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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for September 11, 2023

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

Welcome in to Southern Middle Tennessee Today on Front Porch Radio – Kennedy Broadcasting. I’m Chris Yow, filling in for Tom Price, and I’m excited to bring you the news and happenings from around Southern Middle Tennessee. Let’s start with local news.

Steele reinstated as principal at Columbia Central High School

An email sent to staff at Columbia Central High School by Maury County Superintendent Lisa Ventura and provided anonymously to Main Street Maury confirms Dr. Michael Steele has been reinstated as principal at the school.

"I'm very excited to get back to work -- I'm in the building now," he told Main Street Maury. "I've got to find out what's gone on over the last two weeks and right the ship, but that will be easy."

In the email, Ventura wrote to teachers, "I know these have been turbulent times for all of the CHS family. My hope is that together we can commit to making CHS stronger, better and supportive to staff, students & families & achieve academic success."

Steele was suspended two weeks ago following a meeting where Ventura spoke to teachers and staff about an incident where an unauthorized person was on site at the school during a May 3 school shooting hoax.

Steele said he was told the reason was “creating a hostile work environment,” which he believes is directly in relation to how he handled learning of the aforementioned situation.

MCPS officials said the district does not comment on personnel decisions.

Spring Hill lifts irrigation restrictions stemming from TVA outage

The City of Spring Hill is lifting irrigation restrictions, which were put into place earlier this week, following a widespread power outage on Aug. 31 caused by a power failure at a Columbia substation and a "tripped" TVA line.

On Tuesday, the necessary repairs to a mechanical issue were made within the Columbia Power and Water Systems water distribution system in Spring Hill. The Spring Hill irrigation systems were previously shut off to allow for the municipal water system to recover, officials say.

Spring Hill City Administrator Pam Caskie said the water mechanical issue was likely caused due to the widespread power outages that affected many parts of Spring Hill and Columbia a week ago, which required a temporary shutdown of the irrigation water system for several days.

According to Tennessee Valley Authority communications representative Adam May, a tripped TVA line and Columbia substation caused the outage last Thursday.

"The outage was started when a lightning arrester failed on the north Columbia substation, which is not owned by TVA," May said.

"When it failed, it tripped a TVA line that goes from the Maury Substation to the Saturn substation. TVA responded and had that line re-energized within 55 minutes. When the initial incident happened, it tripped off the TVA Substation at Mt. Pleasant. That issue was fixed within 35 minutes.

"TVA has an ongoing program to replace aging equipment, and we routinely perform preventative maintenance."

Rather than shutting down resources like emergency response, such as water in Spring Hill used by the fire department, cutting off the city's irrigation system was, while inconvenient, the best option, Caskie said.

The previous power outage led to a blackout of the Spring Hill business district at Spring Hill Crossings and Main Street, causing traffic congestion and businesses being forced to shut down for over an hour.

After several days, the water system has rebounded, and thus, the restrictions were lifted, a week after the power outages.

City staff, along with Mayor Jim Hagaman and Caskie, addressed the situation following the repairs during the Board of Mayor and Aldermen's work session Tuesday.

"We had a major mechanical failure in our system that caused a lot of issues, and as a result of that many of us on staff came together to solve the issue," Hagaman said. "This was a crisis that was mitigated more quickly than anything I've ever seen in my life, and it happened because people are willing, have the expertise and competency and desire to serve the citizens holistically."

Hagaman also thanked each individual department member for their swift work in restoring the water system, which ranged from communications staff to development services, public works and multiple first-response teams.

"And I want to say a very special thanks to the entire staff at Columbia Power and Water Systems who worked tirelessly through the night to fix repairs and restore service, because remember this happened [on Monday], which was also a holiday," Hagaman said.

On Monday, the mechanical issue was identified, and irrigation restrictions were put into place by Spring Hill officials. At the time, Spring Hill residents were asked to participate in a voluntary shutoff of irrigation systems, while large commercial properties in Spring Hill were placed under a mandatory shutoff, the press release states.

The tank levels, as of 6 p.m. [Tuesday] were at 58%, which was a 17% increase from where we were Monday afternoon, Water Superintendent Jeremy Vanderford said.

"We are looking in good shape."

"We are graced with a good partnership with CPWS," Caskie said. "And in the middle of peak watering issues, and on a holiday weekend ... and you have a mechanical failure, which was probably brought about by the [Tennessee Valley Authority] substation loss from last Thursday's power failure. I know this was inconvenient and a lot of people don't like it, but it was definitely the lesser of all the options."

The city also expressed its gratitude to residents for their understanding and cooperation throughout this process. If you have any questions or additional information can be addressed by contacting Spring Hill communications staff at

State to review ACE charter appeal, seeks local input at Sept. 21 town hall

The proposed American Classical Education charter school, which was denied by the Maury School Board in July, will seek an appeal to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission.

The state appeal will also be a topic of discussion later this month as ACE hosts a town hall meeting, scheduled at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21 at Horace O. Porter School in Columbia.

According to a statement from ACE, the meeting will be an "opportunity for representatives to present, and there will also be time provided for public comments from the community."

"The school still has to file their appeal with the state, and so the next step is the town hall, where the state will review everything and determine how to vote on this application," former Maury County School board chair Michael Fulbright said.

A difference of opinion, concerns raised

Since first being proposed earlier this year, the charter school has raised a number of differing opinions.

The July vote by school board members was also split down the middle in a 5-6 decision to deny. The school had previously been denied by only one vote in April and was granted a 60-day appeal period through July 30.

"I was not surprised by how close of a vote it was. It's a pretty hot topic on both sides, and everyone is passionate about wanting the best for the children in Maury County," Fulbright, who voted in favor of the charter school, said. "Each side has a different way of what that looks like."

At the time, those in favor of the school argued that by withholding the county's authority in lieu of the state would create other issues, such as transparency when it comes to the county's role in the decision making.

"I am always in favor of the local school board having control over our schools, because anytime we get state involvement I get a little apprehensive. I still support it, but would have rather had us take control instead of an outside entity."

The opposing opinions also stemmed from a number of concerns, such as if the school would provide an opportunity for all children, reflecting a diverse community, rather than a select few.

"There are over 104,000 people living in our county and 22 schools, and so we are asking approval for all children in our public school system. The opportunity for education should not be governed by a political party or a system," former Vice Mayor Christa Martin said. "It's about educating our students."

State Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, said the state commission's vote will be based on the viability of the ACE application, not anyone's opinion.

"Your personal opinions should not factor into this, because they will not factor into the opinion of the state," Cepicky said during the July 27 special called voting meeting. "It should be based on 'does the application meet the criteria."

And now a look at your hometown memorials, brought to you by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home

Mr. Gregory Todd Howell, aged 62, passed away September 8th, 2023. Funeral services will be conducted Tuesday, September 12, 2023 at 2:30 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in McCains Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Tuesday from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home.

Mrs. Mary Ann Plant, age 95 of Thompsons Station, died Friday, September 8, 2023 at NHC Maury Regional Transitional Care. Funeral services for Mrs. Plant will be conducted Wednesday, September 13, 2023 at 11:00 A.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home with Reverend Roy Barber officiating. Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery. The family will visit with friends on Tuesday, September 12, 2023 from 4:00 P.M.- 7:00 P.M. at the funeral home.

Here are some statewide headlines that affect you ….

Tennessee State Fair leaders explain why changing dates won't happen

Wilson County Fair – Tennessee State Fair leaders have responded to an online petition urging them to change the fair’s date primarily because of heat concerns.

Lebanon resident Monica Ferrell created the petition Aug. 27, and it has received more than 3,250 signatures as of Sept. 8.

Ferrell said she started the petition after high temperatures and heat index caused discomfort and health concerns for fairgoers.

“I have personally witnessed individuals passing out, struggling to breathe, and even opting not to attend the (Wilson County Fair - Tennessee State Fair) due to extreme heat conditions,” Ferrell said.

The 10-day event saw 739,315 people, a decrease by 36,880 people from the 2022 Fair, but both years were significantly higher than the previous nine years, excluding the cancelled fair in 2020, prior to the Wilson County Fair and Tennessee State Fair joining together.

Temperatures were around triple digits for most of the Fair, while high humidity pushed heat indexes past 100 degrees during the last five days.

Ferrell said she believed a move to the fall from August would prevent heat-related illnesses and help with attendance, which would boost the Fair’s economic impact.

However, fair officials said a change to the Fair’s dates is more complicated than people might imagine.

“Fairs are a mirror of their community. We want to showcase everything unique and special. We must always showcase Wilson County and now the entire state of Tennessee. We must consider all the pros and cons when even thinking of moving the Fair dates,” Fair officials said in a statement posted to social media.

The main factor Fair officials highlighted is that the Wilson County Fair – Tennessee State Fair is an agriculture event – 2023 was the Year of Corn – and August is the end of the growing season. Officials said changing the date to later in the year would probably result in no fruits or vegetables for fairgoers or competitions.

Other considerations listed included a month-long window for the Farm Bureau Expo Center staff to build and tear down temporary structures at the Fair, travel schedules for agriculture and livestock competitors, vendors and carnival vendors, high school football games and weather. This year's Fair began the same night as the first high school football game in the county.

Wilson County Promotions Executive Director Helen McPeak said there were some heat-related medical incidents during this year’s fair but praised the work of first responders and medical personnel.

“It was very well taken care of by all of our medical staff that were here. They took care of people if they had any problems,” she said.

McPeak said Fair personnel set up cooling fans throughout the Fair to help with the heat, while some vendors offered free cooling refreshments.

“The Fair is always open to suggestions as we strive to make the Fair better each year. We hope everyone understands that there is much more to consider (in) putting on the Fair than just changing the dates,” the release said. “We want the Fair to be a time that is celebrated, where families and friends come together to laugh, have fun, and make memories to last a lifetime. We strive to make each year special and give reason to celebrate.”

Nashville Zoo Welcomes Baby Leopard, Banded Palm Civet (Maury Source)

Here’s some paw-sitively adorable news! The Nashville Zoo’s nursery at the HCA Veterinary Center is now home to a clouded leopard cub and a banded palm civet kit!

The male cub, born on July 18 at the Oklahoma City Zoo, was brought to be hand-raised and eventually paired with a mate. As a national leader in clouded leopard breeding and care, the Nashville Zoo was chosen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP®) to oversee the cub’s upbringing.

This program helps to ensure genetically diverse populations of this species in human care.

The baby (kit) banded palm civet was born on August 12. The male kit is being hand-raised by the Zoo’s veterinary team due to inadequate milk production by the mother.

In the future, this kit will become an ambassador animal and educate the public about his species and habitat.⁠

September is National Suicide Prevention Month

September has come to be nationally recognized as a time for education and reflection on mental health needs. Government and non-profit entities promote Suicide Prevention Month and National Recovery Month during this time.

Though it’s true that increasing access to mental health care and expanded conversations about the subjects in online spaces have allowed some people to feel more comfortable sharing their struggles with things like suicidal ideation and addiction, there is still a significant stigma against these topics.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), while “the public may accept the medical or genetic nature of a mental health disorder and the need for treatment, many people still have a negative view of those with mental illness.” The APA separates this stigma into three categories: public, self, and institutional stigma. Public stigma is external, where another person has negative thoughts about a person’s mental health condition.

Self-stigma is internal, where a person with a mental health condition thinks negatively about themselves because of it. Institutional stigma refers to a lack of opportunities or a decreased quality of life for those with a mental health condition due to a lack of resources, lack of access to health care, or discrimination. All three of these types of stigma cause real difficulties for people experiencing mental health struggles, but they can be remedied by increasing the conversation about the topics that we deem most difficult.

Recognizing September as Suicide Prevention Month opens up a space for these complex conversations. Many schools and community groups across the country hold suicide prevention trainings for community members or raise money for suicide prevention organizations. As attendance at these events grows, more people are made aware of the warning signs and risk factors of suicide and ways that can help family and friends around them who may be in crisis. These events may also encourage people who feel they need to seek professional help or community support to reach out.

Just as Suicide Prevention Month allows for more discussions about suicidal ideation and mental health in general, recognizing September as National Recovery Month helps to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction. There is an increasing availability of services for people struggling with addiction, such as medication assisted treatment for those with opioid use disorders or sober living communities for those in recovery from alcohol use.

Though it may be increasingly more possible for some to receive care, others face the stigma of addiction and may be afraid or unable to seek the care they believe they need. In September, organizations may launch awareness campaigns, host remembrance events, or promote fundraising efforts to help fund recovery programs. Attendance at these events helps community members see that people struggling with addiction are their neighbors and friends and helps to promote a sense of solidarity between those with substance use disorders and those who love them.

The Jason Foundation produces a number of suicide prevention trainings and resources for youth, adults, and communities as a whole. They focus heavily on providing suicide prevention training throughout the year, but find demand for programs and events picks up exponentially leading up to September. In addition to suicide prevention, The Jason Foundation is affiliated with many behavioral health facilities and medication assisted treatment centers across the country that do great work in their communities to promote National Recovery Month.

If you would like to find resources to plan your own Suicide Prevention or Recovery Month event or want more information about affiliates in your area that may be hosting these events, visit the website at All programs and resources are available at no cost, as they strive to make these topics easily accessible. Get involved in September’s mental health awareness and prevention efforts and together we can support our friends and loved ones in their time of need and reduce the stigma around mental health conversations.

Final story…

Homeschool Tennessee Promise (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College will host Homeschool Tennessee Promise Information Nights at each campus during the month of September.

“Columbia State recognizes that homeschool families are sometimes unaware of the deadlines associated with Tennessee Promise,” said Cissy Holt, Columbia State vice president of Student Affairs. “Completing the application by November 1 is essential for high school seniors to remain eligible for the scholarship. We are happy to partner with the Ayers Foundation and Tennessee Achieves to support these families with this assistance no matter where the student plans to attend.”

Tennessee Promise is a statewide program that allows graduating high school and homeschool seniors the opportunity to earn a degree or certificate from a community or technical college regardless of financial status. Tennessee Promise is a scholarship, mentoring, and community service program that began in the fall semester of 2015. It provides students with a last-dollar scholarship, meaning the Tennessee Promise will cover tuition and fees not covered by the Pell Grant, the HOPE scholarship, or Tennessee Student Assistance Award funds.

A critical component of Tennessee Promise is the individual guidance each participant will receive from a mentor who will assist the student as they navigate the college admissions process. In addition, participants must complete eight hours of community service prior to each term enrolled, as well as maintain satisfactory academic progress (2.0 GPA) at their institution.

At the Homeschool Tennessee Promise Information Nights, students and their parents will gain knowledge on Tennessee Promise, receive assistance with applications, and be given tutorials on how to access the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation grant website to begin the application. Any in-depth questions will be answered by a Columbia State financial aid representative or Ayers Foundation/TnAchieves staff.

To view the full list of steps to apply, or to sign up, please visit


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