Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rezoning hearing at Stratford

Last evening there was a community meeting about rezoning the Stratford Cluster. I was disappointed to see only about 35 adults in attendance, about ten of them being teachers and/or school administrators.

MNPS spokesman Larry Collier did a great job at handling some convoluted questions and emotional questioners. He earned his keep last evening and, he told me, that was an easy meeting. It may be bonus time for him by the time this is done.

One questioner accused the administration of closing Dalewood Middle School, an under performing school, in order to boost its standing with the state.

Litton Middle School was chosen to stay open, according to Mr. Collier, because it had 'good community support and was in good standing.' That was the tipping point, he said. The lesson here may be to look around your school and neighborhood and create/bolster your parent group and connect with the neighborhood so that when times like these come, you've already got an advocacy network in place and ready to speak up.

The current plan, and of course this is all still a work in progress until the BOE actually votes on it, hopefully on or before December 11, that Dalewood would house the Maplewood 9th grade academy to free up space while Maplewood is being renovated and then do the same for Statford the next year. After that, it may host other options schools such as a single gender school.

There was some discussion about how this rezoning was going to mesh with the new Strategic Plan the community has been working on. Mr. Collier said that trying to keep elementary students, especially, closer to their homes was an effort to fulfill the part of the plan that wanted more parental involvement. Mr. Collier stated that the administration couldn't guarantee parents are going to get involved, but this provided them a better opportunity. He used the Hillwood Cluster as a prime example of students being shipped hither and yon, unable to get to school on time as a result and while, yes, that likely meant their schools wouldn't be diverse. It is time, again, for the BOE to discuss what weight to give diversity in regard to education. He made it clear that the rezoning won't really impact the diversity numbers in the Stratford Cluster. He reminded us that the BOE will have another study session and have more community meetings before a decision is made.

When asked how this was going to impact teachers and staff Mr. Collier assured the questioner that staff could follow their students or choose a voluntary transfer but they won't lose their jobs.

Gracie Porter ended the meeting by saying that as a community we've go to work on creating the diversity we say we want in our schools. She reminded us that Nashville is 28% African-American but its schools are 48% African-American. "We've got to get white parents back in Metro schools."


November 6 – Bass Middle at 6:30 p.m. - hosted by George Thompson
November 8 – Brick Church at 6:30 p.m. - hosted by George Thompson
November 12 - Maplewood High at 6 p.m. - hosted by Gracie Porter
November 15 - East Literature Magnet at 6:30 p.m. - Public Hearing

Davvid Fox did respond to my e-mail asking about meetings. He's still working out the details. No word from Ed Kindall.

Happy Reformation Day

It was on this date in 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door (blogs not having yet been invented) calling his church leaders to accountability to their congregations and their God.

Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)
Sola gratia (Grace alone)
Solus Christus (Christ alone)
Sola fide (Faith alone)
Sola Deo Gloria (for God's glory alone)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Balls vs. bytes

Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing the whole lottery effort crash and burn. Government, which is supposed to protect citizens, shouldn't be in the business of taking advantage of their foolishness. But if we're going to have a lottery it has to have the confidence of the players. It has to be as honest as a fool's game can be. Computers mess up lives on a regular basis. Everyone has a story about how a computer mistake has negatively impacted their life. So using one for the lottery already starts with that prejudice in people's minds.

Lottery President Rebecca Pauls Hargrove objects to going back to using the balls, which created no controversy and is still being used by the Power Ball people. She says using computer generated drawings will free up some $5 million in drawing production costs. Money, she says, that could be spent on students instead.

The fact is the lottery has a surplus of funds just sitting around. So much so there was legislation last year to make the lottery a lending institution for school systems wanting to make capital improvements. The legislature ensures there is a surplus by keeping those scholarships on the low end so that other pet projects (pre-K for one) can be funded.

If she really wants to free up money for students, she should consider starting with the administrator's salary. Don't let those billboards (now there's an expense that could be eliminated) touting the amount of money that has gone to students fool you. It's only 1/3rd of the revenues. See 2/3rds For the Students

In talks of renewing the contract, the media markets in Nashville and Memphis would not enter into a contract extension under the current terms, Hargrove said, and wanted more. She said they were no longer willing to pay for production costs, and Memphis television stations wanted $12,000 a week to air the drawings. Striking a new television contract for the ball drawing would cost an estimated $4.8 million annually, about a $4.5 million increase, lotto figures show. City Paper

And so now, having pandered to the gambling industry to bring the lottery to Tennessee through all their positive lottery puff pieces before the vote to enact it, television stations are now looking for their cut of this very lucrative business. It's payback time.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Thank you, whoever you are

Last spring a teacher was assaulted at Jere Baxter ALC. Neighbors were shocked at the attack and further shocked to learn that no alternative schools had school resource officers. The neighborhood association tried to get answers from Gracie Porter and the police department with very little success. The best that could be done, we were told, was to separate the students by grade and to keep calling the police when neighbors and local merchants observed illegal behavior.

Today, I've been told that Jere Baxter ALC now has a police officer at the school for four hours per day until December 22. No one seems to know how this came about, but we're all very thankful it has. The principal was quoted as saying the attitude of the students at the school has changed 180 degrees. I can't imagine how much relief teacher must be feeling about their safety. I know the local merchants are happy to see that their serious concerns about truant behavior is being addressed.

I'm told some folks are starting to think outside the box in regard to these schools and I'm hopeful that further improvements for these students, and the neighborhoods that host them, will be forthcoming.

Heartfelt thanks to whomever saw the wisdom in placing an officer at Baxter. I hope that when school resumes in January they'll have found a way to continue that position. Thank you for this much. It has already made a difference.

Previous post: MNPS-PD

SSA expands the University of West Alabama. From Michael Silence at KnoxNews:

West Alabama this semester became one of the nation’s first state-supported universities to enact a dress code for students. Enforcement is more by gentle encouragement than strict edict, but many of the school’s 1,900 students are still steaming.

"I think it’s stupid. College is supposed to be about freedom and expression,“ said B.J. Johnson, 19, an electrical engineering major from Foley.

"You can’t even wear pajamas, and I like wearing them around,“ said his friend, Corby Smith, 20, a sophomore from Baltimore, Md., majoring in criminal justice.

Apparently, he's aiming for an undercover gig on the police force.

SBOE agenda for November

Just bumped into this link at the State of Tennessee's Education Department website. Back in August the State Board of Education approved a new set of science standards for K-8th grade. It's public comment time. The deadline on the web page is 'November' so you might want to read through those and comment very soon as it'll be taken up during their quarterly meeting on Friday, November, 2nd, in Legislative Plaza, Room 12, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Here's the agenda.

Also on the agenda, among other things, are 9-12 science curriculum standards (1st reading) rules for diversified pay plans, updated school bus specifications, and specific learning disability standards.

Oh, and 7 teachers may have their licenses pulled. Nancy Brown-Gearheiser may have her's reinstated. It was revoked in April of 2006 and the SBOE's minutes make no mention of why. In fact, the agenda doesn't provide any information about why the license status of any of these teachers is being changed. I think some comment would be in order.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Cost of Public Education

Ben Cunningham has a very illuminating chart at his site about the rising cost of public education vs. the cost of oil which he got from Carpe Diem . We're all complaining about the price of gas but we really need to take a hard look at our education dollars.

Carpe Diem's Mark Perry writes in the comment section:

The comparison is between: a) real spending/price to educate one student in a public school and b) real spending/price to purchase one barrel of oil. Even without using oil as a comparison, we can still say that REAL spending to educate one student in a public school has increased by a factor of 10.
Since World War II, the real price per public school student has increased by almost 40% each decade. My point was that rising oil prices get a lot of media attention, even though real oil prices are the same today as 1980-1981. During the same period, the real price per public school student has doubled, and receives significantly less attention in the media.
It gets significantly less attention because we're wrongly shamed into silence. To look at the dollars and ask if we're receiving a good return for our money is forbidden. It's for the children, you see. Some would deny us the right to question how this money is spent as if because it's for children it's not possible that's it's being misspent or could be better spent. A 10 minute conversation with a teacher, an aid or even a bus driver will reveal plenty of waste. Likely it will also provide some legitimate insight into how that money could be better spent.

Here's another chart. This one compares dollars to ACT outcome. MNPS is wildly out of line.

Regressive politics

Open meetings are essential to our republic. Allowing and encouraging discussions to go back to the cloakroom is not progress. Our new Vice Mayor, touted as the progressives candidate, is discouraging discussion during council meetings telling councilmen they should have asked those questions during committee meetings. That may make for shorter meetings but it's also less sunlight.

From the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

"Frank deliberation is very hard to do in public. We elect public officials to represent us," said Nashville lawyer Ogden Stokes, a former Tennessee Municipal League official and a public member of the legislative committee.

He's right if you define hard as requiring:

  • prior preparation about the subject on the agenda,
  • being willing to ask a question or two during hearings that are illuminating but could make someone (as Phil Valentine says) 'uncomfortable',
  • a backbone which enables you to stand your ground for your constituents,
  • the ability to be willing to listen to opposing opinions with an open mind and, if necessary, publicly state you've changed your mind and why.

"When this law was passed, it was aimed at preventing the old pre-meetings. When it passed, we (TML) thought it applied to quorums."

Oops. Now you know. What you 'think' matters less than what the law says. It's amazing how often law writers write badly worded laws.

The TML, Tennessee School Boards Association, the association of county governments and others have presented wish lists for new exemptions to the meetings and records laws -- including closed school board meetings on job performance of the schools superintendent and other "sensitive issues."
To include our own Metro Nashville School Board. There may be some issues that are very sensitive (such as the testimony of a young child about abuse) but usually these sensitive issues are more about not having a record that can referred to later when election time or contract negotiations come around.

The legislative panel also recommended personal fines of up to $1,000 or half of the monthly salary, whichever is less, for officials who violate the law. Current law contains no such penalties.

Shouldn't this be whichever is greater instead?
You have a few people like (state Rep.) Ulysses Jones [D-Memphis] who is leading the charge to weaken these laws but you also have a lot of legislators who are being silent when they should be standing up and representing the people who elected them," [Volunteer leader of Tennessee Tax Revolt Ben] Cunningham said.
Cunningham is exactly right. Silence is complicity. They've only got themselves to blame. Legislators didn't clean up their own house and so now they have the uncomfortable task of having to deal with others as the cleaning is done for them.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Still missing....

from the MNPS list of rezoning community meetings is one hosted by Ed Kindall

October 22 – Antioch High School at 6:30 p.m. - hosted by Karen Johnson, Jo Ann Brannon Done.
October 25 – Hillwood High School at 6:30 p.m. - hosted by MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden
October 29 – Madison School at 6 p.m. - hosted by Mark North
October 30 – Stratford High School at 6 p.m. - hosted by Gracie Porter
November 1 - Napier Elementary at 6 p.m. - hosted by Steve Glover
November 5 – John Early at 6 p.m. - hosted by MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden
November 6 – Bass Middle at 6:30 p.m. - hosted by George Thompson
November 12 - Maplewood High at 6 p.m. - hosted by Gracie Porter

The preliminary student assignment plan, is here.

Remember when you attend these meetings to keep in mind that the four below are up for reelection this August. At this point the assumption is they'll run again to keep their spots.

From Left to Right:
MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden, on the BOE since 8/24/2004 ,
George Thompson
, 4 months on the BOE in 1991 and then continuously since 8/1/1996,
Gracie Porter
, elected in August of 2006 ,
Ed Kindall , on the BOE since 7/9/1985.

There you have it...

The entertainment of the adults takes precedence over the education of the children--even for parents! So much for education first.

Much of Mayor Karl Dean's fledgling administration has been consumed by talks about the Nashville Predators' arena lease, taking attention away from some key appointments and a push to reduce the city's high school dropout rate.


George Phillips, an Oak Hill parent whose son dropped out of high school, has expressed interest in serving on [Mayor Karl Dean's education] advisory group. But he said resolving the Predators issue should come first.

"It's a more urgent concern at the moment," Phillips said. "He's got four years to get to all that other stuff." Tennessean

Priorities folks. What are our priorities? Is education first or not? The children don't have four years. We know that the 9th grade year can be pivotal. Four years from now will they have graduated? Or will we just then find the time to turn our attention to their needs? Hundreds are dropping out every year. This man's own son among them. How many of those lives is a hockey franchise worth? (Answer: maybe 100 a month. See the comments section).

"Better schools. Safer neighborhoods.
If we get these two things right, economic development will follow.
It's all connected."
Karl Dean, candidate for mayor.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Who will be their champion?

Today's Nashville Scene (adult site---) in "Back to School" highlights the stalemate that is the teacher qualification issue.

In this corner--Gov. Phil Bredesen:

"I am saying that there is great optimism and hope in our data that shows that no matter who you are or where you have come from, if a child is in front of an excellent teacher, and more importantly, a series of excellent teachers, he will make progress and perform well.... "

Of teachers who perform poorly in their first two years, two-thirds still aren’t doing good jobs five years later, according to the data. The reverse is true of good teachers. This means “ can tell a lot from how someone does in the first year or two,” Bredesen explains in his speeches.
This is something Willam Sanders has been saying for years. Frankly, I'd like to see teacher scores published for every parent and taxpayer to see. If I had a child in public schools---I'd want to know if they had an effective teacher or if, again, they'd been assigned to a poor performing teacher. Parents have access to more information about their child's pediatrician than they have of their teachers. They spend much more time with the later.
The governor also favors “tightening up the initial selection process” for teachers. He wants to change the curriculum in education colleges to “make them less of an academic discipline in a university and more of a professional school, like a law school or a medical school.”
Why, why wouldn't their professional organization get behind this?

The the opposite corner--TEA Executive Director Al Mance
“Most teachers just don’t believe that test scores are an accurate reflection of their performance,” Mance says, directly disputing the governor’s assessment of the data. “There are many other things that go into effective teaching, and standardized tests tend to cause teachers to participate in fairly narrow behaviors. If you’re going to be evaluated on your student’s performance on a test, you’d be fairly unintelligent if you didn’t teach to the test. And we don’t want to encourage that. There are so many other things that boys and girls need to learn.”
Likely most employees feel like their annual reviews don't accurately reflect their performance. It's just part of the territory.

The Department of Education has decided that these are the skills children need. They create a test. Teachers are hired to ensure the students learn those skills. So teaching to the test is not necessarily bad. We can all agree that there are many other things that boys and girls need to learn but if they don't have reading, writing and arithmetic down---we don't have the luxury of 'other things'.

So, lacking any logical arguments to put up against Gov. Bredesen's very reasonable suggestions the union throws down the old protectionist 'we're the professionals' card which means 'you don't have a right to speak on this issue'.
"Teaching is much more complex than laypersons understand.”
To paraphrase a dear friend: "This job is too important to be left to the professionals."

Educating the vast majority of our children is not rocket science, my friend, as thousands and thousands of parents (and education professionals) know quite well. There is a whole industry, growing larger every day, that proves that with just a few tools and the right motivation, just about anyone can teach just about any child.

Stuck in failing schools and looking at a life of failure: thousands and thousands of our children.
Both the union and the governor are saying they’ll work together in the upcoming legislative session to improve classroom teaching, but at this point, there doesn’t seem to be much common ground.
So who will be their champion and force these two sides together? House Education Chair Les Winningham (D-Huntsville)---no way. Senate Education Chair Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville), not likely. She doesn't seem to be that sort of leader and if she was, it'll all have to go back to Winningham's committee and we're back to--no way. It's going to take parents and citizens to get involved in the process and demand accountability for the money spent and more importantly the lives wasted.

He's not there yet

I keep hoping and praying that State Rep. Rob Briley (D-Nashville) will take his personal struggles private, resign from the legislature and focus all his energies on getting well and caring for his family. This morning's large spread in the City Paper makes it clear he's not there yet--which is tremendously sad, but utterly predictable.

Please, man, for the love of God, family and yourself, resign. Focus on those three things. As a constituent I would not ask you to maintain your job in the legislature. You really want to serve us well? Let someone else take on the task for now. You are not irreplaceable on the hill. The citizens of Tennessee will be fine. YOU are irreplaceable to your family though. Learn to love yourself so you can love them. For now, that's job #1.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

News You Can Use

Tennessean reporter Jessica Fender tells us that there wasn't room in the print edition for the names of the people who want to hide the people's business and so she posts it to her blog and it's included in the online version of the story. It's my opinion that these names should have been front page and above the fold--but no, the hockey team got that prime space.

Voting for the rule change [to allow up to but not including a quorum to deliberate]:
Sen. Joe Haynes, Goodlettsville Democrat and chairman of the subcommittee (741-6679)
Rep. Ulysses Jones, Memphis Democrat (741-4575)
Mike Hammond, Knox County Commissioner
Ogden Stokes, lawyer for the Tennessee Municipal League
Rheubin Taylor, Hamilton County attorney
Amy Martin, newly elected head of the Tennessee School Boards Association
Rosetta Miller-Perry, publisher of The Tennessee Tribune

Voting against it:
Rick Hollow, lawyer for the Tennessee Press Association
Chris Fletcher, editor of The (Columbia) Daily Herald and member of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.

Weird that Rosetta Miller-Perry, a member of the press, voted against open meetings. Her explanation will certainly be "news you can use".

Give it back

This morning's City Paper relates the brouhaha that is surrounding the state's version of the Metro Nashville Council 'discretionary spending' fund in an article titled "Local lawmakers upset" (good luck with that link, btw). It's obvious it's not working very well on the state level either.

There's a lot of whining, complaining and but, but, buts and then, if you can hang on and read through all of that, comes this blast of freshness:

Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Brentwood) ...did not want anything to do with distributing the money. "I don't want to hand a check to anyone."
THANK YOU! A few more clear headed leaders like this and we could actually get something done in this state.

GREAT quote from TN Secretary of State Riley Darnell:
"I understand your [lawmakers] unhappiness with it, but I didn't create this mess. You did."
It's times like this it's very clear that that what the state legislature does best is create messes. The legislature decided that they'd be generous with our money and throw $100K to each house district and $300K to each senate district and in their overeagerness to spend last year's $1.5 billion overtaxes didn't take the time necessary to prevent the mess they're in now. Haste makes waste, gentlemen. And it's not always just your time and resources that get wasted.

The thought of actually returning this money to taxpayers and letting US decide which local projects were worthy of support, never seemed to enter their minds. And so now we've got professional politicians acting like 4 year olds fighting over who got the bigger piece of cake.

Just give it back and let us decide.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Watching the CA fire situation

My husband's aunt & uncle and adult cousin are in the San Diego area. The aunt and the uncle were told to evacuate so they spent Sunday night at their daughter/grandaughter's home. They were allowed back into their neighborhood last night when the wind changed. No damage at all. Now the cousin has to evacuate so after sheltering her parents, they're now sheltering her and her daughter. They say it's very literally an hour by hour situation.

We've been watching the San Diego NBC affiliate's streaming broadcast, praying for them and thanking God for the rain we're getting here.

See the video

If you missed the mayor's education townhalls you can view them online at

This from Danielle Mezera in the the mayor's Office of Children and Youth this morning:

Ms. Brooks,
Currently, we have the town hall videos online. We are not planning to post the transcripts due to possible misspellings of names and trailing sentences where the transcriptionist was not able to hear the full comment. (snip)

I could get used to prompt service and real answers.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Teacher misconduct study

When I first started this blog I would mention the articles where teachers were arrested for various misdeeds. Some were serious. The incidents came in so regularly, that it almost wasn't news anymore and it was very disheartening to read about. I stopped mentioning them.

Public education systems have two main missions: educate the children, return them to their parents safely. Safety includes everything from the bus ride to and from, the condition of the building housing the activity and, of course, ensuring the staff are honorable and trustworthy.

Today the Las Vegas Sun is printing details of a recent Associated Press study on teacher misconduct along with some heartwrenching testimony of victims.

Snips follow:

The seven-month investigation found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct.

One report mandated by Congress estimated that as many as 4.5 million students, out of roughly 50 million in American schools, are subject to sexual misconduct by an employee of a school sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade. That figure includes verbal harassment that's sexual in nature.
Like Lindsey, the perpetrators that the AP found are everyday educators - teachers, school psychologists, principals and superintendents among them. They're often popular and recognized for excellence and, in nearly nine out of 10 cases, they're male.
"Students must be protected from sexual predators and abuse, and teachers must be protected from false accusations," said NEA President Reg Weaver, who refused to be interviewed and instead released a two-paragraph statement.
I will never understand why the teacher unions (which insist they are 'professional organizations' and not unions) aren't on the forefront of cleaning the ranks. It'd be great if a TEA membership card meant the teacher was effective AND safe.


The AP investigation found efforts to stop individual offenders but, overall, a deeply entrenched resistance toward recognizing and fighting abuse. It starts in school hallways, where fellow teachers look away or feel powerless to help. School administrators make behind-the-scenes deals to avoid lawsuits and other trouble. And in state capitals and Congress, lawmakers shy from tough state punishments or any cohesive national policy for fear of disparaging a vital profession.

That only enables rogue teachers, and puts kids who aren't likely to be believed in a tough spot.

Too often, problem teachers are allowed to leave quietly. That can mean future abuse for another student and another school district.
I'd call this being an accessory to the crime.

A federal judge dismissed her civil suit against the school, saying administrators had no obligation to protect her from a predatory teacher since officials were unaware of the abuse, despite what the court called widespread "unsubstantiated rumors" in the school. The family is appealing.
This willingness to 'pass the trash' has got to stop. It's a form of abuse to not protect the next child. We've got to quit keeping these secrets.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Education listening tour continues

Last evening was the second of a series of listening events for new Mayor Karl Dean.

The Chamber is paying for services to transcribe the meetings and the mayor’s office will compile the recommendations and suggestions that come out of the meetings.

“That’s the piece that we’re bringing — we have to make sure there’s a written record of what was said and that way — people take time out of their night to come out and talk about what’s important to them and we want to make sure that’s preserved,” said Marc Hill, chief education officer for the Chamber. City Paper
Thanks to the Chamber for arranging for the transcribing. I suggest the transcript be made available online for those of us unable to attend. If you'd like to see them let the Chamber know. Here's their online contact form.

UPDATE from the Chamber via e-mail--ask the mayor:
The town hall meetings are organized by the Mayor's Office. The Chamber
is paying for the service to provide the Mayor's Office with the
transcripts of each meeting, but since they "belong" to the Mayor's
Office, it will be their responsibility to make the transcripts
available to anyone who is interested. The appropriate contact in Mayor
Dean's office from whom to request the transcripts is Danielle Mezera at or 862-6013.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

No spelling bee this year

This from the Tennessean today:

Dear Spelling Bee Coordinators:

As most of you know, The Tennessean has made the decision to cease our sponsorship of the Middle Tennessee Regional Spelling Bee beginning with the 2007-08 school year. The Tennessean took on this sponsorship when the Nashville Banner closed. Since that time, it has been our privilege to provide this program for schools throughout Middle Tennessee. After much deliberation and evaluation of our core mission, we determined that our resources need to be directed to programs that link more closely with our core mission.

Belmont University is very interested in taking on this sponsorship for the 2008-09 school year, but is not able to do so for the current school year. Because there is no local sponsor for the Middle Tennessee Regional Spelling Bee, it will not be conducted in 2007-08. Middle Tennessee will not have a representative at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May 2008. This mailing list will be provided to Thom Storey at Belmont University, so that he can notify you about the 2008-09 school year. (snip)

So what's their core mission again? Oh, that's right. Make money.

Bill Hobbs
has much more and the funniest headline.

It belongs to all Tennesseans

Rep. Gary Odom (D-Nashville) in response to objections from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research for including the state seal on his fundraising literature :

“I think the state seal belongs to all Tennesseans,” he says. “I don't think anyone has a monopoly on it. I've got it on my door. I've got it on my stationery and on my card and so does my staff and so does most every legislator down there. To me, it's like the state flag. It's a symbol of our great state. And it sounds a little trivial to me when someone starts questioning how it's used and when it's used. The Republican Senate caucus website has a state seal on it. A lot of individual senators and representatives on both sides of the aisle have it on their websites. I've got it here on my notepad. It's everywhere.” Via PITW (adult site).
And so it is------->>>>^^^

This from TCPR:
Using the State Seal in this way does not violate Tennessee law, but it does run contrary to the State Constitution, which says that the Seal "shall be kept by the governor, and used by him officially." The Tennessee Center for Policy Research is asking all legislators – particularly those in leadership such as Odom – to stop using the State Seal when sending invitations to fundraisers.

Here's Odom's $1,000 a plate invitation.

What cowed men aren't allowed to say

and sensible women across Nashville know:

She should not have been walking through the park alone and late at night.

No, that doesn't mean she deserves what happened but she is not without responsibility in this. She made some bad choices that resulted in severe consequences.

No, that doesn't mean the criminal should be allowed to do what he did. He should be homeless no more and incarcerated for quite some time.

However, why should we be expected to hand over more of our finite resources to pay for increased patrols to enable anyone to ignore basic safety rules? Everyone has a responsibility to be their own first line of defense. Don't walk alone. Don't walk in isolated areas late at night. Be sure you're mentally alert and aware of your surroundings. Carry a cell phone, fully charged and paid up. Don't let a stranger get close. Even my youngest knows all those rules. I'll bet she knew them to. Why she didn't follow them only she knows. What a horrible lesson to have to live through. I wouldn't wish this attack on anyone and I hope her physical, mental and spiritual recovery is well under way.

In the meantime, we've got to accept personal responsibility for the biggest portion of our own safety and not demand that other people pay for untold numbers of police and equipment that cannot be everywhere all the time anyway. We can only do so much. Beyond that the truth is, as cartographers used to write: "there be monsters."

According to the City Paper the day after the attack:
The victim, whose identity is being protected, was walking home from a downtown club when the suspect asked her for a cigarette on 5th Avenue North, police said.

The woman then proceeded to walk into the amphitheatre area of Bicentennial Mall when the suspect apparently approached her from behind, threw her to the ground, held a knife to her throat and....

Saving Summer

Dear Save Tennessee Summers Supporters:

Fabulous News! Later school start date champion, Rep. Joe McCord, passed a resolution during the last legislative session creating a joint committee of the Senate and the House to study the school calendar issue. The purpose of this committee is to allow all interested parties an opportunity to present research and data relating to the issue, as well as opinions. The committee will also issue a report to the entire legislature, giving us another opportunity to educate our elected officials about the benefits of a later school start date for K-12 public school children.

The first committee meeting is Friday, November 2 and invited testimony is all that will be heard that day. During the first meeting, the second meeting time will be scheduled and the date will be published so that parents will be provided the opportunity to speak as well.

Knowing it is difficult for many to arrange child care and travel for a public meeting I'm asking all Save Tennessee Summers supporters to please write a letter to the committee at-large. Your email simply needs to state your desire for a later school start date and include any of the reasons you may have. An email as simple as "As a member of the Special Joint Committee to Study the Traditional School Calendar I hope you will consider a later school start date for our public schools. I would like to see a start date of XXXX." Don't forget to include your name and address.

Of course, adding the negative impact of early start dates on your family will only further help our cause.

I hope you will consider blind carbon copying me on the email you send, so that I can add them to our file and ensure they are received and considered by our legislators and can be used as the legislative session begins. Email addresses are listed below.,,,,

Carol Duffin, Cathy Van Meter, Amy Olson & Tina Bruno (tbruno2 AT
Save Tennessee Summers Parent Volunteers
[Or use this link to e-mail the entire committee at once.]

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What's it designed to find?

Is it me or is the MNPS search feature just about useless?

OK, is "Bransford Avenue" broad enough a search term?

Apparently not.

Charter school committee hearings

The dates and times for the Charter Committee hearings have been published. Curious that so many are at Lowe's. We don't have enough meeting space at Metro facilities?

October 17, Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. in the Board Room
October 19, Friday, 1:00 p.m. at TSU – Clay Hall room 126
October 22, Monday, at 1:00 p.m. at Margaret Allen Middle School
October 24, Wednesday, 1:00 p.m. at Margaret Allen Middle School
October 26 Friday, 1:00 p.m. at Margaret Allen Middle School
October 29, Monday, 1:00 p.m. at Lowe’s Vanderbilt
October 30 , Tuesday, 1:00 p.m. at Lowe’s Vanderbilt
October 31, Wednesday, 1:00 p.m. at Lowe’s Vanderbilt
November 1, Thursday, 1:00 p.m. at Lowe’s Vanderbilt
November 2, Friday, 1:00 p.m. at Lowe’s Vanderbilt
Now if we could just get some agendas and know which schools would be discussed when we'd have a better idea of how to plan our schedules.

From the City Paper this morning (good luck with that link):
This year, committee members and School Board representative Gracie Porter will review three applications — Nashville Academy of Science and Technology, JWG Manna Life and Art Academy, and the already-established Smithson-Craighead Academy.

Community Band

The City Paper did a front page piece on the Isaac Litton Middle School band situation yesterday. The reporter, Alexa Hinton, doesn't ordinarily cover the education beat. The City Paper About Us page tells us "She covers books, City Confidentials, fashion, accessories and Swan Ball" which may explain why a few details were left out. The renewal of this band program has been a community effort which has also included the Inglewood Neighborhood Association, the Country Music Association and the Nashville Alliance for Public Education (the tool used by many to funnel funds to Metro schools).

The Inglewood Neighborhood Association has long known that the success of Litton is important to the success of our neighborhood. Last year we became a Pencil Partner and while we can't bring the big dollars that Sam's Club can, or the excitement of the Music City Motorplex what we do is bring the needs of Litton to the community and encourage the community to step up and help meet those needs for the betterment of the children and our community.

An integral part of that mission is to have Litton on our regular monthly agenda. It was because the needs of Litton are a regular part of our meetings that when talk of the INA creating a race through the neighborhood began 18 months ago or so the committee naturally looked toward Litton as a recipient for proceeds of the race.

The merchants of Riverside Village stepped up and were primary sponsors of this successful event. These business owners took a chance on reclaiming that corner of our neighborhood and another on an inaugural race and Litton, along with Inglewood, benefit.

The County Music Association is pouring money into the Metro school system and their recent donation of 60 instruments to Litton is no small contribution to the effort and should not be overlooked.

The Nashville Alliance for Public Education and it's leader, Pam Garrett, has been an essential partner in funneling funds from those with money to Litton, and many other schools across the county.

Rick Bradley's letter in today's City Paper states in part:

I am shocked and appalled to hear this. The mayor, [Metro] Council, and the school board should be ashamed. With the money that we put into our school system why can’t we have quality instruments for the children at Litton Middle School that want to learn and play music? How many other school band programs also have old and inferior instruments?

We have given tax breaks to local businesses and sports programs, why can’t we find money to have quality instruments for our school children that want to learn and play music in a school band.
I can't explain where all the money the Council sends to MNPS goes. Frankly, I'd welcome a third party audit. But the community isn't waiting for Metro to fix this problem. The community, ranging from neighbors to huge corporations, are getting involved and getting the job done.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Exposure is necessary

Over and over again government entities have to be reminded that their business is not private business, it's public and the public cannot be prevented from viewing the proceedings.

Today's Nashville City Paper in four very short paragraphs tells us that another attempt at keeping the public's business out of public view has failed. According to the paper MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia objected to the Charter [school] Review Committee's meetings being public and "expressed desire to conduct the meeting in closed session to prevent media exposure." However:

Board member David Fox was seeking outside legal advice on the issue because he wished to attend review committee meetings and hear plans from the three charter school groups seeking approval.
THANK YOU Mr. Fox! Why would the people's representative (Board Member David Fox) have to even wage this battle? What's the downside to 'media exposure' that Garcia is so concerned about?

It's hard enough to get a charter school started in this state, this district, but to continue to give this committee the ability to hide our business, their reasoning, their process from the public only ensures that the children of this district will continued to be denied what may be the very educational option they need because the fox is watching the hen house. Doubt that? Check this list:

2007-08 Charter School Committee

Dr. Greg Patterson, Chair
Gracie Porter, Board of Education Rep.
Dr. Lendozia Edwards, Curriculum and Instruction
Dr. Kecia Ray, MNPS Policy
Avi Poster, Community Member
Shannon Puckett, Business Office
Glenda Gregory, Business Office
Mary Johnston, Metro Legal
Dr. Nancy Meador, Curriculum and Instruction
Faye Goodman, MNPS
Henry Flenory, ADA
Dr. Tina Stinson, Assessment and Evaluation
Carol Swain, IT
Dr. Christian Arthur, TSU Dean

Members in red are on the MNPS payroll. I consider these people, sans Ms. Porter as the people's representative, to have a conflict of interest in regard to charters for the children in Davidson County.

Mr. Poster is no mere 'community member' as he is a retired middle school principal from Chicago and has been a member of this committee for several years already, as well as the Nashville Chamber of Commerce's Report Card committee, and has advocated closed door meetings for school board business.

Again, thanks to BOE Rep. David Fox. I hope he'll take this a step further and publicly report to the community what goes on in those meetings.

From a post in March 2007 on this blog:
And I completely agree with David Fox in the following:
The whole imbroglio has led school board member David Fox to propose that the board’s governance committee address the administration’s treatment of charter schools by adding to its list of “executive expectation” a line item basically saying the director should make a good-faith effort to work productively with charter schools. The committee will take up the proposal in coming months. (Nashville Scene [an adult site] March 22, 2007)
They should do this immediately--though I realize that it's not likely to make an immediate impact on Garcia's contract. But it will ensure that the BOE is regularly looking at this issue and, I sincerely hope, making sure that these MNPS students get all they need too.
It appears the BOE has not yet adopted this change to their Executive Expectations as their website shows no EE changes this year at all and none to EE-17 Charter Schools since 10/11/2005. Garcia's attempt to 'prevent media exposure' would certainly fail my definition of making a 'good-faith effort to work productively with charter schools'.

Monday, October 15, 2007

5 meetings short and keep on talking

Add Gracie Porter to the list of BOE representatives hosting rezoning meetings in their districts. I've been on her e-list since nearly the beginning of her tenure in August of 2006 and this is the first e-mail I've ever received.

Metro schools redistricting
I know many of you may have questions about the redistricting proposal that was recently put before the school board.
In order for you to get answers, I've scheduled a meeting for Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. at Stratford High School. Please come and bring your friends and neighbors who have questions about the process.
Right now the plan just a proposal and changes should be expected. The final decisions will come only after significant public input on the plan.
If you'd like to review a detailed copy of the proposal, just click here and you can download one to your computer. I caution you that it is a large file and you may only want to download it if you have a high speed connection.
One of the main issues I'll be looking at is the future of Dalewood Middle School. Changes are in store for the building, but no decisions have been made. One of my goals is to keep it from becoming a magnet school because I think it's important to maintain it as a community school.
I have other concerns about the district and I'll be talking with you more about them in the coming days, but I wanted to make sure you had ample time to mark Oct. 30 on your calendars for this important meeting.


Curiously while the e-mail notice was obviously generated via her campaign website e-list the FROM was listed as: Jim Grinstead []

If you go to visitors are greeted with:

Radical conservatives have just one message for America's liberals.

"Shut up!"

You can hear it almost any night from Bill O'Reilly of the Fox News Channel or any of the other mouthpieces of the Radical Right. Even the White House denounces criticism as unpatriotic.

"Shut up!" Only the Radical Right's voice shall be heard.

Not any more.

It's time for America to hear from its Liberal Voices. To hear a message of hope, not fear. A message that speaks for everyone, not just a privileged few. A message that says government should be a tool that creates a better life for us all, not a mechanism for protecting the wealth of its most influential.

Liberal Voices is a place where you can listen in to the words of others in writings and speeches.

Liberal Voices is a place where you can be heard in its blogs, by writing your own essays or becoming a columnist.

It's a place to take what you need and say what you feel.

No, Mr. Grinstead. Don't shut up at all. Keep on talking. I think some of Gracie Porter's constituents need to hear more about how her campaign supporters feel about them.

Mr. Grinstead is listed at Democracy for Tennessee as their executive director.
[Jim Grinstead] also provided media consultation for DFT chapters and several of our candidates, including as a key advisor to Gracie Porter, the DFT-endorsed candidate who won a landslide victory in Nashville last August.
Wonder if he'll be her key advisor for her reelection campaign this summer.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tn History Festival

We spent Friday afternoon at the Tennessee History Festival at the Bicentennial Mall. This was the first time we'd been and the children enjoyed it.

The fellow to the left, Park Ranger Mike Cole, shooting toward the capitol was very informative, interacted well with the children and his rifle report was very impressive! It's a wonder our forefathers weren't all deaf.

The Best Field Trip T-Shirt award goes to Davidson Academy. Their blue shirts in the photo at left reads "Let's go Tennesseeing". We ended up following a whole gaggle of these students. That worked out well in that reenactors would start their spiel when they showed up.

Under "Worlds Collide": We caught this reenactor, at left, talking on her cell phone, but she was too quick and managed to hide it before the shutter went off. Men of different centuries pass one another on the street.

History Bill of was interviewing a Cherokee Indian when came by. That made this presentation the best of all. Look for the video tape on their website.

I would have like to have seen better signage explaining what the stop was supposed to be focused on, some places to sit while the presentations were going on, and we forgot water bottles so a few water fountains along the mall itself would have been very welcome. Regardless, we were very appreciative of the opportunity to see all of this, talk about it and get to touch items from long ago. Thanks to all the reenactors, park rangers, the taxpayers of Tennessee for the facility and God for perfect weather.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Another inconvience

This from England:

A judge on Wednesday ruled that Al Gore's award winning climate change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" should only be shown in schools with guidance notes to prevent political indoctrination.

High Court judge Michael Burton's decision follows legal action brought by a father of two last month claiming the former US vice-president's film contained "serious scientific inaccuracies, political propaganda and sentimental mush".
Seems like a reasonable ruling to me.

UPDATE: Make that 9 inconviences.

6 meetings short

The Tennessean is reporting this morning that of the 9 MNPS BOE members only three have scheduled community meetings to discuss the rezoning.

School board members will hold community meetings to discuss zoning changes.

• 6:30 p.m. Oct. 22, Antioch High School, District 6 RepresentativeKaren Johnson

• 6:30 p.m. Oct. 25, Hillwood High School, District 9 Representative MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden

• 6 p.m. Oct. 29, Madison School, District 3 Representative Mark North

Marsha Warden is the only one of the four representatives up for reelection that has scheduled a meeting. When are the meetings for George Thompson , Ed Kindall , and Gracie Porter as well as the other three not up for reelection David Fox , Steve Glover and Jo Ann Brannon Unfortunately, all of the above meetings will fall AFTER the BOE's next meeting on this issue, October 19. They should get community input before they have their working session. They knew rezoning was coming long before Tuesday's meeting and should have anticipated the need to get input from their constituents.There should be a rezoning meeting in every district within 30 days. Much after that and the excuse will be there were conflicts with 'the holidays'.

Again, you can go to this MNPS page to view the current cluster maps and here to view the proposed cluster maps.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A hard read

From the Nashville Scene (an adult site) comes this heartbreaking tale of Rob Briley's "Affairs of State"

This is very hard reading. It's so frustrating. It enrages one to know that people who had the authority both moral and legal, to help this man, failed to do so again, and again, and again. This will be the most difficult thing you read today. But read it all so that the vermin that are running the legislature will be exposed and hopefully, they will be accountable and the SOP will change. This sort of thing has to stop. How can they dare to say they're caring for the people of Tennessee when they won't care for one of their own. They were willing to sacrifice this man for their own comfort, to hold on to power and out of fear that their own lives would then would be judged.

These friends, who ask not to be named, blame the Capitol’s well-publicized culture of sleaze for contributing to Briley’s troubles. They question why House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh never intervened to stop Briley’s affair with Littleton—a volatile, on-again, off-again relationship they say destabilized the tormented young politician. But it’s hard to imagine Naifeh objecting, given that the speaker himself romanced his now-wife Betty Anderson, a lobbyist, in the 1990s.

“Rob’s gotten up in something he can’t handle, but he’s not willing to give it up,” one source says. “All these people knew what was going on. Every one of these people knew he was out of control, but they overlooked it. Every time I leave there, I need a bath. It’s so dirty and contaminated.”

Keep praying for this man, his children and his family. Alcoholism is a family illness. They need our support.

As a constituent I would want Rob Briley to resign. He needs to focus on his health and his fractured family. That's his first duty.

Previous Post:
Powerless over alcohol, lives unmanageable

The Nobel has a shine?

Tennessee Center for Policy Research has issued a press release saying Al Gore is not deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize. While I don't disagree with that at all I take issue with their tag line:

“Making Al Gore a Nobel Laureate would forever tarnish the Nobel Prize.” TCPR's Drew Johnson.
I'm thinking that ship sailed long ago. Cruise through this list of previous winners from the Nobel Foundation or this one from Wikipedia with some descriptions and most of us would agree, whether we lean left or right, that Gore wouldn't be the first to create a dull patina on the penance for dynamite prize.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

New MNPS zones

Well, the maps are out. Let the conversation begin. You can see the individual cluster maps and the clarifying information provided by MNPS on the website. The Tennessean provides very poor black and white copies. Don't waste your time going there as they're nearly useless. Here's the Tennessean article though. The City Paper still isn't providing direct links to articles, which is still very frustrating (and still no dates on the very few articles with direct links) so no direct link for them.

I'm very curious about the closing of Dalewood Middle. I understand we have too much capacity. Frankly, neighbors shook their heads in wonder while MNPS was expanding the facility a couple of years ago. Big on the mind of folks in Inglewood will be "What happens to the Dalewood building?" Page 10 of the .pdf suggests that it, and other schools no longer being used, will be available for "optional programs, or other instructional uses, potentially increasing future choice opportunities." OOOOKaaaaay. In the meantime, what's the plan to ensure they don't fall into disrepair while those other opportunities, uses and choices come to fruition? Frankly, I'd be thrilled if KIPP decided to abandon the shameful facilities MNPS allowed them on Douglas Avenue and moved in there.

I'm very thankful to read Isaac Litton Middle School will remain. When parents choose to transfer their children to that school---you know you've got a great team there. Let's not mess with that.

Apparently, the Maplewood Cluster, which has some of the most desperate families and students and perhaps the poorest education results, was just too hard a nut to crack. Page 42 merely says:

"Recommended for further study. Study the feasibility of consolidating some elementary schools in the cluster."
Page 12 of the .pdf says 11th and 12th graders will be grandfathered in, but transportation will be the parents' responsibility.

According to the City Paper the BOE will have a working session regarding this rezoning on October 19 from 4 to 8. You'll want to make sure that your concerns and comments reach them before then.

So you can go to this MNPS page to view the current cluster maps and here to view the proposed cluster maps.

Here's the web page with the BOE members and their contact information.

E-mail all the BOE members using this link.

Other interesting information from last evening's MNPS presentation:

Two things about this chart:

1. How can MNPS provide 'unofficial' data. Aren't they the officials that collect and report this data?

2. How does this dramatic difference in the while student population compare with the white population of Metro overall?

How much of this tremendous increase in Free and Reduced Meals population is a result of wealthier families leaving Davidson County and the increased emphasis on providing these programs and ensuring folks are taking advantage of the taxpayers charity?

MNPS rezoning

The City Paper reports this morning that a rezoning proposal will be presented to the MNPS BOE this evening at their 5:00 meeting. They also quote George Thompson (17 year BOE member, Chairman of the Board for Great City Schools and up for reelection next August) as saying district officials would be meeting with Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, the Metro Council and members from the community in the coming weeks. Hopefully, they'll provide those meeting dates and places at this evening's meeting.

A couple of things to keep in mind as the MNPS BOE debates where to draw those new zone lines this evening:

1. With their renewed emphasis on Small Learning Communities (SLC) there should be little talk of closing small schools just because they're small. Either smaller learning communities work or they don't. I firmly believe that taxpayers want a good return for their money. They don't believe that's happening now. In fact I believe you'll find huge support for neighborhood schools in the community.

We've discovered, after building some behemoth schools, that are now being sectioned into SLC's, that bigger wasn't the best return for our tax money. This is the time to bring back neighborhood schools as much as humanly possible. You want more parental participation? Make sure children attend schools close to home. You want neighborhoods to invest in their local schools, make sure there are local children there. You want support from the community come budget time---make sure that their neighborhood schools are assets to the neighborhood and centers of neighborhood life.

2. I really encourage folks to provide input to the BOE. Likely, you know your neighborhood better than they do and what will make 'sense' to them may make absolutely no sense in real world practice. There is no large district wide map available online, that I or 244-INFO, can find. The closest MNPS comes to detailing all this is individual cluster maps. [Remember these are the maps they're talking about changing.] I know there are council district lines that make absolutely no sense. I suspect such is the same with school zoning lines. Make sure the BOE hears about those.

3. To those that will cringe at the thought of some neighborhood schools not being diverse I will point out that our public school population is becoming less and less diverse all the time. And I'll point you to the success KIPP Academy is having without diversity. Our focus shouldn't be on the color of a child or the numbers in their parent's bank account, but on providing that school population the tools they need for success.

4. Redrawing these lines could really upset a lot of folks. We have four BOE members up for reelection in August. They'd rather not have a lot of unhappy voters who still remember who moved their grand/child to THAT school come election time so it's no surprise to read:

“It’s premature for me to say but I think this thing needs a whole lot more attention than to put it on a greased, fast track, and all of a sudden get ourselves in a crack,” [BOE member George] Thompson said. “I really have some concern as to whether we’re premature and whether we’re a year or two early on dealing with this sensitive issue.”
Yeah, let's move this to the crack year between elections so voters have plenty of time to cool off before you're up for election and have to account for it.

Up for reelection in August:

From Left to Right:
MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden, on the BOE since 8/24/2004 , George Thompson, 4 months on the BOE in 1991 and then continuously since 8/1/1996, Gracie Porter , elected in August of 2006 , Ed Kindall , on the BOE since 7/9/1985.

Here's the BOE member page. Find your's and let them know how you want them to vote: . E-mail them all with this link.