“I just want to stay curious and keep smiling like the Joker” – Heath Ledge
“It’s hard to have anything, isn’t it? Rare to get it, hard to keep it. This is a damn slippery planet.”
Six months ago semi-retired MNPS School Board Member Will Pinkston dipped his crayon in poison and climbed up on his high horse to pen what many believed at the time to be a resignation letter. One wouldn’t wouldn’t be remiss in making that assumption because Pinkston used phrases like, “With minimal regret, I am resigning from the Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education effective April 12, 2018.” and “In addition to stepping down soon from the board, I am resigning immediately as Budget & Finance Committee chair”, not to mention stating, “At a future date, I’ll announce a new campaign to put increased visibility on how charters bilk Nashville’s taxpayers”. All sounded like he’s quitting right?
Alas, as with most of Pinkston’s endeavors, there was no follow up. His words proved to be nothing but sound and fury, signifying nothing. Six months have passed and he’s still semi-attending board meetings. no new campaign has been announced, and local media continues to quote him as if his resignation letter was just a figment of our imagination. It’s hard to miss you if you won’t go away.
The tip-off that the whole letter was nothing but more than public posturing should have come when Pinkston gave moral justifications for his actions and accused fellow board members of engaging immoral actions. The irony of a man who’s very value as a political operative is rooted in his willingness to do things that others don’t have the stomach for shouldn’t be lost on anyone, but continually is. The way Pinkston has operated over the past decade should make it impossible for him to be taken as any kind of authority, local leaders continually turn a blind eye to his antics.
In his letter – which has failed to age well – Pinkston called for the board to be purged “of the endless conspiracy theories and professional conflicts of interests, and cleansed of a culture in which some board members believe it’s acceptable to try to incite masked protests.” Conspiracy theories that have since proven to be based in fact much more than than the board member’s endless tirades. Just last week journalist Jeff Bryant wrote a piece that detailed how recent events in Nashville serve as a snapshot of a national picture. Perhaps if Pinkston had been spending a little more time at board meetings and a little less time giving bad advice to US Senate Candidate Phil Bredesen he might get taken more serious outside the city limits.
So why is he still here? And is he really leaving? Like everybody else, I can only speculate, because, in the end, the only person who can truly under the actions of Pinkston is Pinkston.
Initially, Pinkston extended the date of his departure because of a claim that constituents had begged him to stay to help tie up some loose ends on issues. I find that a little hard to buy because I was a constituent of Pinkstons, and rarely did he assist with an issue unless it aligned with his personal agenda. So the idea that he could be persuaded to stay in order to forego his personal convictions solely at the behest of constituents is kinda laughable.
Secondly, the wording of such an argument paints a picture of a wave of constituents storming his house demanding that he stay just a little longer because without him they’ll feel underserved. To give this argument any credence we’d have to ignore both his attendance record and the fact that most district residents sadly remain unaware of who actually represents them. What’s more likely is that the guy who cuts his grass, his mailman, or some other incidental contact, gave him some polite encouragement and he used it as justification for staying past his “use-by” date.
Over the summer he’d promised to resign after the budget was settled, and then again after the vote for board chair was settled. Both have transpired and yet he remains clogging up the machine.
Early on in Nashville’s Mayoral election he and his superintendent search party sidekick Shannon Hunt were advising incumbent Mayor Briley. Per the usual script, that relationship blew up amid Pinkston espousing…wait for it…a conspiracy theory that Mayor Briley and interim Director of Schools Dr. Battle were in cahoots to give away part of the district to the state. A theory long on rhetoric and short on evidence.
It’s worth noting here that the man who castigated fellow board members for their criticism of the district’s first Black male superintendent has no problem publically and unreasonably criticizing MNPS’s first Black female superintendent while working behind the scenes to undermine her and her team. He makes no secret of his desire to see her tenure come to an end which if you are keeping score at home, makes 2 of the last 3 superintendents that he’s taken upon himself to undermine.
Previously there was speculation that Pinkston was staying until he could set up his successor in his seat. However, that window has closed. Being that the next election is less than a year away, his seat would remain vacant until the next election upon his departure.
My personal feeling is that Pinkston is not leaving and I question whether his whole resignation ploy was anything more than his continual use of the metro government as a personal playground. I could see him resigning next Spring in order to once again make himself the center of the conversation.
However, at some point over the next few months, there will be an official search for the next MNPS Director of Schools. There is no way that he allows that search to transpire sans his manipulation. He manipulated the last one and there is no way he will abdicate his position of influence without controlling the outcomes of this one.
The only way I see him leaving is if he secures a position in the newly elected Mayor John Cooper’s cabinet. A position that would allow him to exert influence over the MNPS School Board. Otherwise, we are stuck with him.
Many may consider that an unlikely scenario, but don’t rule it out. Pinkston is very competent at what he does and as a result, there is always a market for his specialized services. Moral lines get blurred when he’s applying those skills to your agenda and producing results. It becomes easier to forget that the ends do not justify the means.
I do know that Pinkston was in regular contact with the Cooper campaign over the last several months. It’s not the things that campaign leaders said during that time that gives me some trepidation, but rather the things that were left unsaid. It was never said that he was serving as an adviser, but the door also was never shut to him at some point serving in that capacity.
The good news is that no matter how much Pinkston fails to honor his word, his time on the school board is coming to an end and won’t last more than 10 months. That’s good news for everybody. Pinkston’s brand of politics has been a major contributor to the toxicity of board relations. It fosters a climate of distrust that hampers honest conversations. It is in this light that the end can not come soon enough.
THOUGHT YOU WERE CLOSING
On Saturday visitors to the Antioch branch of the Nashville Public Library found an odd notice on the windshield of their parked cars. It was a recruitment flyer for the Nashville charter school Knowledge Academies. A charter school that the MNPS school board is in the process of closing.
Back in the spring, an article in the Tennessean related how former CEO Art Fowler ran side businesses out of the school while operating with a deficit. Teachers at times went unpaid and state mandates on staffing went unmet. A follow-up investigation by MNPS ‘s charter office substantiated those findings and uncovered further allegations that contributed to a culture of chaos. As a result, the school board started steps to shutter the school.
As a response to MNPS’s decision. KA has initiated the appeals process. Under state law, they have the right to appeal the board’s decision to the state board. While the process is ongoing, the board must allow the school to continue to operate. If their appeal is successful the board must allow them to continue to operate. They are not permitted though, to continue to recruit while the appeals process is ongoing.
The issues with KA serve to highlight problems with charter schools in general. While they often argue that they are public schools, the only similarity between them and traditional schools is that both are funded by tax dollars. When push comes to shove, their loyalty lies with their business model and its preservation. The district offered KA multiple opportunities in which to act as a genuine partner, and their response has been to file suit and to ignore district mandates. Hopefully, come December this travesty will come to an end.
That said, this would be a good time to recommend you read Jan Resseger’s piece on public schools as the very definition of a common good.
Robert Pondiscio’s new book “How The Other Half Learns” (Avery September 2019) is getting quite the play in education circles. The book, in the words of educator Gary Rubenstein, “answers the age-old question: Can a bunch of twenty-something teachers who know nothing about education, nothing about child development, and nothing about what it is like to be a parent, get a non-random sampling of students of color to pass standardized tests?” Give it a read.
Tuesday is an MNPS Board meeting. The Glencliff High School Mariachi Band will be sharing their talents at the meeting. A quick look at the agenda shows not much else of interest. It looks like another short one. Let’s see who attends.
The Hillsboro Globe has an excellent interview with one of the high school’s most celebrated and devoted teachers, Dr. Robert Kriebel. In addition to his teaching duties, Kriebel serves as the advisor to the highly successful academic club, DECA and is the teacher who helps run, with students, the US Community Credit Union which has a branch on the second floor of the new tower. DECA is a CTSO (Career Technical Student Organization).
Once again we received a great response to this weekend’s poll questions. Before we review the results I have to throw this caveat out in response to sometime reader Ryan Balch’s question on degrees of the validity of polls conducted via social media. The poll questions here are for the purpose of getting more insight into the minds of Dad Gone Readers and what they are focusing on. I do not share the results in order to present definitive answers but rather a means to facilitate deeper conversation. I’m blessed to have a large number of educators as readers and therefore your insights are always educational.
Enough of that, the first question asked for your thoughts on Dr. Battle’s plan while she is out on leave. 35% of you felt that teachers create extensive lesson plans while out on leave, expectations shouldn’t be any different for the superintendent. 23% indicated that the district had been devoid of leadership for so long that the question was moot. I would cite those answers as evidence for the need to create a public plan as a means to demonstrate leadership. 12% of respondents indicated it was none of our business.
Here are the write-ins, a few of you used this method to tell me that it’s none of our business. Also curious as to what part about teacher leave I have incorrect.
|None of TC’s nor my business.||1|
|Still getting that fat check while teachers starve||1|
|Bransford people are out of touch Why bother?||1|
|Family is more imp. than a job. No matter the job.||1|
|You need to get some business of your own—pretty ignorant thoughts you share||1|
|I hope Dr. Springer or Dr. Gallman have any more power.||1|
|She’s just a figurehead and everyone knows it.||1|
|Least of my concerns.||1|
|She needs 12 weeks off at a minimum.||1|
|Your argument about a teachers leave is incorrect.||1|
|Not sure there is a plan …and if it takes longer?|
Question 2 asked for your opinion on social media posts that showed PD. 37% of you didn’t give it much thought, in other words, meh. 26% of you thought, “ugh.” Only 4 of you loved it or found it inspirational.
Here are the write-ins. I think it’s safe to say that y’all have opinions on professional development.
|Teachers need to choose PD. Not have it shoved at them.||1|
|A multitude of dangers w/posting student faces||1|
|District leaders use social media to help justify||1|
|Most PDs are a complete waste of time. Quit having them.||1|
|Ridiculous. What’s the point of this?||1|
|Fire Jill Petty||1|
|All about creating the illusion that all is well, all while MNPS is collapsing||1|
|most PD is the worst | such a waste of everyone’s time||1|
|Who covers the classes when this goes on. Still a sub shortage.||1|
|dog and pony show justifying the PD||1|
|Most schools’ social media posts are sizzle, not steak||1|
|myopic, self-serving, self-aggrandizing|
The last question asked what school-based function you were likely to attend. The number one answer, 44%, was parent/teacher night. After that, you were more likely to attend an arts-related affair as opposed to a sporting event. I urge all of you to do yourself a favor and attend both. You won’t be disappointed.
Here are the write-ins,
|Whatever is required.||1|
|All of the above||1|
|Math/literacy/STEM night with activities for students/families||1|
|None. I work the clock.||1|
|After school happy hour||1|
|Trunk or Treat||1|
|All of them. I’d just like to be able to work in my building on weekends.||1|
|Principal Panel Interview||1|
|One that has a bar.||1|
|Most of the above mentioned if not all plus many others||1|
|Fall Festival or STEM Night||1|
|As many as possible
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.