UNCHAINED OR UNHINGED…OR DO WE EVEN KNOW THE DIFFERENCE?

“As a general rule, I would say that human beings never behave more badly toward one another than when they believe they are protecting God.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires, – Susan B. Anthony

Six weeks ago, when it was becoming apparent that Director of Schools Shawn Joseph would not finish out the remainder of his contract, board member Amy Frogge proposed the board seek independent counsel to handle his contract dissolution negotiations. Board Chair Sharon Gentry and Vice-Chair Christiane Buggs, stuck to their well established positions and dismissed the idea outright. New board members Gini Pupo-Walker and Rachael Anne Elrod were openly disdainful of the suggestion. The proposal died and as a result, the same people who created the original contract – one that even legal council Corey Harkey publicly admitted was overly favorable to Joseph – created a buy out that was equally as favorable to Joseph.

Less than a month later, it should be crystal clear why that was a mistake. Since agreeing to leave Joseph has done anything but. He’s created a social media handle @unchainedjoseph in which he’s utilized to take repeated shots through proxies at the board, the district itself, and News 5 reporter Phil Williams. He’s taken to 92Q and the Ernie Allen Show to hold a mini town-hall where he announced that he has created a website through which “unchained” merchandise can be purchased and his new book Finding Your Inner Joseph can be pre-ordered. I wonder if Pinkston will get an actual writing credit for the book or just serve as a ghost writer.

Meanwhile his supporters – few but vocal – continue to flood the Tennessean and print their own manifests as an attempt to rewrite history. This weekend the Tennessee Tribune published an article that as much I can tell, attempts to draw a parallel between Joseph and Jesus. It reads like something written by the Unabomber and frames Joseph critics in a manner that I find quite troubling, and frankly, I would argue puts their safety at risk.

A picture of board member Jill Speering is placed next to a picture of the Klu Klux Klan with the following paragraph.

In one instance, a race-baiting white woman on the school board told the public if they wanted to come and speak out against Dr. Joseph but were afraid, they should wear masks, harken back to the good old days of the mask wearing KKK.

How is that ok? The Tribune article goes on to list more of the wrongs inflicted on Joseph while touting the fact that he will be paid out by the district, “He came for the children. But now, he and the school district have parted ways and, tellingly, they will he paying out his contract in a lump sum.”  The article, as with all others penned by supporters,  ignores his shortcomings and uses the buyout as a means to legitimize his narrative. 

I have to ask, how is any of this beneficial for kids? How does witnessing an adult fail to accept responsibility for his shortcomings and learn from his mistakes, help children? How does seeing a man who once led one of the largest organizations in the city act like a petulant child benefit children? How does the continued propagating of a false narrative, benefit children? The answer is, it doesn’t, just the opposite.

As part of his settlement, Joseph is being paid $28k until July in order that he can offer guidance to new superintendent Adrienne Battle as she assumes leadership duties. How can he possibly execute that clause when he is sowing discord with the school system and its leaders throughout the city and showing open disdain for Dr. Battle’s bosses?

I’m just not sure what the end game here is. Google, “recently terminated director of schools creates a web site that works against school district he was previously employed with”, and tell me what you find. I found nothing. In other words, Joseph’s strategy does not qualify as a best practice and is destined to make him unemployable.

Last month the MNPS School Board had an opportunity to fix a mistake made nearly 3 years ago. They could have hired an outside attorney at a nominal cost and negotiated an ending to Joseph’s contract that protected the interests of the district. Instead, certain individuals put the interests of one man above the interests of 85K plus children. That’s on them.

Gentry and Buggs staked a  position that held no surprises for me. Gentry has long been a champion of self-interest and Buggs…well all you need to do is look at the tag line on merchandise sales at Joseph’s site.

“50% of all proceeds collected will support the Equity Alliance and Gideon’s Army to support efforts to galvanize our community.”

In case you are not familiar with the Equity Alliance, they are an organization that does incredible work in the voter registration arena. They are also an organization in which Buggs was a founding member. She is currently on the board of directors. Joseph spells out his mission in very clear terms while defining community in us vs them terms. Buggs as a school board member has a mission to represent ALL Nashville children, not just those in “our” community. How do the two positions align?

Walker and Elrod had a chance to break the cycle of not honestly addressing issues and instead chose to duck and hope for the best. Instead of being proactive and ensuring that MNPS was protected, they provided Joseph with legitimacy that makes the work of the district all that much more difficult. They’ve demonstrated why leadership is about making hard decisions and what happens when you shirk from those decisions in favor of everybody just “playing nice.” Hopefully, they’ll learn from this blooming fiasco and realize that some things just can’t be sugar-coated.

I’d love to be a fly in Mayor Briley’s office these days. After all, Unchained is his guy. When given a chance to offer a healthy critique, he chose instead to double down on the school board and give Joseph a pass. Hopefully, he’s asking himself, who really has the interests of Nashville’s students at heart?  Who is appearing to be more and saner every day? But maybe he hasn’t figured it out yet, maybe somebody needs to send him a Nashville Unchained shirt to wear at Tuesday’s State of the City speech.

This morning I’ve heard a lot of people saying, “OK this is crazy, but is anyone really paying any attention?”

I’d argue that many people are ignoring Joseph, but I would also argue that for many he is cementing a narrative that casts the school district in an unfavorable light, especially those that are already predisposed for that narrative. A narrative that fortifies walls that need to be torn down in order for the district to actually move towards true equity. It’s a narrative that will peal supporters off at a time that MNPS needs as many supporters as possible.

Nashville is an underfunded school district. Vouchers are on the way to worsen that problem.  Its teachers are in desperate need of a raise. Too many of our children are becoming victims of gun violence. The gap between those benefitting from the “new” Nashville and those being disenfranchised is growing every day. We don’t have time to become distracted by Dr. Joseph’s ambition to sell books and t-shirts in order to create a messianic image of himself.

Nashville has a new superintendent in Adrienne Battle. There are enough odds stacked against her succeeding already. Despite what we are led to believe, there is no shortage of people who feel they are more qualified to run the district if she stumbles. She needs people to help make the job easier, not make it more difficult through the pursuit of their own self-interests. I’ve said all along, that this is supposed to be about ALL the children in the district and not just about one man, or woman.

I grew up a Denver Bronco fan. Becoming a Bronco fan in 1970 was no easy chore, they were terrible. Somehow in 1978, the Broncos made it to their first Super Bowl. We lost, but to see the team effort that got us to the pinnacle, left a lasting impression on me.

John Elway arrived as a savior in the early 80’s. A gifted athlete that eventually led the Broncos to their first title. A title that I celebrated, though I was never a fan of Elway. You see, I was a Bronco fan and if anything got bigger than the team, I resented it. Denver didn’t win its first title until Elway realized that.

On their first three trips to the Super Bowl, the Broncos consisted mainly of Elway and a supporting cast. They lost all three times. It was only when Denver returned to the Super Bowl with a complete team behind Elway, that they were able to win the title. That’s an important lesson to remember. One man does not win the game in a team sport and he shouldn’t be allowed to distract from the team goal either.

Joseph had his shot. It’s over now. Let the team building begin. Right now Dr. Joseph is acting in a manner that puts him above the team in a manner that actually harms MNPS. That can’t be acceptable to anyone. His message of equity is an important one, but it needs to be carried by a team and not a savior.

QUICK HITS

The voucher fight in Tennessee is far from over. Today Superintendents Adrienne Battle of Nashville and Joris Ray of Shelby County have indicated that if the legislation is passed targeting just Nashville and Memphis the districts will pursue legal action. Per ChalkbeatTN,

“If the Governor and Legislature are determined to pass a general law that would apply arbitrarily only to us or a limited number of school systems, we will be sure to exhaust all of our legal options,” including a possible lawsuit, said Ray, interim superintendent of Shelby County Schools, the state’s largest district.

There is a rally to oppose voucher legislation at legislative plaza today around 3:30 for any who can make it.

MNPS advocate David Jones has an op-ed in the Tennessean calling for the Mayor and Metro Councill to fully fund MNPS. Go, David!

Over the last several decades there has been a determination to evaluate a school based on test scores. This narrow focus has been a detriment to schools and students quality of education. Finally, people are starting to wake up to the fallacy of test scores being an accurate reflection of the quality of a school. Out in Colorado, they are taking steps to expand those evaluations. A coalition of rural Colorado districts has spent four years building a parallel, unofficial school improvement system that looks beyond test scores and seeks to measure things like the quality of instruction and student attitudes toward learning.

Leslie Colwell of the Colorado Children’s Campaign told the Senate Education Committee earlier this month.

“We believe the systems by which we hold school accountable should include multiple measures and reflect the whole child”

Worth keeping an eye on.

The Overton high school paper staff has started a series called The Voice in the Seats that tells the stories of their fellow students. Check out the first episode about Adolphie and his journey from an African refugee camp: Check it out.

POLL RESULTS

It’s time now to take a look back at results from this week’s poll questions.

The first one asked for your opinion on TNReady this past year. Many of you made sure that I understood, testing was not over. I apologize for making that mistake. You also shared horror stories with me. Stories that involved computers not working, students getting dropped from the platform, a science test that doesn’t seem to be appropriate, among other things. The only conclusion I can draw is that this testing thing still ain’t working.

That’s backed up by the questions number one answer. 43% of you said “long and exhausting”. The number two answer was a tie at 17% between “it is what it is” and “better than expected.” Maybe a glimmer of optimism? Here are the write-ins,

Problem-ridden, pointless, boring, a waste of time and money. 1
Same unacceptable chaos, different year 1
Waste of taxpayer $$

The number two question asked what MNPS should do with the scripted curriculum that was introduced last year. The top two answers were, “let those who want it use it” and “take them out in the parking lot and create an end of year bonfire”. Kinda gives direction doesn’t it? Here are the write-ins,

Throw them in the trash! 1
Let’s all do the same curriculum 1
Hopefully IFL can mean increased funding levels. My rent has gone up $195 a mo.

The last one is a question we ask every couple of months. It is also one that somebody may want to call Mayor Briley’s attention to. The question is, which board member do you have the most faith ing? Per usual, Amy Frogge runs away with it. This time she gets 63 votes out of 102. Jill Speering and Fran Bush are the next two. You can make what you want out of these results, but I think it puts a little hole in the narrative of Frogge, Speering, and Bush being outliers. Here are the write-ins,

None of them. We need a do over… 1
Amy and Jill – any ofo then that voted for Gentry as chairman need to be gone 1
None of them. They reek of personal interests and our kids continue to suffer. 1
Tie with Jill and Amy 1
None 1
Jill. Amy. Fran. 1
Can we vote for Frogge, Speering and Bush?

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 the remainder of TNReady testing as much as you can.

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6 thoughts

  1. Thrilled to hear Nashville will sue if the ridiculous voucher bill targets us and Memphis uniquely. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

    Another masterstroke would be for Nashville and Memphis to convert charters to direct-state-voucher-funded private schools. Since no one much in Nashville agrees with me that our taxes should be restored to levels of only a few years ago in order to fund teacher raises…… Perhaps simply getting out of the business of Nashville-funded and Memphis-funded charter schools is the best way to get our teachers some way overdue raises.

    Charter schools are hyper-efficient, or so they claim. They should do great on $7,500 per kid.

    1. Puts a lie to the lie indeed to say you can get the job done for 7300 in those cities.

      There are multiple ironies there. First irony is an MNPS school gets about that amount from district per kid. Charter gets over 9k per kid to allow for busses and admin etc. so, no a charter cannot get it done for 7300 in Nashville.

      Other irony is that 7300 seems to have been arrived at by averaging the costs statewide yet the bill is for the places with the highest costs mainly due to high sped populations.

      At least for consistency the bill should have provided 10k to a smaller number of people.

  2. Well this was insulting: What I would say is that I noticed from the time I came to Nashville, I noticed that people aren’t used to strong African-Americans, particularly male leaders and there aren’t that many in Nashville.

    Perhaps he should do some soul searching and travel to Memphis. Just a thought

  3. There are strong African-American males in MNPS, at least in administrative positions. I have been teaching in MNPS for 11 years. In that time, I have had 7 Executive Principals, 5 of whom have been black males. The other two have been a white woman and a white man. In my time, there have been 3 superintendents; all male- one white, one Hispanic, one black. Make that 1 woman- Adrienne Battle. I am rooting for her. My current AP is a black male.

  4. the Tennessee Tribune is a hack, one-issue publication, and should not be taken any more seriously than Mad Magazine.

    in a sane world someone would tell Dr. Django he is embarrassing himself and to pack up and find a new residence. instead he is on the radio and selling t-shirts.

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