Patriot Pen winners

Johnson County Middle School students Vanessa Perkins and Paula Harper along with by Doe Elementary student Audrey Decker are first second and third place winners, respectively, of the recently held Patriot Pen Essay Contest. The Worley Hall VFW Post 6908 Auxiliary is proud of the girls and thanks all participants of the event. Submitted photo.

Doe Elementary Leaders of the week

Front row (left to right): Asia Stanley, Rayne Williams, Hailey Adams, Patience Harris, Mason Wilson Back row (left to right): Kale Cox, Trevor McCloud, Braylan Stewart, Isabella Bunting, Eric Branch,
Mr. Herbie Adams, Bradley Wilson. Submitted photo.

Laurel Elementary, Laurel Leader

Elige Norris is 4 years old and in Pre-K. He is the son of Carmella Main and Joby Norris. His favorite part of school is playing outside with his friends. He wants to be a chef when he grows up because he wants to cook lots of great stuff. Elige says he is a Laurel leader because he follows directions and makes
smart choices. Submitted photo.

Johnson County resident named to Dean’s Distinguished List

Pippa Passes, Kentucky—Isaiah Kane Penley of Mountain City was named to the Dean’s Distinguished List for the Fall 2018 semester at Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky.
The Dean’s Distinguished List is an academic honor awarded to students taking fifteen credits hours or more, who achieved a semester GPA of 3.75-3.99.50 on a 4.0 scale.
Penley is a sophomore majoring in History. He is the son of Mike and Jill Penley and a 2017 graduate of Johnson County High School.
Alice Lloyd College, located in Pippa Passes, KY, was founded in 1923 by Alice Lloyd and June Buchanan. Alice Lloyd College is committed to providing a quality education to mountain students regardless of their financial situation. In fact, Alice Lloyd is consistently listed among the nation’s leaders in graduating students with the least amount of average debt. Having been founded as “a college for Appalachia,” every qualified student from ALC’s 108-county service area is awarded the Appalachian Leaders College Scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition for up to ten semesters. The College further assists students after they graduate from ALC, through the Caney Cottage Scholarship Program, the only program of its kind in the nation. This program financially assists qualified alumni from ALC’s 108-county service area in Central Appalachia at graduate or professional schools upon completion of their program at Alice Lloyd College.
For more information about Alice Lloyd College, visit

Mountain City Elementary announces Teachers of the Year

Mountain City Elementary Teachers of the Year, Paula Stewart, left, and Faye Baker, right. Submitted photo.

Mountain City Elementary is pleased to announce its “Teachers of the Year” for the school year, 2019-2020. Representing grades PreK-4th is Mrs. Faye Baker, and Mrs. Paula Stewart has been selected to represent grades 5th-6th.
Mrs. Baker, a Pre-K/Headstart teacher, attended Northeast State University and East Tennessee State University. She holds an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, Pre-K- 3rd grade. Mrs. Baker is currently in her ninth year of teaching.
Mrs. Stewart is the school counselor at Mountain City Elementary. She is a graduate of East Tennessee State University with a Master’s Degree in School Counseling. Additionally, she holds an Educational Specialist Degree in Counselor Leadership from ETSU. Mrs. Stewart has served Mountain City Elementary has counselor for fifteen years.
The school wishes to congratulate Mrs. Baker and Mrs. Stewart on receiving
the honor of Teacher of the Year.

School bus safety laws remain an issue with Tennessee drivers

By Jill Penley

Winter weather, increases in commuter speed and the ongoing transportation of students to and from school via the school bus can be dangerous, and sometimes deadly, combination. Following the 2016 deadly school bus crash in Chattanooga, questions continue to be raised on both the state and federal levels about whether safety policies and regulations are effective enough or if they need an overhaul.
Even closer to home, in late November, a car while boarding a school bus in Washington County, TN, when a driver allegedly failed to yield to a stopped school bus hit a 10-year-old boy. Authorities said the bus was stopped with its lights flashing and arm extended. The boy was crossing the road when a passing car traveling in the opposite direction struck him. Crystal Buchanan, 41, was charged with felony reckless endangerment and failure to yield to a stopped school bus following the crash.
“In light of all the tragic school bus accidents that have happened across our nation some of which have resulted in serious injury and death,” said Johnson County Schools Transportation Supervisor, Barry Bishop. “It is sobering to realize most could have been prevented if drivers would obey the laws and stop when the stop arm and red lights on our school buses are activated.”
Tonya Townsend, who drives a school bus for Johnson County Schools, indicates she witnesses drivers who blatantly disregard traffic laws quite often. “My stop arm has been run several times and, it is so dangerous,” said Townsend. “People are
not paying attention, and it is putting our children at risk.”
Distracted driving remains another safety issue. State law made it illegal to talk on cellphone while driving through an active school zone last January; however, Greg Tramel, public information officer for the Tennessee Highway Patrol, describes an “active school zone” as “any marked school zone in this state, when a warning flasher or flashers are in operation.” The active times for school zones vary but can range between the times of 7:15-8: 15 am and 3:15-4: 15 pm. The law pertains to all motor vehicles including drivers of passenger vehicles and commercial drivers. Texting while driving became illegal in Tennessee in 2009.
The Tennessee Department of Education (TDE) student transportation appropriately put bus safety the department’s number one priority. According to TDE data, Tennessee schools transport approximately 700,000 students a day on about 8,700 bus routes in districts and
charters across the diverse terrain of city, urban, and rural routes.
By exercising extra care and caution, drivers and pedestrians can co-exist safely in school zones. Each school in Johnson County has site-specific drop-off and pick-up procedures.
All motorists must stop when red lights on the bus are flashing, and the stop arm is extended. They should remain at a complete stop until the red flashing lights are turned off, the stop arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before resuming.
Some confusion exists as to multi-lane roads such as along Tennessee Highway 421, which has four lanes of traffic-two in each direction with a shared median. State law requires drivers from all directions to stop when a school bus is stopped at an intersection to load and unload students. When driving on a highway with separate roadways for traffic in opposite directions, drivers must stop unless there is a grass median or physical barrier.
In an effort to further enforce school transportation safety, the Johnson County Board of Education continues to utilize Buster, the School Bus, an educational robot on loan from Tennessee Risk Management, the school system’s insurance provider. Introduced during the recent Mountain City Christmas Parade, Buster will be visiting the county’s elementary schools during January to discuss bus safety with the students. Buster has yellow caution lights; red stoplights with a stop arm and even speak to help students learn how to stay safe when loading and unloading on our school buses.

FFA speaking contest Winners

Three Johnson County FFA members competed in the Watauga District FFA Leadership Development Events in Blountville earlier this month.Leeann Crosswhite competed in the FFA Creed Contest and placed first. White will proceed to the regional contest at UT next month. Brett Ward placed second in the Prepared Speaking Contest and will move to the regional level. Shannon Ferguson competed in the Extemporaneous Speaking Contest. Photo submitted

Choral Teacher Shares Love of Music with Students


By Jill Penley

A variety of opportunities exist for Johnson County students to develop their musical talents including a comprehensive choral music
program. At the helm is Nathan Jones, a 2017 King College, who knew from a very early age, he was destined to teach and direct choral music.

“I am honored to teach general and choral music at JCHS and JCMS,” said Jones, who grew up in Norton, Virginia. “I think it is wonderful that JCHS has a band and achoral program and I hope Mrs. Cole (the band director) and I can collaborate together more frequently.”

Around 45 students take part in Jones’ two chorus classes, one at the high school called the Johnson County High School Longhorn Chorus, and one at the middle school called the Johnson County Middle School Singers. Jones also leads an additional after-school group, dubbed “Vocal Intensity,” comprised of middle and high school students who did not get the opportunity to sign up for chorus classes.

“I think my students are very lucky to have a vocal music program at the secondary school level,” said Jones, “and I’m honored to get to teach it.”

Many small rural schools eliminate vocal music class after the elementary level.

“The school I went to did not have chorus past 7th grade,” remarked Jones, who also teaches general music classes at the middle school and a guitar class at the high school.

“These classes keep me motivated to learn more about music history and music theory,” said Jones, “and it is very amazing having a class of beginning guitarists who after a few short months, are already playing real songs together in an ensemble and on their own.”

While in college, Jones performed with an a cappella group “All The King’s Men” directed by Professor Shea A. Clay.

“I majored in voice and also studied piano along with my education classes,” explained Jones. “King is the only school in Northeast Tennessee that has a 100 percent placement rate for music education graduates since the program was introduced in the early 2000s.”

Jones has already led two concerts this school year. “I try to have a theme picked out for each of my shows,” he said.

For the October concert, since it was performed near Halloween, Jones chose Broadway and film music and encouraged students to dress as their favorite characters. For the recent Christmas concert, the performance highlighted familiar holiday classics. Jones has already scheduled two additional concerts for next semester.

“In March, I am planning a Celtic celebration or maybe a concert on world music in general,” said Jones, “and for May, we will see what happens.”

For about Johnson County High School visit

Williams is Good Neighbor Award recipient

Jessie Mae Williams was recently notified that she has been named the Good Neighbor for November, 2018. Sponsored by the local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, this award recognizes students in the Middle School who have a generous spirit, who put others before self. Jessie is described as a young woman with a strong work ethic, who does her best to succeed in her classes as well as a person who can be counted on to give a helping hand to fellow students. Mrs. Kelly Shepherd joined Sheila Cruse, representing Gamma Mu, in presenting Jessie with letters of congratulations. Photo Submitted

Student of the week

Zachary Owens a kindergarten student in Mrs. Vincent’s class at Laurel Elementary School, the son of Nathan and Alexa Owens. Zach’s favorite subject is math and he hopes to become a teacher so he can help others. He is good role model and follows directions of his teachers well. Photo Submitted

Doe Elementary Leaders of the week

Doe Elementary School students, Audrey Decker, Micah Lunceford, Landon Searls, Emiliano Ramirez, Addison Leonard, Dylan Canter, Daniel Palmer, Asher Milsap are enjoying the spotlight as leaders of the week. Photo Submitted


Simcox pleased after release of TDE Report Card


By Tamas Mondovics
The Tennessee Department of Education has released the State Report Card last month, specifically designed for non-educators to read and understand.
According to TDE officials, the focus of the new report card is on parents and
community members.
“This is version one, and hopefully it will continue to evolve and become more user-friendly,” according to JC Bowman, Professional Educators of Tennessee.
Officials said that for the first time, the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) indicators are listed within the report card.
“A school’s report card is much like a GPA,” Bowman said. “It’s more than a single score, so there are multiple things that go into that GPA.” He added, “The school report card is a snapshot of time; much like a school picture for a student, it is what you look like at that moment in time.”
Johnson County Schools Director, Mischelle Simcox spoke highly of the county schools’ accomplishments based on the new report card.
“The Johnson County School System is very proud of our students and the accomplishments of our school system,” she said. “We are committed to providing a rigorous and relevant education for all students in a safe, positive environment that encourages students to develop and successfully pursue lifelong learning and career goals.”
Simcox highlighted, the State Report Card shows that 36 percent of Johnson County Students in grades 3-12 scored “on-track or mastered” on the 2017-18 TNReady assessments, compared to 39.1percent across the state.
The report also indicated that nearly nine percent of students were chronically out of school, which means they missed 18 or more unexcused and excused days, compared to 13.3 percent in the state.
“One highlight that we are extremely proud of is our graduation rate,” Simcox said. “The 2017 graduating class had a 96.5 percent graduation rate, compared to 89.1percent in the state. We are very proud of all of our students and staff. We
continue to work hard PreK-12th grade to ensure that we are preparing them for life after high school.”
As for the future of the Johnson County School
System, Simcox concluded on a positive note when she said, “Our vision is that all students will meet or exceed national standards and will be college or career ready upon high school graduation. Education based on a strong partnership with school, home and community can empower students to achieve.”
For a more detailed information about the recent report card, please visit

Kirk named Superintended for the Tennessee School for the Deaf


By Tamas Mondovics


Tennessee Commissioner of Education Dr. Candice McQueen was happy to announce last week that beginning in January 2019, Dr. Vicki Kirk will serve as the official and full-time superintendent of the Tennessee School for the Deaf.
“As many of you know, Dr. Kirk has been serving our students at TSD in an interim capacity since March, and in that time, her vision, compassion, and focus on high expectations has been a tremendous asset to the TSD community,” McQueen said.
McQueen confirmed that Kirk has already taken on key initiatives, including expanding access to services and working with TSD leadership to develop a strategic plan for student success, and has laid a framework for continued growth.
“We are honored that she will move into this role full time and continue to build on the progress we are already starting to see at the three TSD campuses across the state,” she said.
The appointment also means that Kirk will be transitioning from her role as deputy commissioner and chief academic officer at the
beginning of January.
Kirk has been with the department since April 2015, and during her time she has reportedly led many of the strategies within the department’s Read to be Ready work – which encompasses a number of our initiatives that are designed to increase the number of students who are reading on grade level by the time they reach third grade – and spearheaded critical work to implement new math, English language arts, science, and social studies standards.
During her time with the
department Kirk has also overseen the phase-in of Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2) into high school and RTI2 guidance enhancements and support.
We are appreciative of Dr. Kirk’s service to our 70,000
educators and 1 million students and believe she has built a strong foundation upon which we will continue our reading, standards, RTI2 and academic-focused work.
McQueen’s comfodenca in the new TSD leader was clear when she said, “Kirk’s guiding belief in the potential in every child in Tennessee has been an embodiment of our All Means All priority, and I know she will continue to shape and support a culture that reflects that belief at TSD.”

Regional Leadership Day

Seven members of the JC Leadership Class of 2019, Marissa Mullins, Zach Peake, Kelly Dugger, Jeff Young, Lindsey Wills, Angel Gilley, and Kelly Turner. attended Regional Leadership Day at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce hosted by Leadership Kingsport and Eastman. Photo submitted.

Approximately 130 attendees from eight leadership groups around the region enjoyed the 2018 Regional Leadership Day held last month in Kingsport.
Throughout the day, the group heard from a variety of speakers on the value of great leaders and leadership and how they can impact their families, jobs, and communities.
The day was kicked off by Kingsport Chamber President & CEO, Colonel USMCR (Ret) Miles Burdine presenting a very colorful presentation titled “Scrubbing Toilets with Enthusiasm”.
Next up was a Regional Panel Discussion with the Board Chairs of Bristol, Johnson City, and Kingsport Chambers of Commerce.
The panel took questions from the audience and talked about how these metropolitan areas are trying to work together as one unit along with the smaller communities in the region to promote and grow the economy.
After lunch, the keynote speaker was David Golden, Senior Vice-President, Chief Legal Officer and
Corporate Secretary of Eastman
Chemical Company.
Golden spoke on “Asking the Tough Questions” and how to respond.
He opened with the quote, “If you want better answers, you need to ask better questions.”
As a well represented group, the embers of the Johnson County Leadership Class enjoyed a day of meeting new people,
getting to hear some wonderful speakers, and spending time
wreflecting on how they can be better leaders for Johnson County and area communities.
Those interested in participating in the JC Leadership program, may contact Celeste Simcox Dunn at or call 423-727-7922.

MCE Students Recognized at School Board Meeting

The importance of good attendance, character, academics, college and career readiness and becoming good citizens and leaders are stressed on a daily basis. The staff at Mountain City Elementary strives daily to provide a strong foundation and prepare each student to be successful in whatever direction life may lead.  Eight Mountain City Elementary students were recognized at the Johnson County School Board Meeting on
November 8, 2018. The students who were recognized fit the criteria for being not good but great leaders.
They earned the respect of their classmates and were chosen by their peers as the leader of their grade level.
Students honored were HS/Pre-K: Mia Crews; Kindergarten: Daniella Eppard; 1st Grade: Savanna Younce; 2nd Grade: Ivy Abernethy; 3rd Grade: Sawyer Marshall; 4th Grade: Ella Icenhour; 5th Grade: Carson Jennings and 6th Grade: Christopher Nelson. Congratulations and thanks to each of these students for being good role models for all students in the school and community. Photo submitted.


Mountain City Elementary Celebrates Reading

Books are magical, and Mountain City Elementary put on a display which allowed each student to learn something new, expand their mind and boost their imagination. MCE students designed creative projects highlighting their favorite book and displayed the projects in a Reading Fair for families and visitors to enjoy.
The goal of the Reading Fair was to instill a lifelong love of reading and all projects exceeded expectations. A first, second, and third place project was chosen from each classroom.
2018 Reading Fair winners
Kindergarten:Mrs. Davis- 1st Place Tristan Eckert, 2nd Evan Perkins, 3rd Lucas Cretsinger; Mrs. Eckert 1st Place-Mariano Espinoza, 2nd Daniella Eppard, 3rd Bailey Rice; Mrs. Wills 1st Place-Kaylee Mahala, 2nd Judah Norman, 3rd Levi Bishop.
First Grade: Mrs. Arnold- 1st Place-McKenzie Jennings, 2nd Sara Beth Pennington, and 3rd Elizabeth Mann; Ms. Hyder 1st Place-Lily Berger, 2nd Mason Gregg, 3rd Ethan Wilson; Mrs. Trista Wilson 1st Place-Braylin Hansen, 2nd Addison Joyce, 3rd Ellie Beth Icenhour.
Second Grade: Mrs. Cornett- 1st Place-Katey Marshall, 2nd Lauren Henley, 3rd Lindsey Bryan; Mrs. Dunn 1st Place-Clara Wilson, 2nd Alex Espinoza, 3rd Reese Wells; Ms. Lisa Wilson 1st Place-River Burgess, 2nd Madeline Davis, 3rd Ivy Abernathy.
Third Grade: Mrs. Childers- 1st Place- Hailey Keating, 2nd Madelynn Long, 3rd Eli Norris; Mrs. Howell 1st Place-Hunter McElyea, 2nd Sophia Lin, 3rd Jillian Hatley; Mrs. Osborne 1st Place-Aiden Hope, 2nd Clayton Furches, 3rd Carson Dorman.
Fourth Grade: Mrs. Greer- 1st Place- Ella Icenhour, 2nd Maelie Luckett, 3rd Michael Watson; Mrs. Icenhour 1st Place-Kacelynn Dunn, 2nd McKenzie Mosley, 3rd Gustavo Martinez; Mrs. Long- 1st Place-Jalyn Blevins, 2nd Karlie Jo Fletcher, 3rd Addy Snyder and Karleigh Sutherland;
Fifth Grade: Mrs. Chambers- 1st Place-Carson Jennings, 2nd Keegan Wright, 3rd Emma Dugger; Ms. Parrish 1st Place – Kaden Blevin, 2nd Emily Orr, 3rd Jayden Bishop; Mrs. Shepherd 1st Place-Christopher Canter, 2nd Hayden Parker, 3rd Ethan Smith;
Sixth Grade: Mrs. Gentry 1st Place-Mimi Zaldivar, 2nd Allison Trivette, 3rd Carter Rhudy; Mrs. Henson 1st Place-Ghania Baig, 2nd Nate Dorman, 3rd Ethan Ward; Mrs. Joyner 1st Place-Cameron Crowder, 2nd Sara Ward, and 3rd Ivy Lakatos.

New SRO at JC High School Campus

Carl Hatley

By Jill Penley

While the vast majority of schools are secure, and students are relatively safe while there, the presence of a uniformed officer certainly enhances the protection.
The Johnson County Board of Education values the district’s school resource officers, or SROs, which are members of the law enforcement community who teach, counsel, and protect schools, students, faculty and staff.
“We appreciate of the school board and the county commission for funding us an additional SRO for our school system,” said Dr. Mischelle Simcox, Director of Schools, who suggests when SROs are integrated into the school system, the benefits go beyond reduced violence in schools. Many officers build relationships with students while serving teachers, and administrators to help solve problems.
After 10 years of serving as the SRO on the high school campus, Deputy SRO Mark Gladden is serving that position at the district’s elementary schools and Deputy SRO Carl Hatley was recently moved to the high school/middle school campus. Hatley, who is also an advanced emergency medical technician (AEMT) with Johnson County Emergency Rescue Squad Inc., looks forward to this new adventure.
Johnson County High School Principal Lisa Throop is glad to have an officer on campus. “We have had an SRO at JCHS all 11 years that I have been here,” said Throop, “and we are very fortunate to have one.”