TIME TO DIVE BACK IN

“Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful!’ and sitting in the shade.”
Rudyard Kipling, Complete Verse
“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.”
John Paul Jones
Nineteen years ago I took a fateful trip up River Road and began the journey to sobriety. It wasn’t easy then and it isn’t easy now. This last year has been one of the hardest. I’ve faced challenges that I thought were firmly in my rear view mirror. There was more than one time where it felt as if I was on a fool’s errand. If I’m going to face the same harsh realities in sobriety as I did drinking, what’s the point?
 
I don’t have the answer to that one yet, but I am secure in the belief that today is better than yesterday because I didn’t pick up. So by the grace of God, here I am.
 
Today is a celebratory day, but I do want to climb up on my soapbox if you’ll indulge me. It may not be the time, nor the place, but hell, I earned it right?
 
Yesterday on Twitter I saw State Rep.Jason Powell self congratulate on helping Tennesseans be able to buy wine in the grocery store on a Sunday. As if alcohol wasn’t already readily available and the masses were being denied access.
 
To me, it is just one more subtle way we send a message to addicts that they are abnormal and that self-control is what addiction is rooted in. I know that it seems a harmless and petty point, yet for many of us, it just presents one more hurdle to overcome.
 
I wish that all could see, just one time, what the view of the shelves of wine and beer at the grocery store look like through the eyes of an addict. The view is not unlike a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
 
We continue to become a society that makes it easier and easier for its population to self medicate and disengage. That doesn’t come without a price. A price that for many, isn’t hypothetical and is often paid by the youngest, and most innocent, of our members.
 
As a father of two children I wish we were more cognizant of the unintended messages, we send out. We glamorize and grant easy access to behavior that for many results in devastating consequences. Sure the vast majority are able to indulge with limited consequences, but perhaps a little more compassion wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
 
I wish that we gave more support to those that are hurting and acknowledged that for a large swath of our population the use of alcohol and drugs is not an indulgence that comes without cost. But as the author Don Winslow writes, “There are the gods of place and the gods of commerce, and if you have to bet who’s going to win out, put your money on money every time.”
 
Enough of that though. Time to step off the soapbox. As I do every year I recognize that I haven’t arrived at this point in life without some serious help. It was Jack Nance that took me up that road 19 years ago and provided the support and guidance in order to help me make it this far. He did this in spite of the pain I’d caused his daughter over the previous years.
 
He’s been gone a number of years, but I still hear his voice daily. I’m sure he’s chuckling at the thought that his advice is still being heeded years after being offered. He was a good man and while I’ll never understand his choice to help me, I am eternally grateful.
 
Without my precious wife Priscilla, I probably would have stepped off this road long ago. She gives me the reason to try to be a better person every day. I know I don’t say it or show it to her enough, but I am perpetually grateful that she has chosen to be a part of my life. Being married to me ain’t an easy thing, but she does it with such grace. I can’t imagine the journey without her.
 
My children didn’t get to choose but seem to be adapting well. They are always my inspiration and my strength. My son likes to refer to me as “number 2” and claims to be better than me at everything. May that remain forever true.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ashley Angeline Robinson, Jack’s granddaughter. She was 16 when I got sober and looking towards me for guidance. Something I took very seriously. She forced me to daily ask the question of if she walked through the door at any given moment would I be able to explain my actions. Something I continue to do today, but in regards to Peter and Avery.
 
The countless friends, both old and new, that I have been blessed to share this journey with. You have all enriched my life in ways that can never be measured. Life saw a way to not give me the friends I would have chosen, nor the ones I deserved, but rather the ones I needed. I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.
 
Rebecca Panneton deserves special recognition. When I was a drunk she’d pick me up and take me out. No matter how abhorrent my behavior got, she never judged. In the early days of sobriety, she helped me navigate the waters in the same subtle ways. To this day she remains a better friend to me and I my family than I will ever be to her. Thank you.
 
19 years marks a milestone. I have now officially been sober longer then I was a drinker, but in my heart, I will always be a drinker. That means for 19 years I’ve engaged in an unnatural act. Thus the internal struggle.
 
Life is challenging and it’s hard. There are no guarantees. Getting sober doesn’t mean money problems end, or that you are always comfortable in your own skin. It doesn’t mean that you’ll always make the right decisions, or that you’ll suddenly have all the right answers. It does mean that you are facing life on life’s terms, that you are not hiding, and for me, today, that’s the only way to live.
 
So today I raise a glass, and put it back down, as I move on down the road. See you back here in 365 days for number 20. By the grace of God, life is better today than it was yesterday.
TO THE BUSINESS AT HAND
All good things must come to an end, and today winter break is officially over for Metro Nashville Public Schools. Teachers report this morning and students arrive tomorrow. Thanks to a recently signed MOU, only 3 hours of today can be spent in professional development. The rest of the day is for planing.
Tomorrow is the first school board meeting of the year. As I wrote on Friday, it is going to be a full day for school board members. Meetings start at 1:30 with an executive session where reportedly board members will be briefed on the sexual harassment lawsuits the district is facing. There is also a budget committee meeting and a governance committee scheduled before the full board meeting.
There is no indication of what will be discussed at these committee meetings, as no agenda is available to the public. Over the last several years the board, in an effort to streamline the main meetings, has moved the bulk of business to committee meetings. A move that does not convey a commitment to transparency. What stakeholder will be able to show up in the middle of the afternoon to attend a meeting that they have no idea what will be discussed? Sometimes hiding in plain sight is the best strategy.
One item that I initially failed to notice was this one,

VENDOR: Learning Forward

SERVICE/GOODS (SOW): Contract for the continuation of the Redesign Professional Development (PD) Community membership. Learning Forward’s Redesign PD Community is a network that convenes and supports school systems dedicated to addressing specific problems of practice in professional learning. The network uses continuous improvement principles and processes to focus systems on discovering new practical solutions to strategically complex professional learning challenges.

SOURCING METHOD: Exempt (Membership)

TERM: July 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019

FOR WHOM: MNPS Executive Leadership Team and Staff

COMPENSATION: Annual membership fee: $35,000.

Total compensation under this contract is not to exceed $35,000.

OVERSIGHT: Chief of Schools

Notice who’s in charge of oversight? That would be Learning Forward Board of Trustees member Shawn Joseph. Do I need to bring up Dallas Dance again? Dallas Dance who Joseph brought in as a member of the transition team? As a side note, I’d keep that transition team list handy and every time somebody publicly defends Dr. Joseph I’d refer to it. Odds are you’ll find them on that list.

It seems anymore that everybody has some kind of financial connection to an entity that does business with MNPS. Sharon Gentry does work for the Arbinger Institute. Gini Pupo-Walker works for Connexion Americas. Christiane Buggs works for NPEF via the Blueprint for Literacy as a project manager despite being a math and science specialist. Will Pinkston guards his client list like its the Dead Sea Scrolls, but its long been believed that SEIU and MNEA are among his clients. Does this not bother anyone?

We are heading into budget season. It has been contended that last year MNPS did not get the funding it requested due to a lack of trust. There was a concentrated effort to lay the blame for that lack of trust at the feet of those board members who have been critical of the district’s spending. But I’d ask how do Dr.Joseph’s, and other board members, financial relationships instill confidence? It seems like everyone is benefiting but the schools.

I would argue that at the very least Dr. Joseph should have publicly disclosed his relationship with Learning Forward and recused himself from the role of oversight. But apparently, that’s not how we roll anymore. At one time the very appearance of unethical behavior was grounds for it being declared unethical, now it’s free rein and appearances be damned.  [Correction: Chief of Schools is actually Sito Narcisse. So technically Joseph probably did recuse himself. Still raises questions in my opinion.]

HERE WE GO AGAIN

Over the weekend OneNashville held its bi-weekly meeting. OneNashville is a community organization dedicated to improving life in Nashville. Per it’s Facebook page,

Every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month One Nashville hosts the Community Awareness Networking Breakfast where good people connect and learn about positive opportunities and services in our city. One Nashville is a fun way to do civic engagement and create that better world. Make and meet awesome friends and partnerships. Positive People Producing Powerful Awareness And Practical Answers. All persons are welcomed to become part of the One Nashville Dialogue and Information Network. Hear or know anything that help others you can post here and come to the awesome breakfasts and make sure good people are made Aware!

It is an incredible organization that contributes greatly to the quality of life for Nashville residents. Saturday’s meeting was focused on education. Mayor Briley spoke, as did state representative Brenda Gilmore. Former school board member, and current CM, Ed Kindall spoke as well.

In addressing the crowd, Kindall painted his time on the board as a picture of harmonious interaction. Which it was not. During his tenure, the board was especially light on oversight. Kindall had a front seat on how not to handle a sexual harassment lawsuit. In reality, things weren’t much different than they are today. If anybody knows, the challenges involved with being a school board member, it is Kindall.

Despite that knowledge, he decided to share personal texts from current school board member Jill Speering. A move that baffles me.

The verbiage, taken in a racial context, is not good, but I don’t believe for one minute that was Speering’s intent. To take the wearing of masks as a racial conniption also means that you don’t believe that any African-American educators are dissatisfied with Dr. Joseph. Something we all know is not true. Just like not all white educators are unhappy with him.

It also means that you ignore the question of why would teachers be afraid? Why is the wearing of masks even a consideration?

I have long argued that Nashville is in need of a deeper conversation on race. One that unites, instead of further divides us. This situation presented a teachable moment if Kindell had chosen to take it.

Instead of going public, how different would the conversation be if he extended the professional courtesy to Speering of picking up the phone and calling her? Does he even know who she sent those texts to? Does he know the context? Has he taken a moment to talk to teachers in order to find out just how bad they are hurting? He just assumed a nefarious intent and then made it racial in order to further his own agenda, one that includes protecting Dr. Joseph at all costs.

Now we’ve got people on both sides trying to draw people to tomorrow’s meeting. A meeting that is coinciding with the first day back from school for kids. How many actual stakeholders will navigate tomorrow and then navigate rush hour traffic in order to get to Bransford Ave to participate in an action that is widely considered futile? My guess is that few will make the trek.

The lack of attendance doesn’t mean that we won’t be left with the residue from another incident that will only make it harder to have that needed conversation about race. We can’t continue to try and shame people into changing their behavior. It just creates further resentments. Kindall has been at this game long enough to know how it all plays out in public. He should remember what happened when he and his fellow school board members tried to ignore teachers and parents a decade ago. It didn’t end well for the director or the school board. Why would he believe the outcomes will be different this time?

Perhaps Speering shouldn’t have sent out the text message. Perhaps she shouldn’t have tried to solicit stakeholders to come let their voices be heard. I personally don’t know what other alternatives are open to her. Joseph controls the data and constantly spins it, much like Garcia, in a manner that benefits him and creates the illusion of progress. Board members refuse to listen and teachers refuse to talk to those who’ve publically turned a deaf ear. So again I ask, what else should she do other than emulate what so many of our teachers have already done, close the door, teach to the best of their ability and look for a job elsewhere?

Personally, I’m proud of her and impressed by her willingness to fight for a system that has treated her so badly for the last year. Treatment that has negatively impacted her personal health. Her treatment has been indicative of how we treat all our teachers. We act as if they haven’t been in the classroom but a single day, and we readily dismiss their insight in order to further our own agenda. We take every chance we can to undercut them and paint them in a negative light, all the while professing our love and respect. Despite it all, Speering continues to rely on her hard-won experience and refuses to be deterred by any of her perceived missteps. You may not agree with all her methods, but I absolutely love her commitment and admire her strength. She is obviously cut from the same cloth as many of our teachers.

It was no easy recovery for MNPS from Pedro Garcia and it took many, many, years to undo the damage done. This time won’t be any easier. We have lost so many talented professionals to surrounding districts and greener pastures. It’s going to take all of us pulling together to fix this thing and if we tear each other apart before Dr. Joseph leaves, it’s going to be virtually impossible to restore our school system. We are going to need leaders we can trust in order to pull it off. Leaders that have the ability to communicate and support each other.

POLL REVIEW

Let’s take a look at the results from the weekend.

First up is the question about workforce housing. Out of 120 respondents, 67 of you or 56% of you replied, “How about a living wage and some respect?” The number 2 answer with 14% of the vote was, “I can’t even.” 1 person said sign me up. Since her initial post, Pupo-Walker has tried to walk back her pitch by claiming she was talking mortgage help and low-interest rates as well as developing teacher houses. Most aren’t buying it and continue to be appalled by the proposal. At some point we need to actually listen to the people we are trying to help.

Here are the write-ins:

Hahahaha! 1
Asbestos, mold, bugs…Teachers deserve better! 1
Respect outweighs anything else! 1
I can’t even. Add to Worst.Ideas.Ever. #livingwage #affordablehousing #respect 1
Walker needs to talk with teachers before she publ 1
Isn’t that what we’re already doing. Extra hours every day, morning and night. 1
My family of 5 would get a lot of benefit out of it. ????????‍♂️ 1
It makes sense for Silicon Valley, so maybe Nashville is getting there too 1
It’s impossible for mid career teachers to afford to have children here. 1
Why not just convert an old jail into housing?

Question number 2 asked you were feeling about the pending return of kids to classes. Out of 103 respondents, 42, or 41%, answered, “ready for the kids but not the…”. The number two answer with 22% was, “I guess it’s time.” Only 4 people indicated that they could wait to get back and 7 said they weren’t going back. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Here are the write-ins:

Eh. Whatever. 1
Glad I retired and thankful I did not retire with a disability. 1
Found out we are doing CKLA so I’ve been branded as an inept educator 1
Half way there 1
Like a little more time, but our kids need to get 1
wish for more break 1
I dread the back-to-school PD more. 1
I’ve wasted my last two days dreading going back.

the last question sought to solicit your feelings on the extra 40K for the director evaluation tool. Out of 109 responses, 62 votes, or 57%, labeled it just more waste. Needless to say the idea is not a popular one.

Here are the write-in votes:

This is why I work the clock. 1
The BoE should be capable of carrying out an evaluation. 1
Fuck that 1
Just listen to teachers and it costs NOTHING 1
If this if 40K for propaganda, #wtf. Past time to show him the door. 1
what are we paying SB members for? their 1 job is to hire and fire the Director 1
Just another way to avoid doing the evaluation. 1
Pisses me off. 1
Could fund a couple of much needed parapros at my 1
Board, stop playing politics. U know he has to go 1
And I can’t get a cost of living adjustment? SMH. 1
I could do it for 24,999.99. 1
Hopefully it’s impartial

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. To those of you who pledged money this past week, thank you, thank you, thank you. Have yourself a great first day back!

5 thoughts

  1. OMG…this happened in Howard County, MD. Important meeting and the parents and teachers were planning to attend in masses (renewal of contract for Renee Foose as Super….early). When they got there, the seats were ALL taken by Central Office staff that were “mandated” to attend (yes, there was proof!). The Security detail was already in place and prepared for action. Parents and teachers were made to sit outside of the room or outside of the building. It did NOT go well for the the Super (Renee Foose) and her cronies on the Board. LAWSUIT!

  2. maybe it is time for some rules about being on the board (or being a DOS) and having a financial conflict of interest / working for an org that does business with the district directly.

    this couldn’t be in the best interest of the children of nashville.

  3. It is a sickening realization that this racially charged, politically motivated, educationally ignorant group of people have the power to spend almost half of the city of Nashville’s tax money and influence the future of tomorrow’s citizens. Sharon Gentry thinks she is the moral compass of the board, yet she is the constant stirrer of the controversial pot. Her speech at the end of the school board meeting was nothing more than free airtime for a future political run. She said that she had been moved to an ugly cry in a recent training, yet she learned nothing from it and simply put more fuel on the fire. She continues to use her battle cry that our city in still in the civil rights struggle. Just like the problems in Washington, DC, much of this problem has been manufactured. Do Gentry and the rest think that bringing back hate from long ago is punishment for what happened in the past?

    Stacking the audience with the black community to continually tongue lash anyone who would disagree with the director is an attempt to run the school system by mob mentality. The city of Nashville has lost control of the educational system. Did anyone ask the parents of those getting suspended to take control or responsibility of their children’s behavior? We fail these children by suspending them, but we also fail them with not providing them with mental health help or education for parents. Is the city of Nashville just kicking the can down the road? If you don’t fix the problem, kids of any color will be in trouble with the law when they turn of age if they make the same choices. Just a look at the news to see the young law breakers. Is this also the fault of the schools? Where are the parents or the members of the community? Is it OK to rob, carjack, and shoot others? Are we all failing these young people?

    I found it odd that Sharon Gentry in tonight’s meeting shushed Joseph as he tried to speak. Let me, she said. This relationship seems a little too cozy and personal. What’s going on here?

    Our board needs to be transparent and neutral. Buggs needs to stop wearing shirts with quotes that send messages of division. Yes it is Rosa Parks, but it provokes. Buggs and Gentry continue to make this about race. Walker and Pinkston are out to protect their job connections. Elrod seems to follow the loudest crowd. Frogge is being ignored because she is in the minority, and Shepherd has become a bump on a log saying not a word until it is time to toot her horn about her high school.

    Can anybody be sure what happened with Speering? Perhaps the constant attacks by Joseph, fellow board members, and the black community along with the body changes after the heart surgery has gotten the best of her. Our city has allowed the most experienced board member to be destroyed by hate. Maybe it’s disrespect because she was a teacher? And that leaves Bush. It seems she is the only one with good, calm sense anymore. If she was white they would tear her apart.

    When the MNEA president sold out the board members who have always supported them, he put the first nail in the coffin for the union. He sold out his members and used his office to speak for himself and his own agenda. School vouchers will be on the table soon with Governor Lee. This racial bickering will drive parents of all races who don’t want their children raised in that culture to leave in droves. They will take their money with them to private and charter schools and drain the budgets of MNPS. All that will be left in public schools are the handicapped children, the poor children, and the trouble makers. What condition will the school system be in when this happens? No matter how broke they will get, Sharon Gentry will insist that Joseph get his car, his driver, and his astronomical salary.

    Nashville’s only hope is that more educated and neutral people with no ties to any vendors or contractors are elected to the board of education in the future or else they turn into Atlanta.

  4. I have to agree Taxpayer you have succinctly summarized what is now fully out of control. This is an embarrassment and disgrace. I am so relieved to be leaving here by year end and I said to someone that anyone with an education and strong professional background will not stay here regardless of the “it” status. The reality is that this is a great second home area and all the Amazon’s, Alliance Bernstein’s and Ernst and Young will not change a culture that is firmly planted and rooted here.

    And the idea that Metro Government has any credence, influence or ability to change the status quo is absurd. The State runs the city and they are going to run this place into the ground for reasons that seem centered on territory and rivalry of Middle vs East vs West Tennessee. This city is not vested in anything but building more hotels, more overpriced apartments and buildings to attract businesses to come here. Why? To avoid paying taxes. That is going to work out great… or not.

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