By Tamas Mondovics
“Penny leads with students at the forefront and I believe her experience is exactly what we need to continue improving on the gains we have made in the past few years,” said Lee. “As a former teacher and seasoned administrator, she will help make Tennessee a leader in the nation on education.”
Schwinn currently serves as the chief deputy commissioner of education at the Texas Education Agency. In this role, she pursued a series of reforms including the transformation of a failing state assessment program. She also implemented the expansion of statewide externships and pathway development for improving students’ career readiness upon graduation.
Prior to her work in Texas, Schwinn served as the Delaware Department of Education chief accountability and performance officer, conducting a testing audit that led to nearly a 20 percent decrease in student testing time.
She is also the founder of South Sacramento charter school Capitol Collegiate Academy, a Broad Academy alumni and a Teach for America alumni.
Additionally, Schwinn oversaw the development of open-source instructional materials to empower teachers with high-quality resources for teaching. Prior to serving in the Texas Education Agency, Schwinn was the chief accountability and performance officer for the Delaware Department of Education where she led efforts to conduct a testing audit, which led to nearly a 20 percent decrease in student testing time.
A former teacher, Schwinn taught with Teach for America (TFA) from 2004-2007 with work in Baltimore City Public Schools and Los Angeles. She is also the founder of Capitol Collegiate Academy, a charter school that serves low-income students in South Sacramento.
According to WBUR in Boston, and as reported by the Tenneseean, Schwinn was one of three finalists for the job of Massachusetts commissioner of elementary and secondary education.
Tennesseans for Student Success issued the following statement on Tennessee’s new Commissioner of Education:
“Congratulations to Penny Schwinn as she is named Tennessee’s next Commissioner of Education,” said Tennesseans for Student Success President and CEO Adam Lister. “Over the last eight years, Tennessee experienced
historic gains in public education, and the next Commissioner will have an opportunity to continue to advance the policies that drive success for all students in Tennessee’s classrooms.”
On November 7, the transition unveiled a new website – transition.billlee.com. The site includes detailed information about the Governor-elect’s policy priorities, a section where Tennesseans can submit their
resumes to potentially join his team, and most importantly, a section where Tennesseans can share their ideas with the Governor-elect and his team.
Since launching the site, the Lee Transition Team has received information from over 1,600 applicants who are interested in serving in the administration and more than 2,500 ideas for bettering state government.
More information can be found at transition.billlee.com.
Johnson County Middle School students Vanessa Perkins and Paula Harper along with by Doe Elementary student Audrey Decker are first second and third place winners, respectively, of the recently held Patriot Pen Essay Contest. The Worley Hall VFW Post 6908 Auxiliary is proud of the girls and thanks all participants of the event. Submitted photo.
Front row (left to right): Asia Stanley, Rayne Williams, Hailey Adams, Patience Harris, Mason Wilson Back row (left to right): Kale Cox, Trevor McCloud, Braylan Stewart, Isabella Bunting, Eric Branch,
Mr. Herbie Adams, Bradley Wilson. Submitted photo.
Elige Norris is 4 years old and in Pre-K. He is the son of Carmella Main and Joby Norris. His favorite part of school is playing outside with his friends. He wants to be a chef when he grows up because he wants to cook lots of great stuff. Elige says he is a Laurel leader because he follows directions and makes
smart choices. Submitted photo.
Pippa Passes, Kentucky—Isaiah Kane Penley of Mountain City was named to the Dean’s Distinguished List for the Fall 2018 semester at Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky.
The Dean’s Distinguished List is an academic honor awarded to students taking fifteen credits hours or more, who achieved a semester GPA of 3.75-3.99.50 on a 4.0 scale.
Penley is a sophomore majoring in History. He is the son of Mike and Jill Penley and a 2017 graduate of Johnson County High School.
Alice Lloyd College, located in Pippa Passes, KY, was founded in 1923 by Alice Lloyd and June Buchanan. Alice Lloyd College is committed to providing a quality education to mountain students regardless of their financial situation. In fact, Alice Lloyd is consistently listed among the nation’s leaders in graduating students with the least amount of average debt. Having been founded as “a college for Appalachia,” every qualified student from ALC’s 108-county service area is awarded the Appalachian Leaders College Scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition for up to ten semesters. The College further assists students after they graduate from ALC, through the Caney Cottage Scholarship Program, the only program of its kind in the nation. This program financially assists qualified alumni from ALC’s 108-county service area in Central Appalachia at graduate or professional schools upon completion of their program at Alice Lloyd College.
For more information about Alice Lloyd College, visit www.alc.edu
Mountain City Elementary is pleased to announce its “Teachers of the Year” for the school year, 2019-2020. Representing grades PreK-4th is Mrs. Faye Baker, and Mrs. Paula Stewart has been selected to represent grades 5th-6th.
Mrs. Baker, a Pre-K/Headstart teacher, attended Northeast State University and East Tennessee State University. She holds an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, Pre-K- 3rd grade. Mrs. Baker is currently in her ninth year of teaching.
Mrs. Stewart is the school counselor at Mountain City Elementary. She is a graduate of East Tennessee State University with a Master’s Degree in School Counseling. Additionally, she holds an Educational Specialist Degree in Counselor Leadership from ETSU. Mrs. Stewart has served Mountain City Elementary has counselor for fifteen years.
The school wishes to congratulate Mrs. Baker and Mrs. Stewart on receiving
the honor of Teacher of the Year.
By Jill Penley
Winter weather, increases in commuter speed and the ongoing transportation of students to and from school via the school bus can be dangerous, and sometimes deadly, combination. Following the 2016 deadly school bus crash in Chattanooga, questions continue to be raised on both the state and federal levels about whether safety policies and regulations are effective enough or if they need an overhaul.
Even closer to home, in late November, a car while boarding a school bus in Washington County, TN, when a driver allegedly failed to yield to a stopped school bus hit a 10-year-old boy. Authorities said the bus was stopped with its lights flashing and arm extended. The boy was crossing the road when a passing car traveling in the opposite direction struck him. Crystal Buchanan, 41, was charged with felony reckless endangerment and failure to yield to a stopped school bus following the crash.
“In light of all the tragic school bus accidents that have happened across our nation some of which have resulted in serious injury and death,” said Johnson County Schools Transportation Supervisor, Barry Bishop. “It is sobering to realize most could have been prevented if drivers would obey the laws and stop when the stop arm and red lights on our school buses are activated.”
Tonya Townsend, who drives a school bus for Johnson County Schools, indicates she witnesses drivers who blatantly disregard traffic laws quite often. “My stop arm has been run several times and, it is so dangerous,” said Townsend. “People are
not paying attention, and it is putting our children at risk.”
Distracted driving remains another safety issue. State law made it illegal to talk on cellphone while driving through an active school zone last January; however, Greg Tramel, public information officer for the Tennessee Highway Patrol, describes an “active school zone” as “any marked school zone in this state, when a warning flasher or flashers are in operation.” The active times for school zones vary but can range between the times of 7:15-8: 15 am and 3:15-4: 15 pm. The law pertains to all motor vehicles including drivers of passenger vehicles and commercial drivers. Texting while driving became illegal in Tennessee in 2009.
The Tennessee Department of Education (TDE) student transportation appropriately put bus safety the department’s number one priority. According to TDE data, 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.
By exercising extra care and caution, drivers and pedestrians can co-exist safely in school zones. Each school in Johnson County has site-specific drop-off and pick-up procedures.
All motorists must stop when red lights on the bus are flashing, and the stop arm is extended. They should remain at a complete stop until the red flashing lights are turned off, the stop arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before resuming.
Some confusion exists as to multi-lane roads such as along Tennessee Highway 421, which has four lanes of traffic-two in each direction with a shared median. State law requires drivers from all directions to stop when a school bus is stopped at an intersection to load and unload students. 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.
In an effort to further enforce school transportation safety, the Johnson County Board of Education continues to utilize Buster, the School Bus, an educational robot on loan from Tennessee Risk Management, the school system’s insurance provider. Introduced during the recent Mountain City Christmas Parade, Buster will be visiting the county’s elementary schools during January to discuss bus safety with the students. Buster has yellow caution lights; red stoplights with a stop arm and even speak to help students learn how to stay safe when loading and unloading on our school buses.
By Jill Penley
A variety of opportunities exist for Johnson County students to develop their musical talents including a comprehensive choral music
program. At the helm is Nathan Jones, a 2017 King College, who knew from a very early age, he was destined to teach and direct choral music.
“I am honored to teach general and choral music at JCHS and JCMS,” said Jones, who grew up in Norton, Virginia. “I think it is wonderful that JCHS has a band and achoral program and I hope Mrs. Cole (the band director) and I can collaborate together more frequently.”
Around 45 students take part in Jones’ two chorus classes, one at the high school called the Johnson County High School Longhorn Chorus, and one at the middle school called the Johnson County Middle School Singers. Jones also leads an additional after-school group, dubbed “Vocal Intensity,” comprised of middle and high school students who did not get the opportunity to sign up for chorus classes.
“I think my students are very lucky to have a vocal music program at the secondary school level,” said Jones, “and I’m honored to get to teach it.”
Many small rural schools eliminate vocal music class after the elementary level.
“The school I went to did not have chorus past 7th grade,” remarked Jones, who also teaches general music classes at the middle school and a guitar class at the high school.
“These classes keep me motivated to learn more about music history and music theory,” said Jones, “and it is very amazing having a class of beginning guitarists who after a few short months, are already playing real songs together in an ensemble and on their own.”
While in college, Jones performed with an a cappella group “All The King’s Men” directed by Professor Shea A. Clay.
“I majored in voice and also studied piano along with my education classes,” explained Jones. “King is the only school in Northeast Tennessee that has a 100 percent placement rate for music education graduates since the program was introduced in the early 2000s.”
Jones has already led two concerts this school year. “I try to have a theme picked out for each of my shows,” he said.
For the October concert, since it was performed near Halloween, Jones chose Broadway and film music and encouraged students to dress as their favorite characters. For the recent Christmas concert, the performance highlighted familiar holiday classics. Jones has already scheduled two additional concerts for next semester.
“In March, I am planning a Celtic celebration or maybe a concert on world music in general,” said Jones, “and for May, we will see what happens.”
For about Johnson County High School visit www.jocoed.net.
Jessie Mae Williams was recently notified that she has been named the Good Neighbor for November, 2018. Sponsored by the local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, this award recognizes students in the Middle School who have a generous spirit, who put others before self. Jessie is described as a young woman with a strong work ethic, who does her best to succeed in her classes as well as a person who can be counted on to give a helping hand to fellow students. Mrs. Kelly Shepherd joined Sheila Cruse, representing Gamma Mu, in presenting Jessie with letters of congratulations. Photo Submitted
Zachary Owens a kindergarten student in Mrs. Vincent’s class at Laurel Elementary School, the son of Nathan and Alexa Owens. Zach’s favorite subject is math and he hopes to become a teacher so he can help others. He is good role model and follows directions of his teachers well. Photo Submitted
By Tamas Mondovics
The Tennessee Department of Education has released the State Report Card last month, specifically designed for non-educators to read and understand.
According to TDE officials, the focus of the new report card is on parents and
“This is version one, and hopefully it will continue to evolve and become more user-friendly,” according to JC Bowman, Professional Educators of Tennessee.
Officials said that for the first time, the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) indicators are listed within the report card.
“A school’s report card is much like a GPA,” Bowman said. “It’s more than a single score, so there are multiple things that go into that GPA.” He added, “The school report card is a snapshot of time; much like a school picture for a student, it is what you look like at that moment in time.”
Johnson County Schools Director, Mischelle Simcox spoke highly of the county schools’ accomplishments based on the new report card.
“The Johnson County School System is very proud of our students and the accomplishments of our school system,” she said. “We are committed to providing a rigorous and relevant education for all students in a safe, positive environment that encourages students to develop and successfully pursue lifelong learning and career goals.”
Simcox highlighted, the State Report Card shows that 36 percent of Johnson County Students in grades 3-12 scored “on-track or mastered” on the 2017-18 TNReady assessments, compared to 39.1percent across the state.
The report also indicated that nearly nine percent of students were chronically out of school, which means they missed 18 or more unexcused and excused days, compared to 13.3 percent in the state.
“One highlight that we are extremely proud of is our graduation rate,” Simcox said. “The 2017 graduating class had a 96.5 percent graduation rate, compared to 89.1percent in the state. We are very proud of all of our students and staff. We
continue to work hard PreK-12th grade to ensure that we are preparing them for life after high school.”
As for the future of the Johnson County School
System, Simcox concluded on a positive note when she said, “Our vision is that all students will meet or exceed national standards and will be college or career ready upon high school graduation. Education based on a strong partnership with school, home and community can empower students to achieve.”
For a more detailed information about the recent report card, please visit