THE WHEELS ON THE BUS…

“Often, a school is your best bet-perhaps not for education but certainly for protection from an undead attack.”
Max Brooks, The Zombie Survival Guide

 

It has been a week, A week filled with parenting challenges. I’m just going to ahead and say it, this is one job that adequate training is just not provided, nor readily available.

Sure you can read all the parenting books you want, but in the famous words of Mike Tyson, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Parenting means getting punched in the face on a regular basis. of course, I mean figuratively not literally, but you parents out there can testify that it doesn’t hurt any less.

To make matters worse, social media provides a means to re-enforce that idyllic version of family. One that only exists outside of social media, in fairy tales and romantic comedies. Trust me when I tell you every heart-melting family picture you view on Facebook is just a slice of the picture. The slice you don’t see often includes slamming doors, yelling, and fierce battles of wills. Not all of it is pretty, but almost all of it is necessary.

We all say that we want independent brave free-thinking children, well that doesn’t come without some blood being shed. Just like schools can’t educate children simply by unscrewing their heads and dumping information in, the path to adulthood doesn’t come without missteps and miscalculations which bring bruised feelings.

It’s a job that doesn’t come with benchmarks. Little Johnny could be the politest kids in class on Wednesday and be out robbing banks on Saturday. You just hope and pray every day that you’ve given them the tools and the knowledge to survive this world, one that gets a little harder every year.

Truth is, the final exam won’t be delivered until well after you’re 6ft under the ground. This means a great deal of the work delivered is done with a hearty dose of faith. Faith isn’t the most popular word these days, but operating as a parent without it, is a reality I don’t want to envision.

On the flip side, I can’t think of a single job or endeavor that I’ve undertaken, that has brought me as much satisfaction. It’s like that job you had as a kid where you hated the work but didn’t want to quit because the other people that worked there with so fucking cool. You couldn’t wait to see them and hear what they came up with next. Sometimes the job made you cry, but in the end, they always made you laugh so hard that the tears were forgotten.

This week was a lot of the former, and a dose of the latter. So hopefully you’ll forgive me for being slow to deliver.

Now on with the show.

BUS TOUR NONSENSE

If you have any access whatsoever to social media, you’ve likely been inundated with pictures of Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn’s bus tour. You and I may be curtailing our travel, as gas prices approach $5 a gallon, but Schwinn is still burning up the miles in pursuit of securing photo opportunities to promote her personal brand. I suspect that her hope, and perhaps that of the Governor, is that some potential employer will see the heartwarming shots and snatch her us reek chaos on their constituents. It’s a hope I am not unsympathetic to.

Do you doubt my hypothesis?

Get one of your reporter friends to ask her that question at the next stop. They won’t be able to because Penny has only made herself available for photos, no questions. In other words, keep your questions to yourself and document how pretty I look.

You want to know how she feels about the Governor’s recent recycling of school safety ideas, tough luck. Though I do wonder if she would recognize it for what it actually is, a word said that doubles down on everything currently in place. In other words, “Performative Paperwork“.

As usual with Governor Lee, it’s all something somebody else has already said or something they are already doing. Maybe later in the summer, he’ll announce a listening tour. That’s always a good strategy when you want to appear to be doing something, while committed to doing nothing.

Maybe Mrs. Schwinn could offer some clarity on the Governor’s ideas around arming teachers. Has she told him that it’s about the stupidest idea put forth? We’ll never know, but if you’d like to snap a shot of her feeding a goat in a modest, but flattering, floral print, she’ll be happy to accommodate.

What about the proposed rules for the state’s brand new funding plan, TISA, that were released this week? Crickets.

Admittedly, I’m still combing through them, but I’m pretty sure the folks in the Dyslexia community got a few questions. Slipped into the proposed rules, sans any previous mention, is a rule that states, that a student has to be performing below the 40th percentile to qualify for the additional funds. So we want kids to do well, just not too well. We want them to get needed services, just not too many of them.

Personally, I’m also a little shaky on the idea that if a parent refuses a DILP, the child will not receive the extra weight. The DILP is defined as such, “Dyslexia Individual Learning Plan” or “DILP” means a document developed by the LEA for students with Characteristics of Dyslexia in accordance with T.C.A. § 49-1-229 and the State Board Rule on dyslexia, that prescribes the academic goals, supports, and/or accommodations that a student may need to access the classroom instruction.’

A parent may have a very legitimate reason for not pursuing a DILP, and this rule takes that choice away.  I readily admit, that this may just be a me thing, and I’m open to being convinced otherwise, but it should be at least a conversation piece. If only Mrs. Schwinn would answer a question or two while interacting with some of the very kids that may be impacted by these proposed rules. But unfortunately, it’s more crickets.

As promised, the rules contain an “outcomes bonus”, in this case, they are achievement-based,,

Subject to available appropriations by the Tennessee General Assembly, and pursuant to T.C.A. § 49-3-106, the Department shall allocate Student-generated outcome incentive dollars, called outcome bonuses, to an LEA based on the achievement of member Students in the LEA’s public schools, including authorized public charter schools. Outcome bonuses shall be earned based on the procedures and goals provided in paragraphs three (3), four (4), and five (5), and the outcome bonuses shall be reported at the school level and received by the LEA no later than the fifth payment period.

The focus on achievement certainly benefits the affluent school districts. The Williamson Counties of the world will reap huge bonuses even if they show significantly less academic growth than a district like Nashville. This doesn’t seem fair, but I’ve got a proposal.

Every year the TNDOE prints achievement stickers that they send to LEAs to affix to student diplomas. These stickers signify academic achievements made by the student during the school year. Some schools in Williamson County have decided that they prefer a cleaner-looking diploma as opposed to one cluttered up with reminders of student accomplishment. Instead of attaching those taxpayer-funded stickers, I’m assuming they throw them in the trash.

To be clear, this is a decision made by school administrators, not students and their families. Also if a student decides they want their sticker, all they have to do is the extra work of calling the school and requesting the stickers. After all, they’ve already done the heavy lifting, what’s a little extra effort? Not like they are still clients of WCS. But I digress.

What if before WCS collected their performance bonus, the state deducted the cost of printing and shipping stickers and any other associated costs? Sounds like a fair plan to me, since individual achievement doesn’t really mean that much when it comes to outgoing students unless it comes with some cash. MNPS already affixes the stickers, so you can just send us your cash. It makes sense, seeing as WCS already feels like they do enough to celebrate student achievement.

This is more than you’ll get from Commissioner Schwinn as she climbs into yet another photo op.

For the most part, this little PR excursion is fairly benign. Until you take into account that it’s an election year and Governor Lee is running for re-election. So what you are actually witnessing here is a taxpayer-funded campaign event unfolding over the summer months before voters head to the ballot box. Not a bad advantage if you can get it.

Watching the Schwinigans of the hapless commissioner one gets the impression that Governor Lee is kicking ass when it comes to education and that a vote for him is a vote for our children’s future. Yeah…not so much.

While this unfolds in front of the camera, behind the scenes he’s going after his political rivals with an unmatched fury. You may think I’m talking Democrats here, but I’m not. His primary targets are dyed-in-the-wool conservatives like Representatives  Cepicky and Weaver.  Two representatives who chose to remain true to their constituents and their conservative core values, as opposed to knuckling under the Governor.

What an interesting turn of fate as compared to that of long-term state senator Mike Bell. Over the last couple of years, Bell was a fierce critic of Commissioner Schwinn, but then word came that the TWRA job would soon be opening. Suddenly he was singing from a different hymnal. Keep your eye on this one.

And you labored under the false illusion that Lee was a conservative, how cute. Hopefully, voters don’t fall for this overreach.

At some point, Ms. Schwinn will get around to sharing her views with us, until then just sit back and enjoy the shiny objects.

A DIMINISHING CABINET

What has gone largely unnoticed by the stakeholders of Metro Nashville Public Schools is that the declining number isn’t confined just to students, teachers, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers, but also includes the Central Office – I’m not calling it the “support hub” until they actually start offering support. Earlier in the year, Chief Innovation officer Sharon Griffin left for personal reasons. Over the last month, she’s been joined by Chiefs Robarge and Randolph. Accountability guru Paul Changus announced his retirement but is accepting a 120-day position. Rumors are swirling about Henson and even CAO Mason Bellamy tried to make an exit by applying as Superintendent up in Clarksville.

At some point, somebody is going to have to start asking questions.

Today, a new teammate announcement arrived from the satellite office in Alabama, where principals have escaped for a district retreat. Named are, 5 new principals – bringing this year’s replacement total to 13 – and 2 new central office appointments.

The first is the replacement for Griffin as Chief Innovation Officer, Renita Forbes Perry.  Perry has been around for a minute or two and has been doing the job most of the year, so it is reasonable to give her the shot at the permanent position. In fact, I would commend her for taking it, because it certainly hasn’t benefited her predecessors. Well except for State Chief Academic Officer Lisa Coons who failed so miserably that she got to take her dumpster fire to another level.

The other central office position is being awarded to Sarah Robinson Chin, Chin will replace Randolph as Chief of Strategy. Previously she served as Deputy Chief of Staff at Indianapolis Public Schools. I guess that nobody from Mississippi or Chicago was available.

It’s a  position she’s only held since 2019 and her primary responsibility was a tutoring program that still hasn’t been brought to scale. Prior to that, she worked for Education Resource Strategies and GOTV, Hilary Clinton. Recently she married an education researcher who’s relocating to Vanderbilt after being affiliated with Harvard, the home to every bad policy idea brought forth over the last decade.

Mrs. Chin started he career in Memphis in 2011 as a Teach For America corps member, an organization she continues to hold close ties to as an alumni board member. That’s the MNPS way, pay a large salary to people that work for people undermining public education.

At a time when public schools are under an unprecedented attack in the state of Tennessee, it only makes sense to import a district official from Indianapolis – long a hotbed for privatization efforts. Maybe she could introduce us to some of the folks at the Mind Trust.

All this will be part of the backdrop when the Nashville School Board takes up the subject of a contract extension for Dr. Battle at next Tuesday’s meeting. One brought forth by board member Dr. Sharon Gentry. Wait a minute doesn’t she have two years left on her initial contract? Why are we talking now? Especially considering that Gentry, as chair of the evaluation committee, has continually drawn out the performance review process for Dr. Battle.

I’m not sure of the specifics of why talks are opening now, but I suspect this addition to the proposed contract plays a role,

Additionally, the base salary shall increase by the same percentage granted through any cost-of-living increase for all MNPS employees that takes effect at any time during the course of this Contract

The proposed budget for next year includes a 4% COLA and step raise, To their credit, MNEA worked very hard to negotiate this as part of the continuity of effort budget. An unprecedented accomplishment. What that means is that raises are not contingent on funds being available but will happen automatically. That’s pretty huge.

Under Dr. Battle’s current contract she would not receive an increase in pay due to the proposed COLA increase, as it stipulates that the only way her pay can be increased is by “action of the Board”. We are only talking about a little under $12K here, but that’s not an unsubstantial amount of money either.

In making her argument for the extension, I’m sure Dr. Gentry will draw attention to the fact that the current contract ends in mid-April of 2024, and thus an amendment will need to be made anyway in order to extend terms out till the end of the year. Might as well seize the moment to secure her services for an extra 2 years as well.

I got no issue with amending the contract so that Dr. Battle gets a little raise and terms are extended through the end of the school year in 2024. I am not comfortable with extending her contract after just one pseudo-evaluation by the board that focused on the year preceding the one just completed. Especially with the majority of her leadership team departing. Dr. Battle has always shown a propensity to perform at a higher level when under pressure, a contract year might just be what the doctor ordered.

Let’s see how it all plays out.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it 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 and without you, I would have been forced to quit long ago. It is truly appreciated and keeps the bill collectors happy. Now more than ever your continued support is vital.

If you are interested, I’m sharing posts via email through Substack. This has proven to be an effective way to increase coverage. I am offering free and paid subscriptions. Paid subscriptions will receive additional materials as they become available. Your support would be greatly appreciated.

If you wish to join the rank of donors but are not interested in Substack, 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. Not begging, just saying.



Categories: Education

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 )

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.

%d bloggers like this: