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I swear, you can’t make up the things that have transpired during this budget season for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools if you tried. If it wasn’t all so tragic, it would be comedic. When Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph arrived two years ago, he suggested we all read Leadership and Self-Deception. Surely he didn’t intend for it to be ironic, but after this week, I’m not so sure.

Wednesday, Dr. Joseph continued his “Have Mic, Will Travel” tour by appearing on News Channel 5’s Open Line show with Ben Hall. He was so impressed with his performance on the show that he felt compelled to email a copy of it out to every Nashville resident with an active email account. I’ve watched it several times, and frankly, I’m baffled by what he thinks the message is that everyone needs to hear.

Before I offer some views on the actual content of the interview, let me speak to the endeavor as a whole. You know that brother-in-law of yours, the one who comes around to borrow your lawn mower, or power drill, or car? You know, the one that as soon as you see him getting out of his car in front of your house, you’re pulling the drapes and locking the door because you know he’s only there for one thing. He’s the one who only talks to you when he needs something or you can do something for him.

The same holds true if you are a Director of Schools and no one has ever seen you on a microphone throughout the year. School bus issues? Somebody else grab the mic. Chaotic school cancellations due to inclement weather? Where’s Chris? Give him the mic. Lead in school drinking water? Certainly don’t expect the Director of Schools on the mic for that one. Don’t think it hasn’t been noticed either. So if you are suddenly the congenial guest of every media outlet in the country, forgive people if they hide their wallet, because it’s pretty clear you are out to sell something.

I don’t want to spend too much time dissecting the interview, because frankly, with apologies to my Republican friends, fact checking Dr. Joseph is a lot like fact checking Trump. It gets exhausting, and there never seems to be any correction. So unless I can check a claim with just a couple of key strokes, I don’t even bother anymore. Sorry, but there is only so much time in the day. If you are not familiar with what I’m talking about, Board Member Amy Frogge does a pretty though job of laying it out.

The tone of the interview is set fairly early on when Hall remarks to Joseph that these appear to be difficult times. Joseph responds that he doesn’t think they are particularly hard, and being an urban superintendent is always hard. Huh? I know what Joseph’s going for here – that cool guy who remains unruffled in times of crisis – but I don’t think that works here.

These are difficult times. You don’t pack the board room on four different occasions for public comment on the budget if things are going smoothly. If they are going smoothly, people are content to stay home and let you drive, confident you are leading them in the right direction. Sometimes calming the waters requires acknowledgement. Does he really think that all those people who are feeling agitated by the budget process, the releasing of social workers, the loss of free lunch, are going to hear him say “it’s not hard” and then suddenly reconsider their position?

Failure to admit that these times have been difficult sends one of two messages. Either you are so disengaged and removed from what’s transpiring that you don’t understand the difficulties, or you are being disingenuous. And if you are being disingenuous about the degree of difficulty, what else are you being disingenuous about?

Just say, “Yes, this has been a hard one.” Nobody will fault you or think less of you. You could even offer some qualifiers, like “It’s only our second Nashville budget,” or “We underestimated a few elements.” Acknowledgement of the difficulties might even earn him a few sympathy points, and Dr. Joseph might not realize it, but he is need of those points.

There are really only two other observations I want to share about this interview. The first is to note how much Joseph is doubling down on both his prediction of the results of the pending audit of MNPS finances and the results of the recently completed MAP tests. He’s like that guy in Vegas who’s lost 15 times in a row and responds by pushing all his chips in on Red 13. Hoping his number comes up and all his losses will be wiped clean.

Who knows what the audit will show. Maybe everything will fall in line, but even if it does, Joseph will not suddenly be exonerated. No matter what the outcome, there is a legitimate reason, tied to the administration’s conduct, why board members felt a need to ask for a financial accounting. That “why” will need further exploration. If things turn up clean, there still needs to be a rigorous self-evaluation of what contributed to such a breach of trust and how that can be mended and avoided going forth.

Standing and pointing fingers while saying “Nah Nah” will not help regain that trust. Neither will taking a smug and condescending tone. An old football coach of mine used to say that when you got to the end zone, don’t celebrate; act like you always expected to be there. I’ve always found that to be advice that transcended football. It should also be pointed out that it wasn’t too long ago that former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry also welcomed an audit. Just saying.

The doubling down on the MAP scores is an equally troubling bet. Let’s just say for the sake of argument that those results are 100% legitimate. They are still only indicative of one test, not a trend. My friend Andy Spears tried to warn the state about making the same mistake when it came to NAEP scores 4 years ago. They didn’t listen, but Dr. Joseph might want to heed the example.

The second observation I’d like to make on the interview is in relation to Dr. Joseph’s response to Ben Hall’s question about remarks made during public comment at the previous night’s budget hearing. One gentleman referred to school board members Amy Frogge and Jill Speering’s questioning of the Director as a “public lynching,” and Hall wanted to know what Joseph though of the comment. This was one of those softballs that should have been hit out of the park.

Joseph could have taken the opportunity to showcase his leadership qualities and respond with something like, “Look Ben, we’re talking money and people are always passionate about money. But we all should probably take a minute and recognize that while we are passionate, we are also role models for 88 thousand kids. We all need to be sure that we don’t lose sight of that and that our passion doesn’t lead us to conduct ourselves in a manner we wouldn’t want kids to emulate.” Or something like that. It was an opportunity to demonstrate a cool head and statesman-like demeanor.

However, that’s not the road Joseph chose. Instead, while he did disavow the comments, he did so in a manner that was devoid of real depth. He said he doesn’t use that language. He tries to not engage in those kinds of conversations. Perhaps it’s due to his Christian faith, he offered. And another opportunity to show why he is the man to lead the district slipped away.

Watch the rest of the tape at your leisure. I’m not sure that it’ll change your mind on anything, but what the heck. For now, let’s move on to Thursday and bear witness to the next train wreck.

On Thursday, board members were preparing for a Friday/Saturday board retreat. The budget was scheduled to dominate the agenda. News Channel 5 noticed that the meetings did not appear on the board calendar nor on the district’s website, at They were also absent from the schedule of budget-related meetings that the district had publicized. In short, this was in violation of Tennessee State Sunshine Laws.

I know, the most transparent administration evah is violating Sunshine Laws. I almost called this post “Isn’t it Ironic?” Trust me, we’re not done with the irony either.

After Channel 5 publicly called attention to the snafu, Board Chair Tyese Hunter announced that the meetings were canceled because they had “inadvertently” not been posted. To add another layer to the chaos, earlier in the day, the district’s public information officer told Channel 5 that the meetings had been canceled weeks ago. That was later amended to, “We are waiting to hear from our attorneys.” Unfortunately, an agenda had been emailed out from central office shortly after 10 AM that very morning, undermining the whole narrative. Maybe it is a communication problem.

Thursday night, the last of three public budget hearings this week was held. Prior to Hunter opening the floor for public comment, board member Frogge brought forth a proposal to limit the pending 2% raise for district employees to only those making less than $125K. That was shot down 6-2, with only Jill Speering supporting Frogge. Budget Committee Chair Tyese Hunter later remarked that restricting salary increases for those that make $125,000 a year or more pits employees against each other. Yeah, I told you we weren’t done with the irony.

This whole budget process has been all about pitting schools and communities against each other. A free lunch program for some but not all. Title I money for some, but not all. Extra funding for some programs, like STEAM, but little increase for others, like English Learners. I know some will argue that this is how the budgeting process inherently works. I would counter argue that we have to do better, and we have in the past.

The Reverend Enoch Fuzz of Corinthian Baptist Church spoke out during the public comment portion of Thursday night’s meeting. He drew attention back to Frogge’s proposal when he admonished leaders about saying that it was all about the children while benefiting from a pay raise during a time of tight budgets. “Public employees that are making 6 figures who can’t take a 4 figure pay cut, you don’t tell me the children are important. If you are making 6 figures and you can’t take a 4 figure pay check for a number of years while things get on track, you don’t care about no children. You care about yourself.” He reminded us all again that your budget is your public demonstration of your morals. I hope someone was listening.


Much of the budget talk centered around the social workers that were being displaced. I think many of us are unclear on exactly what role social workers serve and the differentiation of what exists and what is being proposed. It is in order to add some clarity that I want to share these remarks that were sent to me by someone who understands the difference:

In Dr. Joseph’s interview on Channel 5 tonight, he stated that CIS was bringing in 18 new social workers. This is misleading. Social work is a specifically defined profession, as in, if you don’t have a degree in social work, you can’t call yourself a social worker. School social workers carry a special licensure from the state that requires a minimum of a master’s degree. The CIS positions are for “site coordinators” and only require a bachelor’s degree and it doesn’t have to be in social work. I feel like this is misleading yet again. 

CIS primarily does case management and they refer out for mental health counseling which brings up a host of issues like insurance, transportation, time, immigration status etc. school social work is successful because we’re in the buildings where kids are, we don’t bill insurance and we’re not another thing for a parent to do. That isn’t to say we don’t refer out extreme cases or refer out for medication when warranted, but most of it is handled in school.

I always say, I’ve got the best readers.

We often talk about our EL students and their lives, but I wonder how many of us truly understand the depth of challenges that they face. This is a story relayed to me by a district soccer coach that I think we all benefit from by hearing:

After our match tonight, I was talking to one of my players from Burundi. His story is important.

He was sitting in school at the age of 11 or 12 when he heard gunshots and explosions. In his words, “the war it is coming.” They evacuated the school and he ran home to find his parents and all but one of his siblings executed. 

He fled into the jungle and was able to find a group of others fleeing – and the group included his brother. Eventually, they made their way to refugee camps

and then to the United States. My player and his brother currently live with a foster family from Malawi. He told me soccer is his release. It makes him happy.

I’ve heard a lot of players and parents laugh at how we wear mismatched jerseys and shorts, taped numbers, and socks with holes. I’ve heard people mock my players for their language and skin color. I just wish those people could know these stories.

Soccer is more than a sport for many of my guys. This is their joy. This is why I coach.

Mark June 9th down on your calendar. That’s the date for this year’s MNPS Fatherhood Festival. Talk to anybody who went last year and they’ll you it’s an event you don’t want to miss. Expect more details to follow.

Mark those calendars again: our next Overton Cluster Parent Advisory Council (PAC) Meeting is Monday, April 30 at 6:30 pm. Join us at Haywood Elementary School to celebrate the many successes within our cluster, discuss any challenges, and vote for local PAC leadership.

If you haven’t checked out the Hillsboro Globe, a student-run, AP-accredited newspaper, you need to do so. It gets better all the time.

Testing season in Tennessee is almost upon us. Peter Greene takes a deeper look at why we test. His conclusion:

I don’t know the answer. But I do know what we should do next.


Just stop.

Cancel the BS Tests. Throw them out. Have an honest conversation about which of the above goals are worth pursuing and how best to pursue them. That will take time; it won’t be easy. Maybe there will be a place for the right tests, used correctly, in the future. Maybe. But what we have now continues to do serious damage to US public education. It’s costing us so much, both in terms of money and human toll and opportunity costs, and it is giving us nothing in return.

Can’t say I disagree.

That’s a wrap. Don’t forget to answer this week’s poll questions. Your opinion is vital. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize 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. 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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Budget season in MNPS continues to march on, and it continues to be one of turmoil. Fresh off of spring break, and several reports from Channel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams looking at district fiscal policy, Metro Nashville Public Schools held two more budget hearings this week. Two more meetings that highlighted the district’s inability to provide verifiable data that would allow for a meaningful conversation on next year’s proposed budget. These meetings also highlighted the administration’s unique ability to appear incompetent while still benefiting from that incompetence.

This year, as opposed to previous years, the budget was released piecemeal with several corrections to data that reflects the current year’s finances. For example, at Monday’s meeting it was revealed that the Director of School’s salary, along with those of the Chiefs, was initially presented incorrectly. The salary listed reflected the 3% raise that was awarded to MNPS employees last year. That raise was not given to senior administrators, but the line item was never corrected in the budget. This translated to miscalculated budgetary items regarding the Director of Schools and senior administrators’ salaries proposed for next year that was luckily caught by a board member before going forward for approval.

I listened to Chief Financial Officer Chris Henson laconically explain this correction at Monday’s meeting with mouth agape. But I shouldn’t be surprised, because this year’s budget has been riddled with errors, more so than any year I can remember. A couple of weeks ago, during one budget meeting when a board member started questioning individual school allocations based on information distributed by the district, she was stopped and informed that the information had been revised. It wasn’t the projected information that had been revised, but rather the numbers for the current fiscal year.

At a later meeting, it was discovered that a whole column had been miskeyed and needed revision. When the veracity of line items is under question, it comes virtually impossible to have a meaningful conversation, and as a result, the community has quickly grown frustrated. Throw in staff reductions, perceived areas of need, social workers, and truant officers, along with the loss of a vital free lunch program – all amid reports of questionable spending – and what we are left with is a process that seems incredibly broken.

Somehow, though, this turmoil and dysfunction is going to facilitate the passing of Dr. Joseph’s budget virtually untouched. The entire budget was not revealed until March 27th and was immediately followed by spring break. Public commentary was scheduled the first days back from spring break. Next Tuesday, the board votes on the budget, and the following week it will be presented to the mayor. So despite the impressive turnout for public commentary, there really is little time for any meaningful changes to occur, which gives the proceedings a sense of orchestration.

In attempting to construct a meaningful conversation, there is nothing more frustrating than a lack of concrete information. It’s one thing to have a point/counterpoint conversation; it’s quite another to have every point met with a revelation that the information you are basing your point on is not factual. For example, let’s look at board member Jill Speering’s revelations on Executive Director of Equity and Diversity Maritza Gonzalez receiving a stipend in addition to her 6-figure salary:

On March 7, HR reported “… according to payroll records this year, Maritza Gonzalez had NOT received any stipends or extra compensation.”  Consequently I was provided a document from an employee at central office that proved Gonzalez did indeed receive a stipend of $24,168.29.  Upon further investigation, On April, 4 I received a very different story.  And I quote:

“Five employees (Maritza Gonzalez, Amy Wyatt, Antoinette Williams, Terry Schrader, and Vanessa Garcia) all went from being Executive Officers to Executive Directors as part of central office reorganization. Their salaries went from $155K to $130K. The decision was madeto keep their salaries intact through the end of the fiscal year. This necessitated treating the difference in pay as a ‘stipend’ rather than as ‘salary.’ That difference in pay (about $961/pay period) goes away at the end of this fiscal year when the new budget takes effect. The reorganization occurred at the beginning of our current fiscal year, hence the stipend is for one full fiscal year.”

When I checked with Mrs. Garcia, Mrs. Williams, and Mr. Shrader, each confirmed, they had NOT received additional compensation.Which means the only person who received a $24,000 stipend was the wife of the Chief of Schools, Maritza Gonzalez. 

The district has since revised its official explanation to read as follows:

Ms. Gonzalez’ base salary is $130,831.71 per year.  The reduction from $155,000 took effect July 1, 2017 when her title was changed from Executive Officer to Executive Director.  However, the anticipated reorganization of staff and responsibilities that went with that reduction was placed on hold due as the school district works to fill the Executive Officer for Communication and Community Engagement position.  Once that position is filled, family engagement will move to a new office. Ms. Gonzalez agreed to continue with her previous responsibilities until the other position was filled.  Consequently, she has received a per pay period stipend of $929.55 for those continued responsibilities.  When the reorganization is complete, the stipend will be discontinued. 

Houston, we’ve got a problem. A look at the district organizational chart fails to back up the later claim. It shows a $131K a year administrator supervising one employee, aided by an administrative assistant. There are only a handful of people making over $130k a year in the district. I don’t think it is an unrealistic expectation that the Chief of Human Resources, who herself is making $170k, be familiar with the responsibilities of that small handful of people. I also believe it’s extremely problematic when the wife of the Chief of Schools is the only person receiving a stipend that puts her among the 10 highest-paid employees of MNPS, despite a lack of commensurate experience.

Last month, we dragged Mayor Megan Barry out of office over her bodyguard/boyfriend making an extra $170k. Minus the salacious details, I see no difference between Rob Forrest/Megan Barry and Maritza Gonzalez/Sito Narcisse. We were told five MNPS employees had their salaries reduced substantially last year, but only one, who happens to be the wife of the Chief of Schools, received a stipend to supplement those lost wages. A stipend that took nearly a month, after an initial denial, in order for central office to craft a semi-plausible explanation for its existence.

Equally hard to explain is exactly what Gonzalez does to earn her elevated salary. There is mention of community engagement work, but the district’s Parent Advisory Committee still lays dormant despite holding a couple of organizational meetings this past year. Only the Overton, Stratford, and Hillsboro PACs are currently active and that’s only due to parental initiative and support from the administrators in those cluster schools. Districtwide, 22 months later, there is still no communicated vision of what family engagement is even proposed to look like, let alone a functioning strategic plan.

I would be remiss here if I did not mention that the Department of Family and Community Engagement has conducted a series of very successful parental education sessions through their Parent University program. But that has little to do with Gonzalez and can be attributed to interim director Pam Burgess and her hard working team. The final session this year will take place on Thursday, April 12th, at 10 AM at the West Police Precinct. Attend if you can.

Getting back to Gonzalez, the unofficial narrative around her responsibilities is that she travels. She travels a lot. Earlier in the year I put in an open records request on Gonzalez’s travel and was initially told there was none. When I questioned that, it was discovered that she did travel, just not on the district’s dime.

Between July 1, 2017 and December 1, 2017, Gonzalez attended 4 conferences paid for by outside sources. Two of those trips were paid for by the Racial Equity Leadership Network (RELN). Gonzalez is a 2017 Fellow for this organization, whose stated mission is “to gather five times to intimately dive into both the racial equity challenges and opportunities that exist within their respective school districts, as they work to realize authentic change and more equitable outcomes for the students in their systems.” Gonzalez also attended both the Deeper Learning spring conference and a 3rd gathering of RELN Fellows this spring.

While no district money was spent on travel for these conferences, I question when Ms. Gonzalez found the time to convey the information gathered at conferences back to district employees. Trips every month translates into a lot of absences. Frequent absences leave it to others to fill her district responsibilities.

Now if all these instances I just related were isolated incidents, I’m pretty confident that board members Speering and Frogge would have both continued to communicate primarily behind closed doors. Over the last 22 months, they, along with the other 7 board members, have been extremely disciplined in following Dr. Joseph’s directive of communicating only with him. Quite frankly, this lack of communication with the public also came with the detriment of personal relationships and reputations. Board members made it clear that they had made a commitment to Dr. Joseph and they meant to honor it.

But I think it’s safe to say, based on the litany of questions and concerns raised by both Speering and Frogge, Dr. Joseph and his team were not holding up their end of the bargain. They were failing to provide board members with accurate information in a timely manner. Dr. Joseph will point to his 60-page weekly missives as a counter argument, but I’d argue those reports are merely an attempt to hide trees in the forest.

Whatever the case, it’s very apparent that two respected board members had reached a tipping point. Both raised their questions in a deliberate and level manner. In no manner were there “inappropriate outbursts,” as described by Dr. Joseph. It was clear that they had done their research and put a lot of thought into presenting their concerns. Dr. Joseph’s response was to voice displeasure at their perceived breach of protocol and to lecture them about hypothetical ramifications devoid of any recognition of their past 22 months of blind loyalty. Amazing how fast that Arbinger training flew out the window.

During a break in the budget committee meeting, a conversation between Frogge and Joseph was captured by live mic that was inadvertently not muted. I always say you shouldn’t judge people by what they say when they know you’re listening but rather by what they say when they think you are not listening. In that light, this conversation was quite revealing and not at all flattering to Dr. Joseph.

To begin with, there is nothing quite like a non-lawyer lecturing an actual lawyer about possible exposure to litigation. At one point Joseph says, “One thing I don’t do is anything illegal with money.” Ok… that is strangely reminiscent of former district employee, and long time friend of Joseph, Mo Carrasco’s defense when accused of sexual harassment when he said “I’m innocent until proven guilty.” I’m not sure why Joseph felt the need to raise this defense, because at this point nobody has accused him of illegal behavior, just sloppy and potentially unethical behavior.

At one point, Frogge is heard saying, “I don’t work for you.” That point needs to be reiterated. We all have bosses. Our bosses seldom do everything we want them to, but we defer to them because they are our bosses. I think there would be repercussions for all of us if we were to fail to acknowledge criticism from our boss and instead publicly disparaged them. I would think Shawn joseph would take exception if any of his principals were to conduct themselves in a similar manner. We don’t have to like our bosses, but it is imperative that we show them respect.

I stress to the kids on the baseball team I coach that making a mistake is not what is important, but rather it’s what you do after the mistake that matters. What this budget process has clearly revealed is that Dr. Joseph has, at the minimum, made mistakes over the last 22 months. The question is, what does he do now? He clearly needs a good strategy. Early indications aren’t exactly encouraging though.

Getting defensive with those who are merely fulfilling the requirements of their job is not a good strategy. Pressuring principals to come speak to the virtues of your proposed budget is not a good strategy, especially when, despite a concentrated effort, you can only produce six principals. Rolling your eyes, shaking your head, and smirking while an elected board member voices their concerns is not a good strategy. Packing the board room with your fraternity brothers and having them refer to the previous night’s questioning as a “public lynching” is not a good strategy.

I don’t pretend to know who the Director is taking advice from, but I hope they are advising him not to underestimate the precipice he is standing on. For the first time, I’m beginning to hear people openly wonder if this is the beginning of the end. The answer to that question lies with Dr. Joseph himself.

As always, I have no vested interest in whether he lasts or does not last in his position. My focus remains on the implementation of policies rooted in best practices based on research and supported by data. Ideally, for the sake of stability, Dr. Joseph will adjust and amend behaviors, thereby reestablishing trust. But that’s going to take some heavy lifting.

In closing, I’d like to report on some positive news. Kevin Stacey and Molly Stovall gave a presentation to the board last night on the state of the district’s English Learner programs. If you haven’t watched it yet, I urge you to. The presentation starts around the 53-minute mark.

23% of all students in MNPS require EL services. There are 787 EL teachers with 16 coaches. That’s right, only 16 coaches. The EL budget has basically been flat for the last three years. Dr. Joseph talks about infusing $2 million into EL services, but that money is primarily for hiring new teachers in order to be compliant with state-mandated teacher-to-student ratios. Despite these challenges, the department produces work that inspires Jan Lanier, the director of EL for the Tennessee Department of Education, to publicly say that MNPS has done in 3 years what the state thought would take 5 years. Thank you Kevin, Molly, and all of you MNPS EL teachers for your tremendous dedication and accomplishments.

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Welcome back, MNPS students and teachers. Hope everybody had a fantastic reprise last week. As my son has informed me throughout spring break, we now have 34 more days until summertime. While things might have quieted inside district school buildings, outside storms continued to rage over district initiatives, spending, and the 2018-2019 budget.

I must also confess that I started this post before the events at Monday’s Budget/Finance Committee transpired. In fact, I almost scrapped this piece, but I believe there are some points that are extremely relevant to the ongoing conversation, and so, I’m getting this out. Look for a follow-up tomorrow.

On Thursday and Friday of last week, Channel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams began a series of reports showing MNPS was not following its own purchasing protocols and was continuing to utilize friends from the Northeast as primary resources for educational support. These reports come on the heels of an already heated debate over enrollment projections and next year’s proposed budget. In response to the heat, and I’m assuming anticipation of the upcoming news stories, the normally media-shy Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph grabbed his microphone and hit the airwaves, making stops at Channel 2 and Channel 4, and even doing the podcast Nashville Sounding Board. All told, the Nashville community was given a whole lot to digest last week.

It would take hours to dissect and put into context all of the information made available last week, but there are a couple of things I would like to point out. I’ve heard the argument raised that the majority of Dr. Joseph’s problems spring from a subpar communications platform. The argument being that policies and implementation just aren’t communicated well and so the perceptions become ones of incompetence and mismanagement.

While I don’t fully buy into that argument, I’m willing to give it some credence. The district continually seems to communicate in a reactionary matter and is seldom proactive. Instead of telling parents about water issues, they wait for the story to break on the local news. Instead of alerting people to changes in free lunch programs, they wait for the story to break on the news. Instead of explaining enrollment shortfalls and the subsequent loss of funding, proactively they wait for the local news to break the story ahead of time. Once the story breaks, they cry fake news and inaccurate information and rush to defend themselves. In other words, they consistently allow somebody else to shape the narrative before they tell their story and then play the victim when the story doesn’t suit them.

You would think that after two years of wash, rinse, repeat, that somebody would hold a meeting where an actual communications strategy was discussed and implemented. By now, somebody has surely realized that the actions of district leaders are being closely scrutinized, there are no secrets, and just hoping nobody notices is not a communications policy.

Take this year’s budget process, for example. It’s been a dumpster fire when it didn’t have to be. Before administrators even discussed the upcoming budget and the revised Title I distribution with principals, they should have had all the exact figures in hand and those figures should have been fully vetted for accuracy. There should have been a sit down with a core group of senior principals where the plan was shared and those senior principals provided with an opportunity to stress test the plan. Then, accurate figures, with an accompanying narrative supporting the figures, could have been presented in a timely manner. If people took exception to the changes, the discussion could be based on verifiable numbers, instead of the plethora of changes that have left nobody sure of what figures were accurate. To this day, I have no faith in the numbers being tossed around.

Secondly, you have to provide information that is accurate and easily verifiable. Look at the district’s response to Channel 5’s report on the rise of unauthorized purchase requests. According to the Channel 5 report, “Unauthorized purchase requests (UPRs) went from $304,289 in the year before Dr. Joseph took control — skyrocketing to $2,279,647 in Joseph’s first year on the job. Already, this year, those UPR requests have topped a million dollars.” MNPS’s response goes into detail about what a UPR is and how they are used. And then makes the claim that “In 2018, UPRs are trending to be flat—we expect UPRs to fall as education continues in the district and we ensure all employees adhere to proper expense reporting.”

What?!? How is from $304,289 compared to over a million dollars trending flat? Furthermore, if you just started tracking UPRs in 2015, where was the money accounted for previously? Did it just turn up somewhere in the budget? When you say that 2018 is trending flat, are you talking about the fiscal year, which begins in July, or the calendar year, which began in January? Where does the money for UPRs come from? What’s the whole story here, and if there is nothing in William’s story for me to be concerned about, why are you not explaining it in more detail to me? And by the way, several of those UPRs are for 5-figures and above, so to utilize the examples of a teacher applying late for a conference or a maintenance worker picking up a part is a little bit disingenuous.

A proper narrative requires telling the same story every time you repeat it. Dr. Joseph has pointed to the growth of advanced academics as a success this year, and to some extent, rightfully so. But in touting that success at various media outlets, he’s changed the story with each telling. On the radio, he stated that we’ve doubled the number of kids taking advanced classes throughout the district. At the State of Schools speech, it became “We have doubled the number of students with plans to take Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge exams, and we have expanded our advanced programming in middle schools.” On Channel 2 it was, “We doubled the number of kids taking advanced placement at the high school level.” All three claims are very different, and I’m not sure any of them can bear up to being fact checked.

The one that probably comes the closest to being factual is that we’ve nearly doubled the number of kids taking Advanced Placement tests. The reason being that the district paid for those tests this year. So, if last year you had 100 people taking AP classes and 50 weren’t taking the test because they couldn’t afford it, it’s not a big stretch to imagine that if the financial barrier is removed, everybody will take the test. The district deserves accolades for removing that barrier.

However, just like with testing the water for lead, it’s not enough to just take the test. What were the results? What are we doing with the results? We all purportedly hate participation trophies, yet’s here’s Dr. Joseph asking us to give him one. You have to do more than just test.

Dr. Joseph is shouting MAP testing results from the roof tops. But again, we are not telling the whole story. First of all, we’ve chosen to completely disregard a whole testing session. Kids took the MAP test in November and scores were down 2%. Those results are no longer part of the conversation as we focus only on September and February testing results. That 2% drop in November was ruled insignificant. February scores are up 3% and being touted as the “highest they’ve ever been in MNPS,” which is not a true statement. 

As you can see by looking at the district-supplied chart of results from the last 5 applications, scores are basically flat with only 6th and 7th graders showing significant gains. I’m not trying to throw cold water on the work that teachers and kids are doing, but the numbers don’t lie. Why not brag about the math scores, which other than 5th grade, legitimately earn accolades.
On Eagles’s podcast, Joseph touts MAP being given three times a year as a component of its power. Exactly when will we be giving the test three times this year? November’s results are disregarded and May’s testing window has been labeled optional, so when will the third administration be delivered? He can’t just keep saying whatever comes to mind.
Furthermore, while touting these results, Dr. Joseph seldom outlines how we got them. At the school board meeting, he mentioned scripted curriculum, expectations, and the scope and sequence. Talk to any teacher about this year’s scripted curriculum and scope and sequence and then come tell me how those items produced these results.
I’ll tell you what actually produced those results and district leadership won’t like it. Teachers. Teachers who ignored the district’s initiatives and just did what they knew to be best for kids. Which is very commendable, but how do we replicate the results? Again, we have the refrain of it’s the testing that matters, not what you do with the results.
I could go on and point out endless examples. The short answer is, yes, many of Dr. Joseph’s problems stem from a communication root. But I’m loathe to just write it off as that because when I look at the Channel 5 reports, there is no denying that missteps have not hurt the bottom line for the friends and families of the Chiefs from Prince George’s County. I’m going to leave this aspect alone for today other than to say, faulty communication supplies an all too convenient excuse for problems that are plaguing the current MNPS administration, but it doesn’t cover up that people from PGCPS have benefited disproportionately from district policy compared to those who were already employed upon Dr. Joseph’s arrival. Let’s just say I’ll be revisiting this topic later in the week.
However, I can’t close out this portion of the conversation without sharing the thoughts of Thespian Bruce Taylor. Taylor is a compatriot from Prince George’s County who, despite having no formal training in education, has managed to secure a $100k contract to work with 2 schools on ACT improvement. Two middle schools, I might add. Taylor admits that he has no formal training in education, but provides this argument in defending his qualifications: “If my approach doesn’t succeed, then all the ‘credentials’ in the world wouldn’t work.” Conversely, if it does work, and there is some evidence that it does, then “credentials” wouldn’t matter either.
Based on that logic, I don’t know why teachers bother getting their degrees. Why does the state even require certification? I encourage everybody to read Mr. Taylor’s insights and then I suggest y’all quit and set up a consultancy agency. $100k is a damn sight better than a teacher’s salary.
The community gets a chance to weigh in on the budget again this week. Tonight is a budget hearing at 5 pm, with another tomorrow after the board meeting at 6 pm, and then one last opportunity Thursday at 5 pm. I encourage everyone to show up and speak out. Positive and negative.
Tomorrow is a regularly scheduled board meeting at 5 pm. One thing that stands out on the agenda is that there will be a vote on the recently negotiated Memorandum of Understanding between the district and teachers. While most of the fiscal components have been deferred to the compensation committee, there are still some things to celebrate. The length of the working day has been defined, as well as the procedure for appealing reprimands. It may not be a giant step for mankind, but it is a step forward. Thanks to all of those who worked so hard in bringing this to fruition.
There is good news coming out today from the Tennessee Department of Education. They are doing away with 2 state tests at the high school level. Tennessee Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen’s 30-member assessment task force made separate votes on the recommendations, both with the same conclusion. In the 2018-2019 school year, the Chemistry test and English III test will no longer be administered. “Keeping students at the center, teachers want fewer tests in that year. That’s how we support them,” said Cicely Woodard, a Nashville public schools teacher and member of the committee. Call this one a step in the right direction.
Get ready. Come April 10, NAEP will be releasing its latest results. Will Tennessee continue to be the fastest rising state in the union?
Last week’s poll numbers were down a little bit. Not sure if it was that you didn’t like the questions, or you didn’t like the column, or you were just checked out on spring break. Either way, I promise to do better. Still, some meaningful information can be drawn from your replies. So let’s look at them.

Question 1 asked whether you thought Tennessee teachers would strike. And the answer is… according to 32% of you… doubtful. Though the number 2 answer, at 24%, was “a real possibility.” Truth is, at this point, I don’t think anyone knows, but we’ll be watching. Here are the write-in answers:

Don’t think they can. Check the fine print at MNEA. 1
A death knell for trust 1
Only if they can get more printed packets to give students instead of actually teaching 1
Don’t let Joseph and his minions get 5 years in TCRS!
Question 2 asked for your opinion on MNPS possibly revising a structured intercession. 44% of you expressed a marginal interest, saying the devil would be in the details. 23% of you said you would be for it, but that it should be a full day and fully funded. I fall into the latter camp. I’m all in for anything that gives more kids more experiences. Here are the write-in answers:
No. 2
No 2
Prioritize family time 1
Wasted money. 1
It was disastrous when we had it. Unfunded and low student turnout. 1
Will they be able to stomach funding transportation and food? If not, then NO. 1
nope…too little interest and participation 1
I think it will be hard to get teachers to work it.

Last question asked who you would be supporting in the upcoming mayoral election. Acting Mayor David Briley received 51% of the vote. The next closest challenger was former radio talk show host Ralph Bristol with 9% of vote. Come on, Briley. Here are the write-in answers:

Undecided 1
I don’t know enough about the candidates yet. 1
Need to research more 1
Not enough information yet 1
Not a clue yet 1
whichever will promise to fund schools adequately 1
I wish I could vote for Love AND Gilmore 1
Don’t know enough about any of them. 1
TC Weber 1
undecided 1
What is the position of these candidates on education? 1
bozo the clown

That’s another one in the bag. Seeing as tonight was particularly eventful for the school board, I suspect I’ll be back tomorrow. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize 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. 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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Climb on board the slightly wayback machine with me. Today I’d like to take you back to the year 2008. That’s the year that former school board candidate Jane Grimes and I were appointed to the board that oversaw the Metropolitan Arts and Education Channels(MEAC). MEAC was made up of Channels 9 and 10, dedicated to arts and education programming, respectively. At that time, Channel 19, the public access channel, was its own entity, with its own set of problems. We arrived on the MEAC board shortly after former director Michael Catalano had resigned. What we found was an organization in disrepair, whose very existence was in jeopardy.

I remember those first meetings vividly. A board chair who didn’t use email. Another board member falling asleep during discussions on the hiring of a new director. Financial support was at a low point. Jane and I just looked at each other, and after a couple WTF’s, we dug in and got to work.

Metro Government had decided that it wanted to restructure the whole organization and place all 3 channels under one umbrella: the Nashville Education, Community, and Arts Channels (NECAT). This was a noble endeavor, though one without a blueprint.

Finances were in such disarray that it was impossible to even get a financial audit due to so many missing records. Producers at Channel 19 wanted a better organization, but were rightfully very protective of their turf. Equipment was in need of an update, and we had an oversight board that only wanted to meet when it had good news to report. It was challenging to say the least.

Jane became chair, due to her more diplomatic nature, and I assumed the role of vice-chair. Joel Sullivan joined us on the board several months later and undertook the task of cleaning up the finances. And then the bare knuckle fights began. We began to have those painful, honest conversations that nobody wanted to have because they felt that having those conversations publicly would threaten our tenuous financial status and potentially threaten the organization’s existence.

One of our first moves was to bring Kim Hayes on board as Executive Director. We brought her on more as a partner than a savior. Board members were extremely involved – I’d start naming them, but I know I’d forget somebody – and available. Expectations were placed as much on the board as they were on our director. The board was seen as both a resource and a governing body.

Man, it was a lot of work and the future was extremely uncertain. The organization was so fractured and the history was so bad, yet people were so passionate about the organization. We had to take that passion and build upon it. We didn’t always see eye to eye on things, and things sometimes got heated, but I believe we always respected each other. It didn’t hurt that we had Keith Myles on the board to bring a certain zen to the proceedings.

We began to make progress. Jane rolled off the board and I became chair, a position I would hold for three years. Kim recruited John Ferguson to head up the tech side of things. We began holding monthly meetings with all members of the organization, where we presented things to them, but more importantly they presented their concerns to us. I remember getting blasted at a few of those meetings early on. Channel 19 producers didn’t trust us or believe we had their best interests at heart. We won them over by listening, doing what we said we were going to do, and when we fell short, being accountable.

I remember one meeting where producers wanted a green screen to improve the quality of their productions. I agreed to procuring the green screen. Unfortunately, I hadn’t followed through with that promise by the time the next meeting arrived. The reaction was as expected: members weren’t happy. But I stood in front of them and acknowledged my failure to deliver. By the next meeting, the green screen was provided and slowly but surely, trust grew.

Working as a partner with Kim allowed us to make real progress. Over her tenure, Kim Hayes brought stability to an organization that had none. Guiding principles and practices got established and she put us in a position to move forward. After 3 years at the helm, Kim was exhausted and realized that we needed a new director in order to make the next step. Thanks to her tireless work and dedication, we were ready to take that step.

I stayed neutral on the search until we had a finalist. The board was deadlocked over 2 candidates. The tie-breaking vote would come down to me. After talking via phone to both candidates for over an hour each, the decision was made to offer Trish Crist the position, which she graciously accepted. And the organization has been better for it ever since.

When we brought Trish on board, a decision was made to have the board be less involved in day-to-day operations. But we didn’t do that instantaneously. The board continued to offer input, and as board chair, I continued to ask questions. As time went on, I found the need to question less and less. Through working together, the board and director’s vision had become aligned.

Today, NECAT is doing extremely well and continually growing. New producers are joining the organization, along with new business partners. The last seven audits have all come up unqualified. That’s a long way from sitting across the desk from a frustrated auditor who’s saying they have no idea how to complete this audit.

I am extremely proud of this legacy, but not in the manner of hey, look what I did. But rather, look what happens when a group of dedicated and passionate people unite around a common goal and are brave enough not to shy away from the ugly side of things. To me, that bravery was the first step and the foundation upon which success has been built.

Now you may be wondering why I’m telling you this long-winded story about an organization that many of you probably didn’t know existed. I’m telling the story because I’m starting to hear similar rumblings around the subject of MNPS. People are wringing their hands over the negative stories and starting to say we shouldn’t talk about the negative. Bringing up the bad is going to hurt in procuring the budget. By criticizing Dr. Joseph and his leadership, we are just making charter schools more attractive. We need to just focus on the good.

I understand that and appreciate it. But it’s been my experience that people already know the bad whether you talk about it or not. Not discussing it doesn’t make it go away. I’ve repeatedly said this, and will continue to say it, we need to love our public schools like we love our families. We need to continually tell the truth. Telling the truth is the only way to earn trust, and without trust, the system collapses. Having honest conversations is often uncomfortable but it is essential.

Being willing to face the things that are not working is only part of having those hard conversations; there also needs to be a willingness to dissect the things that are working and identify the individual elements so that success can be replicated. For example, if we actually are doubling the number of kids in advanced academics, how are we doing it? Are we using an expensive screener that may be cost prohibitive in the near future, or are we doing so in a deliberate and scalable manner? Same with the literacy scores. We can’t just celebrate one instance of scores rising like it’s a trend, especially when we can’t draw a direct line between strategy and effect. When we can show a direct and clear link between cause and effect, replication occurs and greater success follows.

I love our public schools. I will fight for them like I will fight for a loved one. I will acknowledge the shortcomings in order to consistently improve the outcomes, and I will sing the virtues aloud to all who will listen. Our schools and our kids are too important for us to employ anything less than rigorous honesty.

Tackling those hard conversations is the only way to convince taxpayers that our schools are worthy of their investment. Nobody ever gave anybody more money because they just demanded it. We have to prove that we are willing to be good stewards of our resources. The only way to do that is by building trust. You earn trust by acknowledging and correcting, not by soft-peddling and failing to address. It’s really a simple formula, though not an easy one to adhere to.

As one final thought, MNPS leadership is quick to point to the axiom that change is hard. But what leaders often fail to recognize is that it’s not only the organization and its components that is changing, but also the leaders themselves. They are now leading a new organization. One with its own personalities and traditions. It’s imperative that new leadership recognize that they are no longer the head of their previous organization and that in their role as new leader, they can not just apply the same practices they did in the past. The leader has to change as well, and yes, change can be hard.


Yesterday it was dueling visions on local television stations. Over on channel 2 WKRN, MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph was selling his proposed budget and citing successes from the past year to support that budget. Meanwhile, over at Channel 5 WTVF, investigative reporter Phil Williams was giving the first of two reports on how some of that budget money is getting spent. Interestingly enough, the normally media-shy Joseph was spotted over at Fox 17 and Nashville Public Radio as well. Hmmmm… perhaps we’ll hear more about the thespian from Maryland we paid $100k to improve ACT scores at middle schools despite having no formal training in education. Sort of plays like a character out of the pages of a Jonathan Franzen novel.

Many folks are paying close attention to the teacher strikes in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, and naturally wondering if they could spread to Tennessee. Both the Tennessean’s Jason Gonzales and TN Ed Report’s Andy Spears decided to tackle that very subject. Personally, I believe the seeds are in the ground, and if we aren’t cautious, they will germinate.

Good news this week out of the capital. Somebody put the Tennessee whiskey down and realized that arming teachers was a terrible idea. The proposed bill failed in committee with Rep. Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville) saying he thought the bill to arm teachers had been drawn up on a napkin, and Rep. Roger Kane (R-Knoxville) remarking that he believed the proposal could open the schools up to lawsuits. On the flip side, the Tennessee House resoundingly passed two bills on Wednesday that would restrict and also require more reporting on the use of corporal punishment for students with disabilities. Cause for celebration.

This Saturday, April 7, Meharry Medical College is hosting Impressions Day, a program that introduces high school and undergraduate students to the demands of the dental profession while offering suggestions for gaining acceptance to and succeeding in dental school.

Here’s an interesting story out of Denver. Apparently, district-run schools are given an opportunity to vote on an “innovation plan” that allows for increased autonomy in return for increased accountability. This year, two schools decided to vote against the plan, and as a result, forego the autonomy. I’m not quite sure what it all means, but I find it to be food for thought and possibly a future poll question.

Seattle Public Schools selected a new superintendent of schools yesterday. I’ve been keeping an eye on this search for a number of reasons. Seattle shares some similarities with Nashville and there were rumors that some local folks had an interest in this race. The board selected Denise Juneau for the job. I like the reason for hiring her: “The work that we do is based on trust, and what I heard from so many people is that Ms. Juneau was already coming with a high level of trust,” Board Vice President Rick Burke said before the vote. Glad the Seattle board recognizes the importance of trust.

That’s another one in the bag. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize 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. 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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A relative calm seems to have descended over greater Nashville with the arrival of spring break. This year’s spring break arrives later in the year than in the past. I think it’s safe to say there were more than a couple of teachers and students white knuckling it through the last couple of weeks. In the future, the district may want to reconsider going so long without a break. Spring break for me also brings reflection on the term equity.

Nashville has been embroiled in a conversation about equity since the arrival of MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph three years ago. Equity is an important conversation, albeit a far deeper one, than Dr. Joseph has been willing to date to lead. His argument has focused primarily on cash and resources. My argument has long been that inequities spring less from dedicated individual school resources than from individual student experiences. Kids in a high need school have vastly different educational experiences than those populated by wealthier students, and that needs to be addressed by more than by just allocating funds.

I also believe that inequity springs more from the unintentional than the intentional. You poll 100 people and I wouldn’t be surprised if you find 90 who voice a commitment to equity. Most people want to give everyone a shot and balance the scales as much as possible. They have no desire to deny any child the resources for a quality education and would be mortified if they found out some of their actions contributed to the growth of inequity. Yet, due to us not really understanding how others live, inequities continue to thrive.

I’d argue that the real shortfall in closing the inequity gaps is not financial. Through grants and charitable organizations, poorer schools often are able to supplement their revenue in order to compete with wealthier schools. It’s in the realm of experience where poorer schools often fall short. And that’s something that is much harder to quantify.

Spring break provides a convenient example of what I’m talking about. Scroll through my social media feed and you’ll see families taking trips all over the world. I’ve seen pictures from France, South America, Florida, New York, and California. For some, it’s simply day trips to Chattanooga or Land Between the Lakes. For our poorer families though, there are no family excursions. Parents have to work, and for kids, it’s a one bedroom apartment, a day care center, or a neighbor’s house. It’s video games, TV, and tablets.

It’s no secret that experience is a phenomenal teacher. For those kids traveling, the lessons taught in school become less abstract and more concrete. Traveling together provides parents with increased interaction time, which leads to growth in vocabulary breadth and width. I’m not trying to make parents who are taking kids on trip feel guilty, God bless them, but rather to shine a light on the fact that the conversation on equity needs to be about more than just money.

A few years ago, MNPS, under then-Director of School Dr. Jesse Register, tried to create a special program for kids during intersession. It wasn’t completely thought out, and it was terribly under-financed, but I think he was on to something. The only caveat is that intersession can’t look like regular everyday school. It’s got to be something special.

We are so big on STEAM, so why couldn’t the week be used to rehearse and present a play? Maybe kids could work on a mural or some other community arts project. Maybe it’s a week at Legislative Plaza learning about how our state government works. Or perhaps a week at a Titan’s camp learning about sports medicine. In a city like Nashville, the opportunities are endless. If we were really serious about equity, we could offer kids some incredibly meaningful experiences that would go a lot further towards easing the equity gap.

I really believe that if we focus our equity conversation on just money and resources, we are neglecting a vital component of the conversation, which is experiences. Experiences are what shape and mold us as adults. Through experience we learn about the greater possibilities life has to offer. If I’m reading 3 levels above grade level, but I’ve never been to a museum or toured a newsroom, or I don’t know a single adult who is a practicing attorney, my scope is going to be severely limited, and the commonplace may seem impossible. If we are really going to address inequity, we need to focus less on test scores and more on experiences. The beautiful thing is that if you create more frequent and varied experiences for kids, test scores can’t help but rise.


So the full proposed budget has now been released, and I’ve spent a little time with it over the weekend. As a result, I have some questions. Please keep in mind that I am not a budgetary expert, nor even an accountant, and I don’t play one on TV either. The following is just a collection of thoughts that have come to mind as I look at next year’s proposed budget alongside those from the last three years. There may be perfect and reasonable answers to my questions, and I’m willing to extend the benefit of doubt, but I feel the questions are worth raising.

The first thing that stands out to me in next year’s budget is the charter school numbers. Let me be perfectly clear here – I’m not looking to rekindle any past wars, but I do think the numbers presented warrant a deeper conversation. Despite being politically out of favor with many in Nashville, charter enrollment is anything but down. In 2016, there were 9,770 students enrolled in charter schools. That number rose this year to 11,378 and is projected next year to be 12,766. That’s nearly 1,400 more kids enrolled in charter schools between 2017 and 2018. No offense to my charter school brethren, but I’d like to know why.

Looking at some individual schools reveals robust growth numbers:

  • Intrepid Prep has grown from 400 in 2016 to 463 this year and is projected at 610 for next year.
  • Lead Prep SE has grown from 500 in 2016 to 615 this year and is projected at 723 for next year.
  • Valor Collegiate Flagship has grown from 370 in 2016 to 480 this year and is projected at 715 for next year.
  • East End Prep has grown from 615 in 2016 to 737 this year and is projected at 850 for next year.
  • Nashville Classical has grown from 298 in 2016 to 363 this year and is projected at 445 for next year.

As an explanation, MNPS has offered that these numbers are the results of charter schools adding grades and a few making the foray into high school. Since 12 out of the 29 existing schools are in the process of adding grades, I’ll buy that. But it doesn’t explain why many of the schools that aren’t adding grades are adding seats. Sure a few schools are facing dwindling enrollment, but on the whole, charter growth is up. The result is an increased cost to the district of $13,602,400. That’s alarming to me.

It’s not alarming to me because I believe that charter schools are coming in and stealing the district’s kids; it’s alarming to me that we are giving away that many of our kids to charter schools. I will continue to maintain that no parent who feels welcome and included at their kid’s school and feels that their kids are receiving a quality education in a safe environment where they feel valued is going to suddenly elect another option that they know virtually nothing about. For some reason, parents are choosing to send their kids to charter schools, and I think there needs to be a deeper conversation about why.

I also can’t help but wonder if those projections became reality. We’ve heard that more millennials are moving to Nashville, which translates to fewer school-aged children. The district this year turned up 1,500 kids short. Were all those kids slated to attend traditional schools? Did charter schools meet their projections or exceed them? If so, why have they been immune to shifting demographics and not the rest of the district?

Further examination of the budget shows that the budget for Human Resources was $6,100,000 in 2016. This year it is $6,934,800. Next year it’s projected at $7,500,400. That’s $1.4 million growth over 2 years. Would anyone argue that the recruitment and retention process has improved? Has it become easier to get necessary paperwork from Human Resources? Has it become easier to apply for a position? Have we done a better job at filling vacant positions? Have we gotten $1.4 million of improvement?

Here is a math problem for you: If MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Joseph has a contract for $285,000, and he is allowed to cash out 15 vacation days (calculated at 285,000/2080 x 8 x 15= $16,442), why does last year’s and this year’s budget list his salary at $337,200? Because last I checked, 285,000 + 16,442 = 301,442 which is $35,757 LESS than what is listed in the budget. (Incidentally, this is also approximately the annual salary of a level 4 support staff member who has worked for MNPS for 25 years) Some have suggested that this may be explained by investments in his pension, and if so, he can’t be faulted for it.

In addition, this year’s budget lists an increase of $10,800 for Dr. Joseph’s salary, which is a 3.2% raise on the $337,200. Whether it is matching retirement funds or not, whether it’s on him or those who negotiated the contract, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s more money going into the pocket of an already well-compensated man.

On the other hand, teachers and other employees are being asked to accept a 2% raise. AND IT STILL TAKES 10 YEARS for a teacher with an Masters Degree to earn $50,000 annually. Dr. Joseph’s current total compensation package is $598,900. (That means after 10 years, a teacher with a Masters will earn 8.3% of what our Director makes in just his second year. Also, just for comparison, the current salary for Nashville’s mayor is $137,000.)

The district takes a great deal of pride in its student-based budgeting model. This week MNPS’s Communication Department has put out an information sheet purporting to explain the budget. In their press release, MNPS claims, “This year, schools will receive $449,7 million through the student-based budgeting allocation, which is $14.2 million more than last year.” Which is interesting, because if I go to the 2018-2019 schools allocation chart that MNPS released several weeks ago and of which they point to regularly as an example of their extreme transparency, I see that the SBB allocations actually total $439,767,601, which is $15,348,311 higher. Huh? Getting reliable consistent numbers has been a challenge throughout the budgeting process.

Fun fact for you: $11,489,269 of the increased SBB allocation went to middle schools. You know, the ones that in his State of Schools speech Dr. Joseph bragged about spending $8 million on consultants to turn them into STEAM schools? That leaves roughly $4 million divided up between high schools and elementary schools.

Moving along to the Office of Priority Schools. Having the word “priority” in their name should be a signifier that those schools are important, right? In his equity argument, Dr. Joseph cites these schools and our moral responsibility to give them more resources. He’s also stated that your budget is your public statement of what you value. In 2016, the budget for the Office of Priority Schools was $246,600. This year we reduced it to $198,300, and next year we’ll knock another $2k off and drop it to $196,500.

It should be noted that the Executive Director of Priority Schools is Dr. Gloster, and her salary is not included in the budget for priority schools. Her salary falls under the Chief of School’s purview because she is also an executive principal. See, originally there were going to be 12 EDDSI’s, but they underbudgeted last year and so they only hired 11, and Dr. Gloster got the extra title.

Under information technology, we’ve grown from $13,014,200 to $14,324,100 to $16,229,500 with little explanation to what’s changed over the past couple years. Most of the increased expenditures come under contracted services, which has grown from $2,444,300 to $3,085,000 while maintaining the same notes, “Chancery/Copier maintenance/Internet service/Licensing/Parent Callout Notification system.”

Textbooks is a fun category. In 2016, the budget was $3,093,100 and we used $346,624. This year the budget was cut to $2,257,000 and we’ve used $433,127. So naturally next year it is proposed to be raised to $4,713,000. Which could be good news, considering that some schools are using social studies textbooks that are over 12 years old. Books where Obama hasn’t even become president yet. Hmmm…. equity, anyone?

Last year, teachers had to buy copies of the anchor texts that were part of the required units in the literacy scope and sequence. Surely this year those texts will fall under the category of textbooks and $4.7 million will be enough to alleviate that situation. That would be welcome news.

I acknowledge that many of the things I draw attention to are relatively small items. However, most of our household budgets don’t get out of whack because we are buying sports cars and expensive jewelry. They get out of whack because we have too many magazine subscriptions, we go to the movies too much, we eat out at McDonald’s too much. The little things add up and that holds true for big budgets as well.

I urge everyone to show up next week at one of three opportunities the school board has provided for the community to give feedback. We need people to come out and speak out. The dates are as follows:

April 9, 2018 Budget Comm. Public Hearing 5:00 p.m.
April 10, 2018 Board of Education Meeting 5:00 p.m./Budget Comm. Public Hearing 6:00 p.m.
April 12, 2018 Budget Comm. Public Hearing 5:00 p.m.

Please, I urge you to come let your voice be heard.


“Mayor David Briley doesn’t believe scaling back a free lunch program for Nashville public school students is a good idea.” That sentence was written in an article in the Tennessean and may be my favorite sentence Jason Gonzales has ever written. Perhaps there is still hope that the final chapter in this saga may not have been written yet.

And on the flip side, gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee says, “I think arming teachers that are vetted, that are properly trained, that have been through a rigorous process and that have a desire to be a part of the solution of protecting children is a cost-effective way for taxpayers to protect our children.” Ok… scratch him off the list of who to vote for.

Seattle is in the middle of a search for a new director of schools. Some of what has happened and is happening may prove interesting to Nashville residents. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Things are getting interesting for teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky. Could it happen in Tennessee?

I don’t devour everything Peter Greene writes like I used to. Truth is, local policies, strengths, and failings have consumed me, which leaves little time for the national narrative. Still, few hit the nail on the head as often as Greene does. His latest on ad hominemming should be required reading for everybody and one I should tape to the wall above my desk to serve as a constant reminder to not put personalities before policies and of what good writing looks like.

In case you are one of those rare individuals who keeps track of these kind of things, we are now 2 months removed from when MNPS board policy required an evaluation to be completed for the Director of Schools with no completed evaluation in sight. This is how culture gets built and only makes the next guy’s, or gal’s, job harder.


Despite it being Easter weekend, plenty of you responded to this week’s poll questions. Let’s take a look at the responses.

Question 1 asked for you to rate the good doctor’s State of Schools speech. To paraphrase the words of Replacements band leader Paul Westerberg, color you unimpressed. The leading answer was “before or after I fact check it?” with 35% of vote. Which would lead me to believe y’all weren’t buying what he was selling. 32% of you gave the speech an F. Only 1 of you gave the speech an A. Here are the write-in answers, but they ain’t getting any prettier:

Ooops, lost the score 1
Didn’t watch. Was doing the heavy lifting in the classroom. 1
N/A 1
It’s just more of his usual self-congratulatory PR. 1
Haven’t read it or heard it.. 1
We can’t give anyone less than a 50 according to District policy. 1
Did he speak or just rely on videos? 1
Wish I’d been able to attend… I was TEACHING 1
He sucks. 1
It didn’t reveal the whole story 1
Didn’t care to watch 1
Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing 1
Stop falling for his rhetoric! He’s a LIAR

Question 2 asked for your opinion of MNPS’s free lunch for all coming to an end. 45% of you answered that you were appalled, and I join you. The number 2 answer was, “I’m not sure how this promotes equity,” with 32%. As a further note, I’d also be interested to see how the proposed solution aligns with the strategic plan. Here are the write-ins:

You mean parents might actually have to feed the kids they chose to have?! 1
Free lunch or pay diversity director 1
I’ve always felt if you can afford it you should pay for it. 1
Maybe effective in elem, lots of kids throw out food in middle, wasteful 1
If you are able to pay. You should! 1
Not sure how Joseph (and friends) gets a raise and kids lose their lunch??? 1
This will cause divions and isn’t fair. 1
More work on schools, finding donations for hungry kids. Thank god for Panera. 1
Mixed feelings 1
Could be prevented if new leadership empowered employees & listened 1
Where us the equity and diversity plan for MNPS 1
Cut Discovery Ed’s STEAM contract. There. Problem fixed. Feed kids. 1
Upset because it seems like it was preventable 1
There’s no such thing as a free lunch

The last question asked for your thoughts on the budget. Apparently it’s not too popular, as 44% of you indicated you thought it was a dumpster fire. 24% of you indicated you had major concerns. Out of 137 respondents, not a single one indicated that it aligned with their personal priorities or that they felt it was worth the wait. Not good. Here are the write-ins:

Audit 1
Mind-blowing that they are cutting social workers. Leadership is out of touch. 1
Padding Dr Joseph and his friends retirement 1
Nashville finds money for other things, fund our schools! 1
Teachers are the lowest priority and the profession will continue to suffer 1
Why does central office take half of district pay? 1
Actions speak louder than words 1
Ok but not sure why positions were cut. Seems pers 1
Ditch the Tahoe. 1
Stop paying so much to central office admin 1
He gets a driver and we get 7 fewer social workers

That’s another one in the bag. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize 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. 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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I was fortunate enough to be walking into this past week’s MNPS State of Schools speech at the same time as Fall-Hamilton ES principal Matthew Portell. If you are unaware of the incredible work that Portell and his staff at Fall-Hamilton ES are doing in regards to social emotional learning, I urge you to watch this video from Edutopia. In a world where we apply the word transformational all too easily, his work truly lives up to the hype.

As we walked towards the auditorium, I used the time to ask a question of Portell. My question was the following: When employing SEL techniques at school, how do you ensure that what you are instilling does not contradict what is being instilled at home? How do you not create a dichotomy that forces kids to choose one over another? While we all may agree that it’s important to be kind to each other, the definition of kind can vary from family to family.

Portell’s answer has resonated with me for the last several days. He acknowledged the challenge, but at Fall-Hamilton they counter the challenge through their extensive conversation efforts with parents. They make a very deliberate effort to engage parents deeply in conversations about what is taking place in the school. By conversations, I don’t mean they tell parents what they should think, and they don’t include them only after they’ve already decided on a course of action; rather, they listen and explain the why. They take into account people’s personal lives and how and where they live. They talk about what they are going to do with parents instead of what they are going to do for families.

Later in the week, I talked to another professional educator and they reiterated the importance of deep community engagement. They also admitted the potential for conflict and added another wrinkle. Unfortunately, for some of our kids, physical conflict is a very real element of their lives. While within the school walls we teach not to hit, once they leave the school, they do have to survive. So the conversation has to take into account that reality. Through deep engagement and by building trust, some of that can change, but not without being willing to do the heavy lifting of engaging in honest community conversations.

In Aurora County Schools, they have committed to using restorative practices to increase equity. In doing so, they recognize the need to have deep conversations that get to the “why” of things. At the latest meeting in early March, a group of parents and educators heard from Adeyemi Stembridge, who talked about research and the importance of how students perceive the responsiveness of adults. In that meeting, he told the group that there would be moments in the discussion where they may feel awkward, but assured the group that meant they were learning. We need more of those kinds of conversations.

Instead, at his State of Schools speech, MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph pointed out that often times, only the loudest parents get their needs met and that it is his intention to make sure those parents who don’t speak up “get heard” as well. Taken with his shot at a sitting school board member – “The role of the school board is not to criticize the district but rather to be a champion of the district” – we start to get a picture of the kind of partner he prefers. If you are really interested in hearing what the quietest voices have to say, why did you schedule public input on next year’s budget for three weekdays at 5pm?

If any of this is truly going to work, we need deeper and richer community engagement. We need more family involvement specialists, not less. We need to fully commit to engaging families where they live. Community Achieves and Communities in Schools have both taken steps in the right direction and serve as sources of optimism. Still, the real heavy lifting has to come from the top, and to date, that commitment just hasn’t been there.


I spent last night watching the video of this week’s board meeting. Part of that meeting was Ken Stark’s presentation to the board on the ending of the district’s free lunch program. Stark is the Executive Officer of Operations who oversees numerous departments, including transportation, student assignment, and school security. I know of no other way to describe this presentation other than appalling. It was equaled only by the district’s handling of the entire CEP program since Stark joined MNPS two years ago.

Stark’s presentation begins around the 1:02:00 mark of the video to the board meeting. Stark outlines the shortcomings in the way the State of Tennessee measures kids in poverty. He presents graphs that indicate that for the last two years, the district should have been aware of the potential to not qualify for renewal, but he never discusses any countermeasures the district took in anticipation of the loss of the grant. In fact, his response seems to fit the narrative of unresponsiveness and inactivity that I have heard from community activists who spent the last six months trying to design a strategy under which kids could continue to be fed. His only offering is that lower numbers of qualifying students equates to more families doing better economically.

The district’s settled on course of action is to provide free lunch at 74 schools, and well, the others will go back to the old way of doing things. Back to filling out forms to show that a family qualifies. Back to a method that stigmatizes children and identifies them to peers as being poor. Back to a system that undocumented children, and those who have recently qualified for legal status, won’t be able to participate in. Kids at 74 schools will be deemed worthy of being fed while the rest… well, they’ll be left to their own devices. Do you think for one second this policy won’t have an impact on performance indicators?

Right now you are probably thinking, “Yeah, but Dad, it would probably cost tens of millions of dollars to provide free lunch to all kids. We can’t afford that.” The reality is, according to Stark, it would cost $7.9 million. That’s it, $7.9 million. Am I supposed to believe that with all the generosity from faith-based organizations and business communities in Nashville, we couldn’t find $8 million dollars? Did anybody even ask?

Dr. Joseph claims that his proposed 2018-2019 budget makes “children’s dreams move one step closer to becoming reality.” At the State of Schools speech, Joseph bragged about investing $8 million in consultants to convert district middle schools to a STEAM-based curriculum, and he plans to spend more in this year’s budget. STEAM may be a fantastic program, but pray tell me, how does a hungry kid focus on robotics? How does a kid learn to code while his stomach rumbles? We continue to have our priorities backwards; it should be people before programs, not the other way around.


If the presentation on the CEP grant didn’t provide you with enough entertainment, then I urge you to check out the amazing MAP score presentation, which starts around the 39-minute mark. In all fairness, based on the data presented, the results are positive. Though I should note that when results from the November test showed a 2% drop in scores, that was considered insignificant. According to both Joseph and district data guru Paul Changas, a 3% growth is considered “impressive.” I know it’s all about the optics and the narrative.

Excuse me, though, while I point out a few things and raise a few questions. Let’s start off by looking at the results from the last 5 MAP tests side by side. I wish I had a slide to share, but you’ll just have to bear with me. Let’s look first at 4th graders who took the test in January 2016. They scored a 43. Their scores progress as follows: 37, and as we followed them to 5th grade, 39, 34, and most recently in February 2018, 39. That’s an overall drop of 4 percentage points. Look at 3rd graders: 43, 38, 41, 38, and 44. A cumulative growth of 1% point. Those who were in second grade in January 2017 went up 2% points, and 5th grade remains static. 6th grade jumped 5% points and 7th grade 10% points. So overall the news is pretty mixed. Shouldn’t those trends be subject to conversation?

Then there are the results from November’s MAP test. They are suddenly no longer part of the conversation. District growth scores are nationally normed based on the scores from September and the scores from February. No explanation is offered about why the November scores are no longer utilized. Anecdotally, I hear that the district is spinning a tale of not enough instructional weeks between tests due to weather days. That presents a number of problems if it’s true.

First, the district set the schedule. They moved the dates from May to February to counteract perceived test fatigue. If they moved the dates with a window so small that weather cancellations could have a negative impact on the testing schedule, that’s on them.

Secondly, I asked Paul Changas back in January if, since technically both September and November are in the NWEA MAP fall testing window, would there be a problem with nationally norming the test. I was given a long explanation about how weeks of instruction were the primary drivers and that though there may be a higher margin of error, we could still get reliable results. So why are November scores no longer considered relevant? Could it be that they don’t fit the desired narrative and optics?

Furthermore, even though in his presentation to the board Changas downplayed the pending May testing windows, he conveyed to me back in January that all principals had the option to schedule testing in May and that the lower of results between February and May would be thrown out. So riddle me this Batman, if that’s true, how do we arrive at a consistent number of weeks of instruction in order get valid national norming? Since these results from February were so impressive, will principals be discouraged from testing in May in order to preserve the narrative?

My last point on MAP: If we are to be effective stewards of the district’s resources, there should be a clear correlation between the specific practices and the outcomes. Dr. Joseph cites a “new curriculum and a new scope and sequence” as primary drivers for the most recent results – a curriculum and a scope and sequence that were quickly abandoned or modified by district teachers. If you don’t believe me, just ask a teacher. The reality is, these scores were powered by teachers ignoring district mandates and instead modifying them in a manner that would allow them to do what is best for kids. While I certainly applaud teachers for mitigating the potential damage, how do we replicate their practices? Unless of course, God forbid, we actually give them the freedom to teach.

Dr. Joseph called for a round of applause for teachers in response to these scores. I’d like to echo that call, but not for the same reasons. I call for a round of applause because teachers and principals continue to be willing to do what they know is best for kids and get results, despite the barriers thrown in front of them. They continue to grasp that it has to be people over programs. Thank God for them.

One last note on MAP scores – a shout out on the math scores should go out to Jessica Slayton, who took over the math curriculum from David Williams. I hear very few complaints and she continues to garner results.


School Board candidate Gini Pupo-Walker has started a new blog. Pupo-Walker is a long-time educator with some very unique experiences. Give it a read.

Seems to be audit season. This week, Metropolitan Government Auditor Mark Swann began preliminary meetings on the pending MNPS financial audit. Meanwhile back in Maryland, Governor Tom Hogan apparently isn’t convinced that last year’s audit on 2015-2016 graduation rates in Prince George’s County uncovered all the answers. He’s devoted an additional $1.5 million to conducting a second audit.

Speaking of finances, remember that supposed travel ban Dr. Joseph imposed on MNPS? Yeah, well apparently it doesn’t apply to everyone. Nashville’s own jet setter and Executive Officer for Equity and Diversity Maritza Gonzales is spending the Easter holiday in San Diego where she is attending the Deeper Learning 2018 conference and posing for Twitter pictures with fellows from cohort 3. Can somebody help me here? I’m having a hard time understanding how the Executive Officer for Equity and Diversity aligns with the strategic framework. Two years – and $300K in salary – in to her employment with the district, Gonzales continues to be a living embodiment of the Where’s Waldo? book series.

Here’s a TMZ moment for you. Word on the street has it that recently released district social workers were informed of their pending unemployment while attending a luncheon honoring their service. Sounds about right.

Here’s another fun fact. Truancy agents for the district aren’t like the ones in Little Rascals. A major portion of their work is helping to identify truly needy families in the district and helping them get the aid they need. It’s kinda an important job.

Newly appointed Nashville Mayor David Briley spoke at the State of Schools speech, and I think he’s wearing the crown quite comfortably. Briley has taken it upon himself to champion the cause of reducing teen gun violence. In his speech, he pointed out that we mourn because Parkland High School in Florida lost 19 students in one day to gun violence, but that we should be equally concerned that within the last few years, Pearl Cohn HS has lost 17 students to gun violence. Both cases should be considered unacceptable.

As we get deeper into the discussion of equity, I think it’s imperative that people read Ansley T. Erickson’s Making the Unequal Metropolis. Taking Nashville as her focus, Erickson uncovers the hidden policy choices that have until now been missing from popular and legal narratives of inequality. In her account, inequality emerges not only from individual racism and white communities’ resistance to desegregation, but as the result of long-standing linkages between schooling, property markets, labor markets, and the pursuit of economic growth. By making visible the full scope of the forces invested in and reinforcing inequality, Erickson reveals the complex history of, and broad culpability for, ongoing struggles in our schools. Buy it, read it, share it, discuss it.

Here’s a fun game to play. Look at the list to the side and see how many people on that list are getting raises in this year’s proposed MNPS budget.

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to just post the poll questions without explanation. By now you should know the drill.

That’s another one in the bag. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize 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. 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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This week, Nashville lost another one of those characters who made the city a truly special place to reside. Peter Pressman was known as the “father of Nashville’s running community” for good reason. Anyone who has ever run any organized race in Nashville has been the beneficiary of his boundless energy that was matched only by his welcoming smile. Nobody I know was ever treated like a stranger by Pressman. He was an equal opportunity encourager. Whenever I showed up at a race, hearing his voice over the loudspeaker making pre-race announcements never failed to bring a smile. Rest in peace, Peter, knowing that you were an inspiration to the city and have left it better than you found it.


William Sydney Porter (September 11, 1862 – June 5, 1910), known by his pen name O. Henry, was an American short story writer. He’s one of those authors who doesn’t get talked about much in classrooms these days, but in his day he had an inimitable hand for isolating some element of society and describing it with an incredible economy and grace of language. This weekend, I read a short story of his called “The Cactus,” which I found extremely relevant to Nashville’s education issues.

This very short story centers around a man, Trysdale, who in his apartment after attending a wedding, with his friend, the brother of the bride. His friend is upset with him because he won’t drink with him, but Trysdale is too busy reflecting on the bride and opportunity lost. In this excerpt, Trysdale is coming to terms with his role in the failed romance:

From this last hopeless point of view he still strove, as if it had become a habit of his mind, to reach some conjecture as to why and how he had lost her. Shaken rudely by the uncompromising fact, he had suddenly found himself confronted by a thing he had never before faced –his own innermost, unmitigated, arid unbedecked self. He saw all the garbs of pretence and egoism that he had worn now turn to rags of folly. He shuddered at the thought that to others, before now, the garments of his soul must have appeared sorry and threadbare. Vanity and conceit? These were the joints in his armor. And how free from either she had always been–But why–

As she had slowly moved up the aisle toward the altar he had felt an unworthy, sullen exultation that had served to support him. He had told himself that her paleness was from thoughts of another than the man to whom she was about to give herself. But even that poor consolation had been wrenched from him. For, when he saw that swift, limpid, upward look that she gave the man when he took her hand, he knew himself to be forgotten. Once that same look had been raised to him, and he had gauged its meaning. Indeed, his conceit had crumbled; its last prop was gone. Why had it ended thus? There had been no quarrel between them, nothing–

For the thousandth time he remarshalled in his mind the events of those last few days before the tide had so suddenly turned.

She had always insisted upon placing him upon a pedestal, and he had accepted her homage with royal grandeur. It had been a very sweet incense that she had burned before him; so modest (he told himself); so childlike and worshipful, and (he would once have sworn) so sincere. She had invested him with an almost supernatural number of high attributes and excellencies and talents, and he had absorbed the oblation as a desert drinks the rain that can coax from it no promise of blossom or fruit.

As Trysdale grimly wrenched apart the seam of his last glove, the crowning instance of his fatuous and tardily mourned egoism came vividly back to him. The scene was the night when he had asked her to come up on his pedestal with him and share his greatness. He could not, now, for the pain of it, allow his mind to dwell upon the memory of her convincing beauty that night–the careless wave of her hair, the tenderness and virginal charm of her looks and words. But they had been enough, and they had brought him to speak. During their conversation she had said:

“And Captain Carruthers tells me that you speak the Spanish language like a native. Why have you hidden this accomplishment from me? Is there anything you do not know?”

Now, Carruthers was an idiot. No doubt he (Trysdale) had been guilty (he sometimes did such things) of airing at the club some old, canting Castilian proverb dug from the hotchpotch at the back of dictionaries. Carruthers, who was one of his incontinent admirers, was the very man to have magnified this exhibition of doubtful erudition.

But, alas! the incense of her admiration had been so sweet and flattering. He allowed the imputation to pass without denial. Without protest, he allowed her to twine about his brow this spurious bay of Spanish scholarship. He let it grace his conquering head, and, among its soft convolutions, he did not feel the prick of the thorn that was to pierce him later.

How glad, how shy, how tremulous she was! How she fluttered like a snared bird when he laid his mightiness at her feet! He could have sworn, and he could swear now, that unmistakable consent was in her eyes, but, coyly, she would give him no direct answer. “I will send you my answer to-morrow,” she said; and he, the indulgent, confident victor, smilingly granted the delay. The next day he waited, impatient, in his rooms for the word. At noon her groom came to the door and left the strange cactus in the red earthen jar. There was no note, no message, merely a tag upon the plant bearing a barbarous foreign or botanical name. He waited until night, but her answer did not come. His large pride and hurt vanity kept him from seeking her. Two evenings later they met at a dinner. Their greetings were conventional, but she looked at him, breathless, wondering, eager. He was courteous, adamant, waiting her explanation. With womanly swiftness she took her cue from his manner, and turned to snow and ice. Thus, and wider from this on, they had drifted apart. Where was his fault? Who had been to blame? Humbled now, he sought the answer amid the ruins of his self-conceit. If–

Yes… if… I encourage you to read the entire story and pay particular heed to the ending. O’Henry was known for his twists, and this one won’t let you down. I could draw all kinds of metaphors from this story, but I think the best writing comes when a writer trusts the reader to draw the intended connections. Anybody who has ever read Ayn Rand knows what writing devoid of that trust looks like, a constant beating about the head with the author’s intended points. I trust y’all will be able to draw your own parables, and if not, perhaps my arguments have not been as strong as I think. Either way, the interpretation is in your hands.


There is a MNPS school board meeting scheduled for this week, and on the agenda is a presentation of scores from the recently completed MAP testing. I looked over them this weekend, and you want to know something? They are not bad. According to a slide in the presentation, districtwide MAP scores are up 3% from September, and the majority of MNPS students in grades 2-8 met or exceeded their February growth expectations for Reading (55.9%) and for Math (59.4%). Furthermore, when I look through the individual school scores, there seems to be consistent growth throughout the district. Most schools increased the number of kids in the 4-5 quintiles and decreased the number in the 1 quintile. That’s good news, and I think cause for some optimism, but of course I have some questions.

If you’ll remember, MAP is a nationally normed test that is officially given three times a year – Fall, Winter, and Spring. MNPS students are nationally normed against kids taking the test during those time frames. MNPS administered the test in August-September, November, and February-March. Technically, the first two events fall into the Fall category and the latter into Winter. MAP has been moving towards a schedule based on the number of weeks between testing, as opposed to the testing periods, but isn’t quite there yet. I raised the question about how that would skew results with the MNPS assessment department after the November results were released and was told it might raise the margin of error slightly, but we’d still get accurate results.

Interestingly enough, except for on an early slide, the presentation quickly moves to comparing Fall and Winter results and apparently leaves out the November results. That makes sense due to those times falling into the designated testing times, but we still need to talk about the November results. Why did those scores drop and why did they bounce back in February?

I would argue that the November scores are reflective of the impact of the scripted curriculum and that when teachers saw their results, they quickly discarded the scripted curriculum and began doing what they know to be best practices. I’m sure the district would argue that the November scores were a result of people not closely adhering to the scripted curriculum and that the February results are the results of them cracking down on fidelity. Only teachers know the true answer to that one.

The number of instructional weeks between tests is also an important factor. I would be interested if scores for Winter are based on weeks between the Fall test and Winter or the November test and Winter. Growth norms change with the number of weeks between testing. More growth tends tends to occur over a span of more weeks. For example, a 5th grade student with 16 weeks of instruction between math MAP test administrations would be expected to show more growth than a similar student with only 8 weeks of instruction between test administrations.

Another factor in improved results is that it began to sink in to school leadership how much emphasis district leadership was placing on the MAP testing. Previously, the tests were given, not in a perfunctory manner, but certainly not with a great deal of fanfare. That changed before the Winter testing. There were letter writing campaigns from the kids in lower grades, letters home to parents about the importance of MAP, and call outs from principals. MAP testing now appears to be viewed on the same level as TNReady, and that should raise a flag with anyone concerned about over-testing.

My biggest question, though, is why, if district leadership is confident in the validity of these numbers, are we just now hearing about them? Part of the beauty of MAP testing is the immediacy in which results are available. The district has probably had these results for about 3 weeks, maybe a month. Why are they not on the center of the brain for everybody looking at the upcoming budget? Why did leadership not create the narrative of the budget reflecting the successes of the past year? Why was equity parsed from excellence and allowed to stand alone as a reason for budget changes? At the very least, if presented properly, these numbers could have eased some concerns. Yet here we are, two days away from the budget release, and only now will performance scores be interjected into the conversation.

Buying cars while sending a message of austerity. Announcing that principals would lose Title I funding in next year’s budget and then not telling them exact figures until after the weekend. Tweeting out a picture of kids standing on crates as your sole explanation of equity. Asking for more money without showing results. Not being honest with board members on the board floor. Inviting people with dubious backgrounds to give input on district policy. Making claims on the effectiveness of water filters without offering supporting documentation. The job is hard enough, but it becomes damn near impossible when you continually hamstring yourself with poor communication and poor decision-making.

I got to think Jana Carlisle could have mitigated some of these issues. So throw the decision of letting her go into the bad decision column as well. If MNPS was an NFL team, they’d be the Cleveland Browns. Ever ready to wrestle defeat from the jaws of victory.

Well, kudos on the MAP scores. Math looks especially good, since as a district we’ve placed absolutely zero emphasis on it. And save your STEAM arguments. I would offer that the math scores are a testament to David Williams’ skill when it comes to the math curriculum. Hopefully these scores are a sign of more to come.


Speaking of communication, you wouldn’t know it by going to the MNPS webpage, but on Wednesday morning at Overton High School at 10:30am, Dr. Joseph will be delivering the annual State of Schools speech. At that time, he is expected to unveil the full 2018-2019 budget.

Speaking of the budget, MNPS has added three additional Board of Education Public Hearings to this year’s budget process. They will be held on April 9th, 10th, and 12th. The 9th and 12th will be at 5pm, and the 10th at 6pm. Nothing says we care about what you have to say like scheduling meetings at 5pm. Hopefully some of you will be able to leave work early, beat rush hour traffic, and get the kids a late dinner in order to voice your opinion.

Schools in MNPS will be closed for spring break beginning this Friday, March 30. Students will return to school on Monday, April 9.

My old neighbor and music legend Brenda Lee visited John Early Middle School to celebrate the opening of its new exhibit: The History of Music Row. Students researched the start of Music Row and how it has changed and developed over the years for this exhibit.

Over at the TN Education Report, Tennessee State University students Jose Lazo and Kristifer Kremer talk about DACA and what it means to them. I urge you to read their account.

North Carolina loved the idea of the Achievement School District so much that they created their own. Bet you can’t guess how that turned out. Diane Ravitch gets us up to speed.

As we get deeper into the discussion of equity, I think it’s imperative that people read Ansley T. Erickson’s Making the Unequal Metropolis. Taking Nashville as her focus, Erickson uncovers the hidden policy choices that have until now been missing from popular and legal narratives of inequality. In her account, inequality emerges not only from individual racism and white communities’ resistance to desegregation, but as the result of long-standing linkages between schooling, property markets, labor markets, and the pursuit of economic growth. By making visible the full scope of the forces invested in and reinforcing inequality, Erickson reveals the complex history of, and broad culpability for, ongoing struggles in our schools. Buy it, read it, share it, discuss it.


Response to our weekly poll questions continues to grow, and for that, I am appreciative. Let’s review the answers.

Question 1 asked for your opinion of new Nashville Mayor David Briley. Most of you, 33%, confessed you were still trying to get a read on him. 47% of you indicated positive feelings towards the new mayor. Time will tell where it all shakes out, but I think he’s off to a quality start.

Here are the write-in answers:

Love him! 1
Just thankful Barry resigned! 1
Hoping he’s not in bed with NPEF & Dr. J

Question 2 asked for your thoughts on Dr. Joseph reportedly planning to ask for an extra $45 million in the upcoming budget. Out of 150 responses, 93, or 62%, of you indicated you’d like to see the audit first. 35 of you want him to sell the Tahoes before asking. 3 people indicated that they would give the $45 million to him. Here’s hoping those 3 are Metro Councilmembers.

Here are the write-in answers:

Not clear about his current spending. Give me a grant proposal. What do I get? 1
I’d say why do you pay yourself and friends so much and schools don’t have paper 1
That $45 mill is really what the state owes us. 1
Fire half of central office and we will talk 1
I’d reserve judgment until seeing the results of the pending audit.
The last question was on the priorities for next year’s budget as outlined by Dr. Joseph. Not surprisingly, out of 152 responses, 69, or 45%, of you said employee compensation. One quick note here, we often focus on teacher raises, but just as important are substitutes, para-pros, classroom assistants, custodians, crossing guards, office personnel, cafeteria workers, and all those who impact our children’s classroom experience. Literacy was number 2 with 23%. STEAM? Despite the millions that we are spending on changing middle schools over to a STEAM focus, one person said it should be a top priority. One. Feels like a solution in search of a problem.
Here are the write-in answers:
Him 1
His priority is his own career, of course. Prepare the golden parachute! 1
Math isn’t a focus….. I mean what the hell 1
Money to himself and “his” 1
Central office 1
Should be literacy, but not with Felder 1
Moving to another “Crazy” city 1
New Tahoes for all MNPS employees 1
When are we going to focus on math? 1
Anything but literacy based in what we got this year. We can make our own units. 1
Padding his resume to go somewhere else 1
Please don’t forget about support staff. The majority earn below poverty level. 1
Getting his friends raises 1
Joyful schools! 1
Increase para pay to $15 hr 1
While they talk a good game about sel , social workers are getting cut 1
Job #1 for him is to ruin Nashville’s public schools 1
His paycheck and his power 1

There you have it. Another one in the bag. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize 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. 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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The focus of Nashvillians’ involvement in education issues continues to be centered around MNPS budget issues. This week, Dr. Joseph managed to assuage some of those concerns, at least in the short term. We’ll get into details in a minute, but first I’d like to talk about the power of language and the style Dr. Joseph continually utilizes in his dealing with both district employees and the general public. I’m a big believer that words have meaning. How you use them says as much about you as the content you are trying to convey. Word choice is a reflection of your true thoughts and feelings. We’ve all heard the saying “How you say it is just as important as what you are saying.” That holds true for educational leaders as well.


I find it a bit concerning that after two years in Nashville, Dr. Joseph and his immediate cabinet continue to employ language that I would expect from someone who is just a visitor to Nashville and not an actual member of the community. During a recent principal meeting, he referred to the “crazy” of Nashville from the point of view of an outsider. He offered criticisms on equity as someone who is just observing the community and not as someone who is emerged in it. He was free in his criticism of our community while failing to employ language that indicated a familiarity with it.

Dr. Joseph has been extremely critical of Nashville when it comes to racial issues and equity. Has Nashville been as progressive as it should be when it comes to race? No, and we need to have a deeper conversation as a city about race. But we need to remember that Nashville has been long been at the center of the Civil Rights battle, and before we attempt to enter that conversation we should demonstrate a familiarity with that history.

As a parent of children in a school made up primarily of brown-skinned children, I can testify that we have equity issues. But when was the last time a thief stopped stealing because you called him a thief? When was the last time an adulterer quit cheating on their spouse because you called them a dog? In my fifty-plus years on this earth, I’ve found that people, for the most part, are good, and when presented with information in a manner that is thought out and doesn’t make them defensive about who they are, they’ll make the right choices. But you have to give them the opportunity.

I’ve often said that previous Director of Schools Jesse Register’s downfall was that he got tired and started wanting to go from A to D without going through B and C. Dr. Joseph is employing a similar strategy when it comes to race. He wants to get us to a position that he considers more equitable, but he doesn’t want to take the time to define equity, explain the transition process, explain why moves are necessary and how all will benefit, nor create a timeline for a reasonable transition. It was a strategy that backfired on Register and odds are it’ll do the same for Joseph.

News flash! Asking a roomful of people if they have seen Black Panther and then noting the number of black people versus the number of white people who have seen it puts people on the defensive and doesn’t facilitate meaningful conversation about equity. In fact, it may be an indication that you are putting people in the box, or that you yourself are in the box. I can’t keep track which is which.

Making accusations on a radio show geared towards an African-American audience that “Some people just want to make sure they got theirs and not worry about others” is not going to make a community stronger. Unfortunately, too much of that targeted audience is all too familiar with the connotations of that phrase. Not to mention that many of the people who the phrase is directed towards might not actually have that motivation. It’s a phrase meant to divide instead of heal. Assigning criticism and questioning a purely racial component benefits no one. Leaders unite; they don’t pit their team members against each other and sow distrust.

Standing in front of the room and remarking about how “crazy” Nashville is because its citizens are involved and vigilant also does not unite. Another news flash: Nashville is not some dot on the map for you anymore, Dr. Joseph. The people you are addressing are not just some attendees at an education conference. They are YOUR community. They are YOUR neighbors. That “crazy” you mention… it’s a part of you now, too. You need to shift from pointing out our faults to finding ways to help us become better.

Words also reflect what your values are as a person. If I regularly told Polack jokes in public, you’d probably draw the conclusion that I was a bit of a bigot. If I continually made comments about the dumb conservatives who voted for Trump – just an example – there is a good bet that the conservatives in the room wouldn’t trust me. (Side note: that was just an example, so conservatives, please keep listening.) The same holds true when you repeatedly make use of sexual activities in a metaphoric manner. Especially if those metaphors could be perceived as making light of overly aggressive sexual actions.

MNPS has had two administrators resign under the cloud of sexual misconduct this year. The district is currently facing multiple lawsuits that are related to sexual misconduct. There have been other MNPS principals and teachers that have been investigated for sexual misconduct this year. We are right in the middle of the #MeToo movement. Yet, in spite all of this, in the last two weeks, Dr. Joseph felt it appropriate to refer to Nashville as always “wanting to look up his skirt” and then compared the budget process to going on a date, foregoing hand holding, and instead “going in aaarrrggghhh” (or hard, depending how you heard it). Let’s be clear. Both of those activities could leave you open for charges of sexual misconduct.

I know, some of you are rolling your eyes right now and thinking, “Here we go with the politically correct bullshit again.” But I go back to my opening statement: words have meaning. Words are windows into what you are really thinking. You are judged not just by your deeds, but your words and the company you keep. We tell our kids that ad nauseum while raising them up. It should apply to adults as well.

Several women brought forth complaints against former district administrator Mo Carrasco. They brought those accusations forth amid great courage, knowing the risks inherent in coming forth. They just had to trust that they would be believed and their accusations would be taken seriously. Now put yourself in the mind of a woman facing similar circumstances sitting in that auditorium listening to Dr. Joseph. Or a teacher, or a student who overhears their principal relaying the anecdote about skipping the handholding and getting right to business in a humorous manner to another school employee. After all, what’s the purpose of conveying information at a leadership meeting if not to have it shared? What is the message that is being sent? What is the culture that is being created? Not to mention what is the message sent to our boys? Do these words not implicitly send a message that sexual aggression is somehow acceptable enough that you can utilize it as a metaphor? Or as it’s often expressed… boys will be boys. It should be completely unacceptable to everyone.

At some point, Dr. Joseph, Dr. Narcisse, and Dr. Felder need to realize that they are not in Maryland anymore. Nashville is their community now. They need to recognize that their words and actions impact the culture of their community, just like they did in Maryland. Sorry to break it to you, Doc… but you are one of us now. We need you to act like it.


As anticipated, changes were announced to the distribution method of Title I funds yesterday. Going forth, schools who are above the 75% poverty level will receive $651 per direct certified student, and schools between 50% and 74% will receive $300. This will soften the blow for some schools, while getting the needed resources to others. The general feeling was that if this had been the initial proposal, then a lot of the turmoil that has embroiled the district over the last several weeks could have been avoided.

Don’t think for one minute that the reduction in turmoil is anything but temporary though. We are still awaiting the full budget. Joseph plans to share that at his State of the Schools address on March 28th. This means we still haven’t seen a central office budget. It also means that virtually all conversations about the budget, including public hearings, has been based on the hypothetical. That should raise some concerns.

At yesterday’s budget talk to principals, Joseph indicated that his budget would require an additional $45 million in revenue from the Metro Council. He was going to ask for $59 million, but being a frugal guy, he lowered the ask. This $45 million ask will come as Nashville itself is looking at a loss of $25 million in revenue. I would think that ask would be a lot easier if MNPS could demonstrate that the extra money they received last year was well utilized and produced measurable results. As it stands, there seems to be a dearth of evidence of progress and an abundance of questions. Hopefully the upcoming Metro audit will illuminate spending a little better.

One last budget morsel for you – Joseph took the opportunity of the principal’s meeting to lay out his priorities for the coming year. They are as follows:

  • Literacy
  • SEL
  • Community Achieves
  • Equity
  • Employee Compensation

Keep in mind Dr. Joseph’s words on the board floor last week: “Your budget is your public demonstration of your values.” Hmmm… any teachers out there still expecting a signed MOU this year, let alone a raise?


By now we should all be familiar with the ongoing lead in the school drinking water story. The brunt of the story is that MNPS schools have high levels of lead in the drinking water. The district keeps arguing that they are doing the best they can to correct the situation, and we keep finding out that they are not. The latest bone of contention comes over the water filters that parents wanted installed at West End Middle School and that the district didn’t install. The communications department has been belaboring the point that those filters don’t filter out lead anyway, so they are superfluous. Let’s take a closer look at that claim.

Looking at the ad for the filters, it reads that they remove lead from the water to the NSF/ANSI 53 certification requirements. Huh? Google time! Luckily, there is an organization called NSF that, in their own words, “is an independent, not-for-profit organization that writes standards, and tests and certifies products for the food, water and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment.” So they should know about the effectiveness of the filters, right?

A call to them informed me that if a filter system has the NSF/ANSI 53 certification, then it has been shown to reduce the lead in water to below 10 mg/L. Now they did add the caveat that the company making the filter system had to have the seal displayed in order for the claim to be verifiable. Just because their advertising made the claim didn’t make it true. I asked about the unit in question, the HTHB HydroBoost. She told me that they hadn’t done the certification on that one but I should call another company, InterTek, as they also do certifications.

A call to InterTek couldn’t confirm that they had certified the unit, but they recommended a call to the company itself. At the company, I spoke with a nice woman who was kind enough to look up the unit and send me the spec sheet. Right there on the sheet is the seal, from both Intertek and the Water Quality Association. So apparently, it does lower lead in drinking water. I did put a call into the communications department because I would really like some evidence supporting their claim that these filters do not reduce lead in drinking water, but I got no answer. Hopefully next week they’ll give me an answer, but until then, I’m throwing the Dr. J flag.


And just like that, the local guy is no longer in the running to be the next head of Tennessee’s Achievement School District. This week, State Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen informed Keith Sanders of the news that he wouldn’t be advancing forward in the process. Apparently he had a little too much baggage.

Speaking of baggage, guess who’s become a regular at the MNPS leadership cabinet meetings? Why, none other than former Knoxville Superintendent Jim McIntyre. I guess since Knoxville County Schools broke up with him and his leadership academy, he’s got a little time on his hands, and hanging out in MNPS leadership meetings is as good a place as anywhere. Since it all seems to be about leadership development and principal pipelines, perhaps they could invite Mo Carrasco and Dallas Dance, both experts in leadership training, to join them.

Speaking of leadership academies, riddle me this… MNPS already has a principal pipeline program underway, so why would we need to partner with TFA to develop assistant principals? That’s a question current principals were probably asking themselves when they opened the email from TFA this past week explaining the Nashville Assistant Principal Fellowship. Apparently, MNPS has partnered with Lipscomb University and Teach For America to locate, train, and then place candidates in AP positions in the district’s high-need schools. Who knew?

Mark it down on your calendar, the inaugural Project Lit Summit is happening June 16th. You’ll want to be a part of this one.

You’ve probably heard Governor Haslam talk about all that he has done to increase funding for schools in Tennessee. Well, just like the kid who tells you how well he’s doing in school until you get his report card, the Governor’s rhetoric has been debunked. The National Report Card on School Funding Fairness is out and Tennessee’s grade ain’t so great.

According to Andy Spears over at the TN Education Report, “The Report Card analyzes several indicators of school funding to determine how a state supports schools. The most basic is raw spending on schools. Here, Tennessee ranks 43rd in the nation. So, still near the bottom.” Andy offers up a complete analysis in his latest blog post.

Four Nashville school each won a $2500 grant from Dell this week. Congratulations to the following schools and their projects:

  • East Nashville Magnet Middle School’s Rollercoaster Reality Collaboration
  • Apollo Middle School’s Robotics Classes
  • Donelson Middle School’s Computer Lab Enhancement
  • Margaret Allen Middle School’s Summer STEAM Workshop

Well done!

This Saturday, March 24, the Hendersonville-area Links Incorporated is hosting Chew & Move, a free healthy festival for the whole family.

If you haven’t checked out the video of Waverly-Belmont ES student Carden Corts doing the weather, you need to. The video has gone viral and is bringing smiles to folks around the world.

New music out today. The latest entry in the award-winning Miles Davis Bootleg Series focuses on the final chapter in the landmark collaboration between Davis and saxophonist John Coltrane: their last live performances together, in Europe in the spring of 1960. It’s good.

Here’s one for MNPS leadership: Culture Wins: The Roadmap to an irresistible Workplace. There are books on general team building, there are books on workplace best practices, and there are books on leadership—but there is not a book that shows forward-thinking leaders how to integrate it into today’s new job-hopping culture. William Vanderbloemen uses his company’s proven experience in staffing and organizational consulting to provide a global perspective of effective, thriving cultures—and how to create them.


Let’s head off to this week’s questions now. First up, I think you’ve had a long enough time to get to know him, and many of you have known him for years, so what are your thoughts on our brand new mayor, David Briley?

For the second question, let’s play some pretend. Pretend you are a Metro Council member and Dr. Joseph presents you with a budget that includes an additional $45 million in expenditures. What’s your reaction?

Last question: Dr. Joseph listed 6 priorities for the upcoming budget. Of those 6, what do you feel should be the #1 priority? That’s right, I’m kinda pitting 6 really important issues against each other. Which is what we did with the Title I distribution formula, so why not?

There ya go. Another one in the bag. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and try to promote as many of the events that you send to me as possible, but I do apologize 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. 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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In a post earlier in the week, I poised the question of whether or not this year’s budget process was more chaotic than in previous years. I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that none have ever produced a community-generated petition asking the school board to hold the Director of Schools accountable until now. Today I received a copy of the petition and a request to share it. That is why I am writing this post.

In sharing, I want to attempt to clarify something in the introduction to the attached petition. This isn’t an attempt to discredit the call to action – I support it a 100% – but rather an ongoing attempt to keep things as close to accurate as possible in order not to open the door to being discredited. I think it’s important that if we are to hold the Director of Schools accountable for the veracity of his statements, we need to be as factual as possible as well.

There is always confusion around Title I numbers. The state did indeed change the way Title I eligibility is calculated. Now, only students who are directly certified to receive free lunches — families receiving certain government assistance — are counted as poor. This change has resulted in our schools seeing lower official poverty numbers. This new method does not take undocumented or refugee students into account, nor people who don’t sign up for direct services. In order to counter that fact, the federal government allows districts to multiple their measured number by 1.6 so that becomes their official poverty number. If a school’s percentage comes up higher than 100%, their official number is 100%. Any school that has a poverty number over 75% must receive district funds as mandated by the federal government.

It is my opinion that the Title I distribution formula will be changed again at tomorrow’s giant conclave of principals, EDDSIs, and Community Superintendents. If that does happen, then all principals will have to redo their budgets. All principal budget meetings originally scheduled for this week have been canceled. It is my understanding that positions at individual schools can not be filled until all individual budgets have been approved. Which means we’ll begin hiring teachers again in May, once again getting a late start. Teachers should probably check on when the transfer window closes – I believe it is May 21 – in order that they don’t get caught out of it.

I agree with the petition that the budget process this year has been extremely opaque and misleading. Numbers have changed often enough that it is hard to get a clear picture and understanding of the whole budget. It’s imperative that a central office budget be released as soon as possible in order to get a clearer picture. I’m not even sure why we are having this much of a conversation based on this little information. Dr. Joseph and Dr. Narcisse like to pontificate upon the need to control the noise, but they have not been successful in doing so around the budget this year. I hope all of you will sign this petition and make even more noise.

Here it is:–undefined


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Starting with this week’s post, I’m going to make some changes to how I distribute these posts. Previously I have posted links in various neighborhood groups across the city. While the response has been overwhelmingly positive, as of late I have heard some grumblings about the perceived politics of my writing and some questions as to whether those neighborhood boards are the proper place to post. Out of respect for all, I’m going to refrain from posting in those locations going forth. While I appreciate all the groups for allowing me a vehicle to spread the word, I want my writing to inform not alienate. Besides, by now I figure y’all know where to find me.


Last Tuesday’s board meetings seems to have served as a catalyst for a more honest relationship between the MNPS school board and Director of Schools Shawn Joseph and his leadership team. In the past, board members loathed to offer public criticism. That changed on Tuesday as Chair Anna Shepherd, Vice-Chair Jill Speering, and board member Amy Frogge all raised questions about this year’s budget process along with a recently imposed district budget freeze. Those repercussions are still rippling outward.

Questions didn’t stop after the board meeting. Shepherd and Speering both cited concerns in a letter to Metro auditor Mark Swan asking him to look into the MNPS budget. Some concerns were alleviated Friday when it appeared that the budget freeze had been at least partially lifted, as principals started getting budget exception requests back marked as accepted. District leadership tried to explain things off as a misunderstanding, a claim that rang a little hollow based upon the reading of communications from central office.

Over the weekend, in a Facebook post, Speering expressed concerns about Joseph’s playing fast and loose with the truth over recent weeks. In response, on Sunday afternoon, Joseph went on WQQK with his number 2 guy Sito Narcisse and the board’s budget finance committee chair Tyese Hunter in tow to defend his proposed budget. During the 40-minute interview, Joseph evoked both the mythical home of the Black Panther, Wakanda, and compared himself to former President Obama while declaring that he and his administration were merely dragging a reluctant district towards equity. What I found most interesting is that in taking to the air to defend his budget, he continued his loose association with the truth.

For example, when discussing the changes to the distribution formula for Title I funding, Joseph states, “People are all for equity except when they perceive that they are losing something.” He goes on to say that he is not taking anything away from anybody in order to give more to somebody else. Hunter reiterates this position during her talking points, and then through a reference to Wakanda, Joseph accuses, I’m assuming parents and school administrators, of taking a “We’ve got ours, don’t worry about anybody else” mentality.

I find this whole exchange a little insulting and an attempt to draw needless battle lines between different schools and communities. His argument breaks down around several tenets. First off, the claim that the redistribution of Title I funds is not taking money from one school and giving it to another defies basic mathematical principles. If there is a pot of, say, 32 million dollars, and I have 10 million and you have 22 million, how do you propose to get more money from that pot without taking money from me? Now if Sam comes along and gives us each a couple hundred thousand dollars, that is a separate discussion, but when it comes to the set pot of money, in order for you to increase your share, you will have to decrease mine. There is no other way. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous.

Secondly, in Dr. Joseph’s narrative, the impression is given that all the poor brown-skinned kids go to one set of schools and all the wealthier white kids go to a second, much smaller, set of schools. And that’s just not an accurate picture of Nashville’s schools. Admittedly, there are some schools at either end of the spectrum. For example, Percy Priest ES has 2.62% of students who receive direct services (DS)(students whose families receive DS is how Title I eligibility is calculated). While on the other end of the spectrum, Buena Vista ES has 100% poverty. All told, we have 29 schools at 100% and an additional 36 schools at 75% to 99%, which equal a total of 65 schools. In the interview, Dr. Narcisse stated that over half of our schools were at a 75% and above poverty level.

We have 7 schools with under 25% receiving DS. The rest fall somewhere between 25% and 75%. 28 schools fall between 50% and 75%. It’s been my experience that Nashville as a city cares a great deal about ALL of its kids and is made up of many extremely generous people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen parents in the wealthier parts of town reach into their own pockets to help our poorer families. To try to paint them as trying to grab on to their resources at the expense of others is, again, disingenuous.

The reality is that parents are looking at the budget and seeing fewer resources to serve kids who attend schools that are not 75% and above DS. Kids at schools between 50% and 75% DS, who are losing Title I funds, are just as needy and just as deserving of additional resources as those in higher poverty schools. The numbers in the current individual school’s budgets raise questions about whether or not they will receive the resources they need. How does equity translate into taking away extra support if you don’t go to school exclusively with economically disadvantaged kids? Furthermore, I would ask, why are we pitting schools against each other in an argument over whose kids are the most needy? How does that create a culture of collaboration, let alone equity?

The argument put forth by the district is that those schools at 100% DS are our lowest performing and therefore require extra resources, but I look over the at-risk list and I see several high poverty schools that are not in the bottom 10% performance-wise. Schools like Una Elementary, Haywood Elementary, and Taylor Stratton Elementary all have poverty levels over 75%, yet manage not to fall into the bottom 10%. Glenview ES has a poverty level of 100%, yet has failed to fall onto the priority list. So perhaps, while money is important, it’s not the only thing. I would ask has anyone really looked at what these schools are doing and attempted to replicate it? Why hire outside consultants when we have people right here in the district making progress?

Interestingly enough, in the interview, Dr. Joseph implores parents to look at the budgets online and then ask questions of their principals. But that’s exactly what Anna Shepherd, Jill Speering, and Amy Frogge did. They spent time with their principals, and after having the school budgets explained, realized there were issues. When they brought these issues forth, they were dismissed. Does Dr. Joseph believe that if parents replicate the process they’ll get different results? Or is it just another example of saying something you think sounds good to people and praying nobody checks you?

As a parent, I’ve tried to do what he suggests, but some of the numbers just don’t make sense. Look at John F. Kennedy Middle School, which is in the bottom 10% but is only at 63.49% DS, so they are losing $268,632 in Title I funding in next year’s budget. They are expected to gain 19 students next year, so their student-based budget for 2019 is expected to grow by $489,992 or… $25,789 per student? Yet next year they will average $6,148 per student,  which is only an extra $131 per student. So either something is wrong with my math or the district’s figures, or we are giving someone a helping hand to the priority list.

Charlotte Park ES has 72.7% of students receiving DS and is in the bottom 8%. They are losing $193,848 in Title I money. They are expected to lose 83 kids, and therefore they will lose $347,664 from their 2019 student-based budget allocation. For some reason those kids are only worth $4,188 a kid. Their per pupil allocation next year is projected at $7,757. Up a whopping $216 or 2.9%. What about equity now?

I know some may disagree, but you can’t just say whatever sounds good, and then when questioned just write it off as noise. I’m sure Joseph, and some others, took exception to Speering’s Facebook post. But when you shut down all other channels of communication and you fail to publicly correct what are clearly untruths, what do you expect? When you put more emphasis on “managing the noise” than ensuring you are providing factual information, what do you expect? When you release such a mountain of information that it is clear your intent is to obfuscate as opposed to elucidate, what do you expect?

Is the budget project more disorganized this year than it has been in previous years? I don’t know. It feels more chaotic. We still don’t have numbers for the central office portion of the budget. Last year the full budget was presented to the board on the 14th of March, so we are a little behind. That budget presented to Metro on the 14th was then approved on April 11th. So that’s not yet out of reach for this year.

Dr. Joseph has publicly stated that he plans to release the complete budget on March 28th at his State of Schools address. That would keep us on track in comparison to last year. Unfortunately I can’t shake the feeling that he’s using the budget release at the State of Schools as a means to deflect from a lack of tangible evidence available indicating that the district is making real academic progress.

During his radio interview, Dr. Joseph cited the doubling of kids taking advanced academics, more kids reading on grade level – despite basically flat MAP scores – and a greater parental understanding of where their kids are performing academically. Again, all that sounds good, but I’m going to have to throw the Dr. J Flag and ask for some supporting evidence.

What is clear is that parents are more confused over this year’s budget process than in previous years, and confused parents make for unhappy parents. There is still time to get this right, but the devil is in the details, and right now leadership ain’t paying enough attention to the details. They also shouldn’t confuse parent’s growing passion for noise; that mistake can only make things harder.


Speaking of details, MNPS missed another chance to get it right today. Monday started off with everybody knowing it might be a short day. Meteorologists had been warning for the previous 24 hours that dangerous storms were a possibility and the predicted arrival time was right as kids would be heading home from school. With that kind of warning, you probably thought MNPS had a sound plan in place with a clear line of command. Wrong again.

With nary a thought about lunch schedules, after care, parents getting home before kids, or a number of other potential issues, MNPS sent kids home 3.5 hours after they arrived. Tusculum ES was just starting lunch when the word came down from central office. They scrambled into action and fed lunch to 780 students in under an hour, answered or made over 350 phone calls, and got every child home by 12:40pm. Yeah, I’m bragging, but the point is if it had been left to the district, at least half of those kids would have gone home unfed with perhaps no meal until tomorrow and many parents would have been uninformed. I’m sure many other schools rose to the challenge as well, but that shouldn’t let the district off the hook.

Who was in charge today, you might ask? Dr. Joseph was on a plane to Washington, DC. Dr. Narcisse was out sick, though he sounded fine on the radio yesterday. Dr. Felder’s scheduled trip to Houston was canceled, but she wasn’t in the building pre-cancellation. Chris Henson was also out. Hmmm… this might be the reason things were so chaotic. Who could have known… oh yeah. My friend and fellow blogger Mary Holden, as always, does a better job of drawing the picture of what happened.

Rumor on the street is that Antioch HS principal Keiva Wiley has been told not to report back to school. She will reportedly be finishing out her tenure working from another location on a special project. Probably the same project Mo Carrasco was working on. While I’m very happy for the staff and family of Antioch HS about this development, I take no pleasure in it. All of this could have been avoided if somebody… anybody… would have exhibited even a modicum of leadership. Instead this ended tragically for everyone.

Speaking of “didn’t have to end this way and just a modicum of leadership”… Executive Director of Facilities Dennis Neal resigned on Friday after being placed on administrative leave. Culture, I tell you, it’s the culture.

The Nashville Public Education Foundation (NPEF) is out with a new study on what happens to students after high school. In the words of President and CEO Shannon Hunt:

This report weaves together a great deal of data to tell the most complete story about what happens to our students after high school. Our hope is that it will spur a larger community conversation about what we need to do to improve the chances our high schoolers go on to and complete college. In the world we live in today, success of our public schools cannot be high school graduation alone; but rather, our measuring stick should be college completion. And certainly, our public school graduates should have the same chance for college success as their peers nationwide.

There is a lot of good information in the report. However, I remain a little dubious of the effort. Where does tracking of individuals after high school stop? Four years after college? A decade? Also, people quit college for all kinds of reasons. Obviously some more reasons are more prevalent than others, but some are highly personal, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with all of them getting swept up in a data dump. But that’s just my take. Read the report and decide for yourself.

By the way, while we are speaking about NPEF, nominations are now open for the Hall of Fame. If anybody feels inclined to nominate me, I’ll polish up my acceptance speech.

Speaking of data, there was new action this weekend in the MNPS vs. the State battle over the sharing of student data. Hmmm… so sharing data with charter schools is bad, but sharing data with NPEF is good… But I digress. In January, a judge ruled against MNPS and said they had 30 days to turn over the data. That 30-day clock to turn over information to charter schools started on March 8. The district could still appeal the decision.

My favorite quote in the Tennessean article comes from State Rep. John Forgety, who chairs a House Education Committee and supported the legislation last spring. In September, he voiced his concerns about the law opening up school districts to recruit each other’s students. I love this recruitment argument because it completely ignores what takes place every year and is sanctioned by MNPS, the Choice Festival. As I’ve said many a time, enrolling your child in Croft MS when you’re zoned for McMurray MS has exactly the same impact as enrolling your child in Valor Academy instead of McMurray MS.

Speaking of Valor… Plans are on track for them to open their high school in the fall. They plan to start with one class at a time. The inaugural class will have 225 freshmen students. In looking at the floor plans, I can’t help but be irritated. Initially, the old Lowe’s building on Nolensville Pike was to be a temporary building to house Tusculum ES while the new school was being built, and then once Tusculum’s new building was completed, the building would become a new zoned elementary school. However, some elected officials failed to see the potential there and helped quash the plan. I must say, Valor’s floor plans impress me, and I think it will be a beautiful school.

In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, MNPS board member Will Pinkston saw the potential of this repurposed property way before anyone. Unfortunately, MNPS wasn’t able to capitalize on it. Perhaps the next time a big box retail property comes available we’ll be a little more visionary. That one falls at the feet of the previous administration, and not Dr. Joseph.


Response to the polls seems to be on an upswing. I’m flattered by your taking the time to respond. Let’s look at those responses.

Question 1 asked for your opinion on this year’s budget process. While this question didn’t garner as many responses as the other questions due to technical issues, I think it’s safe to say that DGW readers are not impressed by this year’s process. 75% of you declared it a train wreck. 14% of you responded that you couldn’t figure out what are this year’s issues and what are next year’s issues. Only 3 of you expressed any kind of optimism. I think that this is one of those issues that any way you slice it, it comes up the same: leadership has to do a better job.

Here are the write-ins:

What are we hiding? Where is budget for Central Office? 1
The real crime is in underfunding Restorative Practice that harm children 1
Anything to protect that Tahoe. 1
How much more money will they misuse? This is a joke 1
2018-19 is most exclusionary budget in years 1
Look at the extra pay for Maritza Gonzalez

Question 2 asked for your opinion on Anna Shepherd and Jill Speering’s call for an audit by Metro Council. 92% of you indicated that you felt such a move was necessary, and nobody thought that it wasn’t. Let’s make that one clear: out of 157 responses, not one person called the audit unnecessary. Here are the write-ins:

Bout damn time. Let’s see if board has guts to hold Joseph accountable? 1
Doesn’t matter. Nothing sticks to the Teflon Joseph 1
If Central Office can’t do math, how can our kids? 1
I doubt that anything will change. 1
It’s about time! How many more C & I salaries will they add? 1
Make sure interviews are conducted because $ can be hid … 1
Even if it shows misuse by the administrators – so what? nothing will happen.

Question 3 asked for your opinion on the recent student walkouts over gun violence in schools. 32% of you wished adults would stay out of it, and after that, responses were evenly split between whether it made a difference or not. This one had a lot of write-in votes. Here they are:

Respectfully done and student organized at Overton 1
Just wait until these kids are old enough to vote. Democracy at its finest. 1
Hated that 1 parent out of 632 at my school had to complain and sign her children 1
Students should lead it with adult mentors it’s a powerful learning opportunity 1
Very proud of the students and faculty and staff across the city. 1
Proud of our kids. 1
Weak. 1
Not enough of them 1
A joke 1
Ineffective b/c majority of students did not understand the issues. 1
We had a 17 min. fire drill *eye roll* 1
One was a train wreck, others seemed great. 1
Love the intent but not appropriate at school 1
I am okay with them as long as students knew why they were walking out. 1
Ridiculous that mnps encouraged it.

There ya go. Another one in the bag. If you need to contact me, you can do so at I’m always looking for more opinions and try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short and don’t get them 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. 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.