Posted in Uncategorized

SUMMER IN THE CITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huh!?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHERE IS THE LOVE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALL I COULD DO WAS CRY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUICK HITS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. Don’t forget to answer poll questions. This week we evaluate the performance of district leaders. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

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

JUST HOW EXPENSIVE IS READING RECOVERY?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are her words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.”

Posted in Uncategorized

IN SEARCH OF EQUITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUICK HITS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLL QUESTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

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

HE STEPS UP TO THE PLATE – SMILING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUICK HITS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From her lips to God’s ear.

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

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

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

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. Don’t forget to answer the poll questions. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

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

SUMMER TIME… LET THE GAMES BEGIN

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

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

THE ART OF POLITICS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUICK HITS

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

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

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

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

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

Keep your eye on this one…

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

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

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

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

 

POLL RESULTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anywhere but here 3
MNPS 2
Couldn’t care less 1
None, he is loved and appreciated here 1
Maybe he should get back to the job we are paying him for 1
No one deserves him 1
all of the above 1
one far, far away 1
All of the above 1
Anywhere not in Nashville 1
LOL 1
Obviously there is more background information on why is he trying so hard to leave 1
Just LEAVE! Take ALL that came with Joseph! 1
He should just stop the facade and find a new career that doesn’t not impact oth 1
Anytown, USA 1
Anywhere that gets him out of Nashville 1
He should try a classroom for a year. 1
Any as long as he leaves 1
wherever he goes, eyes wide open 1
I couldn’t care less. 1
NONE 1
Anywhere but here! 1
Anywhere they will take him. He needs to get the hell out of here! 1
Any District will do 1
Anywhere that’s not here. 1
Dog Catcher, but he’d be under qualified 1
All of the above and any others that open up 1
The Who cares consolidated ISD 1

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

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

Posted in Uncategorized

SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER… OR IS IT?

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

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

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

THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS PRINCIPAL HIRING PROCESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DOWN HOME TEACHER BLUES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE CASE OF THE MISSING 30 JOBS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUICK HITS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. Don’t forget to answer the poll questions. I even threw in a holiday bonus question. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

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

BACK BURNING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE COST OF NOT PAYING FOR ADVANCED ACADEMIC TESTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUICK HITS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

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

 

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AIN’T NO HALF STEPPIN’

I don’t think I’ll find many people who will argue with me when I say it has been an exhausting year. It seems like one fight after another has cropped up. In light of such turmoil, it’s easy to become disenchanted and lose sight of all the good that happens daily in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Whenever I need inspiration, and a palate cleanser, I turn to the people who make the magic happen every day, the teachers and students in the classrooms. Over the year, I’ve been extremely blessed by their willingness to share with me their passion and intellect.

Thomas Wolfe in his classic novel Look Homeward Angel wrote the words, “Out of death, life, out of the coarse rank earth, a flower.” I’d like to share some flowers with you that I’ve collected from educators across the district. These are their words, unfiltered, undirected, and without agenda. In the words of the rapper Common, “Every day woman and men become legends.”

  • Most often, it is simple acts of kindness that make a difference in the life of a student. It is taking advantage of opportunities for developing relationships and lasting impressions. This was the response when asked of a student, What teacher has been kind to you this year and why? Ms. Cindy Montgomery was named. Throughout this year, not only did she teach academic lessons at MLK; but most importantly, she offered simple acts of kindness to her students. “She challenged us to think civility, to disagree without disagreeing, the importance of teamwork, made class fun, shared life stories, and even gave us treats.” She has encouraged students to accept and love themselves.She explains to the students, acceptance and love of yourself is the only way you can love others and except the love of others. Our children face a world very different from the previous generations. These lessons of kindness are required to make our schools, our communities, and our world a better place for all.

  • I have had the honor of working with Amy Jerome since 2006. She is one of the most dedicated, open-minded and encouraging teachers that I have ever worked with. She works tirelessly to plan engaging and rigorous lessons for her students. This year, Amy was awarded with the Blue Ribbon Teacher Award, which is a well-deserved honor for her. Eakin has been lucky to have her. Next year, Mrs. Jerome will leave Eakin to embark on a new challenge—she will be the School Librarian at another MNPS school. She loves kids and loves books! So teaching kids to love books is going to be a perfect place for her. From Amy, I learned many things- most importantly I learned to (try) not to sweat the small stuff and to do the best you can with what you have. Her unbelievably optimistic spirit will be missed dearly here at Eakin. I look forward to watching what she does in her new position, because I know she is going to blow them away.

  • Ms. Monica Townsend is one of Cumberland ES’s hidden treasures. As a family involvenent specialist, I do not get to interact with the teachers as often as I would like to, however I do have the opportunity to observe them in action from time to time. A few years ago while at Cumberland I was working with a young man whose mother had contacted me regarding some behavior issues he was having. This student happened to be in another teacher’s class. The mother wanted the student moved to another teacher and Ms Townsend immediately came to mind. Ms. Townsend exhibits a magical type of Love for all student that is unmatched.  She was able to work with the new student in her class, where I witnessed the student’s behavior change instantly as a result of Ms. Townsend’s unwavering Love. Unfortunately, we will be losing her to retirement next year. I am so happy for her but want her to know that she will be truly missed.

  • For most of us, the weekend goes too fast.  But for a young student in one of our schools, the two day weekend was longer than the five day school week.  The weekend hours become endless when hunger replaces  play on Saturday.  Loneliness is endless for those 48 hours,  when no one has time to talk, read, play, or prepare meals.  Noises during the night continue to interrupt sleep.  When Monday morning finally comes, the child is anxious to go to school because a very special teacher is waiting to greet this hungry lonely student with, “There you are!  I really missed you over the weekend and I’m so happy to see you!”   A smile, a hug, and food waiting in the classroom…” I love you, teacher.”   Many of our MNPS teachers become the significant persons in a child’s life – the adult who understands and is willing to meet physical needs while creating the conditions for a student to focus on learning.  It happens in our schools across the district – that unassuming teacher who becomes the great equalizer and nurtures our children. 

  • Tara Colwart is a 7th grade science teacher at Croft Middle Design Center. For many years, she has played an integral role in leading the science program to receive numerous accolades for its superior teacher instruction and student performance. Mrs. Colwart’s instructional record of excellence speaks for itself when examining performance and growth data for her students. As evidenced each year as well as in the 2016/17 TNReady data for science, the achievement and growth scores for Mrs. Colwart’s students far exceeded the district and the state. She has proven to be versatile in the fact that no matter the challenges, she and her students experience success. This is due to her high commitment to her craft as well as her high expectations of students.  In addition, Mrs. Colwart is a true team player and is well versed in the practice of collaborative planning with fellow educators. She is always willing to mentor and advise more novice teachers as well. Mrs. Colwart is also highly committed to the school community of Croft and establishes genuine relationships with her students throughout the middle school years and beyond. Plain and simple, she is one of the best in the business.

  • Gower has the pleasure of having many outstanding educators working and collaborating in our building. However, I would like to take today to spot let just one of those educators today. Ms. Kristen Pientowski is one of our hardworking 2nd-grade teachers at Gower. This school year she had the mission and responsibility of learning how to teach while collaborating with many adults in her classroom due to the needs of some of her students. Daily almost all day there were at least three paraprofessional and two exceptional educators pushing into her room to help support students that needed that support for inclusionary practices. Despite some of the challenges and challenging days to remain calm through what seemed overwhelming at times, she carried on with a smile. She arrived each morning ready, willing and with a drive to try a new strategy, a new approach, or just staying committed and sticking to plan created in hopes of success. The success of seeing all her students grow, thrive and feel welcome in her class and at Gower.

  • Felix (Kalima) Kapesa arrived from the Congo in 2014 speaking Swahili and a few words of English. The summer of 2017, Felix interned at NES through the Escalera Program. His time at NES sparked an interest in the field of electricity and he began going to school online at night to attain his electrician’s license. A school partnership with Hiller put Felix in contact with the company where he was offered an apprenticeship. Felix will begin working with Hiller this summer and is on track to complete his Journeyman Electrician training.

  • Peter (Sayedsoheil) Ghiyasianioliya arrived at Overton High School last year after not being allowed to attend school for 5 years due to religious persecution. Peter works hard to earn good grades and has caught up on many years of lost schooling. He has progressed quickly through his EL classes and has even enrolled in some advanced courses. He gives back to his school by staying after every day to manage the afterschool tutoring program and has started a recycling program.

  • At JT Moore Middle School, 7th grade teacher Anna Bernstein and librarian Sarah Dark led the development of the school’s highly successful “Read Moore” initiative this year.  Because of their work and the work of the incredible faculty and staff, JT Moore Middle’s MAP Reading growth scores have been at the top or near the top for each MAP testing session this year.  In addition, with the support of the JT Moore PTO, these two teacher-leaders led this initiative that provided all students in the school a copy of the book Ghost to read in April following spring break.  Furthermore, advisory and classroom lessons were developed by Ms. Bernstein and Mrs. Dark to be used in all grade levels to support learning extensions from this novel.  Their incredible work has transformed how we develop literacy in our school.

  • While it would be easy to single out many teachers for their incredible work this year, something incredibly special happened among a group of teachers. The teachers and students at Oliver Middle School experienced heartbreak this school year when a beloved student passed away unexpectedly. The death of a student is devastating and something no parent or teacher should ever have to experience. Yet in this dark time, the staff at OMS shined a light into the world. Teachers and staff, both past and present, spent evenings and long nights at the hospital as they consoled the family and prayed with them. On the day of the funeral, teachers were there loving on the family because of how much they loved their daughter and how much they loved that family. Shortly after, the staff at Oliver Middle School raised almost $3000 for the family to help them cover expenses. These teachers had no training in grief counseling. No college degree taught them how to handle these situations. Rather, it was genuine love for their student and genuine love for her family that led them to show love in amazing ways. Sometimes we see our teachers as only teachers. But if you talk to students and parents, they’ll let you know that anyone who walks down the hallways of the schools becomes a part of their family.

  • I really think Amy Jamison and Jane Fetters are the reason all 4 of our academies got accreditation. They are both old school teachers who have been teaching for over 30 years. They are called the old lady gang because they kick butt in the academy stuff. They have been the leads since day one and know what they are talking about. They are always helping young teachers and always want the best for AHS. Jamison is retiring this year and Fetters next year. The kids love them and they are really the heart and soul of AHS. I have learned so much from them over the years and through every principal we have stood strong together. I’m not an English teacher and I don’t write like you, but I know that they are what keeps the academies together through all of this.

  • Mrs. Saunders one of our wonderful EL teachers works so hard to insure all of her students are learning and growing. She goes above and beyond to make Learning come to life and to make connections to the real world. She also volunteers to help with STEM Club. She has built many relationships with families from our school and helps them outside of school.

  • Second year teacher Ellen Montgomery is a freshman Spanish teacher who has developed, championed, and shouldered the restorative justice and CORE programs at HHS. Only two years into teaching she is beloved by all the students and faculty and parents alike. She has enthusiastically supported and enabled student voice and action without doing the hard work for them. I haven’t seen other models of restorative justice around the district, but I was immensely proud of the ownership the students took in the process at HHS, and I directly attribute that to Ms. Montgomery’s invisible guiding hand.

  • Missy Humphrey is a jack-of all-trades and master-of-every-damn one. She is the IB coordinator, IB and gen ed. math teacher, golf, basketball, and girls’ track coach and Academy Lead, and AP/IB testing coordinator. She literally does the jobs of three positions and is only compensated for one. But you will never hear her complain. She does it for the love of the kids she teaches. She makes several roads trips a year to see her former players in NCAA games. Incredibly intelligent and generous to a fault, she is not only the heart of the IB Academy at Hillsboro, but maybe the heart of the high school itself.

  • It is hard to pick one good story about a teacher from this school year. Every day our faculty at Hillwood does remarkable things with our students but it comes from wanting to do the best for them not to receive huzzahs (although getting a huzzah once in a while would not be bad). I know we have teachers who will provide meals for classes prior to big exams, they will stay after for extra help, and they will help with decorating for activities. None of this comes from a place of selfishness but just wanting to do what is best for our students and make their high school experience fun.

  • Pamala Goodenough (yes, that is her real name) came to Tusculum after the devastating loss of Karen Holloway to cancer. She stepped in with grace and respect of an already growing music program. Since her arrival, students have been introduced to new instruments which they play regularly, have learned songs written by Tusculum teachers, and have grown as future musicians and well rounded students. This year Mrs. Goodenough applied for a grant that partners TPAC with schools and Disney Musicals. Tusculum was chosen as one of five schools in the district to participate. To say the production was a success would be an understatement. Her support for students who would not have access to high quality music instruction is second to none. Tusculum is blessed to call her ours!

  • Most teachers would agree that being a teacher is a rewarding career, but there are times when it can be extremely stressful and challenging. Mrs. J had accepted a new position that would present some uncontrollable variables and with even the greatest of preparation there would be unique challenges. She had been told during her interview for this new position, her present theory of teaching reading may be challenged. An interview question was posed on that very topic, how would she feel if that were to happen to her present theory? She replied somewhat puzzled- “not sure, I only know one way to teach reading, so I feel I am a blank slate and willing and excited to learn new things. I don’t know what I don’t know till I learn it.” With the support of the professional development and colleagues she was assured that the power and success of this new theory would override old theory and she would gain new knowledge in how to teach a reader. One interviewer stated this new learning will forever change your teaching. These comments were both puzzling and exhilarating to her. At first, at the culmination of each training period, she was riddled with inner thoughts; I thought I knew how to teach reading. This is not the way I learned to teach reading. Was I doing this wrong- all these years? But it was true, practice informs theory and theory informs practice. Students that had spent months at low level benchmarks or not even registering on the reading continuum began improving. Not only improving but accelerating. It was almost magical. The data revealed that students were moving a reading level each week. Wow! New questions surfaced with each new lesson encounter. She practically ran to class each week to get those answers from her colleagues and leaders. Questions that she knew would be a critical element in designing instruction to shift her students’ learning the very next day. She also knew her own thinking and learning was shifting right before her eyes. Meaning doesn’t arrive because we have highlighted text or used sticky notes or answered questions on a comprehension worksheet, or even isolated the use of spelling and vowel rules. Meaning from text arrives because students are purposefully engaged in thinking and monitoring while reading. Mrs. J. shared that during her undergraduate coursework especially in the area of teaching reading, she gave very little thought and learned very little information on ways children were learning. The expectation was that each teacher will follow a basal located in her school. But now through her new teaching and practice, she learned and observed first hand that our focus on how and why should be based on each little child in front of us. Yes, it was also true, her teaching life was changed forever!

That’s just a small sampling of what goes on in our schools every day, all through the year, and we are so much better because of it. I’m sure every one of you can tell similar stories from your own school. Everyday the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., are brought to life:

“Not everybody can be famous. But everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato or Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”

There will be no poll questions this week because I want nothing to distract from the incredible work that goes on daily in our district. They’ll be back next week.

I got no raises. I got no cupcakes. But I got mad love and much appreciation and hopefully someday I’ll bring cupcakes and raises. Until then, let me lead a chorus of heartfelt appreciation and say, “We see you.”

This clip of the wonderful kids at Dan Mills ES offers the perfect punctuation mark. Have a great weekend!

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SO HERE WE ARE…

We have now officially arrived at where over a year ago I predicted we would, in the midst of an ugly conversation on race. Nashville has long been overdue for a conversation on race and how it plays out in our public institutions. I was praying that when the conversation finally burst into the public sphere, it would be done in a less vitriolic manner. Based on recent events, I think it’s safe to say that prayer will go unanswered. I’m sad for us, but there is still hope that we will use this moment to dig deeper into what drives us all in a racial context and perhaps once the anger subsides, build some bridges.

What does equity really mean? What exactly is implied bias? How much of the criticism directed towards the MNPS Director of Schools is rooted in the color of his skin as opposed to his performance? Will we have the courage to actually self-evaluate with the same rigor we demand of others?

Everyone counsels me to stay away from this subject, especially as a candidate for school board. They tell me that there is no way I can “win” this discussion. One person dismissively told me, “This ain’t your fight.” I respectively disagree.

First off, I’m not in the conversation to win it. “Winning” for me is to continually push the conversation forward and to expand my boundaries and knowledge base. I personally don’t believe race is an issue that we can ignore or a conversation we can shy away from. Too many of our important decisions, especially in education, are rooted in race. Funding, programming, and attendance are just some of the areas where race influences our decisions.

Secondly, I don’t believe that you shy away from difficult conversations during election season because your primary goal is getting elected. My primary goal never changes. Whether I am a school board member, school board candidate, or just some guy typing words into cyberspace, my goal is to support policy that is best for kids, families, and teachers. People need to be able to trust that what you say and do as a citizen is what you’ll say and do as a candidate. What you say and do as a candidate is what you’ll say and do as a board member. I can’t say I’m always perfect, but I always aspire to be better.

I also believe that this conversation suffers, as Nashville is currently suffering, from a lack of leadership. There is currently a leadership vacuum in Nashville that starts at the mayoral level and descends downward. That may offend some, but in their heart of hearts they know it is true. All of Nashville is waiting to see if any one of the current mayoral candidates actually has the ability to lead and who will actually pick up the reins and lead. I’ve never seen a city more in need of leadership to step forward.

Am I suggesting that I am the one to lead a conversation on race? I certainly don’t believe that it is a conversation that can be led by a 53-year-old white man. But I would argue that my decision to run for school board demonstrates a willingness to help facilitate the conversation and to try to bring the people who have the capacity to lead the conversation to the table. In fact, my leadership style has never been one rooted in me being the smartest man in the room, but rather rooted in how we bring the smartest people in the room together in order to push the issue forward. How do we facilitate those important conversations?

Years ago, I read a book by Steven Pinker called The Blank Slate that had a profound impact on me. In the book, Pinker argues that in order to find solutions to our most emotionally-charged challenges, we must have a willingness to allow those thoughts that offend to be heard. We must never censor conversation and attempt to shame people in order to refrain them from speaking. We must take those thoughts and, by disproving them, come to potential solutions and understanding. Only by bringing those uncomfortable thoughts to light can we allow for a greater understanding that leads to progress. It’s like the AA tenet that tells us to talk to someone and warns of the danger of leaving thoughts in our head.

Initially, I fought that thesis, but life has taught me its value. It’s in this spirit that I would like to throw out some additional observations. Observations that hopefully will drive the conversation forward. Please take them in the spirit they are offered.

I’ve listened to many marginalize the song that Dr. Joseph played at the recent principals meeting and in some cases simply dismiss it as a meaningless snippet. This saddens me because it demonstrate to me how the removing of the arts from the classroom has robbed us from a deep understanding and appreciation of the power of the arts. The arts have been reduced to simple entertainment, a distraction, or just another potential revenue stream. In reality, the arts are both the core and a reflection of who we are as people. The books we read are not just distractions from life, but rather life itself.

This is one of the reasons I embrace Project Lit and its mission. Reading is not just about being able to function in life and earn a living. It’s about finding out about who we are as people and who we aspire to be. ProjectLit, through its book club, serves as a conduit to the power of literature. When kids gather with adults to discuss The Hate U Give or Refugeeit’s not about the entertainment value but rather the cultural value of these books. They are introduced to others that offer validation through shared experiences and feelings. The offer up the possibility of decisions that previously might have been unthought of. One of the most powerful experiences I’ve had all year has come from sitting at a table talking with a group of students about their relationship to a book and how it opened their minds.

This is where I’d ask, how many of those who are decrying about a lack of equity and an undervaluing of cultural competency have regularly attended ProjectLit book clubs? I know Vesia Hawkins has been a regular attendee, and I commend her, but how many district leaders can say the same? How many community activists have demanded that schools allow during school time to facilitate the discussion of literature in order to promote both reading and cultural competency? Allotting before and after school time isn’t sufficient because that limits access right from the beginning and access is essential.

I can’t say it enough, a “song” is never just a “song.” A “book” is never just a “book.” A “film” is never just a “film.” A “dance” is never just a “dance.” A “painting” is never just a “painting.” If nothing else, this instance demonstrates a need for a robust arts integration into our classrooms, one that is devoid of dependence on science or technology. If you still have doubts, I urge you to read Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth.

At yesterday’s budget meeting, four Metro Council members felt it was appropriate to utilize their elected position to publicly criticize school board member Jill Speering for her recent actions. Councilwoman Sharon Hurt leveled the charge, “The board member is taking the context of what was shared and has negatively emphasized what was not the intent. Not only is this inflammatory, it seems racially motivated, perhaps more appropriately stated, as culturally and generationally insensitive.”

Fair enough, though I’m not sure what generation she is referring to. I wonder if, prior to making her public statement, Hurt reached out to Speering and asked her why she took the actions she did? Did she ask about the conversations that Speering had with Joseph over the past year in regard to policy and spending? Did she consider Joseph’s recent last-minute cutting of Reading Recovery, a move many perceived as retaliatory for her calling for an audit? Did she call and ask Speering why she and Board Chair Anna Shepherd asked for an audit? Did she ever ask Speering how she went from introducing Joseph to the Mayor at last year’s budget hearing as the “best superintendent in country” to filing a complaint this year? Perhaps she could have asked her why she thought Dr. Joseph chose to compare fellow board member Amy Frogge to Donald Trump in a recent TV interview. Did she ever show Speering the expected professional courtesy one elected official should show another elected official by contacting her before stepping to the microphone and making an inflammatory public statement that seems racially motivated?

Also stepping to the microphone was Metro Council’s Budget and Finance Committee Chairwoman Tanaka Vercher. I want to go on record here as a fan of Vercher. We are Facebook friends, and as such, I’ve watched her execute her official duties with grace and intellect. During the recent mayoral crisis, I felt she deftly navigated the difficult waters of holding a popular leader accountable while not letting it appear personal. She is on my short list of people who I feel have the potential to step into Nashville’s leadership void.

It’s in this light that I’m disappointed that Vercher did not use her considerable experience to reach out and offer guidance to Speering in steering the difficult task of holding a leader accountable. I think if she would have taken the time to speak privately with Speering, she would have found that her concerns are rooted in performance rather than skin color. Perhaps there were some areas that Vercher could have also offered clarity on the subject in a manner that would have assisted Speering in forming her opinions. Hopefully, Vercher will follow up yesterday’s public performance by calling Speering and offering some private consultation in order that both will get a greater understanding.

One reader asked yesterday, in response to the call to support Dr. Joseph, support him in what? Another raised the question of what is the outcome we are looking for? Is it the Game of Thrones Cersei perp walk? I think we have to be real cognizant of the road we are on and where we want it to take us. We must also be aware of the potential peripheral damage.

Lost in yesterday’s dust-up was the news that as part of budget cuts, the district will no longer be paying for tests associated with advanced academic classes. If you are at all concerned with equity, this should alarm you. Last year was the first year that MNPS paid for those tests and as a result saw an increased participation rate. That meant that kids who previously could not take the class or test due to financial barrier had access. That is a huge component of the equity conversation. Many fear that with the district withdrawing funds, those barriers will rise again and access will be lost. That would be more tragic than the Director being disrespected. You could disrespect me all day long if you promised to grant access to those kids.

Many are trying to separate the song from much larger issues. I disagree. I think it’s all connected. As a leader, you make choices. Some are great choices. Some not so great. Those choices are the only indicators people have of your competency. As a leader, you have to recognize that your choices will be overscrutinized. Go ask Donald Trump about that. Everything you do and say is under the microscope. That’s why the salary is what it is. Joseph can’t afford to ignore the potential ramifications of decisions and their impact. How you navigate those waters is an indication of your skill as a leader.

Last night’s actions at the budget meeting were clearly orchestrated. The Metro Council members were initially denied the right to speak because it was a meeting that did not include public comment. However, for some reason, Budget Committee Chair Tyese Hunter allowed them as representatives from her district to speak. One has to question what the outcome would have been if a similar tactic had been employed at the Metro Council Budget and Finance Committee meeting. I only wish the women would bring the same passion they brought to defending Dr. Joseph to the defense of Antioch High School, a school that 2 years ago was a 5-star school and now, due to inept leadership, is a 1-star with an astronomical teacher turnover rate. I only wish they’d bring the same passion to making sure that Joelton MS and Buena Vista ES’s needs are met. I beg them to defend the district like they defend Dr. Joseph.

In closing, I’d like to share a piece that is being shared via social media. It’s a well written piece that offers a different perspective on the ongoing controversy. There are many things in it that I don’t agree with, but I want you to read it unencumbered by my observations. In my opinion, it raises a lot questions about race, but also sexism, professionalism, and our culture in general. Questions that we owe it to ourselves to try to find answers to. I appreciate the man’s honesty in writing it, and I’d appreciate if y’all would read it. Don’t dismiss it, but think about it, and consider ways that we can lower barriers instead of raising them:

” Never Would have Played It ” – Silly Accusations Against Nashville Superintendent

By Shawntaz Crawford – SOTG Staff Writers

I get up, drink my morning coffee, and am transported back to 1955. A young man accused of whistling at a white woman is beaten to death by an incited white mob.

Unfortunately, 14-year-old Emmett Till’s perceived act while visiting family along the Mississippi Delta cost him his life.

As far as we have come as a society, lately there are so many specific moments that illustrate we may not have come as far along in race relations as we have thought. Once again, in Nashville, a black man is reminded of his place in society and that no matter how high he climbs, his career and integrity can all come into question by a preposterous accusation.

Last week, Metro Nashville Public Schools Superintendent Shawn Joseph played a snippets of Marvin Sapp’s “Never Would Have Made It” and Too $hort’s “Blow The Whistle,” as audio aides to a speech being given to illustrate how he uses music to motivates him; yet, the effort managed to offend the honor of a school board member who wasn’t even in the room.

In this age of overt sexual misconduct and me-tooism, you would think that you could tell the difference between a genuine act of chauvinism and a man making an innocent presentation to his colleagues.

On Monday morning, Nashville schools board Vice Chair Jill Speering filed an email complaint to the district’s federal program and oversight director. In the email, Speering said Joseph’s use of the Too $hort clip was “highly offensive, reprehensible and inexcusable” to play in a public setting. Later in the email, she insists that Joseph played the song to suggest that he was calling her and another school board member, Amy Frogge, a derogatory word toward women for their opposition to Joseph in recent weeks, all based on the profanity present in the song.

However, an MNPS spokesperson—and even Joseph himself—has repeatedly said that no profanities were played and that he explained the context of why he played the lyrics during the meeting. Joseph also warned the audience that the rest of the song was laced with profanities.

I once saw a magic show where I was amazed at how the magician pulled a rabbit out of a hat. I find myself transfixed by the same sense of amazement as I wonder how this woman managed to pull an overt act of disrespect out of a snippet of blow the whistle that was being used to make a point.

I don’t know whether this is a case of racism or cultural insensitivity. This woman obviously doesn’t know what “Blow The Whistle” means to Gen X-ers like Joseph and me. Yes, the lyrics are misogynistic; the lyrics are overtly sexual and disrespectful to women. But this isn’t the first popular song to have problematic lyrics.

Honestly, everything in life is a matter of context and perspective. In this context, I think it is you, Ms. Speering who is being disrespectful. I think it is you who owes Superintendent Joseph an apology. This act is not different from the accusation Carlyn made about Emmitt Till. On her deathbed, decades later she revealed that she’d exaggerated the exchange that cost Till, his mother and people of color so much emotional harm.

This is a poor attempt to leverage a white woman’s justice movement to fuel an obvious agenda to castrate yet another strong black man.

At this point, “Blow the whistle” is as important to my generation as a cherished Negro spiritual—right up there with “Lift Ev’ry Voice & Sing.”

Granted, Joseph probably could have chosen another way to illustrate his point. But a large percentage of those in attendance were both unfamiliar with the song and said they were not offended by the reference. And, to his defense, how would he have known that a whistle could possibly have gotten his career killed?

Please like and share this post to make sure men like Dr. Joseph, who are doing positive things in our community, are not victims of unfair attacks of unjustice.

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DANCING WITH PORCUPINES

Shakespeare’s classic play Romeo and Juliet opens with servants of the Montagues and Capulets crossing paths at the market. The two families are at odds with each other, and the servants consider themselves representatives of the families and therefore must engage with each other in a manner they perceive demonstrates loyalty to their respective families:

Abraham: Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
Sampson: I do bite my thumb, sir.
Abraham: Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
Sampson (to Gregory): Is the law of our side if I say ay?
Gregory: No.
Sampson: No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you sir; but I bite my thumb, sir.
Gregory: Do you quarrel, sir?
Abraham: Quarrel, sir? No, sir.
Sampson: If you do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you.
Abraham: No better.
Sampson: Well, sir.
Gregory: (to Sampson) Say ‘better’; here comes one of my master’s kinsmen.
Sampson: Yes, better, sir.
Abraham: You lie.
Sampson: Draw, if you be men! Gregory, remember thy swashing blow.

What transpired at last week’s principals meeting bears more than a passing resemblance to Romeo and Juliet’s market scene above. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, at last week’s principals meeting, Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph shared a bit of a gospel song, “Thirsty” by Marvin Sapp, that served as a “thank you” to all the principals, and followed it with a snippet from the song “Blow the Whistle” by the rap artist Too $hort. He prefaced that snippet by stating that during difficult budget talks with the school board, he sometimes play songs in his head; I assume “Blow the Whistle” was offered as an example.

To be fair to Dr. Joseph, it has been a very difficult budget season and emotions on all sides are running high. The district, and the city of Nashville, are for the first time in years facing a budget shortfall. One that will result in several long-term district administrators losing their jobs and teachers not only not getting a raise, but also, due to step raises being denied and rising health insurance costs, taking home less money in their paychecks next year than they did this year. I can certainly sympathize with the Director’s need to draw strength from alternate sources, and I am certainly not going to try to dictate where he goes for that strength.

We all have questionable musical tastes that we occasionally indulge in. In the past, I have expressed an affinity to the band Florida Georgia Line and some have raised that appreciation as comparable to Joseph’s Too $hort affinity. Fair enough, but I would never play Florida Georgia Line at a business meeting I was leading, and I certainly hope that in 2018 we are not debating the social ramifications of Florida Georgia Line and their music.

From the perspective of the board members in question, in lieu of recent events, I don’t think it’s a stretch for them to feel that the song is directed at them. When the Director’s fraternity brother went unchecked after accusing two board members of engaging in a public lynching, that certainly sent a message. Given a chance to clarify and diffuse the situation, the Director chose to demurely say, “He has the right to say whatever is in his heart.” That sent another message.

I also don’t think principals would be wrong in assuming that the song served as a warning for them and the inherent risk in speaking out against Dr. Joseph’s leadership. After all, the previous song selection was clearly intended to deliver a message, so why would anyone assume the second selection was offered for any other reason than to deliver another message?

I’m pretty sure that if I had been having contentious meetings with my boss of late and then I chose to play “Hair of the Dog” at a department meeting I headed up, there would be some questions. Even if I didn’t play the objectionable lyrics in the song, the tune itself would lead to people drawing conclusions and making inferences, right or wrong. I’m pretty sure that nobody would question my right to blast the song on the car ride home, but most would caution that it would be a poor decision to play it at the meeting. Which speaks to where the real questions should fall in this situation.

At a business meeting, the sole purpose of a leader should be to communicate their message in as pure and unfiltered manner as possible and free of potential misinterpretation. During troubled times, that goal becomes more essential than ever. A leader should stress test what he plans to say and how that message will potentially be received. They should analyze their message from all perspectives of those who make up the intended audience. Their role in this setting is not to fight social battles, but to deliver direction that will benefit the entire organization and create greater symmetry. There is a reason why “know your audience” is a major tenet of all communications instruction. Clearly it’s a tenet Dr. Joseph chose not to follow.

At his first principals meeting two years ago, Dr. Joseph and Dr. Monique Felder alienated some of the principals in the room because of their use of what some consider to be profanity. I believe they used “damn” or some variation of it. Personally, I take no exception, but again, my view isn’t the only view that should be considered. We are in the Bible belt, and there are many people who reside here who are very religious. For them, using that term in a professional meeting is offensive. That group is made up of both black and white people. Use of that word impeded the message that he was trying to communicate. Words are important, images are important, and an effective communicator recognizes that and tries to be as precise with their message as possible.

Messaging from the Director also shapes culture. Based on a recent article in the Tennessean that cites over 3,400 cases of sexual misconduct in the last five years, I would argue that the culture in MNPS needs work. While not all of that occurred on Dr. Joseph’s watch, and he shouldn’t be held responsible, we must also acknowledge that a friend of his whom he hired to work in the district resigned under a cloud of sexual misconduct. That case was closed without any conclusions due to the resignation of the employee. The district also had another administrator resign under such a cloud. I would argue that based on these instances, and others, we should be extra diligent on the tone being set.

Now you may or may not agree with me. Maybe the conversation to you is a lot bigger and indicative of something else. That certainly is your right. I will also acknowledge that in certain areas I bring no personal knowledge or experience to the discussion, but I will also argue that holds true for all of us. That doesn’t make my input or other’s input irrelevant. If we are truly committed to equity and diversity, we will find room for everybody’s views and experiences under the tent and use them to build a bigger tent.

That said, I would question the priority of rallying the community to support the Director of Schools vs the school system itself. Especially during a budget season when schools are facing massive cuts, veteran educators are being laid off, and teachers, as mentioned above, will not only not see a pay raise next year but rather a decrease in their current take home pay. We always hear about the danger of putting adult interests over the interests of children. If Dr. Joseph puts the needs of children first, I’m pretty confident that he can weather any storm. However, if he is willing to endorse supporting himself over our schools as it appears he is… then we have a problem.

This is a hard conversation we are having right now, but a needed one. I suspect it will only get harder, but no less essential. We have to be courageous in pursuing this conversation and engage in as much self-examination of ourselves as we demand from others. In the end, the conversation needs to further unite us, not divide us. This is not the time for the blowing of dog whistles, but rather the time to come together for the benefit of ALL our children.

WHAT I BELIEVE IN

It was recently announced that I have been endorsed by MNEA in my run to be the District 2 representative for the MNPS school board. In response to this announcement, former State House candidate Chris Moth congratulated me while also challenging me to outline what I believe in. He challenged that it is easier to criticize than it is to offer solutions. In response, here are some things I support and believe in.

First and foremost to me is teacher recruitment and retention. That begins with creating a healthy culture. One that is contingent upon listening to teachers and their opinions even when they don’t align with our agenda. I was struck when about a month ago former Maplewood HS Assistant Principal Dr. Ryan Jackson stated before his current school committed to a STEAM initiative, they spent a year focused on nothing but culture. That’s the kind of focus MNPS needs. I firmly believe that you have to be that deliberate in your construction of culture.

Compensation has to be at the heart of teacher recruitment and retention. I believe that teachers deserve, at minimum, a 5% raise. But I also believe that we need to get creative in constructing compensation packages. Offering reduced-rate child care should be part of the discussion. Years ago, Vanderbilt University offered low-rate mortgages to staff members willing to buy in Hillsboro area. Perhaps we could explore that option for teachers wishing to buy homes in the Nashville area.

I also encourage us to make an effort to talk with retiring teachers upon retirement. We should ask if we can call them in a few months to discuss ways they can still be involved with MNPS. Teaching is as much a calling as a profession. Teachers can no more stop teaching than they can breathing. We could pair some of these retiring teachers with first year teachers as classroom aides. This would benefit both teachers and students.

I believe that we need to get serious about addressing the physical state of our schools. It’s impossible to ignore the negative impact of attending a school with sub-par facilities. Perhaps while Nashville’s credit rating is still high, we should look at creating a bond specifically for updating ALL our schools. I’m sure the price tag would be astronomical, but how much higher than building a soccer stadium, convention center, or refurbishing an NFL stadium could it be? Are our schools not every bit as important as the initiatives we’ve funded as a city over the last decade?

I believe in the work that our English Learner and Advanced Academic departments are doing. We have an EL department that has surpassed the state of Tennessee’s annual goals for the last three years while maintaining a flat budget. The AA department was able to identify more kids this year who qualify for advanced academic services than in the past. This year, by agreeing to pay for tests required by Cambridge, IB, and Advanced Placement courses, the district was able to increase equity and access. We must continue to allow these departments the ability to continue their positive impact on students.

I believe in the principles of restorative practices, though I don’t understand why we are employing a shotgun approach to implementation. How much more successful would we be if we focused on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade implementation and then added a year every year? Older grades could employ a hybrid model until full implementation was achieved. It may take a decade in order to reach full implementation under this model, but should quality be sacrificed for speed?

We need to commit to more access to mental health services for our most needy kids. I find it appalling that in a school where close to half the students have incarcerated parents, some kids only have access to a therapist 3 times a week. We have to do better.

I also believe in the need to have a robust conversation about equity. As a parent of two children who continue to attend a high needs school, I can testify that we do not have an equitable system. I will argue, though, that the inequity derives less from money and resources and more from experiences. We must find a way to make the MNPS educational experience more equitable for all.

QUICK HITS

Congratulations to Dr. Steve Sheaffer on being named the new principal for Hillwood High School. They are getting one special leader in Sheaffer. There will be a community meeting at Oliver Middle on Thursday at 6pm to outline the selection process for the next principal there.

Yesterday, Duval County Schools announced the finalists for the currently vacant superintendent position. Unsurprisingly, current MNPS Number 2 Sito Narcisse wasn’t on the list. But that hasn’t deterred him from continuing his job search like a Titanic passenger looking for a lifeboat. He’s already applied in the last year in Cook County, Seattle, and a few others. This morning it was revealed that he is a finalist in Newark. This past weekend in Jacksonville, during the community involvement portion of the interview process, Narcisse told the community, “I do not believe in making decisions by myself.”  I wonder if anybody asked him how he balanced searching for a job with executing the duties of his current position.

On Wednesday, May 23rd, from 4:00-5:30 PM, please come to the Davidson County Courthouse wearing Red for Ed. Stand with teachers in support of funding equality for our public school children and teachers. Nashville is a boom town and our schools should be reaping some benefits from that status.

MNPS’s Fatherhood Festival is fast approaching. The date is June 9th and it promises to be fun and informative for everyone.

Have a student with a disability or know someone who does? Not sure where to turn? You’re in luck! Sign up to attend a FREE training session to get all the answers you’ve been looking for. To RSVP or for more information click here:

POLL RESULTS

Friday’s post was one of our most viewed ever. Thank you for your continued support. It is very much appreciated.

Let’s look at poll results.

The first question asked for feedback on the district’s STEAM initiative. Apparently most of you aren’t sold on the initiative’s value. Out of 142 responses, 82 of you answered that we had bigger concerns, and 29 of you said it could have been undertaken without engaging an outside consultant at the cost of several million dollars. Only 1 of you responded that it has been fantastic. Here are the write-ins:

I think it cost me a well deserved raise. 1
Disaster 1
Meh 1
It’s another “put my fingerprints on it” gimmick 1
For those not working in a MS, very unclear 1
Waste of money 1
Adding the A just watered it down to just another 1
LOL. Follow the $$$ 1
Haven’t seen the results

Question two asked you to assign a letter grade to the district this year. Out of 156 respondents, 67 of you gave the district an “F” and 49 of you a “D.” That translates to 74% of you saying that the district is failing to exceed expectations. There were 5 “B’s” and 1 “A.” Many of you wanted to make it clear that grades were based on the actions of the administration and did not reflect on teacher performance. Teachers continue to receive high marks for their professionalism and flexibility. It’ll be interesting to see if the soon-to-be released climate survey results paint a different picture. Here are the write-ins:

Leadership gets an F 1
A failure to everyone but the checking accounts of admin 1
Is there a G or Z grade? So frustrated and angry – a broken teacher 1
Teachers and kids continue to do the best they can: A. Administration: F 1
The teachers work! This administration causes mess 1
if grading the top (Dr Joseph) = F; if the frontlines = A

The last question asked in light of the budget crunch, who else’s salary should be sacrificed? Out of 168 responses, 58 said Dr. Joseph. Surprisingly, Priority School Executive Officer LaTrecia Gloster received 23 votes. I’ll have to dig into that a little more. Also receiving double-digit votes were the community superintendents, Executive Officer of Equity and Diversity Maritza Gonzales, and HR Number 2 Sharon Pertiller. Word on the street is that Pertiller rivals Public Information Officer Michelle Michaud in the human interaction skills department. Here are the write-ins and there are a lot:

All of the above 4
Director Wheeler 1
I think we would be just fine without 90% of these people 1
Any coordinator of a content or subject area – I’ve never known what they do 1
Dr J & all his cronies 1
The majority of them. This district is a total mess b/c of poor leadership. 1
Tamika Tasby 1
MichMich 1
All of them except Dr. Majors 1
Pretty much all of the above 1
Joseph’s and all his cronies 1
That crazy PIO 1
All of the above! 1
Don’t just cut salaries. Cut jobs. Start with Joseph. He is an embarrassment 1
Pertiller and Michaud 1
All of the above is the obvious answer 1
Several names on this list 1
Joseph 1
Why can’t we chose more than one , I would like to see about 6 get cut 1
Dr. J’s Tahoe Chauffeur 1
Joseph’s Tahoe driver 1
What does Maritza even do? 1
Anyone making six figures

That’s another blog post in the bag. Hope y’all have an awesome week. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I’m always looking for more opinions and will try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize in advance if I fall short and don’t get them all out there.

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