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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for May 3, 2023


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

We start with local news…

Ashwood Subdivision (CDH)

One of the city's largest proposed residential developments is once again making its way through the approval process, and residents are still uncertain whether they want it.

The planned unit development at Ashwood Manor, which would be located off Trotwood Avenue near Ridley Park, has undergone many changes over the last year due to concerns regarding high-density housing, increased traffic and how it would affect other nearby residential neighborhoods.

Initially, the plan was to build the planned unit development over 987 lots. After multiple revisions, the plan is now to build on approximately 765 lots between 60, 70 and 100-feet wide. In addition, multiple acres of green space to be used for three miles of walking trails, sidewalks on Old Zion Road and increased buffering for homes located near the park.

Approximately 31 acres of open space will also be dedicated to Ridley Park.

The current request is to rezone the property, which will include the planned unit development master plan. After multiple revisions and lengthy discussions with city leaders, the request was approved by the Columbia Municipal Planning Commission in April, and will now go before Columbia City Council for the first of two readings.

"They reduced the density even more, provided more hiking trails and green space and provided a greater buffer to the homes in the county that were requesting they have more of a buffer before this large-scale development," Mayor Chaz Molder said.

However, nearby residents are still speaking out against the development, with many making their voices heard during the April planning commission.

Gabe Howard, a Maury County Commissioner and nearby resident, said one major concern is whether the city has enough capacity to service such a project.

"There are many technical concerns as to why you should vote no, but there are more serious concerns in our community, including water availability, school concerns, roads, solid waste concerns and overall public service offerings to say a few," Howard said. "The people of our community have already spoken multiple times on this same development, and I believe you have a responsibility to represent the people's will and lean on the side of the people."

Douglas Chapman, also speaking on behalf of Trotwood residents, presented a list of citizens' top concerns, and the potential negative effect the proposed planned unit development would have on the area. This includes disrupting access between Yeatmon Lane and Old Zion Road, increased traffic on Trotwood between James M. Campbell Boulevard and Old Zion Road, increased burden on the school system and creating a massive character change to the overall area.

Chapman suggested a possible solution would be to increase the buffer around Ashwood Manor to 350 feet.

"We want to increase the buffer to a minimum of 350 feet around any house on this property and Ashwood Manor. That would be done to preserve the rural area and nature of our community," Chapman said.

The planning commission ultimately approved the request with a favorable recommendation to Columbia City Council in a 4-2 vote, with commissioners Ray Pace and Charlie Goetz opposing. City council will meet and discuss the item during its study session scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.


ACA…What’s Next (Tennessean)

Across Middle Tennessee last week, five counties decided whether to adopt the American Classical Academy charter school, which operates under the American Classical Education umbrella and just launched last year.

Rutherford County school district was the only district to approve the charter school, while school boards in Madison, Maury, Montgomery, and Robertson counties denied the charter school's application due to "deficiencies," ranging from academic standards not fully aligning with state standards to not having food vendors secured or safety plans in place once school buildings are obtained.

The school boards in Madison, Montgomery, and Robertson counties voted overwhelmingly against the charter, while in Maury County, the charter narrowly failed by one vote.

However, the charter school approval is not yet off the table for the counties that voted against it.

ACE has the opportunity to revise the deficiencies and resubmit an amended application to the boards within 30 days for another review. Each school district's appointed review committee would have 60 days to review the amended application.

According to ACE vice president Phillip Schwenk, the ACE board is evaluating it next steps.

"It's in discussion. Our basic position is that it is very evident to us that all of these different communities have an interest in this school at the level in which we think we can fill a school in each county.

"It's talking through that [the different votes and feedback] and seeing if there are avenues by which it makes sense to amend and reapply at this time."

Schwenk also noted that the charter school board would be addressing the needs of each county, tweaking and making the objectives more clear where needed, also explaining that some complaints could only be addressed specifically when the school secures a brick and mortar building in each community.

Charter schools operate independently from the authorizing board (or Local Education Authority) but use public education funding, or local, state, and federal dollars, to fund operations for students, minus a school building, however.

The revised application for ACE won approval in Rutherford County April 25, following a 5-2 vote. The board in July voted 6-1 against the initial ACA application prior to three newly-elected school officials winning seats in August.

The majority backing the charter school, including Katie Darby, mentioned that ACA provides families with school choice.

"If it's not for you, you don't have to go," Darby said.

Board member Frances Rosales mentioned she was keeping her campaign promise before voting to approve the charter school.

Tammy Sharp, who was the lone vote in July in support of the initial ACA application, talked about charter schools helping the district deal with overcrowding at many of the county's 50 schools.

Claire Maxwell, a Republican who won her seat in 2020 as an independent prior to state law changing to allow partisan school board elections, also supported ACA's revised application after opposing the initial proposal in July.

Maxwell suggested the county's schools can coexist with charter schools and remain strong.

Rutherford school board members Shelia Bratton and Coy Young opposed the ACA proposal in accordance with the district's Charter School Review Committee that also recommended denial of the ACA application.

The committee report suggested the ACA application failed to meet or exceed state criteria for academic plan, operations plan and financial plan, including a proper plan for the recruitment of students in poverty, English language learners and those with disabilities.

The report further suggested the charter school application had a "lack of substantial plans for safety and crisis management and for managing student health concerns."

The Clarksville-Montgomery County School System board voted 6-1, to deny the ACA charter school application, based on the Charter Review Committee's recommendations that the application did not fully meet state academic standards.

Board members expressed support for CMCSS public schools, saying they didn't see any added benefits to having a charter school.

"Charter schools I understand," said Herbert A. Nelson from District 3. "Public charter schools I don't."

“I’m not opposed to charter schools,” Kent Griffy said. “But I am opposed to ones that don’t get approved by the state and don’t provide benefits to our Clarksville-Montgomery students.”

Aron Maberry, District 7, who was the lone board member to vote in favor of the charter school, emphasized that he is for parent choice.

The Jackson-Madison County school board voted against, 7-1, the charter school application for the second time in just under a year.

JMCSS Attorney Dale Thomas read a resolution to deny the charter based on a total of 50 reasons derived from ACA's application. The board's concerns included a negative fiscal impact on the school district, totaling $1.2 million; unclear enrollment projections; lack of rigor in education such as inconclusive evidence that Singapore math, of which ACA's curriculum is a proponent, is as rigorous as state standards.

The Maury County school board voted down, 5-6, the charter school due to academic and operational "deficiencies" in the application, including aligning academic standards with state standards and delivering academic interventions to struggling students. Maury County board members also expressed concern that the charter has not secured food, custodian or transportation vendors.

Some Maury County school board members indicated that they would be open to reconsidering the application once deficiencies are addressed by ACE.

The Robertson County Board of Education was the first last week to vote unanimously to reject the charter school application for American Classical Academy.

Board members voted to deny the application based on an extensive review process by and on the recommendation of the Robertson County Schools Charter School Application Review Committee, which found it lacking in its academic, operational and financial plans.

If the charter application gets a final rejection from the school boards, ACE can appeal it to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission. The commission's staff typically schedules a public hearing in the county where a board rejected the application.

ACE, for example, had a public hearing in September at the Rutherford County Board of Education office in Murfreesboro after the school board in July rejected its initial application. The speakers who signed up for the first-come first-serve basis were all backers of the school. Others opposed were upset they were unable to speak.

Democrats also staged a press conference and rally in front of the Rutherford County Board of Education office to protest the proposed ACE charter school.

Three school boards in Rutherford, Clarksville-Montgomery County and Jackson-Madison County, previously denied ACE charter applications in July.

ACE ended up withdrawing its appeals and revised applications for resubmittal.

The Tennessee Public Charter School Commission can overrule the local school board. The commission, for example, approved a planned Rutherford Collegiate Prep January 2022 in a 4-3 vote after the unanimous county school board in Murfreesboro rejected the application.

American Classical Education K-12 curriculum was developed through the work of Hillsdale College and with contributions from Hillsdale's member schools, according to a Hillsdale College education website.

According to ACA applications, curriculum would support mastery of Tennessee’s state standards through systematic phonics instruction, Singapore math, a focus on American history, civics, government, use of the Socratic Method and the study of Latin beginning in the sixth grade, for example, as well as a focus on the arts and athletics.

Gov. Bill Lee supported ACE during his State of the State speech, encouraging the charter to pursue opening charter schools in Tennessee. However, the college's president Larry Arnn caught fire at a Franklin, Tennessee event when he said, "Teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country." Since, Lee has remained quiet regarding the college and charter school.


CSCC Fraternity Fundraiser for Miracle League (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa recently raised $745 through their Wreaths Across America fundraiser for the Miracle League of Columbia.

 

“Phi Theta Kappa has a long history at Columbia State for providing members with opportunities to participate in service projects to benefit the college and the community,” said Mandy Carter-Lowe, Columbia State associate professor of biology and PTK advisor. “This project not only allowed individuals an opportunity to honor and remember veterans but also allowed us to invest in our community through the Miracle League of Columbia at Maury County Park.”

Annaleisa Matzirakis, a Columbia State student and Vice President of Service for PTK was heavily involved in the fundraiser.

“It is a long-held belief of mine that it is important to give back to your community and help those in need when you have the means to do so,” said Matzirakis. “The Wreaths Across America fundraiser not only allowed our chapter and college community to honor our local, fallen veterans, but also helped raise funds to donate to the amazing cause that is the Miracle League of Columbia. This project was so fulfilling, and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that I feel blessed to have been able to partner with both Wreaths Across America as well as the Miracle League of Columbia.” 

The Wreaths Across America project was offered to the campus community last semester. Sponsors could purchase a wreath to honor service men and women buried at the Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery. PTK received $5 from each sponsored wreath and elected to donate the funds to the Miracle League of Columbia to assist their efforts to build an all-inclusive ballfield. This was chosen as a result of research and discussions from this year’s Honors in Action topic, The Art and Science of Play.  

“As a student-athlete, I understand the profound impacts that athletics has on developing individuals by building both camaraderie and character,” said Matzirakis. “I believe that all children and individuals, regardless of ability, should have the opportunity to participate in and experience any sport or activity their heart desires. The fundraising partnership between our PTK chapter and Wreaths Across America allowed us to raise funds to contribute to the construction of an inclusive ball field with the Miracle League of Columbia.”

More than 80 wreaths were sponsored, and it was the second year in a row that every headstone at the cemetery received a wreath from the fundraiser. A ceremony was held on December 17th, National Wreaths Across America Day, to place the wreaths.

The funds donated to Miracle League will be allocated toward building a baseball field and playground that will give children with mental and physical challenges the ability to play baseball in a league of their own.

“Through our honors research we discovered that children benefit both physically and emotionally from involvement in team sports,” said Cara Sutherland, Columbia State associate professor of mathematics and PTK advisor. “This ballfield will remove barriers facing children with mental and physical disabilities to allow them an opportunity to participate.”

Phi Theta Kappa is an international honors society for two-year schools. Columbia State’s chapter, Beta Kappa Theta, was chartered in 2000 and has since grown to become a Five-Star Chapter. Phi Theta Kappa Membership is limited to roughly the top 10% of students based on academic achievements. 

Columbia State’s chapter received three regional awards this year: Third Place Distinguished Officer Team, Third Place Distinguished Chapter Member and First Place Distinguished Honors in Action Theme. They were also recognized internationally as a REACH chapter for their efforts to increase chapter membership. Last year, the advisor team of Columbia State faculty members, was recognized with an international hallmark award as a Distinguished Advisor Team.

“Serving my community is a practice I've implemented throughout my life,” said Matzirakis. “I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to serve as PTK's vice president of service, which has facilitated the ability to bring our Columbia State community together for the benefit of our community at large.”

For more information about Columbia State’s chapter of PTK, visit www.ColumbiaState.edu/campus-life/phi-theta-kappa/index.html.


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

Mr. Robert Seay Parks, 91, owner and operator of Parks Motor Sales, died Saturday, April 29, 2023, at his residence in Columbia. Private family grave and masonic services will be conducted at Neapolis Cemetery. A Celebration of Life will be held Friday from 5:00 P.M – 8:00 P.M. at Parks Motor Sales. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

Mr. Jerry Lee Barber, 83, retired maintenance employee for DuPont in New Johnsonville for 36 years, died Saturday, April 29, 2023 at Life Care Center of Columbia from complication from Parkinson’s disease. A memorial service will be conducted Saturday at 2:00 P.M. at South Gate Church of Christ. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the church. Burial will be in Swiss Cemetery in Hohenwald at a later date. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.


…And now, news from around the state…

Blackburn Files Child Protection Legislation (Tennessean)

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn is taking another swing at requiring social media companies to make an effort to keep child users safe online. 

Alongside U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Blackburn on Tuesday re-introduced the Kids Online Safety Act, which aims to require social media platforms to shield children from addictive algorithms and inappropriate content, create tools for parents to report abuse, and undergo annual audits.

“It’s become impossible to deny that our children are suffering at the hands of big tech,” Blackburn told reporters on Tuesday morning. 

Blackburn, R-Tennessee, shared the stories of Grace McComas of Maryland, whose sexual abuser cyberstalked and bullied her until she ultimately ended her life in 2012 at the age of 15, and Carson Bride, a 16-year-old from Oregon, whose classmates harassed and tormented him anonymously using a Snapchat app until he committed suicide in 2020.

“His last search on Carson’s phone was for hacks to find out who it was that was doing this to him,” Blackburn said.  

So far, more than quarter of U.S. Senate – 26 members – have signed on as original co-sponsors. 

“I have spoken with Senator Schumer on a number of occasions – he is 100% behind this bill and efforts to protect kids online,” Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, told reporters Tuesday morning. “I fully hope and expect that we’ll have a vote this session.”

If passed, the Kids Online Safety Act would require social media companies to:

Make their strongest privacy settings the default for anyone under 18, and opt children out of addictive product features and algorithmic recommendations

Create reporting tools for parents to identify harmful behavior and report abuse 

Accept responsibility to prevent and mitigate harms to minors like promotion of suicide, eating disorders, substance and alcohol abuse, and sexual abuse

Undergo annual independent audits to assess risks to minors and compliance with federal law 

Provide algorithm datasets to researchers and psychologists to enable research on social media’s harms to child safety and mental health

“Our bill holds big tech accountable and puts the burden on the social media platform – not making parents in effect, police people for their kids,” Blumenthal said.

The two senators first introduced the bill in February 2022 after reporting by the Wall Street Journal that company documents showed Facebook was aware that its social media platforms were causing mental health issues for teens. Last year, it unanimously passed the Senate Commerce Committee, but did not move forward before the end of the 117th Congress.

The bill is also the result of five Congressional hearings with social media companies and families of child victims of cyberbullying on social media. 

Busloads of mothers have visited Washington to advocate for change, and Blumenthal said their voices have been heard. 

“We noticed a powerful change in levels of support as the moms came to the capitol,” Blumenthal said. “Those moms who are still grieving are more powerful than any of us in elected office could be.”


Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

John Fogerty announced a tour stop in Franklin.

Bringing the Celebration Tour to FirstBank Amphitheater on Tuesday, July 25th at 7:30 pm.

John Fogerty is an American musician, singer, and songwriter best known as the lead singer, lead guitarist, and primary songwriter of the rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR).

Fogerty began his music career in the 1960s, playing in several bands before forming CCR in 1967 with his brother Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook, and Doug Clifford. The band quickly rose to fame with hits such as “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” and “Fortunate Son,” which were known for their catchy melodies and socially conscious lyrics.

Fogerty’s distinctive voice and guitar playing were a major part of CCR’s sound, and he was also the band’s main songwriter. After CCR disbanded in 1972, Fogerty pursued a solo career, releasing several successful albums such as “Centerfield” and “Blue Moon Swamp.”

Over the years, Fogerty has received numerous awards and accolades for his music, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with CCR in 1993. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest rock songwriters of all time and continues to tour and perform to this day.

Presale ticket sales begin on Wednesday at 10am with the code: ICONIC

General sale tickets begin on Friday, May 5th at 10 am.

Find tickets at ticketmaster.com


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