UT Chancellor Stepping Down

Replacing University of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek calls for a swift search and candidates who can maintain the momentum of UT’s successes, said UT President Joe DiPietro.

DiPietro announced Tuesday that Cheek, the leader of the flagship campus, will step down and return to teaching. Cheek will continue as chancellor until a successor is selected, which DiPietro called “best for the institution.”

The past academic year has been a whirlwind of controversy for Cheek and UT with uproars about Office for Diversity and Inclusion web posts and the removal of the Lady Vols nickname as well as a Title IX federal lawsuit alleging the university mishandles cases of sexual assault, especially when student athletes are accused.

But Cheek said those issues were “absolutely” not the reason he was stepping down. Instead, Cheek, who turns 70 in September, said it was about more time with his family, including four grandchildren.

He said his daughter Jennifer Armstrong brought up the question in February.

“She said, ‘Dad ,you’re working too much. You need to do something different,’ ” Cheek said. “And I said, ‘I’m not quite ready to retire.’ ”

That’s when his daughter suggested returning to the faculty — it’s less intense and less time- consuming, and urgent phone calls won’t pull him away from his grandchildren’s piano recitals.

Cheek said when he came to UT in February 2009 after a 34-year career at the University of Florida, he planned to stay in the role for three to five years. He has stayed nearly eight.

As of October, Cheek’s base salary was $447,492.

The chancellor’s announcement came after departure announcements by three of the nine members of his cabinet. Vice Chancellor for Communications Margie Nichols is retiring, and Provost Susan Martin is returning to her faculty role.

Former Vice Chancellor for Diversity Rickey Hall is leaving for a new role at the University of Washington, an announcement that came about the same time a bill passed by state lawmakers to pull funding from his office became law.

Cheek said Tuesday the searches to replace Nichols and Martin are suspended. His suggestion is to start the searches again once a chancellor is selected.

A search is expected to begin immediately after the Board of Trustees meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.

DiPietro said his goal is to begin preliminary interviews this summer and bring finalists on campus in the fall so he can make a recommendation to the trustees at the October meeting and have someone in place by the spring 2017 semester.

“We will scour the United States of America and beyond for the very finest candidates,” DiPietro said. “I hope that every candidate that we talk to says, ‘I can’t wait for them to offer me this job.’ ”

DiPietro has already contacted the UT Faculty Senate for recommendations of faculty to be on the search committee, said Bruce MacLennan, senate president.

MacLennan said faculty members will want to stress the importance of issues that include diversity and continuing teaching and research excellence.

Members of UT Diversity Matters, a coalition of mostly student groups, also plan to share their thoughts on a future chancellor with DiPietro and the trustees, said coalition member Johnathan Clayton, a UT senior.

He said he hopes UT leaders keep in mind there is a lot of diversity work to be done at UT.

When a new chancellor is in place, Cheek will start teaching educational leadership and higher education policy to mostly doctoral students.

He’ll be able to share practical experience with students interested in “getting it right from the horse’s mouth,” said Bob Rider, the dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences.

The college is also where UT’s Center for Educational Leadership is based. Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre will lead that center starting Aug. 1.

Rider said having both men on staff means “great things” for the college.

For Cheek, the change will be all about time for his family and his students.

“These are 24-hour, every-day-of-the-week jobs,” he said of being chancellor. “You can do that for a certain period of time, but you can’t do that indefinitely.”

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Wine on the way to Grocery Stores

After a several year battle, shoppers will officially be able to buy wine in grocery stores beginning July 1.

Workers have been filling shelves with all the varieties for days.

While the shelves may be stocked, shoppers still have to wait until next Friday before purchasing.

Here are the new guidelines shoppers need to know:

  • You can’t purchase wine in grocery stores on Sundays and customers will not be able to purchase wine in grocery stores on select holidays, including July 4.
  • Wine purchases can only be made Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Beer will still be available for purchase on Sundays at grocery store.
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TVA’s Newest Nuclear Power Plant Goes Offline

America’s newest nuclear reactor is offline right now, while workers deal with a problem relating to its startup.

The Unit Two reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City was in the middle of testing at the first level of power generation, when an unknown problem in the main turbine control system triggered a reactor shut down on Sunday at 12:27 p.m.

Watts Bar Unit Two is the first new reactor to produce power in the United States in 20 years.

T-V-A says, once the problem is fixed, the reactor will resume testing and generating power.

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Franklin and Moore County Comcast Customers may Suffer Service Interruption

Comcast cable and internet customers in Franklin and Moore Counties may lose their service if a dispute between Comcast and Duck River Electric Membership Corporation over utility poles isn’t soon settled.

According to Duck River Electric officials, Comcast is delinquent on its pole usage fees for the second time in as many years. And the co-op is threatening to pull the plug on Comcast and remove its equipment from the co-op’s utility poles if the cable and internet provider doesn’t pay up — late fees included — by Friday.

Duck River Electric Membership Corporation owns the utility poles and leases space on them to a variety of users, including Comcast competitors.

In 2014, Comcast and the local co-op went through a similar spat over pole fees, which ended with Comcast paying what Duck River Electric requested but never entering into a new long-term contract for pole usage.

This time around, Comcast officials say they are paying the pole rent, “despite (Duck Town’s) refusal to negotiate reasonable terms.”

Sara Jo Walker, regional director of communications for Comcast, said in a statement Monday the cable and internet provider is “disappointed that Duck River has resorted to public threats to extract pole rent of more than three times the national average, while privately rejecting our proposal to invest an additional half a million dollars in expanding broadband in Franklin and Moore Counties.”

Steve Oden, director of member services at Duck River Electric, said the co-op’s pole fees aren’t exorbitant — at least, “the rest of the attachers on our system apparently don’t think so.”

He said the co-op does not have annual fee problems with other “attachers,” or services leasing space on Duck River poles. He would not disclose the amount Duck River says Comcast owes, other than “it’s not an insignificant amount to us.”

Oden also said “we thought we resolved it in 2014,” after the first pole fee fight between Duck River and Comcast.

“I can’t explain why it happened again,” Oden said. “We’re really sort of amazed.”

Oden said Monday that Comcast acknowledges now the money it owes Duck River in annual pole leasing fees, and he hopes for a resolution by the end of the week.

“It appears we may be able to avoid this,” he said.

But if not, Oden said Duck River Electric is prepared to physically remove Comcast equipment from co-op-owned poles and disconnect the TV and internet provider’s power supplies

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Judge Tosses marriage License Dispute

A Williamson County chancellor has dismissed a local lawsuit seeking to ban Williamson County Clerk Elaine Anderson from issuing all marriage licenses in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriage last June.

The lawsuit, filed in chancery court by former lawmaker David Fowler on behalf of the Constitutional Government Defense Fund, named Anderson and Attorney General Herbert Slatery as a defendants.

The lawsuit argued that when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges to invalidate state laws’ exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage, the decision also invalidated the totality of Tennessee’s marriage statutes, thus denying secular marriage rights to everyone.

The plaintiffs in the case included Williamson County ministers George Grant, Lyndon Allen and Larry Tomeczak, as well as citizens Tim McCorkle and Deborah Deaver.

Chancellor Joseph Woodruff wrote in his court order that while the plaintiffs took Obergefell “to its logical conclusion,” he could not grant injunctive relief because the plaintiffs lacked an actual legal controversy for the court to rule on and because the court lacked the necessary subject matter jurisdiction.

Read More: http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/williamson/franklin/2016/06/20/williamson-chancellor-tosses-same-sex-marriage-lawsuit/86159586/

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Lawmakers to Consider Ouster Legislation

Lawmakers should examine legislation that makes it easier to oust an elected official facing charges such as Sheriff Robert Arnold, state Sen. Bill Ketron said.

“There should be some way to have that individual removed from office, so that’s something my office is going to be looking at,” the Murfreesboro Republican senator said during a Monday phone interview. “I think we need to review the law to see what is available to help protect the citizens. We are going to be looking at what could be done, but it would take a vote in both houses and have to be signed by the governor to change that.”

Arnold, his uncle John Vanderveer and Joe Russell, the sheriff’s office’s chief of accounting, face a 14-count federal indictment accusing them of illegally profiting off inmates through the sale of JailCigs, an electronic cigarettes business. Their trial is scheduled Aug. 2 in Nashville.

The Rutherford County Commission members have talked about pursuing an ouster suit with attorney John T. Bobo, but many are also worried that civil litigation involving depositions could interfere with the criminal case.

Although they are not pursuing an ouster suit at this time, the commissioners in a 21-0 vote on Thursday followed state Sens. Ketron and Jim Tracy in urging Arnold to resign.

“I understand why he’s not resigning,” Ketron said. “I’m sure he needs to make money, and he needs to plea bargain with a goal to get a lesser sentence.”

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Conditions for Tennessee Children Worsen

Children in Tennessee are worse off today than they were before the Great Recession of 2008, according to an analysis by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

As part of its annual Kids Count report, the foundation ranks the welfare of children in every state by looking at four sets of data in four categories: economics, education, health, and family and community.

Nationally, Tennessee ranked 38th in this year’s report, compared to 36th in 2008, when the recession started.

Most of the reasons for the lower ranking were economic. Twenty-six percent of the state’s children now live in poverty, for example, up from 22 percent in 2008. Thirty-seven percent of the state’s children live in single-parent families compared to 35 percent in 2008.

“There’s no question less poverty improves outcomes for children,” said Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, the state Kids Count affiliate.

Outside of economics, children in Tennessee saw improvement, particularly in the area of health. The percentage of teens who abuse drugs shrank from 7 percent before the recession to 5 percent in 2013-14. Child and teen deaths per 1,000 declined from 34 to 29.

“In part that is because of fewer deaths in motor vehicles, the leading cause of death for adolescents,” O’Neal said.

The number of children without health insurance fell from 7 percent in 2008 to 5 percent in 2014, and the percentage of low-birth-weight babies was 9 percent in 2014, down from 9.2 percent in 2008.

In other areas, the number of students not graduating from high school in time dropped from 25 percent in 2007-08 to only 18 percent in 2012-13. And teen pregnancies dropped dramatically, from 52 per 1,000 in 2007-08 to 33 per 1,000 in 2014.

“Unfortunately, we’re still 42nd on [the teen birth rate], but we have made substantial progress,” O’Neal said. “It’s just that other states have made more.”

The number of children who live in homes where the head of household does not have a high school diploma was the same in 2008 and 2014, at 13 percent, as was the percentage of teens not in school and not working, 9 percent in both 2008 and 2014.

The Kids Count data is done on a statewide level and does not show variations by county. But O’Neal said most of the poverty-related issues were prevalent across the state, in both rural and urban communities.

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