Hi, I'm John!

I'm a reporter with the Central Kentucky News-Journal in Campbellsville, Kentucky.
I cover the education and breaking news beats, manage the newspaper's Twitter account (though I post plenty to Facebook and Instagram), and I'm in charge of the community calendar and obituaries as well.
I'm currently enrolled in my final semester at Lindsey Wilson College, where I'm earning my bachelor degree in Media Studies with emphais on Journalism and Public Relations, as well as a minor in Communications.



Recent Works

(Archive coming soon!)
TRH explains conflicting grades

Hospital gets four stars in CMS survey, ‘D’ grade in safety report from The Leapfrog Group

Published on Thursday, June 13, 2019


Taylor Regional Hospital was one of 21 hospitals in Kentucky to be given a four-star rating (out of five stars) by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in their 2019 report.

It was also one of five hospitals in Kentucky to be given a ‘D’ grade by The Leapfrog Group in their biannual safety report for the first half of 2019.

So, what gives?

The discrepancy between the two scores comes down to methodology —  the way each group calculates their scores — and how the information TRH did or did not give them factors into it.

When Taylor Regional received Leapfrog’s survey, part of it was marked as “optional.”

This part included statistics regarding hand washing, staff working together to prevent errors, tracking and reducing risk to patients, effective leadership being used to prevent errors and having enough qualified nurses. 

According to a statement given by hospital spokesperson Ann Dabney, TRH chose not to submit information for the optional part of the Leapfrog survey because they already report it to several other organizations, including CMS, as well as The Joint Commission, Anthem and the Kentucky Hospital Association.

“We successfully maintain our continual compliance with multiple accreditations which review measures, including the safety items [not reported to The Leapfrog Group], and just recently completed another Joint Commission survey receiving an updated certification in Sept. 2018,” it read.

Dabney also noted that CMS makes the data hospitals submit to them public, whereas Leapfrog only makes their scores public.

TRH is classified as an “acute care hospital,” meaning they offer both inpatient and outpatient care. Other acute care hospitals nearby include Spring View Hospital in Lebanon, TJ Health in Columbia and Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown, each with three-star ratings in the CMS report.

One question Leapfrog’s report raised has to do with Taylor Regional Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU).

In the category that measures whether or not the hospital has “specially trained doctors” to care for ICU patients, TRH scores a five out of 100, the lowest reported score.

Dabney noted that other hospitals have received the same score and that this metric does not make any attempt to rate the quality of care patients receive in a hospital’s intensive care unit.

Instead, it measures the number of specially trained “intensivists” who work there.

Dabney referenced a study by the Society of Hospital Medicine released in May of 2018, which reported a “well-documented shortage of intensivists in the US.” 

The report stated that, in rural hospital settings unable to recruit intensivists, hospitalists were often used to provide critical care instead.

Dabney went on to cite an article published in April of this year by Critical Care Medicine, which found 48% of acute care hospitals have no intensivists on staff.

“TRH is one of many rural hospitals unable to recruit intensivists,” read a statement from TRH. “However, we utilize well-trained hospitalists to take great care of our patients.”

The hospital also expressed disappointment with the grade they received from Leapfrog in a statement.

“We do not believe this [grade] adequately reflects the care that we provide to our patients,” it read. “We strive to provide the best care to our community and will continue to work diligently to demonstrate the high level of care that is synonymous with Taylor Regional Hospital.”
Higdon obtains perfect marks on evaluation

Taylor County Schools superintendent has first assessment from school board

Published on Thursday, June 13, 2019


At the end of their first school year, new superintendents give a first-year capstone presentation.

Charles Higdon Jr. gave his during a special session on June 3, which was followed by a closed meeting where members of the board sat down with Higdon and discussed his evaluation. 

That meeting took four hours, according to Board of Education Chairman David Hall, and the results were kept private until the monthly board meeting on June 10.

“A year ago last month, our district hired Mr. Higdon to be superintendent of the Taylor County School District,” began Hall. “He was to be the most recent in a line decades-long of strong leaders, different men and women each facing different challenges defined by the changing minds of various board members and the changing tides of time.” 

Hall said the board admired the fact Higdon came into his initial interview “not just ready to answer questions but with a vision to answer immediate needs” and “address coming challenges.”

“We were looking for someone to lead with honor and humility, collaborate with local leaders and respect all within our community as peers, be they young or old, have or have nots, students, faculty, cross-town rivals or alumni.”

He said Higdon’s plan to make himself visible in the school district and establish himself as someone anyone could approach with ideas complemented their own plan of operating transparently.

They also admired his willingness to “slow down” and allow the board to find its voice.

“Our only challenge in this review,” Hall said, “has been to strike a balance between the exemplary manner in which he has executed all seven of the standards in his required review of his first year and our efforts to satisfy the bureaucratic standard to foster the best in someone we believe to be one of a kind.

“It doesn’t do justice to great efforts to be limited to a common scale. It doesn’t speak to promises kept beyond what was asked of him to stick to a generic frame. You can’t show, in future efforts, an improvement on a perfect grade.”

Hall said the board understands the intent of the evaluation process is to examine Higdon’s leadership and address any weaknesses while maintaining his strengths. It’s meant to make the board plan for the superintendent’s continuous improvement, but they felt that wasn’t necessary.

“The seven standards for leadership evaluation are strategic, instructional, cultural, human resource, management, collaboration and influential. He has exceeded them all, and, in so doing, holds our collective esteem,” Hall said. “He has shown us other traits beyond the standards, such as a propensity for compassion, a hunger in competition, resilience in adversity and humility in success. In closing, we have given him his laurels, but know he has no desire to rest upon them.” 

Hall pledged the board would “work with Mr. Higdon at the helm” to continue improving the district and themselves by improving their paths of communication, working on professional development and using each other’s “unique and collective strengths.” 

“May the Lord bless our good intentions and magnify our best efforts,” Hall said.

“All the positive things we’ve said today have been about you,” board member Tommy Raikes said, “but you have given all the credit to everyone else. That is leadership, and that is what you’re doing on a daily basis. I commend you for it.”

The motion to approve Higdon’s perfect score, with exemplary in all categories, passed unanimously.

In other news:

• Taylor County is one of 20 districts in the United States to be named a National Beta Club District of Distinction. Principals from the middle, intermediate and high school were each given a commemorative plaque to hang in their respective schools honoring the achievement.

• Noah Tyler Bolin was awarded his high school diploma, which he earned through Taylor County High School’s partnership with The Healing Place.

• Randall Johnson, of Codell Construction, delivered an update on work being done to the Central Kentucky Career Center. The aviation and health labs are expected to be completed on time before the next school year begins. The industrial maintenance lab is still slated to be ready in December, though they are slightly behind schedule.

• The board voted to approve a technology plan that would have the district replace its devices every five years, setting aside 1/5 of the resources necessary each year to prevent having to make larger purchases all at once. The plan also allows for the surplus of old devices, with money from their sale going to fund new devices.

• A vote was passed to change the monthly board meeting times for the 2019-2020 school year from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

• The Central Kentucky Career Center will soon be looking for a welding instructor. Higdon cited the new jobs being created in Campbellsville by Manchester Tank & Equipment, as well as the popularity of welding classes at the Green County Area Technology Center, as big reasons for the new hire.

• The board voted to rename the Cardinal Career Academy, located in the upstairs area of the Central Kentucky Career Center next to the city lake, and approve its establishment as “Lakeview Academy,” an A-5 alternative school program incorporating grades seven through 12. This classification is intended to make the school eligible for additional funding it could not receive otherwise and will make it the fifth school in the Taylor County School District. No additional staff will need to be hired as a result of this change.
CMS roof project set for next step

Smith earns high marks, CIS employees to get 1% pay bump

Published on Thursday, June 13, 2019


The Campbellsville Independent School Board approved a motion to advertise bids for a much-needed roof project at Campbellsville Middle School.

During the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, an architect said sections of the middle school’s current built-up roof were between 20 and 30 years old, with internal drainage issues, improper sloping and gutters incapable of handling rainwater during strong storms.

The roof currently has three different types of roof deck: concrete, metal and wood, meaning much of it will need to be repaired or more likely replaced, considering how easily wood deteriorates. Fixing that issue is included in the bid, along with the installation of the new thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) single membrane roofing system, most commonly chosen because it is more economical and durable than other methods.

In addition to new roofing, the bid will also include adjusting slopes, removing unused units and other punctures that may let in rainwater and replacing the current gutters with larger ones. 

Larger gutters will prevent water from running down the walls of the school building, reducing ways rainwater can make it into the school.

As an added bonus, insulation under the new roof should aid the middle school in reducing energy consumption over time.

Smith receives high marks on evaluation

After regular business concluded, Smith and members of the board entered a closed executive session to discuss his evaluation.

Pat Hall, chairman of the board, gave a summary of the discussion afterward, reminding those in attendance the final written documentation for his evaluation would be finished and approved at the July board meeting.

“After speaking with Mr. Smith and going over standards one and two [strategic leadership and instructional leadership], which is what we were primarily holding him responsible for,” said Hall, assuring everyone they also considered the other five leadership standards, “the board is very pleased with the progress that has been made in the district.” 

She said the board was specifically appreciative of Smith’s willingness to have an open dialogue with them, as well as his ability to determine for himself what his strengths and weaknesses are and how he can improve.

“Being able to self-evaluate is the greatest thing we can accomplish,” Hall said, “because it’s the toughest, to be honest.” 

“We’re going to rank Mr. Smith exemplary in both standards one and two,” she said. “It is a unanimous decision by the board.” 

Hall went on to say the board would present Smith with the documentation for him to sign later, though “there will be some notations Mr. Smith has pointed out to us,” she added. 

“When you’re responsible for the whole district,” Hall said, “there are a lot of people you have to talk to. He’s going to continue to work on that dialogue and look at some other areas, not only with his administrative team but with everybody who works with the district to make sure they know the door’s always open.” 

Hall said she knows Smith will continue to work hard, but that the board encourages him to “take it easy.”

“In his second year, he’s done a whole lot more at the schools than was possible the first, but I did see him get to spend some time with his family. We’re encouraging him to continue in that same vein, but family comes first,” she said. “With that having been said, we have ranked Mr. Smith exemplary for his second year as superintendent.”

CIS employees to receive 1% pay bump

Also in the meeting, CIS Superintendent Kirby Smith recommended board members approve the 2019-2020 salary schedule for the district, which is slated to include a 1% pay increase for all staff.

It passed unanimously.

Smith gives end-of-year presentation

Retention was a major point of discussion for Smith in an end-of-year presentation he gave during Monday night’s board meeting.

He noted that having “great people” to work with — and keeping them in the school district — makes everyone’s job run more smoothly.

“One thing I continue to do is emphasize to our principals: the most important decision they can make is to hire the best,” he said. “Do your best to hire the best every time, and then find a way to retain them.”