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Preparing for third-grade retention

Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) testing has finally come to a close for 2023, and the Lebanon Special School District is preparing for the effects that Tennessee’s new third-grade retention law will have on its students.

“Right now, instructional teams are working to prepare for the third-grade retention law,” LSSD Director of Teaching and Learning Pam Sampson said. “We’ve met with principals to set up dates for retake tests for any third-grade reading student that has scored below proficient.”

The new third-grade retention law that went into effect for the current school year requires all third-grade students to earn an “on-track” or “mastered” score on the English Language Arts (ELA) portion of their annual TCAP test. If they receive a score of “below proficient” or “approaching proficient,” the student may be retained in the third grade.

The first round of scores is expected to be released on May 19 and will let students know if they achieved the required scores or not. Final scores will be released on May 26 and will let students know if they are “below proficient” or “approaching proficient.”

Once the scores are received, any student who has scored “below proficient” or “approaching proficient” has three options. The student can retake the test and achieve the required score in ELA. The student can attend summer and show growth on the post test administered at the end of the program, or the student can be assigned a tutor through the Tennessee Accelerating Literacy and Learning Corps (TN ALL Corps) for the upcoming school year.

Parents also have the option to appeal their students TCAP test scores.

“We’ve been working with our principals,” Sampson said. “Everybody has their game-plan set. We’ve set our dates for the retakes. We’re also going to set up stations at Coles Ferry Elementary during the summer school sessions starting May 30, where parents can come and appeal if they want to appeal their student’s score (for ‘approaching proficient students’). We’ll also have stations where students can come in and retake the third-grade test.”

If parents appeal, their student who scored “approaching proficient” on their TCAP reading test could still be promoted to the forth grade based on their universal screener test scores.

“For the universal screener, we use DIBELS eighth edition, and it’s a reading screener that looks at reading skill,” Sampson said. “The teachers give that (screener) to K-3 (kindergarten through third-grade) students, but the third-grade screener that they did last week will be used as a determining factor for if they (scored) ‘approaching.’ If they are appealing, we’ll look at that score.”

The screeners are one-on-one and are done three times a year.

“They go through their reading and their fluency, so it’s really a great indicator of if a child can read,” Sampson said.

The district continues to prepare for when it receives the students’ TCAP test scores.

“To know this late in the game (about the law) and students not getting their test scores until after school is out, it makes it very difficult for families to plan,” Sampson said. “We want to support our families, and we can’t tell them right now for sure, and that’s hard.”

Goals for the year

LSSD Director of Schools Brian Hutto presented what he called the final rough draft of the district’s strategic plan at Monday night’s school board meeting.

“We’ve got four goals for this year,” Hutto said. “We’ve got achievement and growth as goal one. Student support and safety is goal two. Recruit, retain and cultivate high-quality employees is goal three, and ensure resource responsibility is goal four.”

Hutto asked the school board to look over the goals and the strategic plan so that they could vote on it during their upcoming board meeting on June 19.

Helping pups in need

A bakery in Mt. Juliet that caters to furrier clientele is fundraising this month to help provide a food fund for a Nashville rescue shelter.

Every month, Three Dog Bakery locations across the country choose a rescue shelter to benefit from fundraising efforts.

This is Mt. Juliet Three Dog Bakery Owner Lori Elam’s first month participating in the company’s nation-wide fundraising event, and she’s chosen Nashville PITTIE as her store’s benefactor.

“I just love everything they’ve done,” Elam said. “A lot of people don’t like the bully breeds, and Carlene (Castleman, the Nashville PITTIE president) and her team have done amazing work.”

Elam is looking forward to writing a check to Nashville PITTIE at the end of the month and hopes that her store can raise $500-600 to provide food for the rescue’s dogs.

“It’s definitely rewarding,” Elam said. “We love that we’re able to do it. The best part is that our clients in Mt. Juliet are willing to donate. Our customers are amazing. They’re willing to donate, because they know it’s going to a good cause.”

Elam spent years volunteering at animal rescues and knows the challenge that fundraising can be.

“In a rescue, the hardest part is the fundraising,” Elam said. “Getting (rescues) food and bedding is a way for me to give back.”

Castleman said that fundraisers like the one that Three Dog Bakery is holding this month are essential to her shelter.

“Fundraisers are how we survive,” Castleman said. “We are 100% publicly-funded.”

Because of the dietary needs of the dogs at the shelter, food is a major expense for Nashville PITTIE.

“What’s great about having a partner like Three Dog is that, when you’re rescuing dogs, the most important thing is food,” Castleman said. “That is a major expense for us every month. It seems like most of the dogs we rescue have some kind of food allergy, skin allergy or other basic allergy. We always buy quality kibble for our dogs, which is pretty expensive. When we have a fundraiser where we can get free food, we can get the quality of food that we need.”

Nashville PITTIE is a pit bull specific rescue, meaning that around 99% of the dogs that it cares for are pit bulls.

“The reason that we really focus on pit bulls is because it’s where our passions are,” Castleman said. “Everyone that volunteers in this rescue has a very tremendous love for this breed of dog. The dogs have all made an impact in our lives, whether it was one special dog or it was just the way that they look or their behavior, which is most of the time goofy and dorky.”

Nashville PITTIE is trying to lessen the stigma surrounding pit bulls.

“They’re hard to adopt out because of the historically-negative perception that communities have had surrounding these dogs,” Castleman said. “That (perception) has changed dramatically through the years. We really advocate for these dogs. We teach responsible dog ownership and all that goes along with that.”

Mt. Juliet narrowly approves 349-home subdivision

The Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners approved a 349-home subdivision during Monday evening’s meeting.

The commission voted 3-2 in favor of Treymor, a 349-home planned unit development located off Benders Ferry Road.

Treymor will be built on 317 acres northeast of the intersection between Benders Ferry Road, Mays Chapel Road, and Liberty Chapel Road.

Civil Site Design Group, a Nashville-based civil engineering group and Treymor’s developer, estimates that the population for the development will be 698 people.

The group plans to develop the subdivision in six phases for over a five-year span.

However, numerous Mt. Juliet residents expressed concerns over the subdivision and its impact on Benders Ferry Road.

Resident Andrew Abraham said that approving the subdivision would lead to more traffic congestion and a catastrophic impact to the environment on the site of the property. He also provided handouts to the city commission of road improvements that he wanted to see near Polecat Road. Abraham would like to bring down the road from Polecat Road towards the corner of the subdivision and give it a bend. He said that it would require local developers to eliminate more than 10 houses.

District 1 commissioner Ray Justice was thrilled over the secured amount of open space in Treymor, but he wanted the exit from Mays Chapel Road to be the subdivision’s primary exit. He suggested to Civil Site Design Group to look over the handouts he got from Abraham so they could take the road improvements near Polecat Road into consideration.

Justice also wanted them to take the site’s lack of drainage into consideration while going over the property and to make sure the sewer comes from Mays Chapel Road to Polecat Road.

Ryan Lovelace, a principal with Civil Site Design Group, said that the group can work on most of the improvements, though it makes him nervous to reduce the number of lots.

“We are so used to having twice the amount of lots to absorb all of the additional requests we are now going through,” said Lovelace.

Lovelace said that they can address the lot counts to the city commission between the first and second reading.

District 3 commissioner Scott Hefner opposed Treymor because he felt that the city does not have a clear direction on improving Lebanon Road. Hefner said that the city commission should wait for five years until it has a new comprehensive transportation plan so that they can come back with this development and vote on it.

Mt. Juliet Mayor James Maness, who also opposed Treymor, feels that Benders Ferry Road is the wrong place for the subdivision to be developed.

“What I won’t do is vote for projects that are going to give myself a new set of issues to handle,” said Maness.

However, Justice said that if the city commission votes against Treymor, then the Wilson County Commission will vote on the development since the site of the property is zoned for agricultural use by Wilson County.

He also indicated that they need to let the developers work on the sewer and the road improvements for the subdivision.

County teachers could receive additional raise

When the Wilson County School Board approved its budget and its needs assessment on Monday night, it also approved the addition of several new positions and a potential raise for teachers.

Before they’re set in stone, both the budget and needs assessment will be presented to a joint meeting of the Wilson County budget and education committees on May 25. The budget and needs assessment will then be voted on by the budget committee on May 30. The May 30 vote will serve as a recommendation to the Wilson County Commission when it votes on the budget as a whole on June 19.

Proposed pay increases

The pay plan for classified school employees (who are employees in a position that doesn’t require a certification) has been redone to include a yearly step-raise.

Included in the Wilson County Schools’ budget was a 5% increase in pay for certified teachers. Zone 5 school board member Larry Tomlinson proposed that an additional 5% raise be included in the needs assessment that will be proposed to the county commission later this month.

“We have put in our budget a 5% raise for our teachers,” Tomlinson said. “We keep hearing from different people all over the county about how we’re lagging behind all the surrounding counties (in teacher pay), even with the 5% (increase) that we’re going to propose in our budget. I would like for us to consider for our needs assessment instead of (requesting) a 2% certified pay raise that we ask for 5%, and that (the county commission) will match when we have taken out of our own budget to get our certified people closer to our surrounding counties’ (pay). If I’ve done my math right, that will get us pretty close to the people that we’re competing against.”

The school board voted unanimously to approve both the budget and the needs assessment. The needs assessment will be presented to the county commission with the 5% pay increase, along with a breakdown of what each% would cost.

New positions to be added

The budget includes 16 new teaching positions, six special education department positions, and 12 new educational assistant positions.

“We are including additional registered nurse (RN), four new elementary guidance counselors, four new librarians at our large high schools, and adding a stipend of $2,500 each for social workers,” Wilson County Schools Director Jeff Luttrell said. “The innovative schools models grant will also add a bookkeeper and a coordinator.”

The budget will also include funding to hire a new assistant principal at Carroll-Oakland School and another assistant principal at Southside Elementary. There will also be five new English as a second language (ESL) positions added to the district.

Watertown catcher Cyrus Bennett catches a throw at home plate as a Cannon County runner scores in Saturday's first game. Bennett later drove in the walk-off run in the "if necessary" contest as the Purple Tigers captured the District 6-2A championship.