IN SEARCH OF EQUITY

14

It seems like you can’t hold a conversation these days about Metro Nashville Public Schools without also discussing race, class, and equity. On a lot of levels, that’s a very good thing. For too long, we’ve put our collective heads in the sand and hoped that the issues would solve themselves. We’ve perpetually focused on saying the right things, as opposed to doing the right things.

Few will argue that the American public school system has a long history of denying equal access to all children. Initially, schools were segregated. Even after desegregation became the law of the land, there was resistance. We’ve made progress, but take a look at the challenges facing newly-hired New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza as he takes office and tries to further desegregate New York City schools. Over 60 years may have passed since Brown vs Board of Education, but we still have a long way to go.

I think part of the issue is that so much of the past is still ingrained in the present. We are a society that likes quick fixes, and issues of race, class, and the role they play in creating inequities do not provide a platform for quick fixes. In the absence of a quick fix, we default to the strategy of taking from those who previously benefited from their majority status and awarding the benefits to those who were deprived. That doesn’t solve the issues; it merely shifts the benefits and creates a new set of inequities.

There is also a tendency to think about racism as a thing of the past, and some white people bristle at demands to address the past by claiming they had no part in it and therefore shouldn’t be held accountable. We act as if the past is this isolated bubble that has no tendrils to the present. Unfortunately, that is a misconception that prevents us from moving forward.

The ill effects of racism and class discrimination are still fresh within minority communities throughout the city. Many of the mothers and fathers of children currently enrolled in MNPS have felt the pain of policies rooted in racism. That pain is not one that is easily erased. While we should not remain tethered to the past, it is important that we acknowledge people’s experiences and how it affects their perceptions today. There cannot be an honest conversation without acknowledgement and acceptance.

By the same token, race shouldn’t be used as a means to defend bad policy. Especially when we are aware that said policy is hurting the very kids we be should be protecting. I’m constantly amazed at the number of members of the black community who, in private, recognize the shortcomings of the current administration, yet publicly, lend their voices to the chorus to defend and support the current Director of Schools. That fact alone should be a prime indicator of the complexities of the subject and how much work we have to do on all sides.

I’ve got a standing invitation to anyone who believes that my criticisms of the current administration are rooted in racism. Join me for coffee or lunch, and discuss how current policy is benefiting kids, and I will counter those arguments. I will never claim that I am completely free of bias because that is a claim none of us can make. We all bring our own biases to the table. Biases that are a summation of our individual experiences, which are unique to all of us. I am always willing to listen and learn if you are willing to share.

I’ll give you an example of bad policy that hurts the ones who need the most: the recent cutting of MNPS paying for all advanced placement tests. Why is the community having to show up and beg the Metro council to fund this line item? It’s $1.3 million and easily the most effective step the district has taken toward narrowing the equity gap. This would be like me showing up at football practice and saying we aren’t going to run anymore. It’s too hard. Why is the paying for tests not a non-negotiable? Is there really something in the budget that is more important? If so, please identify it for me because I don’t see it.

I wholeheartedly believe that Nashville needs a deeper conversation on equity, but we are missing a prime opportunity to have that conversation. With the arrival of Dr. Joseph, we had a real opportunity to start a break from the past and begin to forge a path forward. Whom better to lead the conversation than a career educator who has purposely chosen to make Nashville his family’s new home?

But he’s chosen the path of a politician over that of an educator. Does a math teacher separate a classroom full of students based on their understanding of math? Do they attempt to divide those students with greater understanding from those with lesser understanding and act disparagingly towards those who underperform? Or do they take extra time and employ extra patience to ensure that they grasp the principles in a manner that excites the student and encourages growth? It’s the politician who is focused on their agenda and uses every tool for self accomplishment over the betterment of the community. We needed the former, but we got the latter.

Unfortunately district leadership is continues to act in a manner that employs a divide and conquer mentality. Last week in the Tennessean, a letter to the editor appeared from Arnett Bodenhammer defending the Director of Schools on his choice of music played at a principals meeting. The letter acknowledges that Joseph should be subject to criticism, but raises the specter of racism being at the root of current board criticism. It’s a subtle attempt to paint certain board members in an unflattering light, and in turn, prevent them from asking the really hard questions. The questions that this administration has not been very good at answering.

Interestingly enough, a look at Joseph’s calendar for last week shows a meeting with one Art Bodenhammer. Hmmm… wonder what the subject was? Bodenhammer is a coach at Overton HS, so perhaps they discussed athletics. However, it’s a realistic assumption that the subject of Bodenhammer’s upcoming letter to the editor came up. One has to wonder what that conversation sounded like. The result is just one more missed opportunity.

Dr. Joseph recently updated the list of principal openings for the 2018-2019 school year. Of the 17 positions announced as filled, 14 went to African-American candidates. That certainly demonstrates a step towards the fulfillment our community’s commitment to making Nashville’s leadership ranks more diverse. On the surface, the hirings should be applauded.

This is where I reflect upon the lessons taught to me by Dr. Drinkwine. He reminded me that just because you have fewer white people or less wealthier families, you are not more diverse. Diversity means that ALL are represented. That ALL have a seat at the table. Equity means that ALL have opportunities afforded to one.

In looking at the principal announcements in that light, we see that there is not one position that went to a Hispanic candidate. Not one position that was filled by an Asian candidate. Not one that went to a candidate of Middle Eastern descent. This, despite all three demographics being well represented in MNPS.

Despite making up 25% of the population of MNPS, only two schools in the district are led by principals who are Hispanic. Central office previously had three positions held by people who are Hispanic, but one of those positions has been eliminated, so that lowers the number to two.

Ironically, one of the positions in central office is held by the MNPS Chief of Schools’ spouse, Maritza Gonzales. In 2013, Gonzales was hired by Prince George’s County Public Schools, MNPS’s Director of Schools former district, in response to a backlash from Hispanic community leaders over a perceived lack of response to the Hispanic community. Once again, today’s conversation has roots in the past.

Further complicating things are rumblings of a plan to move previous Paragon Mills Principal Dr. Maria Joie Austria to central office to fill a leadership vacancy in the EL department. Austria was brought to Paragon Mills from Maryland by Dr. Joseph upon his arrival. By most accounts, her tenure at Paragon Mills has not been successful.

What makes leadership think she’ll be any better at central office? While she does hold a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, she has limited experience in EL instruction. Experience that I would consider essential to any position in the EL department.

Austria’s promotion would align with the district’s move to an emphasis on first instruction. There is talk that MNPS is contemplating moving EL teachers into more of a support role than one of direct instruction. In the past, Austria has spoken of the value of that approach.

That move, if true, does raise several flags. MNPS’s EL department has been quite successful over the last several years, and at the root of that success is the commitment to striking a balance between supporting classroom teachers and supporting EL teachers. How would that practice continue? How would we ensure that EL teachers are getting the required level of support?

Curriculum is obviously quite important, but it can’t overshadow language acquisition. Just as language acquisition cannot overshadow curriculum. The state’s recent move to make all teachers who teach ANY EL kids WIDA-fluent adds a higher level of importance to an understanding of language acquisition instruction.

I don’t believe that it is an unreasonable concern to worry that promoting someone without a proven track record in language acquisition, and a spotty one in leadership, will hurt our kids. Remember, roughly 24% of MNPS kids require EL services. That does not just include Hispanic kids. What evidence do we have that Austria understands the depth and breadth of our EL population? If we are going make our school system truly equitable, getting EL services right has to be a key component.

Equity also has to encompass how we treat our teachers. By now I’m sure you are aware that the district cut 80 Reading Recovery teachers. In doing so, they applauded them as being the best and brightest in the system and guaranteed them employment for the 2018-2019 school year. Of course, nobody had a plan for what that employment would look like. The idea was floated that these specialists would just become classroom teachers and students would instantly benefit from their skills.

Here is a question for you: how many of you would rush out and buy season tickets to the Titans tomorrow if Mike Vrabel announced tonight that since his linebackers were the best players on the team, he was going to move them all to the receiver position. I can just imagine the phones lighting up at sports talk radio shows if he floated such a ludicrous idea. Yet, Dr. Joseph proclaims an equally ludicrous idea and public school “fans” just nod in agreement.

That makes me think for a second, we decry the emphasis on professional sports over education, but perhaps if we became as versed in public education policy as sport fans are in their chosen sport, we’d see fewer inequities. We have no problem second guessing the coach of a sport we’ve never played, yet balk at applying the same level of inquiry to an administrator who oversees an endeavor we’ve all participated in. You never hear anyone make the argument that questioning a professional coach’s judgement hurts his team’s performance, yet when it comes to education, that argument is considered an accepted truth. But I digress.

Back to our Reading Recovery teachers. It’s June so you’d expect that they would have an assignment by now. That would be a wrong assumption. As of Thursday, when MNPS sent a written reply to Metro council on the number placed, there were 26 still unassigned. Friday night around 6:30, teachers started receiving emails with their new assignments. Some of those teachers who received emails were under the impression that they already had assignments at other schools. For those who actually read the email, that led to a weekend filled with panic and uncertainty.

Let’s have a show of hands. Teachers, how many of you regularly check your MNPS email during the summer? Hmmm… that many of you? If you are going to manage a work force, shouldn’t you have a working understanding of their culture? What if a teacher didn’t check their email for several weeks? What kind of deliberation went into where a teacher was assigned? Once again, policy is being delivered that is more about “checking a box” than improving outcomes. Reading Recovery teachers placed… check.

Please understand that any conversation about equity has to include how we treat our professional educators. Schools are more than just the students who attend them. Cultivating diversity means attracting all types of people and providing all with equitable access.

Are we treating people in a manner that we would want to be treated? Are we providing for all kids in a manner that we would want our kids to be provided for? Are we supplying experiences for all kids that we would want provided for our kids? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then our system is not equitable. It’s a simple measure. You cannot have equity if one group is treated with preference over another. Again, it’s a simple equation. In order to find true equity, we are going to have to search a little harder.

QUICK HITS

Look’s like a recent transplant from Boston is on the move again. And with that, there are now 2 EDSSI openings.

Come say your piece on Tuesday on why Metro council should increase funding to MNPS. I’m torn on this one. There are things that remain in the budget in lieu of things I feel should be cut. There are positions that are still funded in the budget despite lack of evidence that they are needed. Yet as long as teacher and support staff salaries are in play, I’ll lend my voice. Bring yours.

Is anybody else wondering if Dr. Joseph will make an appearance at tomorrow’s public hearing or if he’ll just stay in Chattanooga and let the public make his plea?

The national blog Russ on Reading just hit the million reader mark. In honor of that, I want to share this post of his from 2016 on the non-negotiables of reading instruction. Read it and take notes. There will be a quiz later.

Congrats to two young women from MNPS who were awarded Sportswoman of the Year at the annual Tennessean sports awards banquet. Job well done, ladies!

Over the weekend, it also came to DGW’s attention that Derrick Williams has decided to accept a position outside of MNPS. Derrick is truly one of the good guys. I don’t know how long we can keep losing people of his caliber without anybody noticing. The hits just keep coming and the band keeps playing. Thank you for your service, sir.

Did you know that MNPS used to have a compensation specialist? Did you know that job has been unfilled for almost 2 years? Just saying.

Has anybody seen the MNPS spring climate survey? It must be hanging out with the MNPS school board’s director evaluation.

POLL QUESTIONS

Thank you to all who participated this week. Participation remained high, though the number of write-ins was lower than in previous times. Let’s look at the results.

The first question asked how you would feel if the state created a mandatory Outdoor School. 71% of you expressed an openness to the idea. 19% considered it a waste of resources. Interesting. Personally, I think it would do everyone a world of good. We could all use a little more appreciation of the natural world. Her are the write-ins:

we have bigger problems; how about reading books? 1
For this type of thing to be meaningful we have to lose our test score focus. 1
I believe the District’s money can be used to fund more pressing needs, Raises 1
It would be nice in ALL schools 1
Awesome idea- once upon a time we had School in the Woods. It was amazing!

Question 2 asked for feedback on teacher attrition and whether MNPS would see more or less this year. Out of 125 responses, 77% of you indicated that the numbers would be rising. 14% of you indicated that the number would be about the same as in previous years. Three of you said that fewer teachers were leaving. Here are the write-ins:

They are trying but there are only so many jobs in other counties 1
We are losing so many great people.

The last question asked for your opinion on morale within MNPS. 56% of you indicated that it is worse than ever, with 18% of you referring to it as polarizing. How many times and how many ways? Not surprisingly, 3 people indicated things were getting better. Here are the write-ins:

Good at schools with strong leaders, struggling for district level leadership​ 1
Staff is scared to death to speak up. Lots of bullies. 1
Depends on your location

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all 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. Just because Andy Spears is also on Patreon doesn’t mean you can’t support us both. 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. And if you are so inclined, check out my new campaign web page and sign up to help if you can.
Advertisements

14 comments on “IN SEARCH OF EQUITY

  1. Polly says:

    The spring survey results are out. Let me see if I can dig up mine from the depths of my email and I’ll pass them along tomorrow from a burner email.

    • norinrad10 says:

      Yes. The internal is poor because it basically throws out all the kids that reading recovery addresses and makes a comparison btw an average MNPS student and a child enrolled in reading recovery. It’s like comparing oranges to apples. Also unanswered is the question of what intervention those kids previously enrolled in reading recovery will now receive? Crickets on that one and it’s the most important.

      • lillian b says:

        Have you talked to them about your concerns?

      • norinrad10 says:

        I never stop advocating and talking EL. I was on the advisory council up until last year and I’m constantly involved in other ways. After all, these are my children’s friends so it personal.

      • Maggie says:

        Not to mention the caliber of reading instruction those kiddos get when they exit RR greatly effects the continued success of the students. Pull away all support and an at-risk reader will fall. They need quality reading instruction to follow their exit from RR.

  2. Is this the Coach? https://www.tennessean.com/story/sports/preps/2014/05/16/arnett-bodenhamer-fired-stewarts-creek/9190991/

    Maybe they got together to play cards and shoot the breeze and share how they overcame resistance? Rise above or not.

    The parallels to this and City Hospital cannot be lost on anyone following local politics.

    So when I found this article I think reading recovery may be needed on the City Council https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/21006526/this-town-needs-an-enema?utm_source=News+from+The+Equity+Alliance&utm_campaign=91d761bc8d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_3_11_2018_COPY_02&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_829d2e4e6d-91d761bc8d-102905011&mc_cid=91d761bc8d&mc_eid=e116e7a8bc

    And this came from a Candidate who was running for Mayor. Really?

    And the bulk of the assessments for property went to larger landholders. https://www.tennessean.com/story/money/2018/04/17/nashville-property-tax-shortfall-large-commercial-owners-took-home-80-reduction/516303002/

    I loved that one property in the Gulch had undergone Foreclosure 3 years ago. Wow just wow. https://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/stories/2010/06/28/daily25.html and then promptly sold Velocity in the Gulch’s 220 apartment units have sold for $37.5 million. Well there is money here just not here. As the owners are private equity firm in Chicago.

    How is Gibson doing?

    Or how about this boondoggle.. http://www.wsmv.com/story/37761368/metro-official-apologizes-for-spending-135k-on-stadium-without-permission?utm_source=News+from+The+Equity+Alliance&utm_campaign=91d761bc8d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_3_11_2018_COPY_02&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_829d2e4e6d-91d761bc8d-102905011&mc_cid=91d761bc8d&mc_eid=e116e7a8bc

    Or we have the costs of the Trump meet and greet.. I would like the numbers on how much that cost the city. The Library closed at 2 that day. The entire bus service moved at noon to accommodate the security issues; then the cost of overtime for law enforcement and traffic diversion and I have no idea if the city offices shut down early as they did before. Money you say?

    And what happened to the audit? Is that still ongoing? As my Mother used to say, “If you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about. So why worry?”

    How can you ask people to demand money when no one is answering questions, funds are diverted or misappropriated, large industries can find themselves exempt and yet if you have the audacity to ask you are labeled, ostracized and duly labeled. If you are following the New York City Schools read the article yesterday about the Principals. There are two sides to the story and no Teachers once again were ever interviewed. Why is that? And what is going on in Williamson county with that situation?

    This is not just a Nashville problem. Nor is is about race. Schools, Teachers and Kids are walking to ask questions, demand answers and seek help. This is a major problem and the “Director” should call his buds in Prince George as they seem to be in the thick of it and find out how they handled it. Oh wait they are leaving. That is the standard to run for the door or play cards. Whatever works best.

  3. Phantasm says:

    Did you ever see the Key and Peele skit where they do an ESPN-style breakdown of teacher moves from a classroom highlight reel? It’s pretty much how we should treat highlights in the profession. I know everyone went to school and therefore feels like an expert, and I feel similarly to you on this one.

    Also, do not tempt leadership into requiring that all teachers check their email during the summer. They will be all too happy to turn that into a requirement.

    • OMG that was hilarious. I always use the Substitute Teacher one to explain why I never stand in front of a class and do roll.

      This last week I had a Lyft driver who is taking the summer to drive people while she figures out her career options. She was a first year Teacher and found herself utterly out of her depth and did not want to do the job. This is not the first person I have met here with the same issues. I met a young woman in New Orleans who did the same was changing careers. To think that in record unemployment with a degree and experience standing in a classroom that these skills are not transferable and that Employers would welcome a seasoned, educated professional to do any number of jobs means you are not looking hard enough. Funny Teachers say repeatedly to kids “To be educated means you are empowered and prepared for the workforce.” Well TIP as they used to say in Ed School

      I was on the bus with a blind woman who was so worried about being at the mall when school got out I had to tell her that it was all good until August 7. She was afraid of the kids at the local high school and does not like to ride the bus with them to downtown. She used the word afraid. So she cannot see the children so let’s remove that card from the deck. And this is again not the first time I have had that exchange with people regarding the transit system, the center and the kids behavior on the buses. Then when I say I work in the schools they profusely apologize as if they offended me. Nope I know. There are serious issues in the schools, there is a clear lack of leadership from the top down. The churn and burn is a real problem and again that is EVERYWHERE in education not exclusive to Nashville. I worked in a district where people would go up in arms when a new Principal would show up. One Title 1 school has had 5 Principals in 4 years. Yes do the math on that one.

      Active community means active schools. That is the real issues that I do see here lacking when it comes to education. Time and money are not a problem for some but for most it is. But hey if you are a wealthy investor who wants to buy property and be an absent landlord but collect the checks and ignore the property, the taxes and the community in which it serves come on down. The recent Bordeaux issue over the broken light is another example. And yet when you again have the audacity to ask questions, express concerns, draw attention to issues you are labeled and cards are tossed in your direction so you fold your hands and walk away. Looks like the crosswalks and sidewalks should be fuller.

  4. Nashville Taxpayer says:

    TC. This blog post is right on. African American teachers at my school question Joseph’s methods and wasteful spending until you put them in a small group. Then it is “people are just saying that because he is black.” He’s not fooling anybody. I’m not sure if he thinks he is MLK or Joe Clark, but he is neither.

    In a district where we celebrated diversity and pushed for our schools and our leadership to look like our kids, that celebration is gone because of Joseph. You should not hire people because of their color, but because they are the best candidate out there. That’s how we got Joseph. A hand-picked group selected the final candidates. That’s a fix. You pick two that aren’t so good and the candidate you want. We will never know what we had to choose from. That’s not right. The school board got duped into giving away their responsibility. We will always wonder if some of the board members were part of the fix.

    MNPS’ Facebook page also has no diversity. Where are the white children? Where are the Hispanic children? They all look the same.

    Last night’s Metro Council meeting had so many SEIU workers like paraprofessionals telling the audience that they took home less than $500 for two weeks work. So many were African American. Where is Joseph when it is time to protect them?

    Remember when MNPS sent an email urging staff to sign kids up for summer programs? One was called Black Girls Code. What would the reaction have been if the class had been called White Boys Code. or Jewish Kids Code? Everything this district does is becoming so divisive.

    Leaders of this city who are African American need to realize that in a few years Joseph will be gone and all of our money with him? Is Joseph really part of the Nashville Black Community? Does he live there? Does he worship there? Is he one of us or is he just taking us for a ride? Is he fooling us too.

    Nashville’s African American leaders are just known as leaders, not just leaders of black citizens. We need them to be strong and lead for everyone. We have to live together with everyone once Joseph is gone. ALL children mean ALL children.

    Prediction of the Week- A certain African American principal from an Old Hickory middle school will be named new director of SEL. He has been tooting his own horn for a long time.

  5. Layla says:

    I’m not sure if this is the appropriate post to say this, but I am an African-American teacher and I wanted to add that calling the choice of that song out isn’t racist, because, just maybe, white women in our society haven’t been taught to normalize being called b**** or other anti-female terms. No, they were doing what women of their status and caliber typically do when they feel something is offensive towards their gender, which I am shocked that none of my fellow professional black women did that sits on the board.

    I can say this from experience as a young African-American woman, anytime an African-American man with social power is accused of wrongdoing by women, it is usually taken as us trying to bring a brotha down, but I digress.

    I don’t think anyone is above criticism as no one is perfect.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.