Posted in Uncategorized

A POWERFUL VOICE

Today, MNPS Board member Amy Frogge posted a piece to her Facebook page calling out the way that Director of Schools Shawn Joseph conducts himself with women. It’s a powerful piece and one that I am sharing without permission because I believe the message is that vital. I also believe that it is important you understand the back story behind Frogge’s critical posts.

Shortly after becoming elected to the school board 6 years ago, Amy and I became friends. Our friendship grew out of our mutual love of public schools. Over the next 4 years, we worked together on a myriad of issues. Issues that took us from local schools to the courthouse to the state house and even national recognition. In those 4 years, I discovered a woman who is fiercely loyal to her family, committed to giving all kids a shot at a great education, courageous enough to always stand by her convictions, and committed to doing the research it takes to ensure that those convictions are rooted in the truth. One of my favorite conversations is the interview I conducted with her a few years ago.

The selection process that bought Dr. Joseph to Nashville, headed by then, and now-newly-re-elected, board chair Sharon Gentry, was dysfunctional at best. It proceeded with starts and stops, the first part ended in a scene right out of the movie Runaway Bride, outside interests were given way too much influence, and previously agreed upon procedures were disregarded at will. I remember offering Amy the cautionary advice that “Nothing that springs from corrupted ground will have the opportunity to grow uncorrupted.”

My advice was dismissed under a wave of optimism. Nobody was more optimistic than board member Amy Frogge. She was all in on the director of schools Shawn Joseph. The director’s family was not here for the first year of his tenure, and Frogge opened her home to him, often inviting him over to visit and socialize with her family and at community events. When questions were raised about the director’s decisions or practices, she staunchly defended him. In her eyes, we owed it to Dr. Joseph to give him every opportunity to succeed, even if it cost her personal friendships.

As that first year progressed, the friendship between Amy and I regressed. We went from talking three times a week to talking once a month. Where conversations had previously been filled with laughter and optimism, they grew terse and defensive. Amy’s husband Patrick, a man who I have deep respect for, and I ended up in a very heated conversation. We haven’t talked since, and I regret that.

Mine wasn’t the only relationship that suffered either. Other parent activists grew frustrated and became less involved. By the end of the first year of Joseph’s tenure, former supporters were openly asking on social media, “What the hell had happened to Frogge?” Amy remained staunch in her defense of the director though. Her commitment to our schools, and by de facto our director, superseded the need to be popular or appease friends. His missteps continued to be written off as rookie mistakes.

It wasn’t until this past budget season that Dr. Joseph let the mask slip and Frogge got a glimpse of what many of us have been seeing for a long time. The director’s words and his actions didn’t align. Even though she now realizes that she made a mistake, she could have easily remained silent and just continued to work against the director internally. She did try that for a little bit, but it was ineffective. And the evidence of the district heading in the wrong direction continued to mount, leaving Amy with few options.

Amy may deny this – but I know her well enough to know it’s true – the director could have fixed this at any time in the last 3 months. With a little introspection, a little humility, and a little cooperation, I firmly believe he could have, at least temporarily, brought her back into the fold. Unfortunately, someone must have once given Dr. Joseph the bad advice of “Never let them see you sweat.”

Nobody told him we like our leaders with a little more humanity. He has never made a serious attempt to repair the relationship with Amy. Instead, he has maintained a position that he is here to save a district that never asked for a savior, and we all will eventually acquiesce to his desires. It is a bad strategy headed for a bad outcome.

I think it is important that you know the back story so that when you read the words of Amy Frogge, you understand exactly what it took her to get to this point. For the first 18 months, she was fiercely loyal to Dr. Joseph. A loyalty that she didn’t surrender; rather it was a loyalty that was destroyed by the very person she bestowed it to. Her words aren’t written in anger or in a reactionary moment; rather they are words that have been mulled over and carefully chosen in order to fully impress upon people the severity of the current situation.

Once again, her position is coming with sacrifice. Former political allies quite frankly wish she’d shut up. Those whom she’s shown loyalty to for years suddenly seem incapable of reciprocation. I’m proud to have her as my friend. Hopefully, she considers me likewise, and I applaud her for always trying to do what she thinks is best. I hope that you read her words, and I hope those words lead you to action. Email your board members, write your council person, call the mayor.

Change is seldom easy and it’s often scary. It can also be exhilarating. We now know what we don’t want in a leader. We also have a greater appreciation of the people in the individual schools who care for our kids. Continuing on the same path will not lead to success. If you are honest with yourself, you know that.

Read the words of Amy Frogge and let them spur you to action:

Take a moment and watch this interaction between the Director of Schools Shawn Joseph and a female reporter. It’s important to note that this reporter was actually invited to the MNPS press conference, where she asked a perfectly reasonable (and pretty predictable) question: What would you tell the parents of children in priority schools?

Joseph is quick to put this female reporter in her place with a rude and unprofessional response. Rather than answering her question, he turns the tables on her, trying to bully her. After the press conference, Joseph’s fraternity brothers followed this reporter into the parking lot to harass her, telling her that her questioning of Joseph was not appropriate.

Joseph’s frat brothers had been asked to stack the press conference to show support for Joseph, lending a rather tone-deaf atmosphere to the event. Although the press conference was held to address the fact that the number of “failing” schools has more than doubled under Joseph’s watch, Joseph began the conference by saying, “Can I get an amen?!” The conference, which should have been quite serious, was strangely filled with cheers for Joseph himself. (Joseph, through fliers distributed with his photo on them, often requests that his frat brothers show up to board meetings and other events to cheer him on or to go after anyone who questions him.)

Certainly, people have bad days, and I would perhaps just disregard Joseph’s testy interaction with this reporter under another circumstance. But I have seen this sort of behavior repeatedly from our Director. While he can be very nice toward those to do not question him, he changes his demeanor toward those who raise questions about problems in the district. (It took me a long to time to see the problem, since I was very supportive of Joseph for the first year and a half of his tenure.) He particularly does not tolerate questions from females (no matter how professional or polite) and uses bullying tactics to avoid answering them. This sets a poor tone for the district, as it is his job to answer questions.

Joseph has tried to put me in my place (by threatening lawsuits, by telling me what I can and cannot say on the board floor and by inviting his frat brothers to meetings to call me out). He has tried to put Jill Speering in her place by cutting Reading Recovery (her favorite program that she championed for decades), thereby suddenly firing 87 Reading Recovery teachers, many of whom were Jill’s friends, with no plan in place to repurpose them. And Joseph is already starting to go after Fran Bush, the newest board member to question him. Joseph loves to use race as a weapon to protect himself, quickly labeling anyone who disagrees with him a “racist,” but I think he will find this tactic increasingly difficult to utilize as more begin to speak up.

This is the behavior of a bully, plain and simple. Joseph has banned employees from speaking to board members. And just yesterday, he actually banned employees from writing anything negative on social media about the district or its leadership. These are crazy times.

Since I have begun speaking up against problematic practices in the district, I have received hundreds of thank-yous from MNPS employees and parents, including flowers and gifts. Not a day goes by that I do not receive a call or message from a grateful employee. The usual message is: “We are hanging on by a thread. Please, please keep it up!” I have suggested that others must start using their own voices to address problems, but employees- and amazingly even parents- respond, “Oh, no- we know how vindictive he is!” Teachers, bus drivers, and other staff members know they will lose their jobs for voicing problems (they’ve seen what Joseph did with Reading Recovery as vengeance against Jill), and parents actually fear that Joseph will take funding from their schools or try to punish their children in some way if they speak up. Many are deeply afraid of being attacked along racial lines for voicing concerns; Joseph has done everything in his power to stir racial divides and anger in order to avoid being held accountable. Something is seriously wrong when we have arrived at this place.

Jill, Fran, and I am more than happy to keep standing up and to serve as a voice for the voiceless. I have stood up to bullies before; I have no fear and absolutely nothing to lose. I always outlast them. But for things to truly change, Jill, Fran and I cannot continue to be the only voices speaking for the community. We are doing all we can, but we need help. Please consider speaking up, even if you must remain anonymous and ask someone else to serve as your voice.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized

IT’S A QUESTION OF PRIORITY

“I’m about to fuck up, he thought clearly, and his next thought was, but I don’t have to. This was followed closely by a third thought, the last of this familiar sequence, which was, but I’m going to anyway.”
Richard Russo, Nobody’s Fool

“I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger.
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger.” – Rod Stewart, Ooh La La 

I long considered the potential ramifications before citing the above quote by author Richard Russo, but it just seemed so appropriate that I couldn’t resist. Once I decided to use it, I toyed with offering an apology and then remembered another one of my favorite quotes. This one by author P.G. Wodehouse:

“It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.”

So that’s where we are at.

PRIORITY SCHOOLS

Last week, there was a lot of focus on the state of Tennessee’s recently released priority school list and it’s no secret that I was critical of the district’s response. Based on that criticism, I think a fair response would be, “All right, smart guy, what would be your response?”

So here is how I would have responded to last week’s release of priority schools. I understand that in some areas, it’s a little easier for me than it is for the current director of schools, but I firmly believe in the legitimacy of my responses.

I would have started off last week’s press conference with the following statement:

“Thank you for coming this morning. I would just like to say that with all respect to the TNDOE, the recently released priority list is bullshit due to the fact that it is based on a bullshit test. Sorry, I’m not saying that results are not without some value, but at best they are merely a snapshot of where kids are on that day and are a clearer indicator of socioeconomic status than of actual learning. We don’t believe in the priority school list because we consider ALL of our schools a priority. That said, we do recognize that we have some areas that need to address so that all schools can have greater outcomes, and I’ll share details of those plans.”

That statement would probably cause a bit of an uproar, but it would easily be the most honest thing that’s been said to citizens about our schools in a long time and it’s basically indisputable.

Take a look at a map showing the locations of the schools designated “priority schools” – I refuse to call them “innovation” schools because that’s just intentional obfuscation. Every one of them lies in areas populated by people with a lower economic status. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that all kids can’t learn. I’m saying that it’s a lot easier to learn if your stomach’s not rumbling, your shoes are a size too small, or you are suffering from an illness resulting from a sub-par housing situation. Those assertions are indisputable.

To their credit, both MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph and School Board Chair Dr. Sharon Gentry alluded to those social challenges during last week’s press conference. But then they proceeded to allude to some kind of collaboration with the mayor and council members to work on those issues. Sorry, but that’s not their gig.

Too often, I imagine due to having the most daily contact with kids, educators are quick to rush in and try to create solutions to socio-economic challenges. Unfortunately, they are not the ones charged with facing the challenges, nor the best equipped. I don’t want the chair of the school board crafting affordable housing policy anymore than I want the mayor crafting literacy curriculum. In the words of Belichick, “Just do your job.”

Mayor Briley often talks about wanting to support Dr. Joseph and the schools. Awesome. You want to support him? Craft policies that address affordable housing, stagnant wage growth, and mass transit. The governor wants to be known as an “education governor”? Address health care issues and incarceration rates. Some may argue for the need of a “high-quality assessment aligned to our state’s academic expectation” in order to provide better results, but I guarantee you that if you improve health care and lower incarceration rates you’ll instantly see better student outcomes.

About those “high-quality assessments aligned with our state’s academic expectations,” shouldn’t you prove that you can administer them with fidelity before attaching high stakes to them? Look at the caveats that went into creating this year’s priority schools list. Due to state legislation passed in response to technical glitches involved with this year’s testing, inclusion on the priority list is based primarily on results from the two years prior to the recently completed school year. Except if your school did well, then this year’s results could count. For even more clarity, here’s TNEd Report’s take:

By the way, we now have the following set of apples, oranges, and bananas from which we are determining student growth:

2015 — TCAP

2016 — NO TNReady

2017 — pencil and paper TNReady

2018 — Hacker and Dump Truck TNReady

Not exactly confidence instilling. And I would work to instill confidence in stakeholders. I wouldn’t do that by telling stories about kids who are going to Harvard after playing football at a priority school and graduating from a magnet.

Telling stories about Harvard-bound seniors and merit scholars are wonderful. Those are stories that are grand and should be told. But equally important are the ones that involve kids that are now work in A/C repair, or are ministers, insurance sales people, or police officers. The ones that are using their quality education to raise their families, care for their aging parents, and because of the lessons they learned in their schools are proving to be better citizens.

Truth is, those are the lives most of us are going to live. Lives that may in outward appearance appear ordinary, but in reality, are inwardly filled with a million miracles. Those are the examples that I would cite to reassure stakeholders about the lessons the community’s children are learning and practicing daily. Examples that are never reflected in a standardized test administrated by the state. A test where results are not even returned until well after the beginning of the next school year. A return time that makes it impossible for them to drive instruction and only serves as a means to try to pick winners and losers.

My approach would be a lot more honest than the conversations that are currently taking place. Conversations where people wring their hands, decry the terrible fates we are forcing upon kids, chant slogans that are better left to t-shirts and Hallmark cards, raise money on the backs of these children, only in the end to do nothing of substance. Think I’m exaggerating? Check out the 2017 990 Tax Form from the Nashville Public Education Foundation and see the amount of money their director made last year and then tell me I’m wrong.

We could go on all day about the fallacies with the test, but let’s move on to what we could do for ALL school that would improve outcomes for ALL schools. The first, and maybe simplest thing, would be to expand the Community Achieves program. All schools that exited the priority list were Community Achieves Schools. There is plenty of data that readily supports their work. My only complaint with Community Achieves is that expansion has come at a glacial pace. Let’s pick things up a bit.

The next area of focus should be on personnel. Let’s start with the head honchos. Look at the schools that are on the underperforming list and you will find that the majority have had high turnover at the top over the last 5 years. There are some exceptions – Joelton Middle School, I’m looking at you. But in those schools, you’ll likely find a lot of turnover in those leadership positions directly below the principal, i.e. your AP’s and your Deans. It’s hard to produce quality results without stability at the top. Just ask the Cleveland Browns or Tennessee Vols. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

The district’s proposed priority school plan did get it right when it placed a focus on teachers. But I’d argue this is a district problem and not just a priority school problem. Though they refuse to acknowledge it, the district has been hemorrhaging teachers for the last 3 years. Reasons run from salary issues to a perceived lack of respect. When I ran for school board, I often talked about the need to not just focus on salary increases for teachers but to create robust compensation packages that address needs like child care and homeownership. Invest in teachers so they will invest in the district. This is an area that the Mayor, Metro Council, and business could be instrumental in. You want to impact literacy rates… take care of those who can do the most to impact student learning.

A lifestyle compensation package would go a long way towards counteracting the perceived lack of value that teachers feel, but if you want to take it even further, let teachers teach. If district leaders want the trust of teachers, they have to trust in them. Provide curriculum supports, but stop the implication of required scripted teaching. Realize that all teachers, like all students, are different. Some may like the heavily structured lesson plans and prefer to use them straight out of the box, while others will want to add their own imprint. Let teachers decide and then help them succeed by giving supports based on that choice. It can’t be said enough, show trust and you will receive trust. Without trust, there can be no success.

We need to stop reigniting the reading wars of the past. Phonics, like other tools, has its value but the over-reliance on one tool over all others sets us up for failure. Per a recent article in the Washington Post:

It is time to change the thinking from rigid “either-or choices” in literacy instruction to responsive “yes-ands” that engage children’s unique pathways to literacy.

We can have classrooms with explicit phonics instruction and engagement with literatures that sustain the cultures and identities of our students. We can teach reading and writing, and let one support the other.

We can plan for motivation, engagement, identity development and rigorous skill development in the same lesson. We can build classrooms that teach all students to read, but not if we miss opportunities to learn from current practices before running in the other direction.

I’m also not buying into this new TNTP argument that kids are not getting enough “rigorous” instruction. I’ve got two kids who have attended a cusp school for the last several years, and the rigor of their instruction has been quite satisfactory. What there has been is some sacrifice of social studies and science instruction in order to have more rigorous math and literacy instruction. That’s due to the narrowing of focus in response to the need to produce better test results, and this is problematic. What the most challenged schools need is not a narrowing of focus, but rather a broadening. Again that relates back to trusting teachers.

Finally, under personnel, we need to address our substitute teachers. This past Friday there were over 300 unfilled vacancies in the district due to teacher absences. That should be unacceptable. We are also utilizing long-term substitutes to fill permanent teaching vacancies. That should be unacceptable. I’m also hearing stories of PTO boards becoming substitute teachers to help offset the need. That’s not really a solution either.

The current priority school plan calls for a focus on absentee rates. That’s all fine and good, but are any of the aforementioned scenarios a marked difference from kids not being in schools? Again, when I ran for school board, I talked of a plan that would create substitute pools by quadrant, a pathway to making substitutes benefit eligible, and ways to include substitutes in district professional development offerings. I firmly believe these steps are essential.

We also need to look at our calendar. The largest single day of teacher absences has historically been the Friday of TSU’s homecoming weekend. In response, the district has moved back fall break to coincide with that event. Unfortunately, the prolonged time before a break puts undue stress on non-TSU alumni resulting in more personal days leading up to fall break.

The idea that the district sanctions the missing of work for college fraternity activities is just mind boggling to me. I had a great time in college. It was a very meaningful time in my life, but I’m not in college anymore. I’m a professional with professional responsibilities. I can not for the life of me understand how you can justify asking students to sacrifice a day of learning in order to participate in college-based rituals. Perhaps the argument can be made that these rituals are community-based and akin to religious ceremonies, but I find that a stretch. Our calendar needs to reflect the needs of kids and not the social needs of adults. Burning teachers out in order to allow a select number to participate in social rituals is not good policy.

I urge you to drive around the district and check out the facilities of the schools on the priority list. You’ll find that for the most part, they are housed in aging buildings supplemented by the use of portables. Environment makes a difference. Kids who have to go in and out of the building to portables have increased exposure to inclement weather, which leads to higher rates of illness, resulting in greater absenteeism. I can tell you from first hand experience, being in a quality facility has a direct impact on educational outcomes. Here’s another area where both local and state elected officials could actually impact outcomes if they were serious about the importance of education. As a school board candidate, I raised the need to create a single bond that would create the funding for all schools capital needs to be updated.

It should also be noted that we can not have a conversation about underperforming schools without acknowledging the role a choice system plays in their creation. I personally do not believe that a choice system and an equitable system can exist side by side, at least not without everybody having the same resources. The very act of choice creates inequity. You are choosing one option over another based on perceived value. As more people make a choice, one option grows in perceived value while one diminishes. Rail against it all you want, but it’s the natural process and eventually, you are left with schools that are rife with resources and those that are depleted.

Now if everybody starts with the same resources when making their choices – knowledge, transportation, flexibility, etc. – the choice options, perhaps, would remain more balanced. But since not all parents have the same understanding of the system, flexibility of schedule in order to transport kids, or even method of transportation, those with the most resources tend to congregate in the same schools. Leaving those with fewer resources in other schools. As time goes on, the disparities only grow because nobody wants to send their children to a school that is perceived to be under-resourced.

This is where the proposal to send more Title I money to those under-resourced schools is supposed to counteract the effects of choice. But unless you are using that money to buy families reliable transportation or to adjust work schedules so that parents can participate more, you are not really changing outcomes. Families will make choices based on the choices of others and who they wish to emulate. As a result, you will see families with resources congregate in select schools, while other schools are left to serve those with fewer resources.

Remember how I told you that standardized testing is better at identifying socio-economic status than actual learning? Well, what you are left with under a choice system results in a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but I fail to see how you can have your cake and eat it too.

That, in a nutshell, is my approach to addressing priority schools. I have a few more ideas and I’ll share them in the future. Under the current administration, I’m slow to lobby the city for more money. However, if we were making some of my aforementioned initiatives a priority, I believe it would be money well spent and it wouldn’t take long to see positive results. I know some of it is fairly idealistic, but isn’t that the goal of education, to unlock the power of dreams?

QUICK HITS

Blogger and Pennsylvania teacher Steven Singer has a post out on the distinction between being “data-driven” and “data-informed.” Needless to say, it’s a big distinction.

Over the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Robertson County resident and teacher Larry Proffit. I’ve always found him to be a true gentleman and a scholar. Larry is running for the office of state representative to the legislature. Today he received Diane Ravitch’s endorsement. Help a brother out if you can.

Wednesday at noon is the deadline to sign up to speak at next week’s board meeting. If you have something to say, now is the time to say it.

I would like to give a quick shout out to Mathematics Director Jessica Slayton. The word on the street is that she and her team are offering some excellent professional development opportunities in the realm of mathematics. Opportunities that should provide great outcomes for kids. Thanks for the great work!

Bands of America competitions draw some of the best bands in the country, and BOA Clarksville this past weekend was no exception. Bands like Castle, Franklin, and O’Fallen Township continually rank among the best. This weekend, Overton HS Band also competed.  Late last night they received the overall breakdown of scores from preliminaries and have very exciting news! Out of 28 bands, they were ranked 13th! On top of that, they were only 1.1 points away from making finals! This is a huge success, especially since they were competing against groups that make BOA Grand National semi-finals and finals year after year. Additionally, a band director of one of the bands that made finals Saturday sent the following message:

“GREAT job today at BOA! Wow! Best Overton Band I’ve seen since I started teaching around here. Y’all should be super proud, they sound GREAT! (insert hand clap emoji) Please send your kids my congrats!”

So, even though they didn’t make finals this time, they should be extremely proud of their performance and continue striving for growth! Watch out for them next year BOA! Luckily band parent Terri Lampley Watson was there to document.

POLL RESULTS

The response to this week’s poll questions was admittedly a little low, but here are the results.

The first question asked for your opinion on the district’s priority school plan. Tied at 37% apiece were the answers “they announced a plan” and “same old same old.” Only 3% of you thought it was a great plan. Here are the write-in answers:

hokum and horseshit. Makes me sad. 1
Just a bunch of catchphrases & big words to cover for ineptitude 1
Dr. J continues to harm students of color 1
ALL KIDS DESERVE THIS MUCH CARE! 1
Lip service 1
What plan? There is no plan with substance-better check with the home town folk 1
Incompetence 1
Not enough emphasis on retaining staff. Quality people are seeking real salaries

Question 2 asked you to grade the district’s press conference in response to the release of the priority list. It doesn’t appear that you were too impressed. 52% of you gave it an F, and 25% gave it a D. Three of you felt it was worth a B. Here are the write-ins:

Didn’t see it 1
an embarrassment 1
F. Can’t make diamonds from feces. 1
What press conference?

The last question asked where you place blame for the district’s failure to adhere to state law by reporting teacher discipline issues to the state. Overwhelmingly, 75% of you laid blame at the feet of the director and his office. None of you blame the former employee. Hmmm… here are the write-ins:

Director and the corrupt HR Department 1
director and HR

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon. Peace out.

Posted in Uncategorized

DOING HANDSTANDS

“No longer how long you play guitar, there is always something new to learn” – Tom Petty

“’I It’s easier if you do a handstand,’ commented Rebus. ‘What is?’ ‘Talking out of your arse.’”
Ian Rankin, The Black Book

I’m going to do something today that I don’t normally do. I’m going to compliment the MNPS school board. This week’s meeting, and the governance committee meeting that accompanied it, looked more like an actual meeting than the normal staged event it has become. For that, I think all board members deserve kudos.

It was certainly a meeting that had some heft and all board members did their part in fleshing things out. For the first time in a long time, board members asked hard questions publicly. Questions that more closely reflected the questions that community members have raised for months. It was good to see board members holding the director and others accountable and doing so in a respectful manner.

I’ve heard some folks comment that they felt there were some fireworks involved in the meetings. I disagree. There were moments of discomfort certainly, but I think everybody remained respectful. People were certainly blunt, but I didn’t feel they were rude.

There were moments when emotions spilled over. I welcome that. Remember we are dealing with kids and their futures here. Kids who, I don’t think anybody would argue, are not being fully served. I think a little anger is good. If it makes people a little uncomfortable, good. Change isn’t borne out of comfort, and we certainly need some change, either in policy or personnel.

That said, there are a few things I would like to direct your attention to that happened in both meetings. And some clarifications I think are necessary.

RETRIBUTION

We’ve spent about two years observing Dr. Joseph, and I think, based on evidence, it’s safe to say that he does not react positively to criticism. In fact, every time he is publically criticized he tends to lash out at the perpetrator. Look at the body of evidence:

  • The TV stations air stories that are unfavorable to the good doctor, and station managers all get calls from MNPS trying to have reporters reigned in.
  • The director gets criticized for his choice of music at a principals meeting, and suddenly the Tennessee Tribune, the city’s African-American newspaper, is running an op-ed piece about the “unfair prosecution” of Dr. Joseph. Ironically that article is attributed to the father of Arnett Bodenhammer, who is at the center of a series of stories about the district’s failure to report teacher misconduct to the state. Bodenhamer Sr.’s piece appeared days after a meeting with Dr. Joseph and around the time junior’s charges were reduced.
  • Call for an audit and the Doc will cut the literacy program that you’ve championed for the betterment of kids without offering a viable option.
  • Criticize the director and suddenly your entire personal financial history is the subject of public scrutiny. Did anybody else notice how fast that Fran Bush story disappeared?
  • Criticize the director at budget hearings and he’ll get his fraternity brothers to show up at a public hearing and paint you as a racist.

History dictated that after this week’s board meeting, the Tennessee Tribune would once again jump to Joseph’s defense. And they did not disappoint by printing an op-ed piece on Thursday.

Interestingly enough, in defending him, the newspaper failed to identify another one of Joseph’s fiercest critics who has been very outspoken, new board member Fran Bush. A board member who happens to be an African-American. I’m sure it’s just an oversight that they ran pictures of the two white women while ignoring a fellow African-American who is being equally hard on Dr.Joseph. If I didn’t know better, I would think there was an agenda at play here.

I’m not denying the Director’s right to mount a defense. My concern is rather the tenor of that defense, I would ask that he be cautious in the narratives that he is painting in his defense and consider the ramifications beyond self interest.

His strategy in response to criticism seems to be one of division. Dividing people is never the best strategy for overcoming problems. Attacking sitting board members might have been a successful strategy in Prince George’s County, where school board members are appointed. Here in Nashville, where board members are elected, it is not really a workable strategy.

Seeing as the director reports directly to and in actuality, works for, the school board, the onus should be on him to ensure a working relationship between the himself and the board. I get that he may have issues with certain board members. He is not the only one who has ever had to work for a boss that they thought was a jackass. You have to find a way to work with them. If not, you won’t be successful.

I reflect on the story a friend who was a VP for a company making mid-six figures once related to me. He’d been in his position for a couple of years and hadn’t had a good relationship with his supervisor throughout his tenure – hard to believe, but making mid-six figures does not free you from the yoke of a boss. When it came time to sit down for his annual review, his boss commented, “You and I have never seen eye to eye, have we?”

“No, we haven’t,” my friend acknowledged.

“Yeah, I think it’s time we just end this whole relationship.”

And with those words, my friend was no longer employed. He’d been very successful at his job and was well respected throughout the industry for his skills. None of that came into play. He could not get along with his boss, and therefore, he was forced to seek new employment.

It would behoove Joseph to pay heed to that story. Open warfare with your boss never works out well. They aren’t going to change their behavior to suit your needs. It’s you who has to find a way to collaborate. Somehow that reality has been lost when it comes to MNPS. Will someone please help it be found?

FURTHER NOTES FROM MEETINGS

What follows is a hodgepodge of observations and inference drawn from the recent school board meeting.

There was a good conversation held on the process MNPS employs in reporting teacher misconduct to the state and the corrections MNPS has made in order to stay in compliance with state regulations. As outlined by the MNPS HR department, they draw up discipline paperwork based on their investigations, findings, and actions, and then submits it to the director’s office to be signed. The director’s office then signs it and submits it to the state, followed by a receipt to the HR department signifying that the required paperwork has been filed. Sounds foolproof, right?

It may be until the director intercedes and doesn’t adhere to the department’s recommendation. This is what happened with the aforementioned Bodenhammer case. The principal and HR made a recommendation, and then Dr. Joseph met with Bodenhammer. Based on that meeting, his disciplinary action was altered. So in this case, how would HR know what paperwork to write-up? Maybe Dr. Joseph notified them, maybe he didn’t.

It is disappointing that MNPS leadership continues to try to focus blame on former employees. While blaming an ex is certainly convenient, that employee’s complete role was not shared during the explanation of the current process. In the end, no matter how many allegedly disgruntled employees may be involved, the responsibility for reporting still lies with the director.

During the governance meeting, it was a little disturbing that some board members seemed unfamiliar with recently-passed policy. Nearly all of the board policy has been updated as of late and approved by board members. Surely they familiarized themselves with it before approving.

A robust discussion on the recently completed metro audit of MNPS spending. I urge you to watch it, specifically the portion that centers on the director’s travel budget.

Per the audit, the director has $2,700 annually in his budget, but regularly exceeds that by $10k-11k a year. As a defense, it was offered up that 2 years ago, the director’s first year, the board did a lot of traveling and that’s the reason for exceeding the budget.

Ok… but why is this hard? The way it should play out is that the director says to the board, “Hey, I think we should do a retreat in Chattanooga.”

The board says, “Ok, do you have enough in your budget to cover your travel? You do? Well, we don’t have enough in ours. Do you have enough to cover us out of yours as well? No? Then we are not going to Chattanooga this year. Let’s make a note of this and budget enough for next year.”

That’s what families all across the district do every day, every year. Why should district leadership be any different? They seem to think that you just write a budget as an estimate and spend what you desire. Shifting money around at will.

As you probably know, the law firm Bone, McCallister, and Norton has been hired to do some HR auditing for the district. There was a discussion on that scope of work. Based on what I heard, their role will be to create policy, write policy, and train staff on policy. All of which, I would argue, should be the responsibility of  the two women employed by the district and making over $300k a year combined. If they are incapable of performing that task, why are we not replacing them with people who can, instead of paying an outside entity additional money to do their job?

During the meeting, the board finally discussed lead in schools’ drinking water. A discussion that should have taken place 2 years ago, but why quibble. Unfortunately, Executive Officer of Operations Ken Stark is still out peddling the canard that flushing is part of EPA protocols. The good news is that the Mayor’s office has gotten Metro Water involved and the situation has noticeably improved.

One last thing, board members continue to heap praise on district leaders for merely conducting tests. Keep that in mind when you go to the doctor and he orders cancer tests, but once the tests come back positive, he fails to offer treatment. Hey, cancer treatment is expensive and he didn’t think you could afford it. Thank God he ordered the tests. At least now you know you’re dying, right?

Executive Director of Innovation Schools Lisa Coons presented on the recently released state priority school list. Coons did a better job here then she did at the press conference held the day before. I still fail to see how any of this is considered a plan. There is nothing in the “plan” that is significantly different then what we should be doing for all schools.

High quality teachers are considered one of the four pillars, yet the district is still woefully understaffed when it comes to teachers at ALL schools. How is the Innovation office going to counter a districtwide trend? I’m sure it will be done through yet another survey or focus group.

The most disturbing portion of Coons’s presentation came when Jill Speering asked how many priority schools we actually had previously. Was it 15, 14, 11, or 9? All numbers that have been bandied about. Instead of just answering the question, Coons tried to equivocate about what year did Speering mean. She could only talk about last year because that was her first year in the district. Huh?

Only knowing the history since you got here should be unacceptable to everybody. Before forming a plan for the future, you need to be well versed in the past. It’s imperative that the people moving us forward can recite the past with a deep understanding. If you don’t know the past, how do you guarantee that you are not just repeating it?

Dr. Joseph likes to state, “We know what it takes to get off the list.” I disagree. The work that led to Whitsitt, Inglewood, Pearl Cohn, exiting the priority list started 3 years ago. Over the last two years, Dr. Joseph brought 2 of his own people in from Maryland. Both of which failed to make an impact.

So, no, you don’t know what it takes. But the people before you apparently did. Therefore it may prove beneficial to study that history and be able to recite it as if it were yours. Just saying.

I’d suggest taking a look at that priority school list and ask yourself how many of those schools have seen continual turnover at the principal position. Then look at the reward schools and ask yourself the same question. Just saying. I’m betting one has more stability than the other.

I’d also keep an eye on that pillar of “effective instruction.” Much of the language used here is eerily similar to that used by The New Teacher Project (TNTP) and their support of CKLA. We’ll talk more about that in the future, but until then I’ll leave you with TNTP’s recently released study on the Opportunity Myth. I do suggest reading Peter Greene’s Field Guide to Bad Education Research before diving into the TNTP piece.

During the board meeting, there was a discussion centered around Dr. Joseph’s driver. This driver is a source of contention with many stakeholders. If you are unfamiliar with the power of symbolism, I suggest picking up a copy of Joseph Campbell. The Power of Myth is a good starting place.

The assertion was made that previous directors also utilized a driver. That is incorrect. Chris Henson drove his own vehicle and it also impressed me to see him pull up to a school in his own car by himself to visit. Dr. Register drove himself and if several administrators were going to the same place, they rode together with Register driving. Dr. Garcia also drove himself until MEDICAL reasons forced him to utilize a driver towards the end of his tenure.

Those are just a few of my observations. I encourage you to watch the meetings and form your own opinions. We should take heart, though, that board members are starting to take the gloves off. While it provides some short-term discomfort, in the long run, it will prove beneficial.

QUICK HITS

I recently came across this article entitled “Why Your Students Don’t Like to Read.” It’s one of my favorite in recent memory. Unfortunately, the writer’s relating to middle school reading practices rings all too true:

My love for reading disappeared when I got to middle school. Every book we were assigned came with standards-aligned questions, literary analysis prompts, and essays. We would get to class, copy 10 or so questions off the board, sit at our desks while our peers read aloud (God forbid we turned the page early), and then we would answer each question in a complete sentence. That was it. And then we would go home, read 10 more pages, and answer some more questions in complete sentences. It was agony. I used to doze off and turn the page as soon as I heard the entire class doing the same.

I love her analogy of how the joy of reading is killed:

Imagine going home after a long day, collapsing on your couch, and turning on your favorite guilty pleasure — The Bachelor. Now, imagine that you have to take notes, answer ridiculous comprehension questions, analyze what each contestant meant when they said something provocative, and then write an argumentative essay about which contestant should be chosen at the end.

So, so, so true, I urge everyone to read it.

Vesia Hawkins continues to write very thoughtful pieces over at the blog Volume & Light. Her latest talks about the recently released priority school list and Nashville’s failure to live up to its obligations in regard to black and brown kids. While I don’t agree with all of her assertions, I do believe she offers valuable insight and I truly appreciate her work.

Over at TNEd Report, Andy Spears does us all a favor by collecting Maplewood teacher Jarred Amato’s series of tweets. I’ve long been a fan of Amato’s despite us disagreeing on some subjects. The beauty of my relationship with Amato is that our major respect has never come with the caveat of universal agreement. I urge you to read his words and think about them.

In late breaking news, MNPS sent a letter to middle school teacher Sonji Collins that they have wrapped up their investigation and, yes, she was sexually harassed. Collins has a pending lawsuit against the district. So I’m assuming negotiations will start soon.

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s the good news station. If you need to get a hold of me, the email is norinrad10@yahoo.com. Keep sending me your stuff and I’ll share as much as possible. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. If you think what I write has value, please consider supporting the work through Patreon.

Posted in Uncategorized

THE GLARINGLY EVIDENT

“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.”
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

“How about less snark and more solutions, TC? You’ve got a big platform now. Be about something instead of always fighting the man.” – Private Twitter Message

That second quote was sent to me yesterday, I presume after the sender read my tweets from the press conference held by MNPS addressing the increase in state-designated priority schools. Believe it or not, the comment is indicative of a continually ongoing internal dialogue for me. I fully recognize my tendency to become snarky when faced with confrontation and do try to mitigate it. I blame it on the addict in me.

I’ve often expressed that I never laughed harder than I did during those 21 days I spent in rehab. Surrounded by like-minded people who shared a common gallows humor, there were no sacred cows. But what might not have been recognized from the outside is that while we were treating everything as if it were a cosmic joke, we worked with a single-minded purpose to heal. Without the snark, the task in front of us would have seemed unassailable and impossible. Humor, dark humor, made it manageable.

We are in a similar predicament now with MNPS. Much like with my addiction, when it comes to the state of our schools, some people, unfortunately, are still in denial. They believe that a little more self-control, a little more prayer, a little more love will miraculously cause the body to heal. As with my efforts to control my drinking, without first admitting there is a problem, things have little prospect for healing. Like the big book says, the first step is admitting you have a problem. And Houston, we have a problem.

I purposely waited a day until after the press conference to write this post. It was important to me that I took time to think things through, to let my thoughts come together in as concise and unemotional manner as possible. While I freely admit that the current situation pisses me off, I also understand that it’s equally important to step back and consider things in as a dispassionate manner as possible. So having done that, here are my observations, along with the video from yesterday’s event. In case you want to check my observations.

First, to give credit where credit is due, Dr. Joseph, for the first time in his tenure as Director of Schools, stepped to the podium and semi-owned the situation. I give him props for that and maybe we’ll see more of it. I say semi-took responsibility because when directly asked by Channel 2 reporter Jessica Jaglois how much responsibility he felt he bore, he punted. “I take… Look, we take full responsibility as a school system for the fact that we have got to do better by our children.” He tried to say I… but defaulted to “we.” Still, that is an improvement.

Joseph then proceeded to become belligerent with Jaglois over her questioning. Over my lifetime, I’ve tried to focus on patterns of behavior over individual instances. When it comes to being questioned by women, there seems to be a clear pattern of behavior that emerges with Dr. Joseph. Whether it’s MNPS School Board members Amy Frogge or Jill Speering, TV Reporters Jessica Jaglois or Lindsay Bransom, a similar picture emerges. He doesn’t like back talk from the womenfolk.

Back in May, Joseph found himself in hot water for playing a snippet of the rap song, “Blow My Whistle” at a principal’s meeting. He prefaced that snippet by stating that during difficult budget talks with the school board, he sometimes play songs in his head; “Blow the Whistle” was offered as an example. The thing is there is only one man on the school board and I doubt Joseph is playing “Blow the Whistle” in his head while Will Pinkston is speaking. In that light, coupled with the accumulating evidence, it becomes clear that a questioning female voice is not music to the doctor’s ear.

While reflecting on yesterday’s press conference, I decided that the whole thing could be summed up by two exchanges. First, during his initial remarks, Dr. Joseph spoke of being at the barber shop over the weekend where he, by happenstance, ended up next to a Pearl Cohn parent. A parent whose child is now attending Yale. The crowd applauded for this laudatory tale that was offered as evidence of the good work being done at Pearl Cohn High School.

The second part comes later in the program as School Board Chair Sharon Gentry stepped to the podium and told how she tried to Google “Pearl Cohn” and “Yale” and couldn’t find the story. She told the audience what came up instead was the many negative stories associated with Pearl Cohn. She admonished everyone in attendance that “we had to get better at telling our stories.”

Here’s the rub. The student is question played football for Pearl Cohn but actually graduated from MLK. That, in a nutshell, sums up the last two years under Dr. Joseph. He tells a narrative that is close to the truth, but not rooted in it, and the school board recounts it without ever verifying its veracity.

Need another example? Look no further than the story on sexual harassment offenses committed by former JFK MS principal Sam Braden. Joseph peddled the story to the board members as just another incident of a news reporter trying to scare up controversy. There was nothing to see and nothing to discuss here. Board members didn’t push and to this day there has been no substantial discussion on HR practices in regard to sexual harassment on the board floor. Yesterday, Metro legal officially admitted that many of the instances actually did happen. In other words, there was cause for a discussion. This is just one more instance of the creating a narrative not based in fact that Dr. Joseph tends to regularly engage in, unencumbered by the school board.

At the press conference, the director, along with the head of priority schools – excuse me, innovation schools – Dr. Lisa Koons, did get around to unveiling a semblance of a plan to address the increase in priority schools. Like everything else, it, too, was devoid of details. In summation, the plan is based on 4 pillars:

  1. Refining supports to school leaders
  2. Strengthening instructional coaching
  3. Developing student and family supports
  4. Growing teacher talent

My immediate question would be why are we not doing this already for every school? The district has been hemorrhaging teachers for at least 3 years, but we still don’t have a plan in place for every school, let alone priority schools. Yet one pillar of this plan is teacher recruitment and retention. Developing student and family support is another pillar, yet after two years there are only three clusters with parent advisory committees up and running – Stratford, Hillsboro, and Overton – in the whole district. Those are up and running solely due to parental and individual school leadership making it happen because the district is still studying what approach will work best. So again, proposing a tactic for priority schools that is needed for all schools.

Strengthening instructional coaching… somebody needs to talk to the literacy coaches and see how they feel about the training they’ve received this year. It won’t be a glowing review.

In other words, everything that is being talked about in the plan for priority schools needs to be done for the entire system. It is also stuff that should have been started last year, or earlier. None of this is innovation, which is fine because I believe there is a lot of merit in executing the basic at a high level, but let’s call it what it is and execute. Not throw up a whole bunch of smoke and mirrors and label it innovation.

Coupled with the lack of a plan is the feeling that there seems to be a concentrated effort to dampen down the conversation. In the press conference, Dr. Joseph called out critics, saying, “We need to stop bickering over trivial issues, and we need to unite to support our children.” An op-ed published in the Tennessean this weekend, that feels like a Pinkston production, was signed by the Mayor, the Vice-Mayor, the school board chair, and the director of schools, and echoes those sentiments: “But we will only succeed if we find a way to bicker less and instead work together to equitably address historic challenges of underfunding of our public schools.”

I’m curious which subject these city leaders deign as “bickering.” Is it the sexual harassment charges? The lead in the water? The questionable spending? The out of whack salaries? The lack of real academic direction or even a real plan? What exactly is considered “bickering” and what would fall into the category of fighting for the best educational opportunities for our kids?

The truth is that Nashville’s city leaders have been standing in the way of kids getting the educational opportunities they deserve for the last 2 years and it’s time to get out of the way. It’s time to listen to what teachers, administrators, and parents have been saying in increased numbers over the last year: we need leadership. The pleas have been both emphatic and ignored.

Where is the city leader, other than board members Bush, Speering, and Frogge, with the courage to stand up and say, “I got questions”? Where is the city leader that is calling upon Dr. Joseph and saying, “Um… my constituents tell me this ain’t working? We need to fix it now”? There is none to be found, and as a result, the system suffers.

There is no opposition leadership. Instead, families and educators are told to get in step and stop questioning. I don’t believe that is going to be a succesful strategy. Based on conversations and comments on social media, dissatisfaction is only growing. Eventually, it will reach its tipping point, but until then, what will be the damage done?

I don’t want to underscore the amazing things that, despite the district’s dysfunction, are happening in individual schools and classrooms. Many school leaders have the skills to mitigate the failings of the district in order to create exceptional learning environments.

Those efforts should be applauded and celebrated, but it needs to be recognized that individual schools performing well is not the same thing as the system performing well. Not all schools and school leaders are created equal. City leaders need to fight as hard for MNPS as a school system as parents and teachers are fighting for individual schools. Leaders and advocates owe it to teachers and administrators to engage so that they can focus on the business of schooling.

While some may dismiss my commentary as mere “snark,” I don’t see it that way. I see it as advocating for the people who can’t advocate for themselves because their focus needs to be elsewhere. If the “man” is preventing our schools, our teachers, our administrators, and our students from truly soaring, I will be continually fighting him. I’ll know when it’s time to quit fighting the “man” when teachers, administrators, and families indicate that things are truly improving. That is not the current case.

I’ll flip the script and challenge those who accuse me of snark to take a stand. Instead of always finding the path of least resistance or taking up only the fights you know you can win, draw a line and take a stand for those who need you. Take a risk of being seen as a troublemaker, a malcontent, and unreasonable. Let people know that you are not only promising to fight but that you are already fully engaged. You do that and I’ll lose the snark.

In light of yesterday’s press conference, I find myself reflecting back on recent history. In 2014, when the priority schools list doubled from 6 to 15, there was a lot of hand-wringing and criticism directed at then Director of Schools Jesse Register. One quote made at that time by board member Will Pinkston is equally applicable today and bears repeating:

“Why didn’t we see this coming?” he asked, noting the absence of a turnaround plan. “Why should we be convinced that the organizational capacity now exists to do what we should have been doing already?”

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Lurking in the background during all of this conversation is Dr. Joseph’s contract. It expires on June 30, 2020. That is the end of next year’s school year. The renewal clause says that if the board intends to not renew his contract they must inform him of their intention no later than January 1, 2020. Those are the official dates.

I believe that the conversation about his contract will begin right after MAP scores are released in November. Here’s my reasoning: Nobody wants to go into the final year of their contract without a clear cut indication of renewal. Dr. Joseph will want a contract in place by the end of this school year. The budget season is going to be rough this year, and so, that’ll leave little room for negotiations on the director’s contract. That means he’ll probably want to get his contract done and have at least some kind of agreement in place by the middle of February.

Now you can’t push for a new contract without also asking for more money, right? So the doctor needs some good news in order to make that argument. MAP scores were an effective tool for such an argument last year and there is no reason to believe they won’t be this year. I think it’s also a priority for Joseph to quiet things down a bit so that potential good news has some ground to grow in. Hence the calls for us to stop the bickering and work for the kids.

I further believe that this pending contract negotiation was a big reason for the push to have Sharon Gentry assume leadership of the board. If Frogge would have become chair it’s extremely doubtful that the subject of the contract would be brought up, and if it was, the terms would most likely be considerably less favorable to Dr. Joseph. Dr. Gentry was a very willing partner to Joseph last go around and there is no reason to assume that she’ll be any different this time.

Time will tell if I’m correct, but I would keep an eye on things.

QUICK HITS

Lost in all the talk of Priority Schools is the fact that the district did see a raise in Reward Schools. While my beloved Tusculum ES barely missed the cut, I do want to congratulate those that made it.

The MNPS schools on the 2018 Reward Schools List are:

  • Andrew Jackson Elementary
  • Cameron College Preparatory
  • Charlotte Park Elementary
  • Crieve Hall Elementary
  • Dan Mills Elementary
  • Eakin Elementary
  • Glendale Elementary
  • Gower Elementary
  • Head Middle
  • Hume – Fogg High
  • Intrepid College Preparatory Charter School
  • KIPP Academy Nashville
  • Lockeland Elementary
  • Martin Luther King Jr School
  • Meigs Middle
  • Neely’s Bend Elementary
  • Purpose Prep
  • Rocketship United
  • Shwab Elementary
  • Smithson Craighead Academy
  • Valor Flagship Academy
  • Valor Voyager Academy

Over at the TNEd Report, Andy Spears has a solid piece on what money means when it comes to school discipline policies. I urge you to read it.

Please welcome Jessica Padgett, as the new Community Achieves site manager to HG Hill Middle! They are so excited to be a Community Achieves school this year and glad to have Jessica on their team to coordinate partnerships and programs! Good things ahead.

Antioch Middle School kicked off yesterday! Gotta love seeing everyone in their college gear! They have a week full of college activities, including college trivia today during lunch!

POLL RESULTS

Thank you once again for your participation in our weekly poll. Some very interesting answers this week.

The first question asked what you thought of the opinion piece written by Briley, Shulman, Gentry, and Joseph. Out of 130 responses, 72 of you indicated that it sounded like 4 people completely out of touch. The number 2 answer, with 35 responses, said that you wished they’d listen to the public as much as they listen to each other. Absolutely none of you indicated that you thought it was a needed message or that you felt better after having read it.

This one generated a few write-in responses as well and here they are:

only doing PR is an instant credibility fail 1
This really frightens me. Leaders? 1
What is that ? 1
Talk is cheap. Visit schools, sit in classrooms, talk to kids. 1
Meh 1
4 happy people in an echo chamber. 1
I’m glad that some people can come together!! 1
INVESTIGATE-Gentry & Joseph- will take him down 1
Who 1
Didn’t know about it til now

The district has held the position that they are not employing the use of scripted curriculum. However, in talking to teachers I continually hear a different story. In this light, I decided to ask for your feedback. Out of 136 responses, 52 of you indicated that any claims of not utilizing scripted curriculum should be considered bovine feces. 53 of you answered that it may not be scripted, but it is awful controlled. Only 1 of you indicated that you appreciate the guidance, though some of the write-in answers told a different story. Here they are:

I know for a fact they are. 1
any teacher not using scripted curriculum is swimming against the current 1
From the inside: Huh? 1
Scripted or structured – either way it implies teachers cannot design instruction 1
What curriculum? That’s half of the problem! No reading or math curriculum. 1
And breaking copyright laws…kids with binders of the material! 1
2 high quality units challenge Ts thinking and practices doesn’t = scripted 1
I thought that’s why all that love it love it… why deny it’s scripted now? 1
Yep! It’s scripted. We now have Hamburger Helper curriculum! 1
The curriculum is not scripted. It’s is following the state’s unit starters. 1
Honestly, it’s needed. We need help. 1
Scripts in Middle Grades 1
The district must not know the definition of scripted. 1
IFL is scripted. More concerning is the idea of identical lesson plans and pacing 1
How about empowering & supporting teachers… scripted doesn’t work

The last question asked if you thought Nashville had an affordable housing crisis. Out of 148 responses, 89 of you asked who can afford to live in this city anymore. On the other end of the spectrum, 8 of you said it was a challenge but not a crisis. Here are the write-in answers to that one:

yes. 1
Devastating crisis. Wake up. 1
Yes. 1
Yes, to a detriment of the city’s sense of community. 1
Barely making it in the “it” city 1
The rich get richer and the poor get pushed out 1
All of Middle TN, not just Nashville. 1
Maybe is we all made $130k like Maritza 1
An unaddressed crisis pushing out a lot of us (me included). 1
By design!!! Future Vegas… failing schools drive families out, party peeps in 1
My home is nearly paid for. I must be part of the problem.

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon. Peace out.

Posted in Uncategorized

A DAY OF RECKONING

“There’s something happening here, I know it. It’s right in front of my face, but I just can’t see it.”
Elmore Leonard, Unknown Man #89

“And time is but an essence

Encased upon the wall
That brings our day of reckoning-
Much closer to us all.”

– Paul Weller, There is No Drinking After You Are Dead

The end of September is almost upon us and that means one more month until it’s time for another election. I know y’all have had about enough of elections in Nashville, and I can’t say I blame you. This one coming up in November, though, it is the big one.

Tennesseans will pick their Governor, choosing between Bill Lee and Karl Dean. As much as it pains me, I have to lean towards Dean. They’ll also chose who will represent them in the U.S. Senate, between Phil Bredesen and Marsha Blackburn. Begrudgingly again, I’m leaning Bredesen. I wish I had a little more enthusiasm for either candidate in these races, but it is what it is. But there is one candidate I believe in wholeheartedly.

Bob Freeman is running to replace Beth Harwell in representing District 56 in the Tennessee State House of Representatives. Many of you may recognize the last name, and yes, he is the son of former mayoral candidate Bill Freeman. To be honest, as much as I admire Bill, I’m loathe to draw the connection between father and son because Bob truly is his own man.

Bob and I got to know each other during his father’s run for mayor and became friends. Campaigns are often the springboards to relationships of convenience, but that was never true with Bob. After the election ended, he was just as assessable and intellectually inquisitive as he was during the campaign. Over the years, he’s reached out often, either with questions or looking for clarity on educational issues. In that time, he’s shown himself to be deeply committed to public education and helping teachers and families.

You’ll never see Bob Freeman walking around with an “I love teachers” button; instead you’ll see him expressing that sentiment through his actions. In my eyes, a refreshing change. You’ll witness him taking time to listen to teachers, researching their issues, and advocating for more funding for our public schools. Beth Harwell used to like to tell people how committed she was to education; Bob Freeman won’t do that. But you won’t need him to because you’ll be able to see it in his actions.

I always say, “Don’t tell me how honest you are, just be honest. I’ll be able to figure it out.” With Bob Freeman, I’ve figured it out.

If you live in District 56, I’m asking you to cast a vote for Bob Freeman. We need him in the state house. Don’t worry, I’ll probably remind you a couple of times.

PRIORITY SCHOOL LIST

Today is going to mark the beginning of a very interesting conversation for Metro Nashville Public Schools. Today the state of Tennessee released the list of schools to be included on the so-called “priority schools” list. Priority schools, as designated by the state, are those in Tennessee’s bottom 5 percent, the threshold for determining state investments such as extra money — and interventions as harsh as takeover and even closure. It’s not a list one wants to be on. Unfortunately, MNPS has lots of representation.

Before we get into the meat of the issue, I’ve included the above video from a board meeting on 10/11/16 in which Dr. Joseph addressed the subject of the current schools on the priority school list to wet your whistle. At that time there were 11 priority schools. The discussion begins around the 32:30 minute mark.

“All of us around this board table can agree that we have no time to lose in making gains in our lowest performing schools” is how Dr. Joseph began a presentation on the strategies he planned to employ to help our lowest performing schools. A strategy that clearly has not worked. A strategy that employed a plank of rebranding these school as “innovation schools.” A plank Dr. Joseph is still clinging to, as an item on next week’s school board meeting, under director’s report, calls for a discussion of “innovation schools.” The state calls them priority schools.

Interestingly enough, if you watch the video, several board members – Pinkston and Gentry included – warned Joseph about not studying past reports and not throwing out strategies that were having an impact. Advice that I think it’s safe to say was ignored, and therefore here we are.

The priority list comes out every three years. The state was kind enough to provide a “Cusp list” to schools back in the fall of 2017. Efforts were made to give districts ample time to make adjustments and implement strategies.

Calculating this year’s list is not without its challenges. Per Chalkbeat TN:

Because technical problems marred Tennessee’s return to online testing this spring, state lawmakers passed legislation ordering that the most recent scores can’t be used to place new schools on the priority list or move them into the state’s Achievement School District for assignment to charter networks. Instead, the newest priority schools are based mostly on student achievement from the two prior school years. However, a school on the 2014 list could potentially come off the new roster if its scores were good this year.

Some schools that have previously been on the list – Whitsitt ES and Inglewood ES – scored high enough on this year’s testing to come off the list. I’m also proud to say that my kid’s school, Tusculum ES, perennially on the cusp, improved significantly enough that they exited the bottom 10%. Those are causes for celebration.

Here’s the list of schools that have been designated as priority schools:

  • Alex Green Elementary
  • Amqui ES
  • Antioch Middle
  • McKissack MS
  • Belshire ES
  • Caldwell ES
  • Cumberland ES (Home of the highest paid ES principal who hails from PGCPS)
  • Gra-Mar MS
  • Haynes ES (State managed to spell it correctly)
  • Jere Baxter MS
  • Joelton MS
  • Robert E Lilliard ES
  • Maplewood High
  • McMurray MS
  • Rosebank ES
  • Madison MS
  • Tom Joy ES
  • Warner ES
  • Whites Creek HS
  • Wright MS
  • The Cohn Learning Center

That’s a whole lot of innovation taking place. 23 names. Add Buena Vista and Robert Churchwell as getting comprehensive supports. I would argue that McMurray deserves a bit of a break because those kids have been going to class at a construction site for the last 18 months.

I’m sure that Dr. Joseph will tell us that TNReady is a flawed test and that its results do not line up with our internal data which shows great progress being made. Maybe he’ll point to the letter that Mr. Pinkston wrote, and he signed, calling for a halt to TNReady. None of those arguments will change the fact that MNPS has 23 schools that have consistently scored among the lowest 5% in the district. None of that will change the fact that the number of schools on his “innovation” list have doubled under his watch.

Dr. Joseph makes the argument that being on the priority list has a negative connotation attached to those schools, but there is also a benefit. Landing on the list means extra resources, and his administration has identified an aggressive four-part plan to help move schools off the priority list. In Joseph’s words, “Whether or not these schools were on a state list, they were on my list for schools that need to improve.” Hmmm… does that not beg a question?

In 2014, when the priority school list had 14 names on it, board member Will Pinkston picked up his poison pen and wrote an Op-Ed to the Tennessean:

The evidence is clear. In two years, MNPS has more than doubled its number of low-performing schools on the state of Tennessee’s “priority” list, which identifies the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state. Our school system went from having six schools on the list in 2012 to, as of last week, 14 schools. Put differently: The number of students in exceedingly low-performing schools has risen from 2,260 to 6,272, according to enrollment data in the state’s Report Card.

The Metro school board should act decisively to confront this crisis.

I’m ashamed to admit that, during the past two years, the school board has not had a single conversation about persistently failing schools and how to turn them around. The reality is: Schools Director Jesse Register has been setting the agenda, and failing schools do not fit in management’s glossy narrative. It’s overdue time for the elected board to assert authority on behalf of students, parents and taxpayers.

Funny how your words come back to haunt you. I wonder if Pinkston will bring the same sense of urgency to the table when the board discusses Joseph’s innovation plans at next week’s board meeting or, since it no longer suits his political agenda, he’ll allow the good doctor to spin a fanciful yarn on the merits of his strategies over the last two years.

In looking over the list, I find it appalling that if you are in the White’s Creek cluster, there is only one school option that is not on the priority school list, Joelton ES. Think about that, as a parent of limited means you have no option but to send your child, no matter what age, to a school on the priority school list. That should be unacceptable to everyone.

Interestingly enough, none of the priority schools are located on the West side of town, nor do they fall into any of the wealthier neighborhoods. So how much of the list is a result of socio-economic factors and how much is a factor of poor schooling? That is a question that bears asking.

In contrast, here’s the “good” list, the reward schools list:

  • Andrew Jackson ES
  • Cameron College Prep
  • Charlotte Park ES
  • Crieve Hall ES
  • Dan Mills ES
  • Eakin ES
  • Glendale ES
  • Gower ES
  • Head MS
  • Hume-Fogg HS
  • Intrepid College Preparatory Charter School
  • KIPP Academy Nashville
  • Lockeland Springs ES
  • Martin Luther King Jr School
  • Meigs MS
  • Neely’s Bend ES
  • Purpose Prep
  • Rocketship United
  • Shwab ES
  • Smithson Craighead Academy
  • Valor Flagship Academy
  • Valor Voyager Academy

Reward schools are generally those that are improving in terms of achievement and growth for students. A school cannot achieve reward status if any student group performs in the bottom 5% in the state for that group or if it’s in need of Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) or Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) Note the neighborhoods most of those are found in.

Mayor Briley, who seems oblivious to the socio-economic challenges facing Nashvillians, offered his own insight into the released lists. In his statement, he fails to acknowledge the role Nashville’s city government may play into the creating of these lists. Policies that promote a better way of life for some Nashvillians while ignoring the challenges to others.

Amazingly, Briley, Board Chair Sharon Gentry, Shawn Joseph and newly elected Vice-Mayor Jim Shulman found the time to pen their own op-ed piece that urges Nashvillians to stop bickering over our schools, and get to following them:

Debating matters about how to improve our schools is productive, but only when it is grounded in mutual respect, and an appreciation for joint creativity.  When it comes to investing in the future of the City’s youth, we believe that our signing this guest column is an important signal to Nashville — a signal that we are prepared to be supportive of one another in pursuit of our schools being safe places where students flourish.

In other words, we know best and instead of LISTENING to the administrators, teachers, and families of MNPS as they call out for help and warn of a school system that is in crisis, they are going to double down on the failed policies of the last two years.

This is my favorite quote from the piece:

“Our work on the Blueprint for Early Childhood Success is the envy of and a model for school districts nationwide; we now must build on that model more broadly.”

In the immortal words of Horton Hears a Who, “Who, who, who?” Please supply me a list of names and contact information of the envious ones. I’d like to talk with them.

My fear is that parents, teachers, and administrators will stop bickering and resort to protesting with their feet. In other words, we will see increased disengagement and people leaving, the end result being a school district that only serves those who have no other options. The amount of central office employees and teachers that already left should be enough of a warning siren of a pending crisis for anybody paying attention. If you think we are underfunded now, just wait 5 years if nothing changes. Costs will increase as resources decrease, leaving a cratered school system dependent on charter schools and private schools to educate its more affluent students. Kinda like Prince George’s County Public Schools is currently, which makes one wonder if that hasn’t been the goal all along.

For those who didn’t read the press release too closely, there is additional bad news in there: the state has also assigned MNPS the designation of a “school district in need of improvement.” That’s not just a friendly reminder of shortcomings, it’s a warning that the district either gets their shit together or the state will repeat their 2009 action, a district takeover.

I find Briley’s signing of this op-ed piece particularly disturbing in light of his recent attacks on Council Member Bob Mendes for disagreeing with the his assertion that Nashville does not have an affordable housing crisis. Per the mayor:

“For people to think that we’re in some sort of fiscal crisis is either just a fundamental lack of understanding of how our budget works or some sort of political grandstanding, and it needs to come to an end.”

He went on to accuse Mendes of “rooting against city.” When Briley got elected, I believed he was a mayor that was dedicated to finding solutions to mounting problems facing Nashville. Solutions that served all Nashvillians. I never suspected that he would believe good policy was based on “rooting” for or against the city. The wrong leadership can not be overcome by placating and leading cheers. It requires decisive action, action that I’m beginning to doubt Briley is capable of.

I find the tone of his rebuttal deeply disturbing when taken in line with his co-signed op-ed. One time is an instance, twice is a trend. A disturbing and disappointing trend. In my opinion, further evidence that Nashville suffers from a leadership crisis. When leadership fails to see things clearly, we all suffer.

One thing that should be clear to all is that we can’t ask our teachers to work any harder or care anymore. In fact, I would argue that we have already tied their hands enough through our implementation of bad policy and scripted lesson plans. I know, the district is not utilizing “scripted” lesson plans, yet somehow when I talk to teachers that is the perception that they convey. Maybe if we depended more on the people doing the actual work, the outcomes would be a little different. Now that would be some innovation.

On Monday, MNPS will hold a press event to unveil their plans. Joseph has made it mandatory that principals of those schools on the priority list stand on the podium with him. Once again, failing to take responsibility for his own failings and continually looking for someone else to shift blame to. Hey, Sharon Gentry will be there as well, so maybe Shulman and Briley can jump on stage as well and sing “Kumbaya” while the district still continues to practice bad policy. And then we can give a “5…6…7…8… who do we appreciate” cheer and everything will miraculously improve. More likely it will be “That all right, it’s ok, you will work for us someday.”

Before wrapping things up, I’d like to return to Pinkston’s op-ed from 2014 in which he closes thus:

Our goal should be: no MNPS schools on the state’s priority list by the time it’s released again in 2016. We need to deal with this crisis on behalf of the 6,272 students in these 14 schools. They deserve the very best chance in life, and the school board should feel obligated to act with urgency.

QUICK HITS

The state’s portfolio model of evaluation continues to be fraught with problems. Luckily for teachers, there is help out there.

Pre-K or K teachers, if you received a 1 on your portfolio last year and it wasn’t reviewed or it was a submission error, please email Mary Campbell with TEA at mcampbell@tnea.org. She will help you go over your options and it only takes about 10 minutes.

Some of you have stopped caring what number you have been given and that is understandable. However, can you hear the State saying that this really wasn’t a big deal because no one did anything? Mary will come out to your school or meet you before or after school to go over options and what will work best for you. Take advantage of the resource.

We often hear how education policy should be rooted in research. Unfortunately all research is not created equal. Blogger Peter Greene writes an excellent piece on what to look for when evaluating education research.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) announced that 11 Metro Nashville Public Schools students are semifinalists in the 64th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Congratulations to the following:

  • Ella D. Halbert, Hume-Fogg Academic High School
  • Christine L. Li, Hume-Fogg Academic High School
  • Elizabeth G. Riddle, Hume-Fogg Academic High School
  • Sarah T. Sheppard, Hume-Fogg Academic High School
  • Julia An, MLK Jr. Magnet High School
  • Joseph M. Friedman, MLK Jr. Magnet High School
  • Maya R. Johnson, MLK Jr. Magnet High School
  • Boone Kinney, MLK Jr. Magnet High School
  • Katherine G. Reed, MLK Jr. Magnet High School
  • Bryce Troia, MLK Jr. Magnet High School
  • Quinn J. Troia, MLK Jr. Magnet High School

Lorenzo Carrion and Brandon Majors, both 2018 graduates of Cane Ridge High School, were awarded the inaugural Butch McCord Legacy Scholarship by Major League Baseball’s Nashville RBI program on Sept. 19. Hats off to them!

Last week I wrote about the use of clubs during RTI time at Tusculum ES. In my over zealousness to report good news, I failed to make it clear that all kids were being included in clubs. Inadvertently, I gave the impression that some kids were being excluded from participating. That was wrong and I owe a huge apology to the school’s AP Mr. Holmes. There is no school more inclusive that Tusculum. I need to remember that good news needs to be vetted as thoroughly as bad news. It’s important to hold myself to the same standard I expect from others. Please forgive my error.

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s the good news station. If you need to get a hold of me, the email is norinrad10@yahoo.com. Keep sending me your stuff and I’ll share as much as possible. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. If you think what I write has value, please consider supporting the work through Patreon.

Posted in Uncategorized

A TEACHER’S THOUGHTS AT 2AM: AN AFFIRMATION OF THE WORK IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Five years ago when I started this blog, I thought, “Hey, this could be a fun little hobby.” Unfortunately, and fortunately, it has turned into so much more. There are times that I absolutely do not want to write another word about how we underfund, under support, and underestimate our public schools. It’s heartbreaking to continually hear the stories of sacrifice that teachers make only to be under cut by self-serving administrators and politicians who just don’t take the time to learn the truth.

The fortunate part is that in creating this blog, a platform in which to share some of the truly beautiful thoughts and experiences of teachers has also been created. If I didn’t believe in magic before, after hearing their words and witnessing their works, its existence has become undeniable.

I share here, with permission, the words of middle school teacher Cori Anderson-Lais. Cori is a long-time family friend and a tremendous teacher. She is also a wife and the mother of two wonderful small children. Those roles often combine to create insomnia. Meaning that one finds themselves awake and unable to sleep at 2AM.

Fortunately for us, Cori used her insomnia in a much more productive manner than this writer. Whereas I would just watch Tin Cup for the 3,456th time, she used her time to produce a beautiful essay that I consider a must-read for all parents. Well, hell, not just parents, but everybody.

Thank you, Cori, for sharing your experiences and reminding us why what we all do is so important. I urge you to have some tissues handy before reading this one.

 

Parents of preschool aged children love to ask me some variation of the the same question as soon as they find out I’m a teacher. “So… tell me about the schools. Are the schools around here any *good*? I looked up the ratings online/ watched some terrible news story, and I’m wondering if we should move before he/she enters school.”

Enter internal monologue after this question is received. Apologies for the cursing, but #realtalk🤷🏼‍♀️: Shit. Shit. Shit. Why did you open your loud-ass mouth and tell this well-meaning person enjoying a lovely day at the park/library/zoo/other-kid-friendly-establishment you were an eff-ing teacher? You could have just said you work at Target. Gawd, I really wish I just worked at Target. It’s so clean and organized. You get a discount. Surely the managers make more than I do. Focus. Or nothing. You could have just said nothing. Why can’t you EVER just say nothing, Cori? Great, I’m about to make this person wish they never talked to me. Oh well, I have enough friends, and I’m too tired for any more. Sorry Anxious Mom, I’m about to wear you out.

*************************************

This post is going to come from a place of admitted emotion, heart and passion about the kids and families to whom I have devoted my entire adult life. It’s lengthy and should probably live on a blog, but you know, time.

Disclaimers: Other than visiting them during trainings, I know almost nothing about Williamson County Schools. The following post’s purpose is not to speak about Williamson County Schools. Metro Nashville Public School System is massive, and I have spent all 11 years of my teaching in the Southwest and Southeast quadrant. I cannot speak on behalf of anything else. I grew up in suburban Minnesota inside of a working-class family that was intertwined with layers of dysfunction. However, the schools I attended looked, operated, and felt much more Williamson County than MNPS. It would be a lie to say that I don’t have any feelings left over about being the kid who felt misplaced in the environment where I grew up.

You want me to tell you about the schools, Anxious Mom? Here we go:

Here’s the reality Anxious Mom,
If you participate in White Flight, you hurt families of color and under-resourced families. “But But But I, volunteer/donate/go on mission trips/do x,y,z noble thing for poor people.” No. Own it. Sit in it. Feel the feelings even if one of them is shame, and say it out loud: If I participate in White Flight inside of the public school system, my actions hurt families of color and under-resourced families. The whole family. Not just the kids. Period. Stop talking about how good of a person you are aside from the whole White Flight thing. We all get to make choices. I can’t make them for you. I didn’t say it was easy, or perfect, or without risk-whether that risk is perceived or factual-I’ll tell you more about that later.

You need to ask yourself some tough questions:

What do I really mean when I say I want “the best” for my kid?

What can “the best” look like?

What do I mean when I say *a good school*? Is there underlying racial or socioeconomic bias in my thoughts about *good schools*?
*************************************
Inside these dreaded conversations, comes more questioning from the Anxious Mom that boils down to, “But won’t MY – smart, high-achieving, already knows her numbers, letters, colors, long division, astrophysics, half of the Japanese logographs, yoga poses, etc. be adversely affected by THOSE – under – resourced poor, low-achieving, misbehaving, Immigrant, EL, EE, Black, Brown, etc.- kids?”

Insert another internal monologue: Cori, remember that parents typically come from a place of love and good intentions. They have not been inside the schools. Your classroom babies are not their babies. They don’t know their stories. They read shit ratings online that paint an ugly, misinformed picture of our schools. I’ll readily admit that the Higher Ups need to get it together, but isn’t that the case in just about every government system in America? Be an educator. Educate this person, don’t judge this person. Quell rage, fix your face, use a kind voice.

I know, it’s a complicated picture, Anxious Mom, but here’s the thing. Your kid will be fine. More than fine. Like ultra, super-duper fine. There is scads of research that supports that fact. Yes, fact. You want scholarly articles about it? I’ll send them your way. Your kid will. be. fine. Probably better off and kinder. I work with incredible teachers. The families are great. We offer advanced academics-in fact, I teach those courses. We differentiate for all types of learners – that’s our job.

Anxious Mom emits more anxiety: But my calculus solving 4-year-old won’t do well in a disruptive environment. She won’t be able to reach her full potential unless she is around other kids like her. What if my kid doesn’t get enough attention if lower performing students are getting all of it? I’ve also heard there are a lot of immigrant kids around here, and if they can’t speak English, won’t my kid fall behind?

More internal monologue: There’s this thing about working with all types of people. They’re called coping skills, Lady, and it sounds like your kid is going to need to learn some stat if this is the kind of pressure you’re putting her under. Deep breath. Turn your judgment down, Self. Educate.

Again, it is our job to accommodate all learners. That’s why we chose to teach public school. Even if your kid misses out on some part of academics that may more easily be received in a more homogeneous environment, the social, emotional, and life learning that will occur inside our schools will far outweigh any gaps in instruction. In fact, those academic skills can be acquired indefinitely throughout adulthood. Remember how smart you said your kid was? She’ll make it. I promise. And probably be better for being ignored occasionally. And fun fact: Once Immigrant children reach English proficiency-something your *genius* kid could help them do, they actually out perform their English-speaking peers in academics and post-secondary schooling. Your little precious actually might do well to become bffs with the ELL kid because she might learn something about work ethic. And maybe, bonus, another language. 🤷🏼‍♀️

Things I have learned from my students: patience, tolerance, the ability to recognize and actively fight against my own biases, compassion, more about the world and other cultures than I even knew was possible, greetings in other languages, how to take care of others, hospitality, how to think on my feet, the fact that there is more than one “right” way to live, the ability to respect varying cultural and religious viewpoints, and most significantly: way more than I’ve ever taught them.

Anxious Mom, hear me: Your kid can learn from *those* kids, teach/help/BEFRIEND those kids, build a better world WITH those kids. Because as much as you, “Barely have time to process everything about YOUR kids, how in the world am I supposed to have concern about other people’s kids,” you have to know that YOUR kid’s world WILL be affected by those kids, and you might be able to help those effects be positive by being a part of our schools.

I won’t lie to you. In my eleven years, I’ve had classes where I did way more behavior management than I did teaching. But you know what I also did in those classes? I learned. I learned how to help kids manage their emotions. I learned that you can’t teach a kid academic content until they trust you. I learned how to de-escalate potent, anger filled situations. I learned that we all come to the table with layers, and even with those layers, we still deserve a chance. And a kid not performing well on a standardized test doesn’t show you shit about his/her intellect or capabilities. There are lots of kinds of smart. Isn’t that what life is all about?

I’ll leave you with a final anecdote, Anxious Mom. Let me tell you about my friend Max.

The last two years, I’ve taught only advanced academics courses (try not to monitor grammatical errors in this composition-I wrote it on my phone in the midst of insomnia) at the MNPS school closest to the Williamson County line. It’s probably a little more colorful than a WC school, but it’s the most homogeneous group I’ve ever taught.

Last year, another teacher was struggling with Max being in his class. Max’s behavior is pretty intense, and he already had a quite a few vibrant personalities in the room. Max, despite his quirks, scores in the 94th percentile and above on standardized assessments. He’s fricken brilliant and bored out of his ever-loving skull. We moved him into the advanced classes.

The first couple weeks were a mess. He jumped on chairs, interjected every thought that crossed his mind into the room in a screeching voice, bothered his peers, and created a cacophony of chortles throughout the room on a daily basis.

I tried talking to him, positive praise, negative attention, yelling at him, sending him into the hall, calling his mom. All the things. One day, the exchange went something like this, “Out Max! I’ll meet you out there in a second. The rest of you better get busy and not say a word. I’m listening with my Mom Ears. I hear everything.”

– in the hall –

“Max, what. is. happening? This doesn’t work for any of us.”

“I don’t know. *tears start to come* The other kids think I’m funny but they don’t actually want to be my friends. They’re mean, but they’re sneaky, and I get in trouble because I’m loud.”

Inner thoughts abound again – Shit, this kid is perceptive AF. And right. He’s right. I need to do better. I need to teach the other kids to do better.

“Max, I’m sorry. You’re right. They do things they shouldn’t too. Just because they’re quieter doesn’t make it okay. I’m going to pay more attention to that. I do need you to chill out though. Not everyone catches onto concepts as quickly as you do, and they need quiet to think. Want to go in and try again?”

I looped with those kids this year meaning I have them all again, including Max. If you came into our class, you’d probably see Max standing on the table at the back of the room. Go ahead, clutch your pearls, yes, standing on the table. Max now has a box of puzzles and sensory toys for when he finishes his work early. He uses a white board to write things down that he wants to blurt out. Sometimes, he still blurts out. Sometimes, I still lose my patience with him. We got him into the Day of Discovery program with Vanderbilt, and on Tuesdays he gets to go do super cool things like examine bugs outside.

Anxious Mom – But is that fair? Won’t all the kids start standing on their desks? Why does he get toys and they don’t?

Friend, fair is not always equal. Another great lesson for kids to learn. No, the other kids don’t stand on their desks because they don’t *need* to stand on their desks. They also need more time to do their work. They also recognize that it’s socially inappropriate to stand on a desk, and they don’t want to stand out by having extra toys. In reality, we could all learn something from Max about giving no 🤐. And most significantly, they have figured out how to work with Max and how bright he is. They are kinder to him. Stand up for him sometimes.

Even More Anxious Mom – So, you’re going to send your girls to school here? Even the big, scary high school? I heard such and such happened there.

Well, it probably did, and I’m sure if you knew the full story it wouldn’t shock you nearly as much as it did when someone hyperbolized it. Yes, my kids will go to these schools. I’m excited for them to attend these schools. Remember the high school I mentioned that I attended? Kids there had the time and money to do all the things you’re afraid your kid is going to be influenced to do. *Those* kid’s-at the *scary* schools – they’re mostly working and helping to take care of their families.

Those kids are MY kids. Just as much my kids as Jovie and Eira. They were my first babies. They invited me to their family parties and their family sporting events, brought me incredible food, threw me a baby shower, visited me in the hospital after I had my babies, babysat my children and refused to take payment, they hug me when they see me in public, and are currently achieving fantastic things. One more fun fact: their parents never emailed me things that made my eyes roll. They respected my profession. SO, if you’re going to try to talk to me about how your kid deserves more or better than my kids, you’re going to hear about my feelings. I’m sorry the smiley-faced Nordic-looking girl in the MN Twins hat didn’t affirm your internalized bias, but I hope you’ll consider staying in our neighborhood. You won’t regret it. ✌🏼

Posted in Uncategorized

#FACEPALM

“I’m really gonna miss you picking fights
And me falling for it screaming that I’m right
And you would hide away and find your peace of mind
With some indie record that’s much cooler than mine” – Taylor Swift, Never Getting Back Together

“Just cause you got the monkey off your back, doesn’t mean the circus has left town.” – George Carlin

Before we get engrossed in circus talk, I wanted to share a little observation about Nashville the city as a whole with you. Back in the 90’s, I spent a great deal of time at the corner of the bar at Friday’s on Elliston Place. It was an area populated by bookies and philosophers and those who trafficked in their services. In short, it was a good place to enjoy a drink.

In the days leading up to the arrival of the NFL in Music City, there was a lot of talk about what the experience and the team would look like. Much of the talk centered on the cost of attendance and concessions at an NFL football game. There was a point raised that the stadium was built with tax payer money and therefore an effort should be made to keep it affordable for the average Nashvillian. One man scoffed and then uttered one of those truism that have remained with me since, “If you can’t afford to drop a bill, they don’t want your broke ass in there.”

As time has marched on, and Nashville has seen an unprecedented amount of growth, I can’t help but reflect back on that statement. Everyday it feels more and more like that saying has been played out and is now applicable to our entire city. Some great things have happened to Nashville over the past decade, but how many of those things can policeman, fireman, teachers, and such take advantage of? The growth has been great for business owners and corporations, but has the quality of life really improved for the average resident of Nashville?

During his campaign, Mayor Briley touted the growth in dining out options, but how many of us can actually partake of these enhanced dining options? Sure there are a lot more entertainment options, but try taking a family of four to any of them without blowing the monthly budget in one night. Property values have exploded, but if you sell your house, where are you going to move? And God forbid you try to stay in the house that’s been in your family for years – taxes are going to catch you. Try getting anywhere in town without a reliable automobile; it’s impossible. It short, the cost of living has gone up and wages haven’t.

As a result, Nashville has become more focused on making the city more attractive to newcomers and tourists instead of the people who actually reside here. People that made the city an attractive place to live in the first place. People that added character. Characters can’t afford to live here any more.

Sure, in a lot of ways Nashville is booming, but for many it truly has become the city where “If you can’t drop a bill, they don’t want your broke ass in here.”

MAYOR’S LATEST HEAD SCRATCHER

Mayor Briley is a huge anomaly for me. I don’t know of a singular politician that I’ve wanted to support as much as I do him, who in turn works as hard to make it as impossible to do so as he does. It seems like he almost deliberately tries to keep the bar low. This isn’t some new sensation either; I’ve supported him since 2005, only to be disappointed at every turn. This latest move, though, may be the deal breaker.

As part of the Friday news dump, it was announced that Mayor Briley had appointed a new education advisor to the mayor. Since both school board members Amy Frogge and Jill Speering have long been supporters of his, I thought it would be a safe bet to assume that he would tag a long time Nashville educator for the position. You know, somebody with deep institutional knowledge of events over the last decade.

Since Mayor Briley was also touting education and supporting teachers as a primary focus of his, surely his choice would be someone with a long history of classroom experience. After all, everyone loves teachers and has pledged to be their champions. This would be a prime opportunity to demonstrate he was serious about providing that support.

Furthermore, it’s been widely recognized that one of the chief failings of MNPS Director of Schools Shawn Joseph was his to recognize the depth of talent here in Nashville. What better way to rectify that misperception then to pluck one of Nashville’s very own long-term educators. Not like we don’t have a half a bushel to pick from.

Nope. Instead, in a move that defies logic, Briley chose Indira Dammu to be his Advisor to the Mayor for Education Policy. Now before anybody gets too worked up, let me just say I have no reason to believe that Dammu is anything but a wonderful human being. It’s her resume I’m questioning and the once again slighting of our local talent.

She got into the education world in 2009 via Teach For America and working for the Children’s Charter Middle School. They went out of business around 2011. CCMS, not TFA, unfortunately. She taught one more year at Achievement First in New Haven. That’s it for the classroom, as she headed to North Carolina as a policy advisor for North Carolina New Schools. Mind you, North Carolina is one of a handful of states that decided Tennessee’s Achievement District was so wonderful they had to have one of their own. That should say it all. In 2015 NCNS shut its doors for financial reasons.

Next stop was in 2015 in Tennessee and our good friends at SCORE. If there is a single organization that has been more wrong on education policy in Tennessee than SCORE, I’m hard pressed to name them. Charter Schools, testing, teacher prep, teacher evaluation, take your pick… SCORE has been on the wrong side of almost every educational issue over the last decade. The latest being the Governor’s listening not listening tour. A tweet from this weekend sums it up best: “SCORE exists to protect TN Ready, charter schools and Jamie’s $350k salary and unlimited vacation days.”

I’m not saying that Ms. Dammu ain’t wicked smart, but I am saying her experiences are rather… limited. She has absolutely no experience in a traditional school.

In case her experiences don’t excite you enough, she’s also a supporter of competency-based education. “Compency-based education” is another one of those phrases that sound really cool until you dig in and then you realize that it’s the reducing of education to individual components that are deemed essential. Which, for a subject like math, has merit. For a subject like causes of the French/Indian War, not so much. In other words, it appears that the Mayor has hired himself a dyed-in-the-wool education reformer despite the opposition to said policies by the majority of his supporters. Thanks for listening.

This comes at a time when Nashville teachers are really starting to reach a breaking point. They are taking home less money this year than last. They are being asked to work and sacrifice more than ever before. They feel as if they have no voice in instruction and policy. As a result we are hemorrhaging teachers. Amanda Kail gave a fine state of the union address at this week’s board meeting. But was anyone listening? Certainly not Mayor Briley.

Why is it so hard to show respect to teachers and their craft? If you needed a SCORE person, why not get Cicely Woodard? She was last year’s state teacher of the year and between her and her husband Ron, has as much institutional knowledge and classroom experience as anybody. Literacy is a big deal? Why not hire Jarred Amato and let him take Project Lit city wide? What about any one of MNPS’s long-term principals? Think they might know something about education policy? These are just a few suggestions, but instead, the mayor choses a newcomer to the city with no experience in traditional schools. Bravo… excellent… well done… #facepalm

The mayor’s appointment concerns me in another way as it adds to a growing list of disturbing indicators. We have a director of schools that seems intent on emulating 2005 and former director of schools Pedro Garcia and a chief academic officer who is hooked on phonics. Add to that new board member Gini Pupo-Walker voting for Dr. Gentry as chair because she has “philosophical differences” with Amy Frogge, not to mention Dr. Gentry’s chair status itself, and it starts to feel like we are jumping in the wayback time machine and opening discussion anew on things we’ve already been through. Despite all my rage, am I really just a rat in a cage?

At a time when we have a school district that is in crisis, we don’t need to become distracted by rehashing the charter school wars and the reading wars of the aughts and the nineties. We’ve got to fix our current situation before we start looking for things in our past to start rehashing again. Let’s stay focused for a little bit, please.

QUICK HITS

This past week has seen a fair amount of talking out of both sides of their mouth by public officials. First you had former board chair Anna Shepherd being shocked that Russ Pulley thought constituents weren’t smart enough to understand city governance, only to later confirm that she felt that same way about her constituents and school issues.

In a “hold my beer moment,” Teresa Wagner, VP of MNEA, decided she could match Shepherd’s bar. Early in the week, she admonished board members to make sure that their social media posts were factual. She closed the week by attacking newly-elected board member Fran Bush on social media.

Wagner was an adamant supporter of former incumbent board member Tyese Hunter. As such, she campaigned heavily for the MNEA-endorsed candidate. Unfortunately for her, that candidate lost. I would think that as a representative of MNEA, Wagner would realize the importance of being gracious in defeat and switch her support to Bush as the duly elected school board representative. Seeing as teacher compensation packages will be voted on later this year.

In her postings, Wagner claims to have seen Bush commit election law violations, but fails to identify what they were. Of course she also fails to acknowledge that Hunter has yet to file campaign disclosures. In light of her personal feelings, one has to wonder if Wagner can be effective as a union representative. Especially in light of the growing alliance Bush has with Frogge and Speering, two long-term, ardent supporters of teachers. Perhaps it is time for Wagner to eat a little crow.

There are some really good people at MNEA who are working hard to improve compensation and conditions for MNPS teachers. I would hate to see their work undone because Wagner is incapable of abandoning her personal agenda.

Couple quick thoughts on the Bush situation. I find it curious that a parent involved in a financial dispute was suddenly able to “discover” financial info that went uncovered by the press during the election. A press that was able to give full coverage to past digressions by both myself and district 6 candidate Aaron McGee.

Speaking of McGee, according to Dr. Joseph’s schedule, he and the good doctor had breakfast together last week. Now I’m not accusing McGee of anything, during the campaign I found him too be an especially stand up guy, but the doc’s got to know that having breakfast with a fellow challenger before you’ve dined with the new board member in the same week that a “crisis” blows up ain’t going to present good optics. Especially in light of Joseph’s past history of election meddling.

This morning, NPR Nashville aired an interesting story on the resegregation of an East Nashville School. The story raises a lot of interesting points, and I strongly recommend it, but to me this was the most intriguing point:

“In an email, David Kovach, the Metro Schools representative who attended the meeting, said that “while we value choice and diversity, MNPS does not target any specific race to attend any specific school.”  

My question is why was Kovach, an EDSSI, the district representative instead of the Community Superintendent? It seems to me that this is just the kind of situation that community superintendent was created for. Instead it’s the executive principal doing the heavy lifting. #facepalm

The article cites Lockland Design Center ES as the fourth best in the district, yet fails to give the criteria that ranking is based on. I’m assuming it is test scores because that’s the way we roll.

“But the area was already beginning to gentrify, and as Lockeland’s test scores rose and word spread of this hidden East Nashville gem, people — mainly white people — flocked to its priority zone, boosting their chances of winning the school’s lottery.”

That’s the rub. We already know that standardized tests reflect more on socio-economic status than on learning. So if you are going to use tests to rank schools, are you really surprised when diversity goes out the window? And why are we talking about this school when there are several schools with numbers that are equally as segregated, both towards black and white students?

Here’s a solution. Stop acting like education is a football game or competition. Stop ranking schools and giving a false sense that one is infinitely better than another because of achievement scores. Support all schools and work to make sure experiences across the board are equitable. Something that is virtually impossible when you divide the district into quadrants, there by destroying tier alignment. Create government policy that addresses housing and wage inequities. Or we can just do more of the same and feign horror when we read these stories.

Rumors are swirling that there has been another change in the communications department. No confirmation on who yet, but I’ll let you know. Based on these tweets, I’m betting it’s the proofreader. (I know, I’ve got no room to talk. But I couldn’t resist.)

POLL RESULTS

What an incredible response we received to this week’s poll questions. The question on board members received over 240 responses.

I’m shocked that there are that many of you even willing to answer survey questions anymore. It seems that every time there is an issue in education, both at the state and local level, the go to reaction is another poll, focus group, or listening tour. It seems like parents and teachers endlessly participate, yet never see results that look like the answers shared via the polls, focus groups, or listening sessions. There is always a feeling of participating in a pre-ordained event. One that the results can’t be revealed until the semblance of input is received. Just once I’d like to see policy derived right from a poll, focus group, or listening session.

But enough of my ranting, let’s look at results.

The first question asked for the MNPS School Board member you have the most faith in. Amy Frogge is the winner here with 109 votes, but Jill Speering isn’t far behind at 104. The big takeaway for me on this one isn’t the votes given, but rather the ones not given. Newly elected Board Chair Sharon Gentry failed to secure a single vote. I understand that a lot of my readers probably fall into the Frogge/Speering camp, but are you telling me that out of 245 people who wander into a room, not a single person does so by accident and says, “Oh, while I’m here let me vote for Gentry?”

For the most part, people have been very civil with the write-in comments. Every once in a while, I get one that I have to think about before publishing. I always share them because that is what I do. It’s an open forum uncensored by me. This was one of those weeks, and as always, I’m sharing, but making it clear that these are readers’ thoughts and opinions, not necessarily mine.

Amy and Jill 1
None 1
Faith in A.F. ability and intentions 1
Amy & Jill 1
Gentry-heard she won because she slept w/Dr. Joseph 1
Frogge, Speering, Bush 1
none 1
Speering AND Frogge 1
tie between Amy and Jill 1
They couldn’t get teachers a 1% raise, so none. 1
Jackson Miller, oh wait…

Question two asked for your opinion on Advanced Literacy. This one got 195 responses with the winner being, “Just a made up term to make it sound like we are doing something great” with 63 responses. The next two were “What the hell is it?” and “More smoke to go with the mirrors we just ordered.” Only 9 people said they loved it, and 2 “guessed it was all right.” Here are the write-ins:

I don’t have any knowledge of this term so I cannot make a judgement. 1
We can start with mastery of everyday literacy 1
Advanced is great once your reading… what’s the plan for those that aren’t? 1
That means nothing to me 1
Wordy wordsmith wannabes weaving worthless webs 1
Better than literacy solely built on TLA and guided reading 1
I’m a metro teacher, never heard of it. 1
How about we just advance literacy 1
It’s like literacy, but more advanced

The last question asked for your thoughts on the use of clubs. Out of 192 responses, 63 of you loved the idea, and another 47 expressed that they were essential and needed to be held during school time. A lot of write-ins on this one with many of you expressing concern for tier 2 and 3 kids.

Fine when not allowed to go overboard. Way too many offerings dilutes quality! 1
Available to ALL students. Tier 2 & 3 students need experiences, too. 1
We can’t pay teachers for 7.5, how are we gonna pay them for 9.5? 1
Dan Mills has them, all after school. It’s a good thing! 1
Wonder how Tier 2 and 3 students feel not having the opportunity to participate 1
Clubs during day is not new or this AP’s brainchild. Happens all over MNPS 1
Currently running two after school clubs- paid for neither 1
The district needs to actually fund them. 1
Not the purpose of RTI. Feel bad 4 kids in tier2/3 1
Great way to cultivate multiple intelligences 1
Teachers will have to purchase supplies out of pocket. Been there, done that! 1
Enrichment for all kids 1
All kids should have access. 1
Love the club idea, and lets fully fund RTI, so it runs as intended. 1
They are great, as long as teachers aren’t expected to lead them 1
They should be for everyone, not just tier one. 1
High poverty schools do not have the resources. 1
Hunters Lane does it right.

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon. Peace out.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

A BRIEF DISPATCH FROM THE FRONT LINES

“Sometimes they write what I say, not what I mean.” – 1981 World Series MVP Pedro Guerrero

“Almost nobody made it out of the game in one piece, and almost everybody thought they would be the exception.”
Richard Price, Clockers

This week heaven gained a soul that is cooler than the other side of the pillow. Roderick Johnson was not just a security guard at Bransford Ave. He was the authentic smile and kind word to everyone who walked through the front door needing assistance at MNPS. His passion for making everyone around him feel welcomed and positive was contagious. His work ethic was matchless.

He believed that the best things in life are simple. A kiss, your child’s laugh, the perfect song, & Mama’s homemade food. Nail any of these and it’s much more satisfying than any possession. Because life is about experiences and the memory thereof. Rest in Peace, Rod. You are already missed greatly. 

After having spent multiple years as a parent of children in a high-needs school, I’ve come to the conclusion that inequities spring more from experiences than they do from resources. We can throw money at schools all day, but unless that translates into real experiences for kids, the equity gap will remain.

How many children in high-need schools attend dance classes? Or get to learn chess? How about learn about museums? If my kids want to become an attorney, I call up a friend who is an attorney, and we go visit. They’ll learn what to study, where to go to school, what to expect from the career. EL kids and our kids in poverty don’t have that experience available to them.

In our less needy schools, kids have access to clubs to learn about all kinds of different experiences that will help them as adults. I think Eakin ES offers over 50 different clubs. These clubs usually take place after school and are headed up by parents and community members. Our poorer schools, for various reasons, can’t offer after school clubs, and so kids don’t get an opportunity to be exposed to a plethora of interests.

Tusculum ES is trying a different approach this year. They are making clubs available at the end of the day during RTI time to Tier 1 kids. Tier 2 and 3 kids still get their needed enrichment, but Tier 1 kids have the opportunity to try something different. Clubs include safety patrol, chess, karaoke, creative writing, mindfulness, and art. All of them have connections with math and reading/writing.

The response has been incredible. Kids love the opportunity to participate in these various activities. My own daughter has come home on several occasions bursting with excitement about the project they are working on in her creative writing club.

The idea was the brain child of AP Chris Holmes, but everybody on the Tusculum staff deserves credit for making it happen. Very cool and typical for this school.

One of the primary tools utilized by citizens to monitor the actions of government is provided by open record laws. Open record requests allow citizens access to government documents in order to ensure they are operating in a legal and beneficial manner. All kinds of political downfalls have started with a simple open records request. Government entities don’t care much for the process, but unfortunately for them it’s the law.

MNPS is especially not fond of these requests, but has done their best to comply. Over the years, I’ve filed dozens of them with MNPS. Up until recently, I got them back in a pretty timely manner. Sure, occasionally they’ve taken a little longer than expected, but for the most part, MNPS has been begrudgingly compliant.

About 6 months ago, things changed. MNPS started charging for requests, something the law allows them to do within reason. Charging for materials is something government entities try to do to dampen the flow of requests, but it seldom is a successful strategy. But that doesn’t stop them from trying.

Since the summer, the flow of information has just stopped. Requests go weeks unacknowledged and it often takes a month or more for their fulfillment. They claim that the volume has reached such a level that it is impossible for them to keep up. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know the district keeps moving in the wrong direction when it comes to transparency.

Today, newly elected MNPS school board member Fran Bush got a taste of what happens when you take a shot at the king. At Tuesday’s board meeting, Bush was highly critical of MNPS head Dr. Joseph, and by the end of the week she found herself on the receiving end of a personal attack on social media. The story in Scoop: Nashville is not a pretty one. It is not supposed to be.

The sole purpose of the story is to humiliate and remind Bush of her place. It makes no effort to tell her side of the story or offer context. Its source could be from a multitude of places – Dr. Joseph, Tyese Hunter, Will Pinkston, or even just a disgruntled parent from her day care. But I doubt the timing is coincidence. Why was none of this “discovered” prior to the campaign?

Interestingly enough, Bush is not the first school board member to be sued over financial matters. The previous seat holder also was the subject of lawsuits. Yep, question the status quo and you get a house dropped on you. Like I’ve always said, if you only know one way how to practice politics, you only practice politics one way.

This, too, shall pass. I suspect Bush will remain unbowed and will continue to apply pressure to the MNPS administration. Like the rest of us, she will pay her financial obligations where she can, and make arrangements where necessary. Personally I find her quite refreshing and am glad to finally have somebody on the board willing to take the way Antioch schools have been treated over the last two personally. It’s way past time. As Dr. Joseph likes to say, you have to tune out the noise.

Many of you by now should be familiar with the name Sharon Pertiller. Pertiller is the number 2 in HR whose actions have been at the root of every one of the recent lawsuits aimed at MNPS. Now, she has her own HR complaint. Yep, someone has filed a retaliation complaint against Ms Pertiller. As of today, Ms. Pertiller has not been placed on administrative leave while the complaint is investigated.

Oh by the way… if you see the head of HR Deborah Story… welcome her back from her 3-week vacation.

The release of the state priority school list continues to draw closer. The latest I’m hearing is that there are a lot more schools on the list than anticipated. Do you know how many people we have overseeing these schools? Take a look at the organizational chart to the left and tell me if you think that’s enough.

WIDA is a test given nationally to students that receive English Learner services. Students take the test annually and it’s used to monitor both student and district progress. Over the last couple of years, MNPS has done exceptionally well on the test.

Apparently something has changed though. Despite it being September, scores from last year’s test are still embargoed. Schools have their individual results, but not the district numbers. For some reason, those numbers are not being shared. Even on a need-to-know basis.

Those who have seen the numbers tell me they are not very good. Hmmmm… so what has changed from past years? Why the sudden down turn? Maybe we’ll know by November.

Speaking of the EL Department, apparently that is where Executive Director of Equity and Diversity Maritza Gonzalez’s office now resides. Previously she had been in the central office building. Some folks take exception to me singling out Gonzalez for attention, but when you are the spouse of the number two guy, among the top 20 highest paid employees in the district, and nobody can describe your work… well, it comes with the territory.

MNPS has revealed more of its Comprehensive Literacy Plan, or at least the shiny objects meant to distract from the lack of meat. While I admit that it looks pretty, it still seems to me devoid of any real action steps. Perhaps I’m dazzled by its simplicity and am missing something.

The plan appears to be heavily reliant on something called “Advanced Literacy.” I tried a Google search of that term and failed to find a definition, though I did find several books and studies that could be purchased. So I’m still not exactly clear on what’s being focused on. Oh well, I guess it’s better than focusing on Remedial Literacy.

In response to recent problems with progress reports, MNPS middle school teachers received a lengthy email from the MNPS grading team this week. It’s all useful information but raises several questions for me. First, what teacher, 8 weeks into the school year, is going to read all that information?

Teachers are up to their eyeballs in work, and when you send out an email of that length you imply that they have time to sit, read, eat a few bonbons, dissect, and implement. It reveals that you are out of touch with what a teacher’s day actually looks like. Effective communication would be several short bullet points outlining the most important fixes, with a link to the whole document for later inspection or for those so inclined to read the whole document.

My other question is, if you have to write a document that extensive to “fix” a problem 8 weeks into the school year, how broken is the process? I’m thinking pretty broke.

McKissack Middle School teacher Thomas Francis was named AMEND YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee Teacher of the Year! His dedication to students as a role model and mentor garnered him this prestigious award. Way to go, Thomas!

Andy Spears takes another look at teacher salaries in Tennessee. Spoiler alert: It’s not good news.

This week MNPS board member Amy Frogge renewed her practice of posting her writing on Facebook. She’s been quiet for a while, allowing all communication to come through the district out of respect for Dr. Joseph. But now, times have changed.

I urge Dr. Joseph to take a look at what she wrote and then count the number of comments the post generated. Then go to all the other pages of board members and count the number of comments received by their latest post. I’ll even let you throw in comments from MNPS’s Facebook page. Add it all together, and the number is significantly lower than the number of comments on Frogge’s one post.

The bottom line is, she’s well liked and well-respected. You know that old saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy”? No disrespect to Frogge, but Joseph might want to take note and adjust his strategy. He ain’t going to win a popularity contest against Frogge.

Nearly-as-popular fellow board member Jill Speering has plenty to say as well, and should be equally noted.

Happening today is the  Homecoming Tailgate. Then, join ’em for some great Firebird football. Avoid the lines. Get your tickets online now @

Wrapping things up a little quickly today because it’s Americana Music Week, and I got to try to earn a buck. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s the good news station. If you need to get a hold of me, the email is norinrad10@yahoo.com. Keep sending me your stuff and I’ll share as much as possible. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. If you think what I write has value, please consider supporting the work through Patreon.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

I WAS WRONG

“Psychopaths… people who know the differences between right and wrong, but don’t give a shit. That’s what most of my characters are like.”
Elmore Leonard

I was wrong. It pains me to write those words. Like anybody else, I don’t like to admit when I’ve made a bad decision or came to the wrong conclusion. I like to cling to the belief that I’m omniscient and seldom get things wrong. However, in this case, I drunk-sexted the bee. I Eiffel-towered the Hippo.

There is no way around it, and today I come to you humbled and apologetic.

You see, all the way up to yesterday’s vote for MNPS school board chair, I argued that board member Will Pinkston would vote for fellow board member – and long time ally – Amy Frogge for chair. There are few people I find more morally reprehensible than Pinkston, but I was still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when it came to his loyalty to something, or somebody, besides himself. Based on history, it was a logical thought that Amy Frogge and Jill Speering would be those embodiments.

All three board members were elected together six years ago and had formed a coalition of defenders of public education. Both Speering and Frogge have supported Pinkston no matter how far he got out of line, even when he took it upon himself to single-handedly remove the previous Director of Schools. As far as she has gone with Dr. Joseph, Speering has yet to take it to the levels that Pinkston employed back then.

Both board members have lent him their unequivocal support, despite his widely being recognized as a bully. One who was never afraid to lash out at fellow board members. No matter how difficult it got, nor how much heat they took, neither Frogge nor Speering ever wavered in their support for Pinkston. Going as far as to give him money when his re-election campaign had none.

Teachers and union members have also long considered Pinkston a champion and welcomed his defense of their interests. Sadly, those interests were only viable when advancing them would prove beneficial to his own interests. In neither of the last two years could Pinkston’s voice be heard among those demanding raises for teachers or support staff. Still, both entities remained loyal to him.

Yesterday’s board chair election was viewed by many as an opportunity to have the board finally demand some accountability from the Director of Schools. Amy Frogge has long championed the interests of families and teachers. It was widely recognized that she was the best chance to right a ship that has blown dramatically off course. She offered transparency, accountability, and leadership. Exactly what MNPS needs at the moment.

The other option was Dr. Sharon Gentry. There is ample evidence of what Dr. Gentry’s leadership looks like, as she had been board chair for two tumultuous years prior to the outgoing chair Anna Shepherd. So we’ve all seen the movie. Expecting her current tenure to end any differently than her previous one is like going to see Avenger: Infinity War and expecting everybody to survive at the end. No matter how many times you see the movie, it ends the same – in tragedy.

Leading up to last night’s vote, well over 100 parents emailed board members and implored them to heed their pleas and vote for Frogge. In my mind, it did not compute that Pinkston, with teachers and union members in the room, would throw years of demonstrated loyalty aside and vote for Gentry. No matter how low my opinion of Pinkston is, that was a scenario I could not wrap my head around. I was convinced he was playing chicken with Frogge by saying he wouldn’t vote for her. He wasn’t.

That was the first shoe to drop. The second was newly-elected board member Gini Pupo-Walker. Walker and I have significant philosophical differences when it comes to testing, charter schools, and TFA. However, she has been an employee in MNPS for 20-plus years and forged many of the same relationships as I have. She has heard the same pleas for help that I have. She has heard the same questions raised about the board’s perceived lack of concern for MNPS’s professional educators and neediest students as I have.

Pupo-Walker witnessed firsthand the devastating reign of former Director of Schools Pedro Garcia and, as such, understands better than most just how difficult rebuilding is and how much damage the wrong director can do. Surely she could see the similarities between the two administrations.

It was my belief that the voices pleading for help would resonate with her, and she would signal right from the beginning of her term that she was ready to fight for those who lacked champions and that change was coming. Her vote did neither.

Despite our philosophical disagreements, in talking with Pupo-Walker I felt that she recognized the issues facing the district and was committed to righting them as quickly as possible. I was wrong, and I was guilty of what I caution others against: perceiving people based on their words instead of their actions.

Personally, I believe Pupo-Walker has made a grave mistake by casting her lot with Gentry, and as such, has missed a prime opportunity. In a speech she read on the board floor last night, and has since posted on her Facebook page, she closes with the following: “I will remain focused on helping my fellow board members succeed, and do what I can to increase our effectiveness, and do my part to build a culture of mutual respect and collaboration, so that our children and our staff can excel, and our city can thrive.”

A more astute board member would have surveyed the land, recounted the manner in which Gentry led in the past, and then voted in a manner that would put them in a position to carry out the aforementioned. They would have realized how far down the road the opposition had gone and recognized the opportunity to shape the conversation going forward. As it stands, that opportunity is lost. Instead, she will be left holding the bag while Gentry and Pinkston try to shove the cats in.

Those cats – Frogge, Speering, and Bush – are not going to suddenly come to the conclusion that all their research, all their conversations, all the experiences they have had, have led them to the wrong conclusions. Whether people are publicly ready to admit it or not, the Joseph tenure is done, gone, toast, fried, over, and out. Despite all the initial promises, Dr. Joseph has failed to exceed expectations through his own inability to lead.

The only things remaining in question are a) How long is this going to limp on?, and b) How ugly is it going to get? Gentry’s election yesterday made possible the exceeding of expectations on both of those counts.

Hell, we didn’t even get through last night’s board meeting without a preview of what to expect. Gentry seconded her own nomination as chair and then moved for the passing of a contract for a company she’s employed by. Luckily, Speering pointed out to her that instead of leading the motion, she should be recusing herself from the vote. There will be plenty more of that in the future.

My prayer is that teachers and families don’t read too much into last night’s vote and become disillusioned. Disillusionment leads to departure, and MNPS can’t take many more departures. We need each and every one of you and appreciate your dedication to the district.

Last night after the board meeting, on Twitter, I laid Pinkston’s bad behavior at the feet of his employer, gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen. Some people took exception to that. But I remain unapologetic.

Nobody is willing to hold Pinkston accountable, and therefore he operates on his agenda, unencumbered. Bredesen continues to employ him despite his lack of character and actions that are detrimental to the families of MNPS. I was always told that you judge a person by their actions and the company they keep. I’m just employing that lesson here.

Bredesen supporters argue that he is an honorable man, much different than Pinkston. They also argue that Bredesen’s opponent Marsha Blackburn is even more morally bankrupt than Pinkston, and that the people she employs make him look like a Boy Scout. They further claim that she considers poor people and people of color as lesser humans and worthy only of the charity of their choice rather than the guidance and assistance of government.

To those folks, I ask that you consider these counter arguments. If I have a neighbor who owns a vicious dog that gets out and bites my kids once a week, do I refer to him as a great neighbor because he waves at me in the morning and occasionally shares his beer with me?

Do I say he’s a great neighbor because the guy who almost moved in had a dog that got out and bit my kids twice a week? After all, everybody knows getting bit once a week is better than getting bit twice a week. But how about not getting bit at all? That would be a good neighbor.

I agree that Blackburn’s views on diversity are very dissimilar from mine, but what is this current administration in MNPS doing for children of color? In her Facebook post, Pupo-Walker says, “I believe that our focus and priority should be on student achievement and success, and that all other facets of the operation of this district, whether they are the creation of a budget, of our HR practices, or our operational functions or curricular decisions, or the evaluation of our Director of Schools, should always be judged by how they will impact student success.”

That’s exactly what I’m doing, and her vote, along with Pinkston’s, is supporting the giving of cover to an administration that routinely pushes policy that hurts student achievement, specifically that of children of color. The ending of the literacy partnership with Lipscomb, the promoting of unqualified leadership to the number two position in the EL department, the discontinuation of the use of the multi-screener for gifted children, the discontinuation of reading clinics and Reading Recovery sans a viable alternative, the increased use of scripted curriculum, and the near elimination of the district’s payment of testing fees for advanced academics are all examples of policies that negatively impact student achievement for children of color.

Going back to Bredesen, based on his operative’s actions and policy supports, what evidence do I have that he would do right by poor and minority families? Perhaps he could demonstrate his intent by holding his employees to the same high standard that I expect from him. Why is that an unreasonable demand?

As previously stated, the only one who can hold Pinkston accountable is Bredesen. The only means I have to pressure Bredesen to hold Pinkston accountable is my vote. If everybody does the right thing, it’s not a problem. Or should I go to the families of those children who MNPS is chronically underserving and say just wait until Bredesen gets elected and things will get better? After that, Pinkston will put his focus back on your schools and Bredesen will help you out?

We keep making allowances for the “greater good,” but that greater good never shows up. We give away private land to corporations, housing costs continue to rise, wages remain stagnant, and our education system continues to disintegrate. When is the greater good showing up? Sometimes you just have to put up your hands and fight using what you have available.

It’s also been pointed out by charter school parents that charter school families have been in the same position as the parents who petitioned for Dr. Joseph’s removal. They, too, fought hard to be heard and respected. I can’t disagree, and perhaps it is time for the board to honor that tenet for all parents. Three years into Dr. Joseph’s tenure and only 3 out of 12 clusters have parent advisory committees up and running. Not exactly an indication of priority, is it?

One more apology I need to hand out. I owe it to Rachael Anne Elrod. My belief that she would be unduly influenced by Pinkston proved to be unfounded. For that, I apologize.

I ran for school board based on a belief that we are a district in crisis, and I believe that today more than ever. Change is coming, no matter how painful it may be. Those board members who voted for Gentry – Pinkston, Walker, Shepherd, and Buggs – will undoubtedly find themselves on the wrong side of history and will have to carry their actions as the brunt of their legacy. Leadership is not just judged by the actions they take, but also the ones they failed to take.

Below is a picture of the recently demolished old Tusculum Elementary School building. I pass it every day and say a silent prayer that champions for MNPS families, teachers, and students will step forward before this becomes a representation of the entire district. The decision is ours. Just how far gone are we going to let this thing go? It’s up to you. When nothing changes, nothing changes.

Nashville parent David Jones is currently helping parents, teachers, and community members organize their voices in helping to shape the discussion. If you have an opinion and are unsure of how to harness its power, I encourage you to reach out to him. His email is david.t.jones84@gmail.com.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

IT’S ALL OVER BUT THE CRYING

It’s all over but the crying
Fade to black, I’m sick of trying
Took too much and now I’m done – Garbage, It’s All Over But The Crying

The best prophet of the future is the past – Lord Byron

If you are an even marginal level sports fan, odds are that you’ve experienced this scenario before. You are watching the game as it’s heading into the last quarter, your team is way behind. You’ve known since about half time that there was little, or no chance of your team winning, but you love your team, so you haven’t abandoned them. You’ve kept watching, holding out hope that a miracle will transpire and somehow they will grasp victory from the jaws of defeat.

Throughout the game it’s been readily apparent were the fault lies for the scoring disparity, but somehow the coach and his staff fails to adjust. If it is football we are talking, it may be a failure to switch out the running back to the secondary guy that can break things outside. Maybe if they tried a little more play action, instead of just handing the ball off and running it up the middle. Maybe if they’d work in some screen passes. But the changes never happen, and your team just keeps running the same play, with the same outcomes, and continues to fall further behind.

Sure, there may be a few bright spots and maybe a touchdown or two gets scored, which serves no purpose other than to get you hopeful again for a moment or two, before the march to the inevitable defeat continues. You know your team is not going to win and the only question that remains is, “How ugly is it going to get before it is over?”

That’s pretty much where we are with Metro Nashville Public Schools right now. Between failing to report discipline actions to the state as required by law, multiple lawsuits involving sexual misconduct by district employees, progress reports being delayed again, lack of real academic progress, a disastrous budget season, an inconclusive Metro Nashville audit, and the soon to be released priority schools list…it’s becoming increasingly clear even to the most casual observer that MNPS is not marching to victory. It is way past half time and Dr. Joseph has no Music City Miracle up his sleeve.

In response his dwindling list of supporters trot out the trope that Dr. Joseph never had a chance and that the hater’s where out to get him from the beginning. First of all that trope is more than a little disingenuous. Few Superintendents have walked into the job with more universal support. The Chamber of Commerce, the school board, the Mayor, Council, Public Education Foundations, and local universities all gave him unilateral support. Anybody who raised questions about any actions by Dr. Joseph was immediately exorcised from the conversation. Trust me I know, I’ve got the scars to prove it. Dr. Joseph burned his substantial political capital through his own actions, or lack there of.

Second of all, in the words of Mike Tyson, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Part of the job description for any leader is handling critics and the opposition. Just like in sports, how you adjust your game plan correlates to the outcome of the game. Bill Belichick did not win all those Super Bowls by trotting out a game plan and not adjusting. No, he wins because of how he reacts to what’s happening on the field and adjusts accordingly. Some would argue that he lost this years Super Bowl because of a failure to adjust.

Joseph never adjusted. He never owned any of the mistakes, adjusted to opposition, nor even responded criticism. Instead he refused to have transparent conversations about policy and continued running the same plays that failed to instill public trust and were not producing better outcomes. Questions involving lead in the water, district spending, and lack of academic progress never made it to the board floor. Dr. Joseph arrived in Nashville with a reputation as a calming influence. As he refused to answer community questions, that reputation for calmness was replaced with one of arrogance. The perception has become, rightly or wrongly, that he will do as he pleases and considers himself beyond reproach.

The director of schools has a little under two years left on his contract. Personally, I don’t believe the district can take another two years under this administration. We’ve already taken a tremendous hit when it comes to personnel and institutional knowledge. The literacy plan continues to go backwards and as more and more parents lose faith, they will begin to explore other options – relocating, private school, charter school, home school. As those parents with options leave, segregation – racial and economic – will set in and with it some very difficult challenges. If you think we are under budgeted now, just wait until numbers decrease.

In my opinion, the school board election that just transpired this summer is an indicator that much of Nashville is waking up to the challenges the school system faces. Out of 4 races, 3 newcomers were elected. None with a platform of continuing blind support of Dr. Joseph and his agenda.

Soon to be ex-board chair Anna Shepherd, an ardent supporter of Joseph, did not draw a challenger. That lack of a challenger could be interpreted as indicating that no one felt strong enough opposition to Dr. Joseph’s work to challenge her and therefore he was given a de facto endorsement by MNPS district 4. Be that as it may, that still leaves 3 districts looking for adjustments.

The first indication of what those adjustments will look like could come tomorrow. That’s when the MNPS school board will decide who will lead the board for the next year. The decision seems to be between former chair Dr. Sharon Gentry and Amy Frogge. It’s clearly a choice between more of the same, likely with the same outcomes, or trying a different approach to try to change the outcomes.

Dr. Gentry was the board chairman during the two-years preceding Dr. Joseph’s arrival and continuing up to his first couple of months of employment. As such she oversaw, both superintendent searches. One that ended in Dr. Looney choosing at the last-minute to remain with WCS and the one that ultimately lead to Dr. Joseph’s hire. Neither of which could be described as exemplary.

Her tenure was rife with procedural problems, including calling an “emergency meeting” at a time when then vice-chair Anna Shepherd had informed her she would not be available. A meeting that turned out to be a train wreck. Interestingly enough, that gaff produced a stern public rebuke from board member Will Pinkston, who is rumored to be considering supporting Gentry in her current push for Chair. That meeting was just one procedural fumble from Gentry, whom also during her time in leadership took it upon herself to commission an outside report to further vet the true cost of charter schools. A move that caused Pinkston to declare that any faith he’d had in Gentry’s leadership had evaporated. I guess it’s rained since then.

But we don’t have to rehash old news in order to make a case against Gentry’s leadership. This year she has served as vice-chair to Pinkston on the committee charged with overseeing the director’s evaluation. To date, not a single director evaluation has been completed. Some of you may wonder about the one conducted over the summer, and while board members turned in their evaluations, there still has been no discussion on the evaluations nor a summary evaluation completed. The director and board members have both indicated that the process is incomplete awaiting the scheduling of a review. Promoting Gentry after this lack of effort would be true personification of the Peter Principle.

On the other hand, Ms. Frogge has been chair of the Governance committee this year. The governance committee is responsible for the overseeing and revision of board policy. This past year has seen the complete revision of board policy that moves them away from the policy governance model and into one endorsed by the Tennessee Organization of State Superintendents (TOSS). This is sweeping reform that puts more oversight power back in the hands of the school board. Currently new policy in three out of five areas has been approved with the implementation process expected to be completed by the end of the year. It’s kind of big deal and Frogge has definitely done the heavy lifting on this initiative.

Personally I believe that the push to make Gentry Chair stems out of a desire to prevent open criticism of the director going forward. I could be wrong, as there have been several times in the past year, during retreats and at board meetings, that Dr. Gentry has offered a rebuke of the way Joseph has conducted business. During discussions about moving 5th grade students back to elementary school she urged him and team to focus on improving instruction and not to get lost in the weeds. Advise they have failed to heed.

The reality is that going forth, trying to control the discussion on Dr. Joseph will become akin to trying to stuff twenty cats in a bag. They aren’t going to stay in the bag and ultimately you are going to get clawed up.

I’m also hoping that race isn’t playing a role in this discussion. Some have voiced an opinion that only someone of color can effectively manage Dr. Joseph, less the appearance of racism raises its ugly head. I reject such an argument on both principle and practice. In fact I would consider anybody giving serious thought to that argument as suffering from their own racial biases. Now more than ever we need to demonstrate that we are capable of engaging in those difficult conversations that have proven elusive in the past.

It’s high time we start to turn an eye to the future and start to plan what that’s going to look like. Like the coach who puts in the young QB to use the losing effort see what he’s got or opens the offense up in an effort to explore other possibilities, we’ve got to start planning for the future. As sad and disappointing as it may be, there is going to be no hail-mary that wins the game in the waning moments. There is going to be no strong defensive play that turns the momentum and allows the quarterback to reverse the teams fortunes. There is only more of the same, unless we force the conversation to look to the future.

In his waning years, Brett Farve was often criticized because he refused to step aside when it was clear he no longer had to skills to allow his team to be competitive. The Packer’s had a young QB in Aaron Rodgers that was ready to take the lead. It was a hard choice to make because Favre was much beloved and had brought some winning moments to Lambeau Field. Alas, it was time to make changes and time to move on. That willingness to move on has allowed the Packer’s to have continual success. The success of the organization has to come before the success of the individual.

Nashville parent David Jones is currently helping parents, teachers, and community members organize their voices in helping to shape the discussion. If you have an opinion and are unsure of how to harness its power I encourage you to reach out to him. His email is david.t.jones84@gmail.com.

TRAUMA INFORMED SCHOOLS

There has been a lot of talk about “trauma informed schools” over the last couple of years. It’s a needed conversation but as always it comes with some caveats. Any time you get into social issues you have to guard against “paternalism“. Paternalism is something that runs rampant in the world of education. A recent blog post in Spoon Vision, the education blog of Aaron Baker, 8th grade U.S. History teacher in Del City, Oklahoma, points out some pit falls in the “trauma informed schools” initiative.

Baker argues that the two fold assertion of trauma informed schools is that 1. Students have trauma that they bring to school every day and 2. Educators can be equipped to teach students how to deal with that trauma. The first is essential to recognize, while the second is where paternalism enters the equation; that educators can be equipped to teach students how to modify the behavior resulting from the trauma they have experienced.

Baker makes a lot of great points in his piece, but it is his conclusion that truly resonates with me and should be a cornerstone of any discussion on helping students.

Schools, community partners, and social service organizations have the opportunity to cooperatively transform the systems that create the occasions for trauma. The appropriate response to trauma is to tear down systems of oppression, not to teach coping skills. The last thing students with high levels of adverse childhood experiences need is self-regulation. What high ACE students need is a robust education in class warfare and the opportunity to take back their power from their oppressors. Schools must look beyond merely being “trauma informed” to being “trauma transforming.”

QUICK HITS

If you are an elementary school teacher in MNPS and you’ve never utilized the power of the Traveling Trunk, you need to rectify that ASAP.  It’s a fantastic resource that’s available to everyone. Just call the Tennessee State Museum.

This morning, State Superintendent of Education Candice McQueen gave superintendents updates on the state’s strategic plan. It included a look at what data tells us is working, and where we will be if we continue on this path. Strangely, in looking at the picture, I feel like something’s missing. Not sure what it is, but I’m sure it’ll come to me.

Andy Spears has an update on the continuing quagmire that is the portfolio evaluation process. Once again the state continues to proceed in the wrong direction.

If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to read the exceptional article is this week NY Times on the power of libraries and why they need our support.

Libraries are the kinds of places where people with different backgrounds, passions and interests can take part in a living democratic culture. They are the kinds of places where the public, private and philanthropic sectors can work together to reach for something higher than the bottom line.

All I can say is, AMEN.

POLL RESULTS

Over the week-end we saw good returns to this week’s questions. Let’s take a look.

The first question asked for your opinion of the PASSAGE’s policy that would call for a halt to any suspending, expelling, or arresting of children between K-4 unless it’s a level 500 offense. I think it goes without saying that everybody agrees that these are practices that should only be used in extreme situations. The question arises in trying to make a enforceable policy. Out of 120 respondents 47 of you indicated that you thought it could put students and teachers at risk. 22 of you supported the initiative with the caveat that we increase supports to schools. Only 4 of you indicated whole-hearted support. That would seem to be a harbinger for a wider conversation.

Here are the write-in votes,

I don’t even know what this is, and I’m a teacher. 1
behavior is out of control in ES schools. 1
It is dangerous to students and teachers. Very. 1
We don’t have enough support as it is to deal with behavior. 1
Too many letters they need to tighten up those acronyms make them snappier 1
I AM TERRIFIED!! 1
Teachers will leave by the masses! 1
everything depends on implementation, fullout institutional support; requires $ 1
Trauma informed schools 1
Terrible idea! Try being hit, cussed out, hit with books or a chair.

Question 2 asked how you felt about the delay in middle school progress reports. This one received 138 responses with 50% espousing the belief that, “MNPS could screw up a one car parade.” That doesn’t feel like an endorsement for parade planning. 20% of you questioned how this repeatedly keeps happening. Here are those write-in answers,

When it happened in elementary we had to do them by hand. 1
I’m on the inside. No surprise here. 1
UNACCEPTABLE!!! 1
Extremely troubling 1
no surprise; everyone shd understand progress report grades don’t mean anything 1
They should have listened earlier to their teachers who knew the problems! 1
Expected and unsurprising to anyone who uses Infinite Campus as a teacher 1
What’s the data to support change? Implementation failure 1
The whole thing is a mess and is awful for teachers and students. 1
Really they have the calendar 2 years in advance 1
Why does Central Office get paid? A teacher would be fired for incompetence 1
Does this mean middle schools push the term off fu 1
Everything is on the portal. Not a huge deal.

The last question asked how concerned you were with the upcoming state priority school list. Not surprisingly the number one answer, 58 out of 127 responses, was it’s a list generated by a distrusted test administered by a distrusted education department. 44 of you did express concern about what the districts corrective action would look like. Here are those write-ins,

Clutches Pearls! 1
Where is a plan??? 1
Concerned but not surprised – I blame it on poor leadership and toxic culture. 1
Whole system is missing the point of education. 1
It is a fake list. Fake test numbers determine it. Desperate to test & punish. 1
I’m concerned Joseph will try to find another “spin” 1
Meh.

And that is a wrap. As always, you can contact me at norinrad10@yahoo.com. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. if you think what I write has value, please support me through Patreon.