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What happens now?

Pam Sampson

The initial Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) scores are in.

It’s the first round of scores impacted since the state’s third-grade retention law passed in January of 2021.

This week, Wilson County School District and the Lebanon Special School District (LSSD) have been notifying parents of students that have not achieved the required test scores of their students’ options.

The third-grade retention law requires all third-graders in the state to earn an “on-track” or “mastered” score on the English Language Arts (ELA) portion of their TCAP test. If they receive a score of “below proficient” or “approaching proficient,” the student may be retained in the third grade.

While the exact% of the approximately 430 third-graders in LSSD schools who scored below proficient is not able to be released, parents have been contacted.

“TCAP data is embargoed, but students who were not proficient received a phone call (Monday) from the school’s administrative team to discuss the promotion options with each parent,” LSSD Director of Teaching and Learning Pam Sampson said. “The promotion pathways were explained for students that scored below proficient and approaching proficient.”

Those students then have three options. Students who did not achieve the required scores can retake their TCAP test, or attend a summer learning program 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.

Out of the approximately 1,430 third-grade students in Wilson County Schools, approximately 50.2% received a proficient score on their ELA TCAP assessment. That is an increase from last year, when approximately 47.9% of third-grade students scored proficient in ELA.

Of the remaining 49.8% of students, some of them qualified for an exemption to the retention law based on established criteria.

“Examples of students who received exemptions are — English learners with less than two years ELA instruction, students who were previously retained in grades K-3, students with a disability that impacts reading and/or students with a suspected disability that impacts reading,” WCS Public Information Officer Bart Barker said.

However, a large number of students in Wilson County Schools did not qualify for an exemption.

“The approximately 500 students who scored below proficient and did not qualify for an allowed exemption were notified by email on Friday evening,” the Wilson County Schools Testing and Accountability Department said in a statement. “The email informed parents about the opportunity for their child to participate in a retake opportunity starting on Monday. The retake process will continue this week.”

Elementary schools began administering TCAP test retakes in Wilson County schools on Monday and in LSSD schools on Tuesday, and they will continue doing retakes as needed through Thursday. WCS anticipates receiving data from the retake tests by Friday.

Families of students who did not achieve the required ELA test scores will also have the opportunity to appeal the student’s scores.

“Beginning May 30 through May 31, we will have staff ready at Coles Ferry Elementary to support students that may have missed the retake test or parents that need support in filing an appeal as their student’s promotion pathway,” Sampson said. “The appeal process requires the parent of the student to complete an online form requesting approval to be promoted based on the end-of-year universal screener score. If this grade satisfies the state requirement, the student will be promoted to grade 4.”

The Wilson County Schools Testing and Accountability Department detailed the following two circumstances as grounds for an appeal to be made:

  • The student received a score at or above the 40th%ile on their spring universal reading screener.
  • A catastrophic situation occurred during the days leading up to the TCAP test that impacted the third-grade student’s ability to perform on the test. Examples of a catastrophic situation include, but are not limited to, a death in the immediate family, loss of a family home, or significant medical diagnosis.

A universal reading screener helps assess a student’s reading and fluency skills.

According to Sampson, schools and families in the LSSD were prepared for the scores to be released.

“As a district, last fall, we began sharing information concerning the third-grade retention law with our families,” Sampson said. “Each school held informational meetings with parents, as well as in-person meetings with the parents of students that were projected to score below grade level based on the results of a mock TCAP assessment we administered in January. The TCAP results were consistent with the mock assessment results. Therefore, there were very few surprises when the actual scores were released.”

Having the hard conversations

As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, the Tennessee chapter of the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention (AFSP) hosted its second annual Be the Light show in East Nashville on Tuesday night.

While people enjoyed food trucks and music, the main goal for volunteers such as Lebanon resident and suicide loss survivor Mary Fish was to highlight Mental Health Awareness Month.

“Mental Health Awareness Month, I think, should just be all year,” Fish said. “It should be every day, because there’s such a stigma that is still there. I don’t know what it would take for that to be lessened or for that to eventually go away. But I think if we continue to talk about it and continue to have some of those tough conversations, (it could help).”

Fish became involved with the Tennessee chapter while she and her husband, Larry, were searching for an organization to partner with for their music festival, Fish Fest. Fish Fest began as Larry’s 50th birthday party.

“We wanted to, you know, find something that was local and that was an organization that meant something to us,” Fish said. “If you’re going to give time and money and things, you want it to mean something. Unfortunately, suicide awareness and prevention is something that’s affected us.”

Fish’s experience with suicide loss is what drew them to the AFSP.

“It was the early 2000s,” Fish said. “My husband’s cousin, Patrick, who was really more like his brother, had gotten himself into a series of unfortunate events that ended with him taking his own life. Nothing like that had happened to either of us before, or anyone in our family. It was a tough situation.

“It was 20 years ago or so. We didn’t have a lot of knowledge about resources for help, and mental health wasn’t as prominent as it is today. We kind of fumbled our way through that event.”

They grew close to Patrick’s daughter during that time.

“We kind of took her under our wing, and we made sure she had support,” Fish said. “We knew enough (about mental health) to acknowledge that (she needed support). It definitely brought our families closer together.”

Around a year after the loss of Patrick, Mary and Larry found their roommate, who had taken his own life.

“It was late evening, and his truck was on in the driveway, and I thought that was odd,” Fish said. “I thought, ‘Poor Chad ... maybe he fell off the wagon again and was out drinking or something and fell asleep in his car.’ Well, he wasn’t asleep in his car.”

For Fish, this experience was different than before.

“It’s different when you hear about it from a doctor or a hospital or you get a phone call than when you actually come upon the person in that state, especially with somebody that you care about,” Fish said. “It’s a really hard thing to put words on. What do you say? How do you describe what happened that someone decides to take such a drastic step?”

Volunteering with AFSP helped Mary and Larry work through their own experiences with suicide loss.

“Suicide is still a taboo topic, especially when it comes to people that have particular religious beliefs,” Fish said, “Some families, I think, tend not to talk about it, for different reasons. Sometimes, grief never goes away. The five stages of grief are a thing, but sometimes you can be in five stages of grief for the rest of your life.”

Mt. Juliet to allow food trucks for six months

The Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners approves a six-month trial-run period for food trucks operating in industrial and residential districts during Monday evening’s meeting.

They voted 3-2 on these regulations for food trucks, canteen trucks, and ice cream trucks.

Mt. Juliet’s new food truck regulations would include limiting the number of permits to mobile food vendors to 12 neighborhood community events.

The city commission discussed its concerns on the regulations for more than 90 minutes.

Mt. Juliet Vice Mayor Bill Trivett walked out of the meeting before the final vote was taken and it ended up being 2-2, with district 3 commissioner Scott Hefner and district 1 commissioner Ray Justice voting to approve it.

Trivett returned and apologized for leaving the meeting before making a motion to have more discussion and another vote for the resolution, and it was approved.

The commissioners went over seven amendments to the ordinance.

Mt. Juliet’s sunshine clause, which would be implemented into the regulations for more than six months, was among those amendments.

Mt. Juliet Mayor James Maness, who suggested the clause, said that it would ensure whether the regulations would work for residents.

“If this is a total disaster, let’s just walk away from it,” said Maness. “But if our citizens are happy with these regulations and there are no adverse effects from them, let’s just bring it back for another six months and work on refining them.”

The commission voted unanimously to allow the clause into the ordinance.

District 4 commissioner Jennifer Milele, who opposed the ordinance, said that the regulations would cost Mt. Juliet extra money due to the city not having enough planning technicians to handle the business of working with food trucks.

The commission also debated on whether they can allow food trucks to operate in industrial districts.

Milele suggested to allow two canteen trucks per day to operate in industrial districts, particularly in areas of warehousing, goods, transport, and storage.

However, Justice thought it would not be beneficial to the city’s industrial zoning.

“If we got five separate locations that are industrial, and you are allowing two canteen trucks to operate in one location, that means three locations are not being serviced by a canteen truck due to a city ordinance,” said Justice.

Justice said that would send Mt. Juliet in a bad direction.

The commission voted 3-2 to amend that condition into the regulations.

The commission also discussed as to whether food trucks should operate in residential areas.

Hefner suggested that the commission thave two food trucks be in the residential areas from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. on wwekdays and from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Trivett asked about whether food trucks could still operate in a residential area on the Fourth of July if it falls on a weekday. Hefner said that they could provide a waiver on that condition for food trucks.

They then voted 4-1 to amend the operation of food trucks in residential areas.

Finishing strong

Carol Denney has done many things in her life.

She’s been a teacher, pursued business, raised her nephew and was a member of the first group of students that graduated from Lebanon High School after desegregation.

Now, at 73 years old, she’s added a bachelor’s degree in theology to her list of accomplishments.

“I first started that study in 1994,” Denney said. “That was the very beginning of my Christian, born-again experience. All excited, I went a semester at American Baptist College.”

When she’d begun the pursuit of her theology degree, Denney had already earned a bachelor of science degree from Tennessee State University. She’d also been certified in education and done other postgraduate studies at Trevecca Nazarene College.

“I didn’t return to American Baptist College until 2019,” Denney said. “They called me, and they wanted to give me a scholarship to go to school that summer. I said, ‘Well, okay, I’m all for education.’ I took that offer. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I also went that fall semester.”

When Denney first graduated college, she taught occupational child care in Franklin, helping to prepare her students to go out into the world and get entry-level childcare positions.

“I always knew that I was supposed to teach, and when I began to stray (in life) was when I tried to leave that and go into business,” Denney said. “I would sit on my front porch as a little girl, and I would look up at the sky, and I would say, ‘When I grow up, I’m gonna take care of all the little children of the world.’ ”

In 1994, Denney left her job as a 4-H leader at the University of Tennessee and TSU’s 4-H Extension program to pursue entrepreneurship by opening a clothing store.

“That didn’t work out,” Denney said. “At that time, I’m saying, ‘I’m a smart person. I don’t understand why I can’t make this business thing work.’ It was then, in that time of prayer and meditation, that I felt the call of the Lord in my life.”

While Denney has completed another element of her education at 73, she was a part of a milestone class at Lebanon High School 55 years earlier.

“My grandparents were very protective of me, and one of our family friends was a teacher at Wilson County High School,” Denney said. “She asked my grandma if I could be in the sit-ins, and my grandma approved. I was shocked. You’re 13 years old, and I didn’t understand the full meaning of it at that time.”

Denney remembers the day that she first went to Lebanon High School.

“The gym was seated where you could see people coming in and going to the office,” Denney said. “I remember, the gym was full, and here we are, five or six students and some adults. That was the longest walk I’d ever taken.”

Denney said that for some reason, that walk didn’t really faze her.

“When we got to the office, I remember (the adults) saying, ‘We’re here to register the children,’ ” Denney said. “The principal told us we couldn’t be registered. We just politely turned around, and I remember some of the kids (at the school) making jeering noises. I remember saying to myself inside, ‘We’ll be back.’ ”

The group then spent two weeks in Nashville in federal court.

When she was a senior, Denney walked across the stage as a graduate of Lebanon High School.

“Some of the people I started out with (in) integration, they’re deceased now, so I feel blessed to still have energy in my body to go back and be able to get a bachelor in theology, which is something that I started years ago,” Denney said.

After starting the journey of pursuing her theology degree in the 1990s and returning to American Baptist College in 2019, Denney said it felt like a blessing to be able to move that tassel from the left to the right on May 18.

“I walked across the stage, and all I could really do was raise my hands, because God does get the glory,” Denney said. “It makes me want to finish strong.”