The freedom to criticize judges and other public officials is necessary to a vibrant democracy. The problem comes when healthy criticism is replaced with more destructive intimidation and sanctions – Sandra Day O’Connor
Over the weekend I talked to a friend of mine who is a black leader in the Nashville education field. We discussed current events and tried to predict what might happen this coming week.
“That was a powerful statement Pinkston made in that resignation letter of his“, he remarked.
“What the hell are you talking about?”, I shot back, “That was pure fiction written by a man who serves no agenda but his own.”
“I don’t know about all that. Just try to look at that letter and take it through the eyes of a black person living in Nashville. Here you have this white school board member resigning and citing the way Dr. Joseph has been treated as a reason. It justifies some of the feelings you might be feeling. Look at it that way and it’s pretty powerful.”
Initially, I rejected this interpretation but I kept thinking about it as the weekend wore on. I got to admit, he raises a valid point. Those of us involved in education advocacy often fall prey to the temptation to play inside baseball. We are very versed in our subject matter and come to expect that level of knowledge from others, which is often not the case.
The average person reading Will Pinkston’s resignation letter takes it at face value through the lens that he is a white veteran school board member who previously served Phil Bredesen while Bredesen was governor. They have no idea that Pinkston has failed to attend in their entirety over 80% of last years meetings. They have no idea that as chair of the director evaluation committee he was never able to complete a director’s evaluation on time. They don’t know about his bully tactics on social media nor any of his other shenanigans. They just know him as a white school board member who is now citing racism as a major factor in Dr. Joseph’s failure to succeed.
And Pinkston is acutely aware of that.
After all, he has made a career on the back of our moral failings. He knows that there is always a political constituency that will ignore his tactics and embrace him because of a belief that alignment will benefit their cause. It’s the classic, the ends justify the means. And we are seeing evidence of this in black elected officials sharing his resignation letter and in writings produced by supposed social justice groups.
This weekend, internet magazine Nashville Voice published a piece by author Niara Savage defending Will Pinkston’s tactics. In her piece, Savage attempts to portray Pinkston as the noble defender of Joseph and argues criticism of the director is purely racially motivated. In her piece, Savage dishonestly portrays the nature of a school board member’s invitation to critics to wear masks, accuses 3 board members of a coordinated takedown – which defies mathematical logic – of the director, and despite Pierce’s history as being one of the director’s staunchest public defenders accuses her of endorsing attacks “defined not only by a level of disrespect for the director but are also marked by a degree of resentment.”
Savage concludes her piece by saying,
While Pierce’s op-ed parades itself as an attempt to call out bullying behaviors, in reality, the curious timing and off-beat focus of Pierce’s commentary demonstrates an attempt to villainize one of the most prominent voices in defense of Joseph.
We can talk all day about the fact that throughout her tenure Pierce regularly called out Pinkston’s behavior. We can talk all day about the lack of attention Pinkston has shown throughout his tenure to the pursuit of equity as opposed to the pursuit of his personal agenda of prosecuting charter schools. We can also ignore the disrespectful behavior that was endured by previous directors. Jay Steele was at the White House presenting to President Obama on the gains of the MNPS Academy model when he was unceremoniously removed from the director position. Imagine if such an action was repeated today.
If Pinkston’s action were just cover for his personal failings, devoid of greater community impact, we could ignore them. Unfortunately, they impact not just the quality of our schools, but how we interact as a community. This becomes especially dangerous in light of Mayor Briley wading into the quagmire.
Briley admits that he hasn’t talked extensively to all board members, nor has he delved too deeply into the accusations, he just knows what he has read in the paper. He freely admits that he hasn’t even read the HR Report compiled by his former law firm. An HR report that was not forced on Joseph, but rather one he requested. Sans any real understanding, or apparent understanding of potential consequences, Briley picks up the Pinkston narrative and doubles down on it.
The Tennesse Tribune adds to the smoke by echoing those cries of criticism of Joseph being of a purely racial nature, “Given that the entire city watched idly by as one of its most powerful leaders derailed by blatant acts of subservient racism in broad daylight, why would any qualified candidates of color want to even consider Nashville as a great place to uproot and relocate their families?”
This endorsement of Dr. Joseph’s pending departure being purely racially motivated has fueled the formation of a movement to recall a recently elected school board member. This movement isn’t motivated by financial impropriety committed by the elected official. It’s not motivated by her failure to execute the duties of her office. It is motivated purely by her criticism of Dr. Joseph, a platform on which she ran her campaign. A campaign she won handily against an incumbent who was perceived as an ally of Joseph.
This action establishes a very dangerous precedent. Odds are the action will not prove successful, but it should be noted that Mayor Briley has repeatedly called on the board to rally around the majority decision. Why is that not equally applicable here?
Returning back to Ms. Savage’s piece, she talks of disrespect towards the director while defending Pinkston who recently wrote in an evaluation of the director of schools, “I take solace in the fact that these board members have marginalized themselves in the community (and, in one case, demonstrated an inability to multiply 3 x 5).” Which is not only the height of disrespect but also begs the question, how do marginalized board members coordinate a successful takedown of a director?
You don’t secure respect by disrespecting others. Just like you don’t secure equity simply by taking from others. Equity means creating a system where all benefit and have the opportunity to succeed at the highest level. It is not just the transfer of power from one group into the hands of another.
Furthermore, if Dr. Joseph’s dismissal is squarely rooted in racism does he not have a moral obligation to fight it? Why is he content to negotiate an exit while leaving others to fight he should be leading? Same holds true for Pinkston. If his resignation is an indication of his true beliefs why did he not engage more as a board member? Where was his moral outrage then? Perhaps it’s because both know that under closer scrutiny, it becomes clear that the case against Dr. Joseph has deeper roots in performance versus race.
If either Joseph or Pinkston needs an example of fighting for a moral imperative, they need look no further than board member Jill Speering. Speering believed that the children of Nashville deserved better and never backed down from the fight despite heavy criticism, missteps, overwhelming odds, and health concerns. That’s a whole lot more than an off the cuff remark while you are heading out the door. Speering chose to live her convictions as opposed to just talking about them.
Those of us who truly care about equity should be very concerned about the use of racism as a vehicle for purely political gain. The existence of institutional racism is indisputable and we should all work for its eradication. However, that requires careful care in making accusations that are devoid of documented evidence. In his brief time here Dr. Joseph has generated a laundry list of offenses, failure to address these offenses based on a political agenda does a disservice to all of us and hurts the cause of racial equity.
Dr. Joseph is and shall always remain Nashville’s first black director of schools. Dr. Joseph did not possess the skill set required to succeed as director of schools for MNPS. Those two statements stand independent of each other, sans both causation or correlation. He will not be the last person of color to lead the district. True equity will not come until more emphasis is placed on performance rather than the color of skin.
Bringing equity to a system historically devoid of it is going to require everybody working together. It’s going to take everybody doing the heavy lifting. By the nature of its very definition, it’s going to require listening and talking by all. It’s going to take calling out of those that would lead us down a road that separates rather than unite. It’ll also take all of us making sure we are using our voices for the greater good and not the individual good.
That means that in this pursuit, we should guard against the machinations of those who would – intentionally or unintentionally – pit us against each other. We need to approach each other with a willingness to not necessarily forget, but to forgive. Neither side is devoid of mistakes or misconstruction. It’s a lot to ask, but the very future of not only our children but also our community is at stake. I think we owe it to each other to do a better job.
The results are in and MNEA now has new leadership. Amanda Kail and Michelle Sheriff are the new president and vice-president of MNEA along with Paula Pendergrass as the new treasurer. They replace leadership that has treated leadership seats as a revolving assignment for nearly two decades.
Interestingly enough, the outgoing officers supported school board member Will Pinkston assertion that there were no widespread problems with morale throughout the district. They also attempted to distance themselves as much as possible from the Red4Ed movement. The election shows both of those thoughts to be incongruous with the feelings of rank and file members.
I’ll admit to being skeptical initially to the Red4Ed movement, but after seeing the way that it has united teachers across the district, color me impressed. In a year filled with news of discontent, Red4Ed has brought some excitement and unity to the table by choosing not to focus on shortcomings but rather how we>me. Kail, Sheriff, and Pendergrass – along with all of those who participated deserve to be congratulated for not only winning but also for the style they did it with.
In case you have any questions on why Teach for America gets as much criticism as it does, look no further than the organization’s recently held celebration of 10 years in Nashville. Fresh off getting their contract renewed, TFA held an event at Pearl Cohn HS that felt more like a celebration of charter schools and the reform movement than it did a celebration of the teaching profession.
Prior to the vote to extend the contract, representatives urged board members to look past criticisms of teacher quality and instead focus on the unique training candidates received from David Lipscomb University. Yes, Nashville candidates are better prepared than their national cohorts, but that does not take away the fact that TFA regularly uses funds from awarded from public schools to attack the system. It’s kind of like gay people eating at Chick-Fil-A every Saturday. Yes, you are getting a quality meal but overall it’s contributing to a decline in your quality of life.
The next chance to voice your opposition to Governor Lee’s ESA plan comes tomorrow when Tennessee Strong is calling for parents to join a sick-in by teachers and rally at the capital at from noon to one. Be there or be square.
Meanwhile, opposition to the bill continues to pour in from disparate constituents. Over the weekend border control advocates, the Minutemen announced an intended ad buy in opposition to the governor’s plan based on the possibility that funds could go to undocumented individuals. Strange bedfellows indeed.
Many of you have taken note of this weeks MNPS School Board agenda. An agenda that apparently includes the removal of Dr. Joseph as the Director of Schools and the installing of an interim director. What exactly it means is anyone’s guess and the clue will probably be whether Pinkston attends the meeting or not.
If he does attend than it is probably a good guess that somethings in the works. Otherwise, the vote could be deadlocked at 4 – 4. Hopefully, nobody is forgetting what happened the last time the board named an interim director.
Join the CMA Foundation in celebrating this year’s #MusicTeachersOfExcellence by heading to musicteachersofexcellence.org/#thanks to tell them how much you appreciate their work! 10 Metro School teachers will be recognized this year!
Calling all teachers!! State Superintendent Peggy Schwinn NEEDS your feedback! One of the questions on this year’s survey is about what YOU want to see in an education strategic plan. Help her and the TDOE identify the best ideas to support our students and teachers by completing your educator survey! The Tennessee Educator Survey only requires 15-20 min to complete and you could win a classroom grant of $300 just for filling out the survey! Be sure to complete yours using the personalized link sent to you. That’s my public service announcement.
This week is National Assistant Principals Week! Thank you to all of our APs across the state for the strong leadership you bring to TN schools daily. You are amazing! Special shout out to Donna Gill and Mr. Holmes at Tusculum ES.
Let’s take a quick look at results.
The first question asked who you supported for Mayor. This one surprised me a bit. I expected that there would be increased support for John Ray Clemmons, but I did not anticipate that out of 121 responses 101 would be for Clemmons. Nor did I anticipate that Carol Swain would outdraw Briley in votes 12-3. This is not a good indicator for Briley. The door has definitely been open for Clemmons, let’s see if he walks through it.
Here are the write-in votes,
|Not sure yet.||1|
|Anyone but Briley|
Question 2 asked whether you thought that the MNPS School Board should hire outside counsel. Out of 131 responses, 100 of you thought that would be a good idea. Here are the write-in votes,
|Fire him with cause!||1|
|Frogg , Speering and Bush need to hire an attorney||1|
|Fire his ass.||1|
|Wait it out. Once he doesn’t have a license, he isn’t eligible to be employed||1|
|Just end it. He’s stolen entof our resources.|
Question 3 asked for your go-to source for education news. Not surprisingly, News 5, and Phil Williams were the victors with 82 out of a potential 127 votes. It must be acknowledged that Williams and crew earned their victory the hard way, by doing exceptional work over a prolonged period of time. here are the write-in votes,
|Dad Gone Wild||5|
|Dad Gone Wild;) | Channel 5||1|
|A mix of these||1|
|all of the above||1|
|Dad gone wild|
That’s a wrap. Odds are there will be a mid-week update so stay tuned and 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.