ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD

“Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.”
Charles Bukowski

“In the Book of Life, The answers aren’t in the back.”
Charles M. Schulz

On Wednesday I headed up to the state capitol to watch your tax dollars at work. That morning the Governor’s vouchers bill was scheduled to be voted on by the House of Representatives Education Committee. I know, we are calling them Education Savings Accounts these days, but that doesn’t change what we are really talking about – vouchers.

As I’m sure most of you know by now, the bill advanced by a vote of 14 – 9 with one abstention. To get er done, the bill had to undergo a few changes. Home school students are no longer eligible, the program was capped at 15k students, and the state education department has been charged to produce a report on student enrollment and performance after the first year instead of following year three. Let’s look at that last one for a second.

This year brand new State Superintendent has undertaken two major initiatives – cleaning up the state’s standardized testing program and fixing the Achievement School District. Those are some heavy lifts. Has anybody taken a minute to consult with the TNDOE, and it’s director Penny Schwinn, to see if they have the capacity to oversee a brand new voucher program?

To my untrained eye, it appears that once again we are forgoing the needs of the majority in order to focus on the desires of the minority. State Standardized testing and the Tennessee State Achievement District are two long-suffering initiatives whose problems are well documented. They are also two of the state’s initiatives that impact the most student lives. Early indications are that Schwinn is starting to get her arms around both of these long-standing challenges and may actually bring forth some solutions. So now we are going to hamstring her and split the department’s focus?

At the very least shouldn’t Schwinn be called to testify on how she sees ESA’s impacting her department’s focus? Lee prides himself on being a businessman, businesses usually gauge a departments capacity before adding initiatives, yet that does not seem to have been done here.

The ESA bill is only going to affect urban districts. Families are only eligible if they live in a district that has three “failing schools” as being defined by being included in the states priority school list. Maury County has 12 schools, the odds are pretty slim that a third of their schools are ever going to simultaneously find themselves on the priority list. Yet here we are spending hours and months discussing a program that will impact less than 5% of the districts in Tennessee and when capped at 15k students represents less than 18% of the kids in MNPS alone. Does that really sound like a prudent use of time and resources to you?

It’d be one thing if there was evidence out there of the overwhelming success experienced by states who implemented ESA programs, but there is not. At the very best the results are mixed. So the governor is proposing that we pursue an initiative with minimum upside that impacts a minimum amount of residents at the expense of focusing resources and energy on initiatives that impact the most amount of students with the potential of having huge upside. Good thing the Governor isn’t taking TNReady this year because that math doesn’t add up.

Wednesday provided an opportunity for the Governor and House Speaker Glen Casada to send notice of how they’ll be playing things when it comes to passing legislation. The days leading up to the vote saw Lee leaning heavily on freshman legislators – either by a stick or by carrot – to get them to follow the playbook. On Wednesday morning, conversation on the floor about the bill under consideration was limited to the merits of the bill, a caveat that was strictly enforced. Casada, doing his best imitation of Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinnie, showed up in chamber shortly before the vote – just in case anybody was unsure of the importance of this vote.

One person who didn’t get the message was embattled representative David Byrd. Casada had been a staunch defender of  Byrd, who has been dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct in the 1980s when he was a high school girls basketball coach.  Once Byrd voted wrong on Wednesday that support dried up. Casada pleads correlation and not causation, but as pointed out by Rep. Bo Mitchell, a Democrat from Nashville,

“Months and months of sexual assault victims coming up here pleading didn’t make the case. But within 24 hours after voting against that voucher bill, he’s no longer a chairman. I think it speaks for itself,”

The bill still has to progress through the house governance committee and then the full Senate. The Senate has yet to take it up, but in the past, they’ve been very receptive to the idea of vouchers and there is no indication that this year will prove any different. That said, this ain’t a done deal and I encourage all of you to contact your state representatives and let them know that bill is not good for the Tennessee education system.

A  couple other quick observations from my brief time on the Hill. Watching Representative Mike Stewart work the hall outside of chambers reminded me of just how dedicated a public servant Stewart is. While others used the hallway to engage in banter with lobbyists and fellow legislators, Stewart demonstrated a singular purpose and focus. It was clear that he takes his responsibilities to the citizens he represents very seriously. If you get a chance, reach out and tell Mike thank you. He’s earning that appreciation every day.

I was also afforded an opportunity to talk with John Ray Clemmons. As you may, or may not know, Clemmons is running for Mayor of Nashville. I’ve made no secret of my dissatisfaction with David Briley as mayor, but have been reserved in embracing Clemmons candidacy. The more and more I talk with John Ray the less reticent I become to endorse him.

He seems to understand the challenges of Nashville’s school system and more importantly, he seems ready to really listen to constituents. Furthermore, unlike Briley, he recognizes that Nashville’s tremendous growth has actually benefited very few of our residents. I’m beginning to believe that would change under his leadership. Color me a 6 on the scale of 1 to 10, but I’m really warming to John Ray Clemmons as mayor of Nashville.

LOCAL YOKELS

I’m at a loss to find the adjectives to adequately describe the early week activities of MNPS Leadership. Tuesday’s board meeting, including Dr. Joseph’s address to the board, made the job even more difficult.

Anybody in search of a reason why Joseph is facing such a harsh punishment from the state only needs to watch his 20-minute speech at the beginning to gain clarity. It’s the lack of humility and the lack of remorse. Nowhere in the 20-minute diatribe does Joseph accept any responsibility for the events that transpired, nor does he show any remorse.

I know that some will read racial overtones into my observations – why is a black man being expected to humble himself – but the reality is that humility and the willingness to acknowledge mistakes are important traits for any leader. Throughout his tenure in Nashville, Joseph has never once acknowledged any missteps. He gave himself a 2 on student achievement on his recently completed self-evaluation (2018-19 SJoseph Formative Self-Eval Evidence Companion FINAL 012919) but never followed up with descriptions of why.

In Tuesday’s speech, Joseph blames the district for not providing enough resources, the state for being too harsh and makes a claim that he has discovered that he and the board have a different value system. He claims that his ‘equity agenda” is showing results, yet he also scored himself a 2 on his self-evaluation in regard to shrinking the achievement gap between students.

At one point Joseph addresses the perception of his poor treatment. He admonishes that, “now is not the time to point fingers” and then proceeds to do just that by reminding us of the importance of voting. Clearly a shot at members of the board who have been critical of his performance.

Things get surreal when Joseph evokes Martin Luther King’s last sermon the Drum Major Instinct to draw parallels between himself and Jesus Christ. I urge all of you to read, the whole sermon. It is well worth your time. The reference to Christ is only a small portion of it.

The central theme is humility and service to others. Humility means on occasion owning your mistakes. It means sometimes accepting that your actions have resulted in less than optimal outcomes. Something Dr.Joseph has never shown a willingness to do. Of course, I find it more than a little ironic that within King’s sermon is contained a warning about fraternities,

Now the other problem is, when you don’t harness the drum major instinct—this uncontrolled aspect of it—is that it leads to snobbish exclusivism. It leads to snobbish exclusivism. (Make it plain) And you know, this is the danger of social clubs and fraternities—I’m in a fraternity; I’m in two or three—for sororities and all of these, I’m not talking against them. I’m saying it’s the danger. The danger is that they can become forces of classism and exclusivism where somehow you get a degree of satisfaction because you are in something exclusive. And that’s fulfilling something, you know—that I’m in this fraternity, and it’s the best fraternity in the world, and everybody can’t get in this fraternity. So it ends up, you know, a very exclusive kind of thing.

King also calls for unity in his sermon. He talks about his time in the Birmingham jail and how he always tried to convert people while there. Upon talking with guards and finding out how much they make, he told them,

“Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. [laughter] You’re just as poor as Negroes.” And I said, “You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor, because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. (Yes) And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you’re so poor you can’t send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march.”

Sadly during his tenure Dr. Joseph has never preached such unity, nor has he ever shown the humility MLK calls out for in his Drum Major sermon. Instead, he has tried to assume the role of the drum major. Through him being the only way Nashville can arrive at equity.

The true beauty in Joseph’s farewell exit speech is that he juxtaposes the MLK sermon with a Tupac song title, I Ain’t Mad Atcha. All one has to do is take a brief glance at when the Tupac song was recorded and its general perceived intent, and you can divine the message Joseph’s is sending to the board. Some may interpret it as the Maryland version of, “bless them”.

If nothing else, Tuesday’s board meeting makes it crystal clear that it’s time to end this bad marriage. It’s time to find an interim superintendent and get on with the healing. As it is, we are spending too much time focused on the departure of Dr. Joseph and not nearly enough on the future of MNPS. We thrash around defending the man with nary a second thought to the potential rifts we are causing with people we need if we ever are going to fix this system. Therefore I say, let’s get this over before even more damage is done.

THE MAYORS REALLY DUMB PRESS CONFERENCE

I’m not quite ready to delve into Mayor Briley’s really bad idea yet, so I’m going to save most of my commentary on today’s mayoral press conference for Monday. Let’s just say that if the Mayor had any hope of quieting things down and helping to ease things into a peaceful transition, this wasn’t the move to make. If his hope was to inspire a deeper conversation on racial inequities, this wasn’t the speech to give. If he was hoping to showcase himself as a diminutive leader…I mean definitive leader, this was not the means to do it.

Briley gave a speech that wrote off all the broken federal and state laws, the audit reports, and the testimony from teachers as such, “I may be out on a limb here, but I think Dr. Joseph, too, would say with the benefit of hindsight that he would have done a few things differently.” He placed the blame for the current state of MNPS solely on the shoulders of the school board. Well let’s not fool ourselves, he places blame on the shoulders of 3 board members.

In doing so he completely ignores the fact that compromise is exactly what these board members adhered to during Joseph’s first 18 months and that it was Joseph that broke the trust established and caused the current turmoil. Briley made his accusations while ignoring the fact that all three of these board members won an election just like he did, one just months ago and running on a platform that was critical of Dr. Joseph. Maybe it is his to turn his back on constituents desires once elected, but it is unrealistic to expect others to do so,

Briley decries the board’s toxicity, yet says not a word about the role one of his own personal advisors has played in that dysfunction. That’s the thing about Will Pinkston, he exposes our moral failings, as we are willing to accept his aid and defend his means as long as we are beneficiaries. That’s not leadership though, that’s opportunism. And it’s eating at the moral fabric of our city.

Briley’s speech today made it clear that Nashville is still a good old boys town, the key word being boys. I don’t envision Briley’s idle threats playing as well with a board made up predominately of males.

Equally telling is who’s side of a fray sated in misogyny Briley has landed on. He chose to recognize Joseph’s job as the hardest in the city while ignoring the work of teachers, a workforce composed primarily of women and essential to MNPS’s success. He went as far as to offer a vague threat of denying funding for a wage increase if his wishes weren’t adhered to. The message delivered seemed to be not one so different as those delivered in the not so distant past by a husband burdened with a fussy wife, “Come on Shawn, I’ll help you get them gals back in line. We’ll just take away their shopping money.”

That’s the threat Briley made this morning in demanding that board members ignore state and local statutes and sign his proposed MOU in order to get any additional funds. Not sure that’s a game of political chicken he wants to get into, but he’s fired the first shot, following it up with an ultimatum, “I believe this is the school board’s last chance to be a positive change agent that will make a difference in our children’s lives — their last chance to get it right,” Briley said.  Which sounds great on a t-shirt or coming out of Bruce Willis’s mouth in Die Hard 17, but what does it really mean?

Briley continues the recently created Nashville tradition of using board member Jill Speering as a public punching bag. Of course, Briley doesn’t have the courage to actually use her name or fully call her out, instead choosing innuendoes and supposition to paint his desired picture.

“Let me be clear: I am not calling anyone a racist,” Briley said. “Some of our school board members have not acknowledged why their actions are seen through a racial lens. They’ve failed to acknowledge the legacy of racism … the legacy of inequality that this city is still trying to overcome today.” 

Yes, David you are and you are doing it in a room devoid of any school board members and surrounded by supporters. We got a name for that back home…but this is a family blog.

The problem with all of this Sideshow Bob nonsense is that it desensitizes people to the very real vestiges of institutional racism. You may “win” the day, but in the end, real tangible progress fails to be made. In order to make real change, you need people’s minds to be open and today’s actions did nothing but close people’s minds.

Briley wasn’t the only one to try and grandstand today, David Plaza of the Tennessean saw the opportunity to shout some rhetoric and lost no time in getting an op-ed out proclaiming that  Briley “distinguished himself from school board members as a leader Friday, laying out critical obstacles Nashville schools must overcome and why the board’s dysfunction must stop.” It’s amazing how fast he churn this stuff out when there is an opening on stage.

Reading Plaza’s piece an uninformed reader could be forgiven for coming away with the impression that Superintendent Joseph bears no fault in reading levels being flat, a toxic culture, or a continued failure to follow state, local, and board statutes when executing contracts. To reinforce this narrative the Tennessean has been tripping all over itself this week printing op-eds praising Joseph’s tenure in Nashville. Psst…guys, your bias is showing. If you are keeping score at home that’s one a day this week.

The Tennessean would likely argue that these op-eds are independent submissions and that they have received no counter-arguments. Maybe so, a likely cause for that being that Joseph’s main critics are not the elected class of Nashville nor self-appointed tastemakers either, and as such, they are busy teaching class, running schools, or raising families instead of crafting flowery prose with little connection to reality. Nashville doesn’t just deserve leaders, it deserves better journalists.

In my opinion, today David Briley opened the door for John Ray Clemmons to become the next mayor. I don’t know if Clemmons can garner enough votes to win, but I do know that today more people are giving him a serious look than there were giving him a serious look yesterday.  I do know that over the next several months I will be doing as much as possible to help him win. This morning’s press conference was among the most shameful pandering I’ve ever seen from a politician and I believe that in his heart David knows that as well.

However, as long as Briley takes advise from Will Pinkston, as rumors say he is,  it won’t be the last moral compromise he’ll make. Briley has a choice, he can listen to a failed political operative engaged in a self-proclaimed war on a local news station, or he can listen to the teachers and parents of a city he purportedly loves. It’s really not a hard decision to make.

In a town known for its songwriters, Nashville officials seem to have lost the ability to recognize irony. In addition to the aforementioned Joseph offenses, Briley grandstands today for the public while admonishing the school board, “Our city’s expectation is for growth, not grandstanding,” he said. He also chastised the boards use of social media, yet tonight I am inundated on every social media platform by his sound and fury signifying nothing. More than anything I bemoan the lack of appreciation for irony shown this week.

One last thing, can we please stop having discussions and meeting about Public Schools at times that make it difficult for teachers and parents to attend. It sends a terrible message to teachers. It ain’t hard. All you have to do is care,

That’s going to have to be it for tonight. Be back here on Monday when we’ll dive deeper into today’s actions. We’ll try to figure out what it all means.

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7 thoughts

  1. Drum majors… yes! I left the district. I have found a happy home elsewhere in terms of my profession, but unfortunately that is not in Nashville which is actually home. What’s really interesting is that all the same equity conversations are taking place here. This district however is over populated with highly experienced teachers, no one leaves.

    Instead of just mandating no suspensions they invited Michael Bonner to speak. Before the presentation, teachers looked him up. Eyebrows raises because he is young, and so many of them have been “doing it longer,” but after, the level of conversation that teachers were having in relation the the figures he presented were inspiring. If you give teachers information and ask them to develop a plan or two, they come up with remarkable work. Do I believe that every teacher here is excited to reduce referrals by examining their own implicit biases? Uh, no! A few will grumble and fight and hold on the the old way, especially those that teach in affluent white neighborhoods. But those at my school are hungry for more, what was presented made sense, and there were challenges given instead of mandates. Same issues, different leadership. How many times has Dr. Joseph blamed his teachers… roll the tape.

    I asked myself, what’s different about my experience here and in Nashville. The answer is Conversation. Here we were invited to start a dialogue about a clearly presented problem we needed to solve. We were given an example of how it was solved somewhere else, and were asked to dialogue about how to solve it here, what will work for us and what challenges do we see. Techniques and methods are already popping up, teachers are collaborating when they try a procedure that doesn’t seem to work in one room but works well in another. No one mandated anything. Successful stragies are being shared.

    Someone will say, well that is the district of experienced teachers, and it’s not Nashville. Nope! It’s not Nashville teachers that are the issue in Nashville. It’s Nashville leadership, and not just the director, the mayor, the school board, the council, and community foundations.
    No matter where you come down on Dr. Joseph, most of Nashville leadership doesn’t value their public servants, not only teachers but police and firefighters, city works, as well. You can’t constantly say you value them if you don’t pay them so Nashville has turned to blaming them.

    My current director (she) is a long time educator many grades, vice principal for a decade, principal for the same, she led PD and took a coordinator job before becoming director. There is almost no one she talks to in a teaching position she cannot genuinely relate to. I have spoken to her face to face four times in seven months, I am just a teacher. The last time we met she remembered my name. The district is 2/3 of the size of Nashville and the central office is bare bones. 90% of the budget goes to classrooms with a priority on funding people that work with kids first.

    They choose principals the same way. Several grades taught, natural positive leadership, they do not require an Ed.S, but they highly value relevant experience. I think some board members think teachers that leave thinking the grass is greener somewhere other than MNPS, find out it’s not. It is though, and it makes me so sad to say that.

    I will close with this comparison of leadership styles. Recently, at another district event, a local community (because they too value those doing the work each day) foundation gave a few thousand dollars of gift cards to teachers. Using the sign in sheet the director drew names from a bag. She accidentally pulled an assistant director’s name, and a coordinators name. The director looked uncomfortable both times, both times the winner yelled from somewhere in the room, “give it to a teacher.” The Director thanked them for supporting teachers and went on to describe why she thinks all HER teachers are her most valuable asset. I went to a board meeting, more of the same, from all board members. They still did not agree on policy and the meeting was contentious, but no one here blames the teachers for lack of funding, for discipline issues, for curriculum choices, for growth struggles. Instead they invite and encourage their teachers to have conversations and be part of the solution, to speak their mind and challenge their leadership. Leaders are servants here. No one in CO makes more than 200k a year, and they are as I said bare bones.

    Meanwhile in Nashville, Central office has a party,that teachers are supposedly invited to but convienently didn’t get an invite for, where they give away prizes of varying value. Yes, it only happened once, but it set the tone for what ways valued and their are many examples like this where the optics had to be explained. Is that leadership?

    So let’s review. In every room where learning is planned to take place in MNPS, you staff a teacher. Teachers keep teaching if administrators are in the building or not. Teacher keep teaching and planning, no matter what, no matter where in this country. Supporting teachers, and thereby students is all in what you value, stuff (that makes publishers and consultants rich), or people and professional knowledge.

    I would challenge the board to review Dr. Joseph ‘s time with MNPS. Did he place support his people with his plan and vision? Unfortunately, I agree with no suspensions, and equity for those schools that are struggling the most, I feel extremely upset and angry that a dislike of Joseph’s leadership is being painted as rejection of his position on equity and discipline. I wholeheartedly support most of what Dr. Joseph wanted to do in theory. I do not believe he was masterful at supporting teachers to put a plan in to practice, which is actually his job. These are the same ideas that are being highlighted across the country, and they did not Spring from the head of De. Joseph. His job is not to just dictate policy rather to create a plan, and put it into practice. His job is to lead people, if they are not following, he has not been successful. Jesus and MLK masterfully led people, and changed minds. His job is to motivate and support his people into helping him fulfill his vision. If the teachers weren’t doing what was asked, he failed. Perhaps that is why they are being so cranky and demanding. They will leave MNPS for less money if their superiors value their work elsewhere. I did, and I still teach at a low SES, school that is 100% free and reduced lunch, behavior is a real issue, and there is little family support.

  2. its a continuing mystery why so many people heed the advice of will ‘the puppetmaster’ pinkston. Briley, of course, being his latest victim.

    it sounds as if a deal has been struck – the city gets the school district, joseph gets propped up for a while until he can cash out and move back north.

    1. It does indeed sound like a deal has been struck. The mayor does not want to be hostage to a tax increase ahead of reelection polls. He sounds like he wants to threaten to appoint the superintendent/board if this board does not play his tune.

      It is so very obviously a boy’s club, as commented above. Plazas enables this so much. Rather infuriating. He could just as well argue for financial propriety but would rather argue for funding austerity. Thanks, buddy. As always, they will get their way. The workers of metro will just get the ole boys’ drippings (in reference to and with apologies to frank mccourt). However much the monied class feels like dripping to the fire and police and teachers will be all the new resources…….. and forget about new positions.

      The walls feel like they are closing in, with the vouchers and the state charter authorizer, plus Briley’s fake support of the school system.

      Maybe the grass is greener……….? Truly, all the good talent in metro has been left to wither on the vine. The winds I feel are not the winds of renewal. They are merely the winds of doubling down on long-held views by the various parties involved, with no useful shifting of the middle of the road.

      Wanted s.j. to succeed but he did not. For all the drama of his departure, at least he realizes that “we are never ever getting back together.”

  3. The dance of money and of issues about race are not ones exclusive to the South. This article is about Seattle Public Schools and what they are facing for the next school year https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/as-seattle-school-district-displaces-teachers-educators-of-color-worry-about-relationships-with-students/

    I think salient points are well made about having resources, a committed Teaching staff who want to be there, are willing to do the heavy lifting as needed as best to serve their student demographics. Seattle fights and funds public education and they were hitting the ground striking over 4 years ago about these issues. Property taxes are tied to varying bills and they are almost always voted in without issue. The city filed lawsuits about funding, class size and stopping charters and the State Supreme Court ordered the legislature to fund schools.. this is the McCleary ruling. And sadly it was or is not enough. The RIFF process has been an ongoing one for decades and in turn the roulette wheel means Teachers often have to move or lose their jobs. They do often leave the district but with the surrounding communities being the actual wealthiest in the nation (shocking not Williamson I know!) there is no issue that the public school serves the region well and Seattle has nowhere near the level of private academies that dominate the landscape as they do here. And yet 75% of the population possess a college degree and that has been the norm long before Amazon arrived. So despite it all it has been serving the City well. But we have seen across the country the reality is that money is the major factor and in turn retaining staff who are willing to do the job with the appropriate resources in place to assist them to meet the needs of a largely changing demographic of children and in turn diverse community.

    And currently their Superintendent is a woman, she is Native American and also a Lesbian,. Those things are essential in a place as liberal as Seattle, the more labels one has the better. And yet I knew few Teachers or leaders that felt compelled to have so many initials after their name as they do here. Those are expensive add ons in a field that does not compensate in proportion to the cost.. and it adds to a budget. Something to always think about . But in Seattle almost always as their leaders recruited them from outside (other than the last Supe who was from outside the district but quite local and he also lasted the longest so roots matter) and most of them again other than the home grown former Sup have been faces of color. When a controversy did happen over a budget discrepancy and was irony found out by a local activist blogger team (hmm where have we that here?) the Sup was bought out of her contract and was quite clear that she never felt race was a factor. That there were always complaints and there were many compliments about her and she was heavy handed as she ended busing, pushed for local schools and was out there as many are and her tactics were all Broad Academy ones and that heavy hand has destroyed many a district which means it is not easy to fix. I recall a man who did not even have a student at a school and he wrote a check to keep an art program alive to the tune of 75K to a school and the reality is that this is often how schools are funded furthering the problems versus resolving them.

    This is all in the shadow of nefarious foundations and other astro turf groups some funded by Bill Gates one of the largest kingpins in the “reform” movement. I see one such group cropping up here and while they preach (which you love here in ways I think detrimental) school improvement they are clear that they mean via charters and other efforts that harm schools in the most significant way – funding. Again this is not a problem exclusive to Nashville but you have real significant ones thanks to charters and now the push for vouchers. Yikes. This will not end well and be the real problem in finding talent of any kind willing to do the heavy lifting regardless of the job that needs to be filled.

  4. My letter to Mayor Briley regarding trees and the school
    Board. At least the mayor’s behavior is consistently dishonest. After that press conference last week followed by the cherry trees we know what to expect from him.

    Dear Mayor Briley and Vice-Mayor Schulman,

    Your decision to move the cherry trees is too little too late. Too late because the trees are quite likely to die if moved this late in the spring – but mostly too little.

    After giving the school board a public and lengthy lecture regarding what you called their lack of transparency, you and your staff turned around and exemplified the height of secrecy as well as indecency lack of respect, and public disregard. Initially, your team secretly disrespected the wishes of the many donors who gave money to honor the memory of Betty Brown, Nashville’s “tree lady” with beautiful trees. Next after a public outcry, you indecently spun the story by saying that it was a decision made by parks and the convention center only and you, the mayor, stepped in to “save the trees” by announcing that the trees would not be chopped down but moved – another way of announcing a death sentence for the trees.

    Finally, you and your team put the NFL first without considering the citizens of of city. Somehow I find in this behavior a parallel between the school board as you said “putting the needs of adults first” rather than focusing on the needs of children.

    I was the architect/editor of the MNPS Character Education initiative. In this initiative we asked the community to prioritize the most important among 10 character traits. Honesty was number one. So we taught about honesty first. A key tenet in teaching children about any positive character trait including honesty was modeling the behavior as an adult. Dr. Joseph has behaved dishonestly on several levels.

    When Dr, Joseph stated In is parting media quip that his “values” and the board’s values wete not in alignment, I see that as his way of agreeing with the board members who have internalized and value honesty. The people calling foul because the director’s skin color is black are covering the truth with smoke and mirrors I am thankful that we have a few elected leaders who value honesty even when it is difficult.

    Beth O’Shea
    Retired MNPS teacher/administrator
    4305 Wallace LN 37215

    Sent from my iPhone

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