“In that moment, when watches and clocks misbehave and you feel a cold vapor wrap itself around your heart, you unconsciously draw a line at the bottom of a long column of numbers and come up with a sum. Perhaps it’s one that fills you with contentment and endows you with a level of courage and an acceptance that you didn’t know you possessed.Or maybe not.” – James Lee Burke, “The Glass Rainbow: A Dave Robicheaux Novel”
I must admit that I compose today’s column with a tint of green. Yesterday Education blogger Zack Barnes hit one of those proverbial home runs. A recent new report from Channel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams detailed discipline issues with Overton coach Arnet Bodenhamer. Zack did some digging and discovered that the story doesn’t end there.
Turns out, MNPS failed to report the suspended coach to the State Board of Education for review. An action that must take place within 30 days of the district handing out disciplinary action. Tennessean reporter Jason Gonzales decided to follow up even further and inquire about how many other cases haven’t been reported to the state. The answer is nothing short of appalling.
Remember yesterday when I talked about the upcoming HR audits and the danger of leaving leadership in place that already exposed the district to financial and legal risk? This is more of what I am talking about. According to Gonzales,
The list details 89 complaints, and 47 of those were against teachers. The other complaints are against principals and support staff, including bus drivers and educational assistants.
The allegations of teacher misconduct include reports of altercations with students, inappropriate conduct toward students and notifications to the district of police investigations.
In most cases, employees were placed under administrative leave and then returned to work — those cases also weren’t reported to the state by Joseph.
That’s a lot of missed reporting.
Ironically, reporting laws were strengthened this past year based on a USA report showing lackadaisical reporting of misconduct by local districts. Instead of trying to manipulate headlines, perhaps the district leadership’s time would be better spent reading the actual articles.
In the Tennessean article soon to be ex-board chair Anna Shepherd is quoted as saying the district is undergoing a human resources audit approved by the board early this week and that the lack of reporting of the cases is one reason why the review is needed.
“We take our responsibilities seriously,” Shepherd said. “We have to follow state law, there’s no other option.”
I have to point out here though, that at this week’s board meeting Director of Schools Shawn Joseph emphatically pointed out that the district was not hiring Bone, McCallester, Norton to do an investigation, but rather to ensure that the district’s HR department was following proper protocols and employing best practices. Let me save the district $99999.00, you are not.
It should be appalling that the HR department is incapable of conducting rudimentary day to day business, which I would argue is what reporting to the state falls under, while paying the executive director and the director a combined salary in excess of $300k. While on top of that, they still need to pay another entity another possible $100k to ensure that they know what they are doing. That dull thudding noise you hear is the sound of me banging my head against the desk. Can an adult please step up to the plate?
Some of you may be familiar with Zack Barnes, while to others his may be a new name. Zack has been at this education blogging game for a little longer than I have. He was one of the founders of the TNEd Report, along with Andy Spears. Zack and Andy split awhile back and so Zack hasn’t had an outlet for his muse until recently reviving his Tip Sheet. I see I’m going to have to work a lot harder if I’m going to keep up with him. Kudo’s to you Zack!
I’d like to spend the rest of this column clearing off the desk. Here’s a plethora of thoughts, articles, rumination that I’ve been turning over of late.
If you haven’t watched this week’s board meeting, I would encourage you to do so. The conversation on the budget that transpires near the beginning of the meeting is one of the best conversations I’ve seen this board engage in. Understanding the way the budget works for a large urban school district is a very difficult proposition. Truthfully, I didn’t fully grasp that the board creates an expense budget, while metro council and the mayor create a revenue budget. I was under the impression that MNPS presented a budget, the council reviewed it and decided how much revenue they were going to supply, and then the board amended the budget based on the amount of revenue awarded.
Apparently that is not how it works. To paraphrase board member Christiane Buggs, metro council actually awards a revenue amount and then offers permission to go into the districts saving account, fund balance, for the remainder. Board member Sharon Gentry offers some additional valuable insight. It’s worth watching.
You can hear board member Will Pinkston’s “underfunded school district” speech in its entirety. Admittedly Pinkston raises some good points, but those are undercut by the fact that he is gone from the meeting before the conversation is completed on the budget and he is absent for the entirety of the discussion on the audit. So while his commentary is somewhat astute, Jason Gonzales is already supplying that service. What’s needed is another hand on deck.
If you can stomach it, I would also advise watching the conversation on the Metro Audit. I’m not sure when people became aware of the fact that head of the audit department Mark Swann wouldn’t be in attendance, but it’s clear that this was a conversation that was never intended to take place despite being on the agenda. Shepherd does her best to curtail conversation, but to their credit Speering and Frogge proceed undeterred.
I fail to understand why when something of this magnitude is on the agenda, so few answers are prepared and so little preparation is done in advance. You would think that every board member, and the director would have marked up copies of the audit in front of them. You would think that some effort would have been put into anticipating what the individual questions would be. Nah…it’s not that important. Culture baby, culture, it’s everything.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
–Peter Drucker, Management Guru
Rumors are starting to circulate that the new priority school list is coming soon and it is not going to be pretty for MNPS. I’m hearing that up to 20 Nashville schools could be included.
Andy Spears continues to stay on top of the fiasco that is the state’s new portfolio evaluation process. Looks like districts are starting to opt out. Will MNPS follow suit? Time will tell.
As many of you know, I am the father of a fourth grader and a third grader. As such, they often have homework. I am not a believer in homework and therefore the extent of my involvement is periodically asking, “Did you do your homework?” They understand that for me, doing their homework rest solely on their shoulders. Their mother, being a teacher herself, is better about it then I am and often helps them. I feel confident in my position because research continually mounts that homework in younger grades has no real benefit.
I’m a fan of the letter that Texas second grade teacher sent home to her parents in 2016,
“There will be no formally assigned homework this year… rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success,” she wrote. “Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.”
Two years later she stands behind that edict. Though she readily admits that there has been a learning curve. Some students actually do want homework. Some students need additional supports, supports that may not be readily available at home and therefore need delivery in a different manner and at a different time. She does say that her core belief has only been re-enforced, that teaching is about relationships.
“I want my students to know that I care about them at every second,” she said. “I want parents to trust me and let me into their family. I want open communication lines between us so that I can better understand their children and help them succeed.”
By now many of you have been impacted by MNPS raising the prices on buses. PTO’s began planning for and raising funds for trips back in the spring under the impression that costs wouldn’t change and they would just need to raise say, $2500. Only to find out that over the summer prices had been raised and that the same trip would now cost $5K. That’s an oversimplification, but will have to suffice for our purposes today.
A Hunter’s Lane parent took this information and decided to start making phone calls to raise additional funds for the band. Long story short, they hooked up with the producers for the Pickler and Ben show. Said producers proceeded to invite the band on the show this past Wednesday. By all accounts, a large time was had by everyone. A shout out to Band mom Ms. Pulley for advocating so hard for their Human Boom Box!
Here’s a fun came to play. Name all the literacy coach leaders that have over 5 years experience teaching in the classroom. Take your time, I can wait.
When I first started this blog I was seeped in the privatization vs non-privatization battle. Over the years I’ve become a little less partisan. I find myself asking myself, if you get rid of TFA, charter schools, and all that comes with it, then what? Will local superintendents suddenly become more transparent? Will districts suddenly give EL kids and those in poverty the supports they’ve been arbitrarily taking away for years? Will teachers suddenly start getting the pay, respect, and autonomy they deserve?
As I’ve seen similar egregious acts play out from actors on both sides, I’ve become a little more cynical. Is this war against privatization really where our efforts should be directed? Luckily there are people like Peter Greene out there to remind us why these fights are important.
As he points out,
We’ve heard it over and over in the modern ed reform movement– schools should be run more like businesses. Yes, that means watching the money side of things, but it also consistently means, “I want to be able to run this school like my own personal private business. I don’t want the government to tell me there are rules I have to follow. I don’t want unions telling me what I can or can’t do. I just want to exert my will, unfettered and unrestrained, like I would over any personal, private operation I owned.”
He goes on to offer some sound advice on how we should proceed and the important questions to ask,
Resistance to privatization can’t just be about asking, “So who will make money on this deal.” We also need to be asking, “So, once this has happened, who will be the decider? Who will decide who gets treated at the hospital? Who will decide who and what get taught at the school? Who will decide when the roads are plowed and paved? And what can I do if I don’t like their decision?” The pitch will always be, “Well, the government decides that stuff now and they do a lousy job, amiright?” That may be true, but it doesn’t answer the question. Get an answer to the question, because we’re seeing the answer demonstrated right now in the White House– “I’ll decide. I’m the only one that matters. I’ll decide, and if you don’t like it, tough, and if you complain, I’ll find some way to use my personal power to punish you.”
Speaking of Teach for America, it looks like they’ve made the move into supplying pre-school teachers. I’ll let you decide if that’s a good thing or not.
Out on the campaign trail this summer I often spoke of the need to create more robust teacher compensation packages. It can’t be just about giving teachers more money. In a meeting with Scarlett Foundation head Tara Scarlett I laid out some of these ideas and how the Scarlett Foundation could have a real impact upon educational outcomes if they were to spearhead such an initiative. To her credit, she seemed intrigue.
Turns out Detroit is already writing up the blue print for what such an initiative can look like. According to Chalkbeat,
Now a citywide initiative funded by Detroit philanthropies and businesses is bringing education leaders together around the idea that a bigger pool of teachers will lessen the pressure on every school in the city. Teach 313, announced Thursday morning by a who’s who of Detroit leaders, will mount a nationwide recruitment campaign to find new teachers while offering discounted cars and home loans to educators who already teach in the city.
Two new sweeteners were announced Thursday by executives from General Motors and Quicken Loans as part of the announcement:
- A discount on a new GM vehicle, which Detroit teachers can add to any other discount. They’re also eligible for a free two-year subscription to GM’s OnStar, a service that can connect cars to a call center in an emergency.
- A discount of $1,500 on a home loan or home refinancing from Quicken Loans.
Tara are you listening? Tara are you listening?
I’ve been meaning to share some of Overton HS parent Teri Watson’s pictures of Overton students for a while now. They really are fantastic and capture the magic that takes place in our schools.
Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is a volunteer program we designed to engage elementary classrooms with role models in the community. It’s only five visits throughout the school year. Want to volunteer? Sign up for training: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090f44afa929a2ff2-
Want to help girls in Metro Nashville Public Schools who don’t have feminine products and miss school? You can! Follow the link to donate: https://theachiever.me/challenge/
That about does it for the week. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s the good news station. If you need to get a hold of me, the email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep sending me your stuff and I’ll share as much as possible. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. Have a great Labor Day Weekend. We’ll be back on Tuesday.