Friday, April 27, 2007

The NEEDS of the district

Kudos to MNPS BOE member David Fox for stepping up to bat and attempting to change the recalcitrant behavior of MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia toward charter schools. As the BOE is quite aware their only employee is Pedro Garcia. He has fairly free reign within the Executive Expectations which are used to grade Garcia on his job performance in preparation for his contract renewal. Including in those EE's specific expectations of his interactions with charter schools which are serving students MNPS hasn't been able to satisfactorily serve must be a component of evaluating Garcia's job performance.

The City Paper quotes from e-mails between Garcia and Fox:

“I can tell you that based on what I know about the present district needs, I do not recommend allocating space to charter schools because I believe it will have a negative impact on the projected needs of the district,” Garcia wrote.

On Thursday, the schools’ director did address concerns over the perception that he and school district administrators were not in favor of charter schools and insisted that he would always put his school district first, then take care of relationships with the charter schools.
It's his actions that are having a negative impact on these MNPS students. These children ARE a part of HIS school district. The need of the district is that all of its students get a good education. The need of the district is cooperating as much as humanly possible (formerly known as "whatever it takes") to ensure that these children have the facilities, resources and professionals to get the job done. To withhold from them what he can reasonably provide is an abuse of those children. He ought to be held accountable and he ought to lose his job if he continues to withhold that help.

Discretionary funds--State version

Because it works so well for Nashville (/sarcasm) a state legislator from Nashville is suggesting that discretionary money be provided to state legislators.

The scene: the state is rolling in revenue. They set a budget. More tax money has come in than they ever expected.

The question: What shall we do with it all?

The answers:

Option 1: Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R) wants to return it to the people in the form of a month long food tax holiday in December.

Ramsey (R-Blountville) said the Republicans in the state Senate are leaning toward spending part of what could be at least $500 million in non-recurring tax dollars on a month-long food sales tax holiday in December. City Paper
While I'd prefer a clean tax cut I can certainly get behind this suggestion. The winter holidays is when some of the best food bargains are available. Knowing now that it's coming I could set aside a tidy sum by then to spend then and take advantage of what Ms. Cheap calls a 'double whammy' and fill the pantry.

Option 2: Comes from Rep. Gary Odom (D).
House Majority Leader Gary Odom (D-Nashville), however, said he would like to give “community enhancement projects” to each House and Senate district to the tune of possibly $20 million.

Each House member would get $100,000 and a Senator would get $300,000 under a proposal being floated.

Odom said those dollars would go toward things like equipment for volunteer firefighters, community centers, PTA grants and ball fields. City Paper
How about you return my tax money to me and I'll donate to the local projects *I* find worthwhile? This would ensure that the power remains invested in the people instead of legislators.

$85,000 and counting

Those sales tax holiday flyers I wrote about yesterday have totaled $85,000 of taxpayer money thus far according to AC Kleinheider.

What I have uploaded here is a spreadsheet of legislative expenditures on the mailers to date. It is not, I am told, officially comprehensive because invoices sometimes straggle through the system piecemeal. However, from what is available thus far, these sales tax mailers would seem to be not only publicaly funded but a publicaly funded Democratic Caucus initiative.
There are some 60 Democrat legislators. If each participated at the same rate as the 15 who already have this could be a grand total of about $391,000. That's a LOT of taxpayer cash that could be used for what they say is their first priority: education.

I am completely unconvinced that the usual media sources, school systems and retailers haven't done a good job at notifying the public of this tax holiday and state legislators needed to take this task on themselves--at our expense. But, legislators, looking toward reelection, needed to ensure their faces and this holiday were linked and presented to each voter. Without my permission I've made a 'donation' to each of their campaigns.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's a bit early, doncha think?

Why would anyone attempt to shop for SSA while the policy for NEXT year is still being written and store buyers haven't been able to reference that policy to determine what to stock? The capitalist system is good--but it's not clairvoyant.

BOE Chair Warden comments

The Tennessean prints a light interview with MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden. I'd like to see similar pieces for all the BOE members on a regular basis.

A couple of quotes to encourage you to read the rest. There are questions about goals and if Pedro Garcia is doing a good job--a question she doesn't answer with a yes or no.

The BOE role:

"The school board is different from the Metro Council. We are a policy governing board, and we do a lot of legislative work. The easiest way to think of it is that we oversee and approve the Metro Nashville Schools budget and policy.
"If you look around, most private schools enforce standard school attire or uniforms. Maybe they know something we don't. Maybe in distinguishing the way the students dress at school as opposed to the way they dress at home, we are preparing them to enter a learning environment."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Largess of .0975%

Senator Haynes sent me a postcard.
One line says:

"A common sense State budget includes sales tax relief for you and less business lost to other states."
Until he leads the House in rolling back the tax on food, entirely, and returning to me and my family our portion of the $1,000,000,000 we've been overtaxed and putting into place constraints to keep that over reaching from happening again (something sturdier than the Copeland Cap). I won't believe a word he says or prints on this issue.

Sen. Haynes, I've been running a household budget for six some 20+years now. I've figured out that a savings of .0975 is rarely something to get all excited about. A sale of 10% at any store doesn't even get my attention. Usually, with careful shopping, stocking up and checking competitive ads (normal SOP around here) I can save much more than that. .0975% isn't worth driving up to Rivergate to fight the crowds of folks who think that this is a good deal. Especially when the state taxes me 21.4 cents per gallon to drive up there.

Frankly, I'm offended by this slick oversized announcement of your largess. I'd like REAL tax relief instead.

UPDATE: This morning at 8:16 a.m. I got a robo-call from State Rep. Mike Turner reminding me of the sales tax holiday.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Constituent communications

Kudos to MNPS BOE member Karen Johnson who has a very nice .pdf newsletter for her constituents. I've uploaded it to my website so you can see it. Ideally, this would be hosted on her own website which hasn't been updated since the election. Granted the newsletter isn't terribly in depth, but it's better than silence.

Contrast that newsletter with BOE member Gracie Porter's website which hasn't been updated since the fall when she had to explain her vote to renew Dr. Pedro Garcia's contract. At this point she's at least one controversial vote explanation behind (SSA).

How do the other board members regularly communicate with their constituents? I do believe that people appreciate regular communication from their elected representatives.

When I was on the BOE (Summer of '06) I created an elist for people interested in District 5 issues, had this blog already up and running and had my website. I offered the elist to Gracie after the election but I never heard back and nothing has been posted since.

BOE Agenda 2007-04-24

The BOE agenda for Tuesday night has been uploaded to the MNPS website this morning.

Item A(2)(b) would allow current 4th graders at AZ Kelly & Maxwell to remain there for their 5th grade year (transportation provided). Page 3.

Superintendent Pedro Garcia is graded on EE-7 (Budgeting and financial planning) and that can be found beginning at page 8. Board member George Thompson in dual role as BOE member and head of the Council of Great City Schools is quoted as saying:

"Continued improvement needed - The amount allocated for board Development and other governance priorities is unreasonably low for a district our size. Lack of appropriate development breeds confusion as to the Board members' role and thus invites micro-management."
Gracie Porter's comments about this essential function are not to be found on this document.

Page 10 is where Karen Johnson's concerns about Metro taking over payroll functions from MNPS are expressed.
"Please provide update on how well most recent payroll change is working. MNEA had expressed concerns. Would like to possibly see employee feedback survey on this."
She's also concerned about the contract bids:
"Would like to see information on all who bid for services and who is awarded contracts all in the same document. Would like to see a breakdown if possible on how many are minority owned specificying women owned, African-American owned, Hispanic Owned, Asian Owned, etc..." (Page 11)
But this may be the MOST important part of the meeting. The Board is amending their own job description. Much of this is similar to the old version but they've added some specifics and every citizen will want to review this and comment to the Board about this. There is little room in this document for dissension which seriously concerned me back in the summer when I was subject to it and it still concerns me. I understand that the Chair needs to do a better job of running the meeting but muzzling the members isn't the way to go. The public already has little knowledge of Board member opinions on issues--this isn't going to help. How do you encourage 'diversity in viewpoints' and yet require members to 'criticize privately' or 'never embarrass each other or the district'? This document doesn't encourage a healthy airing of the pros and cons of issues facing the community regarding public education.

And what parents are still not going to understand is section 3 which specifically prevents the board from assuming 'responsibility for resolving operational problems or complaints'. Most voters and taxpayers assume that this is part of the reason we have a school board. That stepping in when things aren't working is why they voted for their board member. What they're going to get instead is direction to the central office person in charge, a smile and a 'vote for me' later on.

There are no provisions in this document for those who dare to violate the policy.

Policy Type: Governance Process GP-2

Governing Style

The Board will govern with emphasis on End results for students rather than on interpersonal issues of he Board; encourage diversity in viewpoints, focus on strategic leadership rather than administrative detail; observe clear distinction between Board and Director roles; make collective rather than individual decisions; exhibit future orientation rather than past or present; and govern proactively rather than reactively.


1 The Board will cultivate a sense of group responsibility. The Board, not the Director or staff, will be responsible for excellence in governing. The Board will use the expertise of individual Board members to enhance the performance of the board as a body, but will not substitute individual judgments and opinions for the Board's collective values. Accordingly, members will;

a. focus on issues rather than personalities
b. respect decisions of the full board
c. exercise honesty in all written and interpersonal interaction, never intentionally misleading or misinforming each other
d. criticize privately, praise publicly
e. make every reasonable effort to protect the integrity and promote the positive
image of the district and one another
f. never embarrass each other or the district

2. The Board will hold itself accountable for governing with excellence This self- discipline will apply to attendance, preparation for meetings, adherence policymaking principles, respect of roles, and ensuring effective governance capability into the future To ensure that the board's business meetings are conducted with maximum effectiveness and efficiency, members will:

a. speak only when recognized duing meetings
b. not interrupt each other during meetings
c. not engage in side conversations during meetings
0. ask questions for clarification
e. listen for content and understanding
f. not repeat what has already been said during meetings
g. support the chair's efforts to facilitate an orderly meeting
h. communicate in a timely manner to avoid surprises
ensure that all members’ voices are heard
j. adhere to Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised 10th Edition.
k. refrain from introducing a motion as new business for matters not directly related to the current meeting's agenda items nor related to an issue currently tinder consideration. Instead, any unrelated motions should be accompanied with a request to place the motion on the next regular meeting's agenda for action. [emphasis in the original]

3. The Board will direct, control, and inspire the district through The careful establishment of written policies reflecting the Board's values and perspectives The Board's major policy focus will be on the intended long-term benefits for students, not on the administrate or programmatic means of attaining those benefits. Accordingly members will not:

a. assume responsibility for resolving operational problems or complaints
b. give personal direction to any part of the operational organization

4. Continuous Board development will include orientation of candidates for the Board and new members or the Board about The Board's governance process and periodic Board discussion and evaluation of its process to assure continued improvement

5 The Board will allow no officer, individual, or committee of the board to hinder or be an excuse for not fulfilling its commitments.

6. The Board will monitor its process and performance at each meeting through a debriefing process. Board members' attendance at all meetings and work sessions will be monitored regularly. Self-monitoring will include comparison of the Board’s performance with policies in the Governance Process and Board-Director Relationship categories.

7. The Board may, by majority vote of the members of Board, revise or amend it policies at any time. However, normally a proposed policy revision will b discussed at one session of the Board prior to being approved at a subsequent Board meeting.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Teachers on BOE

The Metropolitan Council passed a resolution encouraging the Nashville state legislative delegation to write and attempt to get passed a law authorizing the "legislative body of Davidson County to appoint a certified teacher as a non-voting member of the Davidson County school board" saying

"WHEREAS, due to their day-to-day interaction with students and the school administration, classroom teachers would provide much-needed insight to the Board of Education during deliberations on important matters that will impact the education of the children of this city; and..."
The resolution was approved:

"Ayes" Dozier, Tucker, Briley, Gilmore, Murray, Jameson, Cole, Hart, Forkum, Ryman, Brown, Gotto, Loring, McClendon, Wallace, Whitmore, Crafton, Summers, Shulman, Foster, Alexander, Wilhoite, Toler, Coleman, Tygard (25);

"Noes" Isabel, Walls, Williams (3);

"Abstaining" Craddock (1).

And so it passed and Mayor Purcell declined to sign it.

The update from the state legislature is that while such legislation was sponsored by Ben West in the House and Thelma Harper in the Senate but it was 'taken off notice' in the House on 4/3/07. Let's hope that's the end of this bad idea. The teacher point of view is well enough represented on the BOE with the current members Jo Ann Brannon and Gracie Porter and the ever watchful MNEA.

At least someone is LEADing

Of what benefit is it to MNPS to consistently hobble the charter schools in our district? They maintain control? They keep union membership up? They won't have to actually improve if they don't have any 'competition'? It's foolishness to continue to stand between these students and an education. MNPS isn't getting the job done for them. Let these children who didn't get lucky with the magnet lottery, whose parents aren't politically connected enough, who can't afford to live in better districts have at least this much of a choice and chance.

The City Paper is right: "Metro Schools have appeared culturally opposed to charter schools..."

Liz Garrigan is right: "We mean the kinds of cultural barriers that wind up screwing public school kids whose families have little money or clout. School administrators are not only loathe to embrace school choice in the form of charter schools, but they also regard them as the piranha of the school district, eating up per-pupil dollars that would otherwise be tossed right back into the same failing schools that made charters necessary in the first place."

And from Gail Kerr's column:

Students will wear uniforms, chosen by the principal. School hours will be longer. There will be field trips, physical education, responsible living classes, and homework. Teachers will be available via cell phone until 8 p.m. and will be trained to spot social problems.

"Our motto is, 'whatever it takes,' " Kane said after lunch. "It starts with 'prove it.' If this doesn't succeed, I will be the first one to shut this down."

I doubt he'll have to. The shame will belong to the MNPS School Board and it's Superintendent Dr. Pedro Garcia when LEAD Academy (and KIPP Academy) consistently produce excellent students despite their at risk population getting miserly crumbs of basic support from the very district that is/was charged with educating them originally.

You want another clue about why taxpayers won't provide more money for schools? It's because we read and hear about how the needs of the children come after protectionist policies. We consider it more important that a child IS educated than HOW.

More homeschooling school board members

And yet again citizens have decided that homeschooling parents can be the best school board representatives. Two homeschooling fathers in Illinois were recently elected to their respective boards.

Homeschool Dad and McHenry County Republican precinct committeeman John Ryan of Algonquin knocked off the Carpentersville District 300 School Board President Mary Fioretti. And up Route 31 in McHenry, Republican precinct committeeman John O’Neill, also from a homeschooling family, won enough votes to capture the third seat on that town’s grade school district. Both candidates were attacked for not having their children in the public school system in whispering campaigns. Illinois Review
I know about those whispering campaigns. I'm glad, this time, it failed.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Valuable education

The folks at the Education Consumers Clearinghouse have provided a valuable tool to Tennesseans. They've done yeoman's work at compiling and formatting information that will give us a much better idea of how our schools are faring by creating their own set of School Performance Charts.

The Education Consumers Foundation has converted Tennessee's TVAAS data into interactive School Performance charts - one for middle schools and one for elementary schools. Students attending the high performing schools are getting the most out of their educational opportunities. Students attending the low performing schools are not. For talented and advantaged students, attending a low performing school can lead to difficulties in entering and completing college. For disadvantaged students, it can lead to dropping out.
So you choose either middle or elementary schools, pick the schools you want to compare (from anywhere in the state or just the neighborhood) and their place on the scale appears.

Dr. John Stone and his associates have been empowering parents of public schools students for as long as I've known of them--12 years or so. If you're not familiar with them you really should visit their site and avail yourself of the abundance that is there.
Education Consumers Associations (ECAs) are local or state level citizen groups that are dedicated to empowering parents, school board members, employers, and others who have a consumer's stake in public schooling. Just as teacher organizations and other educator groups represent their unique perspectives, ECAs represent the consumer's perspective. They are grassroot consumer unions for public school customers. (From their About page.)

Go check out this tool and you're likely to be surprised at some point. Perception is not always reality.

In the chart here you'll find from left to right in the

Yellow a "C" (meets standards) Dalewood & Bailey Middle Schools
Lime Green a "B" (exceeds standards) East Literature Magnet Middle
Green "A" (exceptional) Litton & Jere Baxter Middle

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A person's a person no matter how small

I'm tremendously thankful today that the US Supreme Court has ruled that a nationwide ban on partial-birth abortions is constitutional.

Adults make mistakes. Adults commit horrible crimes. Children, no matter how small, shouldn't have to suffer the ultimate price for those mistakes and crimes.

I could send you to dozens of sites telling you what the opinion means...perhaps we should all start with the 73 page opinion itself.

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." Deut 30:19 & 20

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

SSA passes

I was watching the proceedings via the Internet and so couldn't tell exactly who but there were two no votes (most likely Mark North and David Fox). If I heard correctly the motion for SSA offered by District 5 Board Member Gracie Porter was that they were authorizing SSA for 3 years (07-08, 08-09 and 09-10). After two years an individual or a school could opt out after providing written documentation on why they wanted to opt out. Said document would have input from the parent(s), teachers and principal. It would be presented to the Superintendent of Schools (Dr. Garcia currently) for their decision with the option of an appeal before the entire BOE. After 3 years the BOE would consider reauthorization of SSA.

Quotes from the more than 2 hours of public comment and nearly 2 hours of board comments:

One mother expressed her disappointment in parents that would be willing to sue the district in order to get their way pointing out the money spent in those suits could be put to better use.

Another stated that SSA had been a 'gift from God' in that life in their home was a great deal easier with SSA. She further expressed that SSA would bring unity to the system and told anti-SSA parents that it wasn't just about you and your children.

A woman professing to be a doctor, single and with children in both a magnet and zoned schools lamented the cost she would incur because her washer/dryer is broke and she's discovered that the laundromat is a more efficient way to do family wash. She'd have to buy 18 sets of clothing to 'tide' them over from wash day to wash day.

Anti-SSA proponent and student Charles Badger felt the need to go "Matlock" on the BOE and while dressed in a suit and tie pulled out toy numchucks from his coat to demonstrate that even compliance with SSA didn't ensure that weapons couldn't be concealed.

One parent said there should be no religious exemptions from SSA if it passes.

Julie Lamb, PAC president said that she had joined the SSA Study Committee when she realized that the two parents already on the committee were against the suggestion. She further stated that this was a parental issue for the adults to handle.

A woman who had attended Hume-Fogg provided her own testimony of her treatment at Hume-Fogg as a student that couldn't afford the clothing many of her fellow students were wearing and welcomes SSA. Further she expressed hope that SSA means when her young child is ready for school MNPS will then be a place she feels more comfortable about having them attend.

Stratford Principal Brenda Elliot-Johnson reminded us in her comments in support of SSA that it's the job of the community to support the schools and not the other way around.

Nashville School of the Arts students presented petitions against the SSA signed by their students and then serenaded the board with a 'what does it mean' lyric.

A girl who is a student representative on the BOE spoke correctly when she said the students had brought this on themselves.

I'm convinced that if students had not insisted on their freedom to exceed societal conventions by such a great degree this effort wouldn't have been attempted. Mark North was right in saying that every older generation hasn't understood the fashions of the younger generations. But it's not bobbed hair or exposed ankles that brought us to SSA. It's cleavage, exposed midriffs and underwear. We're tired of clearly seeing whether it's boxers or briefs.

It had been alleged that the line up of speakers was stacked with the anti's at the beginning and the pro's at the end. Such wasn't really the case. The points of view moved back and forth regularly. It was true that the final speakers, being principals and central office personnel, to include Superintendent Dr. Garcia, were the final speakers. Dr. Garcia reminded us that principals had come to him and asked for SSA. That's probably what finally brought about this yes vote. When the people you hire to run the system tell you they want this tool and there is no compelling reason to say no you need to accommodate them.

After 2 hours of testimony groans were easily heard from the audience when District 5 Board Representative Gracie Porter immediately moved that the vote on SSA be deferred until a written legal opinion of the proposal as written could be provided to the BOE. No one wanted that sort of delay.

Thankfully, Chair Marsha Warden asked John Michael of Metro Legal to take the podium and answer BOE member questions.

Mr. Michael answered the hypothetical question about whether the policy is on its face illegal. His answer was no. Could the policy be subject to legal challenge? Certainly, he responded, "as could any action or non-action of the board."

There was some discussion about those who would assert a conscientious objection to the policy. Dr. Garcia asked if a CO would have to walk that on their own time in order for it to be valid at school. The meaning apparently that if they object to khaki's and polos at school and they wear them on their own time to, for example at the movies, would that invalidate their CO assertion. The legal opinion was probably not.

Dr. Garcia related that he was kind of caught in the middle regarding presenting any sort of policy to the BOE for them to vote on. He mostly wanted an up or down yes or no vote. But he expected that the BOE would want more specifics. He also suspected that the specifics wouldn't be the final version of the policy. He was adamant that he intended that the policy encompass K-12 and every Metro school.

BOE Member Steve Glover made the comment that according to the policy governance form of running MNPS it was Dr. Garcia's call to implement this and not really the Board's responsibility.

New board member Mark North had a long statement regarding the concerns he had about the process, not having a formal, written legal opinion, the use of the term SSA v. uniforms, the marketing of SSA, and the potential skewing of the dress code violations numbers as a result of the recent crackdown that might provide bad data when we look back at the success or failure of SSA.

BOE member Ed Kindall brought some common sense to the discussion when he said SSA wasn't going to kill or hurt anybody. As a criminal attorney he believes this will impact gang activity in the schools.

BOE member Karen Johnson got quite emotional. For her it came down to a matter of respect for the leadership of the schools. She sees a separateness in the system between the magnet and zoned students which has created a privileged group of people and then those who can't get into the magnet system. She sees this as a way to meet the need to level the playing field and respect the principals at the same time.

BOE member David Fox had a long statement which he appeared to be reading. He started by saying it seemed the effort was more of a no confidence vote toward principals than anything else. I had to step away but I wouldn't be surprised if he was a no vote.

And despite Ed Kindall's joking attempt to keep Chair Marsha Warden from getting her two cents in (and everyone needed a bit of levity after all this time) she did manage to state clearly that the principals have asked for SSA and we should give them what they ask for. She also spoke directly to some parents in the audience saying that the magnet parents are the most vocal and involved parents with the most assets and asked for their help in this effort.

Hopefully, they'll rethink the threats of lawsuits and work toward unifying the system as several speakers mentioned needed to be done. Though no doubt, several will 'get religion' and once again demonstrate a separateness from the rest of the public school population.

And so here we are. It's coming. I fully expect that in the morning retail clothing buyers across the city will be calling Metro for specifics about the policy, such as it is, and then calling their corporate headquarters saying"Send us khaki and polos". By summer the shelves should be fully stocked and by fall families and the community should be quite used to the new routine and look of MNPS students.

UPDATE: The two no votes were David Fox (new to the BOE as of August) and Mark North, brand spanking new that night replacing Pam Garrett.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Mayor or BOE?

And the confusion between mayor and BOE member continues. Mayoral candidate David Briley sent out an e-mail blast for his campaign titled: "It's time to focus on education".

In part he writes:

My experience working with neighborhood leaders in Lockeland Springs taught me the power of involving parents, educators, and other stakeholders early in the process of policy design because together we are far greater than the sum of our parts.
Included at the end of the e-mail is a link to his own Buck-Dozier-wanna-be video hosted at You Tube. It's upbeat and seems sincere...but it speaks more as to why neighborhood schools are better than why David Briley is the better mayoral candidate. He gets credit for stepping in and facilitating and putting his shoulder to the grindstone. It counts for a lot more than hosting a spaghetti or chili supper which seemed to be THE qualifier for school board candidates last summer. But again, he's not running for school board member.

I'd love to see this 'Lockeland' effort replicated across the city and extended to middle and high schools. I'd love to see these Lockeland parents mentor parents in other areas and help them succeed in strengthening and improving their own neighborhood school. Maybe they could start with a neighborhood school on the other side of Gallatin Road. What I'd really love to see is school board members leading these efforts instead of mayoral candidates.

I thought he was running for mayor

Some months back the Tennessean had a full page spread with all the mayoral candidate photos and under each was a quote about public education. It seemed, at the time, these guys were running for school superintendent--not mayor.

That focus on education continues in the Tennessean's fuller interviews with the candidates. Today's edition highlights Bob Clement. It's headlined "Fight Crime with Education". In addition to increasing vocational training in the schools:

Clement's education plan also would make in-school suspension programs stronger, make truancy a priority and expand pre-kindergarten programs, among other goals.

His public safety plan addresses truancy in more detail. It would set up "attendance review boards" in every elementary and middle school to try to correct chronic absenteeism. Police would conduct more truancy sweeps.

I'm all for him offering to partner with the BOE and Dr. Garcia as they carry out their plan for MNPS. But I'm not voting for mayor based on what he thinks he can do for education--frankly, that's not his job. We have a school board. It's their job to oversee MNPS and be accountable to the voters, taxpayers and parents.

These are the sorts of things a mayor ought to be running on:

Clement said he also wants to fill at least 70 funded but vacant positions in the Metro Police Department and fix what he sees as morale problems, possibly by giving police officers and firefighters incentives to live in Davidson County. He said he would set up a "rapid response program" to deal with abandoned cars and other "public nuisances."

Those 'public nuisance' issues are huge. I'd like to see one of these candidates advocate for codes and health inspectors to 'own' a section of town and be able to work flexible hours so that they get to know the area, the troublemakers, the neighbors themselves and can respond when the situation occurs. Too often the situation only occurs on the weekends, or only in the evening, when inspectors aren't on the clock. It might not be a bad idea for an inspector to ride with a patrolman on occasion.

So, let's hear more about what these candidates are going to do about the city's condition and future and leave the education plans to the BOE.

At what price?

I guess we're supposed to be indignant that a boss would require an employee to follow directions. This morning's Rex in the City column reveals this shocking bit of news:

Two sources confirm that the principal at Nashville School of the Arts was threatened with his job if he did not enforce the current and newly tweaked dress code policy requiring students to tuck in their shirts.
Yes, Pedro Garcia, Superintendent of MNPS, has admitted that he uses fear in administering his employees. No one thinks that's the best tactic to use all the time. However, adults should understand that anytime we refuse a direct order from the boss we put our jobs at stake. Garcia isn't asking anyone to break a law (moral or otherwise). You can disagree on whether the policy is sound or worth losing your job over, but you cannot say the man has no right to demand that his vision for the system be carried out by employees under his authority.

As with much of life, you've got to pick your battles. I suggest all those NSA students and parents that 'love' their principal seriously consider whether they love him enough to help him keep his job so he'll be around for the really important battles.

Friday, April 06, 2007

BOE Agenda 2007-04-10

Tuesday's BOE Agenda is online here (75 page .pdf). The public comment period lists 41 names. At 3 minutes a piece that 2 hours of comment before they even get around to the business at hand. Page 1 lists them all to include many we and the BOE have heard from before, MNPS staff and Dr. Garcia himself. The agenda also includes copies of their requests to speak which may be a bit of a surprise to many of them. Let's make sure they don't get 'gored' for their willingness to participate in the process.

Page 52 is where the formal report from the SSA study committee begins.

The meeting starts at 5:00 p.m. but you'll likely want to get there early if you want to attend as they'll be a huge crowd, protesters, media and, I suppose, the usual popcorn and balloon vendors you can always find at the circus. ;-)

Oh, and new BOE member Mark North will be sworn in. He's Pam Garrett's Metro Council appointed replacement after she moved on to the NAPE. Welcome to the party, Mark.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

What would Miss Pauline say?

All too often when folks have run out of facts, reason or a willingness to compromise they get frustrated and then it gets personal and ugly. Such was certainly the case last month when the Al Gore followers came face to face with the facts of their leader's own personal carbon footprint.

You'll remember that the Tennessee Center for Policy Research dared to make a few simple phone calls (the kind many of us have made before purchasing a home) asking about the energy use at the Gore home in Nashville's Belle Meade community. Yes, we knew he was living well--but we didn't know how well. Turns out while scaring us with his own version of the health of the planet and how we could reduce our impact on it he was using twice the electricity in a month than the average American uses in an entire year. Even comparing his use to his near neighbor's revealed an astonishingly high energy use. THAT was certainly an inconvenient truth.

Angry and apparently unhinged followers immediately rallied the troops and phones lines lit up and e-mail in boxes at TCPR filled immediately with vitriolic and hateful messages. Much of it almost too much to read even when it's edited as it is in this Deroy Murdock piece (consider yourself warned.) Deroy writes:

Such anti-intellectual intimidation reflects the high-octane hate that fuels so much Leftist discourse. Rather than simply argue that Johnson, Williams, and their colleagues are ecologically misguided or misinformed, these bullies call them barefoot, same-sex-loving, Winchester-wielding whores and evangel-yokels. Remember this whenever liberals crow about diversity, tolerance, and open-mindedness.
Deroy names names too. I hope those names come up the next time someone googles them. Folks need a heads up about the sort of people they are. It's one thing to disagree--it is entirely out of line to make death threats and say the things that these people said. None of us in the public square should have to fear for our lives because we disagree about policy or the message.

From what I've read about her, I believe Al Gore's mom would have expected certain gentlemanly behavior from her southern son. One of the more charming things about moving to Nashville was meeting southern gentlemen. They treated women well and appreciated and relied on our strengths. It may be a good idea for Al Gore to walk in that old fashioned grace and make a public apology for the abuse given and direct followers to never repeat the behavior on his behalf. It wouldn't hurt to send over a big bouquet of spring flowers to the TCPR staff. After this abuse their spirits look a bit like their under renovation office. Both could use the pick me up.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Who's in charge?

So the SSA saga continues. This morning's City Paper contains only two items of note.

One of them regards the use of a tactic that is routinely used when the standard representative option is perceived to have failed one side and they are not satisfied with losing. That tactic being to take their case to the courts. Inconviently:

Rich Haglund, general counsel for the state Board of Education, said it is unlikely that MPASS could pursue legal action based on the state Board of Education’s guidelines [to include parental input] because it is not considered a mandate.
I'd be surprised if that actually stops them though (see update below). I am concerned about the extortion factor and how sturdy the BOE backbone is. We shall see Tuesday who is actually running this school system.

The other item is this quote from PAC President Julie Lamb:
“... I felt like the committee is definitely for standard school attire,” Lamb said, “They’re principals and they know what they want in their buildings.
Let's go over that line again with the assumption that Ms. Lamb's assessment is true. These are principals charged with the safety and education of MNPS children. If they want SSA because in their best judgment after a year of study and discussion it will enhance their mission of keeping children safe and educating them well--what are the compelling reasons for vetoing their best judgment? There are none.

It has become clear though that some parents and their children value self-expression more than the experienced judgment of the principals on this committee. They would, essentially, demand that their child's school secede from the public school system and be autonomous entities. Of course, many of them have already seceded from the public system via the magnet schools. I'm glad their children have been afforded this option. But here's another example of how our educational castes are splintering the system.

These few parents seem to think that the lack of the right kind of evidence for something equals its inability to be part of the solution.

And what gets completely lost in this push to meet the demands of a few vocal parents and their children is that these schools are owned by the public not them. This system is paid for by the public. It is accountable to the public. The school board members voting on this are accountable to the public, paid by the public and need to keep in mind that making a few parents happy may very well result in making a lot of already frustrated voters and taxpayers even more resolute in their belief that what they want is of no matter. And when that MNPS budget hits the Metro Council and those councilmen must vote on the appropriation--who do you think they're going to listen to? Will it be a few parents who are unwilling to cooperate with the system in its effort to make improvements or voters and taxpayers who are weary of demands on their wallet without any say in the process?

From my point of view SSA is a small price to pay for the goodwill of the community that could pay off at budget time and even bigger dividends if these experienced principals are right and SSA does enhance safety and education.

UPDATE: Ashley Crownover posted a correction to the tone of the City Paper article on the MPASS e-list saying it wasn't the intention of the organizers of MPASS to pursue legal action but that if the vote was for SSA it would be reasonable examine whether the rules had been followed.

Monday, April 02, 2007

S. Briley, Stratford Class of 2021?

Councilman-at-Large David Briley is the first mayoral candidate to have a full page profile printed in the Tennessean series leading up to the August election.

Pulled from the "Opponents criticize Briley's missed votes" article is this:

Briley also said the idea that his union ties mean he's anti-business is being "ginned up by my opponents."

"On the other hand, I feel that organized labor here has been one of the strongest proponents for improving our education system. So to the extent I've worked hard with labor leaders in this community to improve the quality of education and the quality of life here, I'm not in any way embarrassed or reluctant to say I did so."

I'll have to be reminded of how the local unions involved in education have been leading the effort for improving the education of the children enrolled in MNPS. Individual teachers and staff making yeoman efforts? Certainly. Their unions?

And from the Q & A titled "Briley says experience and vision give edge":
You’re the youngest of the major candidates. Is that a drawback?
I think actually my youth is a strength. If Nashville wants somebody who is committed to transforming the education system, pick the person who has a 4-year-old, who’s got the most to gain from improving the education system. My son has got 13 years of education ahead of him in Metro schools, and I’m totally committed to making sure he has every opportunity he deserves.
I'm very curious to know how this plays out for the Briley's. I'm betting that like any good parent, and several former mayors, the Briley's will put their son's 'every opportunity' before their commitment to public education. And I'm going to be specific here--zoned public education. It's amazing how many of Nashville's mover and shakers manage to get their children into magnet, enhanced option and design schools--if their children are in public school at all (while denying others choices like charter schools). Someone should survey those Chamber of Commerce members who fought so hard for the current BOE and see where their children attend school.

Last year the Brileys moved from their urban East Nashville home on Boscobel to more suburban Brush Hill Road on the river in Inglewood. The zoned schools for the old address were Warner Elementary, Bailey Middle and then Stratford. Now the zoned path is Dan Mills, Litton Middle and then, again, Stratford. We'll see if the Montgomery Bell and Georgetown graduate manages to get lucky and get his son in the magnet system or if Master Briley ends up graduating from Stratford. It would be a huge benefit to many MNPS students (and Nashville itself) if during Briley's tenure as mayor he actually lit a fire under those unions, the BOE and the central office and Stratford Principal Brenda Elliot and her staff kept the upward trend of improvement at that school and the result was that 95% of Master Briley's peers graduated with him and it was not unusual for those graduates to get a full ride scholarship to Vandy.