Monday, May 22, 2006

Monday 05/22/06

Saturday I spoke briefly at the SEIU hall in East Nashville. They were disappointed that I didn't fill in their survey, but they let me explain who I was and why I wanted to continue on the school board which I appreciate. One woman was offended that I hadn't filled in the survey. She said that if all people thought like homeschoolers she wouldn't have a job. Immediately thinking of all the families that are leaving Nashville and choosing private education options because of the current condition of our public schools my response was: If we don't improve public schools you won't have a job.

This morning I attended Dr. Pedro Garcia's usual Monday morning cabinet meeting. I was warmly welcomed. They introduced themselves and gave me a brief overview of their duties. I also saw a presentation on the status of the new Cane Ridge High School in Antioch.

I'm going to get with a couple of them on improving the MNPS website so that it's actually useable by mere mortals. I was told that they have been working on behind the scenes foundational issues and very much welcomed my suggestions and asked if we could meet later. I expect that the BOE page with the agendas and minutes will be updated soon so that we can all stay better informed about what has happened.

Afterward it was paperwork time. It seems despite being a Metro employee in order to get a security badge for MNPS facilities I must have an employee number which I can only get by filling in an online job application which wouldn't allow me to continue with the application unless I agreed to a background check. I was told BOE members didn't need to have background check but there was no workaround in order to get a security badge. Surely someone can figure out how to put a 'NO' box on that page for such circumstances. (I'll add that to my conversation with the fellows in the paragraph above.)

And before I left I got more homework. I brought this box of policy papers, reference materials, health insurance information, strategic and strategy plans (I guess I'll find out the difference soon), organizational charts, Board Minutes for the year to date and budget information home with me.

That big binder is a grand report from January of 2001 called "Long-Range Implementation Plan Resulting from a Performance Audit of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools from MGT of America. " Let's hope it's long range--it's now 5 years later.

This evening I'll attend the graduation celebration for Stratford High School.

UPDATE: 6/2/06: My first paycheck arrived. They charged me $31.00 for a background check.

10 comments:

Tom said...

Great. Tinkering with the website on Day Four of the job. One hopes this is not that refreshing point of view the Republicans have been talking about.

Speaking for that community that is new to you--parents in the system--we'd appreciate some engagement on issues, like the resegregation of our schools, the substitution of standardized testing for genuine teaching and learning, and the continuing fecklessness of the administration in destroying the Encore program.

When you finish updating the web site, I mean.

Kay Brooks said...

Tom,

I'm 'tinkering' with the website because it is an efficient way for the system to communicate with many of the parents, taxpayers and voters in my district. Nashville is one of the most wired cities in the nation and there is no good reason for us not to have our school system's website up to par in that regard. I would think that as a user of the Internet you would understand how valuable its utilization can be. Further, I believe we cannot make progress without having accurate information readily available.

Apparently CM David Briley considers the Internet a valuable tool also.

Anonymous said...

What's the problem with them conducting a background check on you? Seems painless enough. Thousands of employees go through that everyday.

Kay Brooks said...

Tom,

What do your conversations with parents that have pulled their children from MNPS tell you about our public schools? Why are they leaving? What are those disappointed Encore parents saying about their loyalty to the public school system?

Sometimes, we have to listen to those outside the system to know what to fix inside the system.

Tom said...

White families began fleeing Metro Schools in the 1970s over one reason, pure and simple: race. You can go from private school to private school in this town and at many of them (not all, but a surprising number) you will find a cornerstone that says "Erected 1973," or "Est. 1974." That's no coincidence.

Those schools market and advertise heavily. Some of them are good. Some of them are mediocre. But they are, by definition, always comprised of homogeneous populations who "share our values."

Well, one of the things about public education is that the goal is not to surround yourself with like-minded people. The goal is to give diverse people--all people--an education to nurture their unique intellectual gifts and give them the skills and abilities to be engaging, productive citizens. All of them. Together. Because that's how we live.

At least that's how we're supposed to live. Outsider views are important, but just as I'm not very interested in what those who live in gated communities have to say about public safety, I'm less interested in what those who have removed themselves to Williamson County (or their dining room) have to say about the MNPS. Should we find out why people choose to leave public schools? Certainly. But if people choose private schools because that's where their friends' kids go, are if they move to Williamson County because that's where other rich families are, or if they homeschool because they don't want their kids coming into contact with people who don't look or sound like them, I don't think the cause of public education has to much to learn from them.

Private schools don't offer special ed, because they don't have to. They don't teach English to the 1-in-9 (or more) children in Nashville whose parents speak another language at home. They don't pay for transportation. They don't have to dance to the tune of political whimsy, which institutes one curriculum fad after another (see, e.g., TCAPs, NCLB, and the dearly departed "core curriculum" of a few years ago).

Private schools are nice. But public schools are instinct with obligation. One of those lesser obligations is to communicate the minutes of the last board meeting, I grant you. But it's far, far from the most important.

Eric Holcombe said...

Tom,

I'll agree that several Nashville area private schools (http://www.nashvillelife.com/education/page5.html)were established after 13 years of forced integration (1971). I guess Lipscomb and Battleground could be argued as being established in reaction to Reconstruction. However, all of their policies state they do not discriminate based on race. Perhaps they didn't want to continue to put up with the federal government interference of the day. I can understand parents of that era (of any color) being fed up with the government creating a "fake diversity" by busing both black and white kids across town so the correct percentage of color existed in attendance - or letting only a certain race pick which school they wanted to attend - regardless of where they actually lived. In my estimation, genuine teaching and learning was substituted with racist government policy - which in turn spurred many reactions from people of all colors. Some racist, some violent. I wouldn't want my kids in that atmosphere either. Assuming everyone that opted out of the system at that time is racist is as ignorant as some of your assumptions about homeschooler's motivations to educate their children.

The private schools aren't obliged because they aren't on the taxpayer dole. They don't rely on forced taxation of all your purchased goods and real property to fund their operation. They don't take federal tax funds, so NCLB does not apply. They are also a straw man in the discussion of MNPS.

However, I believe you are onto something with the 'share our values' statement. The public schools are almost doomed to failure because they cannot set their values. Everyone involved and their ideal must be catered to in the name of "cultural diversity", have their self-esteem increased and by all means not be offended. It becomes a least common denominator approach - zero tolerance policy being a microcosm of the whole. They cannot possibly please everyone, yet that is what they are 'obliged' to do. If the community involved at the school does not have 'shared values', whether that is the three R's, bible studies, or multi-culturalism, they will continue to be a house divided which cannot stand.

Anonymous said...

Tom, I agree with your comments. The reason this school board has gone wrong is too many of its members want to micromanage the system. The Board's job is to make broad policy decisions and leave the implementation to those in the district that are educated and knowledgable on how to do so.

As a parent with two children in our public schools who are getting a very good education and have been through the Encore program, I agree there is certainly an elitist and social climbing aspect to many who criticize our district. If half the people criticizing put half their energy into helpful solutions, we would be a lot farther along in this city to solving many of our social issues. Because it's the social issues that cripple the school system, not the other way around.

As Christians (or whatever your spiritual source) it is up to us to be a part of the system and love and lift up those in need. Not sequester ourselves in exclusive communities and make our own reality because we don't like what we see.

haptown said...

Kay Brooks wrote: "What are those disappointed Encore parents saying about their loyalty to the public school system?"
I am an Encore parent and I am NOT disappointed with the program. My daughter loves it and I have noticed a marked difference between her and her non-Encore friends.
Vote For Gracie Porter!!

Kay Brooks said...

Haptown:

It was Tom who asserted that the administration was 'destroying the Encore program". I asked what parents were saying--not making a judgement about the program. But his is not the first voice I've heard say that the program was less than it could be or was.

I'm glad your daughter has had a good experience. I wish all 72,000+ of our MNPS students could say the same.

Tom said...

Wow- another "Tom." That one wasn't me.

Some parents were upset over Encore because Garcia ran off a very competent and liked Encore Director, Beth O'Shea and replaced her with someone less qualified.