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


 

 

 

MNPS Diversity Report: Rebuild Hillwood High School on Current Site

A new diversity report on the rebuilding of Hillwood High School has been released. Dr. Leonard B Stevens, an expert in school desegregation, reviewed the proposals for the school district and concluded that Hillwood High School should be rebuilt at its current location.

The report describes in detail different information about the proposal followed by a conclusion statement. Below, I will summarize the information in the report and copy and past the conclusion for each section.  

The report says the current site of Hillwood High School has equal driving time for those who live both north and south of the school.

Conclusion: In assessing the current location of Hillwood High School and the alternative sites, the district should seek to locate the school where it is reasonably central to the students it serves so that travel time and travel distance to the school for students and families have both the reality and the appearance of fairness.

When looking at the diversity of the Hillwood, the school is currently a plurality school because of the presence of zone option students, including students from “Black zoned options.” Movement of the school could risk removing these students from the school and would create a smaller and whiter population at the school.

Conclusion: since the Pearl-Cohn students are indispensable to the diversity of Hillwood High School and in light of the district’s commitment to diversity, the district should place significant weight on this factor and avoid a location decision that places the school’s diversity at risk and, in particular, its plurality school status.

The Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education is currently monitoring student assignment matters in the district.

Conclusion: In light of this ongoing review, the district should ensure that its decision on the Hillwood location matter is consistent in all respects with its Diversity Management Plan.

The report goes on to look at the schools in the cluster that meet the district’s diversity plan.

Hillwood High School, H.G. Hill Middle School, and Charlotte Park Elementary School are plurality schools that meet the district’s diversity plan.

Bellevue Middle, Westmeade, Harpeth Valley, and Gower do not meet the district’s diversity plan. Harpeth Valley is the school with the highest population of White students in the cluster, with 76% of student labeled as White.

If the new Hillwood High School is located south of the current location, it would mean moving the school towards a larger White population and away from the Black population in the north.

“The district should be sensitive to the potential for generating perceptions that this school location decision, however unintentionally, would disfavor Black students or students of color who live north of Hillwood High School and thereby could become a basis for racial distrust of the district.”

Conclusion: The district should seek to make a decision that affirmatively contributes to public confidence in the district’s expressed commitment to “preserve, support and further” diversity.

Fewer than half of the high school students zoned for Hillwood attend the school. Almost 450 high school students attend high school outside of the cluster. Why is that?

Conclusion: This is an opportune occasion for the district to review the Hillwood cluster at all grade levels with a view toward the potential to strengthen the attractiveness of the cluster’s schools to families living in the Hillwood cluster-as-extended. The study should explore program offerings, grade organization, and possible development of a Pre-Kindergarten center as strategies to attract cluster students to cluster elementary and middle schools and ultimately to Hillwood High School.

The report ends with the overall recommendation:

Overall Recommendation. The best next step for the district is to rebuild Hillwood High School at its present site.

Here are the four reasons the report lists as why the district should rebuild Hillwood High School on the location:

 

  • First, a premise that locating the school in the Bellevue area would place it closer to a larger share of its students is not supported by the data, which show that the current location serves about equal proportions of students who live north and south of the school.
  • Second, a premise that relocating the school to Bellevue would accommodate population growth in the area is not supported by enrollment projections which foresee modest growth of fewer than 70 students by 2020 at Hillwood High School, leaving the school well within its capacity.
  • Third, an assumption that relocation of the school to the Bellevue area would cause more students in this area to use Hillwood High School is speculative—this issue has not been studied— and, in addition, is undermined by the fact that 447 potential Hillwood High School students are choosing to attend MNPS magnet high schools instead. It seems unlikely that such students in substantial numbers would change their high school plans based on relocation of the cluster comprehensive high school. It is more likely that capturing more cluster students in cluster schools will require changes in the schools that students and families find sufficiently attractive.
  • Fourth, a premise that relocating the school to Bellevue would do no harm to the school’s current diversity status as a plurality school is a high risk assumption that does not place sufficient weight on the significance of the Pearl-Cohn students who attend the school through Zoned Options or open enrollment. Among the factors described in this report leading to the recommendation to rebuild on the current Hillwood High School site, the diversity factor is the most significant.

 

 

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


 

 

Mary Holden Welcomes Dr. Joseph

Former teacher and current education blogger Mary Holden recently posted her remarks welcoming Dr. Shawn Joseph to MNPS. Here they are:

Good evening, members of the school board and Dr. Joseph.

My name is Mary Holden, and I am an MNPS parent and former teacher. Dr. Joseph, I want to welcome you to MNPS. I’m glad you’re here and happy to see the direction you’re taking so far, which seems to be that of someone who listens and learns from those around you.

Recently, I spoke to the school board about what I would like to see in a new director of schools. One thing I mentioned was that we need a champion for our schools. Many great things are happening here. However, the inequity that exists in our neediest schools is unacceptable. They need extra resources, funding, and support in order to make them equitable. I support the community schools model. What we don’t need is more charter schools. I have heard you talk about equity, and I am pleased to hear that this seems to be a priority.

Another thing I mentioned was the need to truly listen and respect the teachers in this district. When I worked in MNPS, I noticed the culture of fear right away. It’s a real thing. Teachers feel intimidated to speak up for fear of retaliation. I hope you are able to dismantle that culture of fear quickly, and I believe your approach so far has been effective.

There is an important issue I want to speak about. Over the last year, the human resources department apparently enacted a policy wherein any teacher who is going to be non-renewed will also automatically be made ineligible for rehire. This means if a principal feels a teacher is not a good fit, instead of simply non-renewing that teacher and letting them go back into the pool of eligible teachers, that teacher is basically fired and not allowed to apply ever again in this district.

I know of an experienced kindergarten EL teacher fired under this policy for low test scores – in kindergarten! A first year middle school English teacher told to teach math instead and then fired under this policy for low test scores. Teachers who speak out and ask questions and suddenly that principal doesn’t like them, so they’re fired under this policy. The careers of these dedicated teachers are now over and done with in MNPS. This policy is harmful to teachers and students. I have three requests for you: 1) that you get rid of this current “policy”; 2) consider a new written policy where more than one person must sign off on teachers who are specifically recommended to be ineligible for rehire, and 3) please consider reviewing the files of those teachers from this year whose careers are, for the moment, effectively ruined. We have lost good teachers because of this, and yet there are tons of open positions. It’s not right, but you can make it better.

Another concern I have is your 47-member transition team. I understand the need for a transition team. But 47 is an awfully high number, especially when I don’t see teachers and parents well represented. There are charter folks, TFA, business people, and complete outsiders, but not a lot of actual MNPS stakeholders. It’s disappointing.

Overall, I am excited for your work to begin here in MNPS, and I sincerely wish you the best. Thank you.”

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


 

 

What’s Amy Frogge All About?

She takes a moment to talk about her race on Facebook.  Here’s her post:

This article outlines what’s really going on in this year’s school board races: Well-funded special interests pushing unabated charter school growth and vouchers are trying to take down school board incumbents who won’t comply with their agenda to privatize schools. Why are they so interested in public education? There is much money to be made on the backs of our children.

At great personal cost, I have stood up against this effort for four years now. I’ve dealt with all sorts of lies and attempts to malign my character, because I’ve been a strong, effective voice against this agenda, which has nothing to do with educating children. Although it has taken a toll on my family, I am running again because it’s vitally important to prevent special interests from gaining control over the future of Nashville’s schools, and Dr. Joseph’s arrival on the scene marks a pivotal time of hope for our children, who deserve much more.

Remember that nasty push poll maligning me with false allegations? Stand for Children (which endorsed my opponent) paid $80,000 for polling this quarter alone. Stand for Children is also sending out numerous attack mailers on me. My personal favorite was their latest claiming that I don’t listen to parents, which is pretty comical given that I’m a public school parent myself who talks with other parents (and teachers) on a daily basis! Please don’t pay attention to these silly lies.

Here is what I’ve fought for (often successfully) over the last four years:
-evidence-based school policies
-less standardized testing
-whole child education that provides each child with a rich, broad curriculum that includes art, music, recess, and physical activity
-wraparound services for children in need
-high-quality pre-k
-individualized instruction and services for all students, including advanced and gifted learners, as well as those with special needs
(and much more!).

Over the last four years, I’ve watched the conversation about education (both locally and on a national level) turn toward this direction, and I’m proud that I’ve been even a small part of helping to change the conversation.

Regardless of what happens in this election, I will continue to use my voice to stand up for the best interests of our children. My involvement in this ongoing battle over our schools has absolutely nothing to do with politics and everything to do with standing up for what is right. I am grateful for the opportunity to make a positive impact on Nashville’s children and will continue to speak up as long as I can make a difference.
Please be informed and go vote!

Here’s more on the article she references from the Nashville Scene and the spending in her race and others.

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


 

MNPS School Board Race Spending

Amanda Haggard has an interesting piece out about the MNPS School Board race and the key players.

She covers groups like Project Renaissance/Nashville RISE and Stand for Children.  And she notes their top targets: Will Pinkston and Amy Frogge (they are less aggressively against Jill Speering).

It turns out, the same donors and backers supporting Renaissance/RISE are also spending to unseat Pinkston and Frogge.

Frogge penned a pieced not long ago about why school board race spending is skyrocketing.

Here’s Haggard on the spending this year:

And then, of course, there’s the money. So far, Druffel has outraised Frogge by $10,000, bringing in almost $37,000 — $20,000 of which came from donors in District 8. Pinkston has secured a little under $70,000, along with endorsements from Mayor Megan Barry and former Gov. Phil Bredesen, for whom Pinkston was a top aide.

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.

It’s worth noting that Beaman and the Beacon Center are supporters of school vouchers. Likewise, as was noted in an earlier piece on Nashville RISE, the umbrella group Education Cities is backed in part by voucher advocates:

And here’s something interesting about all that: The funders of Education Cities include The Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation, and The Gates Foundation — the Big Three in corporate education reform.

Perhaps more interesting is the group of partners, including the pro-voucher Fordham Institute.

Early voting begins tomorrow. Stand for Children says it is sending mailers and more money is coming to defeat Pinkston and Frogge (and ostensibly Speering). This in spite of some rather odd reasoning around Stand’s endorsements.

What does all this mean? The next few weeks will likely see the MNPS School Board races turn a bit ugly, as those who want a new agenda spend aggressively to defeat the very incumbents who have brought about mayoral collaboration and the arrival of a much-heralded new Director of Schools.

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


 

 

 

 

TC Weber, Amy Frogge, and The Tennessean

TC Weber is up with a post today on the Tennessean’s recent endorsements in Nashville’s School Board races.

He provides a thorough rundown of each endorsement, but I want to focus on his comments regarding Amy Frogge and the Tennessean’s decision to not only endorse her opponent but also chastise her for her social media and other behavior.

Here’s what TC had to say:

This brings us to District 9, quite possibly the most egregious of all the endorsements. The Tennessean chose to endorse challenger Thom Druffel over incumbent Amy Frogge. In doing so, they didn’t only endorse Druffel, but utilized this opportunity to take Frogge out to the proverbial woodshed in a manner that runs counter to their call for greater civility among board members and honestly, came off as a personal attack. They wrote, “A passionate parent and attorney, Frogge also has served as a disruptive force unwilling to step outside her box and has shown a pattern of being responsive and respectful only when constituents agree with her. Whether it involves social media behavior like writing acerbic posts and deleting comments that are critical of her, this behavior is not conducive to productive community engagement.”

Hmmm… let’s take a look at some of those posts and you be the judge. There was a piece Frogge wrote on excessive testing that was picked up by the Washington Post, another from The Tennessean about the importance of teacher voice in the national discussion on education, and one that Diane Ravitch picked up on her blog where Frogge discusses discipline issues in a local charter school. The tone throughout these posts is direct, factual, and research-based. The one on discipline caused the most uproar, but tell me, how is that different from the what Secretary of Education John King has been recently saying about discipline practices in charter schools? I guess when the Secretary of Education says it, it’s thought provoking, but coming out of the mouth of an intelligent and vocal woman, it’s being a disruptive force. (emphasis added)

Here, TC nails it. In the same endorsement piece where the Tennessean endorses Will Pinkston in spite of what they claim is his bad behavior on social media, they call out Frogge for being disruptive and endorse her “nice” opponent.

What else did the Tennessean find disruptive? The fact that Frogge advocated to have a woman included among the finalists for MNPS Director of Schools. They claim her push for this inclusion could have derailed the entire process. First of all, there’s little evidence that simply adding a candidate for consideration, even fairly late in the process, would have taken the whole search off track. Second, let’s look at the MNPS directors of the past — all men.

Frogge should be commended for raising the issue. And likewise, when her colleagues pushed to move on without adding a candidate, Frogge didn’t throw a fit or leave the game, she kept on going. She stayed engaged. And she was part of the team that helped bring Shawn Joseph to Nashville. The same Shawn Joseph the Tennessean is excited about having here.

Amy Frogge is a fierce advocate for her schools and constituents and a strong presence on social media. She raises issues that are sometimes uncomfortable but that need to be addressed. As TC intimates, the Tennessean appears to be applying a double standard.

Fortunately, Frogge overcame a significant tidal wave of spending and negativity when she was first elected in 2012 and she’s well-equipped to weather the storm this time.

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


 

MNPS Unveils New Pay Scale

WSMV reports that MNPS has unveiled its new teacher pay scale:

Metro Schools has unveiled a new pay scale for teachers, which will show as soon as their next paycheck.
The school district says the pay scale will deliver a “significant pay increase” for many teachers.

According to the old scale, teachers with eight years or less of experience were paid $42,082 and teachers with 10 years of experience were paid $44,536.

With the new pay scale, salaries will range between $42,100 and $44,750 for teachers with under 10 years of experience. Teachers with 10 years of experience will earn $47,000.

Here’s a link to the complete pay scale for certified teachers.

A previous analysis found that MNPS lags behind several similar districts in terms of teacher pay.

The upgraded scale shows that teachers with 10 years of experience are now closer to their peers in similar urban districts. However, teachers at the top end of the scale still lag behind their peers in similar districts. Still, the move marks progress and an important investment in the teachers of MNPS.

More on Teacher Pay:

The Importance of Teacher Pay

The Value Proposition for Teachers

You Can’t Buy Groceries with Gratitude

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


 

 

Tennessean Endorses in Nashville School Board Race

Today, the Tennessean released their endorsements for the upcoming Nashville school board race. The endorsements bridge the gap between those who are viewed on different sides of the education debate in Nashville. 

The endorsed candidates included both incumbents and challengers. 

Early voting starts July 15 and Election Day is August 4.

District 1: Sharon Gentry:

The first search for a new director under her chairmanship failed to yield a new CEO. However, she showed wisdom, prudence and humility by pivoting and embracing the help of new Mayor Megan Barry and the Nashville Public Education Foundation the second time around to invest in a monthslong community-focused search that led to the hiring of Shawn Joseph in May.

As public officials become more experienced, they should show growth, and Gentry has done so and helped move the board in the right direction.

She deserves another term.

District 3: Jill Speering:

Jill Speering has served on the school board for a term and has made literacy her key priority. Her passion comes through.

An opportunity for growth is to work on ensuring that she is not beholden to the Metro Nashville Education Association and that she can be a voice for all students and parents.

She has occasionally aligned herself with other board members who have taken a hard line on charter school growth in the county. However, she has shown restraint by not engaging in social media verbal sparring and staying focused as an advocate for the educator’s point of view.

District 5: Miranda Christy:

The candidates show passion and a commitment to unifying the board and advocating for children’s interests, but attorney Miranda Christy showed the greatest promise as a future school board member.

Her combination of experiences serving on boards, advocating for quality education and being willing to engage in public discussion clearly and in productive ways make her candidacy stand out.

District 7: Will Pinkston:

Incumbent Will Pinkston brings a profound intellect and sharp political skills to the school board.

His passion for prekindergarten, English language learners and greater funding for schools has helped move the needle on these important issues.

However, this endorsement came reluctantly and painstakingly because of Pinkston’s behavior on social media, where he has used his platform to bully, demean and intimidate critics and adversaries, real or perceived.

The Tennessean expects much more of elected officials, especially those who are advocating for the children of our community.

So do the residents of Nashville, whose children probably would be tossed out of classrooms if they displayed some of the behavior we have seen.

District 9: Thom Druffel:

Aside from extensive business experience, he has been a volunteer in Big Brothers Big Sisters and with the innovative Academies program at Nashville high schools, which gives students vocational training in addition to a liberal arts education.

He also has served on several nonprofit boards, which gives him deep insight into how to operate on a board. His temperament is such that he will show respect and discipline to fellow board members, MNPS staff and the public.

It should be noted that The Tennessean walked through the reasoning behind not endorsing Amy Frogge, the only incumbent in the race not endorsed by the Tennessean.

A passionate parent and attorney, Frogge also has served as a disruptive force unwilling to step outside her box and has shown a pattern of being responsive and respectful only when constituents agree with her.

Whether it involves social media behavior like writing acerbic posts and deleting comments that are critical of her, this behavior is not conducive to productive community engagement.

During the 2015 Project RESET initiative by the Nashville Public Education Foundation to restart the conversation on public education priorities, Frogge refused to review the research regarding proposed improvements to MNPS and questioning the firm The Parthenon Group’s credibility.

By not reviewing the material before leveling the public criticism, she missed an opportunity to show that she was open to being engaged by ideas that might challenge her viewpoint.

During the 2016 MNPS director search, her motion to add a candidate after six finalists had already been interviewed threatened to torpedo the delicate process for a school district reeling from one failed search. One finalist dropped out.

To her credit, she agreed to support the final outcome that led to Shawn Joseph’s hiring.

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


 

 

Jarred Amato’s Reading and Teaching Journey

This is a guest post by Jarred Amato, a high school English teacher with Metro Nashville Public Schools. Amato has served as a SCORE, Hope Street Group, and America Achieves educator fellow, as well as a member of the Metro Schools Teacher Cabinet. In 2015, Amato participated in the district’s Teacher Leadership Institute, and was named a Blue Ribbon Teacher and Teacher of the Year for his school.

The original post is here and you can follow him on twitter @jarredamato.

Growing up, I moved a lot. First, it was from Rhode Island to Massachusetts in the middle of Kindergarten. Then, it was off to Vernon Street in first grade and Austin Street in third before settling in on Jasset Street in fourth.

Despite the constant transition, I always felt at home with books.

The first book I remember reading on my own was Bears on Wheels by Stan and Jan Berenstain. I couldn’t tell you what it was about, or exactly how old I was when I read it, but I’ll never forget the sense of pride and accomplishment I felt when I finished it.

From that moment forward, I was hooked. From the Boxcar Children and Hardy Boys to everything by RL Stine and Matt Christopher, I devoured one book after another. With no smart phone or computer to distract me, most of my early childhood was spent either on a field or court, or curled up somewhere with a book, newspaper, or magazine.

Sundays were always my favorite because it was my mom’s day off from work. She would usually grab breakfast from Dunkin Donuts along with a copy of the Boston Globe, and I would spend the rest of the morning pouring through the sports section, reading every article and memorizing the league leaders in batting average, home runs, and RBIs.

During the summer, we would pack a cooler and make the hour drive to the beach, where I’d lay on the blanket with a book mom had recommended, stopping only for some body surfing, whiffle ball or a trip to the ice cream truck.

I also have fond memories of the public library, where I’d walk down one aisle after another in search of books to add to my stack before finding a cozy spot to hide for the day, and the local Barnes and Noble, where instead of buying a book, I’d take it off the shelf and read it in the store before putting it back.

Sometimes I wonder: Why did I read so much?

Maybe it was because books took me places, real and imaginary, that I knew I’d never be able to visit in person. Maybe it was because I found characters that I could root for and identify with. Maybe it was because reading helped me relax when I was upset, and allowed me to escape without actually running away (although I tried that too, but never for more than a few hours).

Maybe it was because reading was something that my mom and I could do together. Maybe it was because it helped me realize that I wasn’t alone, and that my problems weren’t so bad after all. Maybe it was because I saw books as the great equalizer. Maybe it was just because I was bored, and didn’t have anything better to do.

But, I think that the main reason I loved reading was that it made me feel smart. And as someone who grew up in a neighborhood where most kids didn’t go to college, that mattered a great deal to me.

It’s no surprise, then, that I always loved school. Yes, I was that kid who enjoyed homework and cried if I didn’t earn all “S+”s or “As” on my report card. As I look back on my elementary experience, a few things stand out:

One was that I had some pretty amazing teachers, who not only believed in me, but were also experts in their craft. Two, my teachers never told me my reading level or assigned me a test-prep worksheet, but because I read all the time and received great instruction from them day in and day out, I always breezed through the MCAS, Massachusetts’ standardized test. Three, reading and writing were always linked.

For example, I remember publishing my first book in third grade. In fact, I can still recall one of the lines (“I jumped as high as a kangaroo”) because Mrs. Madsen was so proud that I had used a simile. The fact that my teacher believed that a scrawny eight-year-old with a bowl cut could be a serious author, I started to believe it, too.

One more thing I appreciated about elementary school: we always had choice. Sure, teachers made recommendations, and I participated in lit groups with classics such as Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Shiloh, Tuck Everlasting, and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, but for the most part, I read what I wanted to read. And I loved it.

That changed in middle school, and certainly in high school. To be sure, there are many books I’m thankful my teachers made me read: To Kill a Mockingbird, Night, Of Mice and Men, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, The House on Mango Street, and The Great Gatsby, to name a few.

But, I’m also certain that I would have read more often, and enjoyed reading more, if I was given choice. Instead, as my schedule became busier – sports practice, homework, TRL, and the emergence of AOL Instant Messenger — I learned how to BS my way through English class. With the help of Sparknotes, I was able to write killer essays on symbolism in The Scarlet Letter and the role of women in The Odyssey without ever opening the books.

While my love of reading faded in high school, Mrs. Smith’s Journalism 101 class inspired me to keep writing. As an athlete, I appreciated Mrs. Smith’s no-nonsense approach and tough love; she had extremely high expectations and had no problem letting you know when you failed to reach them.

It was under her wing, as a member of the school newspaper staff, that I learned how to write a lead, conduct interviews, take notes, check facts, and meet deadlines. I’m still convinced that the college essay I wrote – about balancing my time as sports editor and student-athlete, while trying to give back to my mom, who had sacrificed everything to raise my brother and me – was the main reason I got into Vanderbilt University.

In college, I quickly realized that I was much better at reading and writing essays than I was at memorizing formulas in Calculus (I think my only “F” ever) and Econ. However, it wasn’t until I read Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities in a course on educational inequity in America that I knew I wanted to become a teacher.

Upon graduation, I said “yes” to the first school that offered me a job and haven’t looked back since. As a middle school – and now high school – English teacher, I have had the privilege of falling in love with reading all over again. Even more rewarding is the opportunity to share that love and passion for reading with my students.

I know what the research says: that today’s teens are texting and snapchatting more, and reading less. There is no question that reading faces more competition than at any point in history.

But, in many ways, that’s what makes my job so fun, and so fulfilling. The competitor in me revels in the opportunity to prove to students that reading can, in fact, be more enjoyable than Instagram or YouTube.

The fact that there are so many phenomenal Young Adult authors out there writing books that have a way of affecting all students (and adults) certainly makes my job of creating confident and capable lifelong readers easier.

I’d have a much harder time selling students on the joy and value of reading if I forced all of them to read the same book at the same pace, regardless of their interests or ability level. But, by introducing them to novels by the likes of Kwame Alexander, Sherman Alexie, Kiera Cass, Suzanne Collins, Walter Dean Myers, Matt de la Pena, Sharon Draper, John Green, Khaled Hosseini, Marie Lu, Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling, Veronica Roth, Rainbow Rowell, Gary Schmidt, Paul Volponi, Jacqueline Woodson, and Markus Zusak, I’ve got a chance.

Offering my students choice in what they read is only one piece of the puzzle. I must give them consistent time to read in a calm and comfortable environment. It’s also my responsibility to provide my students with the same love, support and encouragement that my mother and my teachers gave me.

This year, I got a bit emotional when one of my ninth-graders, beaming ear to ear, revealed to me that he had just finished a chapter book on his own for the first time. I could see in him that same sense of pride and accomplishment that I felt reading Bears on Wheels twenty-something years ago.

And I knew, from that moment forward, he was hooked.

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