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


 

 

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


 

 

Payday Loans for Charter Schools

Earlier today, I reported on the links between Nashville’s Project Renaissance/Nashville RISE and national groups promoting corporate education reform. Specifically, I noted Renaissance’s membership in Education Cities and the similarities between what’s happening in Nashville and what’s happening in other “Education Cities” like Indianapolis.

It’s important to also examine what’s happening in Indianapolis — a district following the Education Cities playbook — in order to see if that’s what we’d like to have happen in Nashville.

First, the charter schools in Indy aren’t doing so well. It may be because, as former TN ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic once said:

“As a charter school founder, I did my fair share of chest pounding over great results,” he wrote. “I’ve learned that getting these same results in a zoned neighborhood school environment is much harder.”

Chalkbeat’s Scott Elliott reported in April of this year on the struggles faced by charters in IPS:

Many Indiana schools saw rock-bottom passing rates on last year’s tougher ISTEP exam but in a city where public and charter schools compete for students, it’s worth noting that a majority of charter schools in the city had passing rates below the district’s average.

And that’s not a new phenomenon:

But of the 18 charter schools operating this year (2014-15) in the city that took ISTEP last year, about half fell below the Indianapolis Public Schools districtwide average of 51.6 percent passing.

These results may not be surprising, but they certainly don’t point to an Education Cities success story.

Here’s something else that’s interesting. Charter advocates have built clout in the Indiana legislature and used it create a charter school cash advance program — a payday loan of sorts, but with far better interest rates.

Chelsea Schneider in the Indianapolis Star reported on the plan:

The Indiana State Board of Education on Wednesday endorsed a plan to divvy out as much as $40 million in loans in the 2015-16 school year through a controversial new state program to fund charter schools.

Here’s how it works:

The per-student limit means a charter school could receive a maximum advance of $1,836 per student from their state tuition support, according to information shared by board staff. That could lead to some schools receiving less than what they requested. Two schools are seeking approximately $45,000 per student.

Under the program, eligible charter schools can request a maximum of $5 million. Interest rates on the loans are set at 1 percent.

That’s a pretty friendly interest rate provided to schools that may or may not get results.

The point is, it’s not clear from Indy’s example that theirs is a model Nashville should follow — even though Nashville’s ed reform advocates are using the same playbook used in “Education Cities” around the country.

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


 

 

 

 

 

TC Weber and the Return of the Summer Blockbuster

TC Weber thinks he sees blockbuster potential in this summer’s Nashville School Board race:

I’d argue that this year’s Metro Nashville Public Schools board race meets the criteria for a summer blockbuster, and with Stand For Children involved, it even has its own Michael Bay. For those of you who don’t regularly attend movies, Bay is a director known for elevating the blockbuster format through the increased use of explosions, beautiful people, and minimal substance. In other words, with apologies to William Faulkner, sound and fury signify nothing. To this point, that is exactly what the MNPS school board race has been. You have social media dust ups, campaign managers from one campaign resigning just before the filing deadline to launch their own campaigns, and other candidates attacking a spouse’s work record like it was their opponent’s. All entertaining to watch, but largely lacking substance.

The whole post outlines special interest groups, candidate recruitment, and all the other characters that make a blockbuster truly exciting. Also, he makes some recommendations on candidates he deems worthy of support.


 

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

Dr. Shawn Joseph Announces Key Staff

Today, Dr. Shawn Joseph announced key staff appointments in Metro Nashville Pubic Schools. He has named a Chief Academic Officer, Chief of Schools, and Chief Operating Officer. 

Chief Academic Officer: Dr. Monique Felder, currently serves as Executive Director of Teaching and Learning at Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland.

Chief of Schools: Dr. Sito Narcisse, current Associate Superintendent for High School Performance at Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland.

Chief Operating Officer: Chris Henson, current interim Director of Schools and Chief Financial Officer for Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Update: The Tennessean reported that Fred Carr, Chief Operating Officer, did not have his contract renewed.

See below for the press release that was sent to teachers and staff:

As Metro Schools’ employees, we want you to be among the first to know that our new Director of Schools, Dr. Shawn Joseph, has announced the first three members of his executive cabinet in naming a chief academic officer, chief of schools and chief operating officer. Under the new executive structure planned by Dr. Joseph, one additional cabinet member—chief of staff—will be named before the team officially begins work in their new roles on July 1. 

The chief academic officer position is being filled by Monique Felder, Ph.D., who currently serves under Dr. Joseph in Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland as the executive director of teaching and learning. Sito Narcisse, Ed.D., has been named chief of schools. Dr. Narcisse also comes from Prince George’s County but with strong Nashville ties, having earned his master’s degree from Vanderbilt University and serving as a student teacher at Antioch High School. Current Interim Director of Schools and Chief Financial Officer Chris Henson has been appointed to serve as chief operating officer.

Chief academic officer and chief operating officer are existing positions on the district’s executive team. Each will be reshaped with a new scope of work. Chief of schools and chief of staff are newly defined positions. These changes to the district’s leadership structure result in a reduction in the number of direct reports to the director of schools from six to four.

“Our goal is to ensure we have a structure that effectively serves students, families and schools,” said Dr. Joseph. “The four chiefs will work closely together so that silos within the organization are broken down. The new executive team will be expected to work cross-collaboratively to give clear direction and effective supports to our school leaders, educators, staff and students.”

Dr. Felder has over 25 years of experience as an educator. She has served as a teacher, principal and a district administrator for advanced learning. She holds a bachelor’s in elementary education, a master’s with a specialization in elementary science and math and a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies. She also holds an advanced certificate in equity and excellence in education.

As chief academic officer, Dr. Felder will oversee all aspects of instruction and curriculum from prekindergarten through graduation. While this position previously oversaw principal and teacher supervision in addition to academics, it will now focus on student learning and social and emotional supports for students.

“If we are going to have real academic alignment through all grades and the highest quality instruction for all students, we need a chief who only thinks about teaching, learning and the social / emotional supports that are needed for student success,” said Dr. Joseph.

Dr. Narcisse’s career has taken him from teaching locally in Nashville and Williamson County to serving as a school leader in Pittsburgh City Public Schools and Boston Public Schools. He also worked on school improvement in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland and as associate superintendent working on school improvement in Prince George’s County. He holds a bachelor’s degree in French from Kennesaw State University, a master’s from Vanderbilt in secondary education and a doctorate in educational administration, policy studies and leadership from the University of Pittsburgh.

In his role as chief of schools, Dr. Narcisse will be responsible for overseeing the mentoring, support and evaluation of all school-based administrators.

“Dr. Narcisse and Dr. Felder will bring an intentional focus on excellence and equity to Metro Schools,” said Dr. Joseph. “Their collaborative spirits and propensity for research-based practices will strengthen our strategic plans. They both possess the passion and sense of urgency needed to ensure that all kids receive high-quality learning opportunities. We are fortunate to be adding two highly-skilled equity leaders to our team.”

Henson has been with Metro Schools since 2002, serving as chief financial officer and twice as interim director of schools. He became the interim nearly one year ago, in July of 2015, and previously served in the role in 2008. Under his leadership, MNPS was the first district in Tennessee to be awarded the Meritorious Budget Award for Excellence by the Association of School Business Officials. Before coming to Nashville, he served as CFO for Franklin Special Schools and Sumner County Schools. His expertise in school finance and operations is unmatched in Tennessee. He has served on the State Board of Education’s Basic Education Program (BEP) Review Committee for over 15 years, recently served as a member of the Governor’s BEP Task Force, and is a past president of the Tennessee Association of School Business Officials. He began his career with Deloitte and holds a bachelor’s in accounting and business administration from Trevecca Nazarene University.

As chief operating officer, Henson will continue to oversee the district’s finances but also take on an expansion of his current responsibilities, overseeing all operational and business aspects of the district.

“Mr. Henson is a proven leader, and I thank him for serving so well as interim director of schools,” said Dr. Joseph. “This realignment allows us to streamline business operations and provide better services and supports to schools and communities.”

Additional staff announcements will come later this summer, including a full organizational chart expected in July.

 


 

 

 

Amy Frogge on the High Cost of School Board Races

MNPS Board Member Amy Frogge talks about the high cost of School Board races, using her own experience of being outspent 5-1 as an example. Here’s her Facebook post on the issue:

When I first ran for school board four years ago, it was the start of a new era for local elections. In prior years, no one paid much attention to school board races, and $15,000 was considered a good haul for a school board candidate. So you can imagine how shocked I was to learn that my opponent had raised $125,000 for our race! She was the highest funded candidate in the history of Nashville’s school board races.

Ultimately, I was able to raise around $25,000 for my own race (which was very difficult for me!). I spent months knocking on neighbor’s doors campaigning. Through hard work and with a lot of help from my friends and unpaid volunteers, I was able to build a strong grassroots campaign that allowed me to overcome the odds. Despite being outspent 5 to 1, I managed to win by a 2 to 1 margin- which just goes to show that money doesn’t always determine the outcome of political races in smaller local elections.

Many candidates in Nashville’s school board races now routinely raise around $80,000 for school board elections. You should ask: Why is so much money being poured into small school board races? What is at stake for the funders of these elections, particularly when the funders do not even have children in our public school system? This eye-opening article explains it well.

Nashville is part of a larger network of cities where school board seats are being bought by outside corporate interests seeking to expand charter schools (and to make money in other ways, such as through for-profit testing). I’ve seen this very clearly at the national conferences I’ve attended, where I learned that the same organizations and funders (often billionaires!) are involved nationwide. School board elections in many major urban cities have turned into high-dollar, contentious events with money flowing in from unlikely sources. This has led to the fracturing of local school boards, which have been divided by outside special interests. (Already, I expect some nasty personal attacks from these outside interests during my campaign this summer.)

Watch our school board races carefully this year. It will become clear from donations who is backed by special interests. Their campaigns will be slick and shiny, run by high-dollar PR firms, and you will likely be impressed by the marketing. But please be wary of these candidates and the agenda their backers are trying to drive for our local schools. It is not about the best interests of children.

[From the article below:

“A network of education advocacy groups, heavily backed by hedge-fund investors, has turned its political attention to the local level, with aspirations to stock school boards — from Indianapolis and Minneapolis to Denver and Los Angeles — with allies. . . . The same big-money donors and organizational names pop up in news reports and campaign-finance filings, revealing the behind-the-scenes coordination across organizational, geographic and industry lines. The origins arguably trace back to Democrats for Education Reform, a relatively obscure group founded by New York hedge funders in the mid-2000s.
The hedge-fund industry and the charter movement are almost inextricably entangled. Executives see charter-school expansion as vital to the future of public education, relying on a model of competition. They see testing as essential to accountability. And they often look at teacher unions with unvarnished distaste. Several hedge-fund managers have launched their own charter-school chains. You’d be hard-pressed to find a hedge-fund guy who doesn’t sit on a charter-school board.”]

Here’s the article she cites from Bill Moyers.

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


 

TC Weber Finds Lots of Winners in MNPS Director Search

Nashville education blogger TC Weber wrote a post today welcoming Dr. Shawn Joseph to MNPS and summing up the process that led to his hire in a winners/losers style column. So far, he sees lots of winners in a process that he describes this way:

First, there was a battle over who was going to be the interim director while the search was conducted, and that involved an ethics complaint, that, to my knowledge, has never been addressed. Then, the initial search ended with an offer to Williamson County Schools Director Dr. Mike Looney, who promptly turned it down and decided to stay in Williamson County despite having a signed letter of intent. This led to the questioning of the initial search firm and the competency of their work. The search was restarted, a new firm hired with the bill footed by a private entity, the Nashville Public Education Foundation, and community involvement was sought. A slate of finalists was unveiled sans any women candidates and again questions arose. In the end, though, there was one clear choice and the board voted 9-0 to offer the job to Dr. Joseph.

That’s a lot. And it’s been a long time coming. But, in the end, TC seems pretty happy with the result, save a desire for a bit more transparency.

Check out all of his take on the search process.

For more from TC, follow him @norinrad10

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

 

Offered and Accepted

The MNPS School Board offered the position of Director of Schools to Shawn Joseph in a unanimous vote.

Within hours of the offer, Joseph accepted a four-year contract with a salary of $285,000 per year.

Charles Corra at Rocky Top Ed Talk thinks the offer is a good sign:

1. Many hot-button education issues create division among students, parents, and public officials in Nashville. A strong leader is needed to navigate these difficult obstacles and lead our schools in a pragmatic way.
2. A unified school board, and ultimately a community, is the best and most fruitful way to welcome a new superintendent into the school system, and to foster a unified approach to solving the district’s problems.
3. MNPS boasts a diverse community of students. Dr. Joseph would arrive at his job with MNPS coming from one of the more diverse communities in our country, and with the requisite experience to handle the complexities that Nashville presents.
4. Dr. Joseph’s impressive resume shows his lifelong experience in public education.

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

 

Mary Holden on the Next Director of MNPS

Williamson County teacher and MNPS parent Mary Holden spoke to the School Board last night about her hopes for the next Director of Schools.

My name is Mary Holden, and I am a teacher and MNPS parent of a 2nd grader. I want to talk with you tonight about what is needed in our next director of schools.

First of all, we need someone with solid experience teaching children and leading schools. I believe it is important for our director of schools to have truly walked the walk when it comes to being a leader in public education. In other words, an applicant from the Broad Academy or someone who was a business leader but not an actual teacher, principal, and/or superintendent shouldn’t make it past the first cut.

Second, we need someone who 100% supports our public schools and views them in a positive light. Someone who understands the role that our public schools play in our communities and who will work tirelessly to build up these schools rather than parcel them out to competing charter schools who would instead work to divide communities and destroy our public schools. I want someone who knows the difference and will work to strengthen the public schools we have while trying to stop the expansion of charter schools. We need someone who understands the concept of community schools and will continue the work of building partnerships with local businesses and organizations who can provide resources and services for our neediest families through community schools. Someone who will ensure that our neediest schools receive equitable resources and the support personnel they need.

Third, we need an advocate to lead the fight against harmful state policies. For example, we need someone who understands the need to have fully funded schools and will fight for that at the state level. Also, someone who recognizes that we need to de-emphasize the role that standardized tests currently play. Someone who knows that we shouldn’t be evaluating teachers or students based on their test scores, especially when the test itself is a joke. We need a champion of a parent’s right to refuse these tests for their children, someone who understands the harm being done and the time that is taken away from learning by these tests.

Fourth, we need someone who is a strong supporter of our wonderful MNPS teachers and the hard work they do every day. They need to know that our director of schools has their back and has walked in their shoes. We need someone who seeks out feedback from teachers, parents, and students – and not business owners or others who don’t know anything about actually having children in public schools.

Finally, we need someone who understands and fights for the best interests of our children, especially as it relates to the role of play in learning; the importance of a well-rounded education that includes history and civics, science, art, music, PLAY, and of course, English and math; and the appropriate balance of technology in the classroom where I believe less is better.

Thank you for your time. I have confidence that you will make an excellent choice on behalf of our children and teachers.

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

 

Amanda Kail on the Next Director of MNPS

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