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.


S_town Mike said...

Thanks for the update, Kay. Sounds like you've hit the ground running.

Good Luck in the upcoming election!

Kay Brooks said...

Thanks for noticing, Mike.

I intend to keep running, keep doing a good job, keep being an asset to the Board and keep reminding folks that we can do better for the children of District 5.