IT’S NOT WHAT YOU ARE AGAINST THAT DEFINES YOU, IT’S WHAT YOU ARE FOR.

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” –Malcolm X

“Everything was such a damned nice idea when it was an idea.”
Tim O’Brien, Northern Lights
Apparently, last week was a good week to piss people off. Who knew?
Some people took exception to my assertion that I would not bring back any previous MNPS employees until a new director was firmly in place. If that offended you, I am sorry but it is not out of character with anything I’ve written over the last five years. Never have I ever championed moving backward.
Yes things with MNPS are worse today then they’ve ever been. But don’t mistake that to mean that the past was good. In the years prior to Dr. Joseph, MNPS was making marginal progress but communications was still a mess, HR was certainly no gem, there weren’t nearly enough people of color employed by Central Office, and like it or not, a culture of fear was still firmly entrenched.  There was a better literacy plan in place, we were doing better by our English language learners and probably had a better handle on discipline. However exceptional education was not very good, fees for testing in advance academics were the responsibility of students and their families, therefore, limiting access, not to mention that a choice system was being implemented with no real manageability features built-in.
The reality – which should be clear if you’ve been reading anything that I’ve written over the last three years – is that for the last 20 years Nashville Public Schools has been on one great big hamster wheel. We just keep doing the same things over and over, taking turns being the ones either pissed off or pissed on. Sorry if that’s a little crude, but I don’t know how else to put it.
In Alcoholics Anonymous they preach that an alcoholic can only begin to heal after they’ve hit bottom. Well if this isn’t our bottom I don’t what is. AA also preaches that in order to heal you have to make a clean break with the past. They don’t tell you to move back into the house where you were only drinking 5 drinks a day and still had a job. `
When I first got sober, I thought I could go back in the past and fix the mistakes that I’d made. I had a clearer head and I was making better decisions so everything should turn out better the second time around. It was in that light that with 2 years sobriety, I went back to work at the Exit/In.
I loved my first time around at the Exit in the late Nineties. We had a lot of fun, did some great things, and I worked with great people. I assumed the second time around would be all of that and more. It wasn’t. 911 happened, I wasn’t the same person, other people had taken over different roles in the organization and felt as wedded to the club as I did. Those people didn’t want to hear how we used to do things and truthfully, some of them were doing things better than we used to. Needless to say things with my second tenure didn’t end well.
New owners took over and the Exit/in has been better for it. Since I left, the Exit has seen two different ownership groups, both have put their individual stamps on the place. Do I like a lot of the things they’ve done? Not necessarily. But it doesn’t matter what I think, what matters is the results and today the Exit/In is a healthier business then it was when I left. It kills my ego to say that, but it is true.
When I first embraced sobriety, I had to face the fact that everything had to change. I’d stay out of some of those place I loved going. For a while, until I was stronger, I’d have to avoid hanging out with those people I loved hanging out with. The prospect sucked but I had to accept that if nothing changes,, nothing changes. As bad as it was though, it was also exhilarating. The years preceding my sobriety were filled with some good thing but also some missed opportunities at greatness. Making a change in my life could possibly open the door to greatness.
In that same light, I believe MNPS now stands on the edge of greatness. I know, that statement probably made a couple of you laugh aloud, but think about it. When was the last time greatness sprung from greatness? Greatness usually springs from the ashes of failure. If things are going great, there is no impetus to change. You just tweak. If anybody argues that MNPS is just a tweak or two away from excellence…well…I’ve got this bridge in Arizona.
We need to approach things right now as a time of opportunity. A time to spring the district forward into a much better place. Nothing against anybody, but it’s time for some rigorous honesty. There are some people in the district doing some fantastic work right now, but they are doing it in spite of leadership, not because leadership is pulling greatness out of people. Pulling greatness out of people should be one of the main charges of leadership.
Somebody needs to step up and start designing the future. Former Maplewood Principal Ron Woodard and I had a long conversation about “change” last week. He made a very salient point that change scares people and often times that fear will cripple them, resulting in prolonging a bad experience. People will deal with the devil they know rather than take a risk on the devil they don’t know.
I countered, that while that may be may true, with the right leadership it’s not carved in stone. Good leadership will grasp the opportunity to paint an alternative picture that gives people comfort in where you are going. A picture that offers reassurance that there is a plan and that said plan includes them.
This past weekend board member Anna Shepherd posted to Facebook her thoughts on the current status of MNPS. Phil Williams did a mini-town hall with MNPS teachers that further illuminated issues. Both actions took tremendous amounts of courage and both should be applauded.
Dr. Joseph yesterday went on WQWK and disputed the veracity of reports about MNPS shortcomings. His claim is that the media stories are all manufactured. I don’t know how the media manufactures a story about a damning HR report that you commissioned, but I digress. Dr. Joseph states his intention to be here for a long time.
This is where it becomes important to stop being against something and to start being for something. I believe that there is more than ample evidence that Dr. Joseph is not doing an acceptable job. But for many that’s not enough for him to be removed, they need to know what the plan going forth is. They’ll take that plan and weigh it against present circumstances. Whichever gives the most comfort will receive support. Let’s be honest the recent past of MNPS is not a place of comfort for everyone, therefore one that hosts healthy doses of past ingredients ain’t going to win the masses. That has to be recognized.
Too often we craft arguments that only resonate with people who already agree with us. They are not the ones that need convincing. In order to enlist those that are opposed, or even undecided, we must listen to and acknowledge their concerns. Nobody has ever been won over by the argument that just dismissed their fears without ever addressing them. Rather it is the ones that assuage those fears that succeed.
Donald Trump knows this intrinsically. Though he is constantly criticized and many Republicans are uncomfortable with his actions, the Democrats have yet to create a narrative of what life without Trumps looks like that resonates with enough people to totally crater his support. In this light don’t be surprised if Trump wins a second term. Joseph is no different.
That means it is imperative that those who want to see a change in MNPS be different. We can’t cling to egos and past agendas and claim that ours is the way forward. We have to find a way include more voices, not limit the ones that say things we are uncomfortable with. It is not enough to be anti-Joseph, we must be pro-MNPS. Personally i’ve never cared who was director of MNPS was, just that their leadership was rooted in good policy and execution.
How we proceed from here is going to determine what the next 20 years look like. Will it be a rehash of the last 20 filled with constant controversy, or will we take this golden opportunity to seize the reins, open our hearts and minds, and from the ashes craft a future that truly exceeds expectations. It’s ours to decide.
SHORTCUTS
I urge you to contact your board members and let them know your feelings on the current state of affairs.
Today’s lottery day in MNPS. That means across the district parents who participate in the choice program will find out if their child won a seat in their school of choice. Kudo’s to all of those who did win seats in their school of first choice, just keep in mind that whenever there are winners, there are losers. Somewhere today a potentially great school lost a great student and their family that could have had a dramatic impact.
ChalkbeatTN has a recent article that I find a bit horrifying. The article raises the specter that elementary school principals are moving their most ineffective teachers, based on TNReady, to the lower untested grades. The insinuation is that they are doing this to cover up their shortfalls.
The authors used Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system, including classroom observation scores and student achievement data, to track the reassignment of elementary school teachers by their principals. They found that only a hundred of the lowest-rated teachers were shifted to the lower grades in any given year, making for a relatively small impact across Tennessee. However, the pattern was consistent for all reassigned teachers who scored in the bottom three evaluation ratings on a scale of 1 to 5.
Of course, though, nobody knows if those teachers remained ineffective or not,
“This could be counter-productive, but it could actually be productive if school leaders are finding better fits for their elementary school teachers,” said Sy Doan, who authored the research brief along with Laura K. Rogers.
So, in essence, all this article really calls for is more…testing. If you ever had any doubt what dictates education policy this article will clarify.
Eakin Elementary is making news in a positive way. Hilary Strickland, a Physical Education Teacher at Eakin was honored as the News 2 Educator of the Week. Second-grade students created a “Living Wax Museum” that was featured on the MNPS website and will be broadcast by Channel 4 as a special news segment. On February 26th, families and educators will gather at Eakin for a
Family Literacy and Math Night.
Glendale’s Empty Bowls project will conclude on February 28 with a soup dinner for students and families. This event will also serve as the unveiling of the student artwork, facilitated by Artist, Brooke Gillon. Nashville Food Project will provide a delicious meal for Glendale families to share. 100 percent of proceeds from tickets sold will benefit the Nashville Food Project.
Nashville School of the Arts Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) hosted a mathematics competition called M3 Challenge. NSA is sending three students to the competition for the first time. The team will compete over a continuous 14-hour period in March using mathematical modeling to solve a real-world problem.
POLL QUESTIONS
Let’s take a gander at the results from this week’s poll questions. The first question asks, “How much of the board’s inability to move forward do you attribute to Will Pinkston?” Most of you, 40%, are just baffled that he gets away with what he gets away with. The second leading answer at 20% indicated a belief that he hijacks all conversations for his own personal gain. 4% of you said you go in and out with him, while none of you indicated that you supported him 100%. Here are the write-ins,
Needs to stay professional 1
Get him a paci and a blankie, he is exceptionally immature 1
Know-nothing bully who has been using Metro for his own gain. 1
Seriously concerned he is having a breakdown. His friends should check on him. 1
I used to think he supported teachers. No more. I campaigned for him. He is in 1
Pinkston’s an ass who is out of touch with what us really going on 1
sGentry is Chair; she contributes her share. Pinkston follows. 1
Mental. Seriously. 1
He’s a drunk who needs to stop drinking and typing. 1
He is one of several that need to go. 1
He is non-factor given his attendance record, vote the TwitterPin out 1
Does his share when he shows up but several others share the blame with him. 1
He’s a child. Any teacher would be fired if they talked to people like he does. 1
Does he not know what an embarrassment hes become?

Question 2 asked, “Do you believe that all board members elected before 2016 should leave with Dr. Joseph?” The number one answer to this one, with 53% of the vote, was I only see 3 board members doing their job. 13% of you wanted to see how they handle the next chapter. Here are the write-ins,

Mayes is just there to serve herself and her husband 1
They must prepare- the last meeting showed a lack of intellect & preparation 1
Novel idea, let’s leave that to the voters, oh wait, we did.. 1
No 1
Deep six the lot. Put people with actual education experience in there. 1
Where the Hell is Anna Shepherd? 1
The 3 who have tried to hold him accountable stay: AF, JP, FB 1
I think only the truly corrupt ones such as Gentry, Buggs, and Pinkston should g 1
No, and that suggestion sounds like sour grape pettiness. 1
not if they were elected 1
Pinkston and Gentry for sure. 1
Keep Buggs, Elrod and Frogge maybe Pupo-Walker 1
Clean house. That salary report was damning. Insane numbers + little production
The last question asked how you spent your rainy day. There were a lot of write-ins on this one and I thought the answers were very telling.
Worked 1
Dealing with basement/garage flooding:( 1
Driving for uber. It’s tough to live on a 43k salary in nashville. 1
Caring for sick kiddos 1
knitting a snuggly blanket 1
At school working 1
12-month employees worked today 1
Caring for sick children. Illness is rampant in schools. Much needed day. 1
Working 1
MNPD CO is open , why are “random” results of School Choice delayed, rigged?!? 1
me time 1
Recovering from illness 1
Worked my job, post MNPS: software developer #greenerpastures 1
Studying for grad school 1
Recovering from illness because teachers don’t dare be out sick 1
Cornerstone indoor playground was the most crowded I’ve ever seen it 1
Absolutely nothing because I am wore out. This year sucks. 1
Talked to others about low teacher pay. 1
Drinking. 1
With students prepping for Mock Trial 1
Catching up on housework and errands 1
At school setting up for Monday 1
Traveling to Gatlinburg 1
My students contacted me to have debate practice at Panera. We did that. 1
Work around the house

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, February is a slow bartending month so I could use any support you can throw my way. To those of you who pledged money, thank you, thank you, thank you.

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One thought

  1. And we can clearly see that GPW is willing to overlook evidence of subpar performance. To what end? Beats me.

    It may very well be down to you RAE. As we sorta knew it would be since August. Do you have the nerve to push the reset button? Or no?

    Does anyone really think this is what oversight looks like? This admin does not allow any. No give and take. Never a new culpa. Just a “we will look into that” (and it’s never looked into). And Gentry’s version of oversight is Mickey Mouse.

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