Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wednesday 2/28/07

Apprenticeship programs are making a comeback.

The local firms pay $5,000 of the $7,000 tuition at the local Catholic high school. In return they get eight hours of labor per week from the students. The students of course get to enroll in a good, safe school and get some work experience. From Martin Kennedy's Tennessee Economics
Those elusive scholar dollars. The Memphis Commercial Appeal quotes Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton regarding the news that 64% of those lottery scholars lose that money in the first two year.
"The numbers are what they are," Wharton said. "Now we need to figure out what can be done to ensure that the scholarship fulfills its intended result -- to make college available to that segment of our population who are the least likely to attend college and finish." Commercial Appeal
I attended many of the lottery scholarship hearings in the House Education Committee and was paying attention during the campaign to get this lottery instituted. It was never sold as a way to make money available to those 'least likely to attend college and finish'.

It's my opinion that no one from the Memphis area, which has the worst schools in the state, should be telling anyone else how to do this job. If Mayor Wharton wants to improve those numbers he needs to head back to his school board and demand they do their job.

So let's give them 'special diplomas'.
...Rep. Barbara Cooper, a Democrat from Memphis, said she is disturbed by the number of students in her district who don't quite meet all the conditions to get a regular diploma and, as a consequence, can't get well-paying jobs.

To help them, Cooper wants to create three types of diplomas, including one that caters to students who meet attendance requirements and complete the needed course work but don't pass the state-required Gateway high school proficiency test. Tennessean
Again, go back to your school board and raise a ruckus. There is no need to lower the standards. The real problem is back in Memphis. It's likely that the new National Assessment of Educational Progress report that reading skills are tanking while GPA's are rising will reveal some useful information.
“Just slapping new names on courses with weak curriculum and ill-prepared teachers won’t boost achievement,” Kati Haycock, the Education Trust’s president, said. New York Times
Local Teen Screen folks, Tennessee Voices for Children will get $2.8 million from the US Dept. of Education to 'boost parental involvement in schools'. Let's hope that they stick to that and don't use any of these funds to expand a program that has caused a good bit of alarm across the nation. One groups calls Teen Screen a "Front Group for the Psycho-Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex" and another calls the practices "Orwellian" and "barbaric". Concerned public school parents are going to want to make sure their schools understand what the parents have given permission for and what not. They should also have a heart to heart with their children about what screening is appropriate and what isn't and why.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tuesday 2/27/07

Voucher victory out of Utah: Edspresso has a good overview including some information on other counties implementing this and why schools-to-be are a bit slow to jump on board.

Three percent of Utah students currently attend private schools. In the Netherlands, the figure is 75 percent. The difference? The Dutch enacted their universal school voucher program in 1917, and Utah's passed just last week.

In a nail-biting 38-37 vote, Utah's heavily Republican House of Representatives passed the nation's first universally available school choice program. The Senate followed, by a vote of 19-10, and Governor Jon Huntsman signed the bill into law.
These ARE Public Schools: Virtual public schools are on the legislative agenda via HB1872/SB2008. I do believe it's past time for this option, especially in light of zero tolerance laws. This would allow many of those students to stay in school and get their diploma instead of just being thrown out into the community.

One of the groups that will fight against this (along with the teacher's union and the service employees) is the Home School Legal Defense Assocation (HSLDA). HSLDA's concern is that parents will misunderstand this 'school at home' option to be homeschooling. HSLDA has made it clear that they will not accept as members virtual school families and that may cut into their membership numbers and political power (they've got a lot in common with those employee unions).

HSLDA does make a good point in one area. It doesn't cost the same amount of money to run a virtual school as it does a brick and mortar one. Legislators may want to reconsider the portion of the legislation that gives "equitable resources" to these virtual schools. We're not on the cutting edge of this education choice. Surely, there is financial information in other states which can help us come close to reimbursing for actual costs.

I really like the freedom this legislation provides with this line:
6(2) The same length of time for learning oppportunities per academic year that is required for public school students, unless such school can show that a student has demonstrated mastery or completion of appropriate subject area.
If only all public school students had that same freedom.

MNEA elections are coming up. I'm glad to see that members may have a change in leadership. Presidential candidate Jane Walling is exactly correct in saying “It’s time for positive change and it’s time to restore the professional image that MNEA teachers have.”

Compare her comment with that of current VP Eric Huth:
“We’re obviously concerned about membership because we’re a member service organization for one thing and the other issue is that our membership level determines whether we remain the certified bargaining agent for teachers,” Huth said. “We’re already in the process of trying to work up a campaign to address membership here in the spring.”

According to current MNEA president Jamye Merritt, who is unable to run this year due to term limitations, approximately 60 percent of Metro schoolteachers are members of MNEA. In order for the group to maintain its position as the major bargaining agent for teachers as a whole, it must have memberships of at least 50 percent of all teachers. City Paper
The MNEA is viewed as a union, not a professional organization in the community. With the probable loss of Peer Assistance, Leadership and Support (PALS) money from the MNPS budget this looks like a great time for the professional organization to take on the task of mentoring their own. It would also enhance the value of membership and perhaps help keep that magic 50% membership number.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Waltzer walks

Former State Representative Chris Newton was released from the half-way house today after serving his 1 year term for his part in the Tennessee Waltz scandal. Unlike many legislators who are still denying, delaying and fighting the charges against them Chris resigned (yes, it took a bit of encouragement--but he did), took his lumps and can now begin to move on. He's only 36. Plenty of time to recover from this mistake. I wish him well.

If you've forgotten what that day was like, here's Bill Hobbs' play by play of that morning: NEWSFLASH! Passel of legislators arrested! And while it was Bill that gave us the blow by blow, it was Rep. Stacey Campfield that broke the news.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Lovely" Strategic Planning

Have you seen what's been developed by the Strategic Plan Committee thus far?

Here's the proposed Mission Statement for MNPS:

The mission of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, the heart and soul of the creative spirit of Music City, is to ensure each student realizes his/her ability to excel at levels not previously imagined, through a system distinguished by: safe environments characterized by love, value and acceptance; inclusive communities of learners; engaged students eager to share their thoughts; multiple paths to success; and active support among home, school, and community
I was never really fond of "Whatever it takes" and regularly mocked it, but this is just too warm and fuzzy to be taken seriously. This is the sort of education system that the Chamber wants to sell to businesses looking at Nashville? This is a post-modern world.

Further the proposed Beliefs are as follows.
  • All people deserve love
  • Each person has unquestionable value
  • Each person's unique potential has no boundaries
  • Every person can learn no matter where he/she is in life
  • Our lives are enriched by relationships with all people
  • Trust results from investing in each other
  • Greater understanding increases compassion
  • Respect comes from treating others the way we want to be treated
  • Discipline in one's life builds character
  • People are responsible for their own actions
  • All people want to learn and grow
  • Many important things cannot be measured
  • There is a purpose in every life
  • Every person has a need to laugh and celebrate life
  • Only when people are united in their beliefs are they unbreakable
The proposed Parameters:
  • We will make all decisions based strictly on the best interest of the student
  • We will not engage in anything that does not directly support our primary-secondary education program
  • We will not accept failure
  • We will make optimal use of technology throughout the system
  • We will always expect the best of everyone and ourselves
And finally the proposed Objectives:
  • 100% of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools student will graduate
  • 100% of students exceed established academic standards
  • All students are responsible participating citizens of the global community
  • Each student excels in the life path of his/her choice.
I kid you not. This is all from the volunteer form I received at the last PAC meeting. I was asked to participate by a couple of people, and I appreciate that, but the commitment of one evening a week for 10 weeks was more than my schedule can accommodate.

Here's a chart of the 9 committees, their assigned 'strategy' and their current leadership.

Action Team Leader



Board Member/District

Meeting Location

I. We will support each student as the operative agent in the successful discovery and pursuit of his/her personal goals.

Susan Whitworth

Risé Pope

Manuel Fonseca

Elois Freeman

David Fox/ 8

J. T. Moore Middle


II. We will ensure all students achieve academic excellence.

Cherish Piché

Michael Ross

Elizabeth Knox

Sam Braden

Ed Kindall/ 7

Croft Middle


III. We will provide all students with safe and nurturing learning environments.

Renita Perkins

Pam Stockett

Lt. David Jones

Henry Flenory

George Thompson/ 1

Taylor Stratton Elementary


IV. We will ensure that we have exemplary staff throughout the system.

Janette Carter

Margie Johnson

Kathy Nevill

Debby Gould

Jo Ann Brannon/ 2

Gra-Mar Middle


V. We will ensure an array of educational options for each student to pursue his/her personal goals.

Greg Patterson

Kay Rackard

Lynn Stuart

Deirdre Reed

Gracie Porter/ 5

Lockeland Elementary


VI. We will ensure a network of personal support for each student.

Jim Overstreet

Rob Sasser

Avi Poster

Brenda King

Karen Johnson/ 6

Una Elementary


VII. We will immerse all families in their children’s education.

Alvin Jones

Brenda Steele

Kathy Buggs

Enoch Fuzz

Marsha Warden/ 9

Eakin Elementary


VIII. We will ensure the convergence of schools and communities to achieve student success.

Jim Briggs

Sheila Woodruff

Marc Hill

Harold Finch

Pam Garrett/ 3

Hull-Jackson Elementary


IX. We will establish MNPS as the premier educational system for ensuring every student excels at levels not previously imagined.

Wayne Parker

Ervin Tinnon

Dan Surface

Rodger Dinwiddie

Steve Glover/ 4

Stanford Elementary


I believe you're going to want to make your opinions known to the BOE.
Email all the BOE members with this link.

Monday 2/26/07

Clearing out these browser tabs.

Teacher unions have taken a hit this week. Steven Jobs of Apple computer fame started it with:

"I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way," Jobs said.

"This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy." Houston Chronicle

Senator Lamar! Alexander (R-TN) added to the pile when he revealed on the Senate floor that the NEA had written him asking him to vote NO on a teacher incentive amendment he sponsored. Big oops there. Edspresso has the video.

Alexander has offered an amendment to the Continuing Resolution that would fund, at some $90 million dollars, a teacher incentive fund. Read Senator Alexander's run down.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette had something to add to the discussion:
"Incredibly, you can walk into almost any school in America, go down the hall to the first couple of classrooms you find, look at the teachers inside and realize this: Nobody -- not the principal, not the parents, not the students, not even the teachers themselves -- actually knows how effective these teachers are in helping their students learn," said a 2004 report by Kevin Carey, then director of research policy for The Education Trust.
And so there's the rub. Incentive pay usually comes with the strings of performance. Proving performance means someone's going to lose their job and the NEA is in the business of ensuring that people keep their jobs. If only they really were a professional organization that policed their own.

Climate change Kool-aid will be served to our students. Martin Kennedy shares the press release. Here's a snip:
Two upcoming webcasts will present Tennessee teachers with the latest research on climate science and solutions to global climate change. Led by atmospheric chemist Dr. Bill Chameides, chief scientist with Environmental Defense,...
I'm sure it'll be very scientific, fair and balanced. And those who are hot to present the Oscar winning "An Inconvenient Truth" in our classrooms may want to pause a moment and consider that some school districts have very specific policies (often ignored) about complying with copyright rules. A classroom is a public viewing. You should be paying for the privilege or get explicit permission.

Better late than early: Last Saturday's opinion piece by State Rep. David Hawk suggesting some 5 year old aren't ready for kindergarten reminded me immediately of a book written back in 1989 by homeschooling pioneers Dr. Raymond S. & Dorothy Moore called Better Late Than Early. In our rush to ensure the children are educated we too often forget that many of them just need time to mature and the freedom to learn as children learn.

Vanderbilt's Peabody College professor Dale Farron's comments agreed.
Studies show that these children who haven't begun kindergarten until 6 tested higher at the beginning of kindergarten and maintained that advantage at least through the first two grades. Six-year-olds in a classroom set the pace; they seem better prepared, and they profit from the type of instruction now provided.
Chamber Grades MNPS: Nothing really new here. Same old same old. I did learn that they've been doing this for 14 years but, as I've mentioned before, you won't find 14 years worth of data on their website to help us put the entire effort in perspective.

This is as close as we get to an overview:
For the third straight year, Metro Schools’ report card from the Nashville Chamber of Commerce’s Citizens Panel looks the same. City Paper
So average have been the grades and so frustrating is that process that they're seriously considering dropping the grades altogether. If they do--it's an F for the Chamber.

Guns in Schools: The Inglewood Elementary School gun incident last week got more ink this morning from The City Paper.
Currently, when a principal is out of the building, a designated staff member is appointed to fill in. It is unclear who was appointed during Brown’s absence last Tuesday.

“In this case I don’t know who was designated there in the building,” McMillin said. “I don’t know who that staff person was, but I have since come to learn that the principal had some conversations with that person as this was occurring.”

McMillin had to deal with a similar incident on Friday.

Metro Police were called to Whites Creek High School after a 16-year-old male student was found in possession of a loaded .22-caliber pistol. According to McMillin police arrested the student after staff immediately contacted police.
It concerns me that they didn't know who was in charge while principal Bertha Brown was out of the building. Also it was mentioned at Thursday's PAC meeting that several teachers were told of this incident by several students and it took until 2:30 in the afternoon for someone to take action. These children should only have had to tell one adult, one time, in order to get prompt action. And from Rumor Control: she brought the gun for show and tell, had ammunition in her desk and on her front lawn. We need some adults to step in here.

BOE member Pam Garrett's status is the subject of conjecture by Rex in the City this morning. All I can add to this is that when I left the BOE in August Pam shared that she hadn't made up her mind yet about running to keep her seat next year. I encouraged her to begin mentoring a replacement--regardless. To her credit she spent three years as the BOE chair and didn't get paid a dime extra for the added trouble. I wouldn't blame her if she's flat exhausted. She may actually want a life.

MNPS BOE isn't 'happy': Current MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden had an opinion piece published in Friday's Tennessean. Not much substance there and so it was easy for this to jump out:
Approximately 88 percent of our operating budget goes for salaries;
Yes, I know this is a service business and so personnel costs are going to be the bulk of the budget--but 88%!? I'd like to know how much that figure has crept up over time. Someone needs to throughly review the 'need' for so many highly paid central office staff. Also, this is the part of the budget that the board can do the least about at this point. Many of those salary increases are contractual. Someone is going to have to have a very sturdy backbone to stand against those effective union negotiators. Actually, it's going to take 5 someone's on the BOE.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Hot off the press

--or rather your Internet connection--the Agenda Packet for the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. This isn't the wimpy two page agenda that I've been complaining about for so long but the whole enchilada that I've been asking for since the summer. It's the entire board packet--all 83 pages that the board gets for their (and our) weekend reading pleasure. It comes in two parts so make sure you get both.

I believe that having this information before the meeting will help the community know what the BOE is doing and allow the community the opportunity to provide what could be very valuable input and opinion on agenda items. This is an important step forward for MNPS.

Here's the MNPS BOE Agenda and Minutes page.

Here's Tuesday's Agenda Packet in pdf format
(if you've got a slow connection you're warned)

Part 1 pages 1-39
Part 2 pages 40-83

Finally, here's the link to the BOE member page so you can provide your comments and opinions to the members.

So, do your part--cruise through this and let the conversation begin. I won't be able to read this until tomorrow (it's Family Night) but I'll post my observations tomorrow.

[Thank you, thank you, thank you! :-)]

Thursday, February 22, 2007

10 year old with gun

What can you say? This just shouldn't happen.

February 21, 2007


East Precinct detectives Tuesday evening arrested a 10-year-old Inglewood Elementary School 4th grader for bringing a .22-caliber pistol to class.

A teacher at the school heard from other students that the 10-year-old girl had a gun. The teacher asked her for it at approximately 2:30 p.m. The student retrieved the unloaded pistol from her right sock and surrendered it.

School staff sent the girl to the office from where her babysitter was called. The babysitter picked up the student and took her home. The babysitter subsequently learned from the girl that a live bullet for the gun was in her school desk. The babysitter called the school and the bullet was recovered.

The Emergency Communications Center received a call about the gun from a member of the school’s staff at 3:43 p.m., after the student had been sent home.

Officers responded to the school and then to the girl’s home. She was not home upon the officers’ arrival, but returned about 20 minutes later. While the officers were at the home, a lawyer arrived, told them she was representing the 10-year-old, and that the girl would not be answering any questions.

The girl was booked at Juvenile Detention on a charge of carrying a gun on school property. The investigation is continuing to determine the pistol’s origin and how the girl came into possession of it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Not legit my eye

Good -- no GREAT!-- news in my e-mail from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research:

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR) today announced that former WKRN and Tennessean reporter Trent Seibert has joined the Nashville-based free market think tank as Director of Government Accountability.

At TCPR, Seibert will research government waste, fraud and abuse in Tennessee and recommend policies that foster a more transparent, ethical and responsible government. He spent more than a decade as a journalist, uncovering corruption and exposing closed-door operations of governments.


Seibert joins nearly 20 staff and scholars at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to providing concerned citizens, the media and public leaders with expert research and timely free market policy solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.

Here's the whole press release.

Yeeee Hawwww!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Enrollment perspective

Just in time for the budget battle comes this Tennessean article about the overcrowded schools.

What caught my attention was this chart at the Tennessean highlighting our decade of growth. What I found interesting was that we were only were given enrollment information for the past decade and projections for the next. What I think people need to see is a wider chart which gives us the trend lines for both our population growth and our enrollment at MNPS. They don't track the same. Where are those students? Do we have fewer families moving into Metro or are those families making private school choices? And if the later why?

What we must also keep in mind is that while the enrollment of MNPS is projected at about 1.5% per year the doughnut counties far exceed that average. Rutherford County hovers at the 5 1/4% mark, and Williamson averages well into the 7% area. Again, why? Why not MNPS?

Legitimate bureaucrat II

The outrage over the Tennessee Department of Revenue deliberately conspiring to withhold information from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research continues in today's City Paper editorial.

Quite frankly, it should not really matter how far off the mainstream any group is when dealing with state government. Whether it is a blogger in their pajamas, a special interest group or just Joe Citizen, state government should crack open like a piñata when asked for otherwise public information. City Paper
I absolutely agree.

What's not been mentioned is that at some point there was emphasis added to Ms. Richard's original e-mail.

Here's her original version:

And here is Mr. Gerregano's forwarded version which now has underlining:

"Please let your staff know this is not a legitimate group and therefore, we're not responding to them."

Commissioner Regan Farr: Please let your staff know that this is not a legitimate way to carry out their responsibilities to the citizens of Tennessee. You're new to the job. We'll give you one. But it's past time to admit the error, make it right by immediately providing the requested information and then retraining your staff to ensure this doesn't occur again.

Another homeschooler runs for BOE

This time it's John O'Neil in McHenry County, Illinois (that's at the very northern edge of Illinois east of Chicago).

So, why does O’Neill want to be on the school board?

There are three main reasons:

  • First, I want to make sure that the children of the district receive the best education possible.
  • Second, I want to make sure the school district lives within its means.
  • Third, if I ever enroll my children in public schools, I want to know what they are being taught.
“I don’t think we need to raise our taxes any higher than they are, especially through threats and intimidation. The school district needs to live within its means just like our fellow parents and taxpayers.“ Illinois Review

Again, the public school system is public and each member of the public, each taxpayer and each voter has the right and responsibility to help shepherd the system to ensure that children are given a good education. We are all going to live in the world these children will eventually run. Mr. O'Neil is to be commended and thanked for his participation in the process.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Better legislative information

While I very much appreciate the recent upgrades to the Tennessee legislature's bills filed section I certainly hope that we can make even more progress. I visit the legislative pages of various states in our nation and it's obvious that Tennessee can do better.

Today I had to visit North Dakota.

Here's their education legislation overview page. Here's Tennessee's. I do like the format of ours better (if we could just put the companion bills together). It's easier to read with the columns and shading (good job guys).

Two things North Dakota does much better is they, like many other states, clearly show you what is being removed and added from legislation by the use of strike throughs and underlines.

Here's their legislative drafting manual.

They also provide:

E-mail Notification of Notices, Minutes, and Calendar provides the form for requesting e-mail notification of Legislative Council committee meeting notices and minutes and of the Legislative Calendar and Update.
Minutes! You can, and I did, subscribe to the minutes of their Education Committee. I can't even find the minutes of the Tennessee Education Committee online.

UPDATE: ditto Nebraska:

And they have a "Hello, I'm new here" link that helps folks new to the process. Great idea.

Here's Georgia's tracking system.

And Washington State's.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Saturday 02/17/06

Bit and pieces:

Wrestling with the TSSAA round two:

WASHINGTON — Oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court have been set for April 18 in the long legal fight over whether the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association can punish Brentwood Academy for allegedly recruiting athletes. Tennessean

If we don't know where they are, how do we know if they've been left behind? Metro Nashville Public School Board of Education is wrestling with line items on their budget. They've decided that keeping accurate records on the status and progress of students isn't a first tier budget item and have added it to the 'unfunded priorities list'. That means if they get more money than they're asking for--they'll put it toward this essential record keeping.
“What happens right now is we lose kids – we can’t find kids and it takes forever,” [Superintendent Pedro] Garcia said about bookkeeping woes. “Part of the problem is we have lots of hands in the pie – we got counselors and sometimes secretaries.”
“I can tell you, if you have a person [at the school] that you know that’s in charge of records and someone that’s diligent, I think it’s a start,” said board member Gracie Porter. City Paper
We're paying twice for the same product:
More than half of all students who enter college in Tennessee are not academically prepared and require at least one remedial course, according to the Tennessee Board of Regents. The problem is growing.

Remedial education costs the state more than $25 million a year and the number of students enrolled in these courses is expected to grow by about 30 percent over the next decade, said Treva Berryman of the TBR, the governing board for 19 of the state's four- and two-year colleges. Commercial Appeal

America's third world education:

One of the state's top education officials said Wednesday that the United States is at risk of becoming a Third World economy if its public schools don't improve, and his Knoxville audience was glad to hear Tennessee wants to raise standards. KnoxNews

He may want to remember that some of those countries considered third world--are ahead of us in several subjects.

"In fourth grade, American kids do above average internationally. By eighth grade, they slip a bit, and by 12th-grade, they've slipped a lot," Marsh said. "We're the only country that slides down that much from fourth to 12th grade." USC Daily Trojan
This is something Save Our Students told us last year but people got bogged down in who the messenger was instead of the truth of the presentation. Maybe this year they'll listen.

Will someone step up?
BRISTOL, Tenn. - It's official: No one is officially running for the District 2 seat on the five-member Bristol Tennessee Board of Education.
"Recent history has shown that parents are more reluctant to serve in positions that have less direct impact on children, such as PTA Council and the Board of Education," Bailey said. "This is especially true when there is a perception that anyone who does serve on the Board of Education will be unjustly criticized in the media."
Boy, don't I know that. There's still a fellow out there insisting he knows the truth about who I am and how I got on the school board. He's dead wrong--but that inconvenient truth isn't impeding him at all in the pursuit of his agenda. People are going to write and say ugly things--truthful and not. People are going to call you and expect you to solve things you have no authority to solve. People are going to unrealistically expect you to have all the answers. But, here's a real opportunity for someone to put their hand to the rudder that will set the course for thousands of children's future. I hope someone steps up via a write in candidacy. These schools need oversight outside of the administration and their professionals.

Greener still

Nashville mayoral candidate and Councilman at Large David Briley uploaded snips of his big "I want to be Nashville's Green Mayor" announcement to You Tube and starts the whole production off with a quote from former Vice President, Belle Meade resident and today's current green guru Al Gore. What were they thinking?

A. C. Kleinheider has the video, some comments and some links.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Legitimate bureaucrat

A bureaucrat employed by taxpayers has decided she has the right to define 'legitimate groups' in her effort to control information that doesn't belong to her. She's flat wrong and ought to be severely reprimanded. A second instance should mean the loss of her job.

John Rodgers at the City Paper quotes from an e-mail from Emily Richard at the Department of Revenue calling the Tennessee Center for Policy Research 'not a legitimate group'. That's not her call to make. Sadly, she's got the full backing of her Bredesen appointed boss Regan Farr and the department's attorney.

[Reagan Farr, the new commissioner of the Department of Revenue] said TCPR did not follow “the proper channels” by not directing all of their inquiries to Richard, the department’s spokeswoman. He said TCPR representatives were calling different employees of the Department of Revenue and not specifically working through Richard.
“As long as they refuse to follow the proper procedures to obtain information, we’re not going to deal with them,” Farr said.
See, this is what we get when we put political party affiliation ahead of public service. The public service goes out the window. What real concern is it of theirs who is asking for the information or what their reason for wanting it is? Further if the asker isn't following the rules you don't deny them the information you take their request and put it in the system. If the system has decided that certain citizens aren't worthy of information, as it appears Ms Richard has, what other recourse does a citizen have except to circumvent the system?

You want proof that TCPR is a legitimate watchdog group? Here you have it. They've uncovered a group of people who have forgotten that they're supposed to be serving the public. The next question is what else does the Department of Revenue not want us to know?

Put a TCPR 'college kid' to work and donate here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Being green

Of all the issues of serious concern to Nashvillians:

Corporate demands for taxpayer money

and his own statements highlighting the issues heretofore of biggest concern:
I will continue to promote neighborhoods and community. The greatest challenge I see for Nashville is preserving our sense of community.

It is imperative that Metro
exercise fiscal responsibility.

As Mayor, I will
demand open and ethical government. Without the trust of the people, government lacks all legitimacy.

Educating our children is
our community's most important responsibility.

Issues of
planning and zoning and ensuring public safety will be high priorities under my administration.
he steps over all of those important issues and decides to make sustainability a cornerstone of his campaign for mayor.
“I want to build upon the traditions established by Mayors Bredesen and Purcell and establish sustainable policies that protect our environment and natural resources, lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign energy sources, and engage the entrepreneurial spirit of our business community.” said [David] Briley. “I want to be known as Nashville’s ‘Green Mayor.’”

Fellow mayoral candidate Dave Pelton has some serious credentials in this area as founder of Clean Cities of Middle Tennessee. I've seen the guy's truck--a rolling billboard for alternative fuels. It could be interesting to see the Dave's go head to head over who is greener.

I want a clean planet too but I want more for it to be a physically safe place to be. A place where the education children were promised is provided. A place where neighborhoods are protected from encroachment by business and honor is restored to government service. Maybe the greenest part of this campaign is thinking that this should be the driving issue.

I can't find a link to the press release on David's website (maybe it's on the Spanish side--it's a joke folks!).

In the meantime here ya go:

For Immediate Release: Contact:

February 15, 2007 Emily Passini

615.415.6226 (cell)

615.327.8066 (office)



I want to be Nashville’s ‘Green Mayor’

NASHVILLE, Feb. 15 -- Mayoral candidate and Councilman-At-Large David Briley today announced a seven-point plan to address the significant environmental issues that confront Nashville and many other American cities. Briley made his announcement standing on the public square in front of the Davidson County Courthouse. The public square is the city’s first green structure, as defined by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

“I want to build upon the traditions established by Mayors Bredesen and Purcell and establish sustainable policies that protect our environment and natural resources, lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign energy sources, and engage the entrepreneurial spirit of our business community.” said Briley. “I want to be known as Nashville’s ‘Green Mayor.’”

Earlier this week, Briley introduced local legislation requiring Metro-owned buildings to meet LEED-certified sustainable building design requirements – a money-saving method of increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and lessening their environmental impact. Briley also filed legislation calling for the expansion of curbside recycling services to Nashville’s General Services District. “This is a start, but we have miles to go,” Briley stated as he introduced a series of environmental initiatives ranging from the large-scale creation of a new Mayor’s Office of Sustainability to smaller initiatives including mandatory compact fluorescent light bulbs in Metro-owned facilities.

Briley’s proposed initiatives include:

1) Establishing of a Mayor's Office of Sustainability. Create a Mayoral Office to coordinate public and private sector initiatives on environmental improvement, assess methods of lowering carbon emissions, expand environmental education opportunities in public schools and elsewhere, address environmental racism and injustice, and establish a standardized measure of environmental quality with reports provided on an annual basis.

2) Implement green building standards for public and private construction. Require Metro-owned buildings to meet environmental design criteria, providing financial savings by virtue of reduced energy costs and demonstrating good environmental stewardship. Similar objectives should be encouraged in the private sector through planning and zoning incentives, including density bonuses and “fast track” approval of green construction. These initiatives will be offered at virtually no cost to the city and result in a cleaner, healthier, more efficient Nashville.

3) Establish a dedicated fund for open space acquisition. Dedicate .01¢ from the existing property tax levy toward open space acquisition, providing a permanent and flexible means of creating open spaces in our growing city. The dedication of .01¢ will generate over $20 million annually at an average annual cost of $5 per household.

4) Expand curbside recycling to General Services District. Expand subscription curbside recycling -- currently limited to the Urban Services District -- to all of Nashville. By providing recycling opportunities to the General Services District (initially on a subscription basis through a volunteer program), we encourage all Nashvillians to participate in our shared responsibilities.

5) Encourage use of hybrid, low-emission, and alternative fuel vehicles. Establish a Metro fleet of hybrid vehicles, and encourage the public’s use of hybrid, low emission and/or alternative fuel vehicles with incentives, including free or priority parking in Metro facilities and at parking meters, and encourage state legislation expanding the eligibility for HOV lanes to hybrid vehicles.

6) Eliminate the bias toward asphalt and concrete. Require the planting of trees and other greenery in rights-of-way and public property, where Metro has historically opted to pave over soil. Our medians and intersection islands should be green. Our sidewalk regulations should be amended to allow installation of more grade-level trees. Metro government should also plant at least 1,000 trees every year as a means of re-establishing our vanishing tree canopy.

7) Establish emissions reduction target. Establish a year 2014 emissions reduction target for Davidson County of 10% below the emissions levels of 2000, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Nashville, and demonstrating that choices made by local governments and local communities can make a significant impact in global efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Local architects are praising Briley's commitment to the project. "David's initiative calls for setting standards and guidelines that will ensure more local control of development and its impact on our environment," said Alan Hayes, Architect and LEED AP with Thomas, Miller and Partners. "Across the country, local governments are embracing these types of programs and they have proved cost effective and beneficial to the tax payers. This is an innovative first step, not just for David Briley, but for all Nashvillians."

David Briley is an attorney and a current at-large member of the Metro Council elected in 1999 and 2003. He and his wife, Jodie, and son, Sam, live in Inglewood. Metro elections are Thursday August 2 with early voting beginning July 13. For more information, please visit:


Monday, February 12, 2007

Plans and reports cards

It'll be a busy Monday evening/Tuesday morning for people interested in Metro Schools.

This evening at 6:00 p.m. at Maplewood High School the plans for restructuring this school will be revealed. With the highest drop out rate of 42% and the lowest average ACT score of 15.7 this school is rightly on the Tennessee Department of Education's list of failing schools. These children need immediate answers to their needs. These children don't have any more time to waste. Something has to be done now that will actually improve their lives.

Tuesday morning, February 20th, at 8:30 a.m. the Chamber of Commerce Report Card grading Metro Schools will be revealed at the Adventure Science Center. Let's hope that this time they included some cumulative information that gives us not just a snapshot of today but a clear overview of past years to place this current information in context. Since they've been creating these report cards for several years--that shouldn't be all that hard to do.

UPDATE: Anonymous points out the the Chamber's report will be done Tuesday February 20th. My mistake. Thanks for catching that Anon. I appreciate the help. :-)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Mallard mourning

The value of my Tennessean subscription fell again this morning with the news that they're replacing Mallard Fillmore with something that I'm sure is much more hip, trendy, and sophisticated. Read the current content here

Also in the Tennessean's dustbin of conservative comics are the Wizard of Id and B.C.

Their decidedly leftest counterpart, Doonesbury, has remained through it all.

Education legislation

The state legislature is making some progress toward making information more accessible to mere citizens. They've still got a ways to go before catching up with some other states but I'm thankful for forward progress. I'd like to see the companion bills listed together. I'd also like to see an e-mail subscription service that would automatically e-mail a citizen when a bill is filed (or action is scheduled or taken) that is on their 'watch' list.

For our purposes here bills filled that touch on education issues can be scanned from this web page. It sure beats the heck out of reading through the summaries of some 1500 bills filed each of the last several years. This format will make it much easier for moms and dads to scan and discover where they may want to impact the system. The more eyes that look at these and discuss the back stories and connections the better off we'll all be. So when you've got a few minutes and a warm cup of your favorite beverage scroll through these. Also be mindful that the summaries may not be completely accurate and you may want to actually review the legislation.

Scanning this page it looks like BEP is going to be a hot topic and this bill from Rep. Mike Turner (D- Nashville) catches my eye:

*HB0052 by *Turner M.

Education - Deletes provisions for value added testing and performance education. - Amends TCA Title 49, Chapter 1.

The Abstract summarizes *HB0052 as introduced.

I consider Value Added information essential to knowing how well public education is doing. Tennessee had a healthy jump on the NCLB requirements because we had value added already up and running. What we need is access to more of the Value Added information, specifically teacher scores, not less. And this from a man who wanted homeschoolers to be tested.

And elected superintendents of schools, a perennial favorite is back again:

*SB0589 by *Burks. (HB0661 by *Hill, *Ford.)

Education - Permits election of director of schools and outlines specifications. - Amends TCA Title 49, Chapter 2, Part 3 and Section 49-2-203.

HB0948 by *Winningham. (*SB0578 by *Burks.)

Local Education Agency - Permits election of director of schools and outlines qualifications. - Amends TCA Section 49-2-203 and Title 49, Chapter 2, Part 3.

This is a curious one:

*SB0198 by *Harper.

Local Education Agency - Authorizes legislative body of Davidson County to appoint a certified teacher as a non-voting member of the Davidson County school board. - Amends TCA Title 49, Chapter 2, Part 2.

It's not like Jayme Merrit, MNEA President, hasn't already put the school board on notice that she wants three minutes to speak at every BOE meeting, or that there haven't been enough 'former' educators on the Board already. If the Metro Council wants to appoint someone to be their eyes and ears at the BOE they are free to do so outside of the state legislation. And what's the purpose of making sure it's a certified teacher?

And I'm wondering why partnering with the local police department is insufficient:

*SB1451 by *Tate.

Education - Requires department of education to study allowing LEAs to create school district police departments. - Amends TCA Title 49.

And here the LEA gets to skim money off the top of a charter school's budget:

*SB1447 by *Tate.

Local Education Agency - Authorizes the LEA to retain, as an administrative fee, 5 percent of the state and local education funds that otherwise would be allocated to a charter school for processing information required by the state department of education with respect to such school, including reporting student enrollment data, teacher certification data, insurance and retirement data, and budgetary information. - Amends TCA Title 49, Chapter 13, Part 1.

and more on charters:

*SB1865 by *Johnson.

Schools, Private and Charter - Removes the prohibitions on converting a cyber-based school to a public charter school and on creating a cyber-based public charter school. - Amends TCA Section 49-13-106.

This has to happen. We're very far behind this education innovation in other states. I know that one homeschooling organization is going to be afraid that this will 'lure' homeschoolers back to public education and is concerned that parents may not understand that their children will be 'public schoolers' and not homeschoolers but we need to focus on the needs of children. It's past time for Tennessee to offer this. They are certainly cheaper to operate than a brick and mortar school and provide some alternatives that can benefit many families and their children. This could be a legitimate alternative for some of our students expelled as a result of zero tolerance for starters.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Designated sitter problems

Well Michael Cass of the Tennessean answers the "Where was David Briley during the English First vote?" question:

(By the way, mayoral candidate David Briley, who was at the meeting but missed the vote, told me later that he wasn’t ducking controversy. He said he was out of the room trying to track down his mother, who was supposed to pick up his son tonight while Briley and his wife were both working. He said he had been unable to get in touch with her all evening.

“I voted no before, and I would have again,” Briley said. “There was nothing for me to gain by not being there.”)

Not good. It was about 8:00 when that vote was taken. I hope this was an unusual glitch and these folks work out the designated sitter issue. I feel for Sam. That's a long day for a small child. It's going to be a long campaign season too.

Chamber Report Card

I'm beginning to believe I dreamed this but as I was surfing through the news reports last evening one of the TV stations did a report on a serious breakdown in the Chamber of Commerce Committee that is working on their annual Report Card of Nashville schools. I'm not finding that report on the TV station websites though. Pastor Sonnye Dixon was interviewed and if I remember correctly Superintendent Garcia wasn't happy about what was in the report.

I fussed at the Chamber last summer when these reports were not archived and available at there website. This morning I see that since then they've been uploaded them to their website.

English Official Language

A couple of interesting quotes from the morning papers regarding the English First bill:

But Gregg Ramos, a Nashville attorney and first-generation American of Mexican heritage, said the loophole for "public health, safety or welfare" is so large it makes the law meaningless, because everything government does should promote those goals. Tennessean
But it was hard not to notice that Mr. Ramos and his partners expended a great deal of time and effort in a failed attempt to keep this 'meaningless' bill from passing.
Ralph Schulz, president of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, which lobbied against the bill, said, "From our perspective, the job just got a little tougher to prove to the world that Nashville is the inclusive city it is." Tennessean
"Little" being the operative word. Ralph Schultz is a smart fellow. I don't believe for a moment that his efforts will be hampered much at all. It's not like there is some 'full disclosure' law that says you have to put in your presentations and propaganda that this law was passed. And you've got the testimony of thousands and thousands of visitors and businesses who have found Nashville to be quite friendly and accommodating. We never expected our visitors to speak Southern, let alone English. And business that come here--well, CM Eric Crafton is exactly correct--English is the language of business.

I didn't realize last evening that one of the mayoral candidates failed to vote. That was neighbor David Briley. This is the time when those who wish to lead our community need to demonstrate their ability to lead. This was an important vote, politically, and I'm told David Briley was there but inexplicably absent when it came time to count the votes. I'm disappointed that neither the Tennessean nor the City Paper bothered to ask and publish Mr. Briley's good reason for having left the room. This wasn't a long drawn out debate. It was about 20 minutes. What couldn't wait 20 minutes?

The Tennessean provides a breakdown of the vote. Mayoral candidates are in bold:

Carolyn Baldwin Tucker, Walter Hunt, Michael Craddock, Pam Murray, Jason Hart, Rip Ryman, Feller Brown, Jim Gotto, Harold White, J.B. Loring, Ludye Wallace, Billy Joe Walls, Edward Whitmore, Eric Crafton, Emily Evans, John Summers, Greg Adkins, Randy Foster, Jason Alexander, Vivian Wilhoite, Sam Coleman, Robert Duvall, Charlie Tygard

Buck Dozier, Adam Dread, Brenda Gilmore, Jamie Isabel, Mike Jameson, Erik Cole, Jim Forkum, Carl Burch, Anna Page, Ginger Hausser, Jim Shulman, Jim Hodge, Parker Toler, Lynn Williams

Diane Neighbors, David Briley, Ronnie Greer

23 in favor
14 against
3 absent

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

English First passes

About an hour and 50 minutes into the meeting the council finally got to the "English First" legislation. What little discussion there was last only about 20 minutes-- very short amount of time considering all the ink and emotion expended previously.

Sponsor Councilman Eric Crafton quotes:

Pointing out there had been a great deal of animosity and speculation about the motives of the bill he stated "You have to look at what the ordinance says. That's what we're voting on."

"If you're not in favor of Metro government doing business in English I wish someone would stand up and tell me what language we're supposed to do business in."

"This bill will stand Constitutional muster and legal challenges."

Councilman Lynn Williams tried to make a case for Metro being liable for not providing stop signs, a safety issue, in other languages. Metro Legal declined to opine about the suggestion.

Ayes 23
Nayes 14

1185 passes.

Thank you all.

And so the new law is:

An Ordinance amending Chapter 1.04 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws declaring English to be the official language of the Metropolitan Government, and to require that all government communications, publications and telephone answering systems be in English with certain exceptions.

WHEREAS, Tennessee Code Annotated § 4-1-404 establishes English as the official language of the State of Tennessee, and requires all communications and publications produced by governmental entities to be in English; and

WHEREAS, the Council now desires to designate English as the official language of the Metropolitan Government for purposes of government publications and communications.


Section 1. Chapter 1.04 of the Metropolitan Code of Laws is hereby amended by adding the following new section 1.04.070:

"1.04.070. English the official language of the metropolitan government.

A. English is hereby established as the official language of the metropolitan government.
B. Except when required by federal law or when necessary to protect or promote public health, safety or welfare, all communications, publications, and telephone answering systems of metropolitan government boards, commissions, departments and agencies shall be in English."

Section 2. This Ordinance shall take effect from and after its passage, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.