It’s Friday and that means it’s time for an update and another round of poll questions. So buckle up because we have a lot of ground to cover before we get to the reader participation portion of the program. To say that this has been an eventful week would be a bit of an understatement.
On the 21st of August Nashville is set up to experience a once in a lifetime event. Nashvillians have been afforded the opportunity to experience a total solar eclipse. In this case it will be a complete blackout. Many of us have experienced an annular eclipse – where there is a ring of the sun visible – very few of us have experienced a total eclipse.
MNPS has recently embarked on a district wide STEAM initiative. STEAM places an emphasis on science and it counts project based learning as a major component. Hmmmm….rare eclipse…science…project based learning…sounds like a perfect storm coming together. Unfortunately that is not how district leaders saw things back in September. In spite of recommendations to remain open and create a district wide learning experience, district leadership decided to create a professional development day on August 21. The day was included in the calendar, the calendar was approved, and people made plans off of that calendar.
Fast forward to this week. Apparently, as the day approached city leadership realized that being an urban district, with high poverty levels, having kids out of school during the eclipse presented a safety issue. Also not having school that day created some inequities at a time when we are making erasing inequities a priority. The school board agreed, they voted, and the decision to be closed on August 21 was reversed.
There has been a rush to liken this decision to a snow day.
“Hey it’s hard to predict these things.”
“You have to be flexible.”
“It’s a decision that nobody will be happy with.”
That is not an accurate description and it is not the decision that is the issue. It is the fact that a schedule was approved and distributed. Teachers made plans off of that schedule. Families made plans off of the schedule. The district reversed itself without ever acknowledging those facts. In other words they sent a message, again, that their priorities were the only ones that mattered. They compounded that message by not redistributing the revised schedule in a timely manner. To date there are still many teachers and families that don’t even know that the schedule has been revised because the new schedule hasn’t been published. Somebody needs to realize that there is a big difference between a hard decision and a poorly planned one.
LOVE THAT DIRTY WATER
Back on June 30th MNPS issued a press release on what great people they were in testing the water in our schools. They included none of the findings in the report and in fact, acted as if nobody would ever read the report. Well somebody did: Phil Williams and Channel 5 News. They found some disturbing numbers in the report and have aired several stories on lead in our schools’ water. MNPS countered by issuing more press releases about how great they were for testing. They even wrote an open letter to MNPS families and employees to tell them how great they were.
In the letter they state, “At no time in this first phase of sampling were there any concerns raised for the safety of our drinking water.” Odd, because the report shows that at DuPont ES 45 out of 55 samples tested at more than one part per billion and at the MS 54 out of 83 samples surpassed the lead level that pediatricians say is safe. Pediatricians say that anything over 1ppg should be considered unsafe. The federal government sets a thresh hold of 15ppg. I’ll let you decide who’s levels you buy, but encourage you to read the raw data for yourself. To date MNPS has still not done what Dupont-Hadley MS parent Stephanie Cooksey asked for, to first, admit there’s a problem, then develop a specific plan and tell parents what they plan to do. Seems pretty reasonable to me.
IF IT CALLS FOR 17 BAGS OF CEMENT, LET’S USE 15.
If you look at the assignments of the EDSSI’s you will see that the Executive Director of Innovation Schools Letrecia Gloster – that’s right innovation schools not L5 schools – has all priority schools assigned to her under the Northwest quadrant. Under the revised assignments that came out this week Hunter’s Lane and White’s Creek which were previously in the southeast quadrant are back in the northwest quadrant with their feeder schools. Still, the northwest quadrant is under staffed as they only have 2 official EDSSIs.
Now you are probably thinking, “That doesn’t seem right. Why would they do that?”
It seems that they cut one EDSSI position in order to find the funds to ensure that all teachers got a 3% raise. Sounds noble, but it’s also ludicrous. Why would you cut a pillar of your new organizational structure straight out of the gate? Is that really the only place you could find to secure an extra 150K? (I’m adding salary plus administrative costs.) This was being sold as an essential change, yet it’s already being under resourced. It’s like laying the foundation of a house and it’s calling for 16 bags of cement but you decide to just use 14.
To be honest with you, the revised schedule makes even less sense then the original chart . For example, Lilly Lefler now has schools assigned to her in both the Northeast and the Northwest Quadrant. Seeing as Community Superintendents are allowed to structure their quadrants as desired I can’t wait to see how schizophrenic this gets for Lefler by the end of the year. And which community superintendent takes precedent? Bring your decoder ring because things are getting interesting.
TEACHER TEACHER WHO’S GOT THE TEACHER?
One item that was pulled off of this week’s consent agenda was the approval of a contract expansion for Teach for America involving summer school/teacher training. The request was for the following:
A sixth Amendment to the contract, adding compensation to support
the 2017 Summer School program for new MNPS Teacher candidates. Summer School
support from MNPS funds learning materials, Contractor’s staff, and Certificated nonMNPS
teacher-mentors. Summer School classes will be conducted at Buena Vista
Elementary School and Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School.
Board Member Amy Frogge pulled it from the consent because her and fellow board member Jill Speering had some questions. Questions that the Chief Executive Officer of Human Resources Deborah Story and number 2 man Sito Narcisse struggled to answer. Among the questions they couldn’t answer:
- Was this money for work already completed or future work?
- Were the teachers who were getting trained, MNPS teachers or TFA teachers?
- Since this was part of a pipeline being built, were we building our own pipeline or would we be continuing to work with TFA?
- Were we utilizing MNPS teachers for training new teachers in this program?
In the end the this contract extension proposal failed because it was only able to secure 4 aye votes. (Brannon, Shepherd, Hunter, Pierce voted yes, Frogge no, Speering abstained. Three board members were absent.) Pierce pointed out a majority of the board was required for motion to pass, not a majority of the board members present.
This bears watching for a number of reasons:
- Will it pass at next meeting?
- Will leadership continue to ask for money after work has already been completed? This has transpired a number of times this year.
- What will next years TFA contract look like. Speering has already gone on record as saying she wont’t support another extension and I believe Frogge feels the same way. However, Story made a comment about there being a fierce battle for talent and gave the impression that she valued TFA as a source for recruiting talent. Keep in mind that TFA itself has shown an inability to recruit the kind of numbers needed.
Speaking of teachers, I’m being told by several principals that finding talent is very difficult this year. Looking at the help wanted on MNPS’s site bears that out as we have nearly 300 openings with less then a month till school starts. I guess nobody got the word out about the JCrew discounts.
I was recently accused of not thinking anything is good enough, a charge I categorically deny. There are several things going on that meet that threshold.
I think Shuler Pelham and his team at Hillsboro HS are poised to knock it out of the park this year. They have spent the last several years assembling the pieces and I think this is where it’s all going to drop in to place. I look forward to watching it unfold.
West End Middle Prep and Eakin ES are also looking poised for great years ahead of them. There is no reason not to believe that Inglewood ES and Whitsitt ES won’t continue the upward trajectory started last year. Those are just a few examples of the great work happening. Gary Hughes and Sue Kessler would probably hold it against me if I didn’t mention their always solid schools, J.T. Moore and Hunter’s Lane.
The work that the EL department is doing is so far above and beyond anything going on that I can’t praise it enough.
The Lipscomb/Nissan Fundamentals BisonBot Robotics Camp, a one-week summer camp, sounds like pretty darn cool experience for middle school students. The camp experience includes a tour of the Scott Fetzer Electrical Group (SFEG) manufacturing plant in Fairview. Here students get to see collaborative robots, or cobots up close. This is the third year for the robotics camp, sponsored by Lipscomb University and Nissan, and the second year the group has visited the Fairview facility.
There are a lot of good things happening but things are being held back from soaring by district leadership. I know I sound like a broken record, but if this whole thing is going to work out, Chiefs need to start listening, thinking things through, and validating people. Otherwise we are just going to continue our slide in to Pedro 2.0. Who, as a side note, was the last superintendent who proposed a schedule that started with a full day on Monday and continued with full days the rest of the week. Ask somebody who was here how that worked out.
Join Metro Schools for the 10th Annual Parent University Conference on Saturday, August 12, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.at Trevecca Nazarene University in the Boone Business Center. This is an excellent resource for parents.
Here’s a couple of things nationally I’m watching.
I’ve never been a fan of reading levels. As far as I concerned they reinforce the wrong kinds of literacy behavior and actually hinder the creation of life long readers. Now it seems that I’m not alone in this view. The American Association of School Librarians has noticed some of our undesirable trends and has issued a statement on them:
It is the responsibility of school librarians to promote free access for students and not to aid in restricting their library materials. School librarians should resist labeling and advocate for development of district policies regarding leveled reading programs that rely on library staff compliance with library book labeling and non-standard shelving requirements. These policies should address the concerns of privacy, student First Amendment Rights, behavior modification in both browsing and motivational reading attitudes, and related issues.
Candace Jackson, Betsy Devos’s choice to lead the Office of Civil Rights demonstrated how qualified she is this week when she made this comment on college rape accusations to the New York Times, “Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.” The comment was later walked back but still.
This week’s question’s should be fairly easy and uncontroversial.
First question is about how you access the Dad Gone Wild blog. I’m trying to evaluate distribution and I’m curious as to how you find us.
The second question is about leadership. I recently had a conversation about leadership and we discussed the number one trait a leader needs to have in order to be successful. I’m curious as to what your opinion is.
Lastly, I wanted to ask you about hamburger, or cheeseburgers if you prefer. If you had a friend in town and you wanted to take them to just one burger joint, where would it be.
As always, thanks for your help and see you on the other side.