Johnson County Kindergarten registration

local registration information

Johnson County Schools will register Pre K, Head Start and Kindergarten students for the 2018 -2019 school year according to the following schedule:

The Kindergarten registration process is as simple as going to your school of zone and giving your information. But don’t forget to bring the necessary forms and paperwork.

The state laws governing kindergarten eligibility have changed, so please read the following carefully:To be eligible for kindergarten in 2018 – 2019, your child must be five years of age on or before August 15, 2018.

Children whose third birthday is on or before August 15, 2018 or fourth birthday is on or before August 15, 2018, and who meet income guidelines, are eligible for Head Start.

Children whose fourth birthday is on or before August 15, 2018, are eligible for Pre-K.

Children whose fifth birthday is on or before August 15, 2018, are eligible for kindergarten.

Parents of children with disabilities who will be 3 years of age during the 2018 – 2019 school year need to contact Karen Bishop at 727-2640 for registration information.

Parents need to bring the following items to the registration:
• child’s birth certificate (a certified copy, not a mother’s copy)
• child’s social security card
-record of recent physical and up-to-date immunization (shot) record.

Immunization forms have been re-named: Tennessee School Immunization Certificate (K- 12 students), and Tennessee Pre-School Immunization Certificate (ages five and under).

Children are required by Tennessee law to have the following immunizations before entering school for the first time:

• 3 doses Hepatitis B (Effective July 1, 2010 this will also be required for Head Start)
• 4 doses DPT – one of which was given on or after the fourth birthday. If age seven or older three doses are required.
• 1 dose Chicken Pox Vaccine (or documented case of disease) Head Start
• 1doses Chicken Pox Vaccine (or documented case of disease) Effective July 1, 2010 for children entering Kindergarten, 7th grade, or new enrollees in a TN school.
• 4 doses Polio Vaccine
• 2 doses MMR – one dose must be given on or after the first birthday.A second dose of MMR is required for entrance into grades K, 4, 8, and 12
• 1 dose MMR – (Head Start)
• 2 doses Hepatitis A (doses must be 6 months apart) (required for Kindergarten entry effective July 1, 2011)
• 1 dose Hepatitis A – (Effective July 1, 2010 required for Head Start entry)Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)- (Effective July 1, 2010 required for Head Start entry under 5 years of age)
• Tdap Booster- (Effective October 1, 2010 for 7th grade)-Anyone registering a child for Head Start or Pre-K should bring proof of income (copy of check stubs, W-2 forms, AFDC eligibility form, etc.) to registration.

Parents are encouraged to have all requirements completed for registration. HOWEVER, THEY SHOULD STILL REGISTER THEIR CHILDREN EVEN IF THEY ARE LACKING SOMETHING AT THE TIME OF REGISTRATION. This will provide an early, accurate count so schools can be well prepared and adequately staffed to meet the needs of the children of our county. Any parent who has a child entering kindergarten next year and cannot attend registration should call the appropriate school.

If the child is entering Head Start, and the parent cannot attend registration on the scheduled date, the parent should call 727-2640 and speak with Lorie Plank, Karen Bishop, or Shelia Billings. If parents have questions regarding the registration process, they may call the appropriate school or the Board of Education Office at the above number and speak with Ruth Ann Osborne.

Farmers market celebrates its tenth year serving johnson County

Farmer's market

By Jana Jones
As Winter comes to a close and Spring greets us with daffodils, the Johnson County Farmers Market (JCFM) is revving up to begin our 10th year, offering fresh produce, meat, and baked goods direct from the farmer, rancher, and baker. Starting the first Saturday in May, look for the 2018 outdoor JCFM at our new location – Ralph Stout Park!

We are excited to be moving to a location that will be more visible, more accessible with additional parking, and have the ability to expand with new vendors. We hope to attract more children with a new GoJoCo Kids tent thanks to the Johnson County Health Department and the UT Extension Office. Each week children will have an opportunity to make their own healthy snacks and learn fun games that will encourage activity and exercise as part of the GoJoCo Healthier Tennessee initiative. EBT customers will have the ability to double their spending power on fresh fruits and vegetables again this year with the Fre$h Savings Program.
Our annual vendor meeting/pot luck will be held on April 9th at 5:30 in the basement of the Farm Bureau office on 421. This meeting is open to anyone interested in finding out more about being a vendor at the market. We promote local foods that are grown in Johnson and adjacent counties as well as local crafts and baked goods. You can also go to our website to download an application and learn more about joining our quest to strengthen a sustainable local agriculture and food economy, because “FRESH IS BEST!”

Morleys celebrates 75th Anniversary

Delmer and Mandlene Morley

Delmer and Mandlene Morley
Photo courtesy Morley Family

Delmer and Mandlene Morley of Shady Valley, Tennessee will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary Wednesday, April 25, 2018. The couple’s children and their son-in-law are Jewell Walker of Johnson City, Tennessee and Carolyn and Wayne Moser, Lewisville, N.C. The couple’s grandchildren are Amy Forrester (Wes) Drake of Knoxville, Tennessee and Jason (Kirn) Moser of Advance, N.C.
Their great grandsons are twins born December 16, 2012 to Amy Forrester Drake and Wes Drake. The twins are Asher James Drake and Walker Howard Drake.
Delmer is retired from Raytheon, Bristol, Tennessee and is a World War II Veteran. Mandlene is a homemaker, Delmer and Mandlene were married April 25,1943.
Congratulations to Delmer and Mandlene on 75 years of marriage.

Correctional officers receive Behavioral Health Certification

NECX correctional officers Nicholas Deloach, Alexander Curd, Melissa Miller, William Luster, Rick Matherly, Tracy Salyers, Gary Lewis and Dustin Diffenderfer, Sgt. Brian Eller, and Sgt. Angelo Giarrusso are joined by Warden Randy Lee, and Director Vicki Freeman after receiving their Correctional Behavioral Health Certification (CBHC) from the American Correctional Association (ACA). Photo courtesy of NECX

By Tamas Mondovics
The Northeast Correctional Complex (NECX) at 5249 Highway 67 West in Mountain City, Tennessee made headlines after ten of its correctional officers received their Correctional Behavioral Health Certification (CBHC) from the American Correctional Association (ACA).
The nationally recognized certification training is a major addition to the arsenal of skills of its personnel as it is designed to ensure correctional staff is more knowledgeable and better prepared to interact with offenders who exhibit behavioral health issues.
According to East Tennessee Region, Public Information Officer Robert Reburn participants in the training undergo 40 hours of behavioral health training, which is augmented by a rigorous study of the ACA Behavioral Health Study Guide.
In a recent press release, Reburn emphasized that following the training, correctional officers are to complete a difficult proctored test designed to validate their knowledge of national behavioral health standards and guidelines, legal and ethical principles, and relevant security regulations.
The release added that CBHC now validates the role of correctional professionals associated with the provision of behavioral health and recognizes the high-level capabilities and accomplishments they’ve demonstrated in the field of correctional behavioral health.
“This is incredibly valuable training, and I applaud the ten officers from NECX, as well as all the officers and staff from across the State that has undergone this training,” Warden, Randy Lee said. “The more tools our officers and staff have at their disposal the better prepared they’ll be to manage the different populations we supervise. That, in turn, creates a safer environment for our staff, offenders, and community.”
To date, 95 TDOC officers and staff have voluntarily completed the Correctional Behavioral Health Certification program, four of which received honors for receiving a 90 or above on their certification test.
Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, is a close custody facility that incarcerates up to 1,880 male inmates, 300 minimum security inmates at the Annex, and 180 inmates at Carter County.
Additional assistance inmates at the NECX are provided include intensive anger management and substance abuse treatments along with counseling. The NECX participates in the TRICOR program employing inmates in hardwood flooring production.
Offenders can also work in community service programs that provide labor to local state and government agencies performing tasks like clearing roadways of trash and debris, as well as landscaping and painting. Vocational training and educational courses, which include adult basic education, and the ability to earn a GED are also available for inmates.
Visits at Northeast Correctional Complex occur on Saturdays, Sundays and State holidays from 8am-3pm, and on Mondays by scheduled appointment only from 5pm-8pm. Do not arrive any earlier than 7:30 am, or you will be denied visitation.
Visitation starts to end on
the weekends around 2:45 pm and around 7:30 pm on Mondays.

Schools evaluate safety plans following recent shooting

Roan Creek Elementary School requires all visitors to report to the office. Photo by Jill Penley

By Jill Penley
Since the recent shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 students and staff members dead, much of the nation’s focus has zeroed in on increasing school safety. Federal, state and local authorities continue to examine the breakdown in security measures that allowed a gunman to enter a school of nearly 3,000 students without confrontation.
“Safety is the top priority of the Johnson County School System,” said Angie Wills, Safety Coordinator for Johnson County Schools. “We are continually reviewing our procedures and plans to ensure that we are doing as much as possible to protect students while they are in our care.” Studies suggest students learn best when they are part of a supportive, safe learning environment, and the local school district works each day to provide a safe place for all to learn, work and grow.
Law enforcement and local education agencies have a long history of partnering together for the safety of students. Strong relationships have strengthened the ability of both agencies to prepare for and respond to threatening incidents that occur in school settings. School resource officer (SRO) programs can provide the crucial link between school districts and law enforcement agencies in their continued efforts to establish and maintain secure and safe learning environments.
The high school campus, which includes the county’s only high school, the middle school and the vocational school currently has a School Resource Officer on duty each day. “District administration has also met with the city mayor to discuss safety measures, and the city police department is supporting our city schools by providing extra security throughout the day,” said Wills. “We have also been in communication with the sheriff’s department, and they are also going to provide additional security checks to our county schools.”
In addition to extra patrols and the SRO, a comprehensive safety plan for emergency
and crisis situations is in
place. According to Wills, the district and each of the county schools recently completed a thorough update to individual school improvement plans by collaborating with area law enforcement and the Johnson County Emergency Management office. Also, all schools participate in monthly required drills that include: fire, earthquake, tornado, and armed intruder drills. These drills must be logged and are verified by the state fire marshal. “All district personnel will also participate in a mock armed intruder drill before school starts next year,” said Wills. “This is currently being planned along with Johnson County Emergency Management and area law enforcement and will provide all agencies with an opportunity to evaluate our current plan and procedures which will be updated if needed.”
Unlocked entrance doors are a thing of the past, and gone are the days when parents can pop in and check on their children without proving their identity and reason for the visit as experts suggest one of the most critical aspects of security is stopping an intruder from entering the school. “The district has updated entrances at the majority of our schools with secured entrances,” said Wills. “The district plans to continue this project until all entrances are made more secure.” The board of education has also appropriated funds to upgrade some outdated security cameras this year.
School officials shy away from speaking publicly about specific details of school building security as a precaution to keep such information from those who may be planning violence at local schools, but they said overall school buildings are vastly better secured than in the past.
The physical layout of school buildings constructed in the last 20 years is far superior regarding intruder prevention, officials said. “District administration is evaluating all school buildings and developing a comprehensive needs assessment to present to the board of education,” explained Wills. “The board plans to review and discuss this assessment and take appropriate action as needed.”
Increased vigilance is also essential to curtail school violence. Local school administrators continue to emphasize the necessity of reporting suspicious behavior and taking immediate action. “We provide JCMS and JCHS students an avenue to report safety concerns anonymously through an app that we purchased called STOP IT,” explained Wills. This app, which has been available for students use for the past two years, notifies administration immediately so that situations can be investigated in real time.
Gov. Bill Haslam recently announced the formation of a working group of leaders made up from the executive branch, General Assembly, safety, education, and mental health communities to immediately begin reviewing school safety in Tennessee and provide recommendations to enhance the security of school children.
While all schools in Tennessee currently have safety plans in place, the Governor’s new task force will review the policies, procedures, and process of developing and implementing those plans, as well as other school safety measures, including increased communication among law enforcement, educators, and mental health professionals.
County Mayor Larry Potter reached out to the director of schools soon after the most recent school shooting
tragedy. “I wanted to see if administrators and the board
of education would be agreeable to me contacting State Senator Jon Lundberg and
State Rep Timothy Hill to seek funding at the state level to provide this security for our children,” said Potter. “With the support of Dr. Simcox, I have reached out to both Sen Lundberg and Rep Hill asking the state to fund school security.”

March is extension month in TN

By Rick Thomason

March is Extension Month in Tennessee. Extension is a national educational program supported by USDA through the nation’s land-grant universities and administered with funding from state and local governments in Tennessee through offices in each of the state’s 95 counties. County Extension offices across the state are planning various celebrations and commemorations for the state’s 108-year-old Extension program. The Johnson County office will be having an open house on Thursday, March 22nd from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. We will be grilling hotdogs and have all the fixings, so make plan to stop by and visit with us. The office is located at 212 College Street in Mountain City beside the Mountain City Post Office.

An integral part of the land-grant mission, Extension programs are delivered by subject-matter specialists, county agents and volunteers associated with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) and the Tennessee State University (TSU) College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences. “Extension Month celebrates the educational outreach, service and economic impact achieved by Extension across the state. I am always encouraged and proud to hear how our county offices use this month to reach new clientele and increase the visibility of Extension,” wrote Robert Burns, dean of UT Extension, in a letter to faculty and staff.

Latif Lighari oversees TSU Extension faculty as associate dean for Extension at TSU. In addition to the traditional agricultural production recommendations available through county Extension offices, services for all citizens include the state’s award-winning 4-H youth development program including its summer youth camps; family and consumer educational programs; and healthy living courses. UT Extension also performs services for the state’s citizens, including managing the statewide Soil, Plant and Pest Center through which clients can have the quality of their soil and forage analyzed and any insect pest or plant diseases identified.

Extension also trains clients in the proper use of pesticides and even operates commercially-certified kitchens where small-scale vendors can prepare food items for sale while meeting state guidelines for food safety. Extension’s programs can be seen in Tennessee as an excellent investment of public resources. The statewide educational programs in 4-H youth development, agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences and community economic development are estimated to have impacted the state’s economy by more than $575 million from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. This amounts to a return of investment of $8.65 for every $1 in public funds invested in Extension in Tennessee.

Contact your local county Extension Office for more information about programs available in your county. Many of UT Extension’s educational resources are also available online. From the UT Extension website choose the link to “publications” and enter the topic for which you need information. The search engine will generate a list of resources. Most are available free of charge. A publications page is also available on the TSU website, which includes a list of available publications by program area.

Appalachian Sustainable Development launch region’s first Farmer and Rancher Mentorship


Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD), a local non-profit committed to transitioning Appalachia by supporting local agriculture, exploring new economic opportunities and connecting people to healthy food, has partnered with Appalachian RC&D Council and Rural Resources to launch a 200 hour, on-the-farm Farmer and Rancher Mentorship (F.A.R.M.). F.A.R.M. is designed for beginning farmers who are unemployed, underemployed or who do not plan to attend college. It will also provide re-entry inmates from the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail opportunities to learn about careers in agriculture.

F.A.R.M. aims to prepare interns for successful careers in farming and food production by providing them with a direct learning experience with a local farmer/mentor. Interested farmers with at least 1 year of general farming experience are encouraged to apply at: Interns who successfully complete the program in the 2018 growing season will receive a certificate of completion and a $500 award stipend. F.A.R.M. is a 3 year program being implemented in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and is funded by a USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant,

Jenni Roop, ASD’s Regional Coalition Coordinator explains, “Our goal is to generate economic opportunities by creating a workforce of farmers and food producers. To meet the growing demand for local food, we need more farmers. And we hope to recruit and retain younger farmers who will stay in our region and thrive. By offering a mentorship program, where beginners can learn from long-time farmers, we expect to have high rates of success.”

About Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) Nationally known and respected for its commitment to local farmers, Appalachian Sustainable Development is transitioning Appalachia to a more resilient economy and a healthier population by supporting local agriculture, exploring new economic opportunities and connecting people with healthy food. Since 1995, Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) has been working in 15 counties in Central Appalachia. ASD’s reach has since expanded to include eastern WV and KY and southeast OH. ASD uses 6 strategies to accomplish its work: closing the knowledge gap, increasing local food production, developing markets, increasing distribution of local agriculture products, engaging strategic partners, and researching/consulting and advising. ASD operates programs that create jobs in farming and agriculture and address food insecurity. For more information about ASD go to, Facebook or Twitter.

Mtn.City Elm. has Talent

Mountain City Elementary School has talent and an audience of proud families, classmates, and staff packed the gymnasium on March 9th to enjoy twenty-three performances by talented contestants. Two judges had the difficult task of rating the performances and selecting representatives to perform in the district competition on April 6th. Competing in the kindergarten through third grade category were Allie Mullins, Kearstan Jennings, Tanner Leonard, Zoe Baker, Marin Feely, Aubrey Davis, Abby Sluder, Zackary Lipford, Clayton Furchess, Breyonna Clark, Alexis Juarez, Karlie Jo Fletcher, Jill Jensen and Emma Roark. Competing in the fourth through sixth grade category were Emma Dugger, Nate Sutherland, Josie Grindstaff, Briley Vaught, Julia Crews, Serenity Jones, Hailey McCoy, Izzy Thompson, Bella Lowe, Juan Rodriguez, LaRue Mills, Chloe Gladden, Hannah Fletcher and Gaston Dugger. Although all of the performances were spectacular and entertaining, representation at the county-wide talent show is limited to four acts. Mountain City Elementary School will be represented at the competition by Allie Mullins, Kearstan Jennings and Aubrey Davis in grades K-3 and LaRue Mills and Hannah Fletcher in grades 4-6. Alternates are Karlie Jo Fletcher and Gaston Dugger. Pictured are all the students who performed in the MCE Talent Show. Thanks to the music teacher, Mrs. Kim Franklin, for coordinating the event.

Johnson County Honor Guard Pays Final Tribute

Members of the Johnson County Honor Guard stand ready on a bright, sunny, but chilly Saturday morning ahead of a recent funeral honoring a local veteran in Mountain City. The Guard performed its duty at the First United Methodist church located 128 N Church St. as it pays final tribute to veterans who, in times of war and peace, stood strong in defense of the United States of America. Photo By Tamas Mondovics

Laurel Elementary Student of the Week

Mazie Phillips is the daughter of Linda and Alan Dunn. Mazie says she would like to be a scientist when she grows up. She says when she is a scientist, she will get to make things to help people. Her favorite part of school is doing math because she loves working with numbers. Mazie’s favorite color is blue, and her favorite thing to do outside of school is play at the park.

Mountain City Elementary Hearts for the House project is a success

The 2018 Hearts for the House community project at Mountain City Elementary School was a huge success.  Students and staff sold hearts and collected $1,887.70 for a very worthy cause.  Karlie Jo Fletcher took top prize by selling the most hearts school wide, Lilly Berger came in second place, and Kevin Horner was the third place winner. Ms. Osborne’s class sold the most hearts in the event.  Classes that averaged $5.00 per student were Mrs. Eckerts’ kindergarten class, Mrs. Osborne’s third grade class, Mrs. Childer’s third grade class and Mrs. Kittle’s sixth grade class.   Many families in Johnson County benefit from the Ronald McDonald House and the Mountain City Elementary staff, students, and parents are proud to partner with McDonald’s to support this “Kids Helping Kids” program.   Thanks to Mrs. Angie Long, a fourth grade teacher, for coordinating the project.

Richard Righter wins first place in the Johnson County Center for the Arts’ Heart of the Mountains show

First place winner Richard Righter

Johnson County Center for the Arts presents “Heart of the Mountains” and “Halfway Home” Art Shows…now on display. 

Pictured is Richard Righter. His entry of “Bailey’s New Bible” took first place in the Heart of the Mountains show. Betty Brown was the honored judge for the Heart show while Mike Taylor and Sheriff Mike and Temple Reece were judges for the Halfway Home show.

Lewis Chapman demonstrated his talented watercolor techniques and music was provided by Kenny Price, Lois Dunn and Friends. It was a great afternoon of art, music, food and friendship. Be sure and go by the Center for the Arts during the month of March and enjoy the art shows and see all the winning entries.

Karen Velarde named February Good Neighbor

Karen Velarde, an 8th grader at Johnson County Middle School

Karen Velarde, an 8th grader at Johnson County Middle School, was recently notified that she has been selected the Good Neighbor for February, 2018. Sponsored by the local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, this award recognizes students in the Middle School who have a generous spirit, a willingness to help others, and a positive attitude. Karen is described as a young lady who possesses those characteristics and exemplifies what a good neighbor should be. She is an excellent role model for her peers, has a strong work ethic, and is always considerate of others. Nancy Davis, President of Gamma Mu, and Dr. Robert Heath, Principal of JCMS, joined Sheila Cruse as she presented letters os congratulations to Karen.

Annual chili cook-off yields success for Johnson County 4-H


By David Holloway
Staff Writer

On Friday, February 23, the Johnson County 4-H held their 6th Annual Chili Cook- Off at the National Guard Armory in Mountain City, TN. More than 200 people attended the event, as attendees sampled a variety of chili prepared by the students in the 4-H program. There were slow cookers lined up all around the walls filled with each team’s chili making it hard to decide where to start. Thanks to the different flavors to sample there was no shortage of choices. However, for those that prefer their chili hot and spicy, the pots that had the heat lined for a taste test.

The doors to the event opened at 6:00 p.m., and for $3 at the door, each person was given a ballot, a bowl, and a spoon to be used to sample the chili each team had to offer. After each person decided on which team made their favorite chili, they were encouraged to cast their vote in the ballot box. The votes were tallied, and the winners announced at the end of the evening. Forty two 4-H students participated in this year’s event with 25 pots of chili to sample. The students, all of which were fourth grade through twelve grade, prepared the chili and served their creation to the attendees. Each chili was then judged in one of three different categories: Best Home-style, Most Unique or Spiciest Chili. Everyone was enjoying sampling the different chili creations including one of the young attendees, Savanna Younce.

“It is so good,” Younce said, while her face showing that she enjoyed every bite.

Mayor Larry Potter could also be found mingling in the crowd and sampling the delicious chili. Toward the end of the chili cook-off, a dessert auction was also held. Two dozen decadent desserts were auctioned off. A wide assortment of desserts including cookies, cakes, brownies, pies, cheesecakes, bread, were all beautifully presented and looked like they would taste divine. The winners of the Best Home-Style chili were: Lauryn Bishop, Kindal Watson, and Vanessa Perkins. The winners of the ‘Most Unique’ chili were: Brooklyn Lawley and Allie Augustine. The winners of the Spiciest chili were: Chance Norris and Conner Orr.

The People’s Choice Award went to the team that won the most votes. The winners of the People’s Choice were: Isaac Lewis, Carson Jennings, and Kaden Blevins. Proceeds from the chili cook-off and dessert auction go to supporting the Johnson County 4-H program. “This is one of the largest fundraisers for our county’s 4-H program,” said Danielle Pleasant, UT Extension Agent. “The 4-H Chili Cook-Off provides opportunities for students to build life skills, get involved with the community and help support the 4-H program.” Pleasant emphasized that the money raised through the event provides funding for continuing 4-H programs including, baking and cooking classes, judging teams, scholarships for camps and conferences as well as funding for our horse clinic and show. “The sense of community and encouragement at this event is truly special to experience,” she said. “The competitors praise each other’s chili, and the attendees are uplifting of all the participants; many cannot wait to return the next year.”

JCHS Robotics Teams hardwired for success


By Meg Dickens

The Johnson County High School Robotics Teams are a close-knit group that really knows its way around a robot. This school year alone the JCHS teams took home the following titles and awards: A Judge’s Award, two Excellence Awards, a Design Award, and two Best Costumes Awards. The teams added another Judge’s Award and a Tournament Champion win at the competition in Dandridge on February 17th.

Team sponsor and teacher, Kasi Dishman, expressed her pride in these students. “The robotics teams dedicate literally hundreds of hours just in the time that we meet afterschool each week. Their determination and hard work is a credit to the support of parents and volunteers that have instilled strong work ethics in them, and as a result these students continue to represent Johnson County well at each competition they attend.”

Team A members are: Dalton Sluder, builder and team leader; Ryan Bilodeau, driver; Jackson Mays, programmer and back-up driver; Lauren Patterson, journalist. Team B members are: Jonathon Wilcox, team leader, builder, and driver; Alex Jennings, builder and back-up driver; Emily Irizarry, programmer; Kobe Cox, journalist. Many of these students started out in their middle school years.

Sluder, Mays, Jennings, and Wilcox date back to the program’s beginning. According to Sluder, “we’re all nerds who wanted to understand how it works.” In the process, they learned a wide variety of invaluable skills for both robotics and life. Irizarry explained that programming “is all about trial and error.” It is a meticulous job that is very unforgiving in the way that one mistake can seriously alter the code. Timing is the most difficult part to code due to the need to hit within a hundredth of a second. Her most recent project for Team B was to create a dripper clip, which combines information from all programs created into one place. Team A is hard at work on its autonomous proficiency.

“I stepped out of my comfort zone a lot.” Cox admitted. “But the club is very inviting.” The program is about a lot more than just building robots. It is about problem solving, trial and error, persistence, and self-expression. It may be a stereotype that “nerds” are only into academics but that is far from the truth. Sluder pointed out that competing leads to crossing paths with a wide variety of individuals. On the JCHS side alone, there are three students currently on sports teams. Sluder offered the advice “don’t stereotype yourself. People are diverse and have lots of varied interests.”

“It’s not as boring as it sounds,” Bilodeau pointed out. Irizarry encouraged students “even if you have the slightest interest, go for it. There is somewhere in there for you.” The JCHS Robotics program is a great place for learning something new and making friends. This is more than just a fun hobby. Skills gained here are beneficial for a multitude of careers. Students such as Jennings, Wilcox, Sluder, and Mays can use their robotics knowledge for a leg up in their planned careers. The other students can apply skills such as team building, communication, and problem solving to further their chosen careers. This program also looks good on college applications and may lead to scholarships from Vex Robotics. The teams continue to excel. Focus now goes to the State Competition in Brentwood, Tennessee on March 2nd and 3rd. Hopefully a trip to the World Competition is in their future.

Emphasize family cyber awareness to stay safe

cyber awareness

Many devices come with security features and filters that can limit access to certain content. Limits can be established based on age or even by preventing access to specific websites. Whenever a new app is installed, parents should read through the usage information and peruse the security settings. This is especially important for social apps. Restrict who can access account information or profiles by toggling between “public” and “private” in the settings when applicable. Filtering software can be used for streaming movies. ClearPlay, for example, can be set to remove certain parameters, like nudity, sexual dialogue and profanity.

Recognize cyberbullying

Instances of cyberbullying have grown alongside the popularity of the internet. Cyberbullies tease and taunt through email, social media and other online modes of communication. The organization NoBullying says that 52 percent of young people in the United Kingdom report being cyberbullied, but many will not confide in their parents when the abuse occurs. More than half of young people in North America also have experienced cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can take many forms, including sending mean messages or threats, spreading rumors, posting hurtful messages on social media, stealing account information, sending damaging messages, and circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person. Anyone, regardless of age, who spends time on social media can fall victim to cyberbullying. By blocking people and limiting the amount of personal information they share online, individuals can reduce the likelihood that they will be victimized by cyberbullies.

Understand digital permanence

Many people do not fully grasp that the internet creates a trail of information that never really goes away. Computer security experts warn that what goes on the internet tends to stay on the internet, even when one thinks he or she has deleted it. What’s more, a person can never verify if a person has made a copy of a post or a picture and saved it. Images, opinions and more can come back to haunt people who post them online. Stop and think before putting information online. If users might one day be uncomfortable discussing something they shared online, then they should resist the temptation to share it in the first place. Many families rely on the internet every day. Families should always give careful consideration to the information they share online, holding back any details that might be private or put their security at risk.

Johnson County to honor volunteers

Renie Morrow & Sirena Wiggins

Star Award recipients Morrow & Wiggins

The Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards is an annual event held to recognize and honor the efforts of volunteers from across Tennessee. Since 2008, Volunteer Tennessee, the Governor’s State Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, has hosted this event with the goal of having volunteers from all 95 counties represented. Their goals include displaying the ways volunteers help strengthen communities, increasing the rate of volunteerism to meet compelling needs and promoting the message that volunteering is rewarding and part of what it means to be a Tennessean. Each county across that state is asked to nominate and recognize outstanding volunteers whose service has an impact in their community. This year the Johnson County recipients are Sirrena Wiggins-Aldridge and Renie Morrow. In addition to being recognized in the county, Sirrena and Renie will be invited to attend the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards ceremony in Franklin, TN on March 11, 2018. Sirrena is being honored as Johnson County’s adult Governor’s Volunteer Star Award recipient.

Sirrena is a 4-H and FFA alumni, as well as a graduate of both Johnson County High School and the University of Tennessee. She continues to serve as coach, mentor and role model for the youth in our community through 4-H, FFA and National Honor Society. She holds to her beliefs of “using projects, contests and activities offered in 4-H and FFA programs to help youth find their unique talents. Once these youth find their talents, we strive to ignite their passion, to increase their skill set, and learn life-long skills.” The values and leadership skills she instills in our youth is inspiring and we are appreciative and lucky to have her as a volunteer. Additionally, Sirrena has served as a volunteer leader for Watauga Extension service, Sugar Mountain youth ace league and is currently a supporter and affiliate sponsor for the National Cutting Horse Youth Association.

Renie Morrow is being recognized as Johnson County’s youth Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award recipient. She is a current member of 4-H Honor Club and Eastern Region 4-H All Stars. Additionally, she is a member of the volleyball team, student council, Spanish club, fellowship of Christian athletes, ethics club, future business leaders of America and the lifetime sports clubs at Johnson County High School. She also serves as a youth representative for the United Way of Johnson County and Johnson County School Board. Renie also takes active leadership in Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church serving as a mass server. Through her involvement with these organizations, Renie has exhibited leadership, compassion and is committed to helping others. When serving Renie not only completes tasks efficiently and on time, but also displays empathy and encouragement to those she is serving. Renie also strives for excellence and is currently enrolled in online courses through the Niswanger Foundations program in addition to her regular course load at JCHS.

Volunteer Tennessee is coordinating the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards at the State level. Volunteer Tennessee is the 25 member bipartisan citizen board appointed by the Governor to oversee AmeriCorps and service-learning programs and to advance volunteerism and citizen service to solve community problems in the Volunteer State. For more information about Volunteer Tennessee and the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards, please visit

Farmers Market Preparing for Spring Move

Local vendors and visitors exchange pleasantries during the Winter Farmers Market at the lower level of the Johnson County Welcome Center. The event is scheduled to move to its new location this spring. Photo by Dennis Shekinah.

By Jill Penley

Freelance Writer

Since its founding in 2009 as a non-profit to aid in strengthening and sustaining the local agricultural and food economy, the Johnson County Farmers Market has been looking for a place to call home.
The initial years, fresh local produce, local handmade crafts, homemade bread, jams, and jellies were offered in the Shouns community utilizing a borrowed Quonset hut.
In 2012, the county board of commissioners unanimously approved the use of the large parking lot adjacent to the courthouse for the weekly farmers market.
“These locations have served us well as the community has supported us in good weather and not so good weather,” said Jana Jones, JCFM manager. “But, we have longed for a permanent, covered space to call our home that would allow customers to shop out of the rain and ease vendors’ fears of their tents being blown away by wind gusts that can occur out of nowhere here in the mountains.”
After getting approval from the city council to relocate to Ralph Stout Park Last year, the Town of Mountain City, with the help of the Johnson County Farmers Market, applied for a USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Grant and a Rural Business Development Grant in hopes of funding the planned pavilion to serve as the permanent home for the JCFM on Saturday mornings.
For the remainder of the time, the pavilion would serve the community as a beautiful timber-framed picnic shelter.
“The footprint of the shelter will be over 3,000 square feet and will complement the existing stage construction,” Jones said. “Architect and Engineer Eric Nordmark has designed a beautiful timber-framed pavilion and will be working with General Contractor Alan Hammons to gather bids for the project.”
Jones further explained the design, which is made up of two 30’X50’ buildings set at an angle that is attached to the center by the roof structure covering. The location at Ralph Stout Park will be behind the existing stage in the grassy area below Highway 421.
Until spring temperatures allow, the newly-established Johnson County Winter Farmers Market is located in the lower level of the Johnson County Welcome Center from 9 am to noon every Saturday between now and the end of April.

Tamas Mondovics is new editor at Tomahawk

Tomahawk Editor Tamas Mondovics

Meet The Tomahawk’s new editor, Tamas Mondovics. Tamas, his wife and family have just relocated to Johnson County. “My family is first,” he stated. “My decision to come here is because of the mountains, a definite plus.”
Tamas has many years of experience in the newspaper field. He began his career as a photographer in school, which developed into a love of news photography. “I covered chasing cars, crashes, and fires for a local community newspaper in Delaware, Ohio,” he stated.
After moving to Florida, Tamas pursued career press photography. “My strength is news photography,” he said. Before long, Tamas began working at the Osprey Observer, a community newspaper in the Tampa Bay, Florida area. With the Osprey Observer, Tamas started covering sports, government happenings, school, and crime and public safety. “It kept me very busy,” he said. The Tampa Bay area of Florida has nearly 1.4 million residents.
Moving to the mountains of northeast Tennessee is a big change for Tamas and his family. “I bring my love for covering community news to Mountain City,” he added. “I want to make sure that people know they are free to let us know at The Tomahawk what is happening in the community,” Tamas stated. “I work for the community. Freedom of speech is something I value very much.”
“I am confident that I am leaving The Tomahawk editorial department in good hands with Tamas,” said Angie Gambill, editor. “ We are fortunate to find someone with his history in newspaper to keep things moving into the future. He has an abundance of ideas that are sure to give a fresh feel to the paper, and I know the community will welcome him to his new home.”
“I am just so glad to have Tamas aboard here at The Tomahawk. His news background and experience will generate many positive additions to The Tomahawk as we move forward into our next chapter,” said Bill Thomas, publisher. “It’s a bittersweet time here at The Tomahawk as Angie and Paula are moving into their new adventures. At the same time, we are so glad to have Tamas.”
Tamas is looking forward to settling into the Johnson County community. “I am already impressed with the folks I’ve met,” he stated. “They are very friendly and I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone.”

Advanced Master Beef Program being offered in Johnson County

By Rick Thomason

University of Tennessee
Johnson County Extension Director

The UT/TSU-Johnson County Extension office will be offering the Advanced Master Beef Producer Program in Johnson County during February and March.  The program is a series of classes that includes Beef Quality Assurance, Forages, Genetics, Reproduction, Marketing Management, Breeding Soundness Exams, Cattle Handling Facilities, Herd Health and Nutrition.
Classes will be held on Monday evenings from 6:00-9:00 p.m. in the basement of the Farm Bureau building.  The first class will be held on February 19th and then on subsequent Monday’s until the end of March.  The registration fee which covers all educational materials, a farm sign, cap and certificate is only $50.00 and can be paid at the Extension office.The Advanced Master Beef Producer educational program is designed to continue the impact of the original Tennessee Master Beef Producer series.  The program uses a combination of hands-on and classroom teaching.  Individual sessions will be delivered by UT Extension Agents and Beef Cattle Specialists.
Over 23,000 individuals have participated in the original Master Beef Producer and the Advanced Master Beef Producer series.  The programs are designed to leverage that success into an even more productive industry in Tennessee by improving a producer’s profitability, position in the industry, and to be competitive with other states.
Producers who complete the course will qualify for 50% cost share through the Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program to purchase livestock handling equipment, improved genetics, hay storage facilities, feed storage and working facility covers.  Anyone needing more information about the Adv. MBP program, please contact the UT/TSU-Johnson County Extension office at 727-8161 or e-mail;