Understanding Amy Frogge

TC Weber talks to animal rescuer and MNPS school board member Amy Frogge about how she got involved in local education policy. The interview explores her two campaigns and her time on the board.

Here’s what she has to say about how she got started:

Well, I had been doing a lot of work at my children’s elementary school. When my daughter started at Gower Elementary, we had a very small PTO. The year after she got there, we were flooded in 2010 [Nashville was the victim of a flood in 2010], and we ended up having an immense amount of help from our neighbors and people throughout the city – and even people from other states – who were willing to come and help us rebuild our house and clean up the mess after the flood. There was just an immense amount of support, and I decided, in that process, that I wanted to give back to people. So I decided to become more involved at the school. The PTO had recently died out, and so essentially two of us parents offered to try to rebuild parent engagement at the school. We started small, but the more we did, the more exciting it became, and the more we were able to accomplish. We ended up building about 15 new community partnerships for Gower over the course of about a year, and we dramatically increased parent engagement through that process. We learned what an impact that had on the school’s performance and the atmosphere and culture of the school. Five years later, that school had a wait list and its performance improved. People in the neighborhood were excited about the school.

So having seen what happened at the local level, I hoped when I ran the first time that I would be able to do that sort of work on a larger level and support the schools in my area and throughout the city. That’s why I ended up running for school board.

The entire conversation is worth a read and provides helpful insight into Frogge’s approach.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

 

What Can you Buy for $750,000?

Apparently, not a lot of Election Night victories. While the Tennessee affiliate of national group Stand for Children spent $750,000 in local and state elections last night, they came away with very few wins. In Nashville, the group spent more than $200,000 and lost all four races in which it backed candidates.

Dave Boucher at the Tennessean has the story:

More than $750,000 buys plenty of campaign mailers and advertisements. But it doesn’t necessarily buy election wins.

Stand for Children, an education advocacy organization, found that out the hard way Thursday night. After spending a small fortune, all four candidates it backed in the Metro school board election and a handful of state GOP primary candidates lost their races.

While Stand for Children attempted to change the face of the Nashville school board by opposing three incumbents, ultimately, voters overwhelmingly rejected their preferred candidates — with the exception of the District 7 race, which was decided by less than 40 votes.

More on Stand for Children in Nashville:

Stand on the Defensive

Stand for Children Buys Its Way Out of the Race

Stand with Charters

MNPS School Board Race Spending

Nashville’s Not Alone

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

 

Facts Not Included

Steve Cavendish at the Scene offers some insight into the Tennessean’s recent dealings with MNPS board member Will Pinkston. Specifically, Cavendish notes that key facts seem to be optional in the paper’s reporting.

He writes:

That Sunday story by Jason Gonzales, which described Pinkston as a bully, interviewed a lot of critics. It quoted a former director of schools that Pinkston stopped from getting a contract extension, an innovation director who routinely fought with Pinkston and other board members and a paid political operative working for (Jackson) Miller.

And points out that the Tennessean also endorsed Pinkston, a fact not mentioned in the Gonzalez piece.

Of course, on the same day, the Tennessean did allow Pinkston to respond.

But, as Cavendish points out, it would have been a lot easier to just include the relevant facts in the first place.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

Will Pinkston Responds

Will Pinkston offers his response to a piece that appeared about him in the Tennessean by way of the paper’s Op-Ed page.

Here’s how he starts:

“I have excellent relations with MNPS employees and I am proud to have earned the endorsement of our teachers and support employees. Our employees have told me countless times that they’re grateful I stood up to a Central Office bureaucracy that had failed students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers

“Nashville’s schools are thankfully under new management, and we’re now heading in the right direction. The voters in South and Southeast Nashville know me personally, and they will see through this flimsy attack by a handful of disgruntled individuals, four days before Election Day.”

This is the statement I provided to the Tennessean in advance of a smear piece that appeared in Sunday’s Tennessean. The newspaper declined to publish the statement in its entirety. Instead, it printed a report based on lies and half-truths leveled by a four former Metro Nashville Public Schools employees.

I won’t dignify the baseless allegations. But I will briefly address the two former employees who orchestrated this smear:

Read his full response here.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

 

Stand on the Defensive

Just days after a controversial email sent from the CEO of the Martha O’Bryan Center raised questions about possible illegal political activity and coordination with political advocacy group Stand for Children, one school board candidate held a meeting with Stand’s political director that he claims was not about his campaign and did not violate any laws.

Alanna Autler of WSMV reports:

A candidate for the Metro Nashville School Board is facing questions after meeting with a representative of a political action committee this week.
District 9 candidate Thom Druffel met with Daniel O’Donnell, the local director for the special interest group Stand for Children Tennessee.

The organization has thrown support behind Druffel, along with several other candidates running for school board this election cycle.

The meeting took place at the Holiday Inn Vanderbilt, where Druffel works.

O’Donnell was seen entering and leaving the building Tuesday, one day after a mandatory blackout period kicked in. Under the law, PACs cannot contribute to a candidate during this period.

O’Donnell denies any wrongdoing and says he was taking the day off work. The timing of this day off seems odd given that it allegedly took place just over one week before an Election Day in which Stand for Children seems to have a great interest.

While at least one candidate mentioned in the Martha O’Bryan emails has called for MOB to stop recruiting volunteers in coordination with Stand or in support of her campaign, Druffel had no problem meeting with Stand’s political director and now claims he was just chatting with a volunteer and not coordinating any activity with a group investing heavily toward his election.

Stand for Children’s attorney released the following response:

Stand for Children and its political committees observe both the letter and spirit of the law. Any suggestion that there has been improper coordination between Stand and the Druffel campaign is categorically false.

As Autler notes:

Communication and coordination is also entirely prohibited between independent expenditure committees and candidates.

 

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

 

 

Complaint Filed over Martha O’Bryan Political Activity

Following emails sent by Marsha Edwards of the Martha O’Bryan Center asking for volunteers and/or paid canvassers for School Board candidates endorsed by Stand for Children, complaints have been filed with the IRS and Tennessee Attorney General by MNPS board member Will Pinkston.

Nate Rau of the Tennessean reports:

In a letter to Attorney General Herb Slatery, Pinkston said Edwards’ emails constitute a violation of the federal law that prohibits direct or indirect political activity by tax-exempt nonprofits. Pinkston told The Tennessean that Edwards should apologize to the school board and resign from her job.

“Through her actions — including forwarding Stand for Children’s email request to all of her tax-exempt organization’s employees — Ms. Edwards caused Martha O’Bryan Center to directly or indirectly participate in political campaigns on behalf of (or in opposition to) multiple candidates for elective public office,” Pinkston wrote in his letter outlining his complaint. “As email correspondence indicates, Ms. Edwards not only forwarded Stand for Children’s email request to all of her tax-exempt organization’s employees, but she also identified her preferred candidates as being ‘friendly to charters.'”

Edwards has denied any wrongdoing.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

 

Marsha Responds

In response to allegations that her organization (Martha O’Bryan Center) coordinated with political group Stand for Children by recruiting volunteers for Stand’s endorsed MNPS School Board candidates, Marsha Edwards released the following statement:

Today’s story in The Tennessean references an email I forwarded to employees of The Martha O’Bryan Center for an opportunity to work as a paid canvasser in the upcoming School Board election, so that it could be passed on to students in our programs or anyone in our organization looking for paid work this summer. I felt that this was an employment opportunity for young people and we would pass along this type of opportunity for ANY candidate and will continue to do so. I added to the email what knowledge I had of the few candidates that I had met and the organization that was hiring. While I have been assured by our legal counsel that this email did not constitute “political activity” as defined by the IRS, I do see how the personal context included in the email could be misunderstood, and I truly regret that.”

“The Martha O’Bryan Center does not engage in political activity and our track record supports that. We are an organization that has been serving the Nashville community for over 120 years and continues to do so without political bias. At Martha O’Bryan we are about breaking the line of poverty through education, employment and family support, not politics.”

Her statement comes even as one of the supported candidates has asked MOB to stop volunteer recruitment.

Additionally, the email from Edwards notes that all the candidates are endorsed by Stand for Children and are “friendly to charters…”

Here’s some more insight as to why Edwards might want more Board Members who are charter-friendly.

Finally, she notes that one of the candidates, Jane Meneely, is a paid consultant for MOB and would be a “strong, smart, well informed, and thoughtful board member.”

I’m curious to know what Edwards would have done had Will Pinkston, Amy Frogge, Christiane Buggs, or Jill Speering asked for her help. Would she have advised them that such recruiting was political, and therefore out of bounds for MOB? Her statement claims she would have passed along the information for ANY candidate who asked.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

Christy Calls on MOB to Stop Asking for Campaign Help

Yesterday, it was revealed that Marsha Edwards, CEO of the Martha O’Bryan Center, had sent emails requesting volunteers for School Board candidates endorsed by political group Stand for Children.

At least one of those candidates, Miranda Christy, is speaking out, calling on the group to stop sending such emails.

In a Facebook post she says:

The Martha O’Bryan Center is a wonderful institution providing critical services to District 5 families. I have always been inspired by their work in alleviating poverty in District 5, and I would never want them to put their tax status in jeopardy. Our campaign had no knowledge that they were circulating a request for volunteers, and we would never encourage it. We have only one volunteer (and no staffers) who to our knowledge has ever worked at the Martha O’Bryan Center (and he is a longtime friend of mine), and we ask that they stop making such requests for volunteers.

For their part, Both Martha O’Bryan’s Edwards and Stand for Children’s Dan O’Donnell deny any coordination.

It will be interesting to see if the other candidates endorsed by Stand call on MOB to stop the volunteer recruitment for their campaigns.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

Stand With Charters

Nate Rau of the Tennessean reports on apparent coordination between political advocacy group Stand for Children and advocates for charter schools in MNPS.

From the story:

The head of a prominent Nashville nonprofit coordinated with the well-funded political group Stand For Children to find campaign workers for four school board candidates who are friendly to charter schools, according to emails obtained by The Tennessean.

In one June 23 email, Martha O’Bryan Center President and CEO Marsha Edwards encouraged her staff members to either volunteer or work for $10 per hour to go door to door in neighborhoods to talk with voters.

The revelation comes as the campaigns for School Board seats are entering the final days.

Stand for Children previously released a puzzling list of endorsements, praising the current board for progress made while opposing many of the incumbents who brought about that progress.

The political group has also been tied to the nonprofit Nashville RISE.

As Rau’s article notes, a significant portion of Stand’s funding comes from outside Tennessee.

The emails provide further credence to earlier claims about the familiar national playbook being used by RISE, Stand, and other groups in Nashville.

Amanda Haggard wrote earlier about the spending in the School Board races:

(Jackson) Miller has brought in around $90,000, with the largest contributions coming from charter school backers like DeLoache and Trump supporter and English-only backer Lee Beaman. Stand for Children’s O’Donnell says checks are on the way from his organization and mailers have already been sent out in support of its endorsed slate. Additionally, Beacon Center board members other than Beaman have donated the maximum amount in multiple races.

According to Rau, both Edwards and O’Donnell deny any coordination.

Here’s the email chain between Edwards and O’Donnell:

From: Marsha Edwards Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2016 4:15 PM To: Everybody; J Leckrone External; Jon Driskell Cc: Marilyn Greer (MarilynGreer2@gmail.com); Daniel O’Donnell (dodonnell@stand.org) Subject: FW: URGENT ‐ Volunteers needed

Hello Everyone – I am passing on an urgent need for paid canvassers this Saturday and Sunday (and beyond).  Below is the Districts that are in play and the candidates that are paying for canvassing help.  I believe that the pay is $10.00 an hour and you cam contact Daniel O’Donnell at dodonnell@stand.org.  for additional information.  You can also just volunteer.    If you haven’t done this type of work before, it is really easy.  There is an short orientaon on the candidate and posions and then you are given a list of addresses.   You knock and talk or you leave the informaon sheet.  Somemes you have to take a note if someone wants the candidate to call them, etc.   Both Peter and I have done a lot of this and it is really fun.    All of these candidates are endorsed by TN Stand For Children and are candidates that want to bring more collaboraon and data driven deliberation to the School Board.   They are all friendly to charters as one strategy to improving results for children.    Also, Jane Meneely  (#3) is working for us as an event consultant on a new event we are planning.  She would be a strong school board member.  I spent some me with Miranda Christy (#5)  this morning and feel she would be another strong, smart , well informed and thoughtful school board member.    Marsha

Marsha Edwards President and CEO Martha O’Bryan Center East End Preparatory School Explore Community School 615.254.1791 www.marthaobryan.org www.eastendprep.org www.explorecommunityschool.com

From: Daniel O’Donnell [mailto:dodonnell@stand.org] Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2016 2:27 PM
To: Marsha Edwards Subject: Re: URGENT ‐ Volunteers needed

Hey Marsha ‐ appreciate your efforts with the list, just haven’t heard from anyone. We have capacity to hire MANY canvassers, which would dramatically improve our trajectory…. but very few takers.
Sent from my iPhone

On Jun 23, 2016, at 2:15 PM, Marsha Edwards <medwards@marthaobryan.org> wrote:
Daniel – I have asked my College Success Team if there are college students or grads that would want to be a paid canvasser.  Not sure if the tutor list helped at all.  MAE   Marsha Edwards

President and CEO Martha O’Bryan Center East End Preparatory School Explore Community School 615.254.1791 www.marthaobryan.org www.eastendprep.org www.explorecommunityschool.com     From: Daniel O’Donnell [mailto:dodonnell@stand.org] Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2016 11:46 AM To: ‘Bill DeLoache (bdeloache@gmail.com)'; ‘etduncan@solidus.com'; Brent Easley; Marsha Edwards; Shaka Mitchell; Ravi Gupta; charles friedman; Todd Dickson; John Eason; al.coverstone@gmail.com; Benjamin Schumacher; ‘randy.dowell@gmail.com'; Shani Dowell Cc: Nadira Freeman Subject: URGENT ‐ Volunteers needed

Hey everyone –   Where we are sll falling well short is on volunteers. Essenally the same dozen people that were knocking doors for candidates two weeks ago are the same dozen people slated to knock doors this weekend.   The only way we win any of these races is by knocking doors and talking to voters. Everything else is secondary. This is something that our opposion increasingly understands, as we see MNEA volunteers out in force for Jill, an army of moms out for Amy, etc. To put it bluntly: we are being outworked by our opponents, pung us on a losing trajectory. The good news is that we sll have me to win, we can win every race… if we show up.   We are making a big push for this weekend. The incumbents will be at a board retreat, off the battlefield. Next weekend is July 4th and we expect a lot of folks to be out of town. The weekend after that is the last weekend before people start vong. We’re running out of me and every single campaign needs much more support if they’re to hit voter contact goals.
I am asking you to PLEASE send emails and make calls in the next 48 hours to as wide of a network as you possibly can. Ask your friends and colleagues to show up this weekend. I’m including details for each campaign below, but call me at 615‐804‐9539 if you need anything:

JANE MENEELY – DISTRICT 3 ‐‐Meet at Jane’s house (1514 Shelton Ave) ‐‐Shis: Sat 9:30 am and 2 pm / Sun 1 pm ‐‐Yazoo beer at the end of your shi!   MIRANDA CHRISTY – DISTRICT 5 ‐‐Meet at 204A Myrtle St ‐‐Shis: Sat 9:30 am, 12:30 pm, Sun 1 pm   JACKSON MILLER – DISTRICT 7 ‐‐Meet at  Jackson’s house (2304 10th Ave South) ‐‐Sat 8:30 am or 1:30 pm, Sun 1:30 pm   THOM DRUFFEL – DISTRICT 9 ‐‐Meet at Thom’s house (613 Lamar Dr). ‐‐Three shifts: Sat 10:00 am, 1:30 pm, and 4:30 pm, Sun 2 pm

Thanks, DOD P.S. Yesterday I literally scrolled through every contact in my phone and sent 19 texts to friends that haven’t been engaged. It took 30 minutes and need 4 new volunteers. I suggest doing the same. P.P.S. We still need many, many more paid canvassers. Please also work your contacts for people who would be interested.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Buggs Responds to Mailer Issue

Amanda Haggard at the Nashville Scene explains that in School Board District 5, a mailer sent by the MNEA is creating a bit of confusion:

At the end of this past week, voters in District 5 got a mailer from Metro Nashville Education Association calling on voters to “re-elect Christiane Buggs.” There’s only one very important problem there, though, which is that Buggs has never served on the school board.

The mailer resulted in the two other candidates running in D5 calling on Buggs to take action to correct the mistake.

Here’s the official response from Buggs:

Metro Nashville Education Association’s (MNEA) PAC recently sent a mailer to some voters in support of my candidacy to represent our district on the MNPS Board of Education. The mailer inaccurately states that I am an incumbent running for re-election. MNEA has released a statement citing their honest mistake and taking full responsibility for the obvious error.
Late last night, two of my opponents, made demands regarding this mailer and the perceived advantage it might offer me in this race. I respectfully decline to entertain their demands.

 

As a teacher, I am charged with leading by example. My ultimate goal is to work with community members and leaders to improve public education in my beloved city, not respond to politically motivated and petty demands from my opponents. We as teachers train our students on how to deal with bullying. I will not be bullied by two of my opponents into committing violations of campaign finance laws as the demand letter requests. I will never stoop to bullying others, and I will not accept bullying in any form.

 

As a professional, I am empowered to grow and develop. I have read the campaign laws and understand them clearly. These laws explicitly prohibit collaboration between MNEA and my campaign in any way, and in turn much of what the letter demands. As is clear on the mailer, my campaign had nothing to do with its production or distribution. I had no prior knowledge of the mail piece or its design. However, I am honored to have the support of MNEA and the many teachers they represent. I appreciate them holding themselves accountable.

 

I am saddened for my opponents they feel threatened by an error that is plain to every voter in our district. I can only surmise they think the voters of our district are too dumb to know the difference. I know the voters are smart enough to recognize the error immediately and will now know how my opponents feel about them.
Being a member of the Board of Education in Nashville requires an intimate knowledge of classroom supports that will improve student outcomes, a clear understanding of many laws, and managing a budget of $843 million. I am the only candidate with this knowledge, understanding, integrity and ability, and I will continue working to gain the support of our district’s voters.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport