“I’m not singing for the future
I’m not dreaming of the past
I’m not talking of the fist time
I never think about the last”
I thought the days of Fridays beginning with a picture of my ass on the internet were long gone. But that’s how this past weekend started. As fate would have it, Monday morning also started with an ass on the internet. But this time the ass was resigning as a school board member.
The inadvertent plumber’s butt shot that Pinkston shared was enlarged from footage the News 5 camera inadvertently caught during the Friday MNPS School Board retreat that Pinkston failed to attend. He, or one of his minions, blew up the shot and pinned it to the top of his Twitter feed on Friday and it ran all weekend.
That kicked off a weekend of Pinkston taking wild shots at every perceived enemy. Unfortunately, many of those enemies were former allies.
He referred to teachers as “cranks”, “fussy” and ungrateful. Comments that bordered on misanthropic. He made insinuations about a respected principal and blocked anyone who tried to offer a slightly different version of his alternate universe. A move that as David Plaza’s points out in a Tennessean editorial, violates the first amendment. I’m sure Republicans everywhere are chortling at this avowed Democrats flaunting of the Constitution. It’s not a good look for anyone and doesn’t serve the brand well.
It is not without irony that he referred to opponents as conspiracy theorists and serial harassers. Pinkston’s history in both areas is well documented. Missing from media accounts was Pinkston’s attendance record over the last year, he rarely stayed a whole meeting. Also missing was a list of accomplishments, Pinkston was good at starting projects – the director’s review, the 2019/2020 budget – but usually became distracted before seeing those projects to fruition.
Some argue that social media, specifically Twitter, brings out the nastiness in people. I disagree. Twitter is nothing but a new communications platform, no different from the telephone, email, or text. Each of those poses their own risk for abuse in the hands of those with ill intent. But it also a valuable communication tool.
Through Twitter, I have connected with people from across the country and it has proven an invaluable source for information that would have previously been unassessable. I always employ my “crowded restaurant rule”. In other words, don’t tweet anything that you wouldn’t want to be overheard in a crowded restaurant.
Many view Pinkston’s abhorrent behavior through a lens that is it reflective of an individual with a decided lack of self-control. I disagree, I would argue that it is reflective of the culture that runs rampant through MNPS. We don’t argue policy on its merits anymore, instead, leadership employs a strategy of shaming critics into silence.
Let’s be clear, what happened this weekend is no different from attempts to continually shame Board member Jill Speering for her ill-advised use of “masks” in encouraging teachers to let their voices be heard. Notice, that once again that specter is raised in Pinkston’s resignation letter. Multiple council members have said on the council floor that they didn’t assign racist intent to Speering’s words, yet they are months later still regularly bringing he comments forth in a continual campaign in an attempt to shame her into silence.
Board member Fran Bush, a Joseph critic, is subject to personal attacks via the radio every Sunday afternoon due to her failure to support Dr.Joseph. The attacks aren’t focused on how she supports teachers or the things she does to support student learning. Instead, they are over the perception that she is not a “good community member” because she does not pledge blind loyalty to a black man. I’ve yet to see a single one of her critics point out where she is wrong on policy. That’s because this is not about bringing forth the best policy, it’s about silencing critics, or as the district’s number 2 guy, Sito Narcisse regularly instructs principals – quieting the noise.
All you have to do is watch former HR employee Scott Lindsey’s interview with Phil Williams to understand just how embedded the culture of shame and intimidation is in MNPS. It’s a culture that focuses more on the silencing of critics than it does the solving of issues. An approach that has led us to where we are today, the cusp of new leadership.
Pinkston’s behavior this weekend was not some kind of outlier either. He’s engaged in these tactics for years, but the political establishment always turned a blind eye because they benefited from his willingness to go where others wouldn’t. He fought back those who seek to privatize public education in Nashville, he helped Megan Barry become mayor, and he’s been known to advise current Mayor Briley. So it was no wonder that none spoke publicly to try and curb his tantrum that lasted well over 72 hours in a very public forum.
Some offered the defense that they don’t interfere in the responsibility of other elected bodies. Which frankly is – bull shit. Nobody asked them to weigh in on the status of the director’s contract. Or whether schools should start earlier. We simply looked for someone to stand up to the neighborhood bully and say, “In Nashville, elected officials don’t treat their constituents in such a manner.” But none were able to answer the bell. Hopefully, voters keep that in mind come election day.
In their defense, I have heard rumors that Pinkston’s decision was not made of his own volition. That a small group of elected officials, including a former mayor, privately strongly suggested that course of action. If that’s true, props to them.
The current Mayor, of course, has no problem offering a public statement to the press on the state of the school board.
“(The mayor) is deeply concerned that the students and teachers are suffering as a result of the discord at the board and district levels,” Briley spokesman Thomas Mulgrew said. “Mayor Briley will work with Dr. Gentry to create a plan that moves the District forward and establishes the stability that our children and teachers deserve.”
Briley chooses now to speak, and again fails to acknowledge his own role in the discord. Board member’s Frogge, Speering, and Bush have both privately and publicly begged for his help in navigating these waters, he chose not to reign in the toxicity of Pinkston and instead publicly lent his support to Joseph, despite mounting evidence that his support was misplaced.
His expressing concern now is like me watching my house burn down because a spark ignited the cans of gasoline I had stored in the garage. I knew those can’s of gasoline were there. I knew the risks associated with storing them in the garage. I just chose not to remove them and now my house is on fire.
Interestingly enough, the reason that Nashville has an independent school board is Mayor Briley’s grandfather, Beverly Briley was a strong believer in that tenet. As the first mayor of Metropolitan Nashville, he believed it was essential that Nashville had an independent school board that was not influenced by the Mayor’s office or Metro Council. My how those lines have blurred since then.
With that said, I don’t think this fire is nearly as large as people might initially perceive. Despite the fiction evoked in his resignation letter, Pinkston hadn’t really done any work on the budget. He took over 6 weeks ago for Anna Shepherd at her request due to personal issues, and as chair had minimal impact. At Friday’s board retreat I watched all board members, sans Pinkston, have a reasonable and productive conversation over the budget. There was nothing that was as Pinkston described, insane. Nor was the meeting “contentious” as reported by Nashville Public Radio.
Much has been made of the boards need to be seen as a “good partner” to Metro Council when it comes to the budget. Where does that come from? Former Mayor Briley did not champion an independent school board just to see them take informal cues from the metro council and the mayor. They are charged with creating a budget based on need, not on what they think will be awarded. By not asking for what they need, they do the city a disservice. How is the mayor or metro council even expected to gauge actual need, sans an actual budget?
on a side note, this narrative of the city having empty coffers is starting to wear thin. It’s like your boss claiming to be broke while he’s got two Lamborgini’s in the driveway, his wife is adorned in diamonds, and they spend every weekend at the country club. Eventually, you have to call bullshit, and see it for what it is, a lack of respect for you and the services you provide. The city has no problem funding soccer teams, conventions centers and such while giving tax breaks to large corporations. Yet they can’t fund a wage that would allow residents the ability to actually enjoy those same amenities.
Shortly after Pinkston’s vitriolic letter that evoked the ghost’s of Jim Crow,
“The dishonest and unfair treatment of the first African-American superintendent in the history of Nashville should give the entire community pause.These actions by board members have left an indelible scar on our city.”
MNPS Superintendent Shawn Joseph picked up the language thread,
“I am not resigning. There is no reason for me to resign. I am not doing that,” Joseph said in an interview with The Tennessean. “I did share with the board president that after last Friday’s board retreat that I realized the board and I are functioning off of two different value systems.”
Joseph likes to talk a lot about equity, but the truth of the matter is the district has made very little progress in that arena and some would argue, we’ve backslid. As a parent of children who attended a high needs school. I’m well versed in the need for equity throughout the district and agree with the assessment that we’ve made little progress.
MNPS needs actual actions toward equity, not just someone wearing an old fashion sandwich board with the words “equity” printed on them. Like I tell my children, model your values – honesty, loyalty, respect of others – don’t just mouth them. If you are living them I’ll recognize it without you repeatedly telling me.
Other’s have picked up the charge of institutional racism as a reason for certain board members desire to remove the director and used it as a means to try to shame detractors. I find the charge doesn’t hold water in light of the many documented failures under Dr. Joseph and that the majority of the candidates in the conversation for interim director are African-American women with deep relationships throughout Nashville. Nashville certainly doesn’t have race relations figured out but we certainly are not the overt bigots that some would paint us as.
After former Board Chair, Anna Shepherd announced her intent to bring a motion to dismiss Dr. Joseph on April 9th, freshman board members Gini Pupo-Walker and Rachel Elrod issued a joint statement that tried to temper that strategy,
The job of our board is to rebuild confidence in our capacity to lead, and we commit to working closely with one another, the Mayor and Metro council as we move forward with critical conversations on the budget and priorities for the year ahead. We believe that the conversation on April 9th is about revisiting the terms of his contract and finding another path forward that is mutually agreed upon by all parties. We will work closely with him and his leadership team to support our students, staff, and families in this process. Dr. Joseph has made meaningful contributions to our district, and we deeply appreciate his efforts to elevate practices that increase equity and excellence in our schools.
I’m not sure what is the intent of this statement, but the train has left the station with at least half of the board members they will need to work with next year on board. Now is an opportunity to focus more on those relationships and less on the departure of Dr. Joseph. We are going to need some heavy lifting over the next several months from all board members, and publicly second-guessing the course of action endorsed by a recent board chair, might not be the best way to go.
Yesterday my son asked me about Will Pinkston and Dr. Joseph’s imminent departure, “Are we happy about that Daddy.”
“No”, I replied, “We don’t celebrate other’s failures. We need to remember that they have people who love them just like you love me. We need to assume that they operated with the best intentions and that they are pure of heart, even though we may not believe that. Sometimes things just don’t work out and we need to embrace the need for change. But we don’t celebrate. We celebrate when the change brings success for all.”
I know that today there is a lot of nervousness throughout the district, and probably rightfully so, but I have faith. Faith is defined as the presence of belief devoid of evidence. Today I have more faith then yesterday that MNPS will begin heading in the right direction.
I have faith that the board will designate an interim director that comes from the MNPS family. Someone who is well versed in our history, our values, and has seen for years up close the tremendous work our teachers and students are capable of.
I have faith that the interim director, with the board’s guidance, will right some of the wrong turns we’ve taken over the last several years.
I have faith that MNPS will receive much of the funding it needs as a result of this change. Teachers and community members have already shown an increased desire to advocate for a budget that delivers what we need instead of just asking for the bare minimum.
Yesterday, I started and restarted this week’s post several times. At first flush, my commentary on the culture of MNPS appeared to have been rendered moot. But then Dr. Joseph was kind enough to share a tweet that brought it all full circle. His continued support of Will Pinkston in light of his weekend actions demonstrates that MNPS has a shameful culture rooted in that strategy of shaming opponents. Fortunately, change is on the horizon.
During her run for school board, Pinkston often referred to then-candidate Miranda Christy as Morticia and went out-of-the-way to wreak havoc in both her professional and personal life. Her tweet yesterday offers perfect punctuation on his school board career.
A call to action has gone out for tomorrow. This a big deal. Just ask the Momma Bears.
Per MNPS board member Amy Frogge,
HEADS UP, everyone! THIS IS IT. Vouchers will be up for a key vote this coming Wednesday, March 27th, at 8 am in the full House Education Committee, and this is our best chance to stop them in Tennessee. IT IS SUPER IMPORTANT THAT WE ACT NOW.
Here’s information on the bill: HB 939/SB 795 would create a new form of vouchers in Tennessee called Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). ESAs have been described as “vouchers on steroids.” This proposed legislation is targeted not toward “children trapped in failing schools,” but toward wealthier families, with virtually no regulation or public accountability. Vouchers would be available in any district containing at least three schools in the bottom 10% of schools in the state, but vouchers would be made available to ALL students in that district, including those enrolled in high-performing schools and private schools. Families making up to around $100,000 per year would be eligible for the voucher, and private schools would not be required to accept the voucher as payment in full. This means that more affluent families with children already enrolled in private schools could use the voucher to help offset their current payments for private school. It will also allow students to cross county lines with their vouchers, which could wreak havoc on many rural school districts.
Local school districts will have to pay for the bulk of these vouchers. (For example, in Davidson County, the state would pay only about $3,600 toward the cost of the voucher, while Davidson County would be required to pay about $8,100 per voucher.) On top of this, the state would withhold a 6% management fee for the voucher program. The governor has claimed that a limited amount of funding will be available to school districts to help offset the cost of the vouchers for three years, but this money could be revoked at any time- and worse, vouchers will create ongoing recurring costs that school districts will be unable to cover for an indefinite period of time.
Once the door to vouchers has been opened, it cannot be shut. Under this legislation, vouchers would become an entitlement for upper middle class private school parents and homeschool parents.
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN HELP:
1. We need as many people as possible to attend the hearing. It will be in House Hearing Room 1 of the Cordell Hull Building.
2. Contact members of the committee NOW, and encourage your friends to do so. (Obviously, constituents of these members will make the greatest impact.)
Mark White, Chair 615-741-4415
Kirk Haston, Vice Chair 615-741-0750
Debra Moody 615-741-3774 firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlie Baum 615-741-6849 email@example.com
David Byrd 615-741-2190
Scott Cepicky 615-741-3005
Mark Cochran 615-741-1725
Jim Coley 615-741-8201
John DeBerry, Jr. 615-741-2239 firstname.lastname@example.org
Vincent Dixie 615-741-1997 email@example.com
Jason Hodges 615-741-2043
Chris Hurt 615-741-2134
Tom Leatherwood 615-741-7084 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Dunn 615-741-1721 email@example.com
Harold Love, Jr. 615-741-3831
Antonio Parkinson 615-741-4575
John Ragan 615-741-4400
Iris Rudder 615-741-8695
Jerry Sexton 615-741-2534
Kevin Vaughan 615-741-1866
Terri Lynn Weaver 615-741-2192
Ryan Williams 615-741-1875
John Mark Windle 716-741-1260
We need all of you!
The results this past week were incredible. Let’s take a look.
The first question asked if you thought it was appropriate for MNPS employees to appear in an official capacity at a pro-Joseph rally. Over 200 of you responded, with 61% of you saying, “not by any stretch of the imagination.” 6% of you indicated that you didn’t feel it was a concern. Here are the write-ins,
|no – and I’m disappointed they thought it was ok||1|
|it is their right but was it their choice?||1|
|Freedom so Speech. Pull your pants up||1|
|hell no. Was a full-out spectacle. #disgrace||1|
|Absolutely a conflict of interest||1|
|No dif than teachers voicing their opinions. They are also MNPS officials||1|
|They are free to attend as private citizens but not as their official role||1|
|He has to take what he can get. Paid or not. ????||1|
|Yes. But so is mooning the school board.|
The second question asked if you felt talk of Joseph’s contract extension belonged on today’s board agenda. 41% of you indicated that you’d prefer the conversation be about his termination and 35% said, “Absolutely.” Here are the write-ins,
|SJ has squanderd $. Council not likely to fund xtra||1|
|Yes. Hopefully no distracting mooners||1|
|State may suspend license. Termination may be in order.||1|
|hell yes. It’s long past due.||1|
|I ready to hear MNPS fate so I can determine whether I’m staying or not!||1|
|Can we focus on kids? Employees? Our City. Tired of it. Hes gone.||1|
|he needs to go||1|
|Get rid of him!||1|
|Doesn’t matter. Dr. Joseph will prevail over CRACK|
Question 3 asked for your grade on the State of Schools speech. 57% of you gave it an “F” with 23% entering a grade of “D”. Nuff said. Here are the write-ins,
|Hiding behind a student for any purpose is inapprpriate.||1|
|Awkward. Embarrassing. MNPS has become pitiful and unfortunately this was too.||1|
|Dog and pony show||1|
|Didn’t watch it. It’s a performance, not reality||1|
|W for weird||1|
|I didn’t see it.||1|
|“The State of the Conversation” What a failure.||1|
|not the teachers fault.||1|
|I’d give it a 0 but MNPS says a 50 is the lowest||1|
|Didn’t watch the video links||1|
|It was off topic, not about the State of Schools.||1|
|It wasn’t a State of Schools – it was all lies so how can that be accurate?||1|
|U – unsatisfactory! Steps plus COLA, period!!!||1|
|Could always be better, but B: for BUTTCRACK||1|
|Was busy working.||1|
|Either a B (as in BLOCKED) or C (as in CRACK)||1|
|C as in…CRACK|
That’s it for today’s update. As you can see Mr. Pinkston snuck a few write-in votes in, consistent to the end.
I hope everybody has a great week. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page where we try to accentuate the positive. If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight, send it on and I’ll do the best I can. Send things to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Thanks for your support if you feel so inclined, please head over to Patreon and help a brother out.