Thursday, August 30, 2007

Asleep at the wheel

These two quotes should not be buried at the bottom of page 3B of the Tennessean. They should have been the headline of this story of the State of Tennessee's intervention in MNPS.

MNPS Director of Schools for the last 6 years with two more years on his contract Dr. Pedro Garcia :

"We didn't do what we needed to do, and that's the bottom line," said Pedro Garcia, Metro director of schools.

"It's frustrating for me because the principals are working so hard and the teachers are working so hard because their reputation is on the line. … No one wants to be in this situation."

and Gracie Porter 35 year professional public school educator and administrator:
"We've been asleep at the wheel," said District 5 board member Gracie Porter, who represents parts of east Nashville. "It didn't just happen. It didn't come yesterday. It didn't come overnight."
Hard work does not equal success. No one should get paid for 'working hard'. They should get paid for getting the job done, for success. Until we're freely allowed to pay great teachers and administrators for great work we're going to continue to have staff 'asleep at the wheel'. Until we wake up the School Board and hold them accountable for letting staff "sleep"--they'll keep sleeping.

In the meantime thousands of our children are dropping out or exiting the system without the education they need. They'll have plenty of time to sleep--without jobs.

The wheels of justice do grind slowly

Juvenile Court clerk (and former councilman) Vic Lineweaver was arrested yesterday for failing to have files that the judges needed, when they needed them. This was most frustrating to read:

Juvenile Court officials on Wednesday stressed that this was by no means an isolated incident. Green and Juvenile Court Administrator Tim Adgent said that ever since Lineweaver – a former Metro Council member – was elected to the Juvenile Clerk’s post in 2002, his office has been riddled with record and personnel problems.

“It’s actually been going on for the last six years,” Green said, referring to what she said was the Juvenile Court Clerk’s overall inability to pull its weight in the Metro juvenile justice system.

“We have daily problems with the clerk’s office,” [Tim] Adgent said. “And the consensus is that this is just the tip of the iceberg here with regard to the performance of the clerk’s office.” [Emphasis added] City Paper

Six years? Six years of this? WHY ON EARTH did these folks not arrest him two years ago so he wasn't reelected? Why didn't they let the voters know that this fellow was not, in their opinion, doing the job he'd been hired to do?
Yet Green said she will not be asking for Lineweaver to step down or resign.
And why not? Why are they still not calling for his resignation or firing considering they're not even sure THIS drastic measure will get his attention and ensure that the files are where they need to be when.

Apparently the Scene was on this. (Warning: adult site) back in 2005.
Three employees of Matrix Consulting Group, subcontracted especially to audit the juvenile clerk’s office, were sent home several days after arriving in Nashville. The official word from Metro’s internal audit office, which is a division of the Finance Department, was that Vic Lineweaver, the juvenile court clerk, had refused auditors’ access to his employees and files. (The audit was a “performance audit,” which checks for efficiencies and effectiveness and assesses compliance with rules and regulations.)
The Tennessean quotes Lineweaver back in March of 2006 as saying he had asked for a bar code system to track the files. Did he ever get it? Frankly, most of this should be in electronic form, at least as backup. [Tennessean, March 25, 2006 "Metro Juvenile Court's Office in Disarray..." No link at the Tennessean. Try the Nashville Public Library's access to their old files. ]

The City Paper was also following this (sorry the archived copies of their stories don't have dates!)
Initially, Lineweaver would not submit to the audit, citing concerns over its intent according to published news reports. Now, Lineweaver is refusing to formally respond to the audit findings, saying it was not completed as he requested and that its scope was not broad enough. Of course, the idea that Lineweaver should be able to influence the process through which his office's operations are being audited is laughable and defeats the purpose of having an independent performance audit of a government office. [Undated City Paper Editorial]
And this from the City Paper which seems to clearly illustrate a lack of willingness to be accountable:
Lineweaver, whose tug-of-war with Metro Finance Director David Manning's office became public last week after he requested the Metro Council provide funding for two new clerk staffers, said Tuesday he will submit the response once the extra work is done, which he said the Finance Department's Internal Audit section promised but never made good on. The audit, therefore, is still incomplete, Lineweaver said, adding he will provide the formal response when he believes the audit is finished. [Undated City Paper article]
When "he believes the audit is finished". Right. Is it done yet? 'Cause I think he is.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Term Limit Limits

There are some folks who are upset at a kind of end run that a couple of the Council-At-Large candidates are attempting to make regarding terms limits. If I'd been behind them in the vote total and kept from the run-off I'd probably be peeved too. However, as a voter I don't have any problem with this.

The big difference in these council-at-large races is that it's not the same seat. It's not the same constituency. Instead of being neighborhood oriented they're now city oriented. They've got to appeal to a different voting block and make a different set of arguments. Granted, they've got some name recognition and some political chits but I don't think it's always going to be as difficult to run against as it would be in a smaller district race.

If folks who are concerned about institutional experience could agree, we'd have a natural place for those with experience to stay and shepherd the council and keep the bureaucracy from running things. That could be 16 years of experience--that's a career for sure and time to step down.

Where are the students?

Some interesting comments in this morning's City Paper article titled "Schools see slightly fewer students than anticipated".

“This has been an unusual opening — the volatility of the heat and the half-days,” said Larry Collier, Metro Schools’ student assignment services director. “And we have a lot of schools with high numbers of ELL (English Language Learner) students…” (snip) Many school administrators have indicated that some of their ELL students are still out of the country visiting family and are unsure of when they will enroll, according to Collier.
Seems like an after Labor Day start to the school year would clear up most of this. People vote with their feet. They decided that somewhere else was where they wanted to be in August. I know a young woman who missed the first week because she was still on a cultural exchange trip for the first couple of weeks this month. THAT's the sort of educational opportunity that trumps being in school and her parents chose rightly to send her regardless of the start date of school. I'm not supportive of routine family visits preventing attendance, however.

So the system remains in flux until everyone is in place on "day 40"? How handicapping on the educational process is that? This is less of a negative impact on learning than a Christmas break? Here's another thing to factor into the real cost of starting school so early. (See SaveTennessee Summers for others.)

George Thompson (17 year BOE member, Chairman of the Board for Great City Schools and up for reelection next August) is quoted as saying:
...he is seeing increased growth in the county reflecting increase enrollment numbers, he thinks the numbers would have been much larger had an exodus to private schools not occurred in the 1970’s.

“We’re not growing as fast and at the same time we’re having some people who are leaving the district,” Thompson said. “Those who are opting out and going to private schools… [but] we have experience growth in our Hispanic populations.”
He's exactly right in saying that in 1970 MNPS was on the cusp of reaching that 100,000 enrollment mark and we took a huge plunge after that. However, what started as 'white flight' 40 years ago, has morphed into legitimate school choice by parents who will no longer tolerate empty promises and have decided that their children will not be sacrificed on the altar of public education. This system didn't want to hear from me last summer why this school district is losing families. It's easier to place the blame on the racist fears of parents rather than their own performance and decision making. They fail to accept that they are becoming less and less of of an educational monopoly despite legislative props. Just because MNPS doesn't want to participate in the competition for students doesn't mean they aren't already in the game. Token choices are not enough. And they shouldn't count on a influx of Hispanics to ensure the numbers climb. Those families are also starting to look at other educational options. What MNPS fails to realize is that there is a longing for quality neighborhood schools--the original small learning communities. The quicker we get there, the faster these enrollment numbers will rise.

I was given information from student services while on the school board last year which included a wonderfully illuminating set of charts. I expect they update these on a regular basis, as they should. These are charts tracking the Nashville population on top and the MNPS population on the bottom (a larger copy can be seen here). The years are not exactly aligned, there is a couple of years difference. But the margin of decrease so enormous that that small misalignment is meaningless. The high point on the MNPS chart at the bottom is approximately 96,000 students in 1970. MNPS isn't even keeping pace. People continue to leave and the BOE, if it wants to ensure a healthy and vibrant public education system in Nashville, must, absolutely MUST, commit to providing every available option if they want to survive. The sheer volume of applications for magnet schools year after year after year ought to have given the BOE plenty of clue of what parents want. Why it's not being provided is a mystery to me. Parents and voters need to start asking those August 2008 BOE candidates why not and expecting specific answers. If they respond with a lot of 'our hands are tied' answers--I suggest you cut them loose and find candidates willing and capable of undoing those knots.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

66 months at 65 years old

I'm stunned. But then, I thought John Ford was going to manage to get out of a guilty verdict in the first place. For years we've been witness to his arrogance and threats. He redefined political Teflon. My thanks to the Feds for doing the work the TBI and (former Lt. Gov. and now just State Senator) John Wilder couldn't.

Of course it's entirely possible Ford will not serve anywhere near 5+ years but even a couple, compounded by his age, could be quite costly. At least, I assume, he won't be making any more children, angry ex-wives or speeding past and threatening otherwise law abiding citizens on I-40 from Nashville to Memphis.

Hopefully, his new found remorse is genuine and at this late date he proves that it's never too late to mend your ways. He may be financially broke despite the bribe money but there is more than money his seven children can inherit. He could be a living example of what to avoid and how to recover and end well. For their sakes, as well as his own, I hope that happens.

There is still plenty of political mess in Memphis to clean up, but Tennessee Waltz was a great start. It's times like this I feel better about where some of my tax money has gone.

Hat tip: I read it first via Ben Cunningham

Monday, August 27, 2007

What are you going to do next August?

A suggestion for all those disgruntled parents who are fed up with the way their children are being treated by MNPS, angry about half days, air conditioning, SSA, magnet slots--now may be a good time to consider whether you want to get involved in making changes at the Board of Education. Next August Ed Kindall , George Thompson , Gracie Porter and MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden are up for re-election.

You're welcome to let the Chamber of Commerce, the SEIU, the MNEA, and other interested parties with cash and a cadre of ready volunteers make that decision for you. Or, you can start to plan now to find and support folks who will actually hold the system accountable and vote the way you want them to vote.

Put aside the petty squabbles over decisions already made. Look toward August and what the next BOE can and should do. You want a different system? Elect a different BOE.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Did you hear that groan?

Metro schools go back to their regular hours on Monday.

August 24, 2007 MNPS Returns To Full Days Effective Monday, Aug. 27 Metro Nashville Public Schools will return to its normal, full-day schedule beginning Monday, Aug. 27. The District has temporarily been operating on half-days due to sustained 100+ temperatures. Outdoor athletic activities will be allowed after school at the discretion of the principal, following District policy on practicing/playing in heat.
According to WKRN it will be cooler:

However, I'm with the folks at Save Tennessee Summers and think this early August start is not good. We need to start after Labor Day.

Was it after Opryland closed that MNPS started encroaching on our Augusts? Seems to me I remember some hullabaloo created when it was thought students weren't going to be available to work at the park.

I'd like someone to do some sort of cost:benefit analysis of this early August start. What we actually gain in student learning vs. the cost to purchase and maintain equipment, OT personnel costs when they fail under the stress, utility costs and lawsuits settlements paid out because students and staff were injured as a result. How is it other systems can do quite well starting after Labor Day and we can't?

I know this year has been exceptional. But, really, is it better to coop them all up in buildings during August vs. late May and early June?

Lazy advocates

What I've learned thus far in my efforts to effect public policy is that if you really want to make your case you've got to have some facts on hand. Additionally, you must realize that people are busy and often they do not have the time to research the issue let alone take the time to engage in the battle. If I want them to help me I've got to go the extra mile and make it easier for them to understand the issue and participate. Usually, that involves many links to original documents, clarifying essays and contact information and tips to get them up to speed and able to effect change.

Yesterday's homeschooling post intended merely to correct misinformation being passed between MPASSa people has devolved into another useless back and forth between an anonymous anti-SSAer and myself. They make assertions, I ask for proof and they don't believe in the cause enough to provide it. This isn't an SSA post, it's a post about conversation and debate in an effort to improve their quality so we can understand one another and improve our city.

I wrote: "It'd be better for your point of view and the greater discussion if you provided some verifiable facts instead of just driving by and dumping a charge of lying here. Do you really expect anyone to believe the word of an anonymous poster?"
And this is the response I get.
ding819go: "All you have to do is pull the data from MNPS (the third presentation of uniforms I believe) "
ding819go: "Sadly you will have to dig through MNPS to find the uniform presentations."
All I have to do? I have to dig? The burden of proof is yours, ding819go. Here we have a great example of why the anti-SSA folks (and others) fail over and over again to make their case with the general public. They don't value their effort enough to actually do the legwork required to provide the community with the facts to back up their assertions. They actually expect us to just take their word for it. They've said it, so it must be believed.

And then ding819go exits with another unsubstantiated shot at SSA:
ding819go: "I forgot to add the first report of a gun found at school with bullets in the student's pocket happened yesterday. Let's see not even 10 days into the school year. Hmmm...uniforms were to stop this, right?"
Where was this gun found? Under what circumstances? In a school? In the parking lot? What age child? Just 'cause you wrote it doesn't make it so. I might believe you if I knew who you are and I knew you had a track record of being a reliable source but you chose to hide your identity.

If this is the quality of the anti-SSA advocacy it's little wonder they lost their argument. They can go on and on about how the fix was in with the study committee, how the poll was a sham, how the Central Office is spinning the whole effort but until their debating skills move past the "Is not, is too" phase, they're not going to make any real progress.

What may be worse is that the children are not well served when one is too lazy to vigorously debate issues to ensure that all the facts are brought to the discussion. Decibel level and quantity of posts does not equal vigor. Completeness and accuracy are what we're looking for here. Convincing the other side that you're willing to listen and maybe change your position wouldn't hurt either.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

SSA frustrations may lead to homeschooling

I'm being told that a couple of the MPASSa folks are so fed up with the current state of affairs that they're looking into homeschooling. The problem is they're getting some bogus advice. Like most parents suddenly finding themselves looking at this education option they need some accurate information quickly. In an odd turn of events, since many of them aren't happy about my SSA support or tenure on the BOE, the best place to go is my own website for homeschooling. No matter which end of this debate we're on--misinformation must be cleared up. I promise I won't bite, abuse, make fun of or quote you if you need to ask for more specific information. The goal is to help you find the right education choice for your children.

Let me suggest those interested parents start at, then move on to

And to answer a couple of points immediately:

1. No, you generally cannot ask other people to 'homeschool' your children for you. Anything more than a tutoring situation or a cooperative class becomes private education, not homeschooling.

2. No, the state doesn't certify anyone to homeschool and neither does the Home School Legal Defense Association. You're the parent. That's certification enough. There is a rule about high schoolers and parents having a BA/BS degree but there are legal accommodations that can be made.

3. Yes, you can pull your child from the public school at any point in the year and register them with either the LEA or a church-related school.

4. My support for SSA was motivated by a desire to help a great principal's effort to expand the success in her school to the rest of MNPS--it wasn't part of an EVILE plot to increase the number of homeschoolers. ;-)

Disclaimer: I AM NOT A LAWYER. Any legal information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and should not be considered complete, professional legal advice.

Belmont's Rose (Park)

The HOT issue at last evening’s council meeting was the deal between Belmont University and Metro regarding the use of Rose Park. In deference to the large crowd the Council moved that bill toward the front of the agenda, bringing groans from those of us who had business that had been scheduled before what we knew was going to be a long debate. We had hoped to get out before it but had to hang in there until about 11:00 as a result.

Sadly, the Rose Park crowd regularly made their presence and displeasure known in council chambers which was distracting and rude. So much so that Vice-mayor Gentry had to call them to order a couple of times and eventually threatened to clear the room if they couldn’t be quiet. At one point he specifically called out a man with a hat telling him that if he continued to move about and shake his head he was going to be removed. The fellow eventually left before the final vote. Before the vote was revealed Gentry acknowledged the emotion in the room but reminded everyone that they needed to take it outside and they did manage to contained their disappointment and displeasure. I know that it's tough to remain quiet during such times but it has to be done. It was pretty obvious by the stickers they wore they were against the proposal. I believe the inability by many to remain quiet hurt their cause more than helped.

Probably the funniest moment of the entire discussion came after CM Evans called the Metro partnership with Belmont ‘prostituting the park’. CM White felt the need to rise in defense of his alma mater asserting that there was no prostitution going on in the park and Belmont wasn’t encouraging it. And so by this misunderstanding of a valid description of the proposal White demonstrated why he didn’t get a second term.

I was amazed at the list of concessions CM Pepper read off in the latest effort to appease the neighbors which included $50,000 donations for 40 years to the PTO/PTAs of nearby schools to specific accountability measures that could prove a break in the lease by Belmont to more than eight full scholarships. Surprisingly, there seemed to be some objection to the minimal scholarship requirements of financial need and academic standing.

CM Shulman seemed to be thinking outside the box in asking about the availability of Greer Stadium for the university. It had been considered, though, and CM Pepper stated that neither mayoral candidates (Clement or Dean) would object to working on that if the Sounds leave. She also stated that Mayor Purcell’s plans for Greer if the Sounds leave was to tear it down and provide a welcome center for Fort Negley. Of course, that's on the next mayor's to do plate at this late date.

Along the 'prostituting the park' line of debate CM Summers asked where it would stop. Would Vanderbilt be next wanting a chunk of Centennial Park?

Outgoing CM Ludye Wallace (a 28 year veteran of the Council) got very emotional at one point while recounting some of his own history and how an improved facility like what Belmont could provide would be a huge help to the neighborhood children. It was at this moment of vulnerability that the Rose Park crowd was most disruptive and VM Gentry threatened their removal. Wallace even went so far as to say that CM Summers didn't really care about Edgehill which brought groans from the crowd. No one wanted to go there.

Someone brought up the ‘chicken and the egg’ point of view. Did the lack of park use create the lack of maintenance or did the lack of maintenance bring about lack of use? If Metro had been diligent about maintaining the park would Belmont have even come along offering to fix it up? No one had an answer but it became clear that choosing to spend money on other more sophisticated projects meant there wasn't money for the basics like maintaining neighborhood parks. CM Crafton had a great riff about the financial choices the council had made. I wished I'd taken better notes.

It came down to a vote and at that moment Ludye Wallace as out of the room, as were several other councilmen. VM Gentry wondered allowed where he was and a councilman rose to ask again how many votes were needed. VM Gentry suggested they ask and answer slowly to give those councilmembers a change to return telling the crowd that he wanted a fair vote.

So at 9:30 p.m. the vote was 26 Ayes, 10 Noes, 2 Abstentions. Belmont's got room to expand and hopefully, the community will reap all the benefits promised.

And I couldn't let this last photographic opportunity pass. It's one of those family shots that had to be done because you don't know if you'll get the chance ever again.

A win for the neighbors

Outgoing CM Jason Hart ended his 4 years on the council with a solid defeat last evening. I was there supporting the Capitol View neighbors in their effort to stop his rezoning bill from eroding the efforts they have been making to improve their Dickerson Road neighborhood.

Hart spent most of the evening doing two things: getting folks to sign his council poster and counting votes.

Once he rose in defense of his bill it became, as one councilperson put it 'surreal'. He rambled and grasped at the straw of proposing at the last minute an SP zoning for the area. He maintained that he didn't know until just recently that the CS he had in the original bill was 'open ended'. One councilman asked if the Planning Commission would disapprove the SP as they did the rezoning to commercial. The answer was a firm yes. It doesn't meet the community plan already in place--single family residential.

CM Coleman rose in support of Hart's rezoning bill and yielded over 4 minutes of his time back to Hart. He used the time for dire warnings that the current owner, James Ballentine, was going to sell the property to someone who would put in 'double-wides' on the property and opined how he'd rather have this nice million dollar investment in metal buildings than that. Hart protested that the president of the Capitol View Neighbors group (Karen Bennett) "was against it from the start" and asserted that "no one wants a trailer park there." He didn't mention that he's leaving the county and wouldn't have to live with either.

Thankfully, CM Craddock rose and brought some clarity and context to the discussion from his years as a local resident and asked the Planning Commission specifically about the trailer park threat. The answer was that no trailer park could be put there, double-wide single family modular homes, yes.

So the Council voted to allow Hart to amend his bill to SP zoning and then voted on the bill itself. It needed 27 votes since the Planning Commission soundly disapproved the rezoning. There were 13 no votes. It was a lucky number for the neighborhood, not so for Hart.

Friday, August 17, 2007

August surprise

Outgoing Councilman Jason Hart

  • decided after the ballot was set to move out of the area and not to run for reelection
  • cleared out his desk and said goodbye to his fellow council members two months ago and
  • has been absent from his duties since that time
yet he has decided that his last official act will be a form of thumb nosing to the neighborhood. Instead of quietly cashing his paychecks and fading into the sunset he's put a zoning bill (BILL NO. BL2006-1114 ) on Tuesday's agenda which has been languishing since last year. The Planning Commission vote unanimously against this change saying the area was planned for residential use and neighbors made clear they were against this change once they learned of it. Unfortunately, that learning wasn't until the after 2nd reading. So now this bill is up for third reading just as the gavel is falling on this council's session and Hart's term. Hart is not returning constituent calls.

14 months ago Hart went before the planning commission to request an odd zoning change for a part of Hart Lane (coincidentally named) from RS-10 to either RS-20 for a 1/2 acre part and CS for a connected 4 acre portion behind. As you can see from the map at the left everything right of the bold line is RS10. This zoning change would encroach on a neighborhood just off Dickerson Road that is working hard to improve. I'm told by Karen Bennett of Capitol View Neighbors (and council candidate to replace CM Hart) that the zoning signs were not seen and so neighbors didn't show up to object at the 2nd reading. I remember getting copies of Bennett's letter to Hart objecting to this zoning change last year in mid-July just after that second reading. Neighbors are certainly ready to appear at Tuesday's council meeting to voice their objections.

This will be the last meeting for this council. I strongly urge the council members to vote against this bill.

UPDATE: You can view the 2nd reading action taken by the council at mms:// Move the slider to 3:32 minutes. This bill runs to 7:11 minutes. The Planning Commission spends a couple of minutes explaining why they voted unanimously against it. CM Jason Hart states “I haven’t received a single negative comment…” (about the property). No one spoke in opposition. No council member raised their hand in objection to this bill. There is no mention of what the property owner intends to do on the property.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Your always on my mind

Back during the budget battle, when I was astonished we had a surplus of $1.5 BILLION + and was asking for my food tax money back I e-mailed the Governor. His response came today with apologies for the delay.

Frankly, I don't believe he'll actually be keeping my comments in mind when we go 'round this mulberry bush next spring. It's a lame excuse and poorly timed to arrive while the electric bill is on my mind.

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2007 4:37 PM
Subject: Responding to your message

Dear Friend:

Thank you for contacting me regarding Tennessee's 2007-2008 budget. First, however, I want to apologize for the delay in responding to your letter. A transition within our constituent services staff resulted in a failure in our system for responding to citizens in a timely manner. While those issues have been addressed, I regret the delay in responding to your concerns.

One of my top priorities as Governor is bringing financial responsibility to Tennessee. I have always believed that sound fiscal discipline and a hard look at our priorities is the way to do this. In early June, my 2007-2008 budget proposal was adopted by the General Assembly with strong bi-partisan support. This common sense balanced budget funds historic investments in education while maintaining our commitments to job creation, public safety, conservation and other priorities.

Over the past few years, we proved that we can manage in the tough times. This session proves we can maintain our discipline in the good times. Our record funding for education and the rainy day reserve are smart investments in the future of Tennessee - investments that we will leverage to set higher standards for educational performance and greater accountability for results. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to make sure Tennessee is on the right path to become a nation wide leader in education.

Again, thank you for your interest and comments concerning our budgetary process. I will keep your comments in mind while we work to provide a balanced budget that provides the best possible opportunities and resources for all of our citizens.

Warmest regards,

Phil Bredesen

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

First Day at Litton

I spent the first day of the MNPS school year at Isaac Litton Middle School along with Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell , MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia , BOE members Gracie Porter and Mark North a gaggle of reporters, some Nascar drivers and a couple of hundred jazzed students and staff.

I arrived at 8:00 but the Nascar folks had already been there for an hour and a half setting up their display. Isaac Litton Middle School is the first school to participate in their Read to Race program (their press release is here). Here's a link to the Channel 4 coverage of that program. The children could be rewarded with 4 tickets to a race, starting a race, waving the checkered flag and riding in the pace car depending upon how much they read and comprehend. Joe Mattioli, President of Music City Motorplex, and his 'crew' are very excited at the possibilities of a partnership with schools and the Litton staff and the racers will be working on using racing as a hook for subjects like science and history. They hope to replicate this program in more Metro schools.

The announcement of the program and the welcoming assembly were held in the Litton Gymnasium. It was pretty hot in there last year but this year MNPS came through with a temporary air conditioning system that made it tolerable. We'd been told it was leaving with the dignitaries. Our concern was for the students and several of the PTA moms and myself were talking with the Mayor about the situation. He immediately proved that he doesn't have a short timer's attitude at all and headed across the gym, chatted with Central Office staff that was there and came back to announce that the temporary AC was staying until the permanent AC was installed. Some very grateful women had a mini-celebration with some hooting and raising of hands. Litton is the last middle school to get their gym retrofitted with AC and they expect that to be done in 6-8 weeks. We've all heard the reasoning for starting in August, getting testing done before the Christmas break, but with August being the hottest season and the expense required to cool these facilities you can't help but wonder if that's really the best plan.

Regarding SSA I only saw about 4 or 5 students not in SSA and only heard one "Pull up your britches." Litton students were in SSA last year so for most of them this wasn't a new thing. They looked great and all the comments from visitors, staff and parents that I heard were positive. These folks liked the look they saw there and at school bus stops in their neighborhoods on the drive in.

Thanks, again to Jacque & Jim Schultz owners of The YarD Shops for the beautiful and delicious buffet for the guests and staff. I know the Litton folks appreciate their support and service.

If you have even just an hour a month to spend helping a school I would encourage you to call the nearest one and ask what you can do to support them. It encourages them and makes you a more knowledgeable voter and taxpayer, all of which benefits the children in the long run.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Read to Race at Litton MS

What a way to start the school year!


August 9, 2007


Jim Ed Norman, former president of Warner Reprise, first envisioned a program several years ago to introduce motorsports to the students of Nashville and Davidson County.

Norman saw motorsports as a tool to motivate educational achievement as well as to introduce students of all races, genders and financial means to the career opportunities of professional motorsports.

That idea has been cultivated into Read to Race, the first program offered by the Music City Motor Sports Institute, an initiative led by Joe Mattioli, President of the Music City Motorplex, MaryAnne Howland, President & CEO of IBIS Communications and Esther Bailey-Bass, Corporate Support Representative for Nashville Public Radio.

Read to Race will be introduced on the first day of school for Metro Nashville—Monday, August 13—at a 10:00 am Assembly at Isaac Litton Middle School (4601 Hedgewood Drive in Nashville). Prior to the Assembly, students will be greeted as they arrive at the school by stock cars and pace cars along with drivers from the Motorplex.

Read to Race strongly encourages reading as all students who read a set number of books will be invited to the Music City Motorplex for a special event to honor their achievement called the “Night of Champions” on September 29.

All students that qualify will receive a special pass to the September 29 races along with three free tickets for family members. The students also will receive special Achievement Certificates, participate in the singing of the National Anthem, make the “Gentlemen—start your engines” call, be involved in driver introductions and the Victory Lane winner’s ceremonies, and partake in a special autograph session with the drivers.
The top 10 students in number of books read by September 21 will have the additional thrill of riding around the Motorplex track in the pace car as part of a parade lap prior to the races.

The Music City Motorplex will provide commemorative Read to Race car key chains/flashlights along with T-shirts for all students. Also, the school will receive four electric powered Kidracers for children aged 4-7 to be shared with affiliated elementary schools.

“Our goal is to develop similar programs for all the middle and elementary schools in Nashville/Davidson County, leading up to a race camp at the Motorplex for high school students,” said MaryAnne Howland. “We are thrilled to see this dream come to light and thank Joe Mattioli and his Music City Motorplex, Esther Bailey-Bass and all of our supporters.”

Additional information regarding the vision for the Music City Motor Sports Institute is available at the Music City Motorplex website and the IBIS Communications website.

David Underwood, Music City Motorplex—726-1818, Ext. 213
Jeff Diamond, The Ingram Group—345-9200
MaryAnne Howland, IBIS Communications—777-1900

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Private use of public email

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR) reports that a couple of state employees mistakenly tried to 'recycle' their excess prescriptions. Rightly that activity is being questioned. I'll let the legal experts determine if the activity itself is illegal. I believe when the prescription is paid for with public dollars you have absolutely no business retaining the proceeds of passing them on. It's possible to donate these things to local clinics. That might have been a smarter plan.

But to pull back a bit this recent revelation highlights an ongoing problem with private use of public email services. It's my understanding that state and Metro e-mail accounts are specifically for official business. If it's not related to your job---you shouldn't be using taxpayer dollars to host the correspondence let alone take work time to conduct the correspondence. Private phone calls at work used to be forbidden in a lot of places and folks understood that the boss wasn't paying you to chat up your friends. Now days we've got public employees using their government email accounts for activities that are not a part of their job. In a couple of instances I can recall public employees actually using their accounts to fight against the very system they work for. The SSA battle is a current example.

Web based e-mail accounts are a dime a dozen now days and no government employee has to use their government account to conduct private business. It's also flat foolish to do so in that these messages are archived and not at all private. This TCPR revelation being a perfect example. That careless use of government resources could cost way more than expected.

And if you're corresponding with someone using government email---keep in mind your words could also be a part of the public records.

UPDATE: Sarah Moore weighs in from a teacher's perspective.

When I began my employment with the school system that hired me, we were told that our email accounts were to be used for professional reasons only (correspondence with parents, planning with other teachers, subscribing to daily updates from E! Online, etc). I used my school email account for its intended purpose and maintained great communication with parents about upcoming exams, the distribution of grades and other tidbits that the students did not want mom and dad to know. However, ...Read the rest at her blog.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Math mastery by 5th grade

I'm trying to verify if MNPS uses the two math texts discussed in this 15 minute video (hat tip to Ben Cunningham). They are: "Investigation in Numbers (TERC)" and "Everyday Mathematics". The MNPS search feature has been disabled and I don't see it mentioned in their: Teaching & Learning: Subject Areas & Courses: Mathematics page where I expected to find a list of the approved texts.

It's really worth your time to view this 15 minute video especially if your child is having difficulty in math. This woman, who had to go back to college later in life for more math and has children in elementary school, clearly demonstrates the various 'new' math methods of solving the same multiplication and division problems. If you haven't understood your child's math homework see if it's one of these methods. It could be very illuminating.

Remember the multiplication problem is 26 x 31.

Here's a screen shot of each method. You may recognize one them from your own child's homework.

Standard Algorithm

Cluster Problems

Partial Problems Method

Lattice Method

And then here comes division. 133 divided by 6

Standard Algorithm (Long Division)

Cluster Problems

Partial Quotents Division (The Magic 7)

After viewing this with my daughters they were all surprised at how complicated they'd made a very easy process. Further, and my mother/teacher ears were tickled to hear, in retrospect they were glad I drilled fact families.

Shockingly, the Everyday Math books contain some 40 pages of atlas and 35 pages of how to use calculators because learning division is a waste of precious class time. Not sure how they're guaranteeing that calculators will always be available, or a power source to run them.

At the end she suggests picking up some cheap Singapore Math workbooks from to use to tutor your children if they're unfortunate enough to be using these texts.

Two things are absolutely fundamental and every otherwise normal child ought to have down solid by 5th or 6th grade both basic math and reading. I wouldn't blame any parent who wanted to sue the system for educational neglect if that much hadn't been done after at least 7 years in the public education system.

UPDATE: 08/15/07: I've just received the list of textbooks MNPS uses and neither of these two are on the list.