SUMMER DOES NOT MEAN SLOW

“He knew everything there was to know about literature, except how to enjoy it”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

“The world must be all fucked up,” he said then, “when men travel first class and literature goes as freight.”
Gabriel García Márquez

I hope y’all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. The Weber family continued their tradition of loading up the car and heading in a direction with no real plan.

This year’s rough idea was to head towards Center Hill Lake and maybe do a little canoeing. Cost put a put an end to that plan and so we headed to Burgess Falls for a brief hike and some spectacular falls. Followed by a jaunt over to Rock Harbor Falls where we dined at a harbor grill and found a swimming hole. It was an enjoyable way to spend a holiday made possible by the service of our forebearers.

IS HE GONE YET?

You gotta love power and privilege. Despite extensive documentation of his abuses of power, Rep Glen Casada remains in his position as Speaker of the Tennessee House. Yes, he has agreed to resign, but until that time arrives he is still pulling in his salary and enjoying all the other benefits of his position.

You might think that he’s not resigned yet because he’s hard at work clearing up some unfinished business for his constituents. Nope, he’s on a European vacation, promising to resign when he gets back. Granted that salary he’s collecting while traveling isn’t a large one, 19K, but he is eligible for travel reimbursements. I wonder if he’ll be submitting any receipts from this recent trip.

This morning the Tennessean ran an interesting recap of invents in the Casada tale. It’s a recap that downplays News Channel 5 and their reporter Phil William’s role in exposing Casada’s immoral actions. Luckily, Williams is well versed in Twitter and he takes the time to correct the record. Without both news outlets, I’m not sure that Casada wouldn’t have ridden things out though until he actually resigns I’m not willing to write his epitaph either. As Williams points out, competition is good but let’s give each their due credit.

What about that signature piece of legislation of Governor Lee that Casada helped get passed, Educational Savings Accounts? Well, Lee is so proud of that legislation that he signed it despite an ongoing FBI investigation – on the Friday preceding the Memorial Day holiday. A period of time known as the “Holiday News Dump“.

Government entities often release negative news on a Friday. The reason being that many people don’t pay attention to the news on Friday evening and Saturday morning, so a “Friday news dump” is a good opportunity to slip negative news out to the public without too many people noticing it. A holiday Friday gives you an extra day. Well played sir, well played.

LOCAL NEWS

One of my least favorite aspects of writing this blog is when I find myself in a position of having to be critical of someone I truly like. It’s never pleasant and seldom results in a better relationship, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.

Friday such a situation arose when current Human Resources Chief, and past Glencliffe Principal, Tony Majors tweeted out a picture depicting him and past female staff members. Those staff members just happen to be women that have gone on to occupy various leadership roles throughout MNPS, including current Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle. A fact that goes unnoted in Major’s initial tweet.

Majors presents his tweet as a nostalgic moment. Like he’s sitting in his chair in front of the fireplace, hounds at his feet and a glass of scotch in hand, reminiscing on past campaigns. But is that the true intent?

It’s no secret that Major’s has ambitions of someday being MNPS’s Director of Schools on a permanent basis. Through that lens, this tweet could be interpreted as a subtle reminder that the old principal is really still in charge. Had he included a simple acknowledgment of Dr. Battle’s current role or noted that many of the other women were now his peer, there wouldn’t be this question. Major did make a small note in a follow-up tweet, but no mention of Battle’s current role.

Some may dismiss this observation as being a bit of a stretch, I think to do so is a mistake. Whether intentional or not – and I’m willing to give Majors the benefit of the doubt – it only serves to undercut the perception of Dr. Battle as being in charge.

Right now is a very critical time for MNPS and we can’t afford to lose ground to personal ambition or a failure to recognize the potential perception being presented. Dr. Battle needs all hands behind her pushing in the same direction and presenting an image of a unified front behind her. Something this tweet fails to convey.

TNTP UP FOR MORE CASH

On the agenda for today’s MNPS School Board meeting is approval of a pending contract for literacy instruction between TNTP and the district. This will be the 4th trip in front of the board in the last 9 months for TNTP.

On October 23rd the board approved a one year contract for $479,887 for the organization to provide literacy PD for teachers at some of the schools in the “innovation zone”. On April 9th a contract for $85K was approved for TNTP to recruit teachers for the district’s “innovation schools”. Later in the month, a contract was approved for $480k to provide similar services as the contract approved last October. Now up for approval is a 3-year contract worth $900K to provide literacy coaches training.

The current contract is a little confusing because in the RFP a one year contract with a chance for an extension every year up to 3 years is called for. On the agenda, it is presented as a 3-year contract.

In total, if the latest contract is approved, MNPS would be paying TNTP just shy of $2 million dollars to provide professional development that many argue could be better done in house or through a local university. That’s a lot of cash to give an organization with little proof of its effectiveness.

TNTP supporters might point to the state report card on Tennessee’s teacher prep programs and TNTP’s score of a 4 as evidence of their effectiveness. Fair enough, but it should be noted that TNTP achieved that ranking with 129 teachers in its 3-year cohort while Lipscomb University did it with 672 teachers in their cohort. Lipscomb is third in the state in the number of teachers they prepare, behind MTSU and Tennessee Tech.

TNTP is an organization that was founded by Michelle Rhee and spun out of Teach For America. Over the years they’ve proven very adept at producing reports that point out shortcomings that coincidently they are uniquely positioned to address. Studies have shown that districts that have used TNTP for professional development have shown no more significant improvement than those who employed traditional methods.

TNTP continues to be closely aligned with the reform movement. The Broad Foundation’s former executive director, Paul Pastorek, is on TNTP’s board. Of the nine TNTP board members, only two have any teaching experience. Of the 14 highly compensated officers listed on the company’s latest tax filing, only two are career educators. Three others served the minimum of two years with Teach for America and haven’t taught since. That doesn’t add up to a whole lot of classroom experience.

Last year Philadelphia was considering a three-year contract with TNTP but scaled it back to one year after closer examination. At the very least Nashville should wait until results are in from the other recently signed contracts.

In the meantime, MNPS previously enjoyed a productive relationship with Lipscomb University, perhaps rekindling that relationship should be considered. It seems a shame to rely on a much smaller entity when there is a larger one that has proven the ability to deliver results at the same level on a larger scale with no hidden political agenda.

I think we should pay heed to the words of Philadelphia School Board member Chris McGinley,

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for people with no experience running schools to pretend to train other people how to run schools,” McGinley said. “This is not a simple role that people play when they’re becoming a school leader — it’s a complicated position and one of tremendous responsibility.”

QUICK HITS

Stratford Principal Mike Steele remains on administrative leave while district officials continue to probe into grading issues related to his use of the electronic instructional platform Edgenuity. Two years ago the district turned to Edgenuity in response to a growing teacher shortage. It was pointed out then and continues to be evident that this is not a viable alternative to educating students.

In a new peer-reviewed study, Vanderbilt and University of Wisconsin researchers examined those classes from the 2010-11 school year through 2016-17. They came away with the following observations:

Drawing on 7 million records of online instructional sessions linked to student records, we find mostly negative associations between online course-taking and math and reading scores, with some gains in credits earned and grade point averages by upperclassmen. Those least prepared academically and with weaker course-taking behaviors fared more poorly and were likely set back by online course-taking. Limited resources constrained the implementation of district-recommended practices and instructional supports, such as live teacher interactions and individualized content assistance.

I suspect that Steele will be the victim of the district failing to have a viable plan to contradict the negative impact of increased teacher attrition. If the district accepts blame for several of Steele’s students failing to graduate this year it makes it hard to continue the widespread use of Edgenuity.

I will add this caveat. In a smaller setting in which a licensed teacher is accessible on a regular basis, there does seem to be some value in the use of Edgenuity. So we shouldn’t consider Edgenuity all bad, it’s just not a viable alternative to having a licensed teacher in every classroom. MNPS needs to recognize that and get serious about crafting a teacher recruitment and retention plan.

June 1st is fast approaching and by my count here are the open principal positions to date:

  • Bellvue MS
  • Cole ES
  • Cumberland ES
  • Goodlettsville MS
  • Hickman ES
  • Jere Baxter MS
  • Margaret Allen MS
  • Maplewood HS
  • Thomas Edison ES
  • Shayne ES
  • Sylvan Park ES

Quite a few Assistant Principal positions are also in play.

You might have seen where the Chicago Public School Board has all resigned and assumed that this was something bad. In actuality, it has the potential to turn into something good. Chicago’s school board is appointed by the Mayor and Chicago has a new Mayor. Newly elected-mayor Lari Lightfoot ran on the platform of being in favor of an elected school board, she now has the opportunity to make that happen. Brenda Delgado-Als, board president of Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, has written an op-ed on why this issue is so important. Hopefully, Mayor Briley will read it as well.

This past weekend I was perusing some sites and I came across the web site for the Austin Independent School District. To say it’s impressive is an understatement. Information is clear, concise, and easily accessible. Communications get it own tab and a whole page is devoted to a branding and style guide for communications. With a couple clicks, you can compare this year’s strategic plan with past strategic plans. Best of all is that stated atop the org chart is “students, parents, and community”. I urge you to peruse it as well.

Bill Gates was in town last week vowing to continue investing in Tennessee schools. Meanwhile still no word on that MOU between the mayor and MNPS. The two are probably not connected, right?

Former school board chair Cheryl Mays seems to have learned something from her re-election defeat. In certainly appears as if she is out working and out organizing everyone in her current bid for a council seat. From here she looks like a formidable candidate.

POLLS

Friday was the kick off to a holiday weekend, so we had lighter response than usual. But still some good results. Let’s take a look at those results.

The first question asked for your opinion on the best MNPS “feel good” story of the year. 60% of you answered that it was the 11 students who didn’t speak English when they started at MNPS but ended up graduating at the top of their class by the end of their MNPS career. It should be noted, that at least partial credit for this success goes to former ELL director Kevin Stacy. Stacy left last summer to take a position in Clarksville. Props also go to current executive director Molly Hegwood for maintaining the high bar the two set when they worked in tandem over the last few years. The number 2 answer was the continued growth of ProjectLit. Here are the write-in votes:

Dr. Joseph is gone 1
Dr. Battle is in charge 1
Joseph is GONE 1
Dan Mills ES being named a level 5 reward school 1
Dr. Joseph getting shown the door

The number 2 question asked if you would support a property tax increase to fund MNPS. 34% of you answered absolutely, but 28% of you weren’t sure why we would need to since the city was raking in so much cash. My suggestion would be to ask this question of potential council members when they come knocking on your door looking for a vote. That’s the answer that matters. Here are the write-in votes:

Teachers who live in Davidson Co. get hit twice! Property tax & no raises! 1
Only after there is fair attempt at using existing resources 1
Only if everyone is paying their fair share.

The number 3 question was asked solely for my curiosity. I love knowing what people are reading. This time the number one vote-getter was Go See The Principal by Gerry Brooks. If you have ever seen any of Brook’s videos, you know he’s flat out funny. Number 2, but not by much, was Educated by Terry Westover. Here are the write-ins and by the way, I’m currently ready Tweedy by Jeff Tweedy. It’s one of those rare music biographies that it doesn’t matter if you like the band or not, the writer is just plain interesting.

Rachel Held Evans 1
School board fodder cause you can’t make this ish up!! 1
Murder in Music City 1
The Tattooist of Auschwitz 1
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton as well as many others 1
Where Nobody Knows your Name – Feinstein 1
Definitely not anything Tiny Hands Pinkston produces 1
Doctoral research material

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.

4 thoughts

  1. You are spot on about Majors. If Battle doesn’t remove him from her equation it will be the cause of her downfall.

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