I’m going to start off with some disclaimers before we get rolling this week. First, in a recent blog post, I cited the per-pupil Title I allocation by MNPS as being $485 when it is actually $491. That number is set by the district. Secondly, I’m probably going to say a few things is this blog post that might ruffle some feathers. That’s not my intention; I just feel pretty strongly about some points that I think really need to be made. Lastly, there is a chance I could drop a few off-color words in this update. I know, it’s bad form to swear in a forum for general audiences, and I’ll try to find better words, but sometimes that’s the only word that fits. I promise no F-bombs though. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get rolling.
Saturday night around 8:30 PM, I was on the phone with a friend when call waiting buzzed in. Looking at the screen, I saw that it was a call from MNPS. I thought to myself, “This has gotta be good.” I put my friend on hold and switched over lines. This time MNPS exceeded my expectations:
Good evening Metro Schools Families,
As you may know, there is a national initiative regarding school walkout days in March and April. We recognize student activism is part of the learning process and we respect and support our students’ right to free speech. With their safety in mind, we have asked principals to help students find assembly space within each school for those students who plan to participate. Please know that if students leave school without permission and do not sign out, their absence will be counted as unexcused. Additionally, any disorderly conduct that disrupts school operations will be handled compassionately but firmly, in accordance with the student handbook.
MNPS understands that our students may be feeling lots of emotions, including anxiety, fear and even anger about recent events. Please talk to your children about their feelings and know we have counselors available to help them. If you have questions about your school’s plans for walkout, please contact your principal.
You are receiving this email because of your relationship with Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. If you wish to stop receiving email updates sent through the Blackboard service, please unsubscribe.
Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools | 2601 Bransford Avenue, Nashville, TN 37204 | 615-259-4636
WTH!?! I immediately picked up the phone and called my kid’s principal.
“Do you have snacks covered for walkout day? If you don’t, I’ll bring them.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Walkout day. I just got a robocall a few minutes ago telling me that a walkout is scheduled for this month, and I know walking out can be tiring. Kids get hungry. They might want to eat or they’ll get thirsty while hanging out in the designated space. Just trying to help.”
“TC, there are no fourth graders walking out. I’ll talk to you later.” And with that, she promptly hung up.
As rightfully she should have. I don’t know who decided calling parents on a Saturday night to inform them about a potential student walkout later that month was a good idea. I suspect it was the same person who advised Dr. Joseph to send out the “We’re Broke” email last week, but either way, it was a terrible idea.
First of all, it should have probably been targeted to just high school parents and maybe middle school families. Secondly, I’m betting that Saturday night is not the optimal time for parents to process information from the district. I’m not saying that all parents have active social lives, but somebody is keeping the growing number of taverns in Davidson County operating. At the very least, I’m betting many parents were getting ready to Netflix and chill. If I had to pause an episode of Seven Seconds so I could hear about a hypothetical student walkout in the next couple weeks, my reaction wouldn’t be writing the potential dates on the calendar.
Those are irritants, but the biggest problem I have with the robocall is that at its root, it is adults trying to co-op and sanitize kids’ reaction to a social issue, in this case, gun violence. Over the last several years, there has been a trend to make protest a more organized and non-disruptive event. Protests are held at convenient times in non-disruptive locations while carefully making sure that behavior isn’t offensive to anyone. Here’s a news flash for you: that’s not a protest… it’s an assembly. No social policy was ever changed by people just gathering and chanting without making the masses uncomfortable. Kids need to be allowed to plan and execute their own actions in response to school shootings, unencumbered by adult sensibilities.
When it comes to the school shooting issue, people will argue that a large segment of society holds the Second Amendment as a sacred right. Fair enough, but just 70 years ago a large portion of the American population thought it was a sacred right to refer to African-Americans as “Niggers” and have a completely separate system of laws and access for them. It took young people pointing out how wrong that belief was to make change.
I’m reading a book right now, Darktown, that uses the backdrop of Atlanta’s hiring of its first 8 African-American police officers. These officers were not allowed to arrest white people, they had to go to a separate office, and they weren’t allowed in the morgue. The treatment was appalling, but it was symptomatic of the country’s views at the time. Remember, bad policy doesn’t exist unless someone wants it to or someone allows it to.
We act as if that time was a hundred years ago, but it’s barely two generations removed. I guarantee you that policy and public views would not have changed in the ensuing decades had people not protested in a manner that made people uncomfortable. That’s not a call for violent revolution; simply acknowledgement that just sitting and talking in a non-offensive manner doesn’t work.
Furthermore, those who participated in the marches and sit-ins all risked consequences. It might have been the potential loss of a job, incarceration, or the threat of physical violence. Regardless, there was a potential consequence. People demonstrated how deep their beliefs were by willingly embracing the threat of consequences. People paid attention because participants were willing to put it all on the line. Attempting to pull that risk out of a protest action in the name of safety robs it of its power and sets an awful precedent for future generations.
I personally am all for kids organizing to protest gun laws. The irony of those voicing concerns about potential safety issues involved with the protests is not lost on me. I’d argue that we as adults have already done a terrible job of keeping kids safe, so how much worse could it be? They want to take a crack at it, so I say have at it. But there needs to be recognition that in trying to change minds, you run the risk of suspension, expulsion, or other consequences. The willingness to face those consequences is what will give their actions power.
In closing, I do want to say I think MNPS needs to get out of the social justice business as well. Providing counselors the day after Trump’s election, and other like actions, runs the risk of fostering charges of indoctrination, which is not part of the role of schools. The function of schools is to supply the tools that will allow kids to develop into critical thinkers. Critical thinkers do not always arrive at the same conclusions. I don’t need you to think just like me. But I do need you to have the ability to research, process, and defend conclusions based on research.
If students all want to walk out tomorrow in support of their interpretation of the Second Amendment, so be it. As long as the opinions are their own and they are willing to face the consequences, I would take no issue. Because if we live in an educated society that is capable of evaluating competing narratives and arriving at the best policy, we’ll be all right.
Plenty of people argued for the superiority of whites last century. Views were changed because people were willing to risk it all to disprove those views. It was predominately young people driving that conversation. Let’s give history a chance to repeat itself. As adults, we’ve already proven our shortcomings, so it’s time for next up.
This weekend, money and MNPS was on the tip of everybody’s tongues. On Friday, Channel 5 News did a story on MNPS being almost 8 million dollars short in this year’s budget due to a discrepancy in enrollment figures. This has led to local school budgets – hiring, travel, supplies – being frozen and reductions in next year’s budget. The feeling is that those monies will be swept out of the schools and back into central office to offset the budget deficit. At this point, that’s just speculation, but it is the word on the street.
I’ve monitored several separate conversations on social media this weekend, and one interesting tone I’ve seen emerge is an attempt to lay the blame for budgetary shortcomings at the feet of the State. Not unlike the attempt last year to lay the attempt to cut teacher raises from 3% to 2%.
The State did not heavily invest in scripted curriculum and a wholesale STEAM conversion this year despite the funding not being there. The State didn’t change the redistribution of Title I monies. And the State did not fail to recognize declining enrollment numbers early enough to adjust. Those numbers are based on 20-day counts that get registered 9 times a year with the State.
However, the State is not blameless. Our schools are dramatically underfunded and that needs to be rectified. But it’ll never be rectified if we are not constantly diligent on how our local districts are utilizing resources and willing to shoulder the blame when necessary. I’m not saying that there are not legitimate reasons for this budget shortfall. But that’s where transparency comes in.
The argument gets made that charter schools are eating up all new monies. Is that true? Are their enrollment numbers up? If their numbers are up, why? People don’t just go to a different school on a whim. What do people perceive that charter schools are offering that traditional schools aren’t? That’s an honest conversation that adults should be able to hold without bashing each other.
What about the return on some of our large ticket items? How much have we spent on STEAM conversions? Have we gotten the bang for the buck we envisioned? What about the millions spent on scripted curriculum? Was that investment one that has paid large dividends? What about at central office? We continue to add new positions. Right now, there is a job posted for the Coordinator of Process Change. According to the listing, the person who serves in this positon performs work as directed by the manager to facilitate collaborations, address daily change management issues, documentation management, audit adherence to change control process, and coordinate and maintain process and policy documentation, and service catalog. Are we getting too top heavy again?
Growing up, I got an allowance. I always thought it was too small and that my parents didn’t understand my needs. I didn’t get a larger allowance, though, by blowing the small allowance each weekend, calling my father a greedy bastard, and then demanding more money. I got a larger allowance when I demonstrated the capability to manage the small allowance and was able to aptly demonstrate why I needed the raise. It’s hard to make the argument for more money when you can’t justify the spending of what you’ve been given.
Maybe MNPS can justify it. They’ll have an opportunity tomorrow at 4pm at the board room to discuss the current situation and the upcoming budget. I urge you to show up and listen. I will.
Yes, there is a hiring freeze, and therefore many positions throughout the district are not being filled until July 1. Some of you, though, may notice a woman, who bears a striking resemblance to recently-departed Chief of Staff Jana Carlisle, sitting in budget meetings. Word on the street is that the doppelgänger is Marcy Singer-Gabella, the new Chief of Staff. Singer-Gabella comes with a heady resume via Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. Those who know her, praise her. Let me be the first to welcome her. I think as long as she doesn’t score any 5’s on her performance reviews, she’ll be fine. We are still giving those, aren’t we?
Speaking of Vanderbilt… Some interesting results from the 2018 Vanderbilt Poll-Nashville, a nonpartisan public opinion research project conducted annually by Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (CSDI). According to their results, the Metro School Board has a 51 percent approval rating, while Metro Schools Director of School Shawn Joseph has 46 percent. However, among parents of children in public school, the Board’s approval rises to 58 percent and Joseph’s approval rises to 59 percent—right in line with the approval ratings for the rest of the city’s leadership. This is the same poll that has Mayor Barry’s favorables at 61%.
Reminder: Friday, March 16, will now be an instructional day. Students will attend school that day to make up for an inclement weather day used in January.
Here’s the latest Russ on Reading post: Building Vocabulary: Teaching from a Conceptual Base.
Wow. This week’s poll response was phenomenal. I am so appreciative. Let’s dive into results.
The first question asked for your response to Dr. Joseph’s “We are broke” email. 157 of you responded, with 24% of you wondering if he still had the Tahoe. Tied at 28% was “starting to hear death knell.” 17% of you admitted to being scared by the email. Only 2 of you expressed faith that Dr. Joseph would make the right decisions to guide us through this.
You may call it noise, but I’d describe it at troubling noise. If nothing else, it shows a lack of ability to create a positive narrative and a continually eroding level of trust. Say what you will, but with 157 responses, the Director of Schools should be able to generate more than 3 positive responses. Here are the write-ins:
|Once upon a time, we did lots with nothing. What makes it so much harder now?||1|
|I don’t read his emails.||1|
|Time for no confidence vote for Joseph||1|
|Not surprising from a politician.||1|
|It was a warning sign that the end of public schools is near.||1|
|And we thought teaching in Metro was tough this year!||1|
|Not surprised, but a little worried||1|
|like everything else, too much disconnect||1|
|Central office is so top heavy!!!||1|
|He’s an idiot w/ 0 successes in Nashville||1|
|Leadership 101: take responsibility and don’t blame others for your failures||1|
|We knew this would be coming at some point!||1|
|Time for no confidence vote. Everyone is conisidering leaving MNPS. Everyone.||1|
|Give us our Title one money now||1|
|Crap as always from him!||1|
|It’s conncected to the contract Metro teachers are trying to negotiate.||1|
|I’m hoping to hear the death knell.||1|
|Clueless more than ever||1|
|What expenses are being cut at central office?||1|
|He needs to take a big pay cut!!!||1|
|Where’d all the money go???? Oh, all the peeps he brought in…||1|
|Spent it on reading consultants. Thanks Dr. Felder|
Question two asked you to gaze into your crystal ball and make a recommendation to the next Governor of Tennessee on Candice McQueen. This one got 148 responses with 55% of you saying she needed to return back to Lipscomb. 10% of you hoped she remained in her position at State Commissioner of Education. Fewer write-ins here:
|The previous admin sucked the state dry…. she’s working to clean up a mess||1|
|Reassign her to teach MNPS middle school||1|
|Sue her for heading up the state’s educational malpractice system|
The last question asked for your opinion on what had improved at MNPS. Two of my favorites, EL services and Community Achieves, were the leading vote getters. The story, though, was the write-ins. The record number of write-ins. Here they are:
|None of the above||5|
|Technology available to teachers||1|
|No. Just… no – AHS Teacher. Just saying.||1|
|None of the above!||1|
|Our ability to spend money on testing. How many schools can we fund with MAP $$?||1|
|Business partners and experiential learning||1|
|H.G. Hill MS||1|
|Has there been an improvement worth making this list???||1|
|The wellness center||1|
|Support services: truancy and social workers||1|
|No part, sad to say…||1|
|Coaches and other misc individuals who make signifcant salaries||1|
|Teachers’ resolve to go on strike||1|
|Leadership & Learning – +8 million in budget||1|
|Not one thing. How many people on admin leave?||1|
|Honestly, none of the above.||1|
|Not one thing is better. Just further bogged down in training and processes.||1|
|I see no tangible evidence of improvement.||1|
|Just a bigger mess||1|
|There have been improvements?||1|
|Gifted services but these will be the first to go.||1|
|Support Services – social work, SEL, Comm Ach, etc||1|
|Felder is millions over budget. Need a formal investigation into wrongdoing.||1|
|Reading Recovery supporting literacy growth||1|
|It’s a shit show and the amateur hour needs to end||1|
|none of the above||1|
|Addressing childhood adversity and trauma||1|
|Music in our schools!||1|
|No more Pearl Cohn songs about Dr. Joseph||1|
|math instruction/scope and sequence – maybe Jessica Slayton could take over ELA||1|
|Increased amount spent on consultants||1|
Yikes. Again, maybe it’s all just noise. But noise gets ignored at our own peril.
That’s it for now. Hope I didn’t chase y’all off. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I’m always looking for more opinions and try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short and don’t get them out there.
I have started using Patreon as a funding source. 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. I need you to like that Facebook page.