June seems to be speeding by like a runaway train. It’s interesting how busy things can be even when students are not in the buildings. As I write today’s post I’m listening to The King and I – Faith Evans and Biggie Smalls. Should make things a little funky today. Unfortunately, once the kid’s arise it’ll have to come off the turntable.
Thursday night saw the third entry in the MNPS Next series. If you are not familiar with this initiative, over the past two weeks MNPS has been holding community meetings in order to gather public opinion on the future of district schools. I’ve attended two of the three events held but have refrained from commenting on these meetings until now because I didn’t want to unintentionally dissuade any one from attending. I believe the attempt to get more community input is commendable but per usual the execution and results are mixed.
In my eyes the most valuable portion of the night is the small group discussion. The power of these discussion lies in the disparate mixture of people in the room. Too often we hold conversations on education issues solely with people that see the world through eyes similar to our own. We fall into the trap of thinking our life experiences are universal life experiences. The small group discussion created through MNPS next served to counter that practice.
The discussions I sat in on exposed me to arguments I hadn’t considered in forming my opinions. It was brought to my attention that including Pre-K in elementary schools could potentially translate to those programs becoming more academic focused and less play based – something I’m not in favor of. I learned that private schools run on a 6th through 8th grade model. I also learned that we still aren’t clear on the difference between equitable and equal.
The facilitator of last night’s group, a volunteer and community member, made a comment that in effect said, we want equitable experiences for our kids, we want all schools to be equal. The terms equitable and equal are not interchangeable. Equality speaks to “leveling the playing field” where as equity insures that those that need more, get more. When I tried to point out that equity and equality were not the same thing the response was that “diversity and equity are also not the same thing either.” A point I’m still puzzling over today.
It was also presented that the disparities in our schools were highest at the High School level. I disagree and think the experiences at our High Schools are fairly equitable across the board. Note that I said fairly. I see the biggest disparity being at our elementary school and middle school level. The experience at McKissack Middle Prep is hugely different then that at West End Middle. The experience at Haywood Elementary is vastly different from that Waverly Belmont ES. I’m not trying to compliment or disparage anyone here, there are some legitimate reasons why these discrepancies exist, but I think we need to find the means to make our kids experiences more equitable across the board. I found the small group discussions extremely valuable in this regard and I would encourage MNPS to hold more of these. Perhaps structure a night were the first half hour people break out into one small group and then after a half hour re-scramble the groups for another 30 minute discussion.
I would comment more on the survey portion of the program, but that’s going to be one of our survey questions and therefore I don’t want to risk prejudicing the responses. I will comment more on Monday when I recap.
Congratulations go out to Lucki Price a recent graduate of Pearl Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School. Lucki won a full scholarship to Belmont University by writing an essay on her experiences at Girls Inc., a national program that aims to inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold by equipping them with the skills to navigate gender, economic and social barriers. The scholarship itself is provided by Be About Change, a nonprofit committed to providing higher education scholarships to students from low-income households. Way to go Lucki!
This week saw another incredible EL Summer Learning Institute take place. A highlight this year was Attorney Roger Rosenthal who presented on EL students rights. By all accounts the sessions were extremely enlightening. The English Learner work that is done at MNPS is truly transcendent.
Going on at the same time was MNPS’s Excellence in Early Education Summit 2017 which brought together early childhood educators, community partners and businesses to connect and collaborate. Both Mayor Megan Barry and Director of Schools Shawn Joseph provided key note addresses.
Here’s a couple rumors for you. I hear that training for the new LTDS positions has been going extremely well. I’ll be honest I don’t not what LTDS stands for other then the “L” stands for literacy and that’s my major concern. I’ve heard good things about the literacy initiative all across the board as of late. My hope is that come next April everything will be just as positive.
I hear that the district plans to have all assignments complete by July 1. That includes all principal and EDDSI’s I know people are anxiously awaiting to see which cluster gets assigned to which EDDSI. All principal job’s have been filled except for Amqui and Eakin.
Speaking of literacy, here’s a shameless plug for Book ’em. Book’em creates a more literate Nashville by helping economically disadvantaged children, from birth through high school, discover the joy and value of reading through book ownership and enthusiastic volunteers. Check them out and help them out.
Also I would like to give a final salute to Knoxvillian Lauren Hopson who ends her tenure as President of Knox County Education Association at the end of the month. All I want to say is look up the word leader in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of her waving at you.