Monday, December 25, 2006

Gloria in Excelsis Deo

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.
Isaiah 9

He's no longer the babe in the manger--

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor
and glory and power,
for ever and ever!
Revelation 5
Yes, I am coming soon.


Come, Lord Jesus.

Revelation 22

Friday, December 22, 2006

Lump of Coal second year in a row

TCPR's annual Lump of Coal award goes again this year to Governor Phil Bredesen and the Tennessee General Assembly--

for raiding the state’s budget surplus to fund wasteful pork projects instead of returning the money to taxpayers by suspending the sales tax on groceries.
The state’s grocery tax, which disproportionately burdens the state’s poorest families, generated $483 million last year. Had state leaders decided to return part of the surplus to overtaxed Tennesseans by suspending the sales tax on groceries for a year, every family in the state would have an average of $210 more in their pockets this holiday season to pay bills, visit loved ones or have a few extra presents under the tree. The governor and state legislators chose instead to waste the money.
When it was within their power to legitimately help the poor--the Governor and the legislature ignored the fact the money isn't theirs and decided to keep it for such important projects as golf courses, secret meeting rooms and the "Speaker Jimmy Naifeh National Guard Armory".

Maybe these folks shop at a different Kroger--but mine won't take any of the above in trade for bread, milk and eggs. So what I, and a LOT of other families need, is our hard earned cash back--not signage, not a smoke filled room, and certainly not another lawn to maintain.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

They're all pro-education

Some statements from the Nashville mayoral candidates to consider. Yes, it's still early but I was curious to see how they stood at this point in time. CM At-Large Buck Dozier has certainly given the rest of the field some things to consider. He's exactly right--they'll all say they're 'pro-education' but what does that really mean? Buck's pretty clear, but the rest...

David Briley: "As your Mayor, I'll remain committed to building on the progress we've made in education. With continued proper funding and accountability, our children will get the quality education they need to succeed in today's global marketplace." David Briley's website

Bob Clement: "As a native Nashvillian, Bob Clement attended Metro public schools and graduated from Hillsboro High School. As the former president of Cumberland University, Bob Clement understands the challenges that principals, teachers, and students constantly face. He is committed to providing a QUALITY EDUCATION for all students. As Mayor, he will oppose efforts to drain money from public education and fight to make Nashville schools stronger. Educational opportunities are critically important for our students." Bob Clement's website

Karl Dean: On education, Dean said it is “the key to our identity…. As mayor, I pledge that I will be a tireless advocate for creative management of our school system. I will be a tireless advocate for adequate funding for our school system. I firmly believe that if we had schools that our children deserve, that we would not have to spend a penny on business recruitment. People would be flocking to Nashville. My goal is that people would move to Nashville for the schools — that’s what we’ll accomplish.” Nashville City Paper 12-20-2006

Note the David Fox in the article is NOT the David Fox currently on the school board.

Buck Dozier: [Who is getting more space because he's proposed more.] Read his 11 page statement calling for this mayoral race to be a referendum on education. This is from the City Paper of 12/15/06.

Laying out a preliminary eight-point plan for improving education in Nashville, which he called the The Athens Project, Dozier said he would use the mayor’s office as a bully pulpit to advocate for education reform and would strongly support school choice if elected.

And he would launch a 10-year capital campaign to create a $1 billion capital endowment for the public school system — with a goal of providing $75 million annually for “additional teachers, smaller class sizes, pre-K programs, music and art instruction” among other educational programs.

“Once upon a time, Nashville was regarded as the Athens of the South … We earned the title because Nashville was regarded back in the 1800s as a place of progressive thinkers, a place that was home to numerous institutions of higher learning, a place where, as in the times of Ancient Greece, thinking and learning were held in high regard,” Dozier said in a speech at the announcement, held in the Metro Council chamber downtown.

“Nashville is still home to numerous higher education institutions, and we have many progressive thinkers — but somehow we lost the title of Athens over time. What remains of this distinction are symbols that many citizens do not even recognize,” Dozier continued, saying he would fashion Nashville into the “Athens of Education in America.”

Dozier said he would commission an independent audit of the school system to determine how many dollars are flowing unnecessarily into the bureaucracy.

Dozier also said he would firmly support school choice — “A key success to learning starts with parental buy-in to their child’s education. One way I see to ensure greater buy-in is to give parents real options for schooling,” Dozier said.

Then, after the press conference, he elaborated: “I am 100 percent behind choice — charter schools, home schooling are some of the … aspects of choice in our community. … I welcome quality alternatives to public education — I don’t see them as a threat to public education at all; they actually enhance the learning environment in Nashville.”
Kenneth Eaton: "I will improve education by improving Technology in the schools . Improvements in computers and software, as well as more classes offering Technology training. This will improve our workforce's preparedness for this new movement to a Technology based economy." Kenneth Eaton's website

Howard Gentry: No specific comments from this candidate and nothing on his website.

David Pelton: “Education is the foundation from which everything else can grow. As my own children go through the public education system I want them and every other child in Nashville to have the tools they need to compete in a world economy. Great education will help reduce crime and attract business investment.” Dave Pelton's website

Monday, December 18, 2006

Grading Teachers

Teacher certification and effectiveness are not the same and North Carolina gives us some very interesting evidence.

The study focused on North Carolina, which has embraced National Board certification and has 9,801 certified teachers -- tops in the nation.

The researchers looked at student achievement in three school districts, comparing classrooms instructed by board-certified teachers with those with teachers lacking the certification.

Although the study indicated that the board-certified teachers excelled in areas such as planning and using high-quality materials, it found "no clear pattern of effects on student achievement based on whether the teacher was Board certified." Orlando Sentinal

And student achievement is THE goal. The goal isn't what parchment is in the teacher's personnel file--it's ensuring that children leave the system with an education. More evidence that releasing teacher TVAAS scores is important to evaluating their effectiveness. And in case I haven't mentioned it recently, great teachers earn great pay.

Cutting line

Great news for the students at Julia Green Elementary in Green Hills--a Frist family donation of several million dollars will allow this school to cut to the front of the capital improvement budget and move it from 68th on the list for repair/renovation to near first.

I'm looking at the Capital Improvement Budget for 2006-2012 provided to me while on the School Board this summer. This document has a renovation score included in it. A survey was done of facilities and each was given various numerical scores based on its condition. Julia Green Elementary was very near the end of the list at 68 of 76. 67 other buildings were in line before Julia Green Elementary. In the first 8 most needing of repair were 4 schools in East Nashville's District 5 alone-Isaac Litton Middle School whose recent lead levels in the drinking water has made headlines, Rosebank Elementary whose electrical problems literally blew out light bulbs and sent shards of glass showering down on people, Maplewood High and Stratford high where I witnessed a serious water leak in a computer lab among other things. On this chart District 5 schools (BOE member Gracie Porter's responsibility) are highlighted.

And so here we have a perfect example of the tension between the haves and the have nots in what is supposed to be a free and equal public education system. Your mileage will vary. This is what makes suggestions like Councilman and mayoral candidate Buck Dozier's to create a billion dollar endowment for the public schools an idea worth discussing. We have got to seriously consider long term funding for maintenance and building projects. Here we have a school in a wealthy section of town, with merely a 25.7% economically disadvantaged population leap frogging ahead of dozens of other schools with thousands of children who have parents who could never dream of cobbling together $30,000 let alone $3 million.

I know full well that the Frist family has been at the forefront of many worthy public projects--my children have benefited from their donations to the zoo and the museum. I do appreciate their generosity, however, I know full well that we have schools with more serious and immediate needs. Julia Green parents may be rightly concerned about the condition of their school but I challenge them to cross the river and see what other people's children are having to live with and without.

This is good news for 37215 but sobering news for 37206 as we wait in line for our turn.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Mixed holiday message

My 10-year old gets it. "It's just kinda weird to have a Muslim girl on a Christmas card."

We didn't get one of these cards first hand--we saw it in this morning's paper.

The portrait on Gov. Bredesen's Christmas card is very reminiscent of the National Geographic cover of June 1985 which has been been replicated over and over in various mediums.

However well intended Gov. Bredesen's Christmas greeting, he did miss the mark. In trying to please many, I dare say he pleased few. It's hard to tell who his target audience was with this mixed message. Jesus being THE Savior of THE world doesn't work very well in society's tortured attempts at inclusiveness.

I can agree with the Governor here:

The back of the card closes with, "May the miracle of Christmas help bring peace to this young woman and her wounded land."
Let's be clear though--the miracle of Christmas was the birth of a Savior, God's only son born of a virgin, for a fallen world that He loves dearly and wants to restore to full relationship with Him. When that restoration happens, there will be peace on Earth and good will toward men.

Education 2.0

This week's must read comes from the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. While I'm wary of business interests helping shape education policy (Chambers of Commerce come to mind) I am certainly willing to at least give their POV a listen/read. I do frame their comments with the fact that their interest is in obtaining worker bees and consumers. Yes, that's a very narrow description but this study group's own site states something similar:

The final report proposes a restructuring that America’s economic preeminence hinges on the preeminence of our educational system. Skills
There are certainly some things in this report that I can support and would encourage others to seriously consider. The first being to dump what I call 'time in seat'. Too often the educrats are appalled at the mere mention of the fact that it is possible for a child to obtain a normal K-12 education in less than 13 years. I've advocated for years that these children be allowed to take the appropriate tests to prove their skill level and then be released to go on and get the skills/education they and their parents determine is best for them. There are many children out there that consider K-12 a jail sentence. If they knew that it was possible to shorten the jail term I believe they'd be energized and encouraged to pass those tests in exchange for their freedom. This report echoes my thoughts this way:
One of the biggest proposed changes - the state board examinations that would allow qualified 10th graders to move on to college - would eventually add up to $67 billion in savings that could be reallocated elsewhere, the report estimates. Christian Science Monitor
Further they suggest:
Improve school salaries in exchange for reducing secure pension benefits, and pay teachers more to work with at-risk kids, for longer hours, or for high performance.
I've always advocated for paying great teachers great wages. And I'm all behind allowing people to handle their own pensions. I certainly think that some sort of 'combat' pay to reward teachers for successfully taking on the really hard jobs is right.

The article on this study goes on--
"We've squeezed everything we can out of a system that was designed a century ago," says Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, and vice chairman of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, which produced the report. "We've not only put in lots more money and not gotten significantly better results, we've also tried every program we can think of and not gotten significantly better results at scale. This is the sign of a system that has reached its limits."
He's right. It's been some 100 years since those industrial giants created our current education system for an economy that hardly exists anymore. The trick will be to persuade those whose livelihood or political power depend on the current system continuing as is to put the needs of the children at the forefront.

I do not agree with their recommendation to scrap local school funding for state-wide funding. I am a firm believer in local control of schools. See "Local Control is a Must" regarding our own Tennessee Comptroller's reach.

You can order the entire study here for about $20.

We've got some Nashville mayoral candidates who've already made the education of the children here part of their political platforms--let's hope they're willing to use that bully pulpit to encourage some legitimate reform.

Update: This was done before.
The commission is the second of the same name. In 1990 the first commission released a report similarly detailing the failings of American education, and its influence helped advance the standards movement that culminated in the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which became law in 2002.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thursday 12/14/06

Life is keeping me pretty busy. I'll make some quick comments on the following.

MNPS Chief Instructional Officer Sandra Johnson is, frankly, not well liked by many of our public education consumers. News in this morning's City Paper that she's up for a job anywhere else will be welcome.

Currently, Johnson oversees nearly all departments for the school district, answering only to Garcia.
And that's part of the problem for many parents. She wasn't accountable to the board and an obvious favorite of Garcia. If Glendale, Arizona wants her--God bless 'em.
“I think she’s done an admirable job and I certainly think it would be a loss to the district,” Thompson said. “And it may well be she has trained others enough to carry on.”
"Admirable?"--so there's one man's opinion. George is up for reelection in 2008. Let's see what tune he sings then.

LEAD Academy gets approval from the BOE. I'm very glad to see us get another charter school. This is an important option for some very needy students. MNPS isn't meeting their needs with what they have available--there is no good reason to keep there where they're not learning.
“A large part of the Pearl-Cohn district is in the district I serve,” [BOE member George] Thompson said. “My concern is how will we deal with maintaining Pearl-Cohn in the public school system if we’re going to help to populate a competing charter for that same population.”
Ask Sandra Johnson, George, she's been doing an 'admirable' job.

Actually, Mr. Thompson, the needs of the students should take precedence over saving any system. These students are not getting the education their parents were promised. We've got to try a different system. Regardless the board will protect the system despite the cost to students:
The board agreed to add language into LEAD’s contract to clarify the issue and guarantee the school would not drain the Pearl-Cohn cluster.
Pearl-Cohn cluster parents should contact the BOE members now and let them know how they feel about being excluded from a charter school that may very well be the answer to their child's education needs.

Traditional v. Balanced: Thank goodness the BOE members (well 7 at least) understood that a change was merely window dressing. That change for changes sake (a hallmark of public education) isn't beneficial for the children. Lacking any reliable evidence that the change will benefit the children and families the system serves it was given a thumbs down by the BOE.
“I hope tonight… that we don’t adopt policy simply to make a change and that we finally and permanently dump the balanced calendar matter into the dustbin of school board history,” Fox said. City Paper
Thank you, Mr. Fox. And for some illuminating information you may want to cruise over to the comments section of the Tennessean's article where "Magoo" posted the scores of local systems by calendar and it clearly shows that traditional scores higher. In our impatience and love for flash, glamour and NEW! we too easily abandon the boring and traditional forgetting that one of the reasons most traditions hang around is because they work. Sorry guys but it may be boring--but I'll take boring and effective over flashy and iffy every day when it comes to the essential education of our children.

Now maybe we can move that calendar all the way back to traditional and start after Labor Day and save some AC costs.

Cell phones for students--just not board members. This article in the City Paper Monday made me snort-laugh. After all the fuss the BOE went through over their cell phone use, the return of the phones, the vote over what equipment we could and couldn't have provided we now have MNPS handing out free phones to students.
The students have been allotted 500 minutes a month and all incoming calls are free of charge. Students are also encouraged to give out their cell phone numbers to fellow students to get feedback regarding district issues.
And what do we know about teens and allotted minutes? Let's see if teens are better than BOE members at limiting their minutes.

Irony aside, if this 'narc-phone network' works I'll be happy to pay the bill.

The Robert Bowers dismissal hearing continues according to yesterday's City Paper. It's these sorts of hearing that are exceptionally draining on BOE members. And it's these hearings that prove to me that the MNEA (Metro Nashville Education Association) is a union and not a professional organization. Yes, everyone deserves their day in court, but if MNEA were a true professional organization they'd be equally appalled that the unprofessionalism of some of their members and do some housekeeping of their own. Instead, if my summer dismissal experience and this current one are reliable indicators, they make excuses for the employee and point accusatory fingers at others in a desperate attempts to keep the employee employed--at the expense of children.
Bowers’ attorney Vince Wyatt implied during questioning of Mansfield that most of the errors were the fault of previous guidance counselors, not Bowers.
Then why wasn't Bower's complaining from the get go about the mess he'd inherited and why wasn't he begging for additional help?

It's time to work on the budget and so it's time to lead and stand. It doesn't look like Steve Glover understands that.
“I’m nervous about stepping out saying we’re going to cut this position or we’re going to cut these positions,” Glover said. “We’re really just so early in the game.” City Paper
Someone's got to start the process. I dearly hope there is a leader on that Board that will. Looks like Mr. Fox has taken over former BOE member Kathy Nevill's number crunching job for the BOE. Bless him and his calculator.

That's it for now, life calls.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Hispanics say yes to English as official language

Backing up Nashville Councilman Eric Crafton's recent efforts to follow Tennessee state law makers and declare English the official language for doing government business is a new study conducted by Zogby.

Nearly two-thirds of Hispanic adults living in the United States favor making English the official language of the United States, according to a new poll from Zogby International. The survey found that the majority of Hispanics want the federal government to conduct business overwhelmingly in English, including majorities of those not born on U.S. soil. The survey of 903 Hispanic adults was conducted Nov. 17-20, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.


The Zogby poll found widespread support for making English the official language among all subgroups, including Democrats, Republicans and Independents. More than three-in-four immigrants to the United States favored the legislation, as did nearly 60 percent of first-generation and 70 percent of second-generation Americans. Majority support was also noted across all income groups, age levels and education levels. Hispanics of Mexican descent, who made up more than half of those surveyed, approved of official English legislation at a near 70 percent rate. US Newswire
And quoted in the Washington Times:
"As an immigrant to the U.S., I am not surprised by the strong support for official English among Hispanics," said Mr. Mujica, who came here from Chile in 1965. "The majority of immigrants understand that coming to a new country means learning the language of that country. While individuals are free to speak the language of their choice, they cannot expect the government to provide information in every foreign language."


Though 160 members of Congress recently supported H.R. 997, the English Language Unity act, which would make English the official national language, local governments are increasingly calling the shots in their own regions. Towns and counties in Maryland, Nevada, Texas, Arizona, Pennsylvania and California are among those passing English language referendums. The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners in Georgia votes today on their own measure, which also includes a proposal to fine landlords who rent to illegal aliens.
This study is certainly interesting news shedding new light on allegations of racism toward anyone supporting this officially English effort. These newcomer to America don't consider it "unfriendly" or racist to enact these laws.
They understand language is unifying and an important part of assimilation into their new country.

America used to be considered a melting pot but every time a group refuses to 'melt' we fragment our society and become more Balkanized. When that happens we cease to become the America most of these immigrants wanted to be a part of. I understand this. These survey respondents understand this. CM Crafton understands this. Why don't those who make a living advocating for immigrants not understand this?

Don't go wobbly, CM Crafton. You're on the right track.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Saturday 12/09/06

From here and there--

Bredesen's legacy target: Comprehensive pre-K--

He may devote about $25 million more to continue to expand pre-K in the state’s next budget.

“That would get us to a comprehensive pre-K program by the end of my time as governor,” Bredesen said, “which I would consider a great legacy.” (snip)
But their older brothers and sisters--

The governor wants to add truancy officers in all of the state’s 400 public high schools to improve attendance and, hopefully, result in more high school students graduating.

Adding those positions would cost more than $16 million annually, which Bredesen isn’t 100 percent confident the state can fully afford in its next budget. City Paper

Attendance does not equal education. As I've said many times before--these pre-K children have time yet but there are thousands of near adults leaving the system frustrated and lacking basic skills every year and for too many that directly leads to criminal behavior that endangers us all. THAT's where the focus needs to be. We can't just consider them lost causes and turn our backs on them in favor of toddlers. The mantra 'for the children' usually conjures up images of those cuddly small ones but those high school drop outs are still children too.

We'd save more than $350M I'm sure--
The Alliance for Excellent Education, based in Washington, D.C., estimates that if all Tennessee high school students graduated, the state government would save $350 million a year. The project was funded by the MetLife Foundation and is based on evidence that high school graduation is an essential element in upward mobility. (snip) The savings, calculated for each state, is based on a dropout's utilization of Medicaid and other public expenditures. Tennessee has made huge strides in graduation rates, raising it from 59 percent in 2001 to about 64 percent today. But that's still behind the national average of about 74 percent. Memphis Business Journal
[Hamilton County Mayor Claude] Ramsey said Loftis, as the lobbyist for Hamilton County Schools, has met with the governor, education commissioner, state senators and representatives.

He added "Governor Bredesen says it's a positive thing. He agrees with us, or the four large counties, that we're getting short changed and he's going to make some changes."

While no one disputes Loftis' work has been good for schools it was made public recently that he never registered as a lobbyist with the Tennessee Ethics Commission. (snip)

Tennessee Ethics Commission records show Loftis registered as a lobbyist for Hamilton County Schools last Thursday. WTVC Chattanooga
Core Curriculum--
“A lot of us struggle not with finding a warm body, but a warm body that comes to work every day,” said Gary Dies of Saia-Burgess Automotive Actuators Inc. “When you get [workers] below about 32, there’s a substantial difference in attitude, willingness to take responsibility. There’s a huge gap.” (snip)

There are a number of trends that could be contributing to the decline. Zinkiewicz points first to rising teenage unemployment levels, brought about by more older workers, welfare recipients and immigrants competing for jobs in industries like retail and fast food that were traditionally good places for teens to get their first jobs. (snip)

Herrman said Metro Schools recently received a six-year, $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education that, in part, takes measures to incorporate soft skills into the curriculum by decentralizing and personalizing Nashville’s eight largest schools, which all have at least 1,000 students. City Paper

KY Special Need scholarships--

In Kentucky, a prefiled bill [BR 98] by Lexington Rep. Stan Lee [R-Lexington] would not only make the commonwealth the fifth state to offer such scholarships, it would also be the Bluegrass State’s first statewide school-choice program controlled by parents.

State law currently allows special-needs students to attend schools providing educational services not available in their resident district schools. However, this system is largely ineffective and relatively few students participate because school districts – not parents – control the process. Edpresso

If just 1 percent of Kentucky’s special-needs children – roughly 1,100 students – could have participated in the proposed scholarship program in 2005, state and local school districts would have realized an estimated savings of $5.7 million. Ed News
I hope some Tennessee legislators will consider following suit.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Then what's an 'R' mean?

Tennessee State Senator Mike Williams (R-Maynardville) is likely to vote for the 'D' side of the aisle and it appears he'll get a walk by the 'R's' if today's City Paper is to be believed.

[Sen. Diane Black (R-Hendersonville)] said she doesn’t believe that GOP Senators have the authority to punish fellow Republican lawmakers who don’t the party line for Senate Speaker.
Does getting to use that 'R' on a ballot have no requirements at all? There should be some things are are non-negotiable in using that 'R'--not voting for your own team to be in power when it has the majority of the players in the game being the biggie. C'mon, R's we need some solid leadership here and shrugging your shoulders and saying you're powerless to stop this isn't going to cut it. He should not be allowed to get away with this twice.

First snowball of the year

I left the Isaac Litton PTA meeting this morning watching disappointed children disembarking school buses and heading into school while the light snow was coming down. I felt for them.

At home the story was quite different. We managed to find enough of the light dusting to play with. Next chocolate for everyone!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Balancing the numbers

Bruce Barry at the Nashville Scene has being doing some number crunching. He's wondering why they don't add up.

The problem is that the cluster data do not match the overall data. The results released Friday by MNPS show the balanced calendar prevailing in nine of eleven clusters, in all but one case by a margin of at least five percentage points. This might give most board members the impression that their constituents favor the change by a non-trivial margin. But: How can there be such cluster-by-cluster support for the balanced calendar when the overall household poll showed an evenly divided survey result?
Here's the link to his Pith in the Wind post hosted by the Nashville Scene. You'll want to read the rest.

(Remember, I consider the Scene to be an adult publication. You never know what ad will appear in the sidebar to be forwarned.)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Consider all the calls

A comment at the City Paper regarding the balanced calendar shouldn't be overlooked. "dec" reminded folks that a huge number calls were 'answered' but no vote was recorded. "dec" is correct in stating that if the balanced calendar was an important issue to them they most likely would have voted for it. The fact that they didn't vote for it shouldn't be hidden in a shuffle of the numbers thrown out in the Friday news dump. So here's a chart showing all the calls and all the responses as reported by MNPS for another, and important, perspective.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Balanced Calendar

Here's the .pdf of the MNPS calendar survey broken down various ways: family, staff, teacher, elementary, middle, high, cluster...

While the total response was 48 to 42% the more important response by families was 45 to 44%. Couple that with the staff preference that was nearly as close (45 to 47%) and there is good reason to wait. This just too close to make such a radical change without specific evidence that the change will actually benefit the children and their families. I suggest proponents come back when they have reliable data that shows this change will be an improvement in the lives of children.

The McGavock cluster was far more in favor of a balanced calendar than any other: 54 to 36%.

Faculty preference was solidly behind the balanced calendar. 71 to 25%. (We don't yet know if those were just MNEA members that voted or if every teacher got a vote.)

Balanced wins--again

The results are in. The balanced calendar wins in this attempt at determining the preferences of families using the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Remember this attempt to set the 2008-2009 calendar must still be voted on by the MNPS Board of Education. That's scheduled for December 12.

Next to weigh in--the Chamber of Commerce, the TEA and the SEIU, et al.

While the press release points folks to the MNPS website--I don't see any comprehensive information there yet.


Contact: Woody McMillin
(615) 259-8405

MNPS releases results of calendar survey

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Dec. 1, 2006) – Metro Schools today released results of its telephone survey of families and staff regarding their calendar preference for the 2008-2009 school year.

MNPS provided three opportunities for families and staff to vote – Nov. 16, Nov. 17 and Nov. 20. In addition to calls to English-speaking families, the survey was recorded and issued in Spanish. After a home was designated as having received the survey call by a household member answering the phone, that number was not called again. Homes where calls were unanswered or answered by machine were redialed on the second and third nights.

Because the district’s call-home system automatically sorts phone numbers to eliminate duplicates, homes with multiple employees and/or students were called just once. MNPS has a total of 58,945 “unique” telephone numbers associated with staff and students of the district. For survey purposes, this also allowed MNPS to peg one vote per family.

During the three-night period of the telephone survey, MNPS made 95,814 total calls to its 58,945 unique phone numbers. A person answered the survey call at 42,215 homes. Of those 42,215 calls, a total of 23,000 households choose to register a calendar preference while 19,215 chose not to respond. It is important to note these 19,215 were logged as "no response" because they listened to the entire message or a large portion of the message before disconnecting from the call.

The overall survey results show:
Balanced 11,216 48.8%
Traditional 9,655 42.0%
No Preference 2,129 9.3%
Note: percentage affected by rounding

Results have also been sorted based on preferences by families, faculty, staff, tier and cluster. Complete charts are posted on the school district’s website,

These survey results will be included as information for members of the Board of Education to consider as they decide which school calendar to adopt for the 2008-2009 school year. That discussion is set to go before the Board at its Dec. 12 meeting.

This is the second time the district has polled families regarding their school calendar preference. A paper ballot survey conducted in December 2005 yielded 10,942 family responses, with 43% preferring balanced, 38% preferring traditional and 19% having no calendar preference.

Metro Nashville Public Schools provide a range of educational opportunities to nearly 74,000 students in Nashville and Davidson County. The governing body for MNPS is the Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County Board of Public Education, a nine-member group elected by residents of Metropolitan Nashville. For more information, please visit

# # #

Thursday, November 30, 2006

No transmitter for us, thanks.

There is no way I'd go for this new plan on taxing gasoline to benefit the Department of Transportation budget. According to today's Tennessean State Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) is proposing that we install transmitters in our cars that will tell the gas pump how far you've driven.

Anyone else concerned about the possible privacy issue having a government transmitter in our cars might become?

How expensive is it going to be to install this transmitters in cars let alone every gas pump in the state?

It never occurred to him to consider having to report the odometer reading at tag renewal time? Of course the odometer in our '91 Grand Marquis hasn't worked for a long time so I guess we'd have to get that fixed.

Drew's right again:

Still, the idea of a program that would ensure money goes to highways is attractive to Drew Johnson, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. "It would be positive if money meant for the road fund will go toward the road fund instead of general needs, as it has been," Johnson said.
It's not a novel idea but it's certainly one that our legislators and governor regularly fail to do. I think we should start there. Make sure the TDOT money isn't used for other projects and then evaluate whether TDOT really needs more money. Maybe they should be using Dave Ramsey's envelope system.

And thanks for the reminder that I'm already paying 21.4 cents per gallon in taxes.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Grading Pre-K

Tennessee Comptroller John Morgan, who recently proposed a state wide property tax for schools has issued a Request For Proposals to evaluate the effectiveness of the pre-K's we've already got. I'm going to prophecy that the report will say the state-funded pre-K's have an effectiveness (that lasts at least to the 5th grade) and we need more money 'for the children'.

The evaluation will include the short term effects of Pre-K as well as the long term effects (page 18). However, their definition of long term is 3rd through 5th grade. I'd have thought 'long term' would mean 12th grade. This study isn't going to be worth anything but 'proving' that pre-K works in order to enable more classes to be created, more jobs to be created, more money to be made. The end result isn't actually educating the children else the long term effect would be much further out than just the 5th grade. I don't know of anyone that doesn't agree that in the short term pre-K helps. The question really is does it help in the long run--as in do they actually get a good education through to the 12th grade? If we expend all this time and energy on young children only to lose it several years later have we gained anything? It all becomes just a jobs program without real loooong term impact.

We're also only going to look at "state funded" pre-K programs, not those privately run. If we're going to spend funds evaluating pre-K for our children shouldn't we be willing to look everything? What's the purpose in looking at only state run classes? Because we don't recognize that public schools are in a race with private options? Because we don't want the state-run programs to look bad compared to the private ones?

Heritage Foundation info has links and mentions of specific research vs. Pre-K Now which--well--doesn't. Gotta wonder why.

Must read: Reason Foundation's report of May 2006.

“We find strong evidence that widespread adoption of preschool and full-day kindergarten is unlikely to improve student achievement,” Olsen and Snell write. “For nearly 50 years, local, state, and federal governments and diverse private sources have spent billions of dollars funding early education programs. Many early interventions have had meaningful short-term effects on grade-level retention and special education placement. However, the effects of early interventions routinely disappear after children leave the programs.”
Oh, and moms and dads with children in state run pre-K programs and schools you may want to double check the paperwork next year and see if your child is going to be included in this study and if you're ok with the additional testing, monitoring and questions regarding race, economics and other family information. The contract begins in February 1, 2006 and the final comprehensive report is due January of 2010.

You're going to want to read Bill Hobbs take on this also. Thanks to Ben for forwarding the RFP link. It's good to have watchmen on the walls.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

$8.6 million

This is more Ben Cunningham's area but as a mom on a budget I can't help but shake my head in amazement. As a taxpayer I wonder why we don't keep this money closer to home in the first place. Surely, everyone understands that every hand that this money passes through is sticky.

Tennessee taxpayers have spent more than $8.6 million in the past three years for local governments to lobby state and federal officials, according to a report by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Public bodies and groups representing them, such as the Tennessee County Services Association, spent between $2.7 million and $3.1 million to lobby state officials from 2003 to 2005. (snip)

Steve Ellis, a vice president with the Washington-based Taxpayers for Common Sense, said such spending primarily benefits lobbyists.

"It's troubling that cities, counties and other local governments in Tennessee are spending millions of local taxpayer dollars to try to bring back hundreds of millions of federal taxpayer dollars," he said.

From the Times-Gazette

And from the Chattanooga Free Press:

Reports provided to the Times Free Press show lobbying expenses by Tennessee public bodies in Nashville rose by 16 percent, from 2003 to 2005 — from $827,000 to nearly $963,000. The amounts spent to lobby state lawmakers varied widely.

Rose by 16%. That's a million dollars some Nashville teachers could have put to really good use.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Elected Superintendents

Add Cumberland County to the list of folks who want to go back to allowing citizens to vote on who gets the superintendent of schools job. From the Crossville Chronicle:

The Cumberland County Commission voted 12 to 5 to urge the General Assembly to amend state law and allow counties the option of electing a director of schools. (snip)

Lynn Tollett, 3rd District commissioner, said the residents of the county had spoken on this issue in the August election.

"Contrary to what Commissioner Cramer has said, you can either elect a director of schools directly or indirectly, as we did in August by changing the school board," Tollett said. "What we're voting on tonight, this is nothing except asking our legislative body in Nashville to give Cumberland County the voice that Cumberland County folks can go to the polls and vote do we want to do this. And then it turns around and the people have their say."

The resolution states a request for a referendum to re-establish the office of an elected director of schools must pass the county legislative body by a two-thirds majority. A referendum could then be placed on the regular August ballot for consideration by the voters.

Everyday matters?

Was I the only one who got a newspaper sans news? No, I don't mean the usual Tennessean condition, I mean did anyone else get a Tennessean newspaper bag stuffed with ads (and I mean stuffed to the point the bag burst when it hit the driveway) and only the Living section? I know it's a national holiday and all (Black Friday) but are the only things that 'matter' today the articles on salvaging cooking disasters and how to make Black Friday easier?

I've called the customer service counter at the Tennessean but they've apparently taken the day off. All I can access is voice mail which says they're closed and telling me when they're open (hours which include this moment). I did manage to connect with a woman in the news department who apologized for the trouble and tried to directly connect me to the customer service department but I was back on the voice mail trail. Mine was not the only call she'd fielded this morning.

Well, I'm thankful I can at least read Mallard Fillmore, Zits and Ms. Cheap today.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Local control is a must

Today's must read comes from Bill Hobbs.

Tennessee Comptroller John Morgan is proposing that the state of Tennessee restructure its tax system to put the state - rather than local governments - in charge of funding education. Morgan told the Basic Education Program Review Committee that public education in Tennessee should be under state control rather than local control.
They'll do it by controlling the money. Please read the rest of what Bill has written.

THIS is what ought to be first on the legislative priorities list for the School Board and their partner the Tennessee School Boards Association--not hiding public business behind closed doors. We barely know what's going on now. Does anyone seriously think that improvements will occur and accountability will improve if we move control of schools from across the state to Nashville? I'm assuming that this will only solidify 'professional' control of the whole enterprise and your complaints and your child's needs will be met with 'I'm sorry, ma'am, but we can't do anything about it here--it's state policy'.

Bill Hobbs quotes from the Chattanooga Free Press:
"Education is not a local issue," Mr. Morgan said. "It really is a state problem, so why don't we use the state tax base to fund an adequate education program to give all children in Tennessee the opportunity to succeed in public schools?"
Not a local issue? Excuse me it doesn't get more local than the corner school bus stop. It doesn't get more local than your property tax rates.

More from the Free Press:
County Board of Education chairman Joe Conner said he was skeptical of Mr. Morgan’s proposal.

“I have no confidence in the state coming up with a formula, which is taking more of our local dollars, when they can’t fix the formula they have today,” he said.
Me either. Metropolitan Board of Education Chairman Marsha Warden needs to weigh in on this as do all the rest of the BOE members. Are they going to sit this out or are they going to fight for local control of local schools?

The vote on English First 2nd reading

Not finding the official vote in any of the local media I called the council clerk's office and spoke with Ms. Jones. She reports to me the vote on BL 2006-1185 "English First" last night was as follows:

Aye Nay Abstain Absent
Adkins Briley Dozier Alexander
Brown Dream Hodge Cole
Burch Forkum Hunt Foster
Coleman Gilmore Neighbors Isabel
Craddock Greer Page
Crafton Hauser

Duvall Jameson

Evans Shulman

Gotto Toller

Hart Williams












Here's the council roster with contact information. It hasn't been updated since the November election so those of you with brand spanking new councilmen will need to call 862-6780 for their contact info.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Officially English IV

This evening will be the second reading, the public hearing, on CM Eric Crafton's bill before the Metro Nashville Council to make English the official language of our government business.

I'm still fully in favor of this bill. I have always been. But my recent reading of a book by Bruce Bawer called "While Europe Slept" solidified my thinking. I would hope that between the heated rhetoric councilmen will hear this evening and the 3rd and final reading every councilman will take time to read this man's testimony of what he has seen occur in Europe. Mr. Bawer left the US with his partner to what he 'knew' would be an freer, enlightened, more tolerant Europe that would allow them to live in peace. What he found instead was a Europe that shockingly, did not match those expectations. The governments there bent over backwards to be accepting, accommodating and "welcoming" to use Mr. Cunza's term and what they got was a fragmented citizenry that turns a blind eye toward the reality of the seething resentment just below the surface and occasionally boils over in dangerous ways and denies, publicly, that there is any problem at all . Instead of finding a free, open and diverse society he discovered discrimination, ghettoizing and violence. Mr. Bawer's book pleads with the US to be smarter and learn the lessons that Europe can teach us.

One of the strengths of the US is that we have been a melting pot. That means that while we celebrate our heritages we embrace this new one of "from many one"--not the other way around. Language is essential to ensuring that we maintain that unity. There are legitimate practical reasons to have English as the official language and there are essential cultural reasons to do so.

Previous posts on this issue:

Offically English where I point out that in 1984 Tennessee declared English our official language and reminded folks that according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service legal immigrants must prove proficiency in English. And just this week they have amended the test for citizenship to ensure that these applicants understand our form of government and don't just parrot the right answers. I also ask folks to consider the liability that will occur when we mis-translate something. Keeping our official business in one language is much more cost effective and efficient. Keeping a cadre of linguists on hand will add expense and opportunity for error that could have terrible unintended consequences.

Officially English II included clarifications from CM Crafton about his intent and included a graph of the Tennessean's online poll which showed respondents were 89% in favor of his bill.
This morning's City Paper's online poll is nearly identical:

Council immigration plan
Do you support the Metro Council resolutions intended to crack down on illegal immigration?
89 89%
11 11%
This poll is not scientific and reflects the opinions of only those Internet users who have chosen to participate.

Clearly, the citizens of Nashville (and it's the opinion of citizens that the Metro Council should be most concerned about) want something done about illegal immigration. This English first bill is a small first step.

Officially English III included the wording of CM Crafton's revised bill along with some comments on the first hearing in the Council chambers.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday 11/20/2006

Snips from here and there.

School uniforms: Weekend conversations with MNPS attendees brought up two questions regarding school uniforms.

1. Why did the telephone survey have the first option as FOR uniforms instead of for the status quo?

2. What is MNPS going to do with Muslim girls and others with specific religious garb?

Teacher accused:
Dyersburg cross country coach is arrested in East Tennessee for raping a 14 year old. (snip)
44-year old Timothy Neal Byars is out of jail on a $50,000 bond. He's charged with one count of rape.(snip) Knoxville investigators plan to call Nashville police on Monday to talk to them about a possible second victim and second assault that happened in Davidson County on the way to the meet. From WBIR

Innocent until proven guilty but if so proven remember the recidivism rate is HUGE. Not around my children.

Flu closes district schools: The Wayne County School District was having problems finding enough substitutes to fill in for teachers who called in sick.

The school district decided to close early Wednesday after 20 percent of students, or approximately 320 students, were out of school because of illness. Classes won't resume until after Thanksgiving. From The Mountain Press

Another advantage of schooling at home. We love our pediatrician but, thankfully, despite having four children we don't see her very often. And yes, the children do leave the house and mingle with others.

Are truckers still worried about meeting John Ford along the highways? The Tennessee Department of Safety is placing a temporary moratorium on the approval of new commercial driver training or handgun safety schools and instructors. (snip) Currently, there are 15 commercial driving enterprises and more than 160 commercial handgun schools in the state. From the Murfreesboro Post

FUN: You too can be a famous artist: reminds me of a software program we had around here called Raina II (we renamed it Squiggles). When the young ones HAD to have a few minutes at the keyboard we used this. Be glad this version doesn't come with the sound effects of Raina II. Click your mouse button to change colors. Have fun.

The pre-nup agreement

It's good to read from Rex in the City that the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Board of Education is seriously considering hobbling any effort that Superintendent Pedro Garcia may make to flip his contract extension and recent positive buzz about student scores into a better gig elsewhere.

The clause states if Garcia were to resign to accept another offer of employment prior to a certain date, which will be updated in the new contract, he is to pay the Board liquidated damages, and not as a penalty, in the sum of $5,000 for each month from the date of resignation to the end of his contract.
Thanks for pushing that Ed.

In the meantime my question is "Why is Rex covering this and not the education reporters?"

Thank you UT

This is HUGE. From this morning's City Paper.

“I don’t know if people realize how significant this is,” [Stratford High School Principal Brenda] Elliott said “UT has decided that any student that is admitted to their university that attend these six Metro schools, they’re going to ensure tuition is paid.”
Those six high schools are: Antioch, Glencliff, Maplewood, Pearl Cohn, Stratford, and Whites Creek.

This is going to be significant encouragement for these students. The valedictorian at Stratford last year got a full ride to Vandy. That doesn't happen for most Stratford students. For most of them a degree from UT is more likely--especially with this program in place. Thanks to UT for the hand up.

Friday, November 17, 2006

More NO votes for charters

The Metro Nashville Public Schools Board of Education denied three more charter school applications. Maybe Mr. Kane of LEAD Academy is surprised--I'm not. Considering how the law and approval committees are stacked against charter schools it's nigh on to a miracle that any actually get approved.

From today's City Paper:

Board member Gracie Porter represented the board of education on the charter committee and said the process of examining charter school applications must be handled with caution.

“I can say that in any situation, you want to take all precaution in looking at everything, charter schools or regular schools,” Porter said. “You want to make sure that all guidelines are followed in making sure a quality education is delivered to all children.”
"In any situation..." If only that were so. If only the BOE actually held the Superintendent and the regular public schools to as much scrutiny and accountability as they do charters. These people see charters as direct competition to their system and power. They see the money that will go to these schools as belonging to them and their system. And yet, state law allows these people to decide who they'll be competing against (think Kroger having veto power over Publix). They can't have rogue educators out there with the freedom to create schools that actually work (KIPP Academy) . That might actually make the rest of the system look bad and endanger jobs and power. "Whatever it takes" doesn't go that far.

And what happened to Garcia's plan to turn Maplewood into a charter school? Did that die when the ink on his contract dried?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Public records

I'm going to piggyback on Trent Seibert's Target 2 Report last evening on the unavailability of public records. Trent's report was following up on the Tennessee Center for Open Government audit done last year. After reviewing Trent's attempts at obtaining public records TCOG's Frank Gibson opined that governments still had a long way to go toward fully complying.

I've been struggling since my summer on the school board to get the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Board of Education to provide legitimate and timely information for citizens and parents. I started my first Monday morning by meeting with Superintendent Pedro Garcia's cabinet and asking who had fallen months and months behind on posting the agenda and minutes to the BOE website. I followed up with providing Woody McMillan (spokesman) and Lance Lott (in charge of the web site) a list which Woody told me contained 20 items about the web site that needed improvement to make it more usable to mere mortals.

While on the BOE I would get an "Agenda Packet" the Friday or Saturday prior to the Tuesday BOE meeting. While I maintain the timing of its receipt doesn't allow much real investigation by any BOE member, let alone constituents, there is important information contained in it and I wanted feedback from my constituents. So I started to post large portions of the packet, and eventually entire packets, to this blog and my website. I got positive feedback about providing that information from parents and reporters. After leaving the BOE I did get several more packets mailed to my home and promised on 9/24/06 to continue that practice for as long as I received these packets. Since I wasn't able to persuade MNPS to do this I would do it myself. Well, all that has apparently come to an end.

Since leaving the board I've been told specifically by MNPS Spokesman Woody McMillan that any questions I have about the agenda should be directed to the BOE Secretary. And so when I got the 10/24/06 agenda it contained a note on bright purple paper saying:

This is the last Board Agenda that will be U.S. mailed. The agenda will be posted on the MNPS website at when it is delivered to the Board of Education.
Full agenda packets will be available in the Board Administrator's office at 2601 Bransford Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee, 37204 if you prefer to pick one up. 10/22/06 blog post

Keep in mind the agenda in that packet was the larger "Agenda Packet" not the wimpy two pager. I sent an e-mail to the BOE secretary:
I got the agenda packet for 10/24/06 and couldn't miss the purple note. My question is is the agenda that will uploaded to the website be the same as always has been uploaded (literally just the agenda) or will that also include the entire packet--which is so much more helpful?

If it doesn't include the entire packet--how can I obtain those? Does this mean I'll have to come down to the office to pick up a copy and when would those be available?

Is there any chance y'all are creating an e-mail subscription list for a .pdf version of the entire packet?
I never received a response.

What is being posted to the MNPS website is that insufficient 2 page agenda with no legitimate information whatsoever. And they have again fallen behind in posting even those agenda and the minutes of past meetings.

My assumption is that the BOE is not committed to even minimal communication with the very people that are charged with voting for them, providing the money for their salaries or subjecting their children to their oversight. These are the folks that seriously suggested that they approach the Tennessee Legislature to keep more of their meetings private. I maintain, again, that these folks need more sunshine--not less.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

ActiveWords does it again

I stumbled upon Dave Shearon's review sometime back of software called ActiveWords. I became addicted shortly afterwards. Buzz Bruggeman talked me into the Enterprise Edition and I'm glad he did. It's been a huge time saver.

Lately I've had to track my time for billing purposes and an Excel sheet seemed ideal. Notepad will allow you to hit F5 for a date/time stamp but I hadn't been able to find something similar in Excel. The closest I could get was Ctrl+; for the date, hit the space bar and then Ctrl+Shift+; for the time. Please--too many keystrokes. ActiveWords to the rescue--again. I created a script


assigned it a keyword and it works perfectly. Why didn't I think of this sooner?

UPDATE: Blogger won't let the script show. It only appears as two semi-colons. Ummm...I'll write it out--type the following:

left arrow
right arrow
left arrow
forward slash
right arrow
left arrow
right arrow
left arrow
right arrow
left arrow
right arrow

Thanks again Buzz. Great software. Y'all go get your own copy. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Cohen follows Campfield

I had to laugh out loud when I read:

US State Senator-elect Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) "wants to become the Congressional Black Caucus' first white member..." (AP via WKRN)
Maybe it'll work better for him than it did Tennessee State Representative Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) last year.

As for the rest of the article on Cohen--I'm not at all surprised that he'd suggest a national lottery "to pay off the national debt". He spent 20 years shepherding the Tennessee lottery into being--this is familiar territory for him. What is surprising is that a bright fellow like him hasn't yet figured out how abusive gambling is on many of the very people he represents.

DOE Report Card site

DOE Report Card web site

Pick the "Part" you want to view. Use the drop down menus to find Davidson County (or your school district). Click on GO across from "View System Report Card" to call the data for the selected district. Scroll to the bottom to select a specific school and then click GO.

Part I is a basic demographic overview and statistics.

Part II is Student Academic Achievement in Math, Reading, Social Studies and Science.

Part III is TVAAS (Value Added) Have the children learned a year's worth of Math, Reading, Social Studies and Science or not at that school?

Part IV Did the school make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Remember this quote

Dr. Earl H. Wiman, president of the Tennessee Education Association, praised results of the state Report Card released Friday afternoon. (snip)
“What I see as our overall greatest achievement is our growing ability to use our testing data to help each individual student. After all, for us educators, tests are about diagnoses, not punishments. Chattanoogan
If he really believes this--let's see teacher value added scores too. The system cannot be accurately diagnosed when one of the largest factors impacting its health is kept hidden.

Friday, November 10, 2006

But are they learning?

In the middle of the fuss about dress codes and balanced calendars the measure of the real missions of public schools may get overlooked. Some are opining that's exactly the goal--distraction from the facts about whether these children are actually learning.

10 days late the state Department of Education will finally make this data available at 3:00 p.m. today (note this use of the late Friday news cycle tactic). Hopefully, reporters will take the weekend to go through this and lead with legitimate information Monday and not just MNPS press release quotes.

Metro Nashville Public Schools will hold their own Q & A just prior at 1:15 p.m. in the Board of Education room on Bransford Avenue.

"We expect to see information showing improved achievement in our district," said Paul Changas, district director of assessment and evaluation.

"A lot of data has been reported. What we have seen has been encouraging, but there are still a lot of areas that we need to address."Tennessean

Yes, indeed. I'm looking forward to the comparisons that the Save Our Students folks promised Nashvillians last spring. I'm convinced they will bring essential context to these numbers while providing accountability that the system has sorely needed. And we'll know better whether Superintendent of School Pedro Garcia actually earned his new three year contract.

Undress code

The first dress code in schools is to actually be dressed--in something.

Harpeth Valley Elementary School was put on a security lockdown early Thursday morning – just as most students were arriving for the day – after a teacher found a naked man inside the school cafeteria. City Paper
My question is how is it this fellow got away? Why didn't the teacher keep him in sight while calling for help? Did the teacher even question the fellow?
But [MPD spokesman Don] Aaron said that even if he is found, police may not be able to prosecute if he was merely changing his clothes.

Aaron said that “nothing is suggestive” of the man being a sexual predator. Still, the investigation was handed over to a detective with the Sex Crimes Unit.
I'm not buying it. This is completely unacceptable behavior and IS suggestive. It's not like there aren't bathrooms around or private offices with locks on the doors. Maybe you change your shirt or pants--but it takes a 'special' kind of person to do something so brazen.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Neighborhood schools

The following announcement is a banner across the top of the Litton High School alumni page:


Come to Isaac Litton Middle School on Tuesday, November 14th at 6:00 PM to discuss the current condition of our school. As the PTA President, I support Litton alumni efforts to renovate the old gym because it is part of the revitalization of Inglewood. However, some at the Board of Education want to shut it down and if they do, they may also sell the entire 11 plus acres to an apartment developer. Those were the wishes of the former BOE member, Lisa Hunt. Your support and presence will be appreciated. Wendy Poston '77, President, ILMS PTA

While Lisa Hunt has moved on to Houston and is no longer the BOE rep and those apartment complex plans may have changed, the fact remains that that 11 acres on Gallatin Road could be prime development pickings. All it's going to take is for Metro Nashville Public Schools to continue to let the building decay to a point where it's cost prohibitive to repair and Inglewood becomes dramatically different. All that's left of the original Litton High is the gymnasium which MNPS has not maintained well, if at all. I blogged about this earlier here and here. Mike Byrd gave us his perspective of the stewardship of Jones Paideia a year ago here and here. Here's part of what Mike wrote:
Unlike suburban public schools, schools close to the center city often act as one of a few anchors for the walkable neighborhood. When they are good, they are one of the few institutions that actually attract families, rather than upwardly mobile singles or older adults, back to urban neighborhoods, because families with kids require good schools.


As I told you, the destruction done by closing these schools also rips like shrapnel across the fabric of urban neighborhoods. The closure of neighborhood schools represents the closure of neighborhood centers and the closure of the familial dimensions of those neighborhoods.
And it's true. Good schools are an anchor for and an asset to the community.

I plan on being at this meeting. I hope others in the Inglewood community, the Litton community and proponents of neighborhood schools will also attend to support this effort. Here we have a school that is doing well and meeting the needs of the students--well except for the fresh water issue, lack of enough essential readers and AC in the gymnasium (Mayor Purcell may remember how hot it is on the first day of school.) These children and families need you to attend this meeting on November 14 at 6:00 p.m. The school is located at 4601 Hedgewood. Unfortunately, you can't get there from Gallatin Road, you've got to go around 'back' and enter from the neighborhood.

I'll see you there.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

National pundit day

Today we'll hear all sorts of excuses and crowing.

For my part --

I'm thankful that the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman was written into the state constitution. I'm thankful that 7 out of 8 of these amendments across the nation got voter approval yesterday and that it won by a decisive 4 to 1 margin here. I know that some people see this as discrimination and hateful--for my part it's not intended to be. Man + Woman = marriage is foundational to my faith. I can't compromise on it. My thanks to David Fowler and Bobbie Patray for what has been years of behind the scene effort and struggle.

I'm thankful the US Senate remains in the hands of the Republicans. I suggest that they consider their losses as a serious wakeup call to get about being different from the Dems and start leading boldly and decisively.

I'm thankful that the Tennessee Senate remains, barely, in the hands of the Republicans. I've got the same message for you. And if you don't oust John Wilder as speaker this time around you don't deserve to lead.

I'm thankful that Bob Corker beat Harold Ford, Jr. Ed Bryant was my preference but I'll take Corker over a Ford any day. I can only hope this loss is a severe blow to the Ford political machine. I will confess that I have a hard time understanding Memphis politics. Common sense seems completely absent or submissive to a culture that I view as enabling further dependence for Memphians. I'm looking forward to the day when the very freedom that Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of actually comes to Memphis.

I'm thankful that Mae Beavers won over Bob Rochelle -- the man who wins my award for most idiotic campaign ads -- and that's saying something this election cycle.

I'm thankful for Ben Cunningham and his efforts to control taxes. He's stood firmly between money hungry legislators and our family budget. We appreciate his help.

I'm thankful that fellow Nashvillians agree that people who oversee our city ought to live here and suffer/benefit from the consequences of their decisions. Now if we could extend that to employees and the Deputy Mayor...

I'm thankful for several people who ran and didn't win --

Jim Bryson enabled Tennessee to have a legitimate choice in this election. I hope he doesn't fade away but stays involved and continues to voice an important point of view and helps hold Mr. Bredesen accountable. I dare say that Gov. Bredesen wouldn't have said boo about immigration or an income tax if Jim hadn't been dogging him about these very important issues.

Bob Krumm is another man we need to stay involved in our political arena. Doug Henry has had a nearly free ride for too long. Keep asking the questions Bob. One day Mr. Henry's voters will begin to require him to answer them.

Surely Terry Roland deserves some sort of award for being the point man in the battle to bring Memphis into the light of political accountability. I suspect law enforcement agencies will have their hands full going through the shenanigans that have gone on during Memphis voting. Obviously the Ford machine isn't dead yet but it took a heavy hit in no small part to Terry's willingness to serve the entire State in this manner. Thank you Terry.

What I've learned after my own election defeat is that I don't have to walk in defeat. I may not have a job with the school board but that doesn't mean I can't still speak and work for the changes I know need to occur. Further, I've got more freedom to speak than I did being on the BOE. And so it can be for these 'losers'. I'm soooo looking forward to reading Bob Krumm's blog this legislative season.

I'm very concerned for our troops in Iraq and the Iraqi people. With Nancy Pelosi in charge of the purse strings this is when Iraq could become another Vietnam. We can't let our troops down or the freedom loving Iraqi people. I don't want to look at the Afghanis if we let them down again. And I'm very concerned that the woman representing a city so far from the mainstream is now in charge of the House of Representatives and third in line for presidential succession.

I'm certain that without serious pressure on Congress my family will shortly be required to live on less as this new House will start redistributing the wealth they think we have.

And a question or two --

How is it that Opehlia Ford and Doug Henry both won their seats without being required to meet the public and debate the issues?

Or how can Mary Pruitt win with Phil Williams and his powerful video and revelations of her own Memphian mindset?

What are the election commissions going to do to ensure that campaign shenanigans are further minimized and that voting can end at 7:00 p.m. because there were enough resources to accomplish mission one? I can't imagine how frustrating it is to be in line to vote and have the election being called. Talk about disenfranchising voters!

Finally --

Go ahead and remove the yard signs and bumper stickers. You may be very proud that you publicly supported one side or the other--but from where I sit it's unsportsmanlike conduct to leave that sign fading in the sun for months while you grieve your loss or rub your neighbor's nose in your win. The only thing tackier is a "Don't blame me I voted for ___" bumper sticker. Move on folks.

One last thing--if you spent a lot of time standing in line yesterday and will spend a good bit of today complaining about it--seriously consider stepping up and being a poll worker next time . Obviously they could use the help and you know from first hand experience what shouldn't be done. Here's the application form. Print it and fill it in now while you're emotionally motivated.