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2013 News Archive


Tennessee Prospective Superintendents Academy

Announcing the 2014 Tennessee Prospective Superintendents Academy


The Prospective Superintendents Academy is a yearlong program designed to prepare potential candidates for superintendent positions in Tennessee’s public schools. The program will provide intensive preparation for the challenging job of being a public school superintendent. The Tennessee School Boards Association and the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents will operate the program in partnership with the Niswonger Foundation.

 A full program description and details of the application process are provided in the brochure link below.



On Monday, December 9, 2013 2:51 PM, Tammy Grissom <[email protected]> wrote:

Good afternoon.  Attached is the PSA brochure.  Please post on your

We are emailing the brochure to all principals, superintendents and board members.  We will also  post on our website.




Tammy Grissom, Ed.D.

Executive Director

Tennessee School Boards Association

525 Brick Church Park Drive

Nashville, TN 37207


[email protected]


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The Niswonger Foundation honors the educational professionals who are making an important difference in the lives of children across the State. We have sponsored the Tennessee Teacher of the Year award for the past ten years. Our Foundation recognizes that teaching is both a great honor and an important responsibility. Holding the profession of teaching in the highest esteem, we are proud to recognize those who exemplify excellence.

This year, Wanda Lacy, a teacher at Farragut High School, in Knox County, was recognized as Teacher of the Year. She has taught for 30 years, the last six having been spent as an AP calculus teacher. During those six years, every student has taken the AP calculus exam, with 97% earning college level credit. Speaking of her abilities, Principal Michael Reynolds commented “She moves students past seeking only the correct answers and on to the why of learning.”

We congratulate Ms. Lacy on her many accomplishments and for achieving this year's Tennessee Teacher of the Year award.

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The Niswonger Foundation congratulates the 2013 Principal of the Year and Supervisor of the Year.

Two years ago, the Niswonger Foundation began the sponsorship of the Tennessee Principal of the Year and the Tennessee Supervisor of the Year, in partnership with the State Department of Education.

This year, Martha Fisher, Cascade Elementary School in Bedford County, was recognized as the Principal of the Year. Marcia Melton, Cannon County Schools, was awarded the honor of Supervisor of the Year. The Niswonger Foundation was honored to receive a note from Ms. Melton stating that she plans to donate her monetary gift to sponsor a scholarship at her high school for a senior who wants to become a teacher.



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The Niswonger Foundation extends special thanks to four of our Alumni Scholars who participated in the final selection process for the Niswonger Scholars Class of 2018. For the past two years, Alumni have formed the majority of the selection team. Who better to know the qualities and characteristics that exemplify a Scholar!

These four individuals are among the Alumni who have already made their return to fulfill their commitments to live, work and serve in Northeast Tennessee. The Alumni selection committee members included: Matthew Bible (Class of 2011), Chemical Engineer, Eastman Chemical Company; Will Brummett (Class of 2013), Logistics Coordinator in the Center for Service Learning and Student Engagement, Carson Newman University; Dr. Jessica Epley Freshour (Class of 2006), Assistant Professor, Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy at East Tennessee State University; and Law Loving (Class of 2012), a quantitative analyst for Smarty Pants market research company in Jonesborough.

The Niswonger Scholar Class of 2018 will be announced in January 2014.

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Niswonger Excited About Results; Credits Teachers, School Leaders, Haslam



By John M. Jones Jr.


The announcement of Tennessee's dramatic improvement in mathematics and reading, as reflected in the 2013 report of the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), came as exciting news to Scott M. Niswonger, president and founder of the Niswonger Foundation.

The Greeneville businessman and philanthropist has been a leading advocate of adopting more rigorous standards for the state's public schools, in order to give Tennessee students an educational preparation fully competitive with the preparation given students in other states.

He also established the Niswonger Foundation in 2001 "to make a positive and sustainable difference in eduction in Northeast Tennessee."

The Greeneville-based foundation has taken a key role in facilitating the professional development of Northeast Tennessee public school teachers and administrators by sponsoring an annual "School Success Symposium" here for seven years.

The symposia, held at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center here, are designed to allow regional educators to discuss and share best practices in various areas of the teaching profession.

Almost 900 educators took part in the most recent School Success Symposium, held here in June.

Asked for comment on the NAEP results, Niswonger said this morning that "I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation to Gov. (Bill) Haslam for his commitment to raising the bar in education in Tennessee.

This is the most growth in a single NAEP testing cycle by any state in 10 years.  In a decade, no other state has achieved this level of growth from one cycle to the next - an accomplishment which I think is phenomenal.

I give credit for that success to our teachers and school leaders.  I can think of no other time that our teachers have been asked to adapt more or deliver more in their school systems.

We have seen this first-hand at the Niswonger Foundation during our professional development programs that we teach in the summer.

What we've learned from those programs is certainly showing up now, in that teachers can and will implement the rigorous standards that will position students for academic success in the future.

I would also say that, although the momentum in Tennessee is strong, the work is not finished.  Continued efforts by legislators, parents, school boards, and business and community leaders, committing time and resources, will be needed to continue this successful trend.

The Niswonger Foundation expresses great appreciation to our region's teachers and school leaders.

We will continue to focus our work on supporting their efforts, based on the belief that every student in Northeast Tennessee should be provided the opportunity to graduate from his or her high school college or career-ready."

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MOUNT JULIET - Tennessee had the largest academic growth on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) of any U.S. state, making Tennessee the fastest-improving state in the nation.

Gov. Bill Haslam made that announcement Wednesday, noting that the NAEP results also show that Tennessee had the largest growth of any state in a single testing cycle since NAEP started nationwide assessments a decade ago.

"These historic gains are a result of years of people across Tennessee: our teachers, students, principals, superintendents, parents, lawmakers, school board members, business leaders, and many others," Haslam said in a news release.

"As a state we've come together to make education a top priority," the governor said.

Haslam was joined for the announcement by former Gov. Phil Bredesen; State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman; Wilson County Director of Schools Timothy Setterlund; Cicely Woodard, an eighth-grade math teacher at Rose Park Magnet Middle School in Nashville; and state legislators, business and community leaders, and students, faculty and staff of West Wilson Middle School in Mt. Juliet, where the event   was held.

Commonly known as "the nation's report card," NAEP assesses students in fourth-and eighth-grade reading and math.

All 50 states have taken NAEP since 2003, and the results are regarded across the country as the best way to compare educational outcomes across states.

Tennessee students' combined growth on all four tests in 2013 exceeded the growth of all other states.

For data on Tennessee's NAEP results, visit:

The state improved in overall national ranking in each of the four tests, according to the release.

For fourth-grade students, Tennessee went from 46th in the nation in math to 37th and from 41st to 31st in reading.

Tennessee also had very strong growth for African-American students, and the state saw gains in overall results while significantly increasing the participation of special education students on the test.

"This administration's goal has been to be the fastest-improving state in the nation by 2015," Huffman said.

"We've asked a lot of our teachers and students, and they have delivered; they deserve the thanks for this progress.  Dramatically improving results for kids is hard work, but this is what hard work can do," Huffman added.

Tennessee has also seen three years of continuous growth on its state assessments, also known as the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP).

Since 2010, 91,000 more students are on grade level in math, and 52,000 more students are on grade level in science.

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Native American Day


On Friday, September 20th, Greeneville City 4th graders enjoyed a Native American History experience at Dogwood Park. 

This is the 8th year the Niswonger Foundation has provided funding to support the Native American Day activities.  Students are led through hands-on experiences to allow them to understand the culture of Native Americans. 

We were thrilled to receive thank you cards from the fourth grade students at Eastview Elementary School.  Each card touched our hearts and helped us know our mission is being realized.  






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Senator Frist Speaks on Common Core State Standards.

Please follow this link

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Letter to the Editor

Greeneville Sun

July 29, 2013

The staff of the Niswonger Foundation has followed, with interest and concern, your recent coverage regarding Tennessee’s implementation of the new Common Core Standards. I am particularly appreciative of Tuesday’s (July 23) cover story in which leaders from Greene County Schools, Dr. Vicki Kirk and Kristi Wallin, clarified the basic principles for the implementation of these standards in Tennessee.  For those who missed the article, I encourage you to examine their thorough responses to some very concerning misperceptions regarding the Common Core. 

To understand the need for Tennessee’s Common Core Standards, It is important to consider the initial inspiration for this direction in our nation. For years now, we have watched as international rankings of educational systems continue to see the United States in decline. As an example, in one recent report of the 40 countries with the most developed educational systems in the world, the US ranked 17th.  

There are many reasons to be concerned about this fact. First and foremost, it should be that we want our children to receive the best education possible.  Secondly, we want there to be opportunities for them to make a living and lead productive lives. To achieve this, we need our businesses and industries to be guided by the best prepared leaders and employees possible.  Of course, this begs the point that we need business and industry to drive our economy. All of these goals have their foundation in our educational system.  We must improve in order to compete in a global economy.

So, what do countries as diverse as Finland, South Korea and Japan - just to name a few - apparently do better than we do?  A recent Pearson study notes that a culture supportive of learning is the most critical element for success. The key is “an environment where education is highly valued and parents have grand expectations.” The study notes that in the countries holding the top spots, there is a shared social belief in the importance of education and its underlying moral purpose.

How do we get from here to there?  I will not attempt to describe the elements of the Common Core Standards.  Dr. Kirk and Ms. Wallin have already done that exceedingly well.  I would, however, remind us of the basic mission of Common Core Standards. “The desire is to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them be successful.”  The goal is to prepare our children for college and career. The outcome will be to position our communities to be successful in a global economy.  How can we argue with that?

Although Tennessee has improved in academic performance for three years in a row, we still lag far behind the United States average.  This leads to a strong reason to continue our movement to Common Core Standards. They are informed by the best practices and experiences of our entire nation of educators.  A key to these standards is based on helping our students learn the real world skills of critical thinking and problem solving instead of just rote memorization and test taking. While these standards clearly establish benchmarks, they are, as noted by Dr. Kirk and Ms. Wallin, a “roadmap.” Local school systems will continue to have the autonomy to select textbooks and establish curriculum. 

Most importantly, the staff of the Niswonger Foundation wishes to thank our local teachers for their incredible dedication to preparing for these changes.  We have been involved in numerous continuing education efforts with our local teachers, providing us with the opportunity to see their sincerity and desire to understand these new standards and to prepare for the successful implementation.  As business and community leaders, it is important that we show our support for their work.  As parents and families, let’s work to be engaged in supporting our schools and being part of the success of this effort.  

We live in a diverse and changing world. I once heard it stated that in America we are only equal in one way -”our ability to be unequal.”  It may be a true statement, but unlike many other nations, every child in our country is equal in one important way; there is an opportunity for a free public education.  As an educator in the State of Tennessee for more 35 years, it is my belief that this is our one common dominator to make it possible for our children to achieve their biggest dreams.  It is, therefore, our responsibility to make our educational system “world class.” Our children deserve no less.

Dr. Nancy Dishner

Executive Vice President

Niswonger Foundation

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Niswonger Foundation  

School Success Symposium

Numerous breakout sessions designed for all K-12 educators who want to learn from regional colleagues about best practices in our area.


Featured Speaker:

Dr. Todd Whitaker, author of

What Great Teachers Do Differently

What Great Principals Do Differently

Dealing With Difficult Parents

Niswonger Performing Arts Center and

Greeneville High School

Get more information and register before

May 28, 2013 at, Upcoming Events, School Success Symposium


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The NETCO Secondary Collaborative Day is scheduled for June 13th. We are excited to again meet with our colleagues in education and have a good day of sharing ideas.  For more information and registration details please follow this link

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Niswonger Foundation Supports Tenth Regional School Concert

More than 2000 students from Northeast Tennessee elementary schools were delighted by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra's performance at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center on March 12.  Sponsored by the Niswonger Foundation, this year's program marked the tenth anniversary of these concerts.  While the major goal of the effort is to provide the opportunity for children to see an orchestral performance, this concert is specially designed as a teaching/learning experience.  The Niswonger Foundation supports the belief that developing an appreciation for the arts is an important aspect of becoming an educated person.


The 2013 program combined science and music in an entertaining and educational format.  Ken Mays, Deputy Director of the American Museum of Science and Energy, thrilled the attendees with the "smoke and colors" of science experimentation, accompanied by the sounds of the symphony orchestra.  The scientific concepts of how and where sound travels, the pitch, intonation, variations of sound were taught based on an examination of the steps in the scientific method.  These concepts relate directly to the standards of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP).


The special guest performers for this concert were the Greeneville High School Advanced Choir.  Accompanied by the orchestra, the voices of the choir members were used to demonstrate the scientific principles being taught.  The Greeneville High School choir was let by Kathryn May.  The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra was under the direction of Maestro James Fellenbaum.

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Alex is pictured with the Café founder, Brian Orchard, at a very successful recent fundraiser. 


Niswonger Scholar Alex Smyth has been busy volunteering with the “One World, Everybody Eats” movement in our community. As a sophomore at East Tennessee State University, Alex became involved in the One Acre Café that will be opening in downtown Johnson City in the fall of 2013. The Café offers a “pay what you can” model, with suggested donations for those who can pay, pay it forward, and volunteer in exchange for a meal options. The Café chef will focus on healthy meals with items purchased from, or donated by, local farmers. The mission of One Acre Café is: “To nourish the body, replenish the spirit, and grow the community so that all might be fed.”

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       Dustin                  Katie             Matthew             Raini                 Sam


The NISWONGER FOUNDATION, founded by Greeneville, Tennessee businessman and philanthropist Scott M. Niswonger, has selected five high school seniors to join the Niswonger Scholars program.  Currently, there are 18 Niswonger Scholars, with the newly selected students for 2013 bringing the total to 23.  The Foundation also has 44 alumni of the program.

The Niswonger Foundation’s guiding philosophy of “Learn, Earn and Return” is firmly embedded in the Niswonger Scholars program.  The program takes the brightest young leaders in Northeast Tennessee, provides them the opportunity to attend the college or university that will best prepare them for their chosen career, and supplements that education with four years of leadership development activities. The plan is to see Niswonger Scholars come back to the region with not only strong earning potential, but an entrepreneurial spirit and overwhelming desire to return their talents and energy to this region. The goal is that at the end of their experience as Niswonger Scholars, they will embody the values most important to the mission of the Foundation:  exceptional leadership ability, exemplary personal character, and a strong commitment to building community.


The five new Northeast Tennessee Scholars are Sam Brashears, Sullivan North High School; Matthew Grimm, Daniel Boone High School; Dustin Howser, Tennessee High School; Raini Rowenhorst, David Crockett High School; and Katie Shields, Pigeon Forge High School.  

Samuel “Sam” Lucas Brashears, a student at Sullivan North High School, has maintained a 4.0 grade point average and is ranked first in his class.  He has served as Vice President and President of Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), placing 2nd in the HOSA Bowl Regional Competition and 5th at the 2012 State Convention. He is Senior Class Vice President.  Sam has received the Sullivan North Scholar Athlete Award for the past three years, and has been recognized as “Top 5 Member” of the Tennessee Association of Student Councils’ “4-Star Student Council.”  He has participated in varsity cross-country, track and basketball.  He is the founding member of the Sullivan North Robotics Team. His plans are to attend Wake Forest University, major in Biology, and attend medical school. Sam is the son of Candra Brashears of Kingsport and Samuel Brashears of Whitesburg, Kentucky.   

Matthew Johann Grimm is a student at Daniel Boone High School.  He has maintained a 4.0 grade point average.  Strongly focused on community service, Matthew has assisted Read Across America, Shoe Boxes for Soldiers, St Jude’s Children’s Hospital, God’s Kitchen, and numerous projects through his church. He is a member of the Academic Team, Beta Club, and National Honor Society.  He uses his musical talents in a worship team and runs sound systems for several community organizations.  He is a Sunday School teacher and a student leader in his church’s youth ministry. His goal is to attend the University of Tennessee - Knoxville, pursue an undergraduate degree in nursing or a science related field, and attend medical school. He is the son of Calvin and Elaine Grimm of Gray. 

Dustin Cole Howser attends Tennessee High School.  He is ranked first in his class and maintains a 4.0 grade point average.  He is Editor in Chief for the THS Yearbook, graduate of the Bristol Youth Leadership program, and is Student Technology Assistant for the Bristol Tennessee City School System. He is the Discus Awards Winner for Arts, and a National Society of High School Scholars member. Dustin has many musical interests to his credit including, session leader for nationally signed Phoenix Records recording artist, Brad Puckett, lead guitarist for local rock and blues group, Cadence, and guitarist with the Tennessee High Symphonic Jazz Band, and is a songwriter. He will be attending Vanderbilt University, majoring in mechanical engineering. He is the son of Tim and Darlene Howser of Bristol, Tennessee. 

Raini Mae Rowenhorst is a student at David Crockett High School. She has served as Vice President and Reporter for the Future Farmers of America (FFA), receiving FFA honors including the Star Greenhand Award, Most Outstanding Member, and Best Leader. She was selected to participate in the Student Congress on Policies in Education (SCOPE). She has received awards as Outstanding English Student and Outstanding Mathematics Student. She serves as activities director for the DCHS Civinettes and is Secretary of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Raini’s plans are to attend the University of Tennessee - Knoxville and major in psychology. She is the daughter of Corby and Diane Rowenhorst of Jonesborough. 

Kaitlyn “Katie” Joy Shields attends Pigeon Forge High School, is ranked first in her class, and maintains a 4.0 grade point average.  She is President of the Leo Club, National Honor Society Treasurer, Beta Club Vice President and FFA Reporter.  She attended Governor’s School for Prospective Teachers at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. She lettered in basketball, softball and cross country.  She serves as a volunteer with various organizations including, as a tutor for the Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, Toys for Tots, and with her local soup kitchen. Katie plans to attend the University of Tennessee - Knoxville and pursue a degree in agricultural education. She is the daughter of Brigitte Shields of Pigeon Forge and William Shields of Sevierville. 

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The Niswonger Foundation conducted its annual Winter Leadership Training for their Niswonger Scholars on December 21-22, 2012.  The theme for this year’s training was “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There.”  The first session was held on Friday the 21st in the fellowship hall at Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  After the day’s session, the Scholars were invited to a holiday pajama party hosted by Foundation staff members, Dr. Nancy Dishner, Linda Irwin and Barbara Bates.  The Scholars had a casual dinner and then played festive games, ending with a visit from Santa (Scott Niswonger).  The second session was on Saturday the 22nd at General Morgan Inn.  Among those making presentations at the second session were Scott M. Niswonger, founder and benefactor of the Niswonger Foundation, alumni Scholars – Jessica Verran-Lingard, Matt Bible, Patrick Brown, Ian Sams, Trey Reliford and Katie Baker.


The current Niswonger Scholars are (FRESHMEN): Gage Armstrong, Afton, University of Tennessee; Trey Dodson, Jefferson City, Vanderbilt University; Ivory Shelton, Erwin, Wake Forest University; Matthew Sheppard, Kingsport, Clemson University; Richard Vradenburgh, Mohawk, Tennessee Technological University; (SOPHOMORES) Jordan Frye, Piney Flats, University of Tennessee; Lillie Seal, Sneedville, Lincoln Memorial University; Alex Smyth, Mosheim, East Tennessee State University; Christopher Steadman, Blountville, University of Tennessee; Francisco Ochoa-Vargas, Johnson City, Vanderbilt University; (JUNIORS) Alex Croghan, Limestone, Lipscomb University; Yaying Wang, Greeneville, Emory University; Scott White, Johnson City, University of Tennessee; (SENIORS) Will Brummett, Jefferson City, Elon University; James Durham, Greeneville, University of Notre Dame; Johneshia Good, Johnson City, Milligan College; Elizabeth Jones, Johnson City, Clemson University; Jason Light, Blountville, University of Tennessee; Kayla Williams, Russellville, University of Tennessee.


Niswonger Scholars participate in two formal leadership training experiences each year. Scholars are chosen primarily for their leadership potential, commitment to personal excellence and to service in their home communities. Their scholarship provides the opportunity to attend the college or university of choice. In exchange, the Scholars commit to returning to serve in their home communities. 

Established in 2001, the Niswonger Foundation was founded by Scott M. Niswonger, Greeneville businessman and philanthropist. The mission of the Foundation is: “To create opportunities for individual and community growth through education and other sustainable projects.”  Information regarding the work of the Niswonger Foundation may be found at

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