SOMETHING MUST BE IN THE WATER

“You know the days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds. You mean like the blues?
Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?”
Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

“He promised us that everything would be okay. I was a child, but I knew that everything would not be okay. That did not make my father a liar. It made him my father.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Something must have gotten into Nashville’s water because all of a sudden you have a bunch of folks who should know better acting like they don’t.

Some of it borders on the comical like CM Steve Glover accidentally recording himself using the bathroom and broadcasting it to the world via social media.

Some of it is baffling, like Tennessee Governor Bill Lee asking for greater involvement by churches in finding solutions to the state’s problems. A plea that would seem to run counter to a belief in the separation of church and state – a bedrock of the country’s founding principles.

Then there are actions that are downright scary. Like the 4 juveniles, all accused of violent crimes, walking out of a Nashville juvenile detention center. Two of those 4 kids are still at large. Apparently, these young detainees have the skills to elude police capture for over half a week. That’s more than a little frightening.

Now I’m not one to subscribe to the theory that Nashville’s school board is any more dysfunctional than any of its peer bodies across the country, but let’s be frank, its members certainly aren’t afraid to step out and make…less than pragmatic statements. In other words they often ignore the sage advice of a quote oft attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

On Monday night, Gini Pupo-Walker became the first to step into the breach. In the wake of a quartet of violent young man fleeing a juvenile detention center, she released a tweet eliciting sympathy for the young men and accusing Channel 5’s investigative reporter Phil Williams of making money on the backs of the young men. Williams, an award-winning journalist,  has been doing a series of investigative reports focussing on the juvenile justice system.

Yes, society has failed these young men. But society has failed many, while only a few use that failure as an excuse to act out in a violent manner. We often talk about how society has failed the transgressor, but seldom how it has failed the victim. What about the aspiring young country singer that was recently shot and killed in his front yard, allegedly by one of the escaped youths? Did society not fail that young man as well?

Pupo-Walker makes her statement while the four escapees are still at large. What if these young men injure or worse yet, kill another innocent person? How does she reconcile her statement with the newly aggrieved family and friends of the next victim? Does society not owe the same level of debt to those who choose to act in a manner congruent with the nation’s laws as it does to those who choose to disregard those same laws?

Nashville continues to be plagued by increasingly violent incidents of juvenile crime, yet Juvenile Court judge Sheila Calloway continually conducts business in a manner that shows more concern for the victim than the perpetrator. Many accuse her of operating in a turnstile manner, the accused are in and out of her courtrooms at a rapid pace, often not facing adequate consequences for their actions.

Meanwhile, Calloway’s catch and release program have trickled down to the city’s school system. It seems that almost daily there are reports about the negative impact of student behaviors. While I’m a firm believer in the effects of trauma caused by poverty on students and support social/emotional supports for students, it’s also worth noting that once again despite a large of number of students coming from low-income families, only a few choose to act in a manner that negatively impacts their classmates.

Do we not owe the same level of responsibility to those children from low-income families that show up and follow school policy daily as we do those that choose otherwise? I think that is a conversation that needs to happen, yet certain school board members refuse to publicly have that conversation. Not only do they refuse to have the conversation but they cast those trying to engage in finding solutions as having ill intent.

It’s not too difficult to draw parallels between this unwillingness to publicly discuss discipline issues and the previous unwillingness to have an honest conversation about Dr. Joseph’s performance. For over a year his issues were swept under the table while circumstances worsened. It was only when the damage started to rise to a level that was unmitigable that steps were taken. Even then though, Joseph was paid handsomely for his departure, and appearances were kept up.

Have those circumstances taught us nothing? Are we determined to keep repeating history even as those actions contribute to our detriment? Does the need to be considered thoughtful and moderate override the need to be courageous in searching for solutions?

We can’t keep doing this. We have to openly discuss issues on their merit and not on the perceived intent of those raising the issues.  How is not talking about discipline issues benefitting kids? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to use William’s research as a jumping-off point for a solution based conversation? Wouldn’t that be more beneficial to all kids, not just the ones that choose to put others in jeopardy?

The Tennessean’s David Plaza wrote an editorial today describing how once again the teens who fled from custody were failed by the system. The money shot for me comes in the second to last paragraph,

The breakout exposes once again how the insufficient investment in social and emotional learning and wraparound services in the school system has left children behind and prone to making poor decisions.

He doesn’t come out and directly say it, but the intent is clear, our schools need to be the primary source for addressing societal issues despite being ill-equipped for doing so.

No matter how many PD days they go through, no matter how much they care, teachers are not qualified, counselors. They cannot adequately serve 2 masters – academics and mitigating the effects of poverty. But that remains our expectation, even as teachers continue to exit the profession in mass, often citing discipline policy as reason for their leaving.

I continually refer back to my illustration of hiring insurance salesmen. If I hire 2 people to sell insurance but require one of them to spend half of each day cleaning the office while the other is solely focused on selling insurance, it’s not hard to figure out who’s going to sell more insurance. Yet that scenario is played out daily across our educational system. To the detriment of our children.

At the time that Pupo-Walker was making her tone-deaf statement, fellow board member Christianne Buggs must have been saying to someone nearby, “here hold my beer.”

Yesterday, Buggs placed the schedule of upcoming community engagement meetings in relation to the pending superintendent search on her social media page. When a constituent questioned why the interim wasn’t being hired, Buggs explained that Dr. Battle would be applying and it was her hope that she would be the board’s choice. And with that one statement, the search is already corrupted.

Applying for the job of superintendent of a school district entails more than just throwing your name in the hat. It requires a great deal of preparation and therefore the sacrifice of time. One undertakes the process with the reasonable expectation that the search will be a fair and unbiased one. How does Bugg’s statement on social media support that expectation? The answer is easy, it doesn’t.

How many potential candidates saw that statement and read it as confirmation of already held suspicions? As a result, they’ve chosen not to apply. We’ll never know.

Is Dr. Battle truly the best candidate? I don’t know, I like some of the work she has done to date while I have questions about other aspects of her work. The only way to know if she is truly the best candidate is for her to go through a head to head vetting process with the other candidates. As a result of Bugg’s ill-conceived comments, we don’t know if the best candidates will even apply, or if they do apply, will they put forth their best effort.

Buggs has been a sitting board member for almost 4 years now – she’s not a rookie. The expectation would be that she knows better. She is on record as being opposed to starting the current search. Which begs the question, is this an intentional move? Is she intentionally attempting to sabotage the process? Is she trying to give her preferred candidate an unfair advantage? I don’t know, but the questioning is certainly justified.

I do know that at the very least, her carelessness should be cause for concern of all who value public education. Doing right by kids means ensuring that the very best person leads the district. Some would argue that the most important task of the school board is to hire the director. Buggs’s actions draw into question her ability to fulfill that function. Hopefully, somebody is explaining that to her so that she doesn’t become a repeat offender and an as equitable as possible search can be conducted.

Nashville after years of enjoying the designation of being an “It” city, is facing some real challenges. Solving those challenges is going to take all of its smart people, being smart. Let’s hope recent events are merely an outlier and not a harbinger of things to come.

QUICK HITS

We’re talking a lot of high school football this week. Why? Because MNPS players are awesome and Pearl-Cohn is headed to the state championship.

At Friday’s TSSAA Bluecross Bowl Championship, keep an eye out for these Pearl-Cohn High Firebirds, who are the state’s top college recruits for football. They include:
* Kyndrich Breedlove, Centerback – The three-star Firebird standout has a three-star ranking as the No. 24 prospect in the state. He has offers from Louisville, Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Auburn, LSU, and Missouri.
* William Griffin, Offensive tackle – The No. 12 prospect in the state, Griffin is a three-star lineman. He has offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Oklahoma.
* Barion Brown, Around the House – Brown has an offer from Tennessee. He has 32 receptions for 545 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

Let’s Go Firebirds!

Governor Lee’s voucher bamboozle continues to take hits and TNEd Report’s Andy Spears continues to share those hits. The latest comes from Tonyaa Weathersbee in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Her argument highlights a key factor lawmakers would be wise to take into account as they consider repeal of the voucher scheme in 2020:

‘Mainly, in their rush to inflict vouchers on one of the poorest, mostly African American counties in the state, they have chosen to overlook the success of Shelby County Schools’ Innovation Zone program in favor of an ideological approach that has shown few triumphs in boosting poor students’ academic performance. That’s paternalism, not improvement.”

That’s a wrap. 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 always 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, if you have student-written blog posts you’d like to see reach a wider audience…send them on. I’d love the opportunity to share them.

 

2 thoughts

  1. Great post! Couldn’t agree more!! A topic I think needs more detailed attention that you alluded you when you wrote about teachers leaving the profession in mass is the effect that student behavior is having on teachers, teacher morale and faculty morale for entire schools. The behavior of some students that is going unaddressed by “Restorative Practices” is increasing exponentially! Students are not just being disruptive. They are being disrespectful, they are harassing teachers, almost to the point of it being bullying. If the public saw the reality of what is happening in some public schools, they would be appalled and no doubt speechless. Teachers are going to continue to leave in mass and seek treatment for PTSD.

  2. Thank you for addressing the elephant in the room issues plaguing Nashville. I have been in awe these last months over our political and school board leaders artless decision making lately. We just had an election and it seems like our leaders did alot of talking with no intent on acting. Also as a D5 school board constitute and parent I am particularly disappointed by Christiane Buggs. During her tenure she had shown that she is not mature enough to make the hard decisions for our students and teachers. I do not doubt her care for students and teachers but I do question her ability to continue representing D5 school district. Many of us hope in D5 some one will step up to the plate and challenge her. Our students are not learning and our teachers are stressed and not supported. Its time to change the culture of MNPS and it starts with some on the Board. I wish I could attach our D5 rep recent twitter posting. . Obviously our representative did not heed your words about being non bias in the superintendent process. I am almost thinking why go through the theatrics when it is clear Dr. Battle is the chosen one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.