TEACHERS CAST A VOTE

“Investigations, meditations, careers, relationships were much the same, he mused. They failed because no one thought to ask the right question.”
Eliot Pattison, The Skull Mantra

“Do not be so quick to accept as truth what is only conjecture.”
Terry Brooks, The Elfstones of Shannara

 

 

How did you spend your weekend? If you were one of roughly 300 teachers and parents in Nashville you met downtown at Third and Lindsey and then marched to the Howard School Building to cast your early vote for State Representative John Ray Clemmons to become the next Mayor of Nashville.

Coming on the heels of news that Clemmons significantly trailed Mayor Briley and John Cooper in fundraising efforts last quarter, this was an impressive demonstration of the commitment Nashville educators have made to Clemmons.

Early voting started on Friday at the Howard School building. On the 19th of July, it opens across the city, before closing on the 27th. Election day falls on August 1.

The turnout for the Clemmon’s event is significant because most political observers are predicting a low turnout for this years election. Only about 450 people cast their ballot on the first day the polls were open. That means every single vote counts more than ever.

An interesting scenario may arise because all indications are that this year’s election will end up in a runoff, as no candidate is predicted to be able to secure the majority of the vote. If Clemmons is unable to make up for his financial disadvantage, that most likely means a run-off between Briley and Coopers. Where do teachers turn then?

It’s a possibility that creates quite the dilemma because recent financial disclosures show that the traditional reform crowd has contributed significantly to Cooper’s campaign. Does that result in teachers and education advocates biting the bullet and pulling the lever for Briley if necessary?

Personally, I refuse to have a 2014 discussion in 2019. I’m not comfortable with those reformers support of Cooper, but the reality is that they are a wealthy group and the wealthy have a habit of trying to shape policy through financial means. They were not going to sit this race out. So who were they going to try and influence?

They have clearly lost confidence in Briley. Clemmons is too far left for their comfort. Swain? I’m sure they recognize her shortcomings and realize that her odds of winning are minimal. That leaves Cooper. Will their money influence him? I don’t know.

To date, Cooper has said all the right things. He wants to support the school board, not shape them. He is against vouchers and understands the shortcomings of charter schools. He supports increased teacher pay. His track record supports those statements.

Some would try and compare a Cooper win to the Karl Dean administration. I think that’s a bit of a stretch because it fails to recognize how the landscape has changed. During Deans’s tenure, the general public was, for the most part, uneducated on charter schools, and other ed reform ideas. That is no longer true.

The public has had a chance to evaluate charter schools and has come to realize that they are at best a mixed bag and that in reality, they serve communities no better than traditional schools. Families have a greater understanding of the increased financial cost of charter schools on a city and as a result, there is little clamoring for more of them.

What people are clamoring for is what they’ve always been clamoring for, better quality, not more choice. Therefore, personally, I don’t envision any politician being able to fling out the welcome mat for the privatization crowd in the same manner that Karl Dean was able to.

The issues that we need to stay focus on today have shifted to teacher recruitment and retention, school funding, capital needs, and to guarding against a bunch of pop-up private schools establishing themselves in the wake of Tennessee’s recent voucher legislation. I’m not totally dismissing charter schools as a challenge, because it becomes clearer every day that financing two separate school systems ensures that neither will provide quality for all, but we can not continue to allow them to suck all the air out of the conversation.

Of course, the whole Briley vs Cooper conversation becomes moot if it’s Clemmons who makes the runoff. Worth noting is that Clemmons won his statehouse seat by overcoming heavy odds.

In that race, he defeated an incumbent who’d held the seat for over 25 years.  Can he repeat that feat? The news out of last week’s forum held by the Panhellenic Society, Urban League of Middle Tennessee, NAACP Nashville, and Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship indicates that it is a distinct possibility.

Per the Tennessee Tribune,

At the end of the forum, all of the attendees were asked to vote in a straw poll for no more than two candidates vying for Mayor in the August 1 election. Clemmons decisively won the crowd of nearly 300, gaining 46% of the vote. John Cooper came in second with 26%, with David Briley close behind at 25%. Carol Swain suffered a decisive fourth place with 3% of the attendee’s vote. 

Looking at the demographics of those in attendance, it would have been expected that Briley would have performed much better. I guess those campaign ads recently released aren’t having the intended reaction.

The only advice or insight I can offer is that the candidate with the most votes will win. That may seem self-evident, but what it means is that all of us to have to not only attend rally’s or write op-ed pieces, but we also have to get people to the polls. Not only do teachers and education advocates have to vote, but its essential that they identify other voters and ensure that they cast a ballot.

If Clemmon’s get-out-the-vote effort is anywhere as near as strong as his social media presence and his campaign work than this race is far from decided.

CANDICE BEING CANDICE

Former Tennessee State Education Superintendent Candice McQueen sent out an interesting Tweet this weekend. In it, she referenced a recent article from USA Today that purported to rank the best states in the country to be a teacher. The article described their methodology as follows,

To identify the states where it’s best (and worst) to be a teacher, 24/7 Tempo constructed an index of average annual teacher pay, student-teacher ratio, the percentage of new teachers who are expected to qualify for a pension, and the overall state quality grade given to each state by research and policy group the National Council for Teacher Quality’s in its 2017 annual report. We ranked the states based on our index.

Apparently, Tennessee came in 9th,

9. Tennessee

• Average teacher pay: $58,618 (21st lowest)

• Student-teacher ratio: 28 to 1 (20th highest)

• New teachers expected to qualify for a pension: 56.0% (12th highest)

• High school graduation rate: 89.8% (3rd highest)

Tennessee is the only state the National Council on Teacher Quality has given an A- grade for its policies on general teacher preparation, the best of all states. The report identifies the state’s programs to increase diversity among its teachers and to meet performance standards as Tennessee’s strengths.

More than half of new teachers (56.0%) are expected to remain teachers long enough to qualify for retirement benefits in Tennessee, the 12th highest share in the country.

The top 3 states were New Jersey, New York, and at number one, Rhode Island.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry over these results. But they serve as evidence that you can produce data that supports just about any argument you want to make. Talking to teachers across the state it becomes clear that teacher salary is not sufficient, discipline policies are making the job harder, and fewer and fewer potential teachers are enrolling in teacher prep courses.

Tennessee maybe 9th but that should not be considered an indicator of cause for celebration. There is a lot of work that remains to be done.

QUICK HITS

Today is officially the first day of Amanda Kail’s tenure as President of MNEA. Congratulations and we look forward to seeing the great things you’ll accomplish.

A few new position announcements for MNPS heading into the new school year. As previously announced. Karen Desouza-Gallman has a new job. She will be the Executive Officer of Academics and School Support.

Alicia Norris is the new Executive Officer of Special Projects. Her father was previously an advisor to former MNPS Superintendent Jesse Register.

Dr. J.V. Witty, principal of MNPS’s Virtual School will assume the role of EDSSI with the district. Last year Witty was the MNPS Principal of the Year. 

And yes, all of those three of those positions were named without posting an opening.

At last week’s Principal meeting District leadership unveiled this year’s Key Performance Indicators(KPI). Shockingly they are not that different from last years KPI’s. The only change is the addition of a math goal.  Last year MNPS failed to meet any of the KPI’s. Hopefully, this year will be different.

The Arbinger Institute held its annual summit the last week in June. Those who paid the $495 entry fee got to hear words of wisdom from several speakers, among them former Nashville Superintendent Dr. Shawn Joseph. This seems fitting because if you’ll remember, one of the first contracts Joseph brought to Nashville was an expansion of the Arbinger Institutes services.

The Infinite Campus mobile app has a new look and great new features, including an app just for Students and one just for Parents.

Download the updated apps today. More information:
https://www.mnps.org/familyportal

PS: It integrates beautifully in the MNPS mobile app that includes everything from district directories to notifications to social media streams for your favorite schools!

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details…

Apple: https://apps.apple.com/app/id960381645

With school starting back soon, many schools will be hosting back to school events. Next Saturday Pearl-Cohn High School will host their first such event. Looks to be a lot of fun. We’ll try and keep you posted as we get more info.

This past Saturday, Tennessee, by proclamation of Governor Lee, celebrated Nathan Bedford Forrest Day. Education advocate Vesia Hawkins has some thoughts on the subject and I encourage you to read them in her new post, Tennessee’s Love Affair With Its Racist Past Must End.

ChalkbeatTN has an article out that does a fantastic job of stating the obvious, turn around districts are a failed strategy. It wasn’t enough that the founder of the Tennessee Achievement School District Kevin Huffman and Chris Barbic sold snake oil to Tennesseans, but they tried to export their nonsense to other states as well. The results were quite predictable to anyone paying attention, unfortunately too many weren’t.

In a 2018 column in the Charlotte Observer, local teacher Kay McSpadden wrote: “It didn’t work in Louisiana, Tennessee, or Michigan – taking local control from low-performing school districts and creating special ‘turnaround’ districts operated by charter companies.”

Hopefully, the end is nigh for this failed experiment.

POLL RESULTS

Time now to look at the results from this week’s poll questions.

Question number 1 asked for your opinion on the role of the districts literacy specialists. This one was probably the most mixed bag of answers I’ve ever received on a question. Eventually “essential and invaluable” secured the win with 22% of the vote, but more critical answers were only a few votes behind. Here are the write-in answers,

Cut the position and put them back in classroom working with students 1
Question the vetting practices of Petty and her team. 1
Depends on each coach and how they were trained 1
Need checks&balances as do principals 1
Money better spent elsewhere 1
School admin will not allow them to be successful 1
Ours did NOTHING and was clueless about basic literacy. Wasted $$. 1
If they actually were required to work with students they would be seen as effec 1
Worthless. Out often, inexperienced. Better when they worked with student 1
ours is awesome, not sure about effectiveness of others 1
Most are not effective 1
They need to function in their intended role.

Question 2 asked for your mental outlook as school gets ready to start back up. 37% of you indicated that you were trying to be optimistic but couldn’t shake some concerns. The runner up at 20% was “guarded optimism”. Here are the write-in votes.

I have no clue. New staff, new principal 1
Many problematic players in place. What’s the solution for SUB hiring process. 1
Starting too soon and no real change in financial compensation

The last question asked at what age you think kids should start specializing in sports. 32% of you said not until high school. Here are those write-in votes,

Kids need to play. Have you see how large and unhealthy most kids are?!! 1
No specialization until a they master some areas in arts and academics 1
Make sure it is the kid’s focus. Not the adult.

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, and if you feel so inclined, please head over to Patreon and help a brother out.

 

 

 

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