an African American museum and cultural center in Maury County. Jo Ann McClellan, President of the African American Heritage Society of Maury County, serves as the featured speaker for this event. Her presentation is titled “Making a Way for Themselves: Faith, Family, Education, and Entrepreneurship” and showcases the courageous stories of African Americans in Maury County. The event is co-sponsored by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Columbia.

“The Society’s vision is an indoor museum space to tell the stories of the struggles and triumphs of African Americans," said McClellan. "The exhibits and programming will include stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to build the African American community by establishing churches, schools, businesses, and benevolent organizations."

Other presenters at the event include Representative Scott Cepicky, the Reverend Father Chris Bowhay from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, and Bishop Phoebe Roaf from the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee.

“St. Peter’s is delighted to be a part of raising the voices and stories of resilience, success, and influence in the African American community in Columbia, both before and after the Civil War,” said Bowhay. “The experience of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been particularly important to the African American Community in Maury County and has played a vital role not only in religion but also in education.”

To register for the event, please visit by May 15, 2023.

Founded in 2012, the African American Heritage Society of Maury County is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to preserve the heritage and history of African Americans of Maury County, Tennessee.

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

Frances Mae Davis Love, 74. A resident of Les Chappell Road in Spring Hill, passed away Saturday, May 20, 2023. 

Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday at 11:00 A.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home with Terry Jones officiating. Burial will follow in Love Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Tuesday from 4:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M. at the funeral home. 

…And now, news from around the state…

TCAP Retention Scores In (Tennessean)

More than half of Tennessee third graders fell short of a threshold required to move on to fourth grade unless they meet exemption standards, up their scores in a retake, attend summer school, undergo tutoring or file an appeal.

The state education department said in a news release Monday that 60% of third graders scored as "below" or "approaching" proficiency on the English language arts section of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program.

Raw scores for the reading test were released to districts around 3:30 p.m. Friday, after school let out for the day. The scores did not factor in automatic exemptions for students who are still learning English, have a disability that impacts their reading or were previously held back. That was up to districts to sort out, along with notifying families about the scores and what their next steps are.

Some districts worked through the weekend to notify parents. Retesting was set as early as Monday for some.

Metro Nashville Public Schools estimated 39% of third graders scored "below" or "approaching" proficiency, not including students the district predicted would be exempt.

“Tennessee has some of the highest standards in the nation for student expectations, and while we all strive to help them meet those goals, students all start from different places, and teachers work hard to ensure they are making growth and progress in their learning journey," said Director of Metro Schools Adrienne Battle in a news release.

In Knox County Schools, Robertson County Schools and the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, around 40% of third graders scored as "below" or "approaching" proficiency. In Wilson County Schools, that number came in at approximately 35%. In Rutherford County Schools, it's about 30%.

Dickson County Schools projected that around 35% of third graders would fall short of the threshold after factoring in exemptions and retakes. More than 70 of the 327 students who did not meet proficiency standards were within three points of passing, according to district spokesperson Danny Weeks. Roughly 110 more are expected to meet the state's exemption guidelines.

In Maury County, 63% of third graders will be retesting for possible retention or needs for tutoring next school year.

The release of scores set off a quick-paced timeline for parents to decide whether to place their children in summer school, tutoring or both. An appeal process is also open until mid-June.

Last year, around 65% of third graders in Tennessee fell below the threshold. This year's scores show improvement, which the Tennessee Department of Education attributed to the rollout of a comprehensive K-3 literacy strategy across Tennessee public schools.

“The ability to read at grade level determines a student’s success in the classroom and beyond, and we’re encouraged that our strategic literacy investments have already resulted in historic gains across the state,” Gov. Bill Lee said in Monday's news release. “As we continue our work to deliver strong reading skills to benefit every student, we’re committed to giving families multiple pathways that will support student promotion and achievement.” 

Here is how many third graders scored in each English language arts category, according to this year's raw scores:

Below proficiency: 25%

Approaching proficiency: 35%

Met proficiency: 27%

Exceeded proficiency: 13%

This year's third grade English language arts scores mark the largest single-year increase since 2017, the education department said.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Bring the kids to the Storybook Trail located along the Nature Trail in Maury County Park for a monthly, seasonal story.

The June story is “The Honeybee” by Kirsten Hall and Isabelle Arsenault. Buzz from flower to flower with a sweet honeybee in this timely, clever, and breathtakingly gorgeous picture book.

To access the trail: Enter Maury County Park and continue straight on the main park road. Pass the Kids’ Kingdom playground on the right, and continue straight up the hill. Halfway up the hill, there is a trailhead with parking on the right.

The Storybook Trail features storybooks presented on child-height panels, along a short accessible trail to promote adult-child interaction around books and nature in a healthy, outdoor activity. Books are rotated monthly, so there is always a new, seasonal story to enjoy.

Maury County Park is located at 1018 Maury County Park Dr. Columbia, TN 38401.


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