NASHVILLE IS READY FOR A NEW MAYOR

“Some people think only intellect counts: knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion, and empathy.”
Dean Koontz

“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.”
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Last night was election night in Nashville, and with it came an edict for Mayor David Briley. Briley is running for re-election as mayor and usually, the outcome of that pursuit is a foregone reality. Nashville likes it’s mayors and never in the last 50 years has an incumbent lost an election. Only once has one been pushed into a runoff – Briley’s grandfather. That is on the cusp of changing,

The polls closed at 7 pm and shortly thereafter early voting returns were released and day’s returns began trickling in. Early returns gave challenger John Cooper a lead of about 5k votes. By the end of the night, he would double that lead and finish with 35% of the vote. Mayor Briley would only secure 25% of the vote, only 3 percentage points ahead of far-right conservative Carol Swain. John Ray Clemmons would finish with 16% of the vote. In the end, Cooper won 30 out of 35 precincts.

Since no candidate secured over 50% of the vote, we’re headed for a runoff. That means over the next 6 weeks John Cooper and David Briley will try to convince the citizens of Nashville that they are the better choice for mayor. It’s a message has the feel of already been sent. When 75% of the county’s voters tell you that they would rather someone else be mayor,  the ide of a runoff seems rather moot.

John Ray Clemmons may have finished fourth, but nobody worked harder than he to make his case to be mayor. Clemmons gets it and in his concession speech he voiced the feelings that Briley failed to heed,

“They are tired, tired of our schools being underfunded,” said Clemmons. “They are tired of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. They are tired of struggling to make ends meet. They are tired of their house flooding every time it rains, and they are tired of their entire community being neglected by this city.”

In their coverage of election night, The Tennessean quoted Briley’s defense.

He tied the council member’s approach to a “national trend” of divisiveness. 

“When you try to divide, one part of the community against the other is really sort of symbolic of the national trend to divide one group against the other. And I think that’s not productive,” Briley said.

There is our old friend irony again. You’ll remember that it was Briley who fanned divisive flames by substantiating claims that critics of former MNPS Superintendent Shawn Joseph were racially motivated. It was he who failed to listen to teachers and education advocates when they told him repeatedly that Joseph was not getting the job done and now once again he’s pointing the finger at others as an explanation for why he wasn’t up for the job.

If you’re still unsure of exactly why Briley lost I suggest that you go back and read Steven Hale’s Nashville Scene piece from June, As the Accidental Mayor, Briley Has Governed AimlesslyHale sums it up perfectly when he writes,

Perhaps. Where Briley is concerned, though, it’s also politics at its most incompetent. Watching the mayor navigate these controversies is like watching a man step on a series of rakes he carefully laid in his own path. 

Now it looks like John Cooper is going to help him put that rake back in the tool shed and will start governing competently. That’s the kind of change Nashville needs.

Hopefully, last night’s fiasco will also expose the fallacy of a couple of Nashville’s self-proclaimed political geniuses. In discussing Briley’s shortcomings over the past year, several politicoes’ made reference to his tendency to listen to the wrong people. Two of those people he was listening to were former NPEF president Shannon Hunt and semi-retired school board member Will Pinkston.

Pinkston and Briley reportedly broke up this summer because…well…because everybody eventually breaks up with Pinkston. Unfortunately for Briley, the break up came after Pinkston gave him crippling advice on the MNPS budget and enticed him to publicly support Dr. Joseph. Two moves that only served to cause educators and MNPS families to turn away from Briley in droves. In my estimation, the beginning of the end.

It’s worth noting that Pinkston reportedly gave equally bad advice to gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen that contributed to Bredesen getting trounced by Marsha Blackburn for  the Tennessee senate slot. At this point, it should be clear that Pinkston is at best a valuable attack dog but shouldn’t be allowed in the room when adults are discussing policy. I love my rottweiler, he keeps my family safe, but I don’t include him in discussions about how to run my household.

Looking forward, the only shot Briley has at remaining as Mayor is if half of Cooper voters don’t show up for the runoff, none of Clemmons supporters flip to Cooper, and Swain’s supporters all get too drunk at Tootsie’s to show up for the runoff. In other word’s he’s got an ice cube’s chance in hell of lighting the city’s Christmas Tree this year. With Briley in this untenable position, expect to hear a lot of negativity over the next 6 weeks.

Educators will be reminded of the sorta pay raise he secured for them – but keep in mind he’s the reason step raises were dropped in favor of a second 3% – and his supporters will try to scare teachers and parents into believing that a Cooper administration will resemble former Mayor Karl Dean’s administration. They’ll repeatedly bring up the members of Nashville’s ED Reform crowd that donated to Cooper’s campaign in an effort to get Clemmons supports to hold their breath and vote for Briley.

When you hear those charges, just remember that when it comes to education, Cooper has repeatedly stated that as Mayor he sees his role as one of support for the school board. He has also promised to raise funding and by extension teacher salaries. He opposes vouchers and is not a supporter of charter schools.

Briley for his part has promised to be the “most involved in education” mayor ever. Based on last night’s results, it doesn’t appear that Nashville’s citizens are ready for him to assume that role. Especially in light of exit polling showing that the second leading issue for voters was schools.

Briley will also try to paint Cooper has one of those – cue scary music – awful developers much in the same way former Mayor Barry painted her challenger Bill Freeman. Neither Barry, or now Briley, want you looking behind the curtain and seeing how invested the chamber of commerce is invested in them. So in case you weren’t paying attention, its “Developers = bad, Corporate interests = good.”

I voted for John Cooper. I believe that he is the best candidate. On a side note, let me say he looked good last night – mayoral.

Early in the election season, Cooper was oft seen sporting ill-fitting suits that failed to portray an image concurrent with that expected of the mayor of Nashville. He listened, he adjusted, and last night he looked like the next mayor of Nashville in more ways than one.

A few other notable items from last night. Long-time Hume-Fogge teacher Tom Cash won the seat in District 18 and I couldn’t be more tickled. Congratulations Tom, you are going to do great things.

In District 23 incumbent Jeremy Elrod is heading towards a runoff. He ended up behind challenger Courtney Johnson by about 100 votes. I’m not a fan of Elrod, but personal feeling withstanding, he’s been a good CM and a strong supporter of MNPS.

Initially, he was endorsed by SIEU, MNEA, and Central Labor, but when he failed to vote for a proposed property tax increase, they withdrew their support. Fair enough, but MNEA/PACE didn’t just withdraw their support, in a petty move, they left those CM’s who they’d previously endorsed, on their printed advertisement, but drew a red line through those who didn’t vote for the tax increase. Elrod’s name was included and as a result, his seat is now in jeopardy.

Is Johnson going to support a property tax increase next year? As a staunch conservative, I doubt it. Will she be a better friend to the metro workers and teachers? You decide.

This why I continue to find fault with Nashville’s labor leaders. It’s the small-minded thinking and the willingness to engage in petty politics over what is best for members. MNEA got new leadership this summer and I hope that leadership will take a bigger picture approach and consider what the end game is. We’ll see.

Speaking of property tax increases, the pro-tax crowd is crowing because the author of the last two tax increase proposals, Bob Mendes, was the leading vote-getter in the council member-at-large race. They point to this victory as a sign that Nashville is ready for a tax increase. Not so fast.

Mendes may have been the leading tax proponent on the council but he also was arguably the most thoughtful member of last year’s governing body. He’s ever approachable and possesses a deep understanding of Metro policy. In other words, he along with Freddie O’Connel – who ran unopposed for a second term – is the epitome of what you are looking for in a CM. That might have had something to do with his large vote accumulation.

One last shout out needs to go to former school board chair Cheryl Mayes. Mayes ran an impressive campaign but came up short to Joy Styles in District 32. That’s a shame, but the good news is that Styles is going to do great and Mayes hopefully will continue her admirable advocacy efforts. Nashville is lucky to have both ladies.

STATE NEWS

This week the state once again failed to provide Tennessee citizens with results from last year’s TNReady tests, but they did provide information on two initiatives that nobody has indicated are that critical.

First off, Governor Lee doubled down on his threat to begin the state’s voucher program by next school year despite members of the State House of Representatives voicing concerns. Let’s not forget that the FBI is still investigating how the bill was passed. I suspect Lee is rushing to implementation so the program will be harder to dismantle when facts come to light. Not a good move for Tennessee ‘s school children.

The other news is that the state is pushing back the implementation of its A-F school rating system. As per last year, the delay is tied to two emergency laws passed last year by legislators in response to testing issues.

“We determined that state law prohibits the department from using student performance and student growth data from the 2017­­–18 school year in assigning school letter grades,” Schwinn told superintendents in an email. 

Meanwhile, the TNDOE intends to stick with it’s modified 1 – 4 rating system that it utilized last year. Of course, neither of those ratings nor the test scores from which they are derived will be available before kids return to schools. Thus their value is negligible for parents in considering their children’s educational options for the coming school year.

And officials wonder why there isn’t more interest by local districts n collaborating with the TNDOE.

QUICK HITS

Newly hired Chief of Priority Schools Sharon Griffin made her first appearance in front of teachers this past week and by most accounts she was impressive. She generated rock star excitement as she presented the tenets of her philosophy.

Truth is, in looking at all the pictures from MNPS’s teacher in-service week it was hard not to get excited about the coming year. I will offer this caveat though. Despite the struggles in the recent path, people appear excited to get back to work.

Over the years, I’ve learned to hold off on my judgment of a co-worker at the very beginning of our relationship.  It’s easy to be the first one at work and the last to leave when you are trying to make an impression. I’ve found that you have to give some time to allow that newbie to get comfortable and wait for them to roll out their freak flag in order to get an accurate picture.

I’d encourage everyone at MNPS to keep a favorite snapshot from this week above your desk. Hold on to that memory of you and your teammates engaging in team-building activities. Don’t forget the power of the restorative circles you participated in. Keep that excitement close, so that come November, or February, you can recapture it.

The beginning of the journey is always exciting. It’s when you get out of sight from the start and the finish isn’t yet visible when things get difficult. That’s when you need help to finish the trip. Memories from this week could provide some of that inspiration.

Now, that said, the week wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Yesterday’s Literacy training provoked a lot of…critical thinking. If the responses I’ve heard are any indication, the necessary buy-in ain’t being secured. I heard a lot of frustration voiced yesterday and I’m hoping that district leaders heard it as well. It’s critical that concerns get addressed quickly and that everybody rapidly gets on the same page.

One positive note that I’m hearing on literacy is that both Priority Schools and the rest of MNPS will share the same literacy strategies. I’ve long argued that the disparity in how literacy was taught contributed to student inequities. You’ll never convince me that students taught through short texts are getting the same education as those taught through the use of novels.

In that light. I remain hopeful that the district will continue to embrace the groundbreaking work of Project LIt. This administration has appeared to be more receptive to teacher Jared Amato’s work then the previous administration was.

Yesterday MNPS educators received an email that indicated that the Infinite Campus Grade Book would not be available to teachers until August 12th and until that time teachers should rely on paper and pencil. This is an ongoing issue and one that should have been a priority.

Remember last week when I praised MNPS’s posting of results from last years listen and learns? Highlighted in those results were teacher’s complaints that there were too many meetings. Dr. Battle acknowledged their concerns and promised fewer meetings this year.

Along those same lines, the leading complaint from teachers every year at this time is that they don’t have enough time to get their room set up. Hmmm…I’m sensing an easy win here.

Alas, it’s another missed opportunity. I continually hear from teachers this week that they are suffering from meeting overload and once again they will have to sacrifice this weekend to come in at their own expense to prepare for students.

It’s not enough to say the right thing, you also have to do the right thing.

Families whose children receive services from the MNPS Exceptional Education Department: You are eligible to join the Exceptional Education Family Advisory Committee.

The group meets several times during the school year and offers presentations on a variety of topics. The group also works with MNPS to provide guidance to parents on common concerns and to advise MNPS on issues experienced by students with disabilities and their families.

The first meeting is on September 4, 2019.

Congratulations to MNPS’s Community Achievement. They were a recipient of a $50K from the Tennessee Titans in recognition of their incredible work. Whoo-hoo!

Remember when semi-retired school board member Will Pinkston proclaimed MNPS was “very proud…to be undertaking a ground-breaking new program to teach Kurdish language instruction in our high schools.” Now raise your hand if you’ve heard a word about it since.

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.

Get lots of rest, drink lots of fluids, and answer the poll questions. School is back in session on Monday.

 

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2 thoughts

  1. Hey,

    Good column. But there’s one mistake — that Bredesen was trounced by Gov. Lee. At least as bad, he was trounced by Marsha. And Karl Dean was trounced by Gov. Lee.

    >

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