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New facility opens doors for Scouts

Scouts of America is known for teaching members how to tie knots and pitch tents, but what about the merit badges for welding and plumbing?

With a new facility being built in Wilson County, scouts can earn these and a whole lot more.

Officials from the Boy Scouts of America Middle Tennessee Council (BSA-MTC) recently held a groundbreaking ceremony at Lebanon’s Boxwell Scout Reservation for a facility designed to hold courses in those areas. Through those courses, those officials plan to offer scouts hands-on experience in what could become potential career fields.

Linda Carter, the associate development director for BSA-MTC, said that with any hope, the facility might spark an interest in a scout’s mind about what they want their future to look like.

Training tomorrow’s skilled-trades workers is a major driving force behind this project.

“There has been no greater time than the present when the training of skilled trades workers has been more needed,” said (Ret.) U.S. Army Major General William B. Hickman and chair of BSA-MTC’s skilled trades committee. “For some time, our state and country have seen a gap in the number of job openings in the skilled-trades industries and the number of trained workers available to fill them.”

According to Hickman, the stability afforded to employees in those fields should make them appealing professions. He called careers such as electricians, plumbers and welders, “well-paying, secure and satisfying.”

The organization plans to have the facility ready by the summer of 2022.

Each year, the Boxwell Scout Reservation serves as a destination for scouts from across the region to visit for a week-long summer camp. During those summer-camp excursions, the trades center will be available to scouts ages 13-18. Carter estimates that more than 900 scouts will be able to use the facility.

Merit-badge courses that will be offered include automotive maintenance, electricity, home repair, painting, plumbing and welding, in addition to a classroom for presentations in areas such as American business, American labor and architecture.

Chairman Bill Freeman of Freeman Webb, Inc., a property management company in Nashville, spoke during the groundbreaking about how vital those professionals are in today’s market.

“As someone who has been involved in the building and real-estate industry for decades, I have seen first-hand how a shortage of workers trained in the skilled-trades fields can negatively impact our community’s growth,” Freeman said. “What the Middle Tennessee Council is doing to address this need by building a skilled-trades center at Boxwell Scout Reservation is very forward-thinking ... and I applaud them for this effort.”

Scout executive of the BSA-MTC, Larry Brown, explained that the project will be one-of-a-kind.

“I am not aware of another council in the country with a free-standing facility to be used specifically for introducing scouts to skilled trades,” said Brown.

The scout executive feels that while the prospect of earning merit badges is on every scout’s mind, propelling themselves into a lifelong hobby or future career can prove equally rewarding.

“Our country needs people trained in the skilled trades who have also gained the values and integrity taught by the scouting program,” Brown said. “This will be an important way for the council to help with that effort.”

The facility will be named after Roy Grindstaff, a long-time electrician from Middle Tennessee and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Grindstaff’s daughter, Robin Grindstaff Hurdle, is president of The Maddox Foundation, the project’s lead donor.

Watertown rallies to join Lebanon, Green Hill in champions circle

Region champions Lebanon and Green Hill were joined by Watertown last Friday night as the visiting Purple Tigers came from behind to capture a 31-21 victory over Trousdale County for the fourth consecutive regular season at John Kerr Field in Hartsville, giving the Purple Tigers their fourth consecutive Region 4-2A championship.

At Wilson Central, the host Wildcats kept their season going by cooling off red-hot Hillsboro, winning 24-16, to snag the fourth and final playoff berth in Region 5-5A.

Wilson Central’s win pushed Mt. Juliet into third place.

However, the Golden Bears’ attention was on their new, cross-town rival Green Hill, which rallied from a two-touchdown deficit over the final 8:07 to claim a 25-21 win at Elzie Patton Stadium.

Writing their names in the annals of the infant rivalry were quarterback Cade Mahoney and receiver Sean Aldridge, whose 4-yard hookup with four seconds to play lifted the Hawks to victory in Wilson County’s first true city rivalry.

Friendship Christian School was looking for a chance to give the county four region champions but needed help. However, the Commanders didn’t get that assistance as King’s Academy rolled past Notre Dame, 41-7, in Chattanooga. It didn’t matter anyway as Middle Tennessee Christian crushed the Commanders, 28-7, in Murfreesboro to claim the Division II-Class A East Region championship, while FCS fell to third.

Lebanon breezed past Warren County, 42-0, for the Blue Devils’ first 9-1 season since 1993 and first nine-win campaign overall since 2004.

As the regular season ended, only Mt. Juliet Christian’s season is over as the Saints fell to Clarksville Academy, 37-18.

The playoffs kick off at 7 p.m. local time this Friday.

The first-round matchups for the Wilson County teams are as follows:

Division I

Class 6A

Stewarts Creek at Lebanon

Class 5A

Wilson Central at Page

Mt. Juliet at Columbia

Franklin County at Green Hill

Class 2A

Bledsoe County at Watertown

Division II-Class A

Tipton-Rosemark at Friendship Christian

Lebanon will be hosting its first playoff game since moving to Clifton Tribble Field/Danny Watkins Stadium a decade ago, and it will be its first postseason home contest since a 2004 wipeout of Coffee County (winning 71-14) at Nokes-Lasater Field.

Green Hill will be competing in its first playoff game.

Milele to host town hall meeting in Mt. Juliet

Mt. Juliet District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Milele plans to host a town hall meeting at Victory Baptist Church — located at 1777 Tate Lane in Mt. Juliet — on Thursday.

Milele will be discussing with residents of her district over future redistricting, District 4’s growth and upcoming projects around the district.

She and the rest of the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners held workshops over the city’s redistricted zones last month. They have looked over three options of the redrawing on Mt. Juliet’s four city voting districts.

District 4 has more than 12,160 residents according to the 2020 U.S. Census. In the three different redrawing proposals, that district will get smaller to offset the city’s growth.

She feared this will cause her to lose the western portion of District 4, which contains all city limits south of Interstate-40.

“I have heard from a few constituents inquiring about options to keep more of my current district,” said Milele. “Maintaining my district as it is today would be incredibly difficult because of its density.”

Milele is also concerned that Mt. Juliet’s prosperity would lead to its tax revenues leveling off and a massive expansion of multi-family housing across the city of Mt. Juliet.

“So far, thankfully, our revenues still are promising and above average, as is the demand for growth,” said Milele.

She will present a visual presentation over Mt. Juliet’s future growth and the future of its housing market during Thursday’s town hall meeting.

Civil Site Design Group, a civil engineering group, will be discussing information with Milele over Beckwith Pointe, an industrial project, located on 75 acres south of I-40, behind Belinda City.

The Mt. Juliet Planning Commission gave a positive recommendation on providing Civil Site Design Group an industrial-design-guideline waiver to develop four warehouse buildings on that property last September.

Civil Site Design Group’s current plan to build this property only has one access point across from Meadowview Drive and a tree barrier behind the houses along Belinda Parkway.

“I believe this is the best-case scenario of what could be built on the 75 acres there,” said Milele.

She will also discuss Providence Commons Townhomes, a proposed multi-family development on seven acres, located on the east side of South Mt. Juliet Road, at the meeting.

Last month, the planning commission deferred on both the development’s rezoning to an RM-16 planned-unit development and its preliminary master development plan until the commission’s next meeting on Nov. 18.

There are 108 townhomes planned to be built at a density of 15.7 units per acre for the development. Amenities include a pavilion, a playground, a dog park and an open play area.

Milele is not in favor of the project, because she feels that the number of townhomes is too high at a small density for a small site like Providence Commons Townhomes.

“What I hope to gain for this meeting is to educate the public on the future growth that’s coming to District 4, the changes in voting/commission districts, and encourage their engagement in city business,” said Milele.

Milele also indicated that her desire is to have a well-informed citizenry.

WCS addresses education town hall on funding

Jeff Luttrell

Jamie Farough

The ranking education official in Tennessee kicked off a statewide tour to gauge Tennessean’s appetite for school funding.

Wilson County Schools (WCS) Board of Education members say that the Tennessee Department of Education just needs to look in the mirror.

During the first of eight planned town-hall sessions, Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn addressed a group of parents and educators in Hendersonville last week to solicit public comments on revamping the Basic Education Program (BEP), the funding formula for Tennessee schools.

While they acknowledged the town halls as a positive method of engagement, members of Wilson County’s board of education said simply that state funding needs to improve.

“As director of schools, my priority is to get increased funding from the state level,” Director of Wilson County Schools Jeff Luttrell said during a work session the following day.

According to Luttrell, the state has set the bar to low. Funds generated by the BEP are what the state has defined as sufficient to provide a basic level of education for Tennessee students. This basic level of funding includes both a state share of the BEP and a local share of the BEP.

“You can talk about how to divide up the slices all you want, but eventually, you have to increase the amount that goes into the pie,” said Luttrell.

As for sufficing for what the state deems a basic level of education, one WCS board member doesn’t find that acceptable.

“We decided a long time ago in Wilson County that we wanted to be better than the basics,” said WCS Board Member Larry Tomlinson.

Tomlinson took issue with Tennessee’s poor performance compared to other states.

“We’re 44th (the United States ranking), and they (TDOE) still took $70 million to give to charter schools,” Tomlinson said last Thursday.

For the school board, it boils down to the resources available to improve the educational opportunities for its students.

“Our job is to see our children get the best education they can get,” Tomlinson said, “Yet, every time we turn around, we have funds pulled.”

The town-hall event was intended to give parents an opportunity to voice their opinions to the education commissioner.

WCS Board Member Jamie Farough attended the event in person and called the comments made by speakers at the event diverse but wondered if they were accurately representative of current public opinion.

In all, only 60 people were in attendance. Speakers included individuals from Sumner, Davidson, Rutherford, Robertson, Montgomery, Cheatham and Williamson counties.

“Parents need to not fall in the trap of thinking that hopefully someone else will speak up,” said Farough.

Following comments from the speakers, Schwinn addressed the town-hall crowd.

“I think you heard today that people, especially parents and our families that came out, really want to ensure that dollars get as close to the student as possible,” Schwinn said. “I think having these conversations about a student-based formula means we are tying dollars to what the child’s needs are. When you’re talking about student-based funding, it is saying, ‘Based on the needs of this child, the state will allocate this much money.’ That might mean more for students with disabilities, English learners, and economically-disadvantaged students.”

Three areas of focus were the subject of comment by multiple speakers — more overall funding for public schools, allowing education funding to follow the child from one school to another, and providing state funding to support staff, such as school counselors and nurses.

Increased overall funding was a point of emphasis for many of those who chose to speak, but translating it in terms of equity became a refrain.

“We need to provide equitable education to all of our students,” said Robert Taylor, a parent from Davidson County. “It’s very difficult to educate at a high level when we have some of the lowest funding per student in the country.”

Emily Masters, a member of the Davidson County Board of Education, added, “It’s important that the state take a close look at the districts and how much funding has actually been serving our students. Many of our districts have been grossly underfunded.”

Vanessa Sheehan, of the Hendersonville League of Women Voters, said that Tennessee ranked No. 45 out of the 50 states in funding per student. Sheehan said that in 2019-20, Tennessee spent $9,978 per student, compared to the national average of $13,597.

Kent Foreman of Williamson County echoed the need for increased school funding.

“The pie is just not big enough,” Foreman said. “We’re spending $77 per day to imprison people and $53 per day to our students.”

The second area of focus, allowing state funding to follow the student, was discussed from multiple perspectives. While some in attendance called for voucher programs, others said that keeping those funds in the public-school system and allowing students to move within a district to a better-performing school or to another district was a better option.

“It brings accountability to the schools … being able to choose where your child is educated,” said Callie Cook, a member of the Freedom Fighting Collective, a Clarksville-based advocacy group.

Frank Napolitano of Hendersonville added, “Competition makes us all better. We need to be open to school choice, public funding following the student.”

There was, however, some dissenting opinion.

“When funding follows students, it needs to follow them to public schools,” Masters said.

Parent Evelyn Hoyt added, “Public dollars should be used for public schools that are accountable to voters, not vouchers.”

Schwinn emphasized that allowing funding to “follow the child” did not necessarily refer to a voucher program for private schools, a topic that has become a contentious one in the General Assembly.

“Any conversation about vouchers would be a different piece of legislation,” Schwinn said. “This is a conversation about funding our public schools in a way that will move academic achievement forward.”

Funding for support staff, such as counselors, nurses and even psychologists, would be a radical change to the BEP, which does not currently fund such positions. But a number of speakers insisted that the state should address student needs that go beyond the classroom as part of a new funding formula.

“Schools are expected to be all things for all kids … we need school staff who are well-trained and well-compensated,” Lorelai Gould, a retired school counselor, said. “Public education is our cornerstone as a society, as a democracy.”

Mary Lynn Caperton, a retired teacher, added, “We have an extreme need for school counselors. Our kids are in need of a lot of support with social skills, coping skills. School counseling is academics, emotional skills and work/employment skills.”

The Department of Education will continue to solicit comments from the public regarding school funding. In addition to the remaining public town halls, Schwinn said that Twitter town halls would be held twice monthly and that comments can also be emailed to tnedu.funding@tn.gov.

“What I heard across the board is that everyone wants what’s best for kids,” Schwinn said. “What that’s going to look like is part of the development process. We want a bigger pie, not just a redistribution of the pie. Whether comments are emailed, tweeted, they are all going to be considered equally. We need to encourage as many voices as possible.”

Hawks score twice in final 56 seconds to stun Mt. Juliet