LOVE YA PAL

“I am not an angel,’ I asserted; ‘and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me – for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.”
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

“You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it. ”
Mary Oliver

I’ve long argued that the true blessings in life are not the friends we choose, but rather the friends that choose us. Rebecca Pannenton was such a friend to me.

Rebecca was never the coolest friend, nor was she the most beautiful. She was never the most comforting, nor was she the funniest. Left to my own devices I probably wouldn’t have chosen her to be among my best friends. Fortunately for me, true to the way she lived her life, she didn’t leave the decision up to me. She simply assumed her role as one of my longest lasting and best friends. It was a friendship that lasted nearly 30 years.

I met Rebecca when I was still drinking. She was there as my drinking started to wreck its toll on my daily life. She never chose to lecture, she just simply supported me as I wrestled with my demons.

Many of us say we don’t judge people but few of us practice those words. With Rebecca, never once did I feel judged by her despite my continued erratic behavior. I remember her picking me up and taking me to a show at the old Sutler – paying my way and buying my drinks because I was literally penniless. I rewarded her generosity by getting drunk and falling through the waitress station.

The next morning I woke up with fuzzy recollections and a realization that once again I’d failed to adhere to social norms. Later that morning she called. I expected recriminations and a lecture, neither ever came. The previous evening actions were never spoken of and we made plans for lunch the next day.

When I left Cumberland Heights, she was there to help set up my new apartment and pick up the pieces of my life. When I asked Priscilla to marry me, she took us both out to lunch to celebrate. She was in attendance at my wedding as well as the birth of both Avery and Peter. After Avery’s birth, she declared that she would be Aunt Rebecca, and that is who she became. Her love of the kids was a palpable thing. To see her with the kids was to know that you were in the presence of unconditional love.

We all know people who brag about not suffering fools well. Rebecca was one of those people that really didn’t suffer fools gladly, but the difference between her and those others was that she never bragged about it. Many of her fellow servers at the Bellemeade Country Club, were she recently retired from, can probably recount times when they were at the receiving end of her acerbic tongue after they tried to shirk their work or failed to provide exceptional service to members. she didn’t take her role in the service industry lightly and held herself and others to high expectations.

Her tongue wasn’t reserved for strangers either. When you interacted with Rebecca you always knew where you stood, there was no sugar coating of her opinion. But she gave of herself in an equally unfiltered manner as well.

We would go to lunch or dinner a couple times a month and invariably she would pay. It was because of Rebecca that I ate at some of the finest restaurants in town. She loved her dining experiences and to share a favored restaurant with a friend.

At first, I would try to argue over the bill, but then I came to the realization that this is what she chose to spend her hard-earned money on and sometimes you just have to accept people’s kindness.

Rebecca had been married early in life and it scarred her. She remained unencumbered by romantic entanglements for most of the time I knew her. Though there was that fling with Huey Lewis – yes, that Huey Lewis.

We use to joke that due to her solitary lifestyle she could end up dead and it’d be days before anybody knew, Sadly the joke proved prophetic. She died in her sleep mid-week and it wasn’t until Sunday when I open up Facebook that I was informed of her passing. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

Part of me was not surprised though. She’d struggled with depression since retirement and was tormented by lingering illness. It seemed recently that her health was improving but she still rarely left the house, often canceling lunch plans at the last minute. I’d called her last week but didn’t think anything when the phone went to voice mail. Alas, that is a call that will go unreturned.

When someone dies in a manner like Rebecca, we often chastise ourselves over things we could have done that might have prolonged life. With Rebecca that’s a pointless exercise, She was going to do as she chose and no amount of intervention was going to change that.

The one lesson that is reinforced is that life is fleeting. Too often we get caught up in the day to day actions and lose sight of the personal interactions that serve to enrich our time on earth. We cite family obligations, job obligations, or countless other reasons not to schedule activities with loved ones. Focusing on “getting things done” forces us to avoid lingering over a meal or enjoying a walk with a friend.

We need to remind ourselves that being in a hurry to live an accomplished life means we speed by many important moments. I find myself thinking about Dr. Battle and the pending birth of her second child. I know all the work facing the district seems critical and requiring immediate attention – and it is – but equally important are our loved ones and the time we devote to them.

All of our accomplishments, like our physical bodies, will turn to dust. Others will come along and make equal, or greater accomplishments. The thing that makes life valuable is that it has a beginning and an end and a finite time between them. How we spend that time defines a life well-lived.

As I sit here and reflect on the years shared with my dear friend, I remember that every meal, every phone call, every visit ended with a “Love ya pal.” and I would respond with a “love ya as well.” Since I’ll never hear those words again, say them again. Thank you for being my friend. My champion. My defender. My crutch.

Love ya pal.

PAYROLL BLUES

In writing this blog, I exercise a great deal of energy towards getting information right. Before I write about anything, I talk to several people and bounce my thoughts off of several others. Unfortunately though, sometimes I get things wrong. As was the case with what I wrote about the new payroll schedule last Friday.

The way I wrote about the new pay schedule is probably the way it should happen, and there are discussions ongoing about possibly moving things in that direction. The way it works currently is different though, and not new construction.

If last year you were a step 10, which also indicates 10 years of service, your last year’s salary was multiplied by 3% and the result was made the new step 11. For example, if you were a step 10 Masters your salary last year was $48,822. 3% equals a raise of 1464.66, making the new step 11, $50,286.66.

A 3 year veteran with a bachelor’s degree made $44805 last year. They’ll see a raise of $1344.15 for a total salary in 2019/2020 of $46149. Sounds simple right? But it’s not.

Every time this adjustment is made sans step raises, and it’s been done several times over the last decade, it serves to devalue each step. Since columns need to be added either at the top or bottom in order to balance everything there is also a further compression of the pay schedule.

For example, had step raises been included this year, that aforementioned teacher going from step 10 to step 11 would have seen an increase in pay of $1648. If step increases are included next year, that 10 to 11 step will only have a value of $1485. A difference of $163.

Now that doesn’t sound like much but couple it with the note at the bottom of the recently released pay schedule and there is room for concern.

Note: This salary schedule is revised annually. It is not possible to predict future salaries beyond the current school year.

The whole purpose of having a salary schedule that includes step raises is to give a sense of what a teacher’s earnings will be over the course of a career at MNPS. It allows teachers to plan for retirement and get a sense of commitment from the district if they commit to the district.

Instead, we are sending a message of, “Hey you may make this or you may not. We’re not committing to anything but we sure would like it if you’d commit to us.”

This is not an issue rooted with Dr. Battle and her current team. It’s an issue that is well over a decade in the making. Unfortunately, if not addressed by Dr. Battle’s team, they will be the ones to bear the brunt of the negative impact.

The good news is that they appear committed to fixing the situation. They have been extremely open to input and are considering several solutions.  The problem in fixing mathematical problems is that if you adust one column it affects all other columns. Extreme care must be taken that adjusting a single figure doesn’t create other unintended consequences.

On my end, I apologize for the lack of a more accurate picture last week and regret any confusion that resulted. This is too important a subject not to get right. I promise to continue investigating in order to get a better understanding. As always I appreciate your patience.

MAYORS RACE

This has been a wild ride this year and the last week of the race for Mayor of Nashville looks to stay true to form.

Final financial disclosures pre-election were due last week and brought several interesting revelations. Briley continues to lead in fundraising – bringing in $187k with just under $200k on hand.  Cooper raised roughly $47k, but he loaned himself 900K. He spent most of that 900K, leaving himself $137k on hand. Clemmons raised $44k and loaned himself $20K. Most of his money has been spent and he only has about $37K on hand.

Shockingly, Carol Swain raised just shy of $92K. $50k of that she still has available to spend. That’s a lot more cash then I would have suspected she’d raise. Her early voting ground game has been impressive as well. Every poll cite has a manned Carol Swain tent that looks just like the ones at the other polling stations. Who knows, she may sneak into the predicted run-off.

My favorite WWE moment has come courtesy of Mayor Briley who tweeted out on Friday that John Cooper was attempting to buy the election through his developer cronies. Take a look at Briley’s contributions and you’ll find the majority have ties to the Chamber of Commerce crowd. Including a $20k donation from the Nashville Business coalition.

Now, where did that money come from? Well by a remarkable coincidence, the Nashville Business Coalition received 20K from the Better Nashville PAC. A PAC made of the usual business suspects, including $25K from our new neighbor Amazon. Shockingly the Better Nashville PAC hasn’t filed its latest financial disclosure yet. I suspect they’ll get around to it on August 2.

In this light, Briley’s charges translate into, “Your cronies are interfering with and driving up the price of my cronies buying the election.” If it wasn’t so serious it would be comical.

QUICK HITS

I want to thank JT Moore Principal Gary Hughes for allowing my family to come out and visit his beautiful farm in Primm’s Spring. Words can not describe the beauty of the property and on the heels of the weekend’s news, it was a much-need respite.

It was extremely kind for Dr. Hughes to take time – despite the pending start of the school year – to give us a personalized tour of the property. His interactions with the kids truly made it a memorable experience.

Teachers officially report back to MNPS today, yet TNReady scores from last spring continue to be embargoed. Anybody have an idea when the TNDOE intends to share the wealth with the rest of us?

If you’ve never read education blogger and retired music teacher Nancy Flanigan’s blog Teacher in a Strange Land, you need to start. Flanigan is an excellent writer who is unafraid to wade into controversial subjects including the recently re-ignited reading wars.

Recently, the combat has heated up again, with a handful of irate but organized parents and a spokesperson with good media connections claiming that the ‘science’ of learning to read is ‘settled.’ As if a proclamation about the One Best Way could convince the public (and, even more ridiculous, reading teachers) that if we all just calmed down and standardized reading instruction, every single child could read by the end of first grade, as God intended.

In her latest, she draws parallels between her teaching kids to read music and the efforts of others to teach kids to read in general. It’s worth your time to read it.

Several folks pushed back against my criticisms of pictures posted last week from MNPS’s new teacher training. Fair enough, the picture may not be fully inclusive, but let me ask a few questions. If this is only one corner of the room and all the teachers of color are in another corner, isn’t that symptomatic of a problem? If I’m a TOC and I’m weighing whether to come work at an MNPS or another district how will this picture impact my decision? If I’m a parent of a student of color, who will this picture ally any fears of inclusion that I may harbor?

Yes, it is always a great idea to honor and celebrate teachers. But it’s equally important to weigh every message distributed by the district and consider the potential unintended consequences. It is possible to celebrate teachers and depict diversity at the same time.

Limitless Libraries revealed a new logo this morning. Love me some Limitless Libraries.

Anybody have any idea why the @metroschools Twitter feed is no longer included on the MNPS website?

MNPS will welcome students for the new school year in just one week! Questions on enrollment, transportation, immunizations, and student schedules? Please visit our #BacktoMNPS page: bit.ly/2LIbYys or contact the Family Information Center, 615-259-4636 

POLL RESULTS

Last week’s first question asked for your opinion on MNPS forming a Partnership Zone with the TNDOE in order to help chronically underperforming schools. Y’all are decidedly underwhelmed with the state’s record, as 29% of you indicated no interest in any action that included the state. 28% of you said that you’d need more details. Here are the write-ins,

De facto segregation prepping serfs for feudalism 1
Hilarious…like the state can fix this mess. 1
I do not care.

Question 2 asked if you thought board member Will Pinkston would ever honor his resignation. 75% of you don’t believe that it will ever happen. One of you said that you hope he never resigns and runs for re-election. Thank you Will for continuing to read Dad Gone Wild. Here are the write-ins,

He is a cancer to this board and city. 1
He’s pathetic!!! Even his wife can’t stand him!!! 1
Why should he? No else keeps their word or follows rules????

The last question asked how many books a month y’all read. For most of you, it’s between 1 and 4. I still maintain that if you want more literate children, it’s essential to have more literate adults. Modeling remains the most successful means of teaching and inspiring. Here are the write-ins.

Loads of journals for class 1
Would love to read an current version of employee handbook 1
Teachers have time to read? 1
When do I have time?

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, but now it’s time to do some shameless begging. The blogging platform I subscribe to allows me to run some ads in order to defray costs. I don’t make much, but it helps. The renewal is $350 and is due next week. I could use some help in making that number.

If you can, please head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help would be greatly appreciated.

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