“Books are fun, Nicholas, he says,
they’re like
amusement parks
for readers.

Yeah, well, maybe
they would be fun
if I got to pick
the rides
sometimes, you answer”

– Kwame Alexander, Booked

This past weekend I attended the very first ProjectLit Literacy Summit. All indications are that it won’t be the last. On a Saturday morning at Maplewood Elementary School over 200 people gathered to discuss books written for and about young people. We live in a time where there is an abundance of quality literature being produced for young readers and Project Lit celebrates that abundance.

Project Lit is a movement created by Maplewood students and facilitated by their teacher Jared Amato. It’s a movement that grew out of a study on what to do about book deserts and the realization that there are kids in Nashville that don’t have unfettered access to books. Out of that initial focus has grown a community that does more to hook kid’s on the power of reading than any other initiative in Nashville.

There are two main reason’s for the rapid growth of Project Lit. The first is that the focus sits squarely on students. Students pick the direction of the organization, the books, and facilitates the book discussions. This isn’t one of circumstance where adults are driving the train. In truth, most of the adults are along merely for the ride. Project Lit doesn’t just ask for student buy in, it demands it.

Secondly, Amato get’s what nearly every other adult in the city fails to grasp, it’s all about culture. Sure the majority of his books are culturally relevant – we’ll talk more about that in a minute – but more importantly is the culture centered around literacy that Amato and his team foster. Reading is fun. It’s cool. It’s attractive. It’s something you want to and do more often.

This belief in the power of culture is something I share with Amato. It was in that spirit that my wife and I loaded up both kids, age 7 and 8, and headed to Maplewood Saturday morning. The kid’s, to be honest, weren’t exactly chomping at the bit to go, but they’ve sorta gotten used to this kinda thing. Community meetings, school board functions, trips to legislation sessions, candidate door knocking, are all activities they have had to endure in their short lives. You see, these are all part of the foundation of our family culture.

Politics, intellectual curiosity, compassion, empathy, athletics, and literacy are all among the bedrock of our family’s culture. They are not things we just talk about in an abstract sense, but rather things we try to put into practice as well. I believe in exposing kids to things that they may not fully grasp, nor be overly interested, at the time. After all you can’t get a redwood without first planting the seed.

We arrived on Saturday morning shortly after author Kwame Alexander started speaking. I could fill a whole blog post full of inspirational quotes from Alexander. Beyond being an incredible author, he’s an inspirational speaker as well. I strongly urge anyone who get’s an opportunity to attend one of his talks to do so.

During Alexander’s talk my kid’s did not silent in rapt attention. They wanted to check out the books around the room and sample the eats available. The were fascinated by a calendar filled with author birth dates. I encouraged my son to ask Kwame Alexander a question during the Q and A period because I’m also a believer in the importance of call and response between adults and children when it comes to brain development. I’m trying to raise children that are never afraid to question adults. Alexander was extremely gracious in his response.

After the author talk, as the room broke in to small groups, we took our leave. First appearances would indicate that the kids took very little away from the morning. However, as we got in the car, the first words out of their mouths were, “Can we go to Barnes and Noble?”

We went to Barnes and Noble and we bought several books. My daughter spent a large portion of the remainder of the weekend consuming those purchases. My son, not quite as much, but the foundation is continuing to be built. The culture is re-enforced.

It seems that we are continually focusing on trying to increase literacy rates, but are never willing to do the work to create a culture that supports that goal. We decry societal focus on sports and lament that the same importance isn’t attached to education. But why should reading be held in higher esteem when we don’t open the doors like we do for sports?

We represent reading as a chore. Something that needs to be done to achieve a reward, with little focus on its inherent value. It’s an activity almost entirely directed by adults, and we justify that by proclaiming how it’s important to read the right texts. Confession, I spent a year as an emerging reader reading nothing but Sweet Valley High romances. Confusion is further created in children, because reading seems to be a “do as I say, not as I do” activity. How many of those adults pushing reading lists this summer will read more than 2 books themselves? If they read that many books.

Sports on the other hand, comes with no prerequisites. No adult is telling a you how many games you must watch this summer, or even how many you must play. Can you imagine a campaign that gave kids a free cheese burger if they attended 10 baseball games or played in nine dodge ball games? In would be considered ripe for ridicule, instead kids are left to discover their passion at their own pace.

My son has fallen in love with the Golden State Warriors,a team I share no affinity for but am all to willing to discuss with him. He utilizes his iPad to scour the internet for information about the team, frequently returning to me to share newly acquired knowledge. We spend a fair amount of time these days discussing the Warriors and as a direct result, basketball. He has what I would describe as a fever to know more about his chosen team. Imagine if I would told him he had to cheat for the Utah Jazz and then demanded he bring me facts back. I don’t he’d be as enthused, but that’s what we do with reading.

Currently his interest in sports continues to grow and expand in to other areas. It’s a pursuit that he feels he has ownership of. He chooses the players that inspire him and the teams he chooses the cheer for. He establishes in his own mind, ownership of content. He is inspired by Steph Curry, not because an adult told him that Curry is the “right” athlete to cheer for, but rather because of the qualities that Curry exhibits that resonate with him.

How many times have I sat around with other father discussing how we took our children to sporting events knowing full well it wouldn’t hold their attention for the duration. We freely admitted we were priming them for the future. We would speak with pride on how they made it to the 2nd period and what an improvement it was over last year. Yet, we seldom drag kids to literacy events. Instead we offer the excuse that they would find it boring and uninteresting, perhaps when they are older.

Exposure at an early age allows a love of sports to take root and grow into adulthood. I think about my own travels to adulthood and how a love of Penn State Football always served as a connection with my father, even when all others failed. I continue to follow Penn State Football today, despite my father passing away several years ago, not just because of the entertainment factor but because it’s a constant conduit and reminder of the values of my family. My wife shares a love of reading as a similar conduit with her own father.

The analogy to sports is not perfect, some kids never develop a love of sports,but substitute music, movies, or other recreational activities. Think about the things that anchor the culture of your family. For some of you, it may already be reading. Think about how those activities became integral and ask yourself, what if we recreated the process with literacy? Why don’t we take a similar approach to reading?

What if kid’s constantly saw city and school leaders with a book in their possession? What if adults stopped and asked kid’s what their favorite book is like we currently ask kids their favorite athlete or musician? What if we bought kids apparel adorned by images of books like we currently purchase sports jerseys? What if we allowed kids to see us reading like they currently witness us watching games? I just don’t believe you can underestimate the power of “culture”.

One last observation on reading and literacy. Over the last several years there has been a push to make sure kid’s are reading “culturally relevant” books. I agree with the concept that books can serve as mirrors and that students will take a greater interest in books that reflect their lives. However, even in the interest of producing better readers, we can not sacrifice the power of books as windows and time machines.

I’m not a Jewish boy growing up in NYC in the 50’s, but I interact with enough adults who were. Therefore reading A Tree Grow’s in Brooklyn provides me a greater understanding of their motivations. I know little about life in Scandinavia but by reading Jo Nesbo books I get a glimpse of what life is like for people who live there. Few of us may run away from home and live on a mountain but in the pages of My Side of the Mountain we can discover how those who bear little outward resemblance to us share several inner traits. We discover that fear, loneliness, a desire for self-sufficiency, are not traits exclusive to certain individuals.

Books can provide role models of who we want to be as adults. They can show us the consequences of certain choices that we all face daily. They can instill empathy for those who may appear foreign.

I just finished a book call Lightning Men, a mystery set in 1953 Atlanta. It’s a book that not only drives home the serious implications of racism on individual lives but also helps explain why changing laws sometimes just isn’t enough. As a mystery book, written primarily for entertainment, I’m sure it’s a book that few would place on the “right kind of reading” list. But that’s the power of the written word, it can entertain and inform simultaneously.

Personally, and I must add my disclaimer that I am not a teacher nor do I play one on TV, I would love to see instruction that placed To Kill A Mockingbird next to The Hate You Give. How are the characters similar and how are they different? Have times changed much? What are the universal themes that both express? The possibilities are endless.

Lord knows I don’t want to undervalue the importance of decoding and phonics, and other strategies, but if you don’t get the cultural aspect right, than they won’t take root either. Drill a kid on phonics and watch his eyes glaze over and attention waver. Get them caught up in the narrative, and it’s inherent power, and they are yours to work with.

I think that the work Amato is doing is vital to creating a culture of literacy districtwide. He’s pushing boundaries further and in a more sustainable manner then any previous initiatives. It’s my belief that real gains could be made if district leadership embraced his, and his students, work. Like children themselves, if allowed to grow unencumbered to its full potential, there is no telling what benefits mights be reaped from Project Lit.


Congratulations to Steve Ball who was recently announced as the latest executive director of school support and improvement(EDSSI). What you missed the job opening being posted? That’s all right, near as I can tell nobody else saw it either. Nor the posting for the East High Magnet School principal position which will reportedly be filled by AP Jamie Jenkins. In defense, I suspect Jenkin’s appointment will be as a temporary principal with a job posting to come in the future.

Former MNPS teacher Scott Bennet – many of you cite his guest post as your favorite of the year – whose family recently relocated to South Africa was back in Nashville for graduation services. I encourage you to read his reflections from that visit. I know my wife will appreciate his inclusion of a Murakami quote.

Former MNPS Executive Amy Wyatt has received a promotion after less then a year with SREB. She is moving into the position of Director of State and District Partnerships at Southern Regional Education Board. Her team will be serving the states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and New York. Another example of quality talent plying their trade elsewhere.

Congratulations are in order! Alexander Davis, a graduate of Martin Luther King Jr Magnet- Pearl High School, received a college-sponsored National Merit scholarship from Northeastern University.

For the last four years, Metro Schools has participated in the Community Eligibility Program (CEP), the federal reimbursement program that allows school districts to offer lunch at no cost to students. Eligibility is based on poverty as measured by the direct certification numbers used for participants of government assistance programs. Effective with the 2018-2019 school year, MNPS is no longer eligible to participate system-wide and can no longer offer this program to all students at all schools. I cannot understate the travesty of this development. Families make sure you check out who’s eligible for what.

Indiana is taking a slightly different approach on how it incorporates STEM principles into the classroom. I’ll let you decide what you think.

The Renowned Sound of Cane Ridge HS has been selected to participate in the 2018 World Series of Marching Bands representing MNPS and the State of Tennessee. Knock them dead kids.

The MNPS budgetary needs continues to get muddier and muddier. First, the district asked the city for an increase in funds of $45 million. When the mayor responded with a budget that only allocated an increase of $5 million, the district announced that they were now $17.5 million short for next year based on expenditures that weren’t even outlined in the first ask. Friday – yea, I know – MNPS announced that they needed an additional $3.5 million just to get through this year. Does anybody have any idea on just how much money MNPS needs?

I’m still waiting for someone to name the person who replaced someone at MNPS and is doing a better job than the person they replaced. In other words, Name me the upgrade.


Time to take a look at this weekend’s poll results. Thank you to all who participated.

The first question asked was which department of MNPS did you think was performing at a high level. The English Learners department easily garnered the most votes, with 38% of you citing them as your answer. Special Ed finished second and Curriculum and Instruction finished a surprising third.

As is par for the current course, MNPS has let EL director Kevin Stacey go to another district and has elected to replace him in leadership with a number two that flamed out at an elementary school this year. Remember what I said earlier about letting quality talent get away?

This one garnered a lot of write-in votes,

None 3
None of the above 3
Performing Arts 1
Special Ed is amazing, yet it needs work on the local school level. 1
Classroom instruction 1
Math 1
NONE! Not under Joseph’s leadership 1
Advanced Academics 1
None of them 1
none of the above? 1
None… total chaos.. #hungergames 1
Visual Art 1
None, at this point every dept has been dismantled. 1
EL department until Dr. A gets her hands all over it 1
Can’t vote for any of these. 1
Pre-K 1
The teachers in all the schools! 1
Don’t have a clue 1
Layoff team 1
The HS Academy office–at least they try to stay in touch with “on the ground” 1
I have no earthly idea. I don’t think any of them are. 1
Some individual school sites 1
All departments could improve. 1
Is this asked with a straight face? Then, none. 1
Nutrition 1
HR for top of the top – only 1
Jason Walsh and Allison Ross for VAPA 1
none 1
You’re joking, right? 1
Federal Programs 1
I don’t have faith in any of them 1
Federal Programs and Grants Facilitators 1
Student Services 1
Everything in too much churn (leadership turnover) to really be at high level. 1

Question 2 asked for your reaction to the district relationship with ERDI. Out of 112 responses, 54 of you expressed grave concerns and 32 of you indicated a need for further research. Only 4 of you expressed a lack of concern. Hmmm…there are four chiefs…never mind. Here are the write-ins,

Will someone ask how much ERDI is paying SJ and his minions? 1
No, you’re reaching 1
Stipends for their salaries concerns me

The last question asked about summer camp attendance. I must admit that I was a bit surprised by the responses. I expected the usage to be greater. 35% indicated 1-2 camps, but 31% of you said none. Here are those write-ins,

don’t have kids. 2
My kids are grown now. 1
I don’t have kids. 🙂 1
No children 1
I have no kids at home 1
I don’t have kids. 1
I prefer to spend time with them. 1
Working instead 1
No kids 1
Don’t have children 1
I don’t have kids of my own 1

And that’s a wrap. Hope y’all have an awesome week. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

I have started using Patreon as a funding source. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Just because Andy Spears is also on Patreon doesn’t mean you can’t support us both. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well. And if you are so inclined, check out my new campaign web page and sign up to help if you can.






If you watch MNPS School Board meetings, sometimes you’ll see the oddest conversations. This week’s meeting provides a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

If you don’t regularly watch board meetings you may not be familiar with the term “consent agenda.” Every meeting, there are a number of contracts for services that the board must approve. Currently the board must approve any contract over $100k, but that’s in the process of being lowered.

In order to save time, the board usually approves all of these contracts in one fell swoop, instead of dealing with them individually. That’s called the “consent agenda.” Occasionally, there will be a contract that one or more board members has an issue with, and they’ll have the option to pull it off the consent agenda in order to have further discussion and a separate vote. It’s not all that common for an item to be pulled.

On Tuesday, Board member Amy Frogge pulled the contract for Performance Matters off the consent agenda based on some very legitimate questions and concerns. I’m going to try to walk you through those questions and concerns, but I’m warning you ahead of time, it is a tangled web we weave.

The district is so vast that the use of a data management platform is essential. This platform is used to manage assessments, reporting, and instructional tools throughout the district. Prior to Dr. Joseph’s arrival, MNPS used a Pearson product, Schoolnet. Coinciding with, but independent of Joseph’s arrival, Pearson made the decision to discontinue support of Schoolnet, necessitating the need for MNPS to procure a new vendor.

Normally, whenever MNPS requires services from am outside vendor, they utilize a process that starts with a request for proposal (RFP). The RFP is published and based on it, outside vendors submit a service proposal, or bid. The bids are reviewed and the best is selected.

In this case, it was decided that there was not sufficient time to go through the regular process, which would have required 90-120 days. Everybody was familiar with Performance Matters and felt that they would be the best option to provide the needed data platform, so the choice was made. Especially since several other districts in Tennessee utilize the vendor.

Since time was of the essence, the decision was made employing a strategy called “piggybacking.” What this means is that you look for districts of similar size who require work of similar scope, and you use their RFP to satisfy the need to create a separate RFP. Obviously that’s an oversimplification of the process, but that is the gist of it. It is a legal process but does leave a district open for some problems. In the case of Performance Matters, in order to match the scope of work, the district piggybacked off RFP’s from Shelby County, Tennessee, and Orange County, Florida.

The contract the board approved was for $1.1 million and one year, while the contract actually filed with Metro was for 2 years, not to exceed $1.8 million. Per Dr. Joseph’s explanation, the discrepancy came about because then-head of procurement Gary Apenfelder was able to negotiate a lower rate that necessitated a longer term. He did so without Dr. Joseph’s, nor the board’s, approval. That was a bit of a jaw dropper for me. I wasn’t aware that department heads are allowed to change the terms on district contracts independent of the director or the board’s approval. Nobody, except for board members Jill Speering and Amy Frogge, seemed bothered by this fact.

Dr. Joseph further explained that everybody was aware that the second year of the contract would have to be approved by the board, yet nobody felt compelled to bring the extension before the board until 2 weeks before the approved term was set to expire. I would take this as being indicative of district leadership’s view of the board. The assumption being that the board will just pass whatever is brought before them without question. Unfortunately for them, Amy Frogge has tired of that game.

We need to be clear here, this is not the first time a contract has been brought before the board with a similar cavalier attitude. In the past two years, there have been numerous occasions where contracts have even been brought forward for approval after services had been rendered. The TFA Summer Institute contract from last summer would be an example.

Here’s where things get even more confusing. At the heart of this discussion is a company called Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI). ERDI is a company that serves as a conduit between vendors and district leaders across the country. Vendors pay a fee in order to meet twice a year with school district leaders across the country. These meetings are to solicit feedback from district leaders on the vendor’s product. District leaders are paid a stipend, usually a couple thousand dollars, to participate. It’s a very formalized process.

As with all conferences, nights are filled with cocktail parties. At these parties, things get a little more informal as vendors and school official mingle. It’s easy to imagine the types of conversations that take place. I like your product so why shouldn’t I give you a heads up on what exactly we’ll be placing in our RFP? Perhaps you know of some similar districts with similar requirements that I could piggyback off, saving time on research. I can’t verify that this, and more, is happening, but you must admit the potential for subverting the procurement process is present. After all, vendors are paying up to $10k for the opportunity to meet with school officials. Dr. Monique Felder is one of those leaders, and Performance Matters is one of those companies.

According to Dr. Joseph, before Chief Academic Officer Monique Felder accepted work with ERDI, approval for the work was run through district legal counsel Cory Harkey, and she saw no issues. I asked for a copy of that opinion under an open records request, but was told that it fell under purview of client attorney privilege. Okay, but I can’t believe that Harkey would give her stamp of approval based on the history of ERDI. My guess is that he she gave a general answer, and Felder and Joseph didn’t supply any additional information.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Joseph, in defense of the procurement process and Felder’s work for EDRI, stated, “People across the country do bad things, but we don’t.” Let’s take a look at who these nebulous “people who do bad things” actually are.

One of those people is long-term associate, and former head of Baltimore Schools, Dallas Dance. Dance’s association with ERDI is a major contributor to his being currently incarnated by the state of Maryland for fraud. Joseph brought Dance here and utilized him in an integral role to craft his transition plan. In my eyes, that cannot be overstated, yet has never been acknowledged by Joseph nor addressed openly by the board. Instead it’s quietly swept under the table and we are expected never to raise the issue.

I look at it like this. If my best friend – with whom I share friends and places we frequent – gets caught cheating on his wife, I guarantee my wife is going to have a lot of questions. Odds are, at the very least, I won’t be seeing those same friends and frequenting those same places anymore. We teach our kids from a very early age that people form opinions about us based on who we associate with. A lesson that Joseph seems to think doesn’t apply to him.

Looking at the sentencing report for Dance gives more than a little cause for pause. The document details the method in which contracts were piggybacked in order to avoid RFP’s. A method that bears sticking similarities with actions in Nashville.

So Joseph’s team presents a contract proposal that incorporates ERDI, one of their clients, and involves tactics that a known associate has used to circumvent the law in order to secure a financial benefit, yet everybody is shocked, and Joseph takes offense, when Frogge raises questions. How is this possible?

Not only does nobody raise any real concerns, but board member Gentry argues that instead of holding the district hostage, the board should just pass this contract and work on the process later. Which seems to be consistent with how the board is handling other processes, like the director’s evaluation. That evaluation is now 6 months overdue and the second evaluation of the year is due this month.

Processes exist for a reason and they are created to be followed. I’m sorry that demanding that Joseph and his team adhere to the process is causing inconvenience, but… they should have followed the process. Play by the rules and nobody gets hurt.

Joseph brought Dance here. He chose to use a piggyback method to procure services. He allowed a department head leeway to negotiate contracts sans approval. He chose to not bring up the extension for a vote until 2 weeks before expiration. This is all on him and blame should not be laid at the feet of board members for making him adhere to policy. Once again, we have a self-inflicted crisis. Maybe this time will be different, and district leadership will actually learn from their mistakes. One can only hope.


I’m sure that by now, most of you are aware of the arrest of long time MNPS employee, and former MNEA head, Stephen Henry for the use and manufacture of meth. It’s a very sad set of circumstances exacerbated by the district once again being incapable of putting together a coherent response.

When asked for a comment to the arrest of a 30-year veteran of MNPS by Channel 4 news reporter Edward Burch, the district responded, “Because it is summer break, no response is required.”

Really?!? That’s the best we can do? No mention of looking into the impact on the kids Henry interacted with? After all, Henry did work at a school that specializes in kids with high needs. Needs that include dealing with their own addiction issues.

How about a little sympathy for a man who has spent the brunt of his professional career serving Nashville’s school district? Obviously, addiction issues are at play here and it’s my prayer that Henry gets the help he needs. Addiction severely impairs the addict’s ability to make rational decisions, and as a result, has a devastating impact on people’s lives. This is a prime example.

We talk endlessly about the importance of SEL, but every time the district is presented with an opportunity to model what that learning might look like, we drop the ball. If you want kinder, more thoughtful, empathetic kids, maybe we need kinder, more thoughtful, empathetic adults.

There are a lot of questions that will arise from this incident over the next several days. Chief among them is how did Henry come to be assigned to the school he was at? How did his addiction go undiscovered to this point? Are we properly vetting the teachers that get assigned to our neediest kids? In all fairness, addicts are very adept at hiding the truth, still these are all very valid questions.

This should also serve to remind us that we don’t pay nearly enough attention to the mental health of our educators. In our relentless pursuit of being the “fastest improving district in the country,” have we lost sight of the fact that our students and teachers aren’t just data points, but rather people? Are we paying enough attention to the potential health risks we are exposing educators to through the stress produced by ever escalating demands?

Stephen Henry has always been extremely kind to me. As someone who’s been in recovery for 18 years, moments like this always create a “there by the grace of God, go I” feeling. I understand the long road ahead for Mr. Henry, and it makes me say a silent prayer that his impaired decision-making powers didn’t put any children at increased risk. I pray he looks at this as an opportunity to heal and embraces it.


Former founding member of the Tennessee Ed report Zack Barnes returns to the blogging world this week by resurrecting his Tip Sheet. Doing it old school, the Tip Sheet is a newsletter that Barnes emails out weekly and focuses on education issues. You’ll want to sign up for this one. Welcome back, Mr. Kotter.

The very first ProjectLit Summit will take place this weekend. The Weber family plans to be in attendance and we are very excited. say hello if you decide to go.

TN Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen calls this year one of the most successful online administrations for the state to date when it comes to TNReady. This prompts TN Ed Report author Andy Spears to ask for a definition of success.

MNPS is sponsoring a summer meals program to ensure that children and their families don’t go hungry over the summer. Summer meals are available at no cost to children 18 and under.

This Saturday, June 16, is hosting a pop-up “Build a Mobile App in a Day” workshop! This workshop will focus on mobile app development using the MIT AppInventor.

Congratulations to MNPS’s Executive Officer Tony Majors. All in one day, his son officially signs with Columbia State, then goes 1-2 with an RBI and a run scored in the MidTN Senior AllStar game. That’s called… winning. Well done.

Things are getting interesting in Prince George’s County Public Schools. Earlier in the year, CEO Kevin Maxwell announced that he’d be leaving at the end of the year. Well it’s now the end of the year and he has yet to submit a resignation letter. Money could be at the root of it all.

Vesia Hawkins talks early childhood education and a garden-based curriculum in her latest. It’s news that will make you smile.

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome weekend. Don’t forget to answer poll questions. This week we evaluate the performance of district leaders. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

I have started using Patreon as a funding source. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Just because Andy Spears is also on Patreon doesn’t mean you can’t support us both. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well. And if you are so inclined, check out my new campaign web page and sign up to help if you can.



I know it’s not a perfect analogy, but every time MNPS rolls out a new presentation, it’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that comes to mind. In the Oscar Wilde-written novel, the character, Dorian Gray, wishes to remain young and beautiful and so he makes a promise that transfers all the effects of his sins onto a painting that is stored in his attic. Gray continues to appear untouched by age while the hidden painting shows the effects of age and his sins.

Whenever MNPS releases a new plan, the presentation is always slick and beautiful, as long as you don’t peer beneath the surface. Because it is below the surface where all the flaws and inconsistencies reside. The same holds true for the new Literacy Plan that will be unveiled at tomorrow’s school board meeting.

Since it’s June and most people are starting vacations, June is the perfect time to do a presentation on a new literacy plan. The fewer eyes, the better, after all. Why do this when families and the community actually had a opportunity to be engaged? But I digress.

The plan, which is included in the board meeting agenda, at first glance, seems like a marvelous piece of work. One filled with inspiring quotes, lofty goals, and enough edutalk to quiet and intimidate most potential critics. None of which should be surprising to anyone, since the brunt of the work was written by a paid consultant with ties to the state. I am sure tomorrow’s presentation will adequately play to the gallery. But let’s look a little closer at the picture and see if it holds up under scrutiny. After all, this is advertised as a proposal and not a final draft.

An attachment to the plan includes a list of all the minds that worked on this literacy plan. Notice anything missing? That’s a softball question because it should be readily apparent that there is but one classroom teacher on the list. How come there is not an EL teacher cited? 24% of the district receives EL services and it’s not considered necessary to include an EL teacher? Why is Dr. Felder’s friend Caroline Cobb involved in this plan instead of one of our principals who actually has a doctorate? We had a five-member team attend the state-initiated Read to be Ready training, so why weren’t those participants included on the committee?

One classroom teacher in the whole bunch. Did no one sit around at a drafting meeting and think, “Hey, you know who doesn’t have enough of a voice in this project? The people that will actually be doing the work.” It’s unbelievable to me that nobody thought to add more classroom teachers to the project.

I’m sure that district leadership will raise the defense that things were vetted by the teacher panel as the plan was created. My counter argument would be, where does the true power lie, with the proofreaders or the authors and why are their names not listed in the acknowledgements? At least 1/3 of the authors of the literacy plan should have been culled from the ranks of those who are in the classroom and in our schools every day teaching students to be readers.

My next observation is in relation to the stated key performances indicators (KPI). Let me pause here for one second and point out how ridiculous it is that we have KPI’s with no explanation of how we plan to achieve them. Do you think Bill Belicheck stands before the Patriots and tells them that the goal is to score 4 more touchdowns a game, and then fails to reveal any details about how they are going to accomplish that feat? Do you think he just tells them that they are going to pass the ball and run the ball, and then tells them some anecdotes about other teams that ran the ball and passed the ball? Or do you think he might actually include a few actual plays so that players get a sense where he is going?

That’s what this whole literacy plan is, one big hypothetical statement on what we believe, some why we believe it, with very little explanation of how we are going to arrive at results. What tools are we going to utilize to realize our aspirations? We just cut a successful intervention for most high risk k-2 kids, surely there is an alternative plan to address those needs, shouldn’t that be included in this literacy plan?

We know that 1 in 5 kids suffer from dyslexia. We know that Orton-Gillingham (OG) has proven successful with kids diagnosed with dyslexia, but currently MNPS doesn’t have enough staff trained in OG. Shouldn’t a district literacy plan that stretches out until the year 2025 at least have a thumbnail sketch of how we are going to address the need to train more interventionists?

The plan talks a whole lot about what we are going to expect from third graders, but how are we going to lay the groundwork to meet those expectations? What about interventions at the higher grade levels? What are they going to look like? Why does this document clearly skip struggling readers? What is the plan for the bottom 15% students? What about RTI for our students? Yeah… I got questions.

Now back to those KPI’s, how are we going to measure our success? Two tests is how. One that the state hasn’t been able to administer without any fidelity for the last four years and another that MNPS hasn’t been able to administer with fidelity for the last two years. If that is not enough of a concern, how about the fact that we are utilizing a tool in a manner that was it never intended to be utilized?

A FAQ from Howard School District in Maryland answers the question of what is the purpose of MAP testing:

The MAP assessment is designed to measure a student’s academic achievement and growth over time in reading and mathematics. MAP assessment items are designed to align to objectives in the Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards, which are now being taught throughout the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS). Together with other classroom-based information, information from MAP can help teachers make instructional decisions that match the needs of each child.

The Northwest Evaluation Association, the group that administers MAP testing, wrote the following in 2013:

In recent months, however, some questions have been raised about MAP and its role in the classroom. As educators are asked to do more with less, student performance data is now being applied to educator evaluation and instructional time is increasingly threatened by high-stakes accountability exams. Many are questioning the validity and value of tests. Interim assessments, such as MAP, have been caught up in such debates.

It is important to understand the different types of tests and their purposes in the ongoing discussion about testing, as each test is used to make different educational decisions. MAP is an interim test typically administered fall, winter, and spring. The purpose of MAP is to measure academic status, irrespective of the grade level at which a student is performing, and to calculate academic growth over time so that these measures can inform instruction during the year.

Apparently nobody bothered to read NWEA before creating this literacy plan. Which surprises me a little because most of the research cited by this administration is circa 2013.

If you like shiny objects, and lots of words that people use because consultants convinced them that they make them sound smarter, by all means read the whole plan and watch Tuesday’s presentation. Myself? I’m of the opinion that if you are not going to have a plan that explains in depth the “how,” I would rather go with ProjectLit founder and Maplewood HS literature teacher Jarred Amato’s concept: “Commit to surrounding every student with great books. Every day. Even, especially, over the summer. What if we took all that testing money, all that scripted curriculum, and spent it on books that all kids could read in school and bring home?” That would be a literacy plan I could support.


You know when you are in the grocery store and a call goes out over the intercom, “We need a mop on aisle 5 please. We’ve got a spill”? That’s the constant chorus over in MNPS HR these days. A call that continually seems to go unheeded. Nobody shows up with a mop and the messes continue to grow.

Three weeks ago, notices were sent out informing tenured teachers whose positions had been eliminated at individual schools that they been terminated. Oops… came the reply a couple days later. “You are not terminated. You are just unassigned, but still eligible for assignment. We’ll be in touch.”

Apparently that incident was so much fun, that MNPS decided to do it all over again. Yep, another round of non-termination termination letters. Here’s a news flash for the folks at Human Resources: if you’ve worked for the district over a decade and your employer keeps sending you termination notices, eventually you are going to take your skills and go elsewhere. As an added note, it’s just good manners to notify the people who applied for and didn’t get a position before you announce who did get the position. Two simple things that could make a world of difference in current events.

I often hear Dr. Joseph refer to himself as being like Obama. The truth is, that in practice, this administration more closely emulates the current occupier of the White House than the former. District chiefs are constantly in pursuit of supposed leakers while touting transparency, overly vindictive of perceived opponents, intellectually incurious with little attention paid to the past, and constantly complaining about fake news. And much like the current president, Dr. Joseph is better at running a talent relocation service than he is at leading an administration. MNPS is creating an unprecedented talent windfall for surrounding counties at an unprecedented pace.

If chasing talent off isn’t enough, MNPS has been equally inept at recruiting talent. Please name me one replacement that is even equally competent to the person they replaced? I struggle with this question daily. Two years ago there were people in the HR department that I would have helped pack up their office in anticipation of their departure. Fast forward a year, and I’d wash their car weekly if they would come back. A sentiment that I don’t believe I am alone in. I honestly don’t know if MNPS can take another year of this.

I’m obviously not devoid of hope; otherwise, why would I be running for school board? Especially since I know exactly how much work this is going to take to fix. But it’s time for all of us to begin rolling up our sleeves and demanding some accountability. We cannot continue to treat people like this.

Despite what some may claim, I have never called for the dismissal of Dr. Joseph and I’m still not quite there yet. But damn, some things have got to change. Teachers, students, and their families deserve better.


Here’s another one in the “so dumb I think I’m missing something” series. Since TNReady was such a train wreck again this year, legislation was passed that stated scores could not have adverse effects on schools, teachers, or students.That means that the state’s plans to grade schools on an A-F scale had to be scrapped. But in what is being hailed as a “creative and ambitious” action, the state will instead rate each school on a scale of 0-4 on six different performance indicators. And in a major concession to local district leaders, schools won’t receive a single overall grade or rating as initially planned.

Ok, I must admit, apparently I am not as smart as people leading the TNDOE because I don’t see how there is anything creative or ambitious in this action, nor do I agree with TN Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen, who according to ChalkbeatTN said the change complies with a new state law ordering that this year’s TNReady scores “shall not be used to assign a letter grade to a school” — a nod to concerns that the test results may be unreliable. Um…if a 4 is an A, 3 is a B, 2 is a C…what’s changed? Are parents going to have more faith in a school that has 3 “3”‘s and 3 “2”‘s than one that is considered a “C” school? Are the schools that have “3”‘s going to suffer consequences? In my opinion, this a flagrant violation of the intent of the legislation that was passed this year.

Further cementing my opinion is the fact that scores will not be available until… wait for it… December. Please explain to me how scores from last year that are not available until midway through the current year will help parents and communities have robust conversations about the strengths and weaknesses of their schools. Once again, personal agendas trump what’s best for kids and families. This reeks of stuff my kids would pull and then defend by saying, “Technically…”


The rumor mill is grinding on imminent departures and arrivals.  Some have voiced doubts to the veracity of DGW. Well, time shall tell and we shall see. I just report what I hear. Well, not everything I hear. Lucky for some.

P.L. Thomas is a former South Carolina high school teacher who now teaches teachers and writes a blog. His latest is called Everything You Know is Wrong. I consider it a must read, but I may be wrong.

Interesting budget news – at the end of each fiscal year, MNPS is required to provide final budget projections to Metro City Council. Word is that there was an increase in three areas of fixed cost spending: Health insurance, MDHA, and Charter school enrollment. What that translates into is a need to ask Metro Council for a nice round number of $3.5 extra to close out this year’s books. Everyday I’m shuffling.


A modest response to this week’s poll questions. To those who participated, I thank you. Let’s review.

This week we graded the MNPS Chief’s performance over the last school year. First up is frequent flier Dr. Sito Narcisse. Based on poll results, I would say he’s not the only one hoping he gets a new job. Out of 112 responses, 67 of you answered that you were not sure what he did last year. 17 of you wondered if he still worked here. 1 person gave him a solid “B” or as the TNDOE likes to say… a “3.” Not exactly results that would lead to another district beating down the door to make him the number 1 guy. Here are the write-ins:

Fail 1
He’s the guy not hiding the fact that he wants out 1
He’s horrible…”Am I making this up?” 1
Still did not address issues at my school so F 1
Less then average. He knows it. Smoke & mirrors touted as truths & run for better 1
Talks a lot of BS and can’t make a firm decision. 1
If his role is Dr. Joseph’s hype man, then he knocked it out of the park… 1

Next up is fellow transplant Dr. Monique Felder. Interestingly enough, there seems to be a softening in opinion around Dr. Felder. Out of 109 respondents, she managed to receive 13 votes that could be considered positive. Now that pales in comparison to the 64 that volunteered to help her pack to go home. Still, that is a more positive response than in the past, so maybe, just maybe. Here are write-ins:

Who? 2
Who’s she? 1
If she is a leader, shouldn’t we have heard something positive from her? 1
if she knows so much, why hire all those consultants? 1
Plans look good on paper but what about the execution? 1
Rumor has it that she is basically doing all of Dr. J’s work for him but also ha 1
Poor communicator. Still gets nervous talking in front of people. 1
Don’t let Austria ruin the only functioning MNPS dept 1
Another loser!

Last poll was for the hometown boy, Chris Henson. Doesn’t seem like playing on the home field has helped him much, as out of 107 responses, 70 asked if we could have the old Chris Henson back. I got nothing to add that. After the way he’s taken point on the lead in school drinking water issue, I lost faith. Here are the write-ins:

Who’s he? 1
If you only knew how bad he really is… 1
If he guts and another job, he should tell Joseph to cover his own butt 1
He has changd—and not for the better 1
Partner in crime with Dr. Joseph if you ask me. 1
He’s gone to the dark side 1
He is their puppet. 1
I bet he can’t wait til the MD crew is out. 1
Snake oil salesman 1
he’s a puppet 1
He’s been awful for years

And that’s a wrap. Hope y’all have an awesome week. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

I have started using Patreon as a funding source. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Just because Andy Spears is also on Patreon doesn’t mean you can’t support us both. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well. And if you are so inclined, check out my new campaign web page and sign up to help if you can.



Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city

Those words by the Lovin’ Spoonful seem to be the perfect summation of the past week in Nashville. A city where things seem to get hotter everyday.

Tuesday I joined a slew of teachers at TEA headquarters and went over to the Metro Courthouse for council’s hearing on this year’s city budget. In case you haven’t been following, Metro Nashville Public Schools asked for a $45 million increase in their share of the budget this year. Being a tight year, the Mayor’s proposed budget gives them $5 million. Metro council has the ability to amend the mayor’s budget and so they’ve been doing the heavy lifting of trying to find more money. At risk are raises for public employees.

There is no doubt that public education is underfunded. We continually ask for schools to do more with less and teachers continually go into their pocket to make ends meet. At the current funding rates, it is not a sustainable model and teachers realize it. That said, I still have questions.

So, say you come to me and you want to buy a new car with a high dollar stereo, rims, and hydraulics – you’re wanting to really trick it out. You tell me this car will cost $45k. I say, “Sorry I love you, but I don’t have $45k. Here’s $5k. Get yourself something a little more modest.” My thinking is that you’ll just cut out the stereo, rims, and hydraulics. Maybe you’ll look at a more affordable model or cut out some things in your current budget in order to afford the car you want, sans additions.

Instead you respond, “I can’t buy anything now because I already owe $25k and since you didn’t give me the $45k, I have to try and figure out how to pay that debt off before I can buy another car.”


So my question then would be, how were you going to originally buy that car for $45k, when obviously you needed $70k? Were you just not going to buy the additions to the car that you’d described and use the excess money for your debts? When were you going to disclose your debts? Why didn’t you strip the stereo, rims, and hydraulics out of your original ask and just ask for what your real need was? If I give you more money now, how do I trust you are going to use it for what you requested?

That in a nutshell is what has transpired as of late between MNPS leaders and the city. When told that they wouldn’t get their ask of $45 million, MNPS suddenly informed the public that the only getting $5 million would actually mean a $17 million shortfall. It would appear to me that the district actually needed $65 million, not $45 million.

I spent a couple hours on Monday hanging in the foyer talking to city leaders. I didn’t hear a single one say, “I hate teachers.” I didn’t hear a single one say, “Public school sucks and we shouldn’t give them a dime.” I did hear several say, “I’m just not sure that if we give extra money to MNPS that they’ll use it for salary increases or where they say they are going to.”

My answer to that one was, “Take a look around. See all the red? That’s teacher taking time to be here to stress the importance of funding public education. I think you can count on them to make sure the money gets used as intended.”

Furthermore, I don’t understand why the public is being asked to beg for money to fund a program that has proven successful in opening access for students, the paying of testing fees. We are talking about $1.3 million to make it happen and we’ve been repeatedly told that your budget is your public declaration of what you consider important. The only conclusion I can draw is that district leadership attaches higher importance to other items, but if the public wants to try and secure funding, so be it.

To say this has been the craziest budget season in years would be an understatement. It is coming to an end though. The fiscal year starts on July 1. Currently there is a plan for a slight tax increase, or adjustment, waiting for approval. Obviously I support any tax that increases teacher salary, but if I was a legislator I’d make sure that I fully knew where the money from a tax increase was going to be spent. Historically Davidson County residents don’t care for tax increases.

I’m told that if passed, the tax increase would provide enough revenue to pay for raises for all city employees. Let’s not forget that fireman and police officers are in the same boat as teachers and paraprofessionals. We have to take care of those that take care of us. If you have the time, and the inclination, I urge you to contact your council member and ask them to vote for the tax adjustment.


I could walk into MNPS HR today, without any training, and immediately start doing a better job then what’s being done. Dumpster fires are currently turning towards them and saying, “Hey guys, get your act together you are giving us a bad name.”

I don’t say that lightly, nor with any satisfaction. But the stories that have been told to me by teachers over the past month are just simply inexcusable.

  • Teachers who think they have an assignment getting an email telling them their new assignment.
  • Teacher’s being told that they have been terminated only to get an email 2 days later telling them that, “oops, we were mistaken.”
  • Teacher’s being encourage to seek out an assignment only to be told once they found an assignment, “oops, we made a mistake. You are on the ineligible to be hired list.”
  • Candidates confirming interview times only to be told, “oops, we made a mistake. You’re not getting an interview.”
  • Candidates not getting notice that they didn’t get the position applied for before the public is notified about who did get the job.
  • Highly qualified candidates being told by principals, “We’d love to hire you but can’t get HR approval. Maybe in a couple weeks.”

It’s just been endless stream of horror stories. On top of all that are the hiring freezes. The elementary school freeze was just lifted this week, but the Assistant Principal freeze is still in place. I know the majority of HR employees come from a medical background, so maybe they don’t know that school starts the first week in August. Hires need to be made by June 1. How many great teachers have gone elsewhere because they didn’t have the patience, nor the inclination, to play games with HR.

It’s awful nice that the administration brings donuts to teachers at schools and that NPEF lights up buildings to signify respect for teachers, but do you know what really makes teachers feel valued? Human resources not jerking them around. “Oops, I made a mistake”, constitutes jerking them around.

MNPS is currently hemorrhaging talent. Everyday I hear about another teacher who has gone to Wilson County, Maury County, Rutherford County, or Sumner County not to mention Williamson County. It is hard to retain talent when the city is pricing them out at the same time the district is treating them like a commodity. Hopefully, somebody wakes up soon because Nashville can not afford to lose more professional educators. News flash: once those educators are gone, they are gone for a long time.


Two weeks it was announced that executive director of English Learners Kevin Stacy was leaving the district. Luckily we have a talented administrator in Molly Hegwood ready to step up. Hegwood has worked side by side with Stacey for the last several years and is the very picture of competence. Shouldn’t be much to worry about right? Wrong.

There was a plan being floated, prior to Stacy’s departure, to bring EL teachers out of the EL department and put them under the curriculum department. Details, admittedly were sketchy, but the goal was to increase integration between the classroom teachers and EL teachers. The thought process being that virtually every teacher in MNPS would probably have an EL student in their class, so why not ingrain EL strategies in all teacher professional development?

On paper it sounds good, but as always the devil is in the details. If EL teachers were focused on supporting classroom teachers, when and how would they receive their necessary supports? If we focus on curriculum how much does language acquisition suffer? Why are making wholesale changes to a successful program, instead of just tweaking things? I suspect that between the heads of both departments greater integration could transpire without dismantling one department. So what’s the actual goal here?

Further complicating things is Dr. Joseph’s decision to promote to the position of Director of EL, Dr. Joie Austria. Dr. Austria came to Nashville with Dr. Joseph and she is absolutely and unequivocally the wrong person for this position. If you don’t believe me, talk to any teacher who works, or has worked, at Paragon Mills over the last 2 years. The culture she created at the school was nothing short of toxic.

Dr. Joseph likes to say we shouldn’t talk publicly about shortcomings lest they prove untrue. Well in this case, any charges are backed up by both her evaluation and internal results from the recently completed spring culture survey. Both paint a picture of a leader that is hurting their school. A school made up of a large percentage of English Learners.

I shouldn’t be surprised that district leadership is not only defending, but also promoting, a poor performing associate. It’s a pattern that has played out at Antioch HS, Sylvain Park ES, and Cumberland ES along with several other schools over the last two years. Again, light up all the buildings you want, but if you consistently allow associates to create toxic environments, teachers are not going to feel your love and they will not stick around.

About now you might be thinking, “Damn, Dad, you’re being harsh.” Maybe, but I’m tired of adult agendas taking precedence over what’s good for kids. I’m tired of people, in the name of politeness, implicitly supporting policies that are not only not good for kids but are actually hurting them. This support is doing real damage to the system and it is past time to start having honest conversations, before the damage is irrevocable. Once families and educators have checked out, they are not coming back.

In response to these recent developments a 21-member coalition of organizations that work with the immigrant community have sent a letter to Dr. Joseph respectfully requesting that they be involved in the process. Not an unfair request and one that Dr. Joseph, who espouses transparency and community engagement, should embrace.

Per the Tennessean, Dr. Joseph’s response indicated a deferral on action until after school was back in session. I don’t believe that response is a response that conveys the proper amount of urgency. My kid’s friends are made up of children requiring EL services. As a result, I’ve experienced their lives first hand and am familiar with the depth of their needs. Their needs are such that they can’t wait until “school starts” for the district to address required action.

Over the past several years, MNPS’s have come light years away from where they once were in regard to EL services. In Hegwood’s hands that progress can continue, but only if she is given the room to use her experience and knowledge to continue doing what has proven best for kids. She doesn’t need to be hampered by an under qualified associate of Dr. Joseph’s who was incapable of producing a culture of inclusion at a school. I urge anyone who cares about EL students to call their school board representative and voice their concerns.


MNPS’s Curriculum and Instruction department has been working overtime to improve their processes. As part of that initiative, they’ve revealed a brand new website. The site houses the district’s scope and sequence as well as other information pertinent to MNPS’s curriculum and instruction. I think it looks good and urge you to check it out.

This week MNPS loses a couple more long time associates. SEL coordinator Derek Williams announced that he is leaving the district to take another position with a local non-profit. Current Charlotte Park ES principal Amy Downey has also accepted a position outside of the district. Dad Gone Wild thanks them for their long term service and wishes them the best of luck.

It’s probably no secret that I’m not a huge fan of summer reading lists. Anything that turns reading into a chore, or competition, will never get my seal of approval. Education blogger Nancy Bailey echoes those feelings when she concludes a new piece by saying:

In the end, if one doesn’t like to read, they just won’t do it. And that means there is probably a real reading problem that requires fixing, or the student never really learned the great joy that can come from reading.

We can never lose sight that the goal can’t merely be that kids read on grade level, they also have to learn to appreciate the value of reading.

Local Education Blogger Vesia Hawkins is out promoting next weekends ProjectLit Summit and more. As always, I encourage you to give her a read.

Matthew Portell is a third-year principal at Fall-Hamilton ES, but you wouldn’t know that by the work he’s producing. It’s the work of a much more experienced principal.Portell is fast becoming the Jarred Amato of the SEL world. Few understand the needs, and policies required to meet those needs, better then Portell. Recently he wrote about why adults need social and emotional support as well.

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) recently announced its 2018-19 class of Tennessee Educator Fellows, and six Metro Schools educators were selected. Thirty-eight educators were chosen from across the state of Tennessee for the fellowship program. Congratulations to these fine educators. I’d be willing to bet there is a DGW reader or two in the bunch.

Steven Hale has an in-depth piece in the newest edition of the Nashville Scene that takes a look at North Nashville and it’s seemingly endless cycle of poverty. I’m pretty sure that this level of writing is what lead to Bill Freeman recognizing the Scene as a city treasure, one that he plans to protect by purchasing. I strongly encourage everyone to read this piece.

Quick up date on the “30 jobs cut at Central Office” meme. Three of those position are in the charter school office and are shown as being moved to special revenue. It’s been explained to me that state funds, due to a change in state law, will now fund those positions instead of local funds. So while those positions are off of MNPS books, do they really count as cut positions?

Rumor has it that a certain veteran coach and administrator has contacted a lawyer in order to continue to dispute charges leveled at him by the district. Lawyers and therapist certainly owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Joseph, as his policies have led to a financial windfall for both.

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. Don’t forget to answer poll questions. This week we evaluate the performance of district leaders. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

I have started using Patreon as a funding source. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Just because Andy Spears is also on Patreon doesn’t mean you can’t support us both. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well. And if you are so inclined, check out my new campaign web page and sign up to help if you can.



Last night I attended the Metropolitan Nashville Council meeting and spoke out on the pending budget. I’m not going to pretend that I was anywhere near as eloquent as those who spoke before and after me. Truth is, I’m pretty torn about the whole budget this year. What I’ve seen hasn’t been pretty, and I am not convinced that we are utilizing our current resources to the best of our abilities. I’m not sure we are taking the city’s financial situation seriously.

For example, MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph and CFO Chris Henson stood before the council two weeks ago and told them that the district had cut 30 jobs. The truth is most of those positions were currently unfilled, and those that were filled were held by either part-timers or people who made less than $35k a year.

Meanwhile, MNPS has added a new Chief of Staff – a position unfilled since November – at a $170k salary. They’ve added an Executive Director of STEAM, despite the initiative being paused and the position also being unfilled most of the year, at roughly $130k. They’ve hired a new Executive Officer of Organizational Development, another position unfilled since November, at roughly another $130k.

On top of that, MNPS still has an Executive Officer of Charter Schools making $155k despite the fact that charter schools really take no direction from the district. We have an Executive Officer of Equity and Diversity who makes a combined – between salary and stipend – $155k, despite nobody taking direction from her. We’ve got an elementary school principal who doesn’t hold a doctorate and has only been in the district for two years who makes as much as our highest paid high school principal. But again, I digress.

The point is, MNPS is still spending money at the same apparent rate despite the fact that paraprofessionals and teachers are woefully underpaid. That’s why I decided to speak last night. If district leadership won’t stand up for teachers, then the least I can do is lend my voice to their chorus.

During budget talks – well, actually at the last minute – Dr. Joseph cut the Reading Recovery program under the guise of a cost benefit. He said that the program was too expensive for the district. But I have to ask, what is expensive? I don’t know if Reading Recovery is expensive. I know it costs $7.5 million, and that is a lot of money. But what are its results and can they be gotten cheaper? I don’t know, but I do know that nobody has shown me a plan that produces the same results at a lower cost.

I also know that when we talk budgets and costs, we toss around numbers like they are unconnected to real live people. People whose lives are changed by these programs.

As we lined up to speak, I admit I cheated and tried to line up early. The guard chased me back a couple of times, and I noticed another young lady who was also repeatedly getting chased back. She really wanted to speak against the budget and it was clear the importance of this moment to her. After hearing her words, I fully understand why she so deeply felt the need to speak. We all need to listen just as deeply. Sometimes we need reminding that those numbers on the paper mean so much more than what we assume.

Here are her words:

“Hello everyone, my name is Maggie Kooperman. I would like to thank the members of the Metro Council for allowing me to speak this evening. Due to the extraordinary impact that Reading Recovery and Jill Speering had on my life, I felt the need to speak tonight regarding this matter. Everyone sitting here today would not have gotten to their current position without some help along the way. Be it a teacher, a parent, a friend, or in my case, my mother and a dedicated teacher who refused to give up on kids.

My story itself is not that unique, but it could have ended quite differently if it had not been for Reading Recovery. My elementary school’s only suggestion over my reading issues was to place me in Special Education. My mother knew that this was not the solution and began looking on her own to find someone or something that could help me, and that is when she found out about Reading Recovery, as well as one of the few people trained to teach this method at that time: Jill Speering.

My mother told Ms. Jill about my situation, including my school’s suggestion that I should be placed in Special Education. After testing me, Ms. Jill agreed with my mother that that was unnecessary. Through this testing Ms. Jill determined I was dyslexic as well. Something my family had always suspected. Within six weeks, I could read, I could write sentences, and I could actually understand what I was reading.

Upon my completion of the program, my own first grade teacher told my mother that in all of her fourteen years of teaching, she just witnessed her first educational miracle.

Due to my struggles prior to Reading Recovery, my mother felt that I had missed too much of the first grade, I did pass, but my mom knew that I needed a better foundation than what I had, so I repeated the first grade. Which I have always felt was highly beneficial. Which brings me to my next point; it is hard for me to understand the reasoning behind cutting the budget and doing away with a program that has had such life changing results for so many of its participants. I am only one woman, and when I was in Reading Recovery I was just one little girl. The impact that Reading Recovery had on my life has never gone away.

I graduated high school among the top of my class. After high school graduation, I attended Nashville State in the Pathways program, and saved a lot of money! I now attend MTSU, where I am currently on the Dean’s list, and will graduate in December of this year With a BS in History, and a minor in Paralegal studies. When my school decided to give up on me, Reading Recovery refused to do the same. When I began researching the current state of the program, I wondered if any other children almost fell victim to a situation like mine, or if mine was a thing of the past. While reading an article on News Channel Five’s website, I found a recent account of a child set to begin Special Education courses, until a teacher named Brandy Johnson began tutoring her in the program. According to this same article, this child is getting closer to reading on her grade level and is “confident in her reading.” I recall that same feeling of newly found confidence, and truly wish that more children struggling to learn to read in Metro Schools would get to benefit from this program and get to feel that wonderful sense of confidence that I and so many other children felt, upon our successful completion of this program.

So please, I urge all of you sitting here tonight, that have the power of life or death over this program, to please allow a program that has had such a positive, life changing effect, for so many people to continue doing the wonderful work it has been doing.

Thank you.”



It seems like you can’t hold a conversation these days about Metro Nashville Public Schools without also discussing race, class, and equity. On a lot of levels, that’s a very good thing. For too long, we’ve put our collective heads in the sand and hoped that the issues would solve themselves. We’ve perpetually focused on saying the right things, as opposed to doing the right things.

Few will argue that the American public school system has a long history of denying equal access to all children. Initially, schools were segregated. Even after desegregation became the law of the land, there was resistance. We’ve made progress, but take a look at the challenges facing newly-hired New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza as he takes office and tries to further desegregate New York City schools. Over 60 years may have passed since Brown vs Board of Education, but we still have a long way to go.

I think part of the issue is that so much of the past is still ingrained in the present. We are a society that likes quick fixes, and issues of race, class, and the role they play in creating inequities do not provide a platform for quick fixes. In the absence of a quick fix, we default to the strategy of taking from those who previously benefited from their majority status and awarding the benefits to those who were deprived. That doesn’t solve the issues; it merely shifts the benefits and creates a new set of inequities.

There is also a tendency to think about racism as a thing of the past, and some white people bristle at demands to address the past by claiming they had no part in it and therefore shouldn’t be held accountable. We act as if the past is this isolated bubble that has no tendrils to the present. Unfortunately, that is a misconception that prevents us from moving forward.

The ill effects of racism and class discrimination are still fresh within minority communities throughout the city. Many of the mothers and fathers of children currently enrolled in MNPS have felt the pain of policies rooted in racism. That pain is not one that is easily erased. While we should not remain tethered to the past, it is important that we acknowledge people’s experiences and how it affects their perceptions today. There cannot be an honest conversation without acknowledgement and acceptance.

By the same token, race shouldn’t be used as a means to defend bad policy. Especially when we are aware that said policy is hurting the very kids we be should be protecting. I’m constantly amazed at the number of members of the black community who, in private, recognize the shortcomings of the current administration, yet publicly, lend their voices to the chorus to defend and support the current Director of Schools. That fact alone should be a prime indicator of the complexities of the subject and how much work we have to do on all sides.

I’ve got a standing invitation to anyone who believes that my criticisms of the current administration are rooted in racism. Join me for coffee or lunch, and discuss how current policy is benefiting kids, and I will counter those arguments. I will never claim that I am completely free of bias because that is a claim none of us can make. We all bring our own biases to the table. Biases that are a summation of our individual experiences, which are unique to all of us. I am always willing to listen and learn if you are willing to share.

I’ll give you an example of bad policy that hurts the ones who need the most: the recent cutting of MNPS paying for all advanced placement tests. Why is the community having to show up and beg the Metro council to fund this line item? It’s $1.3 million and easily the most effective step the district has taken toward narrowing the equity gap. This would be like me showing up at football practice and saying we aren’t going to run anymore. It’s too hard. Why is the paying for tests not a non-negotiable? Is there really something in the budget that is more important? If so, please identify it for me because I don’t see it.

I wholeheartedly believe that Nashville needs a deeper conversation on equity, but we are missing a prime opportunity to have that conversation. With the arrival of Dr. Joseph, we had a real opportunity to start a break from the past and begin to forge a path forward. Whom better to lead the conversation than a career educator who has purposely chosen to make Nashville his family’s new home?

But he’s chosen the path of a politician over that of an educator. Does a math teacher separate a classroom full of students based on their understanding of math? Do they attempt to divide those students with greater understanding from those with lesser understanding and act disparagingly towards those who underperform? Or do they take extra time and employ extra patience to ensure that they grasp the principles in a manner that excites the student and encourages growth? It’s the politician who is focused on their agenda and uses every tool for self accomplishment over the betterment of the community. We needed the former, but we got the latter.

Unfortunately district leadership is continues to act in a manner that employs a divide and conquer mentality. Last week in the Tennessean, a letter to the editor appeared from Arnett Bodenhammer defending the Director of Schools on his choice of music played at a principals meeting. The letter acknowledges that Joseph should be subject to criticism, but raises the specter of racism being at the root of current board criticism. It’s a subtle attempt to paint certain board members in an unflattering light, and in turn, prevent them from asking the really hard questions. The questions that this administration has not been very good at answering.

Interestingly enough, a look at Joseph’s calendar for last week shows a meeting with one Art Bodenhammer. Hmmm… wonder what the subject was? Bodenhammer is a coach at Overton HS, so perhaps they discussed athletics. However, it’s a realistic assumption that the subject of Bodenhammer’s upcoming letter to the editor came up. One has to wonder what that conversation sounded like. The result is just one more missed opportunity.

Dr. Joseph recently updated the list of principal openings for the 2018-2019 school year. Of the 17 positions announced as filled, 14 went to African-American candidates. That certainly demonstrates a step towards the fulfillment our community’s commitment to making Nashville’s leadership ranks more diverse. On the surface, the hirings should be applauded.

This is where I reflect upon the lessons taught to me by Dr. Drinkwine. He reminded me that just because you have fewer white people or less wealthier families, you are not more diverse. Diversity means that ALL are represented. That ALL have a seat at the table. Equity means that ALL have opportunities afforded to one.

In looking at the principal announcements in that light, we see that there is not one position that went to a Hispanic candidate. Not one position that was filled by an Asian candidate. Not one that went to a candidate of Middle Eastern descent. This, despite all three demographics being well represented in MNPS.

Despite making up 25% of the population of MNPS, only two schools in the district are led by principals who are Hispanic. Central office previously had three positions held by people who are Hispanic, but one of those positions has been eliminated, so that lowers the number to two.

Ironically, one of the positions in central office is held by the MNPS Chief of Schools’ spouse, Maritza Gonzales. In 2013, Gonzales was hired by Prince George’s County Public Schools, MNPS’s Director of Schools former district, in response to a backlash from Hispanic community leaders over a perceived lack of response to the Hispanic community. Once again, today’s conversation has roots in the past.

Further complicating things are rumblings of a plan to move previous Paragon Mills Principal Dr. Maria Joie Austria to central office to fill a leadership vacancy in the EL department. Austria was brought to Paragon Mills from Maryland by Dr. Joseph upon his arrival. By most accounts, her tenure at Paragon Mills has not been successful.

What makes leadership think she’ll be any better at central office? While she does hold a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, she has limited experience in EL instruction. Experience that I would consider essential to any position in the EL department.

Austria’s promotion would align with the district’s move to an emphasis on first instruction. There is talk that MNPS is contemplating moving EL teachers into more of a support role than one of direct instruction. In the past, Austria has spoken of the value of that approach.

That move, if true, does raise several flags. MNPS’s EL department has been quite successful over the last several years, and at the root of that success is the commitment to striking a balance between supporting classroom teachers and supporting EL teachers. How would that practice continue? How would we ensure that EL teachers are getting the required level of support?

Curriculum is obviously quite important, but it can’t overshadow language acquisition. Just as language acquisition cannot overshadow curriculum. The state’s recent move to make all teachers who teach ANY EL kids WIDA-fluent adds a higher level of importance to an understanding of language acquisition instruction.

I don’t believe that it is an unreasonable concern to worry that promoting someone without a proven track record in language acquisition, and a spotty one in leadership, will hurt our kids. Remember, roughly 24% of MNPS kids require EL services. That does not just include Hispanic kids. What evidence do we have that Austria understands the depth and breadth of our EL population? If we are going make our school system truly equitable, getting EL services right has to be a key component.

Equity also has to encompass how we treat our teachers. By now I’m sure you are aware that the district cut 80 Reading Recovery teachers. In doing so, they applauded them as being the best and brightest in the system and guaranteed them employment for the 2018-2019 school year. Of course, nobody had a plan for what that employment would look like. The idea was floated that these specialists would just become classroom teachers and students would instantly benefit from their skills.

Here is a question for you: how many of you would rush out and buy season tickets to the Titans tomorrow if Mike Vrabel announced tonight that since his linebackers were the best players on the team, he was going to move them all to the receiver position. I can just imagine the phones lighting up at sports talk radio shows if he floated such a ludicrous idea. Yet, Dr. Joseph proclaims an equally ludicrous idea and public school “fans” just nod in agreement.

That makes me think for a second, we decry the emphasis on professional sports over education, but perhaps if we became as versed in public education policy as sport fans are in their chosen sport, we’d see fewer inequities. We have no problem second guessing the coach of a sport we’ve never played, yet balk at applying the same level of inquiry to an administrator who oversees an endeavor we’ve all participated in. You never hear anyone make the argument that questioning a professional coach’s judgement hurts his team’s performance, yet when it comes to education, that argument is considered an accepted truth. But I digress.

Back to our Reading Recovery teachers. It’s June so you’d expect that they would have an assignment by now. That would be a wrong assumption. As of Thursday, when MNPS sent a written reply to Metro council on the number placed, there were 26 still unassigned. Friday night around 6:30, teachers started receiving emails with their new assignments. Some of those teachers who received emails were under the impression that they already had assignments at other schools. For those who actually read the email, that led to a weekend filled with panic and uncertainty.

Let’s have a show of hands. Teachers, how many of you regularly check your MNPS email during the summer? Hmmm… that many of you? If you are going to manage a work force, shouldn’t you have a working understanding of their culture? What if a teacher didn’t check their email for several weeks? What kind of deliberation went into where a teacher was assigned? Once again, policy is being delivered that is more about “checking a box” than improving outcomes. Reading Recovery teachers placed… check.

Please understand that any conversation about equity has to include how we treat our professional educators. Schools are more than just the students who attend them. Cultivating diversity means attracting all types of people and providing all with equitable access.

Are we treating people in a manner that we would want to be treated? Are we providing for all kids in a manner that we would want our kids to be provided for? Are we supplying experiences for all kids that we would want provided for our kids? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then our system is not equitable. It’s a simple measure. You cannot have equity if one group is treated with preference over another. Again, it’s a simple equation. In order to find true equity, we are going to have to search a little harder.


Look’s like a recent transplant from Boston is on the move again. And with that, there are now 2 EDSSI openings.

Come say your piece on Tuesday on why Metro council should increase funding to MNPS. I’m torn on this one. There are things that remain in the budget in lieu of things I feel should be cut. There are positions that are still funded in the budget despite lack of evidence that they are needed. Yet as long as teacher and support staff salaries are in play, I’ll lend my voice. Bring yours.

Is anybody else wondering if Dr. Joseph will make an appearance at tomorrow’s public hearing or if he’ll just stay in Chattanooga and let the public make his plea?

The national blog Russ on Reading just hit the million reader mark. In honor of that, I want to share this post of his from 2016 on the non-negotiables of reading instruction. Read it and take notes. There will be a quiz later.

Congrats to two young women from MNPS who were awarded Sportswoman of the Year at the annual Tennessean sports awards banquet. Job well done, ladies!

Over the weekend, it also came to DGW’s attention that Derrick Williams has decided to accept a position outside of MNPS. Derrick is truly one of the good guys. I don’t know how long we can keep losing people of his caliber without anybody noticing. The hits just keep coming and the band keeps playing. Thank you for your service, sir.

Did you know that MNPS used to have a compensation specialist? Did you know that job has been unfilled for almost 2 years? Just saying.

Has anybody seen the MNPS spring climate survey? It must be hanging out with the MNPS school board’s director evaluation.


Thank you to all who participated this week. Participation remained high, though the number of write-ins was lower than in previous times. Let’s look at the results.

The first question asked how you would feel if the state created a mandatory Outdoor School. 71% of you expressed an openness to the idea. 19% considered it a waste of resources. Interesting. Personally, I think it would do everyone a world of good. We could all use a little more appreciation of the natural world. Her are the write-ins:

we have bigger problems; how about reading books? 1
For this type of thing to be meaningful we have to lose our test score focus. 1
I believe the District’s money can be used to fund more pressing needs, Raises 1
It would be nice in ALL schools 1
Awesome idea- once upon a time we had School in the Woods. It was amazing!

Question 2 asked for feedback on teacher attrition and whether MNPS would see more or less this year. Out of 125 responses, 77% of you indicated that the numbers would be rising. 14% of you indicated that the number would be about the same as in previous years. Three of you said that fewer teachers were leaving. Here are the write-ins:

They are trying but there are only so many jobs in other counties 1
We are losing so many great people.

The last question asked for your opinion on morale within MNPS. 56% of you indicated that it is worse than ever, with 18% of you referring to it as polarizing. How many times and how many ways? Not surprisingly, 3 people indicated things were getting better. Here are the write-ins:

Good at schools with strong leaders, struggling for district level leadership​ 1
Staff is scared to death to speak up. Lots of bullies. 1
Depends on your location

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

I have started using Patreon as a funding source. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Just because Andy Spears is also on Patreon doesn’t mean you can’t support us both. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well. And if you are so inclined, check out my new campaign web page and sign up to help if you can.



I’m going to ask for a little indulgence today. You see, I coach my son’s 7-9-year-old Little League baseball team, and yesterday we won our first tournament game in what I can only describe as a matchup of epic proportions. I may be a little hyperbolic, but the win has made me a little reflective.

Baseball, as a sport, has fallen a little out of favor over the last several years. It’s a sport that moves at its own pace, and in a world where we demand immediacy, not everyone has the patience for the game. It’s a simple game: throw the ball, catch the ball, hit the ball. But colored within that simplicity is a complexity that requires knowledge in order to compete at a higher level, not dissimilar from the game of life.

Every spring, teams assemble. A few of the players have played on other teams, but there are many new faces and units must be built anew. Excitement is high and the possibilities are endless. As things come together, there is a feeling-out period where you start to get a sense of what the script for the season will look like. Will it be success out of the gate or will it take a while to hit full stride?

The boys are shy around each other as they try to get a sense of what kind of teammates they have and what their role will be in the overall dynamic. For some players, their role will become clear almost instantly. Others will search longer to find their niche. In a worst case scenario, some boys will go the whole year without finding their place. As a coach, I work hard to prevent that scenario from transpiring.

For my son, this was to be a transitional year. He would be moving up to the next level. He’d been accustomed to being one of the best players on the team, but where would he fall in this new age bracket? The past provides no guarantees.

The season starts and after a few games, a picture of the team emerges. It’s clear that it’s going to take a while for this entity to gel. They struggle with some of the mental aspects. They can hit the ball, but they don’t run to first as hard as they could, so they are often thrown out. They are young, so they don’t always listen to their coaches as they should, which results in missed opportunities.

In the field, the throws to first are often wild. Balls are frequently thrown to the wrong base and opposing teams score off these lapses in judgement. Fielders hold the ball because of an inability to make a decision, which results in more runs being scored. Physically, the team is not overmatched, but other teams are more experienced and better versed in the complexities of the game. There is a learning curve.

My son, Peter, struggles. In my overzealousness to make him as prepared as possible for the season, I took him to the batting cages several times. There, he faced 40 mph balls being pitched at him. A speed that he wasn’t mentally prepared to face nor a speed that he would face in games. The result was a timidness that had never existed took root and his timing was way off. During the first several games, he failed to make contact with the ball, repeatedly striking out, a situation that was unfamiliar to him.

The game had also stopped being fun for Peter. He and I were often at odds. I felt he wasn’t focused enough, nor trying hard enough. He thought I was a jerk.

As the season progressed, the kids continued to work. They discovered that they liked each other. They had fun together. They learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Fathers began to pitch in and help. I’ve never employed a very formal assistant coaching system. I really don’t assign roles and welcome any, without qualification, who want to help. Slowly, kids gained confidence, skills became more proficient, and games became closer.

I decided to make a complete switch in my approach with Peter. He doesn’t respond well to yelling, so I did my best to refrain from yelling. Okay, I admit I wasn’t always successful. I am a work in progress. His timing began to return and he started to become intrigued by the mental aspects of the game. He loved his teammates and reveled in the time spent with them. Things were getting fun again.

As the season closed, we began to win games. Kids who weren’t hitting at the beginning of the season were now making contact. Balls were thrown to the right location with increased frequency. Several times they were down in games only to come back and win. They developed confidence in both their skills and their teammates.

Peter’s timing was also improving and he was getting on base regularly. He’d always been the kid who was overactive. The one who would cover both the pitcher’s mound, center field, and everything in between. A trait that was both a blessing and a curse. As the season progressed, he became less out of control and began to exhibit more faith in his teammates and a deeper understanding of the game. Instead of his energy being a detriment, it was developing into an asset.

Yesterday’s game actually started the day before. In the first inning, the boys were completely out of sync. They were missing routine throws, failing to field balls, and making poor decisions. As a result they were down 6-0 at the end of the first inning. They only managed to score one run during their time at bat.

They took the field at the top of the 2nd with a renewed sense of confidence. As a result, they only allowed one run to be scored. That’s when the rains arrived. The storm hit and play was halted. It would resume the next day, with my Rangers down 8-1.

When play resumed the next day, it was anyone’s guess how it would go. Peter was up first and after fouling off a couple of foul balls, he drove one to mid-right center. That led off an inning in which we’d cut the lead by just one run. The next inning we scored 7 runs and took a 1-run lead.

Over the next couple of innings, the score flip-flopped as both teams played stellar defense. The last inning found us down by three runs.

The opposing team managed to put our first two batters out. We were one out from losing, and up to bat was a young man who had struck out twice today already. This was going to be different though. He got a hit that sparked a 3-run rally, and we were going to extra innings. An important lesson on not allowing past shortcomings to hamper the future was learned.

Our defense held them to one run. All we needed to win was two. We scored one run and then got an out. The next two batters got hits and we found ourselves with a runner on second and third and one out. Peter was up next.

The first two pitches I threw to him, he swung at wildly. “Concentrate!” I shouted. Didn’t he realize what a big moment this was for him? This was a chance to win the game and be a hero. Why was he squandering it?

Looking at him, it quickly became apparent that I was doing it to him again. My perceived effort and motivating were actually having a counter-effect. His body language indicated that he was in the process of shutting down. I was leading him down the path of failure instead of helping him find his own path of strength. It was me who needed to focus, not him.

I took a deep breath and thought to myself, “We will either win this game now or we won’t. He’ll either shine in this moment or he won’t. But this moment is not life-defining. It is just one snapshot of who he is and who he will potentially become. I am fostering my hopes, fears, and desires on his shoulders, and I need to stop.”

I smiled at him and said, “Just relax. Let’s get this. He promptly cracked his hardest hit ball of the season to right center. As the ball rolled to the fence, the winning runs crossed the plate. Peter’s joy was unbound and his teammates embraced him as they celebrated the win.

It was one great moment in a game of great moments. Watching our shortstop leap in the air after making a put out at first with a strike. A throw and a catch that had never been a gimme. Watching our center fielder barrel down the first base line intently focused on the bag after a season of oft being thrown out because he watched the ball he’d hit. Watching our third baseman, who’d made an error on a previous play, cleanly field a hard hit grounder and then step on the bag for the out. These are all the little moments that seem so insignificant but are really mile markers. They were matching physical skills with mental insight, a winning combination.

As we gathered after the game, I couldn’t have been prouder of these young men. They’d learned to work as a team. To trust and encourage each other. They learned that everybody brings different talents to a game and success is based on melding those talents together. They’d seen that by sticking with a task and retaining a positive attitude, success could be achieved.

They also learned that failure wasn’t permanent. Our hard-hitting first baseman hit a monster shot to centerfield only to be thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. His next at bat, he hit it deep again and this time made it to second.

It is not only through sports that kids learn these lessons. Through music, band members have similar experiences. Forensic teams, the same. These lessons learned, and more like them, are all so important, yet we lump them under the dismissive title of extra-curricular activities. I would call it part of a well-rounded education.

The lessons don’t just apply to kids either. They are there for adults as well. How often have I heard a frustrated teacher say administrators are critical over a student’s achievement level while failing to acknowledge the accomplishments they had made? How often have we emphasized pace over acquisition? How often have we let our expectations lead a child down the path of failure instead of helping them find their path to success?

High expectations are wonderful except when they become debilitating. We need to always remember that education is a process. A lifelong process. One test score, one grade in a class, is not life-defining. I always tell my baseball team that it’s not the mistake or the shortcomings that should be the focus, but rather what you do after the mistake or the shortcomings. Those actions are what will define you.


For those of you keeping score, the official count of quality leadership that has exited the district over the last 2 years has now broached the 50-people mark. Yep, 50 people who held leadership positions in MNPS are now plying their craft elsewhere. They are leading departments at universities, establishing state outdoor education programs, working with national consulting companies, leading other school districts and schools. In other words, others have recognized what MNPS leadership has failed to recognize – there was a lot of quality in MNPS.

Now that the cupboard is starting to become bare, here is your homework assignment. Name me one replacement who is better than the person they replaced. Good luck and I’ll check back with you next week.

Speaking of former MNPS leaders. I don’t know if it’s official or not, but from what I hear, former Eakin ES principal Tim Drinkwine will be the new principal at Mount Pleasant Middle School in Spring Hill. The high school is headed up by former Maplewood AP Ryan Jackson who is making headlines with his STEAM initiative. The two working together could be dangerous. Former Maplewood HS principal Ron Woodard is the Number 2 person in the district.

Speaking of Tennessee Teachers of the Year, the TNDOE announced its 9 finalists for this year. Unfortunately there are no MNPS teachers among the finalists. That means that no state teachers of the year will be working in the district since this year’s TOY Cicely Woodard will now be working in the Franklin Special School District.

It does appear that Dr. Narcisse will be with MNPS again next year. This week, Newark named Roger Leon as their new superintendent. Interestingly enough, the Newark School Board originally tapped Leon in 2015, but was under state control at the time and their decision was overruled. Chalbeat Newark notes:

The board’s decision to again tap Leon seemed to signal a definitive break from the era of sweeping, controversial changes enacted by outsiders — namely, Cerf and his predecessor, Cami Anderson. Instead, after the state ended its decades-long takeover of the district in February and put the board back in charge of the schools, the board’s choice for superintendent suggests that it will rely on local talent and ideas to guide New Jersey’s largest school system in the new era of local control.

Of further interest is an article in Chalkbeat Colorado that discusses the realization in Denver that progress towards their lofty goals is a little slow. Me believes there is some reassessing going on across the country. As voiced by board vice-president Barbara O’Brien:

“We’ve got to get past this chasing the shiny object and focus on some key things that will benefit kids and teachers and implement, implement, implement, (and then) come up for air and see where we are, and learn and go forward harder.”

From her lips to God’s ear.

Last year, the Oregon State Legislature passed a law that used a portion of lottery receipts to fund outdoor school for all 5th and 6th graders in the state. The initiative was designed to “get our next generation of leaders off the couch and out into Oregon’s great outdoors.” They needed a leader to head things up, so they came and grabbed then-MNPS Director of STEAM Kris Elliot to lead the initiative. The program is off to a fantastic start, which leads me to two wishes. One, I wish Tennessee had a program like this. And two, can we have Kris Elliot back?

The Volunteer State turns 222 years old today! Happy Tennessee Statehood Day!

Remember, if you can, your presence is requested at the courthouse to speak out for public education on Tuesday, June 5th.

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. Don’t forget to answer the poll questions. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

I have started using Patreon as a funding source. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Just because Andy Spears is also on Patreon doesn’t mean you can’t support us both. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well. And if you are so inclined, check out my new campaign web page and sign up to help if you can.



I hope everyone had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend with the right mix of reverence and revelry. The Webers continued their holiday tradition of throwing the kids in the car and taking a road trip to parts unknown.

This past weekend, we visited friends near the Tennessee River and introduced the kids to the joys of a good old fashioned swimming hole. We enjoyed a fantastic burger at the Danville Depot. If you are ever in the area, I urge you to patronize it. Don’t be intimidated by the exterior; it rivals any of the grass-fed burger joints in Nashville. We rounded out our day trip with a stop in Clarksville. It was a day well spent.


Last week, MNPS leadership presented their proposed revised budget to the Metro Council. In the audience was a sea of teachers wearing red to signify support of public education and urging council members to fully fund the budget. This year, being a lean one, adds a sense of urgency to the plea. As the budget stands, MNPS is slated to only receive an extra $5 million, which leaves them $17 million short of breaking even. This shortfall means that, once again, teachers will not see a raise in pay.

While a significant part of their concern is raises, equally significant for teachers is the chronic underfunding of schools, which translates into schools with inadequate facilities, the use of out-of-date textbooks or none at all, and the inability to adequately staff schools. Somehow in the process of becoming the “It” city, Nashville lost sight of the fact that schools are every bit as important as convention centers, stadiums, and arenas.

Talk has already begun surrounding the updates needed for the Titan’s stadium and the need to create a bond to pay for those upgrades. Funny though, I haven’t heard a single politician or community leader talk about taking out a bond to pay for bringing all of our schools up to par. We’re not talking about creating state-of-the-art spaces here; just ones free of mold, free of lead, and all inclusive so kids no longer need to walk in and out of the building to portables in all types of weather.

Some have questioned the timing of the Metro Nashville Education Association (MNEA)-aided action. Initially there was some question as to what impact it would have on Briley’s campaign for mayor. Now it centers on whether it is appropriate in a year where there really is no money and other city employees also have pressing needs. On reflection, I would counter that I don’t know if there is ever a “good” time to make demands. Perhaps putting the city on notice will also catch the attention of state leaders and they will finally fully fund the BEP.

I do think it would be helpful if representatives of SEIU, the FOP, Firefighters, and other like-minded organizations bonded together. It’s no secret that there is strength in numbers and that by working together, a positive message of keeping Nashville focused on Nashvillians could be sent. I am sure that support from NOAH would be welcome as well. The growth of Nashville has been very welcome, but if we price out those who keep the city running, that growth won’t be sustained.

Inside the chamber during the presentation of the budget, things progressed about as expected. There were some hard questions asked and some answered. One highlight for me was when neither Director of Schools Dr. Joseph nor Chief Operating Officer Chris Henson knew the answer when asked about people being paid above and beyond what the pay schedule stipulates. In case you don’t know, MNPS operates on a pay schedule based on education level and years of service. Several recent transplants from Maryland are paid significantly higher for their services than the pay schedule dictates.

This question should not be a mystery to either Joseph or Henson as it was recently raised at budget committee meetings by MNPS board member Amy Frogge. Several months ago, I raised the question with Henson and was told that the Director had the right to dictate the level of pay how he desired. “Ah, so you mean the pay schedule is arbitrary?” I responded. He bristled at that and then reassured me that it wasn’t, but that the Director could set the rate of pay how he liked. Arbitrary: based on or determined by individual preference or convenience rather than by necessity or the intrinsic nature of something. Okay then. Let’s look at some more highlights.

Council Member (CM) Jacobia Dowell asked about the decision to cut the paying of fees for advanced exams. She wanted costs and success rates for the tests. Henson responded that we are reducing the budget by roughly $750k, but the actual number needed to pay for the tests would be higher. I’ve heard the number $1.3 million bandied about. That means the initiative is working. By paying the fees associated with testing, the district is attracting kids who normally would not look at participating. The fact that the number has grown that high is a testament to the necessity of paying for these tests.

As far as scores go, it’s my opinion that emphasis should not be placed there yet. To be honest, the results are not very good, but please remember we have increased access. Many kids are being exposed to these advanced academic offerings for the very first time. I wouldn’t expect scores to be great. I have no doubt that over the next several years, results will improve. The important thing right now is that if we are committed to diversity and access, our emphasis should be on access. Results will follow.

Dowell also asked about the feasibility of giving raises to only those who make under $100k a year. Henson demurred, saying he didn’t currently have that information but would work to get it. Dowell thanked him and reiterated her commitment to help those who are being priced out of Nashville.

CM Davis asked for some confirmation that Reading Recovery teachers would indeed have jobs. He got a very terse reply of “yes.” No further explanation was offered.

CM Pulley raised the need to raise salaries for paraprofesionals. He also got Henson to admit that due to low pay, the district has a hard time filling these positions.

CM Bob Mendes asked for further explanation on the $14 million in cuts. Henson explained that much of those cuts came from the areas of Human Resources, teacher recruitment, SEL support being scaled back, and nursing services. Mendes followed up by asking if Joseph considered teacher recruitment essential. Joseph gave a bit of a rambling answer, but confirmed that the positions cut for recruitment were essential, and that currently we don’t have the capacity to reply promptly to emails and fill spots in a timely manner. It was all very confusing.

Joseph then donned the robe of teacher defender and proceeded to argue the need for compensating teachers. He raised the specter of a staff that is overworked, overstressed and undercompensated. He proceeded to describe how he added counselors to the budget in order to benefit teachers as well as students. When this exchange was initially relayed to me, I thought he might have been joking. He wasn’t; the information was offered with a straight face. I guess he forgot that teachers’ mental health services are covered by their health insurance and not by school counselors.

Joseph went on to state that you can’t have high expectations and not high support. He said he’s pushing teachers but we need to support them. All of this would be a lot easier to swallow if, last year, Joseph hadn’t made teachers fight for their 3% raise and if his administrators hadn’t attempted to implement heavily-scripted curriculum. The emphasis last year was placed on programs, when it should have been on people. In other words, if Joseph’s actions had matched his words, teachers would have been leaping to their feet and applauding. The fact that there was little response should be considered very telling.

One area that kept popping up in this presentation was textbooks. Joseph stated numerous times during his presentation that he would like to put money back into that area. It’s a head scratcher for me because two years ago, the budget allocated $3,093,100 for textbooks, and we only spent $346,624. This year, the budget allocated $2,257,000 and as of May 20, we’d only spent 19.2% or $433,127. Henson did offer some explanation: each year’s budget is reflective of the required textbook adoptions, and that for the last several years, the areas of adoption were not very expensive. This year, the areas are Science, Fine Arts, and Health/Wellness. I appreciate the explanations, but would ask, where did the excess money get assigned?

CM Sharon Hurt had questions on Reading Recovery and what effect the budget cuts will have on the tremendous growth under Dr. Joseph’s leadership. Joseph responded by reiterating that Reading Recovery was cut due to his emphasis on first instruction over remediation. Two notes here. One, if you are going to toss softballs during a budget hearing, you probably ought not to commandeer a budget committee meeting earlier in the week. Hurt’s agenda is crystal clear, and I would challenge her to outline and explain her definition of “tremendous growth.” Second, Reading Recovery is not remediation. So if you are trying to try to sell your action as not being retaliatory, you probably ought to get your terms right.

CM Bedne asked Henson and Joseph to run the numbers for immigration training for all teachers. Joseph replied that MNPS is committed to educating all students regardless of immigration status. Bedne said that was not sufficient and reiterated his request for the district to run the numbers.

CM Karen Johnson drew attention to the mystery of the 30 jobs cut from the budget and what was going to happen to Reading Recovery teachers. Joseph and Henson both danced around the RR question with more word salad about first instruction. Johnson then asked about the current number of vacancies in the district. The answer to that one was a firm, “We’ll get those numbers to you.” How is it possible that number is not readily available? I guess they just didn’t like saying 500 in public, or maybe they don’t trust the MNPS job site either. Johnson ended her questioning by stating the importance of getting raises to classroom teachers and support staff.

CM Mina Johnson asked about the approximately $400k remaining in the advanced academics budget. She wanted to know who would benefit from this line item. After some initial confusion, Henson said he’d get back to her. She then proceeded to question the STEAM contract line item. This resulted in a lot more dancing. If you get a chance, I’d watch Johnson’s questioning. It starts at about the 2:06 mark and it produces quite a few “We’ll get back to you” replies. Johnson also makes it a point to recognize the teachers in attendance.

CM Antoinette Lee points out that those teachers participating in health insurance would be taking home less pay next year. Henson confirms. Lee also points out that step increases are not raises. They are built in to the salary schedule and therefore considered expected salary. Thank you, CM Lee.

CM Dave Rosenberg also asks about the number of Reading Recovery teachers placed. That produced yet another “We can get that number for you” reply. Rosenberg also asked why, last year, Joseph considered Reading Recovery a miracle and this year not so much. In response, the “first instruction” speech gets trotted out yet again. In other words, the question doesn’t get answered. This answer actually trots out all of the buzz words: “data driven,” “strategic plan,” “people hold on to plans,” “never a wrong time to make right decision.”

Rosenberg also asks about the enrollment shortage and what steps were taken when the district learned they were going to be short. Henson says they waited until January to be sure of the numbers before taking adjustment steps. Which is interesting, because money was swept back from individual schools based on enrollment numbers back in September.

Further, Rosenberg asks about culture and steps that have been taken to improve culture. In response, Joseph cites the teacher voice sessions. He refers to them as unstructured opportunities for teachers to share what was on their mind. Huh? I attended at least one session and they were anything but unstructured. Teachers were instructed to speak on two questions: “What is working?” and “What resource do you need?” Not exactly, “Whats up?”

Joseph then goes on to take a couple of shots at board members and critics Jill Speering and Amy Frogge. Apparently, publicly criticizing two board members for publicly criticizing you leads to resolution. Who knew?

All in all, council members reacted very favorably towards Dr. Joseph, and all publicly voiced a commitment to public education. They asked hard questions, but fair questions. Henson and Joseph were able to answer most questions, though several times I wanted to stand up and say, “Good God, man! What are you talking about?” The next step takes place next week when the public will have a chance to weigh in on the city budget. Everyone is invited down to share their two cents. It’ll be interesting to see what transpires.


I finally received a list of the 30 positions being cut at central office and the name of who is currently holding the position. As suspected, the list is made up of a lot of positions that have remained unfilled this year. One name and position, however, jumped out to me, Allison Buzard. Allison was the Coordinator of Equity and Diversity. According to the organizational chart, she was the sole employee that reported to Maritza Gonzales. As that sole employee, the amount of work she did with the Equity and Diversity University this year was nothing short of exemplary. Buzard is now working at Trevecca University and has added her name to the long, and still growing, list of quality former MNPS educators plying their trade outside of MNPS. These losses are going to cause some pain.

Children need healthy food all year long, which is why Metro Schools is sponsoring a summer meals program. During the school year, many children receive free and reduced price breakfast and lunch through the School Breakfast and National School Lunch programs. When school lets out, many of these children are at risk of hunger. Hunger is one of the most severe roadblocks to the learning process. Thank you, MNPS.

In a story that bears a striking resemblance to what is transpiring right here in Nashville, Chalkbeat Colorado has a story about gentrifying neighborhoods where new families don’t send their kids to the neighborhood school. A must read.

The Tennessee Dyslexia Advisory Council’s next meeting is Monday, June 4, in Nashville. It is open to the public or you can live stream it.

Make sure catch up with Jarred Amato and what’s next with Project Lit.

Keep your eye on this one…

English Learner (EL) Office Staff Changes—Kevin Stacy, Executive Director, EL Office, accepted a position in another district effective July 1, 2018. Molly Stovall, Director, EL, will be the interim Executive Director, EL, until further notice. Molly began her career as a general education teacher in MNPS in 2005. She became an EL Coach, EL Curriculum Developer and EL Coordinator in MNPS in subsequent years. Molly has worked closely with Kevin as the Director of the EL Office since 2014 where she provides direct support and supervision to EL Coaches and EL Teachers among other things. Both Kevin and Molly are working in tandem to ensure a smooth transition so that the important EL work continues moving forward seamlessly in the district.

We thank Kevin for his many years of service in the district and in wish him all the best in his new endeavor. We also thank Molly for her willingness to step into the interim Executive Director’s role for the EL Office. We will provide an update on next steps with permanently filling the Executive Director’s position in the EL office soon.

Whites Creek High School will soon be powered by the sun, thanks to the efforts of a student-led project in the Academy of Alternative Energy, Sustainability and Logistics. The school broke ground on a new solar farm in which students lead the design, installation and helped write the curriculum that will be used in the classroom this fall. The 40-panel solar farm is funded by more than $40,000 in grants from Piedmont Natural Gas and Ford Next Generation Learning. The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy also worked closely with Whites Creek to have the solar panels donated.

Nashville education blogger and social activist Vesia Hawkins has some thoughts on Roseanne Barr. As always, they are worth reading.



We had a lot of response to this week’s poll questions, and as always, your answers were very illuminating. Let’s dive in.

The first question asked for your opinion on the principal hiring process. To say you don’t like it would be an understatement. Out of 175 responses, 125 of you labeled it a “dog and pony show.” Only 1 of you stated that you loved it. I’d say that is definitive. Here are the write-in answers:

Can be vastly improved upon-all on the panel should be able to ask questions 1
Dr. Joseph ends up hiring who he wants, so why do we even have the process? 1
Total charade, as is the “AP Pool”… what a joke! 1
same as always: community process in name; top-down in practice 1
Not a fan based on who became the principal at my school. 1
It’s fair and transparent. 1
Another Joseph failure 1
They better not screw up the Pearl-Cohn hire.

Question two asked what you plan to read over the summer. Remember, we as a city are supposedly committed to literacy, and modeling is the most effective way of teaching. If you want to improve literacy rates, let kids see you reading. Personally, I’m just nosy about what people are reading. The number one answer was… the Bible, followed closely by Becoming by Michelle Obama. Here are the rest. I love the list.

As much fiction as I can 1
Leadership and Deception by… oh never mind. 1
Haven’t decided yet 1
My Reading Recovery Handbook by Marie Clay 1 – I need to get out of this district ASAP 1
An African American and Latinx History of the Unites States by Paul Ortiz 1
The books sent to me to review that I am behind on!!! 1
Next steps in guided reading 1
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 1
Surrounding county’s job postings 1
Trashy magazines 1
Anything by Mary Kay Andrews 1
The Soul of America by John Meacham 1
The Next Step in Guided Reading and Blevins’ Phone Books 1
Anything from Project Lit list

Question three asked for your vote for this year’s school board MVP. I don’t think that Dr. Joseph voted in this one because Amy Frogge got 85 out of 155 votes, Jill Speering got 55, and Tyese Hunter got 1. On second thought, maybe he… oh, never mind. Here are the write-ins:

None 1
None of them. Need a totally new board 1
Amy Frogge, Jill Speering 1
Tie between Frogge and Speeriing 1
I’m torn – Frogge & Pierce for very different reasons 1
TC Weber of course 1
Amy & Jill

For the holiday bonus question, I asked for career advice for Dr. Narcisse: what school district should he apply to next? Fifty-one percent of you suggested the soon-to-be vacant position in Prince George’s County Public Schools would be a good fit. This one garnered lots of write-ins:

Anywhere but here 3
Couldn’t care less 1
None, he is loved and appreciated here 1
Maybe he should get back to the job we are paying him for 1
No one deserves him 1
all of the above 1
one far, far away 1
All of the above 1
Anywhere not in Nashville 1
Obviously there is more background information on why is he trying so hard to leave 1
Just LEAVE! Take ALL that came with Joseph! 1
He should just stop the facade and find a new career that doesn’t not impact oth 1
Anytown, USA 1
Anywhere that gets him out of Nashville 1
He should try a classroom for a year. 1
Any as long as he leaves 1
wherever he goes, eyes wide open 1
I couldn’t care less. 1
Anywhere but here! 1
Anywhere they will take him. He needs to get the hell out of here! 1
Any District will do 1
Anywhere that’s not here. 1
Dog Catcher, but he’d be under qualified 1
All of the above and any others that open up 1
The Who cares consolidated ISD 1

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

I have started using Patreon as a funding source. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Just because Andy Spears is also on Patreon doesn’t mean you can’t support us both. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well. And if you are so inclined, check out my new campaign web page and sign up to help if you can.



It’s Friday, May 25, and the 2017-2018 school year is officially in the books. Teachers have to go in for a little bit and finish up some things, but for all intents and purposes, the year is done.

You might think that means things start to wrap up for me as well. Education blogger writes about school issues. No school in session. Should translate into no school issues, right?

Well, not so fast. There are still a lot of loose ends out there – budget issues, teacher salaries, school board races, school hirings, audits – that need unraveling and covering. So stick around. There is a lot more to come.


Lately, May seems to translate into principal transition month. Currently, Oliver MS, Pearl Cohn HS, Hillwood HS, Antioch HS, Haynes MS, Glengarry ES, Eakin ES, Apollo MS, Lakeview Design ES, Bellshire Design Center ES, Carter-Lawrence ES, John Early MS, and East Magnet HS are all in various phases of getting new leadership for the 2018-2019 school year. I suspect there will be more changes to come.

Upon Dr. Joseph’s arrival, the process for principal selection changed. Human Resources screen all applicants and recommend some to be interviewed by a non-partisan panel. The panel then utilizes a rubric that is created out of questions arrived at through public submission. The top two candidates are then forwarded on to Dr. Joseph for final selection.

On paper, the process sounds fantastic. You have community involvement. A transparent process. Everyone gets vetted. It checks almost every box on the list. The only problem is the process is a lot different in practice than on paper.

Right from the beginning, it has been a process fraught with criticism. Community members diligently participated only to find out their selections were repeatedly passed over, and someone they didn’t choose was elevated to the leadership position. Members of the panels started speaking out, saying that the whole process felt staged.

In response to these allegations, I filed an open records request for the panel notes to one of the recent principal openings. I assume that the notes for this school are indicative of the process districtwide. Out of respect for those involved, I’m not going to name names, but there are several areas of concern for me.

Let’s start with the makeup of the panel. The panel is supposed to made up of impartial members from the community, yet the one I looked at had an individual who had directly supervised one of the candidates and would be directly supervising the candidate selected. Feels like a vested interest to me.

Once seated, the panel is given a rubric made up of 6 questions, a place to write a rating, and a section for notes. What they are not given is a key to the rubric. What constitutes a “5” or a “4”? The lack of a key means that everyone is supplying their own definition of the ratings. Odds are that my definition of a “5” is different than yours. A key is essential to creating consistency.

In all fairness, based on talking to different panel members over the last year, there doesn’t seem to be a great emphasis placed on the rating of each question. The instruction seems to be that it’s just a guide and the emphasis is placed on the index card, where each participant lists their top candidates, which is turned in at the conclusion of all interviews. This is borne out by looking at the rubrics and noting that several panel members didn’t write anything down for ratings.

Nobody on the panel is afforded the opportunity to question a candidate. At the end of each interview, the panel makes a list on butcher paper of the “likes” and “I wonders.” I’m assuming this portion of the process is conducted to flesh out impressions. Panel members then write down rankings of candidates on the aforementioned index card, the card is turned in, and top two move on. In some instances, it’s been the top three.

My confusion starts and ends with the rubric. A rubric is an equalizer that forces people to justify their ranking. Using the key, you just rank each question, tally up the rankings, and whoever has the most points is the winner. I’ve conducted many an interview using a rubric and have often been surprised when who I thought would be the favorite ended up not being the favorite.

Using a rubric leaves little room for arguing with results. All candidates are subjected to the same questions from the same impartial panel using the same key. The score is the score and there is easily-produced evidence to justify the results. No need to write anything down on an index card. Just collect the sheets and add up the scores.

Now about that impartial panel. On the sheets I saw, the panel member who was a supervisor gave the candidate who ended up getting the job four “5’s” and two “4’s”. Sans a key, I have no idea how the supervisor produced such ratings for a candidate who has never held a principal position. My interpretation of those ratings would also indicate little room for growth by the principal candidate.

Can you see where this situation provides soil for a seed of doubt to grow? If the rubric was followed with fidelity, there would be a clear explanation of how ratings were arrived and little room left for questioning. I really don’t understand why you have a rubric if you are not going to use it.

Th question has been raised by several people, “Why even utilize this process? Why doesn’t the district match talent to need and just make the decision?” That’s a fair enough question. Though I’m partial to the community involvement method, I wouldn’t take exception to that method, though I would argue that you need to make a clear choice between one or the other. There is nothing worse than giving people the illusion of power and then destroying that illusion.

Here’s my last thought on principal transitions. I don’t understand why each school doesn’t have a succession plan in place. One that is updated annually. There should be an AP at every school who is being groomed to eventually become principal. Instead, we have this game of musical chairs that erupts annually as principals depart. We talk endlessly about the importance of stability and continuity, yet few of our practices reflect that priority.


By now, we’ve all heard about the cutting of the Reading Recovery program and the subsequent displacement of 81 teachers. All of these teachers were guaranteed jobs. Of the 81.5 cut, only about 30 have been placed.

But you know who else was displaced? Many of the teachers at Glenn and Caldwell Elementary Schools, as a result of this year’s merging of the two schools, have been left unassigned. They, too, were guaranteed jobs.

There are also quite a few teachers who are tenured but don’t have a position at the school they were at for 2017-2018 school year who should be on the displaced list.

As a result, HR has instituted a hiring freeze for elementary schools until the unassigned list is whittled down. Sounds like a great idea, except it kind of ties the hands of principals who have identified good fits for openings that aren’t on the list.

To complicate things, many teachers who were supposed to be on the displaced list received termination letters last Friday. Monday afternoon they received emails saying the letter was a mistake and confirming that they were on the displaced list.

The reports I’m getting also indicate that HR has been less than responsive during this whole process. I understand that they are understaffed and that volume is high right now, but, to use a restaurant analogy, has a diner not getting served ever been satisfied by the explanation that an establishment is understaffed and suffering from high volume?

I can’t help wonder how many potential candidates and current teachers are just throwing in the towel and seeking employment elsewhere. It’s never been my experience that quality people wait for you to sort out your complications. In fact, I’ve found that quality attracts quality. These are issues that really need to get straightened out and quickly.


During the revised budget process, MNPS leadership has continually bragged that they have cut 30 jobs from central office. This boast prompted me to ask the Communications Department what I presumed to be a simple question: can I have a list of those 30 jobs and the people holding those positions? I was promptly reminded that “assume” makes an ass of “u” and “me.”

Communications responded by providing me a link and telling me that the positions were listed on page three. Okay, I see 129 positions listed on page three, including the Reading Recovery teachers.

No, they patiently explained, if I take the 129.5 jobs and subtract the 18 positions added, I’ll get 111.5 positions cut. Subtract 81.5 Reading Recovery teachers and… voilà… 30 positions.

Okay, but… one of those positions, Coordinator of Charter Schools, is held by Carol Swann. Swann has done exceptional work for the district for years; are we cutting her? Oh, I see, her position is being shifted to Special Revenue along with the Executive Director and Senior Secretary of Charter Schools. So is that really a cut?

Pamela Burgess has been the acting Director of Family and Community Engagement for the last year and despite doing an exceptional job, the position is not being filled. Apparently, not filling the position permanently counts as a cut. Also on the list are three maintenance facilities employees and two furniture repair positions. I’m curious if those were positions that were currently filled.

You know who is not on the cut list due to the budget? The positions of Executive Director of Leadership Development. Both Vanessa Garcia and Terry Shrader received letters of termination due to budget cuts, yet those positions are not cited in the budget. You’ll remember this is the division headed by former Shawn Joseph associate Mo Carrasco, who left under allegations of sexual misconduct.

These cuts are a head scratcher. Their division just got new leadership in Sonia Stewart and its only members are Shrader, Garcia, and Shannon Black. So essentially, on May 2, the district hired an Executive Officer to oversee a division with almost no members and as far as I can tell, no budget.

Letting Shrader go completely from MNPS is an additional head scratcher. Ask anybody involved with Hillsboro HS over the last decade and they’ll describe his transformational  leadership. Last I checked, we had a high school in Southeast Nashville that needed transformational leadership. So… thanks Terry… appreciate the work… and more institutional knowledge exits the district.

Stewart isn’t the only hire coming on board either. We’ve hired an Executive Director of STEAM despite the initiative being paused and the position having remained unfilled most of the year.

There is also a new Chief of Staff coming on board in July. That position was previously deemed so essential that the person holding it was released mid-year despite having 5’s on their evaluation.

We’ve even hired a new temporary employee to help the Public Information Officer improve her performance. Though I will acknowledge that one may be a necessity.

Bottom line is that it doesn’t appear that much has actually changed. And to this untrained eye, the “30 jobs” meme appears to be just more smoke and mirrors.


This week, Director of English Learners Kevin Stacy tendered his resignation from MNPS. Stacy will be the new EL Director of a soon-to-be-named district. Over the last 3 years, under the leadership of Stacy, the EL department has made tremendous gains. Gains that did not go unrecognized by the Tennessee State Department of Education. MNPS’s EL Department is recognized as one of, if not the best, EL departments in the state. Recently, Stacy was asked to present at Great City Schools National Conference. Losing Stacy is, quite simply, a blow. Luckily, we have the exceptional Molly Stovall ready to step into the breech.

EL educational services has always been a priority to me. It was one area that I had initial concerns about upon the arrival of Dr. Joseph. That concern was solely because of the breadth and depth of our population. To say that I’m concerned about this transition would be an understatement. Hopefully, Stovall will receive the support needed so that she can perform the exceptional work she is capable of in a district where 23% of our students require EL services.

Speaking of English Learners, Candice McQueen issued a statement yesterday saying that schools can’t release students’ immigration status. “Our responsibility is to educate all students and keep them safe. We want every child to feel safe and wanted in their school, and we hope our district leaders will be proactive in sharing that message with their school communities,” McQueen said in the statement. Thank you, Dr. McQueen.

When I first started reading this post called “Explaining “Pet Sounds” and the Courage to Change,” I thought I was reading a piece on the making of a classic record. It’s that and so much more. I encourage all to read it.

This week, MNPS presented its revised budget to the Metro Council. I’ll talk more about that next week, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give a tip of the hat to those tireless teacher advocates who showed up in red to convince the council to fund the budget and maybe throw in a few bucks for a raise. Words can not express my admiration. Y’all rock.

I need to further mention that in Amanda Kail, Michele Sheriff, Laura Benton, Mary Holden, and Amy Leslie, MNEA has some terrific leaders for the grizzled director Erick Huth to help develop. Their passion and energy, coupled with his wisdom, could make a deadly combo going forth.

Weird budget hearing moment: No, I’m not talking about Chris Henson’s lips moving when Dr. Joseph answered questions. The idea of a 1% raise was floated. Let’s do the math. If we take $50K as an average teacher salary, I know that’s high… but let’s start there. That means that 1% would be an increase of $500 for the year. Divide by 26 paychecks and you get $19.26. Take out 20% of that for taxes and you get $15.41. $15.51 per paycheck or about the price of a half-dozen cupcakes. Are we in the business of symbolic gestures or meaningful change?

One other budgetary note. The paying of advanced academic tests and industry certifications should never have been cut from the MNPS budget. The number quoted in the budget is roughly $750,000. The truth is, the real number is actually higher because last year’s action has resulted in increased interest in these programs. To try to pass blame for the end of this program to any other entity than district leadership is disingenuous. Remember, your budget is your public declaration of what you deem important.

Unfortunately, based on federal requirements, the Community Eligibility Provision reimbursement program, which allows school districts to offer lunch at no cost to all students, is changing next year. Make sure you familiarize yourself with those changes.

Word on the street is that Franklin Special School District is getting a Tennessee Teacher of the Year-caliber teacher next year. Treat her right, folks, we’re going to want her and her family back. We are kinda partial to them. It’s just a loan. Please don’t become attached.

Are you curious about the status of the state’s lawsuit with Measurement Inc.? Chalkbeat TN has the answer.

Some folks are getting a little concerned about the new Tennessee Fine Arts Portfolio. As always, we turn to Andy Spears for answers.

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. Don’t forget to answer the poll questions. I even threw in a holiday bonus question. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

I have started using Patreon as a funding source. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Just because Andy Spears is also on Patreon doesn’t mean you can’t support us both. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well. And if you are so inclined, check out my new campaign web page and sign up to help if you can.



There is strategy that is used to fight wildfires out west; it’s called back burning. Back burning involves starting small fires along a manmade or natural firebreak in front of a main fire front. Back burning reduces the amount of fuel that’s available to the main fire by the time it reaches the burnt area. Back burning is utilized in controlled burning and during wildfire events. Sounds a little like what’s going on in MNPS as of late.

Over the last 2 months, a large conflagration has been burning, the budget process. To say that leadership’s performance on the budget process this year has been anything but abysmal would be an understatement. Figures were released late, multiple corrections had to be made, the information given was inaccurate, the district’s funding request was unrealistic, and last minute cuts that stunk of retaliation were enacted. All in all, it was a master’s class on how not to conduct a budgeting process for a large urban school district.

Bet you are thinking, “Whew, glad that’s over.” Problem is, it’s not over. We are still right in the middle of it. And things are not improving. Teachers are upset about the fact that they’ll be taking home less money next year due to rising health care premiums. Granted, premiums are only increasing by about $15 for a family next year, but it’s the principle of things. The perception of going backwards instead of forward.

Many of the other cuts are unpopular and the questions remain on how well the district has managed existing resources. Hence the need to start some back burning fires.

Early on in the budget process, frustrated by the inability to get clear answers on simple budget related questions, board chair Anna Shepherd and vice-chair Jill Speering called for an audit to be conducted by the Metro government on MNPS spending. In the shadow of the proposed audit, board member Amy Frogge also began asking probing questions about stipends paid to central office folks, money paid to consultants, adherence to contracting policies, adherence to the salary schedule, and spending in general. Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph and his team either refused to provide answers, provided incomplete information, or provided answers that were quickly proven inaccurate. Things quickly began to heat up.

In the absence of a credible counterargument, Joseph decided it was time to light some back burning fires. The first one was lit when one of his fraternity brothers, during public commentary in a budget meeting, accused the questioning board members of engaging in a “public lynching.” That was followed up by an appearance on Channel 5 Openline where he compared Amy Frogge to President Trump and his use of social media. Last week budget committee chair Tyese Hunter and Joseph brought several African American Metro councilwomen to speak at a budget meeting in order to chastise Jill Speering for her response to Joseph’s playing of inappropriate music at a principals meeting. The gist of the rebuttal was that Speering’s attacks were rooted in racism.

This week, the Tennessee Tribune jumped into the fray and printed an op-ed that painted Joseph as an honorable man hounded by “two privileged white racist female board members.” That’s a pretty serious accusation and one that should never be made lightly. I’m not sure why I should have to remind editors of a newspaper that words have meaning. Casually calling people “racist” because you don’t like their actions, much like comparing actions in a board room to a horrific real life crime, serves to paint people in an unfair and inaccurate light and potentially marginalizes the atrocities suffered by people like Emmet Till. Atrocities that should never be marginalized.

We are all of sudden more focused on “implied bias” and “cultural competency” than we are on the budget, results, and what we are actually doing for kids. I’m not downplaying the need to closely examine both racism and its impact on students and schools, but I must admit to being confused when board member Christiane Buggs, in a Facebook post, points to graduates being allowed to walk across the graduation stage to Drake’s “God’s Plan” as an example of “cultural competency.”

Since Drake is played continually on every Top 40 radio station and is, as such, arguably, part of the primary culture, which culture is he representing? Perhaps it’s the Canadian former child star culture. They are woefully underrepresented. There is a line in the song that says, “She said, ‘Do you love me?’ I tell her, ‘Only partly. I only love my bed and my momma, I’m sorry.'” At graduation, is it appropriate to be celebrating staying in bed all day at your mom’s house? I don’t know, though I would argue that is not a question of cultural sensitivity.

I’m being a little facetious here. I realize there are numerous references in the Drake song that I don’t understand because of culture. Also, would it be appropriate to play a sampling of the narcocorrido El Bazucazo? After all, nearly a quarter of MNPS students are Hispanic. What about “Dilan” by Rojda, a Kurdish singer who once served a prison sentence for a year and eight months all due to her “terrorist propaganda.” Nashville is home to the largest Kurdish population in America, so…

It appears that the conversation on appropriate music needs to go a whole deeper, huh? That’s not dissimilar from our equity conversation as a whole. In this light, we do need to be cognizant that our conversations should be to heal and unite versus divide and separate. None of us are born with a complete comprehension of race, culture, and its impact on our lives. It’s only through careful examination and inquiry that we can come to place where we can begin to shape a culture that is beneficial and inclusive to all. We all have different experiences, and we all have different inherent biases. Like in everything, balance must be acquired.

Etan Hein is a Doctoral Fellow in Music Education at NYU, an adjunct professor of music technology at NYU and Montclair State University, and a founding member of the NYU Music Experience Design Lab. In a recent blog entry called “Teaching Whiteness in Music Class,” he talks about the lack of inclusion of Hip Hop in music education and how it’s hurting students. There is a line where he talks about cultural competency that resonates with me:

Music educators can support the growth of ”culturally flexible” students (Carter 2010)who possess multiple cultural and are able to relate to people different from themselves. For students of color, that means understanding both their culture of origin and the dominant culture. For white students, it means becoming fluent in at least one other culture, and also recognizing that “their culture is just that—a culture, not the universal way, or the “right” way of doing things” (Ladson-Billings 2015, 415). “Whiteness” describes not just a group of people, but a social location, a symbolic resource “providing all those who [possess] it with the benefit of assumed knowledge and ability” (Lewis 2003, 126). It is crucial that we help students of all races to develop a critical awareness of how whiteness functions.

I believe that is a crucial challenge for all of us. But we can’t succeed if we quickly resort to inflammatory language when things get uncomfortable. The Tribune argues that Joseph gets scrutinized while other superintendents got a pass. That accusation is no more accurate than the one that President Trump makes in relation to former President Obama. A simple Google search provides ample evidence of previous directors getting criticized.

Board member Will Pinkston was extremely critical of former Director of Schools Jesse Register. Often taking him to task for not following policy. Pinkston went as far as to call for the removal of Register. East Nashville parents were equally critical of his leadership.

Perhaps before labeling Jill Speering as racist, we should look at a quote of hers from 2014 in regard to Dr. Register that illuminates her thoughts on her role as a school board member:

“We all worked very, very hard to win these positions,” says Speering, who represents one of nine equal school board districts akin to legislative House districts in population. “We were willing to listen and took those concerns seriously. What voters will often say is once you’re elected, they never hear from you. That’s exactly what we didn’t want to happen — and that’s why this is of vital importance, especially to new board members.”

Hmmm… seems she has been consistent in her depiction as a board member’s role being one of questioning. You may disagree with her definition, but does that make her racist or just someone you disagree with?

Dr. Register’s Number 2 guy, Jay Steele, also received his fair share of negative press. If you ask him, Steele can tell you all kinds of anecdotes about being followed by the press. He didn’t do so by trying to label people negatively, but merely took the criticism for what it was, part of the job. The Director of Schools position is not one for the thin-skinned. Just ask another former director, Dr. Pedro Garcia.

Garcia seems to be the Director of Schools that Joseph is most intent on emulating. Garcia brought many of his own people in, repeatedly defended administrators that were clearly not qualified, fought with reporters and school board members, frustrated principals, engaged in retaliatory actions against critics, and ultimately left the district after failing to match the accomplishments with the drama. Before he left, Nashville exploded in a heated conversation on race and the education system. Echoes from the past just keep on resonating.

Much like the president, the job of MNPS Director of Schools comes with a great deal of scrutiny. I’d argue that the manner in which the Director responds to that scrutiny is indicative of the success they’ll have. Dr. Garcia serves as a clear example of the results when the Director chooses to confront every critic and retaliate instead of educate.

As a career educator, the Director of Schools should look at Nashville as one of the many classrooms he or she has lead. Educate us on “implied bias,” “cultural competency,” and other important terminology. Dr. Joseph wouldn’t call a student in his class ignorant or crazy no matter how much they challenged him, so I urge him not to imply community members are ignorant, crazy, or acting out when they challenge him.

Perhaps it is time for another reading assignment: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Explain the why and people may ask, where and when? Again the focus should be on uniting not dividing. 

The problem with “back burning” is that it causes a lot of collateral damage to the existing ecosystem. Fires lit to control another fire cause damage themselves. Some of that damage is irreparable. We need to think of alternative solutions to putting out fires instead of using “back burning” strategies.


Last August, I tried to do a deep dive into Advanced Academics, IB, and Cambridge programs. This interest came about because I’d learned that there were fees associated with these programs. These fees applied to the cost of the End of Course (EOC) tests and, in some cases, registration for the classes themselves. I must have talked to about 20 different people and yet was unable to come up with a clear picture of the financial responsibility of these courses.

Basically, the financial responsibility looked different at whichever school your child attended. Some schools had scholarship programs available and some didn’t. Depending on access to various funding streams, schools offered different fee schedules. I found this lack of consistency very concerning. The programs are all quite strong academically and extremely beneficial to kids, but in my eyes, the financial responsibilities associated effectively served as barriers to inclusion. Costs could run anywhere from $200 – $900 a year, depending on the number of courses the student was enrolled in.

I’m not sure how things work in your household, but in the Weber home, we don’t have an extra $500, nor do we have a desire to get involved with something that potentially could have even more costs associated with it. It’s not that we don’t value our children’s education; it’s just that we don’t have the resources. I also recognize that if we don’t have the money, there are probably a lot of other families that don’t either. One educator confessed to me, “This is something we struggle with in expanding access.”

At the end of the day, I couldn’t get a clear enough picture to write a piece that wasn’t inflammatory. So I shelved it. But I came away with the understanding that the district’s decision to pay for tests this year, along with those associated with industry certifications, was a step in the right direction in regards to increased equity and access.

Fast forward a year, and that assessment has been borne out. Last year saw a dramatic increase in the number of kids participating in advanced academic classes. We also saw a substantial increase in the number of kids leaving school armed with workplace certifications that made them eligible for immediate employment. Dr. Joseph rightly touted this as one of the successes of the year. This action was probably the biggest step the district had taken towards equity and access in years.

Throughout this budget season, it has been repeatedly stated that the budget is a public declaration of your values. If that’s true, then apparently we don’t value equity and access because the latest budget cuts nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in funding that was targeted toward paying for these tests. The cost of the tests has been shifted back to parents, and, as a result, I anticipate the access window narrowing again.

One argument that I heard repeatedly during my investigation into advanced academics was that just taking the class, even if the student didn’t take the test, was beneficial. That no longer holds true, because the state has enacted a policy that states if a student doesn’t take the test, then they lose the extra points toward their GPA. In other words, if you take the class and don’t take the test, you risk jeopardizing your GPA due to the advanced difficulty level. Jeopardize your GPA and you risk limiting the number of post secondary options available. I’m not sure that’s a bet most would want to take.

This is an unintended, I assume, consequence of the recently passed ESSA legislation. Under ESSA, states are awarded points for the number of kids who take advanced academic exams. It’s all part of the career and college ready pillar that is meant to hold schools accountable.

I would strongly urge that we revisit this budget cut and perhaps find a better line item to cut. Paying for the tests is too essential to our goal of increased equity and access to sacrifice.


Some comedy gold, courtesy of Sito Narcisse, emerged from this past weekend’s Newark Superintendent candidate public interviews. Narcisse told those assembled, “If I become the superintendent of Newark, my goal is to make sure we are tapping into people from Newark. I tell folks all the time I will not be coming to Newark and bringing 14,000 people with me.” Many in Nashville would find that statement interesting. To make things even more interesting, Narcisse stated that it was also important for the community to understand where the district was spending its money. “Community matters, you cannot do anything without the community,” he said.  Hmmmm… Newark is supposed to announce a finalist by the end of the month.

Lakeview Design Center staff found out this week that Dr. Shantrell Pirtle has been selected to be their 2018-2019 principal. This appointment comes with a few questions. Pirtle was previously employed with MNPS as principal at Bellshire ES. Things didn’t go well at Bellshire, and she was removed during the 2016 school year. In her defense, Pirtle has been in the principal residency program for the last year, and word is that she’s better for it. We wish her luck and hopefully the community embraces her.

Word on the street is that former Buena Vista ES principal Michelle McVicker will be leaving the district at the end of the year. Still a lot of mystery around that one. But the general feeling is that McVicker is an exceptional principal who the district did not do right by.

If you haven’t watched last week’s MNPS budget meeting yet, I urge you to do so. Stay tuned until the finale when four Metro council members out of the South Nashville area take the mic and berate School Board Member Jill Speering. It really qualifies as theater of the absurd. I only wish council members were as adamant in their defense of Antioch HS as they were of Director of Schools Shawn Joseph.

I keep hearing about a lot of distrust in the MNPS principal selection process. This past week I attended the initial community meeting for the opening at Oliver Middle. While there were tensions, people seemed committed to making the process work. I’ve stated that the worst thing you can do is give people the illusion of power and then demonstrate that they are powerless. Dr. Joseph needs to either listen to panel recommendations or do away with the panels. One suggestion I offered was if Dr. Joseph could meet with the panel and explain his decision after making the selection and before announcing the new hire.

Several teachers who expected to be on the displaced list got termination letters from the district this past week. Most found the letters were in error, but they still evoked plenty of concern. These letters raised further concern because a glance at the MNPS job portal seems to indicate a shortage of about 500 teachers. We might want to be extra careful in distributing termination letters.

Speaking of being displaced, anyone interested in how many of those displaced Reading Recovery teachers have secured employment with the district for next year? My sources tell me 25 out of 80. This is in spite of Dr. Joseph promising them that they would have jobs going forth.

Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria recently awarded five Metro Schools students with the first PREAM Scholarships. The students earned the scholarships by excelling in academics, athletics and participating in community service while working as Slim & Husky’s employees.

Congratulations to these students:
-Aaliyah Cummings, East Nashville Magnet School
-Alexis Hill, Stratford Comp High School
-Shuna Webb, Maplewood Comprehensive High School, MNPS
-Doneisha Wells, Maplewood High School
-Dywaneisha Woodland, East Nashville Magnet

The owners at Slim and Husky’s are MNPS graduates as well.

Congratulations to Ramey Hulse, a senior at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School, for receiving a corporate-sponsored National Merit Scholarship.

Congratulation to the 38 Tennessee teachers who were chosen this week to be SCORE fellows. Look at the list and I suspect you’ll find some Dad Gone Wild readers. Shhh… we won’t tell.

Speaking of DGW readers, thank you to JC Bowman for the kind words in his recent blog post. Words can not express my appreciation. Those of you who are troubled by my friendship with Bowman need to remember that Ravitch and Smarick are themselves friends.

Speaking of friends, Mary Holden weighs in with her take on the recently completed Tennessee testing season.

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

I have started using Patreon as a funding source. If you think what I do has monetary value, you can go there and make a donation/pledge. Just because Andy Spears is also on Patreon doesn’t mean you can’t support us both. Trust me, I know I ain’t going to get rich, but at the end of the day I’m just a Dad trying to get by. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page as well. And if you are so inclined, check out the Thomas “TC” Weber for MNPS District 2 School Board page.