Thursday, May 31, 2007

No step back

Despite the sudden and last minute appearance of Gov. Bredesen's $500 million pork package (over and above the legislature's own pork) the Tennessee Center for Policy Research managed to do some investigating and discovered that "nearly every recipient has ties to Bredesen's administration.

“This rash of proposed handouts to campaign contributors and political allies raises the specter of political kickbacks,” said Tennessee Center for Policy Research President Drew Johnson. “This is a step back for Bredesen, who pledged to take steps to reduce patronage and cronyism in his scandal-ridden administration."
It's not a step's exactly the path intended all along. This governor never intended to actually provide tax relief to citizens and families. I'll never forget when he was mayor of Nashville and he told our young family that we could afford a property tax increase. Now he's telling this family (whose grocery budget, car insurance bill and college expenses have increased substantially since then) that we can afford to support the pet projects of his cronies. If these are such worthwhile projects, Governor, fund them yourself. We've had both cars in the shop in the last week--and couldn't afford to get everything done. Why should our money go toward your pet projects instead of ensuring my husband and family are in safe vehicles?

And Lt. Governor Ramsey, I'm counting on you to go to battle for our family and families all across Tennessee and tell the Governor no. Cut out the non-essentials. No more money. We've collected too much as it is and it's time to give it back--or set it aside for real needs during an economic downturn. If you intend to keep that Republican majority in the Senate you're going to need to demonstrate (that's walk not talk) how Republicans are different from Democrats and hold the line on nonsense such as this. He may be governor--but he's not king. Are you his pawn?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"Nobody had any supervisor"

Amazing quote from MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia this morning that brings into question just who is running the shop and what is Garcia getting paid to do.

The City Paper reviews the fact that Chief Instructional Officer Dr. Sandra Johnson took a job in Glendale, AZ several months back and that Garcia is in no hurry to replace her. And then there is this confession:

“Garcia decided to looking into rearranging the central office after realizing Johnson had been controlling almost all activity under the department of Learning Support Services (LSS). The department controls all subject areas, district assessment and evaluations, special education, magnet schools and most all other aspects of the school district.

The organization that Sandy Johnson had was that all the administrators answered to her,” Garcia said. “And I didn’t realize that. Consequentially when she left, nobody answered to anybody. So nobody had any supervisor.”
Did you catch that? Garcia said: "I didn't realize that." It was his job to realize that. THAT situation was well known to parents, teachers and staff members and was the reason for so much frustration and anger. She was running everything and nothing could get done, changed or even improved without her blessing. And unless it was initiated by her not much got blessed. Conversation after conversation when her name came up the atmosphere would change, voices would lower a bit in preparation for honesty that they didn't want to be overheard, and out would tumble the latest story of how Johnson was impeding learning and that there was no workaround, no appeal process, no way but through her.

How is it that Garcia was so unaware of her control of the system? Will the BOE even blink let alone question or hold him accountable for his hands off attitude? Not likely. He's got his three year contract.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Thank you. Thank you all.

Spc. Benjamin A. Smith

July 5, 1984 - November 2, 2005


Previous posts:
John 15:13
Brave & Free

This shouldn't go unnoticed

This exchange is between Tennessee's US Representative Steve Cohen D-Memphis (formerly of the Tn Senate and he who carried and birthed our lottery) and a DOJ employee. The scene is a Senate Judiciary hearing last week regarding the firing of attorney generals. This from the Washington DC Examiner:

Cohen: The mission of the law school you attended, Regent, is to bring to bear upon legal education and the legal profession the will of almighty God, our creator. What is the will of almighty God, our creator, on the legal profession?

[Monica] Goodling: I’m not sure that I could define that question for you.

Cohen: Did you ask people who applied for jobs anything about their religion?

Goodling: No, I certainly did not.

Cohen: Ever had religion discussions come up?

Goodling: Not to the best of my recollection. …

Cohen: Are there a lot of — an inordinate number of people from Regent University Law School that were hired by the Department of Justice while you were there?

Goodling: I think we have a lot more people from Harvard and Yale.

And your point is what, Rep. Cohen? That the DOJ is hiring incompetents or that the DOJ is hiring the wrong kind of people?

Back at it

Life was pretty busy last week and so blogging was nearly non-existent. I finished a formal dress for my daughter---stunning red number with a lace overlay. There was a dustup about a business in the neighborhood that needed tending. Some candidate stuff I was glad to help with. A stint at a booth at the Luis Palau festival that I was happy to man. Attended the Litton Middle School 8th grade graduation (GO LIONS!!). Took the car to the shop. Met with the ladies Bible study team to prepare for the summer session. We celebrated G'ma's birthday. I gave blood for a Mayo Clinic study on Parkinsons (my brother was recently diagnosed). And I re-discovered my desk top. I was shocked a while back to see a picture of my desk in the newspaper and immediately decluttered. Of course, maintenance is always the hard part and I was back to piles again. After seeing Al Gore's desk from a Time Magazine piece, I redoubled my effort and found it again (your turn, Tony). (Apparently, I need to raise the rate I'm willing to pay my 'staff' for filing.)

It was wonderful to step away from blogs for a while, breath different air, wrap my brain around different issues, spend time with IRL people and clear my head of the tyranny of keeping up with current events.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Karl Dean robo call

Following on the heels of David Briley in the mayoral robo calls race is Karl Dean. Don't have audio since I was in the basement sorting laundry and didn't let the answering machine catch it. I was encouraged to check his website for information about his plan for education in Metro Nashville.

Call came from 353-1810 "Tennessee Basic"

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What does MNEA know that we don't?

Despite the fact that Councilmen at large David Briley hasn't released the education plank of his mayoral campaign platform the Metro Nashville Education Association has endorsed him for mayor.

“David Briley was the candidate who by far had a better plan for education,” Erick Huth, MNEA President, said. “He was much more forward looking both in terms of education and the future of Nashville. And his record in the council has been very good in supporting teachers, public schools and students.”
I consider it forward looking to create a $1 Billion endowment for the system that would assure money for teachers, facilities and resources and end the yearly begging and battle for bucks between the council and the school board. Forward thinking is recognizing that there is an education renaissance going on in our nation, that the biggest impediment to improving our public schools system has been the MNEA and placating them is like picking up an anchor--not a sail.

CM Briley's comments about public education have been covered here previously.

[Usual disclaimer: MNEA leadership does not equal classroom teachers in my mind.]

They did it to themselves

It seems every day we lose more and more of our freedom because some folks lack self-control and the understanding of what it means to be a considerate sharer of our public facilities and spaces. The next loss comes because the Nashville Public Library is having to crack down on youth loitering as the result of the inconsiderate behavior of some students, many of whom ought to be well able to understand the concept of good manners.

Library administrators told The City Paper this week the new policy was prompted primarily by the frequent, and sometimes rowdy, gathering of teenagers and young adults outside the East Branch Library after the East Literature Magnet School across the street lets out in the afternoons and also by groups of high school students who have been gathering, sometimes rowdily, during after-school hours in the youth section of the downtown library. The situation is starting to appear at other libraries as well. City Paper
To be fair, Hume Fogg Academic Magnet School is closest to the downtown library, but many other students traveling across town to attend their magnet schools do bus transfers not far away.

At some point students will realize that they're shooting themselves in the foot. They insisted on pushing the clothing envelope and they got Standard School Attire. They're now in danger of losing their usage of the library because they forgot to be good guests. Likely, though, many will demand their right to do what they want and we'll hear parents providing excuses for why Susie and Tommy aren't the problem. It's those wound-too-tightly old fogeys that don't understand the needs of the children that are the real problem they'll say. I disagree. The real problem is that these children haven't been taught or don't understand that they are not the center of the universe. Their rights end when it meets my rights. That involves complying with some societal norms like pants at the waist and quiet, polite behavior at the library. In the meantime, instead of the library staff helping actual patrons utilize the facilities their time is wasted by playing hall monitor and truancy officer. This is an abuse of our tax money and facilities and needs to stop. Libraries are not designed to be, and should not become, free aftercare facilities.

One word of caution to the Library Board. Some of those students in the library during school hours may be homeschoolers and private schoolers who are legally allowed to be out and about during 'school hours'. I would suggest remembering that before calling truant officers just because those students are there. They don't get a pass for bad behavior though.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Proper use of a cigar

I love this clip.

Background: Michael Moore's reputation as an honest filmmaker has been in debate for some time. His latest project is examining health care in Cuba. Potential presidential candidate Fred Thompson (former US Senator, practicing lawyer, member of the team that investigated Watergate, helped bring down former Tennessee Governor Ray Blanton and, currently, actor) took exception to Mr. Moore's glowing reports of the Castro's health care system. Michael Moore challenged him to a debate

I feel obligated to forewarn you that I was the winner of the 1971-72 Detroit Free Press Debate Award for the state of Michigan. Drudge Report
Thompson answers with this stinging 40 second piece courtesy Breibart TV.

America is looking for leadership. We're tired of wimpy, go-along-to-get-along, spaghetti spined, policy wonks who are unable to say yes or no and mean it as 'serious' presidential candidates. Fred seems to be using his acting skills every bit as well as Ronald Reagan did with the Iranian's during his 1980 campaign. He knows how to hit back quickly and use Moore's own medium (video) in order to make the point very clear. Additionally, unlike Bill Clinton, Fred knows the proper use of a cigar.

$956.30 a year

Yes, that was me at the Legislative Plaza reminding legislators as they drove into work this morning that the surplus tax receipts wasn't their money and they should give it back.

NewsChannel 5 posts a brief note about the Tennessee Tax Revolt protest this morning. However, they say the surplus is "$1.3 million".

The group is asking elected officials to return part of the state's one $1.3 million surplus, in the form of tax breaks.
That should be BILLION, with a "B". And I'm not surprised at the error. It's nearly impossible to believe that they collected $1.3 Billion in extra cash.

In preparing for the protest I wondered if putting a dollar amount on the sign would be impactful. Since I save my receipts it was possible for me to figure out what this family of six paid in tax for groceries. That amount came to $956.30. It was impactful. I was surprised and so was everyone else I talked with.

We stayed through the pouring rain, hid during the lightening, and were glad to see a number of thumbs up from legislators and waves (and horn honks) from passing cars and pedestrians.

Poor families had the progressive liberals demanding an income tax to replace the food tax since the later was so harmful to them. (Where are those people during this debate, btw?) And they were right in that respect. One of the quickest ways to bring relief to families is by eliminating the tax on groceries. I'm hoping this will be a solution even Democrat lawmakers can swallow.

Monday, May 14, 2007

What needs to be gone...

is House Speaker James O. "Jimmy" Naifeh (D-Covington). Twice in a week video of the people's business in the chamber he is responsible for running has disappeared. Missing is evidence of his conduct as leader of the house that is outrageous, unfair to the people and would be roundly condemned if it happened in a Soviet satellite country.

Naifeh has a habit of wielding his speaker's gavel at a speed that would impress even the fastest hired gun in the old west. However, I shall never forget his conduct during the income tax debate where he kept the vote open for HOURS while he arm twisted and who knows what else in order to get the vote total he wanted in order to enact a state income tax. So he has the ability to slow that gavel down--when it suits his purposes.

His latest action to muzzle the voices of our representative democracy mysteriously disappeared from the online video archive. Thankfully Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) and others have started tracking these dictatorial behaviors and uploading the evidence to the Internet here, here, here, and here for starters. Apparently, legislators and citizens will have to start carrying their own video cameras and tape recorders in order to ensure that we get an accurate archive of what's going on.

Naifeh doesn't have a nano-second nor a lick of statesmanship on behalf of the people of Tennessee he is supposed to serve in this audio that has surfaced that fills in the missing record. Rep. David Overby (R-Maryville) at :11 minutes is recognized and moves to re-refer the bill to the judiciary committee. The immediate response from Naifeh, not a full second later, is "Without objection" and right after that you hear voices raised in objection in the background as the gavel falls. There is no pause on Naifeh's part that would indicate that he took a moment to scan the room and fairly see if there was going to be an objection by voice or raised hand. They, politely, rightly, fairly, give Naifeh a moment to respond to the motion and that's all the time that Naifeh needed in order to censor the voices of the people. The last words on this audio clip are "It's gone boys. Next bill."

Why is he given a free pass here by the House leadership, his party and the Governor? Why are they not insisting that this disappearance of information be investigated and making sure that it doesn't happen again? Because they're trying to maintain control and they'll do it by hook or by crook if they have to. They're desperate and they've resorted to desperate means.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

It's my money

I’ve been wrestling with finding a way to communicate to Democratic lawmakers (for the most part) who seem unable to understand how many Tennesseans feel about this $1 Billion in taxes that they have over collected from Tennesseans and why it’s important to return it. I’ve been searching for a way to help both Democrats and Republicans understand how important it is that someone take the lead and actually go to bat for families over this issue and return to Tennesseans the money that’s been over payed. Frankly, I’ve been stuck. But Wednesday provided a story that may help.

It was our weekly run to Sam’s Wholesale Club. I had 3 of my children with me and things were uneventful until we got to actually paying for the $200 worth of goods.

I’ve been shopping at Sam’s since their days on Dickerson Pike back in 1991. It’s not unusual for me to write a check for $20-$40 over in order to pay for other smaller purchases along Gallatin Road on my way home from this Rivergate store. So, not unlike perhaps hundreds of times before I added $20 to the amount, handed the check to the cashier who keyed in a payment, placed the check in the register drawer and closed the drawer. He handed me back my receipt. I had to ask for my card back. And then I had to ask for my $20.

It was a complete surprise to him that he owed me money. He just assumed that I had written it for the exact amount. He blamed me for the error because I hadn’t told him that I had written it for more than the purchase and told me ‘there is nothing I can do” as if I just needed to go on now sans my $20. And so it began in front of God, my children and a line of customers behind and near me. I pointed out that there WAS something he could do—open that drawer, look at the check to see that I was telling the truth and give me my $20. He wouldn’t do it.

I should have told him I had written it for $20 more he insisted. You should have looked at the check amount I insisted right back. If I had written it for $100 less would it be his fault and OK for me to walk out of the store? No, he responded. He’d already keyed in the wrong amount and I’d have to go to customer service to clear this up, he told me. I was not leaving my money behind and waiting for who knows how long in a different line to clear up a mistake he’d made and could clear up in less than a minute. If there was nothing he could do there was something I could do and I immediately raised my voice and caught the attention of a woman I recognized as a long time employee. She promptly came over and realized that this was a situation that could get embarrassing quickly and should be cleared up. She told the young man, who I realized by then wasn’t wearing a vest nor a name tag, to give me my $20 which he did—but not without muttering.

So now I’m raising my voice and asking employees (legislators) of Tennessee citizens to come to our aid and do the right thing. My family needs legislators to open the drawer and give us our money back. Just cause my money is in your cash drawer doesn’t mean it’s really yours. If my family is ever going to get any of this obscene $1 Billion over taxation back Lt. Gov. Ramsey is (and legislators generally are) going to have to be as firm and demanding as I was when the Sam's cashier told me Wednesday that there was nothing he could do to return my $20. There is something you can do and I’m not taking no for an answer. I want my money back. $20 is nothing to a millionaire governor and his well heeled accomplices on the hill,but it’s a week’s worth of milk for us. $20 is 200 miles of driving to work gas. $20 is enough 90% lean hamburger from Sam’s to grill for the family Mother’s Day party. Give it back.

Dem's go to school

Brian Hornbeck in Knoxville provides us a link to a YouTube video with my State Senator Joe Haynes (D-Nashville) at a Democrat Caucus breakfast which took place a bit back. Brian calls Haynes comments "whining". It came across to me as Sen. Haynes providing a primer to these Democrats on how the legislature works. Apparently, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey's (R-Blountville) election to the Lt. Governor position created another world for these folks as they require a primer on who is in charge of the house and senate and how it works now. It comes off as if, heretofore, these Democrats just got their orders and followed them without any real understanding of the process.

At about 8:43 Sen. Haynes says it didn't matter to him who was Speaker of the Senate as long as it was a Democrat. Apparently, party affiliation ranks higher than such abilities as knowing how the system works, familiarity with the issues, ability to create coalitions to get legislation passed or stopped.

Amusingly, he repeatedly refers to someone who can only be Senator Rosalind Kurita (D-Clarksville) only by the pronoun "she". Never by name.

At 4:52 he points out that 'they' picked Senator Tommy Kilby (D-Wartburg) to head a committee [Environment, Conservation and Tourism] because he's leaving and 'can't hurt them'--as if that tactic has never been done before and is unfair in some way.

At 4:36 comes the quote 'couldn't pass gas' that Brian highlights. Haynes says:

"...we couldn't pass gas in the Senate right now with the Democrats if the Republicans make up their minds to sit [out or down] on us".
And that's so key-- the Republicans must make up their minds, remain solid and not wobble if they're serious about making long lasting changes in how this state is run.

At 3:23 Sen. Haynes shares the shocking news that a minimum wage bill will be killed in committee saying "it won't come to the floor". If giving things a fair chance at an up or down vote on the floor is so important to Sen. Haynes perhaps he could go to bat for Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) who's bills aren't just killed in committee they're mocked and toyed with before hand.

2:33 Haynes reminds everyone that
"...the Republican Speaker (any speaker) has the ability to appoint whoever they want to, to whatever committee and appoint the chairs to those committees. It's completely within the power of one person and that's the way the system is in the House and in the Senate. It's an extremely powerful position."
How is it that these legislators don't know this already? And what is Sen. Haynes suggesting he'll do to rein in the power of Lt. Gov. Ramsey's counterpoint, Speaker Naifeh? If Haynes doesn't speak up against Speaker Naifeh's tactics he's got no credibility with me in complaining about Lt. Gov. Ramsey's tactics.

At 2:03 he opines that a medical malpractice reform bill will come out of the Senate, barely. And then goes on to say it's doctors that are the problem--this lawyer married to a judge guarantees "it's not bad lawyers, bad courts and bad judges".

And finally at :45 he reminds them that the House job just got harder saying that "always in the past" the House and the Senate shared the task of stopping bad bills.
"This time the House of Representatives will have to be the goalkeeper, so to speak."
Well since House Speaker James O. "Jimmy" Naifeh (D-Covington) , has never been one to be shy about utilizing all that power and has had plenty of experience utilizing that 'extremely powerful position" he'll continue to be a goalie that Haynes can, and the Predators could be, proud of.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A war against hope

As he begins his tenure at the helm of the Metro Nashville Education Association, Eric Huth may want to seriously consider a more cooperative tack.

[Former Education Secretary Rod Paig's] new book is titled "The War Against Hope: How Teachers' Unions Hurt Children, Hinder Teachers, and Endanger Public Education." The unions, he writes, are "arrogant" and "destructive." They defend incompetent teachers and oppose merit pay for teachers who excel. "No special interest is more destructive than the teachers' unions, as they oppose nearly every meaningful reform," he writes. (NY Sun)
That stings I'm sure, but too often it's true and it is the perception of financially exhausted taxpayers and dissatisfied parents whose children have been impacted by these poorly performing teachers and would much rather pay great teachers great wages to get the job done.

While the MNEA is offended at being called a union and demands that we view them as a professional organization their everyday business follows the union model of protecting their members and not enhancing and policing the profession. A professional organization ought to be on the front lines of weeding out the incompetent and the dangerous and leading the charge for legitimate innovations that enhance what ought to be the core mission--educating children. However, by their own admission their first duty is to the membership--not the children, not the profession.

From the MNEA home page:
Our mission is to promote excellence in the Metro School system, seek community support for public education, secure economic and professional security for educators, maintain a strong united teaching organization, advance human and civil rights in education, and empower teachers!
From the Tennessee Education Association:
"The Tennessee Education Association promotes, advances and protects public education, the education profession, and the rights and interests of its members." (Adopted by the Representative Assembly, 1996)
And from the National Education Association (1 page .pdf):
"Our mission is to advocate for education professionals and unite our members and the nation to fulfill the promises of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world."
So it's left to the BOE to weed out bad teachers at the rate of a couple a year. Our own MNPS BOE has asked the Tennessee School Board Association to write legislation allowing an administrative law judge to handle the teacher dismissals because they take up too much time. And they do take up an extraordinary amount of time--nearly 30 hours per teacher. As I've written before part of the problem is the Board's fear that not giving the union lawyer full latitude may enable an appeal and even more resource consuming. We need BOE members made of sterner stuff.

I'm convinced that a big part of the problem lies with a BOE that approves tenure on a wholesale basis. At their March 27, 2007 meeting they approved the tenure of 385 new teachers. Check pages 8-15 of their agenda if you find that too incredible to believe. So they can check these folks out at the front end--or the back end after they've damaged children, wasted taxpayer dollars and their own time. You would think there would be some sort of public comment period where parents and taxpayers could also provide input to the BOE before we make this commitment that is so difficult to undo.

More from the article on Rod Paige's new book:
"The system is not performing," he says. The people who suffer most, he says, are minorities and disadvantaged students. "The union is sitting on both sides of the negotiating table," he says, referring to the power of the unions in electing the politicians they are negotiating with in collective bargaining. The result, he says, are "systems whose main purpose is the employment well-being of the adults in the system."
As if being on both sides isn't enough we have a Metro Council that voted to place a teacher (any doubt if they'll be a union member) ON the school board itself as if two former teachers on the board isn't sufficient. Thankfully, that legislation hasn't gotten anywhere with the state legislature that must approve that change.

And so as Mr. Huth begins his tenure as head of the MNEA what hope can he provide the community that he and his organization will actually work toward improving the quality of teachers in the MNPS system, encourage parental freedom to make the appropriate educational choice for their children within the public school system even if they don't get lucky, prove to taxpayers that their educational dollars are bringing a full return and finally, to provide more public accountability of the unions votes and membership?

Note to MNEA: You may want to get your webmaster to correct the link from your home page to the election results. They've left off the .htm extension.

Mobility and gentrification

And interesting paragraph or so in a recent City Paper editorial that city leaders and mere residents need to spend some time contemplating. The focus of the editorial is the public school system's use of the mobility of students as an excuse for why so many of those 'at risk' students are doing well. But there is another facet to this problem at play here and the City Paper just touches on it with this:

Increasing housing and employment options for families in the same inner-city school districts receiving extra attention to raise test scores has not yet made it onto the radar screen of either the business community or our elected officials. Presently, Metro government’s focus when it comes to social issues outside the classroom in Nashville’s most-challenged areas seems to be enabling the ongoing gentrification of choice spots in the inner city and that is it.

Hip urban planning and historic preservation while they please the city’s upper middle class do little for the families struggling to simply find affordable rental property and decent paying employment along the city bus line.
So rewind to a couple of years back when Wal-Mart wanted to put a neighborhood market in one of these 'gentrifying' neighborhoods. This business would provide jobs and low costs staples to the very families that have 'at risk' children in one of the most difficult schools districts in the city. The jobs and the staples would have been within easier travel distance to these families and their affordable homes. Many of these families realized that while these weren't high paying jobs a job is better than no job.

However, the gentrifiers of the neighborhood would have none of it. On one hand they said they had the well-being of these families at heart by keeping at bay that evil and unjust employer and with the other they were motioning "talk to the hand" to their neighbors who were working hard at bringing this business with its jobs and goods into their neighborhood. These newbies to the neighborhood wanted trendy local shops to meet their needs. The needs and opinions of the other-side-of-Gallatin families were shouted down in meetings and e-lists as uninformed and politically unsophisticated. While the one side was concerned about the politics of being a good corporate citizen the other side was wondering where to get cheaper bread and how to pay for it.

So the problem comes around to how do we balance rejuvenating and rehabbing neighborhoods that have fallen on hard times without pushing out those long time neighbors when their neighborhoods become too expensive to live in and enough regular jobs aren't available?

To start with we have to make every voice valuable along the lines of one vote each. No one's voice should be given more weight merely because of volume or political connections. A voice is a vote. Then representatives need to make an extra effort to seek out those voices that are not as politically connected or saavy. You mentor them so their voice and their political representation will be heard and acted on. You make every effort to welcome larger employers who can employ many of these people closer to home so transportation between home, job, daycare and schools isn't a deal breaker. You make sure that their children get as good an education as their gentrified neighbor's child so that this generational lifestyle is broken and families are set on a better path.

BOE Travel dollars

Again we read that MNPS BOE member George Thompson is unhappy about his share of the travel money allotted to each Board member. From this morning's City Paper:

Thompson serves as chair of the executive committee for the Council of Great City Schools, an organization of the 60 largest urban school districts in the country, and he said because of his position he is required to travel more than other board members.

If his position at the Council of Great City Schools 'requires' more travel. I suggest the Council of Great City Schools pay his travel expenses.

And while it seems like a good idea, I'm a little concerned about Steve Glover's solution to the travel money problem:
Board member Steve Glover, elected in August along with five other board members, said he solicited private funding and contributed some of his own money to attend a conference in Colorado recently.
I think it's reasonable for citizens to ask who those contributors were in order to assess whether there is any conflict of interest or influence buying here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

And the robo-calls begin

Please....the deadline for filing to run for office hasn't even passed and already the robo-calls have begun.

First out of the gate was David Briley. And shades of Bob Corker it was his mother calling to invite me to his "Women for Briley" event. She sounds like lovely woman--but I'm not going to vote for her son and I'm not looking forward to this portion of the campaign having started already. The call came from 866-496-8261 and only identified itself as 'toll free number'. It should have read David Briley.

Here's the message if you care to listen: David Briley robo call 2007-05-09

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Home Depot groundbreaking

The Inglewood Home Depot had their official groundbreaking this morning. From left to right in the picture are Developer Robert N. Moore, Jr., 4th District Councilman Michael Craddock, Karen Bean of Home Depot and another Home Depot representative whose name I have forgotten (my apologies). [Update: His name is Guy Harrison according to the Tennessean.]

It was a beautiful day and this property is so lovely. North Inglewood Neighborhood Association and Inglewood Neighborhood Association folks were treated to BBQ on the grounds to celebrate this new beginning. The children and I revisited the cabins one more time and walked down to the spring house. Both of them will be preserved by Home Depot but there's a good chance actually touching those logs and sticking your feet in that cool spring water may not be possible for a good while.

The excitement about kick starting business revitalization along Gallatin Road in Inglewood (and Madison) was slightly tempered by the loss of Evergreen. It's easy to see on such a perfect spring day why they chose that piece of land to settle on. Despite the traffic on Briley--it was still a very pleasant place to enjoy the breeze, conversation with neighbors and hopeful plans for the future. I dearly hope that whatever business takes over the front parcel takes advantage of this natural beauty realizing that quiet respites are an essential part of 21st century life.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Critical facts

Oops. The MPASSa parents group which was founded to fight district wide SSA has issued a press release this afternoon with a mistake that needs to be corrected. From the release

"Both [Ralph] Thompson [in charge of discipline] and [Woody] McMillin [district spokesman] asserted that a Metro-wide school uniform
policy could prevent situations like this week's arrest of a student
suspected of carrying a gun on a Metro bus. Yet they are ignoring some
critical facts:
"Even more egregious, the charged student attends Jere Baxter
Alternative School, which requires standard attire now. Clearly, the
school's existing standard attire policy did not prevent this incident.
I just called the MNPS Public Information Office and spoke with Debra. She assures me that what I had been told and thought I knew was indeed true. Jere Baxter ALC students are currently NOT required to wear standard school attire.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Graduating in SSA

A letter to the editor of the Tennessean this morning by Mary Beth Pickney explained that graduation gowns are leftover from the Middle Ages when scholars always worse such robes to university got me thinking and then shaking my head.

We have a small, vocal and determined minority of MNPS parents who are still not happy with the recent BOE vote to bring Standard School Attire to all of Metro Nashville Schools. They are holding out hope that once the policy is written it will have a carte blanche opt-out policy that enables their children to avoid being part of the MNPS team and not comply with SSA. They've even talked about creating faux religions if necessary and dare principals to declare them not bona fide. These parents complain that SSA stifles a child's creativity, is a violation of the free speech of the child and violates their rights as parents to raise their children as they see fit. Asserting that there is no evidence (that meets their criteria) that SSA has an impact on learning or discipline they will also allow that it may work in some schools--but it's not needed in the schools their children attend. They talk about continuing their protests at BOE meetings, filing a class action lawsuit, picketing the first day of school and even supporting their own children in their efforts to not comply and force administrators to send 'good' students to fill ISS (in school suspension) rooms wasting valuable time and energy until they get their way.

If only their sense of justice, their passion and willingness to demand fairness and sue for redress would extend to the actual lack of facilities, resources and qualified personnel prevalent in MNPS all of which has been more than adequately studied and revealed. But no. What hill have they chosen to die on instead? Nothing fires their passion like not letting their precious wear a baby doll top, slashed jeans or "sweet spot" on their backside. Over what issue will they call a lawyer to file a class action lawsuit? Over what issue will they call the realtor to begin the move to a more enlightened community? Over what issue will they enable their children to defy 'the man' and risk their educational standing? Clothing.

And yet, the vast majority of these parents will ensure that their child has the appropriate cap, gown, honor stoles and cords in exact compliance with graduation tradition. That Standard School Attire, that team uniform, they embrace with peacock pride. Go figure.