Second Annual Golden Mile boast of success

October 17, 2018

Golden Mile

Close to 130 senior adults met at the Senior Center for the second Annual Golden Mile. A few of the participants were (Left to right) John and Mary Forrester, Naomi Hammons and Glen Humphrey. Submitted photo

By Joan Payne

Rather than the previously planned venue of Ralph Stout Park, to enjoy a leisurely walk, more than 130 senior adults, met last month at the Johnson County Senior Center.  The venue change was the result of inclement weather but did not diminish the event’s spirit. The walk was first initiated by Johnson County Senior Center Director, Kathy Motsinger, a year ago to promote fitness and movement for all the participants.  Coordinated by former Johnson County High School physical education teacher and coach, Joan Payne, the Golden Mile was again a great success.

There was enthusiastic participation from those who were barely seniors to others who were 90 plus years young. All registered participants received a maroon Golden Mile t-shirt to commemorate the event and each of the 74 persons who completed any of the three levels of the “symbolic” Golden Mile walk were recognized with a gold ribbon for their efforts.

After the completion of their walk, the participants were also rewarded with a nutritious lunch/cookout, which was catered by the First Tennessee Human Resource Agency Nutrition Program with the able assistance of master grillers Terry Hodge and Robert Wilson.  They were well served by Center volunteers and JCHS students from the Lifetime Sports Club. Many of the seniors finished off their meal by preparing their own Smores dessert on an open fire pit on the front porch of the Center. The seniors participated in other activities such as billiards, table tennis, “corn hole”, Rook, and blood pressure checks while waiting  for all walkers to finish their trek.

Promotional and gift displays by local vendors were also provided by Amedisys, and Ballad Health. Randy Dandur and the “Famous Unknown” provided musical entertainment from many genres throughout the entire event. Shirts and meals for the event were graciously sponsored by members of the Extra Mile Ministries, Barbara Seals, Joe Herman, and Priscilla Herman. Shoun Lumber Company and J. R. Campbell, former JCHS basketball coach, provided unique woodcraft door prizes.  The blood pressure checks were compliments of the Johnson County Community Hospital.

The Johnson County Senior Center especially thanks community sponsors. Without support from the sponsors and others like them such special activities for our seniors to enjoy would not be possible.

UT Agriculture Chancellor and Extension faculty honored on the national level

October 17, 2018

UT Award winners

UT honorees pose together. Left to right: UT Institute of Agriculture Chancellor Tim Cross, Linda Bower with th UT Ext.’s Eastern Region Office and Ann Berry of UT Ext. Family and Consumer Sciences. Not pictured: Heather Sedges Walalce with UT Ext. Family and Consumer Sciences. Photo courtesy of the Greeneville Sun.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The humble gentleman who leads thousands of employees at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture statewide is being recognized for his commitment to Extension and outreach work.

UTIA Chancellor Tim Cross has been selected as the 2018 Distinguished Service Ruby Award winner by Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) – an organization that includes thousands of Extension professionals from land grant universities. He received the organization’s most prestigious accolade at the ESP national meeting Oct. 2 in Manhattan, Kansas.

“This is certainly an unexpected honor, and I’m truly humbled to receive this prestigious award from Epsilon Sigma Phi – an organization that I have deep admiration for,” Cross says. “I consider this a team award that I share with all those I’ve had the pleasure of working with throughout my career, including my Extension co-workers, industry partners and the generous donors who make so much of our work possible.”

Cross has an academic career that spans three decades and three states – including time at Fort Hays State University in Kansas and Oregon State University. In 1994, he joined UTIA in the Department of Agricultural Economics. Cross has also served as dean of UT Extension and is now UTIA’s third chancellor.

Cross has served on the National Extension Committee on Policy, National Council for Food and Agricultural Research, as well as the Tennessee Governor’s Rural Task Force and Health Committee. He established a strategic plan that has improved statewide Extension branding, implemented a peer mentoring program, developed professional development training for faculty and agents, and provided a healthy lifestyles program for all Extension employees.

Linda Bower, UT Extension Eastern Region leader for Family and Consumer Sciences, is the recipient of the ESP Administrative Leadership Award for her outstanding service as an Extension educator and for leadership. Bower is among four recipients for this national recognition.

Ann Berry with UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences and a past ESP national president, received the Continued Excellence Award for her exceptional service in delivering educational programs that significantly impact and improve lives. In her career, Berry has worked with Extension in Louisiana and Tennessee.

Heather Sedges Wallace, also with UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences, was honored by ESP with the Joint Council of Extension Professionals Award for Creative Excellence. Wallace was recognized for her innovative work that catalyzed rural community engagement in addressing wellness and childhood trauma using a policy, systems and environment (PSE) approach.

Cross credits the success of Extension to dedicated people and partnerships. “UT Extension has more than a 100-year history of advancing Tennessee, thanks to exceptional county financial support, dedicated employees and volunteers, and a strong partnership with our 1890 institution – Tennessee State University,” he says. “Long term successful state programs tend to result in professionals who are heavily engaged in associations like Epsilon Sigma Phi, providing effective leadership in the form of officers and receiving their share of recognition as award winners.”

School board votes for new security measures

October 17,2018


Mischelle Simcox, superintendent, and Cheri Long, Principal, stand with the Roan Creek elementary student leaders, Emma Eller, Catie McFadden, Amelia Stout, Gabbi Crowder, Vada Clifton, Hazel Luttrell, Bailey Martin, as they receive their awards. Photo By Megan Hollaway

By Megan Hollaway
Freelance Writer

The Johnson County School Board began this month’s meeting by honoring eight students, one from each grade at Roan Creek Elementary. The students nominated and voted to be the student leaders of each grade included, Bailey Martin, Hazel Luttrell, Vada Clifton, Gabbi Crowder, Amelia Stout, Catie McFadden, Logan Davis, and Emma Eller were.

Cheri Long, the Principal of Roan Creek Elementary, said, “We couldn’t have student leaders without good parents and good teachers. I would like to recognize both as we recognize these student leaders.”

Another school to be recognized is Laurel Elementary, for being named the reward school for Johnson County this year.The School Board also voted to install a new, special kind of security system. Raptor Technologies will be installed in every school throughout the county, within twelve to 14 weeks.According to school officials the security system will scan the ID of every individual to enter the schools, and ensure they are not on the sex offenders list.

“If a person on the sex offenders list were to enter a school, the principal and the school board superintendent would be immediately notified,” Johnson County Schools Director Mischelle Simcox.

Another use for the raptor technologies is an app designed for teachers to ensure the safety of their students during a lockdown. After being put into lockdown, the teacher would either check that yes, each student is in their classroom, or no, that one or two students were out of their room when the lockdown occurred.

“This allows for, if a teacher pulls a student out of the hall and into their classroom, there is a platform for teachers and administration at the school to know which students are accounted for,” Simcox said.

A few new items in the budget, such as the RN salary in the budget, to make a distinction from the LPN salary were also discussed. The supplies and materials allocations have been made to each school for the inter-and-extra-circular

The upcoming election may mean more money for county schools as the half-cent increase in sales tax in the county would bring in approximately two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in sales revenue for the schools.
For more information about Johnson County Schools please visit

Residents urged proper disposal of medications

October 17, 2018


By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

In an effort to reduce access to opiates and other prescription drugs which have the potential for being abused, the Johnson County A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition, or “Alliance of Citizens Together Improving Our Neighborhoods,” is touting several initiatives aimed at eliminating prescription drug abuse.

Such efforts include the upcoming Drug Take-Back Day and distribution of prescription lock boxes for families looking to keep prescriptions out of the hands of relatives or friends who may be searching for a quick fix.
“Prescription drug abuse and misuse is a public health epidemic across the entire country,” said Kandas Motsinger, Program Coordinator with the A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition, “and accessibility is the number one contributing factor to the misuse and abuse of medications.”

Johnson County residents can visit Mountain City Town Hall, Shady Valley Fire Department or the Butler Fire Department to utilize free, permanent drug-take back services on Saturday, Oct 27 from 10 am to 2 pm. While needles and sharps, mercury thermometers, oxygen containers, chemo/radioactive substances, pressurized canisters, illicit drugs or other medical supplies cannot be accepted, anyone with unused, unwanted or expired medications in pill or liquid form is encouraged to participate.

Americans nationwide did their part to drop off a record number of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medications during the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s 15th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in May, at close to 6,000 sites across the country. Together with a record-setting amount of local, state and federal partners, DEA collected and destroyed close to one million pounds-nearly 475 tons of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs, making it the most successful event in DEA history.

The agency launched the program when both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration advised the public that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash-posed potential safety and health hazards.

Some medications are needed and cannot be eliminated and to reduce access to those who medications are not prescribed, the A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition provides drug lockboxes. “To further reduce unauthorized use of medications we want to make adults aware of the easy access to prescription drugs, said Motsinger. “We provide the knowledge and the tools to lock up their prescription medications.”

The lock boxes are available to all community members at no cost but limited to one box per household. To obtain one, please visit the A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition office at 138 East Main Street, Mountain City and complete and survey and sign a release. The lockbox comes complete with the hardware necessary to mount it to the wall and a key to keep the contents secure. “We encourage individuals to install their drug lock box in a non-conspicuous spot,” said Motsinger.

Established in 2005, A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition (Alliance of Citizens Together Improving Our Neighborhoods) was initially a product of an HRSA (Human Resource and Service Administration) grant, aimed at increasing mental health services in the county and America’s Promise movement. Funding also comes through various state and federal grants.

Since its inception, the A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition has expanded, and with the assistance of state and federal grant funding, supports and sponsors youth development programs such as SQUAD (Students Questioning Using and Abusing Drugs) and MTC (Mobile Team Challenge). They also host RBS (Responsible Beverage Server) training and numerous sobriety checkpoints in partnership with law enforcement in addition to mentoring & facilitating new coalitions Throughout Northeast TN.

State forester urges citizens to practice safe debris burning

October 10, 2018

fire safety

It is National Fire Prevention Week. Find out what you can do to prevent wildfires.

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry is observing National Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 7-13) by reminding citizens to follow simple safety practices to prevent wildfires. The official start of wildfire season in Tennessee is Oct. 15.

“With the recent and forecasted rain, we expect favorable conditions for safe debris burning over the next couple of months,” State Forester David Arnold said. “However, we shouldn’t let our guard down. We encourage Tennesseans to remain vigilant and practice safe debris burning to prevent wildfires.”

Obtaining a burn permit is free, fast, and simple. If you are burning a leaf or brush pile that is smaller than 8 feet by 8 feet in size, our online system provides a quick and efficient way to apply. For a larger burn, call your local Division of Forestry burn permit phone number Mon. through Fri., 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The online system and burn permit phone numbers can be found at

More than 300,000 permits are issued each year, and they are only issued when conditions are conducive to safe burning. If you live inside city limits, there may be additional restrictions. Check with your municipality before you burn.

For a list of materials that may not be burned, check the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s open burning guidelines at

Burning without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine. Wildfires caused by arson are a class C felony punishable by 3 to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Anyone with information about suspected arson activity should call the state Fire Marshal’s Arson Hotline at 1-800-762-3017. The hotline is answered 24 hours a day, and you may remain anonymous when providing information. Cash awards are offered for information leading to an arrest or conviction. To report illegal burning, please call 1-888-891-TDEC.

Acreage reporting of perennial forage

All producers are reminded that the acreage reporting date for perennial forage including hay and pasture is Thursday, November 15, 2018.

The acreage reporting date for perennial forage crops is for the 2019 crop year. Late filed fees will apply for these crops if acreage reports are not filed by the November 15 deadline. All other crop reporting requirements must be met.

There are a few exceptions to the November 15th reporting date including some NAP covered crops. Farmers and landowners who participate in FSA commodity programs, the Non-insured Assistance Program and who signup up for LDP’s are required to certify all of their crop acres. Acreages are also used to calculate the amount of financial assistance producers can receive through various disaster programs.

For more information on filing acreage reports please visit the Johnson County Farm Service Agency at 119 S Murphey Street, Mountain City or call (423) 727-9744.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

Fall into Autumn Harvest at the Farmers Market

October 10, 2018

By Jana Jones
Farmers Market Manager

One of the things I love about living in Northeast Tennessee is the seasons. Growing up in Florida we didn’t have the distinct variety that we enjoy here. Although winter, spring and summer each have their own beauty, I have to say that autumn has become my absolute favorite season. I look forward to the changing of the leaves with all of their beautiful shades of orange, rust, reds and yellows, the crisp air that invites those hearth fires to start up, and, of course, the array of colorful autumn produce in the garden. Pumpkins, gourds, sweet peppers, winter squash, sweet potatoes and other root crops are making their appearance at the market and many of these crops have the ability to be stored in a cool, dark area through most of the winter months. I have had butternut squash last 7 months in my cellar while retaining its flavor and firmness. So be sure to stock up while the autumn produce is available!

Hearty butternut squash and lentil stew is the perfect one dish meal to warm you up on these cool autumn evenings. This low carb meal is chock full of vitamins with less than 350 calories per serving.

              Butternut Squash and Lentil Stew

2 medium shallots, thinly sliced

1 tbsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 1/2” chunks

1 lb. green lentils, picked over

6 c. chicken or vegetable broth

5 c. packed baby spinach

1 tbsp. cider vinegar

In a medium pot, cook shallots and ginger in oil 5 minutes or until shallots are golden, stirring.

Add coriander and cardamom; cook 1 minute, stirring. Add squash, lentils, broth and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Cook 45 minutes or until lentils and squash are tender.

Stir in spinach, vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

The Johnson County Farmers Market is located at Ralph Stout Park in the parking area near the children’s playground. Come enjoy the live music, farm fresh produce, eggs, meat, dairy, and local handmade baked goods and craft items each Saturday morning from 9 until noon. Swing by the manager’s table to find your “Fresh is Best” t-shirt and other items and information. We offer the Fre$h Savings Program which doubles the dollars for EBT customers. Bring the kids by our GoJoCo Kids tent to make healthy snacks, participate in fun activities and earn tokens to spend at the market. We invite you to like us on Facebook to see all of the current news or visit our webpage at to learn more.

Mountain City man dies on way to hospital after accident

Johnson County Sheriff’s deputies attend to a an accident involving a Mountain City area man who died upon being transported to the local hospital earlier this afternoon.


By Tamas Mondovics

The town of Mountain City is now mourning one of its most loved, respected and longtime members who died this afternoon (Monday, October 8, 2018) while unloading his tractor off a trailer on Lumpkin Branch Road just south of Dug Hill Road in Mountain City.

According to Johnson County Sheriff, Eddie Tester, the accident happened around 3:30 p.m.

Tester said that while backing up to drive it off the trailer it was being transported on, the tractor began tipping, and the victim was unable to get out of the way in time.

Upon arrival at the scene, Johnson County EMS began to transport him to the local hospital, but according to Tester, the man died on the way.

Out of respect to the victim and his family, Johnson County officials will release the name of the victim and further information when next of kin has been notified.

Please look for updates on this page.


Healthier Tennessee Communities Program hosts regional conferences

October 3, 2018

Johnson County represented in Healthier Tn Communities by GoJoCo Committee

Submitted by Jana Jones
Farmers Market Manager

Healthier Tennessee Communities, the grassroots initiative of the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness, conducted three regional conferences in September for community leaders who are participating in the program. The series began with the East Tennessee conference in Knoxville, followed by one in Arrington in Middle Tennessee, and ended at the University of Tennessee at Martin in Upper West Tennessee. More than 300 community leaders with varied backgrounds in business, education, local and state government, and health care participated in the 2018 conference series. Attendees represented communities that have earned or are working towards “Healthier Tennessee Community” designation and also neighborhoods and college campuses now participating in the program.

“We are grateful for the passion these wonderful, hard-working volunteers have for making their communities healthier,” said Richard Johnson, CEO of the Governor’s Foundation.“Their level of knowledge and diverse backgrounds are invaluable as work is done to engage more citizens locally in the effort to improve the health of Tennesseans.”

The Healthier Tennessee Communities initiative takes a “where we live” approach to improving Tennesseans’ health by engaging citizens and local leaders in cities, towns, counties, neighborhoods and college campuses across the state. The Foundation launched the Healthier Tennessee Communities initiative in March 2015 with nine pilot communities.

Outstanding community programs were invited to speak at the conferences. Johnson County’s own GoJoCo Kids Club was one of the new ideas shared. A GoJoCo Committee member attended the East Tennessee Regional Conference in order to present this successful program in a power point presentation with other communities.

The GoJoCo Kids Club currently takes place at the Johnson County Farmers Market (JCFM) every Saturday morning through the end of October. From 9am until 11:30am, children are invited to make healthy snacks, taught about healthy choices, and participate in an obstacle course race or other exercise activity. Thanks to an award from the Johnson County Community Fund, all participants receive free tokens to spend at the JCFM.

The Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness is a non-profit corporation dedicated to enabling and encouraging Tennesseans to lead healthier lives. Based in Nashville, the Foundation brings together a statewide coalition of employers, health insurers, hospital systems, local governments, school systems and healthcare-focused foundations and community organizations to effect positive, measurable change.

The Foundation’s Healthier Tennessee initiative strives to increase the number of Tennesseans who are physically active for at least 30 minutes five times a week, promote a healthy diet, and reduce the number of people who use tobacco. The Foundation launched the Healthier Tennessee Communities initiative in March 2015 with nine pilot communities. Today, more than 90 communities, neighborhoods, and college campuses are participating in the program, and 58 are currently designated. More information about the program, including a list of participating cities and counties and access to other Healthier Tennessee resources, is available at

Annual chick chain and poultry champions named

October 3, 2018

Chick Chain Winners

Annual 4-H Chick Chain winners Izzy Thompson, Bonnie Reece, Kloi Hopkins, and Lanie Mink smile for a photo last month. The students continue to learn many life skills and are looking forward to being busy in the program.

By Tamas Mondovics

The annual 4-H poultry show and sale was once again held on Saturday, September 1st at the Longhorn Auction Company. According to event organizers, the show marks the culmination of another successful, traditional 4-H Chick Chain project, which allows students to raise chickens from chicks to pullets and eventually to lay hens.

“Along the way, 4-H’ers learn responsibility, ethical decision making, and many other life skills,” said Danielle Pleasant with UT/TSU Extension of Johnson County.

The project wraps up with 4-H’ers entering their best pullets in the show and competing for the title of the Bill Brookshire Poultry Champion, named after longtime supporter Bill Brookshire of Johnson County Bank. Pleasant added that all the pullets entered in the show are auctioned with proceeds going to 4-H to support the continuation of the Chick Chain for many years to come.

With 34 participants showing pullets, this year’s competition was reportedly tough. Kloi Hopkins was named this year’s Bill Brookshire Poultry Champion followed by Lanie Mink, as reserve champion followed by Izzy Thompson with the 3rd place pullets. Ashton Dollar, Brady Fritts, Isaac Lewis, and Marley Townsend received honorable mention.

“Thanks to all the 4-H’ers, parents, buyers and volunteers as well as Johnson County Bank, Longhorn Auction Company, Elizabethton Federal and Tri-State Growers Co-Op for supporting the 4-H chick chain project,” Pleasant said.

4-H Chick Chain Group

Members of the Johnson County 4-H Chick Chain Group Katie Timbs, Gracie Hammet, Paola Vargas, Hailey McCoy, Izzy Thompson, Isabell Katsaitis, Hailey Adams, Kloi Hopkins, Cheyenne Pugh, Joshia Arnold, Landon Greene, Isaac Lewis, Kendon Keith, Jasmine KAtsaitis, Jayden Kinble, Sean Trivett, Brady Fritts, Eli Dickens, Braydon Cannon, Logan Gilley, Lanie Mink, and Corbin Presnell (not pictured Lilly Powell, Rayne Williams, Ansley Clifton and Jackson Clifton) showed great strength this fall. Submitted photos.

Local 4-H students show strength at annual Judging Day

October 3, 2018

Meats Judging Team

Members of the Johnson County 4-H judging competition ‘Meats Team’, Andrew Dugger, Omar Linares, Colton Long, Cheyanne Pugh, Jaden Tolliver, Montana Pugh, Harlan Savery, Brett Ward, and Daisy Jiminez pose for a photo. Submitted photo.

By Tamas Mondovics

Hard work has paid off for students across the county that have spent the past few weeks preparing fair exhibits, poultry for show and studying for judging teams. Senior high 4-H student Margaret Morrow took home seven 1st place, six 2nd place, two 3rd place, and three 4th place ribbons, while junior high 4-H’er Dalton Adams won two 1st place, two 2nd place, one 3rd place and two 4th place ribbons for his photos at the Appalachian Fair.

According to Danielle Pleasant with UT/TSU Extension of Johnson County, the two students were among the 83 youth that also had photos entered in the Tennessee Valley Fair in Knoxville; where Morrow won a 2nd and 3rd place for her entries. Additionally, 4-H’ers spent the month of August preparing for 4-H Judging Day, which is host to the 4-H Eastern Region Forestry, Meat Evaluation, Consumer Decision Making and Life Skills judging competitions.

The current season had three teams represent Johnson County in the senior high meat evaluation contest, in which students must identify the species, primal, retail cut and cookery method for thirty cuts of meat from beef, lamb, and pork. Additionally, the students judge two classes of retail cuts and answer questions about them. Earning 8th place overall was Colton Long, Brett Ward, and Daisy Jimenez; in 9th place was Jaden Tolliver, Andrew Dugger and Cheyanne Pugh and in 10th place overall were Montana Pugh,
Omar Linares and Harlen Savery.

Junior high 4-H’ers Joshua Ransom and Rhiannon Wentworth also represented Johnson County in the Life Skills competition, in which students complete activities in financial transactions, food safety and nutrition, as well as child development.

“We couldn’t be prouder of our 4-H’ers accomplishments,” Pleasant said. “A special thanks goes out to Tracy Dugger and Sirrena Wiggins for coaching the meat evaluation teams.”

Following the judging competitions, students enjoyed the Tennessee Valley Fair in Knoxville preceding the awards ceremony.

Tennessee continues to maintain highest graduation rate on record

October 3, 2018

Staff report

NASHVILLE— Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced that the 2017-18 high school graduation rate held steady at 89.1 percent, which is the highest graduation rate on record for Tennessee.  This year, more than 56 percent of districts with high schools saw their graduation rates improve when compared to last year’s rates.

“Our schools and districts should be proud that once again we have hit our state’s highest graduation rate on record while still holding our students to high expectations,” Commissioner McQueen said. “By continuing to raise the expectations, we are signaling that Tennessee students are leaving high school with the knowledge and skills to be successful in college and the workforce.  This graduation rate is a testament to the work being done by teachers and students in schools across the state.”

Under the Haslam administration, Tennessee has set high expectations for both students and educators, and students have made significant gains as a result. As part of this work, the state transitioned to a more rigorous calculation for graduation rates in 2011, and even under the new criteria, rates have continued to rise.  Additionally, the state raised the bar for graduation expectations when the State Board of Education included participation in the ACT or SAT as a graduation requirement for Tennessee students. This year’s results are the first to reflect this change in accountability.

For the 2017-18 school year, the most notable gains and overall achievements in the state are:
• 9 districts improved their graduation rates by five percentage points or more.  The districts with the most significant gains were Union City (9.4 percentage points), Richard City (8.7 percentage points), Van Buren County (8.4 percentage points), Sequatchie County (7.6 percentage points), and Bledsoe County (6.5 percentage points).

• 44 districts—over one-third of the districts in the state with high schools—have graduation rates at or above 95 percent, up from last year.

• 106 districts—nearly 81 percent of the districts in the state—have graduation rates at or above 90 percent, up from 98 districts last year. Richard City, Oneida SSD, Alcoa City, and Morgan County all had graduation rates at or above 99 percent.

• 22 schools across 15 districts had graduation rates of 100 percent.

More information on graduation rates for individual districts and schools is available on the department’s website. For media inquiries, please contact Sara Gast at (615) 532-6260 or

Tennessee Department of Education announces 2018-19 Teacher of the Year



By Tamas Mondovics

A Franklin Special School District teacher known for her communication and leadership skills was named the 2018-19 Tennessee Teacher of the Year during the annual honorary banquet last Thursday. Melissa Miller, a first grade teacher at Franklin Elementary School in Franklin, is the recipient of this year’s top honor.

Miller has been teaching for 19 years in Tennessee and is a National Board Certified Teacher. Viewed as a teacher leader in her school, Miller serves as a grade-level team leader and a field experience mentor in addition to serving as a district curriculum and technology trainer to better equip her fellow educators with skills to improve their teaching

“Teachers are the single most important factor in improving students’ achievement and Tennessee students deserve great teachers leading each and every classroom,”Education
Commissioner Candice McQueen said. “The educators honored at the Teacher of the Year banquet are leading their students to impressive gains and growth across the state and it is my privilege to recognize them for their work. I am thrilled to usher in Melissa Miller as the 2018-19 Tennessee Teacher of the Year and look forward to working with her more in the year to come.”

Miller works hard to teach her students to believe in themselves and to create a positive environment in which they can learn, grow, and thrive. She has a positive attitude and
loves to share her personal story with her colleagues in hopes of igniting their passion.

“What we do changes the world for the children that we have the great privilege of working with each day. Teachers have the power within to make monumental change – it’s about uniting teachers, instilling a drive toward a common goal, receiving coaching in best practices, and delivering rigorous curriculum embedded with high expectations no matter the students’ background,” Miller has said.

Lori Farley, a media specialist at North City Elementary School in Athens City Schools, was recognized as the Grand Division winner for East Tennessee. Farley believes that everyone can be a leader, and her personal mantra is lead from where you are no matter what title you hold. She is perpetually seeking growth opportunities within and beyond the school system such as pursuing leadership opportunities, taking on a deeper role in school technology, and serving Gifted students.

Michael Robinson, a high school social studies teacher at Houston High School in Germantown Municipal School District, was recognized as the Grand Division winner for West Tennessee. Robinson serves as a leader in education and is a Blue Chip mentor for new teachers at Houston High. As a geography and history teacher, Michael makes it a priority to travel as part of his professional development, both by leading student tours and also presenting at and attending conferences in countries such as South Korea, Singapore, China, Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic, among others.

As Tennessee Teacher of the Year, Miller will become a spokesperson for teachers in our state, serving as Tennessee’s representative in the 2019 National Teacher of the Year Program. In addition, she will be asked to share her insight from the classroom as part of committees and working groups with the department.

In addition, she will be asked to share her insight from the classroom as part of committees and working groups with the department. The nine Teacher of the Year state finalists, who represent all regions in the state, serve on the Teacher Advisory Council during the 2018-19 school year. This council acts as a working group of expert teachers to provide feedback and inform the work of the department throughout the school year. To provide continuity and leadership, the three Grand Division winners will continue their term during the 2019-20 school year. For more please contact Paul Fleming, at Paul.

Bear hunting season prompts town hall meeting

By Tamas Mondovics

Representative Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) announced last week of partnering with officials from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to host a town hall discussion on Saturday, September 29 with area hunters related to the upcoming hunting season in Northeast Tennessee.

According to event organizers everyone is invited to attend the free meeting at Highlander BBQ, located at 8315 US 19E in Roan Mountain, at 8:30 a.m., to provide area hunters an opportunity to discuss rules and regulations as well as ask questions related to an upcoming season authorized on private land near the Laurel Fork Bear Reserve in Johnson and Carter Counties.

The TWRA roughly estimates that 850-950 bears may now inhabit both Carter and Johnson Counties; a significant increase in recent years. Officials said that these large animals have been frequenting land outside of their federally designated plots.
The bear’s increased presence including a number of sightings within Mountain City limits, including the report of several black bears rummaging through the garbage bins just outside Johnson County High School is jeopardizing the safety of citizens, pets, and local farm animals, officials said.Hill and TWRA officials want all those interested in participating in the hunt to be well informed and well prepared for success.

“With the bear population growth in our communities, we must take appropriate steps to improve safety for our citizens and their animals,” Hill said. “At the same time, our local hunters must be aware of rules and regulations designed to protect certain numbers of the bear population in Northeast Tennessee because they will be hunting in close proximity to our federal bear reserves. This town hall will make certain they have the information they need to participate in a safe, successful hunt without violating federal or state laws.”

Timothy Hill serves as House Majority Whip represents House District 3, which includes Johnson and part of Carter and Sullivan Counties. He can be reached by email at: or by calling (615) 741-2050.

Lincoln county man arrested on charges of unlawful photography

Andrew Williams

NASHVILLE – An investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has resulted in the indictment and arrest of a Fayetteville man on charges of unlawful photography.At the request of 17th District Attorney General Robert Carter, on February 6th, TBI Agents began investigating a complaint made against Andrew Williams of Fayetteville.

During the course of the investigation, Agents developed information that on February 2nd, Williams accessed the victim’s phone while she was asleep, and took photos of her partially covered, without her consent. The investigation revealed Williams sent those photos from her phone to a male acquaintance of the victim. Agents learned that on another occasion, Williams took screenshots of photographs of the victim from her phone, and sent those without her consent to another male acquaintance of the victim.

On Tuesday, the Lincoln County Grand Jury returned indictments charging Andrew Laten Williams (DOB 06/23/1986) with two counts of Unlawful Photographing in Violation of Privacy. Williams was arrested on Thursday and booked into the Lincoln County Jail on a $25,000 bond.

County shocked by Road Superintendent’s death


Darrell Reece

Johnson County Road Superintendent Darrell Reece died unexpectedly early Monday morning at his home in Trade, Tennessee. He was 62.Reece was first elected road superintendent in August 2014 and served in that capacity until his death. This position is responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges throughout Johnson County. A Johnson County native, Reece lived in Trade with his wife, Judy.  Funeral arrangements were incomplete at press time.

JCHS 2018 homecoming court

Maxwell receives national award for outstanding contributions

Larry Maxwell

Larry Maxwell is being recognized by The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) for service leading to improved efficiency and impact.

NASHVILLE – The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) will honor Larry Maxwell, Chief Administrative Officer and Assistant Commissioner at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA), for his years of service to Tennesseans and dedication to agriculture. Maxwell is receiving the Douglass-Irvin Administration Award, which recognizes an individual for outstanding contributions within a state agency resulting in improved efficiency and impact.

“Larry Maxwell is highly respected throughout state government and has proven himself invaluable to every commissioner he has served,” Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton said. “Above all, Larry is loyal, dedicated, and has always gone above and beyond the call of duty to get the job done. We’re fortunate to have him as a leader, an advisor, and a friend.”

Among his major achievements and duties is the management of the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program, which has provided more than $150 million in funding to Tennessee farmers and rural communities since the program’s inception. He has effectively managed a $20 million investment to replace the department’s entire heavy firefighting fleet while building reserves for the maintenance of and eventual replacement of that equipment.

Maxwell is being honored at the NASDA annual meeting this week.

“I am grateful to have been considered for this award,” Maxwell said. “I hope the work we’ve accomplished in my time at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture has made a positive impact on the state’s farmers, foresters, and consumers.”

Since joining TDA in 1971 as an accountant, Maxwell has served an unprecedented seven governors and 13 Tennessee commissioners of Agriculture

Maxwell graduated from Tennessee Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He is a veteran and a retired Colonel in the Tennessee Army National Guard, and he enjoys spending time with his two children and six grandchildren.

NSF awards UTIA faculty grant to study fungal pathogen of amphibians

$2.5 Million Study to Examine Pathogen that Devours the Skin of Salamanders

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — An emerging pathogen that devours the skin of salamanders will be the subject of a new study funded by the National Science Foundation. Matt Gray and Debra Miller, both faculty members in the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture Center for Wildlife Health within the UT Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, have been awarded a $2.5 million grant to lead a collaboration among scientists from Vanderbilt University, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Texas Tech University, University of California-Santa Barbara and Washington State University.The research will expand the current understanding of a fungal pathogen that is causing salamander population declines in Europe. Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, or Bsal, is an emerging pathogen that devours the skin of salamanders.

Thought to originate from Asia, Bsal is spreading throughout Europe, and scientists are now concerned of the fungus spreading to North America through international trade. As a preemptive measure, Gray and Miller, along with their research partners, will study the epidemiology of Bsal in an effort to find ways to combat the fungus.

Gray, Miller and their team will focus on three main objectives: (1) identify the infection pathways and environmental conditions under which Bsal spreads, (2) evaluate salamander immune responses to infection, and (3) characterize the pathogenesis of Bsal. Their focal species will be the eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), which is one of the most widely distributed salamander species in North America. The eastern newt is known to be susceptible to Bsal. With many reptile and amphibian species in the U.S. being threatened by infectious diseases, such as snake fungal disease and Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd or chytrid fungus), the timing and need for this research is significant.

“With eastern North America as a global hotspot for salamander biodiversity, this research will allow science-based decisions to be made on Bsal response actions most likely to thwart an outbreak in the USA and elsewhere,” Gray indicates.

Miller, a wildlife pathologist with a split position in the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, adds, “The lesions I see underneath the microscope are significant, destroying the epidermis in highly susceptible species, which is deadly to amphibians that rely on their skin for osmoregulation and respiration.”

Gray adds, “To our knowledge, Earth has never seen a wildlife disease outbreak like Bsal’s cousin – Bd – which has caused population declines globally in greater than 200 amphibian species and some species extinctions. It is too early to know what the scale of Bsal emergence will be; however, we hope that by working in multi-disciplinary research collaborations like this one that we will be able to identify plausible treatment and management options quickly that lessen the impact of this recently discovered pathogen.”

In addition to research, this award will support one post-doctoral scientist, one veterinary scientist, three graduate students, and multiple undergraduate research technicians at UTIA. There will also be an outreach component, including STEM school engagement, guest lectures, international training opportunities, and research findings will be delivered monthly to the Technical Advisory Committee of the North American Bsal Task Force. Gray begins co-chairing the committee this month.

More information about the UTIA NSF grant and other Bsal research performed by the UTIA Center for Wildlife Health can be found at

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.

Mountain City native inducted into the Alpha Iota Chi Chapter

Benjamin and Amber Price

Benjamin Price was inducted into the Alpha Iota Chi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa at Northeast State Community College on Wednesday, August 29, 2018. Benjamin Price, majoring in Industrial Engineering, is the son of Burl and Freda Price of Mountain city TN, and is married to Amber Price of Mountain city TN.

Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, is the largest honor society in higher education with 1,285 chapters on college campuses in all 50 of the United States, Canada, Germany, the Republic of Palau, Peru, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the British Virgin Islands, the United Arab Emirates, and U.S. territorial possessions. More than 3 million students have been inducted since its founding in 1918, with approximately 134,000 students inducted annually.