EVIL EYE FLEAGAL IS ON THE RUN

“Cities controlled by big companies are old hat in science fiction. My grandmother left a whole bookcase of old science fiction novels. The company-city subgenre always seemed to star a hero who outsmarted, overthrew, or escaped “the company.” I’ve never seen one where the hero fought like hell to get taken in and underpaid by the company. In real life, that’s the way it will be. That’s the way it always is.”
Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower

“Well that’s very kind of you, but voices ought not to be measured by how pretty they are. Instead, they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth.”
Sam Cooke

The conflagration that is Tennessee Speaker of the House Glen Casada’s career continued to burn this weekend as more and more Republicans have stepped up and called on him to step down as Speaker of the House. Tennessee Governor Lee has even weighed in, going as far to say that if Speaker Casada was a member of his administration he would ask him to resign. That’s all well and good, and I fully support the expedited exit of Casada, but it also brings an air of hypocrisy into the room.

Casada today is whom he has always been; a smooth political operator who is ruthless towards his political opponents with a love for late night fruits. He’s been a fixture at drinking establishments in the Nashville’s Gulch area for at least half a decade and his lecherous behavior the worst kept secret in Nashville. I’m sure such behavior was a contributing factor to Casada’s recent divorce.

As a politician, Casada has been extremely effective for his party. Over the years he’s shown an affinity for producing results. That’s precisely the reason he was chosen to be Speaker of the House. Other members knew that he would get things done and as long as the public didn’t know how he did it, and he was successful, everybody could turn a blind eye to his unchecked behavior. We could all pretend that he indeed was that Christian family man that he claimed to be. But now that the cat is out of the bag, and who Casada is has been revealed, suddenly fellow Republicans are mortified.

That’s not meant to be a shot at Republicans, Democrats have their own abhorrent individuals whose behavior goes unchecked due to some perceived political benefit. At some point, it’ll catch up  to them as well, because it’s doubtful that anyone will learn anything from Casada’s tumble from grace.

This year, during the fight over voucher legislation there was a constant rumbling over the tactics that Casada was employing to get the Governor’s signature bill through. Casada deftly utilized both the carrot and the stick, the outcome being that after a decade of trying, Tennesse now had a voucher program in place. Unfortunately for him, the rumblings grew so loud that they caught the ear of the FBI.

Late last week it was revealed that the FBI was looking into exactly what carrots and what sticks were used in order to pass voucher legislation. Legislation that still sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature in order for it to become law. I suspect that the Governor will take a moment before putting pen to paper on that one. Anybody who is in opposition to the voucher bill needs to take this opportunity to call Lee’s office and voice their opposition. That phone number is 615-741-2001.

If you are on the fence about calling, please realize that’s what is in the final bill, is not what was promised. Per ChalkbeatTN, the final bill puts a lot of power in the hands of the state department of education in regard to the scope of the ESA program. That’s a lot of extra work for a department that has not demonstrated that it is capable of handling its current assignments with competence, but fear not the bill gives the TN Department of Education the ability to partner with a non-profit for administration purposes. Want to bet that Tennessee Federation for Children is already on speed dial?

In case you didn’t know it, TFC was one of the biggest proponents for an ESA program, despite the very limited success of the state’s current program that makes vouchers available for disabled students. TFC director Shaka Mitchell was previously the director for Rocketship Academy who resigned when Rocketship’s attempted expansion was denied by both local and national boards due to questions about the schools’ ability to meet student needs. Now he’s helped usher in a bill that will hurt more kids than it will help.

The biggest omission from the final bill is the guarantee of reimbursements to urban districts for funding losses due to the ESA program. Remember, it was promised that if kids in the urban districts took a voucher, the district in the first 3 years would be reimbursed for the lost funding. The bill’s final language though says the funds are “subject to appropriation.” Thus, those reimbursements won’t be distributed if the governor and legislature decide later not to allocate up to $165 million over three years to offset expenses based on full participation in the program. Smells a little like a bait and switch, doesn’t it?

As the new week begins, Casada is still Speaker of the House. Despite a call by the Black Caucus for his resignation and the revelation of more inappropriate texts, he refuses to resign. Over the weekend Casada seemed to enjoy himself at Steeplechase. An annual social event that masquerades as a Charity Horse Race but in reality is a thinly veiled excuse to dress pretty, celebrate your social standing, and do a little day drinking, with emphasis on the latter. Honestly right now, Casada is starting to resemble Gregor Glegane in Gleganebowl – the epic Game of Thrones battle that took place this weekend between Gregor and his brother Sandor.

I’ve heard Democrats ruminate on how in god’s name did Casada got elected. If we are not careful, he’ll show us. Democrats and reasonable Republicans can not let up the pressure. Hopefully, as people become more and more aware of how Casada conducts the people’s business his position will become untenable. Ultimately I don’t care if he is removed or if he resigns, as long as he is gone.

THE TEACHER CRISIS IS VERY REAL

I’ve received some feedback that accuses me of putting too much emphasis on new Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle making some swift changes. There is an argument that she needs a chance to adjust, evaluate, and then act. Under normal circumstances, I would be in accordance. But these aren’t normal times, and one doesn’t have to look further than a recent report on Fox 17 to see what I’m talking about.

Fox 17 Nashville reports of students at Stratford High School who are in danger of not graduating due to difficulty completing a math class were instruction is delivered via computer. The name of the platform is Edgenuity and it’s one that the district has increasingly relied upon over the last two years – despite knowing its potential pitfalls – as finding math instructors has become more and more difficult.

Prior to Dr. Joseph’s arrival, MNPS utilized Edgenuity on a very limited basis, mainly for credit recovery. During the first year of his tenure Dr. Joseph placed a colleague from Prince George in the position of principal at Antioch HS who was less than qualified. As a result,  the school lost over 67 teachers that year. AHS started in 2017 with 6 open Math positions. Edgenuity was used to fill those openings and subsequently expanded to other schools throughout the district. It became easier to utilize technology instead of addressing issues that made teacher recruitment and retention so difficult.

Edgenuity is not a company without controversy. In 2016 than Speaker of the Alabama House, Mike Hubbard pled guilty to twelve counts of felony ethics violations. Count number 10 was for “Receiving money from a lobbyist, subordinate of a lobbyist, or principal of Edgenuity, Inc. and/or E2020 (a data provider specializing in online education software in Wetumpka) to Auburn Network.”

Edgenuity’s contract was brought before board on September 12, 2017, after services were already being utilized. There is no RFP listed on the agenda, and if memory serves me right, the contract was issued based on expanding existing contracts with the company.

After that initial usage, the district just became too comfortable putting students in front of a computer screen. In the Stratford case, the need arose when a teacher quit without notice mid-year.

Metro Nashville Public Schools Spokesperson Dawn Rutledge confirmed this, and said the online “Edgenuity” platform was put in place after an upper-level mathematics teacher who gave a two-week notice resignation on a Wednesday, yet left that same afternoon and did not return to the school.

“Math nationwide is a high-demand, hard-to-fill subject area that we have had challenges filling in the past,” Rutledge said. “Because we were unsuccessful in finding a replacement for this teacher, the need was addressed by enrolling students in the Edgenuity for first-time credit.”

Unfortunately, teachers quitting mid-year – sometimes without notice – happens all too often in MNPS. Despite the districts, continual denial about increased teacher attrition, anecdotal evidence paints a picture akin to a scene from the Leftovers – one minute a teacher has 4 teammates only to find themselves months later with only 2, 2 others having mysteriously disappeared. As a result of its denial, the district fails to address in a meaningful manner the subject of teacher compensation, district culture, and discipline policy as it relates to teacher retention, which leads to more and more students sitting in front of a computer screen or long term sub instead of a certified instructor. A situation that will only worsen without quick attention.

In the News 17 report, the district offers that two (2) to three (3) Vanderbilt professors volunteered their time to support students. That’s fine, but do not think for a minute that just because one is a university professor that they are a viable substitute for a certified K-12 instructor. There is this perception that a teacher is a teacher and that since one is a teacher at a University, they must be superior to a high school teacher. That’s akin to saying a football player is a football player. Would it be considered prudent to put my all-star linebacker at tight end? They may be able to cover the position semi-adequately because they are an exceptional football player, but nobody would suggest them as a substitute for a quality professional receiver. Same holds true for teachers.

This is just one more example of why it is essential that Battle and MNPS quickly address the situation of teacher recruitment and retention. If not, the scene that playing out at Stratford will repeat itself with all too much frequency.

QUICK HITS

TMZ moment for you. Word on the street is that a certain Community Superintendent has it out for a certain principal. I’m not sure what’s at the root of this one but seeing as this principal has a reputation for doing what’s right by kids…

Quick shout out to Overton High School’s Principal Jill Pittman. Three years ago she was bleeding teachers and parents were up in arms. These days things have not only stabilized but Overton is thriving. Hat’s off for the solid work.

Tennessee’s turnaround district underwent an $11,600 makeover this year – including a new logo and website – as part of changes under leader Sharon Griffin. 11k doesn’t sound like a whole of investment to me and blogger Gary Rubenstein shows why it might even be less than you think. 

Know a high school sophomore or junior who’s considering a career in education? Lipscomb University has a great opportunity this summer especially tailored for them. Check it out!

Jared Amato has very special ProjectLit meeting planned for Wednesday morning, it’s a send-off for the founders. Can’t believe that time has gone by this fast. The ProjectLit founders are a very special cohort of young people and what they’ve accomplished over the last three years is nothing short of miraculous. If you can, get by Maplewood Wednesday morning around 7:30 and celebrate their incredible success. Warning: you may want to bring a tissue or two, but you’ll be richer for it.

POLL RESULTS

This week’s poll results provided some surprises. Let’s take a look at the results.

The first question asked for your thoughts on new director of schools Dr. Battle’s performance through five weeks. The question received 127 responses, 43 of whom indicated they would like to see more change or an indication that it was coming. The number two answer was a tie between “starting to lose faith” and “I’m willing to give it until July”, each with 26 votes. It feels like there is an urgency in the air but Battle has earned a little room to work. We’ll continue to monitor, but I point to Memphis, where Joris Ray demonstrated a successful blueprint for moving from interim to permanent in just 4 months. Per Chalkbeat TN,

During his nearly four months in charge, Ray fired two cabinet members, developed next year’s budget, laid out ambitious short-term goals, and traveled to Nashville to stand up to the governor against vouchers.

“For me, that is what shifted the conversation. He was willing to take charge and respond,” said board member Miska Clay Bibbs. “It’s one thing to send a press release, it’s another to go talk to the governor… And frankly, [before now] it has not been the superintendent who was at the table with us.”

Take it for what it is worth. Here are the write-ins,

Anyone with basic leadership skills knows you don’t come in changing everything. 1
I don’t know. 1
Quit sending meaningless email 1
I’d like to see her step out from DrJoseph’s shadow and take intentional charge 1
In 5 weeks did we expect change? 1
What? We got a new director?? 1
She’s hamstrung by an awful budget allotment next year. MNPS=doomed 1
SHe hasn’t made one bit of difference in my day to day.

Question 2 asked who you thought these years MNPS MVP was. The overwhelming answer, with 59% of the vote, was “the teachers who made it to the end of the year”. A very deserved recipient. Despite continual attempts to paint her as a divisive board member who is out of touch, Amy Frogge continues to receive accolades from readers. In this poll she was second with 18% of the vote. Fellow troublemaker Jill Speering came in third. Here are the write-ins.

Me 1
The teachers leading the sick outs 1
The support staff 1
Amy Frogge Jill Speering Fran Bush Phil Williams 1
Jill and Amy 1
Dr Joseph 1
Students 1
Will Pinkstons tiny hands

The last question asked how many of you would be attending Thursday’s call to action. Surprisingly 72% of you don’t plan on attending. I do hope you’ll reconsider. Your presence is much needed. Things get started between 2 and 2:30 at Cumberland Park. Here are the write-in votes,

hope to after school, personal day denied. 1
I will be substitute teaching that day. 1
what rally? 1
Teaching during the day. Tchng @2nd job in the pm 1
why bother? 1
No 1
It is unlikely since this is the first I have heard of it 1
I’ll be at the MS Battle of the Books.

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.

7 thoughts

  1. Math teacher crisis is real and national. Happens worse when economy is good. Battle must do something but when you take the helm in April it’s already too late for the coming year to do anything meaningful.

    1. Never too late to start and we consistently use the national crisis to hide our own. Over the last 2 years we’ve failed to develop a sense of urgency. We don’t do anything in late spring bc it’s too late. Than we forget about it in fall bc we’ve got other things only to find ourselves in the same spot in spring.

  2. We have a Mayor who also has been playing the “I have to sort out the mess before we can give teachers a raise card”. We can’t afford our Director of Schools waiting for ?Superman?. We need to get raises to our teachers right now. We need our Director to make that case crystal clear, with facts, numbers that add up top to bottom, left to right, right now.

    And, I thank you for the faint glimmer of hope that maybe, please Jesus, our Governor will hold off signing the voucher bill until an in-order vote is cast in our Legislature.

    I really like the way you are removing your opinion from your writing – and reporting critical facts, simply, in a way that fills the hole from our receding traditional media outlets in Nashville.

  3. How long does a director need to know she must fire Narcisse, Felder, Lashlee, Gallman?
    How long does a director need to acknowledge that moving to 3 tiers is more effective and less costly than this quadrant structure?
    How long does a director need to stop wasteful spending like a fleet of cars that are unnecessary?

  4. Well once again I had to spit take the wine when I heard the EX Director was writing a book to expose the racist undertone in the city. Having read some of his previous works lets just say not exactly a best seller. And apparently he is staying here.. why? Why again? Really is this for real that anyone cares. I assume it will be self published by Inram Spark. Lord help us everyone.

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