“Love isn’t based on gratitude. Respect isn’t based on debt.”
We are now officially into June and Speaker of the Tennessee State House Glen Casada is still officially in power. At the end of May, Casada announced his intention to resign but delayed the setting of date until after he returned from a vacation overseas. You got to love the privilege of power. Every job I have ever had, when they decided it was time for me to go, I went that day. Not some hypothetical day in the future.
In his most recent announcement, Casada says he’s retiring on August 2nd. A date that just happens to coincide with his 60th birthday. This fueled speculation that he’d chosen the date based on increasing his pension. That theory doesn’t seem to hold up because Casada is only resigning from the Speakership and not as a legislator. That makes him ineligible to start drawing his pension.
Even though his pension will not be impacted, it is still ludicrous to me that he’s allowed to set a resignation that far in advance. In what world does it make sense to decide that a man is unfit to hold office but, we’ll give him 2 months to collect a paycheck and try to pick his successor? If we don’t trust a man’s judgment to hold the office, why would we trust his judgment to pick his successor? It’s just bizarro world and instills little faith in our government officials.
I also have to laugh a little bit as talk turns to Knoxville representative Bill Dunn as a possible successor. Many view Dunn as an improvement over Cassada. I beg to differ.
He may be a little more of a gentleman, but make no mistake, Dunn has long been a proponent for legislation that hurts public education. It was he who kept voucher legislation alive even though he had no intention of making them available for his constituents. Based on his voting record, Dunn is only a tick less conservative then Casada. So you decide if it’s a improvement.
Meanwhile, Nashville continues its own resignation watch. After submitting a scorching resignation letter to the press and MNPS School Board Chair Sharon Gentry, board member Will Pinkston has been strangely silent on his resignation date.
In his letter, Pinkston stated, “I care deeply about our institution, but I can no longer serve on a board that is diminished by the worst of human nature.” Ok…he’s still serving…albeit in a diminished capacity…so what’s changed? The answer is that nothing has changed.
Over the last year, Pinkston’s voice has been largely absent, and increasingly irrelevant. Faced with the realization that few cared what he had to say – other than his stable of writers at the Tennessean – and most people wished he would, in the words of the 60’s cartoon character Snaggletooth, exit stage right, he pulled back his resignation. He now uses his position on the board to serve as a nuisance to his perceived enemies. And nobody holds him accountable.
It’s not surprising that board chair Dr. Gentry can’t reign him in. She can’t keep track of what is going on in an individual meeting, let alone, manage a rouge board member.
Watch last week’s director evaluation meeting if you are brave enough. Gentry contradicts herself on numerous occasions. She states that there is nothing in the proposed contract for Dr. Battle that would prevent the board from doing a search when the reality is that if the board conducted a successful search after signing this contract, the proposed contract would put the district at risk for having to pay two directors simultaneously. She also mocks the handling of Chris Henson’s tenure as interim director while failing to acknowledge that she was board chair and that Henson took over his duties as finalists in the director search were scheduling interviews.
Had finalist Mike Looney not bailed out after accepting the job, Henson’s tenure would have lasted mere months. As it was, under Gentry’s lead Looney reconsideration was the start of months of inaction in regard to a directors search.
Currently, she is proposing a permanent contract for a candidate that has never been fully vetted. What is Dr. Battle’s strategic plan and how does it align with the boards? What is her leadership philosophy? What is her literacy philosophy? Parent engagement? None of this is known because there has been no formal interview process. No offense to Dr. Battle but we don’t even know if she is capable of doing the job, haven’t we been down this road already?
The awarding of a 2-year contract is proposed in the interest of stability and respect to future board members. Stability is not derived just by having the same leader at the top, it is derived through competence, vision, and execution. I hope that Dr. Battle is the person that can supply those ingredients but to lock ourselves into a 2-year contract based solely on hope is not very prudent.
As far as respecting future board members goes, last I checked the elected term was 4 years. Not 2 years and 9 months, not 3 years and 1 month, 4 years. Yes, the next election may bring 5 new people to the board, it is also entirely possible that the same 5 people currently on the board who are up for election retain their seats. So either, honor your whole 4-year term or turn it over to somebody who will. That future consideration argument holds no water for me.
My favorite moment of last week’s committee meeting is when Dr. Gentry refers to two motions as being “nested” and therefore not requiring an individual vote. I have Googled extensively and I have yet to find a definition of “nested motion”. Any Parliamentarians out there, I would appreciate any help on locating a definition for that one.
The bottom line is that Gentry just flies at whim and fails to follow established protocols, so expecting her to uphold a fellow board members resignation is beyond the realm of expectation. Though I suspect if Frogge or Bush submitted their resignations, she’d make damn sure they adhered to them.
In his resignation letter, Pinkston says that “I have informed Mayor Briley, Vice Mayor Shulman, and Council members in the district of my decision.” Yet there is nary an utterance about it from a single one of them. That incendiary letter is treated as just another piece of junk mail. I guess that is kind of apropos.
How about the mayor that insists he will be more involved in school issues than any mayor previously, yet fails to comment on the rescinded resignation. He has no problem vetting an interim director candidate before she’s introduced to the board nor castigating board members publicly, yet he allows Pinkston to continually use his board seat as his own personal source of entertainment and as a vehicle for his personal agenda, one that supersedes the needs of the people he was elected to serve.
Mayor Briley has no problem talking tough to scooter operators, all I’m asking for is a little, “Dude, you resigned. Honor it.”
If he is so serious about correcting board behavior and increasing the boards level of functionality, shouldn’t he start with his friend who is a never-ending source of distraction? Do Pinkston’s constituents not deserve full-time representation? But Briley remains silents while continuing to promise more involvement out on the campaign trail.
I suspect June and July will continue to be consumed by resignation watches for both the state and the city. Casada and Pinkston will forever be linked in their disdain for the people they purport to serve. They will continue to be linked through their arrogance and belief that an elected office is for the benefit of the office holder and not the constituents. Both continue to be a blight on their respective legislative bodies.
MAYORAL RACE HEATING UP
We are only a couple of months away from election day and things are getting hotter in the race to lead Music City. Nashville has never had an incumbent lose a re-election bid but Briley seems intent on changing history. Scene writer Steven Hale brilliantly sums up Briley’s tenure as the “Accidental Mayor”
Watching the mayor navigate these controversies is like watching a man step on a series of rakes he carefully laid in his own path.
Many have openly wondered if Briley even wants to be Mayor. This past week his two main challengers – John Ray Clemmons and John Cooper – launched TV ads. Both are formidable candidates that come with a lot of pluses and a few not so positives. I’ve yet to decide which way I’ll cast my support, but I like things I’m seeing from both.
Looming in the background, or actually right up front, is this year’s budget. For the last several month’s teachers have been publicly making the case for a 10% raise this year. Mayor Briley’s budget provides for the potential of a 3% raise.
Now CM Bob Mendes has waded into the fray with a proposed property tax increase that would result in the potential of 5% raises plus a step increase for teachers. Still short of the 10% asked for in this years proposed MNPS budget, but some believe that doing something this year is better than doing nothing but the 3%.
In a recently released FAQ Mendes makes a compelling argument for the property tax increase. Chief among those is that property taxes are at a historical low and Nashville would still be low compared to other cities. The city/county rate in Chattanooga is $5.04. In Knoxville, it is $4.56. Memphis is over $7. Nashville would be $3.68 after the 52.5 cent correction.
The rate increase would only be a 52.5 cent rate correction, Metro’s lowest ever rate change between property value reassessments. Since 1980, the highest correction between property value reassessments was $1.64 and the lowest was $0.53. Commercial properties would bear the brunt of the increase because commercial properties pay approximately 62% of the property taxes in Davidson County. Any rate correction will be paid primarily by businesses.
As I said, Mendes makes a compelling argument when you look at the tax increase independent of outside factors. It’s when placed in a larger context that I become opposed. Yes, it is a small increase that on its own will not hurt lower-income property owners, But it fails to acknowledge that the cost of living in Nashville has soared over the past decade and the collective rising costs have hurt lower-income citizens ability to retain their homes in Nashville. Until I see a consortium of non-educator low-income people lined up behind the initiative, I’ll remain skeptical.
Mendes’s plan also fails to acknowledge that Nashvillian’s while stuck in traffic can look around and see the influx in development and the increase in population, both of which should be generating increased revenues. It would be one thing if Nashville citizens were experiencing better-kept parks, increased walkability in neighborhoods, or more modern schools. In lieu of an absence of improvements in livability, people are beginning to question where Nashville generated revenues are going. Tax breaks to corporations are part of the equation but explaining them away doesn’t erase the question. More diverse places to eat out are nice, but most Nashville would prefer more sidewalks instead.
The supporters of the Mendes plan also fail to acknowledge that this is an election year. That is the language that politicians understand and as a result, this year provides citizens with a bit of leverage. Next year that leverage will not be there. I question how much urgency there will be to increase teacher salaries past the 5% level once the threat of the ballot box is removed. Failure by Nashville’s residents to make their voices heard during this years election would be a huge lost opportunity.
Please familiarize yourself with the Mendes plan, and make your own decisions. He has certainly done the work needed in putting together a viable plan, and that’s more than most can say. Metro Council Budget Chairwoman Tanaka Vercher has also promised to bring forth an alternative budget in the next several days.
We can disagree on the merits of all the plans, but one thing that is not debatable, teacher salaries need to be raised. It’s not a want, it is a necessity.
Nashville Public Education Foundation is partnering with the Oasis Center, Conexion, The Tennessean, and WSMV to host a Mayor’s Forum on Education on June 26 from 7:15–8:30 p.m. Students will be asking the candidates questions about our city’s education issues.
Changes are afoot in the MNPS Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Chief Academic Officer David Williams – who by the way is a brilliant woodworker – announced the following appointments yesterday.
- Jill Petty will serve as the interim Executive Officer for the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
- Courtney Wilkes will serve as Interim Director of Secondary Literacy.
- Allya Washington Smith will serve as Interim Director of Elementary Literacy.
All three are long term members of the MNPS family. It was also announced that current Director of Literacy Barbara Lashley’s contract would not be renewed after July 1.
Interesting note, former CAO Jay Steele once told me that it took 3 years to remove all the hires of prior director of schools Pedro Garcia. Three months after Dr. Joseph’s departure the number of people he brought to the district that are still employed can be counted on one hand.
There was a principal meeting held for 4 days this past week and unfortunately, it exposed many of the existing weakness currently plaguing MNPS’s current leadership team. A large part of the first day was spent on team building activities – teams of principals built paper airplanes in which they attempted to land in a circle. Much of the information was already readily known by principals and not enough time was spent defining what future leadership roles might look like.
This might be fine in the middle of summer, but principals have a lot on their plate right now. Chief priority should be staffing. Most schools have at least a few vacancies and finding and hiring teachers needs to be a primary concern. The district is dramatically understaffed and I continue to not see evidence that the district is taking the shortage seriously. The relationships with several long term partners have been seriously neglected over the last year and that needs to be rectified ASAP.
Looking back at the proposed TNTP contract. An eye in awarding that contract shouldn’t just focus on the cost of the RFP, but also which relationship will prove more fruitful in staffing MNPS schools in the future. TNTP has a little over a 100 candidates in their 3-year consortium, while Lipscomb churns out double that and more every year. TNTP may save us 60K today but what impetus will Lipscomb have to send future teachers to the district. In the long run, we may lose a lot more than 60K.
On the plus side, participants in the principal meeting were surveyed at the end of each day and adjustments in scheduling were made based on responses. That is a development not to be taken lightly and many of the principals I talked to were very appreciative of it.
One thing that was revealed was the org chart next year for Community Superintendents and EDSII’s. It’s a chart that some purport to love though it offers little detail of responsibilities, others find it convoluted. A definition of individual duties and who will fill those roles is expected to come in the next couple of weeks. My biggest question is, who will supervise high schools?
I have a couple more hiring announcements for you.
- Tusculum AP Chris Holmes has been named the new principal at Hickman ES. We will miss him.
- Former Gower AP Elizabeth Goetz will be the new principal at Sylvan Park.
- Former JT Moore AP Seth Swihart has been named as Bellevue Middle School’s new principal
- Smith Springs ES’s Cherish Piche has had the interim title removed.
- Pat O’Brien is the new Dean of Students at Head Magnet.
Maplewood HS teacher Jared Amato continues to garner accolades for the incredible work he and his students are doing through ProjectLit. This time it’s Channel 5 shining the spotlight on their work. Keep it up.
There is an interesting article in ChalkbeatTN about the Tennessee Achievement School District and the changes director Sharon Griffin is bringing. Short of the story seems to be that Griffin is demanding accountability and the charter schools that make up the ASD aren’t liking it so much. For her part, Griffen acknowledges the challenges but remains unbowed,
“Change is never easy,” Griffin said. “There were a lot of conversations with [charter leaders] and me in helping me understand before we started to move the pieces in this puzzle. … But now, I mean we have to produce not only for children, but because the life of the model depends upon it.”
She’s right. The ASD has been an abysmal failure. There is no other way to put it. Griffin is its last great hope. While I’m not a fan of the model, I am a fan of hers.
Local Education Blogger Vesia Hawkins has a recent piece that seems to fall right in line with the directive given to the ASD.
Over at the TNED Report, JC Bowman of Professional Educators of Tennessee makes the case for providing funds in the BEP for mentors for new teachers. It’s a strong one.
There is a board meeting scheduled for Tuesday. Interestingly enough the contract for TNTP is up again, but now it’s duration more closely resembles the one put forth by the RFP. people do seem to be listening and adjusting more so than they have in the past.
That’s it for today. Thank you for your support. 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 to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Thanks for your support if you feel so inclined, please head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Thanks to this week’s newest donors. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions, have a great weekend and we’ll see you Monday.