Thursday, March 29, 2007


The City Paper reports this morning that a new parent group opposing SSA has suddenly been formed.

MPASS [Metro Parents Against Standard School attire] and its 25-plus members hope to reach out to school board members in the coming weeks through e-mail and written letters.
My questions to them is---where have y'all been during this year long process?

Member Ashley Crownover is quoted as saying:
“One of the things that we’re really hoping for is that we can step back and it would be wonderful if this process, which we feel has not been as good as it could be, could just be halted for a moment and we could take a break, a little time for some rational, considered discussion,” Crownover said.
While I applaud parental involvement--the timing is way off. These 25 parents missed the boat. They've had an entire year to communicate with their BOE member, attend public meetings in local schools and at PAC and BOE meetings and voice their concerns and ask their questions, write letters to the editor and generally encourage 'rational, considered discussion.'

Sure the process hasn't been as good as it could have been. Perhaps that's because some folks are just now realizing that they should have spoken up sooner and participated in the discussion 3, 6, 9 or 12 months ago. I'm inclined to say--too bad, so sad. At some point the process has to come to an end. April 10 still gives these 25 parents two weeks to watch the old BOE videos with the SSA committee presentations (start here) and read the formal report (here) and do their research and make their case individually to BOE members. But come April 10 the BOE ought to take a vote--up or down, then and there.


Ashley C. said...

It seems reasonable to end the process once it has been conducted properly. It is becoming obvious that the board-appointed study committee did not actually "study" the issue. If I had known in advance that there would not be a fair examination of SSA on the part of those who make the decisions, I certainly would have become involved sooner. Too bad, so sad for me for trusting the people charged with educating my children.

You can learn more about MPASS at

--Ashley Crownover

Kay Brooks said...

Thanks for coming by, Ashley.

The devil is in the defining of 'properly'. We could argue that one word until the cows come home.

Just because 25, or 100, parents didn't pay attention to the publicity about the effort, didn't attend the community meetings and didn't notice the editorials across all sorts of media doesn't give them the right to derail the process at the last minute and call for a 'do-over'.

As the old office saying goes:

“A lack of preparation on your part, doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part."

The urgency is yours. The time to speak up is running out. Make your best case in these last 12 days and lets see how the vote comes out. If the evidence is so obvious--12 days is more than enough time.

Fritz Waco said...

In this case, Ms. Brooks, I'm afraid that what constitutes "proper" isn't much open to debate.

The information presented by the Study Committee was--and remains--so severely skewed in favor of SSA that it was impossible for all but the most informed parents to see the issue in its entirety. Relying on half truths, unfounded claims, and anecdotal evidence to make their case, the Study Committee's efforts were anything but "proper."

So it's not a question of parents' "not paying attention," or their "lack of preparation" as you so condescendingly assume. Plenty of parents did pay attention. And, to their credit, some smelled a rat. But since the Board and its charges did their best to limit parent input and to disseminate or to suppress information to suit its fancy (and the media, lazy lapdogs that they so often are, simply reiterated that information without question or further research), MPASS' mobilization necessarily follows the act of duplicity itself.

With this mobilization, the paucity of the Study Committee's argument becomes increasingly apparent, and rational, reasoned debate on the SSA proposal becomes a possibility at last. And that, Ms. Brooks, is every parents' right, no matter how close to some arbitrary deadline we may be.

Kay Brooks said...

And once the rat was smelled why didn't parents go outside of the system (be that MNPS or media) and get the word out? Neither of them control *all* the channels of communication. Why wait until the last minute to set up a blog? Why wasn't it done at the first hint of rat?

And, we need to remember, that not all parents are feeling disenfranchised in this discussion. There have been a good number voicing support for SSA. They participated in the process. They voted, they wrote letters and contacted BOE members. They were there. Why should your 'rights' usurp there's?

Again, where were the MPASSa parents during the last year?

Fritz Waco said...

Ms. Brooks,

Please allow me to clarify and to elaborate. The point is not that parents who oppose SSA did not get to register their concerns and misgivings. They did. As I hope to show you, those concerns and misgivings took on the urgency you describe once certain facts became known.

In doing the Board's bidding, the Study Committee presented to the public information that had no value other than to achieve the desired result of garnering SSA support. Accordingly, it ignored the only national study on the subject, presumably because the study's conclusions contradicted directly the committee's desire to see SSA made policy. Is it any wonder that people are in favor of a proposal whose validity is so thoroughly misrepresented?

Moreover, given the Study Committee's highly selective presentation of the data surrounding SSA, one can only conclude that any call for parent input was pure theater and that the decision to implement SSA was made long before the committee convened.

On this last point, it is worth noting that the Study Committee made no effort to appoint a parent representative until a mere six weeks ago, after a working dynamic had been established and the process itself was well underway. And it was only a week or two ago, when it became clear that parental input at the committee level was nothing more than window dressing, that parents had any reason to question the process as a whole.

I hope this clarifies things. Thanks for your questions, and for your interest.

DivaMommy said...

It is indeed "too bad, and so sad" to see this sort of comment coming from a Metro School Board member. It sounds like a schoolyard taunt! (and not a very savvy one, at that).

That strange comment from Kay Brooks aside, as a parent of two kids in Metro schools, I find it quite disturbing that parents who oppose SSA are being characterized as "coming too late" to the table. Perhaps we were simply waiting to see what the outcome of the study committee's report would be? I participated in the phone study and duly registered my vote as "not in favor of SSA." I paid attention to the publicity, and I followed the media reports. So, now suddenly, my vote doesn't count and I can't choose to express my opinion about this issue even more publicly? Give me a break.

I believe that getting involved now is better than not getting involved at all. And I am more than appalled at the tone which Kay Brooks uses to talk about parental involvement in this issue...I expect more from someone who purports to have our children's best interests at heart.

DivaMommy said...

Upon reading more of Kay Brooks' blog, I found these "nuggets of wisdom"--

"It's apparent to me that those that were so vehemently against SSA were out of touch with other parents in the district. While they and, I'm sure, their closest associates in their school, were solidly against it--regular folks who have to deal with the daily hassle of ensuring their children are appropriately dressed preferred less choice for the children and more freedom for parents.

So, fewer choices for our children is a good thing? Explain to me exactly how "less choice" will help my children to make REAL choices when they are adults? Part of my children's education is about learning to think for themselves (and dress themselves!)--not learning how to become automatons. Also, please explain to me how SSA will create more freedom for parents. I am facing buying 2 sets of clothes for my soon-to-be highschooler...she wouldn't be caught dead in SSA-type clothes outside of school, so this will mean MORE money out of pocket, not less. I don't see how this translates into more freedom for me or other parents.

"It's now up to the BOE to listen to their constituents and vote this in regardless of threats from a few high schoolers who will attempt to throw temper tantrums to get their way, regardless of the threat to leave the system by some parents (who'll likely find stricter policies in private schools) and regardless of the lack of 'empirical' evidence that SSA doesn't guarantee higher scores or lower discipline rates. Superintendent Garcia is right: "School is important" and requiring students to dress for success is just one part of an entire process to ensure their success."

I work in a professional environment, and we don't have SSA-type uniforms. So, where is the causal evidence that this type of clothing creates success? I've yet to see this data (other than talking points repeated ad nauseum). Just because something gets repeated over and over again doesn't make it so.

And I love how Kay Brooks blithely states "regardless of the lack of 'empirical' evidence that SSA doesn't guarantee higher scores or lower discipline rates." There you have it right there, folks. Metro School Board members themselves admit that there is no empirical evidence to support these grand claims for SSA. So, why the heck are they for it? Because it's nice window dressing, because it's "easier" for them that enforcing the current dress codes, because it seems like they are "doing something" about the problem.

What a sham. Kay Brooks should have just written, "It's time for BOE members to do what we've wanted to do from the beginning anyway. Data? We don't need no stinking data!"

DivaMommy said...

Thankfully, it has been pointed out to me that Ms. Brooks is no longer on the school board. And, I can predict that she will not be in that position again, based on the comments on this blog.

Kay Brooks said...


I didn't say your vote didn't count or shouldn't count. Obviously, it was counted in the phone survey and you are still free to comment to the BOE members. I'm sure they'll give your comments due consideration.

My point is that THIS is not the time to suddenly derail a year old process because some suddenly realize that the vote may not go their way. How much time is enough time? Whatever it takes for the outcome to be the one you want it to be?

Yes, sometimes, fewer choices are a good thing for children. Sometimes fewer choices are good for parents too. And I believe that on this side of SSA you don't understand how fewer clothing choices could simplify you and your daughter's morning routine. Or how durable clothing is less expensive in the long run than cycling through flimsy and fickle fashions.

Yes, I believe that enforcing SSA will be easier on MNPS staff. Is that a bad thing? Their time is very valuable and when we can make their jobs easier by something as simple as SSA...I'm all for it. If that frees them up to actually teach that a very good thing.

And yes, I do believe I have the children's best interests at heart despite the fact that we disagree on what is best.

DivaMommy said...


I have experience with SSA in another state (as well as experience with a private school with uniforms), so I have ample experience with all sides of this issue. SSA did not raise test scores nor did it curb behavior problems at the school my daughter attended. Neither did uniforms at a private school, by the way. In fact, can you point me to any studies that show definitively that it does such a thing? I think not.

If you read the letter written by Mark Schoenfeld on the MPASS website, you will come to a better understanding as to the validity of this "year long study" that you tout. He was intimately involved in the study committee, and explains quite specifically how the process was biased from the beginning.

So, my question to you is this: are you willing to continue to perpetuate the lie that this study was done in a fair and reasoned manner just so you can get the outcome that you want? (P.S. Is it true that your children are all homeschooled? If so, then how do you know what it is like to get your kids up and ready for school at 6:30 a.m., regardless of their clothing choices?)

din819go said...

Kay -- As soon as parents found out the SSA/uniform committee had informed we insisted/demended Garcia put parents AND students on the committee. Sadly parents did not know the committee had started work much less been formed until 6 months or more into the process.

This is the worse case of forming committees that the district has done. In the past the PAC has been able to get parents and others on the board and be involved in the process from day one.

The uniform committee is built upon a fraud/lie and has continued as such. The parents on the committee that opposed uniforms were shut out completely. Their evidence and it was very strong and presented ALL the details vs only those that made the principals' case was ignored. The parents were utterly frustrated that a balanced approach was not being presented.

The data about Litton is a lie. The data shows the school is on target to have has many or more discipline issues this year (uniform year) than last year. The committee did not annualize the five month data it presented to the board. A board member pointed this out and yet the fraudulent process continues.

I am thrilled the parents opposed to uniforms are getting organized. I hope the board wakes up to see what a black eye this whole process has been.

My concern - in addition to the fact that I know for a fact uniforms do not help with learning, discipline, etc - is the uniform process flies in the face of what the district is doing with the strategic plan and the action teams.

Just which face of the district is real -- the dictatorial, knee jerk reaction, rudderless one or the one where the communitee input is heard and used. My hope is it is the later. My hope is schools will be given the choice to have uniforms or not -- just like they have now.

Thank you --

Oh yes, you never have responded to my question how would your children like it if they had to dress alike each day? Even twins do not like it.

din819go said...

Kay -- one more comment. Uniforms impact who more than anyone? Parents and students? Why was the district so afraid to include the group impacted in the process from the beginning? Why was the district forced to allow parents and students on the committee? Why did the principals become defensive every time the parents and student presented them with the facts? If someone can explain this to me, I would be most grateful!!

Fritz Waco said...

Ms. Brooks: Since politesse seems not to register with you, let me try something more direct.

Your comments suggest that you are either impossibly dense, willfully ignorant, or both. Since qualities such as these seem to be in high demand over on Bransford Aveneue these days, it is a wonder that you weren’t voted back on to the School Board.

To say that it is too late to “derail a year-old process” is both contemptuous and absurd. As all of the posts to this blog thus far make clear, only in recent days has it become clear that the Study Committee misrepresented the facts that underwrite the SSA proposal, suppressed the facts that contradict it, and foreclosed any meaningful involvement by parents. In large part, MPASS’ grievance is not about outcome; it is about process: once there is transparency in the process, the outcome will take care of itself.

It is worth noting that your own language belies your limited understanding of this issue, and calls into question your qualifications either to teach or to comment on—let alone set—education policy. You “believe” an awful lot, yet seem to “think” very little. Where is your evidence? Upon what data do you base your claims? Where is your analysis? The sort of reasoning you demonstrate in support of SSA wouldn’t pass muster in a middle-school science class or a course in freshman composition.

Moreover, your assertion that SSA would somehow transform the daily routine of busy parents is astonishingly offensive. The last place any parent should look to for lessons in efficiency is the Metro Nashville Public School system; the last person anyone should look to for advice on getting a child to school in the morning, Ms. Brooks, is you.

Fritz Waco said...

An afterthought: Your initial post links only to the reports generated by the Board of Education, which present as "evidence" the half-truths and anecdotes upon which you seem to base your beliefs. If you were at all interested in presenting the full range of information on SSA, you'd provide a link to the MPASS blog, where an archive of persuasively detailed evidence and arguments against the proposal is available for all to see.

Laura said...

While I have been following the SSA process as long as information has been publicly available, it was not obvious to anyone that this was a rigged process [perhaps outside those doing the fix] until very recently.

One big sign? The committee's so-called parent survey was conducted before the new SSA policy was announced. So people were voting on a theory, not reality. That makes the survey completely invalid as a measure of whether families like/can adapt to the proposed policy.

Nashteach said...

I truly hope this issue doesn't prevent parents, teachers, and others in the community who care about our kids' futures from sticking together on the things we need to. Mrs. Brooks has strong opinions, to be sure, but she is far from being a blind supporter of the board and administration. Initially, I did question her motives, but have come to believe she truly does care about the children all over this city. We may disagree with her on this, and many other things, but chances are, before too long she'll broach a dialogue important to us, and one that others will be silent on. I think we'd all be wise to avoid questioning each others motives or commitment; so many kids have folks who don't even think about these important things. We should remember we do share the fact that we do care and care to know. It really makes us more alike than we admit at times.

I'd advise the good folks at MPASS to appeal to others' sense of community. Many of us have strong feelings about our schools. This proposal, along with many others over the last several years, have seriously been eating away at the character and individuality of our schools, each of which should be allowed to grow in a unique way. I can't believe board members don't have feelings about the schools in their districts, the histories and the futures that are different from all the other schools. We should allow some of those schools to choose to try uniforms. If they do, it will be something they take ownership of. And that feeling of empowerment will carry them on to even more innovation.

Kay Brooks said...

Thanks, NashTeach. Yes, even a broken clock is right twice a day. I could very well be right at some point. :-)

I agree it would be great if we could all have a conversation instead of just reinforcing our defenses and questioning the motives of others. We can't make any progress for the children that way.

I want to encourage conversation here. I encourage explanation of one's point of view instead of just asserting that it's the right point of view. I encourage providing facts as well as experiences. The broader our perspective the more likely it is to be accurate. The less likely we are to make errors and waste the very limited and valuable childhood of these students.

Laura said...

NashTeach--Any Metro school that wants to already CAN choose standard attire, of its own choosing. No need for a new policy.

Nashteach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nashteach said...

Laura- I know. You're preaching to the choir. If I thought a new policy was needed, why would I have said:

"This proposal, along with many others over the last several years, have seriously been eating away at the character and individuality of our schools, each of which should be allowed to grow in a unique way."

My point is that MPASS needs to stress this point more- rather than being against uniforms, be for schools getting to choose. I believe that message would appeal to a wider audience.