AN ARGUMENT FOR WALKING THE LINE

“This is my theory,” she said. “If everybody is dressing formal, wear jeans. If everybody is wearing jeans, dress formal. Be different. They’ll notice you.”
Reba McEntire

 

I ran into my buddy Slatski at the bus stop yesterday, He was reading the paper. (yea…I know, it’s always Chicago circa 1973 with my buddy Slats)

“Why the scowl?  You look tired.”, I said as I joined him in waiting for the bus.

“Yea, it was a little tense around my house last night. Ya know the wife teaches for Metro, just like yours, and about 6 hours last night was spent transferring grades from Schoology to the parent portal because the two don’t talk to each other, whatever that means.”

“It means a whole lot of extra work for teachers is what it means.”

“Yeah well, it seems like I’ve been hearing the same complaints about Schoology for about 3 years and nothing ever gets better. How come I can grasp that it doesn’t work but those in charge remain ignorant?”

“Ya got me”, I answer, “The wife put her time in last night as well.”

“Just another example of the support hub making life more difficult for teachers instead of actually offering…you know, support.”

Slats continues, “I guess they are all going into the building today. Something about failing to sign 60% of parents up for that parent portal thing, so they don’t get to work remotely. Seems to me that when you use a carrot or stick, not getting results isn’t a good look.”

I shrug, “Yea I don’t know. I’m trying. best I can, to not have conversations about school around the house. Seems to work out better that way.”

“I hear you”, he answers, “Though this nonsense cracks me up.”

Leaning the paper towards me, he shows me an article, “Been reading about this learning loss and tutoring crap?”

“You don’t like it?”

“First off, what is learning loss? I mean let’s think about this for a minute. You learn something and then you don’t use it for a while, and then I ask you a question about it, and you can’t quite recall it all in detail. Is that “learning loss”? Because it happens to me all the time.

“Remember that report I was working on last year for Jacobs? I knew that stuff inside and out, now, man, I’d need to take a moment to refresh before I could answer any questions because I’ve been knee-deep in this other stuff for Robinson. And this time next year I won’t remember any of that either. Lord, can you imagine if I never lost any learning? We wouldn’t need the internet”, he says tapping his head, “I’d have it all up here.”

I shrug, “Can’t say you are wrong.”

“And the tutoring thing”, obviously he’d been waiting for someone to talk to about this subject, “Every day I read about bus driver shortages. Para-pro shortages. Teachers shortages. You name it, if they work in a school…we have a shortage, well save support hub employees. At the same time, every business in America is scrambling for employees. So where are these tutors going to come from?”

“Got a point friend.”

“Seems to me that the people who might want to be tutors also might want to be substitute teachers. Last I checked trying to land two fish from the same pool ain’t a recipe for success,”, scratching his nose for a second, “I guess that ain’t a great example, but you know what I mean. I just don’t see us filling the tutor positions before we address the other vacancies. Maybe it’s just me, but getting those taken care of would go a long way towards getting kids back where they need to be, wherever that is.”

“I get what you mean, here’s another inanity. The Tennessee Department of Education has been making the case all year long about the inadequacies of virtual instruction”, I responded, “Yet here schools are, pulling kids out of a classroom with a certified teacher in order to receive tutoring virtually from a volunteer with minimal training. Or at best a paid person with minimal experience. Explain that one to me.”

“Stupid”, he muttered.

We stood in silence for a few minutes. he returning to his paper, me to check messages on my phone.

“Look at this”, he said interrupting our silence, “They expanded the Bridges to Belmont program yesterday. That’s the one offering scholarships to Belmont University plus additional supports for some MNPS students. I think they started in 2013 and targeted students from four Nashville high schools: Stratford, Pearl-Cohn, Whites Creek, and Maplewood. They expanded it yesterday to 10 schools.”

“10 schools? Nashville’s got 12 primary high schools. You sure you got that right?”

“Let’s see…you got the four originals…and they added Glencliff, McGavock, Hunters Lane, Hillwood, Hillsboro, and Overton. That makes 10 unless you know something about math I don’t know.”

Shaking my head, “So they left off Cane Ridge and Antioch High Schools. Two of the most diverse schools in the city. Hell, Cane Ridge has one of the few Hispanic principals in the district.”

“Don’t make a lot of sense to me, I’m sure Belmont had a hand in the decision-making process, but still, in a district that preaches equity every day, all day long, I’m not quite sure how you make the argument for offering a scholarship to some kids but not all kids based on where they live. Who are those schools’ board members? I’m sure they’ll have something to say about it.”

“Both schools fall into Fran Bush’s district.”

Raising his eyebrows, Slats responded, “You mean that woman who is always giving them hell and demanding answers?’

“She be the one.”

“Hmmm…”, he says. lost in thought for a minute, “Isn’t she up for re-election this year. Along with the woman from the Westside who’s sudden;y active in getting 5th graders moved back to elementary schools and making start times later for high schoolers?”

Putting my hands up in protest, I answer his question, “Yea, but I’m sure politics doesn’t have anything to do with any of this. I don’t think Dr. Battle is like that.”

“Yea? Tell that to all the folks who were involved with that shit with her brother a couple years ago. Of course, you’ll have to travel out of town to talk to them, because none of them still work in the district. I think at least one of them has a lawsuit pending.”

“Yea, i know, but this is…”, I started to protest.

“This is what? Different?” Slats interrupts, “yea, right…Battle used to work at Antioch, didn’t she?”

“She did? And she was the quadrant superintendent for that area before becoming superintendent.”

“Uh-huh, so she knows first hand how bad that school has been shafted over the last 5 years and she stood by and let them get shafted again…because?”

Throwing my hands up in the air, “You gotta point.”

“Let me tell you how this would play out at home”, Slats answers, getting animated, “Some influential community member, who still has Battle’s ear and phone number, will call her in a couple of days. Wanting to know why Antioch HS was left off the eligible school’s list. They’ll be some hemming and hawing, about MNPS not controlling the selection list and future expansion, but buried in the explanation will be an accusation that the school board member out there is hard to work with, and that makes it difficult to fight for the schools.”

Slats continues on, “A day or so after that conversation, our community leader is at the Krogers and runs into another involved person, who asks about why Antioch and Cane Ridge ain’t included. Our first community leader might say some of what Battle told her, but she’ll also add in that, though Battle didn’t want to come out and say it, their school board rep is hurting schools. That second person will run into another person and tell the same story. They’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and before you know it…”

Rubbing my hand across my forehead, I attempt to deflect, “yea maybe…but this isn’t Chicago and man it’s been a long time since MNPS had a superintendent that seems to like teachers.”

Slats begins chuckling, “Yeah right…ain’t like it ain’t been done before. Remember when Dr. Joseph tried to influence things last go around? You think Battle got here without using her knuckles?”

Shaking my head in resignation, “Man, I hope you are wrong. It’s bad enough that kids are already missing out on an opportunity because they live in South Nashville, but if it’s politics…”

“What else could it be?”, says Slats, picking up my thread, “Why else take two schools from the same district? Why not spread the inequity out? I hope I’m wrong, but its not a good look. Solid program, but giving some kids access while denying others shouldn’t be acceptable.”

Flipping through his paper, it’s clear Slats has more to say. “Here you go. It’s not like people at the state don’t do the same. Did you see this story from yesterday? Restructuring at the DOE busts an associate superintendent down to a special advisor in the office of counsel. And she just so happened to have testified recently in a trial that led to the Governor’s Executive Order being invalidated. What the hell?!?”

“Yea, I know people that know her. They don’t have a lot of bad to say about her. Pretty respected, both in the department and out.’

“Yea she is! Now they bust her down to one step above custodian. I’m surprised they don’t have her out front of HQ downtown in a red vest picking up trash with one of them sticks with a nail on it. As an example of what happens when you don’t toe the party line. Did ya see what she said?”

Slats proceeds to read me the quote from the Lookout, “Lawyers also asked Nicholls if her job would be made easier if everyone was masked, according to the Commercial Appeal report. “I think my job would be easier in a lot of cases,” she responded. “Sure, there’s a lot of things that would make my life easier.””

Looking up from the paper, “I guess her life just got real easy and we got a third former assistant superintendent working at the department making assistant supe pay and doing clerical work. You know Hardy and Houghtlin are still collecting taxpayer dollars.”

I answer his question, “I’m hearing that Nicholls was forced to take a pay cut, unlike the other two. Here’s the other difference between her and them, she’s got no HR complaints in her files. There file reads like a copy of War and Peace. And she has kids actually enrolled in TN public schools.”

I pause to shake my head and ask, “Did you hear Jan Lanier announced her retirement this week?”

“The woman who’s led the English Learners department forever?”

“The very one”, I say. Confirming his question, “As part of this re-structure, EL is moving under the ELA division and the leadership of Jared Myrcle.”

“You mean the Common Core for Dummies author?”

“The very one.”

“I thought Governor Lee was channeling his inner St. Patrick and driving the snakes of Common Core from the shores of Tennessee.”

Now it’s my turn to laugh, “Not by my estimation. Far as I can tell, he’s just widening their sphere of influence.”

“Christ you can’t make this stuff up.”

We both go silent. Contemplating the things just spoken.

Luckily the bus soon arrives.

Slatski turns to me, “Good talk, man.”

“Good talk”, I return.

“Let’s not do it again too soon.”

“Let’s not.”

We both climb aboard the bus and it soon pulls out. Both of us tucked into our seats, chewing on the things spoken, and some left unspoken. Hard to put a positive spin on them.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s nothing but two old guys talking about things they don’t understand.

But then again…

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.

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Categories: Education

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