WITH HEAVY HEART

“It is dangerous to spring to obvious conclusions about baseball or, for that matter, ball players. Baseball is not an obvious game.”
Roger Kah

“A perfect faith is nowhere to be found, so it follows that all of us are partly unbelievers.”
John Calvin

Too many of these posts over the last year have involved the loss of a loved one and I was determined that this wouldn’t be another one of those posts. But, I can’t go without mentioning the loss today of our beloved family dog Huck.

Pets are funny. On an intellectual level, we realize that they aren’t people. But then they have a way of worming their way into our hearts as deep as any other family member. They are the ones that love us unconditionally. They are the ones that hold no grudges. They are the ones who wordlessly console us when we need them most.

Huck has only been with us for a little over 2 and half years, but it feels like a lifetime. He was adopted from the Williamson County Animal Shelter when we were out purportedly looking for a “small” dog. Huck wasn’t a small dog.

When we got him, he was about 55 pounds and I thought he might be a border collie. But no. Just like he wasn’t a “small” dog, he wasn’t a border collie either. Rather he was a concoction of Pyrenese, Burmese Mountain Dog, Lab, and any other big dog you could think of.

Within 6 months he’d ballooned to over 120 lbs. Luckily he didn’t process the energy of a border collie either though. He was chill, protective, and loving. All in all, he was easily the best dog that I ever had. No small feat, since I’ve had dogs virtually since birth.

At the beginning of the week, we had no inkling of what the end of the week would hold. Huck was fine, he and my son Peter enjoyed the snow together on Tuesday. Wednesday while I was out of the house he threw up and later in the day he appeared lethargic. I assumed – due to kernels of corn being in the vomit – that he had eaten something he shouldn’t have and was feeling the effects. When Thursday morning rolled around and he hadn’t improved we took him to the vet.

The vet ran numerous diagnoses, got him stabilized, and kept him as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that he had a bacterial infection – one whose name I can’t pronounce – that there was no coming back from. How, where, and why, will go forever unanswered.  This morning we allowed the vet to do the humane thing.

Once again I am reminded of the fleeting and ever-changing nature of life. Without being morbid, the last time spent, the last words said to someone, can truly be the last.

After we said our good-byes to Huck, my 5th-grade daughter Avery asked to be returned to school. She wanted to grieve among her friends and as much as I wanted to hold her close during this family tragedy, I knew I had to let her go.

Mentally I realize that it’s perfectly normal for her to want to grieve with her friends – and I’m grateful she has those friends – but it also makes me acutely aware of the passage of time, whether I’m ready or not.

Huck’s passing also reminded me that there are few pains worse than that of watching your child grieve. As parents, we want to protect them from sadness, disappointment, and despair. Unfortunately, that is an impossible feat. Instead, it is our job to help them navigate these difficult times so that in the future when life brings them lemons they’ll be better equipped to make lemonade. That is not an easy task, but an essential one.

I’ll miss you, Huck. But take solace in the fact that all dogs go to heaven.

SCHOOL BOARD MOVES

Tuesday was the first MNPS School Board meeting since the newest member Freda Player was appointed. It was action-packed but as a testament to Chair Anna Shepherd’s leadership, less dramatic than it might have been in the past.

The first order of business was on the consent agenda, a contract with TSBA to conduct a search for a permanent superintendent. Conducting a search as soon as possible, despite no overwhelming dissatisfaction with Dr. Battle’s leadership, is essential for a number of reasons.

First of all, we have to recognize the severe depletion in talent that MNPS suffered under Dr. Joseph’s tenure. Yes, there are still talented people working in administration at MNPS, but not as many as there once was, and not enough to achieve the desired goals of the district. Replenishing the MNPS talent pool should be a priority and it can’t be done without a sense of stability around the superintendent position.

Secondly, Dr. Battle has never been fully vetted by the entire school board. If you’ll remember, she was introduced to Mayor Briley before she was very put forth to the school board for consideration. That needs to be rectified. The process matters.

Starting the search right now is actually the best thing possible for Dr. Battle. She will be invited to apply and has a decided advantage in the race having held the position for the last 6 months. As such, she has a deeper understanding than other candidates of what board members desire. Doing the search now instead of later also protects her in the event of something unfortunate and unforeseen transpiring and being laid at her feet whether she’s responsible or not. Those things seem to have a way of happening to directors.

As expected, board member Christiane Buggs pulled the TSBA contract off of the agenda for further discussion. During the discussion she indicated that she was prepared to bring a motion to award a contract to Dr. Battle as a permanent superintendent. In response, Shepherd did a good job of laying out the reasoning for the search and its proposed timeline. In the end, Buggs didn’t have the votes and all board members voted unanimously to give TSBA the contract, thus beginning the search.

It’s my understanding that TSBA will now begin the process of securing applicants. Those applicants will be brought back to the board in mid-January and the vetting process will continue through February with a finalist named by early March. The process this go-around should be much smoother than in the past, due to both the experience of the board – this will be the third search Gentry, Frogge, Speering, and Shepherd have participated in – and the integrity TSBA brings to the table.

Also before the board this week, was next year’s proposed academic calendar. I was glad to see that it had school starting on a Tuesday instead of Monday and includes a day off for students in order that teachers and administrators can sort out rosters. In the past, school started on a Monday and went full on the whole week. What this translated to was teachers working on their classrooms over the prior weekend, essentially working 9 days in a row. The week was exhausting and there was never an opportunity for teachers to refresh. The proposed calendar passed.

Lastly on the agenda, were the proposals for charter schools wishing to increase their allotted seats. Four schools – Valor, STEM, Nashville Classical, Purpose Prep – all had made requests to be allowed to increase enrollment. The requests themselves are not necessarily egregious, all come with ample documentation over why the increases should be allowed, but once again the process is shrouded in secrecy.

Supporting documentation for the applications, while available beforehand to board members, was not available to the public until the day of the meeting. In tabling the motions, the board was warned that they could only table for two weeks because they were up against state deadlines.

Predictably,  recently – but not soon enough – retired board member Will Pinkston took to social media to spur on conspiracy theories about MNPS leadership willfully withholding information. As much as it pains me to agree with Pinkston, in this case, I might have to. If the board is up against deadlines it stands to reason that somebody had to know about these proposals weeks ago and decided not to share them until now. It’s hard to figure out who though.

Chief of Staff Hank Clay has a reputation for being a charter school sympathizer, but due to that reputation, he has chosen to keep himself removed from MNPS charter school discussions. I’m not a fan of MNPS’s Director of Charter Schools Dennis Queen, but he doesn’t have a reputation for sandbagging. Dr. Battle herself, in addition to displaying a commitment to transparency, has shown no real bias – for or against – towards charter schools. So it’s a bit of a mystery.

The subject will be tackled at the next board meeting where I suspect the requests will be approved. If the board does reject the requests, the charter operators have the right to appeal to the state. As of late, the state has shown a propensity to overrule local board members. Earlier in the week, it was recommended by the board’s staff that a  decision by MNPS to deny Rocketship’s application to expand be overturned, this would be the second such action in the last 2 months.

QUICK HITS

MNPS welcomes aboard some new old faces to head up the communications department. Sean Braisted, formerly of Mayor Barry’s staff, and veteran writer Michael Cass. Braisted will serve as the Executive Officer of Communications and Community Engagement, leading the department and acting as the primary point of contact for members of the media. Cass will join the department as Director of Strategic Communications, ensuring a consistent voice as the district shares its story to parents, teachers, policymakers, and others. If reaction via social media is any indication, these are positive moves.

The ironically named company ClassWallet has been brought on by the TNDOE to oversee online payment and application systems for its new education voucher program for some families in Memphis and Nashville. And what’s that going to cost? Why only two and a half million dollars. But we don’t have enough money to fund summer Read-to-be-Ready Camps. That seems like a great idea.

It was made official this week, Hawaya Wilson will be the interim principal at Oliver Middle School. Wilson was the clear favorite of both teachers and the community to assume the position. We wish her luck, knowing that she is fully competent.

I’ve enjoyed seeing the pictures of all the new members that MNEA has been posting to their social media accounts. It is safe to say, the ranks are growing.

Earlier this week, state Comptroller Justin Wilson warned Metro Council members that their house was not in order and they needed to take steps to fix it. Here’s my take away, water bills are going up, property taxes are going up, sales tax may go up, wages probably will not go up and the number of people being priced out of the city will go up. Maybe keeping up with growth shouldn’t be our number one objective.

That’s a wrap. Sorry about brevity, but today is just that kinda day. 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. Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is also welcome.

A huge shout out to all of you who’ve lent your financial support. I am eternally grateful for your generosity. It allows me to keep doing what I do.

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.

Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions.

 

2 thoughts

  1. I hope readers will look at the proposed charter amendment/expansions and share their “why/why-nots” with the School Board.

    https://static1.squarespace.com/static/57752cbed1758e541bdeef6b/t/5dcadc312942b20b3975f125/1573575732833/11.12.19.Agenda.pdf?fbclid=IwAR059zgoxvgOZES03_dB664sEWcJRTTqqosCORvdlzIAzq4LdnOTntUgiNQ

    My introduction to this issue was a loudly buzzing and annoying cell phone at Tuesday lunch.

    I must invest another 3 hours reading the agenda link above…. (This endless war so draining)…. I am very grateful that Amy Frogge moved to table 2 weeks so we could all review this next vote to segregate our schools a notch more….

    My note from last week:

    Dear School Board leaders,

    Your online agenda is not entirely clear for this evening.

    If somehow, you are tonight being asked to take a vote on expansion of Valor Charter, I urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to vote NO, or minimally table until you have an opportunity to hear from impacted families at your integrated zoned schools next month.

    Serving no children from public housing, Valor obviously has much higher scores than most other schools.

    This is neither interesting, nor a surprise.

    What is a surprise is that state leaders laud that as a great achievement – and give Valor a “Blue Ribbon”

    After all, if the goal of MNPS is to create more segregated schools with high average scores, you can any time vote to return to the 1969 zoning lines, or open more test-score-screened magnets (which also have long waitlists), etc.

    Please vote NO to expanding Valor and YES to strengthening the neighborhood schools that Valor’s existence undermines. Every drop of evidence tells us that overall performance of districts only improves when we roll up our sleeves to better support teachers and administrators at integrated schools. While making wider segregating-exit-ramps makes a few parents here and there a lot more happier – those wider exit ramps do not not improve our district.

    I look forward to speaking to the Valor expansion next month.

    Until then, please delay a vote which will be impossible to overturn, based on all past board experiences I have studied at similar junctures.

    Sincerely

    Chris Moth

  2. New calendar is better. Not perfect. Better.

    There is a chance the 3% Jan20 pay bump will be a high water mark for MNPS. The city is finally going to have to clean up its act on reserves, meaning little pay increase for teachers. I can’t see gov Lee providing much help, despite rhetoric. I also don’t see how votes in metro council shifted any from where we were last time. And I think the board will have to throw the charters some bones with a few seats, whether we like it or not. My crystal ball for the next budget says maybe 2% plus restoration of some steps. That would be a minor win. It could go worse. Expect Hillwood construction schedules to drag out even further.

    There are too many things that have to roll right for there to be a big change in teachers’ favor, and too many things that can roll wrong and derail pay progress.

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