MONEY, IT’S A GAS

4

Saturday at 4:30 PM, early voting for this year’s school board race came to an end. Well, in all fairness, it was also the end of early voting for the governor primaries, the vice-mayor contest, and several other races. The early turnout for these races has been pretty impressive. A total of 56,843 people, or 14% of eligible voters, have already cast their ballot.

It was a long 10 days of early voting that saw me spending a great deal of time at the Edmondson Pike Library meeting voters. Something I enjoyed immensely. Y’all have the ability to touch my soul.

On the flip side though, I’ve discovered that running for office is one of those things that becomes so all-encompassing that it’s very easy to lose perspective. It becomes all you think about and you naturally begin to assume that it’s all other people are thinking about as well. And that they are attaching the same level of importance as you are to it.

Spend some time at the polls and that fallacy becomes exposed. Primary voter focus remains with the state level races, with the scraps falling to the other races. The good news is that the vast majority of voters are receptive to talking to you, and so with a solid pitch, and the credentials to back it up, you can sway people to your side. Never underestimate the power of a friendly greeting and a well-constructed elevator speech.

Unfortunately, the limited timeline and the need to constantly secure one more voter makes it very easy to lose sight of other priorities. I started to fall into that trap yesterday, but caught myself, and so I shut off the computer and asked the boy if he wanted to play some catch. We went out in the backyard and tossed the ball around for a bit, and then I took both kids to the pool. I didn’t secure any additional votes, but I certainly impacted two young lives.

With school getting started in about 10 days, I think this is an important lesson for teachers not to lose sight of. Over the next several weeks you’ll see school parking lots start to swell on weekends. There is a limited time schedule and the endless need to do just one last thing for their students, and it will cause teachers to begin sacrificing their own time to go in to work, uncompensated for their time.

Teachers, resist, and make sure you strike the proper work/life balance. Principals, don’t become enablers by publicly congratulating those who sacrifice their personal time. Don’t let unpaid work become even more of an expectation. SEL is just as important for teachers as it is for students, and we need to make sure that addressing teacher mental health is a priority.

While we are talking about the election, let’s talk money for a minute. This is another subject that has proved illuminating by being a candidate. Up until running for this election, and despite working on other’s campaigns in the past, I was fairly naive about the whole financing process of a campaign.

I knew that a candidate needed to raise money, and so they approached donors, but I didn’t really understand how that all worked or the real cost of a campaign. I was a little apprehensive because the money involved in the 2014 and 2016 races for school board was astronomical, with candidates raising a combined $350k. This year, things are considerably more subdued.

There are several reasons for the lack of money in this year’s school board race. First, many of the outside entities that contributed heavily in previous years are noticeably absent for this year’s race. Stand for Children and the Scarlett Foundation, two entities that invested tens of thousands in the last go around, have taken a pass this year.

Secondly, due to an unplanned Mayoral and Vice-Mayoral election, a crowded field for the gubernatorial primaries, and a high-profile state senatorial race, there is less money to trickle down to the school board level. The advice given to me back in May was raise early, spend early.

Lastly, fewer entities are doing endorsements this year. Endorsements tend to come with substantial financial rewards. As a prime example, neither the Nashville Scene, nor the Tennessean, have endorsed candidates this year. A break from the past.

Those organizations that are doing endorsements are attaching fewer financial rewards to them. Most endorsements are coming with either no money or a reasonable $500. Save for one, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce. They are still trying to flex their muscles.

Here’s where things get interesting. Earlier in the year, I suspect due to the negative connotations they derived from previous elections, the Chamber changed the name of its political action committee to Nashvillians for a more Pliable School Board, or something like that. Ok, it’s actual name is Nashvillians for an Effective School Board (NESB). But you get the picture.

They are still handing out big money donations. Substantially more than other entities. For comparison, MNEA and SIEU both attached only $500 to their endorsement. But NESB awarded more than 10 times that amount to their preferred candidates.

In District 8, they gave their candidate Gini Pupo-Walker $4k. In my district, District, 2, they awarded their pick Rachael Elrod $7.5k. Hmmm… not sure why District 2 is worth more than District 8… but ok. District 4, Anna Shepherd, got no money because she’s running unopposed. In District 6, we have no idea how much they contributed because their candidate, incumbent Tyese Hunter, has yet to file a required financial disclosure. More on that in a second.

So let’s put this into perspective for a minute. That $7.5k the Chamber – let’s dispense with formalities and call them by their rightful name – infused into the race is $2k higher than my total earnings, which are a very respectable roughly $5k. An amount arrived at through donations from 35 different people. An amount I’m extremely proud of because I know the sacrifice that went into each of those donations. Many coming from teachers who this year will take home less money than they did last year. We’ll talk more about that in the future.

So with one fell swoop, the Chamber was able to give one candidate sufficient financial resources to put them in a place where they could focus on other responsibilities besides fundraising. Based on the fact that Mrs. Elrod only raised an additional $2,200, I can only assume that raising money did become less of a priority. I think it’s safe to say that the wife of a Metro Councilman with her background is capable of raising much more than $2,200 if necessary. But the Chamber made it unnecessary.

On an interesting side note, elections make strange bedfellows. Board member, and frequent critic of the Chamber, Will Pinkston, finds himself in alignment with the their goals, as he contributed $500 of the additional $2,200 Elrod raised. Just goes to show you… well, never mind.

In District 6, since we don’t know what their endorsed candidate received, we can only assume the Chamber awarded the full $7,500 to Tyese Hunter as well. That is significant because of her challengers, Aaron McGee has raised roughly $3,600, Fran Bush is in the hole, and Earl Latimore hasn’t filed disclosures. That Chamber money equates to giving a significant advantage to their chosen candidate. Unfortunately, money matters.

Right now you are probably thinking, “Whatever, TC. What’s the matter with a few business people who care about our school system donating some money to candidates that they think will improve outcomes? After all, businesses throw millions in to our schools with little return. So give it a rest and quit your belly aching.”

Fair point. Business leaders should be able to put their money wherever they want. That’s part of living in a democracy and is certainly their right. But is it their money we are talking about here?

During recent budget hearings, it came to light that the Metro Nashville Government subsidizes the Chamber to the tune of about $350k a year. In those budget hearings, CM David Rosenberg proposed cutting that subsidy. That seemed a reasonable proposition considering that city workers had their raises cut from the budget this year. Everyone should sacrifice. Council Members didn’t see it that way, and the Chamber got their money. I’m not going to give you the individual votes, but you look it up. You won’t be surprised.

To draw a clear picture, what’s happening here is that the Chamber is receiving tax payer money and investing in influencing local elections simultaneously. There may not be a direct line between the money received from tax payers and the money given to candidates, but ask yourself, if the Chamber has enough money to invest in candidates to the maximum legal amount allowed, while others are cutting their donations to candidates, do they really need your money to push their agenda?

For me, this influence isn’t a significant factor. In the immortal words of Sonny and Cher, “I got you, babe.” That, and 5 years of being in schools. 5 years of building relationships and establishing a reputation. Through this blog I have a platform to get my message out and to inform you on things that you might not normally be aware of. And let me tell you, your support, both over the years and at the polls, has been phenomenal.

In District 6, things are a little different, though. While all three challengers have excellent track records of working in schools with kids, along with great ideas to improve the system, they find themselves at a disadvantage in conveying those records and ideas to the general public due to financial restraints.

Mailers run around $1k a campaign and 100 signs run around $500, not including artwork which can run another $200. Not only is there little money for mailers and additional signs, but time that could be spent conveying their platform is instead spent on fundraising. I salute these District 6 candidates for their tenacity and willingness to try to climb the mountain in an effort to improve their communities, despite the considerable obstacle placed in their path. It’s a shame that their willingness is not rewarded with a level playing field.

So why has incumbent Tyese Hunter not filed her disclosures? I don’t know. There has been virtually no media coverage on the lack of information on who’s funding Hunter’s re-election. Which is inexcusable. This is exactly why a free and independent press is so vital to democracy. The fact that an incumbent can get to the final week of an election without meeting the prescribed election commission requirements should be of grave concern to everyone. Somebody needs to be held accountable.

I think it’s also imperative that going forth in next year’s Metropolitan Budget, we take a lot closer look at who’s getting subsidized and who’s not. We can’t just punish the people who make the city run while allowing others to continue to spread their influence unencumbered.

LAB RATS

Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) is coming to MNPS. Well, they were in 5 schools last year, but this year that list is expanding to 25 schools as part of a study by Florida State University. According to MNPS Chief of Instruction Monique Felder:

Twenty-five MNPS schools (see list of participating schools attached) will be involved in this study. Schools were selected based on interest and/or student achievement data. Because this study is an experiment, 13 schools will be randomly assigned to the Treatment condition and 12 schools will be randomly assigned to the Control condition in November 2018. The study will roll outslowly with Kindergarten teachers in the Treatment Group of schools implementing CKLA’s Knowledge Strand this school year(2018-2019); 1st grade teachers will implement the curriculum in 2019-2020, and 2nd grade teachers will implement the curriculum in 2020-2021. Kindergarten teachers in the Control Group will implement the CKLA Knowledge Strand in 2019-2020; 1st grade teachers will implement the curriculum in 2020-2021, and 2nd grade teachers will implement the curriculum in 2021-2022. On- going professional development and ALL materials will be provided to each teacher at no cost to the school or district.

Interestingly enough, all 25 participating schools are in the NW and NE quadrants. I’ve got some initial qualms. Primarily being the use of our students as guinea pigs. As a parent, I would have a hard time knowing my children would be placed in either the controlled or treatment group. I would want a guarantee that my kids are receiving the best possible instructional curriculum, not being used as a development tool.

Secondly, I’m real loathe to place even more responsibility on the shoulders of Kindergarten and first grade teachers that are already struggling to adapt to the state’s new evaluation tools. The state has put them in an untenable position by forcing them into a portfolio system of evaluation that is not fully developed, and now the district wants them to participate in a study that may do further damage to their professional reputation.

Sure, teachers are being told that CKLA lines up well with the portfolio model, but if that proves to be untrue, who pays the price? In a district that already suffers from a lack of trust, this just feels like a disaster waiting to happen.

National results indicate that CKLA has shown success, but in MNPS the results have not been as promising. Of the five schools currently piloting CKLA, none have shown overwhelming evidence of its effectiveness.

Further irony comes from the fact that several years ago, Tennesseans rejected the Common Core standards and created their own. MNPS is now conducting a study using a program that describes itself thus:

Only CKLA reflects what expert educators, cognitive scientists and the authors of the Common Core State Standards already know: background knowledge and foundational skills are the keys to early literacy.

POLL RESULTS

A lot of you had opinions this week. Unfortunately for Dr. Joseph and district leadership, they weren’t complimentary. Let’s look at the results.

The first question asked the question that NOAH asked at their school board candidate forums, “Do you support Dr. Joseph?”

150 of you responded, with 92 of you, 61%, saying “absolutely not.” 34 of you, 23%, indicated that you still wanted to say yes, but couldn’t. That means 84% of you answered in a negative manner. Only 1 of you answered, “absolutely.” 8 of you indicated that he still, despite challenges, had your support. I know that Dr. Joseph is a proponent of tuning out the noise, but it feels like the din is getting deafening.

Here are the write-ins:

I support good policy 1
MNPS Faculty member: I’m split between sadness and anger that my answer is NO. 1
He has the same issue as Braden! 1
The real question is does he support me as a teacher? Leaning no on that one. 1
Dr. Joseph should be supporting Staff and students. How I feel about him does n 1
NO. Dr. Joseph has become part of the problem, not the solution.

Question two asked for your opinion on the handling of principal Sam Braden’s actions at JFK Middle School. 145 of you answered this one, with 74 of you, 54%, referring to it as a dumpster fire. 48 of you, 34%, indicated that it was the same old incompetence. Only 1 of you, I’m assuming it’s the same person who answered affirmatively to the previous question, indicated it was being handled properly.

Here are the write-ins:

He has bullied teachers for years and gotten away with it. 1
This has been Sam Braden MO for years. Someone needs to check out the wife! 1
Despicable. No excuse for letting this go on 1
Intentional sweep under the rug 1
HR should have been put on administrative leave for gross incompetence! 1
There are others—Smith Springs is just as bad! 1
“I haven’t looked into it enough. That’s not my job.” — Tyese Hunter 1
Embarrassing! 1
Covering up slime. All HR has to go.

The last question asked for your prediction on the Vice-Mayor race. If Dad Gone Wild readers are to be believed, Sheri Weiner wins this race 51% to 35%. We appreciate MNEA head Erick Huth’s write-in vote.

Undecided 2
didn’t 1
I have not yet made up my mind. 1
Erick Huth… been around and knows all 1
*Who* not *how*

And that’s a wrap. Hope y’all have an awesome week. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Feedback is always welcome and I will try to promote as many of the events that you send my way 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.

Above and beyond all… vote on Thursday. Tell your friends to vote on Thursday. Tell your friend’s friends to vote on Thursday. Every vote counts.

 

Advertisements

4 comments on “MONEY, IT’S A GAS

  1. carrot not sticks says:

    I think support for k-2 Ts on ckla is key. Statewide early indications are positive and so if 5 schools didn’t work well with it in Mnps it is likely lack of support. Ltds need to be all over it like a wet blanket in those schools and training needs to be sustained. Nothin new there we never commit to a strategy for the haul so actually this study design is good to see. Main thing is it’s free. We’re not in position to say no to that. I would be shocked if after 2 years if results are positive if doesn’t get expanded citywide, despite the study timeline of 3 yrs.

  2. Stop the Insanity says:

    One of the first things Dr. Joseph did when starting here at MNPS was to fire the person in charge of HR….. now, we might be finding out why……

    • Staff memo says:

      Open letter to Shawn Joseph:

      I am deeply saddened by the recent doubling down of the Director on “controlling the narrative” in the press concerning sexual harrassment. The Director, sadly, needs to be relieved of command at this time. Like his associate Braden whom he counseled into retirement, Shawn Joseph (for all the good he might be capable of) can no longer be effective given the credibility gap on his internal affairs. I do not take this lightly because the board has a terrible choice to make once the new slate is seated, and it will come to a head by the end of this academic year if not sooner. The process of admitting a need to move on will be challenging at best and is not an easy one. Honestly, I pray on their behalf. But that’s the fork in the road where the city finds itself. On the one hand, there’s the slim chance of being able to continue with the good he is capable of, but the so-far-unfulfilled promise of harnessing some of the city’s riches toward school improvement looms. On the other hand is removal of someone unlikely to be effectual at that monumental task even if the credibility of the city council and school board toward the taxpaying public will be endangered to an even higher degree by having to seek a leadership change once again.

      My advice to Joseph if he wants to keep his job is to stop wasting even a nanosecond worrying about “the narrative”. You get to do that in your first year of being Director because that’s part of the organic process. Once you are in your second year and beyond, you neither deserve nor need to play spin doctor. Your record of achievements and your ability to build consensus should be your calling cards at that point. I can appreciate the need for cashing in some of the “calling card” chips on successes like increased numbers of industry certificates. I can appreciate the interface with Dollar General and Scarlett Foundation (the latter of whom are not even typically strong friends of the zoned schools) in badly needed partnerships that this rich city has never forged before. But you, sir, squander all that and more by trying to control the narrative on staff sexual harrassment issues. This leaves staff feeling unprotected, unsafe, and undignified.

      This is a test of your moral character. I know you are fond of hip hop. To quote Eminem: You have one shot. Don’t blow it.

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 )

Connecting to %s

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