A BRIEF DISPATCH FROM THE FRONT LINES

8

“Sometimes they write what I say, not what I mean.” – 1981 World Series MVP Pedro Guerrero

“Almost nobody made it out of the game in one piece, and almost everybody thought they would be the exception.”
Richard Price, Clockers

This week heaven gained a soul that is cooler than the other side of the pillow. Roderick Johnson was not just a security guard at Bransford Ave. He was the authentic smile and kind word to everyone who walked through the front door needing assistance at MNPS. His passion for making everyone around him feel welcomed and positive was contagious. His work ethic was matchless.

He believed that the best things in life are simple. A kiss, your child’s laugh, the perfect song, & Mama’s homemade food. Nail any of these and it’s much more satisfying than any possession. Because life is about experiences and the memory thereof. Rest in Peace, Rod. You are already missed greatly. 

After having spent multiple years as a parent of children in a high-needs school, I’ve come to the conclusion that inequities spring more from experiences than they do from resources. We can throw money at schools all day, but unless that translates into real experiences for kids, the equity gap will remain.

How many children in high-need schools attend dance classes? Or get to learn chess? How about learn about museums? If my kids want to become an attorney, I call up a friend who is an attorney, and we go visit. They’ll learn what to study, where to go to school, what to expect from the career. EL kids and our kids in poverty don’t have that experience available to them.

In our less needy schools, kids have access to clubs to learn about all kinds of different experiences that will help them as adults. I think Eakin ES offers over 50 different clubs. These clubs usually take place after school and are headed up by parents and community members. Our poorer schools, for various reasons, can’t offer after school clubs, and so kids don’t get an opportunity to be exposed to a plethora of interests.

Tusculum ES is trying a different approach this year. They are making clubs available at the end of the day during RTI time to Tier 1 kids. Tier 2 and 3 kids still get their needed enrichment, but Tier 1 kids have the opportunity to try something different. Clubs include safety patrol, chess, karaoke, creative writing, mindfulness, and art. All of them have connections with math and reading/writing.

The response has been incredible. Kids love the opportunity to participate in these various activities. My own daughter has come home on several occasions bursting with excitement about the project they are working on in her creative writing club.

The idea was the brain child of AP Chris Holmes, but everybody on the Tusculum staff deserves credit for making it happen. Very cool and typical for this school.

One of the primary tools utilized by citizens to monitor the actions of government is provided by open record laws. Open record requests allow citizens access to government documents in order to ensure they are operating in a legal and beneficial manner. All kinds of political downfalls have started with a simple open records request. Government entities don’t care much for the process, but unfortunately for them it’s the law.

MNPS is especially not fond of these requests, but has done their best to comply. Over the years, I’ve filed dozens of them with MNPS. Up until recently, I got them back in a pretty timely manner. Sure, occasionally they’ve taken a little longer than expected, but for the most part, MNPS has been begrudgingly compliant.

About 6 months ago, things changed. MNPS started charging for requests, something the law allows them to do within reason. Charging for materials is something government entities try to do to dampen the flow of requests, but it seldom is a successful strategy. But that doesn’t stop them from trying.

Since the summer, the flow of information has just stopped. Requests go weeks unacknowledged and it often takes a month or more for their fulfillment. They claim that the volume has reached such a level that it is impossible for them to keep up. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know the district keeps moving in the wrong direction when it comes to transparency.

Today, newly elected MNPS school board member Fran Bush got a taste of what happens when you take a shot at the king. At Tuesday’s board meeting, Bush was highly critical of MNPS head Dr. Joseph, and by the end of the week she found herself on the receiving end of a personal attack on social media. The story in Scoop: Nashville is not a pretty one. It is not supposed to be.

The sole purpose of the story is to humiliate and remind Bush of her place. It makes no effort to tell her side of the story or offer context. Its source could be from a multitude of places – Dr. Joseph, Tyese Hunter, Will Pinkston, or even just a disgruntled parent from her day care. But I doubt the timing is coincidence. Why was none of this “discovered” prior to the campaign?

Interestingly enough, Bush is not the first school board member to be sued over financial matters. The previous seat holder also was the subject of lawsuits. Yep, question the status quo and you get a house dropped on you. Like I’ve always said, if you only know one way how to practice politics, you only practice politics one way.

This, too, shall pass. I suspect Bush will remain unbowed and will continue to apply pressure to the MNPS administration. Like the rest of us, she will pay her financial obligations where she can, and make arrangements where necessary. Personally I find her quite refreshing and am glad to finally have somebody on the board willing to take the way Antioch schools have been treated over the last two personally. It’s way past time. As Dr. Joseph likes to say, you have to tune out the noise.

Many of you by now should be familiar with the name Sharon Pertiller. Pertiller is the number 2 in HR whose actions have been at the root of every one of the recent lawsuits aimed at MNPS. Now, she has her own HR complaint. Yep, someone has filed a retaliation complaint against Ms Pertiller. As of today, Ms. Pertiller has not been placed on administrative leave while the complaint is investigated.

Oh by the way… if you see the head of HR Deborah Story… welcome her back from her 3-week vacation.

The release of the state priority school list continues to draw closer. The latest I’m hearing is that there are a lot more schools on the list than anticipated. Do you know how many people we have overseeing these schools? Take a look at the organizational chart to the left and tell me if you think that’s enough.

WIDA is a test given nationally to students that receive English Learner services. Students take the test annually and it’s used to monitor both student and district progress. Over the last couple of years, MNPS has done exceptionally well on the test.

Apparently something has changed though. Despite it being September, scores from last year’s test are still embargoed. Schools have their individual results, but not the district numbers. For some reason, those numbers are not being shared. Even on a need-to-know basis.

Those who have seen the numbers tell me they are not very good. Hmmmm… so what has changed from past years? Why the sudden down turn? Maybe we’ll know by November.

Speaking of the EL Department, apparently that is where Executive Director of Equity and Diversity Maritza Gonzalez’s office now resides. Previously she had been in the central office building. Some folks take exception to me singling out Gonzalez for attention, but when you are the spouse of the number two guy, among the top 20 highest paid employees in the district, and nobody can describe your work… well, it comes with the territory.

MNPS has revealed more of its Comprehensive Literacy Plan, or at least the shiny objects meant to distract from the lack of meat. While I admit that it looks pretty, it still seems to me devoid of any real action steps. Perhaps I’m dazzled by its simplicity and am missing something.

The plan appears to be heavily reliant on something called “Advanced Literacy.” I tried a Google search of that term and failed to find a definition, though I did find several books and studies that could be purchased. So I’m still not exactly clear on what’s being focused on. Oh well, I guess it’s better than focusing on Remedial Literacy.

In response to recent problems with progress reports, MNPS middle school teachers received a lengthy email from the MNPS grading team this week. It’s all useful information but raises several questions for me. First, what teacher, 8 weeks into the school year, is going to read all that information?

Teachers are up to their eyeballs in work, and when you send out an email of that length you imply that they have time to sit, read, eat a few bonbons, dissect, and implement. It reveals that you are out of touch with what a teacher’s day actually looks like. Effective communication would be several short bullet points outlining the most important fixes, with a link to the whole document for later inspection or for those so inclined to read the whole document.

My other question is, if you have to write a document that extensive to “fix” a problem 8 weeks into the school year, how broken is the process? I’m thinking pretty broke.

McKissack Middle School teacher Thomas Francis was named AMEND YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee Teacher of the Year! His dedication to students as a role model and mentor garnered him this prestigious award. Way to go, Thomas!

Andy Spears takes another look at teacher salaries in Tennessee. Spoiler alert: It’s not good news.

This week MNPS board member Amy Frogge renewed her practice of posting her writing on Facebook. She’s been quiet for a while, allowing all communication to come through the district out of respect for Dr. Joseph. But now, times have changed.

I urge Dr. Joseph to take a look at what she wrote and then count the number of comments the post generated. Then go to all the other pages of board members and count the number of comments received by their latest post. I’ll even let you throw in comments from MNPS’s Facebook page. Add it all together, and the number is significantly lower than the number of comments on Frogge’s one post.

The bottom line is, she’s well liked and well-respected. You know that old saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy”? No disrespect to Frogge, but Joseph might want to take note and adjust his strategy. He ain’t going to win a popularity contest against Frogge.

Nearly-as-popular fellow board member Jill Speering has plenty to say as well, and should be equally noted.

Happening today is the  Homecoming Tailgate. Then, join ’em for some great Firebird football. Avoid the lines. Get your tickets online now @

Wrapping things up a little quickly today because it’s Americana Music Week, and I got to try to earn a buck. 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 norinrad10@yahoo.com. Keep sending me your stuff and I’ll share as much as possible. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. If you think what I write has value, please consider supporting the work through Patreon.

 

 

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8 comments on “A BRIEF DISPATCH FROM THE FRONT LINES

  1. Mrs_O'Shea says:

    Here is the problem with clubs for Tier 1 students only. All children can benefit from more experiences. Tier 2 and 3 possibly more so than Tier 1. So when will those students participate in enrichmemt activities?

    • norinrad10 says:

      It’s a start. Previously didn’t even have that

    • Ornery says:

      Truth.

      There are lots of panties in a bunch over whether or not everyone gets their exact number of minutes of intervention time. State regs are BS on this anyway the rti guidelines are just that. Reality: few schools can deliver a high quality remediation program in the first place. Let all students have a club day every few weeks! If you think that’s going to be a waste you are misapprehending the value of the remediation that is currently in place.

    • Chris Holmes says:

      Unfortunately, incomplete/inaccurate information was given about this and AP Holmes was never included in the conversation or asked how it was going to work. I got this.

      • norinrad10 says:

        For that I apologize. As a parent experiencing first hand the power of this move I was overzealous to communicate positive news. This is a reminder to vet the positive as closely as the negative. After 5 years in Tusculum I must say there is lot to celebrate at that school.

  2. Ornery says:

    Look the priority list has probably been known in some circles for many days meaning that there must be some appeals going on and no technicality is going to get metro out of jail on this coz when the list gets that much bigger on your watch in your second year at the helm you oughta be toast. Can the board smell the fire they have on their hands? You bet. Some just think there’s going to be a get out of jail card. Why on earth they think this I dunno.

  3. Ornery says:

    Grading email: just the C/I dept cleaning up someone else’s pet project that turned into an infernal mess. Nothing to see here. Keep moving.

    But golly do I wish I got paid as much as they do to mess up this badly.

  4. Jeffrey Barrie says:

    Thank you for advancing education of our children at MNPS!

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