“Wonderful partners to the world of education”

County schools eye increased safety for upcoming year

Published in Jan. 14, 2015 issue

Additional cameras, as well as upgrades to existing systems, will be added to Washington County school campuses to further secure the schools and keep students safe.

The Washington County Board of Education approved monies for an additional 25 to 30 exterior cameras, as well as upgrading the existing 500 camera systems at its meeting last week. The money, $30,000 for additional cameras and $108,000 to upgrade existing cameras, was taken from the remaining safety money funds provided by the county commission. The county commission provided a total of $500,000.

The upgrades are a part of a security assessment study done with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the FBI and U.S. Marshal.

“They performed a systemwide security assessment for us a couple of years ago and made some recommendations,” Director of Schools Ron Dykes said.

The monies provided by the county commission helped to begin the implementation of those recommendations.

The upgrades will help bring the camera systems to a higher standard with increased camera resolution, greater ability for the camera to pan, tilt and zoom, as well as provide digital images. The surveillance capabilities, Dykes said, are also now remote.

“The patrol cars can literally log into the system, and they can see the activities in the schools remotely,” Dykes said.

The approved funds will also allow the purchase of additional cameras for the school campuses. Some of the cameras will be added to certain buildings where there are blind spots. Others will be added to longer hallways to shorten the camera views, as well as at some entrances and exits of the campuses.

“We continue to investigate and try to keep our buildings and campuses secure and our students as safe as possible,” Dykes said.

In addition to the camera systems, all Washington County schools have a priority access entry system to enter a campus. Dykes said if an individual goes to any of the WCDE buildings, schools in particular, there is a two-way communication before they can enter the building.

“You must buzz in now before you are allowed entry,” he said.

Other security enhancements include increased fencing, additional vehicle barriers, window tinting and additional security measures for the school buses. Dykes said each school bus has a GPS system, so its movement and behavior can be monitored throughout the day. All bus drivers also have cell phones in case of an emergency.

Safety will also be increased with the presence of School Resource Officers.

Dykes said by the end of the 2014-2015 school year, Washington County Schools will have 12 School Resource Officers, which are all full-time. He said in addition, they have two supervisors who often fill in when needed.

Dykes said six officers are stationed at a particular school full-time, while the other six rotate between schools.

“All schools are covered daily,” he said.

Three new SROs were implemented this school year in a staggered process. Dykes said two of the SROs have come on board already, and the third should be in place in a matter of weeks.

“That is due to the cooperation that we have with the sheriff’s office and willingness of the county commission to also understand the need to increase safety to this level,” he said. “We are very appreciative of the funding provided by the county commission, and the working relationship with the sheriff’s office is quite exceptional. They are wonderful partners to the world of education.”

Dykes said the sheriff’s office essentially stops their world when they call to provide assistance. He said the school system has also engaged in such proactive activities as armed intruder training with the sheriff’s office.

“Our faculty has gone through three sessions of that over the last year and a half,” Dykes said. “We try to increase not only vigilance, but awareness and skills to better protect our children with the worst case scenario (that could) happen.”

 

“Won the lottery”

Over the course of the last few weeks I have had the chance to interview a few U.S. Presidential Scholar’s. It’s inspiring to see what high school seniors are accomplishing. These students are going to go far in this world.

Chandler student a U.S. Presidential Scholar

Published in SanTan Sun News June 7, 2014

Named a U.S. Presidential Scholar, Arizona Virtual Academy senior Anna Han feels like she “won the lottery.”

“I never thought it would happen,” Han says. “There is no way to say who is going to get it and who is not. I knew a lot of people who were contenders and thought they were amazing.”

The Presidential Scholar in the Arts will travel to Washington, D.C., this month and perform at the Kennedy Center during the award ceremonies. The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by executive order of the president, to recognize and honor some of the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors. In 1979, the program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. Each year, up to 141 students are named as Presidential Scholars.

Arizona Virtual Academy Head of School Cindy  Carter says she is proud of Han.

“She is an example of how this particular academic environment worked for her,” Carter says. “It wasn’t an easy road. It was rigorous for her.”

Han says she began attending Arizona Virtual Academy when she was in eighth grade because the school provided her with the flexibility she needed to focus on her academics while pursuing her musical interest.

Longtime musician Han took up piano 13 years ago when her parents enrolled her in extracurricular activities.

“I started out with group lessons and developed an appreciation for music,” she says.

The 18-year-old has been with the same piano teacher, Fei Xu, since she began. She cites Xu as one of her influences.

Han says for most presidential scholars, their eligibility is based on ACT and SAT scores. Han, on the other hand, was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar through her participation in the national program YoungArts. She explains that she sent an application to YoungArts and was invited to Miami for a week last January where she participated in workshops, master classes and performances.

While Han was in Miami she performed a basic 10-minute piano audition, before being paired into chamber groups to learn a piece of music.

“It was really fun. We got to know all the teachers there and learned a lot,” she says of her experience in Miami. “I got paired with another pianist. We did a dual piece.”

Because Han was a junior when she participated, she was evaluated and considered as one of the 60 high school seniors to be nominated for this year’s scholar award.

“You get nominated for the presidential arts program, then you apply,” she says. “That application gets sent to the presidential scholar committee.”

Han will be honored in Washington, D.C., during National Recognition Weekend. She, along with the other scholars, will receive the U.S. Presidential Scholars medallion at a White House-sponsored ceremony. She says a show with a storyline will be put on by all the performing arts scholars in the Kennedy Center.

“I have never done something quite like it, so I am excited,” Han says.

She says she is most excited to meet the other scholars because she is sure each one is amazing.

This fall, Han plans on pursuing a bachelor’s of music degree at The Juilliard School, which is located in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City.

“Ideally I would like to perform. Music has been something I have been working towards since I was really young,” she says. “It’s a really difficult career to sustain. I want to bring it to more people. I am also interested in teaching.”

 

 

“Arguably stand the test of time”

Murals highlight Jonesborough events

Published in Herald & Tribune June 3, 2014 issue

A splash of color has been added to the wrought iron fence behind Boone Street Market bringing additional character to downtown Jonesborough through the images of murals.

McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons said an unveiling of the murals took place May 23 in conjunction with The Farmers Market open house.

“The plaza has been redone for a couple of years now,” she said. “The original idea was to have the murals there. It really makes the plaza look fantastic.”

Bill Bledsoe, who designed the four murals, said the Town of Jonesborough had asked him if he had any ideas for the metal dividers that are a part of the accent wall. He said over the years he and his wife have walked past the buildings and dividers more than 100 times, as ideas have formulated in his mind of what could be done.

Since there are so many events that take place in Jonesborough that are related to seasons, he thought each panel could represent winter, spring, summer and fall.

“I created an illustration that references the Garden Gala, the Jonesborough Days, storytelling and the Progressive Dinners,” Bledsoe said.

The first series of murals was created as miniature drawings. He said those original pieces were enlarged and received very well.

In an effort to involve students from both the Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts and Providence Academy, Bledsoe drew out the schematic of the image in thick black marker. He said the idea was to have the youngsters paint between the lines in any color they chose.

Thirty students from the Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts at the McKinney Center contributed to one of the murals, while Bledsoe’s students from Providence Academy left their artistic touches on the remaining three.

“We had students this semester that were taking basic drawing, studio art, hand building clay and mosaic classes,” Hammons said.

She said the McKinney Center hosted a student art exhibition reception on May 8, which also included the opportunity for the students to paint some color onto the mural.

“All of those students came that evening and helped paint the murals,” Hammons said. “We had refreshments and drinks, and then they painted.”

Bledsoe also worked with his secondary students at Providence throughout the week so they could be included in the process. He said his students were intimately involved in the process as they watched him work on the mural, as well as having a personal hand in the creation.

“They watched me compose it and do it as a blind contour and refine it and develop the line drawing,” Bledsoe said.

The students used the primary colors of red, yellow and blue paints for the murals.

“When you look at all those oranges, greens and purples, they were all made from red, yellow and blue,” he said.

Once the colors, drawings and sayings were completed on the murals, Bledsoe painted a glaze on top.

“I had to go back on top of them and work on them,” he said. “I did layers, so the writing and colors could be seen when you get up close to it.”

Bledsoe said he was very happy with how the murals turned out, especially the Jonesborough Days mural, which was his favorite.

“It is so powerful when you look at it from a distance,” he said. “When you get up to it, you see the colors.”

The murals, Bledsoe said are pieces of artwork that can arguably stand the test of time and mean something to the people of Jonesborough for years to come.

Karen Childress, executive director of Boone Street Market, said in conjunction with the unveiling of the artwork and the celebration of the beautification of the plaza, Jonesborough Locally Grown announced that the renovation and expansion of the Boone Street Market will begin in June.

“The reason we are at the jumping off point (and) able to start renovation, is that Jonesborough Locally Grown has had a successful fundraising campaign, raising close to $80,000 earmarked for the building renovation through the support of individuals, civic clubs, organizations, businesses and the county commission,” she said.

Those who attended the store “before” open house also had an opportunity to see the building before renovations began, as well as an opportunity to preview the project’s floor plan.

Childress said they are turning the garage area into the sales and display floor for the grocery store area, which will have an assortment of food products produced within 100 miles of Jonesborough. The floor plan also showed the current restroom area being gutted and turned into kitchen space.

“The current entry door will be an itsy bitsy cafe area as you go into the store,” Childress said.

The building will also have the addition of new restrooms and storage areas.

“The whole store idea is not a replacement of the Saturday market, it’s an expansion of it,” she said. “It will compliment the Saturday market.”

An announcement also was made regarding the Friends of Locally Grown during the “before” open house. Memberships are $50 annually and are available at the Saturday market or online at http://www.jonesborough.locallygrown.net.

Childress said the memberships will support the start up and ongoing operating costs of the store and Jonesborough Locally Grown. All members will receive a 5 percent discount on store purchases once the store opens.

The market is tentatively scheduled to open sometime in July, and a job description for a full-time manager to staff the store will be publicized in June.

 

“It is very important to fulfill a dream”

Here is a touching article about how an individual takes her own personal loss to try to help others.

In honor of mom: Journee’s focus to fulfill lifelong dreams

Published April 1, 2014 in Herald & Tribune

An organization, created in honor of the founder’s mother, is beginning to work to make dreams come true for those battling a terminal illness in Northeast Tennessee.

The organization, Journee, held its first board meeting at the beginning of March, seven years after Journee Executive Director Heather White started looking into the idea. At that time, she said, she was neither emotionally or financially ready to start Journee.

Once she earned her master’s degree in science in healthcare administration, however, Journee started to become a reality. White also has a bachelor’s degree in social work and currently works as a family resource specialist at Head Start.

“We actually just started working on it again in December,” White said. “It’s all kind of fallen into place this time. That’s God’s way of saying it is time.”

She said they are pursuing their 501c3 status.

Journee began in honor of White’s mother, Lisa Ricker, who passed away in March 2004. Ricker was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and immediately started treatment. At that time, Ricker’s son was 2 years old and her daughter, Heather was 14.

Although Ricker was given a 33 percent chance to live, she beat cancer and went into remission. Unfortunately in 2003, Ricker was told the cancer had come back and not much could be done this time. She began chemotherapy, which was not successful, so Ricker focused on her quality of life.

White said one of the last things her mom wanted to do as a family was take a trip to the beach. Unfortunately, the money Ricker, a single-mother, had needed to go towards paying for their house, so it would not be foreclosed.

The trip was never made.

“My brother is now 15 and has one memory of her,” White said, which is of their mother being sick. “If we had gotten that opportunity, maybe he would have had good memories.”

Because of that experience, she began Journee in an effort to help others, 18 or older, battling a terminal illness, fulfill their lifelong dream.

“I wanted to make a difference for someone else in their family,” she said. “Give someone else an opportunity that we didn’t get to have.”

The name, “Journee,” White said, was chosen because it is about her family’s journey and the journeys of the families that the organization gets to help. She said it’s not about the final event, but all the things people do to get to that final point.

The nonprofit will help families from northeast Tennessee, primarily Greene, Washington, Hawkins and Unicoi counties. The organization’s goal is to increase the quality of life of the individual fighting a terminal illness, as well as provide the family with a chance to spend quality time with their loved one by helping them fund a dream they would not otherwise be able to afford.

Journee will pay for the travel, housing and planned activities costs, as well as a stipend to cover daily costs. The organization will also provide recipients with a photo book and DVD of their trip.

The application can be found on Journee’s website at www.makethejournee.org, by calling White at 423-426-3659, or by emailing White at heather@makethejournee.org.

“Our goal is to have at least one family fulfill a dream by the end of the year,” White said. “Every year, I would like very much to be able to increase that number. I want to help as many families as we can.”

White said each trip will cost about $5,000.

“It is very important to fulfill a dream,” she said, as well as “have some quality memories because it is a very trying time.”

In an effort to raise some money for the organization, Journee is holding a Mother & Son Dance from 7-9 p.m. Saturday, April 12, at Chuckey-Doak High School gymnasium. Big Time Entertainment will provide the music.

Registration for photos, which will be done by Wihoit Photography, will begin at 6:30 p.m. Photo packages run from $20 to $25.

Tickets are $8 per person in advance and $12 at the door for the dance. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.makethejournee.org.

Journee is also holding a yard sale on Friday, June 27, and Saturday, June 28 at 1641 Kiser Blvd., Greeneville. The organization is seeking donations from the community for the sale, which will be accepted until Sunday, June 22.

White said her long-term goal is to help more than one family a month.

“I someday envision (having) a location with other employees, so we are able to make this our only priority,” White said.

 

‘Travel back in the early 20th century’

Trains are always an interesting subject to learn about. I had the opportunity to talk to one of the founders of the Arizona Railway Museum in Chandler, Arizona a few weeks ago. I also talked to the events coordinator regarding the Arizona Railway Days. It sounds like a really interesting event to attend to learn more about the history of Arizona’s railways.

Celebrate the history of Arizona railways March 1

Published Feb. 15, 2014 in SanTan Sun News

The Arizona Railway Museum will celebrate Arizona Railway Day by offering the public an opportunity to view a large collection of Arizona specific railroad equipment that are rarely available to visitors.

The celebration, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 1, will also mark the museum’s 30th anniversary.

“It’s fun for all ages,” Special Events Coordinator Mark Redmond says of the event. “You really get a chance to see what it’s like to travel back in the early 20th century. Everything will be open, all the railroad cars, including the private cars and locomotives.”

The Arizona Railway Museum has a true Arizona classic on display, a woodside caboose. The caboose, which ran from Ajo to Gila Bend, was built for the Phelps Dodge mine in 1944. Individuals can view this caboose during the Arizona Railway Day on Saturday, March 1, at the Arizona Railway Museum. Photo submitted to SanTan Sun News.

The Arizona Railway Museum has a true Arizona classic on display, a woodside caboose. The caboose, which ran from Ajo to Gila Bend, was built for the Phelps Dodge mine in 1944.
Photo submitted to SanTan Sun News.

By walking through the cars, the public can get a better understanding of private cars.

“I’m very happy to announce that, for the first time in the Valley, we have the Amtrak Visit Train,” Redmond explains.

The train was originally used for Amtrak’s 40th anniversary and now it travels throughout the country to explain how it was created, where it’s been and where it’s going. It will be available for viewing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 1, and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 2.

The locomotive engineer from Legend City, an amusement park in Arizona from the 1960s to the 1980s, will also attend.

For the youngsters, there are opportunities to enter a real diesel locomotive and blow the air horn, and step inside a steam locomotive and blow the steam whistle. But children should be forewarned.

“There are no guarantees (it will) blow every time because it takes a lot of air,” Redmond says.

There will be extra parking available during the event with a hay wagon shuttle service courtesy of the Chandler Lions Club, which will provide food and drinks for purchase.

Although the museum is asking for donations, admission is free.

Founding the museum

Bart Barton, a founding member of the Arizona Railway Museum, says the idea to open a museum blossomed from a rail photo trip he took with colleagues to Nogales to photograph old railway equipment. Because the closest railing museum, the Orange Empire Railway Museum in California, is about 300 miles away, it made sense to the founders to bring a facility to Arizona.

“We would drive over there (California); we were volunteers over there,” he says. “We got the idea that we should have a museum in Arizona.”

Five guys, all local rail fans, wrote the bylaws for the museum and established a nonprofit status in 1983. The goal was to open a museum near railway tracks so organizers could bring in equipment.

“We talked to the City of Phoenix, Gilbert, Mesa and went up to Glendale and ended up in Chandler,” he says. “(The City of Chandler has been) very receptive and absolutely wonderful partners.”

The museum has grown beyond the founders’ original expectations 30 years ago.

“We are in our new home in Tumbleweed Park and still growing,” Barton says. “We are looking for those particular pieces of equipment that has history with Arizona.”

The Arizona Railway Museum, which sits on 6 acres on the west end of Tumbleweed Park, has approximately 50 cars, passenger and freight, three locomotives and numerous artifacts on display.

“We are home to six private railroad cars that are Amtrak certified,” Redmond explains.

The collection also includes the PCC Trolley 4607, which came from the City of Phoenix Transportation Department. Although the trolley no longer operates, Redmond says it has been restored.

Union Pacific has donated a good amount of equipment to the museum, which includes railroad crossing equipment that will be put on display.

“We are always trying to get rolling stock and locomotives in,” Redmond says about the costly and time consuming process.

The Arizona Railway Museum is located at 330 E. Ryan Rd., Chandler. The museum is regularly open 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. weekends between Labor and Memorial days.

For more information call (480) 821- 1108 or visit http://www.azrymuseum.org.

Spoiled, spoiled rotten

This morning I had a few interviews set up to talk to some high school students that are participating in the program SCOPE, Student Congress on Politics and Education, in March. After watching the news last night, I learned that I had a tight timeline I had to make if I wanted to interview those students.

All Washington County schools in Tennessee were closing at 11:30 a.m. because of the snow storm that was on track for our area.

This sweet man of mine saw reports that the snow could start as early as 10-10:30 this morning and decided to drive me to my interviews. Jason’s Subaru handles snow much better than my Mitsubishi. I love how he knows when my nerves need to be calmed down, how he always looks out for me. Well, my interviews went well, story has already been turned in, it was a great way to start my day.

Good news was we got home in plenty of time before the storm started. So, Jason could have slept in, but I am thankful he was looking out for me. Interstate 26 is a nightmare when the weather is fine . . . IMG_1055

The snow started about 2-ish this afternoon and has been off and on since. We saw some really big snowflakes when we left to pick up dinner, but has since decreased in size. Fortunately this snow storm has brought some nice snowman, snowball packing snow . . .

So Jason made us a little snowman with the little snow we had this afternoon on top of my car. We went back outside just a little before midnight and it’s still there, much smaller of course.

IMG_1056Jason made sure I took a picture farther away to show just how small the snowman was. It made me laugh, made my day actually.

The memory of today was making snowballs and throwing them at each other, as well as Jason throwing them at his car.  I felt like a little kid, it was great.

I thought of our family dog Mandy. When I lived in Illinois with my family as a young girl we used to make snowballs and throw them at Mandy and she would catch them with her mouth. Oh such great memories flooded my brain tonight.

IMG_1057Since that first time we went out earlier this afternoon, a lot more snow has accumulated. Around 11:30 p.m., Jason measured about 4 1/2 inches and it’s still coming down.

IMG_1082One of our neighbors has a table in front of their porch, which provides a good visual of the amount of snow we have received so far.

IMG_1066The snow on the back porch.

Jason came back inside to get me tonight after he walked towards the decline of our driveway down the hill. He knew I would want to take pictures, which he was right. It’s such a beautiful site, especially with the snow still falling.

IMG_1067Both Jason and I commented on the silence that surrounds you in the snow. The sky also provides an incredible view, there’s kind of glow that engulfs you while filling the night sky.

IMG_1068

IMG_1078

IMG_1080

IMG_1062

IMG_1073

IMG_1074

Winter Storm Pax sure made its presence known today and is expected to continue Thursday with possible snow on Friday as well.

Today was an incredible day. Jason and I spent the majority of the day, night laughing hysterically. I had tears flowing freely at one point as I could not stop the laughter.

I know better

I have found that going to the gym has unfortunately been placed on the back burner these past few weeks.  Although going a minimum of three days is still better than none at all, I would rather go five or six times a week. This is what I’m used to, this is what keeps the stress levels down.

When I worked out with my mom in Fort Myers, my day started off at the gym, yep bright and early at 6 a.m. It’s hard to find excuses of not going when you go first thing in the morning. There was no, “I’m too tired,” at the end of the work day.

Although I work from home and make my own schedule, I’m still struggling with putting my work down for a couple of hours to go to the gym. That struggle comes when I look at my white board and see the amount of articles that are due.

I, of course know better. I know that if I do not make time for myself, I become stressed, which has a domino affect on my writing.

I’ve been waking up and going straight to my desk to start working, which I have found turns into a day without going to the gym. I get caught up in writing, editing, interviews and waiting for call backs that my day gets away from me.

I know better, days like this is when I need the gym the most.

The worst part about this is I am a member of a 24-hour gym, so I could really go at any time. With that said, when I put in a full day in my office, my brain becomes so drained that it makes the rest of my body tired as well. It’s sad, but I would rather walk downstairs and unwind in front of the TV, instead of lacing up my running shoes and hitting the gym.

On Wednesday, I started working around 8:30 a.m. The light in my office was not turned off until 7:45 that night. It was a productive day to say the least. I turned in five articles (three to one publication and one each to the other publications I work for), as well as many hours worth of editing for sections I am responsible for doing. My stress level was pretty high that day as I worked towards meeting my deadlines.

I was beyond tired …

Jason of course helped with that stress. He would pop in every once in a while, sometimes bringing yummy treats to brighten my mood. I would also walk downstairs and sit on the couch with him for 5 or 10 minutes to pull myself together again.

My stress level tends to grow, as the need to walk away from my desk and take a break rises. That day, going to the gym would have been helpful, but I couldn’t tear myself away for the fear I wouldn’t meet my deadlines.

So, Thursday I had Jason make sure I was really awake when he said goodbye before heading to work. Although it was hard to get out of bed, leave my warm covers behind, I did it and left the house before 8 that morning. It felt fantastic to start my day off on the right foot, a morning at the gym. I love starting my day off with a run, some weight training and other cardio training.

My spirits tend to stay high when I have that physical exercise in my day.

The best part about all of this was when I arrived back home there was a message waiting on our phone from Jason. He was checking up on me to make sure I did wake up and go to the gym.

It’s always helpful when you get the encouragement you need to get back into your rhythm again.

So, today I continued that trend and started on the right note again. I was out the door a little before 8 this morning. I was on my way to the gym.

I ran 1.5 miles and did more than 6 miles on the bike before ending my workout. On my way home I stopped at the grocery store to replenish my smoothie supplies, as well as grab ingredients for dinner. Today my smoothie was a mix of frozen strawberries, mangos and pineapples with a fresh banana and kiwi with orange juice. It was absolutely delicious, a wonderful treat after a great workout.

I am determined to keep myself on track, yep that means go to the gym first thing in the morning before I sit down at my desk.

When I finally made it to my desk this morning, my stress level remained low as I kept in stride and turned in article after article to my editors. I was also able to connect with some sources to finish three more articles that are due this coming week, articles I was worried I would not be able to finish. So, when Jason leaves for work tomorrow, I will put in those few hours to finish those articles and turn them in, so I can start next week on a clean slate. This of course will happen after another trip to the gym.

Hopefully then on Sunday I can take a day off, the first since the last Sunday of January.

Exercise is an incredible outlet, one that I am so thankful I found all those years ago.