SEL, IT’S NOT JUST FOR KIDS

“Any idiot can face a crisis; it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.”
Anton Chekhov

“They probably don’t understand this, but it’s important for me to show them that their father is a man who dances – who saves lives and carries the wounded, yes, but who also does something completely pointless and beautiful, and in this at least he should need no explanation.”
Tim Winton, Breath

 

We are in a little bit of mourning today over at the Weber household. The reason being the untimely defeat of the Golden State Warriors last night at the hands of the new NBA Champions the Toronto Raptors.

It’s been at least a decade since I’ve been invested in the NBA, but this year, my 9-year-old fell in love with the Warriors and the NBA as a whole. Seeing the league through his eyes once again sucked me back in. In a time where former NBA great Charles Barkley’s infamous proclamation of “I am not a role model” rings truer than ever, I don’t know that there is a team that seems more qualified for the devotion of a 9-year-old boy than the Warriors.

If you look up role model in the dictionary, you’ll get a picture of Steph Curry. Kevin Durant is one of the greatest players of all time and the supporting cast is exemplary as well. Led by the affable, and former Michael Jordan teammate, Steve Kerr, they don’t only win games, but they do so in a manner that that sets an example for young men everywhere.

Going into the season, the Warriors were heavy favorites to win their third championship in a row. Alas, it was not to be. They met a formidable foe in the Raptors, and as injuries mounted, the goal slipped away. Kevin Durant lost potentially tens of millions of dollars when he tore an Achilles tendon in Game 5 by coming back too early from an injury incurred earlier in the playoffs. Starter Klay Thompson tore his ACL in the third period of last night’s game and several other Warriors were dealing with serious injuries as well. Despite all of this, with 3 seconds left in the game, trailing by 1, Curry had a shot and launched it. The shot failed to fall and as a result, the Warriors were eliminated.

The Raptors are a great team and deserve all the accolades they will receive, but the Warriors demonstrated what it means to fight. Fight, when you go from the favorite to the underdog. Fight, when you’ve already achieved great success and this task might be too difficult. Fight, when the odds continue to stack against you. Fight, with class and grace. I’m thankful that my son dragged me back into the NBA because without him, I would have missed some lessons that bear repeating for all of us.

This final series showed us why we are so invested in sports: the games are not just games but rather microcosms of life. Every day, we all face tasks that seem insurmountable. While we seldom get the clear cut option of launching a 3-point shot for the win at the buzzer, in our own way, we all fight against the odds to secure our personal victories. Sometimes we fall short, but sometimes we defy gravity and soar, always striving to do so with the class and grace of a champion.

SEXUAL ASSAULT VS SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Over the last 2 years, I’ve closely watched the developments of a Title IX lawsuit facing MNPS. For the most part, I’ve refrained from commenting because of the sensitivity and the complexity of the case. To many, it seems a simple case of inappropriate sexual activity and the response of individual schools to such behavior. That, in my opinion, is a mistake.

In 2014, the state of Tennessee passed a law called “Erin’s Law” which served to lay out specific guidelines for school districts in dealing with sexual misconduct. “Erin’s Law” requires that all public schools in each state implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program which teaches:

  • Students in grades preK – 12th grade age-appropriate techniques to recognize child sexual abuse and tell a trusted adult
  • School personnel all about child sexual abuse
  • Parents & guardians the warning signs of child sexual abuse, plus needed assistance, referral or resource information to support sexually abused children and their families

The passage was intended to create clear policies and procedures at the district level involving educating, reporting, and investigating sexual misconduct in schools.  Unfortunately, the school districts in Tennessee didn’t all follow either the letter or the spirit of the law. In Tennessee, Erin’s Law ran afoul of legislation passed in 2012 prohibiting schools from teaching anything but abstinence when it came to sex education. Administrators feared that if you start talking about sexual assault, you opened the door to talking about sex education, which could put them at risk of violating the 2012 legislation.

Per a 2017 article in the Tennessean, Davidson County public schools at that time had not implemented any policies or programs associated with Erin’s Law. Over the last couple of years, principals have been provided cursory training in how to handle sexual misconduct allegations, but as many who attended these trainings can attest, they are far from adequate. I may be jumping to conclusions, but it’s been my experience that legislators don’t like to pass laws that are ignored.

Two years ago, a Title IX lawsuit was filed based on incidents that happened at two MNPS high schools. Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that the multi-million dollar lawsuit against Metro schools would go forward based on “ample evidence” that indicated officials knew there was a sexual harassment problem in Nashville’s public schools but failed to protect students.

Metro lawyers argued this week that the plaintiff’s claims should be considered akin to “sexual assualt” because they don’t rise to the level of “sexual harassment.” The judge granted the district the right to appeal specific legal issues before moving forward with a trial, a procedure known as an interlocutory appeal, but in doing so corrected Metro’s summary of her previous orders in the two-year-long case.

On the contrary, Trauger wrote, the girls’ “claims were not staked on the premise they were raped … the harassment alleged extended beyond the initial sexual encounters to include (1) the taking of videos without consent and, in most cases without the plaintiffs’ knowledge; (2) the circulation of the videos; and (3) post-incident peer harassment in varying degrees.”

She continued: “One need not engage in a crass ranking of traumatic sexual experiences against each other to conclude that a reasonable juror could find actionable harassment based on the plaintiff’s facts.”

The bottom line is, this a highly complex and sensitive case. One that people should be cautious about weighing in on before a ruling is reached. That didn’t stop the Tennessean from asking Mayoral candidates to weigh in with their opinions before such judgment is reached. I find this deeply troubling. All of the candidates gave what on the surface appeared to be acceptable answers, but how is it possible to rate those answers when the case isn’t even halfway through resolution?

We all have a tendency to want to play armchair lawyer. We like to think that we can interpret the outcome based on our limited knowledge of the law. Doing so, in this case, is unfair to those involved in the litigation and fails to acknowledge that lives and careers hang in the balance of the final outcome. Speculating on outcomes does a serious disservice to those involved. The case has a long way to go and will likely take many turns before a resolution is reached. A resolution that at this time is impossible to predict. We need to respect that.

QUICK HITS 

Thanks to Zack Barnes over at the Tip Sheet for providing a comprehensive listing of all the new principal hires:

  • Cockrill Elementary – Carlos Comer (Former Interim)
  • Cole Elementary – Chad Hedgepath
  • Hickman Elementary – Chris Holmes
  • McGavock Elementary – Rae Covey
  • Smith Springs Elementary – Cherish Piche (Former Interim)
  • Sylvan Park Elementary – Elizabeth Goetz
  • Thomas Edison Elementary – Sonya Whitmore
  • Warner Elementary – Ricki Gibbs (Former Interim)
  • Bellevue Middle – Seth Swihart
  • Dupont Tyler Middle – Fred Hewitt
  • Goodlettsville Middle – Michelle Demps
  • Jere Baxter – Kisha Cox
  • Joelton Middle – Roderick Webb
  • Margaret Allen Middle – Monica Bryant
  • Academy at Old Cockrill – Julie Travis (Former Interim)
  • Johnson ALC – Myron Franklin (Former Interim)

Still missing from the list is Shayne ES and Cumberland ES. Also, community members are waiting for news on the status of Stratford HS principal Mike Steele. Steele has been on administrative leave since May while the district investigates charges of grade inflation. I’m still puzzled why the investigative process is taking this long, especially in light of recommendations from the recently conducted Human Resources evaluation that advised administrative leave be three days in duration.

Word on the street is that Chief of Staff Marcy Singer-Gabella will be leaving MNPS and returning to Vanderbilt were she was previously employed. This move is not unexpected as Singer-Gabella had utilized a one-year sabbatical in order to initially accept the position. It is uncertain what this move will mean for the MNPSNext initiative. Previous COS Jana Carlisle had done most of the heavy lifting during her tenure, but recently, Singer-Gabella had picked up the reins and pushed the initiative forward.

It’ll be interesting to see who Dr. Battle hires for this position. I’d argue that it is among the most important of positions and requires someone who has a deep knowledge of MNPS, strong relationships citywide, and a deep understanding of the current strategic plan. The right selection makes Dr. Battle’s success a whole lot more likely.

Indianapolis is expected to announce today the finalists in their Superintendent search. I have no indication that the list will include any familiar faces, but one never knows. The current interim superintendent, Aleecia Johnson, is a local product and many expect her to be among the finalists. Hiring an internal candidate is a current trend among school districts, with Memphis, Denver, Los Angeles, and WCS all doing so in the last year.

Social Emotional Learning is increasingly becoming the “It” thing in education circles. Some people remember when Common Core was the “It” thing and urge administrators to pay attention to the lessons learned from the Common Core era in implementing SEL programs. Blogger and professional educator Peter Greene as always does a great job summarizing those lessons. My biggest gripe is that we talk all day about SEL when it comes to teacher/student relationships, but we don’t spend nearly enough time focusing on how it applies to adults in the building. That needs to change.

On Saturday, June 15, there will be a Union Trades and Apprenticeship Readiness Fair. The fair will take place at the Southeast Community Center and run from 10 AM to 1 PM. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to read Dad Gone Wild’s interview with Dr. Battle, I recommend you do so. In it, she talks about her past in MNPS while giving a glimpse of what the future might hold.

Economist Nick Hanauer was a big supporter of charter schools. This week he published an article in The Atlantic acknowledging that Better Schools Won’t Fix America. He labels his former belief system as “Educationism:”

“What I’ve realized, decades late is that educationism is tragically misguided. American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me. Americans are more highly educated than ever before, but despite that, and despite nearly record-low unemployment, most American workers—at all levels of educational attainment—have seen little if any wage growth since 2000.”

He clarifies with the following paragraph:

“To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income.”

This is an extremely thoughtful article that evokes many of the arguments I’ve raised over the years. Thanks to my wife for bringing it to my attention.

In San Diego, San Ysidro High School’s Valedictorian Nataly Buhr used last week’s graduation speech as an opportunity to air her grievances with school administrators. She took shots at counselors, office staff, and even a teacher with a drinking problem:

“To the teacher who was regularly intoxicated during class this year,” she said, this time drawing an audible response from the crowd, “thank you for using yourself as an example to teach students about the dangers of alcoholism. Being escorted by police out of school left a lasting impression.”

Ouch, that was incredibly harsh and lacking in any kind of compassion. In defending her actions, Buhr stated the following:

“I understand that those I criticized may be facing personal issues, but I don’t think that should affect their commitments or the school’s responsibility to fulfill their commitments. I didn’t expect for change to come from my speech, but I was hoping it would encourage more students to speak up.”

Some are applauding her move and treating her like a hero. I’m not so sure. There is a time and place for everything and I think this was neither. Your thoughts?

Last year, when Bill Freeman purchased the Nashville Scene, he faced a lot of harsh criticisms. Former scribes labeled it lightweight and a vanity project for a wealthy man. In that light, I think it’s worth noting that the writing of late is as good as any in the publication’s storied history. Their coverage of this year’s mayoral and council races has been excellent. If you haven’t picked an issue up in a while, do yourself a favor and grab one.

No, I haven’t forgotten this week’s MNPS board meeting. I just haven’t had the courage yet to watch it in its entirety. I’ll try and dig into it this week as well as the pending Amazon deal with MNPS. I will offer this caveat to the Amazon plan: when companies say they are investing millions to create the workforce of tomorrow, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is a shortage of workers today, just a shortage of workers willing to work for the desired compensation level of said corporation. Furthermore, wait until you find out who’s behind the scenes working this deal.

Out the campaign trail, Mayor Briley continually refers to a pending MOU with MNPS. Though allegedly already crafted, it remains as elusive to the general public as the Loch Ness Monster. Like Nessie, many purport to have seen glimpses of the MOU, but the entire body has yet to be revealed. I get the feeling that this is probably something the mayor wants to keep in his desk drawer until after the election since there are strict laws in Nashville concerning the separation of city and school governance. But we shall see.

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, and 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts

  1. Agree 💯 about SEL for adults. We put many things in place to help but it also in a way feels it didn’t help. Still had too many teachers leave even with this strategies to support them were in place. I would have thought it would have resulted in the opposite. Regardless, SEL is huge for adults and should be a priority.

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