“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.”

 

“Families are our foundation”

Hill prepares for re-election fight

Published in the Herald & Tribune June 25, 2014 issue

Matthew Hill, Jonesborough’s Republican State Representative, recently launched his campaign for re-election.

“I really, really enjoy my job, and I enjoy helping people. I enjoy the ability to represent my community and my home in Nashville and stand up and fight for our values every single day,” he said of why he is seeking re-election.

Hill will face local businessman Phil Carriger in the State Primary on Thursday, Aug. 7.

Hill, who grew up in Sullivan County, moved to Washington County 11 years ago. He lives in Jonesborough with his wife, whom he has been married to for 12 years, as well as his two children.

Hill sees his family as a blessing.

“Families are our foundation, and my faith is very important to me,” he said. “My faith is first and my family is second. It has always been that way.

“My faith motivates me to love and take care of the family the best I can. I love my family, my wife and my kids. They are everything to me, they really are.”

The importance of family is the platform of his campaign.

“When they vote for me, they know they have someone that is fighting for them and fighting for their family every single day,” Hill said.

Instead of seeking a new strategy for being re-elected, he said he is doing the same thing he has done in the past — knocking on a couple thousand doors.

“I love knocking on doors because I can meet people face-to-face, one-on-one, and listen to their concerns,” Hill said. “It’s a very time-consuming task, but it’s worth it. I enjoy meeting with people and talking with people and telling them what I am working on and asking for their vote and support.”

If re-elected, his number one goal is to continue to have an open door policy. He explained that being accessible to all of his contingents no matter where they live or who they are is important.

Hill said he will continue to fight and defend family values in balanced budgets and lower taxes, which will create jobs in the State of Tennessee.

“The economy is picking up, and businesses are hiring,” he said. “The legislature can create an environment where jobs can be created.”

Last week, Hill held a job fair at Carver Recreation Center in Johnson City, which he rated as a huge success. He said more than 250 people attended the job fair and applied for jobs, and more than 24 employers were in attendance.

“This is the third job fair I have done,” Hill said, adding that he will continue to hold the job fairs if they receive participation from the community.

His motto is to “roll your sleeves up and get involved in the community and do as much as we can.”

A blowout Community Day, which will be held from 4-7 p.m. Saturday, July 12, at Telford Diner, is another example of his community involvement. He said the free event will feature a barbeque, music and cotton candy.

On Tuesday, June 24, Hill and State Rep. Micah Van Huss of Johnson City will also hold a joint telephone town hall beginning at 7 p.m. Listeners will have the opportunity to ask questions, as well as share concerns they may have. The live tele-town is free and open to the public. Those interested can pick up the phone when it rings, which will automatically connect them, or they can call 1-877-229-8493 and dial the access code 16194#.

Hill said citizens should vote for him because he stands up for Washington County and Washington County families.

“As their state representative, I am fighting for them, fighting for their values and second amendment rights and that is why I would be honored and humbled to have their votes and support,” he said.

 

“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.

 

Search training to keep schools safe

At times it’s a little scary to learn about the new ways individuals are hiding weapons. The Washington County Department of Education has partnered with the Sheriff’s Office for the past three years to give its administrators the tools needed to do proper searches while the students are on campus.

Workshop provides search training to help keep schools safe

Published Feb. 4, 2014 in the Herald & Tribune

The Washington County Department of Education is partnering with the Sheriff’s Office to provide its staff with the correct training on how to search students.

“We feel like that is one area that schools should cover — the  proper searching of students in the school setting,” Assistant Director of Schools for Attendance and Discipline James Murphy said.

Murphy said the Supreme Court has maintained that students do not shed their constitutional rights when on a school campus.

In order to have a safe environment, however, students can be searched under reasonable suspicion, Murphy said. That is a lower standard set by the courts than what is generally accepted on the streets, he added, which requires a search warrant or probable cause.

All administrators for Washington County schools are required to have search training.

“We keep a list of new administrators coming in and we make sure, periodically, that every administrator in the school system has had this training,” Murphy said.

A two-hour search workshop was held on Jan. 23 for 38 school employees at Asbury Optional High School in Johnson City.

“Some schools have not had a change since their administrators had the course. We didn’t require them to come,” he said. “But we did ask every school to send someone.”

Some schools sent guidance counselors and teachers, Murphy added.  School Resource Officers also participated in the training.

Every Washington County school has a resource officer assigned, with some officers assigned to two or three schools, Murphy said.

During the training, participants are given a list of the type of school searches that could be done, as well as a list of forbidden searches on school campuses. Examples were then provided through role play.

Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal said the search workshop shows staff how to do a pat down safely in the different quadrants of the body, as well as how to protect themselves. He said two people should always be present during a pat down.

Another part of the training focuses on types of weapons, as well as the styles of clothing used to hide them. “We try to cover every scenario that we have run into,” Graybeal said.

In one exercise, 37 weapons, both guns and knives, were hidden for participants to find. That exercise is important, Graybeal said, because some weapons can look as innocent as a pen.

Since some of the clothing also have pouches to hide guns, he said they showed how to look for weapons in that scenario.

Murphy said there are essentially two school searches that are done.

“A good legal school search would be divided into two major areas, which is the jacket search with pockets turned out and the other search, which is rarely ever done, would be a pat down,” he said.

The most common search, Murphy said is a jacket and pocket search.

“We don’t encourage pat downs. Pat downs are not necessary unless there is a real substantial fear that the student has a weapon,” he said.

An exercise involving a backpack was also held during the workshop to show how to proceed once it is laid down on a table.

The importance of noticing the out-of-the-ordinary is also stressed. If someone shows up wearing a coat during the summer months, Graybeal said, it should be investigated.

The workshop, he said, is about showing school staff what is out there and how to look for certain items.

“It’s a good course, it’s very informative of what to look for and how to look for it,” Graybeal said. “It was a good day for us, a good informative day.”

Murphy said the workshop also included instruction on verbal judo by Dr. Ginger Christian. The technique teaches true listening, hearing what a person is saying and diffusing the anger.

“Occasionally in the school system, we have parents who are upset, sometimes upset by someone else,” Murphy said.

“We need to learn how to listen to them and address their concerns without becoming emotionally involved.”

Graybeal said the workshops are held upon the schools’ request.

He said the WCSO appreciates the opportunity to work with the Washington County schools to help them stay safe.

‘One purpose, One mission, One passion’

Here is a feel good story that I wrote for the Herald & Tribune about teachers in the Washington County Department of Education receiving grants totalling $20,000. A special ceremony was held for them last week, which gave them all an opportunity to share how they will utilize the grant money in their classroom to further the education of their students.  

Innovative teachers receive Quest awards

Published Jan. 21, 2014 in the Herald & Tribune

Seven grants totalling $20,000 were given to teachers of the Washington County Department of Education last week during a special ceremony sponsored by the Quest Foundation.

Quest Foundation President James Harlan told the recipients that it was a privilege to be there on behalf of the foundation.

“We have just one purpose, one mission, one passion, that is to enhance education and learning in Washington County schools,” Harlan said. “We do that at the classroom level.”

The Quest Foundation has made grants to 21 classrooms in 10 schools over the last three years for more than $64,000. Last Wednesday, it added another $20,000 to the foundation’s grant total.

“The last three years have been a journey for Quest,” Harlan said. “Over $84,000 has been put back in our schools to start that lifetime of learning.”

He went on to say that it is rewarding to put that amount of money back in classrooms.

“That’s the kind of good news that makes this community, this city, a place where it is fun to live,” Harlan said. “We live in a very generous area. We care about other people and care about children.”

The foundation provides grant money for programs and materials that are otherwise unavailable to Washington County teachers. Harlan said the board looks for innovative ideas to enhance preschool to 12th-grade curriculum with a focus on STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Harlan said for most educators at the ceremony, being a teacher was all they ever wanted to do.

“Education is the thing that fundamentally differentiates the United States from the rest of the world,” he said. “We have, in the United States, a lot of things against us in terms of being competitive in the world. One thing that levels the playing field is education. That starts right here in Washington County.”

Harlan recalled a fond memory of when he was in third grade and a teacher who sparked his interest and made learning fun.

“Learning to read is fundamental to what these teachers are communicating to their students and what becomes a lifetime of learning,” he said.

Grant recipients included: Robert St. John and David Yates from David Crockett High School who received $1,774 for their project “Where No One Has Gone Before.”

The grant money will help the teachers purchase an aerial photography system that will be integrated between the media and CAD department, as well as the biology department.

Cindy McAvoy, a 6th- grade math teacher at Lamar School, received $1,709 for her project “Parents as Learning Partners – Partnerships Today that Create Success Tomorrow.”

McAvoy said many parents have shared their concern about wanting to help their children with their math, but the parents do not know how. Thanks to the grant, she will now be able to offer a workshop that provides ideas and ways for parents to support their children.

Rachel Horn and Mike Taylor of Daniel Boone High School received $3,600 for their project “Improving Student Learning with 21st Century Data-Collection Technology.” The teachers teach AP physics and physical science.

Horn said the grant will allow them to buy lab equipment for students to craft data in real time during their experiments in physics.

Twana McKinney and the David Crockett High School science department received $4,727 for the project “Technology and Common Core.”

McKinney said they will also receive equipment that will provide real-time data for students to use as evidence for reference in writing skills.

Penny Elliot Lowe, a 5th-grade math teacher at Ridgeview Elementary, received $4,500 for her project “Addressing the Learning Gap in Mathematics using iPads.”

She said she did not have an iPad until last year and was amazed with what it could do. Lowe said she saw many opportunities for using the iPad in the classroom.

“(I can) use the iPads as another way to have a deep engagement with what we are doing in mathematics,” she said, adding that students can develop their own math presentations.

Kristie Payne, a third- grade teacher at Fall Branch Elementary, received $1,689 for her project “I want to be a Mathematician.”

She said the grant will fund iPads for her students, which will allow them the opportunity to develop key mathematical concepts through the use of technology. Payne said there are many apps that help students take concrete mathematical applications and apply them abstractly.

Jackie Mumpower, a 3rd- grade teacher at Ridgeview Elementary, received $2,000 for her project “Transforming 21st Century Education through Laptops.”

She said her students will use the laptops to create PowerPoint presentations. Harlan said the amount of grants they are not able to fully fund is the reason the foundation continues to raise money.