“What this country needs is more unemployed politicians.”
Three days ago Metro Nashville School’s made a much-needed change at the Superintendent position. You can call the agreement to part ways a “mutual decision”; but let’s be real here – its a termination by a school board that thinks they can fool the public by playing word games. Legacies are not built by words, but rather actions.
Joseph’s transgressions have been well documented and in what is becoming a pattern for him, Dr. Joseph leaves his job as a superintendent of a school district before the conclusion of his initial contract.
In his place, MNPS has hired a long time member of the Nashville family Adrienne Battle. Battle has been a student, a teacher, an administrator, a principal, a community superintendent, and now the first woman to ever lead Metro Nashville Public Schools.
What you didn’t realize that Nashville had just hired its first woman superintendent to oversee a school district where the majority of staff are female? Perhaps that’s because we are not talking about it. It has merited one line in the Tennessean introducing us to Dr. Battle.
Instead, we are busy talking about Dr.Joseph’s departure, Dr.Joseph’s letter to parents, Dr.Joseph’s new Twitter handle, what Dr.Joseph’s departure means for students, Dr. joseph’s final editorial and let’s not forget about Mayor Briley’s pledge to ensure that the search for a new director stays on track. The woman hasn’t even been in the seat for 10 minutes and Briley is already assuring the public that she’s only temporary and that he’s got it under control.
Imagine if the selection had been Tony Majors instead of Battle. No offense to Majors, but Briley would have been falling all over himself to describe the calming hand of a longtime champion of MNPS. The discussion of future job searches would have been tabled while the fawning commenced. Instead, Briley feels compelled to make sure that stakeholders know the woman is merely temporary.
Compare today’s headlines and quotes to the ones written upon Dr. Joseph’s arrival.
A teary-eyed Board Chairwoman Sharon Gentry said the historical significance of the vote wasn’t lost on her and it marks an important moment for the city.
Much was made and continues to be made, of the fact that Dr. Joseph was the first Black Superintendent of Schools for MNPS. Yet the appointment of the first woman is worthy of nary a mention. Instead, we rush back to discussions over the ex-superintendents Django Unchain derived Twitter handle and his upcoming interview on the Ernie Allen radio show in which I’m sure he will find that honoring the non-disparaging clause of his severance will be challenging.
Here’s the dirty little secret when it comes to education, we’ll discuss inequities all day long as long as the focus remains on race. Bring up the thread of misogyny that runs through public education and it is crickets.
Teaching is a profession made up of mostly women with leadership positions held primarily by men. In the US 76% of teachers are women, at the elementary level it is nearly 90%. In spite of the robust pipeline of female educators coming out of classrooms, just 52 percent of principals are women. A mere 24 percent of district superintendents are women; of the 50 largest districts in the country, 13 are led by women.
Teaching is a profession hampered by traditionally low earnings. The Economic Policy Institute found, “In 2015, public school teachers’ weekly wages were 17.0 percent lower than those of comparable workers.” That is almost the exact disparity between the pay of men and women nationally.
The pay discrepancy is just one example of inequities rooted in past centuries where teaching was a profession young women entered until they met a man and became married. Another byproduct of that tradition is the expectation of working long uncompensated hours. What would be considered overtime in other professions, for teachers, is considered “part of the job”.
The misogyny thread runs deep through the discussion on public education. Look at the words used by Mayor Briley this week in talking about the leadership of MNPS.
“I think it’s a fundamental mistake for us to overemphasize who the director is when it comes to changing the direction of the system.”
We talked ad nauseam about the historical importance of Dr. Joseph as a man of color leading a district made up of a majority of kids of color – his mere ascension would open a previously uninitiated conversation about equity – now that we have a woman in charge, who’s the boss ain’t that big a deal.
Briley is almost downright dismissive of Battle. Instead of choosing to focus on her untapped potential he uses the opportunity to inject a dose of testosterone into the conversation. It becomes all about what he’s going to do with little effort devoted to her potential accomplishments. Don’t you worry little woman, our expectations aren’t too high.
Let’s look at a common thread in all of the articles written on Joseph this week? All are peppered by comments made by male school board member Will Pinkston. A school board member who despite a failure to attend a modicum of school board meetings last year and a propensity to display immature behavior outside the board room, is treated as an elder statesman. Imagine the narrative had a woman resigned her position by publishing a vitriolic letter and then changed her mind the next week and proclaimed, she’s still resigning but is not sure what day that will be.
Look at last week’s article in the Tennessean reporting on the relationship between Frogge and Pinkston. Pinkston is quoted as saying, “I’m exhausted, as is the entire city, from listening to Amy’s endless soliloquies on the board floor that are the functional equivalent of filibustering designed to bring every process and decision to a halt,” Nice dog whistle, we all know how annoying those screechy woman’s voices are, always nagging. Poor Pinkston having to listen that naggy woman.
Pinkston is allowed to go further and paint Frogge as less than serious,
“That was the moment when white parents and principals in West Nashville went on the attack — and Amy led that charge,” he said. “Without question, this is a racially polarized environment, and I think that’s a terrible look for the so-called ‘It City’ in 2019.”
None of that statement is rooted in fact. Principals from Pinkston’s own district were among those dissatisfied – of course, he wouldn’t know that because most are blocked from communicating with him – as were parents all over town. It wasn’t just white parents and educators that were critical either, as evidenced by those who filed lawsuits and those who spoke on camera. But as a white male, Pinkston’s words were given credibility sans evidence.
Frogge shouldn’t have been surprised. This kind of treatment is fairly routine, during last years budget meetings Joseph was caught on a hot mic explaining her job and the law in a condescending manner despite Frogge having a law degree.
Now stories are starting to leak out about problems involving issues with Dr. Battle’s husband and his position as a principal at WCS. It is inferred that somehow Dr. Battle is responsible for the shortcomings of her husband. When was the last time that dynamic was reversed and a man in leadership was held responsible for the behavior of his wife? But that’s how we roll when it comes to the woman in leadership. Because we always view the woman in the role of the matriarch.
It has got to stop. Fixing inequities is not a call to merely address race, it’s a call to level the playing field for all. I go back to CM Ed Kindall’s Op-Ed accusing other’s of unfairly shaming Shawn Joseph,
I constantly hear one board member talk about how she successfully raised five boys, and I congratulate her. But how does this relate to our schools?
It would appear she has a great message for a PTA or PTO group, but not in a board meeting focused on all of Metro’s students with many and varied social, emotional and academic needs.
Good lord! That’s not even a dog whistle but rather a flat putting of someone in their place. Yet not a single public figure raised an objection. The pursuit of equity means addressing inequities in whatever form they appear – race, religion, or sex – not just the ones that strike our fancy.
For the first time in the history of MNPS, we have a director of schools who is a woman. We have a director of schools that is a by-product of the Nashville school system. That’s pretty fucking amazing – pardon my french – and should excite all of us.
That’s what I want to talk about. I want to hear Dr. Battle talk about addressing problems with a discipline policy that allows three kids to jump one, and none be suspended. I want to hear what Dr. Battlke is going to do to accelerate literacy growth. Will she actually attend ProjectLit book clubs. Imagine the power of a young lady sitting across from director of schools discussing books knowing that director not only looks like her but once sat in the very seat she sits now.
There are some issues that have to be dealt with immediately. People will be watching and basing their support on how they are handled. Nothing is bigger than the situation with Sharon Pertiller and her position in HR. Will Battle follow the recommendation in the HR audit, or will Pertiller continue to be protected?
Questions surround Sito Narcisse and Monique Felder’s future and whether they will remain employed. What about the community superintendent model, will that remain intact? Currently, 2 out of the 4 positions are open. Who will become a member of Dr. Battles executive leadership team? They are the things we should be writing about.
Here’s some unsolicited advice for Dr. Battle. I would become a very visible and very vocal proponent in support of the proposed budget. Oh, you didn’t know the board passed a new budget for next year?
Yep, it’s for $962 million it reflects the needs of Metro Schools and not just what Briley’s deems the city can afford. It’s one that includes a 10% raise for employees and trauma centers in our neediest schools. Passing it was a pretty courageous act by a board that is oft accused of being dysfunctional. There was only one dissenting voice…you guessed it.
If I was Battle, I’d break out my red and get myself to several of the Red4Ed gatherings assembled by teachers to support fully funding our schools. I’d be wearing my red proudly when presenting the budget to the mayor.
Teachers need to know that someone at the top recognizes and values them. They need to know someone has their back and is willing to fight for them. Don’t let people try and deceive you, teacher issues are student issues. Focusing on teachers is focusing on students. I can’t think of anybody better to support teachers than someone who has walked the floors of MNPS classrooms as a classroom teacher.
That’s who I want to hear from. I don’t need to hear any more from Mayor Briley, Will Pinkston, or Shawn Joseph. They had their shot, they dropped the ball…time to let a woman take over and I think we’ve got just the woman for the job. Now, are we going to let her do it?
Vouchers continue to suck all the air out of the room when it comes to issues on the hill. But let’s not forget that the Kindergarten portfolio assessment program is still making lives miserable. Andy Spears at TNEd Report has an update. Shockingly the TNDOE is shifting the narrative to meet its needs,
While teachers were raising concerns with legislators, the Department of Education, always eager to call teachers liars, suggested that MOST Kindergarten teachers loved the portfolio model and were enjoying this year’s experience. No, I’m not joking. A TN DOE representative claimed that more than 80% of Tennessee Kindergarten teachers actually liked the portfolio model.
On my list of things to write about for the last 6 months is the Nashville Educator Cooperative. The cooperative is a grassroots organization that has sprung up in Nashville to support teachers in public, private, and charter schools. They hold a summer workshop and then follow up by meeting throughout the year, both formally and informally, to offer support to Nashville teachers. By all reports, it is a fantastic resource and I urge everyone to check them out.
Nashville Rising is a new organization in Nashville comprised of some familiar faces. They are attempting to address the growing issues with poverty in Music City. Mark this one on your calendar and attend if you can. It’s important.
I grew up during the age of journalists like Royko, Breslin, and Herbert. Writers that took the journalist’s role of holding public figures accountable very serious. Most of those writers have gone the way of the dinosaur, but luckily one still practices his craft in Nashville, Phil Williams. I hope all of you realize that without him the conversation right now would be about a contract extension and not the historical naming of a woman as director of schools. If that had been the case, the ineptitude and illegal actions would have likely continued.
Williams recently received word that he and his team have been nominated for a coveted Peabody award for their story on lead in school drinking water. A story that lead to a dramatic change in policy by MNPS. Here’s hoping Williams wins.
Here’s some good news, legislation to arm teachers has been pulled by it’s sponsor Rep Ryan Williams. The bad news is that Williams is threatening to bring it back up next year.Democratic leaders said Williams was wise to park his bill for the year and praised passage this spring of Gov. Bill Lee’s $30 million plan to place 500 school resource officers in schools that don’t currently have one, many in rural areas. Per Senate Minority leader Jeff Yarbro of Nashville,
“Everybody up here recognizes the safety of students should be a priority, but I think the bipartisan approach we’ve already taken is much more sensible and will provide more security for our students.”
I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite recent articles; 4 Things Teachers Shouldn’t Be Asking Their Students to Do. Enjoy, I did.
TNReady testing starts next week, so I’m sure they’ll plenty to report in that realm next week. Good luck students and remember it is just a snapshot of where you are on one particular day. Don’t get too stressed.
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