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UPDATED: Legendary MTSU track coach Dean Hayes dies
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Dean Hayes, who served as Middle Tennessee State University’s track and field and cross country from 1965-2021, died Friday, Jan. 7, at the age of 84.

Hayes’ 57 years of coaching includes many team championships, All-Americans and Olympians. MTSU’s Dean Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium is named in his honor. He was inducted into the Blue Raider Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.

Hayes was selected multiple times as a coach for the United States track team in international competitions, including the 1988 Olympics in Seoul when the Americans took the top three spots in the long jump led by Carl Lewis. Hayes was a referee for the track and field events at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

“Dean Hayes was a champion in so many ways: As a father, mentor and role model, a world-class recruiter, and a winning coach at the highest echelons,” MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said. “Dean was a living legend. I speak for Elizabeth and my family, as well as all Blue Raiders, in expressing our deepest and heartfelt condolences to Jan and all of his family.”

A family spokesperson indicated there will be a private funeral for family only. However, plans are under way for a Celebration of Life that will be open to the public.

“Words can’t express what Dean Hayes has meant to MTSU, the MTSU track and field program, international track and field, and the thousands of people whose lives he has impacted through his work,” MTSU Director of Athletics Chris Massaro said. “He is on the Mount Rushmore of Middle Tennessee, and not just athletics.

“Coach Hayes was a pioneer and an institution at MTSU. He will be sorely missed by the community, the university, and all of his former and present student-athletes. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Jan and his daughters Erin and Kara.”

Hayes said in a 2016 interview with the Murfreesboro Post that he made a list of schools that were using an assistant football coach as the track coach. He said MTSU was on the list and that he got the school “off the hook” by hiring him because it had been reprimanded by the Southern Association for hiring only MTSU graduates as coaches.

Hayes started coaching at MTSU with the men’s program in 1965. He began coaching the women’s team in 1987.

Hayes guided the programs to 29 Ohio Valley Conference titles, 18 Sun Belt championships, and 20 NCAA Top 25 finishes. More than 50 of his student-athletes have earned a total of 124 All-America honors, four have become national champions and many competed in the Olympic Games, World University Games and Pan-American Games.

In Conference USA, Hayes claimed four titles, three with the women’s team and one with the men’s team.

He was C-USA Coach of the Year three times and also won the honor 15 times in both the Ohio Valley Conference (including 10 in a row from 1977-1986) and Sun Belt Conference. He is a member of the Illinois Sports Hall of Fame and the Mason-Dixon Athletic Club Hall of Fame.

After the 1981 season, the Division I Track & Field Coaches Association voted Hayes the NCAA Outdoor Coach of the Year. Hayes then served as president of the TFCA in 1982-83.

He coached NCAA champions Tommy Haynes (1974) and Barry McClure (1972, 1973), as well as NCAA high hurdle champion Dionne Rose (1994). His most recent national champion was Mardy Scales, who won the 100-meter dash in 2003. He also coached Roland McGhee to nine All-America honors, and both McClure and Greg Artis won All-America honors seven times.

“I’ve always respected him,” McGhee said. “He took a chance on a kid from a small town in Ohio and gave hime a chance. I’ll be forever grateful for that. He was a great mentor and father figure. There were people who couldn’t go home for the holidays, but he opened up his home and made them part of the family. We were a family.

“To be able coach 50 plus years at one place, he was doing something correct. You don’t keep an employee 50 straight years if they don’t. He would challenge you, but he also instilled a belief in you that maybe you didn’t have yourself. I remember going to the Penn Relays, he really thought we could compete. We went two years, and I don’t think any of us thought we do so well and beat so many good teams. … He’s a legend and leaves a great legacy.”

According to Hayes’ biography on the Blue Raiders Sports Hall of Fame website, he is credited with opening MT Track and Field to minorities and recruiting MT’s first international competitors.

The Nashville Sports Council selected Hayes as the recipient of the 2014 Fred Russell Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Naperville, Ill., native also has served as an assistant at several international events, including:

• First Olympic Sports Festival in Colorado Springs, Colo. (1978)

• World University Games in Kobe, Japan (1985)

• Goodwill Games in Seattle, Washington (1990)

• World Cup in London (1994)

• World Championships in Athens, Greece (1997)

• Goodwill Games in New York (1998)

• World University Games in Bucharest, Romania (1981)

• World Championships in Helsinki (1983)

• Coach at the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea (1988)

• Referee at Summer Olympics in Atlanta (1996)

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Rutherford County starts the year with significant snowfall
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Rutherford County waltzed into the new year with winter weather advisories and snowfall that blanketed the ground with an estimated four to seven inches of school-canceling snow.

Both Murfreesboro City Schools and Rutherford County Schools were set to have students and teachers make their comeback to campus after a two-week winter break.

Monday, Jan. 3 was scheduled to be a teacher in-service day for the respective school districts but was canceled in the early hours of the morning due to inclement weather. Although there was a frenzy of falling flakes, the snow was short-lived and had mostly melted away as temperatures crept back up in the afternoon.

Thursday’s weather event was more reminiscent of 2021’s mid-February ice storm, which left many Midstate residents huddled up inside their homes for days at a time.

MCS and RCS students returned to school on Tuesday, Jan. 4 with a one-hour delay and were back on a regular schedule by the next day. Both districts then cancelled classes on Thursday and Friday for severe weather and icy road conditions that could be dangerous for commuting parents, staff and bus drivers.

Middle Tennessee State University also closed campus last Thursday and Friday. The spring semester is scheduled to begin Tuesday, Jan. 18.

The Murfreesboro Police Department and the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office responded to several crashes last Thursday.

MPD spokesman Larry Flowers said all of the crashes the city encountered caused no injuries, but several tow-truck drivers had been called to assist individuals stranded in the snow.

RCSO Spokeswoman Lisa Marchesoni said that deputies had responded to an equal number of non-injury and injury crashes related to the “slick county roads” caused by the weather.

Weakley Lane and Couchville Pike were deemed impassable for vehicles on the county government’s Facebook page.

A news release from Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital Rutherford said that members of the Stones River Jeep Club provided transportation to and from the hospital for about 30 staff members.

Middle Tennessee Electric reported no outages on Thursday.

Remembering a rivalry Rockvale High School graduates were recognized on the court last Saturday night between the girls and boys basketball games against Eagleville. It was the first time in 50 years the two programs played basketball as high schools. The previous meeting was on Jan. 11, 1972. The following year Rutherford County Schools consolidated and Rockvale students began attending Riverdale and Oakland high schools. Rockvale won both games last Saturday. For details and more photos, see SPORTS on 1B.

Rutherford County enters 2022 with over 4,000 active COVID-19 cases
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Rutherford County enters the new year with more than 4,000 active COVID-19 cases, more than double the number seen at Christmastime, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

On New Year’s Eve, the TDOH recorded 3,886 active cases county-wide. That is an increase of 2,085 cases from the 1,701 seen on Christmas six days previous.

There were only 2,624 cases recorded for New Year’s Eve 2020 before COVID-19 vaccines were made widely available to multiple age groups.

The state’s data indicates that caseloads are still going up as the new year begins. For the first day of 2022, there were 4,195 active cases compared to 2,573 cases seen this time last year.

The New Year’s Day cases have since climbed to 4,715 as of Monday, Jan. 3.

The most recent figure makes up 1.36% of the county’s population.

School districts lack the authority to implement mask mandates without meeting a specific set of criteria outlined in the virus bill Gov. Bill Lee signed into law last November.

Rutherford County Schools reminded parents of that in an email before students returned to classrooms for the start of the spring semester.

The entire county would have to have 1,000 new cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period to consider setting a temporary mask requirement for a up to 14 days. Requests for mask mandates would have to come from the principals of individual schools as a requirement rather than the entire district.

The county is currently documenting a daily case rate of 159.7 new cases per 100,000 residents over the last seven days ending on Jan. 4.

The email states that the county would have to reach a rate of approximately 3,400 cases within the two-week period to be able to consider any school-by-school requirements.

As case counts rapidly rise, the percentage of Rutherford County residents who are considered fully vaccinated has hovered at just below 50% for the last few weeks.

As of Thursday, Jan. 6, 49.67% of residents have been fully vaccinated and 54.61% have received at least one dose.

To find the local health department’s updated hours for testing and vaccination sites, go to the county government’s Facebook page.

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State commission approves charter school after blasting RCS handling of application
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The Tennessee Public Charter School Commission voted 4-3 last Friday to overturn Rutherford County Schools denial of an application for the proposed Rutherford Collegiate Prep charter school.

The commission also had sharp criticism for RCS’ handling of the charter school’s application.

In a virtual specially called meeting, Commissioner Eddie Smith made a motion in favor of approving the application with the commission and its staff ensuring that the charter school meets the standards of a “rigorous pre-opening checklist” prior to its proposed opening.

If the charter school is not deemed ready to open to a projected 470 students in grades K-5 this fall, it is prepared to delay opening until August 2023.

“Rutherford County Schools was not transparent and honestly just manipulated the system to try and cause this application to fail,” said Smith, mentioning a lack of communication regarding BEP funding for the district and hostility during last month’s public comment session.

Several members of the commission said they felt RCS had prolonged the application process by playing “adult games,” according to Commissioner Wendy Tucker. That made meeting the requirements for approval more difficult. Concerns were also brought up about the school’s ability to be an effective learning option for students in need of special education resources.

A news release from RCS Communications Director James Evans following

the vote states that the school district “strongly objects” to the opinions of the board regarding purposeful delay of the charter school application.

Contact was made with the state’s department of education to determine how the application should be interpreted, either as “new start” or “existing charter operator” when the district found several errors within it.

In the release, RCS says Stovall had initially made the recommendation to deny approval of the application on the grounds that it "did not meet or exceed the standards of the state's scoring rubric," as documented in her written report.  

In December, both RCS and charter school officials had the opportunity to discuss and defend their claims regarding the application before TPCSC Executive Director Tess Stovall.

RCS, through its own charter school committee, decided that ReThink Forward had failed to meet several of the financial, educational and operational standards outlined in the Tennessee Department of Education’s guidelines.

“The staff found that Rutherford County is a district where a charter school could be successful, and I found clear evidence of a growing district in a growing county that has both short-term and long-term education needs that may be met by a charter school,” said Stovall.

She referred to this process as “the most difficult and complex appeal” she had “ever dealt with” but felt that after looking over the amended charter school application determined that RCP “partially met” the state’s standards.

Parker Stitzer of Hamlin Capital Management, LLC, a New York-based investment advisory firm, said a commitment to initially fund $50 million to clear up financial concerns as well.

“Behind that $50 million, there is another $150 million of private funds from our investors that we would like to put to work subject to the project continuing to grow and perform the way we think they should,” said Stitzer.

According to Stovall RCS’ application review process was “riddled with errors and missteps.”

Each party was allowed to submit a one-page written statement responding to Stovall’s recommendation for the virtual meeting. RCS’ documentation was submitted past the deadline.

Tucker said the intentions of the charter school applicant were “great” but lacking in the area of how it will effectively staff teachers who are licensed to serve students in need of special education programs.

“National data shows that if schools are not prepared on day one to educate kids with disabilities, they don’t do as well for other kids either,” Tucker said.

She pointed out the lack of an “identified school leader,” a non-requirement by state law, to voice the charter school’s vision and provide a clearer plan on how it plans to tackle the issues surrounding this demographic of students.

“It is all of the ‘what’ that is required by federal law and none of the ‘how,’ ”said Tucker, referring to a portion of the charter school application that deals with special populations of children.

“This is all cut and paste, black letter law on special ed. This is not a plan. This is a compliance checklist, and I have a problem with that,” she continued.

The charter school plans to enter its first year with two special education teachers and 11 teaching special education assistants. That number is estimated to grow each year until the school reaches capacity, according to the ReThink Forward’s written statement.

A 30-day reconciliation period began after the commission’s vote. RCS could still serve as the local education agency, according to Stovall.

If an agreement is not reached within that time frame, the commission can step in as the authorizer for the charter school and enter negotiations to create a charter agreement.