I know, it’s Tuesday, and I usually publish on Monday. Unfortunately, this week started off with a bit of a challenge. Sunday morning, between 1 and 4 AM, my wife’s 2012 Subaru was stolen from our driveway. It’s perhaps one of the most surreal events I’ve ever experienced. We both wandered around the front of the house for a good 45 minutes before reality sunk in. The police have been extremely helpful and an insurance claim has been filed, so we’ll see what happens.
The stealing of the car dovetailed nicely into the thoughts I was already feeling this weekend. As I am wont to do, I was pondering the state of our public schools in Nashville, and to be honest, I was having a bit of a crisis of faith. I found myself questioning just how much people really cared.
Over the last several years, we’ve all watched the battle lines drawn over charter schools vs public schools – I know, charter schools are public schools. But just bear with me for a minute. Everybody has lined up to stake their positions against corporate takeovers and loss of local control. Rallies are held and activists show up to address the school board on how the system is failing our kids or how the system needs protecting. I’m not downplaying those issues, but those are national issues for the most part. And I would ask, where is the passion for the issues generated locally?
For example, let’s look at Antioch High School. Two years ago, it was a 5-star school; today it’s a shadow of that through no fault of its teachers or students, but instead as a direct result of poor leadership. The state of AHS is no secret to anybody, yet nobody does anything. A month ago, the district held yet another Listen and Learn session with teachers, and once again everybody walked away recognizing there were real issues. But what changed? Nothing. There are plans to rinse and repeat in January.
Last year, students walked out over conditions at AHS, and there was widespread media coverage. But did anybody ever follow up to see if things had changed? Did anyone ask, “Hey kids, anything get any better?” Did anybody ever follow up to see if enough teachers had been hired? Has anybody asked MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Joseph, “Hey, how come your old friend from Prince George’s County is still principal despite everybody recognizing that she is not, by anybody’s approximation and for whatever reason, doing an adequate job?” Or did we just turn a deaf ear and hope that if we ignore things, they’ll somehow magically get better?
Two weeks ago, there was an article in the Tennessean about an MNPS administrator accused of sexual harassment. Nationally, these kind of accusations are met with swift action. In Nashville, it appears that our reaction is a shrug and a failure to dig deeper or follow up, as there hasn’t been a follow up report since the initial report.
How come nobody is asking Dr. Joseph, “Since you and Mo Carrasco have a personal relationship that stretches back to you two working together on a principal training program in Montgomery County, what are your thoughts on multiple women accusing him of sexual harassment?”
Or maybe they could ask, “How is it that an administrator, hand picked by you, and touted as among the best and the brightest, has managed to get themselves placed on administrative leave twice in 18 months?”
LEAD Academy CEO Chris Reynolds resigned the week prior to the start of the school year, and it was covered like the Director of Schools quit. However, there was no mention that over at MNPS proper, the people in charge of the SEL initiative, the choice initiative, and the STEAM initiative all resigned and took new positions outside of the district two weeks before school started. Furthermore, there has been no mention whatsoever that the replacement STEAM Director has been on administrative leave for almost 6 weeks.
It’s been reported that the district has won 23.8 million dollars in STEAM grants, and when you go to MNPS’s web page it says in big bold letters “STEAM in Middle Schools,” yet it seems to not be important to have stability in the leadership position that oversees the entire initiative. Nobody asks Dr. Joseph, “Why can’t we keep a director of STEAM in place? Isn’t that kind of important?”
Then again, it doesn’t seem important that MNPS have a Chief of Staff in place either. Nobody asks why someone with the qualifications of Jana Carlisle would uproot their life from NYC to come to Nashville only to be summarily dismissed a year later under the guise of “her contract was up.” Nobody asks Dr. Joseph, “When will you be hiring a new Chief of Staff? What qualifications will they have that Jana Carlisle didn’t have? Why did she leave, despite you repeatedly referring to her as a key element?” Instead, it’s a shrug and sayonara.
There was at a fight at Overton High School. 15 kids were arrested. Two weeks later, and where is the follow up story? We just shrug and dismiss this incident as an outlier. But is it really? Not if you talk to students, teachers, and parents. They’ll tell you discipline issues are on the rise across all grade levels. Police being called to elementary schools is not nearly as rare an incident as it should be, yet nobody asks Dr. Joseph, “What’s being done to review our disciplinary policies to ensure that they are functioning as effectively as possible?”
A couple months ago, MNPS hired a new Public Information Officer, Michelle Michaud. She walked through the door throwing elbows and didn’t win many fans among local media, but she certainly set the rules for any coverage MNPS would be receiving and whether it’s directly due to her or not, the kid gloves have stayed on. MNPS gets little to no pressure to address its shortcomings. Instead, the Tennessean prints another glowing article about the board and Dr. Joseph.
In the aforementioned article, School Board member Dr. Sharon Gentry is quoted as saying, “What we have managed to do is eliminate the randomness. We aren’t chasing, but actually driving.” What does that mean? What conversation are you driving? Because it isn’t the one about Antioch High School, discipline, STEAM leadership, or sexual harassment.
To be fair, the local media has done some excellent work on travel expenditures and lead in the water, only to get a collective shrug from the community. There were no mass calls to school board members. Nobody demanded action from the city council. Business went on per usual. So that’s where it begs the question, do we really care?
I get it, charter schools and Betsy DeVos make attractive villains, and attractive villains make it easy to pick up the sword. It’s not hard to picture DeVos tying public schools to the railroad track while twirling a mustache. But what happens if she’s defeated and charter schools are run out of town? Are discipline issues solved? Teacher attrition resolved? I often worry that the real danger to public schools does not come from the forces of privatization, but rather from our unwillingness to hold local schools to the same level of accountability that we would demand from charter schools.
I get it. It’s time consuming, unglamorous work. To quote Dr. Joseph, “A lot of the work that we do isn’t glamorous, it isn’t the flashy stuff that everyone sees. It is the policy work, it is the governance work, it is the researching what measures we focus on that often goes unseen to the eye.” Yes it is, and if we don’t do it, running Betsy DeVos out of town becomes meaningless.
When I was a young man, I remember complaining to my father about another young man stealing my girlfriend. My father asked, “Were you attentive to her? Did you put her interests on par with your own? Were you willing to work at the relationship?” And then he closed with advice that has always stuck with me, “You can’t steal away the willing.”
This past weekend, I bartended a parent/teacher mixer for the West End Middle School PTO. It was held at the 1979 Studios, and this was my third year working the event. It is always a good time, but this year particularly so because I got to observe West End’s new principal Dr. Young work the room. Watching his interactions with both teachers and parents, it’s clear that he has become an integral part of a community that continues to be a model of parental involvement. They are obviously fond of him, and he equally so of them. This is what it looks like when it works. Kudos to all involved.
Speaking of quality principals, Oliver Middle School principal Steve Sheaffer called this weekend to invite me to see the school’s performance of The Little Mermaid. Performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Hope to see you at one of them. The kids and I are quite excited.
Out in the Northwest quadrant of MNPS, the M3 summit took place this past weekend. By all accounts, it was a tremendous success. Kudos to Community Superintendent Pippa Meriwether and her quadrant leadership team on a pulling off such a impactful event.
Former school board candidate Miranda Christy has an op-ed out in the Tennessean today asking for us all to put aside our political bias and come together to work for kids.
Congratulation also go out to MNPS Executive Officer of Diversity Maritza Gonzalez. This year she will be representing MNPS as a Fellow for the Racial Equity Leadership Network. RELN has gathered 12 ambitious school district leaders from across the nation poised to address racial, economic, and academic disparities in their districts, and Dr. Gonzalez is one of them. And if that isn’t enough, she’ll also be representing MNPS as a Fellow for the Deeper Learning Equity Fellowship.
Were you one of those people who thought that TNReady was on the path to improvement? If so, Andy Spears has some bad news for you over at the TN Education Report.
Confused by what the new federal tax bill means for schools? ChalkbeatTN has some answers for you.
Local Blogger Vesia Wilson-Hawkins has some thoughts on recent allegations that charter schools are re-segregating our schools. Agree or disagree, she’s always worth a read.
Did you know that Hillsboro High School has an AP-accredited school paper? Did you know that it is one of the few in the country? Check out the Hillsboro Globe.
A nice job was done entertaining folks at the lighting of the Nashville Christmas tree by the Glencliff HS Mariachi Band
How about that Dupont Tyler Middle School Symphony? Impressive.
And let’s not forget Ruby Major Elementary School’s Ruby Rockettes!
‘Tis the season!
Let’s review the poll results from this weekend.
The first question asked if you would support providing kids 30 minutes a day to read in school. 63% responded that you would 100% support this initiative. 17% more of you put the caveat of 3 days a week in. That means 80% of you would support designating time during the school day for kids to do nothing but read. I wonder if anyone is listening?
Here are the write-ins:
|Long standing / well-researched practice with results — SSR — Sustained Silent Reading||1|
|love the idea but with current environment – impossible!||1|
|It always was part of curriculum until reform came along.||1|
|Yes, if done in a research-based way with support.||1|
|Yes. In fact they already do this at my kid’s school||1|
|Dr. Felder would say read phonics books||1|
|I would support an hour or longer, maybe 2 30 min reading periods per day|
Question two asked how confident you are in your children’s safety at school. The results to this one reinforce the need to have a deeper conversation on discipline. The number one answer, at 42%, was “mostly.” Number 2, at 19%, was “not so much.” Only 15% answered extremely. That, to me, is very concerning.
Only 3 write-in answers for this one:
|no kids in school now||1|
|As long as they aren’t at Maplewood||1|
|IFL units will solve safety issues|
The last question asked if you considered President Trump referring to Senator Warren as Pocahontas as a racial slur. 33% of you said “Absolutely,” while 27% of you answered “I don’t listen to anything the President says anymore.” I’ll stay out of the weeds on this one.
Here are the write-ins:
|His verbiage stinks. I think he was just calling her out||1|
|Just fire Dr. Felder|
That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short. I have started using Patreon. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well.