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Good Sam nabs large grant

Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County recently received a $49,750 grant from Trinity Health Foundation of East Tennessee to provide dental help to needy residents.

The nonprofit received a $5,000 planning grant in June that identified ways to expand dental services.

The news is “tremendous,” Cindy Black, Good Sam executive director, said.

“Once we decided to go full force into the dental and do more than just extractions the word got out and people were — really we are overwhelmed with people wanting help and we’re encouraged by that because we wanted to do more than extractions,” Black said. “We want to help with the cleaning, we want to help with just maintenance and education and starting early. It is going to help us a lot because we had never had dental in our budget.

“We helped with dental over the last eight or nine years, but we never had it as a line item in the budget until this past year,” she added. “We were basically spending almost $1,200 a month on dental and we budgeted this year I think $15,000 and that money was just going to be coming out of our general donations coming in.”

Black has said Good Sam’s biggest goal in the next few years is breaking a cycle where dental is the last thing considered by clients.

“Now we can focus a little bit more on people when they when we’re offering just cleaning service,” she said. “Hiwassee (College) that closed, (Tennessee) Wesleyan group bought it and they are still doing the training in the schools so we are able to take them down, or give them a voucher to go down there and get their teeth cleaned. So that freed us up with that. Instead of just — we want to meet the critical need, which was for so long extractions, but now that we do have some other funds and other partners, we can start meeting these needs that can help them before they get to the critical, like the cleaning, and now we can help them with just dental care.

“We’ve got a lot of educational things that we’re trying to present,” she added. “We’re putting dental supplies in our food distribution. When they get their groceries, we actually have a kit and however many people are in that family we’ll give them each a kit with toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss and other items that can help them with their teeth.”

Hopes are the money will last a couple years, Black said. Good Sam will also continue its financial commitment for dental.

Carol Crawford, one of two Good Sam dental coordinators, said as many as six people in a day stop by the office needing dental services.

“We’re hoping for preventative, you know, cleanings, fillings,” she said. “Mostly we were focused on extractions because that’s what our clients were focused on, but we’re hoping now that through education — we have put in a little packet with our food orders of dental, a toothbrush, a timer, instructions how to brush their teeth, so we’re trying through education to trying to get our clients to be more proactive with their dental care.”

Vouchers available

With Thanksgiving less than a month away, Good Sam began giving basket vouchers Monday for its distribution Nov. 23 at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church.

Vouchers will be given through Nov. 22.

“We’re doing it three weeks this time for the vouchers to kind of spread that out so it’s not so jammed up here on Monday,” Black said. “We’ll have plenty of vouchers for the Thanksgiving baskets. We will make more vouchers if we need and they do have to have that voucher to be able to show up to pick up the food. We’ve already started stocking up, Evelyn’s (Edwards, pantry manager) been bringing in food like crazy, and so it’s going to be a good healthy amount of food to give out.”

Good Sam last year gave 9,104 pounds of food during the basket emphasis.

The nonprofit Monday also started giving vouchers for coats as part of KARM’s Coats for the Cold. Black said Good Sam had 100 vouchers to start.

“You can pick up a coat at any KARM store if you have one of their vouchers,” she said. “You have to get one of their vouchers from a local participating — like we are participating and I know that the Catholic church is participating and Central United Methodist picked up some vouchers, too, so that’s coming up and those are available, too.”

Coats are available at KARM beginning Nov. 11, Black said.

FLMS named model school

Fort Loudoun Middle School was recently announced as a model school by the Tennessee Behavior Supports Project from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

This marks the first time the school has been recognized as gold level by the group funded through the Tennessee Department of Education.

“They’ve phased it in, so you have a tier one, a tier two and a tier three, and the state just released for the East Tennessee region the gold level,” Patrick Bethel, FLMS principal, said. “So this is the first year the gold level has been a possibility from the state. We’ve been a silver for the past two years.”

The program provides materials, training and tools to support staff, teachers and administrators in the implementation of Response to Intervention-Behavior.

“Schools that implement RTI2-B can expect a decrease in the number of office discipline referrals, a decrease in suspensions, an increase in academic achievement and more time for teachers to teach, students to learn and administrators to run their schools efficiently and effectively,” the website reads.

FLMS has experienced such change.

Bethel referenced that four or five years ago the school had several discipline issues.

“As a faculty we all kind of got together and we said, ‘Here’s our issues. What can do we do to fix them?’” Bethel said. “So we just problem-solved and went to a training that summer and we just saw there were some things that were just on us, it wasn’t on our kids. We didn’t have clear expectations. Expectations in one class were not the same as another.

“... We just wiped it all out and started all over,” he added. “So we’re very clear with all of our kids, ‘These are the expectations.’ We go through the procedures and we do that every break. We just reinforce it over and over so our kids know exactly what’s expected and it’s made a tremendous difference.”

When visitors from other school districts come to FLMS, students with the Braves Ambassador program lead facility tours. That stood out for Michael Morrow, TBSP educational consultant.

“That is phenomenal. We don’t have anyone else who does that, but we have had schools and full-on district administrations come in and those kids have walked them around and it’s a pretty powerful thing to see,” Morrow said.

FLMS hosted 22 school districts last year, including a Georgia system with a student population of about 50,000, Bethel said.

Buy-in by students and staff has been vital.

“It’s just a good positive environment,” Morrow said. “When you go into that building there’s a sense of calm and togetherness and they just do things that are there to support people.”

Being at gold level is big, Morrow said, noting only five school are listed in East Tennessee and just 10 statewide.

“The enthusiasm and the willingness to work together to support kids is remarkable there,” he said.

The school has this year implemented student-to-student high-fives, which Bethel said has gone well.

“So we’ve got a mailbox out there and our students will write a high-five,” Bethel said. “For example, you’re a new student, you just come into the building and another student comes up and invites you to come eat lunch with them. That student has the opportunity not only to say ‘thank you’ but write a high-five to just kind of share that.

“Those will be put in a drawing and students come out and we do an assembly every 4 1/2 weeks and share all those,” he added. “They may come out and get to participate in a game or they may win an Amazon gift card, Kindle, just something fun.”

Students also give teachers high-fives.

“It shows that our faculty and staff is going above and beyond for our students because it’s not an easy level to reach,” Bethel said. “We do a lot of things with the mentoring students and extracurricular activities that we do with our kids. So it just shows that their heart and soul is in our school.”

The school will be recognized at a Partners in Education conference in January in Nashville.

“It’s been a 180-degree difference,” Bethel said.

Commission denies assessor's request

After much discussion, Loudon County Commission said “no” in a split vote to a request Monday from Loudon County Property Assessor Mike Campbell.

Campbell wanted funding for a program offered through Just Appraised that would be a “tool for our office to become more efficient and to make a step in the progression of technology and records keeping.”

“It’s looking for errors in recorded deeds,” he said. “If it’s a typo, if it’s names, addresses and that data, so when you take a record and you hand write something and then you have to enter it, there is opportunity for distraction and people, we make mistakes. So if we can streamline that with technology to pull it into our system we would like to think that would eliminate some of our woes.”

Campbell was first introduced to the program in August. He estimated Loudon County would have been potentially the first or second in the state to utilize the company’s services.

The service would have cost $8,400 through June 30. Afterward, an expense of $18,960 per year would be implemented if the county continued with the program.

Campbell wanted the service in place now to have “hard numbers” in time for the upcoming budget cycle. He told commissioners if the program failed to measure up during the trial period, it wouldn’t be considered for the next fiscal year.

Commissioners Kelly Littleton-Brewster and Julia Hurley motioned and seconded, respectively, with the vote failing 5-4. Commissioners Gary Whitfield, Henry Cullen, Van Shaver, Adam Waller and David Meers opposed funding. Commissioner Matthew Tinker was absent.

“I was asked by two of the ‘no’ votes to come back next month and they’re looking for more data, more following the procedures,” Campbell said. “They’re wanting me to go before the budget committee. So I’ll go before the budget committee, go through the workshop and then come back before full commission if there’s enough there.”

Cullen voted against the funding because he said he needed more information.

Campbell mentioned the program during public comment at the Oct. 21 workshop, but the item was not on the agenda.

“We need more information to come through the process,” Cullen said. “He went entirely out of the process. ... If we’re going to have policies, we better adhere to them. Come back and explain it a lot more fully than what he did tonight.”

Shaver said he could not vote in favor “if for nothing else” the request came in the middle of the budget cycle.

“There’s also no progress in technology if you don’t spend the money to use it, period, and yes, you’re correct,” Hurley said. “We are basically taking a piece of technology and saying a human can do this, absolutely correct. But at some point there has to be an efficiency system and we advocated for — I mean what are we doing with our records now? We’re having the same issue with all our technology issues that we’ve had. We kept pushing them down the road and kept pushing down the road. ... It saves everything in digital format so that when something can be changed or when it does need to change it we have a digital form.”

Shaver asked if commission was “prepared to commit another $19,000 each year for it.”

“Right now we can test it for six months with no contract, no renewal contract,” Hurley said.

“We either are going to spend $8,400 and it be gone or you’re going to spend $8,400 and then you’re going to commit $19,000 more,” Shaver added.

Resolution passed

Commissioners also took a stand against invasive Asian carp by passing a resolution supporting efforts by the Tennessee legislature, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Valley Authority to control and prevent the fish.

“... Loudon County Commission supports the funding and installation of electric barriers to control the movement of invasive Asian carp, especially silver carp, immediately downstream of all the dams located in East Tennessee that contain a barge lock utilized for the movement of waterway traffic (commercial and recreational), especially the Watts Bar Dam, which services the Watts Bar Lake that has less than 42% of its shoreline within Loudon County boundaries,” the resolution reads.

The resolution, which was not discussed at the October workshop, came before commissioners after Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw was approached by area mayors asking for support, Cullen said. Bradshaw was not present for the meeting.

The resolution, which mentions Roane County, will be sent to the state legislature, Cullen said.

“Looking over the situation it’s worth a resolution to see if we can’t put a stop to it,” he said. “... I hope that it gets out to the Senate and they appropriate the funds to TWRA, TVA and all the outfits to put the equipment up to stop them.”

In other news, Loudon County Commission:

• Approved sale of two small pieces of property in Sugarlimb Industrial Park for a combined $50,000. The money will be split evenly between Loudon County and Loudon.

• Approved a $1 million Community Development Block Grant on behalf of Tellico Area Services System for water tank replacement. Any required matching funds will be provided by TASS.

• Authorized the Surplus Property Authority to sell two lots to TV Holdings LLC. The two pieces of property were delinquent at 183 Noya Way and 301 Okmulgee Circle.

• Set a deadline of 9 a.m. Thursday for a quitclaim deed to be reversed back to the county for land on Cattlemans Drive. If it is not, commissioners gave Loudon County Attorney Bob Bowman approval to get involved.

• Moved forward with approving a multi-year contract for a replacement mail machine for the county office building.

• Passed amendments to County General Fund 101, General Purpose School Fund 141 and School Federal Projects Fund 142.

PowerUp primes students for day

Although the sun wasn’t up, upbeat music echoed in the Lenoir City Elementary School gymnasium Friday as students exercised to help get ready for learning.

LCES educators have for years implemented PowerUp Your School into the morning routine before classes begin.

Students get off the bus, grab a bite to eat and head to the gym. Participation is voluntary.

PowerUp Your School, one of three programs offered by PowerUp Fitness, combines exercise with subjects students are learning in the classroom.

“We do different types of exercises,” Leigh Wiley, LCES PowerUp co-coordinator, said. “Start off by warming up and stretching and getting into more strenuous exercises, really focusing on crossing the midline and waking our brain up and just getting ready for our day. ... When you’re crossing the midline like this it engages both lobes of your brain, the left and right side, so it gets the brain really thinking about really moving and thinking, ready for the day.”

Educators believe the program makes a difference.

“Some kids have had a bad night, they’ve had a bad morning, maybe they’ve gotten in trouble or something like that,” Sonya Fine, LCES PowerUp co-coordinator, said. “They’re just not feeling the best and they come in and it puts a smile on their face. They realize that there’s something that they’re good at, that they can do it and it just sets off the whole day on a positive note.”

PowerUp was started eight years ago by Stacy Baugues, who at the time served as an intern at the school.

“PowerUp Your School was inspired by my passion for youth fitness and experience in education — to provide a program that makes both physical activity and learning fun,” Baugues said in an email correspondence. “... There is a strong correlation between physical activity and academic achievement. PowerUp Your School links the two together even further, by increasing physical activity and what they are learning in the same program. Our mission is to empower youth through fitness, education and fun. We hope that students find the joy and fun in fitness through the PowerUp Your School program and establish the foundation for lifelong physical activity.”

The program has expanded to 26 schools in Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, Indiana, Arizona and Wisconsin. Locally, Steekee and Loudon elementary schools join students in Roane County, Sweetwater, Oak Ridge and Clinton.

Participation is broken into two groups, with Tuesdays and Thursdays for kindergartners and first-graders and Wednesdays and Fridays for second- and third-graders.

“I mean they walk in the door when they come into PowerUp in the morning sleepy and tired and draggy — not all of them, but a lot of them — sleepy, tired and draggy and they get in there and we’ve got music playing and it’s upbeat music and there’s a lot of upbeat encouraging discussions going on, so it just gets them active,” Wiley said.

“In addition to that, it also helps them to — for instance, one of the best things about it I think is when kids come in and they (say), ‘I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,’ and they’re trying their hardest to do elbow-to-knee and they have to cross midline and they can’t and they can’t and then they have that success, all of a sudden they can, and their face lights up,” Fine added. “They realize that they can do this, they can exercise no matter what their size or what their ability is, that they all can do it. ... They love it.”

Although students participate in the mornings for only a few minutes, Don Maloney, LCES principal, sees the benefits.

“Anything that provides an opportunity to get kids moving to help stimulate the brain, to help get them just that extra edge to be more successful,” he said. “... I think that it’s a great opportunity to be able to put — it’s obviously a best practice for sure to engage students in fun movement activities to get them ready for the day. A lot of them ... they come in tired and by the time this 15 or 20 minutes (is over), they’re out of there and they’re pepped up. That’s got to make a difference.”