THE CASE FOR WORK FORCE HOUSING

“It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note – it’s the note you play afterward that makes it right or wrong.”
Miles Davis

“Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.”
Roger Miller

The closing of 2018 marked the conclusion on the fifth year of Dad Gone Wild. That first year just shy of 14 thousand people visited the website. Last year it was 60, 331. That’s some nice growth over 5 years and I’m pretty proud of it.

I don’t attribute the growth to any brilliance on my part. My success is firmly rooted in the conversations and stories that professional educators tell me. Dad Gone Wild was founded on the premise that not enough people listen to those that do the work and I try to remain true to that vision.

Sure I’ve got opinions, and I’ll fight for those, but if they run counter to the prevailing wisdom of those in the classroom than I need to adjust. That’s not to say all teachers subscribe to the same strategies, they certainly come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but if you talk with a wide variety of teachers, some common themes will emerge.

It’s not just enough to talk either. It bears repeating, that if you want honesty from people you have to earn it. You have to demonstrate that you truly care what their opinions are and that you are not just trying to use those opinions to prop up your own. Teachers are to busy to just volunteer detailed and honest opinions without some sort of evidence of actual interest. I’m extremely appreciative of all of you that have taken me into your confidence and hope you will continue to do so in the future.

Here’s hoping 2019 is a good one. The goal this year is to have 100k visit the site. In order to reach that goal, I plan to keep on shining light in corners that others would prefer to remain dark. Also, I plan to celebrate the wins where we can find them.

At some point in the next month, I want to find some time to tell you about Nashville’s educator’s co-op. There are also some parents who are members of Nashville Rise that have stories that need telling and I’d like to share those as well. January marks the advent of a new education advocacy group, Pastors for Tennessee Children and I look forward to highlighting their work throughout the year.

In short, there is plenty to write about in the foreseeable future and I thank you for your support. I plan to continue to earn it every week in 2019.

WORKFORCE HOUSING

School board member Gini Pupo-Walker wasted no time in communicating her vision for 2019. On Wednesday she released a newsletter outlining her objectives and goals for the coming year. Among those goals,

I hope to participate in efforts to create workforce housing for teachers in Nashville, and to build on the success of other cities that have been able to do so.

Ok…she then followed up with a tweet calling attention to an article from FastCompany talking about cities in the Silicone Valley considering turning old schools into teacher housing. The reaction was fast and furious, teachers were not impressed with the idea. But let’s think this through for a minute, there is a lot of opportunity in this idea.

Of course, success is all tied in to the implementation. You’d have to give the communities catchy names – Teacher Hills, Education Heights,  Pedagogical Park, Dewey Gardens. Names perceived as attractive to teachers, you don’t want it to look like this is just a way to not pay people what they are worth.

First of all, Nashville has a traffic problem. If a large number of teacher lived together then you could just run buses to schools in the morning and evening. That would reduce pressure on our roads and maybe reduce some rush hour congestion.

Teachers have shown in the past that they are all too willing to work for free on the weekends and after school, but that means granting access to buildings and requires extra trips to school. But if teachers all shared a common residential area, and that space contained some quality meeting rooms, we could be getting a lot more free work time. They could also take time watching each other’s kids, freeing up even more time.

These days mixed-use buildings are all the rage, so there is no reason that proposed teacher housing couldn’t have a few restaurants or retail stores. This would give easy access to teachers to supply that second job most find themselves needing. No more running all over town trying to secure secondary employment, it’d be at their fingertips.

Teachers already spend a considerable amount of money on supplies for their classrooms, so if the district went into partnership with these retailers and restaurants, some additional revenue could be brought in for the district through teacher purchases. Put a Michaels, Wal-mart, or Target on-site and watch the cash roll in. Can you imagine what a Starbucks in Teacher Heights would bring in?

A green movement is afoot across the country, so including garden spaces would be a perfect fit. This would help teachers save on food costs. Of course there would be a little expenditure for extra freezers and canning courses, but still I can envision a lot of savings here.

Since we are always trying to increase the number of quality teachers, housing could be a nice incentive in order to pick up their game and secure that coveted 5-star rating. It could put a little meat behind those TVAAS scores. Teachers who are five would have the lowest rent and two’s would risk eviction.

This plan could help with teacher retention, quit your job, lose your home. After all, if you are not a teacher you obviously can’t live in teacher housing. Sorry, better stick around for a few years.

Now obviously, I am being sarcastic with all of this, but don’t think these thoughts haven’t crossed anyone else’s mind. Walker, as someone who has worked closely with teachers, should have known how teachers would react to her suggested article. It’s demeaning on so many levels and runs counter to constant calls to have the “best and brightest” become teachers. Why would the best and brightest become teachers and live in district housing when their peers are taking jobs making substantially more, and buying homes in desired locations?

Walker defends her ideas, by sharing that,

As a beginning teacher in Seattle I would have loved living in a community of other teachers in housing that allowed me to address my college debt. It’s one idea for a city that too expensive for many Nashvillians.

Psst…how about the district begins with a loan forgiveness plan?

Her quote further demonstrates a crucial flaw in our teacher retention plans, we continually direct our efforts towards the newest teachers, while nothing is done to hold on to those professional educators with 5 years or more years of experience. Whether it’s workforce housing or scripted curriculum, all are proposed with those young teachers in mind. But here’s a news flash, nobody really wants to dedicate 4 to 5 years preparing for a job they are only going to do for 3.

Ah…but now you are catching on TC. This isn’t supposed to be about making teaching a long-term profession. Older teachers are pesky. They know stuff. They have expectations. They demand stuff. Far better to have a workforce made of primarily young teachers.

You want to keep a few old ones around so that the local paper can now and then do a feel-good human interest story and the district can throw an occasional heartwarming retirement potluck retirement party, but it’s those young ones that should be our bread and butter. If we can just hold them for 3 – 5 years…

You know who else this plan would be perfectly tailored to? Teach for America corps members. As quoted in a 2015 article in American Prospect about teacher housing,

WHILE McDOWELL COUNTY’S “teacher village” won’t be the nation’s first, others are generally found in urban areas, and have been constructed largely without the involvement of the local teachers unions. In fact, partners more closely aligned to the educational reform movement have led them—those with ties to charter school networks and organizations like Teach for America.

Back at the end of the last decade, the economy was in shambles and college graduates were having trouble finding jobs that paid a decent salary. Teaching seemed like an interesting enough thing to do for a couple of years while you waited for the economy to rebound and TFA made it possible to enter the classroom with only 5 weeks of training. But the economy has rebounded, recruits are harder to secure, and a new hook is needed. Teacher dorms or villages seem to fit the prescription.

Nashville has a history of trying to cater to TFA. Former Mayor Karl Dean held fund-raisers at his house in order to entice them into setting up shop in town. Many believed that they were going to supply those high-quality teachers so desperately desired. A belief I never shared and truthfully, my activism is rooted in the arrival of Teach for America.

Back in those glory days of the early part of the decade, TFA was getting $6500 a teacher from the city and $5k from the state. That’s pretty good money and the coffers quickly filled. The rise of TFA allowed for district administrators to begin ignoring their veteran teachers because there was this endless supply of fresh, young, bright faces ready to take the place of those crabby old vets. And who cares if these new ones left after 3 years, there was always going to be another batch right behind them. Another batch that wouldn’t bother administrators with their opinions garnered through experience.

With the rise in reliance on TFA, teaching became more and more perceived as something you did for a couple of years before you got on with your life. The perception took root that it was a job any smart person could do, after all, look at the results these corp members were getting with only 5 weeks of training.

Unfortunately, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. First, the economy got better, which led to TFA having trouble filling their quota. Why spend any time teaching when you can get right to putting money in the bank? Soon people started to realize that not everybody could become a teacher. Didn’t you ever wonder why successful atheletes so rarely transfer into a successful career in coaching? They realization that TFA was in actually hurting the profession grew. People began to refer to corp members as “educational tourists” and many districts began to cut their contracts. (Nashville’s contract comes up for renewal in February)

It seems like bad ideas don’t just go away though. Somebody always comes along and trying to prop them up. The New Teacher Project, a contemporary of TFA, just received around 100K in professional development contracts from MNPS despite the lack of any individual  schools previously using them for professional development. Walker, who falls into the “don’t call me a reformer” camp undoubtedly recognizes the value of her ideas to Teach for America. So here we go again.

There has been so much conversation around the teacher shortage that by now, even the most casual observer, let alone one who has been in the trenches for decades,  should be able to get a read on what is needed to address teacher recruitment and retention. It’s a salary that is compatible with peers of similar educational levels. It’s respect and the recognition of the amount of training teachers do in order to become teachers. Allow them to apply that expertise and experience. It’s simple but not easy.

It’s not my intention to personally attack Ms. Walker and I’m glad that she is thinking about teacher compensation. A later tweet list some better alternatives and recognizes the need to increase salaries.

It can take the form of tax credits, low interest loans, assistance with buying homes or apartments, and yes some cities renovate old schools into lofts for staff. It is one idea among many to help with affordability – but does not replace the urgent need to increase pay.

Still, the initial idea is a window into people’s perception about teachers and the profession and cannot be allowed to go unchecked. There is a reason for the growing teacher shortage and it begins with us and our perceptions.

QUICK HITS

Last week an article on NPR brought to light that LEAD Academy, whom brags about their 100% graduates college acceptance rate, has a policy that makes college acceptance a graduation requirement. MNPS’s charter school executive Denis “nothing in my hands” Queen offers his opinion on the policy, “In order to receive a diploma from the state of Tennessee, I don’t believe you can make that a requirement.” Note that he doesn’t really know, just believes. The article says that MNPS’s Charter office which oversees charters is still consulting legal experts on whether mandating college acceptance is illegal. At 160K a year, shouldn’t we know by now?

Next Tuesday is a scheduled board meeting. A glimpse at the agenda shows that rumors are not true, Bone Mcallister will not be sharing the results of their HR audit with the board. Word on the street is that the report is not finished. The cynic in me says that the report is being delayed because certain board members were unable to hold a closed-door executive session last week like they desired.

Such a meeting would have allowed the board an opportunity to get a glimpse at the report and begin formulating a positive narrative before it was presented for general consumption. Hard to get a dog and pony show together when you don’t have time to give the dogs and ponies their script. That’s not directed at Bone Mcallister, who has a stellar reputation, but rather certain actors on the board who like to exercise control.

Speaking of those actors, there is a proposal on the agenda to give FourPoint Education Partners an additional 40K in order to accomplish the following three tasks: (1) develop and deploy a formative evaluation of the Director, (2) redeploy the Board self-assessment and facilitate a Board retreat, and (3) refine and deploy the summative evaluation of the Director. Actually, it’s 40k plus. At what point does the board become able to conduct an evaluation on its own?

Furthermore, it’s my understanding that half the board members haven’t been attending retreats. Shouldn’t participation be secured before money is spent on an outside organization facilitating a retreat? Just saying.

A look at the board calendar shows some interesting scheduling as well.

  • 1:30 – 3:00 Executive Meeting
  • 3:00 – 4:00 Budget Committee
  • 4:00 – 5:00 Governance Meeting
  • 5:00 – ?        Board Meeting

Kinda appears like a retreat to me right there. Raise your hand if you think this is a productive schedule. Does anyone really believe that Pinkston, who hasn’t been able to sit through a whole meeting yet in the last year, will even make it through half of this schedule? The governance committee meeting could be the most interesting of the lot. Last year the board moved away from policy governance and I’m not quite sure all the board members realize it yet.

In response to my post earlier this week, several MNPS veterans reached out to remind that way back in the day, when MNPS Executive Officer Tony Majors was principal at Glencliff, he didn’t play. Majors was known as a tough administrator who was willing to wade in and break up a fight if needed. I knew Tony back in those days and can attest, that he practiced a discipline policy a whole lot different from how he preaches it today. Students loved Majors, but also had a healthy dose of fear of him. I suspect a little more of the old Majors model would be welcome.

Remember when criticism of TNReady was countered by the argument that we should have stayed with PARCC and it all would have been avoidable? Yea...how’s that working out? Some states are actually putting students first.

Belated congratulations are in order for former MNPS communications specialist Jenny Pickard. Pickard started a new position with the Hamilton County Department of Education back in October. Now I know why the number of social media stories has dropped off since the Fall.

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. Lately, I’ve been trying to promote local school’s teacher of the year winners. Send me a picture of your winner and I’ll be happy to promote them.

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. To those of you who pledged money this past week, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions.

 

 

 

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8 thoughts

  1. I know all too well of Majors reign at Glencliff. He is a hypocrite and is responsible for the unsafe schools that exist because he has pushed policies that he knows harm children simply because it keeps him fat and happy. The affordable housing spectacle demonstrates that just because someone is an educator doesn’t mean she knows or cares about teachers. Pay teachers and let them work out housing on their own. Loan forgiveness paid for by the district is absurd too. Pay teachers and they can pay their loans or get a house or a car or whatever they want. Pupo Walker has been a huge disappointment to educators and her constituents.

  2. “Last year [readership] was 60, 331. That’s some nice growth over 5 years …”

    Congratulations, and many thanks both for your diligence at posting regular reports, and for your effort to be faithful to lift the veil, report truthfully, be an advocate for both teachers and students. Your posts should be required reading for our Mayor, Metro Council Reps, Metro School Board Reps, and @MNPSDirector.

  3. 1. On the subject of the 40k evaluation: Throwing money at an already costly problem is generally a waste.

    2. On the subject of Ms. Pupo-Walker: We are watching.

    Thank you TC for continuing this good work!

  4. Today the NY Times did an article on the concept of Teacher Housing.

    It is not quite how Ms. Walker envisions it but the irony is that regardless it is very NIMBY and it is for Teachers.. educated professionals!! Funny how they have no problem giving millions to corporations for land.. what is now for the Nashville Yards? Another 15M on top of the 15M, along with the Amazon incentives. Yes once again Teachers are the Welfare Queens apparently. Ah remember that one? Good times!

    I would love Teacher Housing for the oldsters then the new Teachers could sit at their feet and hear back in the day stories. Yes work/life balance is not for the Teacher. We could make Apple IPods like the Chinese and then Make America Great Again. And for the record Reagan said that first. The 80s.. good times!

    1. Actually the city did not end up giving amazon tax relief. They did pay I think a few million in per-job incentives but small potatoes. It’s the state of tn that coughed up real dough it seems. They’ve sealed the records for five years so it must be big.

      1. This is what the city did give… they held up the original plan dollar for dollar.

        Nashville’s initial lure for Amazon’s second headquarters was an annual $500-per-job grant and 50 percent off property taxes for 15 years, according to the original incentive offer released by Metro officials Thursday afternoon.

        For 10,000 workers, that would have amounted to a $5 million-a-year payment and a total 15-year cost of $75 million, according to the letter signed by then-Mayor Megan Barry.

        In addition, the city pledged a host of other incentives — including fully funding any needed connection to a planned mass transit system.

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