TWO WEEKS TILL SCHOOL STARTS

  1. Summer in Nashville is quickly winding down. This time next week, teachers report and then the week after that its full on with students reporting. Things are going to be interesting this year because it’ll be the first time in years that MNPS starts with a full day on Monday followed by a full week. That means no chance to sort out any of the multitude of kids that show up unannounced. That means all sorting and adjusting is going is going to be on the fly. It is going to be a very challenging week for teachers and administrators and I wish them luck. Interestingly enough, the last Director of Schools that proposed doing things this way was…wait for it…Pedro Garcia.

TEACHER ATTRITION

This past weekend there was an interesting article accompnied by a video in the Tennessean talking about teacher recruitment and retention. The story itself didn’t really have a whole lot to offer. Human Resources Director Debrorah Story is quoted as saying,  “What we do know, is that consistently hundreds of teachers are needed to be hired every year.” It should be pointed out that Story is actually not the director but the Chief of human resources. She recieved a promotion and a raise after less then a year on the job.

Story goes on to say,”This year, what we did was monitor the transfer window, which ended in May,” Story said. “We want to ensure that movement isn’t having a destabilizing or adverse impact on students in classroom.” In other words if you are an MNPS teacher in a lousy situation, don’t even think about transferring because they’ve narrowed the transition window.  MNPS’s HR plans to introduce standardized training for educators in their first year, as well as subsequent years. Story said one required training component will include classroom management skills. Sounds great doesn’t it?

Of course the devil will once again be in the details. When will these trainings take place? How long will they be? Who will conduct them? Will teachers be paid extra for them? That’s just a few of the questions that spring to my my mind. If the tranfer window is closed what keeps a good teacher from just quitting outright? This year 13 teachers transfered from Antioch HS to Overton HS. If they hadn’t been allowed to transfer would they still be at Antioch HS? My suspicion is that at least 10 would have left the district or teaching all together and the other 3 would be doing whatever possible to get through to the next year. Neither of those alternatives benefit MNPS students or families. Transfers can be extremely detrimental to individual schools but, just like with school choice, finding out why people aere making their choice should be paramount to addressing the issue.

Another aspect of the transfer policy comes into play if a school loses it’s Dean of Students and wants to hire a teacher from another school. That transfer would not be allowed under the current policy as it is viewed as a lateral movement. Therefore the teacher would be losing the opportunity unless the principal would be willing to hold the position open until next year. Let’s face it, the likelyhood of that happening is slim and none.

It’s the video connected to the Tennessean article that I initially found most disturbing. I always try to talk to people though about my observations and often times I get a different perception. While I still take major exception with some off the statements made early in the video, it’s important to remember that not evrything in that video is presented in context. The teacher in question spent over 2 hours with the video makers only to have that time edited down to a minute and a half. A minute and a half that supported the narrative of the reporter.

In the video, Marlaine Ells, a 35-year veteran of teaching makes the assertation that teacher attrition is no greater then it is in the commercial world and that our society has become a moving world. To some extent I agree with the statement but I can’t agree with the accecptence of the predicament. Younger generations are much more transient then previous generations. I always laugh when we say we are making kids career and college ready while kid’s are sending messages that a career isn’t that important to them. Still certain profession require a high level of commitment to meet the high requirements required. Do you want a doctor who’s planning on only being a doctor for a of couple years? How about a priest that’s just doing serving until they figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives?

We can’t just throw our hands up and say, “Some are going to leave every year. What are you going to do?”

We have to identify why people are leaving and create a culture that empowers them to remain in the profession for a lengthy period of time. I recently worked a luncheon for leaders in a leading hospital chain. They recognized the importance of talent retention and spent a portion of the program celebrating the strategies and success in lowering the turnover rate. The commercial world isn’t accepting high turnover rates and neither should we. I look to the words of Armando Garza Sada, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Alfa SAB de CV, Mexico for inspiration:

“Our capacity to attract, retain and manage executive talent does not depend on the compensation package, but rather on our ability to create a sense of belonging to an organisation that offers a long-term relationship and a professional development opportunity, and that has a clear conception of itself, of what it wants to be, and of how to achieve it.”

That needs to be printed on a tshirt for everybody in Human Resources and on the executive leadership team. I urge you to watch the rest of the video. She makes some solid points.  I do agree that teacher mentorship is an important component. Somebody needs to talk with Shuler Pelham over at Hillsboro HS where he has hired Paul Beavers and dedicated resources to help keep teachers from becoming overwelmed throughout the school year. Since this year they had zero transfers, I think you could label it successful.

One other trap we need to start becomming more cognizant of is the treating of all teachers and their experience as the same. How do often do we hear things like, “Money is not important to teachers.”, “teachers hate Common Core”, “teachers think kids are out of control” or “teachers want leadership opportunities”? Teacher are a complex and varied lot. Talk to enough of them, which should be the goal,  and you’ll find evidence of both sides of any sweeping statement you could make. We recognize that one size fits all does not apply for students but then we quickly forget it when it comes to teachers.

To some teachers, money is a motivating factor. For other teachers it’s more about autonomy. Some teachers hate Common Core and some feel they have more pressing things to worry about. The point is that you have to talk to as many teachers as possible in as open a manner as possible in order to create a culture that allows for a sense of belonging to an organisation that offers a long-term relationship and a professional development opportunity, and that has a clear conception of itself, of what it wants to be, and of how to achieve it. That should be the foundation of which all teacher recruitment and retention plans are built.

QUICK HITS

Teachers should see their paychecks this Friday reflect the new pay schedules. Everybody got a 3% raise. Rumor has it that none of the Chiefs partook of the 3% raise, but I’ve yet to see confirmation of that. Seems like that might be something the communications department might want to put in a press release, but what do I know?  I’m sharing the new schedules here in case you haven’t seen them. I’ve posted both the certified and support staff schedules here. There is a story behind these two schedules and I’m trying to get a complete sense of it so I can share with you hopefully in the next couple of weeks.

(Certified Administrative Schedule)

(Certified Teachers Pay Schedule)

(Support Staff Pay Schedule)

Last week it was the Literacy and Numeracy Coaches traveling off to the French Quarter. This week it’s the EL Coaches heading to Orlando. This years theme appears to be a trip for everybody. 

Antioch Middle Prep will be holding a 5th grade orientation and ice cream social on August 1.

 

Think MNPS doesn’t know what’s it’s doing when it comes to our English Language Learners? Read this excellent piece in the NY Times written by a volunteer at Overton HS.

Remember when all we had to worry about was Tahoes and drivers? Those seem like such innocent days.

Test scores, test scores, anybody got a test score?

By the way, Dad Gone Wild has a FaceBook page that is all positive no negative. You’ll want to check it out for all the fantastic pictures on the first day of school and on. As always, feel free to send me pictures and postings.

There is a new journalism venture at Hillsboro HS – The Hillsboro Globe. Check it out.You’ll be impressed.

POLL RESULTS

This week’s poll was an example of how sometimes things are better left in my head. last weekends poll questions didn’t play out quite as I envisioned. It happens. Based on poll answers y’all are obviously having less trouble then I am in keeping the acronyms straight. We got a couple good write in answers but I think we’ll keep those to ourselves for right now. Thanks for indulging me and I’ll try and do better in the future.

I am toying with the idea of stealing the Nashville Scene’s idea of “You so Nashville if…” and doing a you are so “MNPS if…” next weekend. If you have any grave objections shoot me a line. That does it for now. I hope everyone has a great week.

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CHATT TOWN, BIG EASY TRIPS AND WHAT’S THAT STAND FOR?

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I must apologize for this this installment being late. Dad had to take a catering gig yesterday that translated to a 5:30 AM to 2pm work day and a new appreciation for people who work in the service industry on a regular basis. Y’all work hard. As always, we have a lot of ground to cover. So lets get after it.

FUN TIMES IN RIVER CITY

Bruised by years of doing battle with Memphis and Nashville, the Tennessee Department of Education is now turning it’s attention to Chattanooga to try and implement some of it’s not so cutting edge plans. At the forefront of this focus is the creation of a “partnership zone” made up of 5 chronically under-performing schools. As part of the “partnership zone” these schools would be governed by their own school board and receive additional resources. This wouldn’t be a state takeover as Chattanooga and the state would work as partners.

Of course the state has an interesting definition of partner. They have given Chattanooga till the end of August to decide if they want to be partners or else they’ll give one or more of the schools to the state Achievement School District. They’ve also failed to share a proposed budget or test scores for the schools from this past year. It’s also worth noting that all of these schools suffer from high poverty levels and this past year the state changed its method of counting Title 1 qualification to including only those children who receive direct services. That means a drop in the official poverty numbers, though not real poverty numbers,  and therefore less Title 1 funding for schools with high concentrations of poverty.  Somewhere Don Corleone is smiling.

Chattanooga has a brand spanking new Superintendent and it appears that he is not in a hurry to join this budding partnership. Not surprisingly he’d like an opportunity to develop his own strategy.

The “Partnership zone” is not the only potentially new district coming to Chattanooga. Signal Mountain is looking to exit Hamilton County School District and form their own school district. Signal Mountain is home to 3 of the districts highest performing schools and their exit would have a profound effect on HCSD. Last month town leaders visited Shelby County Schools to get some insight on how the exit could be executed. 

Watching these developments in Chattanooga is important because I think you’ll see emulation in the rest of the state. Remember in order to do the “Partnership District” legislation permitting schools to be overseen by an appointed board would have to be passed. That legislation alone could have dire consequence for schools across the state. Always be wary of laws that are puportedly designed to help someone because seldom are the unexpected consequences considered. Just look at the ASD. That was never meant to be a charter school zone.

Speaking of our friends over at the Tennessee ASD, they’ve got a new leadership team heading into a new school year. Well kinda. Malika Anderson will remain in charge and two of those promoted have been a part of the work since 2011, but there are 2 new lieutenants who are completely new to the district. The leadership change is a shift away from outside education “reformers” and towards people more entrenched in the Tennessee education community. Schools also now won’t suffer the abrupt takeover actions that were the previous hallmark of the ASD. Going forward struggling schools will have three years to apply their own turn around strategies before being eligible for state take over.

Over in Maury County, there is a new number 2. Dr. Ron Woodard is the new Assistant Superintendent of Instruction. Many of you may know Ron through his many years as an educational leader in MNPS. A big congratulations to Dr. Woodard.

NASHVILLE NOTES

This isn’t part of this week’s poll questions, but I’d like to pose this question to you, what would you do if you were the brand new literacy director to a large urban school district and school was starting in 2 months? Would you a) spend the time reviewing the district’s literacy data and policies, b) get to know in depth the individual literacy coaches that you’l be supervising or c) pack your bags, grab some lead literacy coaches and head to New Orleans for a conference?

Well since this is Nashville and our district leadership has yet to meet a trip or consultant they don’t like, the obvious answer is C.

(MNPS Director of Literacy Barbara Lashley w/ lead literacy coaches in New Orleans)

That’s the choice new district literacy director Barbara Lashleymade last week. She joined district lead coaches for a fun filled week in the Big Easy for the Equity in Motion Practitioner Convening. The theme of this event was Growing All Students Through High-Quality Assignments. A quick glance at the agenda shows that speakers include Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White and U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.  In case you are not familiar with John White I suggest you read Mercedes Schneider’s blog posts looking into his work. To call him controversial would be an understatement.

Attendees of the conference stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria. Lashley is formerly/currently employed by Scholastic inc so we shouldn’t’ be to surprised. Remember these are the same folks who threw a literacy conference at Amelia Island. Here’s what get’s me though, we don’t have money for hiring the 12th EDSSI but there’s still plenty of money for week long stays in the French Quarter. We preach to kids on a regular basis about setting priorities, yet here we go again. Just remember it was the Mayor’s fault we had to scrape for those 3% raises for teachers.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR YOU BUT NOT FOR ME

Back in November of 2016 the MNPS school board revised their policy on director evaluations to read as follows:

The Board shall strive to evaluate the Director twice annually. Each January, following the mid-point of the school year, the Board will administer a formative evaluation of the Director based on factors including but not limited to formative student assessment data. Each June, following the end of the school year, the Board will administer a summative evaluation of the Director based on factors including but not limited to summative student assessment data, as well as student and educator culture/climate survey data. The formative and summative evaluation instruments will be determined by the Board’s Director Evaluation Committee.

In January there was a little cheer circle where everybody stood around and gave a big ol “atta boy”. Dr. Joseph was given a rade of an A. (Just for the record a formative assesment is not supposed to have a grade or numerical score attached. It’s a sumative that gets the score.) Well it’s now the end of July and no evaluation has been completed or is one in sight as far as I can see. This is nothing new because for the last 2 years the board has failed to complete a formal evaluation of either Dr. Register or Chris Henson – the directors prior to Dr. Joseph. That failure came under the guidence of now vice-chair of the directors evaluation committee Sharon Gentry who was chair of the committee. Looks like new committee chair Will Pinkston is picking her work up right where she left off. Which begs the question, why have policy if you are not going to adhere to it?

At the last board meeting, Pinkston wasn’t in attendence, but he did pass on information to board chair Anna Shepherd that the committee had not settled on an evaluation tool but was continueing to research. Fair enough, but the policy was written 7 months ago by Pinkston. That should provide ample time to settle on a evalauation tool and conduct an evaluation of the director in a timely manner. What’s Pinkston been doing since the board adopted the policy. He’s conduct a number of charter school investigations, appeared on TV talking about civil rights issues, he’s written an op-ed piece on the failings of others, he’s worked on getting people fired from their jobs, and he’s engaged in several online battles with people he percieves as not being true Democrats.

What he hasn’t done is complete the task that he set out for himself. It has to be noted that this is a task that was not imposed on him but rather one that he designed. We often lecture kids about the importance of setting priorities, so how is this modeling that lesson. We tell kids evaluations are an important part of learning but apparently not for those in positions of leadership. Last I checked, my boss never finds it acceptable when I chose to focus on my personal agenda instead of the job prescribed. But then again Pinkston never does seem to think the rules apply to him or that his constituents are his boss. His response to me when I criticized him for the lack of forsight shown by the district in regards to the solar eclipse was a recommendation to “avail yourself of the many charter options available if you don’t like MNPS”, i.e love it or leave it. You know who else talks like that. His recomendation says it all and I’m sure we’ll get a directors evaluation when he’s good and ready.

In other news, MNPS has released the beginnings of an organizational chart. There is still a lot to fill in, but it’s a starting point. There are some questions that need answers. Where is the ELL Department on this chart? Gloster is listed separated but in other literature she’s listed in with the EDSSI’s. Which is it? How many total people are in Central office? How many people does Tasby supervise? How many people does Gonzales supervise? Hopefully some of those answers will be forth coming. As it is this chart does little to give a complete picture of what’s going on throughout the district. Here’s it is if you haven’t seen it.

(MNPS Org chart)

The Tennessean has an article on the District’s efforts in regards to teacher recruitment and retention. I’ll let you decide about how effective it’ll be but I would suggest they read Peter Greene’s thoughts on teacher recruitment and rentention as a starting point. As a side note, I am hearing that you can add Maxwell ES to the list of MNPS schools suffering from chronic teacher turnover.

HAPPY THOUGHTS

The Bellevue Middle School Family will be holding their “Mighty Owl Welcome” for new 5th grade families. It is August 3, Thursday from 4:30-7 PM. All the info you need is on face book. Should be very informative.

There is a Project Lit book club meeting this week. It’s July 26th from 9-10 AM at the Maplewood HS Library. This month’s book is The Hate You Give by  Angie Thomas.

Upcoming Kindergarten and 7th grade students need to submit immunization records to MNPS. To help parents prepare their students to go back to school, Metro Public Health Department will be extending their immunization clinic hours at the following locations:

Woodbine Public Health Clinic
224 Oriel Ave, Nashville TN 37210
Regular Hours – Mon through Fri, 8am until 4pm
Special After Hours Clinics:
7/20, 7/27, 8/3 and 8/10 until 7pm

Lentz Public Health Clinic
2500 Charlotte Ave, Nashville TN 37209
Regular Hours – Mon through Fri, 8am until 4pm
Special After Hours Clinics:
8/1 and 8/8 until 6pm

Word has it that both Matthew Nelson and Dr. Russell Young are off to good starts at Eakin ES and West End Middle Prep respectfully. Tusculum’s ES has a new AP, Chris Holmes, that has hit the ground running and we are excited to have him. I also hear good things coming out of Maplewood with Dr. Keely Jones-Mason returning. Any idea when they are going to take the title “acting” away from her?

POLLS

I want to have a little fun this week-end. The district has gone a little acronym crazy heading into the new year. Which can make things a bit confusing. I’m going to give you three of the leading new acronyms and we’ll see if you can tell me what they stand for. If you are not sure what they stand for,  feel free to follow the districts lead and just make one up. I can’t wait to see the creativity. Let the games begin.

A PARTNER ZONE, ECLIPSE-GATE2017, AND A RECAP

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Happy Monday to you. Hope your week-end was half as good as mine. I have to admit to being thrilled with the number of poll responses we got this week-end. Some of you really brought out the creativity when responding to the questions and I love it. We’ll get to those answers but first a few news items.

DANGER DANGER WILL ROBINSON

Everybody is pretty well versed on the Tennessee Achievement School District and it’s ever increasing issues. What you might not be familiar with is the TN Department of Education’s latest scam, I mean plan, affectionately known as the Partnership Zone.

Chattanooga has 5 chronically under performing schools: Brainerd High, Dalewood Middle, Woodmore Elementary, Orchard Knob Middle and Orchard Knob Elementary. Each of these schools, shockingly, have a large percentage of students who live in poverty. Instead of turning these schools over to the ASD, the state is creating a Partnership Zone. Details are a little thin as to what this zone would look like but in Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen’s words, “”It would be innovative. It would be different in terms of how we’ve done school turnaround in the past.”

Personally I’m not a fan of the term “turn around” as it relates to schools. In my eyes it’s a concept that benefits adults more then kids. When is a school considered “turned around”? Is it 3 years? 5 years? 10 years? If a school comes off the naughty list and then slips back onto it 4 years later, was it ever turned around? I wish we would just focus on making quality, equitable schools instead of try to create resume content for adults.

That said, I do believe that you can’t just let schools and their families continue to struggle. You have to find ways to get them the resources that will set them up for success. In doing so though, we have to constantly be aware of unintended consequences. In reading about the Partnership Zone in the Times Free Press I see one big red flag that should be setting off alarms everywhere. Per the paper:

McQueen said in the Partnership Zone, the five schools would be placed in a separate mini-zone with its own director and board, giving the schools increased autonomy and support.

But that would require a change in state law to allow students to be represented by an appointed, rather than elected, school board.

McQueen said she’s spoken with Hamilton County lawmakers and plans to pursue legislation that ensures the Partnership Zone can legally move forward.

Did you get that? My question would be, if the state law is changed, what is there to prevent districts across the state from changing the make up of their school boards? This is a potentially slippery slope and I urge advocates across the state to to keep abreast of these developments.

I especially like how McQueen says, “We didn’t want to come here with a stick. We didn’t want to come here with some misconception around what this was about. And we didn’t want this to be seen as us not being true partners.” Yet she also states that unless the schools post higher- than-expected academic growth, it’s likely at least some will be taken over by the state if the Partnership Zone is not approved. Kinda of setting the partnership parameters early aren’t they?

ECLIPSE-GATE2107

Parents continue to struggle to get information pertaining to the Great American Solar Eclipse. MNPS originally scheduled students to be out of school that day and for it to be a professional development day for teachers. That decision was reversed last week and students will now be in school.

The last minute change has left many parents and teachers extremely frustrated. In their response to criticism, board members’ have attributed the decision to a request by the Mayor. Why they feel the need to pull her in to the e controversy is a mystery to me. If it’s the right decision just own it and allow people to vent their justifiable frustration. If it was a popular decision and people were celebrating, would they highlight the mayors involvement? This is the second unpopular move in almost as many months that MNPS leadership has tried to make the mayor accountable for. Here’s a tip, in looking for a scapegoat, you want to find someone with a lower approval rate then you. Not someone who approval factor eclipses yours. Pun intended.

(Revised 2017 – 2018 calendar)

To compound things, despite the schedule change being approved, MNPS has inexplicably not made the revised schedule publicly available. What the thinking here is beyond me. Word I get is that the professional development day will be the Friday before Labor Day, thus creating a 4 day week end for students.

MNPS’s STEAM department headed up by Kris Elliot has been very busy making sure that the upcoming event is fully taken advantage of. Last week a update on actions was released.

 

 

 

QUICK HITS

MNPS has a Parent University coming up. The date is Saturday, August 12 at 9 AM – 3 PM. The event will be held at Trevecca Nazarene University. Some of the things parents will learn about:

Parent & Youth Learning Sessions
Health Screenings
Community Resources
MTA Transportation
School Supplies
Free Childcare & Learning Activities
Parent Connections

Ride the MTA at no cost when you mention Parent University to the driver. To pre-register for the conference and childcare, please visit,www.eventbrite.com/ParentU2017 Or fax registration form to 615-298-8056 or email form to parent.university@mnps.org

Board member Amy Frogge has an editorial in today’s Tennessean talking about how corporate ideas and public schools don’t mix. She points out, “The influx of business and investment ideas into one of our most valuable and precious public institutions has proven disastrous for public education, causing excellent teachers to flee and students to suffer. Nevertheless, corporate ideas remain popular among those whose own children don’t attend public schools and who therefore have a limited understanding of what actually occurs in our neediest schools.”

I’m not sure of the impetus of this article but as always she makes some salient points and I encourage you to read her piece.

The Brentwood Community continues to explore the idea of splitting off from WCS. The idea is not a new one but purportedly this time the catalyst for the new grassroots effort was when the Williamson County School Board introduced a district-wide rezoning plan in the spring that would have sent students from Brentwood schools to Fairview, Franklin and Nolensville. Read and decide for yourself.

There is a new coalition in town. This ones called the Trailblazer Coalition and their tagline is: Preparing a more diverse teaching force for Nashville. The Trailblazer Coalition is a group of nine teacher preparation programs in Middle Tennessee working
together to address teacher diversity in Metro Nashville Public Schools. The Coalition work is supported
through a grant project of Conexion Americas’ ​Education Policy Team​. On Tuesday at 2:45 PM at Casa Azafrán, 2195 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN 37211, they will release a report on its first year of work at a press conference next Tuesday. The report is titled “Fixing the Broken Pipeline: Teacher Diversity and the Classroom.” Following the press conference, community partners will be invited to participate in working group discussions to brainstorm solutions aligned with the main areas of focus in the report.

The last weekend in July has been designated as a tax free weekend in Tennessee. So mark your calendar.

POLL RESULTS

As I mentioned earlier, this week we had a great response to our poll questions and some of you answered quite creatively.

For the first question, I was interested in getting a better idea of exactly how you found new updates of the Dad Gone Wild blog. Not surprisingly it is predominately through social media. 36% of you utilize Twitter and 27% of you discover updates through Facebook. I was happily surprised that some of you mentioned Peter Greene’s Curmudgucation blog. I’m a huge fan of his. Some good write-in answers on this one:

the whistle 1
In an MNPS classroom since Dr Joseph & team never comes in 1
Curmudgucation blogroll 1
The hidden link in Forward Focus 1
Bathroom stall graffiti 1
peter greene’s site 1
private browser to avoid central office trackers 1
It’s one of my Favorites in Safari. I read it daily. 1
Can’t help but see it as many times as you repost links 1
While pissing.

The second question asked what is the number one trait a leader must possess. 31% of you answered authenticity. Which was reaffirming for me, as it is something I preach. All the other traits are important, but if people don’t believe in you, it’s all meaningless. People have to believe that you are going to act in the manner you speak. It’s a lesson current MNPS leadership has failed to grasp much to their detriment. Hopefully 2017-2018 will be the year of the awakening. Great write in answers for this one as well.

Ability to fire people with ease and no guilt 1
be truly collaborative 1
All of the above 1
The ability to trust & listen tohis/her employees 1
How good you are in bed (happens in education too) 1
Someone who ignores whiners like TC 1
Excellent communicator-reciprocal, verbal/nonverbal/written 1
Courage 1
Manipulation 1
Must have buy-in from those s/he seeks to lead 1
Wisdom 1
Consistency 1
Someone opposite of our current administration 1
Must like people and want to help them 1
situational leadership 1
appreciation 1
Manipulating both sides of an arguement against each other 1
Servant’s heart, mind, and attitude 1
Charisma, Uniqeness, Nerve, and Talent

The last question asked for the best burger joint in town. It did my heart good to see old Nashville favorite Rotiers take it with 25% of the vote. Second went to a personal favorite Gabby’s. I urge you to try both of them as well as other mentioned joints. The Pharmacy won the write-in votes.

Pharmacy 2
ML Rose 2
The Pharmacy!!! 1
Bur Bun– Exquisite Whiskey and Hamburgers at Hilton Brentwood 1
Riverside Grill Shack 1
Only hypocrites eat meat 1
Best black bean veggie burger-The Pharmacy 1
Bobbie’s Dairy Dip 1
M. L. Rose 1
McCabe’s Pub 1
The Burger Joint 1
M.L. Rose 1
Farm Burger 1
Burger Shack 1
Farm Burger (family says 5 guys 🙂 ) 1
The Pharmacy 1
Sportsman’s 1
Burgerfi

There you have it. Only 3 more weeks to school. We’ll keep you up to date as we get more news.

A COMMENT WORTH HIGHLIGHTING

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I’m the guy who writes the blog but sometimes the comments are better than anything I’ve written. Sometimes the comments reek of such authenticity that you have to push back form the computer and reflect. When I get those kinds of comments I have a fear that they’ll just get lost in the shuffle and the thoughtfulness, courage, and hard work that went into crafting them will go unnoticed.

This weekend I received such a commit and I decided that I wasn’t going to just trust that people would see it. I decided I would make it it’s own blog post. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the author in crafting it. I have no idea who wrote it, nor do I have any desire to know. I have worked hard to create a space where people share their thoughts free of the fear of retribution. As I told some one this week, y’all’s trust is something I hold as precious and there is nothing I would ever do to compromise it. The only reason this blog is successful is because of everyone’s willingness to share. Thank you.

If you know anything about last year at Metro Nashville Schools you can physically feel the authenticity in this post. Agree or disagree, there is a lot to think about in this post.

Our current leaders are more about perception than anything else, and the lack of an ability to actually get anything done is mind boggling. The latest Eclipse snafu is just the latest example, and I know that I speak for a great deal of teachers when I say that the lack of accountability is shocking. All we hear about are Strategic Plans and Transition Teams, and it’s just the same stuff being packaged in a different (and more expensive) package.

The last group of leaders was certainly not the best, but the way that Dr. Joseph and his team act as though they are all about the kids is extremely frustrating. They continue to pull resources away from students and into consultants and administrative salaries. The number of people in high level positions is unbelievable, and I’m just not understanding why no one on the School Board will say anything. For every “Chief,” there seem to be a large number of people under them that make at least $100,000, and many of them more than that. There are so many positions that are completely unnecessary, and the people that are in those positions seem to just spend endless hours in meetings, thinking up things that they can pass down–and then abruptly change from year to year. I’m also confused about how all of these people on the MNPS payroll need help from so many different consultants to put things into place.

As far as leadership at the school level goes, there are a few great Principals, but a great deal of our schools are being led by people that are really better at interviewing than anything else. The new “Principal Pipeline” is just a continuation of that (being led by two people who make over $100,000 each). Once these Principals get into schools, the same clichés and buzzwords they used to get there are the same ones that they use while running their schools. For teachers like me who just keep their head down, work hard, and actually care about and enjoy what they do, it’s terribly disheartening.

I guess it all comes down to whether or not we speak up, or we just watch as good people keep leaving. Most teachers that I know absolutely love working with the diverse group of students that we have, and they do everything they can to meet the needs of those students. When they are consistently pulled in a million different directions, it gets to a point where enough is enough and they just decide to leave. I’ve had many colleagues who have taken pay cuts to work in other counties, and it’s not because they can’t “cut it” in an urban school district.

Like many in our district, I was excited to get an energetic and authentic leader for our students, but I just can’t help but feel as though we really got hoodwinked. Again, it’s all about perception, and as long as outlets like the Tennessean refuse to push back, his entire team appear to be free to do what they want, without any fear of reprisal.

OF HOT MESSES AND POLL QUESTIONS

5

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for an update and another round of poll questions. So buckle up because we have a lot of ground to cover before we get to the reader participation portion of the program. To say that this has been an eventful week would be a bit of an understatement.

ECLIPSE-GATE 2017.

On the 21st of August Nashville is set up to experience a once in a lifetime event. Nashvillians have been afforded the opportunity to experience a total solar eclipse. In this case it will be a complete blackout. Many of us have experienced an annular eclipse – where there is a ring of the sun visible – very few of us have experienced a total eclipse.

MNPS has recently embarked on a district wide STEAM initiative. STEAM places an emphasis on science and it counts project based learning as a major component. Hmmmm….rare eclipse…science…project based learning…sounds like a perfect storm coming together. Unfortunately that is not how district leaders saw things back in September. In spite of recommendations to remain open and create a district wide learning experience, district leadership decided to create a professional development day on August 21. The day was included in the calendar, the calendar was approved, and people made plans off of that calendar.

Fast forward to this week. Apparently, as the day approached city leadership realized that being an urban district, with high poverty levels, having kids out of school during the eclipse presented a safety issue. Also not having school that day created some inequities at a time when we are making erasing inequities a priority. The school board agreed, they voted, and the decision to be closed on August 21 was reversed.

There has been a rush to liken this decision to a snow day.

“Hey it’s hard to predict these things.”

“You have to be flexible.”

“It’s a decision that nobody will be happy with.”

That is not an accurate description and it is not the decision that is the issue. It is the fact that a schedule was approved and distributed. Teachers made plans off of that schedule. Families made plans off of the schedule. The district reversed itself without ever acknowledging those facts. In other words they sent a message, again, that their priorities were the only ones that mattered. They compounded that message by not redistributing the revised schedule in a timely manner. To date there are still many teachers and families that don’t even know that the schedule has been revised because the new schedule hasn’t been published. Somebody needs to realize that there is a big difference between a hard decision and a poorly planned one.

LOVE  THAT DIRTY WATER

Back on June 30th MNPS issued a press release on what great people they were in testing the water in our schools. They included none of the findings in the report and in fact, acted as if nobody would ever read the report. Well somebody did: Phil Williams and Channel 5 News. They found some disturbing numbers in the report and have aired several stories on lead in our schools’ water. MNPS countered by issuing more  press releases about how great they were for testing. They even wrote an open letter to MNPS families and employees to tell them how great they were.

In the letter they state, “At no time in this first phase of sampling were there any concerns raised for the safety of our drinking water.” Odd, because the report shows that at DuPont ES 45 out of 55 samples tested at more than one part per billion and at the MS 54 out of 83 samples surpassed the lead level that pediatricians say is safe.  Pediatricians say that anything over 1ppg should be considered unsafe. The federal government sets a thresh hold of 15ppg. I’ll let you decide who’s levels you buy, but encourage you to read the raw data for yourself. To date MNPS has still not done what Dupont-Hadley MS parent Stephanie Cooksey asked for, to first, admit there’s a problem, then develop a specific plan and tell parents what they plan to do. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

IF IT CALLS FOR 17 BAGS OF CEMENT, LET’S USE 15.

If you look at the assignments of the EDSSI’s you will see that the Executive Director of Innovation Schools Letrecia Gloster – that’s right innovation schools not L5 schools – has all priority schools assigned to her under the Northwest quadrant. Under the revised assignments that came out this week Hunter’s Lane and White’s Creek which were previously in the southeast quadrant are back in the northwest quadrant with their feeder schools. Still, the northwest quadrant is under staffed as they only have 2 official EDSSIs.

Now you are probably thinking, “That doesn’t seem right. Why would they do that?”

It seems that they cut one EDSSI position in order to find the funds to ensure that all teachers got a 3% raise. Sounds noble, but it’s also ludicrous. Why would you cut a pillar of your new organizational structure straight out of the gate? Is that really the only place you could find to secure an extra 150K? (I’m adding salary plus administrative costs.) This was being sold as an essential change, yet it’s already being under resourced. It’s like laying the foundation of a house and it’s calling for 16 bags  of cement but you decide to just use 14.

(Revised EdSSI assignments)

To be honest with you, the revised schedule makes even less sense then the original chart . For example, Lilly Lefler  now has schools assigned to her in both the Northeast and the Northwest Quadrant. Seeing as Community Superintendents are allowed to structure their quadrants as desired I can’t wait to see how schizophrenic this gets for Lefler by the end of the year. And which community superintendent takes precedent? Bring your decoder ring because things are getting interesting.

TEACHER TEACHER WHO’S GOT THE TEACHER?

One item that was pulled off of this week’s consent agenda was the approval of a contract expansion for Teach for America involving summer school/teacher training.  The request was for the following:

A sixth Amendment to the contract, adding compensation to support
the 2017 Summer School program for new MNPS Teacher candidates. Summer School
support from MNPS funds learning materials, Contractor’s staff, and Certificated nonMNPS
teacher-mentors. Summer School classes will be conducted at Buena Vista
Elementary School and Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School.

Board Member Amy Frogge pulled it from the consent because her and fellow board member Jill Speering had some questions. Questions that the Chief Executive Officer of Human Resources Deborah Story and number 2 man Sito Narcisse struggled to answer. Among the questions they couldn’t answer:

  • Was this money for work already completed or future work?
  • Were the teachers who were getting trained, MNPS teachers or TFA teachers?
  • Since this was part of a pipeline being built, were we building our own pipeline or would we be continuing to work with TFA?
  • Were we utilizing MNPS teachers for training new teachers in this program?

In the end the this contract extension proposal failed because it was only able to secure 4 aye votes. (Brannon, Shepherd, Hunter, Pierce voted yes, Frogge no, Speering abstained. Three board members were absent.) Pierce pointed out a majority of the board was required for motion to pass, not a majority of the board members present.

This bears watching for a number of reasons:

  • Will it pass at next meeting?
  • Will leadership continue to ask for money after work has already been completed? This has transpired a number of times this year.
  • What will next years TFA contract look like. Speering has already gone on record as saying she wont’t support another extension and I believe Frogge feels the same way. However, Story made a comment about there being a fierce battle for talent and gave the impression that she valued TFA as a source for recruiting talent. Keep in mind that TFA itself has shown an inability to recruit the kind of numbers needed.

Speaking of teachers, I’m being told by several principals that finding talent is very difficult this year. Looking at the help wanted on MNPS’s site bears that out as we have nearly 300 openings with less then a month till school starts. I guess nobody got the word out about the JCrew discounts.

POSITIVE STUFF

I was recently accused of not thinking anything is good enough, a charge I categorically deny. There are several things going on that meet that threshold.

I think Shuler Pelham and his team at Hillsboro HS are poised to knock it out of the park this year. They have spent the last several years assembling the pieces and I think this is where it’s all going to drop in to place. I look forward to watching it unfold.

West End Middle Prep and Eakin ES are also looking poised for great years ahead of them. There is no reason not to believe that Inglewood ES and Whitsitt ES won’t continue the upward trajectory started last year. Those are just a few examples of the great work happening. Gary Hughes and Sue Kessler would probably hold it against me if I didn’t mention their always solid schools, J.T. Moore and Hunter’s Lane.

The work that the EL department is doing is so far above and beyond anything going on that I can’t praise it enough.

The Lipscomb/Nissan Fundamentals BisonBot Robotics Camp, a one-week summer camp, sounds like pretty darn cool experience for middle school students. The camp experience includes a tour of the Scott Fetzer Electrical Group (SFEG) manufacturing plant in Fairview. Here students get to see collaborative robots, or cobots up close. This is the third year for the robotics camp, sponsored by Lipscomb University and Nissan, and the second year the group has visited the Fairview facility.

Jared Amato’s Project Lit looks like it’s going to be bigger then ever.

There are a lot of good things happening but things are being held back from soaring by district leadership. I know I sound like a broken record, but if this whole thing is going to work out, Chiefs need to start listening, thinking things through, and validating people. Otherwise we are just going to continue our slide in to Pedro 2.0. Who, as a side note, was the last superintendent who proposed a schedule that started with a full day on Monday and continued with full days the rest of the week. Ask somebody who was here how that worked out.

Join Metro Schools for the 10th Annual Parent University Conference on Saturday, August 12, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.at Trevecca Nazarene University in the Boone Business Center. This is an excellent resource for parents.

 

NATIONAL NOTES

Here’s a couple of things nationally I’m watching.

I’ve never been a fan of reading levels. As far as I concerned they reinforce the wrong kinds of literacy behavior and actually hinder the creation of life long readers. Now it seems that I’m not alone in this view. The American Association of School Librarians has  noticed some of our undesirable trends and has issued a statement on them:

It is the responsibility of school librarians to promote free access for students and not to aid in restricting their library materials. School librarians should resist labeling and advocate for development of district policies regarding leveled reading programs that rely on library staff compliance with library book labeling and non-standard shelving requirements. These policies should address the concerns of privacy, student First Amendment Rights, behavior modification in both browsing and motivational reading attitudes, and related issues.

Candace Jackson, Betsy Devos’s choice to lead the Office of Civil Rights demonstrated how qualified she is this week when she made this comment on college rape accusations to the New York Times,  “Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.” The comment was later walked back but still.

POLL QUESTIONS

This week’s question’s should be fairly easy and uncontroversial.

First question is about how you access the Dad Gone Wild blog. I’m trying to evaluate distribution and I’m curious as to how you find us.

The second question is about leadership. I recently had a conversation about leadership and we discussed the number one trait a leader needs to have in order to be successful. I’m curious as to what your opinion is.

Lastly, I wanted to ask you about hamburger, or cheeseburgers if you prefer. If you had a friend in town and you wanted to take them to just one burger joint, where would it be.

As always, thanks for your help and see you on the other side.

RECAPPING AND FORWARD LOOKS.

I hope everybody had themselves a wonderful weekend. The summer in Nashville is rapidly approaching its conclusion. Teachers report back in about 3 weeks, with kids reporting the following week. This year school starts on a Monday, August 7th, with full days right from the beginning. A bit of a change over previous years.

If you are the parent of a kindergartner, MNPS has a bit of a check list for you to prepare your child for kindergarten. There is some helpful information on that list, though I hate to see too much pressure put on kids entering their first year of formal schooling. Kindergarten’s main emphasis should be on play and socialization.

STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE, WHO’S GOT STRUCTURE

MNPS has released a quadrant chart for the 2017 – 2018 school year. It raises a few questions. Apparently all of the magnet schools are in the Pearl Cohn cluster now. This includes Carter Lawrence which previously was in the Hillsboro Cluster and a feeder to JT Moore. I’m not sure if there are any other changes.

As previously mentioned assignments were recently announced for the newly created Executive Director of School Support and Improvement hires. Keep in mind that this change was made in order to enhance community. Per an MNPS press release,

(EDSSI assignments)

“The new structure will better equip the district to mobilize local resources to support students and families through expanded collaborations with civic, community, business and faith-based organizations.” 

I’ll let you decide if these assignments lend themselves to that intended goal.

A couple things do stand out for me. All of the elementary schools and middle schools for the Hunter’s Lane and White Creek’s cluster are in the Northwest Quadrant, yet the high schools are in the Southeast Quadrant. Also all the priority schools(L5) are in the Northwest Quadrant while the other schools in their clusters are scattered through out the other quadrants. So, if you are a family in a priority school do you not warrant the same consistency throughout your time at MNPS as non-priority school students?

TEACHERS

Nashville continues to have problems with teacher recruitment and retention. Andy Spears has an excellent piece up at Tennessee Ed Report that addresses one aspect of the issue – teacher pay. As Andy points out, “The salary to live comfortably in Louisville is $49,000. Teachers in Louisville hit that pay rate by year 5. A teacher in Nashville isn’t making $49,000 even after 10 years of experience. The pay scale in Nashville simply isn’t moving up quickly enough.” I encourage you to read the whole piece. By the way, it takes a salary of $70,150 to live in Nashville today.

CHARTER SCHOOL WARS.

Over the weekend I had a very interesting and enlightening conversation with a dear friend. She was concerned about a couple twitter conversations I had last week with Matt Pulle and School Board member Amy Frogge. She felt that my end of the conversation with Ms. Frogge gave the impression that my criticisms were personal and that some of my positions could be construed as dismissing the importance of the fight against the forces which seek to privatize our public school system.

I appreciate her raising these concerns with me. First and foremost I hate sacred cows and the discussion on public education seems to be rife with them. If you are a charter school supporter you are never supposed to entertain any criticism of charter schools. And if you are a traditional school supporter you never acknowledge that our system is not meeting all the needs of all our children. Clear cut lines like that, just don’t work for me. The world is full of grays and our discussions should reflect those.

I do believe that nationally, and to some extent locally, there are people that wish to privatize and further segregate our public schools. That is their goal and it has little to do with kids. Agree or disagree, that’s up to you, but I’ve seen enough evidence to know that it is indeed fact. By the same account there are people that support traditional schools that are more concerned with upholding a system than they are with making sure our schools are truly meeting their mission of educating all kids. Again, agree or disagree, that’s up to you, but I’ve seen the evidence with my own eyes. Unfortunately the folks on the far extremes are the ones controlling the conversation forcing people who just want quality schools to choose sides. It’s not that different from national politics.

It reminds me of professional wrestling to some extent. The masses are led to believe that Hacksaw Jim Dugan and the Iron Sheik are mortal enemies. They all get emotionally involved in these wrestler’s battles and meanwhile the two are tooling down the highway together sharing recreational drugs. Before anybody gets crazy, I’m not accusing anybody of recreational drug use. I’m just saying what we need is a little less hyperbole and a little more sanity. Too often we think our experiences are universal experiences. We need to open ourselves to listening to the experience of others. We may go to the best traditional/charter school in town. That doesn’t mean all traditional/charter schools in town offer the same experience.

My comments were a response to Ms. Frogge’s comments directed, via Twitter,  at Wendy Tucker that referred to her as a bully. I initially chuckled to myself at the irony and started to move on. However, I couldn’t let it go because Ms. Frogge has implicitly supported one of the biggest bullies in Nashville for years. Not once has she publicly called him out on his behavior, which has gotten more and more abhorrent over the years, yet she wants to castigate Ms. Tucker for defending herself against an argument that she felt was unfair. That’s a little hypocritical and that’s why I made the comments that led to me being blocked by Ms. Frogge on Twitter. There was nothing personal about it and if they were taken that way I apologize. I will add this caveat, getting blocked on social media does feel a bit juvenile to me but…so be it. Everybody should have to play by the same rules. If we don’t like bullies on the other side, we can’t enable bullies on our side.

Matt, like Amy Frogge, is someone I have the utmost respect for and who’s opinion I value. In my conversation with him I was merely trying to point out that he was calling for an investigation into a charter school to protect parents who signed a letter he didn’t want to acknowledge. Am I setting myself up as the arbitrator of the hypocritical? That’s not my intention and I fully acknowledge that I can often fall into that trap myself. That’s why I feel that its so important that there are no sacred cows. That nobody is free from criticism. That we focus on finding solutions instead of culprits. I appreciate Matt accepting things in the light they were meant. We may not agree on everything but the doors never close.

All of this year I have heard from teachers and central office people that are hurting. This is real and lasting hurt, not philosophical and potential.  Teachers are looking for support and people to recognize their contributions – current and potential. I really need to see as much passion invested in addressing in those issues as I’ve seen expended in the charter school fight.

The big take way from my conversation with my friend was that all of this is very complicated and that there are no easy answers. I’m also glad that I have friends that will push me to go deeper into a subject. Friends that will force me look at all angles of an issue. Friends who ignore the raised voiced, the wild use of hands, and continue to push the conversation forward while also evaluating their position and adjusting when compeling evidence is presented.  We could all use more friends like that.

POLL RECAP

This leads us right into a recap of poll questions. On the first question, what MNPS’s charter school policy should be, I must admit to being a little shocked at the number of people that chose, “close them all and send the carpetbaggers packing.” It was the number 2 response with 24% of the vote. Just falling short of the number 1 answer – add no new ones but attempt to integrate existing schools further – which received 28% of the vote. 53% of you did answer in a way that indicated a greater desire for further integration of charter schools.

Getting back to the number 2 answer, my position on charter schools is well documented through the archives of this blog, but he issue I’m wrestling with these days is what is the plan if we do away with charter schools. I’ve yet to hear one.  Would we create a choice system where the only options are traditional schools. That has drawbacks and would fail to make all schools equitable. I can’t say it enough. The impact is the same whether a family chooses to home school, go to a private school, attend a charter school, or attend an out of zone school. A choice system will always, no matter what the options, create schools that people choose and those left to educate those with no choice.

That said, how do you put choice back in the bag? It’d be like going back to the caveman and saying, “Yea, that fire thing is good for some but it’s almost impossible to control so we are just going to stop using it.” That wouldn’t have worked then and it’s not going to work now, Taking away an option does not take away desire. That’s why, in my opinion, increased integration is so vital. We have to find out exactly why parents are choosing to explore other options and then address those issues in a meaningful manner. No offense to my charter school friends, but I just don’t believe y’all such good marketers that you’ve hoodwinked all parents who’ve chosen charter schools.

Charter school and traditional school supporter both need to be willing to face up the short comings of their particular model. Professor Julian Vasquez Hillig has a great post on things that would improve charter schools while Nancy Bailey has some insight on some of the shenanigans Dallas Dance has been pulling Baltimore schools. I guess my point is, let him with no sin throw the first stone. Dragging someone else down will not elevate us.

Here’s the write in answers.

Strategic plan/growth test for new. Fair accountability & collaboration w/existi 1
Sigh…

Question 2 sought to get your opinion on Teach for America. Not surprisingly, the number one answer was, “Some are good. Some are bad. But over all the organization hurts the system.” That was the choice of 41% of you and one that I agree with. What scares me is that using TFA has become a crutch for addressing the problems with teacher retention. Earlier in the year the board renewed their contract for 2017/20178. It bothers me that this item is on the consent agenda for this week’s school board meeting:

VENDOR: Teach for America, Inc.

SERVICE/GOODS: Sixth Amendment to the contract, adding compensation to support
the 2017 Summer School program for new MNPS Teacher candidates. Summer School
support from MNPS funds learning materials, Contractor’s staff, and Certificated nonMNPS
teacher-mentors. Summer School classes will be conducted at Buena Vista
Elementary School and Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School.
TERM: January 15, 2014 through January 14, 2019
FOR WHOM: MNPS Teacher candidates
COMPENSATION: This Amendment increases total compensation under the contract by
$90,892.
Total compensation under this contract is not to exceed $3,340,892

The last question asked whether or not kids should be in school for the upcoming solar eclipse. I think there is a lack of understanding on just how rare an occasion this eclipse is. As my father-in-law, an associate dean of engineering at Vanderbilt, explained to me, very few people in their lifetime are afforded the opportunity to see a total solar eclipse. A lot of factors need to align for that possibility to occur. This is a really unique event and one that I think, in light of our STEAM iniative, it’s imperative we take advantage of. 56% of you answered in a manner that indicates you think kids should be in school. 27% answered that kids should be out.

It was also brought to my attention by an educator that there is a safety factor involved in having out kids in school. Especially for our kids from lower income families. To look directly at an eclipse is extremely dangerous. Many of these children would be at home alone since it is a work day for their parents. If they are in school, staff can monitor that they are observing the eclipse in a safe manner.

Rumor has it that the board will be voting on a schedule change tomorrow. Once again potentially walking back another decision. Here’s the write-in answers for question 3.

If kids are out teachers should be off too. 1
I’d need to hear their reasons for closing to evaluate. 1
Closed for all! Including teachers and staff 1
absolutely, and not added as makeup day

STEM PREP

That does it for the poll questions. There is one more item on this week’s agenda that I would like to bring to your attention.

ENDOR: STEM Preparatory Academy
SERVICE/GOODS: Contractor will provide specialized education services,
through its Newcomer Academy, to approximately one hundred (100) MNPS English
Learner (EL) students in grades five through nine, with the expectation that the students
in the program will achieve significant gains and advance in their college and career
trajectory.
TERM: August 1, 2017 through June 30, 2020
FOR WHOM: Selected MNPS EL students
COMPENSATION: There will be no compensation under this contract other than the
normal pro-Vrata share of the MNPS Operating Budget and eligible Federal Fundsallocated to Contractor under the terms of the Charter School Contract previously
executed with Contractor.

For whatever reason, I’m told it was a paperwork issue, STEM Prep lost their Newcomer Academy contract last month. I’ve long taken exception with STEM Prep and their labeling a program a “Newcomer Academy” when the program is populated by students that have already been through MNPS’s Students w/Interrupted Formal Education(SIFE) program. Our SIFE program is a shining star in our school system and their work should be supported and strengthened. We do not need an independent program supplementing the fine work of our district SIFE teachers.

STEM Prep was originally awarded a newcomer academy as a political move by former district number 2 man Jay Steele. He was attempting to integrate charter schools more with the district. While that was a wonderful idea, that is not how it has worked out. STEM Prep has painted their work as being more advanced and successful then their district counterparts. An assertion that is false. I have no problem with the contract being renewed but it should be brought off of the consent agenda and the caveats should be added that STEM Prep’s program is brought under the purvey of the ELL department and is actually made up of level 1 students.

That’s all I got. Have a great week.

CATCHING UP AFTER THE HOLIDAY

We are bbbbaaaaacccckkkk!!! Now it’s time to climb back in the saddle and get after things again. Before we get into news and polls, I just want to comment on what a wonderful summer trip we experienced. DGW and family  went from the wilds of the Pocono’s to the wilds of NYC. We camped outside Blacksburg, Virginia in a idyllic campground that unfortunately had a train track running down the middle. A fact we were made aware of at 2AM when we felt like we were sleeping on the tracks with an oncoming train bearing down.

While home I learned more of my families history. I always knew that my mother was a refugee from Russia who’s family fled to Germany during WWII. What I didn’t know was that my grand mother’s family were Mennonites, who were caught between Russia and Germany during World War II and forced to flee or be killed. They were peaceful people who had worked hard to build new lives after emigrating from central Europe only to be persecuted when Lennon rose to power. I need to research more but it certainly makes our current situation resonate even more with me.

(Me and the kids at the PSU Lion)

On the way back from the Pocono’s to Nashville I was able to visit State College for the first time in 25 years. Walking those streets again opened a vault of old memories. God, I love State College. We stayed over night in Morgantown, West Virginia and enjoyed another fine American college town. I really couldn’t have asked for a better trip and am grateful for the opportunities and reflections it provided. My family also make excellent traveling companions.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Do you remember how last week I was talking about how Tennessee’s ESSA report was receiving rave reviews despite having some obvious holes? Well as always there is more to the story. It seems that Louisiana’s Education Plan was getting the same rave reviews despite having the same holes. This raised a flag for the writer of the blog Educate Louisiana. They did a little digging and found “the praise given by the various education reform groups has little to do with the plan’s actual adherence to the ESSA law and its ability advance our state in the quest to climb in educational rankings. Put simply, they praise the plan because of its strong resemblance to the previous waiver acquired under the No Child Left Behind law. The same plan that after a decade (the last five under Supt. White’s waiver plan) still leaves Louisiana’s educational ranking at the bottom.” I encourage you to click the link and read the whole piece.

Betsy DeVos continues her quest to be the most unpopular US Secretary of Education ever. This week two lawsuits were filed against the Department of Education and DeVos in regards to the Borrower Defense Rule aimed at protecting post-secondary students from abuses of deceptive, predatory post-secondary institutions. One of the lawsuits were filed by two individuals, the other by 18 state attorney generals. Wonder if DeVos’s actions had anything to do with her bosses experiences with the Borrower Defense Rule?

In the ever expanding language manipulation category I’ve got a new one to add to your lexicon, personalized learning. Per usual, it doesn’t mean what you think it does and also per usual, Jennifer Berkshire and Peter Greene are on top of it. I’d recommend you listen/read what they have to say because I predict you’ll be hearing the term a lot this year.

LOCAL HITS

MNPS recently released it’s strategic framework. Not to be confused with the strategic plan, which comes later. Music educator Walter Bitner takes a deep dive into and finds it lacking. I can’t say I disagree with his observations and I encourage you to read what he has to say in his blog post titled, MNPS Neglects Music Education in Strategic Framework.

We’ve spent a fair amount of time this year discussing Scholastic, inc. There was the trip to Amelia Island for a literacy conference. They were supposed to get a large contract with the district but had to settle for a smaller one to furnish teachers at select schools books for individual classroom libraries. Word on the street was that their contract with the district was not going to be renewed, but apparently their services are still available upon request to schools in the bottom 10%. Now we have a new Director of Literacy, Barbara Lashley, who comes to us via Scholastic where she was/is a Regional Literacy Consultant. I’d like to say was, but her LinkedIn profile indicates that she is still employed by Scholastic. Normally that would raise any flags, but due to the abnormally cozy relationship between certain MNPS staff and Scholastic it calls for clarification. Lashley earned her doctorate from Argosy University Sarasota. 

Mark your calendars for August 21st. That’s the day that a rare, total solar eclipse will sweep across the continental U.S. for the first time since 1918, and Nashville is the biggest city in its path. This is truly a once in a life time experience, as the next visible eclipse in Nashville will be in 2566. Being that this is a school day and MNPS is engaged in a STEAM initiative I am confident that the district will be taking full advantage of this unique opportunity and will have extensive activities planned….what…kid’s are not in school that day….The district decided schools should be closed…oh…I’m sorry…carry on.

The Country Music Hall of Fame has announced that it will be offering free admission to area students. This is a huge deal and makes the museum available to many students that might not ever get to experience it’s riches. Thank you CMHOF and we salute you!

(Upcoming Project LIT Schedule)

More big news. Project Lit has announced it’s schedule for August and September. I’m so looking forward to attending these two up coming book club meetings. I strongly encourage everyone to get involved in this initiative.

(ELL summer school students at Adventure Science Museum)

Kudos need to go out to MNPS’s ELL department. Too often summer school is utilized as an extension of the school year and poor and non-English speaking students are forced to endure more direct instruction while their wealthier counterparts are out having more hands on experiences. This year the ELL department made sure that wasn’t the case. In addition to extra instruction students also got to go to the Nashville Zoo and several museums as well as being offered ample opportunities to engage in artistic and athletic activities. Well done guys! These kids lives will be so much richer due to your work and dedication.

(ELL summer school students visit Nashville Zoo)

 

The Nashville Scene published a look at the status of charter schools in Nashville this week. Apparently charter school supporters are a little quieter this year since several high profile leaders have left town. I would argue that one of the inherent problems with charter schools is that they have a tendency to be personality driven. Would Valor be Valor without Todd Dickson? I don’t know. Often the schools thrive under dynamic leadership only to struggle and close once that leader leaves.

Charter supporters could argue that the same holds true for traditional schools and this year several of those schools will get the opportunity to find out if they will be the same school without their dynamic leader. There is no doubt that strong leadership is an essential ingredient. My two takeaways from this article are, one, that again we are having the wrong conversation,  focusing on the strength of one sector vs the strength of the whole system. The question we should be asking is, are schools measurably better this year then last year? Furthermore, do we have a better understanding of why parents choose charter school options?

My second take away is that, for what it’s worth, in the short term I’ve known her Wendy Tucker has never shied away from saying “charter school” and Jon Rybka is a genuinely nice guy trying to navigate a political landscape that is beyond his scope of experience. To paint them as Boris and Natasha cooking up a plan in the corner is to put it politely, a bit of a stretch. But hey, we boogy men sell and I can probably be accused of creating my own.

At some point we also need to recognize that the whole choice system contributes to the inequity of schools. A parent choosing to send their child to an our of zone school has the same impact as that parent opting for a charter school, private school, or home school. As much as I don’t believe in charter schools I find it hard to fault parents for taking advantage of options that a system provides for them. Charter schools are just a branch and until we are willing to have honest conversations about the whole tree, there will continued to be increased inequity.

Anybody seen any TNReady results?

POLLS

It’s Friday so that means I have questions. My first question has to do with charter schools. The local wars have heated up again and  I’m curious as to what you think policy should be.

Looking at the MNPS employment page, I see that we have just shy of 400 certificated positions open. I wonder if Teach For America will be approached to help with this short fall. After all, the premise of their contract renewal was based on an anticipated teacher shortage. Whether we further utilize TFA or not, I thought I’d ask your opinion of the organization.

The last question has to do with the pending solar eclipse. MNPS has decided to close schools that day. What’s your opinion? Is that the right choice or the wrong?

There you have it. Feels weird already wishing you a great weekend but I’ll do it any way. See you on the other side.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY

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It is my hope that you have had a wonderful extended holiday weekend. It has been very good to the Weber’s. We went from the country to the wilds of NYC and back. We reconnected with family and realized how precious it all is. Hopefully we made memories that will last a life time.

I don’t have a whole lot of education news to share, seeing as it’s a holiday weekend and everybody is off taking some down time. MNPS Director of Schools Shawn Joseph’s family will be making the transition to Nashville this month. We’d like to be among the first to say welcome to Nashville. It’s a wonderful city and we hope you have a smooth transition.

I’m hearing stories of parents at some MNPS schools buying their own water testing kits because they don’t trust MNPS based on recent Channel 5 news stories. To say this is concerning is an understatement and we will continue to follow this story. I’m sure there will be more follow up this week.

If you are a parent needing to enroll your child for the upcoming school year, MNPS has extended hours at two locations during the month of July to help accommodate parents schedules. Both locations will open every Saturday in July from 8 a.m.-12 p.m.

Central Office Enrollment Center
2601 Bransford Avenue
Nashville, TN 37204
(Use Family Information Center entrance on Berry Road)

Global Mall Enrollment Center
5250 Hickory Hollow Pkwy Ste 257/258 Antioch, TN 37013

POLL RESULTS

Without any further ado let’s take a look at the poll results from over the weekend. It’s funny when the results come back different then what I believe.

Starting with the question on homework, it seems most parents are a lot more supportive of it then I am. I believe that when a child gets home from school they should have time to spend playing, pursuing and developing their own interests, and interacting with family. I hear stories of kid’s that get home, start doing homework and don’t finish until dinner time which is followed by bath time, reading time, and bed. As an adult I would chafe at such regiment. I can only imagine a child’s opinion. I can’t see how this creates adults that are enthralled with life long learning.

But as I said, my opinion is in the minority, 52% of you sad “kid’s need to learn to study.So I’m good with it in moderation.” It would be interesting to see how we define moderation. I think you would find responses to that one encompass a large range. Here are the write-in votes:

There is research on this. I think we should be aligned with the research concl 1
a bandaid & doesn’t address real issue….more economic divide.. 1
The scale announced is right 10 min per grade with more in HS. MNPS is too easy 1
Has to be something kids can do our their own, which isn’t always the case. 1
Only developmentally appropriate for all levels

School uniforms also proved to be popular with respondents as 44% of you liked them and only 25% thought the policy should be done away with. I have mixed emotions about the policy. I usually get frustrated with it mid-year when it becomes hard to find long sleeve options. Other then that I’m good with kids having uniforms, after all most of us have to wear a uniform in the adult world. Here are the write-in votes.

Discretion of school leadership team +PTA +student =all stakeholder input =works 1
It’s difficult to enforce I think a team of children should write the dress co 1
good for some schools but not mine 1
kids 5th-12th need to learn to make appropriate choices on their own

The reason I asked the last question is because this year MNPS is changing previous start of the year scheduling and I think it’s a mistake. Previously we started with a half day and then had a day of no school. On initial observation this seems like an inefficient way to do things. The reality is that, being a large urban district, the first day is filled with families either not enrolled or enrolled in the wrong school. The day of no school is needed to sort out all registrations and to ensure everyone is assigned to right place. Not having that day means that this sorting out process will take place simultaneously with instruction commencing. It could lead to increased chaos and missed class time.

It seems as if most of you share this concern, as 63% of you responded in a manner that indicated the first day should be a half followed by a day off and then school begin in full. Let’s hope things don’t get too chaotic this year. Here are the write-in results. I should note, I’ve always been a fan of not starting until after Labor Day.

Not until Labor day 1
a margarita machine 1
Half day Wednesday, full days Thursday and Friday 1
whatever teachers and principals find most helpful 1
1/2 day M&T then go. Other options seem confusing.

That does it for the polls. Have a great holiday and let me leave you with the recent words of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to his son’s 8th grade graduation class. 

OF ESSA PLANS, INCONSISTENCIES, AND OF COURSE POLL QUESTIONS

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I know this is late, and probably not as in depth as I would like it to be, but that’s what happens when you are on vacation. To complicate matters further, I’m in the heart of the Pocono’s where WiFi access as I am accustomed to is not readily available. I’m utilizing a combination of a hot spot that my sister provided and my phone as a hot spot. Wifi may be limited but news certainly is not so let’s not waste any time getting after it.

ESSA

You might have seen the headlines this week singing the praises of Tennessee’s  ESSA education plan. Under the recent nationally passed ESSA legislation states are given more latitude than under NO Child Left Behind but are required to submit an accountability plan. Tennessee was one of the first states to submit theirs and now awaits approval. A recent review by a group spearheaded by Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success gave Tennessee solid marks though. At least that’s what the Chalkbeat TN headline said.

It’s upon closer review that I become a little confused. According to the article, “Tennessee’s plan was called “robust, transparent and comprehensive.” The review praised its “clear vision for reform” and its design of “district and school accountability systems that rely on high-quality indicators.” But they also made the remark that, “The state’s lowest rating — a 2 out of a possible 5 — was for how Tennessee plans to identify and rate schools in need of targeted support for certain groups of students. Reviewers questioned whether the state’s system might mask the performance of some by proposing to combine the scores of black, Hispanic and Native American students into one subgroup.” I would think that the later would out weigh the former and I certainly wouldn’t call a plan weak on identifying and rating schools solid. Peter Greene per usual has some excellent insight into the whole issue with ESSA nonsense. I don’t know if all of it holds true in Tennessee but it’s a worthy read.

MNPS

This week in MNPS was nothing short of embarrassing. You would think that the week before the 4th of July holiday would be relatively drama free. I was actually starting to feel a tinge of optimism after the listen and learns from earlier in the month and things appeared to be calming down. It’s amazing how things can crumble in a week. This week earns MNPS the double face palm.

Let’s start with Tuesday’s board meeting. Once again Mary Pierce introduced her resolution to treat all families of the district as… families of the district. This shouldn’t have been a hard vote, yet three members chose to abstain and one…not to vote.

I take no issue with a board member choosing  to vote against this resolution. Too chartery for you? Fair enough. But to abstain? To not vote? This resolution has been out there for a month. If a board member had issue with the wording, there was ample time to approach the author and get it amended. If they don’t agree with the resolution they should vote no and stand by their reasons. The scenario that played out is just the board playing games as always. These are the moments to remember the next time a board member tells you what “powerful work” they’ve been doing and how the retreats to Salt Lake, Chattanooga, New Orleans, and Florida have made them a much more cohesive unit. Don’t let anyone fool you, this board is as divided as ever. Just because mom and dad don’t fight in front of the kid’s doesn’t make it a happy household.

Then there was the Phil Williams report on lead in school drinking water that aired Thursday. This report comes on the heels of MNPS putting out a press release congratulating themselves on being proactive in testing water in schools for lead.  The press release reads, “While not required by the city or state, Metro Schools voluntarily initiated a water safety testing program to affirm the safety of the drinking water in schools.” No where in that release do they talk about the results from the testing. Did they really think no one would inquire?

Well Channel 5 did and here’s what they found:

At Waverly-Belmont Elementary, a faucet in one classroom tested at 135 parts per billion, while a second classroom registered 200 parts per billion.

At DuPont Elementary in Old Hickory, a water fountain there tested at 238 parts per billion.

And at Hillwood High, the chiller unit for a water fountain there registered 1,190 parts per billion — that’s almost 80 times the EPA action level.

How did MNPS respond? “We’re confident that our drinking water is safe,” said Dennis Neal, the school system’s executive director of facility and grounds maintenance. This despite the fact that, out of the 2,800 samples taken, more than a third exceeded the pediatricians’ recommendation of what is safe for children to drink. Pediatricians are kinda partial to no lead in the water. a second report that aired Friday night made things look even worse.

In all fairness this is not a Dr. Joseph problem. This goes back to the previous director of schools Jesse Register. It also should fall on the shoulders of the school board members who have served over the last 4 years. Perhaps a little less Trumpian tweeting and a little more report reading would have been in order here.

What is a Dr. Joseph problem is the apparent inability to manage a single challenge. Whether it is a snow day, teacher raises, or bus problems, nothing seems manageable before escalating. In short everything is dealt with re-actively and nothing is anticipated or addressed proactively. Remember that earning of trust thing I was talking about? If you can’t handle these issues, why should we trust you to reshape the district?

Quick raise of hands. Does anybody here not know what a Friday afternoon news dump is? Just in case, let me tell you, it’s releasing bad news or documents on a Friday afternoon in an attempt to avoid media scrutiny. Even better is a Friday holiday news dump. With a holiday news dump, nobody reads anything for several days and the chance of more immediate stories over shadowing the bad news becomes more likely. Guess what came out today at 3 pm? MNPS released communication on the brand new administration assignments. You know the big reorganization that was supposed to make us more dynamic and responsive? The one designed to allow for better planning and coordination across all grade levels in support of the district’s Strategic Framework. A framework that would create tighter communities and allow families to follow one path forward. I find it hard to imagine a more critical document that could be released. For all the fan fare and bally hoo, it doesn’t feel like they want the plan looked at too closely.

I’m not going to spend to much time on this because I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say on it going forward after I dig into things a little more but a few things stand out. I am curious why we are giving the heads of HR new titles and raises after only a year. But what do I know? Maybe they’ve drastically improved the department.

In looking at the EDSSI assignments I’ve got several questions. I was under the impression that each EDSSI would have a cluster. You know that pathway thing? “Having one person for the parent to be able to contact from K-12 will help strengthen communication over a student’s career,” as Dr. Joseph stated when announcing the restructure.   Yea, not so much. Each EDSSI has several schools from various clusters. I’m going to have to study it a bit more, but to my untrained eye it looks as if everybody just drew straws. When I get back I’ll be filing an open records request for salaries. That’s when things should get real interesting. Like I said, more on this later.

Things keep getting hotter in Prince George County. Last week the NAACP asked the board not to renew CEO of Schools Kevin Maxwell’s contract and the Governor of Maryland thinks there should be an investigation. The state board of education agrees with the governor and will conduct an investigation.

BETTER NEWS, WELL KINDA

We do want to wish a fond farewell to some of MNPS’s good un’s who are moving on. Thank you Tim Drinkwine, John Hubble, and Connie Gwinn for making our schools a much better places. If we send up a bat signal will you come back?

Tusculum ES saw the moving of the library this week. Excitement abounds. Looking more and more like a school and less and less like a refugee camp.

If you haven’t read Mary Jo Cramb’s piece on teacher retention, do yourself a favor and read it now.

Phone battery is starting to die so I better get to the poll questions.

This week I’d like to know how you gauge homework, MNPS has a new policy and I’m not so sure it’s going to be very popular. My second question has to do with the start of the school year. This year MNPS has decided to jump right in with a full week right from the beginning. Lastly, I’m starting to see school uniforms on the racks at stores and I wanted to know your thoughts.

There ya go.

GOING TO THE SOURCE, A TEACHER’S THOUGHTS ON TEACHER RETENTION.

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On occasion I have been blessed to have others willing to share their thoughts and experiences with me. As often as permissible I am honored to share these thoughts and experiences with you.

It’s no secret that I have grave concerns about the teaching profession. A decade ago I became involved in educational issues because my wife was working on attaining her Master Degree in education in preparation for entering the teaching profession at the same time as Teach For America was feeding college grads with 6 weeks of prep time into the system. That didn’t sit right with me. Over the years I’ve watched MNPS hemorrhage teachers and do little to stem the bleeding. The trend is not isolated to local entities either. Nationally we are beginning to grapple with a shortage of teachers at the same time it’s generally acknowledged that a quality teacher is the most important element of a child’s education. At some point substantial steps need to be taken.

Mary Jo Cramb is a local teacher and an exceptional writer who read one of my posts last year and has been doing her own thinking on the subject. I am grateful that she has chosen Dad Gone Wild as a vehicle to share those thoughts.

I loved TC Weber’s blog post on teacher retention from last year. He’s a parent who stands up for teachers, and that is so important because too often people pretend that the interests of these two groups are opposed, when they are not. Everything he says here is true. The profession has been devalued, and we do need a seat at the table. But there’s one aspect of the issue that TC missed entirely: a gender analysis.

Teaching is a female dominated profession.

Because it is a profession dominated by women, making teaching more family-friendly will improve retention. School districts aren’t just competing with other districts or other professions for teachers. They’re also competing with babies.

Teachers drop out of the profession very quickly in the first five years or so. Assuming most new teachers begin their career soon after graduating college, this drop-off coincides almost perfectly with the average age of first childbirth for women. Lots of women who quit teaching do it because they decide to stay home with their children. Therefore, school districts need to make it easier and more attractive to stay in the classroom than to stay home with a child. And that’s a really hard bargain. Babies are hard to beat. A paycheck alone won’t do it, especially a low one. The intangible rewards of teaching, the joy of seeing children learn, aren’t going to keep a young mother in the classroom when she can just as easily watch her own child learn and grow. To compete with the allure of parenting, districts should present teaching as a job that allows workers to be the best parents they can be, a job that encourages them to put their own children first.

In addition to this retention problem, teaching also has a problem attracting new people to the profession. Especially men. Our male students need male role models, showing them a new vision of masculinity different from the aggressive, dominating figures they see in the media. Luckily, the changes that will keep young mothers teaching and that will attract men to the profession are some of the same things. The younger generation of men wants to be involved fathers, and are less likely to out-earn their wives than previous generations, so they may be equally tempted to drop out of the workforce and stay home with kids, especially if a low teaching salary isn’t enough of a reason to keep working.

To attract and retain the best teachers, I propose four improvements to benefits: 1) longer, paid parental leave, 2) options for part-time work, 3) free, high-quality on-site child care, and 4) increased pay.

1) Parental leave in the US is dismal compared to every other country in the world. Until legislators can improve FMLA, employers have to take care of parents so that they can take care of children. Ideally, parents should have at least six months paid time off to care for a new child. The parental leave policy should be gender neutral, allowing parents plenty of time off regardless of whether they give birth, or the circumstances of their birth or adoption.

This is how bad the current state of maternity leave for teachers is. When I called to find out exactly what to expect for my most recent maternity leave, I found out that my district’s policy is that FMLA leave is paid only as long as accrued sick time not used up, and as long as the “period of physical disability” lasts. For a vaginal birth, that’s six weeks, for a C-section it’s eight. This makes no sense to me: the district is creating an incentive for mothers to choose to undergo unnecessary surgery. I don’t understand why our health insurance company allows this. Surely the difference they pay for a C-section versus a normal birth is greater than a single paycheck for a teacher. At the very least, this nonsensical policy should be changed so that all women can use at least eight weeks of their earned sick time after giving birth regardless of how they did it.

Despite the fact that I had over 15 weeks of paid sick time accrued, I was only allowed to use six weeks of it for my maternity leave, and had to take a few weeks unpaid. And the district deducted my health insurance premiums from later paychecks to cover my family during those unpaid weeks. It’s hard not to resent that kind of stinginess. Instead of building my loyalty by taking care of me, my district built instead a sense of grievance and distrust. (It didn’t help that the HR representative who explained this to me was rude about it.)

It should go without saying that generous family leave policies should also apply for people with aging parents, ill spouses, or other family care responsibilities.

Parental leave is a federal and state issue, so our local district probably won’t be able to use it to make itself more competitive as an employer. It seems likely that teachers won’t get paid parental leave until everybody does. We should advocate for changes to these laws in Congress and the state house. In the meantime, inadequate parental leave policies will continue to hurt teachers, their children, and their students.

2) Among the new mothers I talk to, a part-time job is the holy grail. They want to enjoy lots of time with their kids, to nurse during the day more often than they pump. But they also want to be engaged in meaningful work, to be with adults and use their training and skills. They usually dread the chaos that might result if they are out of the house too long each week, the laundry and dirt that would pile up, the lack of sleep and loss of time for self-care. A part-time job allows a balance that aligns more closely with a parent’s priorities while children are young.

I’ve taught part time during summer school (the budget couldn’t pay me for full time work) and loved it. I found the schedule ideal. I kept my kid in full-time child care and enjoyed half a day to myself, exercising, writing, reading, and doing chores. If I could do part time work all year and feel secure in my job and my finances, I would do it in a heartbeat, at least in this stage of my life.

I know it would be easier for many teaching jobs to become part time with no loss in quality than it would be for many other jobs to make the same transition. For example, in a high school with an A/B block schedule, two teachers could share one classroom, one teaching on A days and the other on B days. My first year, I taught 3 English classes and 3 Spanish classes. I was like two teachers in one; two part time teachers with different certifications could have done my job. In fact, the flexibility that could be possible with many part-time teachers might be just what principals are looking for in creating their schedules. In order to make the offer of part time work feasible and attractive, health benefits would have to be included, at least on a prorated basis, even for less than half-time work.

Our district already has a job-sharing policy. I’d like to see this policy used more frequently, and expanded to increase flexibility. A teacher should be able to work part time independent of a partner teacher who’s splitting her position. As it is, if one teacher wants to go back to working full time, the other will probably have to switch schools or scramble to find a different job-sharing partner. When a teacher begins to get burned out, principals should notice that and offer her the chance to work part time, and then should be celebrated for saving that teacher from becoming another statistic on retention.

3) I’ve written before about the need for free, high-quality, on-site child care in schools. While hooked up to my breast pump, I used to daydream about how nice it would be if I could just walk down the hall, nurse my baby, give him back to a caregiver, and then go teach my next class, instead of listening to the mechanical whirring of my Medela. In addition to the benefit to teachers, another thing to consider is the potential of a school’s child care center to help students as well. I’m imagining a few classrooms at a large high school set aside to care for children of the faculty and staff. Students could assist in the care center and earn elective credits and perhaps certification in early childhood care. Also, students who have children of their own could bring them to the care center as well. At my nontraditional high school, we always have several students who are parents. These students miss a lot of class when the care arrangements they make for their children fall through, and so they’re often in danger of failing and/or dropping out. If schools could offer these students free child care, they would do much to keep them in school, benefiting the young parents and their kids. It would also pay off down the line when these at-risk kids are in school themselves and the high-quality care they received as babies means they aren’t as far behind as they might have been otherwise.

Nearby districts are already trying this. Murfreesboro City Schools is offering childcare for its employees. (No mention of students involved in these childcare centers in any way, and they appear to be in a central location rather than in the school buildings.) The district is charging below market rates for it, but they’re still charging, so while it’s a step in the right direction, this situation is not ideal.

4) We live in a country with a large wage gap between men and women. However, within the teaching profession there is a not huge gap between what male and female teachers earn. (Except for the money women lose when they go on unpaid maternity leave, and the fact that men are over-represented in administration relative to women, when compared to the pool of teachers that the administrators come from.) Teaching’s lack of an internal pay gap is mostly because of set salary schedules and collective bargaining. In other professions, much of the extra pay men receive relative to women comes from their negotiating larger starting salaries, and that is not an option in the public school system. The fact that teacher salaries are nonnegotiable is a good thing that I don’t think we should change because it could potentially open up an inequality that wasn’t there before.

The impact of the wage gap on the teaching profession is that it is underpaid because it is dominated by women. When women first moved into the teaching profession, salaries went down, and they have largely stayed down. (Read The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession if you don’t believe me.) Generally, men who move into female dominated professions are underpaid relative to men in other professions–and that is the problem. Men see that, and choose not to pursue teaching. To attract men, we have to pay more. It’s as simple as that.

Increasing pay will also attract and retain more women. Seventy or eighty years ago, women had very few options for employment, so many of the best and brightest women became teachers. Students benefitted from women’s lack of economic opportunity. As options for women expanded, many of the women who might have become teachers in previous generations became doctors, lawyers, college professors, or business leaders instead. To attract these high-potential women back to public school teaching, salaries will have to improve. At least to the point where the low salary isn’t the first thing that comes to someone’s mind when you tell them you’re a teacher.

Increasing pay will also help to retain parents who might otherwise choose to stay home with children. Parents do some math during pregnancy. They look at the monthly salary of the lower earner in the couple (probably the teacher) and compare it with the monthly child care bill they expect to pay. If child care is going to cost more than half of the teaching paycheck, it starts to feel like it would be better to just stay home. This is especially likely to be true if there is more than one child who will require paid child care.

It might seem odd for me to call for making teaching a more family-friendly career when it already has a reputation of being pretty family friendly, mostly because of its yearly calendars and daily schedules. However, that’s not because teaching is so perfectly complementary to family life, but because other jobs are even worse. Teachers have a lot of vacation time, and it obviously aligns with their children’s school calendars. However, there is a lot of hidden work that teachers do that others don’t know or think about, they’re so blinded by the idea of summer vacations. For example, in my district there are 10 days this school year when teachers will be in school with no students. Teachers with school age kids will have to scramble to find care for them during those days (just as other parents do), or perhaps bring them to school with them, if allowed. Also, vacation time in the summer is a meaningless benefit if teachers are paid so little that they have to work a second job during that time. Teachers are finished earlier in the afternoon than a typical 9-5 job, and thus available for after-school care for their kids. However, very few teachers go home right after the bell rings. Also, school start and end times do not always align. For example, in my district, high schools’ hours are 7-2, elementary schools are 8-3, and middle schools are 9-4. A middle school teacher with a son in high school would not be able to supervise him after school. A high school teacher with an elementary school daughter would not be able to drop her off to school.

The alignment of calendars and hours is not helpful to teaching parents whose kids are not in school yet. Babies and toddlers need full-time care. Without paid parental leave and child care, families are left scrambling during the years when children need their parents the most. Without more support from their employers during that time, workers are more likely to simply opt out, especially if the salary isn’t high enough to be worth the trouble.

Yes, the benefits I am asking for here are much, much better than those offered in many other professions. They would make teaching a better job than a lot of other jobs. Isn’t that exactly the point? Isn’t the goal to attract people to the profession and get them to stay? In order to do that, you have to make it more attractive than other professions. You have to look around and see what other jobs aren’t offering, and offer that. Tech companies are famous for their perks because they’re competing for quality workers. Education “reformers” bemoan the quality of teachers without offering high-potential young adults any reason to consider the profession.

Besides, these are changes that I think should happen broadly across all workplaces. There should be no gender pay gap, either within professions, or across professions. Every worker deserves paid parental leave. All workplaces should be flexible, with easy ways for people to ramp hours and responsibilities up and down according to changing family responsibilities. Free, high-quality child care should be widely available and not necessarily dependent on one’s employer. Workers should be paid commensurate with their education and experience, so that they can support a family in comfort and security. Instead of trailing other professions and offering only the minimum benefits required to temporarily fill positions, education should lead other professions in this area, competing to attract and keep the best workers by offering impressive salaries and perks.

Nashville’s teachers are currently negotiating with the district for a new contract, using the collaborative conferencing process. I hope that the management team will take these ideas into account when they are sitting at the table with our union. Fulfilling our requests will make their jobs easier and better our schools by improving teacher retention and recruitment. We’re not asking for the moon, we’re just asking for what everyone should have, what we need in order to make our work sustainable.