Thursday, June 29, 2006

NEA convention

If it's the 4th of July it's NEA convention time.

No one's coverage is more interesting or more timely than Mike Antonucci's. This is from his latest update.

EIA Coverage of NEA Representative Assembly Begins July 1. For the ninth consecutive year, EIA will provide daily gavel-to-gavel coverage from the floor of the National Education Association Representative Assembly. The first communiqué will be issued from Orlando, Florida, the evening of Saturday, July 1, and each evening thereafter until the convention closes on July 5. Subscribers will automatically receive those bulletins via e-mail as usual, and they will also be posted on the EIA web site shortly after transmission. The direct link is and there will also be a permanent link to the bulletins on the home page at

This year, I also hope to add some informal items about the convention and its delegates on the pages of EIA's blog, Intercepts. So keep an eye out there as well.

I will be available via e-mail for your questions and comments during the convention, but please make allowances for delays in my response. Members of the media not present at the convention should contact me before Friday for telephone contact information. Delegates and guests are welcome to visit with me by the press section (left of the stage as you face it), but be aware I am restricted from wandering around the convention floor.

As always, conversations with me at the convention are kept in confidence - not for publication unless you explicitly agree otherwise – from the first-time delegate all the way up to Reg. Feel free to ask anyone who knows about my track record in this regard. Anonymous blurbs – hostile or laudatory – are always welcome.

This year they're meeting in Orlando and they are expecting 9,000 delegates. Here's the NEA's web page for the event.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


About 10:00 p.m. this evening the Metro Council voted on the operating budget for the county. There were some interesting amendments moving some of the dollars around. Metro Arts got hit several times and CM Ludye Wallace's amendments failed over and over, bless his heart. The Council got their Habitat for Humanity House. In the end the Council voted to fully fund the budget the BOE requested--to include what was called the "wish list". We shouldn't hear any complaining about not having enough money.

The trick now is to ensure it's all spent in a way that actually benefits the children and their education.

There was a short BOE meeting before the Council meeting. Sometimes I feel like the only one who questions anything on the agenda. One of my question revealed that the improvements to Brick Church Middle School's football field will be done with a grant from the NFL and not from taxpayer monies.

A revised Student-Parent Handbook and the Code of Conduct was also approved along with an agreement with the MNEA to actually begin paying teachers more July 1 per this newly approved budget. It was odd that while the BOE voted (before I got there) in the strongest terms to provide this pay raise they had to get special permission from the union in order to do so.

Also Dr. Sandy Johnson reported that MNPS has applied for a grant from the lottery scholarship fund to create 10 new Pre-K classes. While there were several organizations that were eager to participate we were told several may back out now that it's known that their teachers will have to be under MNPS and only work MNPS hours and days instead of the longer calendar and times so many parents may prefer.

UPDATE: I failed to mention that Ralph Thompson told us that by reformatting the handbook to a smaller size the district will save about $12,000. Good news.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday 06/23/06

It’s been a busy two weeks. I've had to choose between actually getting the job done or blogging. So blogging has fallen behind.

6/8/06: Thursday was the presentation of the budget to the Metro Council. While a long and detailed session it went fairly smoothly with just a few questions from the council members present that Dr. Awipi and Ms. Nevill of the BOE handled.

6/9/06: Friday: I met with the Nashville Scene’s Bruce Barry for an interview. They’re working on podcasts from all the BOE candidates. He originally thought they’d be available by now but I haven’t seen the link yet. Their site is Some of their ads aren’t very appropriate for children so be forwarned.

6/12/06: Monday evening I spent about 35 minutes with the Rediscover East! group listening to them and answering questions from both neighbors in that east Nashville area as well as questions from CM Tucker and Cole. CM Tucker wanted to know my opinion about policy governance. I said that as I was seeing it demonstrated it seemed a wise way to routinely go through the goals of the system. CM Cole was concerned about the budget as they were headed for budget hearings. My response back to CM Cole was to ask can Nashville afford the budget the BOE sent to them and the Mayor agreed with? If so, great! If not we’ll have to work with what they let us have.

6/13/06: Tuesday at 3:30 was an orientation meeting for all school board candidates. Reviewed were things like the way the board runs (utilizing policy governance), legal issues regarding open meeting laws and open records act.

The policy governance overview by Ralph Schulz (of the Adventure Science Center) contained some information that I believe many citizens need to understand, not just candidates and so I’m going to elaborate on this a bit.

We were reminded that the board has essentially three main jobs:

1. Hire a director of schools,

2. Approve the budget,

3. Establish policy for the system.

Mr. Schulz drew a circle representing the BOE. He drew a larger circle around that which would represent the Director of Schools and then even larger circles around those. Then he dissected those circles making ‘pie wedges’ if you will. Each wedge would be different areas such as finance, personnel, transportation, curriculum, etc. In a perfect world the board would have policies in place and the director would be adequately complying with those policies. If the director doesn’t then the BOE boundary of that particular failing pie wedge would be pushed outward into what was intended to be the directors space or if necessary all the way into subordinate spaces beyond the director. Hopefully, things would improve with the additional board attention and then that boundary would revert back to its original place.

Board member Kathy Nevill made a clarifying point when she said that frequently people expect BOE members to act like council members and fix the ‘pot holes’ of the educational system. However, under this policy governance model that really isn’t done. That’s not to say a BOE member can’t inquire about the ‘pot hole’ but the intention is that the BOE member help the constituent work the system and when it comes time to evaluate the Director of Schools they will have to answer for repeated failures in that ‘pie wedge’.

The intention of this governing model seems to be to lay out the goals and policies clearly and then allow the Director of Schools as much freedom as possible to meet those goals and policies.

At 5:00 was the regular school board meeting. It was at this meeting that Director Garcia told us he was going to file a plan by the October deadline to turn Maplewood Comprehensive High School into a MNPS run charter school.

Following the regular BOE meeting was what was billed as a BOE ‘retreat” where we reviewed the policy governance issues we had in place and touched on the use of MNPS issued equipment and decided that we’d review what was available, who was using what, what the councilmen were receiving and try and anticipate what might be needed in the future. As was reported in the Tennessean and here I have decided to forgo the use of an MNPS provided cell phone, fax machine, extra phone line and laptop. I still haven’t reviewed the health policy information.

6/14/06: Wednesday I met with Stratford High’s principal, Brenda Elliott. That meeting went very well. She’s concerned that the projected enrollment numbers means she’ll lose some staff that she feels strongly she needs. We discussed the need for reading teachers and counselors. I got a tour of the building—too much of which is in shameful condition. And actually, when I was trying to find the light switch for one of the computer labs I noticed soggy ceiling tiles on the floor and one keyboard and was dripped on by a leak from above. I was told that the ceiling had been fixed two years ago but the work never fully completed and it was obvious many of the removed or stained tiles hadn’t yet been replaced. I also got to spend a few minutes with their student IMPACT group that was meeting at the time. We also talked about how we could ensure the neighborhood would be better informed of the services and activities at Stratford.

6/15/06 Thursday: the BOE met with Mayor Pucell. It was a short meeting since both groups are waiting for the Council to act on the budget. One conversation took a rabbit trail and we got on the topic of facilities and I got to mention that Stratford needed some serious attention. The mayor expressed surprise and concern. Granted the condition of the school doesn’t fall under his direct authority but it’s not a bad idea for our neighbor in high places to be aware of this inadequacy.

6/19/06: Monday: I met with Principal Hutchinson and Wendy Poston (PTA President) at Isaac Litton Middle School. One of the first things they brought to my attention was a bottle of water with orange flecks in it. They told me this water was considered potable by the EPA but these ladies aren’t buying it—in fact they’re buying bottled water for drinking instead. We discussed the delay in maintenance and improvements to the school as a result of the tremendous growth in Antioch and the needed new high school sucking $42 million out of the capital budget. According to the schedule it will be 2 years before Litton’s turn comes. It’s obvious to me that Dr. Hutchinson has the safety of the students at the top of her mind. She’d like a barrier to keep folks from wondering onto school property from Gallatin Road and that small Litton Park. I toured the facility and agreed that the moldy window frames in the cafeteria are a problem and that keeping children of this age from easily accessing the kitchen area is a very good idea. They have a good many special needs children but the ADA retrofits won’t come for two years.

That afternoon I gave a short interview with the Nashville Today newspaper. They had seen Wendy Poston at the BOE meeting and wanted my comments and also a comment regarding Dr. Garcia’s proposal to make Maplewood into a charter school. I support both of them in their efforts.

That evening was the League of Women Voters forum for all the school board candidates. According to the League’s website

“The forum will be broadcast on Comcast Channel 19 every week at the following times up until the August 3, 2006 election:

Monday: 1:00 pm
Tuesday: 9:00am
Wednesday: 9:00am
Friday: 9:00am and 4:00pm

June 19, 20 & 21 (Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday) evenings for about 6 hours each of those three evening the BOE met to hear about and judge the charges of dismissal for a teacher. We have scheduled another evening to hear evidence and arguments.

June 21: Wednesday: I, BOE Chair Pam Garrett and several members of Dr. Garcia’s cabinet met with CM Pam Murray of the 5th Council District to discuss Maplewood and setting up a community meeting. CM Murray asked if the schools could specifically create a list of what they need so that the community might step up and help provide those things. She also asked for help in setting up and sustaining PTA/PTO’s in the Maplewood Cluster. Cabinet members expressed the need for the community to decide what sort of a high school they wanted there. What was the image that we wanted Maplewood to have the cabinet members asked of us. Did we want an academic focus, a vocational focus, some blend of the two or what? And we also talked about ways to help get the word out about the positive aspects of the cluster. More to follow, I’m sure.

Looking toward next week I’ll meet the KIPPsters, the BOE will meet just before the council meeting on the budget and they’ll be another installment of the dismissal hearing for an MNPS teacher.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Monday 06-12-06

Tonight I'll be attending the Rediscover East! community meeting from 5:30 to 6:30 at Eastwood Christian Church, 16th and Eastland. The meeting will be in the 2nd floor fellowship hall.

Tuesday is the regular BOE meeting at 5:00 p.m., 5601 Bransford Avenue. I've uploaded the .pdf copy of the agenda to for review. Isaac Litton Middle School's PTA President will be speaking to encourage the BOE to actually start the much needed repairs at Litton that have been promised but have been put off. The explanation given was the failure of the sales tax referendum and the $42 million needed to build the new Cane Ridge High School in Antioch. I'm sure your support would be appreciated. Contact information for the board members can be found at

Thursday is the League of Women Voters forum for all the school board candidates. This is from their website

The forum will be held on Thursday, June 15, 2006, from 7:30 - 8:30 p.m., at the PED (Public Education and Government) Television Studeio, at Nashville State Technical College, 120 White Bridge Road, Nashville. (snip)

Candidates will make opening remarks and answer questions posed by members of the Education Committee. The program will be aired live and re-broadcast on public cable televsion stations, so that Nashville voters will have the opportunity to learn about the candidates and their views on public education in our community. To help with planning, please contact Jan Bossing at

Sunday, June 11, 2006

BOE Agenda 06-13-06

I've uploaded the agenda for Tuesday's BOE meeting to This is a .pdf document I got from the Board secretary this morning. You'll need Adobe Reader to view it.

The Board will meet at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 13, 2006 at 2601 Bransford Avenue.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

No cell phone. No laptop.

This morning's Tennessean article regarding 'benefits' offered to MNPS school board members is a bit out of date regarding my situation.

1. I don't have a MNPS or Metro issued cell phone. The one I have is one I've had for some time. I pay by the minute and use it for staying in contact with my family. It costs about $10 a month as a result of careful use. Reporters have asked for the number and they've been disappointed. At some point I may upgrade all the way to a Cricket but until then folks will just have to dial my regular land line or e-mail me. That first week our home phone was completely overrun with incoming calls so that it was hard for us to even use it and I thought that perhaps a cell phone for MNPS business might be a good idea, but I've reconsidered.

2. One of my first conversations with the staff at the BOE was in regard to equipment I might need to stay in touch with the Board and staff. I was asked if I needed a fax machine, a cell phone a second phone line. My response was no, no and no. And then I jokingly responded "But if you've got a spare laptop lying around..." I was told they'd check. I was surprised that the use of a laptop was even a possibility and I made it absolutely clear that only if the laptop wasn't needed by anyone else in the system would I accept it.

Since that initial conversation and a conversation with the Board Chair on 5/23/06 I decided that I'll not ask MNPS to supply any of those resources. It seems the cleanest way to operate and doesn't require any of my time or the staff's in accounting for their use, upgrade or, heaven forbid, their loss or damage.

So that's no cell phone, no laptop, no second phone line, no fax machine for BOE member Kay Brooks. I do have the packet regarding health insurance and am reviewing that. I've not yet signed up.

UPDATE: I kept thinking that we'd been round this bush before. The Tennessean's archives was useless but I've discovered through the Public Library's Tennessean archive that reporter Tanya Ballard did at least one article about all this back on February 15, 1998. Unfortunately, I'm not able to get the archives to cough up the actual article. Maybe someone else can.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Friday 6/2/06

Wednesday afternoon I attended a BOE "Policy Governance" meeting. Here the Board went through some of their parameters in assessing the district and Dr. Garcia. It was a good chance to actually work with the other Board members, catch some of their passion for the job and begin to understand where they are coming from. The Policy Governance Manual has become an important play book for the Board and they refer to it frequently as they assess items that come before them. They regularly go through the manual to ensure that it covers every part of the system and that the Board is routinely reviewing every aspect of MNPS.

Yesterday morning I attended the first part of the annual MNPS "March Off". It's formally known as the "Educational Leadership Team Meeting" and was held at the Allen Arena at Lipscomb.

Dr. Garcia spoke early on and stated that MNPS had a goal, like nearly every other school district in America, of being 'the best district in America". And then he pointed out we haven't had any measure to use to let us know when we'd met that goal. He offered a measuring stick that included two numbers.

1. The graduation rate which he suggested needed to be defined a bit differently than it has been in the past and is currently utilized by NCLB. Paul Changas presented a slide that had a formula for calculating this and I gave him my card so he could forward it to me. I'll publish that as soon as I get it.

2. The number of students going to college. Dr. Garcia said that statewide 38% of Tennessee students go to college but that number drops to 26% in their second year at college. He said the rate for MNPS students was unknown but he would like to see a goal of 80%. He wanted us to encourage every MNPS student to aim for college just like Hume Fogg, MLK, FRA, Harpeth Hall, and his own parents (and many parents) do and did. I came away understanding him to say we should not automatically push students into vocational skills based on prejudices regarding color, economic standing or neighborhood. Dr. Garcia said "They all need to be prepared so they can make that choice."

This was something the Board had discussed at bit on Wednesday and BOE Member George Blue was the first to "Amen" Dr. Garcia's comments and I agree. I understand that even those who planned to go to college don't always make it. Life happens and paths are taken. A person's worth is so much more than their educational background. Success isn't necessarily tied to parchment. But we need to encourage these children to set their goals high and get as good an education as possible while they can so they are as prepared as possible for what life will bring.

Thursday evening I attended the Inglewood Neighborhood Association meeting and I was pleased to hear the Litton PTA President encourage our association to help keep Isaac Litton Middle school a viable neighborhood school. An immediate concern is the condition of the school. It was slated for improvements but those were delayed in deference to building Cane Ridge High School in Antioch. The INA Board decided to explore becoming a PENCIL partner of Litton's. Another citizen, a member of the Stratford PAC, also spoke about their group and their need for community involvement. She was encouraged to communicate with the INA Board and the neighborhood, specifically through their e-list for now, about their activities and needs.