MNPS teacher Amanda Kail made the following remarks at tonight’s school board meeting in reference to the selection of the next Director of Schools.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen of the school board. My name is Amanda Kail, and I am an EL teacher at Margaret Allen Middle School. I am here to speak first of all to thank you for your patience and your commitment to hearing teachers who have come to several board meetings this year. And to tell you of the many conversations of hope I have had with teachers across the district who feel like they are finally being heard. Your actions on our behalf have not gone unnoticed.
Secondly, I am here to suggest crucial requirements for the next director of schools from a teacher’s perspective. As you work together towards finding our next leader, I hope my comments can be of some use.
First and foremost, it is imperative that we find a candidate with significant and recent teaching experience. So much has changed in just the eight years that I have taught in public schools. MNPS is in desperate need of leadership that understands what currently is, and what is not, working in the classroom.
Second, we need a leader who will reduce testing. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a teacher in this district who does not feel that testing has taken far too much time away from instruction this year. Additionally, as educational experts, we can tell you that the quality of the tests we have been forced to give are so poor that we have gotten little to no useful information from the results. MNPS needs a leader who understands that testing is not learning, and who will put protecting instructional time as the highest importance for our schools.
Third, we need a director who will make teacher retention a priority. Teaching, especially in as diverse and complex district such as ours, is exceedingly difficult. We need to invest in teacher evaluation systems that are not impossible to survive for new teachers. And we need to value the experience and talents of veteran teachers by bringing back step raises, and by offering them more opportunities for real leadership in the district. And we need a director who will be willing to collaboratively conference with teachers, so that we can work together to make our district a national leader.
Fourth, we must have a candidate who will be an advocate for all our students, regardless of race, gender, economic status, sexual or gender identity, religion, ability, nationality, or immigration status. MNPS is a bright star of diversity. Our leader must be ready to engage with state and national politics to protect all Nashville’s kids, especially those who are most vulnerable.
And finally, we need a leader who can think of our district as a whole. Currently, we are a district torn by conflict over school choice and charters. We have several schools, including zoned and charter schools, that are half-empty. And now, on top of after-school tutoring, clubs, extra-curricular activities, home visits, and after-school parent conferences, teachers are having to go out canvassing on weekends in order to protect their jobs and their schools. I have students who have bounced from charter to charter, and then back to their zoned school in a matter of weeks. How does this help anyone? Kids need consistency. All schools need to offer the kinds of options that parents want. We need to stop perpetuating a system where one school has to tear down another in order to survive, and replace it with a community support services and collaboration.
I know your responsibility of choosing the director of schools is a heavy one. I hope that these suggestions will be useful in your search.
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