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ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER VERSE SAME AS THE FIRST

“Who wants to hear about brave deeds when he’s ashamed of his own, and who likes an open, honest tale from someone he’s deceiving?”
Richard Adams, Watership Down

“Anyone with gumption and a sharp mind will take the measure of two things: what’s said and what’s done.”
Seamus Heaney, Beowulf

Here we go again. The first year Dr. Joseph arrived from Maryland, the weather turned bad and people turned to leadership for… well, leadership. Leadership dropped the ball.

Dr. Joseph was the new guy and so people were quick to defend.

“It’s a hard call to make.”

“You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

“He’s new to town. He didn’t understand how we are impacted by the weather.”

Dr. J emerged from the incident pretty unscathed. Everybody vowed to give him another chance. Because there is going to be a learning curve, right?

Fast forward a year and inclement weather comes up once again. And once again… fumble.

Fast forward to year three, this morning, and once again streets are covered with snow and once again… fumble.

At some point, you have to wonder why no one seems to be learning anything. Why does the process never seem to improve? Based on today’s handling of inclement weather, I’d say the only lesson learned is that since no matter what you do people are going to be critical, you might as well do nothing. Because that’s the approach the district employed.

Not a word to teachers. Not a word to students. Not a word to parents. No call outs. No emails. No social media posts. Just silence. Even as districts around us canceled and parents communicated the treacherous road conditions.

Snow started falling throughout the district around 5 AM. Parents and teachers who were up turned to social media and the local news to see what the plan was for the day. They were greeted by crickets. There was no communication from the district until 8:35 AM, when the district’s former public information officer, now communications backbencher, Michelle Michaud tweeted out:

This morning, we had unexpected blast of winter weather in areas across Davidson Cty. MNPS puts the safety of students & employees at the forefront of all weather decisions. We encourage families & employees to keep their safety in mind when traveling in hazardous conditions.

To be fair, we should be grateful that Michaud took the initiative because it was a full 10 minutes later before an official statement from MNPS came out. One that was completely nonsensical:

Hello MNPS families,
This morning, we had an unexpected blast of winter weather which resulted in a dusting of snow over many areas across Davidson County. Our Transportation team was out early assessing the roads to determine whether they were safe to pass. Our team works closely with Metro Public Works to salt areas of concern. MNPS puts the safety of our students and employees at the forefront of all weather-related decisions. We also always encourage families and employees to keep their personal safety and well-being top of mind when considering travel in hazardous conditions.
When schools are closed or delayed, information will be shared in a number of ways: 1) calls to families; 2) announcements on the district’s Twitter and Facebook pages; 3) announcements on the district’s webpage, and 4) through local media outlets.
For questions, please call (615) 259-INFO. 
I guess the thought was that since schools were not closed or delayed, there was no need to communicate. Right?
Does anybody out there really believe that MNPS “puts the safety of our students and employees at the forefront of all weather-related decisions”? One more example of district leadership thinking that just saying something makes it true.  As one parent put out in a tweet: 
No communications at all from engenders bad feelings & further breakdown of trust for parents & teachers.
In the past I’ve written about the unwritten expectation that teachers will sacrifice weekends to work unpaid hours for the good of kids. Here’s another example of unwritten expectations. Nobody from the district makes a single attempt to assuage teachers fears, concerns, or even express appreciation. It is just assumed that teachers will risk financial cost – car accident, slip and fall necessitating medical treatment – in order to show up and take care of kids. Not a word is communicated because why should it be? Teachers have shown over and over that they will sacrifice above and beyond without recognition, so there is no reason to acknowledge. We’ll just hand out some J Crew and Starbuck gift cards on Teacher Appreciation Day and call things square.
Unfortunately, not all teachers were able to make it today. One quadrant alone is indicating over 100 teachers missing. So what’s the brilliant leadership strategy to counter those absences? Central office folks are being sent out to fill in where they can. Which results in more people being put in a dangerous position. Furthermore, nothing says essential positions like being used as classroom subs, not to mention the message that teaching is an easily replaceable job. Don’t any of those central office folk have their own responsibilities to take care of? Are they really capable of meeting the standards set by regular classroom teachers?
AARTS’s reported to Martin Center for meetings this morning only to be instructed halfway through the morning that they would need to go to schools to assist with shortages. Apparently, it’s not enough to put them at risk one time, twice is the charm.
As I write this piece, the following words scroll across my social media feed:
And here’s why educators continue to get screwed. I’m going to school because of guilt. I cannot let my school kids and coworkers down on principle. Damn it all to Hell. It makes me so angry with Metro and with myself.
Let’s be honest. The whole day is just an exercise in futility. There is no rigor taking place today. We are putting people at risk for a day of warehousing. That’s the sad uncomfortable truth, and one district leadership seems comfortable with.
I understand that for some students, school is the only safe place where they can also get a meal. But let’s deal with that as a separate issue and develop a plan that utilizes more community resources and doesn’t put the burden solely on the back of teachers and administrators.
But will anything change? Already the defense of “surprise storm,” “unpredictable weather,” “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t” are springing up. I’m sure a few people will trot out the “Jesse Register” complaints as justification for once again failing to keep people safe. My personal favorite though is, “Parents can always choose to keep their kids home, you know what’s best.” If I know what’s best, why am I not the one getting paid $300k a year? No need to hire a director since I know best.
This is all symptomatic of what I’ve struggled with over the past year. Maybe this is the best we can do. Maybe my expectations are too high and I should just accept that this is what it is. I don’t know, but what I do know is that if nobody holds this administration responsible, nothing will change. And as it is, there doesn’t seem to be an abundance of people willing to hold the director and his team accountable. And if you do, you run the risk of being painted as a racist. That is not a healthy combination.
If we continue to not hold people accountable, then we get the system and the leadership we deserve. I’m reading a book on leadership by General McChrystal called Leaders: Myth and Reality. In it, he talks about leadership myths. Per McChrystal:
We say that leadership is the process of driving groups of people towards outcomes. That’s true, to a point, but it’s much broader than that. In reality, leadership describes what leaders symbolize more than what they achieve. Productive leadership requires that followers find a sense of purpose and meaning in what their leaders represent, such as social identity or some future opportunity. 
The other myth he discusses is the formulaic Myth:
In our attempt to understand process, we strive to tame leadership into a static checklist, ignoring the reality that leadership is intensely contextual, and always is dependent upon particular circumstances. 
I think it’s pretty evident that as a district, MNPS is suffering from both of these myths. The leadership team of an educational system should be able to model learning, and this administration has not. Leadership needs to compel people to aspire to greater heights, and this team has not. A leadership team needs to provide role models of excellence, and this team has not.  It’s about time we start dealing with reality. Or we just accept that this is the best it’s going to be and move on. In the end, the choice belongs with each of us.
WHAT’S A RETREAT AND WHAT’S A COMMITTEE MEETING?
You might remember that a couple of weeks ago, MNPS’s school board voted to televise all committee meetings but not retreats. There was some gobbledy gook about how that anonymity was needed in order to ask the hard questions.
Looking at the board calendar and it seems that there is a retreat scheduled for this coming Saturday from 10:00 until 12:00 to discuss budget advocacy. Hmmm… forgive me, but that sounds an awful lot like a committee meeting. They wouldn’t be scheduling a retreat instead of a committee meeting in order to avoid cameras, would it? Nah… this is the most transparent administration evah.
In keeping with that spirit, it was announced last week that those wishing to speak before the board would now be able to do so by signing up online. The good news is that the deadline has been changed to the day before the meeting on the second Tuesday of the month, but with the new sign up process comes with some new caveats as well. Per the MNPS website:

Here are some protocols and processes that apply when addressing the MNPS Board:

  • Please be a few minutes early to check the speaking order on the agenda. Staff members will be present to assist you if needed.
  • All speakers are limited to three minutes. The length of time may change at the chair’s discretion.
  • Your name will be listed in speaking order on the screens in the board room. Please be alert and at the microphone when the previous speaker finishes. Your time begins when the previous speaker finishes. Any additional time it takes you to walk to the microphone may count as part of your time.
  • You should begin your comments by stating your name and your address (or school assignment for MNPS employees) for the record. For example, “Good evening Chair, members of the board, and Dr. Joseph. My name is John Citizen and my address is 123 School St. in Nashville.” It is important that we have your contact information in case follow-up in necessary.
  • Avoid repeating points made by other speakers. Board members appreciate any new information you can present.
  • During your comments please be mindful to not disclose any information that could jeopardize the privacy rights of any students, faculty, or staff members.
  • You may not distribute materials, printed or otherwise, directly to board members during the meeting. If you would like to distribute materials please submit these by bringing 20 printed copies to the meeting. Staff will distribute the material as deemed appropriate by the chair.
  • You are not required to speak for the full time. If you complete your thoughts early that is fine.
  • At the close of your comments simply say, “Thank you for your time,” and return to your seat.
  • If you would like to contact board members outside of the board meeting visit http://www.mnps.org to find contact information.

The first red flag for me is that in both signing up, and upon speaking, a speaker must give their home address. Huh? Why? Based on the climate of the last several board meetings, how many potential speakers would demure based upon fear of divulging that information? Remember at a recent meeting a speaker who was critical of the director was barely permitted to finish uninterrupted because of people in the gallery. In the past, speakers would divulge the individual school they were affiliated with, and it seemed to work just fine.

I’m sure the defense from MNPS leadership will be that the director just wants to meet with speakers individually to gain a better understanding. But as evidence of retaliation – sexual harassment lawsuits, program cuts, and favoritism – mount, how many will see a different intent?

QUICK HITS

Congratulations to former MNPS teacher Cicely Woodard for being a recipient of this year’s Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence.  She is one of 5 recipients that will be honored at NEA’s Gala on Friday, 2/8. You can join in celebrating them by tuning in to the live stream of the Gala at

Blogger and teacher Peter Greene has an interesting take on the national teacher shortage. Per his latest:

There is no teacher shortage.

There’s a shortage of willingness to invest the profession with respect and support. There’s a shortage of willingness to make the jobs appealing enough to attract and retain all the people schools want to attract and retain. There’s a shortage of will to make the job appealing enough to hold onto the people who start out. There’s a shortage, not just of money, but of respect and support and empowerment.

There is no mystery to what is happening, but to deal with effectively, to actually face it, the People In Charge need to stop calling it what it is not.

There is no teacher shortage.

I urge you to read the whole piece.

Nashville blogger Vesia Hawkins writes this week about the pending deadline for MNPS’s School Choice process. It’s a good read and I urge you to check it out.

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s a good news station with lots of inspiring pictures from last week. 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.

If you think what I write has value, please consider supporting the work through Patreon. I’ll be honest with you, January and February are slow bartending months so I could use any support you can throw my way. To those of you who pledged money this past week, thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

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7 thoughts on “ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER VERSE SAME AS THE FIRST

  1. I laughed so hard I nearly spilled my cocktail.. I needed the hard stuff to swallow this. I refused to sub and knew better and in the process even schools I could get to easily I saw no point. What this was about was yesterday and they called late and whoops.. well so no harm no foul and instead of taking the high ground and saying due to cold and possible snow we will delay start again to be safe. You all love that word safe here so I use it when I go to the toilet and put a bike hat on in case I William Holden it.

    Now tomorrow Phil Williams is pulling out the race card and is full of malice to discuss the driver issue. Does Phil have the “Director’s” Driving record to add to the reason he needs a driver. Irony on perfect timing with that one as I would be editing it immediately!

    So why don’t Teachers here walk out like red states blue states and states in between? That is the Nashville way to simply pull out the passive to the aggressive. To name call, to ignore or simply shrug when anyone calls anyone out that is not about sports. The corruption here runs deep like the Cumberland from the MDHA, City Hospital, the Contractors in the City boozing it up on the city dime. But hey did you here Amazon is coming. Ask Wisconsin about Foxconn they put the con on that one. Lord Briley is utterly verklempt and I am sure his kitchen cabinet will be whipping up some biscuits to serve with some Sweet Tea.

    Read about one of the Kentucky advocates who did his best to change the system. He is not giving up and oddly they found a 20 y/o DUI charge to put on flyers about him which they passed around his school and he used that as a teachable moment. Gee where have we seen/heard that before? Hmm…

    No one will walk out. Most new Teachers are scared, the old ones are riding the next train out of town if possible and everyone is afraid of being called names. I have been called so many in my life that chick on the show with the tats could not compete if I had them tatted on my body. But here in Nashville Bless You’re Heart you don’t want that it makes you a bad person who doesn’t live the Nashville Way. Could someone explain to me what that is exactly? I have a few ideas but they are not nice. Keep on keeping on TC someone has to be the whipping boy. I like whipped cream. See not everything whipped is bad.

  2. When Joseph should have been apologizing to the community and thanking teachers he has the insane perspective that he was right? He thought it was ok to leave my low ses third graders at the bus stop with no coats in the snow? They were traumatized by him today. Ps Dr Joseph, the ones that missed are all excused. The adults agreed today at my school. The next time they can do it without teachers because we won’t subject ourselves again.

  3. “You might remember that a couple of week’s ago MNPS’s school board voted to televise all committee meetings but not retreats. There was some gobbly gook about how that anonymity was needed in order to ask the hard questions.“

    ???? See board comments on Amy Frogge keeping anonymity for teachers who wrote her or spoke to her. They constantly crucified Ms. Frogge for not following protocol. Double standard much? Isn’t there a protocol that protects the teachers so that they can ask hard questions… just like the board? Oh wait… I forgot, the board has forgone stewardship for totalitarian rule. Board ideas= right ideas, teacher ideas= equal over paid whiner babysitter ideas. Too bad, so sad board members… personally I like the new rules, I think all teachers should take advantage. Hit them hard with the data, research articles, and personal narratives that challenge their current positions. It is upsetting when you are silenced. Those who have been silenced in the past two years need to show up again… because the rules have changed. Now is the time for teachersnto organize within these new rules, write 3 minute speeches that build on more complex ideas in order. Work in teams of 6-7 for powerful 20 minute narratives that drive home the message, so that your whole idea is heard.

    We all know the rules changed because of Jill Speering’s personal email… but it changed because the rules put in place to silence those against Dr. Joseph were the same rules that hurt him when he tried to rally the troops against Jill Speering for the tweet. None of his supporters could speak because they didn’t sign up in time. Unfortunately they paint a picture that it is a grave injustice to them, but it is the same injustice teachers (no matter how they identify racially) have been battling for the past few years. These rules were broken, of course, for those the chair wanted heard. Just like they were when the minority council spoke to the board without signing up within the guidelines better than a year ago.

    Now is the time to operate within the new rules in a well planned way.

    1. perhaps the board will soon desire to create a new language – Newspeak, to meet their desired requirements of mere citizens addressing their highnesses

      in a similar note, speering is the first board member accused of wrongthink, by the metro council.

    2. All good in theory as we educators say “TIP” but in reality how would this be accomplished? Look to how Kentucky started their movement and the reality is without someone being willing to be a leader, set up the communication and necessary social media presence and in turn organize this to a structured collective you will have what you have – people writing Amy Frogge or TC or whomever to post complaints and then move on. The risk is public exposure and of course public shaming and the rest. Are you willing to do that? Who is?

      I spoke to a Teacher who was reprimanded for using the school email to ask for donations to set up a school closet and pantry and coordinate it through her church to receive said items. Then you have the recent decision to shut off additional donations from a respected method. This district wants compliance and wants the perception over the reality. And I suspect that explains the odd Council rebuke, the sudden kitchen cabinet and the rest as we cannot deter the Amazon river from flowing as white collar jobs are on the horizon and that means more money so don’t rock the boat on the Amazon as there are piranhas below the surface.

  4. ‘Budget advocacy’ sounds a lot like begging the city aldermen for mercy and setting down a pact to speak with one voice.

    It will be hard for the dissenters to stay quiet on certain forms of waste in the budget. So when I see those words budget advocacy I am thinking it is another circle the wagons moment. Well-meaning, for sure, but still that is what it is.

    You can count on the fact that Briley and Joesph already know what the picture looks like. And I will betcha it doesn’t look good without a tax increase—you know, the one that nearly passed last time but didn’t.

    The retreat is so Pinkston can tell the others they must all go stump for that tax increase—no infighting until that happens.

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