Laurel Student of the Week

Nevaeh Swift shows great leadership and a strong desire to learn and is always on top of her work. She sets a good example of what a student’s work ethic should be in Mr. Taylor’s fourth grade class at Laurel Elementary School. In Nevaeh’s spare time she enjoys playing on her computer. She also likes playing with her dog Cooper. Her favorite subjects in school are ElA and Art. Nevaeh would like to become a nurse when she grows up. Nevaeh has a great love for reading. Nevaeh is the daughter of Kayla Swift and John Clemmon. She has one sister and two brother. Congratulations to Nevaeh.

TN Commissioner of Education visits Laurel Elementary

TN Commissioner of Education Dr. Penny Schwinn visits with Brittany Freeman’s First and Second Grade Classroom. Submitted photo.

Staff Report
Laurel Elementary School was honored to have Tennessee’s Commissioner of Education, Dr. Penny Schwinn visit on Tuesday, August 27, 2019. This was Commissioner Schwinn’s first visit to Johnson County and was part of her statewide school tour designed to visit every school district within her first year of service. Dr. Schwinn, along with Katie Houghtlin, Assistant Commissioner of Strategic Priorities at the Tennessee Department of Education and Mia Hyde, First District Core Office, visited each classroom and met with local administrators Dr. Mischelle Simcox, Director of Schools, Mrs. Angie Wills, Supervisor of K-6, Curriculum & Instruction/Federal Programs and Dr. Stephen Long, Supervisor of 7-12, Curriculum & Instruction / Transportation and Laurel Elementary Principal, Dr. Brenda Eggers.
While visiting at Laurel Elementary, Dr. Schwinn made it a priority to visit each classroom and to gather input from our students and educators. She spoke at length with the administrators about priorities and needs for our schools. She talked with Owen Taylor, Sixth grade student, about what makes Laurel a great school in his opinion and what she could do for his classroom and school to make it even better.
Following her visit, Commissioner Schwinn stated in an email that “It is evident that you have put in a tremendous effort to differentiate support for your students in your mixed-grade level classrooms. From the phonics support in Ms. Freeman’s room to the connection-to-text activity in Ms. Savory’s classroom, the students are engaged and getting the supports they need. The sense of community your school fosters resonates with your students; I believe we all heard that one of the best things about your school are the teachers. You have a school and community to be proud of, and I am grateful I was able to experience that with you.”

TnAchieves works to provide TN Promise local support

September 4, 2019


TnAchieves has begun its effort to recruit 9,000 volunteer mentors to meet its goal of providing every TN Promise applicant from the Class of 2020 with a local support system. TN Promise affords every graduating high school senior in the state the opportunity to attend a community or technical college tuition free. Nearly 64,000 students from the Class of 2019 applied for the scholarship, which has a universal accept policy. Program administrators are expecting even more applicants from the Class of 2020.

Most of the TN Promise applicants will be the first in their family to go to college. Understanding that many obstacles can exist for first generation college students, each applicant is assigned a volunteer mentor who assists the student in eliminating the barriers associated with post-secondary access and success. tnAchieves mentors support students as they navigate the college going process and provide the nudges many need to earn a college credential.

“Tennessee Promise provides opportunity for every student in Tennessee,” said Krissy DeAlejandro, Executive Director, tnAchieves. “Going to college will change a student’s life forever. tnAchieves mentors are helping change the culture in our state. Mentors are shifting the conversation from, ‘should I go to college?’ to ‘where am I going to go to college?’”

The time commitment is small; tnAchieves only asks mentors to give one hour per month, but the impact can be life changing for students. The organization provides a one hour training session, a handbook and weekly communication to ensure the mentor is fully equipped to serve his/her students. To learn more, or to apply to become a mentor, visit

Data from the first year of the program indicates that TN Promise students are graduating at a rate almost three times their peers at the same institutions. Program administrators believe eliminating the financial barrier, coupled with support from a mentor, is the reason students are graduating at significantly higher rates.

“We know the financial component of TN Promise is critical for many of our students attempting to access higher education.” said Graham Thomas, Deputy Director of Outreach, tnAchieves. “We also know that even when the financial barrier is removed, successfully navigating the college going process can be extremely difficult. A few reminders and simple words of encouragement can be a game changer for our students. The volunteer mentors are the reason TN Promise is working.”

Launched in 2008, tnAchieves is a privately-funded scholarship and mentoring program that seeks to provide an opportunity for every Tennessee student to earn a post-secondary degree. It operates as a 501(c)3 non-profit in support of the TN Promise initiative in 91 counties across the state. For information on tnAchieves, contact Graham Thomas at 615.604.1306 or

Laurel Elementary Student of the week

Eric Chant has been chosen as Student of the Week from Mrs. Savery’s class. Eric is in the fifth grade. He likes to watch YouTube and sleep. He is good at playing soccer. When he grows up, Eric wants to be a science teacher. Congrats Eric!

TCAT nursing pinning Aug. 21

Johnson County students Amanda Harris and Samantha Johnson prepare for their nursing pinning ceremony from TCAT Elizabethton. Submitted photo.


Forty five practical nursing students at TCAT Elizabethton are scheduled to participate in the nursing pinning ceremony to be held in the Monarch Auditorium of Bristol Regional Medical Center at 5.30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 21.

Carter County
• Shereen Campbell,
• Leslie Cofield,
• Julie Hambrick
• Keisha Harmon
• Megan Jarrett,
• Ardith Lynch
• Gary Wright
• Sierra Wright.

Greene County
• Amanda Hamby
• Anna Hensley.

Johnson County
• Amanda Harris
• Samantha Johnson.

Sullivan County
• Charles Bales
• Morgan Barton
• Brandi Davis
• Lexi Dingus
• Jonya Ebrahim Sensabaugh
• Anna Mink
• Joshua Owens
• Kali Parks
• Joscyln Pearson
• Shady Smith
• Jacqueline Woodruff.

Unicoi County
• Breanna Clawson
• Lora Ollis
• Sandra Peake
• Emily Simmons.

Washington County
• Terri Archer
• Laurel Bryant
• Michelle Campbell
• Megan Frazier
• Ravyn Grayer
• Caitlin Hampton
• Bailey Hochhalter
• Amy Lacy
• Heather Lawless
• Virginia Osborne
• Stephanie Privette
• Beverly Proudlove
• Christina Sawyers
• Alexis Tipton
• Trevor Wright.

North Carolina
• Tabatha Bowman
• Jesse Ennis

Avery County
• Savannah Honeycutt Durham

Twenty six students are members of the National Technical Honor Society. To be a member, students must have a 95 grade point average, no attendance violations and recommended by a faculty member.

The practical nursing program at TCAT Elizabethton prepares students for the State Board of Nursing examination to become a Licensed Practical Nurse. In the 12-month period ending August 31, 2018, the licensure pass rate for TCAT nursing graduates was 98 percent.

Practical nursing classes are offered at the TCAT Main Campus in Elizabethton beginning in May and September each year, and on the ETSU at Kingsport Campus at Allandale, 1501 university Blvd., Kingsport, begininng in January.

ETSU College of Nursing programs receive accreditation

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) recently granted full accreditation to East Tennessee State University College of Nursing’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program and the joint Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program between ETSU and Tennessee Tech University.

“We were extremely pleased that both of our programs received accreditation with no recommendations,” said Dr. Wendy Nehring, dean of ETSU College of Nursing.

The College of Nursing began both of these new programs in 2017 in order to better meet the health care needs of the region and the state.

The ETSU-TTU joint doctor of nursing practice program consists of six concentrations: family nurse practitioner, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner, executive leadership, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner-primary care and women’s health care nurse practitioner.

The joint program allows both universities to offer a wide array of concentrations and expand their students’ choices and opportunities to specialize in their areas of interest and need. The blended/online program grants the conveniences of online study with face-to-face support, networking, and sharing.

“The joint DNP program has been good for our students because it provides an opportunity for increased numbers of nurse practitioners and nursing administrators to meet the health care demands of the region,” Nehring said. “Our graduates are going to be able to provide support to their communities in the specific areas of need.”

The MSN program underwent the accreditation process because ETSU reestablished its own MSN program in 2017. Up until that time, ETSU offered the MSN jointly with other Tennessee Board of Regents’ schools through Tennessee eCampus. However, following the passage of the FOCUS Act, the university decided to bring the program back to ETSU.

The MSN program is fully online and offers specialty concentrations in Nursing Administration, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Education and the Family Nurse Practitioner.

To learn more about ETSU College of Nursing programs, visit

Johnson County Book Bus a success

By Meg Dickens     
Johnson County Schools launched its book bus this summer. Recent statistics show it was a great success. The bus had 11 weekly stops along with occasional stops at the Read to Be Ready Summer Camp and Kids Country Child Care. It also traveled to multiple events such as the 4th of July parade and Sunflower Festival. Elementary and Federal Programs Supervisor Angie Wills spearheaded this program.
“She has had this vision ever since she came to Central Office. This was her baby, and she did a great job with it,” said Director of School Mischelle Simcox. “The kids of Johnson County definitely benefited from it.”
The Johnson County Book Bus would not have been possible without the generous support of the Johnson County School Board, Books from Birth, and Operation Pocket Change. The School Board recognized those who cared for and ran the book bus at their August 8 meeting. Those include Annette Greer, Stephanie Wills, Jayme Davis, Joe Bendell, Nancy Forrester, Darwin Garver, and Angie Wills.
The book bus served more than 273 people, gave away 587 books, and allowed 565 books to be checked out. The bus with its more than 1,800 books will not disappear, although it will not be running the roads as much. Local teachers have access in the classroom throughout the year.
“This book bus was a fantastic idea. It took a lot of work, and we really appreciate it,” said School Board Chairman Howard Carlton. “I would really like to see it going down the road.”
Involved parties are analyzing the data to improve this service. Look forward to the Johnson County Book Bus in the future. Feel free to visit the bus at the Johnson County Imagination Library’s annual Carnival on Tuesday, August 27.


How to help kids make friends at school

Akira (Pre-K) and Kemora Lipfird (7th grade) set off for their first day of school. Photo By Heather Moreno.

Staff Report

The average student likely spends more time at school and participating in extracurricular activities with classmates than he or she does at home. In close proximity to so many peers, it may seem like making friends would be a snap. However, some students have trouble connecting and can use a little push to make friends.

The family and parenting resource Parenting Science notes that research indicates that the most popular children are those who exemplify certain traits. These traits include being caring; a willingness to share; a willingness to offer help; and strong verbal skills. Children who embrace these traits may prove better at making friends. Parents may find that youngsters need some encouragement to build their social circles, and the following are some ways parents can offer that encouragement.

Encourage kids to seek out someone on their own.
It may be challenging to walk up to a group and introduce yourself. Encourage students to seek out someone who is alone and then strike up a conversation, which can be less intimidating than approaching a group. Emphasize to kids that other students may also be a little shy and looking to make friends.

Practice conversation starters at home.
Children can work with their parents to come up with topics that can help foster communication. These can include ice breakers and common interests, such as favorite television shows or video games.

Teach kids approachable body language.
Wearing earbuds or exhibiting negative body language, such as crossed arms or avoiding eye contact, can make a person seem less approachable. Smiling, engaging in conversation and being friendly can make it easier to make friends.

Ask teachers to help. The education resource Understood says teachers can give children responsibilities, such as the opportunity to hand out snacks or papers, which can build confidence and provide opportunities for kids to converse with their peers. Help children be active listeners.
An active listener is someone who makes it clear that he or she is paying attention. Making eye contact, orienting the body toward the speaker and making relevant verbal responses are some active listening strategies that can help kids more fully engage with their peers. Feeling valued and listened to may encourage other children to be more friendly and engaging.

Ask open questions. The social networking advisement site Young Scot suggests having students ask open questions, such as: “How was your summer?” or “What sports do you like to play?” These types of questions can kick-start in-depth conversations.Join a team or club. Students often make friends in social or extracurricular settings, such as on a sports team. With a shared interest, it’s easy to find topics to discuss.

Making friends in school can make time spent in the classroom more enjoyable for youngsters.

Laurel Student of the week

Dylan Blevins has been chosen by Mrs. Savery’s class as student of the week. Dylan is in sixth grade. His favorite subject in school is science. He likes to draw and ride his bike. Dylan wants to be a biologist when he grows up. Congrats Dylan!

JCHS Marching Band prepares for 2019-2020 school year

By Bethany Anderson

Students, staff, and volunteers of the JCHS Marching Band have completed another season of Band Camp and are ready for the school year ahead.

From Monday, July 29 through Friday, August 2, the young musicians worked from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at their host site, Bethany Baptist Church. The week ended with the traditional “Parent Preview” so that they could show off all their hard work.

This school year’s band show will be “American Idiot, The Musical” by Green Day and everyone involved has been hard at work getting ready.

JCHS Band Director Kaitlyn Cole commented, “Band Camp went great this year. Probably the best one since I’ve been here.” She added, “The students worked very well together and worked harder than ever.”

Band Booster President Jessica Dillard said, “I am honored to be a part of the marching band program, and I know from experience that the lessons learned here will last a lifetime.” Dillard went on to say, “I am so very proud of every one of these young men and women. Their dedication was evident all week in their hard work.”

Many local businesses helped contribute to the camp by donating meals for the students, staff, and volunteers. Cole wanted to be sure to thank those who have helped them so far this year saying, “I am very proud of my students and very blessed for having all the donations that were provided from the community.”

Cole also wanted to be sure to thank their band camp host site, adding, “I also want to thank Bethany Baptist Church for letting us use their church.” Dillard also commented on the support the band has received saying, “The continued support from our community as a whole has been amazing.”

The JCHS Marching Band can be supported during this week’s farmers market. The Band Boosters will be selling snow cones and popcorn as a part of their fundraising efforts for this school year’s activities.

The market is located at Ralph Stout Park on Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon. While the band appreciates all the community support they have received so far this school year, they could always use a little more.

 Motorists urged to be safety conscious with increased back-to-school traffic

By Tamas Mondovics

With August considered a national school bus safety month, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDE) student transportation appropriately put bus safety the department’s number one priority.
Motorists are reminded to take note of the increase in local traffic, including children walking or on bikes hurrying to get to school before the bell rings or parents trying to drop their kids off before work.
The start of the school year also includes the addition of yellow school buses picking up and dropping off
students prompting officials to urge motorists to be ever more vigilant on the roadways.
According to TDE, Tennessee schools transport approximately 700,000 students a day on about 8,700 bus routes in districts and charters across the diverse terrain of city, urban, and rural routes.
Although smaller in numbers, the increased traffic will also be felt in Johnson County.
The department’s student transportation office is responsible for overseeing all school bus inspections and determining whether public school bus systems are in compliance with the safety requirements outlined in the Tennessee Code.
TDE promises its continued commitment to providing all transportation supervisors with high-quality training and necessary resources to ensure that all buses are properly maintained.
Of course, drivers must meet strict licensing requirements, including successful completion of driver training, background checks, and drug and alcohol testing.
As local schools often have their own, very specific drop-off procedures for the school year, motorists and parents are urged to be sure of knowing them for the safety of all kids.
By exercising extra care and caution, drivers and pedestrians can co-exist safely in school zones.
Below are some reminders about bus safety, rules, and regulations:

Know When to Stop:

•When the red lights are flashing, and the stop arm is extended.
•Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red flashing lights are turned off, the stop arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they start driving again.
•When a school bus is stopped at an intersection to load and unload children, drivers from all directions are required to stop until the bus resumes motion.
•When driving on a highway with separate roadways for traffic in opposite directions, drivers must stop unless there is a grass median or physical barrier.
•A road that is a multi-lane or shared median, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
• The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) wanted to make drivers aware of the rules and penalties for improperly passing a school bus. Tennessee Law 55-8-151 addresses the overtaking and passing school buses while unloading/loading passengers and the penalties.
The Tennessee law states: “The driver of a vehicle upon a highway, upon meeting or overtaking from either direction any school bus that has stopped on the highway for the purpose of receiving or discharging any school children, shall stop the vehicle before reaching the school bus, and the driver shall not proceed until the school bus resumes motion or is signaled by the school bus driver to proceed or the visual signals are no longer actuated. Subsection (a) shall also apply to a school bus with lights flashing and stop sign extended and marked in accordance with this subsection (a) that is stopped upon property owned, operated, or used by a school or educational institution, if the bus is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging any school children outside a protected loading zone. It is a Class C misdemeanor for any person to fail to comply with any provision of this subsection (a) other than the requirement that a motor vehicle stops upon approaching a school bus.
It is a Class A misdemeanor punishable only by a fine of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) for any person to fail to comply with the provision of this subsection (a) requiring a motor vehicle to stop upon approaching a school bus.”
It is noteworthy that while much emphasis is put on motorists—and for a good reason—such does not exclude parents, guardians as well as students from being aware of guidelines in connection with school bus safety.
With a new safety law in effect since January 1, 2018, there is much expected of each child while riding a school bus including no profanity used on the bus at any time for any reason.
Students are to sit as quickly as possible and to stay in their seat while the bus is moving. Riders are to wait until the bus stops before going to the front to exit
and to exit as quickly as possible.
Other requirements include: keep your hands to yourself; absolutely no horseplay or bullying will be tolerated; do not get things out of your backpack; no eating or drinking on the bus, which is a state law. Officials explained that buses may be taken off the road due to food and candy being on the floor (it attracts insects).
To keep the noise level to a minimum is a no-brainer as screams and loud noises
are very distractive to the driver.
For a complete list of rules, please visit

Rock Christian Homeschool Cooperative is building a supportive community


Rock Christian Homeschool Cooperative (RCHC) is a parent-run homeschool organization through which parents pool their resources, talents, and time to teach the children of the group one day per week. “Our goal is to provide a biblical learning and social environment and community for the areas home schooling families,” said school director, Bonnie Guy.
School officials held a question-and-answer session earlier this week, with registration scheduled for Tuesday, August 20, 2019, at 3:30 pm.
While the curriculum is from a Christian standpoint, Guy emphasized that the coop is open to anyone who will sign and agree to respect and abide by the policies of the organization.
Our mission is to build a supportive community of Christian Homeschool Families. We are committed to providing an uplifting and encouraging experience to all who attend. We offer classes, field trips, and other enrichment opportunities. Our Co-op serves all children nursery – graduation.
All volunteers, including teachers, monitors, and leadership with direct contact with the children, have had a clear background check and have signed a statement of faith agreement.
“This is true cooperative, and only works with each family volunteering their time and talents in areas such as teaching, hall and playground monitoring, cleanup, field trip organization, and leadership,” Guy said. “Children must be supervised at all times; parents must be on-site at all times unless arrangements have been made otherwise.
Mountain City Presbyterian Church along with Pastor Con Saul’s has graciously donated their church and grounds on Tuesdays for classes and activities. Rock Christian Academy Board is both gracious sponsors and supporters RCHC. Combined with their efforts and those of the home schooling families, the 2019-2020 school year will be the inaugural year.
Need-based scholarships are available upon request. However, we strive very hard to keep all costs at the bare minimum. In addition to volunteer efforts, a $12 facility fee per family is charged to cover paper and product needs. Teachers will charge a small fee per class to cover supplies and curriculum. The average cost thus far is $5-$10. There are no fees charged by the instructors.
Looking forward, as we grow, we plan field trips, Kindergarten and High School graduation ceremonies, Banquets, pictures, science and history fairs, spelling bees, and other enrichment opportunities.

2019’s States with the Best & Worst School Systems

With the Every Student Succeeds Act continuing to shape state curriculums and students getting closer to the end of their summer breaks, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2019’s States with the Best & Worst School Systems as well as accompanying videos.
Tennessee ranks 34th
In order to determine the best school systems in America, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 29 key measures of quality and safety. The data set ranges from pupil-teacher ratio to dropout rate to median standardized-test scores.

Best vs. Worst
Iowa has the lowest dropout rate, 9.00 percent, which is 3.2 times lower than in New Mexico, the highest at 28.90 percent.
Vermont has the lowest pupil-teacher ratio, 10.80, which is 2.2 times lower than in Arizona, the highest at 23.29.
Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Vermont have the lowest share of high school students who reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property, 4.80 percent, which is 2.7 times lower than in Louisiana, the highest at 12.80 percent.
The District of Columbia has the lowest share of high school students who were bullied online 8.90 percent, which is 2.4 times lower than in Louisiana, the highest at 21.20 percent.
To view the full report and your state or the District’s rank, please visit:
Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would like to schedule a phone, Skype or in-studio interview with one of our experts. Feel free to embed this YouTube video summarizing the study on your website. You can also use or edit these raw files as you see fit. Full data sets for specific states and the District are also available upon request.

Bullying is not new, not okay

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Bullying at school is an age-old problem, and too many take the “children will be children” attitude toward the problem. School violence has been the focus of media attention in recent years, mostly due to coverage of events such as school shootings and suicides and one of the common issues relating these tragedies is bullying. What exactly is bullying? Not surprisingly, there is no uniform definition of bullying.
A recent American Academy of Pediatrics publication defined bullying as: “A form of aggression in which one or more children repeatedly and intentionally intimidate, harass, or physically harm a victim who is perceived as unable to defend herself or himself. “
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, as many as half of all children are bullied at some point during their school years. At least ten percent are bullied
Despite the best efforts of educators to curtail it, bullying continues in Tennessee schools. State law now requires school systems to implement a policy defining bullying and outlining the punishment for students
who intimidate their classmates.
Besides the physical, emotional, and psychological tolls it takes on victims, bullying produces adverse socioeconomic outcomes. The Association for Psychological Science recently found that those who are bullies, victims, or both are more likely to experience poverty, academic failure, and job termination in their adulthood than those who were neither. In addition, the affected individuals are more likely to commit a crime and to abuse drugs and alcohol.
Bullying behavior can be physical, verbal, or electronic. With the advent of social media, bullying has expanded and can now penetrate every computer and cell phone in the country.
If a child becomes withdrawn, depressed, or reluctant to go to school, or if you see a decline in school performance, bullying may be the culprit.
“Your child doesn’t need you to go ballistic or take on the problem as your own,” said Peggy Moss, a nationally known expert on bullying and a tireless advocate for the prevention of hate violence. “Your child needs to know that he’s being heard and that his feelings matter. Once you’ve got the whole story out, depending upon what’s happened, you can take your next step.”
Parents are often reluctant to report bullying to school officials, but it may be necessary to contact a child’s teacher and principal. Experts caution parents, however, to keep emotions in check and provide factual information only.
“If you suspect your child is bullying others, it’s essential to seek help for him or her as soon as possible. Without intervention, bullying can lead to serious academic, social, emotional, and legal difficulties. Talk to your child’s pediatrician, teacher, principal, school counselor, or family physician. If the bullying continues, a comprehensive evaluation by a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professionals should be arranged. The assessment can help you, and your child understands what is causing the bullying, and help you develop a plan to stop the destructive behavior.”

Johnson County students among hundreds of youth leaders at the 2019 Tennessee Teen Institute  

Press release

Students from (Johnson County), Tennessee joined 490 youth leaders from across the state representing 45 counties at the Tennessee Teen Institute.
The Tennessee Teen Institute is a five-day youth leadership and prevention camp sponsored by the Jackson Area Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (J.A.C.O.A.).
This year event held in mid-June marked the 33rd Anniversary of the Teen Institute Program in Tennessee, which addresses teen issues such as bullying, violence, suicide, teen pregnancy, distracted driving, teen health and substance abuse prevention through a five-day, peer-led prevention camp designed to provide teen participants with the skills and education necessary to develop and implement alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs in their own communities.
According to event organizers, the comprehensive program trains mobilizes and empowers youth to prevent the illegal use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs and self-destructive behaviors in themselves and their peers.
T.T.I, prepares students to not only make positive changes but to be proud advocates of those changes. Students will have the opportunity to grow and learn as individuals while enhancing their leadership abilities. Because T.T.I. is peer-led, teens are given a unique opportunity to have a “voice” in addressing issues important to them. Giving youth some ownership in this type of program is one of the key factors in the success of enforcing a substance-free lifestyle.
Part of the responsibility of attending T.T.I. is to develop an Action Plan youth can implement in their respective communities.
Johnson County youth came home with a plan to target and reduce the use of electronic cigarettes among youth and participate in the Department of Health’s Red Sand Project to bring awareness to human trafficking.
“We are very excited to be able to work with Johnson County youth concerning these issues,” said Denise Woods, (A.C.T.I.O.N. Coalition’s Prevention Coordinator).  “Tennessee Teen Institute is a great conference to motivate youth to make a positive impact in the community.”
Participants leave motivated not only to make healthy decisions in their own lives but also committed to work so that others are making healthy decisions in their communities as well.

Getting the most for your money for the student-athlete

By Beth Cox
Freelance Writer

As students scramble to get their backpacks and other school supplies, the student-athlete has an additional list of necessities as the new school year rolls around.
For the student who may be playing a particular sport, the list of essentials may include the much-needed shoes, cost of uniforms and other equipment and sports physicals.
The National Retail Federation estimates that parents will spend around $670 on school supplies. Parents of athletes can add an additional cost of approximately $200-$300 on sports equipment, clothing, and transportation.
The equipment and cost may vary, but the extra expenditures will likely be something families have to budget for at the beginning of the school year. Travel time to and from games and the cost of getting into the venue is also an additional expense that can quickly add up.
However, any enthusiastic family member will easily do what it takes to see their student-athlete in action.
There are some ways to help slash the cost of sports expenditures.
Buying “gently-used” sports gear would be very economically efficient. Parents may be experiencing their own competition to see if the recently purchased athletic clothing and shoe purchases will last throughout the school year or will a child’s potential growth spurt be the real winner. Buying “broken-in” athletic wear or purchasing clothes a little bigger may help with the cost. As far as travel, the biggest way to reduce that additional spending would be simply car-pool with other family members of the team, which could also build relationships and provide a sound support system.
So, parents and other family members get ready, the feeling of accomplishment of getting everything on the school supply list will be short-lived, because as the athlete is picked up from the first school practice there just maybe a new set of “school supplies.”
Being a family member of a student-athlete is one of the greatest experiences one can have. Watching the beloved player have a great game or even suffer through a hard loss; the support from family is needed and essential.
However, less than five percent of student-athletes go on to play in college, so remember enjoying watching the athlete is more satisfying when knowing the bank
account is not empty by trying to keep up with all of
the “must-haves” on the child’s list.

Free meals for 100 percent of Johnson County students

By Katie Lamb,
Freelance Writer

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service,, regarding its National School Lunch Program, states, “The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a non-pricing meal service option for schools and school districts in low-income areas. “CEP allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and districts to serve breakfast and lunch at no
cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications.”
The School Nutrition Association (SNA),, reports, “Nearly 100,000 schools/institutions serve school lunches to 29.8 million students each day, and over 90,000 schools/institutions serve school breakfasts to 14.71 million students each day.”
Kathy McCulloch, Director, Johnson County Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program, proudly stated, “One hundred percent of our students are eligible for free breakfast and lunch daily.”
Feeding America,,is an
organization that has responded to the hunger crisis in America by providing food to people in need through
a nationwide network of
food banks for thirty-five years.
“It’s a simple fact: A child’s chance for a bright tomorrow starts with getting enough food to eat today. But in America, one in six children may not know where they will get their next meal. “For the more than twelve million kids in the U.S. facing hunger, getting the energy, they need to learn and grow can be a daily challenge. Kids who don’t get enough to eat, especially during their first three years, begin life at a serious disadvantage. When they’re hungry, children are more likely to be hospitalized, and they face higher risks of health conditions like anemia and asthma. And as they grow up, kids struggling to get enough to eat are more likely to have problems in school and
other social situations. Children facing hunger may struggle in school and beyond. They are more likely to
repeat a grade, experience developmental impairments in areas like language and
motor skills, and have more social and behavioral problems.”
For more information, please call Kathy McCulloch, Director Johnson County CEP at 423-727-2657, visit,, or

Back-to-School shopping is big business

Whether it’s high school or elementary, between school supplies, clothes, extra-curricular activity fees, and additional course fees, going back to school can cost a pretty parental penny but shopping special back to school sales can help ease
the expense.Photo by Jill Penley

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

It’s that time of year. Much to the chagrin of students, teachers, and parents alike, it is time to head back to the classroom. While students may dread the return to strict bedtimes and homework, parents have to worry about paying for back-to-school shopping, which has become expensive big business.
The bulk of back-to-school shopping took place during tax-free weekends, especially
since both Tennessee and Virginia’s dates were just before school resuming for fall semester.
Tennessee law provides for a sales tax holiday each year during the last weekend in July.
“This is an important savings opportunity for everyone,” Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano said.
Back-to-school represents the second-largest shopping season of the year, trailing only the holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation, parents will spend $26.2 billion on K-12 back-to-school necessities this year. That’s an average $696.70 per child, up 5 percent from last year’s $684.79. Elementary school kids cost the least, with high school kids nearing the top of the estimates.
“Consumers are in a strong position given the nation’s growing economy, and we see this reflected in what they say they will spend on back-to-class items this year,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “We’re expecting record spending and retailers are ready to provide students with all the items they need for a successful school year.”
School supplies make up 94 percent of purchases with clothing and accessories following close behind making up 92 percent. Ninety percent of back-to-school shopping is spent on shoes, and the remaining is spent on electronics.
Parents won’t be bearing the increased spending alone, the survey found. Teens and pre-teens are expected to spend more of their own money on back-to-school goods than students their age did ten years ago.
“Members of Generation Z are clearly becoming more involved with back-to-school purchasing decisions rather than leaving the choices up to mom and dad,” Shay said. “Over the years, both teens and pre-teens are spending more of their own money on back-to-school items.
In addition to parents and teens, the majority of teachers reach into their own pockets for classroom decorations and supplies. Ninety-four percent of U.S. public school teachers say they’ve paid for school supplies without reimbursement. The average amount was $479, according to a report prepared by the National Center for Education Statistics based on a nationally representative survey of teachers during the 2015-2016 school year.
An unofficial survey found parents in Johnson County spend $50-$75 on average for supplies for each student, not including clothes or electronics.

Johnson County schools back in session

Johnson County Schools will not be adding seat belts to its buses any time soon. The House of Representatives is currently reviewing legislation on the matter nationwide. Photo by Meg Dickens.

By Meg Dickens

A strong foundation is necessary for any successful structure. Education is no exception. That is why Director of Schools, Mischelle Simcox is focusing on this approach for the 2019-2020 school year.
Now that summer vacation is over; it is time for 2,059 local students to head back to the hallowed halls of learning.
“The beginning of a new school year reminds us that the future holds infinite possibilities,” said Simcox. “We are getting ready to start a brand new school year filled with excitement, hope, and possibilities.”
Johnson County Schools is in the process of several updates. The Johnson County Summer Reading Book Bus launched during this past summer and was a great success. Teachers can use the bus for additional classroom materials during the school year.
Simcox hopes to install additional School Resource Officers (SROs) at every school in the district. According to the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), an SRO is an officer deployed in a community-oriented policing designation to work with one or more schools. Whether this comes to fruition depends on grant applications currently being processed.
“We are always researching strategies and programs that will benefit our students. We make sure that all of our students are college and career ready,” said Simcox. “Safety is always a top priority, and we are constantly searching out grant opportunities to help provide our staff with additional resources.”
In higher education news, the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) building at JCHS is in construction. The auto-diesel mechanic program will be available to students and adults in the Johnson County area starting in spring 2020. The Perkins Reserve Grant will fund industry certification tests for the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Department at the high school. Additional grants awarded to Johnson County include the 21st Century Grant, LEAPS, Gear
Up, Additional Targeted
Support and Improvement (ATSI), and the Adaptive Learning Technology (ADLT) Grant.
The State is providing additional funds for safety upgrades for the 2019-2020 school year. The regular safety budget goes towards maintaining precautions such as the Raptor Technologies program. This program allows schools to screen for sex offenders and custody violations and alerts officials and first responders during an emergency.
One safety concern for many is school buses. School bus safety is a prevalent issue of discussion. Arguments on seat belt requirements for these vehicles are ongoing. House Representative Josh Gottheimer proposed Congressional Act H.R. 2792, known as the Secure Every Child Under the Right Equipment Standards Act of 2019, to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on May 16, 2019. There has not been a decision as of yet. The previous bill with this goal failed.
Johnson County Schools will not currently install seatbelts. According to Johnson County Schools maintenance personnel, adding seatbelts would increase costs by approximately $20,000. They have, however, added cameras to bus arms for additional safety. Bus
recordings last for three
days, but officials can pull
this video if notified of an issue.
“I am excited about
beginning the 2019-
2020 school year, and I am looking forward to having
all of our students back
in class,” said Sicox. “I hope that
everyone is ready for the excitement of the new school year.”

Johnson County School Board gives Special Education high priority

By Meg Dickens

With the start of the 2019-2020 school year only weeks away, members of the Johnson County School Board had a long list of topics to cover during its regularly scheduled monthly meeting held in Mountain City, TN, last week.

While all of the topics on the roster merit equal attention, one specific agenda item, namely Special Education, received some much-deserved consideration, especially since the program and what it should accomplish is often misunderstood.

Special education is the practice of educating students with a focus on their individual differences and needs. The program is for students with mental, physical, or emotional functioning ability issues as well as gifted students. These students do not fit with the pace of the established curriculum. This specialized care is part of the education system and comes at no extra cost to the families.According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 14 percent of the public school population is in some form of Special Education.

The Tennessee Department of Education states, “Special education is not a place. It is the most intensive intervention along the continuum of service defined by individual need, services, and placement.”

Special Education can be broken down into six major categories: Push-in Services, Pull-out Services, Inclusive Classrooms, Exclusive Classrooms, Specialty Schools, and Residential Programs. Johnson County Schools focuses on the first four categories that can be classified as Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

“Individualized special education services allow the majority of our special education students to earn a regular high school diploma, and many go on to college and other post-secondary programs,” said Special Education Supervisor Paula Norton. “There are several other diploma options for special education students who are not candidates for a regular diploma. The ultimate goal for our students with disabilities is to be a fully functioning member of the community, just like their typically developing peers.”

There are a few changes in Special Education staffing for Johnson County Schools’ 2019-2020 school year. Kim Laws will now work with children at Mountain City Elementary, and Allen Trivette will work with children at Roan Creek Elementary. Trivette worked in the Johnson County School system for a brief stint previously but resigned due to family illness. Both of these staff changes became effective on July 1, 2019.

Mountain City Elementary is still looking for a new Special Education teacher. The previously hired individual found a job closer to home and resigned. Anyone interested in the position should visit for more information or contact Special Education Supervisor Paula Norton at