“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.”
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
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
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
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. Dave Ramsey recently visited the Antioch MP Bears, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.