A Full Year

The story of Armando Arzate and wage theft on an MNPS project:

Dear Metro Nashville Public Schools Board of Education:

For a full year, Armando Arzate has sought $43,000 in unpaid wages for his renovations at McMurray Middle School. Armando has gone into significant personal debt in order to pay his own team of workers, but he is still fighting for a fair resolution with MNPS and their contractor, Orion Building Corporation.

Recently, Armando visited Dr. Adrienne Battle’s house to seek her help. Instead of taking the opportunity at your last meeting to denounce wage theft, many of you used that time to rebuke Armando for demanding justice.

MORE>

https://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/2020/07/24/wage-theft-has-no-place-nashville-public-schools/5483168002/

We Don’t Need Another Hero

It appears there’s some miscommunication between James Turner’s campaign for the Tennessee House of Representatives and pro-privatization group Tennesseans for Student Success (TSS).

Last week, Turner released a statement denouncing any support from TSS.

However, TSS maintains a website dedicated to “Education Heroes” and it features James Turner.

Specifically, the site notes:

James Turner is committed to ensuring every student in Tennessee has access to great public education and opportunities for a bright future. James Turner will be a leader in helping Tennessee build on our historic gains in education by supporting school choice…

So, is James Turner the type of education “hero” who will sell our public schools out to privatizers? Or, is TSS just making things up?

No Thanks

School privatization group Tennesseans for Student Success has gotten involved in a Democratic primary for the Tennessee House of Representatives in Nashville. The group is backing James Turner in his challenge to incumbent Mike Stewart in House District 52.

Here’s more on the effort by TSS to influence the Democratic primary:

I am really perplexed by why someone running in a Democratic Primary in Nashville and Antioch is being assisted by the…

Posted by Rep. Bo Mitchell on Thursday, July 23, 2020

And here’s James Turner’s campaign stating they don’t really want the “help.”

Looks like Nashville has a clear message for TSS:

Back to School, Back to COVID

Alcoa City Schools returned to class last Wednesday and by Friday had announced their first positive case of COVID-19.

WBIR has more:

https://www.wbir.com/article/news/education/alcoa-city-schools-notifies-parents-of-covid-19-case-in-alcoa-middle-school/51-da956a97-1fda-4592-bde8-a584e1182df1

Meanwhile, Wilson County Schools has pushed back the first day of school from August 3rd to August 17th in order to have more time to plan for reopening in light of the pandemic.

Mystery Mail

The races for Nashville School Board are heating up and there appears to be a new player on the scene. A group called the Nashville Parents Committee is sending out mailers in support of Brian Hubert in the 3rd District race.

What’s interesting about the Nashville Parents Committee is that a google search for them yields no results. The group also hasn’t filed campaign finance disclosures with either the Davidson County Election Commission or the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance. There’s no Facebook page or Twitter feed for this committee of parents.

So, let’s take a look at these pro-Hubert mailers and see if we can find some clues.

Let’s take a look at the return address for “Nashville Parents Committee.”

Well… this is interesting. Look who has the same address:

Yes, that’s right. The Tennessee Charter School Center. That’s the group started by former Nashville Mayor and charter school backer Karl Dean. I wonder how many Nashville “parents” make up this committee. Also, the Tennessee Charter School Center is not registered as a PAC or disclosed (so far) as a donor to Hubert.

Will we ever know who is pumping tens of thousands of dollars into this race in order to move the ball for charter schools? Possibly not, as the mailer doesn’t explicitly say to “vote for” Hubert. It’s pretty damn clear that those behind the mailer want you to vote for Hubert, though.

Should dark money like this be a driving force in our elections? Did Hubert know about the mailer and coordinate with the pro-charter group? Why is a charter school group backing Hubert?

As voters head to the polls, these are important questions that Hubert and his financial backers should answer.

Rhetoric vs. Reality

Gov. Bill Lee recently denied a request from Williamson County Schools for a waiver of TNReady and other requirements for the upcoming school year in light of COVID-19.

In response, the President of education-focused group SCORE tweeted this:

Here’s the thing. If Gov. Lee were actually an advocate of strong and student-centered policy, he wouldn’t have cut improvements to teacher pay from his budget this year. He’d implement a statewide mask mandate. He wouldn’t push an unproven voucher scheme only to see it overturned in the courts. He would work to make progress on the $1.7 billion deficit in the state’s funding formula for schools.

But. He’s not. He hasn’t been. He won’t be. Tennessee schools and the students and teachers in them will continue to be left behind as a result of the aggressive privatization strategy Lee is pursuing.

Prognosis: Medium

Williamson County Schools Superintendent Jason Golden announced today his district will open on August 7th under the so-called “medium spread” protocol for COVID-19. This will be in place for at least the first two weeks.

The medium protocol means students in grades K-2 will report to school campuses while students in grades 3-12 will participate in remote learning. The move comes amid a growing number of cases in Williamson County and the middle Tennessee region.

Additionally, NewsChannel5’s Phil Williams today published data on the number of children ages 5-18 with cases of COVID-19. Six of the top ten counties in the state are in middle Tennessee, and Williamson is among them.

Here’s the breakdown:

And here’s the full story from Williams:

https://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/7-572-school-age-children-diagnosed-with-covid-19-in-tennessee-new-data-shows

A New Board Member

Nashville education blogger TC Weber breaks down Metro Council’s appointment of a new member of Nashville School Board.

Last night Nashville’s Metro Council appointed a new school board member. Congratulations to Dr. Berthena Nabaa-McKinney as she takes over the seat vacated by the untimely death of former board chair Anna Shepherd. By all accounts, Nabaa-McKinney is a capable and exceptional replacement. Her presentation to the council yesterday was quite impressive and probably went a long way towards swaying council members to her side.

Unfortunately, last night’s proceedings were not completely free of political machinations. Education committee chair Dave Rosenberg cast his first ballot vote for Stephanie Bradford in an attempt to prevent candidate John Little from advancing. A move that was unsuccessful because McKinney and Little both tied with 11 votes while Bradford received 14. As a result, only the 4th candidate Steve Chauncey was prevented from advancing.

In the next round, Rosenberg switched his vote to Nabaa-McKinney, a move that successfully knocked Little out of contention. In the final round, the majority of Little’s votes transferred to Nabaa-McKinney, allowing her to secure the appointment by a vote of 25-14.

Mayor-to-be Council Member Bob Mendes missed the vote due to a family vacation. A curious decision seeing as he’s viewed as the city’s budget guru and MNPS takes up the largest portion of the budget. Mendes recently led the effort to raise property tax rates by 34%, in part to increase funding to the public school system. Surprisingly he was uninterested in influencing who would lead the district.

Dr. Berthena Nabaa-McKinney will hold the school board seat until November when voters will have the opportunity to vote for the candidate who will serve out the remainder of Shepherd’s term until 2022. Both Little and Bradford have announced their intention to campaign for the seat, and the assumption is that Nabaa-McKinney will as well. Convincing voters will present a decidedly different challenge as opposed to convincing council members.

TC also talks Florida Virtual School and more problems for Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn>

Bill Lee Says NO

Williamson County School Board member Rick Wimberly reports that Gov. Bill Lee has denied the district’s request to #CancelTNReady and to allow flexibility on the length of the school year and the hours in the school day.

The Governor has turned down Williamson’s County’s requests for waivers on state testing, school day length, and school year. I hope he’ll reconsider. #wcsb

Posted by Rick Wimberly Williamson Co School Board, District 9 on Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Here’s the story of the original request: