COME ON FEEL THE NOISE

“There is something about people who wake up at the dawn of their career and say I’m going to work with children all day, every day, that somehow, sometimes, makes them incapable of communicating with adults.” – Will Pinkston on Nashville Sounding Board Podcast

“There was a sad fellow over on a bar stool talking to the bartender, who was polishing a glass and listening with that plastic smile people wear when they are trying not to scream.”
Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

Quiet Riot was a hard rock band founded in 1973 by guitarist Randy Rhoads and bassist Kelli Garni. Vocalist Kevin Dubrow joined soon after along with drummer Drew Forsyth, Everybody but Dubrow split before the band had its first hit with a line up that consisted of DuBrow, alongside guitarist Carlos Cavazo, bassist Rudy Sarzoand drummer Franki Banali with the Mental Health album in 1983.

The record was an infectious piece of hard rock noise that created substantial fanfare and excitement with the general public. It was anticipated that Quiet Riot would be big stars with a long career. Unfortunately, the more people listened to the band, the more they realized that they didn’t have a whole lot of substance. There were better rock bands available and so the Quiet Riot star started to wane.

The band wasn’t ready to throw in the towel though. They still thought they were something special and the few fans they had, did everything they could to convince to keep trying. As a result, Quiet Riot kept right on touring, albeit in smaller and smaller venues; releasing records that sold less and less. Members began to quit as a sense of futility started to sink in.

In 1985 Rudy Sarzo left the band. Cavazos left shortly thereafter, At one point in the 90’s Dubrow was fired only to be invited back a few later. The original line up got back together again in the 2000s but once again failed to capture the magic and broke up again in 2010 when Dubrow died of a cocaine overdose. In 2014, Banali put the band back together and they continue to tour today with no original members and much, much, smaller crowds. Only the die-hards cling to the hope of world domination.

Right about now, you are probably asking yourself. “What does Quiet Riot have to do with education.” Really nothing, it’s just that this newest voucher legislation Tennessee is trying to pass and the history of vouchers in general, reminds me of the history of Quiet Riot. An idea that was exciting and fresh, exposed to its weaknesses yet continuing to try to convince people it’s more than it actually is. An idea endorsed by none but its hardest core fans.

Voucher history goes back a little further than Quiet Riot’s. It was in the ’50s that economic rock star Milton Friedman began touting their value. In his eyes permitting parents and students to use vouchers to choose their schools would expand freedom of choice and produce more well-educated students. The voucher idea became particularly attractive in the south as it was seen as a way around segregation laws.

The scheme was to close schools and then offer families vouchers. The vouchers at that time were called “tuition grants” and were mostly only good at private segregated schools that became known as segregation academies. Fortunately, the courts didn’t care for the idea so much and shut it down quickly. Worth noting, Brentwood Academy, Franklin Road Academy, and Harding Academy all were founded as segregation academies.

The voucher front was relatively quiet until about 2013 when reform folks in Tennessee started thinking it had potential again, only to see it stall. In 2014, everybody was excited and thinking, here come the hits, but the bill failed again. The following years found legislators still chasing the neon rainbow until 2017 when Rep Bill Dunn and cronies thought they’d finally strung the chords together for a hit, only to see defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

So here it is 2019 and Dunn once again feels the time is ripe for a hit. He’s got a new name for the same old song now – education savings accounts. Most of the verses are the same – failing schools, low-income families, parents no best – but this time he’s willing to tinker a bit with the chords. And tinker they have until the song is almost unrecognizable.

The financial eligibility threshold has been lowered. The scope has been expanded and retracted and expanded. There have been payoffs to freshman Republican legislators. Financial costs have grown. Homeschoolers are in, homeschoolers are out, homeschoolers are back in. Undocumented students are in and now they are out. Rural districts need a little extra financial incentive? Not a problem, we got you covered. Need some background vocals? Here’s Betsy. There is no plank in this proposed legislation that is considered unalterable, nor has been left untouched.

At this point, you have a tune that is barely recognizable and appeals to virtually no one. Seriously, I think there are more people excited over a pending Quiet Riot show then there is over the creation of ESA’s in Tennessee. School boards don’t want it. Parent groups don’t want it. Minister’s don’t want it. Charitable foundations don’t want it. The very people who it is supposed to help don’t want it. So seriously, who is the audience?

It seems that the only people who are really excited about this pending legislation are those with financial connections. No one should be surprised that mega-donor Lee Beaman is extolling the virtues of vouchers, along with Florida Governor Jeb Bush – though how Bush could know what’s best for Tennessee kids is beyond me. Then there is Shaka Mitchell, Tennessee Director of the American Federation for Children. That’s about it. Even Memphis Black Ministers who were previously advocates for vouchers didn’t testify in support this year.

The bottom line is that the time for vouchers, just like Quiet Riot’s time, has passed. Rep. Dunn can try all he likes to recruit new members to the band and tinker with the signature sound, but in the end, it still remains, that there is no real audience. It was a fun idea for a while, filled with potential, but that potential has fizzled and it’s time to move on to bigger more substantial pursuits.

We should heed the words of Mendell Grinter, the executive director of Campaign for School Equity,

“What we’ve heard in community conversations was that Memphians felt there were enough reforms in place and that we should focus on what was already going on, not vouchers.”

Words echoed by Charlie Caswell, a pastor recruited by Grinter’s former organization, that also give a direction we should pursue,

“After looking into the deep revelations about the underfunding of public schools through the [state’s education funding formula] and other things I thought were inequities that weren’t being addressed, it made me kinda rethink those efforts.”

The bill is supposed to come to a vote tomorrow on the House floor with action in the Senate to closely follow. If you can contact your Rep and let them know, this is a bill for no one but special interests want and to please vote against it. I never thought Republicans to be a particularly paternalistic lot, but the passing of this bill would prove me wrong. We really need to ask ourselves, just who is asking for this legislation?

QUICK HITS

Tuesday means MNPS school board meeting time. Taking a look at this week’s agenda and things look fairly innocuous. Most of the consent menu is filled with items that pertain to Metro Food Services, save for one gem. The New Teacher Program is back for more money. Keep in mind that we’ve already awarded them close to a million dollars this school year. Per the agenda, this new contract is not to exceed 480K and is for,

Contractor to provide literacy coaching to teachers, school- based Literacy Teacher Development Specialists (LTDSs), and network literacy specialists within the Schools of Innovation. The coaching collaborative will involve school-based weekly coaching sessions, collaborative planning support, job-embedded coaching and feedback loops for leadership teams, monthly Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), and regular communication and progress reporting with Schools of Innovation leadership.

It seems that our entire priority school plan consists of outsourcing to TNTP. They’ll train teachers, design curriculum, and implement lesson plans. I’d be interested to hear the reasoning why they’ve been tasked with this mission. Prior to this school year, TNTP was on life support and down to one employee. Since Dr. Lisa Coons took over the priority schools, they’ve become an integral part of  MNPS’s turnaround strategy. Based on TNTP’s performance in the past, I find this very concerning.

One of the nicest comments I heard this week from an MNPS professional educator, “Dr. Joseph used to always tell us his door was open or to email him or hit him up on twitter. But I never really felt those were options. With Dr. Battle, I feel like I could actually stop her in the hallway and she would listen to my concerns.” Let’s hope Dr. battle takes the words to heart and builds on them.

It’s TNReady time this week in Nashville. My third-grade son explained the testing process to me over the weekend. Apparently, if you score or 1 or 2 on the test you get assigned the following year to a teacher that’s not so good. Get a 4 or 5, then next year you get one of the good teachers. Hmmmm…who knew?

After tomorrow’s meeting, the school board will have a work session centered on DonorsChoose. Board member Fran Bush has made arrangements for the director of DonorsChoose to present to the board on how the two entities mission can align with the desired outcome of allowing MNPS and DonorsChoose to resume their working relationship. This is an important meeting for teachers as many rely on the added funding to supplement their classrooms.

There seems to be a little controversy over this work session, with some board members pushing back against the DonorsChoose presentation by citing a recently initiated RFP process as a cause not to learn more about DonorsChoose. The initiation of the RFP process confuses me a little bit because it is a process typically taken when the district solicits bids for services involving vendors providing a service for fees from MNPS. That wouldn’t be the case here, there would simply be a vetting ensuring that legal guidelines are met.

The RFP process is a time-consuming one and the nearest predicted time of conclusion would be June. That’s a little late in next year’s planning game for teachers. District leaders have known for at least a year of potential conflicts with DonorsChoose, why are just now getting started with the RFP process?

Furthermore, DonorsChoose is not really a crowdsourcing entity. They get thrown in that basket because of a lack of knowledge of how they do business. Unlike crowdsourcing companies, no money exchange hands, goods remain with the classroom even if the teacher leaves, and there is transparent accounting of all projects at all times. In light of board member Pinkston’s recent attempt to cast DonorsChoose in a reformer light, I think it’s pretty important for board members to get a greater understanding of exactly what the company does and how they operate.

It’s now official. SE Community Superintendent Dottie Critchlow has hit the retirement button with the TNDOE signifying that she will retire at the end of the school year. This will sadden principals in the SE quadrant as they had formed a stellar working relationship with Critchlow. In her resignation letter, Ms. Critchlow stated,

The most important memories I will carry with me are about the people I’ve met during this time in MPNS. Amazing and patient educators have mentored me and helped me grow. Clerical staff, custodians, food service staff, bus drivers, maintenance and security staff have shown such dedication to our students.   Relationships with students and families have been a gift to me.

There are many that will say, right back at you Dottie Critchlow. Thank you for your service.

Last month ProjectLit founder Jared Amato offered up some tips about getting students excited about reading. In case you missed them, we want to make them available again.

It’s no secret that I have a deep affection for McMurray MS. Their EL department is among the best you’ll ever find. Check out this podcast to hear some of their words of wisdom, Aging Out and What We Do Every Day.

POLL RESULTS

It’s time now to take a look at results from the weekend’s poll questions. The first question asked whether you felt that the board should enter into any kind of memorandum of understanding with Mayor Briley.

Based your replies, it doesn’t appear that the idea is very popular with Dad Gone Wild readers. Out of 112 answers, 82 of you, or 73%, answered, “absolutely not, that a board was already in place to govern schools.” The number two answer at 9% felt like the mayor had enough to do with running the city without further injecting himself into school board business. Only 4 of you indicated that you were open to the idea.

This proposal should be considered in light of several current school board members having mayoral aspirations. They might be inclined to play the long game under aspirations of the practice being beneficial to them in the future. Here are the write-in votes,

No! No! No!!! 1
He needs to take over the dysfunctional board 1
Conflicts with the charter and another layer to money mismanagement 1
Absolutely 1
One time only, and only for the 10% raises we need. 1
No. He is not to be trusted! 1
No more delusional minds on the board please 1
Who wrote it Pinkston or Martha Ingram?

Question two asked for your level of optimism toward the new director of schools Dr. Adrienne Battle. This question got slightly more replies with 119, The number one answer with 40 votes, or 34%, indicated guarded optimism. The number 2 answer with 28 responses, or 28%, was that you felt an elevated level of excitement. Only 4 of you expressed feeling less than optimistic. Here are the write-in votes,

Very optimistic! Her first communication with MNPS teachers was inspirational. 1
You will find a way to discredit her 1
Their is a hidden agenda by the board hide and watch 1
Depends on who she chooses as her leadership team. 1
We need to fire chiefs & community supts 1
Praying she Is just as committed as Amy, Jill Fran 1
Better options in MNPS 1
Dr. Battle is the best candidate in the nation. 1
Hopefully she won’t get as cozy with Gentry as Joseph

The last question was meant to call attention to the Red4Ed movement and the fantastic events held over the last week. I realize they weren’t meant to be, and shouldn’t be, a competition but I was hoping to have a little fun while spotlighting them. Hopefully, they will continue throughout the budgeting process and on through the future. It’d be nice if the city were to hold and sponsor a citywide Red4Ed celebration or the mayor issued a proclamation for a day to recognize teachers and the work they do. Just thought of mine. here are the write-in votes,

Hickman 2
Hermitage 2
Just plain silly 1
You are a cancer that is spreading across the district 1
What events??? 1
Fire Jill Petty and Felder 1
Stanford Montessori 1
? How would one know? 1
ALL. Why compete? 1
Smith Springs 1
It’s not a competition…please! 1
Dan Mills and Jill Speering 1
All of them, a growing collective effort!

That’s a wrap. 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. Enjoy TNReady week as much as you can.

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4 thoughts

  1. The payoffs to rural house members must be yooj if vouchers are to stand any chance of passage. Anyone capable of basic math can see that each rural house district would stand to get a lot more dough from the state if they vote no and let that money be returned to the funds for regular BEP than if BEP is watered down over time. Or maybe they are not capable of basic math? I guess we will find out.

  2. Dr. Unchained must be pretty certain of his future employment somewhere to be throwing as much shade as he is on twitter. I mean, wouldn’t a normal person want to watch their public commentary for fear it might reflect poorly for future employment possibilities?

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