LESSONS ARE WHERE YOU FIND THEM

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“Sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean, sometimes you have to know what things don’t mean.”
Bob Dylan 

“The Guide says there is an art to flying”, said Ford, “or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”
Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything

I recently saw a quote on Twitter that said, if you are a teacher who says you learn as much from your kids as they do from you, then you are in the wrong profession. It was worded a little more eloquently, but that was its general gist.

I think the person who posted it was under the impression that the teachers who say that meant they literally taught kids algorithms while the kids taught them diagramming sentences or something like that. My interpretation was that while teaching kids, and interacting with them, you’ll find yourself being exposed to all kinds of unexpected and unpredictable experiences, and since the goal is to create lifelong learners, it lays to reason that one would learn from these experiences. hence the basis for the quote.

As we get older and become adults, we change the rules. It seems that we learn things as a child, and then discard them because they don’t suit our needs as adults. We preach literacy but never pick up a book. We talk about the importance of critical thinking and then we regurgitate things we read on the internet without doing the simplest of fact checks. We limit our kids’ screen time out of fear for what it could be doing their brains and then we spend a day bingeing on Housewives of Rutherford County. If you are not careful, working with kids will expose the inherent hypocrisy of adulthood. How you deal with that exposure is up to you.

This weekend we were at my 8-year-old son Peter’s Jiu-Jitsu tournament. He’s been rolling for about 3 years now and he’s passionate about it. At the tournament, competitors fight in a gi and a non-gi division. He fights at the advanced level and as a result, on Saturday morning he pulled a tough opponent. Fights are 3 minutes long and after starting out with a strong double-leg takedown, Peter found himself locked in a  triangle leg chokehold. He was able to break the hold several times but was unable to get traction in order to score points. He lost the match 3-2.

After the match, he was appropriately dejected. “What are your thoughts?”, I asked.

Thoughtfully he replied, “Tougher match then I thought it was going to be. I’m going to have to fight him from the bottom next match. Sucks. But otherwise he’ll get me in a headlock again, so it’s what I have to do.”

To be honest, I was a little taken back by such succinct analysis. I expected to hear some excuses, maybe some tears, perhaps some accusations of cheating. Peter offered none of that. After his analysis, he picked up his medal and then scampered off to his friends. They proceeded to cheer on other teammates, swap stories, wrestle a bit, and climb a few things. You know, all the things that young men – truth be told, old men as well – like to do when they are in the company of other like-minded young men. The loss was put in proper perspective and he’d moved on, refusing to allow it to color the remainder of a glorious day.

I was nervous as the second match approached. Peter lined up against his previous opponent. Right from the beginning, it was clear that he’d followed his analysis and made adjustments. Not only did he win this match, but he dominated from start to finish despite the relatively close score of 5-0. After the match, Peter congratulated his opponent on a hard-fought battle and two of them amicably strolled over to the podium to collect their respective medals.

I couldn’t have been prouder. My pride was not derived from the win, though I certainly was elated by it. My source of pride was in the process employed to achieve victory. He’d created a plan. The plan didn’t work. He honestly evaluated the plan. He’d made an adjustment to the plan based on honest self-examination and then employed a new plan that proved to be successful. If he learns nothing else growing up, this process alone will serve to make him college and career ready.

I started thinking, how many adults do we know that routinely employ this process? I can say that few of our leaders on a national, state, or local level have shown this ability. Excuses come quickly to their lips. Or it is somebody else’s fault. Recent history is rife with tales of leaders employing the same strategies over and over, never adjusting, but always expecting different results and then shocked when outcomes don’t change.

Peter’s behavior that day was a subtle reminder to me to be vigilant with my actions. Rigorous honest self-inventory is regularly preached at AA meetings, but it’s not sound advice for the addict alone. It’s a strategy that we all need to practice. I needed a refresher on that lesson and Peter was just the kid to deliver it, by the same token by voicing my recognition of that lesson and taking it to heart, I was also teaching a lesson; one is never too old or too wise to learn and sometimes the most obvious lessons come from the most unobvious places. In my humble opinion, schools need more teachers that are willing to learn from kids, not less.

ADDRESSING THE TROOPS

Yesterday Dr. Joseph trekked down the street to MNEA headquarters to address members. I watched the video and I bet you are not surprised that I have some observations.

On the positive front, I do give Dr. Joseph credit for stepping to the front of the room and taking questions head-on. Unlike other district listen and learns, this one started with no prescribed expectations nor the establishment of norms. Instead, Dr. Joseph just stood in the room and answered questions. Many of the answers may have been questionable, and we’ll look at those,  but the manner in which he interacted with educators was quite refreshing and clearly appreciated.

Obviously, the first issue raised was teacher salaries. The short answer from Dr. Joseph was basically, I’d like to give y’all a raise but I’m broke. So y’all need to come up with a plan and then get out there and advocate for it. Let me know when you come up with it and I’ll be sure to tell people I love teachers. Have I mentioned I’m broke?” Joseph’s words were more eloquent and included a few jokes, but that’s what I got out of it.

In some ways, he’s not wrong. That’s why I argued on Friday that the work of the compensation committee is way behind schedule. By now there should be a specific ask identified and an elevator speech built around it. All through the holidays, at every gathering and cocktail party, that elevator speech should be shared, establishing the narrative that this is not something we want to happen, but rather something that is going to happen. Get the raise and then build out the rest of the compensation package after you’ve hooked people into believing.

The problem with presenting the ask in January is that budget season has already started and now you are competing with all the other asks. How do you make teacher raises stand out from more money for SEL? Or more money for EL? Or more money for special needs kids? What happens is that since you haven’t established teacher raises as the number one priority in the pre-season, you are now competing with everybody else in the open season.

Joseph repeatedly makes the assertion that we are an underfunded school district. He compared MNPS funding per student of around 9k to the 16k per student that his previous district provided. A question and an observation here.

I’m curious whether that difference in funding is a choice or a necessity. What is the average cost to educate a student in each district? Other than the basic difference in the cost of goods, what’s the difference in demographics? It’s long been established that middle-class White and African-American families do not send their kids to PGCS and I’ve warned about the danger of reducing MNPS schools to only those who have no other options. It’s entirely possible that the difference in funding per pupil stems out of necessity and not desire.

Dr. Joseph talks extensively about a tax increase for Nashville property owners. It should be noted that a tax increase was part of the package at every one of his previous stops as well. So all those schools were underfunded as well. I found it a little disconcerting that Joseph talks in very expansive terms about the pending tax increase. I get the sense that a little 50 cent tax increase is just the appetizer and I’m really curious about just how much of a tax increase would be enough to satisfy his hunger. The average Nashvillian is already struggling to live in Davidson County, a large tax increase could prove extremely detrimental to many.

Things got interesting when teachers started asking about scripted curriculum and the lack of books to support that curriculum. That criticism was again met by cries of austerity. Joseph makes the claim that when he got here, there was some good work going on in some schools but some schools were suffering from serious low expectations, so they had to implement the scripted curriculum. We can argue the merits of that assumption at a later date but note that he goes on to admit that currently, certain schools have more resources than other schools and that leadership is in the process of trying to ascertain what schools have what. In other words, 2 and a half years in, we have no idea who is actually using what and doing what. Some schools are doing well and others…are struggling. It doesn’t sound like much has changed to me.

Some teachers politely pushed back against the scripted lessons, saying it hindered teacher autonomy and made them feel disrespected. Joseph said by all means if you can develop a curriculum that is on par with the IFL units, go for it. Of course first, we will have to establish a review board that is capable of reviewing those lesson plans and certifying them as comparable to the IFL units. Furthermore, he doesn’t expect teachers to be curriculum experts or assessments experts and…well you get the picture. The lips are saying one thing but the message delivered is another.

I do need to point out that he regularly refers to the budget for textbooks as being 2 million dollars. This years budget is $2,167,000. Last year it was $2,167,00. The year before it was $3,303.000. And the year before that it was $5,723,100. We’ve known for at least 5 years that we would have to purchase new science textbooks this year. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. So perhaps the budget should have been set at that previous mark of 5.7 million this year? It still would have been short but by not nearly as much.

My last observation is more of an impression then fact based. In Joseph’s speech to teachers, I didn’t a big sense of support for principals. In fact, he was often critical of principals and quick to blame them for culture problems. He proudly cited the steps that he’d taken to reduce principal autonomy. It may have just been him pandering to the audience he was talking to, but if I was a principal watching this, I wouldn’t get a strong sense of anyone watching my back. Just the opposite, if problems arise, I’ll probably be the first one under the bus. Again though, that is just my impression and I could be wrong.

The rest of the Q and A was basically Joseph beating the same drums he regularly beats – he’s a reading specialist, underfunded district, things were horrible when he got here, teacher voice, equity. If you’ve heard any of his previous speeches you know the songs. He has added one weird one though, we are now growing faster than the state in literacy.

That’s like being at track practice and saying the coaches son and I are the two slowest kids on the team but I am improving my times faster than the coaches son. Neither one of us is competitive but we’re growing faster than the other slow poke, so gimme an attaboy. I don’t think that would fly and I’m not sure most of Dr. Joseph’s speech did either.

QUICK HITS

An email went out this week informing principals that the accommodations for special needs kids and EL students that were not provided during Fall MAP testing would be provided for MAP testing that starts next week. I’d like to say I’m pleasantly surprised but if you’ll remember I predicted this back in August. What would make me pleasantly surprised is a big red disclaimer noting the discrepancy when results are discussed after the latest round concludes. Let’s see if that happens.

Congrats to the awesome John Overton High School Marching Band for receiving a Superior Rating and placing 1st in class at Contest of Champions this past Saturday at MTSU. Although they did not make finals, they were chosen to perform for the crowd as the Exhibition Band and also marched with the Finalists in Pass and Review at the end of the night!

Still keeping an eye on the Denver School District’s search for a new director. I think there are a lot of lessons for us in their search. The biggest lesson for me is this one from the Chalkbeat article,

Several board members emphasized that while collecting the community feedback was valuable, they want to show how the feedback plays into the new superintendent’s selection, and continue to connect with community members after the search is over.

“This is a beginning. This is not a project that is done. We’re trying to learn a new way to engage our community,” board President Anne Rowe said.

That’s the ticket.

Back in February, the San Diego Free Press wrote an article about DPS that I think raises some serious alarms. The Bennet referred to in the quote below is the at the time superintendent Michael Bennet.

“DPS was so dysfunctional, Bennet concluded, that he could not fix it without significant outside pressure. So he asked several foundation leaders to create an organization of civic leaders, chaired by two former mayors, to push for change and support the board when it promoted reform. They called the initiative A+ Denver, and it has championed the portfolio strategy, along with the Piton, Donnell-Kay, and Gates Family foundations.”

Hmmmm…and…

To retrain all those bad teachers in Denver, Bennet turned to the high priestess of the bad teacher movement, Michelle Rhee and her The New Teacher’s Project (TNTP). He also started importing Wendy Kopp’s Teach For America (TFA) candidates.

I’d read the whole article. Some of it is a little too familiar for comfort.

POLL QUESTIONS

We had a good response to last weeks questions. Let’s review.

The first question asked for your opinion on the MNPS fall break being aligned with TSU’s homecoming festivities. Traditionally that has been the highest day of teacher absenteeism for the year.  Out of 155 responses, 68 of you, 44%, responded that you thought it was more important that fall break occurred at the completion of the 1st quarter. 36, 23%, of you indicated that the alignment bothered you a great deal. Only 7 of you felt that it was a necessary compromise.

One of the write-in comments questions why I always have issues with black events or black board members. That’s a valid question, but I’m not sure it’s legitimate. While I have been critical of African-American board members Sharon Gentry, Tyese Hunter, and JoAnn Brannon, I feel it’s always been for legitimate reasons. I’ve also been critical of Anna Shepherd, Mary Pierce, and Will Pinkston and nobody has accused me of being biased toward white woman and schoolyard bullies. At times I’ve even criticized Jill Speering and Amy Frogge. Going forth I’ll try to be more cognizant of any percieved biases but if I feel criticism is warranted, I’m going to say it.

1 above good idea; not enough teachers OR subs as it is 1
Honestly sad. 1
it’s interesting that you always seem to have issues with AA events and board me 1
Start in Late Sept and end late May. Cut all the breaks 1
Is the message that it’s ok to miss professional development? 1
Ridiculous board can’t get ANYTHING done well. Do your job. Get it done. 1
Low tea. attend. on Fridays+TSU HC attend. = chaos. 1
Another weapon of Mass distraction 1
If PD is important, how are the absent TSU-goers benefiting? What a farce! 1
Having a PD/planning day before break instead of after was ROUGH 1
Shows what our admin values-race over kids 1
Bull squat 1
How many board members skipped the meeting? How many teachers skip? #trend 1
MTSU? or did you mean TSU?

The second question asked for teacher confidence in getting a raise next year. Results indicate some work needs to be done to secure that confidence. Out of 145 responses, 54 of you, 37%, felt as confident that the Titans were going to win the Super Bowl this year. Closely behind with 50 votes was, ‘I think it will be talked about until Dr. Joseph’s contract is renewed and then disappear in a wave of excuses.” None of you indicated that you were 100% confident. Here are the write-ins:

Please don’t renew Joseph’s contract 1
It needs to be a significant raise. Teacher’s can’t afford normal life in Nash. 1
If no, expect a mass exodus in some schools 1
We are not receiving our raise that the state already gives 1
This 15 year vet will be leaving the district if I don’t get a raise. 1
I need my step raise at least!!! 1
I only feel disdain from superintendent and his folllowers. Zero faith. 1
If not, I am forced to actively look to leave the district. 18-year veteran. 1
Why are we adding another Executive Officer?
The last question asked for your opinion of Board Chair Sharon Gentry’s propensity to sermonize during meetings. Out of 133 responses, the majority of you, 55 %, indicated that it made you crazy. The number two answer indicated that you felt it was the least of your concerns. Here are the write-ins:
What has she accomplished? In no position to preach. 1
Better than a Fran Bush’s Inappropriate scoldings and lectures 1
White members have given “sermons” and you praise them 1
She is encouraging diviseness. 1
She loves to listen to herself even if no one else does. 1
She actually mocked teachers wanting/fighting for a real wage.wow. 1
I still can’t get past her being selected as chair. 1
She needs to stop all of the talking. 1
Wasting her breath & tax-payer dollars 1
Boring at best 1
Why is Dr. Joseph sleeping with employees?!? 1
She is the reason there are so many failing schools 1
Big turn off

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon. Peace out.

 

 

 

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IT RESTS WITH THE NINE

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“This is where we are at right now, as a whole. No one is left out of the loop. We are experiencing a reality based on a thin veneer of lies and illusions. A world where greed is our God and wisdom is sin, where division is key and unity is fantasy, where the ego-driven cleverness of the mind is praised, rather than the intelligence of the heart.”
Bill Hicks

“What is the quality you most like in a man?
The ability to return books.”
David Bowie

Somebody needs to break it to MNPS School Board Chair Sharon Gentry that her title is “Doctor” and not “Reverend”. Twice a month she leads a meeting of individuals of equal status charged with overseeing our schools, she does not command a pulpit. Her vision is representative of but one of nine visions shaped by the voters of Davidson County. The last board meeting lasted 48 minutes, and without her postulating, it would have probably lasted eight.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s take a look at what actually happened at that meeting.

The first order of business was next years school calendar. At the last meeting, the board was set to approve the calendar, but it was tabled in order to make a few more revisions. The elephant in the room here is the role that the Tennessee State University Homecoming Celebration plays in the decision making. This year Fall Break was moved back a week in order to concede with homecoming festivities. A move that put an unfair burden on teachers and students who were not set to participate in homecoming festivities.

It’s long been a thorn in my side that we base district policy on a social event. I get that the Friday before Homecoming has the highest rate of teacher absenteeism of the year, but why is that okay? And why should the district condone that by altering its plans? Why should the majority of stakeholders sacrifice so that some may participate in a college ritual?

I’m not downplaying the role of Homecoming as a community event. Yes, it is a day of celebration and plays a significant role in the social life for a portion of the African-American community. But let’s not forget, that portion is not the entire African-American community, nor the majority of MNPS teachers and students.

I take no issue with educators wanting to take the day off to enjoy the festivities of their alma mater. But they need to take ownership of that decision and make sure that their responsibilities are covered. The date is known a year ahead of time if you are planning to take the day off, secure a sub. There is no other job in the city that would allow someone to just take off work for a social function without having their work responsibilities covered.

Gentry defends the action by saying that you can’t control the behavior of 6000 teachers. You just have to set the calendar and then they’ll decide their behavior. Huh? We can set high expectations every day for 80k plus kids, but we can’t for teachers? Imagine if I said, “Yea,I expected those kids to get that homework done. But I can’t control what they are going to do. I’ll just assign it and they’ll decide what’s important.” It wouldn’t fly.

It’s always about the kids until it’s not. The calendar should be set based on what’s best for kids and teachers, period. Making allowances because someone decided to attend their college social function instead of filling their commitment to the kids in their charge, shouldn’t be an option. That’s called an expectation, and we always talk about the importance of high expectations for kids; what’s good for kids should be good for adults.

Now that said, if the district wants to be proactive and survey teachers ahead of time to find out who’s going to be out and then build a sub-pool around that, I’m good with it. Maybe require all teachers planning a day off to file a form so accommodations can be made. If you are off and no accommodations were made, then it counts against your professionalism score on your evaluation.

This might also be an area that the Nashville Public Education Foundation gets involved. What if a teacher for a day program was created where local businesses could supply employees to serve as substitutes for a day? The Nashville Public Education Foundation could coordinate and business would have an opportunity to learn more about what goes on in the classroom and how they can make an impact. Could be a win/win for everyone.

Getting back to next years calendar, approval was shelved after board member Christiane Buggs pulled it from the consent agenda. The new proposed calendar puts Fall Break a week earlier, to coincide with the end of the quarter, and makes the Friday that coincides with TSU Homecoming a professional development day – the irony isn’t lost on me. Buggs wanted to make an attempt to shelve the new proposal and revert back to this year’s schedule which lined Fall Break up with homecoming.

Buggs proposal was met with little enthusiasm, but because of her raised questions, board member Fran Bush decided she needed more information in order to cast her vote. As a result, Bush abstained and the calendar was tabled till next week.

There was some hand-wringing from the chair and vice-chair that a terrible disservice was being done by the delaying of the approval of the calendar. If that hand-wringing has actual merit, my question would be, why, once again, is a crucial proposal being brought at the last-minute? If a student perpetually brought their assignments in at the last-minute or late, would a teacher not attempt to alter the behavior? Again, one set of expectations for kids; one set of expectations for adults.

THE BOARD’S ROLE

Next, on the boards, agenda was committee meeting updates. Earlier in the day, the board held a Director Evaluation Committee meeting. Gentry used this committee report to not only give a brief update on what transpired but also to lecture on her interpretation of the board’s responsibility and how they should behave. She makes some cryptic statements about “hiding behind being elected officials” and having managers at work without ever really connecting that voters are the boards de facto managers. There continues to be at play a weird hierarchy that places the director of schools at the pinnacle. That’s not quite correct.

Gentry then goes on to outline the 3 areas – hire a director, pass a budget, set policy – that she believes the board is responsible for, which interestingly enough mirrors a recent blog series by Ganey Arsement in Educate Louisiana. In his piece, Arsement lays out the thinking behind this interpretation of the board’s responsibility,

Education reform groups, which are largely comprised of subsets of business and industry, believe that local school boards are too political and get in the way of policies that support the wants and needs of business and industry. Their belief is that school districts should be run like corporations, or nonprofits that have a hands-off board of directors that hires an executive to run the organization, and that executive should be a business leader who can run the district like a business.

Educate Louisianna also lays out the fallacy in this line of reasoning,

The problem with this approach is that board members of corporations and nonprofits represent only themselves, and their purpose for serving is either financial gain, or to benefit a cause that is special to them. In contrast, locally elected school boards represent people. The efficacy of a corporate board can be measured by concrete results. The efficacy of a nonprofit board is measured by the satisfaction of its beneficiaries. The efficacy of a school board has been reduced to a letter grade, and the board is left with little ability to respond to the wants, needs, and desires of the people who elected them.

Gentry takes things a step forward when she defines “setting policy” as “ensuring that we do not have a policy that hinders the ability of the district to achieve the goals that they have set.”  In the context it was presented, I took “they” to mean the director of schools. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. Arment counters that argument as well and gives a warning,

Though each of these responsibilities carries equal weight, the responsibility to set policy is what defines the boundaries in which a superintendent can operate while implementing a vision that reaches the goals of the board. While it is ideal that regulation is minimal in order to allow a superintendent to lead the district, it is utterly important that the board set boundaries to define what is acceptable, and what is unacceptable, in every aspect of the operation. They must set policy that stays within the laws, rules, and policies of the State. What a board must keep in mind is that policies should be implemented with what is best for all students in mind, and the judge of a policy’s effectiveness is rarely the district leadership; but instead, the people who elected them to serve.

When you look at several issues – educator licensure, reporting of disciplinary issues, reporting of students receiving services for dyslexia – it’s clear that Joseph’s administration is not staying within the laws, rules, and policies of the state. That alone should supersede any perceived need for hyper decorum. Once again we have adults who worship at the altar of “the kids are first”, while indulging in behavior that allows the detrimental behavior to continue? Who pays while adults practice diplomacy? It’s kids, and it’s teachers – more on that in a minute. Neglecting the grass can be just as detrimental to the grass as elephants fighting.

Gentry makes a statement, that basically says, “You can comment and try to exert as much influence as you want, and we sorta appreciate it, but in the end, it is in the hands of the nine.” The nine is the elected school board. There is some truth to that but a couple of things to remember, parents, don’t have to participate. They can leave the system, and Gentry may shrug at that prospect and say, “Let them.” But if you think MNPS is a chronically underfunded district now, just see what happens when it’s only serving families with no other options.

Secondly, the nine can change. I hope Gentry remembers the part of her sermon about having a manager. The last election pitted a sitting school board member who was one of the directors biggest supporters against 3 challengers. The voters selected the most critical of the 3. I would think you ignore that message at your own peril.

Voters sent Fran Bush to the school board for a reason and I don’t remember seeing anywhere that it was to worship at the altar of Shawn Joseph, nor Sharon Gentry. They elected her to make things right for kids and teachers, and she seems to be taking that to heart. Democracy can be messy. Maybe Gentry should spend a little less time talking, and a little more listening. After all, it seems politicians are starting to listen, not to mention local philanthropists.

TEACHER COMPENSATION

The last committee report of the night was on teacher compensation. This is going to be one of those areas where I’m going to be critical of people I have infinite respect for. There are people on the compensation committee that I feel are the best of the best. Look up model teacher/leader in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of Michele Sheriff and Dr. Paula Pendergrass. That said,  WTF?

The presentation starts with MNEA president Eric Huth doing an impersonation of Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. Lot’s of jocularity going on and then a 5-minute presentation that consists of a goal to make MNPS teacher among the highest compensated 5% of the state. There is no date attached to the goal, in all fairness, that is mentioned later. The slide also contains some platitudes about the approach of the district to compensation. The second lays out a timeline that designates November/December as being utilized for more discussion and research and a promise to report in January. That’s it. End of presentation.

Couple things to point out. It’s October, budget talks begin at the latest in February. We’ve known since last year that teachers are pissed about salaries. All research and discussion should be wrapped up by now. The reality is, once the second week of November hits, nothing is getting done until the second week in January. And then once again, district leadership will be presenting a crucial proposal at the last-minute. But hey, have you seen the cover of Time Magazine. Dr. Joseph and his team have read it, so you know they care. Unfortunately pointing to that article isn’t enough.

We owe it to teachers to present concrete steps that reassure that increased compensation is on the way. At this point, what do you hope to learn through further research and conversation? This has got to be a priority and as such should be treated with a whole lot more seriousness. While the committee is researching teachers are driving for Uber. While the committee discusses teacher are being priced out of the district. This process needs a whole lot more urgency.

I suspect what’s going to happen is that the process will be dragged out while negotiations on Dr. Joseph’s contract renewal begin. An argument will be raised that the compensation process is so far along that if we replace Dr. Joseph, increased teacher compensation would be jeopardized. I’d love to see a board member bring a resolution forward that commits the board to the process of raising teacher pay independently of who is the superintendent.

Again, no disrespect to the incredible educators who are volunteering their time to work on this issue, but that presentation shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone, nor should our current place in the process. And Dr. Gentry’s mocking of people at the TSU parade who were pressuring her to raise teacher salaries is way out of line. Remember that lecture about thinking purposely about what you are adding to the conversation?

QUICK HITS

If you ever have doubts about how petty this MNPS administration is, all you have to do is gaze at the latest issue of Dr. Joseph’s Forward Focus. Another edition of, “If it wasn’t so serious it would be comical”. I hope Fran Bush has learned her lesson and received her warning. Fortunately for us this kind of pettiness appears to have no impact on Bush at all.

Board Member Amy Frogge does a better job of illustrating the point, so I’ll defer to her,

Here’s a page from MNPS’s Forward Focus publication, which is sent out to all employees. Take a wild guess who is the least favored new board member by the Director of Schools and the new board Chair. Only one of the new board members was not interviewed for this publication.

While there are four newly elected board members and conveniently four columns to highlight each of them, the largest amount of space is actually devoted to Sharon Gentry, who happens to be our longest-serving member.

With such petty behavior, it’s no wonder things aren’t functioning well right now in MNPS. Our employees are being treated in the very same manner, which is causing a major culture problem.

Whether or not Dr. Joseph and Dr. Gentry like it, Fran Bush was fairly elected by the public to serve one ninth of our school district. She deserves the same treatment as other board members. To treat her otherwise is to demean the voting public.

This is but a small example, but professionalism and fairness have been thrown completely out the window. Time for change.

Chalkbeat has an article out today about how changes in teacher evaluations have changed the job of principals.

As policy makers overhauled teacher rating systems in the last decade, principals began spending much more of their time watching teachers in action and talking to them about how to improve. But the shift also overwhelmed them with work, stopped them from fulfilling other responsibilities in their schools, and weakened their relationships with teachers.

I urge you to read the whole article.

Recently the second class of Mosaic Fellows by the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition in conjunction with Conexión Américas, a nonprofit Latino advocacy group, was named. They are being charged with spotlighting issues of equity and coming together to design solutions to better serve all students, but especially students of color. Middle Tennessee is represented by the following group of educators:

  • Indira Dammu, education policy advisor, Office of Mayor David Briley
  • Laura Delgado, program director, College of Education, Lipscomb University
  • Chris Echegaray, community achieves site manager, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Karla Coleman García, director for adult learner initiatives, Tennessee Higher Education Commission
  • Keilani Goggins, director, Hope Street Group
  • Joseph Gutierrez, program associate, Dan and Margaret Maddox Charitable Fund
  • LaKishia Harris, director of equity and access, STEM Preparatory Academy
  • Tomás Yan, STEAM teacher, Metro Nashville Public Schools

I’d like to offer congratulations.

It’s often said that it doesn’t cost a cent extra to increase expectations for kids, but are high expectations really free? That the question that columnist Peter Greene recently asked.

No, expectations always travel hand in hand with the tools and conditions needed to make those expectations manifest in the actual world. High expectations don’t mean a teacher who tosses a math book to her students on Day One and says, “There’s your book. I expect you to learn what’s in it. See you in 180 days.” High expectations mean a teacher who says, “I expect great things from you, and I am going to help you achieve those things with every tool at my disposal.”

Expectations are just a form of faith, and even the Bible tells us that faith without works is dead. Expectations matter, but expectations are only a foundation and no, you can’t build the house for free. “Teachers should just expect harder,” is just an excuse for politicians and policy wonks to avoid the issue of giving underserved, underfunded schools the resources they need, the kind of resources and funding that politicians and policy wonks would give them if those guys really, truly believed in the success of those students.

Again, I urge you to read the whole piece.

Local blogger Vesia Hawkins also has a new piece out. Give it a read, I’m still sifting through my thoughts on it. I’ve got more to add to this subject based on observations with my own kids. Maybe Monday I’ll hit that subject.

Congratulations are in order! Shelly Gaughan, a kindergarten teacher at East End Prep, was awarded the prestigious Milken Educator Award, which includes a $25,000 cash prize. She is one of 40 teachers across the country to receive this award.

Just in case you think that our observations are completely out of whack…go back and read my May 21st post. There’s actually a few gems in that one, but I’ll let you find them.

As long as this update is, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Andy Spears latest update on Tennessee Teacher Evaluations.

I want to leave you on a positive note, so here is a story from Channel 5 about students at West End Middle School learning sign language to improve communication with their hearing-impaired peers. Hit the link and enjoy.

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s a 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.

WELCOME BACK

4

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man”
T.S. Eliot

Have you ever seen the movie A Bronx Tale? Robert DeNiro plays a gangster in the Bronx who befriends a young man against the wishes of his father. The friendship leads the young man to be torn between the glamour of the Mafia life and the hard-working honest life of his fathers. It’s a good flick.

There is one scene that always resonates with me. In it, the DeNiro, Sonny, is offering the young man dating advice.

Sonny:
Alright, listen to me. You pull up right where she lives, right? Before you get outta the car, you lock both doors. Then, get outta the car, you walk over to her. You bring her over to the car. Dig out the key, put it in the lock and open the door for her. Then you let her get in. Then you close the door. Then you walk around the back of the car and look through the rear window. If she doesn’t reach over and lift up that button so that you can get in: dump her.

Calogero ‘C’ Anello:
Just like that?

Sonny:
Listen to me, kid. If she doesn’t reach over and lift up that button so that you can get in, that means she’s a selfish broad and all you’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg. You dump her and you dump her fast

A recent blog post by Vesia Hawkins over at Volume and Light has caused me to revisit this scene. Defender’s of Dr. Joseph will try to write off his behavior, including the use of a personal driver at taxpayer expense, as inconsequential. They’ll act as if the issue with the driver was the actual use of the driver. Which is not it at all. The issue is Joseph’s refusal to give up the driver at a time when programs all across the district are being cut. It is a refusal that is indicative of who he is. It speaks to self-interest over student interest, an unwillingness to compromise, and an unresponsiveness to concerns of stakeholders. It’s about allocating resources to the wrong places.

Like it or not, people use our actions as opportunities to evaluate who we are. I’ve given the dating advice that you shouldn’t evaluate a person on how they treat you, but rather watch how they treat servers and counter people. That’s indicative of who they are and eventually, they’ll get around to treating you in a similar fashion.

So those of you who insist upon defending Joseph’s use of a driver, please recognize that’s it about more than him actually having a driver. It’s indicative of what type of leader he is and if that’s the type of leadership our kids and teachers deserve.

Here’s an idea, if having a driver is so vital to his executing the job, why doesn’t he pay for it out of his pocket? Athletes pay hundreds of thousands of dollars out of their pocket annually for nutritionists and trainers because they recognize the necessity of their services in order to perform at a high level. Joseph makes $300k a year, I think its safe to say he could afford to pay his driver. By doing so he would also strengthen his argument that the district is underfunded by acknowledging that he too must make sacrifices, not just demand it from others. I suspect that if Joseph was paying for the driver out of his pocket, the number of times a driver was needed would drop.

I also find it very disconcerting that district leaders speak one way in private about Joseph and a completely different way in public. This isn’t directed at Hawkins per se, but it is a behavior that occurs all across the district. The majority of stakeholders recognize that he is not doing a good job and in private conversations, they will admit to such. Yet, publicly they are unwilling to take a stand and instead take a position of just letting things play out.

Ironically, these are the very same leaders that often profess to put kids first. Who do they think is being hurt by a lack of competent district leadership? If you clearly saw someone was not a competent driver, would you put your kids in the car with them? Would you wave goodbye to your kids as they drove off, telling neighbors, “When elephants fight, the grass suffers”? I fail to see the difference between these two circumstances, yet here we are, no one wanting to lead. Thank god some of the board members are rising to the challenge.

A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN

Yesterday things got real interesting real fast in the Nashville education world. A couple of months ago current Nashville Public Education Foundation chair Shannon Hunt announced that she would be stepping down in November. We now know who her replacement will be; former MNPS Executive Director of Talent Strategy Katie Cour.

Cour’s selection is a very interesting choice. She is a highly competent administrator who during her tenure was not embraced by teachers.

One of her initiatives was the “turnaround squad” – teachers who agreed to teach in a priority school received an extra stipend – an initiative I vehemently opposed as it potentially cost schools just outside the priority school list talented teachers. To her credit, when presented with a sound argument, Cour expanded the program and created teacher development resources for schools in the bottom 10%. In other words, she listened and responded, something that’s been lacking throughout the district of late.

Ms. Cour was also one of the first administrators to leave after the arrival of Dr. Joseph. Despite swirling rumors at the time, she remained nothing but the consummate professional. In the past, she has also been in the crosshairs of part-time board member Will Pinkston. The two purportedly reached a truce last year but I still doubt she’ll be a willing participant in the Pinkston follies as Hunt often was.

Though all would bristle at the description, there appears to be a resurrection of the reformer movement in Nashville as of late. You have Gini Pupo-Walker winning the school board seat in district 8, Indira Damu appointed as education policy advisor for Mayor Briley, The New Teacher Project up for a nearly half million contract, and now Cour’s hiring as Executive Director at NPEF. It may not be 2014, but it’s certainly starting to feel like it.

Is that a bad thing? I don’t know. I like to say that the conversation between reformers and ….others – non-reformers is a disingenuous title – has matured. But I see some of the sneakiness involved with TNTP and my guard goes back up. I guess time will tell.

Overall, I’m excited about the hiring of Katie Cour. She’s always shown a willingness to engage and I think she’ll bring more transparency to the position and integrity to NPEF as an organization.

Now, where did I put those boxing gloves?

QUICK HITS

In the 2016 Tennessee State General Assembly legislation was passed requiring districts to screen for characteristics of dyslexia through their existing Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI²) procedures and to provide “dyslexia-specific tiered interventions” for students that demonstrate a need. An advisory council was also formed that would meet during the school year and would enable districts to report their progress and statistics. Those results would be shared across the state.

This week the council convened and districts reported the percentage of students receiving services for Dyslexia. MNPS was one of 9 districts across the state that reported a percentage of “0”. That’s right, according to MNPS, no kids are currently receiving services for Dyslexia. I’ll leave it to you to decipher that one.

In all fairness though, every district needs some work. Statistic says 1 in 10 people are dyslexic. Few districts on this list are reflective of those numbers.

Let’s review MNPS though, educator licensing, reporting of discipline issues, and now the reporting of students receiving Dyslexia services, is it just me or does the Joseph team have a hard time being in compliance with state requirements? Wonder if any of that will come up in today’s’ School Board director evaluation committee meeting, which is scheduled at 3pm today.

Per ChalkbeatTN, roughly 45K Tennessee students, from 1/3 of the state’s districts, will log in and take a 40-minute simulation test in order to check the TNReady platform. Obviously, the state is doing everything it can to not have a repeat of last years, and the year before, and well, the year before that, fiasco.

That’s all well and good, but to me, the meat of the article is in this paragraph that discusses where the problems with last years testing arose from:

The two primary culprits were functions that Questar added after a successful administration of TNReady last fall but before spring testing began in April: 1) a text-to-speech tool that enabled students with special needs to receive audible instructions; and 2) coupling the test’s login system with a new system for teachers to build practice tests.

Ok, when it comes to text-to-speech, were those accommodations just removed? What’s the alternate plan to provide them? That’s a pretty big deal for our special needs and ELL families.

Over at the TNED Report, Andy Spears takes a look at a recent assertion by State Education Superintendent Candice McQueen. McQueen has claimed that new teacher evaluations have been a “key driver” in the improvements Tennessee has made when it comes to education. Spears points out a number of gaping holes in that claim:

To summarize, Tennessee is claiming success off of one particularly positive year on NAEP and on TNReady scores that are consistently unreliable. Then, Tennessee’s Education Commissioner is suggesting the “key driver” to all this success is a highly flawed evaluation system a significant portion of which is based on junk science.

The entire basis of this spurious claim is that two things happened around the same time. Also happened since Tennessee implemented new teacher evaluation and TNReady? Really successful seasons for the Nashville Predators.

Correlation does NOT equal causation. Claiming teacher evaluations are a “key driver” of some fairly limited success story is highly problematic, though typical of this Administration.

Have you checked out Nashville Scoop? Rarely about education issues but always entertaining and informative.

Blogger Peter Greene offers some real insight into the “teacher shortage”. In his words:

There is a shortage of states and districts willing to make it worth someone’s while to take a teaching job. There’s a shortage of states and districts willing to improve the conditions of the job enough to make that job attractive to people. There’s a shortage of pay, a shortage of respect, a shortage of support. But there is no teacher shortage, just as there was no actual truck driver shortage. The employers didn’t have to wait for an entire generation of fresh drivers to be born and to grow up; they just had to make the job attractive enough to recruit the people that were already there.

Ah now if someone would listen and act, instead of just holding up a copy of the Time Magazine cover and proceeding with business as usual.

Per a tweet by MNPS: The Urban Educator recently highlighted our literacy efforts in its Oct. 2018 issue. We’re making progress toward our goal of doubling the number of 3rd-grade students reading on grade level by 2025, & recently fared slightly better than the state average in ELA.

In reading the article, I have a couple of thoughts. First of all I think it should be noted that the Urban Educator Journal is part of Great City Schools. An organization that does business with MNPS. Secondly, I’d love for Dr, Emily Pendergrass to show me what she is seeing that I, and others,  are missing, that leads her to conclude that MNPS’s literacy plan is one of the “strongest and most modern” that she’s ever seen. I’d also like a little supporting data, please.

Furthermore, at the last board meeting Director of Assessment admitted that there is no universal definition for “performing at grade level”. So how are you going to know when you are there in 2025. The marketing department really needs to get with the teaching department.

Report cards are going home today. This year middle school report cards will look a little different. For translation and information about the new report card go to the District Website:

Early voting is still going on. Please remember that if you live in District 56, a vote for Bob Freeman is a well placed one.

POLL RESULTS

Speaking of polls, here at Dad Gone Wild we had a pretty good turn out this weekend. Let’s look at the results.

It may seem premature to talk about contract extensions for Director of Schools Shawn Joseph. The board has until January 2020 to make a move. However, I contend that the conversation will begin over the next 4 months. The desire being to get it done before the start of the budget season and avoid going into the last year of his contract as a lame duck. Based on his performance over the last two years, I think that a contract extension is not something that should be entered into lightly and should have as much public input as possible.

In that light, I took the question to you and the results are not hard to decipher.  With 144 respondents, 88% of you indicated that an extension was not warranted. Only 1 of you indicated that we have to lock up this talented man as soon as possible. Lock up as in, extend the contract. Hope the board is listening. Here are the write-ins:

I will leave the district if Joseph stays 1
Never again. He’s done enough damage. 1
HELL, NO! Our kids & teachers deserve better. 1
Hard no 1
Not enough ways to say No. Absolutely Not. Ethically Challenged Train Wreck. 1
Been in MNPS 11 years. A new contract for Dr J would coincide w/my resignation. 1
Per contract the board has ‘til Jan. 1, 2020 to decide. 1
If we value public education at all, he has to go. Teacher Morale is nonexistent

Question two asked how you felt about the district proposing to award TNTP a contract worth approximately half a million dollars. Once again the results weren’t hard to decipher. 80% of you were opposed to the idea. 1 person answered that they think they offer a valuable service. Once again I wonder if the board will listen or it will just proceed with business as usual.

Here are the write-ins:

n example of our admin being paid too much not to get the job done 1
Teachers lose again. 1
We should not be doing this. 1
The lack of transparency = lack of credibility. How MNPS rolls. NoNoNoNoNoNoNo. 1
Where’s my Cost of Oiving and (yet another) missing step increase first! 1
TNTP is a hot mess. No way! 1
Crazy. All the money goes everywhere but teacher salary. pathetic!

The Nashville Scene recently awarded former board member Mary Pierce the award for the best board member. I thought I’d solicit your vote. Amy Frogge won in a landslide with 65% of the vote, and Jill Speering receiving 25%. Ironically, these are the two board members whom Joseph continually tries to dismiss. Will Pinkston received one vote. I’d like to thank Pinkston for his continued readership. Here are write-in votes:

Tie between Jill and Amy 1
Amy Frogge | Jill Speering Hands Down 1
Not relevan when that whole body is in shambles right now. 1
None. They aren’t doing their jobs and serving our students. I’m disgusted.

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon. Peace out.

 

NOTES FROM THE END OF FALL BREAK

5

“I never met anybody who said when they were a kid, “I wanna grow up and be a critic.”
Richard Pryor

“You can’t believe people when they look you in the eyes. You gotta’ look behind them. See what they’re standing in front of. What they’re hiding. Everyone’s hiding, Wes. Everybody. Nobody looks like what they are.”
Sam Shepard, Curse of the Starving Class

There was a time when Nashville was the greatest city in the world. I know, some of you newbies think Nashville is the greatest city in the world right now. And I concede, it is a pretty great place to live. But there was a time when it was someplace truly unique. A place populated by true characters. People unlike those you could find anywhere else. They were everywhere.

It wasn’t uncommon to find the attorney and perennial gadfly John Jay Hooker having a cocktail in the middle of the day at the Goldrush. Perhaps planning his next run for Governor. Regularly seen around town was cab driver by day, cable access channel TV star Joey Bowker aka the Bat Poet. Over in mid-town, you might find songwriting legend Townes Van Zandt playing a game of imaginary poker or the legendary musician Cowboy Jack Clement spinning yarns. Arguably the world’s greatest songwriter Harlan Howard could be found on a bar stool at the Longhorn most days. Walk through Printer’s Alley and you might find David “Skull” Shulman sitting outside with his miniature poodle wearing her diamond-encrusted dog collar. And let’s not forget Nashville’s very own, via California, P.T. Barnum Billy Block, a tireless advocate for Nashville and it’s music. The town had a lot of character.

These weren’t the only folks either, the town was ate up with creatives. On all levels and walks of life. Today we celebrate people for being successful entrepreneurs and businessmen. We court tastemakers and make celebrities out of people with half the talent of the aforementioned. Nashville is still a wonderful place, but it’s changed and in doing so, lost a lot of its uniqueness. This week we lost another one of those people who really made the city special.

If you’ve spent any time at the Bluebird, or around Nashville’s music scene, in the last 25 years odds are you’ve interacted with Bob Biles or his alter ego Roberto Bianco, the self-proclaimed “romantic voice of our time”. As Roberto, Biles took on the persona of a classic lounge singer, a persona that extended beyond the stage. As a denizen of such late-night hangouts like the Iguana, South Street, and Faisons, I was often provided an opportunity to enjoy the company of Roberto. Those memories never fail to bring a smile forth, something he was seldom without. It’s kind of cliché to describe the recently departed as constantly possessing a smile and treating everyone like a long time friend. In this case, it’s simply true. The city couldn’t have asked for a better emissary, and his presence made the city a little better.

You might have moved here because of people like Eddie George, Garth Brooks, and Phil Bredesen; you fell in love with the city because of people like Bob Biles. You’ll be missed my friend, but so long and thanks for the fish.

OF BASKETBALL CARDS AND READING

I’m noticing a strange phenomenon around our house these days. My 8-year-old son has never been one for reading a book on his own, though he loves books and is a fine reader. The thought of sitting down with a book on his own just doesn’t hold much appeal for him. I’ll admit that the part of my brain that has been sufficiently scared by the reading fear mongers observes him with a touch of concern.  As of late though, I’m less concerned and that reassurance comes from the oddest place – sports cards.

You see Peter has discovered the power of Topps, Upper Deck, and Score. About a month ago he discovered the NBA and the NFL, and these cards serve as a gateway to that world. A naturally gifted athlete, it should be no surprise that he wants to know more about sports. He spends hours collecting his cards, examining them over and over and then researching the players further on his Ipad. And what’s the key that unlocks all these doors?

Why it is reading of course. He has to read the names on the card in order to know more and trust me, he wants to know more. On the back of the cards are short biographies about the individual players. He reads through the stats and compares players to each other. You phonetics fans should be thrilled because in order to read the names of players I often hear him sounding them out using the phonetic practices he’s learned. On his Ipad, he searches out results from recent games, past exploits, opinions on the players, and the value of individual cards. Yesterday, as we headed toward the bookstore he said to me, “Maybe we can look for a basketball book we can read together.” I call that a hook with line and sinker not far behind.

I don’t think there is an expert out there that would consider sporting cards rigorous instruction, but perhaps we should widen the description a bit. As a child falling in love with reading I was blessed to have a 2nd-grade teacher who pushed reading over content. To this day I can hear his voice telling me, “I don’t care what you read as long as you are reading. If you have nothing else to read, read the cereal boxes. Reading is what’s important.” That’s a message we can’t lose sight of in the age of constant noise over rigor.

THE RISE OF TNTP

Per Wikipedia,

TNTP, formerly known as The New Teacher Project, is an organization in the United States with a mission of ensuring that poor and minority students get equal access to effective teachers. It helps urban school districts and states recruit and train new teachers, staff challenged schools, design evaluation systems, and retain teachers who have demonstrated the ability to raise student achievement. TNTP is a non-profit organization and was founded by Michelle Rhee in 1997.

It should be pointed out as an organization TNTP has been pretty ineffectual and as result, over the last several years they’ve been reduced to clinging on in few places and writing papers decrying the decaying state of public education. Papers whose research is suspect and provide little solutions. Who could forget the insight of The Widget Effect? Despite their lack of success, the billionaires continue to lavish love on them. And now, so is MNPS.

This weeks agenda for the MNPS board meeting shows a line item on the consent agenda as follows,

(6) VENDOR: TNTP, Inc. (formerly known as The New Teacher Project)

SERVICE/GOODS (SOW): To accelerate MNPS School of Innovation school-based support to improve literacy practices and support literacy content knowledge forLiteracy Teacher Development Specialists (LTDS), principals, and teachers. TNTP’sapproach consists of direct customized support at a range of levels (High Touch Support and Medium Touch Support) and indirect support (Light Touch Support). The overall goal will be to improve literacy instruction and increase student growth and achievement.

SOURCING METHOD: Sole Source
TERM: October 24, 2018 through September 30, 2019

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FOR WHOM:

Alex Green Elementary School
Amqui Elementary School
Buena Vista Enhanced Option Elementary School Cumberland Elementary School
Gra-Mar Middle School
Inglewood STEAM Magnet Elementary
Jere Baxter Middle School
Joelton Middle School
Madison Middle School
McKissack Middle School
McMurray Middle School
Napier Elementary School
Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary The Cohn Learning Center

COMPENSATION:
Touch Support for 2 schools, and Low Touch Support for up to 7 schools. The initial breakdown as to which schools are receiving which type of support is presented below:

  •   High Touch Support: Buena Vista, Cumberland, Gra-Mar, Napier, and Robert Churchwell
  •   Medium Touch Support: Cohn Learning Center and McKissack
  •   Low Touch Support: Alex Green, Amqui, Inglewood, Jere Baxter,Joelton, McMurray, and Madison
    Total compensation under this contract is not to exceed $479,887.

    OVERSIGHT: Federal Programs

Nothing follows up a lack of a plan like giving money to an organization with a lack of a track record. MNPS’s whole reaction to the recently released state priority school list reeks of taking action to just to check a box and to be able to tell State Education Director Candice McQueen, and others, that they did something. It also feels like Joseph and cronies can’t put any money in their pockets without feeling like its burning a hole in the said pocket.

The state say’s, “Here’s 6.1 million to help with priority schools.”

The district responds by promoting one administrator, hiring another, and promising to hire more. Then they turn around and offer another half million to another organization with no track record. That’s a solution?

But look at the schools slated to be impacted. All are priority schools except for Inglewood and Napier, but where are Tom Joy, Warner, Bellshire, Wright Middle, Whites Creek, Robert E Lilliard, and Haynes? So exactly how was this list created?

Let’s look deeper at TNTP. In July they were part of a cohort of vendor contracts up for renewal that could be utilized by individual schools. Board member Amy Frogge pulled their contract for discussion. During the discussion, it was claimed that the contract wasn’t that big a deal because no individual schools were utilizing TNTP for professional development. The renewal of this contract was to just provide schools with options. Even the ones they didn’t want. The testimony made it sound as if TNTP wasn’t doing any work in the district, which was incorrect, and in my opinion intentional.

TNTP is working all through the district under several different contracts. In fact, TNTP wrote the majority of the beginning of the year training sessions for LTDSs. They are also playing a large role in the implementation of CKLA throughout the district and doing so in a very clandestine manner. You see the best kept non-secret in MNPS is that district leadership is using CKLA to replace Reading Recovery.

On its face, I don’t take issue with that move. A director should have the right to select the curriculum that they feel best about. Research on CKLA is a mixed bag at this point, but…ok. It’s a solid plan, but not a spectacular plan. My problem stems from a familiar source, a lack of transparency.

Dr. Joseph has been roundly criticized for ending Reading Recovery without a plan in place. If CKLA is to be that plan, why not share it? Why not allow an open conversation about its merits. Why approve a contract just to keep TNTP working in the district in order that they can help you quietly implement your substitute plan? The lack of transparency just creates suspicion.

Look through the other items on the consent agenda. All of them have either a MBPE number or an RFP number. This line item has neither. Want to make me a bet that is because they are piggybacking it off of the contract that was renewed this summer?

I sure hope somebody pulls this off of the consent agenda and dives a bit deeper into it. I’d really like an explanation of why TNTP is worth a half million taxpayer dollars. Think about TNTP has been available to individual schools as a PD vendor for a number of years and nobody was taking advantage of their services, why now?

AND SO IT BEGINS

It appears that October 30th will be the beginning of the drive for a new contract for Dr. Joseph. Well I lie, the whole last month has been the laying of the groundwork, now things get real. His contract is set to expire in June of 2020. I know, the contract says the board has until January 1, 2020, to decide, but nobody wants to go into the last year without a contract, let alone the last 6 months. The opportune time would be between the end of November and February. Otherwise, you run into budget season. So the spin has to start now.

If Dr. Joseph’s recent letter to the board outlining his perceived successes is any indication of what to expect, it’s safe to say Donald Trump will be proud. I believe a great deal of effort will go into selling those spins at this weeks director’s evaluation committee meeting. Pay attention, if it wasn’t so serious, it’d be amusing.

Over at Channel 5 News, they’ve been kind enough to put together a timeline, going back to Pedro Garcia and Jesse Register, so that you can keep track of the MNPS investigations. Thank you for the public service.

Congratulations are in order for former board member Mary Pierce. This week the Nashville Scene announced her as the year’s best school board member. I figure that should be good for at least 7 tweets from Eastside public school advocate and Nashville Scene critic Matt Pulle.

Personally, I’m fine with it. Mary always ran near the top in Dad Gone Wild polls, and I’ve always enjoyed our talks, though we seldom agree. There was that one time back in February….but I digress. Congratulations to the lady from Green Hills.

Also racking up votes as best Middle School and Best High School, were West End Middle and Hillsboro High. Christ the King and J.T. Moore were runners-up for middle schools and Father Ryan and Hume-Fogg for high schools. Best teacher awards went to Mandy Mann, Stephanie Wyatt, and Sara Osborne. Kudos to all.

The Network for Public Education holds their National Conference this weekend in Indianapolis. Once again, due to funding issues, I will not be physically in attendance, but my spirit will be there. If you are physically there, feel free to throw my name around liberally. If you want to follow the live stream, you can do so on the NPE Action Facebook page.

In its continued effort to keep the attorney’s of Nashville employed. MNPS announced this week that they’ve engaged the law firm, Baker Donelson, to represent them in the lawsuit brought forth by former MNPS executive Vanessa Garcia. Fun fact: the Baker, in Baker Donelson, stands for former US Secretary of State Howard Baker.

I find it interesting that MNPS feels the need to engage such a high-powered firm, but I’m assuming it’s because of the “substantial” discount. The lead attorney is only charging the district $400 an hour instead of the customary $460. Go ahead, do the math, how many hours does it take to make a teacher’s annual salary? MNPS did volunteer that they had to engage outside representation because of a potential conflict of interest, but they didn’t identify the conflict.

Condolences go out to Metro School Board member Anna Shepherd, as her mother passed away today. I know she’d appreciate some kind words, so if you get the opportunity please take advantage of it and do so. Losing a parent is always painful, no matter how expectant or at what age it happens. Prayers to Ms. Shepherd.

Fellow board member Jill Speering continues to show why she is not a woman to be trifled with. After a procedure on her heart last Friday, she’s already out of the hospital and making calls. Unbelievable.

Self-proclaimed financial guru.  recently visited , where he spoke to the Financial Literacy Club and AVID 8th grade students. The financial guru surprised the students with copies of three different books he’s written about financial health.

Early voting has started in Tennessee. If you are heading to the polls, keep the names Jim Cooper, Gloria Johnson, Larry Proffitt, and Bob Freeman at the front of your brain and if you can, vote for them. They deserve it and you’ll be better off if you do.

Those of you in Clarksville need to pull the lever for Joe Pitts as mayor. He’s been a tireless advocate for education.

Some of my dearest friends also believe Karl Dean would make a great governor. Seeing as I trust their opinion, and the alternative fills me with dread, you probably ought to cast a vote for him as well. I will, sans excitement, but I’ll be better for it and so will you.

Look who went and won themselves an award this week. Congratulations to West End Middle School PTO Prez Anna Thoreson for winning the Massey-Sexton Dyslexia Advocacy Award from the International Dyslexia Association today. You know who’s probably not celebrating though? The MNPS assessment department. Sorry, sometimes I just can’t help myself.

I’m going to try to get into this a little more next week, but I wanted to give you something to play with this weekend. ProPublica has put out an interactive website that allows you to compare race and discipline issues for individual schools across the country. I’ve spent a bit of time exploring Davidson County and discovered quite a few things I didn’t know, both good and bad. I urge you to check it out.

New(er) teachers: There are some spots open for TEA’s New Teacher Retreat! TEA pays for a 1/2 day sub on Friday, Nov. 2nd. Your $75 registration fee covers everything. After you attend the conference, you can submit your certificate to us and we will reimburse you for your $75! Win-Win! The conference this year will be at Alex Hailey’s Farm in Clinton, TN (a little north of Knoxville).

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s a 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 of it 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.

 

 

 

 

RANDOM THOUGHTS ABOUT RANDOM THINGS

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“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”
Lester Bangs

“Some people see things that are and ask, Why?
Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not?
Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that.”
― George Carlin

When I first started writing this blog, I fretted that I would find enough to write about. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that there was more than enough to cover and in fact, there was no way that I could do the necessary research in order to do it all justice. As a result, some things fall by the wayside. That doesn’t mean that they are not important, just that I can’t gather enough information and understanding to do them justice, so I put them on the back-burner.

I figured the start of Fall break was as good a time as any to clear some of those items off the plate. As always, if anybody has more information and knowledge please feel free to comment, I’m always looking for more clarity. So without further adieu, here are the things on my mind these days.

 

SCHOOL BOARD MEETING NOTES

Last week’s MNPS school board meeting raised a lot of interesting questions. It was a meeting that probably had more presentations then should fit comfortably in a meeting, but that’s what you do when you are trying to hide the trees in the forest.

The first presentation was on MNPS’s pre-k programming. Whenever you talk about pre-K things get tricky. Nobody wants to be perceived as being against pre-K. Oh no, that’s like being against puppies and rainbows. I believe in pre-K, but as always the devil is in the details.

I do not believe in sacrificing play for “rigorous” instruction when it comes to pre-K. More and more play is being sacrificed in order to focus on instruction. This is in spite of research that shows the value of play in child development. What I’d like you to do is watch the presentation, it starts at approximately the 1:01 mark, and count the number of times you hear the word “play” versus the number of times you hear the words “test scores” or “data points.”

A lot of people tell me that we are doing really good work in our pre-k centers, but I continually see signs that we are moving further and further away from play centric-curriculum. That concerns me. The dedication to increased parental involvement though is very encouraging.

The head-shaking part for comes when they talk about aligning all pre-k’s across the district, public and private, in a curriculum. I just don’t see that happening. Why would a private pre-k modify what it does to fit with Metro’s strategy? As a family, we chose to send our kids to Tusculum Presbyterian for very specific reasons; exposure to religion at an early age is one. We worked with them to tailor instruction for my son based on a very specific goal set through working in tandem. Maybe I’m missing something but I just don’t see an alignment of all pre-k’s across the district being a realistic initiative, nor one that parents would really want.

Now fast forward the board meeting to the 1:36 mark. This is where the presentation on MAP testing begins. There is a lot of interesting information in here but the really important part begins at the 2:01 mark when board member Fran Bush asks Director of Assessment Paul Changus how many kids are reading on grade level. Changus responds that “there is not a common definition about what it means to be on grade level.”

Think about all the messages you’ve heard recently about how only one in three kids is reading on grade level, yet here we have the districts data guru telling us that there is not a common definition. It makes my head swim.

Changus goes on to explain how national norming actually works when it comes to MAP testing. This is something that is extremely important for parents to get their head around. That achievement score of 54 %, means MNPS kids are outperforming 53% percent of kids nationally. The natural assumption is that the majority of those kids that make up the 53% are passing the test, that would not be a correct assumption. There is nothing in that number that tells you how many kids are passing the test, or even where they are scoring.

In order to get a better idea of what a student’s achievement level is, you need what is called the RIT score. The RIT score is the actual achievement score. In order to get the true value of the growth numbers, you would have to have the average RIT score for each grade. If the RIT score is low, obviously outpacing 53% of the kids is not going to translate into meaningful progress. The lower the RIT score the higher the rate of growth needed to get caught up. Unless I’m missing something, I didn’t see any meaningful discussion of RIT scores in the presentation.

Another thing to remember is that not everybody takes MAP. The MAP test is a test created by a private company, NWEA. Look at their web page, scroll to the bottom and you’ll see the number for the sales department. That’s right, MAP testing is a program sold to individual school districts. So when they say, “nationally normed” that doesn’t mean every kid in the country like TNready says every kid in the state. What MNPS students are being normed with are students from other districts, nationally, who bought the MAP testing program. I think that is a pretty important caveat to keep in mind as well.

I can not say it enough, MAP is a very valuable tool, but only if it is used as intended; a formative assessment used to guide instruction. It’s not a screener, nor should it be used to justify policy. It should not be used to screen for disabilities, gifted students, EL services, nor as part of an entry qualification for magnet school admission either. Yet we are. If you have questions, I urge you to call NWEA at 877-469-3287. They’ve been extremely helpful every time I’ve called them.

The last presentation comes at around the 2:15 mark and is on teacher recruitment and retention. I could spend all day on this one, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll only hit a few points.

To the left, you’ll see the outcomes that presenter HR Director Pertiller thought were worthy of highlighting. I don’t know the significance of any of them, or if they even have significance. Without context, they are just meaningless numbers. Why highlight 3-5 years? What were percentage rates for other experience bands? Last year we celebrated the 1-3 year band, what were those numbers this year? Both bullet points one and two are hard to evaluate without the total number of teachers employed each year.

The sub fill rate number compares a year worth of data to 2 months of data. Really?!? I don’t think there is a high school statistics class out there that would allow students to make that comparison. It only stands to reason that as the year goes on, and people get worn down, sub fills become more difficult. Celebrating the 17/18 numbers right now is like chalking up a Titan’s win based on a first-quarter score. Got to play the whole game.

Pertiller is so proud of the number of vacancies on the first day of school that she gave it its own slide. One that you are supposed to look at and say, “Yep, 92.4 is less than 124. Great job!”

Nowhere does she mention the number of positions for both years, are we supposed to assume that both years the same number of teachers were employed by the district? There is no mention of the use of long-term subs to fill positions. What about classes that kids are taking through an online platform because a teacher couldn’t be hired? Are those positions counted as filled?

One more point, Pertiller goes on to list vacancies at the priority schools and then downplays those vacancies. After all, Joelton MS only has 2. That’s pretty low huh? Except when you consider that they are only budgeted for 13 positions. In other words, 13.3% of their positions are unfilled. Would you consider that acceptable?

Whites Creek HS was projected at 623 students. How many teaching positions do you think that equates to? Five is a number that should be very concerning. Instead, it’s just brushed aside.

Talk moves to retention. The presentation looks at data derived from exit surveys. This year even fewer exit surveys were collected as compared to last year; 105 vs 109. Of those 105, 56 cited personal reasons as the cause of leaving. Hmmm…does “I’ve had enough of this shit and I’m losing my mind” count as a personal reason?  Under the subject of what’s your next move, 31 said teaching in another district. In other words roughly 1/3. Yea…no problems here.

As part of the recruitment strategy, the district revealed their plans to recruit by quadrant. Am I the only one that sees this as a means to throw gasoline on the inequity fire? The likelihood of getting 4 equally qualified recruiters is slim, this means that naturally one quadrant is going to have a better recruiter then the others which will lead to…wait for it…increased inequity.

Once again board member Fran Bush gets the party kicked into high gear by asking why the numbers on teacher retention changed from when the board received the numbers to tonight’s presentation. Apparently, a business rule was enacted measuring numbers from September to September as opposed to previous August to May. I’m baffled by why you wouldn’t want to match up with the fiscal year and go July to July unless you are parameter shopping to put numbers in the best light.

Bush also brought up the subject of teacher morale, which apparently falls under the purview of Sito Narcisse. Good news, more surveys, and more focus groups. Last year’s focus groups started off with stated outcomes and rules of engagement. Those rules of engagement served to limit conversation and obviously failed to positively impact morale. Are there any teachers out there clamoring for more teacher voice sessions?

Interestingly enough, the surveys are considered so important that Narcisse had to defer to Changus, with others chiming in, to answer Bush’s question about how often surveys are administered. No one could answer the question with real confidence. Very indicative of the priority attached to securing input from teachers.

The most frustrating exchange for me comes when board member Walker asks Pertiller about whether they collect data on mid-year turnover. Pertiller, predictably, doesn’t have the numbers available and downplays it – “I don’t have that but we can get that for you” seems to have become the go-to move for district presenters. Pupo-Walker says that was her sense as well because teachers don’t like to “leave their kids mid-year”.

First of all, I suspect the numbers are much high than either is willing to concede. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear about teachers preparing to leave over break or just plain walking out. So yes, there is a high level of mid-term attrition.

Secondly, we need to stop playing on the benevolence of teachers. They may not like leaving their kids mid-year, but that doesn’t mean they won’t do it if we push them to their limit and we are pushing them to their limit.

I’d also like to know the number of teachers who took early retirement and since none of the answers on the slide showing reasons for leaving included retirement, what’s the story there. The number of transfers would be useful information as well. Transferring is often a precursor to leaving the district, and as such should be closely monitored. Yet, it’s not even mentioned in Pertiller’s presentation.

Pupo-Walker goes on to raise the specter of Teach for America. I was shocked to find that TFA has raised their finder fee from 6500K to 10k annually per teacher. Yikes. In addition to philosophical differences I have with them, TFA is not a viable solution because they can’t supply the numbers needed. During the recession when top-flight students couldn’t find jobs, going into teaching for a couple of years was intriguing. Now that we have a robust economy…not so much. So let’s not run too far down that rabbit hole.

Besides, the goal is to make teachers feel more valued not to devalue their skills by saying anybody with 5 weeks of training can do their job. It never ceases to amaze me, we are in the business of education, which means we should all be active learners, but we never seem to learn anything. We just keep running around in the same circles.

In that light, the conversation on recruitment wraps up with talk about a teacher licensure process that would be run through the district. Participants would save money and time but would be required to stay with the district for a number of years. During this discussion, nobody brings up the current MNPS cohort currently having half of their tuition paid to earn their doctorate at Trevecca. None of whom were required to make an extended commitment to the district. SSShhhhh…we don’t talk about that.

Board chairman Gentry closes the presentation by praising the work of the HR department. Apparently, it is a big deal to ask teachers their opinion twice a year. Gentry is also of the opinion that the HR staff has been very creative, I concur, they have been very creative in the manner in which they present the data. Now if they could only apply some of that creativity to recruiting and retaining teachers we might get somewhere.

QUICK SHOTS

Word is starting to trickle out to me about changes coming to the MNPS enhanced schools. The “enhanced schools” grew out of an agreement in 1998 that allowed a Federal judge to declare MNPS unitary – a legal term meaning free of any vestiges of segregation. As part of the agreement, MNPS would provide certain elementary schools with primarily African-American and impoverished populations additional supports. Chief among those supports were extended school days. Enhanced option schools operate on a day that goes from 7:45 to 3:45, providing an extra hour of instruction.

The money to fund these additional supports comes from central office. According to reports, principals have been informed that the district would like them to strongly reconsider that option and perhaps utilize a more effective strategy. The cost is approximately $200k. This week, schools are in the process of deciding whether to change school schedules or to explore other options. The changing away from the extended hours has could prove quite detrimental to a school and it’s families. Some teachers may leave due to the loss of extra pay, or families will have to scramble to change work schedules.

In pushing for the change district leaders have pointed to data that shows the lack of impact the increased hours have actually had. I would caution here though, because this is one of those tales were data doesn’t tell the whole story. To further compound things, there is some concern that the district is forcing this decision on individual schools in order to retain plausible deniability with the feds if schools choose to change hours. This bears watching.

Rumors are also swirling that there is a new communications chief in town. This makes what, 3, or 4, in the last 2 years? Word is MNPS is recruiting from the ranks of the Department of Child Services.  Because nothing says quality like the level of communication over the last few years from that government entity.

I often talk about the importance of knowing our history and how much we have forgotten in regard to the Nashville school system. Here is a fascinating read from the Nashville Scene circa 1998: How Separate, How Equal. It’s amazing how little progress we’ve made in 20 years.

Last week Mayor Briley attended the monthly meeting of ProjectLit. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this picture. The Mayor is clearly engaged and not just using ProjectLit as a photo-op. Way to go!

The Handle with Care Partnership between Metro Schools and Metro Nashville Police Department was recently named Innovative Domestic Violence Program of the Year. MNPS and MNPD received the award at the Meet the Bridge event hosted by the Nashville Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Kudos to those involved.

It’s just about time for Tennesseans to head to the polls and cast their vote for Governor. Chalkbeat TN outlines the differences on education policy between the two candidates, Bill Lee and Karl Dean.

Speaking of elections. Please remember to vote for Bob Freeman for State Representative. He’s a keeper.

Our ear to the ground tells us that everything went well with school board member Jill Speering’s medical work. She came through it with flying colors and is now busy recuperating. I’m sure she’ll be back in the fray before you know it.

Volunteers are still needed for the JTM Carnival on Saturday, October 27th! Parents and students, sign up here:

POLL RESULTS

We got a few replies to this past weekend. Let’s take a look at what you had to say.

The first question asked for your thoughts about MNPS’s current approach to charter schools. 38% of you indicated that charter schools were the least of your current worries. The number 2 answer was “I wish we were closing more” with 25% of the vote. Only 7% of you gave an indication that we needed to be opening more. I hope people will keep those numbers in mind as there seems to be a push to get us talking charter schools again. Here are the write-in votes.

Close Rocketship. They dump EE kids w/o proper IEPs after the Sept count. 1
Some excellent, some appalling. Unequal use of $$. 1
Likely the game plan for diviividng the district ; priority to charter!!! 1
priority concern is the sJoseph leadership vacuum 1
I don’t want anymore. 1
We don’t need more. 1
Let’s convert them to magnets and take control of their funding without closing 1
Charter schools will suck the life out of public schools – then what? 1
Charters & vouchers…the same…the difference is who makes decision… 1
Sick of resources being diverted from neighborhood schools. No $ for programs

Question two asked for your opinion on plans to increase the use of Teach for America. You weren’t shy about your opinions on this subject. Forty percent of you said, “Absolutely not!”. Eighteen percent of you admitted that we might need to use them, though you wished we didn’t. The number 2 answer to this one was actually the write-ins:

The T stands for “Trainwrecks”. Please, no more in our classrooms!!! 1
Just say NO! Underprepared and don’t last. 1
Hell to the no! 1
No, just absolutely no. 1
Use that $ to raise salary instead of give away…. 1
Compare that to university programs… let’s talk capacity…equal? 1
Hard no 1
I’ve worked with some incredible teachers From TFA. Just be careful. 1
Nope! Discredits the teaching profession. 1
Bad idea. TFA are rarely successful 1
Highest ranked prep program in TN again. More pls 1
Low quality, high energy, working loan forgiveness on the backs of kids. 1
Yes! They produce quality, hard working teachers 1
The teaching profession is dying – get some minimum wage factory workers 1
Raise salaries and it won’t be necessary 1
Why? TFA touts diversity applicants for hard to fill areas. It doesn’t do that 1
as long as the district is not sabotaging and demoralizing current teachers 1
Only if assigned seasoned mentor teachers 1
They won’t. Too costly and the return on investment in terms of retention is NIL 1
It’s a waste of time if they aren’t mentored well. 1
The devaluation of veteran teachers is astounding. Teaching as a career is dying

Question number 3 asked how much teachers were using MAP to guide instruction. Based on your answers, I think it’s safe to say, “Not as much as the board has been led to believe.” Fifty-one percent of you answered in a manner that indicated results were not being widely used. Eleven percent of you answered, “Not as often as you should, but you found them useful.” Only 6% of you indicated that they had become essential to instruction, which was ironically 2 percentage points behind “What’s MAP.” Here are the write-ins:

When it’s used properly, I’ll use info properly. Smh! 1
will use growth data, get immediate feedback 1
when I taught, did not use benchmark test results as they were useless 1
It’s a good tool for differentiation . 1
Worrying more about the second job I need to pay for my bills in Nashville. 1

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon. Peace out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cha… chaaa… chaaaannnnggggges

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“I have always had more dread of a pen, a bottle of ink, and a sheet of paper than of a sword or pistol.”
Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

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

Over the last 5 years, in writing this blog, there have been times where I’ve felt the necessity to write about things that ran the risk of putting me at cross purposes with people of whom I held in high esteem. It’s never been a comfortable position, nor one that I took lightly,  but despite the fact that I don’t get paid, or reap any rewards, nor am I held accountable by any but those who read my ramblings, I’ve always felt compelled to pursue these narratives with a journalistic integrity.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t sympathize with other’s agendas and concerns, I just try to cover all issues with the same focus: is it good for all kids? Sounds clichéd, but it is what it is. Have I always hit the mark? No, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that at times I give in to my emotions and at others, I place too high a value on my personal experiences. I adjust when I can, and continually strive to be better, always leading with the chin.

PRIORITY SCHOOLS

Yesterday, word began to leak out that a couple of MNPS schools would be getting new leadership in the near future. Warner ES principal Denise Jacano and Inglewood ES principal Tracy McPherson were leaving their respective positions. Jacano was brought in from Seaford County, Delaware, with Director of Schools Shawn Joseph. Word on the street is that she has struggled with the transition for the last couple of years.

Inglewood, and by de facto McPherson, is a rising jewel for the district. Three years ago, Inglewood found themselves on the state’s priority list and was faced with either state takeover or closure. Through incredible community involvement and the acumen of McPherson, Inglewood exited priority status this year. It is an amazing story, one that shows what is possible when the district, parents, and educators all jump in together.

The district is now attempting to recapture some of that magic by promoting McPherson to the role of MNPS Executive Director of School Support and Improvement for the School of Innovation (EDSSI). As an EDSSI, she will serve as essentially an executive principal to the priority schools. A role she is easily qualified for. But just because she is qualified doesn’t mean it is the right move.

One of the hallmarks of a successful school is stable leadership. It’s impossible to establish a winning culture without continuity. Sports offers ample examples to support that assertion. Who are the most successful NFL teams? Is it teams like the Steelers, who carefully select their head coach and then leave him in place for decades? Or teams like the Titans, who just kind of select whoever is available and then switch every three or four years?

As a major pillar of its recently-released “Priority School Plan,” MNPS cites teacher recruitment and retention as important. Hmmm… how does either happen without long-term stability in the leadership positions? This summer, MNPS moved the principal at Pearl-Cohn HS, another recent priority school list graduate, to the central office and reassigned the principal at Jere Baxter MS, currently on the priority school list, to another school. Those moves don’t help stabilize the schools those leaders are leaving.

To compound things for Inglewood, over the summer, their AP, Eric Hartfelder, was moved, over Eakin parents’ objections, to be principal of Eakin ES. Eakin parents had another candidate that they really wanted, but the district wasn’t having it.

This is where things get problematic. The district knew for several months which schools were going to end up on the priority list and which were going to exit. It should have been no surprise when the list was officially released in mid-September. If the district argues otherwise, they are either being disingenuous or it points to a serious lack of cohesion and communication with the state. The TNDOE isn’t playing gotcha with these lists.

Over the summer, MNPS should have realized that they wanted to increase the use of McPherson and pursued talks with Hartfelder to remain at Inglewood, as opposed to forcing him into the very difficult position of having to overcome parental objections in a high-profile school like Eakin. District leadership should have been prepping him for a successful continuation of the progress being made at Inglewood.

Furthermore, before making personnel moves, there should have been a close examination of the supports who are present at Inglewood, but not at other similarly sized soon-to-be priority schools. For example, Inglewood has an AP. Not every priority school of their size has that position. I believe at Inglewood the position is funded through a grant, so how do we get other small, high-needs schools access to grant money?

The district should have been looking at social supports at Inglewood as compared to other soon-to-be priority schools. Inglewood has one of the strongest Community Achieves programs in the city. Perhaps we should make sure that model is replicated in other at-risk schools.

Tusculum ES, previously in the bottom 10%, improved their student outcomes by improving teaching practices. Two years ago, Tusculum ES utilized a company called American Alliance for Innovative Systems. AAIS focuses on making teachers better, specializing in teachers in high-risk schools. Interestingly enough, both Whitsitt ES, another priority list graduate, and Inglewood ES have utilized the services of AAIS. Upon arrival, MNPS Chief of Instruction Monique Felder, before ever conducting an evaluation of their services, canceled the district’s endorsement of AAIS as a supported vendor.

Tusculum did not have the money in their school budget to continuing utilizing AAIS’s services but incorporated many of their prescribed practices. Whitsitt and Inglewood had grant money available and continued to utilize their services. Both schools exited the priority list this year… causation or correlation? I don’t know, but if I was MNPS, I’d sure want to find out. Remember that pillar about teacher recruitment and retention… yeah… it’s gotta be more than just words.

Those are just three quick looks at strategies that should have been explored first before making a leadership change. If it was decided that more central office support was indeed needed, why not shift current EDSSI David Kovach to priority schools? After all, he’s done this work before, and based on evidence, seems to be pretty good at it.

What about moving Community Superintendent Adrienne Battle to the head of Priority Schools? Sure, she’s been effective as a community superintendent, but overseeing priority schools takes a very unique skill set. A skill set that she’s proven to possess. Don’t Nashville’s most neediest kids deserve to benefit from those skills?

Instead of moving AP’s and principals from high need schools, why not look at our reward schools for talent? Maybe there is an AP or two who knows what a successful culture looks like, and you could get them to import that vision to a struggling school. The culture at a reward school is much more ingrained, and the leadership bench much deeper, and could probably more easily sustain the hit.

I get that you can’t dictate to people where they work, but you can negotiate and you can create a culture of being part of a team. Being a part of a team means being willing to play flex when you’d really prefer to be a QB. We all have to work together.

Moving AP’s from successful schools could also help with the equity issue. Replace those quality administrators that you move from successful schools with strong candidates of Hispanic, Asian, Middle-Eastern, and African-American backgrounds – yes, equity includes those of Hispanic, Asian, and Middle Eastern backgrounds as well. Let those minority candidates learn from successful programs instead of throwing them to the wolves at a high-needs school right out of the box. The way we train our potential principals now is like teaching kids to swim by just throwing them into the pool after some basic instruction.

(I should interject a quick shout out to Sonia Stewart here. I’ve been hearing very good things about her work with APs.)

If it was me, and many are glad that it is not, I would pay attention to principal trees like the NFL pays attention to coaching trees. Look around the district and count the number of successful administrators that served under Kessler, Woodard, Pelham, Battle, and Shrader. That’s sellable and replicable. But I doubt that there is anyone on the executive leadership team that is fluent in that history, much to the detriment of the district.

In the long run, I think Inglewood is going to be fine; that community has shown that they are too committed to letting that school be anything but successful. They’ve set a bar, and if expectations are as important as many ascribe them to be, the next leader better be bringing their “A” game. I happen to know one that would be a great fit, would increase the number of Hispanic principals, and has a track record of leading a school to reward status, but I’ll be quiet.

McPherson may or may not be successful in her new role of impacting all priority schools. By all accounts, she is wicked smart and dedicated. But there is a huge difference between managing a school with 260 students and managing multiple high-needs schools, some with much larger populations. Nick Saban trying to make the jump from the NCAA to the NFL or Rick Pitino trying to go from the NCAA to NBA come to mind. You can’t treat the players the same way when you make the jump. I do wish her luck though. She’s earned the opportunity.

Dr. Joseph recently bristled when newly-elected board member Fran Bush challenged him to become more proactive instead of reactive. This switch of school leadership during the year is a prime example of being reactive and illustrates what she is talking about. We can debate all day whether these moves are the right moves or not, but what is undebatable is the timing and lack of foresight.

These changes should have been made over the summer, when they would have been less disruptive. There is no information that is available today that wasn’t available 4 months ago. That’s what Bush means by being proactive, Dr. J. Make the move in a timely manner; don’t let the time be dictated to you. Dr. Gentry, you and the board need to pay attention as well.

QUICK HITS

At the last board meeting, Dr. Gentry used the closing minutes of the chair report – at about the 54:51 minute mark – to reference a work by conflict resolution trainer Judy Ringer about considering your purpose when engaging in communication. I’m not going into detail here, but the basic premise is that before engaging in conversation, think about what you are going to say and what it is adding to the conversation.

Good advice, but my response to Gentry is, “Physician, heal thyself.”

My challenge to her is to watch the whole board meeting and listen to the snide comments and innuendos she makes throughout, and then ask herself, “For what purpose are you making those comments? Are you truly adding to the conversation by making them?” I’m pretty sure that based on Ringer’s template, she’ll find that she has some work to do. But then again, Gentry has always been a “do as I say and not as I do” kinda gal.

MNPS finally put out their interpretation on recent WIDA scores. In their eyes, the results are pretty good:

The percent of English Learner students meeting or exceeding growth standard results increased with 47 percent of MNPS students meeting or exceeding their expected growth. This was an improvement from 42.5 percent in 2017. The district also surpassed the 2018 Annual Measurable Objective, or target, of 46.1 percent that was established by the state for MNPS. This improvement of 4.5 percentage points is equivalent to the statewide progress for English proficiency. Further, MNPS saw 14.7 percent of EL students exit service, which is a slight change over 2017 when 14.5 percent exited.

I concur for the most part, with some caveats. It should be noted that this is the third year we’ve surpassed the Annual Measurable Objective. The exit number is a little low and growth in that area needs improvement. We should be around 16-18%. Our elementary schools are doing exceptional work, but more work is needed in the higher grades. That said, all in all, it’s pretty good news.

Last week, I mentioned the improvement of surrounding counties’ performance on WIDA. It was pointed out to me that much of that could be attributed to the number of former MNPS EL teachers who have relocated to those surrounding communities. Teachers who have benefited from our world-class PD. Like district HR Executive Sharon Pertiller said at this week’s board meeting, MNPS is proving to be a great recruiter for outside districts. That’s got to stop.

Speaking of surrounding counties benefiting from former MNPS employees, the one thing that is missing from MNPS’s statement on WIDA scores is an acknowledgement of the contributions of former Executive Director of EL, Kevin Stacy. I don’t really expect them to acknowledge his stellar leadership, but I certainly want to offer one last thank you. Stacy now plies his trade in Clarksville.

According to an article in the Tennessean, Williamson County Schools is considering a new lead testing policy for their water. Per the policy:

With the testing performed every two years, school officials will look for lead levels below 15 parts per billion. 

If the levels sit between 15 parts per billion and 20 parts per billion, the district will conduct testing on an annual basis until the issue is fixed, according to the policy. 

As written, district policy further stated that if lead levels were found above 20 parts per billion, the school would have to remove the water source from service.

I hope every parent in WCS read that statement and immediately started dialing school board members. 20 ppb is way too high and is 5 ppb over the EPA’s recommended action level. That’s an action level, not a safety level.

As much as I hate the Red Sox, I hope y’all are enjoying the Mookie Betts Story. Just remember he’s a product of Overton High School via Oliver MS who retains close ties with the community. Great things have come from our schools.

Over at Volume and Light, Vesia Hawkins has an exceptional read. One that reiterates many of my points from above.

Here’s a question for you, why do so many want to give me advice, yet few are willing to heed mine?

Word on the street is that Dr. Joseph’s driver has amassed roughly the equivalent of a starting teacher’s salary in overtime over the last two years. The problem with substantiating that comes from a purported lack of documentation on said overtime. I’ll keep you posted.

Word out of MNPS schools, after yesterday’s professional development day, is that quarter 2 is going to be heavily scripted. Oh boy!

Yesterday, School board member Jill Speering had heart surgery. The surgery was scheduled for 8:30 AM. At 6:30 AM, a message came across my computer screen, “You up?”

Speering wanted to talk MNPS for a minute before her surgery. That how dedicated this woman is. She never stops putting the teachers and kids of MNPS ahead of herself. Some like to paint her recent battles with Dr. Joseph as being purely a battle over her support of Reading Recovery and his lack of support.

That’s not an argument rooted in fact. Dr. Joseph canceled Reading Recovery on the eve of the board presenting the 2018/2019 budget to the mayor. An action that came shortly after Jill Speering, along with board member Amy Frogge, called for an audit of MNPS finances.

Speering has worked too hard for MNPS teachers and families to allow her opponents to paint her as beholden to one program. The reality is Dr. Joseph made a miscalculation in thinking that he could control Speering by denying something important to her. That was a serious miscalculation.

Get well soon, Jill, but we got this till you are back.

That’s a wrap. 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.

 

 

 

 

TIME FOR A PALATE CLEANSER

Schools are about reading, writing, and arithmetic, but they are also about so much more. Public schools serve an essential role in our democracy and the building of community. They serve as a place where we can forget about our differences and focus on our commonality: a love for our children.

These days, as our society becomes more and more splintered, it becomes easy to lose that sense of community. We continually separate ourselves into smaller more rigid separate tribes – Democrat/Republican, Christian/Muslim, conservative/liberal, Vols Fan/Commodore Fan. We need to take the time to remind ourselves that we are all part of something much larger. We need to take time to reconnect with those who make up our children’s’ world.

I hear the stories from my eldest about her and her friends and tend to lump them into tales of a 9-year-old girl, but when I am provided an opportunity to really look at them, I realize just how different they are from each other. Yet they continually forget their differences to focus on what they share: a love of being around each other. Their joy in each other’s company is palpable and contagious. It’s a feeling I need to be reminded of.

Walk to School Day provides an opportunity to rekindle and share that joy. I look forward to it every year and never fail to leave with a sense of optimism about what is being created in our schools. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate every year.

Below are pictures from both Tusculum ES and McMurray MS Walk to School Days. May they bring you as much pleasure as participation brought me.

Love these schools, these teachers, these administrators, these kids, these families.

 

 

HOPE THE HIGH ROAD

I know you’re tired
And you ain’t sleeping well
Uninspired
And likely mad as hell
But wherever you are
I hope the high road leads you home again – Jason Isbell, Hope the High Road

“You know, it was a revelation to me to learn that I don’t have to be comfortable. Nowhere is it written that I must be comfortable. I always thought if I felt nervous or anxious or unhappy I had to do something about it. But I learned that’s not true. Bad feelings won’t kill me. Alcohol will kill me, but my feelings won’t.”
Lawrence Block, Eight Million Ways to Die

Things with MNPS have now reached the Op-Ed writing stage. Friday, school board members Amy Frogge, Fran Bush, and Jill Speering wrote a piece for the Tennessean on why it was time for a change in leadership. Earlier in the week, Rosetta Miller Perry wrote a piece for the Tennessee Tribune about how the white women on the school board were once again picking on Dr. Joseph – more about that in a minute that’ll explain my flippancy. Not to be outdone, former MNPS board member Mary Pierce chimed in with her own piece over the weekend.

Let’s take a look at these dueling Op-Eds. Or I should say the two by Pierce and Perry. Seeing as I obviously agree with the school board members’ words, I’ll just quote their closing statement:

“Enough is enough. We are failing our children. As some of Joseph’s strongest supporters when he first arrived, we now believe that it is time for change.” 

Before we get started with Mary Pierce’s muse, let me just say one thing. I like Mary Pierce. She can be very thoughtful, she genuinely cares, and she often offers solid insight, but for the life of me I can not understand her insistence on being Lex Luthor to Amy Frogge’s Superman. Or if you prefer, Thor to Frogge’s Loki. It’s like one long-running sequel to Mean Girls. If Amy Frogge wrote a post declaring the sky blue, Pierce would return with one about how it only appears that way but in actuality, there is no color.

Pierce was among the first to recognize that there were shortcomings with Director of Schools Shawn Joseph’s leadership skills. Whether she will publicly admit it, or not, is irrelevant because behind the scenes she was raising concerns and trying to push Joseph in a more productive direction long before people were publicly speaking out. I don’t believe that Pierce will ever be a publicly vocal critic of Joseph, that’s just not how she’s wired, but by the same token using a public forum to give Dr. Joseph cover by continuing a long-term personal feud when you are well aware of the real issues is a little disappointing. Per Pierce:

A new director will not redirect this board if individual members continue to insist that the district be run his/her individual way. Until our board members come to the table with an authentic, student-centered posture and are willing to look at whatever works for children, our kids–and thus our city–will not move forward.

I find a number of errors in this closing statements that illustrate a large chunk of the problem for most board members. First off, there seems to be this strange reversal of roles that has transpired since the hiring of Dr. Joseph. It is not his job to redirect the board, per board policy 1.205:

The board shall be responsible for specifying its requirements and expectations of the director of schools and then holding the director accountable by evaluating how well those requirements and expectations have been met. In turn, the director shall be responsible for specifying requirements and expectations for all administrators who report to him/her and then holding each accountable by evaluating how well requirements and expectations have been met.

That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? But like any policy or contract, it’s only good if it’s being enforced. And currently, that is questionable.

The second part of the Pierce quote is a head shaker for me as well. In a democracy, you run for office based on your individual perception of how the job should best be done. In others words, when I ran for school board, I ran based on a more active role for the board, more autonomy, and compensation for teachers, better facilities for schools, and increased services for English Learners. That’s how I thought schools should be run and if elected those are the things I would have fought for. Unfortunately, not enough people agreed with me, but that’s another story.

Frogge and Pierce have very different opinions on what’s best for students based on their own individual research. I could spend months tearing apart the merits of the research as conducted by both, but in the end, it’s irrelevant because they were both elected by their constituents based on the belief in their individual visions. Nobody cast a vote for either based on a perception of how they were going to modify their vision to best suit other board members.

I’ve always said I admired Pierce because the manner in which she served her constituents. Her views remained consistent with those she espoused while running, and therefore she represented those who elected her admirably. That should be recognized, noted, and applauded because it’s not always the case.

Frogge and Speering won their re-elections in 2014 handily. In other words, their visions resonated with people. Why would people elect someone whose vision for schools they agreed with and then not expect them to fight for that vision? In my opinion, this is what Pierce and the majority of the current board are missing. They were elected to their position based on a vision, so they need to fight for that vision. Frogge wasn’t elected because she shared a vision with Pierce – she had an opponent that did that and decisively defeated him. So why would you expect her to abandon that vision once elected?

For some reason, it seems to be lost in the shuffle that Speering is a career educator. One whose experience eclipses that of Dr. Joseph. It baffles me how we want to give teachers a JCrew gift card because they are so amazing, yet are quick to dismiss their insight based on a lifetime of experience. How do you think Jill Speering became such an ardent supporter of Reading Recovery? Do you think she heard about it a conference? Maybe a consultant told her about it? Or do you think it grew out of a lifetime of serving kids and seeing first hand its results as compared to other programs? It’s a ridiculous expectation. What should be sought out is where the visions overlap, but again, that is for another day.

When it comes to Speering, the charge that she is letting personal ideals get in the way of what’s best for kids is even more ridiculous. Do you think that in 30-plus years of classroom work, Speering never used another reading program? Clearly, based on a lifetime of research, she has come to the belief that Reading Recovery is the best program for kids. Why would you think that she would abandon a student-centered posture that has proven to work for children based on a half-assed research paper cited by a director who is clearly playing politics? In other words, by continually fighting for Reading Recovery, Speering is doing exactly what Pierce is calling on board members to do: fight for what is best for kids.

The most disturbing thing about Pierce’s whole piece is that once again she seeks to return us to the year 2014 and the fight over charter schools. It is a fight that based on results from the 2014 election has basically been settled. The electorate at that time indicated they were not clamoring for more charter schools and basically liked the way things were being handled. They further indicated that they were ready to move on in the conversation.

In the last 4 years, I like to believe that the conversations involving charter schools have matured. For myself, I recognize that some charter schools are doing really good work. Some not so much. Some traditional schools are doing really well. Some not so much. I just don’t have time to get bogged down in the debating of their merit when there are so many other issues demanding attention – teacher attrition, capital needs, discipline issues, etc.

I personally don’t believe at this time there is a need for more charter schools. If there was, I wouldn’t see recruitment signs for Valor Academy High School peppered along back roads in Nashville. Valor performs on a similar level as Hume-Fogg, yet I’ve never seen a single recruitment flier for Hume-Fogg. Beyond that, while I believe both schools are exceptional, I don’t think either has a model that is scalable. So why waste time debating?

Re-engaging in the charter school wars does nothing but give cover to an administration that is underserving our kids. I challenge you, the next time you see Ms. Pierce, ask her, “Do you think Dr. Joseph is adequately serving our kids? Which of his policies do you feel are setting kids up for success? Why do you think we are losing so many quality professional educators?” I’d be interested in what she has to say.

I could write more, but I think I’ve said enough for today. Oh… one last thing… those governance meeting agendas Pierce cited… could she send me a copy of those? Because I’ve never seen an agenda or minutes from a single board committee meeting or retreat in 4 years. Kind of a sticking point with me. You know, that transparency thing.

That said, here’s to hoping that Pierce continues to pen opinion pieces and stays engaged. We may not always agree, but I do believe Pierce offers a valuable and essential piece of the conversation.

THE TENNESSEE TRIBUNE ARTICLE

As I mentioned earlier, last week also saw the Tennessee Tribune leap to Dr. Joseph’s defense. Curiously, in an effort to defend Dr. Joseph, the article took board members Amy Frogge and Jill Speering to task for consistently failing to put children first. Yet nowhere in her article does she cite a single instance of kids benefitting from Dr. Joseph’s policies. Instead, she focuses on the board member’s actions, which have…

… taken on the appearance of a disgraceful reality show – struggling for ratings, high in poor taste, and lacking any semblance of class. Like the elements found in many reality shows, Frogge spews negative narratives about administration officials without facts, shares anonymous and baseless rumors, and makes obscure accusations and statements at Board meetings based on random conversations she says she has had with select employees.

That’s a nice trick, using obscure accusations and statements in order to accuse others of making obscure accusations and statements. Brilliant.

The most disturbing thing about this article, and Pierce’s as well, is the complete dismissal of new board member Fran Bush, an African-American woman. Bush has been every bit as critical of Dr. Joseph, and being a newer board member, has been less polished in delivering that criticism. Yet she receives nary a mention in either piece. Why do you think that is?

Former mayoral candidate jeff obafemi carr responded to a Facebook post by the three board members by evoking an image of Emmitt Till. When challenged about how that was possible since one of the authors was an African-American woman, he evoked the respected work of Dr. Joy DeGruy and accused me of attempting to use Bush in the role of a gatekeeper.

In her work, Dr. DeGruy spoke of issues of restorative justice and equity and the necessity of circumventing chosen gatekeepers that she has described as “Black folk who are sick and hate themselves more than others do, including self-loathing teachers, facilitators, leaders that don’t live in our communities yet become representatives and spokespersons for Black people.” That’s a pretty interesting take seeing as Ms. Bush actually does live in the community and was elected by a largely black electorate.

I don’t pretend to fully understand the implications of race and the many ways that systematic racism reveals itself. I am doing my best to learn and adjust my outlooks, but evoking images of Emmitt Till and other horrific acts when board members are simply trying to do their job doesn’t help. We would all benefit from studying the words of Dr. DeGruy, a nationally and internationally renowned researcher, educator, author and presenter. DeGruy calls for a robust and honest conversation on race, which is sorely needed. In reading her words, I did find this passage and feel that it fits here more than anything I could write:

Dr. DeGruy explained that what has happened to Black women is they feel racism from white women, sexism and racism from white men, and sexism from Black men. “Women of color are the oppressed of the oppressed with Black women at the bottom. And who does the Black woman raise? Black children. That is the cycle of oppression,” said Dr. DeGruy. “We have folk that are broken and no one looks at the weight of what it has taken to carry all of that.”

“If you want to save the village, you have to save the women,” Dr. DeGruy said. “If she is healed, her children are healed.”

I would urge everyone to not dismiss the words of Fran Bush just because she doesn’t fit the narrative you are trying to sell. That’s advice for people on both sides of the issues.

QUICK HITS

MNPS is hosting their annual School Choice Festival on Thursday. November 15. Join them to visit every Metro School in one place!

The state finally lifted their embargo on WIDA scores last week. WIDA is the test given to EL students to measure their growth and whether they are eligible to exit EL services. There is a lot more I need to write about this as I continue digging into the numbers, but in looking through the data I found both plusses and minuses. More minuses than I would suspect considering that for the last 3 years MNPS has been exceeding state goals.

MNPS educates the largest contingency of EL students in Tennessee and for the most part, we do a good job. In examining the data, the primary focus is on exit rates and the percentage of students making expected growth. Exit rates should be between 16 – 19%. This usually indicates that you are exiting students in a manner that ensures progress but is not pushing out kids too soon.

Exit rates were down a bit for MNPS this year with a rate of 14.7%. Students showing growth was slightly below the state average of 50% at 47%. Interestingly enough, some of the surrounding counties of Nashville have seen an influx of EL students and seem to be doing quite well in providing instruction. Rutherford, with 2,809 students, had a 20.5% exit rate and a growth rate of 54.9%. Williamson County has 559 students with an exit rate of 42.8% and a growth rate of 71%. Keep in mind, though, that they are serving a student population with an average literacy score of 3.9 compared to MNPS and other districts students having a score of 3. Wilson County had 473 students with an exit rate of 20.1% and a growth of 50.8%. Their literacy score was 3.4.

Like I said, still a lot more to dig in and write about. I do want to give a shout out to Norman Binkley ES, J.E. Moss ES, Lakeview ES, Mt. View ES, and Neely’s Bend ES. All produced scores significantly higher than state averages. We are also lucky to have Molly Stovall at the helm. Her presence should instill confidence.

I am a fan of Mt Pleasant Principal Ryan Jackson, though at times his intensity can be intimidating. His is an incedible story filled with passion. Check out what he has to say in the TNEd Report on changing school culture. It’s an important read.

POLL RESULTS

Wow! We got a lot of response to this week’s poll questions. Roughly 200 answers to every question. Let’s look at results.

On the first question, whom do you think Dr. Joseph takes advice from, 42% of you felt it all came from himself. The number two answer, at 25%, was “God I wish I knew.” Both are clear indicators that the good doctor might want to expand his circle of influencers. The only outside influencers that got significant votes were “his fraternity brothers” and “Will Pinkston.” Here are the write-ins:

He thinks way too highly of himself to think anyone would be worthy to advise him 1
No one. Absolutely no one. 1
Dude makes 337k while teachers suffer. He doesn’t care. 1
I think he’s just making shit up as he goes 1
Whoever he can manipulate 1
His own narcissism. 1
Tom Ward 1
Like Trump, he thinks he is beyond advice 1
Nobody. He acts like he doesn’t need anybody else. 1
Leadership books? 1
His frat brothers 1
He takes advice from those who stroke his ego in order to ride on his gravy train 1
His mentors 1
Illuminati or The Syndicate

Question number 2 asked for your suggestion for interim director in the event that Dr. Joseph’s tenure meets an untimely demise. Kind of a surprise for me here. Adrienne Battle, with 28% of the vote, was the clear winner. Battle is a product of MNPS and a long-time district educator. The district could do a lot worse. Chris Henson was number 2 with 20% of the vote and coming in 3rd with 20% of the vote was Tony Majors. Board chair Sharon Gentry received one vote. I’d like to take a moment to thank her for continuing to read my words. Or maybe it was Howard. Here are the write-ins, and there are a lot of them:

None of the above 2
Adrienne running things and JC communicating them 1
Bring back Dave Moore! 1
Can JC come back to help communicate? 1
Can Oden take over communications? 1
Ron Woodard with JC Oden running communications 1
TC 1
TC Weber 1
Dr. Hughes from JT Moore 1
Linda DePriest 1
Bring JC back to give media attention to teachers and students 1
Ricky Gibbs 1
Jill Speering 1
Dave Moore 1
None of these would be good 1
Dr. Angela Huff 1
Never Woodard 1
Battle & Oden 1
JC for Communications 1
Amy Wyatt 1
Bring back Woodard 1
Linda DePreist 1
Patti Yon 1
Somebody from Nashville who knows the system and won’t pay consultants to do work 1
David Williams 1
We miss JC’s jokes and culture building. That would be nice to have back. 1
Damon Cathey 1
Woodard 1
someone new 1
Bring JC Oden back please 1
None of the above. The winners were all let go. 1
Mary Catherine Bradshaw 1
JC back to communications please so someone will tell our positive stories. 1
Sonia Stewart – Todd Dickson, very bad idea 1
Comms Director – JC 1
I could do a better job 1
Can JC direct communications? 1
Aimee Wyatt

The last question asked for your thoughts on Senate candidate Phil Bredesen’s support of Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice. 35% of you said you were terribly disappointed, while 14% indicated that there was no reason that he shouldn’t. We’ll see how it plays out. Here are the write-ins:

It’s over. May as well call her Senator Marsha now 1
Digusting. I am sure the suddenly silent Will Pinkson agrees. 1
Great! Let’s dig up what every politician did when they were in high school 1
Appalled but with the other option being Blackburn unfortunately he will still h 1
Must have been advice from Pinkston. 1
He needs a win and he and Blackburn are neck in neck. It’s strategy.

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon. Peace out.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

5

“How much longer is this going to continue?”

“Surely they won’t be here past Christmas.”

“What is it going to take before somebody finally does something?”

“Nobody is ever going to do anything.”

“When are they leaving?”

That’s the chorus I am greeted with daily as another week in MNPS land comes to a close. A week that has been peppered with rumors of a principal meeting gone terribly awry, the continued unveiling of both a literacy plan and a priority schools plan – both of which appear to be neither, a social media policy whose enforcement and origin are both questionable, and yet another story from Channel 5 reporter Phil Williams about the MNPS administration playing hard and fast with the truth. In other words, just another week in MNPS land. A land whose inhabitation grows increasingly difficult. A place where after 2 years people still refer to the administration as “them.”

When I first started this blog, I used to chuckle that I felt like I was writing for the underground. Nobody wanted to admit that they talked to me, yet when I walked through the halls at schools I would get silent smiles and a thumbs up. But as time has gone by, things are continually getting less amusing as this administration has more and more taken on the role of an occupying force.

I’m currently reading a novel that utilizes Algiers and the French occupation as a backdrop. The similarities between France’s imperial colonist approach to governing Algiers and Dr. Joseph and his team’s approach to governing MNPS are not lost on me.

I can hear the groans now, “Come on, TC, that’s a little hyperbolic. Don’t you think?”

But think about it. The French believed that the people of Algiers were made up of ignorant people who needed the French to bring them to civilization and modernization. The French cultivated sympathizers but never allies. No matter how closely Algerians worked and collaborated with the French, the lines between the two never blurred. It was always the enlightened modern French and the uncivilized Algerians. Not much different from at MNPS.

I’m sensitive to the implications of comparing an administration made up of African-Americans with past imperialists that victimized countries made up primarily of people of color. However, I believe the analogy fits because of the way Dr. Joseph has conducted business. There has never been an effort for him to become ingrained in Nashville. Rather all efforts were made to convert Nashville to his way of thinking, much like occupiers throughout history.

There was never an effort to seek out the successes of Nashville educators and build upon them. Instead there was a continual reinforcing of the narrative that MNPS was a failing district in a state of crisis that required a savior, namely Dr. Joseph. The people on his team, abetted by certain members of the school board, did everything they could to compound that narrative.

Dr. Joseph and his team utilized local talent on some level, but only as long as they toed the party line and didn’t raise questions. Those who defied were quickly ousted. Walk through central office these days and you’ll see few faces that were present just a couple of years ago. If you want to stay employed, you better offer support even if you recognize bad policy.

I think back to Paul Changas’ impassioned words before the board a few weeks ago, claiming that nobody puts words in his mouth. Yet he continually supports Dr. Joseph’s use of MAP testing for things it was never intended to be used for, implicitly giving credibility to such usage. We continue to use MAP as a screener, which it is not designed for, and despite Special Ed students and English Learners not getting the accommodations that they are entitled to, Changas continually defends the fidelity of the data. In doing so, who is he fighting for, students or Dr. Joseph?

That may seem harsh towards Dr. Changas, and in all fairness, he’s not the only one guilty of such actions. There are plenty of others who offer up support to what they surely recognize as bad policy.

With the way that recent sexual harassment issues were handled, who were HR heads Deborah Story and Sharon Pertiller protecting? Was it the students and teachers, or was it Dr. Joseph? When the budget got messy last year and a call went out for people to speak at the board meeting, were they asked to support the budget or was it to support Dr. Joseph? Is the primary function of the Community Superintendents to look out for the interests of students, teachers, administrators, and families, or is it making sure none of those parties get too close to Dr. Joseph?

Look around you. Dr. J and his team have been here for 2-plus years, but where are the followers? You’ll find a fair amount of those who are “co-operators,” but do they really believe in the work? Do you ever read, or hear, an impassioned defense of the work being done in MNPS as directed by Dr. Joseph’s team?

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a criticism of teachers and administrators; they continue to go above and beyond and have success despite all odds. But do you ever hear someone say, other than Dr. J, that his policies put teachers and students in a position to excel? The best you’ll get is a shrug and a “some of it’s okay, I guess.”

While France occupied Algiers, Algerians realized that they needed to cooperate or face dire consequences. The French were entrenched and weren’t showing signs of leaving, so many compromised. Retribution for Algerians opposing the policies of the French was swift and harsh. MNPS is currently no different. As I told one of Dr. Joseph’s team members several weeks ago, people look at the examples of Vanessa Garcia, Scott Lindsy, Kris Elliot, Jill Speering, along with others and they see what happens when you oppose this administration. Programs get canceled, positions get eliminated, and your name gets publicly smeared.

Genghis Khan allegedly advised his sons that “occupations turn soldiers into jailers.” I have no idea if he actually said that or not, but it is certainly relevant here. The district is populated by more people operating out of fear rather than joy, and administrators seem unnaturally focused on compliance as of late. The district’s mission statement shouldn’t be “Exceeding Expectations,” but rather “If I can just hold on a little longer.”

I thought that up until recently teacher attrition had started to level off. Unfortunately, last week the stories of teachers leaving started to circulate again. Many are starting to plan their exits, and some are just walking out. Last Friday there were over 300 unfilled sub vacancies. That should concern people.

Word on the street is that a group of principals tried to discuss this, among other concerns, with Dr. Joseph. Details remain a bit sketchy, but from what I can piece together, these principals asked for a meeting with Dr. Joseph in order to try to mitigate some of the issues that have arisen and to attempt to forge an alliance with him to create better outcomes for kids. It was a small group and the expectation was one of a personal meeting between themselves and Dr. Joseph. Instead, the director chose to bring his pack of enablers and use the meeting not to listen but rather to reinforce the pecking order. Once again, another opportunity missed.

Dr. Joseph has referred to himself as a researcher at heart. As such, he should recognize that occupations never last. No country has ever successfully occupied another, and employing that strategy as a leadership model is only going to meet the same end.

Leadership is not a result of holding a position. I always tell young managers that you are not a manager or leader because you were hired for the position. You are a manager because those who you are tasked with leading have chosen to follow you. If they decide that they are no longer going to follow you, then you are no longer a manager, whether you hold the position or not. Just like Dr. Joseph says, you can’t remediate your way to success, and you also can’t fire to success either.

Those with options will exercise those options. There is nothing worse, and less indicative to success, than trying to manage people with no options. It’s not a recipe for success.

The question is fast becoming not when this will end, but rather how much damage will be done before it ends. My biggest fear is that people will continue to become disenchanted and in turn disengaged. I say hold tight and hang on because we are going to need everybody’s full involvement to right this ship. And we will be righting it.

Right now, three board members – Fran Bush, Jill Speering, and Amy Frogge – are beginning the process, but if you want the occupation to end, you have to get involved. This is too important to just sit on the sidelines and wait for change. We have to be the change.

WHOSE GOT HIS EAR?

Which brings us to the other question that I am often asked, and one I don’t have an answer for, “Who is Dr. Joseph listening to?” I subscribe to the leadership theory that a leader is only as good as those who advise him. In order to be a good leader, you must have strong, informed advisors around you. Advisors who are willing to offer well-researched counterarguments to both your other advisors and you. Everybody, I’m sure, remembers the book about Lincoln from a few years ago, Team of Rivals.

In my management career. I’ve always kept close people who wouldn’t take my first answer. People who would push me. At my last job I can remember that person saying to me, “I always feel like I’m annoying you.”

My response was, “You are and you should. Only by you pushing me will I dig deeper and in the end be better.”

So who is advising Dr. Joseph? Who is making him dig deeper and be better? I honestly can’t tell you.

There has been no indication that anyone on his executive team does anything but echo his pronouncements. Upon his hiring, the word was that it would be his mentor and former Maryland Superintendent of the year Jerry Weast who he would listen to. But over the last year, I’ve seen little indication that the two still communicate. And I can’t believe that based on Weast’s past successes, he would be a supporter of Joseph’s recent actions.

Some speculate that it is Nashville Public Education Foundation Director Shannon Hunt or Scarlett Foundation head, Tara Scarlett. I would point out, though, that while the organizations the two head have both readily given cover to Joseph’s missteps, neither of the two have deep educational backgrounds. Hunt’s background is primarily in politics and Scarlett’s is in business.

There has been some talk that Joseph has formed a bit of an alliance with the other urban heads, Shelby County’s Dorsey Hopson and Hamilton County’s Bryan Johnson. However, both of them seem to be on a different trajectory and several people have downplayed to me the relationship between the three.

Previous advisors have been former Baltimore Superintendent Dallas Dance and current Guilford County Superintendent, and fellow Learning Forward Board member, Sharon L. Contreras. Both of whom have had their own issues to deal with.

Let’s not forget that last spring, former Knoxville Superintendent Jim McIntyre was seen around executive meetings. That’s a scary one.

Perhaps he’s been listening to board members Sharon Gentry and Will Pinkston. After all, Pinkston’s been crafting his letters to the editor and the department of education.

Dr. Joseph has always been one to talk about his close relationship with Nashville Mayors. Maybe that’s who’s advising him. Though I’d argue about the quality of advice either could offer him.

It’s clear he’s not talking to anyone at the Tennessee Department of Education.

I thought it might be his fraternity brothers because he spends a great deal of time with them, but I’m told they function primarily in a support role.

So who is it?

I don’t know who it is, but I hope he’s thinking about expanding the circle because currently he is not being served well.

GUN VIOLENCE

“National Day of Concern – Students against Guns: Nashville Hope Dealers.” It will be held at Vanderbilt (John Seigenthaler Center – Lecture Hall) on Wednesday, October 17th, from 5pm to 7pm.

Just last year, Nashville experienced a 20-year high in homicide rates, which ¼ of the 108 murder victims were juveniles. On average, 15 juveniles are arrested daily in the “It City” of Nashville. Our youth should not have to ponder the question “Can I Live?” It is long overdue that we come together and make a stand to change the narrative of Nashville’s Gun Violence.

Participating as a city in the National Day of Concern with The Student Pledge is a way to start the conversation about gun violence with our youth that are affected first hand by these shootings. I truly believe, individually and collectively our young people are an incredibly powerful force for change, their voices are a vital component of the solutions needed in this city, and we have to provide space for their voices to be heard.

This is a city-wide event for youth organizations to network with families and informs them about services they provide for youth to help build resiliency. Youth will also be showcasing their talents through spoken word, speeches, graphic art, dance, and testimonies. There will be an area designated to The Pledge for families to sign as well as pay respects to youth homicide victims of Nashville. Our youth should not have to ask the question “Can I live?” Let us unite together and show them that “Yes, they can!”

My hope is that key stakeholder in our community from elected state and local leaders, to law enforcement and our judicial system, to local universities, to students and our families around the community will show up and unite together with a common goal: to pursue peace in an effort to reduce the shootings and homicides in the “It City” of Nashville.

QUICK HITS

Pearl Cohn High School recently opened a new health center in partnership with the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center. This should prove beneficial to both students and the community and is fantastic news!

Per MNEA, Community Conversations:

Suspensions, Expulsions, Arrests, and SOLUTIONS

Please join teachers and parents in a community discussion about solutions for discipline in elementary schools.

What supports do you really need to create a positive classroom environment?

We want to hear from you!

Meeting Opportunities:

Monday, October 8 at 6:00

Payne Chapel AME Church

212 Neill Avenue

Thursday, October 11 at 5:00

MNEA

531 Fairground Court

Attend if you can.

Over the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably heard me discuss the new study on the “Opportunity Myth” that was conducted by TNTP. Well, I was going to write something about it, but then I thought, “Why bother. Peter Greene will only come along and do it better.”

I wasn’t mistaken. I urge you to read Peter’s take on the opportunity myth myth.

Thanks to PENCIL and Nossi College of Art, students at Bellshire Elementary Design Center received a donation of new art supplies! Fantastic!

Will Hoge has a new album out. You probably out to check it out.

Wow! circulated 58,906 books in September! That is a lot of reading!

The U.S. Department of Education has named Metro Nashville Public Schools’ Hume-Fogg Academic High School as one of 349 National Blue-Ribbon Schools across the nation. The program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on overall academic excellence or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

“This is really exciting news for Hume-Fogg to be among the top performing schools in the country,” said Dr. Kellie M. Hargis, executive principal. “This is such a special honor and speaks highly to the quality of work, academic rigor and commitment to achievement that our students, faculty and staff strive toward every day.”

As the spouse of a Hume-Fogg grad, I say, “Way to go!”

That’s a wrap. 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.

A POWERFUL VOICE

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Today, MNPS Board member Amy Frogge posted a piece to her Facebook page calling out the way that Director of Schools Shawn Joseph conducts himself with women. It’s a powerful piece and one that I am sharing without permission because I believe the message is that vital. I also believe that it is important you understand the back story behind Frogge’s critical posts.

Shortly after becoming elected to the school board 6 years ago, Amy and I became friends. Our friendship grew out of our mutual love of public schools. Over the next 4 years, we worked together on a myriad of issues. Issues that took us from local schools to the courthouse to the state house and even national recognition. In those 4 years, I discovered a woman who is fiercely loyal to her family, committed to giving all kids a shot at a great education, courageous enough to always stand by her convictions, and committed to doing the research it takes to ensure that those convictions are rooted in the truth. One of my favorite conversations is the interview I conducted with her a few years ago.

The selection process that bought Dr. Joseph to Nashville, headed by then, and now-newly-re-elected, board chair Sharon Gentry, was dysfunctional at best. It proceeded with starts and stops, the first part ended in a scene right out of the movie Runaway Bride, outside interests were given way too much influence, and previously agreed upon procedures were disregarded at will. I remember offering Amy the cautionary advice that “Nothing that springs from corrupted ground will have the opportunity to grow uncorrupted.”

My advice was dismissed under a wave of optimism. Nobody was more optimistic than board member Amy Frogge. She was all in on the director of schools Shawn Joseph. The director’s family was not here for the first year of his tenure, and Frogge opened her home to him, often inviting him over to visit and socialize with her family and at community events. When questions were raised about the director’s decisions or practices, she staunchly defended him. In her eyes, we owed it to Dr. Joseph to give him every opportunity to succeed, even if it cost her personal friendships.

As that first year progressed, the friendship between Amy and I regressed. We went from talking three times a week to talking once a month. Where conversations had previously been filled with laughter and optimism, they grew terse and defensive. Amy’s husband Patrick, a man who I have deep respect for, and I ended up in a very heated conversation. We haven’t talked since, and I regret that.

Mine wasn’t the only relationship that suffered either. Other parent activists grew frustrated and became less involved. By the end of the first year of Joseph’s tenure, former supporters were openly asking on social media, “What the hell had happened to Frogge?” Amy remained staunch in her defense of the director though. Her commitment to our schools, and by de facto our director, superseded the need to be popular or appease friends. His missteps continued to be written off as rookie mistakes.

It wasn’t until this past budget season that Dr. Joseph let the mask slip and Frogge got a glimpse of what many of us have been seeing for a long time. The director’s words and his actions didn’t align. Even though she now realizes that she made a mistake, she could have easily remained silent and just continued to work against the director internally. She did try that for a little bit, but it was ineffective. And the evidence of the district heading in the wrong direction continued to mount, leaving Amy with few options.

Amy may deny this – but I know her well enough to know it’s true – the director could have fixed this at any time in the last 3 months. With a little introspection, a little humility, and a little cooperation, I firmly believe he could have, at least temporarily, brought her back into the fold. Unfortunately, someone must have once given Dr. Joseph the bad advice of “Never let them see you sweat.”

Nobody told him we like our leaders with a little more humanity. He has never made a serious attempt to repair the relationship with Amy. Instead, he has maintained a position that he is here to save a district that never asked for a savior, and we all will eventually acquiesce to his desires. It is a bad strategy headed for a bad outcome.

I think it is important that you know the back story so that when you read the words of Amy Frogge, you understand exactly what it took her to get to this point. For the first 18 months, she was fiercely loyal to Dr. Joseph. A loyalty that she didn’t surrender; rather it was a loyalty that was destroyed by the very person she bestowed it to. Her words aren’t written in anger or in a reactionary moment; rather they are words that have been mulled over and carefully chosen in order to fully impress upon people the severity of the current situation.

Once again, her position is coming with sacrifice. Former political allies quite frankly wish she’d shut up. Those whom she’s shown loyalty to for years suddenly seem incapable of reciprocation. I’m proud to have her as my friend. Hopefully, she considers me likewise, and I applaud her for always trying to do what she thinks is best. I hope that you read her words, and I hope those words lead you to action. Email your board members, write your council person, call the mayor.

Change is seldom easy and it’s often scary. It can also be exhilarating. We now know what we don’t want in a leader. We also have a greater appreciation of the people in the individual schools who care for our kids. Continuing on the same path will not lead to success. If you are honest with yourself, you know that.

Read the words of Amy Frogge and let them spur you to action:

Take a moment and watch this interaction between the Director of Schools Shawn Joseph and a female reporter. It’s important to note that this reporter was actually invited to the MNPS press conference, where she asked a perfectly reasonable (and pretty predictable) question: What would you tell the parents of children in priority schools?

Joseph is quick to put this female reporter in her place with a rude and unprofessional response. Rather than answering her question, he turns the tables on her, trying to bully her. After the press conference, Joseph’s fraternity brothers followed this reporter into the parking lot to harass her, telling her that her questioning of Joseph was not appropriate.

Joseph’s frat brothers had been asked to stack the press conference to show support for Joseph, lending a rather tone-deaf atmosphere to the event. Although the press conference was held to address the fact that the number of “failing” schools has more than doubled under Joseph’s watch, Joseph began the conference by saying, “Can I get an amen?!” The conference, which should have been quite serious, was strangely filled with cheers for Joseph himself. (Joseph, through fliers distributed with his photo on them, often requests that his frat brothers show up to board meetings and other events to cheer him on or to go after anyone who questions him.)

Certainly, people have bad days, and I would perhaps just disregard Joseph’s testy interaction with this reporter under another circumstance. But I have seen this sort of behavior repeatedly from our Director. While he can be very nice toward those to do not question him, he changes his demeanor toward those who raise questions about problems in the district. (It took me a long to time to see the problem, since I was very supportive of Joseph for the first year and a half of his tenure.) He particularly does not tolerate questions from females (no matter how professional or polite) and uses bullying tactics to avoid answering them. This sets a poor tone for the district, as it is his job to answer questions.

Joseph has tried to put me in my place (by threatening lawsuits, by telling me what I can and cannot say on the board floor and by inviting his frat brothers to meetings to call me out). He has tried to put Jill Speering in her place by cutting Reading Recovery (her favorite program that she championed for decades), thereby suddenly firing 87 Reading Recovery teachers, many of whom were Jill’s friends, with no plan in place to repurpose them. And Joseph is already starting to go after Fran Bush, the newest board member to question him. Joseph loves to use race as a weapon to protect himself, quickly labeling anyone who disagrees with him a “racist,” but I think he will find this tactic increasingly difficult to utilize as more begin to speak up.

This is the behavior of a bully, plain and simple. Joseph has banned employees from speaking to board members. And just yesterday, he actually banned employees from writing anything negative on social media about the district or its leadership. These are crazy times.

Since I have begun speaking up against problematic practices in the district, I have received hundreds of thank-yous from MNPS employees and parents, including flowers and gifts. Not a day goes by that I do not receive a call or message from a grateful employee. The usual message is: “We are hanging on by a thread. Please, please keep it up!” I have suggested that others must start using their own voices to address problems, but employees- and amazingly even parents- respond, “Oh, no- we know how vindictive he is!” Teachers, bus drivers, and other staff members know they will lose their jobs for voicing problems (they’ve seen what Joseph did with Reading Recovery as vengeance against Jill), and parents actually fear that Joseph will take funding from their schools or try to punish their children in some way if they speak up. Many are deeply afraid of being attacked along racial lines for voicing concerns; Joseph has done everything in his power to stir racial divides and anger in order to avoid being held accountable. Something is seriously wrong when we have arrived at this place.

Jill, Fran, and I am more than happy to keep standing up and to serve as a voice for the voiceless. I have stood up to bullies before; I have no fear and absolutely nothing to lose. I always outlast them. But for things to truly change, Jill, Fran and I cannot continue to be the only voices speaking for the community. We are doing all we can, but we need help. Please consider speaking up, even if you must remain anonymous and ask someone else to serve as your voice.