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Two wanted teens apprehended in Mt. Juliet

Two teens wanted in connection for crimes in Davidson County were apprehended by local law enforcement on Saturday. Had they not wrecked their vehicle, the whole incident might never have come to light.

According to the Mt. Juliet Police Department’s public information officer, Capt. Tyler Chandler, a single-vehicle wreck involving a Ford Explorer occurred near mile marker No. 224 on Interstate 40 at approximately 10:30 a.m.

“We received a call from a passerby about the crash,” Chandler said. “There was no pursuit (that led to a wreck).”

When the first officer that responded to the scene processed the vehicle’s tag information, it came back as stolen out of Nashville. Reports indicated that the owner left the keys inside the car.

Two suspects reportedly ran from the scene, prompting MJPD and personnel from the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office to establish a containment zone in the general vicinity of the wreck. Ultimately, the two teens were caught on a parcel of agricultural land near Carver Lane.

The names of the two teens, who were apprehended, have not been released. However, MJPD has identified them as “two 16-year-old males, listed as armed and dangerous, and missing from Nashville.”

One teen was allegedly armed with a stolen handgun from Nashville, and the other teen carried a wanted designation from Franklin County.

Get-away thwarted?

A possible get-away vehicle and accomplice was detected by Mt. Juliet’s Guardian Shield license-plate-reader system.

According to Chandler, a Jeep Liberty that had been reported stolen from Nashville, “entered the search area.”

Officers pursued the vehicle out of the city, but Chandler indicated that the pursuit was discontinued due to speed.

Although the vehicle was never stopped, nor the driver apprehended, Chandler said that they felt comfortable in the assertion that it had arrived to potentially pick up the two teens that were caught.

“It showed up right to the search area, which was an isolated, uncommon location,” Chandler said.

Hutto mayoral candidate

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto is running for reelection.

Early primary voting has been going on for almost two weeks, with primary day scheduled for May 3.

If elected, it will be Hutto’s fourth term as the lead county executive. He’s banking his experience and resume in that capacity as mayor to secure votes at the ballot box.

As a former education administrator, Hutto indicated how much that he prioritizes education to achieve his mission for the county to have it rank among Tennessee’s best.

“Education is the No. 1 reason people move here now,” Hutto said. “I don’t know that we were ever down in education, but we didn’t publicize the great jewel that we had.

“I always heard that Williamson County had great education and that’s why everybody moved there, but I would compare our test results with theirs any day. I really felt like the problem was that we were not telling our story.”

Getting students into permanent brick-and-mortar classrooms was a goal Hutto had coming in.

“Up until 2020, when the tornado came, we had gotten completely out of the portable business,” Hutto said.

The mayor laments that students are still in portables today but remains optimistic that by working with the Wilson County Commission and the Wilson County Schools Board of Education that new schools will get built to address the latest capacity needs.

Employee relations

During the past year, wage inequities with surrounding county departments have been highlighted by personnel within the county’s emergency management department. Hutto mentioned that the county has pushed to get wages to a competitive place as recently as 2019, but he acknowledged that more is needed to secure staffing for the public service.

“We think if we can get to 100% of market rate, our benefits are better than anybody we are compared to, so the hires will start coming to us,” Hutto said. “Insurance is a positive for us. Employees don’t pay anything for that, and our family insurance is really good. We also have a clinic where we provide for our employees.”

Throughout Hutto’s administration, Wilson County Emergency Management Agency’s footprint has grown to include stations in Norene and Statesville, while expanding services at existing stations as well. He stressed increasing wages to a competitive mark to ensure that those stations remain manned and effective for when emergencies strike.

Community-based groups

Hutto’s administration has overseen the creation of multiple organizations aimed to improve the quality of life for residents of Wilson County. He said that he is proud of such organizations as DrugFree WilCo, Wilson Works and Wilson Rides that have formed to serve the community.

DrugFree WilCo began through close proximity to Hutto, a former basketball coach.

“I had a player of mine, Thomas Tapley, who died of a fentanyl overdose,” Hutto said. “His mom came to me and said, ‘What are we going to do?’ Her son had to go to Alabama for rehab, because there were so few resources here, so we sat down to figure out how to bring those resources to the people who needed them.”

Expo center naming rights

Hutto insists that the county’s bottom line is always on his mind, so figuring out creative revenue streams is something he is thinking about constantly.

“We knew that the Wilson County Expo Center was there,” Hutto said. “Our goal ever since we came in was to make sure that the expo made a profit. The first thing we did was say (that) we are not going to fund it with any property-tax increase. I said, ‘What about naming rights? There could be a chance here to make some money.’ ”

The county explored a few suitors and landed on Farm Bureau.

“Farm Bureau is the voice of agriculture and the voice of farmers, so I couldn’t think of a better place for that,” Hutto said.

Personal politics

This is the first time that Hutto has had to run in a partisan primary, but he is honest about the fact that he has not always voted Republican. He credits a lot of that to his early life, having been raised by grandparents who always voted Democrat.

However, Hutto said that he experienced a change of heart after becoming politically involved in 2010. He cited a fiscal conservative framework as the his major shaping principal, as well as an inability to square his theological doctrine with left-leaning principals, such as a woman’s right to have an abortion.

Hutto said that his personal politics would never influence his role as county executive.

“When people come to my office, it’s usually because they have a problem that they want my help in solving it,” Hutto said. “It doesn’t matter to me if you are a Democrat, a Republican or an independent ... we are going to try and figure out how to help.”

Body discovered in Walmart parking lot

Following up on a call about an individual’s well-being, Lebanon police officers discovered a man deceased inside a van in the Walmart parking lot over the weekend.

The individual’s name has not been released, but he was identified as a 34-year-old from Wilson County, an individual who still has family in the area.

According to Lebanon Police Department’s public information officer, Lt. P.J. Hardy, at approximately 5:17 p.m. on Saturday, the LPD received a call from someone familiar with the individual found inside the van.

“The initial caller said they were worried about (the deceased), because they could not get them to respond,” Hardy said.

When responding officers found the 2001 gold Honda Odyssey in the parking lot, the windows were rolled up, and the engine was not running.

“They had to break the window to get in,” Hardy said. “Once in, they realized it was a deceased person, so they had to call investigators out.”

Hardy indicated that there were no signs of foul play.

“Whatever the issue was, it is not for us to say until the medical examiner returns with a complete picture,” Hardy said.

The investigation thus far has led police to believe the deceased was living out of the van.

“The family was familiar with his whereabouts,” Hardy said. “They had just provided him with something, material, money or whatever, in the last couple of weeks.”

The investigation remains ongoing.

Never, never give up

The Lebanon Democrat is in the process of running question-and-answer profiles of the Wilson County educators who have been selected as the teacher of the year in their respective schools.

Those individuals, from both the Wilson County School System and the Lebanon Special School District, are in contention for the Wilson County Teacher of the Year Award, which will be announced later this spring.

We continue the series of profiles with a glance at Tammy Pardue, a first-grade teacher at Mt. Juliet’s Springdale Elementary School …

Name: Tammy Pardue

School: Springdale Elemnetary

Age: 53

Grade: First grade

How long have you been in education? 18 years

How many years have you taught at your current school? Five years (since it opened). This is my second time to receive teacher of the year in Wilson County, and I am humbled and honored.

What other schools have you taught at prior to your current school? Sam Houston Elementary and Stoner Creek Elementary

What is something unique about you — whether it’s a hobby, skill or past accomplishment — that most people likely wouldn’t be aware of? I love visiting our national parks. I have made a goal to visit as many of our beautiful parks as I can in my lifetime.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time (hobbies, etc.)? Hiking, camping, and spending time with my family

How would you describe your teaching style? A few years ago, I was at a teaching conference, and the presenter said, “Shut your door, teach what your students need, and they will succeed.” I hold that principle, especially in the last two years. I can’t control what goes on outside our classrooms in our students’ lives. I can’t control what decisions the state or school board decides, but I can shut my door and create a loving, safe environment where my students can grow, learn, and succeed.

Could you share a couple of strategies for how that you keep students engaged and motivated? My class motto is never, never give up. I have a sign with that saying on it that has been hanging in my classroom every year I have taught. At the beginning of the year, I tell my students that they will encounter struggles and frustrations in their learning, but together, we will never give up. I encourage my students whenever they are frustrated to get up, go hit the sign, and say it aloud ... “I never, never give up.” This is a physical reminder to them that they can succeed. I hang that sign in my classroom, and then the students take one home to hang as a reminder to them. I have had students and parents that have come back and told me that sign still hangs in their teenager’s bedroom as a reminder to them, many years later, of the lessons that they learned in first grade.

Have you ever encountered a challenge in teaching that required you to rethink your teaching methods and/or approach? I think every time you stand in front of a group of students to teach that you learn. A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instill a love of learning in their students. To do that, a teacher must continue to learn and grow throughout their career. Every year, I challenge myself to read the most recent research, look for better strategies to help my students learn, and hunt for new ways to inspire and challenge each of them. I think that is why retaining teachers in our county is so important. Every year you add tricks to your bag that will help your students in different ways. It takes time and experience to be able to meet the needs of all the diverse challenges we now face in our classrooms each year.

What is different, unique and/or enjoyable about the school that you are currently teaching at? Springdale is celebrating its fifth birthday this year. In those five years, we have been able to build from the ground up a unique school family among our students, parents, and administrations. We have a school-wide pledge that Panthers are respectful, responsible, and safe. The entire staff, from the janitor, school secretary, educational assistants, cafeteria team, educators, to our amazing administrators all work together to make sure our students work hard every day to be respectful, responsible and safe. When you build those characteristics as your foundation, all the students are able to learn and perform at their best ability.

Why did you choose teaching as a career path? I chose teaching because I watched my mom help and change so many lives in her career as a teacher. I wanted to also make that impact on students.

What is the most fulfilling part of teaching? My passion in teaching is helping students learn to read. I have heard people say, “Oh, you teach the little students. You are just a glorified babysitter.” This statement is so inaccurate and discouraging. Teaching someone to read is a difficult process. Most adults don’t remember how they learned to read, because it becomes so automatic, but at some point, every person that can read had to have a teacher that was there to walk them through the process. As a first-grade teacher, I see them move from identifying letters and sounds to the moment when they realize that on their own they were able to read their first book. That moment, when they have struggled and worked all year to learn to read, and they realize that they can read is priceless.

What is the most challenging part of teaching? When I started teaching in 1990, the challenges of teaching were updating buildings, getting parents involved and getting supplies that we needed. The challenges now as a teacher in 2022 are mostly things outside the classroom. The demands from the state, the high expectations on testing, the attitudes from parents and our community are challenges now that every teacher faces. Teachers now spend hours outside of the classroom trying to meet all these challenges.

How have you seen the profession change over the course of your career, and how do you see it continuing to evolve going forward? I see so many exciting changes in our profession. Scientific research in the last 20 years has taught us better ways to teach our students to read. That research is slowly being introduced in our schools, and it is making a difference.

If there was any one variable that you could control or enhance to help with the educational process, what would that be and why? I believe we spend too much time assessing our young students. Assessments are important to understand what a student needs, but we are spending too much valuable instructional time on giving those assessments. We need to focus on assessments that give educators valuable information on how to help our students. We need to not focus on testing our young elementary students with assessments that give us information that is not useful to educators and does not benefit our students learning.

Who is somebody who has been especially impactful in your teaching career, and why did he/she make such an impact on you? My teammate and co-teacher, Mrs. Desiree Gilbert, has taught either in the same classroom or across the hall for me for the past 11 years. I mentored Mrs. Gilbert her first year of teaching, and from then on, the two of us have taught first grade together. Every teacher needs a co-worker that can be there for them to celebrate the successes and to cry on their shoulders on the hard days. Teaching is a difficult job, and it is something that you can’t do alone. Teachers need to rely on each other for support, to improve their teaching skills, to challenge each other and to help them be the best professionals they can be.

Could you share what has been one of your most memorable moments in teaching? There is not one moment that stands out, but there are millions of moments that I will always treasure. It’s the small moments, watching a student read for the first time, helping them learn to tie their shoes, taking toilet paper to a student’s home during COVID when they didn’t have any, holding a crying child the first time we had a storm at school after the tornado had ripped open their home, watching their eyes light up when they see a caterpillar turn into a butterfly, the thousands of knock-knock jokes that they can’t wait to tell you, reading a story to them that makes them laugh … all those moments add up to a career that I will always be honored I was able to experience. Albert Schweitzer said, “Success is not the key to happiness, but happiness is the key to success.” I feel successful as a professional teacher, because my career continually gives me happiness.

Hood’s walk-off lifts Lady Bears past Wilson Central/B1