Player-Peters Gains Support for School Board Seat

With School Board member Will Pinkston finalizing his resignation, the Metro Council will select a replacement. It seems Freda Player-Peters is gaining traction as a candidate for the seat. The person appointed will serve the remainder of Pinkston’s term, which ends in August 2020. Here’s a letter from a number of council members in support of Player-Peters:

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Frogge on Superintendent Searches

Metro Nashville school board member Amy Frogge offers her thoughts on the process that led to Nashville hiring Shawn Joseph:

Nashville just got taken for a ride. Here’s how it happened:

Back in 2007, Superintendent Joseph Wise and his Chief of Staff, David Sundstrom, were fired from their jobs in Florida for “serious misconduct.” Wise is a graduate of LA billionaire Eli Broad’s “superintendents academy,” which trains business leaders as superintendents with the purpose of privatizing schools (closing existing schools and opening more charter schools).

After losing their jobs, Wise and Sundstrom founded Atlantic Research Partners (ARP) and began making millions from Chicago schools. ARP then acquired parts of SUPES Academy, a superintendent training company, and merged with the recruiting firm, Jim Huge and Associates. SUPES Academy, however, was shut down after Chicago superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett pled guilty to federal corruption charges for steering no-bid contracts to SUPES Academy, her former firm, in exchange for financial kickbacks. Baltimore superintendent Dallas Dance was also involved in this scandal.

Wise and Sundstrom also had their hands in other pots. They created a new entity called Education Research and Development Institute (ERDI), which charged education vendors to arrange meetings with school superintendents and simultaneously paid the same superintendents to “test out” the vendor products.

Now the story shifts to Nashville: In 2016, the Nashville Public Education Foundation pushed the school board to hire Jim Huge and Associates to perform our search for a new superintendent. The search brought us three “Broadies” (superintendents trained by the Broad academy), a Teach for America alum with no advanced degree and no degree in education whatsoever, and Shawn Joseph, who was planning to attend the Broad Superintendents Academy at the time he was hired.

Jim Huge lied to the school board, telling us that the only highly qualified and experienced candidate, an African American female named Carol Johnson (who had served as superintendent of three major school systems, including Memphis and Boston) had withdrawn her name from the search. This was not true. Ultimately, the board hired Shawn Joseph.

When he arrived in Nashville, Joseph brought his friend, Dallas Dance, with him as an advisor- only about six months before Dance was sentenced to federal prison in connection with kick-backs for no-bid contracts in the SUPES Academy scandal. Joseph also brought in former Knoxville superintendent Jim McIntyre, another “Broadie” who had been ousted from his position in Knoxville amidst great acrimony, to serve as an advisor. Joseph began following a formula seen in other districts: He prohibited staff members from speaking to board members and immediately began discussion about closing schools. Like Byrd-Bennett and Dance, Joseph also began giving large, no-bid contracts to vendors and friends, some of which were never utilized. Some of the contracts were connected with ERDI, and Joseph’s Chief Academic Officer, Monique Felder, failed to disclose that she had been paid by ERDI (just like Dallas Dance, who committed perjury for failing to disclose part-time consulting work that benefitted him financially).

You can read the rest of the story- and much more- in the attached article. But the long and short of it is that the very same people who rigged our search to bring Shawn Joseph to Nashville are also the same people who stood to benefit from no-bid contracts with MNPS. These folks were also connected with illegal activities in other states.

In the end, Nashville suffered. “Among [the] negative outcomes are increased community acrimony, wasted education funds, and career debacles for what could perhaps have been promising school leaders.

In the case of Joseph and Nashville, controversies with his leadership decisions strongly divided the city’s black community, and taxpayers were stuck with a $261,250 bill for buying out the rest of his contract. As a result of the fallout, Joseph lost his state teaching license, and he vowed never to work in the state again.”

More from Jeff Bryant>

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Wrong Direction

Even as neighboring districts like Sumner County move to significantly increase teacher pay, teachers in Metro Nashville find their salaries stagnating.

Ben Hall of NewsChannel5 reports that a teacher in Metro with 15 years of experience actually earns LESS money today than a teacher with 15 years of experience earned back in 2012:


It’s hard to believe, but a Metro teacher with a Bachelor’s Degree and 15 years experience is paid less today than a teacher in that same position back in 2012. As you can see in the chart above, in 2012-2013 teachers on Step 15 made just over $52,089. Today, seven years later, Step 15 is valued at $51,772.

This chart shows the stagnation of teacher pay in MNPS

The problem of low teacher pay in Nashville is not new. In fact, in 2015, I reported on teacher pay in Nashville relative to peer districts and noted that at that time, starting pay was reasonably competitive, but pay for experienced teachers lagged behind:

Just three hours north of Nashville in a city with similar demographics and cost of living, a teacher can earn significantly better pay over a career. While a teacher in Louisville starts out making slightly less than a new Nashville teacher, by year 10, the Louisville teacher makes $9,000 more than her Nashville counterpart and by year 20, that difference stretches to $15,000. The lifetime earnings of a teacher in Louisville significantly outpace those of a teacher in Nashville.

In 2017, I updated this analysis with a comparison to Louisville:


A Nashville teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 20 years experience makes $56,000. In Louisville, that teacher makes $71,000. A teacher working in Louisville with 20 years experience earns $22,000 more a year than that city’s “comfortable living” salary. In fact, they earn more than Nashville’s “comfortable” salary.


How about the top of the pay scale? At year 25, a Nashville teacher earns $57,000. In Louisville, it’s just over $72,000.


Some may note that teachers often earn advance degrees over the course of their career and that boosts pay. That’s true. So, a teacher with a master’s degree working in Nashville earns $62,600 at the top of the scale. In Louisville, it’s $78,000.


Imagine working for 25 years in the same profession, earning an advanced degree in your field, and making $7000 less than the “comfortable living” salary for your city? That’s what’s happening in MNPS.

In short, teacher pay in Nashville has been an “area of concern” for years now. So far, little has been done to address it. Yes, the state should absolutely put forward its fair share — though Bill Lee wants that money spent on vouchers. But, Nashville has the resources to significantly boost teacher pay. That the city has chosen not to should tell you all you need to know about the priorities of those in power.

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Bonus Statement

The Metro Nashville Education Association (MNEA) has this statement regarding the awarding of $5000 bonuses to first-year teachers in “priority schools.”


MNEA has contacted MNPS leadership with the following concerns about the recent decision to give $5000 bonuses to new teachers at priority schools:


First, we are deeply concerned that veteran educators who have chosen to work in priority schools for more than one year did not receive this compensation. The message this bonus sends is that new employees are more valuable than those with experience. In some cases, the $5000 bonus for beginning teachers means they are now earning more than teachers with more years of experience at the same school. This is deeply troubling, especially since the more experienced teachers are often charged with mentoring new teachers, which increases their workload for no additional compensation. Quite frankly, many current employees of priority schools feel this is a slap in the face.


Secondly, we strongly believe that it would be beneficial to the district to inform MNEA of any initiatives that involve changes to compensation ahead of time. Learning about this initiative from the news after it had already happened did not allow for proactive feedback at our end. We have heard from many angry employees about this issue, and we feel overall the bonuses have done more harm than good. As Dr. Majors reminded the Board of Education at last night’s meeting, the best recruiters are current employees. We want to ensure that MNEA is able to give the district feedback from an educator perspective, as we feel this will lead to better workplace morale and make recruiting educators easier.


In addition, we are also worried that this bonus was given in one lump sum at the beginning of the year. It is statistically very likely that a number of the first-year teachers who received this bonus will either leave before the year is out or will not return next year. They will take that bonus with them while at the same time veteran teachers will see nothing for their dedication to stay. In addition to making sure that all employees at priority schools are rewarded for their dedication to serving our students with the greatest needs, any bonuses should be given out at the middle and end of the year, to ensure the bonus is actually earned before it is given.


In conclusion, we have asked what steps the district will be taking to reward veteran employees who have chosen to remain at priority schools. After all, it is unlikely that priority schools will make academic progress without not only recruiting but also retaining the professional educators who are charged with doing the work of making sure that every student succeeds. These veteran educators not only have more experience and tools to teach, but they have built the lasting relationships with students and their families that are required as a foundation for academic success. It is in the best interests of our students to make sure they have equitable access to veteran employees.

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TC Talks Nashville Mayor’s Race

Nashville education blogger TC Weber focuses on the Mayor’s race in his latest post. Here are some of his observations:

How did you spend your weekend? If you were one of roughly 300 teachers and parents in Nashville you met downtown at Third and Lindsey and then marched to the Howard School Building to cast your early vote for State Representative John Ray Clemmons to become the next Mayor of Nashville.

Regarding momentum building for state representative John Ray Clemmons:


The news out of last week’s forum held by the Panhellenic Society, Urban League of Middle Tennessee, NAACP Nashville, and Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship indicates that it is a distinct possibility.
Per the Tennessee Tribune,
At the end of the forum, all of the attendees were asked to vote in a straw poll for no more than two candidates vying for Mayor in the August 1 election. Clemmons decisively won the crowd of nearly 300, gaining 46% of the vote. John Cooper came in second with 26%, with David Briley close behind at 25%. Carol Swain suffered a decisive fourth place with 3% of the attendee’s vote. 

READ MORE from TC Weber about education in Nashville.

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Clemmons: The Education Mayor

The Tennessee Tribune has the story of how State Representative John Ray Clemmons is positioning himself to be Nashville’s “Education Mayor.”

Last Saturday, State Representative John Ray Clemmons, candidate for mayor of Nashville,
hosted an Educators VOTE Rally and March to the Polls with members of the MNEA union and fellow MNEA-endorsed candidates. Starting at 3rd and Lindsley, Amanda Kail, president of MNEA, greeted the crowd before introducing Representative Clemmons. “We endorsed John Ray because of his commitment to our schools and our children. He’s the only candidate with kids in public schools, and he’s the only candidate who’s committed to supporting us,” Kail said.

Rep. Clemmons took the stage with thunderous applause from over 200 educators in the room. Once reaching the stage, Clemmons invited all the children in the room to join him on stage. Wearing red, in solidarity with the educators in the room, Clemmons showed his support for Nashville’s educators and shared his plans for increasing the quality of public schools in the city.

Clemmons has been endorsed by MNEA — the Nashville union representing teachers and enjoys the support of more than 100 teachers and supporters of public schools who signed an OpEd written by teacher and blogger Mary Holden.

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The Fight for Nashville

Nashville teacher Mary Holden talks about why she and many of her colleagues are backing John Ray Clemmons for Mayor of Nashville:

But one frustration in all of this is that we shouldn’t have to be doing all of this. We should have a city behind us, fully invested in the success of our public schools. Fully funding our school shouldn’t be something we have to constantly fight for. And so, we will continue fighting to change that paradigm.

We are long overdue for a leader who cares deeply about the people in this city, for someone who can balance the needs of a growing city with all the things that make Nashville great. For someone who has the impetus to make life better for all of us – teachers, police officers, fire fighters, bus drivers, city workers, and families.

That person is John Ray Clemmons.

He leads with heart and a conviction that our lives and our livelihoods matter. This conviction shows in his professional life as a lawyer and state legislator and in his personal life. He is the only mayoral candidate with children in our very own Metro Nashville Public Schools. This decision cannot be overstated; it shows a personal commitment to our public schools that many of our leaders lack.

John Ray Clemmons has a solid history of standing with teachers and community leaders for what we need in Nashville. He is genuine and humble, two qualities we have not seen for a long time. Clemmons has a true desire to be a public servant and has said that he will serve with less concern about being reelected than doing what is right.

Read more from Mary about why she (and so many teachers) believe John Ray Clemmons is the right choice to be Nashville’s next Mayor.

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TC and Dr. Battle

Nashville education blogger TC Weber sat down recently with MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle to talk about her experience as both a student in MNPS and now as the district’s top official.

Here’s how it got started:

It’s an amazing and humbling opportunity for me because as you’ve mentioned, just being a student here in MNPS, I’ve experienced many of the same things that our students are experiencing. I’ve sat in the same seat. Along the way, it’s a positive opportunity to reflect back upon. I really do attribute a lot of my opportunities and my success to the experiences I had right here in MNPS. I had loving, caring, talented teachers around me every single day. As a matter of fact, I knew very early on I wanted to be an educator because of those teachers. They were my heroes. I witnessed every day what they were doing to pour knowledge into me and other students. It was just a powerful thing that instilled in me a desire to do that for others as well. So this is very surreal and also a great opportunity, one that I don’t take lightly.

READ MORE about Dr. Battle’s journey through education in MNPS.

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Mayor of Vouchers

Is Nashville Mayor David Briley a supporter of school vouchers? His actions certainly don’t indicate he opposes them. In fact, while Governor Bill Lee’s “Education Savings Account” voucher scheme was advancing in the legislature, Briley was working closely with a lobbying firm pushing the plan.

Here’s more on what Briley has said, done, and not done as legislation with a devastating financial impact on Nashville ultimately became law.

You might be asking how the mayor of Tennessee’s largest city ended up working with a prominent law firm that led the charge to undercut and underfund Metro Nashville Public Schools. That’s a great question and one voters may be asking as elections approach in August. Here’s a timeline of Briley’s “Disappearing Dave” act when it comes to fighting for MNPS at the General Assembly.

On January 31, 2018, Nashville was caught off-guard by the biggest mayoral scandal since Bill Boner as Megan Barry admitted to having an affair with her Metro Police bodyguard. 

A little more than a week later, on February 8, Metro entered into an amended “intergovernmental relations” contract with the law firm of Adams & Reese. The firm’s first public work? Its Memphis-based partner Lucian Pera questioned the ethics of the District Attorney Glenn Funk for investigating Barry on February 23Nate Rau of The Tennessean noted on February 28 that Adams & Reese pay from Metro Nashville jumped by 58% just prior to the firm’s interjection into the Barry scandal.

The Barry brouhaha reached its climax on March 6 as she pled guilty to felony theft and resigned from office. Vice Mayor David Briley succeeded Barry as Mayor of “It City.”

On April 30, Briley had his first “State of Metro” address and proclaimed that education is the “biggest key to Nashville’s success.” … then quickly disappeared from education policy discussions.

Meanwhile charter school advocates TennesseeCAN, represented by Adams & Reese, in their 2018 Legislative Report congratulate the Tennessee State Legislature for providing charter schools with more access to public school tax dollars and then call for more money in the future, at the expense of public schools.

The following February, Gov. Bill Lee’s “Tennessee Education Savings Account Pilot Program” — (voucher scheme) is introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly. The bill was strongly supported by TennesseeCAN (among others) and their Adams & Reese lobbyists — TennesseeCAN is located in the Nashville offices of Adams & Reese. Briley issued a strong statement on how this legislation will have a devastating economic impact on Nashville schools. You might think that with such a big gun pointed at Nashville, he would direct the city’s lobbyists to fight against the bill like Memphis and Knoxville did. Instead, Briley did nothing.

On March 29Mayor Briley angrily appeared on television  and threatened the school board, telling them to “get their house in order,” and that future Metro money will come with strings attached.

Meanwhile, the anti-public education forces were on the march at the Capitol. The state House Government Operations Committee approved Bill Lee’s voucher bill on April 1. Briley was quiet.

Three days later, Briley and his staff hosted the “Mayor’s Legislative Reception” at the Bridgestone Arena on April 4. Adams & Reese was the primary sponsor of the reception. Among the attendees are Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, Senate sponsor of Lee’s voucher bill. Number of comments made by Briley about vouchers? Zero.

Metro Councilman Dave Rosenberg on April 9 questioned how Adams & Reese can be lobbying for legislation that is contrary to the will and need of Metro Government’s citizens. Briley’s office said in response they support the firm and added, “vouchers were not discussed during contract negotiations with Adams & Reese.”

Speaker of the House Glen Casada held the House vote open for 30 minutes on April 23 so he could twist one arm enough to pass Gov. Lee’s voucher bill and, in doing so, Knox County was exempted from voucher legislation. Only Memphis and Nashville remained in Casada’s crosshairs.

The same day, Briley held a media availability promoting the “Mayor’s Blood Pressure Check Up.” The photo op is in his office. He made no public statement on vouchers.

At his second State of Metro address, on April 30, Briley states “Education will always be priority number one. There are few things more essential to building a strong Nashville than having great public schools.” He then adds, “While the state of Tennessee will be putting more than $100 million of new money into K-12 schools across the state this year, Metro will get just $587,000 of that.” Maybe having lobbyists who shared the city’s interest in public education would have helped.

(By contrast, when Briley needed to stop the state from preempting his plan to sell off Nashville’s parking meters, he sent his chief of staff, in-house lobbyist, and chief strategy officer.)

On that same day, the Tennessee General Assembly appointed a conference committee to resolve issues on the voucher bill and how it would affect the state’s most populous counties. No one from Davidson County was appointed. Briley was silent.

Gov. Bill Lee signed his voucher bill into state law on May 24, a law that only affects Nashville and Memphis. A law that the city of Nashville was oddly quiet on, yet one that will have a significant impact on the city’s budget for years to come. Briley celebrated the one-year anniversary of his special election victory on the same day instead.

While the state makes preparations to take money out of public schools, the lobbying firm responsible for vouchers continues to cash checks from Metro. All the while, Disappearing Dave says nothing.

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An Interview with John Ray Clemmons

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.  
  3. 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.).
  4. Facilitate more budgetary transparency.
  5. Increase socio-economic diversity in our schools.
  6. 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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