HOUSTON, WE HAVE LIFT OFF

“I read somewhere that 77 percent of all the mentally ill live in poverty. Actually, I’m more intrigued by the 23 percent who are apparently doing quite well for themselves.”
Jerry Garcia

“I like grit, I like love and death, I’m tired of irony.”
Jim Harrison

It was clear by 6 o’clock last night that I wouldn’t be able to cover everything that transpired this past week in one post. So here we are with another special edition of Dad Gone Wild. Strap yourself because there is a lot of ground to cover.

Today is another “sick out” day at MNPS. The Tennessean reports over 1000 teachers are out. In conjunction with the “sick out”, there are various activities scheduled throughout the day culminating in the packing of the room for MNPS’s presentation of the budget to Metro Council. I’ve said this before, but I feel a need to reiterate, please be kind to each other. Obviously, there is a lot of support for the ‘sick out”. There are also a lot of teachers torn over the decision of whether or not to participate.

On the one hand, a change will not come without some discomfort. Unless the seriousness of the situation is driven home with the Mayor and Metro Council members, there will be no impetus to suddenly find funding for teacher raises. Not this year, nor next year. As long as it is perceived that teachers can be placated by promises of future salary corrections, the pattern will continue. The knowledge that an “atta boy” and a J Crew gift card will serve in place of a meaningful compensation package ensures that teachers will continue to be taken advantage of, and yes we are taking advantage of our teachers.

Teachers entered a profession, they did not enter a contract of servitude. There is nothing wrong in them wanting compensation comparable with their professional peers. Somewhere along the road, we’ve developed a sense of entitlement towards their desire to make a difference in the world through working with children. Making a difference and making a living wage should not be mutually exclusive.

By the same token, children are currently wrapping up their school year. Many with events they would never get to experience without teachers and schools. Our schools are also populated by kids that face daily exposure to trauma. Teacher’s spend so much time putting these children first that it becomes very difficult for them to justify taking an action that will benefit themselves, but adversely – albeit short term – affect their students. I get it.

Hopefully, everybody gets it. Everybody needs to respect everybody else’s decision. Whether you participate or not is not a reflection of your love for kids – nor your commitment to their welfare – and is contingent on many mitigating factors -age of students, building leadership, demographics of students, so forth. Teacher’s share a profession, not a singular mindset.

With that said, I ask that God, or whomever you worship, grants everyone the strength and the wisdom to face these pending challenges. Y’all are amazing in all your uniqueness, Today should serve to empower all teachers across the district, not make you second guess yourself. Thank you each and every one of you for how you serve.

Regardless of how teachers chose to participate, it is imperative that Mayor Briley receive the message in a language he understands, the language of votes. Nothing will get his attention if he feels that voters will continue to vote for him no matter what. Early in the week, he visited teachers at McGavock who were quite clear in their expectations and intentions.

It was pointed out to Briley that while his proposed raise for Metro employees was 3%, it included step increases and a promise that no Metro employees would make less than $15 an hour. Those added provisions are not included in the proposal to teachers. In fairness, the mayor has direct power over Metro employees pay, while he can only make recommendations in regard to teacher pay.

This is an election year and therefore teachers have a little leverage at the ballot box. Going forth they won’t have that leverage and will become dependent on politicians just doing the right thing. A dependence that usually leads to disappointment.

FINALLY SOME CLARITY

Yesterday was the day that many throughout MNPS had been waiting for. Upon taking over for Dr. Joseph one of the biggest challenges faced by Dr. Battle was what to do about the leadership cabinet she had inherited. Many speculated that Battle would do nothing and those employees would continue in their roles, enjoying their protected status. What was going to happen to Sharon Pertiller, Dr. Felder, and Dr. Narcisse was the most repeated question asked over the last month. Narcisse’s position was made more complicated by his being a finalist for the superintendent job in Rochester. A job he did not win.

Dr, Battle answered the questions last night in a hastily called meeting with principals. In doing so Battle indicated that she seems to get something that escapes most MNPS leaders, there is a lack of trust in district officials by teachers and principals and that the culture of the district is not good. During her brief tenure, she has acknowledged both and taken steps to begin alleviating the issues. Yesterday’s meeting was such an incident.

Last night, she recognized that in the past principals learned district news via the media after the fact. She offered this principal meeting as an attempt to begin to change that. It was unfortunate that notice of the meeting came with less than 24-hour notice, but it is very commendable that she recognized the previous shortcoming and was committed to changing practice.

A lot of news was delivered at this meeting, some we’ll delve into today and some tomorrow. The biggest news was that Dr. Felder, Dr. Narcisse, and Sharon Pertiller would no longer be employed with the district. That’s pretty huge and indicates a big change in direction. It’s also very welcome news for most people. Kudos to Battle for making the decision, and for doing it in her own manner which serves as proof of what she offered when she took the position. At that time she promised to deliver bold but measured change and resistance to knee jerk reactions.

It was also announced that long term MNPS administrator David Williams would assume the role of interim Chief Academic Officer on July 1. Williams is known for being very well versed – bordering on brilliant – in mathematics instruction, though there is some question about his strength in literacy. I do know, through talking with numerous MNPS employees, that Williams has a reputation for openness and a willingness to listen. By all accounts, he has a deep commitment to doing the right thing.

Those two items would have been enough on their own, but the districts governance model was also discussed, albeit with a lack of clarity. It was explained to me that for administrative purposes the district would revert to a tiered model as previously employed. But for student services, the district would still utilize a quadrant model. It’s my understanding that principals will report to a district-wide, elementary, middle school, or high school leader. Social workers and behavior specialist’s work would still be rooted in quads. Breaking down data and tackling student issues in such a manner has proven productive, so that would continue.

Again, that is how I understand the future structure to work. Some have interpreted it as tiers within quads, but I was expressly told that was not the case. We’ll see how it plays out going forth.

There is a plan for how Community Supes will be utilized as well but leaders are not ready to share that yet. It’s a little murky, but I think going forward it’ll clear up pretty quickly, though questions have arisen over the selection process to replace SW Quadrant Superintendent Dotty Critchlow, who is retiring.

Earlier in the week, MNPS held a district-wide panel made up of administrators to interview community superintendent candidates. Once the folks on the district panel evaluate the candidates, based on their recommendation, two or three candidates will move forward to be interviewed by the community panel. It’s my understanding that the district panel consisted of Dr. Springer, Dr. Williams, Dr. Stewart, Dr. Merriweather, Dr. Cathey, Dr. Narcisse, Molly Stoval and Deborah McAdams. Keep in mind, that was the make-up as conveyed to me by several sources, I’ll confirm that through open records request this week. But as it stands, not exactly a diverse bunch and devoid of any principals.

Failing to make it out of the district round was current EDSSI Craig Hammond. This is a bit surprising considering how closely and successfully Hammond worked with SW quadrant principals last year. He is about as universally respected as you can get. I would think that at the very least he has earned the right to be interviewed by community members.

The last time MNPS conducted community superintendent hiring panels the process was not completely without controversy. In short, there were a lot of questions around whether the process was completely impartial or not. In proceeding forward, it’s important to recognize past imperfections and do our best to ensure that they are not repeated. It shouldn’t be enough to just dismiss questions with a terse response of, “no process is perfect.” We owe it to people to constantly improve through rigorous self-evaluation.

At yesterday’s meeting, a new discipline policy was also revealed. Going forth, any student caught having sex on school grounds will be immediately expelled for 60 days. That means everybody and the number of days is non-negotiable. Obviously, we don’t want students having sex on campus but in my eyes, this policy presents a few potential problems.

First and for most will be the impact on the number of instances reported. How many will go unreported because teachers or principals know the students and will want to protect them from potential consequences?

Secondly, how many instances will be misreported as non-consensual in order to spare one party from punishment? Don’t think it doesn’t happen way too much already and this just gives more impetus for misreporting to transpire.

If suspending a kid for supposed minor infractions fuels the school to prison pipeline how does the same not hold true for an extensive expulsion for giving in to natural compulsions? Do we really believe that the threat of severe punishment will deter students from succumbing to human desires?  It sounds like an awful regressive policy to me.

I also find it incredibly American of us to institute a policy where the punishment for sexual behavior is harsher than the one for violent behavior. Get 5 of your friends to join in on beating up another student and you’ll get less punishment then if you get a handjob from your girlfriend.

I understand that the new policy is probably a legal recommendation based on the pending Title 9 lawsuits. As previously stated, we also can’t have kids engaging in sexual behavior on campus either. I’m just not sure this is a policy with the best interests of kids at its heart.

All in all, yesterday was a positive step. A path forward for the district has begun to be revealed and its one that creates some optimism. Interestingly enough, within hours of Dr. Joseph’s speech to the Rotary Club, the Tennessean ran a recap. 24 hours after a day of sweeping changes under Dr. Battle and it’s crickets. It seems that Nashville is ready to move on while the Tennessean is not.

In her brief tenure, Dr. Battle has set a tone of respect, pragmatism, and served as a calming influence. I’ve had more than one person give me a hard time for being critical of Dr. Battle, so it’s clear that her style has won her some acolytes. Let’s hope those ranks continue to grow.

QUICK HITS

Some departures are less joyful than others. Shayne principal Elayna Wilson has indicated that she will not be returning next year to MNPS. Wilson was one of Dr. Joseph’s first hires and arguably his best. She came to Shayne from Atlanta by way of Dr. Felder. What she has built over the last 3 years at Shayne is impressive, She was embraced by the community and in turn, she embraced them right back. She will be missed.

Congratulations to Croft Middle Design Center in Nashville, TN for being awarded 2019 Tennessee STEM School Designation! One of only 11 in the state to receive the designation.

We’ll talk more about this week’s school board meeting tomorrow, but some items can’t go unnoted. During discussions about the budget board member Will Pinkston revealed his intention that once the final budget number is given, he plans to attempt to withhold 9 million dollars owed to charter schools and repurpose it for teacher raises. The idea is ludicrous, not to mention illegal.

It’s akin to me saying that I don’t have enough money to support my lifestyle and so I’m going to go ahead and take money out of my neighbor’s house. Hey, I’m a nicer guy so I deserve it. Pinkston likes to brag about not suffering fools, well, this is the idea of a fool.

Pinkston also had a hard time at Tuesday’s meeting grasping why existing contracts need to be reviewed. He acts as if no questionable contracts have been brought forth over the last 2 years. Of course with his attendance record, it would be easy to miss the discussion on Performance Matters, or Education Solution Services whom we had to give an extra $250k for overages, or Discovery Education services whose STEAM initiative went nowhere. This is taxpayer money and public school advocates always claim greater transparency than charter schools. Time to walk the walk.

That’s a wrap. Tomorrow we’ll review the school board meeting earlier in the week and the events of today. 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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3 thoughts

  1. I just want to understand or at least have a clarification with regards to this: At yesterday’s meeting, a new discipline policy was also revealed. Going forth, any student caught having sex on school grounds will be immediately expelled for 60 days. That means everybody and the number of days is non-negotiable. Obviously, we don’t want students having sex on campus but in my eyes, this policy presents a few potential problems.

    First and for most will be the impact on the number of instances reported. How many will go unreported because teachers or principals know the students and will want to protect them from potential consequences?

    Secondly, how many instances will be misreported as non-consensual in order to spare one party from punishment? Don’t think it doesn’t happen way too much already and this just gives more impetus for misreporting to transpire.

    If suspending a kid for supposed minor infractions fuels the school to prison pipeline how does the same not hold true for an extensive expulsion for giving in to natural compulsions? Do we really believe that the threat of severe punishment will deter students from succumbing to human desires? It sounds like an awful regressive policy to me.

    I also find it incredibly American of us to institute a policy where the punishment for sexual behavior is harsher than the one for violent behavior. Get 5 of your friends to join in on beating up another student and you’ll get less punishment then if you get a handjob from your girlfriend.

    This is about sex and not about assault? I am confused. Perhaps it is the wording and again this seems to prove to me once again there is a lot of confusion about the subject of sex in these here parts. These are in fact two different type of encounters and in turn should be addressed. With that should also come a policy on not just Student-Student interactions but also clearly Teacher-Student and Teacher-Teacher and Staff and Staff, Teacher and Administrator and so on. We gots 99 problems and this seems to be addressing only one.

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