Nashville Mayoral candidate and current state representative John Ray Clemmons took the time to answer some questions about how he views the Mayor’s Office as it relates to education in Nashville. Here are his responses:
What are your top priorities for MNPS?
- Increase school funding to: increase pay for our teachers and para-professionals; fill vacancies with high-quality teachers; hire counselors, ELL specialists and a community partnership coordinator for every school; purchase new textbooks and classroom resources; and, fund our schools at the recommended level of $15,000 per student per year.
- Build a strong partnership with MNPS leadership to provide full Metro support to achieve a shared vision and create an environment more conducive to stability and longevity in the Director of Schools’ office.
- Take more responsibility for the direct impact Metro has on student performance inside the classroom by working to address significant challenges facing students outside of our schools (adverse childhood experiences, hunger, homelessness/housing instability, access to transportation, traumatic events, etc.).
- Facilitate more budgetary transparency.
- Increase socio-economic diversity in our schools.
- Work to increase parental involvement and private partnerships.
As a public school parent of three young boys and elected official, I have had the opportunity to observe amazing things happening in schools across our city, and I cannot wait to see what our educators will accomplish with our full support and adequate resources.
What is your plan for addressing the teacher shortage in Nashville?
I would like to first review all school-based budgets submitted by the schools to gain a better understanding of and evaluate the biggest areas of need. Next, I would follow up by communicating with educators and administrators to create a priority list. Then, I would work with MNPS to draft a strategic recruitment plan and create a realistic budget to execute the plan.
I fully recognize that our pay must be more competitive to attract high-quality teachers.
I also recognize that every school faces its own unique challenges and has varying needs. Those challenges need to be reflected in the way we budget more responsibly.
What can be done to address chronic underfunding of Nashville schools?
First, we should start by making public
education our number one priority and using clear, reliable data to demonstrate
the real need for more funds in our school system. While there are
various factors limiting the pool of available revenues to invest in education,
we must start by protecting our property tax base and restoring Metro’s fiscal
integrity. We should also ask more of our entire community via public/private
partnerships, technology/resource exchanges, volunteerism, and other means.
Everyone is impacted by the quality of our public school system, either
directly or indirectly. I would also tap MNPS employees, including
unions, to provide much-needed perspective and help with issues concerning pay
competitiveness, training, and recruitment.
What role can the Mayor’s Office play in shaping state education policy?
Nashville is the economic engine of the state and produces a larger percentage of our workforce than any other city. The mayor has the ability to use these facts as leverage to advocate for policy, as well as fight state overreach and ensure that Nashville gets its fair share of state resources. Unlike the current mayor who remained completely silent on Gov. Lee’s voucher bill, Nashville’s mayor has a large platform that can and should be used when appropriate to demonstrate the problems with ill-conceived state policy. Nashville needs and deserves a mayor who will not hesitate to act in the best interests of Nashville and fight to protect those interests.
How do you envision the relationship between the Mayor and the MNPS school board?
As mayor, I will work to build a strong partnership with MNPS leadership to provide full Metro support to achieve a shared vision and create an environment more conducive to stability and longevity in the Director of Schools’ office. Rather than threaten to take over the schools or continue the finger pointing, I would seek to serve as a partner with the school board and the director of schools to ensure that all stakeholders are working toward the same goal. We would maintain an open door policy with school officials and maintain an open line of communication to stay apprised of how we can collaborate to achieve strategic objectives and improve student performance. I would also like to appoint someone from the public or private sector with relevant expertise or knowledge to each school board committee to simply act as a subject-matter resource for board members. Ultimately, we must work together to bridge divides, build trust, and maintain mutual respect to ensure that our educators and students succeed.
If you are elected, what message would you send to MNPS teachers and staff?
I am in awe of your commitment to our children,
and I am always available to listen and learn how I can help. No one has a more
direct impact on the future of this city than our educators and staff, and I
openly recognize that. I have your back.
What would you tell families moving to Nashville about MNPS?
I would tell them that I believe in MNPS so strongly that I proudly send my own children to an MNPS school every day with total confidence that they are receiving a quality education. I would then encourage them to get engaged and stay engaged in their child’s school. The diversity, educational opportunities, students and educators in MNPS make it truly special.
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