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


 

 

Teacher Shortage Hits Tennessee Cities

Chalkbeat reports on the state’s big cities missing a significant number of teachers at the start of the school year:

About 100 Shelby County Schools classrooms still lack full-time teachers, Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said Monday, the first day of school, after a tour at Bruce Elementary.

And the problem wasn’t limited to Shelby County:

And it’s not the only district with vacancies left open. Metro Nashville, a slightly smaller district, lists nearly 80 open teaching jobs, and the third-largest district in the state, Knox County, needs more than forty. Across the board, districts are most hurting for special education teachers, though there are vacancies in nearly every subject.

The shortage noted in the big districts tracks information reported at TNEdReport back in 2014:

Since 2009, Tennessee has identified shortages in the overall numbers of K-12 teachers needed for public schools as well as teachers for specific subjects. There is a critical need in the state for STEM teachers, as well as shortages in high school English, social studies, world languages, Pre-K through high school special education, and English as a second language.

While there are many reasons for the shortfall, it’s worth noting that the first days of school set the tone for the entire year. So much so that incoming MNPS Director of Schools Shawn Joseph has said it’s critical that every classroom have a full-time teacher on day one.

UPDATE: MNPS reports that the actual number of unfilled vacancies on Day 1 was 34.5, a better number than they’ve had in recent years.

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


 

 

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


 

 

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


 

 

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