MLK Day of Service

As we look ahead to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day together as a community, we could not be more excited than to announce our second annual Sewanee MLK Day of Service! On behalf of the Office of Civic Engagement, the Office of Inclusive Excellence, and All Saints' Chapel, we invite students, faculty, staff, and community to join us as we serve the local community while building community with one another.

On Monday, Jan. 15, we will gather in Fowler for a community brunch at 9 a.m. followed by our service project at 10:30 a.m. We will once again work in partnership with Sleep in Heavenly Peace to build beds for children in our community who otherwise would not have a bed to sleep in. While this is a national organization, all of the beds we build together will stay in our local community. In addition, this year we are excited to offer card-making and blanket-making service projects for those who would prefer not to build beds or for those who just wish to make cards or blankets! We can't think of a better way to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. than to come together in service and unity.

To culminate the day, we will also gather in All Saints’ Chapel at 5 p.m. for a special service honoring Dr. King’s legacy. Please plan on joining us for that as well.

Please consider joining us for this important event! If you'd like to participate in the community brunch, volunteer activities, and/or the special Dr. King service, please take a minute to complete this Google form. Go ahead and mark your calendars, but we will send reminders as it gets closer to Jan. 15.

Franklin County Schools Resolution Opposes Governor’s Scholarship

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Dec. 11 meeting, the Franklin County School Board voted to endorse a Tennessee School Board Association resolution opposing Governor Bill Lee’s proposed Education Freedom Scholarship Act that would siphon money from public education by awarding vouchers for private and homeschool education. The board also approved a budget resolution reimbursing schools for assuming the debt for over $8,000 in unpaid student lunch charges in the 2022-2023 school year.

“I’m not opposed to private schools, but to public money supporting private schools,” said board member Sara Leichty explaining her opposition to the Scholarship Act. The proposed legislation, expected to be voted on when the Tennessee legislature reconvenes in 2024, would award 10,000 vouchers to disabled and disadvantaged students and 10,000 to others in the 2024-2025 school year. Vouchers would become universally available to students in the 2025-2026 school year, projected amount $7,075 per student. Public schools receive funding based on the number of students enrolled. Board member Sarah Marhevsky pointed out in Florida which adopted a similar voucher program, in the past three years the amount of education funding awarded to the affluent private sector increased from 3 percent to 10 percent, leaving the public schools to educate the economically disadvantaged since the vouchers alone were not sufficient to pay private school tuition. Further criticizing vouchers, Liechty observed private schools were not held to the same accountability and testing standards as public schools.

The resolution stressed that 32 percent of Franklin County public school students came from an economically disadvantage background and the district offered an array of programs and services often not available in private schools and the homeschool setting, including special education for the 15 percent of students with disabilities, career and technical education, dual enrollment for college and trade schools, Advanced Placement courses, band, and mental health resources.

“Public education is the bedrock of this country’s strength. We are where we are because of education for all,” Leichty insisted. “Do not weaken the foundation of public education. [The Education Freedom Scholarship Act] is all about putting money in the hands of private industry.”

Marhevsky encouraged concerned community members to contact their state legislators and voice disapproval of the Education Freedom Scholarship Act.

Providing background on the budget resolution to repay schools who assumed $8,633 in debt for unpaid student lunch charges, Leichty explained during the COVID pandemic all schools offered free lunch; following the pandemic some continued the free lunch program and others did not. “The schools were not the responsible party [for the unpaid charges],” Leichty said. “The money should have come from the fund balance.” The reimbursed schools “will move up to the free lunch program in January,” said Director of Schools Cary Holman. Only two schools will not offer free lunch. “Those two schools did not close the year with any [lunch charges] debt,” Leichty said. “They are small elementary schools, and they have benefactors that take care of them.”

Updating the board on the impact of the state sales-tax holiday on school funding, Deputy Director of Finances Jenny Phillips said, “We’re doing okay.” Revenue was approximately $34,000 lower than last year, but the schools were receiving a boost from unpaid tax revenue. Since Home Depot opened, Decherd had received $712,000 in tax revenue that should have gone to Winchester, and half that amount should have gone to the Franklin County public schools. The district also received an $800,000 growth payment from the state due to increased enrollment.

The school policy standardization review being undertaken by Human Resources Supervisor Linda Foster revealed a policy inaccuracy that did not reflect the state law change several years ago that forbade revoking the driver’s licenses of students who did not receive passing grades. The board voted to remove the driver’s license revocation clause from the Reporting Student Progress policy.

22-Unit Townhouse Complex Coming to Monteagle

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Dec. 5 meeting, the Monteagle Planning Commission voted to conditionally approve the site plan for a 22-unit townhouse project on Moffat Street pending resolution of two ADA compliance issues and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) approval of the unique drainage strategy. The commission also approved changing minimum square foot requirements for R-2 and R-3 residences, with different standards for single family and multifamily dwellings.

Explaining the drainage strategy at the proposed Willowbreeze Townhomes site, engineer Kimberly Flood said storm water from the 1.41-acre site flowed into a detention pond with three injection wells that pumped the water into the earth facilitating reabsorption on the site. “There won’t be any runoff,” Flood stressed. “Water will never come to the top of the highest contour. We tested it up to a 25-year storm history.”

Commissioner Greg Rollins expressed concern about children falling in the pond. “It’s only two feet deep,” Flood said.

“It’s a good design,” commented resident Grant Fletcher, but noted TDEC sometimes hesitated on approving injection well drainage systems. Flood said the developers intended to seek TDEC approval as soon as the commission approved the site plan.

Commissioner Katie Trahan pointed out the law required an additional ADA compliant parking space and recommended the plan also include ADA compliant sidewalks to the building.

The site plan calls for an asphalt shingle roof and a mixture of brick, siding, and stone for the exterior surface. The attached 1,200 square foot units will have two floors, with approximately 600 square feet of living space on each floor.

The long-revisited question of minimum-square-footage for residences led to the commission setting the minimum at 800 square feet for all residences in September then rescinding that decision at the October meeting when some commissioners expressed reservations about holding apartments and condominiums to a 800 square foot minimum. The new rule sets 800 square feet as the minimum size for single family residences; for R-2 and R-3 apartments and condominiums, the minimum size is 600 square feet.

Frameworks for Repairing Histories of Racial Inequity

There will be a convening of Jessie Ball duPont Fund higher education recipients Jan. 9-11, 2024, titled “Catalyzing Change: Frameworks for Repairing Histories of Racial Inequity.”

This will be a convening of universities who are funding awardees of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund in higher education, of which the University of the South are one.

There are four sessions that are open to the public.

Opening Keynote: Conversation with Dr. Tia Brown McNair and Dr. Cynthia Neal Spence — Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, 7 p.m., Guerry Auditorium

President’s Discussion: Dr. Rob Pearigen, University of the South and Mari Kuraishi, duPont Fund — Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, 5 p.m., Guerry Auditorium

From Research to Healing and Action — Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, 9:30 a.m., Guerry Auditorium

Where Do We Go from Here?: Undoing Racism in Fundraising and Advancement — Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, 11:30 a.m., Guerry Auditorium

Register for the public sessions at <;.

For more information on the speakers, the lectures and topics and for a full convening schedule please visit <;.

Hospitality Shop Operating Changes

The Hospitality Shop Auxiliary Board wants to thank the Sewanee community for a bountiful year! The Shop will close for winter break on Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 1 p.m. It will open again on Saturday, Jan. 13, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will only be open on Saturdays for the month of January.

After a thoughtful presentation by a Babson Center student research team led by William Hull, the Board has voted to close the children’s section at the Shop. To that end all children’s clothing and toys are half price from now until the first of February. We will no longer take donations of children’s toys and clothing but will accept children’s books. Donors can take children’s clothing to Good Samaritan or Life Choices in Winchester.

If the Board can recruit enough new volunteers in January, it has also voted to expand working hours by adding Fridays in February from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. in order to better match student non-class hours. We will provide an update in January. The Board hopes that these hours will be an added convenience for all customers.

The Board wishes everyone in the community a safe, healthy and joyful holiday season.

Monteagle Council Split Vote on Two Issues

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Nov. 27 meeting, the Monteagle Council lacked unanimity, failing to approve employee raises, and was divided on a business permit decision, with the mayor breaking the tie. The council unanimously approved closing Sunset Rock Road after discussion about pedestrian access.

“Only 50 percent of the employees will get raises, the police department and office personnel,” said alderwoman Dorraine Parmley objecting to the mid-year employee raises proposed. “I won’t agree to it unless they all get raises. No one is more important than anyone else.”

“We’re trying to get [employees] to a level playing field,” said Mayor Greg Maloof. “It’s not a cost of living raise. It’s just a stop gap to get us to the next fiscal year.”

Alderman Nate Wilson acknowledged the need “to increase the base salary of the police,” since the department “was losing employees due to attrition.” Wilson suggested increasing the starting wage for police only.

“I want all employees treated fairly,” said alderwoman Jessica Favaloro. “That’s not what’s happening in this case.”

Favaloro, Parmley, and Wilson voted against the ordinance providing for the raises, with only alderman Dan Sargent voting, yes.

Resident Dean Lay requested a business permit for a “auto-truck detail and auto-diesel repair” facility at 800 Dixie Lee Avenue. Wilson said Lay would need to take his request to the Board of Zoning Appeals because an ordinance passed in September mandated the BZA approve new semitruck repair facilities and truck stops. Lay said at present he did not plan on the facility servicing semitrucks, but acknowledged, “I don’t know what the future market will be.” Lay pointed out trucks had been parking on the lot since 1977 and mechanics came to the site to perform repairs. Wilson suggested approving the permit conditionally depending on the town planner’s review of the business description to determine if BZA approval was required. Favaloro and Wilson voted against unconditional approval of the permit, with Parmley and Sargent voting to approve. Maloof voted yes breaking the tie.

Discussing the ordinance to close Sunset Rock Road, Wilson commented the community enjoyed walking there, and asked Monteagle Sunday School Executive Director Scott Parrish if the road would be open to pedestrians. The Assembly now owns all the property on the road. Parish said the Assembly would “not block pedestrian access … Our only concern is vehicle traffic. We expect more pedestrian and bicycle traffic.” Lay suggested a written document “preserving” pedestrian access in the future. “It would be complicated to codify public access to the road,” Wilson acknowledged. He asked the minutes for the meeting note the Assembly’s willingness to allow pedestrian access to the road.

The council also approved an ordinance to rezone the Dubose property from Institutional to C-2 commercial and to move forward with applying for American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to develop an asset management plan. The ARP funding Monteagle is scheduled to receive requires the town to have an asset management plan, said city engineer Travis Wilson. The planning grant for up to $375,000 requires a 25 percent match ($93,000) from the city. Only a few municipalities were invited to apply, T. Wilson stressed. Nov. 30 was the deadline for accepting or declining. “You can leave the money on the table, if you don’t use all of it,” T. Wilson pointed out. “You only match the money you take.”

Looking to the future, Sargent suggested the council consider a 3 percent gasoline tax. “The tax would mostly be born by tourists,” Sargent observed. By law, the town can only levy a gasoline tax to pay for large expense projects. “Future water and sewer projects will cost millions,” Sargent said. Maloof will investigate further.

The Monteagle Christmas parade starts at 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 9. The Christmas Festival will be in Harton Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and includes food trucks, vendors, games for kids, cookies, cocoa, and visits with Santa after the parade.

Joseph’s Remodeling Solutions Earns 2023 Great Place To Work Certification™

Joseph’s Remodeling Solutions is proud to be Certified™ by Great Place to Work for 2023. It is the second year in a row to be awarded this certification. The prestigious award is based entirely on what current employees say about their experience working at Joseph’s Remodeling Solutions. This year, 93 percent of employees said it’s a great place to work – 36 points higher than the average U.S. company.

Great Place To Work is the global authority on workplace culture, employee experience and the leadership behaviors proven to deliver employee retention and increased innovation. “Great Place to Work Certification™” isn’t something that comes easily – it takes ongoing dedication to the employee experience,” said Sarah Lewis-Kulin, vice president of global recognition at Great Place to Work. “It’s the only official designation determined by employees’ real-time reports of their company culture. Earning this designation means that Joseph’s Remodeling Solutions is one of the best companies to work for in the country.”

“We have worked really hard to nurture our company culture and it’s nice to know our team enjoys the benefits. For us it’s a combination of carefully hiring and providing living wages and great benefits. For years we have had a program of getting weekly feedback from each of our team members and we want everyone to love their work,” said Alyssa Sumpter, co-owner of Joseph’s Remodeling Solutions with her husband Joseph. “We owe our continued success to our team. We celebrate and thank them for all they do each and every day to earn this incredible recognition.”

According to Great Place to Work research, job seekers are 4.5 times more likely to find a great leader at a Certified great workplace. Additionally, employees at Certified workplaces are 93 percent more likely to look forward to coming to work, and are twice as likely to be paid fairly, and have a fair chance at promotion.

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