Last week, if you’ll recall, the week started with me reporting that our car had been stolen. On Friday, I reported that through the power of social media, we had recovered the car undamaged. It’s Monday again, and I’m sad to report that once again the car has been stolen. On Saturday morning just after midnight, the thieves returned to the scene and stole the car back from our driveway in front of the house.
The Metro Nashville Police showed up quickly on Saturday morning, but they were as baffled as we were about the re-theft. When the wife asked if this is a common occurrence, they responded, “No. In fact it almost never happens. Is there anyone who is mad at you?”
“Only about half the world,” was my reply.
Several people have suggested that I look into the whereabouts of certain Nashville school board member.
That last comment was an attempt at some levity. Here’s hoping that by Friday I have better news to report.
This is the last week of school before Winter Break for students and teachers in MNPS, but it could prove to be an interesting one. Tonight over on Channel 5, Phil Williams airs the first of a two-part series based on an interview with Mo Carrasco, an MNPS executive who recently resigned in response to a multitude of accusations of sexual harassment. It should be noted that Carrasco has a long personal history with Director of Schools Shawn Joseph and came to MNPS in response to a personal invite by Joseph.
On Tuesday morning, the spotlight will be focused on MNPS when the Nashville Chamber of Commerce releases its annual school report card. In the past, the Chamber has been very critical of MNPS, focusing on literacy instruction, English learner students, and the school board. What will this year’s focus be on? It has to be pointed out, and is borne out by the weekend’s poll results, the Chamber’s report card suffers a bit of a credibility gap, and while it is widely read, I’m not sure that it is much adhered to and is quickly forgotten.
Let’s take a moment and set the stage for these two events that could have a big impact on MNPS going forward.
PHIL WILLIAMS INTERVIEW
Word on the street is that tonight’s story on News Channel 5 could get quite juicy. Despite how the MNPS brass may try to paint him, Carrasco has a long-time personal relationship with Dr. Joseph going back to Montgomery County, Maryland. If we hop in the way-back machine and head to 2008, you’ll find Carrasco in trouble for running a principal training program out of his school, Richard Montgomery High School. A program that was publicly endorsed by one Shawn Joseph.
Carrasco was cleared of charges and was offered a new position at central office. I guess they concluded that since he wasn’t offering a service training principals, they should give him a position doing so. Among the people not-so-happy about the move was a Florida-based company named Breakthrough Coach that had done work for the district. Seems they had suspicions about Carrasco’s business, as it went by the name of Breakthrough Principal.
Of further note, the superintendent of Montgomery County Schools at the the time was Jerry Weast. Weast is a former Superintendent of the Year and often referred to as a mentor of Joseph’s. In a stroke of fate for MNPS, Weast moved to the Cookeville area a few months before Joseph was hired and has graciously served as an occasional informal advisor to Dr. Joseph. Sure is a fortuitous coincidence for MNPS that all 3 could once again somehow manage to re-converge in middle Tennessee.
MNPS has been very quiet about the allegations against Carrasco. To date, they have yet to make an official response to either the charges or Carrasco’s subsequent resignation. A resignation that I’m not convinced was voluntary. Carrasco had vowed to fight the charges, but was rightfully concerned about what his children might read on the internet. On Thursday, when he did the interview with Williams, Carrasco was defiant, but on Friday morning he had a reversal and a change of tone. One can only speculate about the phone calls he received Thursday night.
I have heard people trying to float the idea that former MNPS Number 2 man Jay Steele was behind the scenes manipulating events as a devious attempt to discredit Dr. Joseph. Photos of Steele, who was recently in town for a convention, with MNPS principals and staff have been offered up as evidence of his machinations. There are a few problems with this theory though.
First of all, there is no reward for Steele in discrediting Joseph. The ship with him as Captain of the USS MNPS has long sailed and is not coming back to dock. Second of all, there are at least 8 women who have signed formal complaints against Carrasco. Not all 8 have connections to Steele, nor is it likely that he would be able to get all 8 on board to take collective action. Remember, filing formal charges opens one up for public scrutiny. I don’t think any of us would invite public scrutiny knowing that there was a good chance we could be discredited.
My prevailing thought is that Carrasco and the rest of the Maryland crew, including Joseph, arrived in Nashville thinking they would be treated as saviors by this backwater, podunk Southern town. Therefore, they felt, and arguably continue to feel, that they can act with impunity. Carrasco learned the hard way that Nashville is not nearly as friendly as outward appearances might suggest. You have to treat the locals as you would your family back home. Time will tell if others learn from his painful lesson.
I will offer up empathy for Carrasco’s children. It is an awful thing for a child to have to see a parent portrayed as anything less than exemplary. I think back to almost 18 years ago when my step-daughter was 20 years old. I was drinking at the time and not always behaving in a pious manner. I had to ask myself regularly, if she was to suddenly walk in the room, would I be able to explain in a satisfactory manner what I was doing or saying? It was a driving factor in my decision to change my behavior and get sober. I’m not suggesting that Carrasco has issues with substance abuse, but I would say that there is ample evidence that a change in behavior is in order.
Hopefully, School Board Chair Anna Shepherd will be watching tonight’s news report. In the past, when Williams has aired critical stories, Shepherd has claimed not to watch Channel 5 news. Somebody needs to remind her that just because you didn’t see it does not mean that it didn’t happen. As board chair, she has an obligation to have a working knowledge on all issues that the district is facing. She can’t just trust in the Director of Schools and leave everything up to his discretion.
I know we’ll be watching Channel 5 tonight at 6pm.
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE REPORT CARD
Every year since 1992, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce has released a report card on the state of schools in Nashville. Last year, the report card backed Shawn Joseph’s focus on literacy. Joseph responded by saying, “We need collective impact if we are going to change the trajectory.” Yet the actual response was to introduce a literacy Scope and Sequence that gives a bad name to dumpster fires. Teachers across the district have universally rejected it and the accompanying IFL units. In case you are not familiar with Scope and Sequence, it is a list of all the ideas, concepts, and topics that will be covered in the book, in the course, or in the lesson plans assigned within a curriculum. The IFL unit plans are the scripted units that flesh out the Scope and Sequence.
Joseph was also praised for his leadership prowess last year:
His leadership has also reinvigorated teachers and school leaders in the district. Joseph and his team have the district on the same page, said Zuri Adkins, Una Elementary assistant principal. “There is a refinement from years past,” she said. “Everyone is getting the same information at the same time in the same place.”
A year later, is there anybody who believes that?
Joseph has repeatedly defended the Scope and Sequence as being not as bad as advertised. That defense is not supported by district teachers. Even those who are doing their best to adopt the prescribed curriculum are feeling stressed. The level of frustration brought on by the poorly designed Scope and Sequence is reaching a point where I am seeing indications that it could lead to a mass exodus of teachers. I always try to take threats of people quitting with a grain of salt because it’s a long road between threatening to quit and actually leaving. However, evidence keeps mounting that this is a warning that needs to be heeded.
Primary complaints on the Scope and Sequence center around subject and level appropriateness, whether or not the texts involved are available, how realistic the timelines are, and the communication of expectations in a timely manner. One teacher raised the consideration that the elementary school curriculum is a K-5 curriculum despite our elementary schools being K-4. It has also been pointed out that it leaves little time for small group work. Small group work has previously been an essential part of the district’s literacy work.
Tomorrow, I will attend the unveiling of the report card, anxiously awaiting to see how the Chamber of Commerce committee tackles these concerns. Will they question the strategy or will they continue to blindly back Dr. Joseph? Or will they produce evidence that shows our literacy strategy has been working? That evidence would be interesting because I have seen nothing that points to its existence. Maybe what’ll happen is that somebody will shout, “Charter Schools!” and we’ll all get in a big fist fight and totally ignore the elephant in the room.
Many of you have asked why Bob Blankenship has been out on administrative leave. To that question I don’t have an answer. I have heard a lot of conjecture, but none of it seems to fit the narrative of Blankenship’s character. Perhaps at some point we’ll get more clarification.
Speaking of leave, word on the street is that the former Buena Vista ES principal is ready to return from medical leave, but the district might not be ready to give her back her school. We are keeping an eye open to see if those rumors bear out. But we will say that we are happy to hear that she is healthy again.
There is a school board meeting tomorrow. Some items of note on the agenda. Quaver is back on the consent agenda. They were on last meeting’s consent agenda but were mysteriously pulled from the agenda. Hopefully there will be no issues this week. Also on the consent agenda are new board policies. A little of a head scratcher here for me. I would think they would hold enough weight to warrant their own discussion and vote. They do seem to seem to quite promising though.
Also on tomorrow’s agenda is recognition of Maplewood HS teacher Jared Amato and his work with ProjectLit. I went to the last book club of the year this morning and was well rewarded as always. It’s a shame nobody from the school board or central office deemed it important enough to attend.
Let’s take a quick look at this weekend’s poll questions.
The first question was looking for an update on who you support for the next governor of Tennessee. Results would indicate that Fitzhugh has begun to find his mojo. 37% of you indicated that if the election was today you would vote for him. Karl Dean wasn’t far behind with 32% of the vote. Randy Boyd was the leading Republican candidate, but only 9% of you indicated that he would get your vote. Some interesting responses for write-in votes:
|Harold Love, Jr||1|
|Someone that will fire Dr Joseph||1|
|Anybody but Karl Dean||1|
|None of the above|
The second question asked for your opinion on the aforementioned Chamber of Commerce report card. The results were not very flattering for the Chamber. 30% of you answered that the report card was worthless, and 26% indicated that you wouldn’t be paying any attention to it. 23% of you indicated that you don’t put any stock in the report. That totals nearly 80% of you that hold a negative connotation to the report card. Not good. Here are the write-in votes:
|will be quickly forgotten||1|
|Depends on who got appointed to create the report.||1|
|Same recommendations no follow through||1|
|I hope someone is honest about the idiots running MNPS|
The last question was about the School Choice Festival. Not surprisingly, school choice is not a popular subject among DGW readers. 70% of you responded, “I hate the whole process no matter what. So hold it when you want.” I don’t think there is any need to dive deeper. Here are the write-in votes:
|Fire Dr. Felder||1|
|I don’t care. I just hope Felder is the next to go.||1|
|Later start lets more families participate.|
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.