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Peyton Ferguson hugs Landon Reese as the seniors are being recognized.

Suspended CCHS teacher resigns but will face no criminal charges

Campbell County High School criminal justice teacher Buddy Brian Nelson resigned on Jan. 24 after having been suspended without pay weeks earlier, but he will face no criminal charges following the closing of the case by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on Jan. 31.

“My office determined that there was insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution; therefore, I requested that the TBI close their case,” said Eighth District Attorney General Jared Effler.

Nelson was suspended without pay, effective Jan. 2.

The end date of the suspension was pending the outcome of an investigation.

“He has been suspended without pay pending an investigation by DCS and the TBI on reports made by a student that they were made to feel uncomfortable,” said Campbell County Director of Schools Jennifer Fields weeks ago.

In his resignation letter, Nelson wrote, “Beginning with a thank you for the opportunity to serve in a teaching capacity over the past several years, I have done the best of my ability to instill education, honor and accountability to each student that I have encountered as well as push them to succeed in not only their educational abilities but more importantly, their future with either college or career and as citizens. I know I have reached many and have been blessed seeing them succeed.

“Considering the present accusations and investigation, with a heavy heart I am resigning from the position of Criminal Justice teacher at Campbell County High School. I have been burdened with the current issue until it has affected my health, my home life as well as blemished my reputation and character in to the community in many negative ways that I feel is irreversible. I deny any accusation of wrongdoing especially of a criminal nature but feel that it is in my best interest to part ways to salvage my name and reputation. I no longer feel that I could safely teach in the current environment where any allegation can cause this type of devastation for me, as well as my family’s lives.

“Thank you for allowing me to be part of your team and my prayer for this is that the faculty and staff as well as students and the administration strive forward to make this the best educational system that it can be. I have worked with some amazing mentors and teachers along the way and am honored to work alongside them. I will miss the staff and friends that I have made along this journey. This decision is my best effort to protect myself and my life for the future.”

Nelson sent the resignation letter, dated Jan. 24, to Fields, CTE Director Robbie Heatherly, CCHS Principal Ben Foust and the Campbell County Board of Education.

In the director’s final report, it was noted: “The resignation almost immediately followed a media report about the investigation.”

In the initial director’s report, under “allegations of misconduct, which, if substantiated, would warrant consideration for license suspension, revocation or formal reprimand under state board rules,” two items were circled: “inappropriate communication with a student that is explicit” and “inappropriate physical contact with a student that does result in harm.”

An incident happened in class with other students present allegedly.

“TBI files are confidential,” Effler said.

TBI spokesperson Leslie Earhart said, “In December, at the request of 8th District Attorney General Jared Effler, TBI special agents began investigating allegations of assault involving a teacher at Campbell County High School.”

Campbell County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Suzy Knight said, “On December 16, a meeting was conducted between the student, their parents, school principal and the SRO to discuss the nature of the complaint.”

Sheriff Wayne Barton further clarified that Nelson had previously worked at the county sheriff’s office, which amounts to a conflict of interest. That’s why it was TBI running the investigation and not the county sheriff’s office.

In Nelson’s personnel file, a letter noted that the county school board voted to grant Nelson tenure back in 2020.

Texas Roadhouse could be coming to LaFollette

Texas Roadhouse could be coming to LaFollette in the future.

“You’ve got to go after these places,” LaFollette Mayor Cliff Jennings said. “You can’t sit and say, ‘Boy, I wish they’d come in here.’ You’ve got to go beg, borrow, trade.”

Jennings mentioned the possible development during the city’s monthly workshop on Monday night.

“What we’re doing is we’ve met with a developer who’s looking at maybe developing the 18-and-a-half acres down there,” Jennings said after the meeting. “What we’re looking at is a motel, two restaurants — one, he thinks, could be Texas Roadhouse. The other one, we haven’t discussed. All this is preliminary, of course, and the possibility of 10 or more soccer fields on the back part of it, so we’re trying to increase some revenue.”

The council also is looking into possibly holding the Campbell County Lions Club carnival in May at another location besides the parking lot behind the city municipal building.

“I support the Campbell County Lions Club 100%,” City Administrator Stan Foust said. “They do a remarkable job in our county. I’ve been looking at this as well, and we paid $300,000 to redo this parking lot out here.”

The last lions club carnival happened before the parking lot was paved, Foust said. Then after the paving happened, a non-lions club carnival took place during the city’s 125th anniversary celebration on July 9, and there were damages to the parking lot, which were later repaired under warranty.

At the city’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, the city council will vote on whether to approve opening a new bank account for tourism at Peoples Bank of the South.

Also the council will decide whether or not to apply for a $93,000 violent crimes grant.

The council will also decide whether to promote Clifford Gerrish to the position of full-time sanitation worker, with a $28,601.04 salary, effective Feb. 11.

Also on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting is whether to submit bids to pave the landscaping boxes and remove stripes.

The council will also decide whether to submit bids for guardrails behind Calvary Baptist Church at Cherry Street and at South Thirteenth Street and Rosehill.

Up for approval will be two resolutions to amend the annual budget, as well as an ordinance to abandon a part of unopened street within West Elm Street.

The council will also vote on an ordinance which would amend the city’s zoning ordinance to specifically address storage buildings in the C-1 and C-2 zones. The planning commission passed this resolution last week.

U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett visited Campbell County recently and met with many people, including Sheriff Wayne Barton.

U.S. Rep. Burchett visits Campbell County

LaFollette holds its championship trophy.

Baird named Jacksboro Elementary teacher of the year

Tiffany Baird is in her 12th year of teaching, and she has changed over the course of that time.

“I have grown as a teacher in many ways,” Baird said. “When I first started teaching, I would sweat the small stuff, and now as a much older, wiser teacher, I have learned to let the little things go.”

Baird teaches second grade at Jacksboro Elementary.

“Especially in today’s education field, so many teachers are leaving their careers because they are overwhelmed,” she said. “I learned to do my best and give 110% from 7-3 and then go home. Leave work at work, and focus on me when I’m home. It has made me a better teacher, wife and mother!”

Baird was recently named Jacksboro Elementary teacher of the year.

“I was ecstatic and humbled,” Baird said. “Jacksboro is full of wonderful educators and the absolute finest people you will meet, and for them to have chosen me brought me to tears. I was so emotional. I couldn’t even keep my hands from shaking!”

Baird earned her bachelor’s degree in human growth and development at Tusculum College, she said.

“I’ve known since I was a little girl that teaching was my calling,” she said. “It is the only thing I’ve felt led to do!”

She earned her master’s degree in administration from Cumberland University, she said.

“I used to say that I love working with the children and seeing their lightbulb moments,” Baird said. “As I have gotten older and became a mother, I like teaching so that I can be a teacher I would want my children to have. I like that I can give the students in Campbell County a loving, safe learning environment, in which they may not get at home.”

Tiffany Baird and her husband, Andy, have three daughters: Molly, Lacey and Sadie.

“When I was student-teaching at LaFollette Elementary with Mrs. Karen Holder, I met a little guy that won my heart,” Tiffany Baird said. “His home life was unstable. He would come in with all the things going on in his life and have the biggest smile. He would say, ‘I love you, Mrs. Tiffany!’ And ‘I come to school to see you, Mrs. Tiffany!’ It took all I had to hold back the tears daily! That’s when I knew I was following the path God had destined for me.”

Smith named Jellico Elementary Teacher of the Year for elementary grades

Sarah Smith was a second-grade student at Jellico Elementary School when she had a realization that changed the rest of her life.

“I always enjoyed school,” she said. “I never wanted to miss a day. I had a wonderful second-grade teacher. She was very comforting and encouraging when you were unsure of yourself. She really made every lesson fun. I enjoyed the way that she taught. I felt like that’s how teaching should be. I just felt like I wanted to be that kind of teacher for others.”

Just like that, Smith knew what she wanted to do when she grew up.

“I have always wanted to teach,” Smith said. “I decided that I wanted to be a teacher when I was in the second grade. Kids normally have a million dream jobs that change over the years, but mine never did.”

And as she graduated from high school and went to college, Smith never forgot where she was when she first fell in love with teaching.

“My goal was always to return to Jellico Elementary, where I made that decision, and I am very happy that I did,” she said.

In just her third year teaching — and her second year at Jellico Elementary, where many of her former teachers are now co-workers — Smith was named Jellico Elementary Teacher of the Year for elementary grades recently.

“I was surprised and excited,” she said.

Smith teaches social studies and language arts to third-graders.

“In my three years, I have taught first, second and now third grade,” she said. “Each year has been rewarding, watching students grow and learn new things and knowing that I have been able to teach something that they can apply to their lives forever.”

Smith is a 2016 Jellico High School graduate.

“It was very surprising to be nominated for something like this,” she said.

Smith earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of the Cumberlands in 2020.

Smith is pursuing her master’s degree in literacy specialist, also from the Cumberlands, she said.

“I love when students have those ‘aha!’ moments, that what you are teaching them suddenly makes sense,” she said. “I find it exciting when you see them scan though a story to find a detail to answer a question or the look on their face as they make a connection.”

Dunham named Jellico Elementary Teacher of the Year for middle grades

Gloria Dunham was recently named the Jellico Elementary Teacher of the Year for middle school grades.

“I was very surprised because my colleagues are all amazing, high-quality teachers,” Dunham said. “For them to pick me for this honor was very humbling. I am very grateful.”

Dunham has taught for 27 years, with the last two years being in Jellico. She also taught in Ohio for seven years and Whitley County, Kentucky for 10 years.

“When I taught in Knoxville, I taught a young woman who had a difficult home life,” she said. “She really tried hard academically, but a C was her best grade for her best work. She was very discouraged, but we kept working together and I continued to try to encourage her. At the end of the year, she had managed to get a few Bs. She worked so hard for that. She wrote me a note about how much it meant to her that I cared and how that getting help at school made things at home a little easier. She told me she appreciated how I cared about her and encouraged her. That was a this-is-why-I-do-what-I-do moment. Also, at least three former students have gone on to become teachers themselves. It’s worth every minute.”

What Dunham likes most about teaching are her students.

“Definitely my students, our daily interactions, building relationship with them and finding out who they are, so I can be more effective,” she said.

Dunham got both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of the Cumberlands, she said.

She teaches students ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade.

“My students are amazing young people who are caring, athletic, kind, compassionate, intelligent and so funny,” she said. “They are young people who need extra support in reading and math to fill in the gaps they missed early on.”