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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for September 15, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Maury County Schools score high on TVAAS (PRESS RELEASE)

The TN Department of Education, Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System or TVAAS released state-wide scores this week. Maury County Schools is happy to share that our district overall increased from Level 1, defined as "significant evidence that the district's students made less growth than expected," to Level 3, described as "evidence that the district's students made growth as expected.”

To break down the gains from a level one to level three growth, MCPS had five schools receive a Level 5, three a Level 4, and five a Level 3. In a message to the district, Superintendent Ventura shared that it takes EVERYONE in schools doing their jobs to make growth gains. I am humbled and proud to be your leader and know how hard-working & dedicated everyone is at every school!! Every single school has something to be proud of!

Level 5 for 2022-2023!

• Spring Hill Middle School

• Battle Creek Middle School

• Highland Park Elementary School

• Mt. Pleasant High School

• Santa Fe Unit School

Level 4 for 2022-2023!

• Hampshire Unit School

• J.R. Baker Elementary School

• Marvin Wright Elementary School

Level 3 for 2022-2023!

• J. Brown Elementary School

• Virtual Academy of Maury County

• Columbia Central High School

• J.E. Woodard Elementary School

• Mt. Pleasant Elementary School

In a statement to the community, Superintendent Ventura shared, "I am so proud and pleased with the hard work and dedication of our schools, teachers, and families. We have more heavy lifting to do, but with growth comes achievement."

Shanda Sparrow-Lang, Principal of Spring Hill Middle School, "The administration team is truly honored to have the "BEST" teachers, staff, and students in the country to share this award!!"

Mike Kinnard, Principal of Battle Creek Middle School, "I am very proud of the hard work put in by our students, their families, and our BCMS family each and every day. It is rewarding to see the growth in our students recognized by the state of Tennessee. Keep up the hard work!"

Randy Hubbell, Principal of Santa Fe Unit School, "Great job by our students, staff, parents and community. It takes a village and we have the best. Go Wildcats."

Eric Hughes, Principal of Mt. Pleasant High School, "I am extremely proud of our students and teachers for earning Level 5 status for academic growth for the second straight year. Earning a composite of 5 is rewarding, but earning a 5 in literacy, numeracy, and science is a testimony of cross-curricular collaboration among our teachers. Our goal for the 23-24 school year is for continued academic growth and excellence."

Kelly Myers, Principal of Highland Park Elementary School, "We are thrilled with the growth of our students and are extremely proud of them! Our teachers work collaboratively to help each student to meet their potential and make progress regardless of their abilities. I'm fortunate to have such a dedicated staff."


Marisa Massey, Principal of Marvin Wright Elementary School, "Thank you to all the staff and parents for working together to help every student grow and succeed."

Jon Clanton, Principal of J. R. Baker Elementary School, "I am very proud of our teachers, staff, students, and parents for working together to GROW. Our Mission at Baker is for everyone to GROW, and receiving a level 4 is testament to our Teachers and Staff pouring into our students."

Dr. Brian Brewer, Principal of Hampshire Unit School, "It is the hard work and dedication of our teachers and students that has made our increase in growth scores possible."

MRMC hosts local students for Work-Based Learning Program (PRESS RELEASE)

COLUMBIA, Tenn. — Twelve students from four local high schools reported to Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) on Tuesday for their first workday in the 2023-2024 Work-Based Learning Program.

This is the first time MRMC has participated as a host site for Maury County Public Schools’ Work-Based Learning Program, which allows students to learn from professionals and gain valuable real-world experience.

“Maury Regional Health is proud to partner with Maury County Public Schools to be a host site for the work-based learning program,” said Maury Regional Health CEO Martin Chaney, MD. “The experience these students will gain will be invaluable as they prepare for a career in health care.”

The students spent their first few weeks of the semester in the classroom before getting to work on Tuesday applying what they learned to real-world situations.

At MRMC, the students will shadow in a department for two hours on either Tuesdays or Thursdays throughout the school year. In January, they’ll rotate to a new department for the second semester. The departments participating include Outpatient Cardiology, Employee Health Express Care Clinic, Imaging, Nursing Professional Development and Supply Chain.

The students will present a capstone project at the end of the school year about what they’ve learned during the program.

“We’re excited to have these students on campus to show them more about what it means to work in health care,” said Cindy Short, director of volunteer services at MRMC. “The program also helps them develop necessary skills that will make them successful in any workplace, like a good work ethic, effective communication, time management, customer service and an understanding of workplace expectations.”

Work-based learning opportunities are open to all Maury County Public Schools seniors. Students interested in the program should talk with their school’s guidance counselor or HOSA, CTE or health science teacher or call Maury Regional Volunteer Services at 931.380.4047 for more information.

And now your hometown memorials brought to you by Oakes & Nichols…

Mrs. Charlotte Blythe Williams Burton, 89, homemaker, former substitute teacher for Culleoka Unit School, and resident of Culleoka, died Tuesday, September 12, 2023 at NHC Maury Regional Transitional Care. Funeral services for Mrs. Burton will be conducted Saturday at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Friendship Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home.

Nashville police investigating school threat hoaxes (Tennessean)

Two high schools were targeted Wednesday in what Nashville police are calling a trend of hoax phone calls. The FBI has also become involved in an investigation.

Nashville police say similar calls have been made to the Nashville International Airport, a Metro police precinct, Hard Rock Café and the AT&T building downtown since Thursday.

About 100 emergency responders from Nashville police, fire, emergency medical services and emergency management descended on Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School before 9 a.m. The response units included SWAT, police negotiators, a helicopter and victim counselors.

Hunters Lane High School also received a call at 8:53 a.m. The call did not interrupt school as it was quickly determined by police to be a hoax.

Police are working with the FBI to determine the origin of the calls.

"The investigation thus far indicates the likelihood that these specific telephoned threats are originating from outside Tennessee. There have been hundreds of similar threats in other American cities as well as those outside the United States," Nashville police said in a release Wednesday.

The Nashville police department has been very careful in its wording of the incidents.

Nashville Police spokesperson Kris Mumford said the motive for the calls remained under investigation and unknown Wednesday afternoon, but said the department is not labeling the calls as "swatting."

By definition, swatting is the action or practice of making a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address, according to Oxford Languages.

In some cases, people will pay to have the swatting calls made on their behalf or will call the authorities on their enemies.

In Tennessee, it is a class C felony to report threats of bombing or shooting. It carries a prison sentence between 3-15 years.

Trail of Tears Motorcycle Ride Comes Through Pulaski Saturday (Pulaski Citizen)

The 29th Annual Trail of Tears Ride to Remember is Saturday, and will be making it’s lunch stop in Pulaski.

The Trail of Tears Memorial Association puts on the annual event at the Trail of Tears Interpretive Center in Pulaski.

Seventy-five motorcycles will cruise into Pulaski for their lunch stop at the Interpretive Center at 220 Stadium Street from 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. Saturday. The Interpretive Center will be open to the public for tours 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Saturday as well.

The riders will come into town via East College Street, coming in from East Tennessee. They will stop at the Interpretive Center for lunch around 11:30 a.m. and will receive a police escort on their way westward through town beginning around 2 p.m. The riders will proceed to Bodenham before moving on to Lawrence County.

Local riders are invited to join the ride and the public is encouraged to cheer them on. Patches are available for the 2023 ride. Anyone wishing to honor the Native Americans who walked the Bell route through Giles and Lawrence County are invited to enjoy live music by singer songwriter Nikki McLeod.

Jesse’s Flour Sack food truck will be onsite and a $100 cash prize drawing will be held at 1:55 p.m. for bikers who enter the drawing. The Pulaski Lions Club will provide desserts.

The 29th Annual Ride To Remember by the Trail Of Tears Memorial Association Happening Saturday September 16 at the Trail of Tears Interpretive Center in 220 Stadium Street Pulaski TN.

DCS receives $107M in additional funding for secure youth centers (Press Release)

A first-of-its-kind real estate plan for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services received $107 million in additional funding Thursday, according to a news release from the department.

The funding, approved by the State Building Commission, will go toward designing new Woodland Hills and John S. Wilder youth development centers, as well as renovations and construction of assessment and intake facilities in each of the state’s three grand regions.

DCS will use $19 million of the approved funding to begin the design phase for the new Woodland Hills and John S. Wilder youth development centers. The new facilities will increase bed capacity by more than 150 across the state.

The new Wilder hardware-secure facility in Somerville will have 72 beds and the infrastructure to expand to 96 beds for future needs. The new Wilder staff-secure facility will have 24 beds with the ability to expand to 48.

The Woodland Hills staff-secure facility in Nashville will replace vacant buildings on the campus. It will include a 72-bed facility that can expand to 96 beds in the future.

At full capacity, the facilities will give DCS the ability to offer a total of 216 beds.

Approximately $88 million of the additional funding will go toward the conversion and construction of intake facilities and assessment centers across the state.

One assessment center and two intake facilities will be located in each of the state’s three grand regions (West, Middle, East) for a total of nine facilities. The assessment centers will each have 16 beds to house a child for up to 30 days. The intake facilities will welcome youth for short-term transitional stays with 12 beds as well as have offices for case managers and other DCS staff.

The centers will serve as crucial entry points for youth in need of immediate care and ensure best initial placement.

“This real estate plan will expedite the process of finding children their forever homes and create a home base for DCS staff for the very first time through the new intake and assessment facilities,” DCS Commissioner Margie Quin said in the news release.

DCS’s real estate expansion project is aimed at addressing the lack of placement options for children entering the care of the department. The plan will also enhance safety and security for youth and staff at DCS facilities across the state.

Former Prince Guitarist Re-Launches Church In Columbia Tn (Press Release)

In the Fall of 2017, a new church was launched in downtown Nashville called We Are Here. The fellowship met at The High Watt, a music venue located in the Cannery Ballroom complex in downtown Nashville. A church meeting in a bar actually isn’t unheard of, but there was another unique factor - the church community’s founding pastor is original Prince and the Revolution guitarist Dez Dickerson.

“As a musician, I’ve played in rock and roll bars most of my life. As someone who is both an ordained pastor and a life-long music business guy, I always thought the ideal venue for a church was a place where folks were accustomed to going on a Saturday night - they may be open to the idea of attending a church gathering Sunday morning in the same place”, commented Dickerson.

In 2020, Covid hit, and the city of Nashville shut down all its public music venues. We Are Here was forced to suspend in-person services, and, like many churches, moved online. After over two and a half years of streaming Sunday services and seeing the We Are Here ‘audience’ extend to other parts of the country and the world, the Dickerson’s believed it was time to return to live gatherings once again. As a family, they had moved from their long-time home of Franklin to Columbia, and felt a strong leading to re-launch the church in their new home town.

In the Spring of 2023, the opportunity arose for We Are Here to join hands and link arms with Westminster Presbyterian Church in Columbia. Westminster graciously opened their doors and hearts for We Are Here to share space in their building in order to help facilitate their relaunch. The church now holds Sunday services in the Westminster chapel.

We Are Here is focused on a few simple, but profound, principles. They’re built on three Pillars: 1) We are God’s idea…not the other way around, 2) The Truth is not a concept, but a Person named Jesus, and 3) God loves us too much to leave us the way we are. “We’re not necessarily out to build a big church, but to simply build big lives around these principles” says the musician/pastor. “Although some of what we’re doing may be a bit different, it’s not because we’re trying to be different, we’re just really committed to being obedient to what we heartily believe God has directed us to do”.

The re-emergent We Are Here at Westminster Chapel meets at 9:00 am every Sunday morning. Westminster Presbyterian Church is located at 2800 Trotwood Ave., Columbia TN. You can also find We Are Here on Facebook at, and online at


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