READING THE SIGNS

“I may not know much, but I know chicken shit from chicken salad.”
Lyndon B. Johnson

“But it is the knowledge of how contingent my unease is, how dependent on a baby that wails beneath my window one day and does not wail the next, that brings the worst shame to me, the greatest indifference to annihilation. I know somewhat too much; and from this knowledge, once one has been infected, there seems to be no recovering. I ought never to have taken my lantern to see what was going on in the hut by the granary. On the other hand, there was no way, once I had picked up the lantern, for me to put it down again. The knot loops in upon itself; I cannot find the end.”
J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians

I try to make sure that Dad Gone Wild publishes on Mondays and Fridays. Sometimes things happen and I don’t get something out until Tuesday. This is the first time that a post been this late and I hope you’ll forgive me. Getting a piece together requires a lot of work and sometimes life gets in the way of timely publishing. I appreciate your reading my musings and don’t take the commitment lightly. Hopefully, some of the news in today’s post will make up for the delay.

This past week I finished the latest novel by Eliot Pattison, Bones of the Earth. Pattison writes mysteries by the loosest definition. His books are set in Tibet and his protagonist is a Chinese detective who has failed to embrace the dogma of Bejing and for such has been imprisoned and though now free, is ever perilously close to returning to incarceration.

In reading these novels, it almost feels like reading science fiction. The lives of Tibetans and the injustice foisted on them by the Chinese is almost imperceptible to a Western reader. The Chinese have tried to obliterate the traditions and religion of Tibetans for decades. Despite the best efforts of the Chinese, the Tibetans continue their resistance. What makes that resistance inspiring is their commitment to non-violence in the face of incredible odds. Pattison’s books, like the Tibetan people, are fused with spirituality. A spirituality that resonates long after the finishing of the novels.

There is a passage in the latest where the detective Shan sits with a Tibetan Lhama that had recently demonstrated the apparent ability to summon earthquakes at will. This ability takes on mythical connotations. He wearily explains to Shan that his gift wasn’t mythical and asked did he not hear the increased barking of dogs before the quake? Did he not notice the devoid of birds? Was he not in tune with the slight vibrations of the earth before the arrival of an earthquake?

What was attributed to sorcery, was merely an ability to sit, listen, and interpret the rhythms of the earth? Something that was once a common ability but as technology has increased has become a scarcer commodity. Nothing mythical, merely an attunement with the earth.

The passage struck me as extremely relevant to daily life. How much do we miss because we don’t pay attention to the little things, the subtle ways in which problems could be averted before they arise if we only listened to the signs?

I remember working the floor at the Ace of Clubs on a Saturday night. There would be 1000 people in the club dancing and drinking, trouble would invariably flare up. The trick though would be to catch it before it happen. I learned that if you pay attention you can spot a disruption in the energy of the room that preceeded an incident transpiring. If you attuned yourself to catching that disruption, you could limit the number of problems throughout the night.

That scene from Bones of the Earth along with other scenes provide fodder for reflection. How can we get better at tuning out the noise? How can we attune ourselves more to the natural world? How much have we lost without realization? I strongly recommend the reading of Pattison. He may be classified as a mystery writer, but the mysteries he shares may not be the ones you expect.

STATE NONSENSE

Before State legislators passed Governor Lee’s voucher bill there was a lot of debate about the final cost of the bill. Now that the bill has been passed, Speaker of the House Glenn Casada and Governor Lee are perhaps starting to realize that the cost of passage is much higher than they anticipated.

Casada already under fire, and expected to resign as Speaker in the coming weeks, garnered renewed attention this week when it was revealed by News 5’s Phil Williams that Casada suggested during this past legislative session to a fellow legislator, state Rep. John Mark Windle, a Democrat from Livingston, that his “aye” vote could result in a increased rank in the Tennessee National Guard. Casada in a statement denied the accusation and offered that “only the governor can do that.”

The Governor’s follow up statement made things even more interesting.

“No one on our team is aware of a conversation to that effect,” said Lee spokesman Chris Walker.

That’s not exactly an uncatagorical denial. What that is, is a “let’s hedge our bets and hope Phil Williams doesn’t have information that proves that it did indeed happen” response.

Anybody who was paying attention during the last legislative session should not be surprised that these allegations are starting to rise. It was the worst kept secret in the state that Casada and Lee were intent on passing voucher legislation and were willing to do just about anything to ensure its passage. As Williams reports, all kinds of promises were made to entice votes.

As it stands, increased scrutiny will continue to come Casada’s way. The FBI continues to investgate the voucher legislation passage process and he likely will face a campign finance probe. The odds of him retaining his position as a state representative lessen every day. The whispers on the street are that the more pressure he faces the more the liklihood that he will implicate Governor Lee in his questionable practices also increases.

If you’ve ever watched a crime drama on TV or at the movies,  then all of this looks very familiar. You start with the small fish and then work your way on up the chain. Casada’s aide being at the bottom of this chain and Lee being the big fish.

Voucher opponents have long argued that the risk/reward ratio linked to vouchers makes for an untenable  policy. Lee, at the behest of his backers, ignored those arguments. I’m betting that by this time next year he’ll really wished he’d listened more.

MAYOR’S RACE

We are down to the final days of Nashville’s Mayoral race and I’m starting to get a creeping bad feeling. Nashville’s power broker’s have always been really good at looking out for their own interests, and for whatever reason, current Mayor Briley best represents those interests.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but over the past week, the push for Briley has grown louder. Council Member’s, and other politicos, are releasing indivual testimony attesting to Briley’s prowress. The Tennesean, always a bastion for the status quo, has come out and endorsed the mayor. In doing so they’ve imbodied him with magical powers that evoke guffaws from opponents.

In talking about Education issues the Tennesean writes,

Briley took a hard line on the elected school board in the spring because of its persistent governance challenges and in-fighting, which eventually led to the board buying out former Director Shawn Joseph’s contract after fewer than three years on the job.

This should be viewed as a deliberate attempt to reinterpret history. The in-fighting, nor the governance challenges were not what lead to the dismissal of Shawn Joseph. It was the slow realization that he was incapable of leading the district. Something that becomes more and more apparent the more removed we become from his tenure.

Had the Mayor not become involved, Joseph likely would not have received the buy-out that he did and the school district could have utilized that money where it was needed most, in the schools. Furthermore, a cleaner break with his failed policies could have been made. Instead, many of Joseph’s policies are still being followed and he’s still lurking around Nashville attempting to assert influence like the ghost of Christmas past.

The willingness of the paper to repaint history, along with the collaboration of long term politicians, signals a move to shore up the status quo. The wagons are circling and the Mayor and his cronies are making a stand. One that, if the past is any indication, is usually successful.

A glance at the financial filings for the upcoming election should open some eyes and lead credence to these feelings.

You might remember hearing about a new PAC back in March with ties to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce,  A Better Nashville. Per their financial disclosure, they’ve raised $147K, and have distributed over $84k this past reporting period while still having $64k on hand.

Where did the money come from? Businesses like Asurian, Pinnacle Bank, Ingram, Community Health Systems, HG Hill Reality all ponied up between 5 and 20 thousand. But who gave the most? Well our newest neighbor, Amazon would be the answer to that question. The online giant ponied up $25K for the upcoming election.

Where did the money go? Candidates for council received most of it. Terry Jo Bickell got $7500. Cheryl Mayes got $7500. Our old friend Thom Drufell got $4000. DeCosta Hastings got $5000, Jeremy Elrod got $5000. That’s a nice chunk of change when opponents in those races are only raising between 10k and 15K. That PAC donation definitely tilts the advantage.

But let’s not stop there. Amazon feels so generous that they’ve given Russ Pulley an extra grand even though he doesn’t have an opponent. Jeremy Elrod gets another 2 grand. To put that in perspective, Elrod’s two opponents have reported $9k and $7.7K respectively. As a side note, keep in mind that Rachael Elrod received $5k from the Chamber of Commerce during last year’s school board race. It’s safe to say the Nashville business community likes the Elrod’s.

In the last disclosure, the Better Nashville PAC didn’t give any contributions to Mayoral candidates directly, but HG Hill did give $8100 to Briley and there is $7800 to Briley from the Nashville Business Coalition PAC. A PAC who hasn’t filed a disclosure yet, but the Better Nashville PAC contributed $20k to them. For added fun, scroll through the list of individual donors for Briley with ties to the Nashville Chamber who managed to pony up $1600.

I don’t know what life in your household is like, but in the Weber home, we wouldn’t be able to find $1600 to give to a mayoral candidate if we looked for a decade.

Now I’m not accusing anyone of doing anything wrong, but you can’t ignore that money plays a huge role in politics and the chamber, along with their newest member Amazon is very quietly flexing their muscles.

It almost feels like the ruling class has grown tired of the Clemmons and Cooper show and are making moves to shut it down. As a result – despite nearly everyone predicting a run off – I wouldn’t be surprised if August’s election produces results of Briley 52%, Cooper 19%, Clemmons 17%, and Swain 10%. I pray I’m wrong, but the cynical side of me feels like I’ve seen this show before.

If that happens it would be a shame. Clemmons has run an impressive campaign that has produced genuine excitement and while Coopers hasn’t been as flashy, it’s been equally well run. A win by Briley will serve to keep Nashville a place where some thrive while others are continually displaced and priced out. A place where everything is for sale to the highest bidder.

Early voting ends on Saturday and election day is the following Thursday. Get out and vote.

QUICK HITS

Rumblings continue to grow under the newest MNPS organizational structure, Dr. Battle is planning to roll Student Services up under the Human Resources department. A move that baffles me on a number of levels.

In my eyes, MNPS can be divided up into finance, academics, human resources, and student services. Combining HR and student services under one person puts almost half the district under one person.

Both HR and Students Services face a number of critical challenges and are arguably currently the lowest-performing of MNPS’s divisions.

The district faces a teacher shortage. Now the exact number of teacher vacancies can’t be pinned down, but the fact remains, we are nearing crisis mode and without clear action, things will only worsen. Yet no plan to has emerged to counter the district’s lack of teachers. Not only that but one of the district’s most effective tools, the New Teacher Academy, is not even being utilized this year. Teacher retention and recruitment requires a laser-like focus that it doesn’t feel like it’s getting.

On the flip-side, the work being done by student services is equally critical. The implementation of the changes in the discipline policy last year was an unmitigated failure. Getting the policy right this year is critical to the success of MNPS. Again, a laser-like focus is required.

Now I’m just reporting word on the street but, if there is any truth to the gossip, I hope wiser heads prevail and keep both divisions separate.

Remember that time when Nashville expressed deep concern for student literacy levels? Remember when that initiative, Blueprint for Early Child Success was created and touted as being the envy of the world? It was way back in October of 2017, surely you haven’t forgotten? Well, Vesia Hawkins hasn’t and she’s got some things to say about it. Hopefully, someone listens.

Remember that rumor I shared a while back about the state considering taking over portions of MNPS? Well, apparently wiser heads have prevailed. Yesterday TN State Superintendent of School Penny Schwinn announced that the state won’t be taking over any schools this year. Of course, she added a vague threat about the future, but the reality is finally sinking in that the Achievement School District is a failed initiative and needs to be discontinued. Ah…if only somebody had told that to Mayor Briley about 6 months ago.

Overton High School continues to garner national accolades. This week it’s a column in the Washington Post that highlights their inclusive music education program. It’s being touted as a model for how to do music education right. Way to go Overton High School. Y’all rock!

You know what is more mythical then the Loch Ness monster or a Yeti? TNReady results. School starts in 2 weeks and not a peep on last years results. I know that people have seen them but they are still embargoed. Maybe they’ll  release them as part of a first day of school celebration.

POLL RESULTS

Let’s review this week’s poll results.

The first question asked for your thoughts on MNPS’s teacher retention and recruitment efforts. Color you unimpressed. 63% of you responded that you see no evidence of a plan while 14% felt things are worse than ever. It’s been at least two years since HR presented to the school board on the subject of teacher retention and recruitment, perhaps it’s time for another presentation. Here are the write-in results,

Teachers cannot survive on thank yous. Need great salary and working conditions. 1
No leadership, no strategy, no recruiting just ask them 1
I just resigned. Ya’ll have fun. 1
Recruitment-MNPS does that? 1
Worse than ever! Where is New Teacher Academy? 1
Teachers will come and STAY to work for good principals. This much I KNOW. 1
We are still 500 short.

Question 2 wanted to get your opinion on whether much has changed since Dr. Joseph’s departure. 49% of you indicated that the summer made it hard to judge, but 26% of you indicated that things are about the same. Here are the write-ins, some of which made me chuckle.

none 1
No longer in the movie Black Panther 1
People around her don’t understand leading is not dictating & covering w/a smile 1
Much better – I have faith that Dr. Battle will make positive changes all around 1
Can we stop bulking up central office? 1
Figurehead, follow the promos, reorgs and raises 1
hmmm…not really 1
Did someone take over for Dr. Joseph? 1
David Williams & Jill Petty aren’t the right peopl 1
Disappointed that she’s following in his footsteps. ???? 1
poor hiring choices are being made 1
I have. He was so terrible that she looks stellar by comparison. 1
The racial circus has calmed down but still Central Office top heavy 1
same crap, reworded/shifted to look like change 1
Agree with your assessment- kinder gentler Jospeh – no real change

The last question inquired about district communication with families. 48% answered that the level of competence was dependent on individual schools. I’d say that’s a problem and indicative of an equity issue that needs addressing. Here are those write-in answers,

Wish they would ask what we want and why we leave 1
Par for the course 1
Terrible!! Embarrassing 1
Letter to Stratford parents was an embarrassment 1
What communication?

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.

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts

  1. One week out from school starting and we are getting bombarded with things “the district will be looking for” when they walk our school. All the way down to the things that need to be posted on the walls. I’m not loving this change, hopefully it isn’t a sign of what’s to come.

  2. Curious as to where your intel for the change in support services is coming from? Anything to do with Majors being the head guy in HR? I work in that department and don’t think that the change in the discipline policy should be the only measure of failure. The department is full of hard working folks who do a lot for kids and teachers (social work, counselors, behavior analysts etc.)

    1. I stand corrected, you are correct about the people, but the discipline policy had huge ramifications last year and tends to overshadow everything unfortunately

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