I was extremely blessed that when I started in the restaurant business I had some great mentors. They gave me a great foundation, which allowed me to excel as a bartender. The first lesson I was taught, and has served me well ever since, was the value of doing extensive prep work.

Right from the beginning, I worked with people who would spend hours preparing for a shift. They’d over-cut fruit. Back ups were double checked to make sure they were more than adequate. Soda and tonic bottles were bled so things didn’t explode all over you when you opened them. They would make sure that extra glassware was readily available in case more people than anticipated walked through the door. In short, they would over-prepare so that virtually any unforeseen challenge could be faced with minimum disruption.

As a young bartender, I scoffed at their over-preparedness. I would complain that we’d already cut enough limes, only to be met with the response of “cut more limes.” I would often try to predict how many people I would serve, and then prep for the minimum based on that prediction. “Man,” I’d say, “Those guys are wasting time.” Yeah, but I never thought it was a waste of time when the extra hundred people walked through the door and I didn’t have to interrupt service to cut more fruit, go get another bottle of liquor, or clean up the bar because tonic had exploded all over me.

As part of that lesson, they taught me when to make changes and when to wait. Ten minutes before opening, I might look over and think, “We’ve been serving a lot of Bourbon lately. I’m going to move them all over here and put the wines over there.” They’d tell me, “Not now, you are not going to.”

Their point was that you don’t make changes right before you get busy. Every action has unintended consequences, and if you are having to deal with those consequences right as you are hitting peak action time, you are going to run into problems. Problems that will hinder your ability to provide effective service.

Anybody who’s ever worked in the service industry will tell you stories illustrating the thrill of successfully navigating “being in the weeds.” For those of you not familiar with the term, “being in the weeds” describes those times when everything is firing on all cylinders. When the bar is five deep and the waitress is screaming orders at you while the kitchen is demanding you pick up food. Surviving the weeds is akin to surfing a giant wave and not wiping out. At the end of the prolonged surge, there is a tiredness, but deep satisfaction that has to be felt to be understood. Equally important, all the people you served leave with their own sense of satisfaction.

I’m sure teachers get a similar sense of satisfaction. For teachers, it would be akin to trying to teach a class while little Johnny can’t stop talking, little Mary has a toothache and can’t stop crying, the principal is buzzing you about an upcoming team meeting, and the technology is acting up. On top of all that, report cards are due tomorrow, you have a meeting during your planning time to decipher a new grading plan, and you still have 50 papers to grade for the morning. This is just a sliver of what teachers navigate daily while trying to produce results.

The weeds are an internal part of the restaurant business. The goal is for the staff to be in the weeds every night. Therefore, if an establishment’s staff can’t navigate the weeds, then odds are the place is not going to be successful. Hence, the importance of them not losing focus on the importance of the prep work.

Oh, the horror stories I could tell you about working with someone who did not adhere to the rule of prep. The result of lack of prep work is always a failed shift, where customers leave unhappy and team mates are forced to work extra hard because unfortunately, as much work had to go into putting out fires as serving customers. Nobody leaves those shifts happy.

Right about now, you are probably wondering, “Why’s he regaling me with his bartending tales? What’s this have to do with education?” I believe that right now, in regards to Metro Nashville Public Schools, everything. I believe right now, teachers and administrators in MNPS are trying to pull off a shift with that bartender who didn’t do their prep work. The bartender who thought that they could just cut enough fruit to get the doors open. That they didn’t have to worry about back ups and that they could rearrange the furniture right before opening.

I am extremely blessed that many of you educators trust me enough to share what is going on in your schools. Emails and phone calls come in daily telling me about this new policy or this new initiative and the concerns that go with it. I try to sort through it all and figure out how to dive deeper into these things so I can hopefully better communicate them to the public. Lately I’ve felt a bit of anxiety because I haven’t been able to prioritize and then find time to research and fully understand these new initiatives. There are just so many of them. Last night I realized what I was feeling was a lesser version of what teachers and administrators in MNPS are currently feeling.

The start of school this year saw the introduction of a new literacy plan, a new grading and report card plan, and a new homework plan. None of these plans came fully fleshed out or with adequate training. There are parts of each of them that are still being sorted out after 4 weeks of school.

For example, part of the literacy plan includes units that teachers are being told they must teach. That is problematic by itself because these weren’t developed by MNPS teachers; rather, they were developed by an out-of-state vendor. They are being forced on teachers. And each of these units – forgive me if some of the terminology is off – has a task at the end. Is that task to be evaluated? If so, what is the rubric? What’s to be done with the evaluation once completed? There are also questions about the appropriateness of a unit because its contents are very New York City-centric. Being as this is Nashville, there is a potential for students to become distracted by the unfamiliar terms and lose focus on the task at hand. Is the timeline appropriate for kids districtwide? What happens if a school falls behind? And that’s just one aspect of the literacy plan.

The other two plans have their own questions. With the grading policy, changing the way teachers do their grading and how they’re reported on report cards is a huge change – and it was done, as I mentioned, right as school began. This has been very frustrating for teachers to adapt to because it is such a big change. And the district’s new homework plan has not been a hit with parents or teachers from what I’m hearing. Again, this was a big change that was imposed on teachers with no input from them and with little time to prepare.

It is hard to tell if these new plans are bad or good because there are so many questions. This is where prep work comes in.

Few people prep and plan like teachers do. They will look at a district calendar and make plans for the year. They will get together on their own time to plan out the first nine weeks of school. Do you realize that the day school ends in May, teachers are already formulating plans for next year? It’s one of the reasons why standardized test results are virtually useless. By the time results arrive, teachers have already created their lesson plans.

In order to capitalize on this natural tendency, you have to provide information in a timely manner. The first week of school is not timely. Two weeks before school starts is not timely. Two months before school starts is timely.

On top of new policies, teachers and administrators are challenged by a new district management structure – the creation of quadrants overseen by community superintendents – implemented on July 1, as well as buildings that due to construction issues are grossly inadequate to house kids, a shortage of teachers across the district, and a school board looking to pick a fight with the state over student data sharing. If this doesn’t constitute being in the weeds, I don’t know what does.

You talk to anybody in the district right now, and the description you’ll get is one of chaos. I’ve had teachers tell me they are trying to survive the chaos. I’ve had principals tell me they are trying to manage the chaos, but directives from district leadership change daily and sometimes hourly.

For example, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Monique Felder has a penchant for sending one directive at 11pm only to send another an hour later at midnight counteracting the first. Even in departments of relative calm, I’ve had people tell me, “We’re running pretty smoothly, but we feel the chaos outside the door and it’s distracting.” One long term MNPS employee who’s keeping the faith told me, “I just think the problem is that leadership has so much on their plate.” Like School Board member Dr. Sharon Gentry has said, there is “too much on the plate to say grace over.”

I’m not trying to paint a picture of abject failure. Don’t get me wrong, there are incredibly great things transpiring in the district. We have great people doing great work. But we shouldn’t let that great work blind us to the potential for even greater work. If you take Tom Brady and put him behind an inadequate offensive line, he goes from being a Hall of Fame quarterback to being just a very good one. You also create a situation where the individual player may still shine, but the team fails to execute at an exceptional level.

When you are in the weeds and things are starting to go off the rails, you need to adjust quickly or things tend to continue to spiral out of control at a rapid rate. Luckily, in my career, I’ve had good managers who were always willing to help navigate the weeds. The role of a good manager can’t be overstated.

The good ones were able to assess where the problems were coming from and create solutions. Sometimes those solutions involved moving people. Sometimes the solutions involved prioritizing and taking things off the plate so that I could focus on service. Sometimes the solution involved jumping in and talking to customers, explaining to them what was going on and why, along with a promise to improve.

The good managers always took the heat for us, even when they were not responsible for the issues. The good managers always sought our input when things calmed down a bit and listened to our feedback and concerns so that we weren’t constantly in an unmanageable state. The good managers realized that they were there to set us up for success and they did everything in their power to meet that goal.

I’m hoping that over this Labor Day holiday, MNPS leadership takes a deep breath and realizes that they have got to take steps to calm the chaos. Dr. Joseph likes to speak about drowning out the noise, but if you’re not careful the noise can drown out the instruction.

Part of the challenge is realizing that not every problem has to be solved at once. Working hard is admirable, but working smart is exemplary. I think as a district it’s time to shift the focus from the former onto the latter.

For example, currently the new Community Superintendents are working from 7 am to 10 pm every day during the week and similar hours on the weekend. Riddle me this, Batman, how is that sustainable? What happens in a year or two when they leave out of exhaustion? When does this schedule afford them to opportunity to look at a challenge with fresh eyes? In creating this new position, shouldn’t it be embedded with more realistic expectations? Expectations that would allow people to remain in that position for perhaps as long as a decade, therefore creating stability instead of feeding the chaos.

The community superintendents is just one example. Teacher expectations far outpace teacher compensation, and I would argue that especially in elementary school, these expectations are not sustainable. Veteran teachers will tell you that they’ve done it, but in the very next sentence will tell you how much the job has changed and the work load has grown. Evidence of this is the fact that many schools are still not fully staffed.

I looked at the roster for MNPS and found something interesting. Of those district employees hired in 2016, 1,454 remain MNPS employees. The number for 2015 drops to 1,109, and for 2014 it goes to 972. 632 people hired in 2013 remain with the district. This is not just teachers, but all district employees. Remember my offensive line analogy? Admittedly, I don’t have the number hired each year, but even if those were available, I don’t think it would tell a tale of stability.

In all fairness, I’m not trying to paint this solely as Dr. Joseph’s problem. Like all large urban school districts, MNPS has always struggled with controlling the chaos. Dr. Joseph is just latest person charged with getting it under control.

Upon arrival in Nashville, Dr. Joseph encouraged everyone to read the book Leadership and Self Deception. A large part of that book, which I read, prescribes deep self-evaluation. Now is the time for district leadership to apply the lessons in that book and use them to get control of the chaos while there is still time to get out of the weeds.



No matter how bad your weekend was, it certainly was not bad as in SE Texas. They were hit by a devastating hurricane this weekend that continues to wreak havoc even now. Yours truly spent time growing up in NE San Antonio and spent many a weekend and vacation at Port Aransas where the storm reached ground. It is all extremely heartbreaking. If you can, I encourage you to reach out to either Texan star JJ Watt’s relief fund or the American Red Cross and help. The need can not be overstated.


Part of my weekend was spent on Twitter discussing teacher expectations versus teacher compensation with a principal from a school in Montana – I love Twitter and you can follow me at @norinrad10. The discussion began when a picture was posted on Twitter of a school parking lot filled with teacher cars on a Saturday morning and the tweet that celebrated their dedication. I countered that we probably should be a little slow in celebrating this dedication because most of those teachers, in all likelihood, were not getting paid for that dedication.

Thus began a little bit of brouhaha over expectations and compensation. I was called cynical because it was truly a beautiful thing that these teachers were willing to come in on their own time to do what was necessary. It was brought to my attention, as if I wasn’t aware, that teaching is a service profession, and how dare I say negative things about those willing to serve.

First of all, I am well aware that teaching is a service profession and that we are blessed that people are willing to step up and dedicate their life to educating our children. However, as one follower of the discussion pointed out, why can’t they be both compensated and passionate? Why must it be an either/or situation?

Over the years, expectations on teachers have grown exponentially while salaries have failed to keep pace. Andy Spears at TN Ed Report has done an excellent job documenting this trend. Teachers’ work ethic and dedication have had the unintended consequence of contributing to allowing expectations to exceed compensation. Politicians and policy makers have banked on the fact that no matter how much you put on teachers’ plates, they will rise to the bell. Ever hear the phrase, “You can’t sell the cow if you give away the milk for free”?

While it’s extremely noble for people to go in and do required work on their own time, it contributes to a culture of teachers working more than they are paid for. It also puts no impetus on increasing salaries in a timely manner or safe guarding planning time. Every year, the issue of teacher raises comes up, and every year it’s either a minimal increase or a promise of addressing it in the future. But there are never a shortage of new initiatives because everybody knows teachers will do whatever it takes to get it done.

I received a chorus of responses as well that said, “My working harder has no impact on other teachers.” Unfortunately, that’s not true. People’s behavior creates a culture. If teachers are all working extra hours and having success, a natural byproduct will be either an implicit or explicit endorsement that will create a culture of expectation. An expectation that all teachers will be willing to give freely of their personal time. After all, when was the last time you saw a principal walk into the teacher’s lounge on a Monday and thank all of those who stayed home over the weekend? What about that new teacher who asks, “When do you get all this work done?” and gets a response of, “The school is usually open on the weekend.”

Ultimately, this dedication affects the whole profession. After all, if I’m a young person with student loan debt, am I going to want to stay in a profession in which I am under-compensated and expected to work for free? How many weekend trips with my college friends, who went into law, business, or medicine, am I going to have to pass up before I start exploring other options? How many years am I going to pay rent on an apartment because I can’t afford to buy a house before I make a career change?

So while I admire the dedicated teachers, and I am glad they exist, ultimately it’s a zero sum game. People must be compensated in order to preserve their passion. We also need to recognize that just because we are willing to wear a hair shirt, everyone else shouldn’t be expected to as well. It is not a sin or a betrayal to the profession to expect to be compensated for your work and expertise. After all, if working extra hours produces better results, should’t that alone be justification for higher pay?

Show me a picture of some teachers flinging bling like rap stars, and I’ll celebrate that as much as I celebrate pictures of teachers volunteering on a weekend. As parents and community members, we need to make this a priority if we truly want the best educational outcomes for our kids. We can’t keep drinking the milk and not buying the cow.


There was an interesting article in Chalkbeat TN over the weekend. Never one to miss a Friday afternoon news drop, the TNDOE confirmed that test scores for grades 3-8 had dropped. But we shouldn’t be concerned because everything is right on track and improving. In order to have better results in the future, this drop was necessary. Which, if you follow the logic through, means that previous classes over the last 10 years just weren’t that well educated, and it’ll probably take another couple years before future classes are well educated. But I digress.

My favorite quote in the article came from State Board Chairman F. Fielding Rolston, who celebrated the noble task of establishing the cut scores. He said, “This is really the result of 10 years of hard work to get the standards where they need to be. We’ve increased expectations. We’ve approved standards. Now we’re setting cut scores.”

Well, okay. I liken this to hiring a contractor to build my dream home. After 10 years of paying him, he takes me out to a field with just a basement dug and with great pride announces, “We bought the nails and lumber, surveyed the property, and wrote the plans. This is going to be a magnificent house.”

Huh? What are you basing this on? After paying you for 10 years and living in my hovel, I’d like to see a foundation, maybe some walls, a frame… you know, progress. Instead, all I’m getting is heady proclamations rooted in nothing concrete.

Cut scores used to be based on a bell curve, and they were suspect enough at that time. Now, the cut scores are based on expectations determined during the summer by a panel of Tennessee educators, plus subsequent analysis of their recommendations by state experts. Let me translate: a bunch of really intelligent people get together, and based on their experience and research, determine what they think kids should be capable of doing. Far be it from me, the non-expert, to raise the specter of subjectivity, but in this era of upward-spiraling expectations, who will be the one to ground them?

Oh well, it’s really a moot point anyhow. Full results won’t be released until later in the fall, and at that time, kids will have been in school for at least 2 months. Two months void of data that supposedly is compiled to guide instruction, but in reality is more about adults and their need for perceived accountability than it is about actually serving kids.


Congratulations go out to Oliver Middle Prep drama teacher Carolyn Sharp, who was recognized over the weekend as the 2017 Teacher of the Year by the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Now in its 23rd year, the award recognizes excellence in arts education and includes a $500 grant for the recipient’s school. I think the parent quote in MNPS’s press release needs to be highlighted:

“A teacher as dedicated and encouraging as Caroline Sharp is a gem in today’s busy, over-committed world,” said Jessica Mitchell, whose daughter attends Oliver Middle School. “She deserves to be honored for improving the school’s drama program, producing exemplary musicals and, most of all, for positively impacting thousands of students. She makes a difference in the lives of her students every day.”

There is a meeting scheduled for August 31st at Cane Ridge ES to discuss new zoning plan. All parents are invited.

If you are a youth, the Mayor may be looking for you. Applications are now being accepted to join the Mayor’s Youth Council. The deadline to submit your application is September 1, 2017. The Mayor’s Youth Council works to engage youth across Nashville in community initiatives.

Local blogger Vesia Wilson-Hawkins has a new post evoking the words of the Reverend Martin Luther King. Since I’m a firm believer that we all need to repeatedly read the whole “I Have a Dream” speech, I encourage y’all to hustle over there and answer her question.


I always like it when the poll results don’t completely reflect my own opinions. It means that we are staying out of the echo chamber. This week’s results present an example of that disparity.

The first question was in regards to the school board’s recent review on whether local charter school Smithson-Craighead Academy should have its 10-year charter renewed. Your answer, and one I agree with, was a resounding no. Over 75% of you answered such. No other answer reached double digits. Closing a school is extremely painful and shouldn’t be treated lightly, but sometimes the results demand action.

Here are the write-in answers:

data or not, charters are a poor idea 1
No 1
the data has been screaming no for years. 1
I thought they had already closed! 1
Probably so, but closing a school is so painful and disruptive for kids.

Question two was on how concerned you are with the district’s sharing of student data. Sixty-five percent of you indicated that you were deeply concerned. Sixteen percent of you responded in the manner I would have, which is that I don’t really care because the information is readily available elsewhere. Clearly this is a subject I need to become more attuned to.

The majority of you did indicate that your concerns went much deeper than just charter schools. Which I was good with because to me, the charter marketing is secondary to improving our schools. If we take away the demand for charters, we reduce the need and marketing becomes inconsequential. I don’t believe a single parent who feels that their kid’s school is adequately meeting their needs gets a flier from a charter and decides to enroll. We have critical work to do in the areas of teacher recruitment/retention, capital needs, and ensuring that we are fully utilizing our existing resources, and I think those areas have more of an impact on parental choice than any marketing campaign.

That said, I do believe an overarching conversation on what data is available to whom is required. There have been misuses of student data by all, and the district needs to take whatever steps necessary to ensure those misuses aren’t repeated. We share so much data with third party vendors, and that needs to be looked at more closely. If I’m not mistaken, we use a third party vendor to do district call outs. That’s just one example. I would also hope charter operators note that 25% of respondents indicated a distrust of charter schools. Work needs to be done there.

Here are the write-in answers:

Very. Not held to same standards, not true MNPS schools 1
Charter schools are district schools. It’s a non-issue to me. 1
Charters will possibly use this information as a recruiting tool 1
I thought charters were part of the district?

The last question was the most serious, and it was in relation to recent newspaper articles investigating the subject of the reporting of child abuse instances. Over the weekend, the Tennessean explored why cases may be going unreported. I asked if readers who are teachers felt they had received proper training on reporting abuse suspicions. Thirty-one percent of you said you could use more, which I think is a valid response to an issue this serious. Twenty-six percent of you felt you’d received adequate training. That’s heartening.

What was a little disheartening was that 17% said it’s never been discussed and another 20% thought training was inadequate. Hopefully, district leaders will take these answers to heart and quickly make sure that is not the case. I would extend that to charter school operators as well.

Here are the write-in answers:

MNPS dictates sulley process 1
No longer in MNPS. No training in my ten years. 1
N/A 1
There is never enough training on such a serious issue 1
parent/ NA

That does it. Be safe out there, and I’ll see you Friday. Remember, you can contact me at



It has been a busy week. Hopefully you found yesterday’s piece informative. We’ve got a lot more ground to cover today. Hard to believe this is only the third week of school.


Yesterday I sat down and watched this week’s MNPS School Board meeting – I know, I need a job or, at the very least, a hobby – and was just flabbergasted, for lack of a better word. The whole meeting seemed to be grounded in some kind of alternative reality. Let’s see if we can’t make some sense of what transpired.

Before we go any further, can I make a request? Can we leave the grasping at pearls at the door? I’m going to try to do this sans the casting of aspersions or the assigning of motivations to people. That’s a difficult task in these conversations, and I probably won’t get it 100% right, but I think we need to make a greater effort to remove the hyperbole from these conversations. There are no devils and there are no angels at the table, merely mortals trying to navigate through the waters.

That being said, do I believe that every entity involved has their primary focus on kids? Absolutely not. Now before you start howling and throwing accusations of hypocrisy my way – a charge that I don’t run from because my views are constantly shifting as I absorb more information, therefore leaving me open to that accusation – hear me out and note that I’m not identifying who I think are the guilty and the innocent. I personally believe that some of the involved parties have a different primary motivation other than kids, but that said, I think we do need to focus more on evaluating actions and less on interpreting intent and picking teams. And that goes for everybody.

On Tuesday, local charter school Smithson-Craighead Academy was up for its 10-year renewal. In preparation, the MNPS Office of Charter Schools had completed a report along with its recommendation for the school. It’s not a flattering report, and they recommended the charter not be renewed.

The school has struggled since its inception a decade ago. They’ve been on academic probation for the years 2013, 2014, and 2015. They’ve had 5 executive directors since inception. The principal has remained the same up until this year, and now they have a new principal and an interim executive director. They’ve got unsustainable debt and no substantial plan to retire it. There were complaints from teachers over the summer about not getting paid. They have no substantial plans for teacher or student recruitment, and enrollment numbers have been dwindling.

There is no shortage of documentation backing up these allegations and very little tangible positive news. In my eyes, this was a clear cut decision for the board to make. In talking with members of the charter community, that opinion was further fortified. Charter community members, for the most part, recognized that this was an example of holding yourself accountable to the rhetoric.

But board members did not see things that way. In defense of the school, it was brought up that the last 2 years of test data was not available, which is a fair argument had everything else been positive. One board member brought up that this school hired a large number of African American teachers and how important that was. That’s an argument I’m extremely sympathetic to, but shouldn’t the primary goal be to have effective teachers, no matter their race? Do kids really benefit from having teachers who all look like them but are not on par with those assigned to other students?

The underlying argument was that the founders of Smithson-Craighead Academy were good people and loved children. One school board member went so far as to pronounce them “one of the good guys.” Which is good, I guess, because we don’t want those responsible for children to be out twirling their mustaches and tying women to railroad tracks. The conversation was very different than the one held recently for LEAD Academy’s renewal. I’m guessing LEAD imports mustache wax by the gallon.

The end result was that action on Smithson-Craighead’s charter re-authorization was put off for a future date. Now what’s supposed to happen between now and then, I don’t know. Maybe test scores will suddenly become available showing dramatic growth, or maybe they’ll find a pot of gold, and teachers will flock to teach there. I find all that highly unlikely, and that we are just delaying the inevitable.

I think the district as a whole would be better served if the renewal was denied. Since the district needs more teachers of color, those teachers at Smithson-Craighead could be offered district positions. And I’m sure there is a priority school in MNPS that could use the skills of the new principal, who by all accounts has skills. A plan could be developed to help those families enrolled understand their options and get placed in the best one. I am not denying that it is an extremely difficult decision, but based on the facts on the ground, it’s a necessary one.

After the culmination of the discussion about Smithhead-Craighead, the board moved to a discussion on data sharing – more on that in a minute – that included one board member speaking about the Tennessee Achievement School District and their lack of academic progress over the past decade, lack of fiscal responsibility, shortage of teachers, and declining enrollments. However, in this case, the ASD was declared to be the bad guy. Huh?

What are we doing? Are we shining our transponder quartz ultra-truth ring on people, and if you get a blue aura you are good, and red means bad? Is Malika Anderson, who oversees the ASD, a “bad” person? I don’t know, she’s always been kind of nice to me. Are the people at Smithson-Craighead good people? How do I know?

What I do know is that both entities have a model that, based on a decade of work, has proven to be ineffective, and therefore, both need to be discontinued. Motivation should not come into play. The focus needs to be on results, not who we want to hang out with at a BBQ or who is going to push our political agenda forward. We say it, but I don’t think we really understand it: kids don’t have an infinite amount of time. If they lose a year because someone made a choice based on a personal feeling sans evidence to back it up, and things don’t work out, they ain’t getting that year back.


The other main discussion at this week’s MNPS school board meeting was the brewing battle between the district and the state over the sharing of student data with charter schools. This discussion comes on the heels of several recently published articles in the Tennessean, ChalkbeatTN, and TNEd Report. These stories make it really easy for parents to become inflamed. Nobody want their child’s data readily available. The issue of privacy is a huge concern. But then I got to thinking.

This morning, I picked up the phone and called over to the TNDOE.

“Hello,” I said, “Can we talk about these pending data wars?”

“Sure,” the nice-sounding lady on the other end responded, “What would you like to know?”

“Can parents opt out?”

“There are actually two provisions for parents to opt out in the policy. The local district is required to annually send out notice to parents informing them of the policy and giving them an option to opt out. Charter schools, once they receive the data, also are required to give parents a chance to opt out,” the lady with the nice voice informed me.

I resisted the urge to ask her if she was a nice person and instead just thanked her and hung up.

I went back and re-read the other articles and didn’t see any mention of this parent opt out provision. Chalkbeat did publish an article late yesterday outlining exactly what data was potentially being shared and letting parents know how they could opt out. For Shelby County, the directory data includes the following (I’ll confirm that MNPS is the same):

  • student name
  • address and email
  • phone number
  • date and place of birth
  • major field of study
  • participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • date of attendance
  • degrees and awards received
  • most recent previous school district or institution attended

Now the question becomes, why are the districts sharpening their knives instead of informing parents of the opt out possibilities? MNPS employs a horde, and I mean that in the nicest way, of family engagement specialists. Are you telling me that they are incapable of putting together a FAQ and creating a campaign that allows parents to make an informed decision about their kids’ data?

I asked the TNDOE what happens when a parent opts out with a charter school. Does the school just not use the data anymore or do they actually delete the data? This is the response from Sara Gast, Director of Strategic Communications and Media at the TNDOE: ‘We have not issued formal guidance, but our recommendation would be that the student’s information is deleted if their parent declined to receive additional communications from the charter school or authorizer.” Seems like a fair enough response to me.

In my humble opinion, this is another example of seizing on an opportunity to label people “good guys” or “bad guys.” They are “bad guys” because they want to take advantage of your kid’s data. We are “good guys” because we are publicly battling for your privacy. Personally I could use a whole lot less super hero duels and more focus on things that directly impact kid’s lives for the better.


(Cambridge CEO visiting Overton HS students)

This week, Overton High School received a visitor from across the pond. It seems that Cambridge Assessments CEO Simon Lebus has been so impressed by the results at Overton that he had to come check it out himself. I understand he left even more impressed.

If you still think that virtual school idea is a good one, you need to go over to the TNEd Report and read Andy Spears’ latest. Andy also does a deep dive into teacher salaries. I know y’all are interested in that.

The MNPS Student-Parent handbook video has won a Telly award. According to the press release, “The Telly Awards, founded in 1979, is the premier award honoring outstanding content for TV and Cable, Digital and Streaming and Non-Broadcast distribution. Winners represent the best work of the most respected advertising agencies, production companies, television stations, cable operators and corporate video departments in the world, and are judged by a prestigious panel of 600+ accomplished industry professionals.” If you watch the video closely, you’ll see a certain dad and his offspring going wild.

If you haven’t checked out the Hillsboro student newspaper yet, what’s your excuse? Follow them on Twitter @HillsboroGlobe.

My dear friend Mary Holden has published a new blog post, Back to School Once More. Mary is a former classroom teacher who still educates people through her writing. Read it. You’ll be a better person.

Creswell Middle Prep introduced their ambassadors for 2017-2018. Very exciting. Last year’s group set the bar high.

(Creswell Middle Prep 2017 -2018 student ambassadors)


Before this post becomes too long – I know, I set myself up there – let’s get to the poll questions. This week’s questions are of a serious nature. I don’t want to in any way downplay their real world implications, but I think DGW has established a reputation for being a trustworthy format for addressing those serious issues. We’ve always talked about those issues that scare others.

The first question is in regards to Smithson-Craighead Academy and whether you feel they should have their charter renewed or not. Please keep in mind that the renewal must be for a full 10-year duration and if there are any egregious situations that arise the charter could be revoked, it is a very difficult process.

The second question is in regards to whether or not you would, as a parent, opt out of your child’s directory information being shared.

Lastly, and this is the most serious of the questions, the Tennessean published an article today questioning whether MNPS has been adequately reporting cases of child abuse. They question whether teachers and administrators have been adequately trained on the proper protocol of reporting incidents of abuse. Again, not looking to grind an axe, just thinking you guys will give an honest answer and that’s what is called for.

There you have it. Have a great weekend. You can contact me at



I’m going to ask for your forgiveness today. I usually try to put out only two posts a week, so as not to inundate people with my blather. However, this week has brought an overabundance of news, and I felt if I didn’t break things up into 2 pieces, I’d either leave stuff out or shortchange things. Hopefully the quality will validate your indulgence.


Back in February, Director of Schools Shawn Joseph’s transition team came back with a list of recommendations for the district. The idea garnering the most positive response was that of moving 5th graders back to elementary schools. The idea would more closely align MNPS with surrounding counties, and the thought was that it would slow down district attrition because it would alleviate parental concerns of student safety. At the MNPS Next meetings conducted this summer, parents indicated they were supportive of the idea, but what they really wanted was quality schools no matter what the configuration. Seems like school board member Sharon Gentry was listening.

On Tuesday at a work session after the regularly scheduled board meeting, Gentry raised the subject of quality schools during a presentation on MNPS Next by Chief of Staff Jana Carlisle. She raised the specter of the high risk that unintended consequences may have a negative impact on the district’s push for equity in pursuing this policy. Gentry then made a statement that I believe people have been waiting 6 months to hear. She called for the board and district leadership to recognize that they may have enough already on their plate and warned of the perils of adding more to that plate.

“We have enough on our plate right now with things that are in play right now that need to go well. We have a number of things right now that must go well this year. And burning calories on other options before we stabilize may not be our best use of resources. We need to quit doing things that take our attention away from the ball. We keep taking our eyes off the ball to chase hypotheticals and potentials that won’t get us what we need in the short term. Because we need some short term wins that we are chasing right now.”

Gentry goes on to point out that last year saw huge changes in central office and in resources allocated. And therefore, this should be the year spent demonstrating that those changes were the right moves and that they will have an impact down into the most important arena, the classroom.

This was certainly not a rebuke of district leadership, but I think it should be viewed as a transition point in how the board was going to relate to Director of Schools Shawn Joseph going forward. It signified that members of the board recognized the crossroads we are at and were no longer willing to just serve as cheerleaders. Not quite a put up or shut up meme, but definitely notice to start producing tangible results. That it came from Gentry, in my opinion, put some teeth in it, and for district families and employees, should bring some positive acknowledgement. I found it extremely heartening.

Fellow board member Mary Pierce followed up Gentry’s comments by acknowledging that they had heard the people’s voice and that the quality of schools was their primary concern. Pierce argued that if changing the re-configuration of just one grade was not going to make substantial improvement, it probably wasn’t worth pursuing and that we should refocus on the primary objective of improving all schools. Wow, a “hell yeah” for both Gentry and Pierce in one post? What has the eclipse wrought.

Carlisle attempted to take the two in stride and move on with her presentation. But the board wasn’t done pushing back. Gentry again brought up that there was “more on their plate than they could say grace over.” She also raised the issue that we need to really dive into what equity actually looks like across the district because she wasn’t sure it was a shared definition. Again, something that aligns with my priorities and something I don’t believe has been significantly defined. So kudos again.

In a surreal moment, Carlisle asked if this meant that the board wished to communicate that “We’ve considered it [moving 5th grade] and ruled it out.” Board members nodded, prompting Carlisle to ask if those nods were being recorded as yes votes. After some feedback from Board Chair Anna Shepherd that seemed to signify that they should be interpreted as such, Carlisle asked if “the TV could record the nods.” The decision to move on was then reached.

While I welcome the renewed focus, and the decision to move on, this is symptomatic of the issues that plague this leadership team. It should not have taken a whole summer to recognize that this issue was cost- and capacity-prohibitive to pursue. All they had to do was ask people already in the district, and they would have gotten the same feedback – that it’s a good idea but not feasible. You don’t always have to be a pioneer. Sometimes you can trust the work of your predecessors.


Last week, I wrote about the teacher shortage at Antioch HS. Parents had received a letter telling them that there were not enough certified teachers, and therefore students would be forced into a digital learning environment. Apparently, a similar situation exists at both White’s Creek HS and Cane Ridge HS as well. It was brought to my attention by several readers that I needed to clarify that these schools were utilizing the services of a company called Edgenuity and not the MNPS Virtual School.

There are some very large distinctions between the two. A student enrolled in MNPSVS still has access to a certified teacher despite attending classes online. There are also activities and events related to the coursework that students can physically attend through MNPSVS if they so desire. Furthermore, MNPSVS comes with a proven track record of excellence. I’m sorry if I contributed to those lines being blurred.

I’m hearing word that a tool that was very effective in preparing kids for the ACT is not being made available to HS principals this year. From what I’m told, this tool was an accurate predictor of how a student would perform on the ACT and was able to give pin point areas where a student needed to focus in order to improve their score. Needless to say, it was a very popular instrument with HS principals, and I’m not sure why it is no longer available, but I’ll dig more into it.

I’m also digging more into Cambridge, IB, and Advanced Academics programs. Specifically the fees associated with each of these programs and the potential unintended consequences on equity. Look for a post on that next month.

There is a trio of Hume-Fogge students that need your help.  They have an idea that was selected from thousands of applicants as a finalist for an international scholarship competition that aims to foster ideas to reduce waste. Students Erna Hrstic, Kristi Maisha, and Jake Peters have an idea which uses an algorithm to select environmentally friendly building materials. If they get enough votes, they could win a $5K award.

The groundbreaking for the new Hillsboro High School took place yesterday. The 89 million dollar project is destined to produce a school borne of the community’s ideas of what a school can look like. Very exciting. Hopefully we’ve learned something from this summer’s construction projects that will ensure that disruption by construction is kept at a minimum.

Hillsboro HS administrators breaking ground

The first meeting of Croft Middle Prep’s Project Lit book club will be August 30th at 4:30 pm. This month’s selection is All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds. Attendance by community members is encouraged.

Here’s a great report by Channel 5 on post-eclipse instructional activities at West End Middle School.

Has anybody seen any TNReady results? I thought I saw some over at the unicorn barn earlier in the week but could be mistaken. And the state wonders why educators don’t find value in TNReady.

Applications for FACE Teacher Institute is now open. FACE is offered through MNPS’s Equity and Diversity University, which is described as a series of professional development courses for school professionals on the topics of cultural awareness, equity and diversity, and family engagement. They are a program of Metro Nashville Public Schools’ Office of Equity and Diversity. Interested teachers may apply in cohorts of 2-4. The deadline to apply is 8/28/17.

If you haven’t bought Nashville native Will Hoge’s new record, do yourself a favor and rectify that.

Pencil Partners

I need to give a quick shot out to the Pencil Foundation. They do a tremendous job of utilizing local businesses to help provide resources for teachers’ classrooms. Around our house, it’s almost considered Christmas morning when my wife gets to make a visit. Please support them.

Glencliff HS is having pastries with the principal tomorrow. Starts at 6:45 AM. Come in  through the gym entrance.

Some of you who pay attention may have noticed a divorce in the education community. Andy Spears and Zack Barnes will no longer be sharing the same byline at the TN Ed Report. This is a change that’s been coming for awhile, but I hate that it comes at a time when Zack’s writing has improved and that our relationship has thawed. There are probably all kinds of nefarious motivations that can be attributed to both parties if someone has that desire, but I think the simple truth is Andy owned the domain and did most of the writing and therefore wanted more control of the site. It’s been my experience that other than family and close personal friends, most things in life come with an expiration date. I personally look forward to reading upcoming pieces from both writers and wish both luck, though they’ll never rival Dad Gone Wild. (That was a joke.)

That does it for today’s episode. You’ll want to tune in tomorrow, not just because I’ll have poll questions, but I’ll also take a deeper look at at charter authorization, data wars, and the declaring of heroes and villains. You can reach me at and check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page, where the sun is always shining.




Yesterday was one of the most spiritual days of my life. I’ll be honest with you, I was one of those people who didn’t understand what all the fuss was about during the lead up to yesterday’s eclipse. I knew it was a rare occurrence, one that few people ever get a chance to experience. Being married to an educator meant that we spent a lot of time leading up to the event discussing what it would look like. My wife has an illustration utilizing glasses on a table that she likes to use to demonstrate what transpires during an eclipse. But I just underestimated the spirituality and humbling aspect of this natural occurrence.

Eclipse day found me bartending a private viewing party. The house was one of the newer ones built in the Edgehill area right downtown. They had a rooftop deck, as did all their neighbors, perfect for viewing. As I set things up, there seemed to be a palpable air of excitement.

At about 1:10 pm, as the eclipse itself was in progress, I looked out across the roofs and saw a sea people, laughing, interacting, taking pictures, and occasionally gazing skyward. This natural occurrence was bringing people together in a manner usually reserved for Super Bowls, World Cups, and New Year’s Eve festivities.

At 1:28 pm, as the eclipse reached totality, a dusk-like darkness engulfed the rooftops and an eerie hush settled.  It was all very humbling as the realization sunk in that we were witnessing an event that has transpired since the dawn of time uninfluenced by man himself.

As the eclipse began to recede, that feeling of having just witnessed something supernatural in nature remained. Everywhere you looked people were turning to each other and remarking things like:

“How cool was that?”

“That was pretty damn cool, wasn’t it?”


It truly was an amazing experience that in this time of division brought us all together for one day. I spent the rest of the day perusing friends’ social media posts and was rewarded by a renewed sense of community. One friend remarked that it was like the universe rebooted. I have to agree. Thank you, Mother Nature, we needed that.


As we reported on Friday, there is a battle brewing between urban districts and the state over new legislation that requires districts to turn over student data to local charter school operators. The order is part of the recently passed Tennessee High Quality Charter Act. Charter schools argue that the data is needed to inform families of their options, or as it’s better known, recruiting. Urban districts are arguing that turning over student data violates federal statutes.

On Monday, Tennessee State Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen sent word to Memphis schools that she wasn’t buying that argument and expected them to turn over their data within 30 days. In a letter to Memphis Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson, McQueen opined, “This is the only way to enable and support parents in making truly informed decisions about their children’s education.”

Memphis schools has acknowledged receipt of the letter and are said to be looking at their options. It’s not hard to imagine Nashville and Memphis joining forces to push back on this initiative. Both have long seen funding earmarked for traditional schools erode as charter school numbers grow. Knoxville and Chattanooga’s stance will be a little harder to gauge as neither has been hit with as much charter growth over the last several years as Nashville and Memphis have. Chattanooga also has a new superintendent, Bryan Johnson, who just took office in June and is still trying to get the lay of the land.

According to today’s Tennessean, Nashville has received a similar letter to Memphis ordering them to comply with the new state law and turn over information. Board Chair Anna Shepherd would like to stop the practice of turning over data to charter schools. She’s quoted in the Tennessean as saying, “Parents didn’t fill out their contact information with a charter school logo; they filled it out with an MNPS logo. If we share that information, it’s a betrayal of trust.” I’m not quite sure why she’s overly concerned with trust here versus making sure kids’ drinking water at school is clean. Unfortunately, MNPS is well aware of what happens when they deny the state as they did in 2012 by denying the charter application for Great Hearts Academy. That one cost 3.4 million dollars. Let’s see where this one goes.


A couple weeks ago, I reported how the number of students taking the WIDA exam who scored high enough to graduate from EL services dropped significantly this year. In case you are not familiar, WIDA is the main tool of measurement that Tennessee school districts utilize in order to determine if students whose first language is not English are ready to exit English Language services. Last year, 14% of students scored high enough to exit, but this year it was only 1%.

A major reason for the drop is that WIDA got harder this past year. For 2017, and going forward, WIDA is committed to raising the bar for language proficiency. The goal being to more closely match scoring to ESSA requirements. I’ve heard it remarked that in previous years, a child who hit the benchmark to exit wouldn’t necessarily be considered proficient in language skills by general education standards. That is not the case this year.

There is a huge impetus to get non-English speaking children’s language skills proficient in as rapid a pace as possible, thus enabling them to exit EL services as quickly as possible. In order to make sure the state was still exiting as many children as possible, the TNDOE responded to the increased rigor of WIDA by lowering the state standards. This enabled the state to again exit about 15% of students.

The problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t ensure that all those who now qualify are actually qualified. It also raises the bar back up next without a clear cut plan to ensure we don’t have to lower standards again next year. I understand the need to get students out of EL services as quickly as possible, but I think it’s equally important to make sure students are actually ready as well.

There is a bit of a myth that students who are receiving EL services are not getting a robust educational experience. Per a recent article in Education Week, “The perception somehow is that when they’re getting a service, an ELL service or in a bilingual program, that somehow they’re not getting a rich academic curriculum. Then somehow you get to the mainstream class and it’s the promised land,” said Kathy Escamilla, an education professor at the University of Colorado and former president of the National Association for Bilingual Education. “If kids aren’t ready… you’re still putting them in the situation where they don’t know enough English to be successful. It’s especially a problem with redesignation criteria that are too low.” I know firsthand that MNPS’s EL services are providing a quality well-rounded curriculum, and therefore we need to be careful that we are actually doing what’s best for the students.

WIDA does not endorse the changing of cut scores in response to increased expectations of the WIDA assessment but instead leaves that decision to the individual states. Most states set their scores at a 4 or a 5. A score of 5 under the new structure means that a student has the ability to engage in debates, listing examples, and justifying their responses. Hmm… I’m wondering if some of our native English-speaking students would be able to score a 5 if they were given the exam. As I previously mentioned, Tennessee has cut their score to 4.2.

I plan to spend more time diving into this in the future, so stay tuned.


Each week I’m seeing more and more responses to my poll questions and for that I am very grateful. Your participation is a source of elucidation. Let’s look at this week’s responses.

The first question was in regards to the ongoing issue of lead in MNPS school’s water. I wanted to get your feelings on how the district was handling the problem. This question received the most responses, and they were overwhelmingly negative. 59% gave the district an “F” and 27% of you gave the district a “D. That’s nearly 90% of you giving a less than passing grade.

I will admit to being baffled by the 3 respondents who gave the district a “B.” Where exactly is the bar set? MNPS failed to shut off water with high levels revealed by repeated tests. They failed to notify parents or even principals of the risk and have yet to acknowledge the danger they placed children in. Admittedly, since my children attend a school in question, this issue is a bit personal for me, but I can’t understand why this has not generated more outrage. Maybe that’ll be a poll question for next week.

Interestingly enough, Channel 5 has produced 7 stories on the issue while the Tennessean has one. That story fails to mention the readings of the tests and attempts to downplay the issue and focus on the mere fact that MNPS is testing water. Many of the kids exposed to high lead in the water come to MNPS from refugee camps. Camps where they were already exposed to unsafe conditions. To place them in danger again is, to me, unconscionable. Here are the write-in responses:

Horrible job. Truly not sure we have the right people in leadership – no skills 1
50 1
They should be forced to drink it

Question 2 asked what subject you would like to see taken up on the school board floor. This year, more and more conversations have been relegated to committee meetings than in the past. Board Chair Anna Shepard says this a more appropriate venue for those conversations and that meeting are still open to community members. That’s all fine and good, but the end result is more meetings for parents to try to keep up with that are not as well publicized as full board meetings. I wanted to know what subjects were worthy of full board attention.

Looking at results, it seems that teacher recruitment and retention is a subject weighing heavily on your mind. That was the number one answer with 27% of respondents. Teacher shortages are a national crisis. However, that shouldn’t be used as an excuse for MNPS not being able to fill positions, but rather a call for them to develop a more robust strategy. Here’s a news flash for everyone as well: Culture matters, and just saying it has always been bad won’t improve it and shouldn’t be acceptable.

The number two answer, with 16%, was the Director of School’s evaluation. The situation at Antioch HS was third with 13%. I’m not sure the two shouldn’t be tied together seeing as the principal at Antioch is a friend of Director of Schools Shawn Joseph’s from Prince George’s County Schools, and he has given her unequivocal support despite mounting evidence that she is not qualified for the position. Rumor has it that there will be an evaluation for the director that is completed in September. Board policy calls for the evaluation to take place in January and June.

Here are the write-in responses to question #2. There are a lot of them.

Hiring practices, leadership compensation and orga 1
sept 1 decision 1
Discipline or the fact that discipline is disappearing. 1
All of the above 1
Human Resources Procedure/transparency 1
Non-magnet HS start times. 1
paying for Execs to get a Dr. with district $ that could go to kids 1
The mass that has left sylvan park 1
excessive testing – tla, map, district benchmark, tnready – it’s insane! 1
All of the above EXCEPT charter issues! 1
Teacher workload, lack of planning time 1
All the $ to new leadership, vendors, & travel 1
All of the above +bus driver shortages, flight of families from middle school 1
We can’t pick more than one?!

The last question was in regards to a letter recently sent home to parents at Antioch HS notifying them that the school did not have enough qualified teachers and therefore instruction would take place via digital learning. I should note here that last year, Antioch lost 67 teachers and has already lost 3 this year.

Seventy-five percent of you said that if faced with the prospect of your child having to participate in a virtual school, you would have an adverse reaction. To be fair, it was pointed out that MNPS’s virtual school was one of the highest performing schools in Metro. Here’s that comment in its entirety in case you missed it:

The MNPSVS is one of the highest performing schools in Metro – did you know that? Check out the test scores. It isn’t a fix-all and not for every student, but definitely has its place. To imply that it’s a poor form of education is unfortunate. Many of our district MS students have the opportunity to earn HS credit and to enrich their education by taking VS classes and entering HS with credit already earned. Did you know that? Are you aware that Hume-Fogg students, and other HS students, often take VS classes to make space in their schedule for courses they otherwise couldn’t fit in, or for classes that are not offered at their site? The MNPSVS is not remediation or credit recovery. It is an aggressively academic program that is a good fit for many students as well as a good intro to students who may encounter online classes in college.

Here are the write-in responses:

I would be at the BOE daily till it was resolved! 1
I would prefer it to hiring an ineffective teacher just to have a body. 1
I would be very concerned and would immediately contact the school . 1
It happened to us at Big Picture. The courses are awful. Tests dont match lesson 1
I would wonder why teachers don’t want to work at that school. 1
Totally unacceptable 1
Ok if it’s quality. But mnps’s is not quality. 1
Unacceptable. Get rid of principals that are bullies 1
Angry considering it wasn’t discussed….

That does it for our review. As always, I’ll see you Friday. You can send all comments to Have a great week.



This was a week. It ran the gambit from positive to negative and back again. As always, the positive was supplied by the hard working teachers, students, and administrators in every building. Y’all suit up and show up every week. This week was no different. Before we get started with today’s update, you might want to get yourself a cup of coffee and a snack. We are going to be here a bit longer than a New York minute. I recognize there is a lot of negativity in the beginning of the post, but unfortunately I think there are some negative issues that we ignore at our peril. Sometimes we have to do the heavy lifting.


There were a number of things last week that crawled out of the woodwork that concern us. The week started off with Channel 5 News doing their 7th report on lead contamination in our school’s water here in MNPS. Apparently the age of the standardized test has led us to a place where simply testing is cause for celebration. There is no need to have a discernible action arise from the test, as we now consider testing itself a sufficient action. Hey, if the Tennessee Department of Education can go into the next school year before releasing test scores from the previous year, why should MNPS actually have to take action on bad water test results?

At Tuesday’s board meeting Chief Operating Officer Chris Henson spent 18 minutes explaining how great the administration was for testing the water – frequently mentioning that it was not required by law and that it was expensive. MNPS was even kind enough to issue a press release that I can only assume was aimed to counter concerns raised by DGW. Interestingly enough, the press release never lists the exact levels of lead from the water readings.

During his presentation, Henson made a couple of assertions that were questionable at best. He frequently referred to following EPA standards. Board members asked some good questions, most of which Henson danced around. The one question that nobody asked, and that Henson glossed over, was why the district didn’t adhere to the EPA’s public notification rule. The EPA is quite clear on what should transpire if water tests at a level potentially harmful to consumers. Perhaps MNPS thought the notice should come from Metro Water Services or some other entity. Whatever the case, at the very least, notification should have gone out within 30 days and included the following information taken from the EPA notification rule:

  • A description of the violation that occurred, including the contaminant(s) of concern, and the contaminant level(s);
  • When the violation or situation occurred;
  • The potential health effects (including standard required language);
  • The population at risk, including subpopulations vulnerable if exposed to the contaminant in their drinking water;
  • Whether alternate water supplies need to be used;
  • What the water system is doing to correct the problem;
  • Actions consumers can take;
  • When the system expects a resolution to the problem;
  • How to contact the water system for more information; and
  • Language encouraging broader distribution of the notice.

Henson referred to the process as a learning experience. Dr. Joseph told the school board that MNPS was like the “pioneers” in this process. Yeah, not so much. A simple Google search reveals that school districts across the country are tackling water issues, some better than others. Since Henson seems to have had trouble discerning proper protocols, allow me to offer a belated tutorial:

  • Once you get your test result report, Google “Lead in Water.” See that CDC site at the top of the list? It is a good place to start.
  • You see where they mention the EPA action level is 15 parts per billion? That means if your lead levels are higher than 15 ppb, you are putting people at risk. Here’s an example: a water fountain at Tusculum ES tested at 28 ppb. That is higher than 15 ppb. Therefore, you have a problem. Go ahead and read the rest of that site – there is a lot of useful information there.
  • Back to Google now. Google “School Districts tackle problems with lead in drinking water.” You’ll see that states from New Jersey to California are wrestling with the issue. Some are doing a better job than others. USA Today has an article from earlier this year that provides a good overview.
  • I would suggest looking closely at Bergen County, NJ, and San Diego, CA, schools to get an idea of a proactive response to the issue. I know it’s going to cost money and that might mean district leaders only get to take 3 trips each as opposed to the much higher amount they took last year. We might also have to trim a few consultants. But these are our kids.
  • Google “Portland Public Schools to Hire First Latino Superintendent” to get an overview of what happens when a district doesn’t act appropriately.

(Letter to Antioch HS Parents)

Now, moving on. Things continue to unravel at Antioch High School. This is a school that 2 years ago was a level 5 school. Last year the school lost 67 teachers. They’ve already lost 3 this year. Students last year staged a walkout in response to a number of issues directly related to leadership at the school. MNPS Director of Schools Shawn Joseph defended principal Dr. Wiley, whom he brought in from Prince George’s County in Maryland, where she was an assistant principal. In his eyes, she’s been doing good work. This week, a letter went out to parents informing them that the school currently had teacher vacancies in the areas of Math, CTE, and Special Education. Students who are enrolled in classes that do not have qualified, Tennessee-licensed teachers will be enrolled in an online course called Edgenuity. A substitute teacher will monitor progress of the children enrolled in the virtual school. Now help me here… where does this fall under “Exceeding Expectations”?

Channel 5 did a story tonight on Antioch HS. The questions fell a little bit on the softball side and Community Superintendent Adrianne Battle really didn’t have any good answers. What also wasn’t mentioned is that Battle was recently a successful principal at Antioch HS. She knows that community and what it takes to be successful there. This situation needs to be fixed.

Recognizing a challenge in recruiting qualified teachers, MNPS announced this week a new initiative to fill open slots for the 2017-2018 year. According to the press release, joining MNPS right now could make a teacher eligible to receive a bonus of up to $6,000 per school year for high-quality instruction in these high-need subject areas:

  • Math (7-12)
  • Science (7-12)
  • Exceptional Education (K-12)
  • ESL (K-12)
  • Spanish

I’m wondering if anyone thought through how this would sit with teachers already employed by MNPS? Or how many high quality teachers were sitting at home unemployed during the second week of August? Or how this might sit with teachers new to the district this year who have already absorbed moving costs? Can’t see this contributing to a better MNPS culture, but to be fair, Chief of HR Deborah Story did tell me they were getting a lot of interest from out-of-state teachers. So if it does result in students not having to attend virtual school, it may be worth it in the end. MNEA has issued a statement opposed to the bonus plan. I would suggest that a good place to find new teachers would be to review those recently non-renewed and considered non-eligible. Perhaps all those teacher weren’t legitimately labeled as ineffective.

Both Hillsboro HS and Pearl Cohn HS have reported incidents involving guns on campus during the last two weeks. I don’t report this to instill fear, but rather to draw a spotlight on an issue that is plaguing Nashville currently and not receiving near enough attention. It seems like almost every other week, we hear a story about another young person who has lost their life to a gun. Last week, it was a Nashville DJ, 19 years old and full of promise, who was killed when a gun accidentally discharged. Former Maplewood HS principal and current Maury County Schools number 2, Dr. Ron Woodard, has continually stressed to me the need for us to do more on this issue, and I have to concur. We have to do more and immediately.

Update 8/18/2017 8:28: A member of the Hillsboro High community wrote with some kind words and some insight into the gun incident at their school. I want to share because I think they raise a very important observation and my point is not to make a community or school look bad but rather shine a light on something that is fast reaching crisis status. Anybody who knows me also knows that I am a fan of HHS principal Shuler Pelham. I think he consistently exhibits the kind of leadership this district need. Enough rambling on my part, here’s the words:

Yes, a gun was recovered on Hillsboro’s campus, and that reflected poorly on our community. However what isn’t being talked about is how it was recovered. A student stepped up and did exactly the right action when Hillsboro needed them to. They alerted the police and the administration. As soon as the car came on to school property that morning, it was detained and searched. While I hate the news that we had a gun on campus, I LOVE that we also have students of integrity who have shown time and again that for every troubled kid there are hundreds at our school who will do the right thing. As Mr. Rogers is so famously quoted as saying “Look for the helpers.” I’m proud of HHS kids and admin for how they handled this week. Its a shame that the helpers are lost in the news of a gun.

It’s important to remember good things can happen during horrible moments.

Quick note: in case you didn’t know, the MNPS school board has once again changed the calendar. The former teacher inservice day that was scheduled for September 1 is now a regularly scheduled school day. I’m sure this thrills parents to no end. Eclipsegate17, the gift that keeps on giving.

With all these issues, what do you think our school board is planning to discuss on the board floor in the coming weeks? According to the Tennessean, it’s that MNPS could be violating the Federal law governing student records by making health care, demographics, language, and other information for its 86,000 students available to dozens of officials who shouldn’t have such access. The article, one of the most lengthy I seen recently, goes on to describe the potential violations, none of which are supported by a legal opinion. The only legal opinion cited is that in May, the Metro Department of Law wrote a legal opinion about the disclosure of student data to charter schools. It said MNPS may share directory information if it believes a charter school has a “legitimate educational interest” in the data.

It doesn’t take long to figure out what the crux of the argument is and whose personal agenda it is. Last year, the State General Assembly passed a new law that says school districts must provide a charter school operating at least one school in the district or a chartering authority basic contact information within 30 days of receiving a request. That doesn’t sit well with everybody. Especially Board member Will Pinkston, who is planning to propose a new policy to ensure the district complies with FERPA.

I fully understand the importance of protecting student data. My public record on student privacy issues should speak for itself and if you want to have an overarching conversation about ways we can ensure that data is kept private, I’m all in. But let’s be clear, that’s not what this is about. Pinkston ain’t laying awake at night fretting because of potential breaches of student data. This is just one more salvo in his personal war with charter schools. A war that distracts from the very real issues we are facing. If you can tell me how the eradication of charter schools is going to fix lead in the water, the recruitment and retention of quality teachers, or the growing gun problem, I’ll jump it to the front of the line. Until then, I consider it a serious issue highjacked by one man’s personal agenda.

I have no desire to have another in an endless series of discussions about charter schools while we ignore issues that increase the attraction of them. If we fix the challenges that face our public schools then parents wouldn’t want options. Parents want quality not choice. Choice between two inferior options never made anyone happy. In most homes children are taught that they don’t make themselves look better by making others look bad. Perhaps that’s a lesson that needs to be revisited, and that goes for everybody. If you are a charter school educating all children in a transparent manner with quality results based upon multiple scales, you’ll probably be left alone. Same goes for public schools. Now can we focus?


I don’t want to head to the polls with all of that negativity, so let’s take a second to celebrate some positive news.

(Ribbon cutting at Tusculum ES)

Yesterday was the ribbon cutting for Tusculum Elementary School’s new building. Some of you might not have known that Tusculum has served Nashville for 106 years. All too many of those years in a building that was long overdue for demolition. The new building is beautiful and the ceremony brought tears to my eyes. Mayor Megan Barry showed why she’s the mayor. Her remarks were insightful and inspiring, a rare combination, and they were greatly appreciated. Thank you to City Council Member Davette Blalock for her kind words as well. Blalock was instrumental in seeing this building to completion. It was a very happy day for the Tusculum family.

(Hunter Hayes at Nashville School of the Arts)

The McGavock HS Chapter of the Future Farmers Of America (FFA) has been chosen as a finalist to compete for a 2017 National FFA Model of Excellence award from the National Organization of FFA. Good luck guys and keep it going!

The Nashville School of the Arts got a surprise visit from successful recording artist Hunter Hayes. That’s Nashville – you never know who will show up.

Now it’s time for my favorite story of the week.

This past Wednesday, I was in the car line at Croft MS to pick up a young man we take to Jiu Jitsu class a couple times a week. Principal Jeremy Lewis saw me and came over to exchange pleasantries. He glanced in the back seat and then remarked, “I see you have Bernadino. Hey Bernadino!” That little gesture spoke volumes to me about the commitment Lewis has to the students at Croft. Just 10 days into the school year, and he was already able to recognize and acknowledge by name a quiet, newly arrived 5th grader. That is an example of exceeding expectations.


Time now for some questions. The first one relates to how the district has handled the situation of lead in the water. What grade do you give them? The next question is about what you think needs to be discussed on the school board floor. Pretend you are allowed to add one subject to the agenda for open discussion. What would it be? The last question is about your thoughts on the letter that went home to parents at Antioch HS. Is that an acceptable action? What do you think?

That’s it for today. Hope you have a great weekend. Due to the eclipse, I probably won’t have poll results until Tuesday. Please be safe and don’t gaze directly into the sun. As always, comments and criticisms are welcome. You can leave them here or email me at For all you do, I thank you!




Monday night, Phil Williams of Channel 5 News Nashville ran a story on lead in the school district’s water that horrified me. I should have been prepared; after all, I was interviewed for the story. But for some reason, the depth of the report didn’t fully hit me until I watched the whole story unfold and saw the reactions of district leaders.

I’ve told you before that my children attend Tusculum ES and that my wife teaches there. Over the years, it’s been a lesson in what inequity looks like. Well, the lessons are far from complete.

According to Channel 5’s report, water in the school was tested during summer of 2016 and two fountains were found to have elevated levels of lead. The June tests showed the two fountains with lead content of 21.8 and 23.8 parts per billion. The “action level” recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency for public water systems is 15 parts per billion. The July test again showed lead levels of 16.8 and 23.2 parts per billion.

It can’t be said enough that the EPA number of 15 parts per billion is merely an action level. What that means is that if water tests above 15 ppb, action should be taken immediately. That action is either changing out pipes or disconnecting outlets. Most people fail to understand that 15 ppb was never designed to be a safety threshold.

When the Environmental Protection Agency established this action level for lead in drinking water decades ago, it was designed as an administrative tool for water districts to determine when to treat their water for corrosion control. It was never intended as a health-based standard for children. The truth is that research shows that even exposure to levels as low as 5 micrograms per decileter have been shown to have a negative effect on children’s IQ and development, as well as lead to higher rates of neurobehavioral disorders like ADHD.

So, I bet you are assuming that once the district received news in September 2016 from their consultant that two fountains were showing elevated numbers, and that at the very least a flushing program should be instituted, they hoped right to it. You would be wrong. They didn’t inform the principal until June 2017. And that was probably only because someone was clearing out their email and thought, “Oh look at that. I forgot to forward that. Let’s just do it now.”

Now you are probably thinking, “Boy, I bet the district feels bad.” Wrong again. Chief Operating Officer, and the only person on the leadership team who seems willing to flirt with accountability on district issues, Chris Henson, offered this defense: “In hindsight, would we do things differently? Would we communicate better? Probably, but we were learning as we went.” Now forgive me my ignorance, but don’t we take exception with charter schools for using our kids as test subjects? And if kids’ health is at risk, is 9 months really an acceptable time frame for learning?

Henson compounds the situation by claiming, “Once we determined how we were going to view those results, then we took action and immediately disconnected any water source that exceeded the threshhold.” Huh? Immediately? “As soon as that decision was made.”

That’s like me laying in the hospital with 3rd degree burns on 90% of my body asking you, “Why didn’t you pull me out of the fire right from the start, when you saw the building on fire, before I got burned? You saw I was trapped and knew what would happen.” Then you reply, “Well, we had to assess the situation and decide on the proper course of action. But once we did, we immediately went in and pulled you out.”

The proper course of action was clear from the beginning. Pull me out of the fire, call the fire company, and notify my family. Not hard. At the very least you could Google it and get a response in under 9 months.

I suspect that deciding how to view the results had more to do with adult concerns than kid’s safety. Concerns like how this was going to reflect on leadership. Where money would come from for corrective action. Lord knows we need every dime for our consultants and trips. Whatever the consideration, it meant that kids were exposed to dangerous levels of lead for almost a year.

When Henson was asked if he found this fact concerning, he said, “It’s concerning, and it’s something that we don’t take lightly. That’s the reason that we did this testing.” Henry Ford once said you can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do. It would not hurt this administration to mount that saying on plaques in everybody’s office. Testing without action is merely half the equation.

Testing without following through renders the action useless. It’s like the police saying, “Hey, we did a study and found you have a lot of burglaries in your neighborhood.”

“Did you up patrols?”


“Notify homeowners?”


“Not very helpful, are you?”


I found it particularly ironic that the story on water showed up the same day that Director of Schools Shawn Joseph sent out a districtwide email on the horrific events of the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. In his message, Joseph stated:

“Nashville has a unique, uncompromising history of fighting for civil rights. We are a community that embraces the world’s children with open arms as our own, and we see our diversity as one of our greatest strengths. As we help our children understand the challenges that violence, bigotry, and hate pose to all of us as human beings, let us communicate our commitment and appreciation for diversity in all of its forms.”

Beautiful words, but apparently he doesn’t feel as strongly about protecting those very same kids from threats to their health and well being posed by their schools that he oversees. It wasn’t Joseph out there defending the district’s actions and inactions over the last year. It wasn’t Joseph on camera reaffirming to parents that the safety of their child was his first and foremost concern. For some reason, this Director seems incapable of saying “We made a mistake” or “I take accountability for this.” Yet his defenders still spin the defense that he is fixing the problems of his predecessors.

It’s important to note here that right before Dr. Joseph arrived in Nashville, his previous employer, Prince George’s County Public Schools, lost a 6.3 million dollar federal grant due to issues involving child safety. His defense at the time was the familiar, “I didn’t know. Wasn’t me.” He claims he didn’t know despite the responsible department being under his supervision.

The MNPS School Board has members who love to write eloquent prose highlighting the shortcomings of charter schools. Just this past Monday, board member Will Pinkston posted his latest recap of his ongoing attacks on LEAD Academy – I know the irony is overwhelming. He writes:

“Now, in a bald-faced attempt to cover up the facts, LEAD has engaged high-priced lawyers to slow-walk the charter chain’s response to my fact-finding open-records request. In an effort to resolve the situation, I have reached out to the State of Tennessee’s Office of Open Records Counsel. I’m not optimistic that we’ll get clear answers to what’s really happening at LEAD. If not, it may be time to consider systematically rescinding LEAD’s contracts with Metro Nashville Public Schools. Thousands of students and millions in taxpayer dollars are at stake, and it’s overdue time for MNPS to hold this bad actor accountable.”

I wonder if there is a letter to Dr. Joseph asking for clarification on the water policy. I wonder if there is a letter to the state exploring the possibility of emergency funds to help replace pipes. I wonder if there is a letter calling for a release of the location and lead levels of all water sources in question so that parents and schools administrators have the information to protect their charges. After all, thousands of students and millions in taxpayer dollars are at stake, and it’s overdue time for MNPS to hold themselves accountable.

Now to be fair, MNPS is not the only school district facing this dilemma. Districts across the country are struggling to find a way to address the health risks associated with high levels of lead in their water. What that means, though, is that there is an abundance of information available in regards to best practices for combating the issue. We just have to attach a priority to it and do the research. Something that, to date, has been lacking.

We refer to the crisis as involving lead in drinking water but we have to be careful here that we don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the danger comes only from water that children drink. The threat includes any water used to prepare lunches. If a school has a community garden, it would be inadvisable to eat vegetables from that garden. If teachers make coffee in the lounge, they could be at risk as well. The seriousness of this situation can not be overstated.

I watch situations like this unfold and the attitudes of district officials and it gives me cause to reflect upon the attacks on public education. I find myself wondering, who is responsible for the most egregious attacks? What hurts kids more, the proliferation of charter schools or the inability for us to keep our neediest kids safe? Look around the district right now – the abundance of schools in the midst of construction or serving kids in adequate facilities and where those schools exist – and ask yourself are we really supplying an equitable education experience for all kids?

I’ll be honest right now, I’m suffering from a crisis of faith. I believe from the bottom of my soul in the power of public education. But if a district administrator is willing to go on camera and offer cover to protect adults over kids, how is that living up to the ideals of public education? If a district allows my kids to be exposed to harmful levels of lead for over a year without regret, how is that the best choice for my family? If a school district proves itself incapable of keeping its neediest charges safe, why should it be preserved? Who does more damage to the public school system, charter school operators or district officials who don’t ascribe to transparency or accountability?

Years ago, after my father had given me a hard time for some shortcoming or another, I asked him why he was so hard on me. He never expected as much, nor was he as critical, of other kids as he was of me. He responded, “They are not my son. I don’t love them like I love you, and therefore I don’t have as high expectations for them as I do you.” When I think about MNPS, I try to remember those words.

This week, MNPS will hold a ribbon cutting for Tusculum Elementary School’s brand new building. I hope every city and school leader who steps to the podium looks out and realizes that those are the faces of the children who, through their inaction they put at risk for an entire year. And I hope they ask themselves if they are truly exceeding expectations or if those are just words on paper.



I, like many of you, spent a good portion of this past weekend following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. I recoiled in horror as the images and stories emerged from this little Virginia town invaded by groups of white nationalists. The purported reason for their presence was to oppose the removal of a statue of Civil War General Robert E. Lee. What transpired was an open display of our worst angels, which resulted in the death of Heather Heyer.

Heyer was a 32-year-old paralegal who chose to stand against these groups before she was struck by a car deliberately driven into the crowd by a young man with white nationalist sympathies. Her last post on Facebook ironically read, “If you are not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

I am not going to pretend for one minute to understand the romanticizing of the Civil War. You can argue all you want about what it really was fought for and what it symbolizes, but the bottom line for me has always been that it was an insurrection. Growing up a military brat lead me to a greater allegiance to the country versus the individual state we happened to reside in. To me, the Confederacy will ever remain a group of individuals fighting to create a separate union, which, at its core, promoted the buying and selling of human beings. A practice that has left a indelible stain on our great nation. One that continues to have repercussions today.

There have been charges leveled that those trying to remove memorials to Civil War generals are trying to erase history. My only response to that accusation is to call bullshit. Nobody is calling for the closing of museums nor the erasing of these stories from print. History can continue to live on sans the protecting of monuments and statues that reflect a time where many of our fellow Americans were treated as less than human.

Symbols matter. If you doubt that, I encourage you to read Joseph Campbell. Monuments and statues should exist to reflect our aspirations. When I look at a statue of a Civil War general, what is the moral standard that reflects my aspirations? Is it one of bravery? Perhaps, but I don’t build a statue to the man who rushes in to save children from a fire he started. Every heroic act committed by these generals during the Civil War ties back to the fact that had there been no desire to secede from the Union and no choice to defend the practice of slavery, there would be no need for the celebrated heroic acts. Heroic acts that resulted, at the very least, in the deaths of thousands of American citizens.

It wouldn’t hurt us as a nation to display a little more empathy.  We need to stop thinking that our life experience is the universal experience. It wouldn’t hurt if we also recognized that talking to one African American, one Muslim, or one Hispanic didn’t give us that race’s or religion’s universal story.

You may look at a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest and see a noble Southern gentleman defending his home. One African American looking at the same statue may see a man defending the policies that ripped his family apart and created a system where his forebearers were treated as second class citizens for decades after the Civil War. Another African American may look at that same statue and see nothing but an old man on a horse. The point is, we all need to take a second and realize ours is not the only interpretation, and if it’s something that’s offensive to a large percentage of our population perhaps it’s time to succumb to change.

Many of these Civil War monuments were created at times that would make one question their purpose. As an article in Atlantic Monthly points out:

timeline of the genesis of the Confederate sites shows two notable spikes. One comes around the turn of the 20th century, just after Plessy v. Ferguson, and just as many Southern states were establishing repressive race laws. The second runs from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s—the peak of the civil-rights movement. In other words, the erection of Confederate monuments has been a way to perform cultural resistance to black equality. 

Here’s my thought. I’ll help you preserve your Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee statues and monuments if you’ll help me construct a Santa Anna statue in downtown San Antonio and a General Sherman statue in downtown Atlanta. After all, it’s about preserving history, right?

I’d encourage you to read Vesia Hawkin’s blog and the words of Sheila Norton to get a deeper appreciation of this weekend’s events. Xian Franzinger Barrett has a piece on how teachers can incorporate the weekend’s events into their lessons. Many people this weekend lamented the swamping of social media feeds with discussions on the Civil War and race. I, on the other hand, don’t believe we’ve even begun to have the discussions needed.


In July, a new law went into effect in Tennessee stating that school districts must provide basic contact information of students within 30 days of receiving a request from a charter school operating at least one school in the district or a chartering authority. The basic information includes student names, ages, addresses, dates of attendance, and grade levels completed. Not surprisingly, districts are balking.

Charter operators use the lists to inform parents of their availability, what some of us refer to as marketing. You can see where this might lead to issues. Jason Gonzales of The Tennessean outlines those issues in Monday’s newspaper. This one will bear watching and will probably eventually involve the courts.

This past weekend, Gonzales also wrote a story announcing the new STEAM director for MNPS. Semi-buried in the story is this nugget about departing director Kris Elliot: “Elliott leaves the district for a job at Oregon State University but said in his resignation letter that he left due to the decreased opportunities for him to advance after the district began to require certain central office employees have administrative educator licenses.” Hmmmm…….

I’ve heard that several administrators who serve in support roles are facing similar requirements. Requirements that were not in place at the time of their hiring and require a significant investment of time and money from those designated educators. My question would be, who is making those demands? Sara Gast, spokeswoman for the TNDOE says, “We do not believe we made any recommendation on a position with the title of STEM director. The district may have made their own determination. The department has been providing some guidance to MNPS about the types of positions that should hold administrator licenses.”

Hop in the wayback machine with me and you’ll recall that in January, MNPS got a rebuke from TNDOE about administrator licensing. The majority of the licensing issues involved principals and administrators that new Director of Schools Shawn Joseph had imported. At the time, Gast was quoted as saying, “The state is requesting that the district clarify the roles for each of the new hires and how often they handle instruction.” She added that the district had made initial determinations of its staff, but the state would continue to review the roles.

Interestingly enough, if you search the TNDOE’s online license data base, it appears that two of the individuals mentioned specifically by the state as being in question, Charter Schools Director Dennis Queen and Executive Officer of Diversity and Equity Maritza Gonzalez, are still not licensed. Both come from Montgomery County, Maryland. In all fairness, the district argued back in January that neither met the threshold for licensure. It would be interesting to see written district policy depicting where that threshold falls.


By all accounts, Parent University was a big hit again this year. Kudos to all those involved for their hardwork.

(Parent University 2017)

Thursday is the ribbon cutting for the brand new Tusculum ES. Festivities are scheduled for 11AM. Please come see our jewel.

Antioch HS continues to be dysfunctional. While all students now have schedules, they don’t all have the right schedule. The school also is understaffed. MNPS leadership owes it to these kids to fix leadership issues. To date, they’ve shown no desire to do so. Two years ago, Antioch HS was a 5-star school. Since then they lost almost 70 teachers, and issues have risen to the point where students walked out last spring. To allow things to deteriorate to this level is inexcusable, and those families deserve better.

Tune in to Channel 5 tonight at 6 for another report on lead in our schools’ water. This will be the 7th such report that has lead to zero discussions on the School Board floor. I’ll have more this week as this one is personal.

Eclipsegate17 is apparently not over either. Tomorrow there will be a specially called board meeting to approve the proposed schedule changes. Hopefully at that point there will be some clarification on the PD day scheduled for the Friday before Labor Day. At this time there is no posted agenda for the meeting.


Lots of folks had opinions to voice this week in response to our questions. As always I thank you for taking the time to participate. Let’s dive in to the results.

The first question asked for your opinion of the new schedule. This was the first week in years that MNPS started with a full day followed by a full week. Previously, school would start with a half day on a Wednesday, followed by a PD day, and then students would be back for a full day on Friday. This gave everybody a chance to sort things out before getting down to the serious business of learning.

Looking at the poll results could lead to the conclusion that this was not an overly popular change. The leading answer, with 30% of responses, was, “It would have been more manageable if I’d had more time to prepare.” The number 2 answer, at 27%, was, “It was awful. The kids and I are exhausted.” 17% of respondents embraced the change and thought it was great.

If the district decides to continue with this schedule, perhaps it will reconsider how it schedules districtwide PD and instead provide more time for teachers to get ready for the year. I have to point out again that every school I drove by this weekend had cars in the parking lot. I can only believe that they belonged to teachers and administrators using their own time to further prepare for the year. Thank you teachers and administrators, but that is not a sustainable demand that we can continue to make.

Here’s the write-in answers:

The school was completely unprepared 1
Schedule issues interrupted classes all week 1
A cluster ____! I went to bed at 7pm every night. 1
Prefer the previous schedule, but adapted. 1
The day off after the first day helps 1
I’m old school T.C. I don’t think middle school should start until 7th grade 1
Scheduling was a hot mess and not completed and refined

The second question asked for you to assign a grade to the first week of school. The majority of you, 42%, gave it a “C.” 32% gave it a “B.” Now while that’s not exactly exceeding expectations, I don’t think that’s too bad either. Last year was a “D” at best, so this shows improvement and it should be noted that there were no bus issues reported this year, which plagued last year’s first week. So while a victory lap probably isn’t in order, a thumbs up should be awarded.

Here’s the write-in answers:

Central office support was great. 1
E for Eclipse! 1
Great…sans loaded firearm found in parking lot!

The last question was asked a bit tongue-in-cheek. I had asked, “What other day should MNPS cancel because employees aren’t planning on showing up?” The number one answer was, “TSU Homecoming Friday” with 32%. I was shocked to find out last year that this was the largest absentee day of the year for district employees. While I’m very aware of the cultural significance of TSU and Homecoming festivities, I am unclear how it warrants a mass exodus that day. Hopefully plans are in place this year to address the situation without taking central office folks away from their responsibilities.

The number 2 answer was the Friday before Labor Day with 20% of the vote. I can only suppose that those respondents will be paying close attention to Tuesday’s special board meeting.

The write-in votes are once again where the fun comes in. A couple I had to edit, but I will explore further. Here they are:

Friday before spring break. It is a PD day. 1
None. Everyone needs to stop complaining about having to work on work days! 1
The 2nd day of school, if it’s a Tuesday 1
You are being too snarky for this to be a useful poll question. 1
SEC Tourney Championship 1
Will Pinkston retiring and moving to Guam. 1
TSU Homecoming and Day after Labor Day 1
Hoping for a federal disaster declaration. Then the day won’t count. Ha! 1
“Whenever someone disagrees with me.” — Will Pinkston 1
The day they do nothing to stop classroom interruptions. 1
That doesn’t sound very professional to me.

That’s all I got. For those of you who don’t know, my name is TC Weber and the views expressed here are for the most part my own. Any grammar or spelling mistakes are definitely all mine. I always welcome your feedback. If you don’t want to leave a comment here, email me at Peace out.



The first week of school is coming to a close in Nashville, and there is a temptation to call it a successful one. If you ignore the delay with the opening at Overton HS and a few other issues, you could make a strong argument for a smooth opening. But at what cost?

This is the first year in a long time that school opened with a full day followed by a full week. In talking to teachers and perusing social media, I get the impression that this has not made for an easy week for our teachers. Many of them have expressed being tired already. Teaching is not only a physically challenging job, but also has a mental component as well. Staying on top of and engaging children 7 hours a day is no easy feat.

Prior to the first week of school, teachers will get together and plan for the first couple of weeks of school. They’ll do this with only a basic knowledge of the students they’ll be responsible for. Then the first day comes and they assess the students in their classes. Sometimes lesson plans will match up, but other times they’ll have to be adjusted based on their students’ needs. Previously, the day after the first day of school was a day off for students and an inservice day for teachers.

That free day after the first day allowed time for those changes to be made as well any additional professional development that might be applicable. This year there was no inservice day, and therefore teachers had to adjust while still sorting through schedules, class assignments, and trying to deliver meaningful instruction. You ever try to work from home while the kids were there? Then you understand the challenge.

I look at teaching and the school year as akin to running a long distance race. When I start out on a run, I don’t sprint right out of the gate. I ease into it and make sure that I’m spreading out my effort in a manner that allows me to maintain a consistent pace for the whole distance. Run too fast at the beginning and I run the risk of pulling up lame before the end of the race.

Leaders have a responsibility to their charges to set them up for success. I’m not sure that this year’s school calendar meets that criteria. We must not lose sight that it’s not the beginning of the race that determines the winners but rather how they finish. Godspeed to you teachers and thank you for always rising for the bell. Your strength and dedication does not go unnoticed nor unappreciated.

Another quick note on teachers. Look at the current job listings for MNPS and it looks like the district is still short 150 certificated classroom employees. I’m also hearing of high schools with classes as big as 41 students. I’m not a teacher, nor do I play one on television, but to my ears that sounds more like crowd control than teaching.

It should be noted that it is really hard to keep track of exactly how many openings MNPS has when their online job listing site isn’t properly maintained. Positions often stay posted long after they’ve been filled. Then there are listings like the one shown here for an EL coordinator. Guess the candidate better brush up on their bus driving skills, or better yet, maybe HR needs to brush up on their cut and paste skills.

The two top positions in Human Resources are held by women whose background is in healthcare. They are sharp, hard working women, but if I was recruiting for a football team would I be utilizing chemists to help me find potential players? Or would I employ people with experience as players? People who have a deep understanding of the challenges and have access to networks of players and the ability to sell those players in a common language that could ease any concerns about joining my team.

Rumor has it that a number of positions in HR will soon be filled by former St. Thomas Hospital staffers. I say that’s great news if we are looking for doctors and nurses. But what do I know?


The top of the list of things I don’t want to write anymore about is Eclipsegate17. In case you weren’t paying attention, this week the school board voted to reverse a decision that reversed an earlier decision and close schools on August 21st. To be clear, at this point I think the decision to close schools was the only logical choice for the board. Especially in light of the head of MNPS’s STEAM initiative Kris Elliot’s imminent departure. But that it got to this point is mind boggling to me.

There is no reason that a decision couldn’t have been made and adhered to back in September 2016, when the 2017-2018 calendar was being created and approved. I have heard some people try to compare this to an inclement weather day. Nothing could be further from the truth. A weather day is an unpredictable occurrence. The solar eclipse was predicted about 100 years ago. There is no information available today that was not available at any time during the past nine months. So to compare it to a weather day is like comparing apples and limes.

One of the most concerning aspects of this incident to me is the ultimate reason why school that day was canceled. In a message to district employees, director of schools Dr. Joseph acknowledges that 400 teachers and 100 bus drivers would be out that day, so safety had become an issue and therefore we were canceling.

In other words, y’all weren’t coming, so we didn’t see any sense in holding classes. That’s a little alarming. Do not think that logic went unnoticed. I’ve already heard rumblings about what’s going to happen the Friday of TSU’s homecoming this year. Traditionally that is the district’s highest absentee day of the year for staff. Last year, the strategy was to employ central office folks to cover for absent classroom teachers. But that begs the question of who’s doing central office folk’s jobs that day? Unless of course….. well, you get the picture.

Nashville Blogger and Education Post contributor Vesia Hawkins has some additional thoughts on Eclispegate17 over at her blog Volume and Light. As a side note, many criticize Vesia because she’s a paid contributor to Education Post, but let me be clear, if anybody wants to pay me, I’m not necessarily opposed to it. The wife would be even more appreciative. Paid doesn’t equal bought. Don’t consider that an endorsement, though, because at the end of the day every individual has to answer that question for themselves.


Some of you may know that I supplement my income by working as a bartender for special event. Yesterday I worked an event at a location where they were projecting various quotes on the wall. One really struck me though I failed to catch the name of the author: “Feedback is a form of respect. Without honesty there is no growth.”

I’m debating getting T-shirts made up for school board members with that saying embossed on the front. On the back I could print an Einstein quote: “You are what you do, not what you say you will do.” Too much, you think?


Here’s a bit of free career advice. If you are the principal of a large high school that has seen teacher turnover above 65% in the last year, it’s probably not a good idea to go to a cigar bar and brag loudly about the number of people you’ve run off. Just saying. You also probably shouldn’t make the language as colorful either. Again, just saying.

A teacher at a local middle school has made the assertion that people don’t read anymore. Help me prove her wrong. If you are the parent of a 7th grader and your kid doesn’t have their immunization, in the words of Larry the Cable Guy, “Git ‘er done!”

Parent U is this weekend. This is a great opportunity for parents to learn more about what goes into their child’s education. If you think that you are a well informed parent and that there would be nothing here for you, think again. There are programs scheduled for all levels. It’s a good time and I urge you to put it on your calendar.

The lunch room has changed a lot since I was a kid. It just keeps getting better and better all the time. This year, MNPS’s Nutritional Services changed their employee schedules from a 6-hour day to a 7-hour day. This is a big deal because not only does it give them more prep time, but it also sends a message that they are valued employees. Wouldn’t hurt to have a lot more of that kind of affirmation going around. A salute to MNPS Nutritional Services.

Andy Spears over at the Tennessee Ed Report has an excellent post on the recently released poll of teachers statewide conducted by the TNDOE. Apparently teachers are warming to the state’s evaluation tool, but “Sixty-five percent of educators surveyed said standardized exams aren’t worth the investment of time and effort. The same percentage of teachers said the exams don’t help refine teaching practices.” Jason Gonzales of The Tennessean wrote the initial piece on the survey and it’s equally good.

If you see JT Moore Principal Gary Hughes… say Happy 50th!

If you see new Public Information Officer Michelle Michaud around, try to make her feel welcome. Rumor has it she may be a keeper.

Also kudos go out to former Rose Park Magnet Math and Science Middle Prep Principal Robert Blankenship. I say former, because he’s been named the new Director of STEAM initiatives for grades K-12. I know, you thought there was a policy in place to prevent these types of transitions during the school year and that some of you principals were actually following that policy. But by now, you should know that in MNPS we pride ourselves on building the airplane as we fly it. Congratulations Robert, no reason to believe you won’t do great work.


A Friday post wouldn’t be complete without some questions. Today I would like to know what your impressions are of the first week of school. Did you like the new schedule or do you wish things would revert to the old schedule? Secondly, do you think things went smoothly or were there a lot of issues? The third and final question is meant in jest because well, I couldn’t resist. What other day do you think the administration should go ahead and cancel because teachers and bus drivers aren’t planning on showing up? Surely you have some suggestions.

The first week of school is now officially in the books. Onward and upward. As always, if you have thoughts you’d like to share, positive or negative, drop me a line at Also be sure to check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page for lots of positive vibes. Like it if you can.


Yesterday was the first day of school in Nashville and by all accounts things went remarkably smoothly. Well, minus a few construction issues, which we’ll discuss in a few minutes. MNPS teachers, principals, and district administrators all deserve a tip of the hat.


Public education advocates in Tennessee got some good news this past week as State Representative Craig Fitzhugh announced that he would be running for governor. Fitzhugh has been a tireless fighter for public education during his tenure as a state representative, and so his entry into the race is well received. This means a contested Democratic primary this year, since former Mayor of Nashville Karl Dean is also running. I must say that 3 months ago, I didn’t give Dean much of a chance to secure the governorship, but in all honesty he’s been running a solid campaign which has caused me to rethink my position.

That said, my support is 100% behind Fitzhugh. Not only is he a true supporter of public education, but he is also the personification of a gentleman. When I cast my vote, character matters and Fitzhugh has it to spare.


Last week saw a couple more departures of MNPS district administrators. Director of STEAM Kristopher Elliot is leaving to take a job out in Portland, Oregon. Elliot has been instrumental in developing our strategy for converting middle schools into STEAM schools. He was also an integral part of attempting to plan out district policy in regards to the upcoming solar eclipse despite district leadership’s lack of foresight. I particularly liked Elliot because he was always willing to discuss my doubts on the STEAM philosophy in an open, non-defensive, non-condesending  manner. Co-workers often described him as brilliant, and he will be missed.

Longtime Manager of Employee Relations Frank Young has also decided to seek opportunities elsewhere. Young was described to me as a talented “ghostwriter.” When an incident took place at a school, he was the one who would write up the incident report. His skill and attention to detail served to protect the district from opening itself up to increased liability. By all accounts, he will also be missed.

There was a promotion from last week, when Dr. Shunn Turner was named as the new Executive Director of School Choice. She previously served as Coordinator of Gifted and Talented Education. Turner replaces Dr. Aimee Wyatt, who announced two weeks ago that she would be taking a leadership position with the Southern Region Education Board.


(Hallway at Overton HS)

By now you should be aware of the delayed opening of Overton High School due to construction issues. Yesterday I joined the media to take a look at progress. Now I’m not a construction expert, nor do I play one on TV, but to my untrained eye, they need more time. An extra day or two to allow teachers to get a little more set, in my opinion, would pay off as a big benefit further down the road. To be fair, teacher comfort is a welcome expressed priority of Principal Jill Pittman. The big issue is that the state has a mandate on the number of days kids must attend school, and so therefore, all days missed must be made up. Hopefully somebody is trying to coordinate that with the state.

On Tuesday it was decided that school would be opening on Wednesday despite ongoing construction. I only hope that this decision is being made in the best interest of students and not the district. Doors open at 6:45 am. Classes start at 7:05 am. Good luck Bobcats!


One would think that between the multitude of issues facing the district, including three directors leaving only two weeks before the start of school, the school board would have its hands full with its own issues. Not so if you are self-described multi-tasker Will Pinkston. He decided that the first day of school was the perfect day to publicly attack a local charter chain over the recent departure of their Executive Officer Chris Reynolds. LEAD attempted to respond to Pinkston by going through Board Chair Anna Shepherd. That was unacceptable to Pinkston.

Personally I have issues with LEAD’s practices. However, families seem happy with their decision to attend LEAD. I would say a big part of that decision has to do with what is transpiring with MNPS in general. I love how Pinkston claims a “moral and legal obligation to safeguard the interests of these students” yet publicly fails to acknowledge the departure of three Executive Officers from MNPS, whose departures will impact more students than Reynold’s departure. Not only does he not publicly question the departures, but as chairman of the board’s committee on the director’s evaluation, he continues to slow walk the implementation of a meaningful evaluation for the director of schools.

Imagine if we were to announce that teachers and students would no longer be evaluated. We don’t feel that there is a fair evaluation process in place so therefore we are going to stop evaluating while we take a year to find an acceptable tool. While I may support that idea, I don’t think the general public would be supportive.

One further note on the recent departures. Those people leaving the district are people who have been extremely loyal to this district and to this board. I understand that we have a shiny new director with shiny new ideas, but the way we treat our longtime employees sends a message about how we value loyalty. You don’t get loyalty by not being loyal. Loyalty doesn’t mean blind trust, but it does mean acknowledging people’s contributions and watching their backs. Some things that seem to be in short supply right now.


Here’s a couple rumors to whet your appetite on a Monday morning.

Duval County Public Schools in Florida is looking for a new superintendent after their last one hightailed it off to Detroit. Rumor has it that this opening has hit the radar of a few MNPS executives.

There seems to be an increased number of sightings of those white MNPS company cars in surrounding counties. Perhaps this is a move to remind teachers and families who have left MNPS that they can still come back, or maybe it’s something else. Whatever the case, I’ve received reports of sightings in several neighboring counties over the past couple weeks.


Time now to dive into the responses for this week’s poll questions. We got a lot of responses this week, and I’m deeply appreciative of your willingness to play along.

The first question asked about your feelings on last week’s professional development training. Teachers districtwide were mandated to attend two days of training, which, for most, was outside of their school building. This was done at a time when most were trying to get their classrooms in order for the upcoming start of classes. This is a sentiment voiced by the majority of respondents. 31% responded that the time could have been better spent getting their classrooms together. The number two answer, at 26%, called the training a waste of time. Only 8% labeled it fantastic.

A wise veteran educator said to me a couple weeks ago that effective PD was as much about timing as it was content. Perhaps if the timing had been different the results would have been different. I describe effective communication in terms of an unimpeded flow of water. I deliver a message and you receive the message. Unfortunately, we often add impediments that, much like rocks in a stream, serve to divert and alter the flow. One big impediment is the assumption that my priorities supersede yours. Care needs to be given that both parties’ priorities are given equal weight. Unfortunately the district deemed their agenda more important than teachers’ need to be prepared for the first week of school, and therefore the message was diluted. This resulted in PD that was not as effective as it could have been.

Here’s the write in responses. There is some good feedback for the district within these answers.

ne day away fr bldg w/common content folks. Need planning day at school/room 1
I don’t recall a survey discussing teacher needs 1
Subs don’t get to attend PD. 1
Logistics were not considered. 1
Someone needs to give the district PD on how to make a master schedule 1
Good for new teachers, waste of time for veterans 1
It was good, but we only needed 1 day, not 2, for more time in classroom 1
I’m a parent -I can only hope PD was helpful

Question two asked for your biggest concern going into the new year. The overwhelming response, at 45%, was district leadership. Coming in second, at 21%, was school leadership. Perhaps that is something the school board might want to look at and dig deeper into. Another veteran educator, who was here during the Garcia years, recently remarked to me about how much these times resemble those days of past, “Everybody knew that we had issues, but nobody would speak up until the state did.” The state spoke up by taking over the district in 2008. You’d think we’d be a little more cognizant of recent history.

Here are the question 2 write ins.

“flash” new initiatives immediately implemented w/little explanation/training 1
Visea Hawkins 1
Student schedules/IC 1
We can only pick one??? 1
Hillsboro IB scores went through the roof! No love 1

The last question was about the upcoming race to be the next governor of Tennessee. When we did the poll back in May, the clear winner, despite having not declared at the time, was Craig Fitzhugh with 40% of the vote. Karl Dean only garnered 12% of the vote. This past weekend, Dean got 48% of vote and Fitzhugh received 32%. Now to be fair, there were fewer respondents this time, but one can’t help but wonder if Dean’s hard work wasn’t paying dividends. We’ll keep an eye on this. On a side note, it appears that DGW readers are overwhelmingly Democrats. Randy Boyd was the leading Republican with only 6% of the vote.

Here’s the write ins:

Anarchy, if we pick from this lot. 1
chris moth 1
Dean, but Dems gotta hold his feet to fire 1
TC Weber 1

That does it for today. I feel like I gave you a lot of meat to chew on. See you on Friday when I’m sure I’ll have more.