THE COUNTDOWN CONTINUES

“Well, no one ever said the truth would make you happy—only free.”
Nelson DeMille, The Gold Coast

“After fifty-five years of dedicating his life and work to the story of ethical systems, Sol Weintraub had come to a single, unshakable conclusion: any allegiance to a deity or concept or universal principle which put obedience above decent behavior toward an innocent human being was evil.”
Dan Simmons, Hyperion

When my son was 2, he used to throw these unreasonable fits. He would cry and flail around. Nothing would serve to calm him down. Hits fits were so blind and so forceful, that we would be afraid he was going to either do damage to the house, or himself.

The only way to deal with these turbulent outbursts was to wrap him in our arms and hold him until reason returned. The runoff campaign of Mayor Briley reminds me of those fits and luckily his opponent is dealing with them the same we dealt with my son’s unreasonable outbursts.

The day after the initial election, Briley came out with his estimation of tough talk, “I’m a patient person. I’m measured. I’m boring perhaps. But tonight is a night for me to call bullshit. …”

Apparently, somebody in the Briley camp had seen the movie Good Boys and decided if swearing worked for kids, why not politicians in need of an image makeover. Unfortunately, Good Boys failed to break the $100 million mark and its unlikely Briley will be able to make up the 10% he’s down. Swearing may be titular but it’s not an indicator of where we want to put our money.

Since then, Briley has pulled out the proverbial kitchen sink and thrown it at Cooper. With none of it really sticking.

He claims Cooper is not progressive enough. Ok…even if you combine all of the progressive votes from the general election, that’s only 36%. Maybe the political class is overestimating the value of the progressive tag.

Briley has tried to paint Cooper as a negative nelly. Always saying no to things. Never saying what he’s for. Hold on, I’ll address that one right after I get done reading Cooper’s 47-page policy paper.

He’s tried to paint Cooper as the second coming of Donald Trump by drawing a line from Cooper to long-time Republican policial operative Rick Williams. A line that is tenuous at best. Williams has helped with Republican voters but has no official ties to the campaign.

He’s tried to paint Cooper as more concerned about money than people. A charge that Cooper refutes by rightfully pointing out that you can’t have effective activism sans money.

Word is that of late Briley has been digging through Cooper’s ancestry in order to find more reason why Cooper shouldn’t be mayor. I would think that based on his own family history, that would be a precarious path for Briley with little potential upside.

Cooper for his part has mostly gone about the business of campaigning – explaining to potential voters why he is the right choice and Briley is the wrong choice. He’s sticking to policies and mostly staying away from personalities. Perhaps he understands that come September 12th this whirlwind of activity by Briley will come to a halt, the outcome most likely already decided. Engaging will only risk further damage to relationships and initiatives.

What I do find very interesting is the lack of focus placed throughout the election cycle on candidates’ advisors. Talk to any Nashville politico and they’ll likely tell you that Briley’s problems mostly stem from listening to the wrong people. Much has been made of the financial support Cooper has received from the Ed Reform crowd. But who are the people actually in the candidate’s ear? Those names have mostly remained a mystery throughout this election cycle.

Cooper’s campaign is managed by Ben Eagles. Eagles is a young man who works for Metro Nashville’s finance department. He’s very sharp and even-keeled. Cooper is also advised by former mayoral candidate and community activist jeff obafemi carr. Carr has been involved with several successful institutions over the past several years. He’s the father of 5 children, all who attend MNPS.

Determining Briley’s advisors proves to be a bit more difficult.  Early in the campaign cycle former NPEF chair Shannon Hunt and school board member Will Pinkston were reportedly key advisors. As of late Pinkston is telling people that he told Briley to “pound sand” and who knows what role Hunt still plays.

In perusing Briley’s website I could find no indication of who his campaign manager even is, but I did find this nugget, “He(Briley) also convened an Education Kitchen Cabinet with advocates, educators, parents, and administrators to outline specific plans for supporting our 21 Priority Schools. This plan is ready for Board review and has already been approved/reviewed by MNPS.”

First off that statement is not true. Second of all, the MNPS School Board is a regulatory board, not an advisory board. So I’m not sure who in MNPS approved/reviewed his plan, but without school board approval, that nugget is immaterial and at the very least Briley continues to be disingenuous when it comes to Nashville’s public school system.

I’m assuming, based on press stories, that most of Briley’s advice is coming from the business community. In that light, it’s important to remember that community priorities and business priorities don’t always align. Just because business in a city is booming does not mean its citizens are all benefitting. That’s the central question being asked right now, are enough of Nashville’s residents benefiting from Nashville’s growth to warrant giving Mayor Briley 4 more years? I know my answer, you’ll have to figure out yours.

10 more days and we’ll know who the next mayor is. Early voting is now open at sites across the city. It’s important that as many of you as possible get out and vote. MNEA has endorsed John Cooper. A strong turnout by teachers would help influence this year’s budget talks. It’s not enough to just wear red. You have to get out and vote.

DUE DATE APPROACHING

Dr. Battle’s due date for her second child is fast approaching. Word is that October is the due month. This a very exciting time and we are extremely happy for her. However, I must throw out this caveat, where is the contingency plan?

Who is going to be in charge while she is out? What does the chain of command look like? Who is going to cover her duties? The preliminary word is that she is not going to name a temporary, and I hope that is just a rumor. 95% of successful execution lies in thorough planning. Successful planning relies on careful consideration of all contingencies.

Dr. Battle intends to take a very short leave period, but it’d be remiss to not take into account possible complications. That planned short leave could easily become extended due to unexpected medical complications. Birth is something we in America take for granted, but despite the progress of modern medicine, it is still not a process devoid of danger. What happens if medical complications arise?

Successful leadership depends on putting people in positions where they can succeed. It’s nice to think that in your absence teammates will conduct themselves as if you are still present. In actuality, it’s not likely. Not naming a clear chain of command fosters fertile ground for people’s worst angels to take root.

Teachers spend hours planning out their classes and their schedule. One of the things about being married to a teacher is that seldom do things get done on a whim. They understand the need to plan and schedule with clarity and precision. It’s not unreasonable to expect the same from leadership.

Maybe this has all been discussed among her cabinet and protocols have been established. That’s not good enough. It needs to be a public document that anyone can look at and see exactly how things will function. While I certainly understand and respect the need for personal privacy, the reality is that Dr. Battle is the head of a large organization that looks to her to take their cues. She can’t just abdicate that responsibility until she’s ready to pick it back up again.

At many Fortune 500 companies, new CEO’s are required within the first week to create a contingency plan in case something were to happen to them. It’s to ensure that the organization functions smoothly in the case of an unexpected absence or termination. Plans and expectations are spelled out clearly with everybody understanding their role and the responsibilities of others. The same should apply for a CEO that knows she’ll be out for a minimum of three weeks.

Under Dr. Joseph, a culture of being ill-prepared was fostered. Meetings were often canceled at the last minute and when leaders did show up, they were often late or unprepared. There was no expectation that reports would be read before meetings. There is evidence that elements of that culture remain despite Dr. Joseph’s departure. It’s why things like last week’s bonus fiasco are allowed to transpire.

Think about the message that would be sent if a well thought out transparent plan was communicated to district stakeholders about Dr. Battle’s pending maternity leave. It would set the tone for expectations throughout the district. It’s one thing to stand on stage and espouse platitudes, it’s another to put them into practice and live them. Hopefully, her contingency plan is coming soon.

SHORTCUTS

Progress reports are coming home on Friday. Can somebody please explain to me why Friday? If there is any question about them, parents can’t get answers until Monday. Monday is not a great day for answering questions.

For some families, grades are extremely serious and a poor Friday report has the potential to ruin an entire weekend. If the parents had received more explanation, possibly that wouldn’t be necessary.  A weekend also provides ample time for a report home to get “lost”. This is another one of those things that need to be better thought out.

I want to take a moment and clarify some thoughts from last week on Teach For America and TNTP. My problems are with the organizations and not the members. TFA and TNTP have both produced a number of outstanding teachers who MNPS is very fortunate to have employed. The organizations, however, have both contributed to the decline in teaching being considered as a life long profession. Through their actions, they have fostered the narrative that teaching is just something you do until you get to your career.

TFA also charges several thousand dollars to the district for every teacher they place. They claim that fee goes to teacher training, the reality is that they fund candidates to run for office that will promote legislation that is bad for public schools. In other words, I hate the game, not the player.

I keep hearing rumblings that there may be a stomach for passing legislation that would repeal recently passed voucher legislation. FBI and state investigators continue to look at the process that led to the passage, making legislators very nervous. A passage that only happened because of the juice possessed by then SOH Glen Cassada. With Cassada gone and new SOH Cammeron Sexton not as wed to the policy, there may be some wiggle room. Education Superintendent Penny Schwinn is purportedly also not a voucher fan. Put it all together and you have a glimmer of hope.

As some of you may know, MNPS super AP Jeff Davis is facing some hefty medical challenges and could use all the prayers you got. His wife Cara started a family blog a number of years ago and it’s now the perfect place to keep up with Jeff’s progress. These are some quality folks with a fierce dedication to public education. I know Jeff is going to get through this, so let’s rally around him.

POLL RESULTS

Let’s take a look at this week’s responses. The first question asked for your feelings about the HR presentation at last week’s board meeting. Based on your responses, I’d color you unimpressed. 44% of you remarked that things just don’t seem to be improving and 39% of you called it smoke and mirrors. Only 2 people answered that they found lots to be excited about.

This should be concerning to everyone. Without a major improvement in HR, there is no pathway to success for Dr. Battle. It can’t be a plan that takes 5 years to mature either. Rapid dramatic improvement is needed now, no matter what challenges make that difficult. Sometimes you have to play the cards you are dealt, not the ones you’d like to possess. Here are the write-ins.

Smoke, mirror and snake oil. Staff terminating weekly w/ no replacements. 1
Majors wants Battle’s job. It’s all posturing to get there. 1
Worst run department in MNPS. Across the board incompetent. 1
They are clueless! 1
What is stopping them from making their HR dept. amazing? I don’t get it. 1
evidence of more disconnect between central office and what’s real 1
Not sure if Majors is the right guy for the job 1
HR is clueless, corrupt and ignorant, out of touch and worthless.

Question 2 asked about how much faith you have in the recently released TN Ready results. Apparently not much. While the number one answer was that you pay little attention, only 6 of you answered that you thought it was a good representation of student learning. That ain’t good. Here are the write-ins.

None 2
I’m so tired of evaluating effectiveness with a one-time test 1
Score always come back too late for proper remediation. DUMB! 1
Inconsistent administration at sites = iffy scores 1
Waste of $. Put $ in classrooms 1
More than in the past 1
Love my kid, know he’s smart, love his math teachers, but his math score seemed 1
No faith 1
0; the scores are always inflated, set relative to each other after tests taken 1
I have no faith in any one test to measure growth. 1
Why in the world would ANYONE have faith in a standardized test?!

The last question asked your opinion on discipline issues so far this year. Those answers shouldn’t be considered grounds for optimism. 66% of you indicated that issues either had remained the same or gotten worse. 10% of you indicated that things have at least gotten slightly better. That is not exceeding expectations by my definition. It’s important to also note that this is an area where perception is every bit as important as reality. Here are the write-in votes.

By design, crime in Nashville approaching Detroit and Chiraq proportions. 1
I have HUGE concerns over how incidents are reported and tracked. 1
Ramped up quickly. Kids know little will be done. 1
Worse. And it’s not b/c social media is simply making the public “more aware.” 1
Mental illness is real in MNPS 1
more disconnect between central office and what’s real 1
Majors should not have HR and discipline

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 and share, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com.

A huge shout out to all of you who lent your financial support this past month. I am eternally grateful for your generosity.

The official begging may have ended, but you can still 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 is always greatly appreciated.

 

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One thought

  1. Briley’s desperation is palatable. he just keeps flailing around trying anything to pander and get support. he’s toast.

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