AN HONEST CONVERSATION

7

‘Twas the Friday before Christmas and all through the district, the creatures were stirring… You would think this past week would be the quietest week of the year for school-related news, surpassed perhaps only by next week. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Quite a bit took place this week. I was tempted to rush off to the keyboard a number of times, but instead chose to sit with things and let my thoughts collect. That reflection has allowed me to realize that this week’s events are less about what’s on the surface and more about what lurks below. That said, let’s dive in.

CHAMBER REPORT CARD

Every year, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce puts together a committee to study the state of Nashville’s schools. The committee dissects the available data, visits schools, talks to administrators, and then submits a Report Card of its findings and recommendations. This is usually followed with a large clamor, which then dissipates into nothingness. Perhaps this year will be different.

Before we go any further, I want to recognize the hard work done by those on this year’s committee. I consider a number of them personal friends and have a great deal of respect for their diligence and intelligence. I don’t subscribe to the belief that only elected school board members and district leadership are capable of offering insight into school policy, and I’m always interested to hear what others have to offer. We need to focus more on policy and less on personalities. The job is a daunting one, and I appreciate the committee members’ willingness to undertake it.

I will admit that I actually approached this year’s Report Card with some optimism. It was my belief that the folks putting together the Report Card would hear similar feedback to what I hear on a regular basis. Feedback that continually remains unaddressed by the district. The committee was actually walking into an opportunity to lead. They had a pulpit and if they chose, they could shine a light on the true issues facing the district. That pulpit could be used as a vehicle to create an honest conversation where the MNPS school board and the Mayor’s office had failed to do so. That’s not quite what happened, but there is room for continued optimism.

The Report Card committee chose to focus on an increased utilization of data. They did so while failing to recognize that this year, MNPS has introduced a more inflexible curriculum. Teachers have less ability to take that data and individualize it than at any other time in recent memory. This recommendation also fails to recognize that many parents have reached a saturation point with the over reliance on data.

I will commend the committee for recognizing that teachers need more planning time. That has been a common refrain heard not only around MNPS this past year, but the entire state. They also deserve credit for recognizing the need for better practices when it comes to teacher recruitment and retention. I do take a little objection to the focus on diversity hiring.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand and support the need for a diverse staff. However, MNPS’s staffing needs right now are so great that I personally feel the recruiting of quality teachers should be our first and foremost goal. A perusal of MNPS’s employment listings currently show 181 certified positions as being open. That should be unacceptable to us all.

I also commend the committee for pointing out that there is no way to measure the district’s ridiculous vision statement of being “the fastest improving district in the country.” Of course that didn’t deter Dr. Joseph from minutes later promising that we would meet that goal in the coming years. It’s like promising to be the best looking kid in school. How do you back that claim up?

There are some points in the Report Card things I question. For one, it cites Dr. Joseph and his team’s commitment to equity and urgency, yet nowhere in this report are English Language Learners mentioned. EL students make up a substantial portion of our student population, 22% according to the included charts. That’s up from 16% two years ago. The EL department has done exceptional work over the last several years, managing to outperform the state’s annual mandated outcomes by large margins. That work needs recognition.

There was plenty of talk about literacy and our increased focus on improving literacy numbers, yet there was no talk about the implementation this year’s literacy plan that has been almost universally rejected by teachers. This is where an honest conversation is needed. We can focus on literacy all we want, but without a plan that teachers and principals are willing to invest in, that focus is meaningless. If you want grass to grow, you can’t just stare at it, declare it to be the fastest growing grass in the country, and will it to happen. You have to fertilize it, water it, make sure it gets enough sunlight, and then it will grow. You have to follow universally-recognized and current best practices or you will never have the best lawn in the neighborhood.

The committee also got it wrong when they cited an increase in site-based budgeting this year. Sure, principals had more money, but they had less flexibility. Look at it this way. I give you an allowance of $10 and allow you to spend it on whatever you want. I then raise your allowance to $12, but dictate what you have to spend $4 of it on. Did I really raise your allowance? That’s how the game worked for principals this past year.

My recommendation when it comes to the Chamber’s Report Card is that you ignore the headlines and instead read the whole report. When you read the actual report, I think you’ll find the basis of an honest conversation. After the presentation of the Report Card, I talked with a longtime educator, and I was a bit out of sorts because I couldn’t believe that the recommendation for more data coaches was the best that the committee could offer. This educator brushed my take aside and cut to the meat, “That wasn’t a very flattering presentation.”

At that point, I wasn’t ready to entertain that view. After spending some time with the report, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are right. It wasn’t a flattering report and there is a lot of meat in it that could lead eventually to an improved evaluation. Contained within is the basis for an honest conversation if we choose to have it. So the choice really becomes ours. Focus on the primary recommendation and the people who gave it, or take the report, use the information curated, and have an honest conversation about our schools and how to improve them.

DISCERNING TROLLS FROM TEACHERS

Tuesday evening, I was scrolling through my social media accounts and came across some pictures from the MNPS central office “Holiday Hoedown.” Apparently, MNPS central office employees had a big holiday shindig that included giveaways like a 65-inch color TV and $50 Walmart gift cards. “Tone deaf,” I muttered to myself as I scrolled on.

Teachers weren’t content to let it go at that, and some questioned the district’s Public Information Officer Michelle Michaud via Twitter about the appropriateness of giving away TV’s while teachers were using their own money to buy anchor texts required by the new literacy plan and copier paper. Michaud responded by saying that all district employees had been invited, an assertion that later proved to be untrue. Pressed further on the issue, she responded by blocking the questioning teachers.

Needless to say, the issue began to blow up. TV news stations began to take notice. Bus drivers chimed in that they hadn’t been invited to the party either. Teachers pointed out that the parties at their individual schools were nowhere near as extravagant and one teacher remarked to me that at their party teachers received bread. Not the dough that Michaud was referring to in her tweets, but actual bread. Once again, Dr. Joseph and his team found themselves in another avoidable controversy.

I’ve had a number of people remark to me that they think this is silly criticism. My counter to that is that it isn’t about the party, but rather that this is just one more indication of the culture being cultivated. Dr. Joseph may talk a lot about respect for teachers but his actions don’t backup his words. Teachers are still waiting for an MOU despite the Collaborative Conferencing work being wrapped up and turned over to legal in October. There has been little adjustment in the the literacy plan despite teachers voicing concerns through several avenues. In fact, as previously mentioned, teachers are having to buy copies of texts needed for curriculum they’re being told is required. In the last budget hearing, teachers had to show up en masse in order to prevent a 3% raise from being cut to 2%. They are still buying copier paper and other needed supplies out of their own pocket as well. So forgive them if they take exception to central office holding a hoedown where extravagant prizes are handed out.

Once again though, when presented with an issue that could easily be defused, the administration chooses to throw gasoline on it instead. Michaud responded by giving out false information and then proceeded to block a teacher from what she has said is an official MNPS account. Neither should have happened, and thank you to board member Jill Speering for recognizing that and tweeting out, “I’m embarrassed that one of our employees would treat you this way.” I’m told that apologies were eventually issued, but they weren’t done in a manner nearly as public as the rest of the exchanges, and no official acknowledgement was ever given by Dr. Joseph.

Nobody is begrudging central office employees a Christmas party. Nobody is insinuating that the work they do is less valuable than classroom work. What is being asked is that people recognize the work and sacrifices teachers make every single day. Recognize the money that comes out of their own pocket. Recognize the time sacrificed away from families. This year, the level of stress experienced by teachers is significantly higher than it has been in previous years. I don’t think it is unreasonable to question where the money for prizes comes from or the terms of agreement if the prizes were donated. Failure to recognize any of the aforementioned is not part of a recipe for success.

This whole controversy could have been defused with a simple, “We were wrong, and I’m sorry.” But that seems to be a phrase this administration is incapable of saying. Instead Joseph sent a response out to district employees stating that:

“Bitter unhappy people will never meet their destiny. While we cannot stop people from being negative, even during the holiday season, we can choose how we respond to them. I’ve learned to forgive quickly, and turn my thoughts towards the many things I am thankful for in my life.”

I’m not sure what that means, or who he’s forgiving, but I don’t see any acknowledgement of his role in the controversy being stated. The party may seem like a trivial thing, but understand that when you have a toxic culture, it’s often the seemingly inconsequential things that break out. Effective leaders don’t dismiss those instances as inconsequential, but rather use them as a springboard to a deeper, more honest conversation. I find myself continually questioning whether this administration is capable of such a conversation as the evidence to the contrary continues to mount.

Once again, knowing history can allow us to make better decisions about the future. MNPS Directors battling with news reporters is nothing new. Dr. Pedro Garcia engaged in a running feud with WSMV reporter Larry Brinton to the extent that it led one school board member to remark, “I suspect what has clouded Dr Garcia’s judgment is his anger at [WSMV reporter] Larry Brinton.” That board member was referring to events connected to long-time Garcia ally and MNPS employee Gene Hughes. Board Member Nevill concurred, “This fight was between Larry Brinton and Pedro Garcia. I believe that we’ve allowed a fight with the media to damage us considerably. And that’s silly. That’s just silly.” Hmmmm… sounds familiar.

The Hughes situation itself is eerily similar to current events involving recently departed administrator Mo Carrasco. Read the whole article, “The Lover’s Quarrel” published back in 2003, and I suspect you’ll get a strange sense of deja vu. The scary part is that despite the writing on the wall, it took 5 more years to take corrective action back then. Maybe Dr. Joseph is studying history and betting we’ll repeat it.

HOLIDAY POLL QUESTIONS

Thanks to the week’s activities, creating poll questions this week was pretty easy.

The first question asks what is your impression of this year’s Nashville Chamber of Commerce Report Card? Is it a good read? Do you like the recommendations? Do you think the whole thing is useless? Let me know.

Question two is about the great Christmas party controversy. Warranted or not?

Lastly, since we as a district are focused on literacy, I wanted to ask, what do you plan to read over this holiday break? Feel free to write in your answers.

That’s it for now. I hope everybody has a great holiday. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short – Ms. Goodenough. I have started using Patreon. 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.
 

 

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THE START OF CHRISTMAS BREAK

I’m going to start off with a bit of a warning this week. Christmas break officially started this morning and though I knew it was coming, I am not fully prepared. That’s going to be reflected in today’s blog post, and if things appear a bit random, I apologize. You do what you can do.

TVAAS EMAIL

Every once in a while, I get emails that really make me think. This week I got one from an MNPS teacher:

This past week, I have discovered your blog and have enjoyed reading about the comedy of errors swirling above my oblivious head. Your most recent post mentioned TVAAS scores and reminded me of burning questions about TVAAS. My score floats in the 3-4 range.
Is it really a formula for projected harvest of crops?
I thought this was a rumor when I first heard it at a workshop 4 years ago. If this is true, why hasn’t the whole scoring system been rendered invalid?
 
Do TVAAS scores have any effect on salary?  
To my knowledge, the scores have no effect on teacher salary. Do admins get any sort of bonus for having the faculty reach a certain average score?
Do you know of any teachers that have been fired due to low score TVAAS?
 
I have known roughly 30 teachers that have left school since my arrival in 2013, and the only one that didn’t exit voluntarily was a pathway teacher who was laid off due to low projected enrollment for the subsequent school year. With the district’s turnover rate being at a constant high, the district doesn’t seem to have any bargaining leverage to hire prospective teachers based on TVAAS scores.
Do they have an effect on renewing / advancing a license?
 
I recently advanced my apprentice license to a professional, and it hinged on PD hours.
If salary & employment are not tied to the TVAAS score,  what are the reasons to be emotionally invested in the scores? It seems like the scores have no existential consequence on our jobs. I imagine some action could be taken against a teacher who got straight 1’s, but other than that, what does the level 5 teacher work for that the level 3 isn’t getting?
I look forward to reading your thoughts.
Well, I sat back and thought for a moment. Yes, TVAAS does have its origins in agricultural practices, and I’m sure lots of people wonder why it hasn’t been rendered invalid. It is certainly not due to lack of evidence.
Due to the lack of a discovery of a teacher orchard where level 4 and 5 teachers can be harvested at whim, I don’t think many MNPS teachers have lost jobs due to low scores. I would think the low scores would lead to a difficulty in getting hired, but when I look at the MNPS want ads and see 180-plus openings, I have my doubts. I do know of several teachers who have been inexplicably unable to secure employment, but I think that has more to do with their personnel files than it does with TVAAS scores.
TVAAS scores do come in handy when renewing teaching licenses. In order to renew their license, a teacher needs 60 hours of PD, and having consistent years of 4’s and 5’s can knock those hours approximately in half. Your TVAAS score also comes into play when applying for tenure. In order to secure tenure, a teacher must have 2 consecutive years of 4/5 scores in order to be eligible for tenure. Mind you, that’s eligible, not granted.
While the observation on TVAAS relevance is correct when it comes to MNPS, outside of Nashville things get a little more tricky. In some of the more rural counties of Tennessee, where they are having a hard time attracting teachers, TVAAS probably holds less weight. But in some counties, like Wilson county,  TVAAS scores are linked to salary increases. In Knoxville, from what I’m told, the entire pay schedule is linked to TVAAS scores, as well as eligibility to move into administrative roles.
The short answer is that there is no short answer and that’s why people are fighting to have TVAAS scores unlinked from teacher evaluations. After recent hearings, State Representative Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) stated that the state’s teacher evaluation system, and especially the portion that relies on student scores on TNReady, is causing headaches for Tennessee’s teachers. He wasn’t lying. He has promised to introduce legislation this year to help alleviate that headache. It’s imperative that we support that legislation.
The National Education Policy Center released further information on Value-Added Measures (VAM) that I encourage everyone to read.
#METOO
Last week, I wrote about the resignation of MNPS administrator Mo Carrasco. It seems that report caught the eye of parents in Montgomery County, Maryland, where Carrasco and Dr. Joseph worked together in the past. The Parents Coalition of Montgomery County released a blog post where they couldn’t resist saying “I told you so” to us here in Nashville. And the truth is that they did.
The post comes with a further warning that I think bears noting:

Please folks – know that an experienced principal or school administrator, or group of administrators, doesn’t simply find themselves available, especially as a group, unless something is wrong. Its not as simple as Montgomery County’s loss is your gain.

Yes, the internet may have false stories, and its often hard to figure out what is real and what is fantasy.

But – if you don’t look, you will never know, until your own school system gets hurt.

Prince George’s County Public Schools released their response today to the state audit that found evidence of tampering with grades and graduation rates. The scandal has definitely caught the eye of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan: “There were where whistle blowers all over the system that came forward that were threatened by the County Superintendent.” I haven’t had a chance to review the response in-depth yet, but I urge you to as the scandal involves the years 2016 and 2017. Years that many recently-relocated to Nashville educators were employed by PGCPS.

WHY THE PRESS MATTERS
Over the last year, News Channel 5 has done 7 news stories on lead levels in the water at MNPS schools. After every report, MNPS reacted in a defensive manner. This past summer, they issued a press release stating, “The drinking water in the district’s oldest buildings meet all federal and state lead drinking water standards.” The MNPS communications department continually accused Channel 5 reporter Phil Williams of unfair and inaccurate reporting practices. Still, he persisted.
Thank goodness he did. Last week MNPS suddenly discovered that there was more that they could do, and they decided to do it. Do you believe for one minute that this would have happened without the continual pressure from Williams and News Channel 5? It’s a prime example of why a free and active press is so important. They give voice and power to those who individually lack it. Thank you, News Channel 5.
QUICK HITS
Last month at Hunter’s Lane High School, students used virtual reality technology to interact with students from the other side of the world. Read about that experience in this latest blog post.
MNPS is seeking feedback on proposed new Board policies. Please review the policies and provide your feedback via the submission form. Currently, they are soliciting comments on Section 2 of 6. They will accept comments until noon on Tuesday, December 26.
The Chamber Of Commerce will be releasing their School Report Card tomorrow at the downtown Nashville Library. Activities kick off at 10AM, with the actual report card being released at 10:30. I hope to see all of you there.
Interesting report out of Memphis. Sen. Brian Kelsey said Monday that he won’t ask a Senate committee to take up his voucher bill — which would pilot a program in Memphis — when the legislature reconvenes its two-year session in January. According to Kelsey:
“I listen to my community. Right now, there’s not enough parental support,” the Germantown Republican lawmaker told Chalkbeat after sharing the news with Shelby County’s legislative delegation.
No word on whether Rep. Harry Brooks, who sponsors the proposal in the House, will seek a new Senate sponsor or whether Kelsey will support a bill if brought by another senator. Oh, what will we do without a voucher bill to fight against?
Don’t get too excited. Odds are this is primarily an election year interruption and things will be back to normal next year. Don’t vote for anyone who won’t tell you how they’ll vote.
If you haven’t been following former Eakin ES Principal Tim Drinkwine’s blog about his family’s trip around the world, you are missing out. I found this recent tweet particularly meaningful:
It may take traveling the world to realize Christmas is, in fact, not “under attack.” We see Christmas trees, hear Christmas Carols (even Silent Night and Joy to the World) everywhere. Even in one predominantly Muslim country and one predominantly Buddhist country.
I couldn’t think of better ambassadors than the Drinkwine family.
POLL RESULTS
Let’s review the results of the weekend’s poll questions.
The first question asked for your opinion on Will Pinkston joining the Phil Bredesen campaign for U.S. Senator. The results from this question offered a prime example of getting caught up in the “inside baseball” aspect of politics. To many, Pinkston is a polarizing figure who evokes strong responses. Based on this emotion, it is easy to make the supposition that everybody knows who he is and that he evokes a similar reaction in them. The truth is, most people are unaware. Whether that is a good or bad thing depends on individual interpretation.
The number one answer to this question, with 36% of the votes, was “I don’t care one way or the other.” 31% of you answered, “I don’t think Pinkston deserves to be rewarded for past boorish behavior.” It’s worth noting that only 7% of you thought “I think it’s awesome. Will’s a skilled operator and can help.”
Here are the write-in votes:
Surely Bredesen is smarter than to hire the most toxic human in Nashville. 1
He could be problematic for Bredesen. 1
if it gets him off the school board for a special election go for it 1
I’d hate to see Pinkston leave the school board. 1
As long as he leaves our school board 1
No opinion. He has gone silent like the rest of the School Board members. 1
Okay – I wouldn’t be voting for either one any way.

Question two asked for your opinion on the recent Phil Williams/Mo Carrasco interview. Sadly, 45% of you responded that nothing he said surprised you, and 28% replied, “Wish he’d say something I didn’t already know.” Only 1 of you responded that he was a disgruntled employee, and 1 of you said you were surprised by the allegations. That’s a problem.

I know that people will try to write these results off to a low and pre-disposed sample size, but the fact that I can’t find 1 person in a roomful of 90 people to say they don’t believe the allegations should be troubling. There should be at least a handful of folks willing to express doubt. If nothing more, the administration should care enough to submit a few ringers. The fact that they don’t and there isn’t is a problem. Maybe they just don’t take the complaints as being serious.

Here are the write-in votes. In all fairness, there were a few defenses offered:

Williams should have focused more on the accusations than on criticisms on MNPS 1
I wish he would share “all” the info. He probably knows. 1
Surprised he turned in his friend but confirmed some beliefs many of us have 1
wish he said more and presented proof 1
He only touched on the corruption. Keep digging 1
Would be more credible from someone without a grudge for being fired 1
Teachers know all of the info- just wish it would make a difference.

Question three asked for your impression of an email sent out to MNPS staff members by Dr. Joseph in response to the aforementioned interview. Tellingly, 44% of you responded that you laughed aloud at the email. Only 1 of you expressed appreciation for the email. I appreciate Dr. Felder’s continued support of the blog.

Dr. Joseph likes to tell people that you have to tune out the noise. Any parent will tell you though that you can’t tell what’s going on with your children unless you listen to the noise they make. It’ll tell you when they are happy, sick, or sad. No parent would ever attempt to parent without listening to their children, so why should it be an acceptable leadership style? At some point, he’s going to have to tune in to the noise.

Here are the write-in responses:

dismayed that he refused to condemn a serial sexual harasser 1
I do not believe Joseph has told the truth with anything he has said since he came here 1
Having taught at Antioch HS last year, it was incredibly tone deaf. 1
It was an appropriate, professional response 1
Standard, generic, cautious statement that’s probably wise for now, 1
I laughed- unfortunately, I think he truly believes what he says at the point 1
Didn’t address issues. Smoke & mirrors
That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short – Ms Goodenough. I have started using Patreon. 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.

LAST DAY OF SCHOOL FOR 2017

This week ends, as too many have this year, with the mourning of yet another recently departed friend. This week, it is songwriter and front man of The Smithereens Pat DiNizio. I only spent time with Pat a handful of times, and half of those times he was mad at me, but I always counted him among my friends. And those encounters were always memorable. I recall the first time we spent any time together, and he gave me his home number in New York. “Call me sometime,” he said. I sat that number on top of my dresser and for years looked at it, wondering what I was supposed to do with it. After all, he was a world famous musician, and I was simply a punk rock kid in Nashville. Over the years I came to realize that the number really held no mystery, just a simple invitation to call.

Last time I saw Pat, he was in town for Tin Pan South, and I was bartending a couple doors down from a venue where he was attending a show. Upon finding out that I was nearby, he immediately popped in, and we spent a couple hours reminiscing and cutting up. There were maybe 8 people in the bar at the time, so we were uninterrupted for the most part, and I was able to introduce him to my future bride. Pat was his usual charming self and when he saw I had a guitar behind the bar, he immediately picked it up and proceeded to play us a private show.

After a couple tequilas, or more, but who was counting, he began to put The Smithereen’s songs on the jukebox and play along. Ribbing him, I inquired, “Isn’t this like wearing your own band’s t-shirt on stage?” Pat didn’t take that joke well and ended up storming out. I just chuckled because that’s how our relationship had always been. He was the most generous of people with a sensitive side that he hid with his gruffness. I always thought that someday soon, he’d be walking through the door again. Unfortunately, that’s not going to ever happen again, and Pat DiNizio is never going to get mad at me again. Knowing that makes the Christmas season a little duller. Give them hell, Patty, wherever you are.

STATE HITS

With all the craziness happening locally, and we’ll touch on that shortly, we almost overlooked a couple statewide stories that bear noting. This week, the Tennessee State House Government Operations Committee held a meeting to look into the state’s most recent problems with the its standardized test for grades 3-11, TNReady. The last few years have seen one issue after another arise with standardized testing, and many legislators, including Committee Chair Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), are starting to lose patience. In Faison’s words, “If the Department of Education was up for evaluation, along with Questar, there are things that you all would get threes, fours and fives on. But, I would say you’d get a one on some things, too.”

Areas that Faison feels would warrant a “one” – teachers receive scores between 1 and 5 based on results of TNReady, with 1 being the lowest – are communications and testing company Questar’s ability to get results and accompanying data out in a timely manner. Faison went on to criticize the Department by pointing out that their failures were having a negative impact on teachers across the state and promised to take action this coming year:

“What we’re doing is driving the teachers crazy. They’re scared to death to teach anything other than get prepared for this test. They’re not even enjoying life right now. They’re not even enjoying teaching because we’ve put so much emphasis on this evaluation,” Faison said. “So I think you’re going to see movement in the legislature this year to detach the evaluation portion of the TNReady test from the teachers and the students.”

This is welcome news and news that, as evidenced by responses in previous polls, DGW readers support. It’s time to admit that we don’t have all the bugs worked out in order to test students with fidelity, and to use inaccurate data to rate teachers is just not a fair practice. Andy Spears dives into things a little deeper over at the Tennessee Education  Report.

This week, former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen announced that he would be seeking the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bob Corker. Corker recently announced that he would not be running for re-election. This is good news for Democrats, as Bredesen did exemplary work as both the mayor of Nashville and the governor of Tennessee.

However, it didn’t take long for speculation to start running rampant about what role current MNPS school board member, and former Bredesen advisor, Will Pinkston would have in both the campaign and going forth should Bredesen win the election. Pinkston is widely recognized for his prowess in opposition research, but equally derided for his political tactics. Many feel that he has been extremely degrading to female politicians from both parties over the past several years and will bring a plethora of baggage to the Bredesen campaign. Personally I believe that we have a president who ably demonstrates what a “win at all costs” philosophy looks like and that recent events in Alabama indicate a desire for a return of decency to governance. Time will tell what happens here.

IT IS ALL LOCAL

The fallout from last week’s News Channel 5 interview with former MNPS official Mo Carrasco continues. Instead of taking the bull by the horn and sitting down with Phil Williams, Director of Schools Shawn Joseph opted to take a safer road and stage a press event with the Tennessean and News Channel 4. Both outlets proceeded to toss softballs at the Director and the Tennessean even edited out the portion of an earlier version of the story where Joseph fails to acknowledge that bringing Carrasco to Nashville might, in hindsight, be considered a mistake. To their credit, Channel 4 left the exchange intact.

There are a number of things that concern me at this juncture. First and foremost, neither MNPS School Board Chair Anna Shepherd nor Joseph himself appears willing to make a strong statement that sexual harassment in the MNPS workplace will not be tolerated. The best Joseph can do is a tepid promise to “investigate if brought forward.” The Blankenship and Carrasco incidents are not the lone charges brought forth this year either. A district principal recently returned to work after being out on administrative leave while similar charges were investigated. I think it’s imperative for MNPS leadership to issue as strong a response on sexual harassment as they did in response to President Trump’s immigration policies. A safe workplace has to be a primary concern.

On Thursday, Joseph sent his response to the Williams/Carrasco interview via email to district staff members. He began his response by quoting Friedrich Nietzsche, noted philosopher, cultural critic, and scholar: “All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power.” He omitted the remainder of the quote, “and not truth.” That changes things a bit. I’m not sure that in trying justify my actions or inspire people that Nietzsche is the philosopher I would turn to. Maybe he should have quoted Plato instead: “And isn’t it a bad thing to be deceived about the truth, and a good thing to know what the truth is? For I assume that by knowing the truth you mean knowing things as they really are.” Even Richard Bach would have been better:

“There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go.”

In his communication, Joseph defends his policies, saying:

We have rigorous hiring practices. Over the past 18 months, we have hired for many positions. The majority of administrative hires have come from within MNPS because we have strong candidates who were able to fill the jobs. When we create interview panels, a diverse team is established and the top candidates are sent to a chief or to me for the final decision. All panels understand they are making a recommendation, not a decision. The only time there has been a “preferred” candidate is when I have decided to present one person to a panel or I have chosen to interview one candidate for a position because I feel that candidate brings the experience, training and personality required for a position. Otherwise, we do our work on the front end to present a strong slate of candidates for jobs and we ensure there are objective processes for principal and senior level selections.

He goes on to say:

We have an ambitious strategic plan and we have established clear key performance indicators. Now, we have the difficult work of executing this plan. We are working to build the capacity necessary to execute effectively in many areas, including literacy, pre-k, STEAM, social and emotional learning, English learners, special education, and performance management, to name a few key areas. We have a lean Central Office, and as a result, we have strategically used consultant support to accelerate some of our more complex work.

It should be noted here, that once again central office is under renovation. What? You say, “Weren’t those offices renovated just last year?” Yes, they were, but I guess a lean staff deserves its posh digs.

What most concerns me is the Director’s inability to admit a mistake. As mentioned earlier, when asked if bringing Carrasco to MNPS was a mistake, he replied, “No.” I don’t think anybody would find fault if he would simply look at the camera and say, “Considering that multiple charges of sexual harassment have been brought forth and he’s on TV trashing our work, I think it’s safe to say that I’m certainly entertaining that notion.” But instead we continue to get the shield of infallibility. Perhaps this would be a good place for a Winston Churchill quote: “All men make mistakes. But only wise men learn from their mistakes.”

On a positive note: The district has agreed to increase its efforts at lead reduction. You’ll remember that over the summer, a number of schools were showing high levels of lead in the drinking water. Previously, MNPS set a goal to have all fountains show a lead level of less than 15 parts per billion. They have now lowered that number to 5 parts per billion. A welcome change. The district will replace older bubblers that seem to be part of the problem. Those are fixtures that turn classroom sinks into water fountains. In addition, after the winter break, it will begin a process to flush all water lines to get rid of any lead that may have built up. All very welcome moves, and better late than never.

Speaking of apologies, here’s a couple from me. Sorry about the misinformation on the date for the Chamber of Commerce’s Education Report Card. It is this Tuesday at 10:00 am at the downtown public library. Thank God that Marc Hill sent me a correction before I got in my car and headed down there last Tuesday.

Last week, I was sent a picture of the band recital for McMurray Middle Prep, and I fully intended to share it today, but due to my chaotic life, I’ve misplaced it. I apologize for that and promise I will share it as soon as I find it. McMurray is still rocking it despite the challenges.

Gotta love the Hunters Lane HS College Tree.

There is a reason so many are singing ProjectLit’s praises. On to more success next year.

POLL QUESTIONS

Lots of potential questions to ask here, but I think I’ll go with the elephants in the room.

For the first question, I want to know your thoughts on the potential involvement of Will Pinkston in Bredesen’s senate race. I know I risk unleashing the Kracken here, but I truly just want to know your thoughts. Will he help? Hinder? You tell me.

For the second question, I want to get your impression of the interview that Phil Williams just conducted with Mo Carrasco.

The last question is for MNPS employees. What is your response to Dr. Joseph’s response to the Williams/Carrasco interview?

That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short – Ms Goodenough. I have started using Patreon. 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.

TWO DAYS IN THE VALLEY

Whew… it’s a good thing that the Chamber of Commerce Report Card comes out next week and not this week. (Yea… I messed up the dates.) Enough has already happened this week to compel me to write a mid-week special edition. Strap yourself in and let’s take a look at this week’s events that could impact public education in Nashville.

Lets’s start with yesterday’s MNPS school board meeting. On the consent agenda was QuaverMusic.com. Quaver is an integral part of MNPS’s Music Makes Us Program and was initially on the agenda for the last meeting in November before being mysteriously pulled at the last minute. This action put a 1.25 million dollar grant in jeopardy. Board member Mary Pierce attempted to get clarification at that meeting and was told that it was a “question of capacity” and that on December 12th the board would get more information.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. The Vice-President at Quaver Music is Alice Rolli. Rolli was on the founding board of Teach for America and was a big supporter of Jackson Miller for the last school board election. Now for the TMZ portion of the program. Word on the street is that Rolli approached a board member at a function to express her excitement about the pending project. The board member’s reaction was not what she expected, but it should have been. Let’s just say if our children acted in a similar manner towards someone, we would rebuke them. Shortly thereafter, Quaver was removed from the consent agenda of the November 28th meeting over “capacity issues.”

Last night, Quaver passed the consent agenda as those “capacity issues” had apparently been alleviated. Unfortunately, not all board members were in attendance for last night’s vote, so we’ll never know if everyone’s concerns were alleviated. I would really hate to think that programs that are good for kids are being put at risk purely for political reasons. For now though, we’ll just have to give the benefit of the doubt.

WHERE’S BOB?

Last week, we reported that the Executive Officer of STEAM Bob Blankenship had returned from administrative leave. If you’ll remember, Blankenship replaced Kris Elliot at the beginning of the year, but had been on administrative leave for undisclosed reasons since early October. Elliot is now at Oregon State University leading their outdoor education program. He was highly respected by his peers while at MNPS.

Blankenship was also highly respected in MNPS and few could understand what actions he might have committed that would lead to him being placed on administrative leave. On Tuesday, it was revealed that an internal investigation had found that Blankenship did touch a subordinate’s arm “in a manner that was unwelcome.” Furthermore, the investigation also found that he’d engaged in a “conversation on a subject that was inappropriate and demonstrated a lack of sensitivity regarding a co-worker’s alleged religious affiliation.” I have to say that while I believe in the accuracy of the finding, nothing in my conversations with educators indicated that this was a pattern of behavior with Blankenship.

It must have been in this light that the district concluded that he could return to work if he participated in sensitivity training and supervision. After returning to work on Friday, Blankenship chose retirement. What makes this especially curious is that there were indications that in both of the sexual harassment cases recently brought forth, Blankenship and Carrasco – who we will talk more about shortly – HR provided a pathway back to work, but both men chose retirement.

I find the district’s response to Blankenship’s retirement a little troubling:

“Bob Blankenship, director of STEAM for MNPS, has chosen to retire as of December 15, 2017 after 32 years serving our district. MNPS thanks Mr. Blankenship for his long and dedicated career as a teacher, multiple award-winning principal and finally STEAM director. He had already planned to retire when MNPS tapped him to fill the unexpected need for a STEAM director at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. His willingness to jump in to support and lead our STEAM project will not be forgotten. We wish him every bit of happiness as he embarks on his next adventure.”

While Blankenship may be well respected as an educator, his retirement still comes in response to being found guilty of touching someone in an inappropriate manner and making inappropriate comments in the work place. MNPS’s statement suggests that you can harass people and still get get your gold watch as you walk out the door. I’m not sure that’s the message the district should be sending, especially when the current culture is considered toxic.

It should also be highlighted that the district has been continually throwing money at and touting a STEAM transition, when that transition has essentially been leaderless for the first half of the school year. That should be a concern to the public.

TMZ alert. Early word on the street is that Overton HS principal Dr. Jill Pittman may be in the running to replace Blankenship. It seems that Pittman’s name is surfacing in every central office opening that becomes available, and I’m not sure that is fair. This year she has done a better job leading Overton HS despite some real challenges, and perhaps she deserves more recognition for that. We’ll keep our eyes on things as they develop.

THE SINGING CANARY

This week, News Channel 5 did two stories focusing on an MNPS high-ranking official, Mo Carrasco, who recently resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. Night one focused on the actual allegations themselves. Carrasco vehemently denies those allegations, but there are a couple exchanges in the interview that make me say, “Huh?” From what I’m told, there are at least 7 women who signed complaints, but neither Carrasco nor Phil Williams is provided that information. When Carrasco is asked about that, he explains that he asked HR but they told him, “Well, we were hoping the questions would connect and joggle your memory and identify who it was.” Why they wouldn’t tell him the number is baffling to me.

He also goes on to say that HR told him at one point the investigation had been closed and that he had nothing to worry about. He adds that something changed, and he believes that something is connected to enemies he made in the district by saying things about the work that people didn’t want to hear. Rumor has it that there is evidence out there that HR did indeed tell Carrasco that the charges had no merit. I can’t confirm that, because I’m still waiting for my open records request on Carrasco’s emails when he was out on administrative leave to be filled.

Night two of the interview focuses on how the district is run. This portion of the interview is like a live reading of Dad Gone Wild over the last year. I’ve had quite a few of the educators I talk to say, “What is the big deal? This is all stuff we already knew.” And that is true. There is nothing revealed that those who regularly read DGW didn’t already know. The importance comes from an actual high-ranking Maryland transplant saying them out loud for public record. I challenge anyone to produce evidence that what Carrasco says in relation to the running of the district is untrue.

Many will use his resignation in disgrace as a counter to the veracity of what he is saying. While his actions towards women in the district are indefensible, that doesn’t change how the district is being run. The question now becomes what are we going to do about it? Are we going to continue to just say Joseph and his team need more time? There was a lot that had to be fixed, right?

But as we continue to shine a spotlight on leadership, we continue to see more evidence that what we are doing is not working. Early indications on MAP testing completed last month indicate that literacy scores are not rising. Math scores apparently are, but not literacy. Could this be because we have such a terrible literacy plan?

Dr. Joseph continually defends the plan, but I would point to the fact that teachers are still complaining about it as an indication of how bad it really is. The way things typically work is that teachers are presented with a bad plan, they get mad and push back, and then they work on the plan and modify it so it works. After that, they focus on the work and become less vocal about it. I figured that was how things were going to work in regards to new literacy plan introduced at the beginning of the school year.

September came and teachers were only getting more vocal. October brought more complaints. November, equally as many. It is now December, and teachers are still mad and still speaking out. Five-star teachers, the best of the best, are voicing their concerns. That alone should be an indicator that we are on the wrong path and need to recalculate and adjust. Hubris comes right before the fall. Part of leadership is knowing when to adjust.

Carrasco is right, teachers are leaving. A quick look at MNPS’s employment portal will show that there are currently 183 certificated positions available. Anecdotal evidence indicates that there are a large number of teachers that will not be returning after winter break. We already have kids in our high schools being taught via computer. How many more will have to be shifted to a digital platform in January because of a staffing shortage? This should be very concerning to everybody.

The district will try to sell Carrasco’s criticisms as those of a disgruntled employee. But Carrasco was so much more. As he says,”Dr. Joseph is someone I trained as a first-year principal. I mentored him for a long time. He was my daughter’s principal. I nominated him for principal of the year.”

MNPS’s response to the Carrasco interview is as poor as the one issued in regards to Blankenship’s departure:

“The sexual harassment allegations against Mr. Carrasco and his decision to resign prior to the conclusion of the investigation are unfortunate but should not cast a shadow on the exemplary work being done by administrators, teachers, staff and students every day in MNPS.

“Together, we have embarked upon an ambitious and aggressive agenda to improve outcomes for children in multiple areas.  The complexity of the work requires additional capacity to execute.  Our short-term use of consultant support has been necessary and effective to move indicators such as ACT, reading, mathematics and STEAM performance.”

It fails to acknowledge or discredit the described hiring practices, glosses over the sexual harassment charges, and chooses to focuses on what has always been a priority for district leadership, outside consultants. Furthermore, it touts STEAM, again, as a successful endeavor despite being leaderless for the majority of the school year.

So where is Joseph on all of this? Where is the school board? I wish I could tell you, but neither have deemed the situation worthy of a public statement. One can only suppose that Board Chair Anna Shepherd continues her unilateral support of everything that Dr. Joseph is doing in the district. One can only suppose that Dr. Joseph just considers this more noise and that we all just need to tune it out. Neither position could be further from the truth.

I urge everyone to contact their school board member and don’t stop there. Contact your council member. Contact Mayor Barry. As Carrasco says, “People need to know the truth. This district has been living too many lies.” It’s time for an honest conversation.

ADDED NOTE: After publication of this post, the Tennessean published an article with quotes from Dr. Joseph. When asked if bringing Carrasco to the district was a mistake, he responds that he didn’t think it was a mistake to bring Carrasco to Nashville and said, “Ultimately, he ended in MNPS doing the work he had been doing for years.” Read that how you want to.

 

THE POTENTIAL OF AN INTROSPECTIVE WEEK

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NOTE ADDED ON 12/12/2017: Even I make mistakes. The Chamber of Commerce Report Card is actually scheduled to be released next Tuesday. Everything I wrote holds true. Sorry for the mix up.

Last week, if you’ll recall, the week started with me reporting that our car had been stolen. On Friday, I reported that through the power of social media, we had recovered the car undamaged. It’s Monday again, and I’m sad to report that once again the car has been stolen. On Saturday morning just after midnight, the thieves returned to the scene and stole the car back from our driveway in front of the house.

The Metro Nashville Police showed up quickly on Saturday morning, but they were as baffled as we were about the re-theft. When the wife asked if this is a common occurrence, they responded, “No. In fact it almost never happens. Is there anyone who is mad at you?”

“Only about half the world,” was my reply.

Several people have suggested that I look into the whereabouts of certain Nashville school board member.

That last comment was an attempt at some levity. Here’s hoping that by Friday I have better news to report.

This is the last week of school before Winter Break for students and teachers in MNPS, but it could prove to be an interesting one. Tonight over on Channel 5, Phil Williams airs the first of a two-part series based on an interview with Mo Carrasco, an MNPS executive who recently resigned in response to a multitude of accusations of sexual harassment. It should be noted that Carrasco has a long personal history with Director of Schools Shawn Joseph and came to MNPS in response to a personal invite by Joseph.

On Tuesday morning, the spotlight will be focused on MNPS when the Nashville Chamber of Commerce releases its annual school report card. In the past, the Chamber has been very critical of MNPS, focusing on literacy instruction, English learner students, and the school board. What will this year’s focus be on? It has to be pointed out, and is borne out by the weekend’s poll results, the Chamber’s report card suffers a bit of a credibility gap, and while it is widely read, I’m not sure that it is much adhered to and is quickly forgotten.

Let’s take a moment and set the stage for these two events that could have a big impact on MNPS going forward.

PHIL WILLIAMS INTERVIEW

Word on the street is that tonight’s story on News Channel 5 could get quite juicy. Despite how the MNPS brass may try to paint him, Carrasco has a long-time personal relationship with Dr. Joseph going back to Montgomery County, Maryland. If we hop in the way-back machine and head to 2008, you’ll find Carrasco in trouble for running a principal training program out of his school, Richard Montgomery High School. A program that was publicly endorsed by one Shawn Joseph.

Carrasco was cleared of charges and was offered a new position at central office. I guess they concluded that since he wasn’t offering a service training principals, they should give him a position doing so. Among the people not-so-happy about the move was a Florida-based company named Breakthrough Coach that had done work for the district. Seems they had suspicions about Carrasco’s business, as it went by the name of Breakthrough Principal.

Of further note, the superintendent of Montgomery County Schools at the the time was Jerry Weast. Weast is a former Superintendent of the Year and often referred to as a mentor of Joseph’s. In a stroke of fate for MNPS, Weast moved to the Cookeville area a few months before Joseph was hired and has graciously served as an occasional informal advisor to Dr. Joseph. Sure is a fortuitous coincidence for MNPS that all 3 could once again somehow manage to re-converge in middle Tennessee.

MNPS has been very quiet about the allegations against Carrasco. To date, they have yet to make an official response to either the charges or Carrasco’s subsequent resignation. A resignation that I’m not convinced was voluntary. Carrasco had vowed to fight the charges, but was rightfully concerned about what his children might read on the internet. On Thursday, when he did the interview with Williams, Carrasco was defiant, but on Friday morning he had a reversal and a change of tone. One can only speculate about the phone calls he received Thursday night.

I have heard people trying to float the idea that former MNPS Number 2 man Jay Steele was behind the scenes manipulating events as a devious attempt to discredit Dr. Joseph. Photos of Steele, who was recently in town for a convention, with MNPS principals and staff have been offered up as evidence of his machinations. There are a few problems with this theory though.

First of all, there is no reward for Steele in discrediting Joseph. The ship with him as Captain of the USS MNPS has long sailed and is not coming back to dock. Second of all, there are at least 8 women who have signed formal complaints against Carrasco. Not all 8 have connections to Steele, nor is it likely that he would be able to get all 8 on board to take collective action. Remember, filing formal charges opens one up for public scrutiny. I don’t think any of us would invite public scrutiny knowing that there was a good chance we could be discredited.

My prevailing thought is that Carrasco and the rest of the Maryland crew, including Joseph, arrived in Nashville thinking they would be treated as saviors by this backwater, podunk Southern town. Therefore, they felt, and arguably continue to feel, that they can act with impunity. Carrasco learned the hard way that Nashville is not nearly as friendly as outward appearances might suggest. You have to treat the locals as you would your family back home. Time will tell if others learn from his painful lesson.

I will offer up empathy for Carrasco’s children. It is an awful thing for a child to have to see a parent portrayed as anything less than exemplary. I think back to almost 18 years ago when my step-daughter was 20 years old. I was drinking at the time and not always behaving in a pious manner. I had to ask myself regularly, if she was to suddenly walk in the room, would I be able to explain in a satisfactory manner what I was doing or saying? It was a driving factor in my decision to change my behavior and get sober. I’m not suggesting that Carrasco has issues with substance abuse, but I would say that there is ample evidence that a change in behavior is in order.

Hopefully, School Board Chair Anna Shepherd will be watching tonight’s news report. In the past, when Williams has aired critical stories, Shepherd has claimed not to watch Channel 5 news. Somebody needs to remind her that just because you didn’t see it does not mean that it didn’t happen. As board chair, she has an obligation to have a working knowledge on all issues that the district is facing. She can’t just trust in the Director of Schools and leave everything up to his discretion.

I know we’ll be watching Channel 5 tonight at 6pm.

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE REPORT CARD

Every year since 1992, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce has released a report card on the state of schools in Nashville. Last year, the report card backed Shawn Joseph’s focus on literacy. Joseph responded by saying, “We need collective impact if we are going to change the trajectory.” Yet the actual response was to introduce a literacy Scope and Sequence that gives a bad name to dumpster fires. Teachers across the district have universally rejected it and the accompanying IFL units. In case you are not familiar with Scope and Sequence, it is a list of all the ideas, concepts, and topics that will be covered in the book, in the course, or in the lesson plans assigned within a curriculum. The IFL unit plans are the scripted units that flesh out the Scope and Sequence.

Joseph was also praised for his leadership prowess last year:

His leadership has also reinvigorated teachers and school leaders in the district. Joseph and his team have the district on the same page, said Zuri Adkins, Una Elementary assistant principal. “There is a refinement from years past,” she said. “Everyone is getting the same information at the same time in the same place.”

A year later, is there anybody who believes that?

Joseph has repeatedly defended the Scope and Sequence as being not as bad as advertised. That defense is not supported by district teachers. Even those who are doing their best to adopt the prescribed curriculum are feeling stressed. The level of frustration brought on by the poorly designed Scope and Sequence is reaching a point where I am seeing indications that it could lead to a mass exodus of teachers. I always try to take threats of people quitting with a grain of salt because it’s a long road between threatening to quit and actually leaving. However, evidence keeps mounting that this is a warning that needs to be heeded.

Primary complaints on the Scope and Sequence center around subject and level appropriateness, whether or not the texts involved are available, how realistic the timelines are, and the communication of expectations in a timely manner. One teacher raised the consideration that the elementary school curriculum is a K-5 curriculum despite our elementary schools being K-4. It has also been pointed out that it leaves little time for small group work. Small group work has previously been an essential part of the district’s literacy work.

Tomorrow, I will attend the unveiling of the report card, anxiously awaiting to see how the Chamber of Commerce committee tackles these concerns. Will they question the strategy or will they continue to blindly back Dr. Joseph? Or will they produce evidence that shows our literacy strategy has been working? That evidence would be interesting because I have seen nothing that points to its existence. Maybe what’ll happen is that somebody will shout, “Charter Schools!” and we’ll all get in a big fist fight and totally ignore the elephant in the room.

QUICK HITS

Many of you have asked why Bob Blankenship has been out on administrative leave. To that question I don’t have an answer. I have heard a lot of conjecture, but none of it seems to fit the narrative of Blankenship’s character. Perhaps at some point we’ll get more clarification.

Speaking of leave, word on the street is that the former Buena Vista ES principal is ready to return from medical leave, but the district might not be ready to give her back her school. We are keeping an eye open to see if those rumors bear out. But we will say that we are happy to hear that she is healthy again.

There is a school board meeting tomorrow. Some items of note on the agenda. Quaver is back on the consent agenda. They were on last meeting’s consent agenda but were mysteriously pulled from the agenda. Hopefully there will be no issues this week. Also on the consent agenda are new board policies. A little of a head scratcher here for me. I would think they would hold enough weight to warrant their own discussion and vote. They do seem to seem to quite promising though.

Also on tomorrow’s agenda is recognition of Maplewood HS teacher Jared Amato and his work with ProjectLit. I went to the last book club of the year this morning and was well rewarded as always. It’s a shame nobody from the school board or central office deemed it important enough to attend.

POLL RESULTS

Let’s take a quick look at this weekend’s poll questions.

The first question was looking for an update on who you support for the next governor of Tennessee. Results would indicate that Fitzhugh has begun to find his mojo. 37% of you indicated that if the election was today you would vote for him. Karl Dean wasn’t far behind with 32% of the vote. Randy Boyd was the leading Republican candidate, but only 9% of you indicated that he would get your vote. Some interesting responses for write-in votes:

Harold Love, Jr 1
Bredesen 1
Undecided 1
Someone that will fire Dr Joseph 1
Anybody but Karl Dean 1
None of the above

The second question asked for your opinion on the aforementioned Chamber of Commerce report card. The results were not very flattering for the Chamber. 30% of you answered that the report card was worthless, and 26% indicated that you wouldn’t be paying any attention to it. 23% of you indicated that you don’t put any stock in the report. That totals nearly 80% of you that hold a negative connotation to the report card. Not good. Here are the write-in votes:

will be quickly forgotten 1
Depends on who got appointed to create the report. 1
Same recommendations no follow through 1
I hope someone is honest about the idiots running MNPS

The last question was about the School Choice Festival. Not surprisingly, school choice is not a popular subject among DGW readers. 70% of you responded, “I hate the whole process no matter what. So hold it when you want.” I don’t think there is any need to dive deeper. Here are the write-in votes:

No thoughts 1
Fire Dr. Felder 1
I don’t care. I just hope Felder is the next to go. 1
Later start lets more families participate.

That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short. I have started using Patreon. 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.

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT

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This week closed a little better than it started. For as much as we deride social media, it certainly has its benefits. On Wednesday, a young lady who had seen my Facebook post was out walking her dogs and spotted our missing vehicle. She contacted us. The miracles continued when we were able to reclaim the car and discovered it was undamaged. Words cannot express our gratitude to the young lady who found our car. Christmas is looking a whole lot brighter.

Earlier in the week, Oliver Middle School principal Dr. Steve Sheaffer sent me an invitation to come see the school’s performance of The Little Mermaid. Since my eldest will be transitioning to Oliver after next year, I decided to take him up on his offer and bring the kids along for a morning performance that was being presented to 4th graders from Granbery ES. One thing MNPS has been doing better this year is promoting the pathways from elementary to middle to high school within existing clusters. Schools in a cluster interact more with each other than they have in the past, therefore giving a clearer picture to students and families of what their educational pathway may look like. I applaud this initiative and hope that it is maintained in the future.

Upon entering Oliver Middle School, I was reminded of a conversation I heard on a sports talk show. The two hosts were debating which ball players should be voted in to the Hall of Fame. One host argued that if you have to argue the merits of a candidate, then they don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. A true Hall of Fame member is someone you can look at and recognize as a Hall of Famer without having to debate their stats. I would argue that you could apply this rule to the evaluating of schools as well.

There is something that hits you immediately upon entry into a good school. It’s something in the air. It’s the way you are greeted in the office. It’s the way the halls are decorated. It’s the way teachers interact among themselves and with students. There are a million elements that go into it, but the feeling is tangible, and you don’t need to start closely evaluating instruction or dissecting data to realize that you are in a good school. Oliver MS qualifies as one of those schools.

We were greeted warmly. As we walked the halls, we saw pictures of students, instead of data charts or stock displays, decorating the walls. The pictures sent a message of what was valued at Oliver Middle School, and while achievement is certainly important, nothing superseded people. This was further evident in the manner that people interacted with each other. It’s clear that Oliver is a place where things run in an orderly fashion, but children are still allowed to be children. Care and respect are evident everywhere you look in the building. The bathrooms, while not sparkling, were even clean.

As a side note, I come from the restaurant/bar business, and it was always drilled into my head that bathrooms are where a facility separates itself from the competition. You want to demonstrate that you care about detail? Keep the bathrooms clean, as they are an area easily overlooked. It’s a view I still subscribe to.

You can’t talk about Oliver without talking about its music program. I knew that the band was a big part of their identity, but I had no idea that the school actually housed 4 bands with over 400 students participating. That’s impressive by any measure.

The play itself was spectacular. I must admit that as a former theater major, I tend to watch the lesser parts more closely. It’s relatively easy to take a few talented kids, put them out front in the leads, and impress an audience. But the true measure comes in what the rest of the cast is doing. There were truly no small parts in Oliver’s production of The Little Mermaid. I was continually impressed by cast members who remained in character and played up their role even while far removed from the action. It was really really really impressive. The leads themselves were also quite good. My daughter liked the seagulls, my son liked Sebastian, while I was partial to the eels.

It was a wonderful morning and left both of my children anticipating their future transition to Oliver Middle School. This is no small feat, as they are true-to-the-heart Tusculum ES kids and would stay there forever if they could. Tusculum teachers have set the bar high, but it looks like Oliver’s teachers will be ready to take the baton when it comes time to be passed. Every child should have access to a school like Oliver Middle. Thank you all.

VOUCHERS

Once Christmas has passed and the calendar has turned to January, it will be time to begin a new legislative session, and in what has become an annual tradition, yet another conversation about vouchers. I’ve lost track of how many years this battle has been raging, but every year has ended in defeat for the promoters of school vouchers and I’m hoping this year will prove no different.

In case you don’t know what school vouchers are, let me supply a definition. School vouchers are tax-funded government monies awarded to students so they can attend a school of their choice. Sounds great, huh? And they might be, except for the fact that these monies never fully cover tuition, books, meals, transportation, or social fees, and they shift needed funding away from schools. I know, it’s the little things.

This year was expected to be a slam dunk for vouchers because of President Trump and his Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’ expressed support of the idea. But I’m not so sure it will be. Some things have started to shift that I believe will have an impact on the pending conversation.

Just this week in Colorado, the Douglas County School board voted to end its private school voucher plan and the long running legal fight connected to it. The vote was 6-0. The board’s action is considered a blow to conservative education reform advocates and voucher supporters in Colorado and across the country. They were looking for the Supreme Court to use this case to set precedent and now they’ll have to look elsewhere.

One entity that is not pleased with the board’s action Colorado is Americans for Prosperity. They are vowing to spend “5 figures” to educate parents about the board’s decision and to monitor actions going forward. No word on whether that five figures mean 10K or 99K. Tennesseans are very familiar with the shenanigans of Americans for Prosperity.

The Huffington Post released their study on vouchers this week, and in analyzing voucher schools across the country, they discovered that those schools can teach whatever they want, including religion:

Our analysis found that about 75 percent of voucher schools across the country are religious ― usually Christian or Catholic, with about 2 percent identifying as Jewish and 1 percent identifying as Muslim. There were gray areas: At least six schools identified as non-religious but used a curriculum created by the founder of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard.

I encourage you to read the whole study. The bottom line is, the more we know about vouchers, the less we like them. Something tells me that this year’s outcome on voucher legislation in Tennessee is going to mirror previous years.

QUICK HITS

This trip around the sun has certainly been a weird one. For years, parents had to fight for adequate facilities for Tusculum ES students. Now that they finally have a new school, the district is using it to tout their vision for the future and clap themselves on the back for being visionary. I have a couple of words I’d like to say, but I’ll try to remember that any sun shining on Tusculum ES is good. So I’ll just smile and nod.

This new Shovels and Rope record, Busted Jukebox Volume 2, is pretty damn good.

One MNPS administrator on administrative leave has returned to work, while another has resigned. Executive Officer for STEAM Bob Blankenship quietly returned back to work yesterday. Executive Director of Organizational Development Mo Carrasco has resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. According to a report on News Channel 5, Carrasco maintains his innocence. “What I don’t want to do is leave here with my name…,” he said, breaking into tears. “I didn’t come here to dirty my name. These allegations are false.” Channel 5 has a full interview with Carrasco that they’ll be airing all next week. I would call that must-see-TV.

It was with a heavy heart that I received the news about the tragic death of a 17-year-old Hillsboro High School student. Ja’Dontae Lamont Hancock Jr. enrolled at Hillsboro this fall and previously attended East Nashville Magnet School. He planned to join Hillsboro’s DECA chapter and baseball team. Teachers said he had model behavior and was an aspiring leader. This is a tragic case of senseless violence that should sadden all of us in the MNPS family. Our deepest sympathy is extended to the family during their time of grief. A GoFundMe account has been started for Ja’Dontae’s funeral expenses.

This week Cresswell Arts dance students got a master class in dance from the Janet Jackson dancers. How cool is that?

Metro Schools plans to host its 2018 School Choice Festival on Jan. 23.

POLL QUESTIONS

Time now for a couple questions. Let’s see what I can come up with.

The first question is a revisit to the governor’s race. Let’s take a look and see if anything has changed for any of you.

The second question is about the upcoming Chamber of Commerce’s MNPS report card. It’ll be released on Tuesday morning, and I’m interested in how much credence you’ll give it.

My last question is about the just announced dates of the MNPS School Choice Festival. This year, the event takes place earlier in the year and the timeline has been condensed. Do you like it or not?

That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short. I have started using Patreon. 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.

HOW MUCH DO WE REALLY CARE?

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I know, it’s Tuesday, and I usually publish on Monday. Unfortunately, this week started off with a bit of a challenge. Sunday morning, between 1 and 4 AM, my wife’s 2012 Subaru was stolen from our driveway. It’s perhaps one of the most surreal events I’ve ever experienced. We both wandered around the front of the house for a good 45 minutes before reality sunk in. The police have been extremely helpful and an insurance claim has been filed, so we’ll see what happens.

The stealing of the car dovetailed nicely into the thoughts I was already feeling this weekend. As I am wont to do, I was pondering the state of our public schools in Nashville, and to be honest, I was having a bit of a crisis of faith. I found myself questioning just how much people really cared.

Over the last several years, we’ve all watched the battle lines drawn over charter schools vs public schools – I know, charter schools are public schools. But just bear with me for a minute. Everybody has lined up to stake their positions against corporate takeovers and loss of local control. Rallies are held and activists show up to address the school board on how the system is failing our kids or how the system needs protecting. I’m not downplaying those issues, but those are national issues for the most part. And I would ask, where is the passion for the issues generated locally?

For example, let’s look at Antioch High School. Two years ago, it was a 5-star school; today it’s a shadow of that through no fault of its teachers or students, but instead as a direct result of poor leadership. The state of AHS is no secret to anybody, yet nobody does anything. A month ago, the district held yet another Listen and Learn session with teachers, and once again everybody walked away recognizing there were real issues. But what changed? Nothing. There are plans to rinse and repeat in January.

Last year, students walked out over conditions at AHS, and there was widespread media coverage. But did anybody ever follow up to see if things had changed? Did anyone ask, “Hey kids, anything get any better?” Did anybody ever follow up to see if enough teachers had been hired? Has anybody asked MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Joseph, “Hey, how come your old friend from Prince George’s County is still principal despite everybody recognizing that she is not, by anybody’s approximation and for whatever reason, doing an adequate job?” Or did we just turn a deaf ear and hope that if we ignore things, they’ll somehow magically get better?

Two weeks ago, there was an article in the Tennessean about an MNPS administrator accused of sexual harassment. Nationally, these kind of accusations are met with swift action. In Nashville, it appears that our reaction is a shrug and a failure to dig deeper or follow up, as there hasn’t been a follow up report since the initial report.

How come nobody is asking Dr. Joseph, “Since you and Mo Carrasco have a personal relationship that stretches back to you two working together on a principal training program in Montgomery County, what are your thoughts on multiple women accusing him of sexual harassment?”

Or maybe they could ask, “How is it that an administrator, hand picked by you, and touted as among the best and the brightest, has managed to get themselves placed on administrative leave twice in 18 months?”

LEAD Academy CEO Chris Reynolds resigned the week prior to the start of the school year, and it was covered like the Director of Schools quit. However, there was no mention that over at MNPS proper, the people in charge of the SEL initiative, the choice initiative, and the STEAM initiative all resigned and took new positions outside of the district two weeks before school started. Furthermore, there has been no mention whatsoever that the replacement STEAM Director has been on administrative leave for almost 6 weeks.

It’s been reported that the district has won 23.8 million dollars in STEAM grants, and when you go to MNPS’s web page it says in big bold letters “STEAM in Middle Schools,” yet it seems to not be important to have stability in the leadership position that oversees the entire initiative. Nobody asks Dr. Joseph, “Why can’t we keep a director of STEAM in place? Isn’t that kind of important?”

Then again, it doesn’t seem important that MNPS have a Chief of Staff in place either. Nobody asks why someone with the qualifications of Jana Carlisle would uproot their life from NYC to come to Nashville only to be summarily dismissed a year later under the guise of “her contract was up.” Nobody asks Dr. Joseph, “When will you be hiring a new Chief of Staff? What qualifications will they have that Jana Carlisle didn’t have? Why did she leave, despite you repeatedly referring to her as a key element?” Instead, it’s a shrug and sayonara.

There was at a fight at Overton High School. 15 kids were arrested. Two weeks later, and where is the follow up story? We just shrug and dismiss this incident as an outlier. But is it really? Not if you talk to students, teachers, and parents. They’ll tell you discipline issues are on the rise across all grade levels. Police being called to elementary schools is not nearly as rare an incident as it should be, yet nobody asks Dr. Joseph, “What’s being done to review our disciplinary policies to ensure that they are functioning as effectively as possible?”

A couple months ago, MNPS hired a new Public Information Officer, Michelle Michaud. She walked through the door throwing elbows and didn’t win many fans among local media, but she certainly set the rules for any coverage MNPS would be receiving and whether it’s directly due to her or not, the kid gloves have stayed on. MNPS gets little to no pressure to address its shortcomings. Instead, the Tennessean prints another glowing article about the board and Dr. Joseph.

In the aforementioned article, School Board member Dr. Sharon Gentry is quoted as saying, “What we have managed to do is eliminate the randomness. We aren’t chasing, but actually driving.” What does that mean? What conversation are you driving? Because it isn’t the one about Antioch High School, discipline, STEAM leadership, or sexual harassment.

To be fair, the local media has done some excellent work on travel expenditures and lead in the water, only to get a collective shrug from the community. There were no mass calls to school board members. Nobody demanded action from the city council. Business went on per usual. So that’s where it begs the question, do we really care?

I get it, charter schools and Betsy DeVos make attractive villains, and attractive villains make it easy to pick up the sword. It’s not hard to picture DeVos tying public schools to the railroad track while twirling a mustache. But what happens if she’s defeated and charter schools are run out of town? Are discipline issues solved? Teacher attrition resolved? I often worry that the real danger to public schools does not come from the forces of privatization, but rather from our unwillingness to hold local schools to the same level of accountability that we would demand from charter schools.

I get it. It’s time consuming, unglamorous work. To quote Dr. Joseph, “A lot of the work that we do isn’t glamorous, it isn’t the flashy stuff that everyone sees. It is the policy work, it is the governance work, it is the researching what measures we focus on that often goes unseen to the eye.” Yes it is, and if we don’t do it, running Betsy DeVos out of town becomes meaningless.

When I was a young man, I remember complaining to my father about another young man stealing my girlfriend. My father asked, “Were you attentive to her? Did you put her interests on par with your own? Were you willing to work at the relationship?” And then he closed with advice that has always stuck with me, “You can’t steal away the willing.”

QUICK HITS

This past weekend, I bartended a parent/teacher mixer for the West End Middle School PTO. It was held at the 1979 Studios, and this was my third year working the event. It is always a good time, but this year particularly so because I got to observe West End’s new principal Dr. Young work the room. Watching his interactions with both teachers and parents, it’s clear that he has become an integral part of a community that continues to be a model of parental involvement. They are obviously fond of him, and he equally so of them. This is what it looks like when it works. Kudos to all involved.

Speaking of quality principals, Oliver Middle School principal Steve Sheaffer called this weekend to invite me to see the school’s performance of The Little Mermaid. Performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Hope to see you at one of them. The kids and I are quite excited.

(M3 Summit)

Out in the Northwest quadrant of MNPS, the M3 summit took place this past weekend. By all accounts, it was a tremendous success. Kudos to Community Superintendent Pippa Meriwether and her quadrant leadership team on a pulling off such a impactful event.

Former school board candidate Miranda Christy has an op-ed out in the Tennessean today asking for us all to put aside our political bias and come together to work for kids.

Congratulation also go out to MNPS Executive Officer of Diversity Maritza Gonzalez. This year she will be representing MNPS as a Fellow for the Racial Equity Leadership Network. RELN has gathered 12 ambitious school district leaders from across the nation poised to address racial, economic, and academic disparities in their districts, and Dr. Gonzalez is one of them. And if that isn’t enough, she’ll also be representing MNPS as a Fellow for the Deeper Learning Equity Fellowship.

Were you one of those people who thought that TNReady was on the path to improvement? If so, Andy Spears has some bad news for you over at the TN Education Report.

Confused by what the new federal tax bill means for schools? ChalkbeatTN has some answers for you.

Local Blogger Vesia Wilson-Hawkins has some thoughts on recent allegations that charter schools are re-segregating our schools. Agree or disagree, she’s always worth a read.

Did you know that Hillsboro High School has an AP-accredited school paper? Did you know that it is one of the few in the country? Check out the Hillsboro Globe.

(Glencliff Mariachi Band)

A nice job was done entertaining folks at the lighting of the Nashville Christmas tree by the Glencliff HS Mariachi Band

(Dupont Tyler Symphony)

How about that Dupont Tyler Middle School Symphony? Impressive.

And let’s not forget Ruby Major Elementary School’s Ruby Rockettes!

‘Tis the season!

 

 

(Ruby Major Elementary Rockettes)

POLL QUESTIONS

Let’s review the poll results from this weekend.

The first question asked if you would support providing kids 30 minutes a day to read in school. 63% responded that you would 100% support this initiative. 17% more of you put the caveat of 3 days a week in. That means 80% of you would support designating time during the school day for kids to do nothing but read. I wonder if anyone is listening?

Here are the write-ins:

Long standing / well-researched practice with results — SSR — Sustained Silent Reading 1
love the idea but with current environment – impossible! 1
It always was part of curriculum until reform came along. 1
Yes, if done in a research-based way with support. 1
Yes. In fact they already do this at my kid’s school 1
Dr. Felder would say read phonics books 1
I would support an hour or longer, maybe 2 30 min reading periods per day

Question two asked how confident you are in your children’s safety at school. The results to this one reinforce the need to have a deeper conversation on discipline. The number one answer, at 42%, was “mostly.” Number 2, at 19%, was “not so much.” Only 15% answered extremely. That, to me, is very concerning.

Only 3 write-in answers for this one:

no kids in school now 1
As long as they aren’t at Maplewood 1
IFL units will solve safety issues

The last question asked if you considered President Trump referring to Senator Warren as Pocahontas as a racial slur. 33% of you said “Absolutely,” while 27% of you answered “I don’t listen to anything the President says anymore.” I’ll stay out of the weeds on this one.

Here are the write-ins:

His verbiage stinks. I think he was just calling her out 1
Just fire Dr. Felder

That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short. I have started using Patreon. 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.

IT’S DECEMBER 1 AND I DON’T HAVE A CLEVER TITLE.

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Another week comes to a close as we get another day closer to Christmas. I’m just amazed at how fast this year has flown by. In a blink, it will be 2018. Here at DGW land, we are caught up in Nutcracker fever as my eldest is playing a garden fairy. This is a huge honor and she is above the moon in anticipation of treading the boards of TPAC as a young ballerina.

READING READING READING

This week I managed to hit two separate ProjectLit book club meetings. I attended both the Overton High School and Croft Middle Design Prep’s meetings. Funny story on the Overton club meeting.

The meeting was scheduled to start at 2:15 PM, which means that I would be arriving during dismissal. Shamefully, I was a little intimidated by the thought of navigating the halls through a sea of high school kids. So I convinced myself that today wasn’t a good day to attend and that I had to go to the grocery store instead. It was in the parking lot of Kroger that I re-evaluated and recognized the importance of supporting students and teachers through ProjectLit, so I bucked up and returned to Overton High School. A decision I don’t regret.

At both clubs this week, I learned a lot and both reinforced my belief that if you are going to make education policy for kids, you have to interact with them. And not in a run in, touch the wall, tussle some heads, and snap a picture manner. You have to meet them in their environment and on their terms.

We all think we understand kids and know what they need, but without that real interaction, it’s all supposition. I learned the unique family situations of the kids I sat with. I learned what motivates them to read and what definitely turns them off. I learned about the multitude of outside activities that they engage in, and I learned the pride they take in their school. I saw firsthand the connection between them and their teachers.

Which leads me to my second observation. Why do we not give kids more time to read in school? Why do we not have a 30-minute block a day where kids do nothing but read? This subject has come up numerous times in the past couple of weeks and nobody has an answer.

Talk to a baseball coach. How do kids get better at baseball? They play baseball. How do guitar players become better guitar players? They play guitar. How do dancers become better dancers? They dance more.

What if you showed up for basketball practice and the coach said, “All we are going to do is run, dribble, and shoot. And when you get in the game, you’ll automatically be a better basketball player.” We’d probably laugh out loud. But that’s what we do daily in our schools. We talk a lot about reading, but how much reading do we actually do?

How many times have we started a new job and the person training us said, “I can show you how to do it all day, but the best way to learn is by just doing it.” It just seems like a no brainer to me. If you want kids to be better readers, have them read more.

We try to pass the initiative off by encouraging kids to read more at home, but we can’t control the environment there like we can in school. Many of our poorer kids live in homes with environments unconducive to independent reading. Many of our high school kids go directly to work after school. So when, and where, do we expect our students to read? But if we demonstrated how important reading was by carving out a 30-minute block everyday… I don’t know, it just makes sense to me.

OF TNREADY TESTS AND UNICORNS

This morning I stumbled across an interesting article on a blog called Classroom Chronicles, which is sponsored by the TNDOE. It was called TNReady Reports Foster Collaboration and Inform Instruction. It’s written by Erin Raines, a Bradley County High School English teacher. Hmm… I thought… this should prove interesting.

Now before I go any further, let me be perfectly clear, I bear no malice towards Ms. Raines. For all I know, she is an exceptional teacher and a wonderful human being. She most certainly is a better teacher than I am. But, that said, her post raises a few questions for me.

At the end of the first section she states:

It would be easy to teach what I love most about Language Arts and forget about the rest, but that would be a disservice to my students. TNReady helps keep me on track in my curricular focus by providing multiple user-friendly reports I can utilize to target areas of instruction to strengthen as well as areas where I am equipped to offer support to peers.

So in other words, without TNReady, teachers would be ignoring large swaths of literacy and math and merely focusing on the parts they like. This aligns neatly with the trope that without TNReady teachers would be ignoring kids in poverty and minority children as well. Mind you that these are the same people who regularly sacrifice an extra 10-15 hours a week, uncompensated, to make sure they are meeting the needs of their students. Yea, I’m not buying that.

She then talks about these fantastic reports that she receives in a timely fashion that allow her to connect TNReady scores to her classroom:

For my personal instruction, I analyze my class-level Standards Analysis Summary Report (example here), which shows how my own students performed on each standard.

So here’s the rub: the example she links to is nice, but so is a picture of a unicorn. As far as I know, teachers at all grade levels don’t have access to individual scores yet and nor do parents. So where are these reports coming from? Later she mentions using these reports to plan before the semester starts. What semester? Spring? Because it’s December, and results by schools just arrived recently, and we are still waiting for individual results.

What happens when I read these TNDOE writings is I start to think up is down and I’m missing something. I call other activists and they confirm my thoughts, and then we all end up confused. It’s like we’ve fallen through the looking glass.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think this writing is intended for activists and educators. It’s aimed squarely at parents who don’t know better and trust the TNDOE. When questions arise about the usefulness of TNReady, people will pull this blog post out and say, “Nope, nope, you are wrong. It says right here that teachers are getting timely useful reports. You just hate all testing.” Mission accomplished.

The post closes with an admonishment for teachers “to remember that teacher attitude influences the classroom environment.” So buck up, buttercup. Toe the line and remember… “The more I can emphasize TNReady’s worth as a tool for teachers, as well as parents and students, the better!”

Over at the TN Education Report, Andy Spears has a better idea. He tells us that State Senator Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro is proposing legislation that would place a two-year moratorium on TNReady testing, and Spears thinks we all should throw our support behind it. Can’t say I disagree.

QUICK HITS

Friday night brings us the sad news the former Pearl Cohn HS basketball player Perry Wallace has passed away. Wallace was a part of the legendary first desegregated high school basketball game in Nashville when Pearl Cohn played Father Ryan. He went on to be the first African American to play four years in the SEC at Vanderbilt. He went to work for Mayor Walter Washington, the first black mayor of Washington, D.C. He then served in the U.S. Justice Department, worked for the National Urban League, and eventually became a professor of law at American University. A true gentleman.

So I check in occasionally with our neighbors to the north… Remember me telling you how MNPS Transition Team member Dallas Dance was under investigation for traveling over 75 days in his last year as a superintendent in Maryland? Well, this week we learned that Dance also failed to report paid consultancy work in 2014 and 2015.

Here’s where it gets even more interesting. The company that Dance was working for, EDRI, has confirmed that Discovery Education is an ERDI client and has had a no-bid $10 million contract with Baltimore County since 2013. Now, guess who has a contract with MNPS? Guess who is transforming all of our middle schools to STEAM schools? If you guessed Discovery… consider yourself a winner of a chicken dinner.

Apparently, Dance’s action were of such a magnitude that this week, his successor agreed to some travel and work restrictions. The current Director of Baltimore Schools agreed to undertake no travel without the written consent of the school board. Remember that meme that the MNPS Transition Team was made up of the best and the brightest? In all fairness, it was never disclosed what they were the best and brightest at.

This week, Croft Middle Design Center announced their virtual zoo initiative. Six cameras were placed in the Nashville Zoo’s animal exhibits, including the rhinoceros, cassowary, flamingo, clouded leopard, red panda, and red ruffed lemur, with a direct link to Croft. This will allow students to check in on the animals with just a click. Included in this initiative is support from a full-time Vanderbilt University scientist. Very exciting news!

Betsy Devos was in town this week. She spoke at an Education Summit sponsored by Jeb Bush, where she warned teachers unions that she’s not going anywhere and is in fact just getting started. In breaking news, DeVos was just informed that teachers unions are made up of… wait for it… teachers.

Outside the summit, union members were on hand to make sure she understood that they will be on the dance floor for this waltz as long as she’s dancing. A Tennessean article quotes MNPS teacher Amanda Kail. “As teachers, we find her budget to be immoral,” Kail said of the billions of dollars in education cuts proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration. “The amount of money she is cutting from the education budget will have devastating effects on public education.”

The announcement of who the members of teacher unions are must have caught the State Collaborative for Reforming Education, or SCORE, off guard as well. They have indicated support for DeVos, and her agenda, and had representatives attend her speech. But they also recently released a report with the stated goal of making Tennessee the best state to live, work, and grow as a teacher. Kinda seems like it has to be one or the other, doesn’t it?

Last week, I mentioned that State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen was reconvening her testing task force. This week, the Momma Bears take a closer look at that task force. After close examination, they can come to only one conclusion:

It’s time to turn this task farce into a force to reckoned with….OPT OUT!!! McQueen has chosen to opt parents out of the decision-making when it comes to testing our children. So, it’s time we opt our children out of the testing!! Stop wasting your child’s time on tests that have been problematic year after year.

​IT’S TIME FOR THIS FARCE TO END. OPT OUT!!!

Can’t say I disagree.

Nashville education blogger Vesia Wilson-Hawkins is back is back after a 9-day bout with the flu, and she’s brought a new friend, Education Conversations podcast host Linda Dunnavant. Always good to have more voices.

Over in the nirvana of Education Reform, Denver, they are getting ready to have a conversation about teacher performance pay, or as its known in Denver, ProComp. The Denver School District and the teachers union, reeling from DeVos’ warning, no doubt, are beginning negotiations about teacher pay. While I am an opponent of performance pay, there are a couple elements of this conversation I really like.

First off, Colorado law requires school districts and unions to bargain in public. That gets a big thumbs up. Secondly, according to Chalkbeat Colorado:

The ProComp negotiations will be different in that the two sides have secured a mediator and are trying a method known as interest-based bargaining. Instead of trading proposals back and forth, they started the more collaborative process at their first meeting before Thanksgiving by making a long list of potential issues to discuss. Next, negotiators said they’ll narrow that list to a handful of key issues and then aim to come to consensus on each one.

I find this concept extremely interesting and am very interested to see how it works out.

In closing, this week I’ve heard so many stories that I can’t share because I don’t want to embarrass people or hurt relationships that I thought my head was going to explode. Damn, but some of those stories were good. It got me thinking, I should start a subscription Snapchat blog that shares nothing but things too hot for the generally uplifting Dad Gone Wild blog. Hmmmmmm….

POLL QUESTIONS

It’s Friday, so we have to have some questions. First off, I would like to know your thoughts on giving kids 30 minutes a day in school just to read. Is it a good idea or a bad one?

Next question, when sending your kids to school everyday, what’s your level of confidence in their safety? Do you worry, or are you confident that everything possible is being done to keep them safe?

For the last question, I want to step a bit outside the realm of education. Recently, at a ceremony honoring Native American veterans, President Trump referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren by the name Pocahontas. Many found this remark offensive, but there is some question as to whether or not it was a racial slur. I want to know your thoughts.

That’s it for now. If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short. I have started using Patreon. 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.

 

 

 

 

THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS

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Welcome back to school and hopefully everyone had a wonderful holiday. Personally, I’m a little melancholy today as over the holidays, I received news that one of my favorite high school teachers, Mr. Demarest, passed away. He was a good, hard working, deeply caring, self sacrificing individual who had a profound impact on my life.

Back when I went to school, Pocono Mountain High School didn’t have a soccer program. Mr. Demarest was instrumental in establishing the sport as a varsity offering. I’m proud to have played on the school’s very first varsity team, though we were a pitiful bunch. He wasn’t the head coach, but as the assistant coach, he did as much as anybody to impact the growth of the sport at Pocono Mountain High School. The head coach had a fiery temper, but Mr. Demarest was alway cool and collected with a dry wit. He maintained a similar disposition in the classroom. Godspeed and thank you, sir.

Today’s offering is going to be like Thanksgiving leftovers. A little of this and a little of that mixed together and thrown in the microwave. Just because it was the holidays doesn’t mean it was quiet.

STATE BUSINESS

Over the holidays, Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced that for the third time she would be convening a testing task force to evaluate and make recommendations on Tennessee’s testing policies. It seems that task forces are the go-to method of crisis management these days. Something failed? Are people calling for your head? Convene a task force. It’s the perfect vehicle to appear as if you are taking decisive and measured action while actually doing nothing.

Perhaps this new task force will discuss the public relations plan where parents were encouraged to take their TNReady results with them to parent/teacher conferences. Only problem with that is that it’s nearly December, and parents still don’t have those results. Perhaps they’ll be here in time for parents to take those results with them to holiday parties. I think they would make great starters for the yule time log.

Meanwhile, over here in parent and educator land, we’ve already convened a de facto task force – since none of us will be asked to participate in an official capacity – and we have some recommendations. And no, I’m not referring to the secret plan. Though I’m not dismissing those suggestions outright either. Parents and educators, for the most part, would like to see testing untied from accountability for at least three years, though preferably permanently, so the state can actually create some untainted, meaningful data that can be released in a timely fashion.

If McQueen would let parents and educators run the task force meeting, we could knock it out in an hour, take some great press photos, and then head on over to the Gerst House for lunch. If you needed us to, I think we could even put on our deep thinking faces for the photos. Instead, I’m sure we’ll get another postulating press release filled with more back slapping and promises of future success, reminding us that 4 years ago we were the fastest rising state in the country. Oh… you thought that fastest rising state in the country meme was new. Nah… that was from 2013, and we’ve been riding it since despite newer results being not quite as laudatory.

Keep your eyes peeled during the upcoming Tennessee State Governor race for the educational advocacy group Tennesseans For Student Success. They are vowing to be very active in the upcoming election. They recently released their Legislator Scorecard. I could do an in-depth analysis of the scorecard, or I could just tell you that they gave Jim Tracy, Brian Kelsey, and Glen Casada an “A,” Fitzhugh a “C,” and Stewart a “D.” That should about tell you everything you need to know about this group.

NASHVILLE NEWS

I came across this interesting bit of reading this past weekend. The name of the article is The HR joke is on us and it was printed in the News-Gazette. In it, the author references a recent court case involving a long time MNPS employee named Vicky Crawford. Her boss, Gene Hughes, was accused of sexual harassment. Crawford never filed a complaint, but when the district conducted an investigation, she verified the accusations along with two other women. The district fired all 3 women. Vicky Crawford got paid.

For over a year now, I’ve been pointing out how similar Dr. Joseph’s reign is to that of former director of schools Pedro Garcia. A year ago I wrote a piece comparing the two, and this weekend I re-read that piece, You Can’t Bottle up the Truth. I have to say I think what I wrote almost a year ago continues to be borne out, and I urge all of you to re-read it. And since you new folks to the district don’t really read history, I’d study that Crawford case a little bit before you go too far down the road in regards to these latest allegations.

Does anyone know what’s going on with MNPS’s current director of STEAM? He’s been out on administrative leave for over a month now with no commentary from the district or resolution of issues. Seeing as the district is involved in a STEAM initiative this year, we probably ought to get that resolved. Hard to be the fastest improving when you don’t have all of your players.

Tuesday is an MNPS School Board meeting. The second day after a major holiday is always a good time to reward consultants by putting things on the consent agenda. Everybody is tired after a long weekend, and therefore the agenda doesn’t usually garner a lot of scrutiny. Imagine my shock when I looked and saw three new items relating to The University of Pittsburgh (dba as the Institute For Learning, or IFL) on the agenda totaling… wait for it… $1,110,457.

In case you are not familiar with IFL, they are the folks behind the units attached to this year’s disastrous literacy scope and sequence. They are behind the units designed for math as well. The University of Pittsburgh, coincidently enough, is where Dr. Sito Narcisse, the district’s number 2 man, earned his doctorate. There is also some money on the consent agenda for The New Teacher Project (TNTP). Which should give all of you heading out on Thursday to protest Betsy DeVos something to talk about.

Speaking of Dr. Narcisse, has anybody seen his wife, Executive Director of Equity and Diversity Dr. Gonzalez, this year? Just asking. Maybe she’s been out helping Community Outreach Specialist Allison Buzard with the ongoing Parent Leadership Institute.

There is an exciting event taking place this Wednesday at Croft Middle Design Center. What the difference between a Middle Design Center, a Middle Prep, and a Middle School is I don’t know, but Croft Middle Design Center will introduce a virtual learning initiative that expands its 15-year partnership with Nashville Zoo and introduces educational partnerships with T-Mobile, Vanderbilt University’s Department of Teaching and Learning and the Center for Science Outreach, Dell Computers, and Discovery Education.

That’s the verbiage coming from the official release, and what it’s basically saying is that on Wednesday, Croft will be unveiling some cool stuff. Something they do on a fairly regular basis because they are a damn good school under any moniker. The event is at 10AM, and I’ll be there, so if you get a chance, say “hey.”

There are 49 Teams in Division 6 TN HS Football. The Cane Ridge Ravens are one of two playing for the State Championship! Congratulations Ravens! Congratulations also to Pearl Cohn who are playing for the Division 2 Championship.

The Adventure Science Center is currently accepting applications for its Youth CR3W program, a volunteer youth engagement program for 9th-12th graders who are interested in gaining real world working experience in a science or museum setting. Apply:

Each week I publish all the write-in votes. Occasionally there is a write-in that makes me a little uncomfortable sharing. But I think it’s important that people recognize the polls are a true and unfiltered way to share their opinion, so I always publish all answers.
Before I share this week’s though, I want to put a few disclaimers in. One of the Title IX lawsuits recently filed accused former Maplewood Principal Ron Woodard of attempting to cover up the offenses. It should be noted that this is an open lawsuit and due to its serious nature, comments are best left unsaid until it’s been tried. Once it goes to court, facts will emerge and at that time it will be facts, and not supposition, open to commentary.
Here are the write-ins:
That Ron Woodard’s cover-up/victim blaming exposed 1
Project LIT successes 1
Children are learning. 1
Project Lit 1
MNPS teachers: dedicated & resilient. 1
Project Lit- hands down! 1
Narcisse & Felder gotta go 1
The coffee shop in the wellness center. Must be nice to work in Berry Hill. 1
None…results are horrible in schools 1
the sheer determination of teachers where I teach, regardless of the chaos 1
Community Achieves and Pearl HS winning national awards of excellence 1
Lead results ignored 1
Dr Felder resigning…oh wait, nvm
Question two asked what the main course of your Thanksgiving feast consisted of. I was a little surprised that Turkey ruled the roost by as large a margin as it did. 78% of you answered that the bird was the word. Only 4% of you replied that you chose a vegetarian option.
I’m willing to bet that the lone write-in vote voiced an unanimous sentiment:
A great day of not working.
Before we look at the results for the last question, I want to bring up Mike Munchak. Munchak, if you’ll recall, was the HC for the Tennessee Titans. The Titans didn’t do so well under his tutelage and many thought it was because of his assistants. Munch, as he was affectionately known, was offered an opportunity to stick around if he would just get new assistant coaches. Munch refused and Mike Mularkey is now the coach of the Tennessee Titans.
Why the story, you ask? Well, it’s because 38% of you said that given the opportunity to address Mayor Megan Barry, you would tell her, “We have the wrong people leading our schools.” Draw your own inferences from that. The number 2 and 3 responses were in regards to teachers: Teachers need help and they need more money.
Every week I get a couple of super positive pro-Joseph responses. This week there were two of you who answered, “Our schools are doing great and we need to keep to the path Dr. Joseph has laid out.” So I’m trying to figure out who else Dr. Felder and Dr. Hunter got to participate in the weekly poll this week. Thanks for playing.
Here are the write-ins:
splitting classes due to no subs!!!! 1
Don’t talk to me about harassment until someone does something about Pinkston. 1
1, 5, 6, 7 1
Several of these: violence, capital improvements, raises, also family leave for 1
All above except getting out of Joseph’s way… 1
Wrong people leading & wrong people hiring them!! 1
weak school and community discipline = crime 1
Student behavior, teacher concerns, curriculum needs, parents need to know 1
Clear out the school board & central office. Overpaid & underqualified. 1
We need money! Salaries AND capital improvements 1
You’re not the chairman of the FCC, so stop ignoring the people.

 

 

THANKSGIVING MNPS RUMINATIONS

3

I’m going to go ahead and write Friday’s blog post tonight because, well frankly, I have the time. We spent this Thanksgiving at my wife’s parent’s house. The celebration this year was especially joyous as my mother-in-law is on the road to recovery after a severe health scare several months ago. Tomorrow I’ll take the boy to some Black Friday events and then we as a family will head to Henry Horton Park for some hiking, have lunch with family friends, with the afternoon reserved again for family.  In other words, it’s now or never.

This past Tuesday was a microcosm of the way the year has been going for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). The morning started with a staged affair between the MNPS School Board, Director of Schools Dr. Joseph, and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, where board members read from a script – excuse me, talking points – written by Board Member Will Pinkston informing the mayor of how marvelous things have been going. The day closed with reports of a key staff member in MNPS’s central office being accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and a fight at Overton HS that resulted in 14 students being detained by the police. I suspect that somewhere in the middle of these events is where you’ll find the true state of MNPS.

Being that today is Thanksgiving and all, one of the items near the top of the grateful list should be that Nashville is fortunate enough to have the quality of people who work in our schools. There is a lot that is not working currently in MNPS, but our teachers and principals continue to find a way to serve our kids despite the obstacles. Teachers may be going home every night feeling frustrated and defeated, but somehow they find the strength everyday to provide meaningful experiences for students. Principals may feel like they are failing and questioning their abilities to lead effectively, but daily they are opening the doors to positive, life-altering experiences. It really is amazing.

If you look around MNPS, you’ll see some really amazing things happening. You’ll see that the Hunters Lane HS marching band is in Detroit this holiday season participating in The Best Bands in America Parade. You’ll see that Overton High School’s Cambridge program so impressed the head of Cambridge that he hopped on a jet from England to Nashville, just to observe for himself the great things that are happening. You’ll see West End Middle School teacher Cicely Woodard win the Tennessee Teacher of the Year award. You’ll see Maplewood High School teacher Jared Amato win the Penguin Publishing Teacher of the Year award as ProjectLit continues its expansion into other schools across the district. You’ll see how Croft Design Center Middle Prep is rocking project-based learning through its collaboration with the Nashville Zoo.

If you went over to Park Elementary School and observed a lesson utilizing our Reading Recovery resources, you would be amazed at the progress of some of our most at-risk readers. Tusculum ES held its first school-wide musical performance in six years, thanks to the new stage in the new building finally offering a space for them to perform. Cane Ridge and Pearl Cohn HS’s are both competing for state football championships. Community Achieves continues to make a difference in schools across the district, with schools like Inglewood ES and Whitsitt ES demonstrating just what is possible through the community schools model. And two students at Pearl Cohn HS recently won 1st place in the Student/Mentor Music Video category of the 2014 MY HERO International Film Festival.

I can keep going. The Hillsboro Globe, one of the only Associated Press-accredited student papers in the country, is training future journalists. Whites Creek HS’s Academy of Alternative Energy received a $10,000 grant from Duke Energy. Students at JT Moore Middle are creating works every bit as moving as professional artists. I hear that there has been really great work done through collaborative conferencing between the district and MNEA that will have extremely positive effects on teachers and therefore students. I could literally do this all day long.

These are all things the MNPS School Board could have shared with the mayor. These are things that they should be the most proud of. Instead they chose to once again talk about the Arbinger Institute training that the Board undertook last fall. They talked about Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that they have put in place to evaluate each other and Dr. Joseph. They talked about updating the school board policies. They gushed about Dr. Joseph’s leadership, despite the fact that he’s never taken a point on an issue yet. They talked about suing the state over BEP funding. They talked about talking about students and teachers, but they never actually got around to talking about students and teachers.

After their presentation, Mayor Barry asked the board which of the things they’d each spoken about would have the biggest impact on achievement. There was a brief pause, everybody kind of looked around the room to see who would speak, and since it was his show, Will Pinkston commenced to speak about the extensive work that was being done on the evaluation process for individual board members. In other words, “Enough about me, let’s talk a little more about me.”

That, in a nutshell, is the biggest challenge that MNPS currently faces. There is too much focus on the boardroom and not enough on the classroom. Beyond a handful of members, there are not enough people involved in a meaningful manner who have an understanding of what actually happens in the classroom. Dr. Joseph himself has never demonstrated a firm grasp of understanding exactly how his policies translate in the classroom. This disconnect has serious consequences for MNPS and is a serious contributor to the current toxic culture. That’s the elephant in the room. MNPS has a toxic culture and the good that is happening in the district is in spite of leadership.

Somebody at Tuesday’s meeting made a comment about having an honest conversation. You know when somebody says that, it is almost always a sure sign that you are not about to embark on an honest conversation. And what followed was anything but an honest conversation. There was no talk about the number of students receiving digital instruction due to a shortage of teachers. There was no mention of the number of students attending schools in dire need of capital improvements. There was no talk about a literacy program that runs counter to what we know works when it comes to teaching children to read. There was no talk about a formal plan for parent engagement still struggling to get off the ground. There was no talk about approaching management of human resources with a deficit mindset because nobody in leadership had actually taken the time to forge real relationships with the people doing the work every day.

Educating children, like most things in life, is all about relationships. Relationships between administrators and principals. Relationships between principals and teachers. Relationships between teachers and students, teachers and families. Relationships between schools and communities. Without these relationships, it doesn’t matter how many programs you implement, how “good” the board is, nor how many KPI’s you use to evaluate. It’s in the development of these relationships where Dr. Joseph and his team have fallen short and the board has failed to insist upon.

Relationships take time to develop. It’s a lot like tending a garden. You don’t plant seeds and then instantly reap the harvest. You water, and fertilize, and weed, and tend to, and eventually, if you do it right, your seeds will bear fruit. There is no rushing the process or taking shortcuts. Your returns will usually equal your investment. It’s hard to make the kind of necessary investment when you are laboring under a mission statement centered around being the “fastest growing.” Do farmers ever advertise the fastest growing vegetables, or is it alway the best vegetables you’ll find anywhere?

At some point we are going to have slow down and focus on what happens in the classroom. We are going to have to actually inventory the state of our district. We are going to have to actually define our terms. What does equity mean? What does advanced academics look like for all schools? We throw around this phrase “2 out of 3 kids aren’t reading on grade level,” but we never really examine what that means or if it is even a true statement. According to the recently sent home MAP results, my second grade son is reading at a level slightly behind national norms. Does that mean he’s failing? His mother and I don’t think so. His teachers don’t think so. In working together, we are all actually quite pleased with his progress. Yet that doesn’t fit the prevailing narrative, or should I say agenda.

If we were having an honest conversation, we would acknowledge that MAP, and other assessments, are merely a snapshot of where kids are at that particular moment. We would put an emphasis on relationships over accountability. We would start looking at what we can take off teachers’ plates so that they could better do their jobs. My fear is that by the time we have that conversation, we will be emulating retail stores touting huge sales that reduce prices by 30%, when the reality is that over the last month they raised prices by 40%. If we are having an honest conversation, we will acknowledge that our poorer kids’ low attendance rates are linked to our inadequate facilities and that both contribute to low test scores. If we ever decide to have an honest conversation, people won’t need to read pre-written talking points because they’ll be speaking from the heart.

There are a couple things I think need to be said in regards to the events that closed the day on Tuesday. I don’t want to say too much about the sexual harassment complaint that was filed because it is currently under investigation. Guilt or innocence need to be ascertained. What does not need to be ascertained is that Mr. Carrasco behaved in some manner, intentional or unintentional, that made not just one woman, but several women, so uncomfortable that they felt a need to come forward and file a complaint.

All behavior has a root; our dealings are not unmoored and random. Women do not just wake up one morning and think, “Today’s the day I’ll throw my professional life into turmoil and open up my personal life for intense scrutiny.” Something happened, most likely over a prolonged period, that led these women to a point where they felt like they had no other alternative, and we owe it to them to discover what that was. There is no upside for a woman in making these accusations. Often they will be painted in an unflattering light, their motivations will be questioned, and they will be forced to endure a long period of emotional turmoil.

Ask Anita Hill about what it meant to bring accusations against Judge Clarence Thomas back in 1991. Ask the women who have come forward about Judge Roy Moore or Senator Al Franken how enjoyable it is to voice a complaint. I’m willing to bet that none of them will paint it as a highlight of their life. I’m willing to bet that they will admit to often wishing they’d just never said anything. But think about what the world would be like if they never did. Think of how little would have changed without their courage to step forward with the truth.

People are shocked about the number of women who have come forward of late and they try to dismiss both the validity and the pain associated with their complaints. I’m not shocked nor dismissive. Let’s have one of those long overdue, honest conversations. It’s going to require a little self-evaluation.

To men of my generation, women were often viewed as objects. It was often denied, but that was the reality. I have never been personally accused of sexual harassment or misconduct, but I’m not without guilt. How many times over the years did I tell a female friend to “just let it slide”? How many times did I write off a fellow man’s aggression towards women as simply the actions of a “player”? How many times did I make jokes or comments about a woman’s anatomy and treat it as my right to do so? That’s not okay. It’s way past time we start having these conversations and we all acknowledge our roles.

These conversations are part of a necessary purge in order for us to evolve as a culture. I know as a young man, society constantly reinforced the image of women as being sexual playthings. Just look at our idols. Whether it was Mick Jagger or Teddy Kennedy, Steve McQueen or Joe Namath, their sexual prowess was an element of their hero status. Because of the mass of women who have come forth, we are being forced to re-examine our thinking, and that can only make the world a better place.

The flip side of the narrative is that it was long engrained in women that boys are ruled by their sexual appetite and that a little crossing of the lines was not only to be tolerated but expected. After all, how harmful was a slap on the ass, or a comment about your breasts, and if there was an expectation of more, the woman had a choice, right? But did she really?

We have all heard the claim that women who accuse men of sexual harassment are “men haters.” I call bullshit. Who hates men more, women who are willing to write them off as simpletons incapable of controlling their base urges, or those who hold them to higher expectations?

I hope that MNPS understands that not all education takes place in the classroom. Young men and women will be watching to see how both the accusers and the accused are treated. They will be taking cues on how they should behave in the future. Some social mores may be reinforced, while some hopefully will be broken. Let’s not forget our obligation is to provide the best education possible in preparing students for life, and that includes modeling a template for future relationships and conduct.

I’ll close things out with comments on the fight at Overton HS. Fighting in schools is a national problem. A story in Pennsylvania about teachers working in fear just went national this week. NYC has been wrestling with the implementation of restorative practices for several years. It is clear that this is not merely a school problem, but a societal problem. It seems to me that at Tuesday’s meeting, when Mayor Barry asked the board and Dr. Joseph what they need, an honest answer would have been help with student discipline issues. But that wasn’t in the talking points, and we weren’t having an honest conversation. Maybe someday, but until that day, I just pray that conversation doesn’t come after a child or teacher loses their life. Because fights are a lot like honest conversations – once engaged, you never know what the end result will be.

POLL

Let’s see if I can’t come up some decent poll questions.

For my first question, I’d like to ask what is your favorite MNPS story for the year so far. I’ve come up with some I thought of, but feel free to write in yours.

Second question, for Thanksgiving dinner… turkey, ham, fish, or something else?

Last question, if you had a chance to brief the mayor on the state of things… what would you tell her? Again I put down some ideas, but feel free to write in your own.

Hope every one has a fantastic holiday! If you need to contact me, you can do so at Norinrad10@yahoo.com. I try to promote as many of the things sent to me as possible, but I do apologize if I fall short. I have started using Patreon. 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. Have a great Thanksgiving, and we’ll see you on the flip side.