​School Board Approves Bonuses, Cell Phone Changes


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Nov. 11 meeting, the Franklin County School Board approved bonuses for all support employees and contract bus drivers. The board also approved a revised cell phone policy for the middle schools and high schools lifting some restrictions.

According to the approved bonus schedule, the 218 full-time support employees will receive $500 bonuses and the seven part-time employees will receive $300. The 40 contract bus drivers will receive a $200 bonus provided the contractor employing the driver chooses to pass the bonus along.

Board member Lance Williams voted against giving the bonuses. “We have no control over what the 24 contractors do with the money. The drivers are not our employees.” Williams also observed the contractors would need to pay taxes on the bonus money received.

The school system will pay the fringe benefit deductions applicable to the bonuses the support employees receive.

Board member Linda Jones, who voted in favor of the bonuses, also had reservations. “I have concerns for the teachers who did not receive raises at the beginning of the year and about dipping into the fund balance to pay for the bonuses.”

Director of Schools Stanley Bean, who proposed the bonuses, said the schools finished the year with a $3.3 million fund balance, significantly above the anticipated $3 million. The bonus package will cost $143,000.

The proposal will go before the Franklin County Finance Committee, and if approved by the Finance Committee, on to the County Commission for a vote.

During the summer budgeting process, the Finance Committee rejected three draft budgets proposed by the school system, objecting to the excessive draw on the reserve fund balance. Raises for support employees and contract bus drivers were removed from the budget, as well as raises for teachers except for salary increases based on degree advancement and step increases based on years of service.

“Some of the county commissioners objected to school system employees not getting raises,” noted board member Christine Hopkins.

Middle school and high school principals recommended the cell phone policy changes.

“It gives principals a lot more flexibility,” said Bean.

At the principals’ discretion, students can use cell phones on school property before 8 a.m. After 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., students may use cell phones only when teachers receive permission from the principal to allow cell phone use in their classroom or if a student receives permission from the principal.

“There are classroom situations where cell phones can do what Chrome Books can’t, for example, take good quality photos,” said Franklin County High School Principal Roger Alsup. “It will be a tough sell, though, for me to allow students to use phones in the classroom.” Alsup cited diabetic students using cell phones to monitor blood sugar as another discretionary use.

Although not covered in this policy, the principals also recommended allowing cell phone use on buses, according to Alsup.

“It would give bus drivers one less thing to keep up with,” said Transportation Director Mark Montoye.

Construction Manager Gary Clardy updated the board on the new middle schools. “We decided not to push to get the gyms ready by the first of the year,” Clardy said. Rigid fire marshal regulations would have required a fire watch for the gyms to be used.

“There was a $100,000 savings,” Bean said.

South Middle School construction has exceeded contingency expenses due to a sinkhole, Clardy said. Excess contingency funds from North Middle School will cover the cost.

All furnishings and equipment will be new, Clardy said. “They’re top of the line. They’ll be up to any school in Tennessee.”

The current furnishings and equipment will be made available to the other county schools, and if unclaimed, will be sold on GovDeals.

​Sewanee Operation Noel

Providing Abundant Holidays for All

In just a few weeks, it will be Christmas. While many are already planning ahead about gifts to buy and food to eat, there are those not so fortunate. In our area, there are children who may not get presents and families that may not have an abundant holiday meal.

Sewanee Operation Noel is a group that was formed many years ago by the Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department to provide help for families in need. They provide food and/or toys during the Christmas season. The S.V.F.D. in conjunction with F.R.O.S.T. (Fund Raising Operational Support Team) organizes the purchasing and distribution of goods.

To be eligible, everyone must fill out an application. Every family needs to fill out a new application whether you have received from us before or not. An application will ensure that we have all the pertinent information so we can provide for everyone in need. The deadline for returning applications is Friday, Dec. 13. Families eligible for Operation Noel must live in the following communities: Sewanee, Midway, Jump Off and on Sherwood Road. Please see page 8 of the Nov. 15, 2019 issue for the application.

If you would like to make a donation of money, non-perishable food items or new toys, please take items to the Fire Hall or Police Department, located behind duPont Library or Print Services located in the old Beta House.

Goods will be delivered the morning of Dec. 23 by the S.V.F.D. and F.R.O.S.T. members.

If you have any questions please call 598-3400 and leave a message.

​Welcome to the New SSO Artistic Director


by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

This semester is Mathew Ward’s first as Sewanee Symphony Orchestra Artistic Director, but he is no stranger to the Mountain and its magic.

Ward, who earned his doctorate in orchestral conducting at Louisiana State University, made his first trip to Sewanee the year when he was selected for an orchestral fellowship with the Sewanee Summer Music Festival (SSMF). Ward is one of five new music faculty welcomed to the University this year. He started following César Leal’s departure last spring. Ward is also a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University.

“I first came to Sewanee in 2018 as an orchestral fellow for violin, and coming back to work with the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has been quite the full-circle moment,” he said.

Ward grew up in southern California and said he accidentally discovered his love of music in elementary school.

“In fourth grade, you either had to choose a string instrument or join the choir. I definitely was not going to sing, so I chose an instrument. My sister played violin and said she could teach me the basics. Even though I wanted to play cello, I decided it was too big and I’d just learn the violin,” he said. “After taking lessons and seeing the work paying off in ensembles, I fell in love with the instrument.”

As a member of the regional youth orchestra, La Primavera Symphony, Ward performed throughout Sydney in Australia. One of the most memorable performances was at the Sydney Opera House.

“The director there kept saying things like, ‘This is so special for you all, because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This will never happen again.’ And I thought right then, ‘No, you watch. I’ll be back.’ I realized then that music was something I really wanted to pursue. I did my undergrad and masters for violin and my doctorate for orchestral conducting,” he said.

Ward previously conducted the SSMF’s New Music Ensemble as well as the Louisiana State University’s Symphony Orchestra. He also served as the founding Music Director of the Baton Rouge Civic Orchestra and performed with the Boston Civic Symphony, Boston Opera Collaborative and New England Repertory Orchestra.

Ward is currently working with the SSO to prepare for the Dec. 9 concert, which will honor the 50th year of women at the University.

“Oftentimes, conductors want to push this standard repertoire to young populations, and lots of time that encompasses the same few composers. Those composers are worthy of learning, but the depth of our repertoire is so rich,” he said. “My specialty is American symphonic heritage, and there is so much we have that can be represented. Both of the female composers that we are representing in December are American composers. Exposing young people to repertoire that they might not be familiar with is a great celebration and can be very eye opening to the younger people.”

​Sewanee Village Green: What, Why, How


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

“The village green is the most important part of the village,” said Scott Parker, principal for the Charleston, S.C., based firm Design Works. Charged with creating a conceptual design for the Sewanee Village Green, Parker met with community members at the November Sewanee Village update meetings.

The Sewanee Village Plan assigns a half-acre site to the green at the present location of the Sewanee Market.

“The location is absolutely right,” Parker said. “It will connect the two sides of the village. How the space is designed and what’s happening there speaks to who you are as a community, both the history and how you see yourself in the future.”

Parker acknowledged the importance of tourism, and not just for businesses. “More exposure is better for the University.”

How do towns attract visitors? “When people travel, they’re looking for something unique,” Parker said. “Focus on your own community,” he advised. “What is your brand?”

Resident and business owner Ed Hawkins suggested, “capitalizing on Sewanee’s history,” things like All Saints’ Chapel and The Cross.

“Sewanee is a community of self-reliant people,” said resident Anita Colley. “The community farm has been going on forever. People make candles, goat cheese. Highlight the crafts people.”

Hawkins observed the craft people were “spread out” over a large area. Hawkins suggested a shuttle and emphasized the need for a tourist information facility.

“People need to know the green is the place to go to find out things,” Parker stressed.

The discussion about lighting reinforced the often expressed importance of preserving Sewanee’s “dark sky.”

Resident and business owner Susan Holmes suggested motion activated sidewalk lighting.

“Lighting is critical,” Parker agreed. “Everything should work for pedestrians. That should be the guiding principal.”

In response to a suggestion that the village needed to be “subtly different” from main campus, that the buildings did not need to be stone for example, Parker observed. “The University is the lead story here. The village should pick up on some aspect of the college.”

Parker championed the idea of routing traffic through town via University Avenue to help connect the campus and village.

Addressing safety concerns about the green which will border Highway 41A, Parker said, “It’s important to be able to look down into the green from the highway, but there needs to be some sort of edge so kids aren’t going out into the street. We’re working on that.”

Parker recommended movable tables and chairs on the green that “can be arranged” according to people’s needs and whims. He cited a similar project where movable furniture jumpstarted activity.

“Does the village green need a name?” asked Frank Gladu who oversees the Sewanee Village initiative.

Parker proposed considering “something that speaks to the history of the place.”

“The green is [near] where the old depot was,” Hawkins said.

However, University professor and resident Chris Shelley observed, “The name ‘The Village Green’ tells people exactly what it is.”

​Sewanee Women: ‘Diamonds Are Made Under Pressure’


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

The panel discussion Sewanee Women Then and Now featured four current students and five alumnae ranging from the class of 1974 to 2019. Held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of women students at the University, the panel shined a light on disconcerting moments alongside gratitude, inspiration and awe.

Margaret Barton, C’78, recalled a professor who opened class with “Welcome gentleman and girls.” A woman classmate advised her, “Never accept a date after Wednesday or you’ll look hard up, and always wear full makeup to the library.”

Elise Spainhour was a freshman the second year Sewanee admitted women. “I tried to find out which professors were user friendly and would tolerate women. Some faculty didn’t want women here. I lucked out. I only had ‘one.’” Spainhour went on to emphasize how supportive the all-male political science faculty was when she decided to attend law school. “It was a shock at Vanderbilt to deal with chauvinists. I didn’t get that here.”

As President of the Women’s Dorm Council, Rosemary Drake, C’80, launched plans for an inter-dorm swim meet. The coach in charge of the pool quashed the event, telling Rosemary “I’m not going to have women throwing up and fainting in my pool.” Dean Mary Sue Cushman got things back on track.

Malicat Chouyouti, C’20, started out as an economics major, a male-dominated field. “I was often the only black and/or woman. I experienced the erasure effect. People pretend you don’t exist and seem surprised when you say something…‘Oh, she’s kind of smart.’”

“I’m often the only international student in class,” said Mandy Tu, C’21. “I’m from Burma and have a unique perspective on colonialism. I need to gauge when to say something and when to step back. I haven’t figured out the middle ground.”

“I spent the first two years mad,” admits Maria Trejo, C’20. She stressed the importance of “Theme Houses, where you can be yourself. The Queer and Ally House was the first safe space I encountered. If it hadn’t been for that, I don’t think I would have stayed.”

The dorm was the safe space for early alums like Spainhour and Barton.

“We didn’t have a space for sorority meetings, coffees, and speakers,” said Elizabeth Niven, C’85, who worked to help women realize the dream of the Bairnwick Women’s Center.

An audience member observed women were often “the activists on campus.”

“It takes a lot of brain space to balance activism and academics,” Tu said, acknowledging “the reliance on student initiatives.” As President of the Organization for Cross-Cultural Understanding, Tu launched a Representation Project to ease the experience of international students like herself.

Chandler Davenport, C’19, came to Sewanee as a Posse Scholar from Washington, D.C. She initially found her community among other D.C. Posse Scholars “who had the same culture back home.” Then Chandler encountered women of color “who didn’t come in with a community.” She helped found Black Queen to create a space for those women.

What were the unique take aways for Sewanee women?

Spainhour, currently a Kentucky Circuit judge and senior family court judge, cited “intellectual freedom.”

“Women of Sewanee shaped my spirit and pushed me to do things I never imagined,” said Chouyouti, who serves as a student trustee, a role she never envisioned for herself.

“For every difficult person who said something mean to me or underestimated me, there are five supportive people,” said Tu.

“I’m the only woman in the history department at the school where I teach. I’m not intimidated. I’m used to being the only one,” Davenport insisted. Her advice to current and future students: “Embrace the discomfort. Diamonds are made under pressure.”

​Women of Sewanee Success


by Lee Freeland Hancock, C’81, Special to the Messenger

Women of Sewanee, an independent group of alumni, faculty, staff and community members, announced its first fundraising success at Homecoming Weekend: a $20,000 fund for portraits of women scholars and mentors at the University.

The group launched its fundraiser in early October to honor history professor Julie Berebitsky, recently retired chair of Women and Gender Studies. Berebitsky’s portrait will be the first commissioned with a permanent fund named in her honor. Women of Sewanee (WoS) wants to ensure more portraits of groundbreaking women scholars and leaders are visible in places of honor at the University.

At a Friday reception celebrating Berebitksy’s career, WoS members revealed that more than 200 alumni, students, faculty and staff and community members gave from $3 to $2,000. The group doubled its initial goal, allowing for a permanent portrait fund.

“Women’s and Gender Studies was thrilled with the outpouring of support and recognition for Professor Julie Berebitsky,” said Andrea Mansker, current chair of Women and Gender Studies. “The efforts to commission an oil painting of Dr. Berebitsky that will hang in a prominent location on campus were phenomenal and stand as a testament to Julie’s longstanding efforts to disrupt the patriarchal status quo at the University.”

Terry Papillon, vice president and dean of the college, notably helped by creating a Women of Sewanee restricted account at the University. It allows for future donations to the Berebitsky portrait fund as well as new WoS initiatives at the University.

“I am pleased to see this group so engaged and interested in the well-being of Sewanee’s future,” Papillon said. “I look forward to working with them more on projects that will make Sewanee a continually better place for women.”

Women of Sewanee began in mid-July, as alumnae shared stories in connection with the year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of women’s admission to the college. Beginning with a few people on a Facebook page, it now has more than 3,100 members. It is open to women affiliated with Sewanee and the mountain community. Members include college professors, staffers and administrators, legal and medical professionals, farmers, journalists, scientists, nonprofit leaders, educators, theatre professionals, political consultants and government experts, stay-at-home moms and others.

“I never dreamed that a simple invitation for women of Sewanee to join together would turn into such a dynamic movement,” said WoS founder Em Taylor Chitty, C’77, a Sewanee native and University of Tennessee teacher.

Future WoS projects include member retreats and student mentoring and a book on Sewanee women. The group also wants to help enhance mental health, Title IX and wellness programs and community outreach initiatives.

“It’s time for us to show the University the power of female organization and collaboration,” said Hayley Shelton, C’04, a Nashville native and human resources consultant. “I look very much forward to working with the University to overcome challenges and illuminate continued issues that female and female identifying students face.”

Others said WoS is fulfilling a desire to expand Sewanee’s community. “We share a passion for this place and its people,” said Patsy Pyle, C’89, a Birmingham native who leads custom tours in Paris. “When women support women, our community will be stronger.”

Contact Women of Sewanee at <womenofsewanee@gmail.com> or Facebook.

Contribute to the portrait fund at www.support.sewanee.edu

. To designate the fund, select “Other,” and in the Program or Initiative field, note “Women of Sewanee Berebitsky Fund.”

​Woodard’s Diamonds and Design Open at New Location


by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

Jim Woodard and his team at Woodard’s Diamonds and Design spent their final day in the Northgate mall location last month after more than 30 years.

The new store is located at 2011 North Jackson St., in Tullahoma, right in front of the Walmart.

Woodard has been in the diamond business since he was 16-years-old, and he said the store symbolizes a new phase of serving his community.

“When I started working in jewelry, I just really enjoyed the people and serving customers, helping them pick things that were really cool like engagement rings or birthday presents or anniversary gifts. It was so wonderful to be able to help people find something special for someone,” he said.

Woodard’s is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. With the move complete, and Woodard and his team getting settled into the new location, he said now is a great time to come see what the new store has to offer.

“This is a wonderful season to come in and find something beautiful,” he said. “What I really like is that the things that you purchase from the jewelry store have a pretty long shelf life. When you give a diamond ring, that can be a gift for the next generation and the next and the next.”

Come see Woodard’s Diamonds and Designs at the new location in Tullahoma. For information about stock or with questions from the diamond experts, call (931) 454-9383 or follow them on Facebook.


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