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Hartsville
Trousdale mayor responds to ethics complaint

County Mayor Stephen Chambers responded publicly Tuesday to an ethics complaint filed against him by 11 members of the County Commission.

Chambers issued a statement to The Vidette in which he denied any wrongdoing and stated that the complaint was “an attempt to bully and coerce me.”

At the Sept. 27 County Commission meeting, a letter was read into the minutes that was signed by 11 of the 20 commissioners. That letter alleged that Chambers threatened legal action against the Commission after a possible violation of Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act and that some members changed their votes on a proposed Water Department building because of those threats. The letter asked County Attorney Branden Bellar to officially open an ethics investigation into the mayor.

At a called Commission meeting in July, audio and video records show that Chambers did mention the possibility of legal action by the Water Board against the Commission as a result of discussions between members that occurred prior to a separate meeting.

In his statement, Chambers said his actions were simply an attempt to ensure “open and legal deliberations” by county government. His statement reads:

“When I asked the citizens of Trousdale County to allow me to serve as their Mayor, I said that decisions of their government would not be made in secret behind closed doors and that the citizens would have a voice in public meetings and in the decision-making process of their government. To follow through, I have zealously and actively, through the audio and/or video streaming and recording of government meetings, tried to ensure that all citizens of Trousdale County have access to the decision-making process of their elected officials. In fact, when I took office, I purchased, with my own funds, equipment necessary to provide the citizens of Trousdale County access to all meetings. In doing so, I have worked hard to make sure our county complies with the Open Meetings law that applies to county governments.

When I discovered that some County Commissioners may have violated the Open Meetings law, I publicly shared my concern with the Commissioners. I advised them of the need to openly deliberate any decision before voting on it. In fact, after I disclosed my concern to the Commissioners, they conducted a proper deliberation and vote in compliance with the Open Meetings Act.

As a result of my insistence that the law be followed, and that the citizens of this county have a right to open and legal deliberations on matters that affect them, some of the commissioners have chosen to retaliate against me by filing a bogus, false, and unfounded complaint concerning my actions. Specifically, they have asked the County Attorney to investigate my actions because I insisted that they comply with the Open Meetings law. I absolutely and completely deny that I have engaged in any action that is a violation of my duties as a public servant to the people of Trousdale County. It is obvious their demand for an investigation and their false accusations are an attempt to bully and coerce me to not protect the Constitutional Rights of all Trousdale Countians.

What I have done is taken action to protect the rights of the citizens of Trousdale County and I will do it again and again if necessary. I have, by letter, advised the County Attorney that I will be fully cooperative with his investigation and stand ready to defend myself and the citizens of Trousdale County from having decisions made by just a few people meeting in a back room.”

Bellar told The Vidette that his investigation is ongoing and has no deadline for completion. Once finished, he will file a complete report with the Commission and offer his legal opinion as to whether any violation may have occurred. Any further action would depend on what the final report states.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.


Hartsville
Trousdale Elementary participating in state tutoring program

Trousdale County Schools have joined 78 other districts across Tennessee in participating in the Tennessee Accelerating Literacy and Learning Corps (TN ALL Corps) tutoring program to mitigate learning loss and accelerate student achievement.

According to the Tennessee Department of Education, participating districts and the department will invest a projected $200 million into educational supports which stand to benefit nearly 150,000 Tennessee students over the next three years.

To qualify for the TN ALL Corps program, districts must spend at least 50% of their Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) 3.0 federal funding toward academic programs. Districts are already required to spend 20% of those funds on addressing learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualifying districts will receive an additional $700 per year per participating student for two years.

As part of the program, Trousdale County Schools have hired three new teachers at the elementary school to work with students in grades 3-5 on improving their math skills in a high-dose, low-ratio environment.

“It’s tutoring to help you get through grade-level content,” Director of Schools Clint Satterfield said. “Those students are struggling with content, so they’re getting extra support that day to get them ready for the next day’s lesson. That ‘just enough, just in time’ at a low ratio is the crux of our work.”

Satterfield cited research showing that low student-teacher ratios paired with high-dose tutoring has a marked effect on student achievement and growth.

So far 96 students are participating in the program, which uses tutoring in sessions of 30 minutes three days per week or 45 minutes twice per week. One teacher works with three students at a time. Participating students were identified using results from TNReady testing toward the end of the previous school year.

“We are seeing an impact. Students are rising in their grade levels and we’re seeing a better understanding of those standards,” said Demetrice Badru, principal at Trousdale Elementary. “Seeing those kiddos move from below the standard to approaching, on level and mastered that standard, that is what you’re looking for.

“The hope is that we will improve learning outcomes for students.”

In addition to academic improvement, Badru noted increased confidence on the part of those students participating in ALL Corps tutoring.

“That has to do with the small group; making sure they have an understanding and feeling comfortable talking about math. When they go into the next day’s lesson, they are able to have a better understanding of the concepts being discussed,” she said.

Trousdale was already working with the high-dose, low-ratio tutoring, having used the formula during the Summer Learning Camp which took place in June.

“What’s I’m seeing is the kids want to be there, they want to do better. Everyone wants to succeed. It’s critical that these kids catch up on the pieces they’ve missed during COVID,” added Toby Woodmore, 6-12 Supervisor for the district. “I think it’s working great. They are seeing that math can be fun and once you have a little success, things you hated you now like.”

Satterfield said he is hoping to use the additional funding from being an ALL Corps district to extend the tutoring program for a third year. At $700 per participating student for two years, that would add an extra $135,000 to the county schools.

In addition, being an ALL Corps district provides access to online academic supports for middle- and high-school students, including reading, math, essay writing and ACT preparation.

“By going this route, I’m able to tap into free high school supports, “ Satterfield said. “I’m stretching my federal stimulus dollars by meeting this criteria.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.


Hartsville
Officials: Bank name changes, but service still the same

Despite being part of a recent acquisition, it’s business as usual at what was once Hartsville’s Citizens Bank.

That was the message from bank officials during Tuesday’s meeting of the Hartsville/Trousdale Chamber of Commerce.

Branch president Todd Austin spoke on the bank’s transition after being purchased by First National Bank. The Paragould, Ark.-based bank announced in May that it had purchased Citizens and the transition was made beginning Sept. 1 at the local level. The purchase expanded the bank’s footprint beyond Arkansas and gave First National 24 total branches and over $2 billion in assets. It also makes the Hartsville bank able to service a higher amount of loans that was previously the case.

“It allows us to offer products we couldn’t before,” Austin said. “That’s the biggest advantage this merger does for us.”

Austin emphasized that while some employees of Citizens had opted to retire or explore other opportunities, there had been no layoffs and no one from Arkansas had rotated in to replace locals.

“Everyone, even in our operations department, has found a spot with First National. That was important,” Austin added.

Austin addressed a number of questions he said he has heard from the community regarding the transition.

Citizens Bank checks can still be used and will be honored by existing customers and debit cards will still be good until February 2022, when the bank finishes transitioning to the electronic system used by First National. At that time, new debit cards will be issued to all customers.

The most obvious change has been in the bank’s operating hours. The Hartsville branch is now open on Wednesdays and some further changes to hours could be in the works, Austin said, while noting that any changes would be advantageous to customers.

“Our faces aren’t changing, the people who wait on you aren’t changing,” he said. “Give us a chance to prove that we’re still who we’ve always been, your friends and neighbors.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.


Hartsville
Jackets escape with thrilling win over Gordonsville

Trousdale County’s home game against Gordonsville was selected by fans as the “Titans Game of the Week” and it certainly did not disappoint as the Yellow Jackets (7-0) edged the Tigers (7-1) 28-24 on the Creekbank.

The Jackets stayed perfect on the season and won their fifth straight over the Tigers and 28th of the last 30 meetings between the teams.

“We didn’t do anything special tonight on defense and offense, and we found a way to win a ballgame,” TCHS coach Blake Satterfield said. “We didn’t play our best football tonight. We didn’t finish, but we found a way to win.”

Trousdale County won the coin toss and deferred till the second half. Gordonsville took the opening kickoff and drove within the Trousdale 10 before the defense stiffened and forced a 22-yard field goal by Tanner Pierson.

The Jackets would respond with a seven-play, 71-yard drive on their first possession that ended with an 11-yard touchdown run from Keenan Burnley. Colton Key added the PAT to make it 7-3.

The drive was aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty against Gordonsville on a fourth-down play on which the Tigers had intercepted the ball.

On their next possession, a bad snap led to quarterback Kobyn Calhoun losing a fumble deep in Jackets territory. Gordonsville’s Treyson Davis picked up the loose ball and scooted nine yards for a touchdown. Pierson’s kick gave the lead back to the Tigers at 10-7.

Calhoun left the game with an undisclosed injury and did not return. Burnley took at over at quarterback and played the rest of the way.

“Keenan has won plenty of big ballgames for us at quarterback. We feel very comfortable if he comes into the game. He led his team to a big victoy tonight,” Satterfield added.

Midway through the second quarter, Trousdale forced and recovered a fumble of its own to set up Bryson Claiborne’s 15-yard touchdown run. Key’s kick put the Jackets ahead at 14-10.

Gordonsville drove into Trousdale territory but was stopped on fourth down just before halftime.

In the second half, Claiborne added touchdown runs of 25 and 60 yards to make it 28-10 early in the fourth quarter and some fans started leaving Jim Satterfield Stadium.

With 5:46 remaining, Gordonsville’s Canaan Musgrove scored on a 1-yard run and then caught a pass from Matthew Albritton to make it 28-18.

The Tigers successfully executed an onside kick after getting a perfect bounce past the Trousdale line, keeping hope alive. A few plays later, Albritton connected with Bryson Greer for a 15-yard touchdown. The extra-point kick was blocked, leaving Trousdale County ahead 28-24 with 3:18 left to play.

A second onside kick attempt came up empty as the Jackets’ Xavier Harper jumped on the ball. Trousdale tried to run the clock out, but a fumble by Cole Gregory with under a minute to go gave Gordonsville one last chance.

But the defense stepped up, sacking Albritton on the final play of the game.

Claiborne finished with his second 100-yard rushing effort of the season, collecting 139 yards and three TDs on 14 carries. Gregory ran 18 times for 102 yards, while Brian Banks had eight runs for 61 yards.


Rock walls and box graves, like those shown, are a clue that the graveyard is very old. Box graves do not hold bodies above ground but were built to keep people and animals from stepping on the grave.


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